As the 2019 Spring Baseball Season comes into full swing, I find myself speaking to parents and athletes about in-season strength training; its structure, its importance, and how a lack of training in season can affect performance down the stretch. It is extremely important to understand that intelligently designed and implemented strength training during the season is imperative not only for long term success, but for the success of that season. We know from epidemiological research that Maximal Strength takes approximately 3 weeks to decline, endurance takes about 2 weeks, and speed/explosive ability only takes 2-5 days!! When one realizes it takes less than a week to start to lose performance measures, it becomes pretty clear that training in-season has value.
The idea that strength training in-season would somehow impair performance comes from outdated thinking from another era of baseball. A mentor of mine, Matt Paulsen, actually wrote an excellent blog on the evolution of the culture of baseball:
“Canseco and pretty much the rest of the MLB had already figured out that strength training improved performance. It turns out it also reduced the instance of injury. Eventually this concept filtered down to college and youth baseball programs until baseball players who didn’t strength train were a lot rarer than those who did.
So fast forward some years and we get to where we are today. There is another long-standing baseball axiom repeated again and again that a player should not weight train during the season because…
Actually I am not sure why.
You might get tired?
What I do know is that most players who strength train work very hard during the off-season to make strength gains. They spend a boatload of hours in the gym to prepare for the start of the season and then promptly lose all those hard-earned gains in less than a month. When you step back and look at it, it makes about as much sense as being “musclebound” did.
The fact is professional baseball players are already training in-season. They worked hard for their gains and they don’t want to give them up. If you are a serious baseball player, you should be looking at doing this as well. The goals of the workouts are different than in the off-season, so the specific exercises will potentially be different too. So, do some research before you begin or work with a professional strength trainer who can help you plan your workouts and assist you in completing them.”
Excellent thoughts by Matt. To read the rest of his article and other blogs, click here.
So, what does a quality in-season program look like?
There are a few pillars that need to be prioritized during the season.
Maximal Speed and Explosion:
This can be taken care of by ensuring that you sprint every single day, and mix in at least 6-10 sets of an explosive speed-strength type exercise per week, such as med ball slams, light speed squats, or plyometrics.
Maximal Strength and Strength Endurance:
This is basically just doing basic strength movements, at least twice per week, and touching something heavy (80% 1RM or higher) every time you train. Doesn’t need to be ridiculous volume, just needs to challenge you. I tell my guys they should feel better leaving the gym than they did when they walked in.
Injury Prevention and Aerobic Health
The reason I grouped these together is that they can be accomplished in the same training session, as aerobic exercise is excellent for recovery as it dilates blood vessels and encourages amino acids and other healing factors to be delivered to damaged tissue. Other injury prevention is soft tissue work, range of motion practice, and consistent on-field warm ups.
The bottom line is that we KNOW in-season training is not only effective, but NECESSARY to maintain our offseason gains and continue to get stronger and develop. Hopefully if your reading this you are in the middle of an in-season training cycle. If not, the clock is ticking!