The Needs for Baseball Performance

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THE NEEDS FOR PERFORMANCE

I recently saw a post on Instagram from Bill Miller (who you can find here) that caught my eyes. The shirt he was wearing said, “Get Jacked. Throw Gas. Hit Dingers” and I thought “wow, that is awesome”.

It basically sums up that’s what you need to be a successful baseball player.

Then, it got me thinking…although these performance measures seem legit, what if we dig a little deeper?

HOW can we get jacked? HOW can we throw gas? HOW can we hit dingers?

The answer is with strength and conditioning. If you’re not in the weight room working on your craft, it won’t magically happen.

A recent research article I read [1] stated:

“…baseball players who are taller with longer levers and have greater [lean body mass] are able to generate more force at impact than players with shorter levels and less [lean body mass].”

I get it, you can’t teach size. If you’re over 6-feet tall, God bless your soul. What about the undersized kids that must work a little harder?

I was never, and never will be, the biggest guy on the field. I’m only 5’6”. However, what made ME a successful player is the specific athletic qualities that I constantly worked on: strength and power.

This is what inspired me to write this article.

So, what are the NEEDS for baseball performance?


Anthropometry: Height, Weight, Body Fat, Lean Body Mass

 Whether you are tall, short, or somewhere in between, I believe this is somewhat of a constant variable. Therefore, we really have no control over it so we shouldn’t obsess over it.

What we can control, however, is our body weight, body fat, and lean body mass.

Dr. Josh Heenan (here) indicates that your “ideal body weight” is your height in inches multiplied by a factor of 2.5

For example, since I am 5’6 inches, I am 66 inches tall (or short, to be more realistic). Multiply 66 by 2.5 and we get 165, and this would be my ideal body weight.

Now, of these 165 pounds, I should be sitting around 12% body fat (BF). Therefore, I should be 145 pounds of LEAN mass (everything besides fat tissue).

Due to my shorter stature, I have a greater advantage of repeating how much force I can apply into the ground whether it be sprinting, jumping, hitting, or throwing.

However, whether you are short or tall, you need to have a lot of lean body mass to give yourself the best opportunity to generate as much force as possible. This is a good place to start.

Figure 1

The figure above further demonstrates the importance of lean body mass (LBM). According to some research [1], having a lot of lean body mass is more moderately correlated with bat velocity than height alone. Shout-out to the undersized ballplayers!

There’s research telling you that if you get jacked, you have a greater chance at becoming successful (not limited to just bat velocity).

In many of my posts, I mentioned that “mass equals gas” when it comes to throwing velocity. While this may be true, I think a better way at depicting how hard you can throw is “Lean mass equals more gas”.

This is because height and weight alone are NOT as correlated to bat velocity like lean body mass is. I don’t care if you weigh 200 pounds or 160 pounds. Are you strong relative to your own body weight?

Obviously, if you do gain a little more weight, some of this weight will be lean mass.

To make this simpler, think about building a house. You need a strong foundation, and need to “fill up” whatever you put upon this foundation. This is synonymous to creating a better physical stature for your height and weight.


Physiological Strength and Power: Bilateral and Rotational

Previous research has shown us that baseball players have great lower body strength, upper body strength, lower body power, rotational strength and rotational power.

I don’t think any of this information should be surprising by now. However, let’s look at some information as if you haven’t had any sort of performance training experience before.

Figure 2

Let’s look at power and strength. According to this figure, this is telling me that despite what you have heard, vertical jump literally has nothing to do with bat velocity.

What correlates even more with bat velocity is NON-dominate torso rotational strength. Hm, interesting, right? I mean, dominant torso rotational strength is just as important though.

What I will say is that I personally believe that the vertical jump is a great assessment tool for general athleticism, and it can show us how can athlete can rapidly create force into the ground.

After training, we can see that lean body mass becomes even more significant than before! Due to an increase in lean body mass, the body is more able to produce force.

With a good strength program, this increased force production will also translate to an increase in the rate of force development when necessary.

Lastly, we can also see that dominant and non-dominant torso rotational strength becomes even more significant post training. This seems to be the greatest predictor in bat velocity.


Application

Just like any other study, we should think about how we can apply this information. For the high school athlete, getting stronger is more important than becoming so specialized with programming.

Not to say that a specialized program is NOT important, it’s all about when we become more specific with our programming.

If you have a decent level of relative strength and you’re looking to enhance your bat velocity both acutely and chronically, you could mess around with a few different over-loaded/under-loaded techniques.

However, if you’re weak and have a hard time developing strength in a short amount of time (power), then you should start with evaluating your current athletic qualities.

To make this very simple, let’s think about these 5 questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s my body fat percentage? How much do I currently weigh? Now, what’s my lean body mass?
  2. Am I able to do any deadlift variation for at least 1.5 times my own body weight?
  3. Is my vertical jump at least 27 inches? (For those wanting to play college baseball)
  4. If my shoulders let me, could I bench 1.0-1.25 times my own body weight? (Barbell or DB variation)
  5. Is my core strong enough to resist rotation for half of my body weight?

Swing hard,

Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS


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Reference:

Szymanski, D.J., Szymanski, J.M, Schade, R.L., Bradford, T.J., McIntyre, J.S., DeRenne, C., and Madsen, N.H. (2010). The relation between anthropometric and physiological variables and bat velocity of high-school baseball players before and after 12 weeks of training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(11), 2933-2943.


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