The Re-Conditioning Phase (Hypertrophy)… Training in the Fall – Part 1

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

Training in the Fall - Top 2

With the fall season right around the corner, I thought this would be a great time for me to talk a little bit about the importance of early off-season training, what I call the “re-conditioning phase”.

Increases in strength come about via two broad adaptations/methods.  Muscle morphological adaptations (hypertrophy) and neural activation adaptations (absolute strength).  With these broad adaptations come the two main training methods to increase strength and power:

  1. Hypertrophy – Lifting moderate resistances at higher repetitions to improve muscle fiber size, change in fiber structure and architecture
  2. Absolute Strength – Lifting very heavy weights at lower repetitions to improve neural activation of motor units within a muscle, increased rate of firing of motor units, and possibly some synchronization of firing of those motor units.

As the need for maximum strength increases, so does the length of the maximum strength phase of training. An athlete’s ability to increase maximum strength depends on the diameter of the cross-sectional area of muscle involved (muscle size) and the ability to synchronize all the muscles involved in the action.  Muscle size depends greatly on the duration of the hypertrophy phase, whereas the diameter of myosin and the increase in protein content in the form of cross-bridges depends on the volume and duration of the maximum strength phase.

Many young athletes opt to play fall ball and skip training in September / October when we can focus specifically on the hypertrophy phase. Unfortunately, these athletes who many times are underweight and weaker, are exactly the athletes who would benefit from training in September / October the most.  The good news is both, fall ball and training, can be done during the same time period.

So, here we go…

The Re-Conditioning Phase

During the season, constant throwing and multiple games/practices per week can really wreak havoc on a baseball player’s shoulders and hips. Even during in-season training these are areas we can’t focus on due to the fact that they’re already under a tremendous amount of stress from throwing and hitting all week. Add on a 5 lb weight loss and 2-3 mile drop in velo and we’ve got some catching up to do. This is all the more reason for ball players to get in early for what we call the “Re-Conditioning Phase” during September – October, during which we can focus on hypertrophy. This will help the athlete put on an additional 5-7 lbs of muscle and get a jump on increasing their movement quality before we hit it hard in November. Starting in September as opposed to November accomplishes a few things:

  • It can be implemented during “Fall Ball” when many kids are still playing on the weekends
  • It re-introduces and solidifies good movement quality after a long season
  • It provides an extra 8 weeks of muscle building and focusing on weight gain
  • It focuses on hypertrophy (muscle mass), better preparing the body for heavier volumes of lifting come November

Over the next two blogs, I’m going to take you through much of what goes into this phase of training and why we believe it’s so important.

1. Breathing – Learning to breath into the belly is one of the most neglected elements in a training program. At RPP, all of our athletes begin every session with breathing drills to relax the neck and upper traps, opening up space in the shoulder area for better overhead movement. Many players will tell you they have seen us get 5-10 degrees of shoulder internal rotation back with just 5 minutes of breathing drills.  Here P.T. Bill Hartman does a much better job of explaining this than I would:

(90/90 Hip Shift w/ Left Reach – Breathing)

2. Soft Tissue and Mobility Work – Due to the deceleration forces that occur from throwing and batting, soft tissue can become very gritty and short (tight). This can present itself as tightness in the shoulder region, t-spine, hips or lower back and hamstrings to name a few. Many pitchers have laxity (loose joints) so actively stretching the muscle sometimes can do more harm than good (for more info on this topic, please make sure to read my blog on laxity). Incorporating self-myofascial release (foam rolling) to improve tissue quality and mobility work to help improve movement quality and prevent injury are two of the main focuses in September / October.

(SMR – Triceps/Forearms)

(SMR – T-spine Int/Ext Rotation)

3. Cuff and Scap Activation – Working on cuff strength is a must, but working on correct movement and teaching the scap to fire quickly is equally important if not more. We include manual ext. rotation drills for strengthening as well as stabilization drills to help increase blood flow to the area and teach the cuff to fire quicker.

(Tall Kneeling Wall Dribbles)

(Half-Kneeling 90/90 ER Holds)

4. Med Ball and Plyometrics – Because baseball involves so much rotating and lateral movement, we try to keep much of our work in thev early off season in the Sagittal (front to back) plane and keep all throws on the non-dominant side only for the first 4 weeks. This helps to get back a little rotation on the “less used” side and give the dominant side a break. Saggital plane plyos such as broad jumps replace lateral work prior to doing any multi-directional work.

(Band Res. Broad Jumps)

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, where we’ll go into the weight room and talk about core work and discuss nutrition as well.

See ya’ in the gym.


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