Baseball Pitching Conditioning

By Mike Griffin, Former KC Royals Conditioning Coach

Periodization is an approach to strength and conditioning that attempts to produce peak performance while reducing injuries and overtraining in the athlete by developing a training and conditioning program to be followed throughout the entire year. The idea of periodization takes into account athletes’ different physical needs during the year and modifies the program according to the individual needs. It started in Russia in the 1970’s has evolved into the foundation of most strength training programs for all sports. Originally periodization was used to peak for a single day or tournament, but now it can be used to reach your peak by the beginning of the season and maintain that peak throughout the entire season.

Periodization breaks up the year into several cycles with slightly different focuses geared toward putting the athlete at his physical peak for the entire season. The first step in designing a periodized program is to split your year into in-season and off-season. Then you will split the off-season into several smaller cycles. Sometimes these are called macrocycles and microcycles but I’m going to name these cycles by their goals: transition, hypertrophy, strength, power, and preseason. Each cycle will have different volumes, intensities, rest periods, and skill practice.

A transition cycle immediately follows the conclusion of the season. Sometimes people will call this time period active rest. The goal of this cycled is for your mind and body to recover from the long season. This is a great time to play some other recreational sports to stay active while taking your mind off of baseball and an organized program. The volume of activity will be pretty low but it is important to stay active.

Hypertrophy is the second cycle of the off-season. This cycle uses high volume, low to moderate intensity, low to moderate rest periods, and low sport specific skill practice. The goal of this cycle is to gain lean muscle mass that will later be used to gain strength and power. Baseball players aren’t trying to be bodybuilders but this gain in muscle mass will lead to gains in strength and power as the off-season progresses.

Strength is the third cycle of the off-season. Strength refers to how much force you can produce. This cycle uses moderate volume, moderate to high intensity, moderate to high rest periods, and moderate skill practice. It is important to get enough rest to be able to give a full effort for each set. With the lower volume, some basic sport specific skill work can begin during the end of this cycle.

Power is the fourth cycle of the off-season. Power refers to producing maximal force in a short period of time. The goal of this cycle is to take that muscle and strength from the previous two cycles and translate that into explosive power. This cycle will have very high intensity, low volume, long rest periods, and moderate to high sport specific skill practice. This is a great time to increase plyometric, speed, and agility type exercises. It is crucial to get enough rest between sets, no less than 2-3 minutes. As you are getting closer to the season, the sport specific skill work will increase.

Preseason is the fifth and last cycle of the off-season. This cycle is very similar to the power cycle but with less volume. The sport specific skill work will be at its highest during this cycle as you prepare for your season. Throwing, swinging, and sprinting are a high priority during this cycle. Plyometrics are still ok for this cycle but they can be very hard on your joints so be careful that you don’t overdo the stress on the joints with the increase in skill work.

Inseason is as important as any of the other cycles. It is NOT the time to quit lifting. It is important to keep that strength and power you developed during the off-season. If you quit lifting when the season starts, you will be at your weakest point when it matters the most. The inseason program should use moderate to high intensity, low to moderate volume, and moderate to high rest periods. Single joint exercises like bicep and triceps exercises can be taken out of the program to reduce volume.

For most baseball players, the off-season is now! This is the best time to gain more strength and power. Don’t hesitate, start now.


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