For some reason baseball players have come to be treated as gentle athletes. They tend to be babied because they have million dollar arms or million dollar swings and even the slightest bit of heavy lifting could perhaps ruin all of that. I have come to this observation and have trained many baseball players who were at first, a little reluctant to lift heavy things. This type of babying and fear mongering that even a little bit of stress could perhaps bring an athlete to injury is not physically or psychologically well for a baseball player. There is an actual thing called the “nocebo” effect, where the expectation or fear of an injury can actually induce physiological changes that weren’t already there. So, lets stop putting fear into our athletes and treating them like fragile human beings. The human body is very resilient and that doesn’t change for a baseball player just because he can throw the nastiest curveball you ever saw. Baseball players need to lift heavy to maximize their development as an athlete.
Increase Velocity And Power Output
Most people know that a more powerful and explosive baseball player is a better baseball player. However, reps of 12-14 on single-leg exercises is not going to get you there. There are a lot of programs for baseball players out there with countless single-leg bodyweight exercises in fear of getting them injured if they do anything else. Now, that might be a decent program in increasing resiliency to injury, but that is not a program that is going to increase strength, power, or velocity output. In order to increase all of those previously mentioned attributes you have to increase absolute strength. In order to increase absolute strength you have to LIFT HEAVY. Absolute strength is the maximum amount of load a person can move in a single repetition. In doing this, a person is generating a lot of force over a prolonged period of time. When training for absolute strength an athlete develops the ability to produce more force over time the longer you train for absolute strength. Yes, training for absolute strength puts a little more stress on the body so you have to be smart as to when you train for it, and make sure the athlete is always in the best positions possible.
How does increasing absolute strength increase velocity or power output? Increase the ability to produce more force over time also increases the contractile force of the muscle and the efficiency of muscle motor unit recruitment. What this means is the central nervous system has the ability to use more muscle fibers than it previous did before training for absolute strength. Take for example you have the biggest and baddest sports car engine, but you only have access to a quarter of that engine. The car isn’t going to be able to move as fast right? The more you train for and develop absolute strength the more access you have to that powerful engine. Now that more absolute strength is developed you can now start to work on developing more power and velocity because you have a nervous system that is more efficient at recruiting fast twitch fibers than it used to. No amount of single-leg exercises for 8-14 reps is going to get you that kind of development.
Lifting Heavy Doesn’t Have To Be Dangerous
Contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy weights doesn’t have to be dangerous. It only becomes potentially harmful if athletes are trying to lift loads they aren’t capable of lifting in positions that are compromised. At Force Barbell we take an approach to improve movement quality and build that as a foundation before an athlete ever attempts to lift really heavy weights. Also, heavy lifting in high quality positions still reaps the same benefits as really heavy lifting in compromised positions. For example: if an athlete can squat 400lbs and can only do so in crappy positions, but put 200lbs on the bar and that is just as hard for them to move because their in optimized positions, you are still reaping the same benefits. The 200lbs load challenged them the exact same as the 400lbs and the only thing that was changed was the positions the athlete was lifting in. Taking this approach keeps athletes healthy while getting them a lot stronger and more powerful to add velocity to their fastball, hit an extra 20ft with the same swing, and have a faster first step to second base.
Textbook deadlift by Fishers High School junior baseballer, @aj_waltermann. Many programs and coaches do not like to have athletes deadlift because of the strain on the lower back. However, if completed like in the video this sets the athlete up in a real athletic position and will develop glutes and hamstrings more than anything else. #sportsperformance #performance #performancetraining #deadlift #strength #speed #power #athlete #antifragile #resilience #injuryprevention #forcebarbell #livelightliftheavy #alwaysseekimprovement #unlockyourpotential
Take the video above for an example: pretty heavy lifting being done and positions are optimized.
Let’s Change The Mindset
If you are a baseball player that wants increase your strength and power to be better at the game, lifting heavy is important. It is also important to do it right. Lifting heavy is very important, which I hope I made clear in this article, but so is taking care of your body. You are only as good as how much you can actually stay in the sport. Also know that your body is very resilient and is capable of much more than you can imagine. Learn to get out of your comfort zone and lift heavy to increase your performance as an athlete.
I will leave you with a short article and video from Eric Cressey that highlights the importance of strength and power for baseball players. A quote from him, “athleticism doesn’t have to be max effort if you have a strength and power reserve.”