By Dana Cavalea, CSCS, N.Y. Yankees strength coach
So we know that the physical demands of baseball are particularly lower in comparison to other sports, and what a coincidence, so is the motivation and desire of baseball players to train at a high intensity.
Baseball is one of those sports where you truly can out-train the sport, meaning you are able to train at a much higher level than the sport actually demands. With this being said, ask yourself if you are training to meet the demand, or exceed the demand. This is a great question for Coaches to ask themselves and really analyze if they are pushing their ballplayers hard enough off the field, in the weight room, and in a structured conditioning program.
We all know that when you ask a veteran in the baseball coaching world about their thoughts on weight training for baseball, or training in general for that matter from a fitness standpoint, what their typical answer is: “ If you lift you will get tight and will be unable to swing or throw. Weight lifting will limit your flexibility and you will get hurt.” Does this sound familiar?
I am often greeted with much criticism when I speak to Coaches from varying backgrounds nationwide on the art of training the modern day ballplayer and most of this arises from emphasizing the need to out-train the sport. We all know the greats of the game, Alex Rodriguez and the Rocket, Roger Clemens and what their highly acclaimed programs have brought to them; Very little time on the disabled list, glorious statistics year after year, All-Star Games, Fame, and blockbuster contracts. So if there is any question as to the benefits of weight training and conditioning, and doing it at a level that is atypical for baseball, those two guys should provide you with the comfort you need to see the benefits of doing so.
Now this article should not be misinterpreted as go into a gym, lift as much as possible, and run until you puke; it should be used to expand you horizons on the type of intensity that could be brought to the baseball training arena without negatively effecting performance. At this point it is up to you to find a qualified professional that you can confide in, in order to get yourself on a customized cutting edge program that is structured with your age and training experience, and that will allow you to progress in regards to volume and intensity of training throughout the course of the baseball training year.
Training to exceed the demands of the sport can be done both in-season and off, but the intensity and volume of training will change accordingly. As your baseball playing volume rises, something has got to give, and that something should be your training volume. Intensity can still remain high during the season, but when overall training volume and playing volume are both high, then this can result in overtraining, which will soon lead to fatigue and injuries. During the season training volume and intensity should be inversely related, and it is imperative that you as a player or coach monitor you training to make sure you aren’t overdoing it, and breaking yourself down.
In the big leagues our players are very good at knowing their bodies, when to back off for a day or two, and when to turn it back on and really get after it. It is a constant balance to ensure optimal results and the building of muscle strength and power, while not overdoing it and causing more harm than good.
When you work to out-train your sport, you will feel much more confident in your physical preparedness, which in turn will lead to great confidence on the field, and overall improved performance. Staying consistent with a program and believing in what you are doing will work to keep you focused on your training goals, as well as your performance goals on the field.
Train Hard, Train Smart, Get Good.
Dana Cavalea is the director of strength and conditioning for the New York Yankees. He is a national speaker on baseball performance training, as well as the owner of Major League Strength, www.mlstrength.com.
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