Power Training for the Sport of Baseball

14 Jun Power Training for the Sport of Baseball

Power in the most basic of formulas is strength plus speed. It is the combination of these two entities cohesively working together that allows a sprinter to sprint fast, a pitcher to throw hard, and a hitter to swing with power. The scientific definition of power states it is the ability to generate the greatest amount of force in a short amount of time. (Vladimir Zatsiorosky, Professor Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Pennsylvania State University)

Quite often when the topic of hitting comes up the word “power” is mentioned. You have probably heard the phrase “that hitter has power to all fields”. To understand the relation of power to baseball, let us take a quick look at the swing.

When you are in the batter’s box and the pitch is thrown. You have a split second to decide if you are going to swing. If you decide to swing, then you have even less time to accelerate your bat into the “hitting zone” and make contact. The key element of the above description is time. As a hitter, you have very little time to make contact and drive the ball.

Neuro-muscular power has a correlation to time. The definition of neuro-muscular power is the ability to generate the greatest amount of force in the least amount of time. Review of this definition will indicate immediately the need to train the parameter of neuro-musuclar power in relation to hitting. Power training emphasizes the ability of the kinetic chain to generate the greatest amount of force in the least amount of time possible. If you do not train the kinetic chain to develop the parameter of neuro-muscular power, then the ability to generate a large amount of force during your swing will be less than optimal.

Power Training for the Position Player

Developing power in the position player moves beyond the batter’s box onto the diamond. Power is a major component in the field as it pertains to acceleration, change of direction, and speed. The position player must understand hitting, fielding, and running the base paths all contain power components, and these components can be developed in order to improve performance during competition.

Power Training Basics

Increasing bat speed, change of direction in the field, and accelerating to top speed on the bases requires power outputs from the kinetic chain. Power as stated previously in the most basic terms strength plus speed. The ability of the strength and conditioning professional to develops these components within the kinetic chain can exponentially increase the performance parameters of the baseball athlete.

Power training develops the ability of the kinetic chain to generate maximum force outputs in a minimal amount of time, increase motor unit recruitment, improve neuromuscular efficiency, and desensitization of the golgi tendon. This process is achieved through modalities typically classified as plyometrics (neuromuscular reactive training) or Olympic Lifting.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics as stated previously is one type of modality utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. Plyometrics are a category of exercises enabling a muscle to reach maximum force in as short a time as possible (Thomas Baechle, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 319). Plyometrics incorporate the force of gravity to store potential energy within the muscles. This occurs during the eccentric phase of such exercises. This energy is then used immediately after a brief amortization phase in the opposite direction during the concentric phase of the exercise.

The box jump plyometric exercise is a simple example where these components of such exercises can be easily understood. Standing on top of the box is the starting point of this exercise. The next step is jumping off the box where gravity will pull you down to the floor. At this juncture of the exercise potential energy is being stored as your feet come in contact with the floor and the musculature of the lower body elongates. Immediately following this brief contact time on the floor, you will jump forcefully upward through a series of concentric contractions by the musculature of the lower body. The potential energy stored within your musculature is utilized and transferred to kinetic energy during the concentric muscular actions of jumping off the floor, thus increasing the force outputs of the jump.

Plyometric exercises are typically classified into lower body and upper body exercises. Lower body plyometrics commonly referred to as jump training utilize gravity and the stretch-shortening cycle in conjunction with jumps, hops, and bounding whereas upper body plyometric exercises are characterized by throws, catches, and pushes often times utilizing a medicine ball within the exercise.

Plyometrics and power training in general are similar to resistance training in that both utilize the principles of progression, overload, and cross-specificity. As a result, it is necessary for the strength and conditioning professional to implement exercises in a systematic manner to continually challenge the neuromuscular system of the kinetic chain cross-specifically to the sport of baseball.

Plyometrics for Baseball

Plyometric training for the position player will address the lower body, upper body, and rotational components of hitting. Lower body plymetrics will focus on improving the force outputs of the kinetic chain to increase ground reaction forces, first step push, acceleration to top speed, and change of direction.These modalities will incorporate “jump training” with a standardized progression beginning with jumps focusing on the deceleration, progressing to multiple jumps, and depth jumps.

Upper body plyo’s will address “push” and “throw”power in the baseball athlete. The utilization of a medicine ball will be the training tool most commonly utilized in these modalities for the upper body power development. Relative to the baseball baseball player, upper body plyo’s will focus on overhead throws and push movements. A progression will again be utilized with upper body plymetrics beginning with a standing position, progressing to stepping movements, and to single leg throws.

Rotational plyometrics will utilize a medicine ball in rotary movement patterns to develop power in the transverse plane. Rotational plyometrics are most associated with the hitting motion though the throwing motion will also utilize power generated in this movement plane. Rotational plyometrics typically utilize an agressive rotational movement throwing the medicine to a partner or against a wall. Progressions often associated with rotational plyometrics will move from a kneeling position, to a stepping action, and to single leg exercises.

Olympic Lifts

Olympic Lifting is comprised of the clean and jerk and snatch lifts. Both of these lifts are very technically orientated for proper execution. As a result, hybrids and partial movements of these two lifts are commonly utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. The hang clean, push press, hang snatch, and single arm dumbbell snatch are examples of hybrids or partials.

Olympic lifting recruits the entire kinetic chain, encompasses the stretch shortening cycle, necessitates stabilization of the kinetic chain during execution, develops high levels of rapid muscle fiber activation, and increases force production within the neuromuscular system. As a result the inclusion of Olympic Lifts is very beneficial in the development of power production within the kinetic chain.

Olympic lifts and their hybrids are not as common as plyometrics for power development in the sport of baseball. This is due to the fact the majority of Olympic lifts require the athlete to perform overhead  lifts. As a result of the repetitive overhead movements in baseball, adding additional activities where high loads are required to be lifted over the athlete’s head do not mess well with the sport of baseball. The risk/reward benefits of these exercises, the potential for overuse injuries in the shoulder complex, and other options for power development for the baseball athlete suggest Olympic lifts may not be the best choice for power development with the this athletic population.

Sample Power Development Programs for Baseball

Recognizing the importance of power development for the baseball athlete and the varying modalities which can be utilized to develop power listed below are some sample power programs for the sport of baseball. The sample programs utilize a systematic progression to continually challenge the athlete, and increase the intensity as the athlete progresses through the modalities. Recognize these are only sample programs utilizing plyometrics as the driver for power development in the kinetic chain.

Lower Body Plyometric Program:

  1. Deceleration Box Jumps
  2. Box Jumps
  3. Jumps in Place – Singles
  4. Jumps in Place – Consecutive
  5. Loaded Jumps in Place – Singles
  6. Loaded Jumps in Place – Consecutive

 

Upper Body Throw Plyometric Program

  1. Stationary Overhead Medicine Ball Throw
  2. Staggered Stance Overhead Medicine Ball Throw
  3. Stepping Overhead Medicine Ball Throw
  4. Single Leg Overhead Medicine Ball Throw

 

Upper Body Push Plyometric Program

  1. Stationary Medicine Ball Chest Pass
  2. Staggered Medicine Ball Chest Pass
  3. Stepping Medicine Ball Chest Passs
  4. Single Leg Medicine Ball Chest Pass
  5. Single Arm Rotational Medicine Ball Chest Pass

 

Rotational Plyometric Program

  1. Kneeling Medicine Ball Side Throw
  2. 1/2 Kneeling Medicine Ball Side Throw
  3. Frontal Medicine Ball Twist Throw
  4. Standing Medicine Ball Side Throw
  5. Stepping Medicine Ball Side Throw

 

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

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