The Baseball Strength-Speed Continuum… The Key to Off-Season Training

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

Setting athletes up for success in their respective sports requires not only great programming, but great timing in regard to where a player is in their training year. Let’s face it, everyone wants strength and speed and a well-designed program should deliver on both but at the right times.

Strength is a huge foundation for producing power, so the general idea is to make an athlete as strong as possible in the beginning of their off-season training and then use this strength to increase speed (power) as we get closer to the start of the season.

For example, we train a lot of baseball players and hockey players but if you walk into RPP between October and February, the workouts would be completely different between the two sports due largely to the fact that hockey will be in-season and baseball is in their off-season. Let’s take a look at what this means to baseball players training-wise using this off-season timeline:

Strength Speed Continuum

This is particularly effective with our younger ball players who are just starting a strength program for the first time. They have spent their entire childhood at the far right of the timeline above, so their bodies are primed and ready to get strong. Most will stay in a strength phase the entire off-season working on posterior chain strength and upper body development to name a few.

Strength: This is the first couple months of the offseason and also the time to get strong. During this period low reps combined with high intensities are used. Very little conditioning or movements specific to the sport are done at this time. The athlete has just finished being explosive and playing baseball all season so we’re really trying to emphasize strength training using the big movements (i.e. deadlifts, squats, pressing and pulling movements). This is particularly effective with our younger ball players who are just starting a strength program for the first time. They have spent their entire childhood at the far right of the timeline above so their bodies are primed and ready to get strong.

 (Reverse Lunge)

Strength/Speed: As the off-season progresses, we move a little more to the right of the timeline, by adding explosive lifts at 60-85% of 1RM as well as pairing them with weighted jumps to introduce explosive power. At this time, we begin to get the athlete moving while still creating a strength training effect.

(Deadlift Triples)

(Weighted Jumps)

Speed/Strength: Conditioning drills and movements more specific to the sport begin to be added to the program as we get the athlete ready to begin their next season. Med Ball work is ramped up by introducing rotary movements with resistance such as med ball throws into the strength program:

(Walking Side Throw)

(Hookems)

Weighted complexes (a series of exercises performed in sequence without stopping to replace the heavier intensity sets in the weight room), and transitional sprints (notice I didn’t say long distance running) which are change-of-direction drills specific to movements on the field, become the emphasis in this phase.

(Transitional Sprints)

Speed: This is generally February for ball players. Our main focus is to apply the strength we have acquired in the off-season to create power in movements that will translate over to speed and endurance on the field. In addition to strength training, transitional sprint work and plyometrics are ramped up to comprise roughly 20% of the program and even more movements specific to the sport are added. In regard to pitchers, we also take into account January and February (pitching lessons, bullpens, long toss etc.) and adjust their programs accordingly. For example, replacing med ball throws with weighted ball decelerations.

(Weighted Ball Decell)

Training the right systems at the right time is crucial to making sure you are “peaking” when it comes time to start your season. It also keeps the task at hand from week to week more focused when using a well thought out game plan.  Off-season training programs should not be generic or stock. Our program design is a well thought-out process.  It is designed with the time of year and where an athlete is within their season in mind.

See ya’ in the gym.

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