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Modified Pick-Up Drill for Conditioning

Pick-up drills have been used in baseball for decades to improve lateral movement, enhance fielding and improve conditioning in both pitchers and position players. The traditional approach is to have a player and coach face each other, approximately 10 feet apart. The coach kneels on one or both knees with a baseball in one hand as the player gets down in a fielding position without a glove. The coach then rolls the ball approximately 3-5 feet to one side and the player responds by shuffling 2-3 steps laterally to the ball and then breaking down into a good fielding position with the chest up, shoulders over knees, back flat, hips and knees bent and arms and hands down in front of the body. The player fields the ball with both hands, tosses it back to the coach underhanded and then shuffles in the opposite direction to field the next ball. The drill usually concludes after 10-20 tosses to each side.

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Using a Weighted Sled for Acceleration Improvement

Before even beginning, let’s clear up one point.

Sport is about acceleration, not speed.

We have a problem in sports. Coaches consistently use the wrong term when discussing the quantity they covet most. Tests like the ten-, twenty- and forty-yard dash are actually tests of acceleration not speed. You only need to look at world-class sprinters to realize that top speed is not even achieved until approximately 60 meters. As coaches our interest is not in top speed but, rather in acceleration, the zero to sixty of the auto world. How rapidly an athlete accelerates will determine success in team sports, not what the athletes absolute speed is. (more…)

Tall Plank Shoulder Taps for Core Torsion Control

Assessing anti-rotation pillar strength is important prior to loading the spine with torsional activity. From a tall plank position, you can assess torsional control by observing this test/exercise. Beyond observation, this technique can be used a conditioning exercise to improve anti-rotational pillar strength and stability.

Execution. Start in a tall plank position with feet shoulder-width apart and hands on the floor under the shoulders. Set the core, slowly lift the right hand and tap the left shoulder. Pause for 1-2 seconds, return the right hand to the starting position and repeat the pattern lifting the left hand and tapping the right shoulder. To correct faulty movement and improve control, start with slow, controlled, alternating taps for 5-10 reps. Stop when fatigue or loss of control sets in. 

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History of Strength and Conditioning in Professional Baseball Part 3: Into the 90s – The Emergence of “Strength” in Baseball

Strength and conditioning emerged as a priority activity among Major League players in the late 1980s and early 1990s. You could see the change in player size and body structure in the clubhouse and on the field. More clubs were hiring strength and conditioning coaches and more clubhouses had weight rooms, some even for the visiting teams. These rooms were equipped with free weights, barbells and dumbbells. When it started, dumbbells went up to 50-pound sets, then to 70 and finally 100 pounds and guys were using them. This era also saw some players hiring personal trainers with backgrounds in bodybuilding and football, all emphasizing the use of heavier weights and prolonged workouts. The challenge for the strength and conditioning coach became how to separate what was needed to be successful in baseball from the muscle building programs that were being advocated by outside influences.

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History Strength and Conditioning in Professional Baseball Part 1: The Beginnings (1976-1980)

My first experience in strength training for professional baseball occurred in the spring of 1976. The minor league field coordinator for the Houston Astros had become a marathon runner. When the organization brought the top minor league prospects to Florida in September for an additional six weeks of Instructional League training, he had them run 5 miles per day for conditioning. His thinking was that if he could run 15 miles a day at age 40, a 20 year old should be able to run five. After 3 to 4 days, the players were so sore that they couldn’t practice. The organization had spent a lot of money to bring these kids into Florida but couldn’t do anything with them. The general manager, who had also become a distance runner, instructed the field coordinator to get some help from someone outside the organization. The field coordinator called one of his college instructors and he recommended me.

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Adaptation Takes Time

Adaptation is the process that the body goes through to improve the functioning of a specific system in order to meet the demands placed on it.  The body will adapt to the stresses that are applied.  Adaptations can be positive or negative.  Positive adaptations occur when stresses is appropriately applied and usually produce an improvement in skill performance and/or physiological status.  Negative adaptations are often the result of improper training to include overtraining, undertraining and detraining and are associated with a decrease in skill performance and/or physiological status.  There are two general types of adaptation, acute and chronic.  Acute adaptations usually occur immediately following and during the first 3 to 4 days post-exercise.  Chronic adaptations occur over time, usually after weeks, months and years of training.

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Speed-Strength Training Basics: Tips for All Athletes from All Sports

Introduction – The Truth about Getting Faster. It is common for people to think of elite sprinters as having the ‘natural’ gift of speed, and in many respects, this is true. Genetics are probably the most important determinant of sprinting potential. However, what many people don’t know is that it can take anywhere from five to ten years – or even longer – to develop a world class sprinter to his or her potential. Some of today’s top sprinters in the world are in their early- to mid-thirties, and still haven’t achieved the peak achievement of their career. This tendency for sprinters to develop late in their careers has important implications for athletes in other sports who want to improve on the sprinting capabilities.

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Jumping Rope in Baseball – Back to the Future

While strength and conditioning coaches are continually looking for the next cutting edge piece of equipment to give their athletes an advantage over their opponents, most already have a small, inexpensive, old fashioned, simple and effective, training device tucked away in the corner of the weight room or in the bottom of their traveling equipment box – the jump rope. Jump ropes have been around for decades and while they were originally used for warm-up and conditioning, current practice has shown them to be effective for 1) improving speed, agility, quickness, coordination; 2) helping reduce the risk of injury by increasing strength and ankle stability while working in a safe, controlled environment; and 3) (more…)

Off-Season Strength and Conditioning: Overview of the Professional Baseball Player

As the change of seasons is marked by changes in the weather, October marks professional baseball’s changing of seasons. For teams not in the play-offs or World Series, October signals the end of a 6-month competitive season and the start of a 4-5 month off-season depending on the level that you are competing at. The professional baseball season is a marathon. Major League teams play 162 games in approximately 180 games. Minor league teams play 142 games in approximately 160 days. There are only 20 off-days during a typical MLB season and half of these occur when the team is on the road and away from home. For MLB teams not involved in the play-offs, the off-season starts around the second week of October and 1 to 3 weeks later for play-off teams. It starts the first of September for minor leaguers whose teams fail to make the play-offs and those who don’t go to instructional league.  Minor league players involved in the (more…)