Getting Ready for Pre-Season Strength
I don’t know if it’s just me, but 2018 seemed to fly by, especially the month of December. Once January hits, it’s really go time for our baseball guys
The Off-Season was all about developing maximal strength and restoring movement quality. By now, we should have a strong foundation so we can begin to layer on more complex movements, and movements at higher speeds.
As we move closer to the season, and progress through the periodization calendar, we need to be performing movements inside the gym that replicate the sport we are training for even more than previous programs/phases.
The pitching motion is the fastest motion in all of sport. At some point, we will get fancy with our medicine ball work. Not only from an exercise selection standpoint, but from a periodization standpoint (which we will get to).
For example, we move from heavier medicine balls to lighter medicine balls, which will allow the body to move quicker and create higher rates of force development.
Let’s go over what we should expect for the months to come.
In January, I like to add some more vision work as an active rest during our speed work as this further replicates the sport, and it gets kids to have it “click” in their head.
One VERY simple drill could just be near-far tracking. Put one thumb about a foot in front of your eyes, and extend your other arm out straight out in front so that the thumbs are in line with each other.
Close your eyes, and open quickly to focus on one thumb at a time. See how long it takes you to focus, and re-focus from one object to the next!
We will be focusing a lot more on plyometric speed drills that will enhance stride frequency and length simultaneously, as well as rest periods that will allow for full ATP-CP system development. For starters, a good work to rest ratio for linear speed work is 1:5.
We will also be focusing a lot more on lateral speed drills and perfecting the crossover and shuffle steps. This goes for ALL position players!
I like to categorize lateral agility/speed drills into 2 categories: small and large.
A small drill is simply just based on the footwork we are trying to achieve. For example, if we are working on fluid shuffles, our first drill of the day will be mini cone shuffles for time, working on create fluid yet quick movements of the feet. Feel athletic, be athletic, and imagine you have a glove in your hand.
A large drill is a small drill on a greater scale. In simpler terms, it’s a more complex drill. In the same example as the shuffle step, our speed drill for the day could be a “secondary sprint”, or taking 2/3 good shuffles and taking off into a sprint.
Depending on where we are in January, and based on the type of athlete, we will move into more complex medicine ball drills and utilize the entire strength curve. January also rhymes with “Strength-Speed”, did you know that?!
All joking aside, we want our med balls and our weights to move fast. Most of the population that I work with is still working on creating a bigger strength base, but for those who have a decent training age is when I start to utilize rest-pause sets and dynamic effort methods.
In the past I used to perform a heavy A1 followed by a plyometric for my A2. However, this year, I have been experimenting with putting my plyometric drill as an A3 to minimize the fatigue effect for PAP. Therefore, my A2 is a very complex shoulder stability drill that won’t interfere with my A1 and A3.
- A1 – 4×5 Trap Bar DL
- A2 – 4×12 Wall Walks
- A3 – 4×3 Lateral Box Jump
When it comes to our med ball work, this could also be plugged in as an A3. The first set could be performed with a 10 lb. med ball, and the last set could be performed with a 4 lb. med ball to enhance velocity output.
As February approaches, some of our drills will focus on a more reactive and plyometric component. For our pitchers, I like to perform a “Reactive MB Pivot Punch” to quickly load the scap and then unload to throw the ball.
For our hitters, the same concept is applied, but rather than a pivot punch (or a shotput as known by others), I’ll use a scoop toss instead.
For those with a decent training age, and have been training with me for a while, I have been playing around with loaded eccentrics. We are naturally stronger during the loading phase of any movement. Getting stronger during the eccentric portion of a movement can result in a high concentric output.
For example, for our belt squat, I like to get competitive. During the decent of the movement, I’ll push down on the weight to create a higher load for the athlete so they are resisting more weight on the bottom. I tell them, “don’t let me win, or you’ll never hear the end of it”. This puts them in the competitive mindset.
Right before the transition to coming back up, I’ll release my hands and tell them to shoot up as quick as humanly possible. This induces the PAP effect when performing the concentric portion of the lift.
We will still have our big lifts of the day, but rather than thinking about how much we can load on the bar, we shoot for speed zones. We can manipulate speeds with the use of accommodating resistance: bands, chains, or me!
Our assistance work is going to primarily be focused on the lunge position. Chops, lifts, rows, and presses are all going to be performed in a lunge position, since this is the most specific position for our baseball players.
Shoulder Stabilization/Cuff Work
Lastly, let’s go over our shoulder prehab. Everyone is starting to throw bullpens now and we want our guys to start thinking about reloading the ammo in their arm.
The “reloading” refers to doing extra scap and cuff work around our bullpens. I especially like to plug some of these in during our warm up so we can instill quality movement patterns before our lift.
Most of our shoulder work is going to be performed in the overhead position. Rather than a strict overhead press, we can manipulate body position so that we can mimic the overhead position.
One of my favorite variations that I have been using a lot is wall walks. In the closed chain position, it allows the shoulder to fire more stabilizing forces to create a more sturdy shoulder.
Our push-up variations are also going to be more stability-oriented, whether this be a ring push-up, glider push-up, plate pushes, yoga push-up variations, or walking pushups.
Last but not least, I instill the word “recovery” into our baseball players. Since rotational volume is being ramped up during winter workouts, it’s important that we start NOW so we don’t feel banged up once the season starts.
Personalize your recovery work with the use of foam rollers and lacrosse balls. Find those gunky spots that you know will become a problem once the season starts, and continue to attack those areas throughout the rest of the pre-season.
TIME TO GET TO WORK!!! This is the MOST exciting part of the year. I can’t wait to see all of the success our athletes are going to achieve this season. Each off-season keeps getting better and better.
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS