With baseball season quickly approaching, we are beginning to see everyone’s idea of what a great in-season baseball workout is being posted all over the internet. While some of these are quite good, unfortunately others are either too heavy on volume and intensity or are so light the athlete is better off taking the day off. I always tell my athletes that once the season begins, what we are really doing is managing a controlled fall. In other words, playing sports technically makes athletes better at playing their sport, but it does not make them stronger or even able to maintain specific training adaptations as the season progresses.
In my opinion, baseball players can and should be training hard in season, as long as throwing and exercise selection are taken into consideration and they’re training in the correct strength-zones. Enter velocity-based training (VBT) for in-season baseball workouts.
Velocity-Based Training allows us to take a lot of the guess work out of training by monitoring bar speed. This helps an athlete train in a specific “strength-zone” helping to create an adaptation that helps maintain the strength and power built up in the off-season while not creating any residual soreness that can affect next day, on-field performance. This can be a deal breaker, especially at this time of year when weight room intensity is lowered, and the speed of lifts are increased, partially since throwing has ramped up.
Changes in day-to-day readiness that are caused by training related fatigue, biological variability (as in life-style factors, sleep, stress and nutrition), all can make strength levels fluctuate up to 15-20% per day. By utilizing VBT we can take these parameters into account by locking into a percentage of bar or body speed rather than a percentage of a 1RM. By receiving a daily number after each rep and set, we can see if the weight needs to be decreased due to on-field fatigue that day.
(VBT – Trap Bar Jumps)
Let’s quickly go through some of what I consider to be key strength zones when it comes to in-season baseball workouts and how we use the Push 2.0 VBT linear transducer to help us pinpoint the specific strength zones we’re chasing.
(VBT – Split Squat)
By knowing what bar speed we’re chasing, we can also avoid over-training and the accompanying fatigue that may carry over to on-field performance. First, let’s look at what components need to be focused on, based off of in-season training residuals
Management of Training Residuals
To create a successful in-season program, the first important step is to understand that what playing the sport helps to develop and sustain differs from what the athlete still needs in order to be successful in that sport. Training residual represents the length of time a specific adaptation stays with the athlete once the training stimulus is removed as well as the retention of changes in the body’s strength and motor abilities after training stops beyond a certain time period.
Below is a chart showing energy system usage/residuals:
This is no more apparent than in March in the Northeast. Many players completely abandon weight room work to play ball and end up sitting on High School gym floors performing half-baked workouts because the fields are either muddy or covered in snow.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of baseball-specific qualities and their training residuals as they relate to, the energy systems in the above chart..
In addition to cessation of training quality, another limiting factor that can cause specific traits to decline more quickly includes:
Inefficient amount of time spent in the preparatory period (off-Season) – The shorter the time you spend on a particular quality, the less time it stays with you. The preparatory period (off-season) is when tissue prep, hypertrophy, submaximal and maximal strengths are the main focus of develop¬ment. Inefficient time spent in these phases can have lingering repercussions later as in-season play begins.
The Special Strength Zones
By utilizing VBT, we can assure that the athlete must be in the correct zone to effectively develop that specific strength/stimulus. Choosing the appropriate zone should be based on what trait the athlete is “chasing” that day / training block.
Absolute Strength (80-95%1RM) – Max strength along with aerobic fitness are the slowest to diminish, so we tell the guys to hit a “heavy” lift 2-3 x’s /month within the program. This is generally the day after pitching to consolidate stress within a 24 -hour time period.
- VBT – .35-.55 m/s
Accelerative Strength (60-80% 1RM) – We use accel strength as our heavier lift in-season because this intensity still allows for strength gains while moving the bar faster than max strength. Squats, deadlifts, pressing and rows are all utilized.
- VBT – .55-.75 m/s
Strength-Speed (40-60% 1RM) / Speed-Strength (20-40% 1RM) – This is where training power lives. We utilize deadlift triples, weighted jumps etc.
- VBT – .75-1.0 (strength/speed)
- VBT – 1.0-1.3m/s (speed/strength)
Speed (B.W-20%1RM) – Although this is generally worked on the field, training for speed can be trained in the weight room. Ballistic exercises such as rapid med ball chest pass, B.W. jumps and throws are used.
- VBT numbers greater >1.3 m/s
Here is a brief summary:
In-Season Programming – Below are some parameters I use to develop my athletes. VBT velocities are used as a guide. Please remember, this is the way I run my training programs VBT numbers are based off of my clientele.
Note: All Linear and Lateral speed work is left to be done during practice at school or spring training so that we can maximize things in the weight room that can’t be done on the field.
Make sure ALL are included in weekly 2-3 program:
- Warm-Ups: (SEE Individual Sheets)
- Sagittal Plane: Trap Bar lifts & Jumps, SSB Split Squats, Heavy Sled Marches
- Frontal Plane: Plyos/Jumps (heidens etc.), lateral strength lifts
- Transverse Plane: MB throws, rotational-based core
- Core: All 3 planes
- Session Duration: 10-15 sets, 3-5 exercises
- Frequency: 2-3x’s/week 45-60 min. per workout
- Speed: 10-20 sets/week (done off-site or at practice)
- Power: 10-15 sets/week @.75-1.2m/s
- Main Lifts: 3-6 sets/week
- (5-6 reps @.60-.70m/s or 6-8 sets of triples @.75-.85m/s)
- Max Strength: 6-10 sets/month (use sparingly after throwing days)
- (3×5 per session @.35-.55m/s)
If strength training is ceased, the benefits soon decrease as the contractile properties of the muscles diminish and a noticeable decline in athletic performance begins to take effect. This is not usually a problem early on in the season while strength gains from off-season training are still lingering, but as the season continues, training residuals start to diminish stripping an athlete of strength, power, and endurance. Even slight declines in any or all of these traits will have a negative effect on the athlete’s ability to perform at optimum levels.
To avoid detraining, athletes must implement sport-specific strength programs during the in-season (competitive phase). This (most times, due to time constraints) involves training different qualities within the same week and thus makes undulating periodization a more efficient choice.
It’s not the team that has the most talent, it’s the team that keeps the most talent on the field all season and using velocity-based training can be a game changer. Remember, start hard- finish harder…
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
- Bondarchuk AP (1981). The physical preparation designing in power disciplines of track and field. Kiev: Health Publisher (Zdorovie, Russian). http://www.exrx.net/ExInfo/ResidualTraining.html
- Issurin V (2010). New horizons for the methodology and physiology of training periodization. Sports Med. 40: 189-206.
- Nunzio Signore (2021). Velocity Based Training: How to Apply Science, Technology and Data to Maximize Performance. (Human Kinetics, 2021)
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