Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Lift Weights During the Baseball Season

Lifting weights during the baseball season can be a touchy subject.  There are professional players that swear by it and say it’s the only way for them to get through a long baseball season and there are those that say it’s a waste of time and has negative effects on performance.

There is no doubt in my mind as both a baseball coach and a strength & conditioning coach that you should lift weights during the season.  Those that say you shouldn’t exercise I feel don’t understand that a strength & conditioning program can be adapted to suit any athletes needs at any time of year.  When most people hear weight lifting they automatically think about body builder meat heads who are too bulky to run, throw and hit.

Jose Canseco is a bad example of how you should get strong since he admitted to steroid use but he is a good example of what muscle can do for you in baseball. Even at his size he wasn’t too bulky to keep him from being the first player ever to hit 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season.

If you’re following a Jose Canseco body building type of program then I would be the first to tell you not to lift weights during the season.  Thankfully there has been a lot of advancements in the field of strength & conditioning and we can now make athletes stronger during the season while avoiding any negative effects that might hinder on field performance.

So here are my top ten reasons why you should follow a good in-season strength training program.  We will give you some tips on how to build a good program in the near future.

1. Reduce your chances of injury

The baseball season is long and hard on the body.  Add in the fact that you’re doing a and one-sided activity (hitting and throwing) and you have a recipe for disaster.  Smart weight training can allow you to take a proactive approach to injuries by focusing on areas that are prone to breakdown.

If you’re using the excuse of not having enough time to lift weights during the season then be careful because if you get hurt and can’t play you will have all the time in the world.

2. Maintain your strength

If you decide not to lift weights during the season you can expect to lose a lot of the strength that you gained last off-season.  Many people refer to an in-season training as a maintenance program so that when the next off-season comes along you can get even stronger rather than spending time and energy getting your body back to where it was.

3. Gain strength

Why just maintain your strength when you could get even stronger.  If your goal is to play baseball at higher levels (college and/or pro ball) you’re gonna need some more strength.  At every level of the game the players get bigger, faster and stronger and if you want to play at a high level you can’t waste the 6-8 months each year that you spend playing baseball either maintaining or even worse losing strength.

A smart program that adapts to your schedule and can allow you to get stronger even during the baseball season so that you don’t have to rely on a measly 4 month off-season each year to gain muscle.

This is especially true if you aren’t getting a ton of playing time this season.  Maybe you’re a younger player or maybe there’s a lot of competition for your position and you don’t get a lot of innings.  If this is the case then you should focus on getting stronger since you have the time, energy and the motivation to make some serious gains.

4. Boost your Power

Do you remember this equation from physics class?

POWER = FORCE X VELOCITY

As you can see force (aka strength) is half of the equation for creating more power.  If you get stronger during the season you’re automatically increasing your power.  When you are playing games and practicing you get to work on the velocity (aka speed) part of the equation with actual swinging and throwing.  Wouldn’t you like to end the year throwing and hitting harder than when you started in the spring?

5. Increase your agility, speed, quickness, balance, explosiveness…..

By improving strength you set a solid foundation to improve your agility, running speed, quickness and balance because they are all built upon strength.

Rickey Henderson is one the fastest, quickest and durable player to ever play the game and he was legendary for his daily exercise routine.

6. Stay in Shape

Thanks to guys like David Wells and John Kruk baseball players are not always classified as “athletes”.  These two guys however were so talented when it came to sport specific skills like pitching and hitting that they could overcome their lack of fitness.  But unless you can hit like Kruk or pitch like Wells I wouldn’t suggest you let yourself get out of shape.

Sitting on the bench and pounding bag the seeds can lead to fat gain real quick. Lifting weights will not only keep you strong and powerful but it will also keep you lean.  Shedding unwanted body fat will allow you to better play the field and run the bases and even if these aren’t your strong points as a baseball player you need to eliminate them as your weakness.

7. Gain Body Weight

If you want to light up the radar gun with 90mph stuff or hit 400ft bombs you need to have some strength and body weight behind you.  Legs that are skinner than your bat aren’t going to cut it.

Eat lots of good food, get even more quality rest and lift some heavy things (a.k.a. weight training) and you will be on your way to packing on some solid muscle mass.

8. Stay Loose

Lots of people think that lifting weights decreases your flexibility due to popular images of muscle-bound body builders.  But if you perform full range of motion exercises that involve multiple muscle groups like the squats, lunges,  Romanian dead lifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, pushups and rows then you’re ensuring that your muscles are flexible and strong through their entire range of motion. Great strength and conditioning programs geared towards in-season baseball players will also place a strong emphasis on flexibility and mobility work throughout the workout.

Albert’s loose hips allow him to get into good fielding positions

9. Prevent yourself from getting SLOWER and WEAKER

If your “in-season” program consists of running poles and doing band exercises expect to lose power from the start to the end of your season.

If you don’t believe mean then check out this article I wrote discussing a research paper on how distance running reduced power in baseball players during the season.

http://lehmansbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/jogging-kills-your-power-studies-you-should-know-about/

10. Enhance Recovery

Recovery is probably the most important aspect of an overall program that most players miss out on.  Since you practice and play almost everyday during the season it is very important to place a lot of emphasis on recovery.

To learn even more about the importance of rest and recovery check out the Fundamentals of Strength & Conditioning Part 2: Rest

You might be asking how lifting weights can enhance recovery when by nature the act the of working out is the opposite to recovery.  Well not every training session has to be an all out effort like a P90X or CrossFit workout that is going to make your road to recovery a lot longer.  Going into the gym once in a while and giving less than 100% effort can be a good thing because a “mini workout” can go a long ways of increasing blood flow to all your muscles.  Increased blood flow brings with it fresh nutrients and oxygen while removing metabolic waste that hinders your muscles ability to contract and produce force.

An added benefit of hitting the gym during the season is that a great in-season strength and conditioning program while emphasis activities like foam rolling, stretching and mobility work all of which enhance your ability to recover faster so that the next time you step  onto the field you’re as close to a 100% as you can be.

soft tissue tools

Add these recovery tools to your routine.  Foam roller, massage stick and lacrosse ball.

Bonus: Increase Your Swagger

If you want to succeed in the game of baseball you need to have a lot of confidence.  Lifting weights makes you feel strong and powerful which will undoubtedly give you more confidence each time you step in the batter’s box or on to the mound.

Just make sure that your confidence and swagger doesn’t come off as cockiness unless you want to get beaned by each team in your league.

Check out this video of Hanly Ramierez, Nick Swisher, Dustin Pedrioa and Andre Either talking about the importance of swagger.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnbLJE6k8xI]

Until next time stay strong and injury free.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

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