Single Most “Over-Looked” Factor to Increase Performance

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

Let’s face it, baseball is all about being explosive. To excel in this sport, remain healthy and stay at the top of your game, you must be able to move explosively through space. To do that requires an optimal level of power (a solid amount of muscle) and a minimal level of dead weight (fat). This muscle to fat ratio is known as Lean Body Mass (LBM) and it is today’s topic.

LBM is the total weight of your body minus all the weight due to your fat mass. It includes the weight of all your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles. To achieve an optimal level of LBM, we must do two things:

  • Lose Body Fat (decrease excess weight)
  • Gain Muscle Mass (increase muscle size)

It’s no secret to anyone that has trained with us that putting on muscle to get stronger is the cornerstone of our program. But when it comes to being explosive, we ideally want both muscle mass and body fat to be within a certain range.

Not all, but most of today’s minor league and professional ball players and pitchers (on average) have anywhere between 10-15% body fat. I generally refer to this as “putting a bigger engine in the same size vehicle”.  The images below are what 225 lbs. looks like at different LBM percentages.  All the same height and weight but with very different size engines.

The following table represents recent testing we did on two athletes involving their reactive (fast) strength abilities using a drop jump test.  Both are the same age and height and within 5 lbs. of each other’s body weight. While ground contact times (GCT, measured in seconds) were not that far apart, the difference in height jumped (measure in meters) is drastic.

This tells us a lot about the amount of power each athlete can produce and how quickly they can produce it.  It’s represented in their Reactive Strength Index (RSI) in the above table measured in meters / second. The only differentiating factor here was the difference in their LBM (% of body fat). Player 1 has a lower percentage of body fat which in turn gives him a higher percentage of muscle, allowing him to propel his body through space at a much higher (explosive) level.

There are numerous factors that come into play when dealing with reductions in body fat. Today we’ll look at two of them:

  • Poor Sleep Quality
  • Poor Food Choices

Poor Sleep Quality – Poor sleep quality absolutely has a profound effect on body composition. Lack of sleep raises levels of Cortisol which is a catabolic (muscle destroying) hormone. It also severely compromises maximum output in the gym which in turn affects hypertrophy (muscle building), as well as negatively affecting calorie burn.  Between the ages of 13-18, getting 8-10 hours of quality sleep is imperative. This also means no cell phone in the bedroom at bed time!!

Poor Food Choices – Everyone has a few foods that they find irresistible, as in foods that they have “no control” over if they’re in the house. These include fried foods and white flour snacks such as pretzels, crackers and potato chips. Also, avoiding liquid calories such as soda and artificial juices is the still, in my opinion, the biggest dietary game-changer.

So, if you’re trying to drop body fat, before you take any other steps, you need to “bullet proof” your kitchen. This means getting these foods out of the house. The goal should be making “cheating” as difficult as possible (click here for our nutritional suggestions / program).

So, whether it’s a high velocity throw, high exit velo or changing directions quickly to get to a ball, they are all correlated to being able to transfer ground forces up through the lower half, through the core and into the arm as quickly as possible.  To do that, power and explosiveness are a huge part of the process and LBM is a huge factor in this equation.

Summary

There’s some good news, however, while such factors as height and limb length are primarily genetic and out of your control, losing body fat and putting on lean muscle mass is actually in your control and two of the easiest qualities to improve.

Here at RPP we distribute nutritional handouts to all our athletes. We’ve found that it really helps get the ball rolling. The rest is up to you.

See ya’ in the gym…

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