Aerobic Training for Baseball Players

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

Aerobic Training for Baseball.. Top Joint Image

The best baseball players are generally the ones who produce massive amounts of force very rapidly.  In most cases, this must be done repeatedly with little deterioration throughout an entire game. The best starting pitchers for example are those who can throw as hard and maintain command in the later innings as well as they can in the first or ball players who can run just as hard in the ninth as they can in the first.  Today, we’re going to talk about a training technique you can do at home on your days off from the gym that makes this all possible.

Baseball players certainly don’t need to be able to run a 400m in record time, but a good level of aerobic capacity will go a long way in developing a well-developed and well-rounded ball player. Today we’re going to focus on a few ways you can train higher levels of explosiveness associated with baseball movements (a lactic power), as well as doing it more efficiently and for a longer period of time enabling better recovery inning-to-inning and game-to-game (aerobic).

Athletes absolutely must have a well-developed aerobic system in order to:

    1. Improve on-field performance – Less fatigue = better movement quality / mechanics,
    2. Improve recovery – Athletes who lack great aerobic fitness do not recover between outings as well, both short term (in between innings), and long term (in between outings) as their more aerobically fit counterparts, and
    3. Reduce the risk of injury – Most injuries occur in the later innings when fatigue sets in.

The good news is keeping the intensity low during aerobic training won’t affect strength and power gains/development in the weight room.

Although baseball involves big, explosive movements, they are very mechanical and repetitive.  This is one big reason (among many others) that distance running does not offer enough “variety in movement” from a training standpoint to be a good “bang-for-the-buck” when trying to develop the aerobic system.

Two great ways to develop the aerobic system for baseball without long distance running are mobility circuits (covered in Part 2 of this article) and tempo runs.

Baseball players, rarely ever reach top speed in a game. So even “slow” tempo work is faster than the majority of running that occurs in a game. 1,000-1,500 yards of tempo work performed 2x per week is sufficient enough to aerobically keep a baseball player’s “energy reserve” full for an entire outing.  Also, tempo work is done at a fast enough pace (60-70 % of your maximum sprint speed) to condition the hamstrings for pure speed work conducted on higher intensity training days (we’ll cover this more in Part 2).

Remember… Tempo work remains “aerobic” only as long as adequate rest is provided between sets and running is done at 60-70 % of peak velocity. Anything more will elevate heart rate too high which trains a different energy pathway (the anaerobic system) which is not as efficient for recovery as the lower HR aerobic system.

Example… A 0:06 second 50-yard dash time would be performed no faster than around 0:08 – 0:09 seconds.

Here’s a sample program you can do at home or at a track.  You would need nothing more than a stopwatch and an 8 lb. med ball for some extra explosiveness and movement variety.

Sample Program – 12-15 sets, Total Time Approx. 20-25 min.

    1. 100 yard run (approx..16-20 sec)
    2. “All fours breathing” (5x breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, exhaling completely)
    3. Med ball slams (8x)

Here’s what one set looks like:


    • Heart rate recovery to 130 bpm after each set.
    • Performing the “all fours breathing” drill after the run forces the athlete to control his breathing while the heart rate is elevated. This is great for learning to train breathing under stress as well as preventing the athlete’s heart rate from elevating too high due to running too fast.
    • The key during the run is to feel smooth and relaxed. The medicine ball work should be performed dynamically at around 70-80% intensity as well.
    • Tempo sessions should be performed on non-lift days. For example, if your strength training is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the tempo work should be done on Tuesday and Thursday.

Although the best time to making development of the aerobic system a priority in your training is early in the off-season, they can be done all year and will blast your endurance while allowing you to maintain strength when getting after it in the weight room. Enjoy.

See ya’ in the gym.