Training for Better Force Production in Pitchers and Baseball Players – Part 1

To the untrained eye, most strength programs look the same.  But when it comes to training for elite performance as a pitcher or a player, the difference between good and bad strength programs is like night and day.  Whether it be posting up on the mound, a lead leg block or first step quickness when changing direction, the rate at which a pitcher or a ball player for that matter can develop force (rate of force development) is one of the main qualities to efficiency in all three movement patterns.

Training for Strength, training for Force and training for Power are not the same thing.  But all equally important for elite performance.

So, let’s get into it…

Training for Force

The formula for force is Mass x Acceleration. In this 3-part series, I will break down the different training adaptations we use to effectively increase this ability to move mass as quickly as possible from a dead stop, much like a pitcher’s back leg from peak leg lift or his front leg at foot strike.  Applying these adaptations is after years of trial and error in the weight room as well as much research on the topic (please see footnotes).

Let me be clear, creating elite movement from a “dead stop” requires elite force production.

It’s also important to understand that nothing is built in isolation. There are elements of powerlifting, hypertrophy, speed training etc. when training for an explosive sport such as baseball, but at a much smaller scale than you would think.

During the off-season here at RPP, we’ve been breaking down the power equation (Force X Velocity) into separate programs and training for each both separately and then putting it all together later in the off-season. While it is true that “max strength” is the glass that all other qualities sit in, many coaches immediately believe they must get their athletes squatting, deadlifting, and / or bench pressing at 80-90% of their 1RM as much or as soon as possible.

There are times to lift heavy… and times NOT to!

Early in the off-season, especially with athletes who possess a lower training age, you can and should absolutely employ traditional movements such as S. leg squats, deadlifts, and bench press at 75-90% 1RM, as this is usually the “lowest-hanging fruit” that will allow them to increase their ability to further generate force.

Later in the off-season (or career for that matter), once they have reached a level of which we deem “strong enough”, you can then begin implementing more exercises that create higher ground forces. By switching to other movements with a higher-force potential somewhere around the halfway mark of the off-season and after a max strength phase we can continue to produce higher gains in an athlete’s performance potential.

So, what is the purpose of focusing on force production training?

    • Better prepare athletes for the forces they experience in sport
    • Lighter loads allow for more explosive speeds which they experience in their sport
    • Help improve performance while helping to reduce the risk of injury

Baseball is built on maximum force production and the ability to dissipate the decelerative forces it places on the body, especially the lower half, are key to performance and most importantly reducing the risk of injury.

And while this ability to produce high force absolutely involves training max strength, it’s only to a certain degree. After that, improving the RATE or how fast we can apply that strength (aka-force) becomes the deciding factor of who performs the best on the field.

This, like any progressive system, involves introducing different phases during any lifting week, each with their own methods for optimal adaptation. As far as training force, these methods are:

    1. Developing Ground Force / Deceleration
    2. Building Elasticity and Acceleration
    3. Improving Tissue / Tendon Quality
    4. Training Global Movement Patterns

Let’s look at each…

1.  Developing Ground Force / Deceleration

It is vitally important to use the two methods listed below to build the capacity to tolerate the high forces baseball players will face either while posting up, blocking with the lead leg or quickly stopping and changing direction. This is key in helping move them closer to their genetic potential of being more explosive. The two methods are:

    • A – Overcoming Isometrics
    • B – Deceleration

A. Overcoming Isometrics


The risk-reward when performing overcoming isometrics is 10-fold. Force plate data shows that a belt squat overcoming iso produces up to 10,000 Newtons of force being produced. This is approximately 10x’s bodyweight for a 195 lb. athlete. Along with extremely high force outputs, there is almost NO learning curve to performing the movement.

Overcoming isometrics involves sets of a 3 sec build up into a 5 sec. hold at maximal intensity, against an immovable object. When utilized properly, this is pure gold for developing ground force by increasing:

    • Force Production
    • Neural Drive

Exercises Used:

Belt Squat Overcoming Iso Hold – The athlete simply stands with a belt around their waist that is chained to the ground or rack and pushes as hard as they can into the ground for an approx. 3 sec buildup and then 3-5 seconds at max effort.

Overcoming Iso Belt Squat

B. Deceleration


Deceleration, otherwise known as “eccentric strength”, is the ability to stop suddenly and absorb force as quickly as possible. This type of training can help athletes improve power production by helping them control force absorption. These exercises can help athletes develop explosiveness, which is necessary for both strength and speed.

Exercises Used:

The exercises below require quick loading and ultimately deceleration at a faster rate than a traditional strength exercise such as a heavy back squat or deadlift. This is “pure gold” in regard to getting closer to the demands necessary in the sport while reducing the risk of injury. Below, is a comparison of the forces generated by a 195 lb. athlete from trap bar deadlifts at 2x’s body weight against the 3 exercises mentioned using Vald force plates. Here is what the research found:


Exercise Newtons of force X’s B.W
Trap Bar Deadlift 3,000 N 3.2 x’s BW
36” Depth Drop 4,000 N 4.2x’s BW
RFESS Drop Catch 3,328 N 3.4x’s BW

High Depth Drops (approx. 4,070 Newtons of force or 4.3 times body weight) –  Start at 30” box and progress up each week. Start with soft landings and build up weekly to quicker “stiffer” landings.

36” Depth Drop

DB RFESS drop-catch (25-30 lb. dumbbells, approx.3,328 Newtons or 3.4 x’s body weight)

RFESS Drop-Catch Catch

Stay tuned for part 2, where we’ll take a look at the speed / acceleration side of things.

See ya’ in the gym…

By Nunzio Signore


    1. Dan Cleather: Force: The Biomechanics of Training
    2. James G. Hay: “Citius, altius, longius (faster, higher, longer): The biomechanics of jumping for distance.” Journal of Biomechanics
    3. Hunter Eisenhour: Redefining Strength: High Force Does Not Equal High Load


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