05 Feb Speed, Agility, and Quickness Training for the Sport of Baseball
Every position in the sport of baseball requires athleticism, speed, quickness, and agility. Each position in the field does require varying levels of these aforementioned physical components but overall improvement in a player’s speed, agility, and quickness will pay dividends in the field and on the base paths.
Speed, agility, and quickness commonly phrased as “SAQ” requires specialized training to see improvements in these capacities. SAQ training benefits the athlete in a number ways such as in improving foot speed, change of direction, first step quickness, increased force outputs, improved strength, and rate of force output. All of which benefits the overall performance of the athlete on the diamond.
The processes by which SAQ training is implemented to benefit the athlete is via the principle of adaptation. SAQ training places an overload on the neural, articular, and muscular systems of the kinetic chain. Over time the kinetic chain accommodates to theses stresses in the form of improved speed, agility, and power. In order for these improvements to be maintained over an extended period of time the principle of progression must be implemented to create continual adaptation by the kinetic chain. The process by which progressions are instituted are with a periodization schedule. A periodization schedule will vary the training intensity, loads, and volume to create continual adaption within the programming.
SAQ training for the sport of baseball will look to improve foot speed, change of direction, first step explosiveness, and acceleration to top speed. All of these differing facets do require different exercises and modalities all of which in general can be developed underneath the “SAQ Training Umbrella”.
Foot speed is basically how fast you can run or your maximum speed. In the sport of baseball top speed is achieved at times on the base paths or in the outfield. In order to improve foot speed the ball player needs to improve a number of facets as it pertains to sprinting. Basically two components can be trained which will improve top speed; number one is the force outputs of the kinetic chain, and secondly form.
Sprinting speed is stride length x stride frequency. Improving both of these facets will increase foot speed. Improving the force outputs of the kinetic chain via plyometrics, jump training, and Olympic lifting will increase the power outputs of the kinetic chain. This in turns provides the athlete the ability to generate increased ground reaction forces lending to the ability to improve foot speed. Form is working on the techniques by which an athlete sprints and improving the efficiency by which these actions occur. The more efficient an athlete is with the sprinting form, the greater amount of energy the athlete can utilize in the propulsion of the body to its’ highest rate of speed.
Change of Direction
Change of direction is simply the ability of the ball player to decelerate the kinetic chain and re-accelerate in a different direction in the shortest amount of time possible. Change of direction requires the kinetic chain to rapidly decelerate and re-accelerate in a different direction. A middle infielder going after a ball in the hole and pivoting towards first base is a prime example of “change of direction” in the sport of baseball, and the faster a middle infielder can decelerate the kinetic chain, re-accelerate in a different direction, and throw the baseball, the better chance for the runner to be out on the play.
Improving change of direction requires enhancing the athlete’s capacity to decelerate, and accelerate the body in a different direction. The improvement of these aforementioned athletic actions not only requires improving the force outputs of the kinetic chain (ground reaction forces), but in addition one’s balance capacities, and inter/intra neural muscular activities. Developing all three of these facets in multiple directions will over time improve the ball players change of direction capacities.
Improving first step and acceleration go hand-in-hand as it pertains to SAQ training. First step is the initial first step acceleration of the ball player from a stationary position. For example, the cross over and first step in stealing second base or the initial step out of the batter’s box can be considered first step speed. The goal of first step coincides with the development of acceleration.
Acceleration according to Wikepedia is the rate of change of an object’s velocity. Relative to baseball and athletes our goal is to improve this rate of change in terms of velocity. Recognize acceleration is a key component of top speed, agility, and change of direction. Obviously, improving the athlete’s ability to accelerate will undoubtedly improve all other facets of SAQ. As a result acceleration which includes first step will be a focus of SAQ training.
A number of different training modalities will be utilize to improve acceleration. Acceleration is directly connected to the athlete’s ability to generate ground reaction forces. As stated previously improving the force outputs of the kinetic chain via plyometrics, jump training, and Olympic lifting can be beneficial in this process.
Outside of these modalities the utilization of sports loading in the form of overloading and underloading the kinetic chain have shown to be beneficial in improving acceleration, top speed, and SAQ in general. Sports loading will utilize techniques such as uphill sprinting, weighted vests, sleds, parachutes, towing, and downhill running. All of which either overload or underload the kinetic chain to improve acceleration, ground reaction forces, and the ability of the neural system to operate at a high rate.
Developing an athlete’s SAQ components will benefit play in field, on the base paths, and in batter’s box. An athlete who can run faster, change direction more efficiently, accelerate more quickly, and has first step quickness will no doubt be a better all around ball player. Recognize each position requires differing components of SAQ, but overall improvement of all facets corresponding with SAQ will be beneficial.
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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