Training Baseball Pitchers and Players In-season with VBT (Velocity-Based Training)

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

With baseball season quickly approaching, we’re beginning to see everyone’s idea of what a great in-season program encompasses 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. In my opinion, baseball players can and should be training hard, 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).

Velocity-Based Training – VBT 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.

VBT / Auto-Regulation – 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)

Today, I’d like to quickly go through some of what I consider to be key strength zones when it comes to training baseball players in-season and how we use the Push 2.0 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.

In-Season Training Residuals – The Residual Training Effect is the retention of changes in the body’s strength and motor abilities after training stops beyond a certain time period. After that, various fitness components that were built up during the off-season can decrease gradually at varying rates. Below is a chart showing energy system usage/residuals.

Studies:

1. 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

2. Issurin V (2010). New horizons for the methodology and physiology of training periodization. Sports Med. 40: 189-206.

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-assed 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.

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 – .30-.50 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)

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…