Why Getting Stronger Will Improve Your On-Field Performance
After the amount of programming I’ve been going through for our baseball population, I get really excited about where they can end up in March.
The “perfect program” is the one that you aren’t doing…go figure, right?
Baseball is such a sport of tradition. For the longest time, baseball players (pitchers in particular) were afraid to touch a weight because they were afraid that it would make them feel “tight”, hindering their ability to throw hard.
I’m here to tell you that if you want to enhance your baseball performance, you are doing yourself a disservice if you are not performing a resistance training program!
Muscle tissue remodeling does take a long time, and it also depends on your training age like I discussed in my previous post. Therefore, it is SO important to get your ass in the weight room as soon as possible.
In the high school-aged baseball population, we can hopefully see a notable increase in strength somewhere between 12-14 weeks.
It’s also critical to have a set month-to-month plan when it comes to strength training because there are so many variables that a performance coach can manipulate.
Strength training is important for any athlete for multiple reasons: increasing lean tissue mass, muscle-fiber activity, force production, rate of force production, and decreasing imbalances in the body.
This post is to educate the baseball player that strength is SPECIFIC based on movement speed and movement planes.
Lower Body Strength and Performance
The amount of force that you put into the ground is based upon two principles: external load, and internal intent .
Adding external load is easy. Just add more weight onto whatever exercise you are performing.
However, although the external load is high, the amount of inertia is decreased because you cannot accelerate as quickly with a high load .
You can also increase the amount of force into the ground by intently moving as quickly as possible with whatever weight you are using.
Resistance training, when paired with unilateral and horizontal plyometric exercises, can improve the acceleration phase of sprinting .
Again, this is referring to the absolute strength-absolute speed continuum.
Although squat performance may increase after a resistance training program, it may not increase throwing velocity in some cases because of the speed of the movement and the specificity of the movement plane.
One study  tried to determine which resistance training method was best for improving throwing velocity in a high school population.
In this study, the general strength program, ballistic strength program, and medicine ball training program all seemed to increase throwing velocity, but none more than the other.
Upper Body and Torso Strength and Performance
I see too many kids swinging out of their shoes in the cages…and all their power generation is coming from their upper body. Sigh.
Force is generated from the ground up, not from your arms to the bat!
One study tried to determine if a 1-RM Bench Press (BP) was significantly correlated with bat speed. What did they find?
“it is possible that measuring only traditional 1RM BP cannot evaluate muscle power of power hitters sufficiently when evaluating the upper body strength of baseball players…it [is] important to evaluate muscle power exertion with light-loads or with fast repetitions” .
Again, this tells us that strength is specific to velocity. Since the baseball swing requires the hitter to generate as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time, using lighter loads with the intent of moving the weight as fast as possible may be a better solution.
Although, I don’t want to make it seem like the bench press is a bad exercise. Some research has shown that upper body training significantly increased throwing velocity in an untrained high school population .
But isn’t your trunk still considered as part of your upper body? Wouldn’t rotational trunk strength have something to do with baseball performance? The answer is yes!
Szymanski and others  found that their 12-week rotational medicine ball program enhanced bat velocity and dominant torso rotational strength, compared to the group that ONLY performed swing training.
Just another argument supporting that baseball players should be getting in the weight room.
I think Chris Beardsley said it very well in his book, “Strength is Specific”, when he argues why just “getting stronger” isn’t always the answer. Getting stronger is based upon a host of factors: muscle action, velocity, range of motion, external load type, and degree of stability .
If we really want to get stronger, I think it’s best to define “strength” yourself. This is such a general term, and it could mean a bunch of different things.
However, I will add that being strong might also include significantly reducing your risk of injury. Strength training, regardless of muscle action, load, and other factors will absolutely aid in tissue resiliency.
No matter how many studies I will cite, there are always two possible outcomes: the experimental group either enhances performance or doesn’t when compared to the control group. Even if we don’t find the results that we want in research, what can we take away from it?
DOING SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN DOING NOTHING. You are really doing yourself a disservice as an athlete if you are not getting in the weight room. In the right environment, it certainly will not hurt you at all.
Our training should be as specific as possible when the time is right.
I think getting “stronger” should include general, specific, and special resistance training methods. No matter what your definition of strength is, I hope this article got you one step closer!
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS
Assistant Director of Performance
Infiniti Sports Performance
- Beardsley, C. Strength is Specific (1.0).
- Young, W.B. (2006). Transfer of strength and power training to sports performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1, 74-83.
- Escamilla, R.F., Ionno, M., deMahy, S., Fleisig, G.S., Wilk, K.E., Yamashiro, K., Mikla, T., Pauloas, L., and Andrews, J.R. (2012). Comparison of three baseball-specific six week training programs on throwing velocity in high school baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26, 1767-1781.
- Miyaguchi, K. and Demura, S. (2012): The relationship between upper-body strength and bat swing speed in high-school baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(7), 1786-1791.
- Szymanski, D.J., McIntyre, J.S., Szymanski, J.M., Bradford, T.J., Shade, R.L., Madsen, N.H., and Pascoe, D.D. (2007). Effect of torso rotational strength on angular hip, angular shoulder, and linear bat velocities of high school baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21(4), 1117-1125.