How to Get Stronger and Faster for Baseball

In my short career as a strength & conditioning coach, I have trained quite a few baseball players. Many of them want the same thing: a faster 60 yard dash time, strength to hit the ball further and throw harder, and keep their chances of getting hurt slim-to-none. 

It makes me a happy person when more and more baseball players start to buy in that training in the off-season is vital to their success during the season. And when I say training, it doesn’t mean going out and playing MORE and MORE baseball (which is extremely common, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I mean getting in the weight room and putting in some hard work to get better.

I remember back in high school when a few of my friends that played baseball told me what they did for their off-season preparation. I heard all sorts of nonsense…“We don’t lift because it will slow our swing down” or “Lifting weights is bad for baseball players because it makes you tight and bulky”. That shocked me then as a high school student, but it’s even more shocking now that I actually recognize that those excuses are complete and utter gargabe.

The worst was when I’d go out for track practice and see a bunch of the baseball players jogging long, slow, endless laps around the infield of the track. I would ask them why they had to do that (I thought it was for punishment maybe?) Nope, it was because “they had to get in shape and get the lactic acid out of their arms”. Does ANY of this make any sense to you? I hope it is starting to become clear that baseball is a sport of short bursts of STRENGTH, SPEED and POWER, combined with LONG periods of down time and rest. When, in baseball, are you required to run laps and jog around as slow as possible?

Look, obviously lifting weights didn’t hurt guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, etc.. Yes, there were some shenanigans going on with performance enhancing substances, but they had to train HARD to receive any sort of benefit. You can’t just pop a pill and expect things to magically happen. Regardless of their choices, they did make one RIGHT choice and that was to lift weights and not be scared to get under the bar!

For some reason the majority of baseball players are firm believers that weight-training is bad for you and therefore all they need to do is play MORE baseball to get better. And then they wonder why they have tons of overuse injuries (rotator cuff, labrum, elbow, oblique/ab strains, etc). If you train in the off-season, a properly designed program should be addressing these issues and preventing them from happening by developing strength and muscle around the joints most susceptible to injury in baseball! These athletes are going to have to lift eventually, especially if they choose to play college sports!

So, with all this being said, here are a few tips for baseball players to get stronger and faster for their sport:

  • Lift weights 2-3x/week in the off-season: The majority of the exercises used should be on your feet utilizing as many muscles as possible in each movement. Learn to love lifting explosively if you want to run faster, hit the ball harder and throw faster. 
  • STOP running slow: You cannot get faster by running endless SLOW laps around a track. Baseball requires very SHORT bursts of speed, and rarley will a baseball player ever have to sprint more than 8-10 seconds at a time. 
  • Address common imbalances: We need to address tightness/areas of common weakness that are usually seen in these athletes who are playing LOTS of baseball. So, we like to add 2 pulling movements (rows, chin ups, band pull aparts, face pulls, etc) for every pushing movement we have baseball players perform.
  • Stretch and get mobile: Many baseball players that have come to me are so TIGHT in their hips, hamstrings, and calves/ankles. One of the reasons why it’s so beneficial to train during the off-season is by utilizing full range of motion exercises, we’re adding in the benefit of a weighted stretch each and every repetition. This helps increase range of motion in these areas that are problematic due to lack of movement in other planes of movement.

So, as you can see, these athletes are just like any other speed & power athlete. Baseball players are very into developing and honing their skills (SPP or Specific Physical Prepardness) but are usually highly underdeveloped physically and are big time lacking GPP (General Physical Prepardness – i.e. weight room work, sprints, jumps, etc). If you wish to become stronger and faster, it’s going to take some hard work and dedication, as well as a shift in mindset that training hard will actually make you a better athlete overall. The season will be here faster than you know it!

 

Enjoy and train hard,

John Cortese

 

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