So I compiled this as I am frustrated with the way we have our HS program train and prepare. I think we could be setting ourselves up for far better success if we got away from the old methods of training that are debunked…
I am really at odds at what to do personally, because I would be directly challenging a coach, yet the data is all there, and while I share these views, they are those presented by people far more qualified than myself… (Note I have all references in this, I just didn’t feel the need to take the time to format for the post, if you want me to link you just ask)
Power Athletes and Distance Training: Physiological and Biomechanical Rationale for Change.
Sports Medicine. 37(1):47-57, 2007.
Elliott, Marcus C C W 1; Wagner, Phillip P 1; Chiu, Loren 2
The development of power lies at the foundation of all movement, especially athletic performance. Unfortunately, training programmes of athletes often seek to improve cardiovascular endurance through activities such as distance training that are detrimental for the performance of power athletes, rather than using other means of exercise. Performance decrements from continuous aerobic training can be a result of inappropriate neuromuscular adaptations, a catabolic hormonal profile, an increased risk for overtraining and an ineffective motor learning environment. However, long, sustained exercise continues to be employed at all levels of competition to obtain benefits that could be achieved more effectively through other forms of conditioning. While some advantageous effects of endurance training may occur, there are unequivocal drawbacks to distance training in the power athlete. There are many other types of conditioning that are more relevant to all anaerobic sports and will also avoid the negative consequences associated with distance training.
Copyright 2007 Adis Data Information BV
Potteiger, J.A., Williford Jr., H.N., Blessing, D.L. and J. Smidt. Effect of two training methods on improving baseball performance variables. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6(1):2–6. 1992.—
The purpose of this study was to determine whether a weight/sprint or an aerobic dance conditioning program would significantly change selected body composition (BC), cardiovascular (CV) and performance (PF) variables in baseball players. Twenty-one collegiate baseball players participated in a 10-week conditioning program in addition to their normal baseball activities. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a weight/sprint (WS) or an aerobic dance (AE) training group. The WS group performed strength and sprint training, while the AE group was involved in an aerobic dance program. Pre- and post-training measurements were taken of the following variables: weight, percent fat, lean body mass, lower body flexibility, aerobic power, anaerobic power, throwing velocity and 30-yard sprint time. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to evaluate the data. Significance was established at p 0.05. The WS group showed significant improvement in the PF variables. Anaerobic power increased 4.2 percent, while throwing velocity increased 3.0 percent after the WS training. No significant changes in the BC or CV variables were observed. The AE group produced significant differences in the BC variables. An 8.5 percent decrease was observed for percent fat, while lean body mass increased 2.1 percent after the aerobic dance program. There were no significant changes in CV or PF variables in the AE group. There were no significant interactions between the WS and AE groups for any of the variables. Results indicate that a weight/sprint training program will improve PF variables related to baseball, while maintaining acceptable BC and CV components. Based on this information, it is suggested that baseball coaches use weight/sprint conditioning when training their players.
Potteiger, J.A., Blessing, D.L. and G.D. Wilson. The physiological responses to a single game of baseball pitching. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6(1):11–18. 1992.
—The purpose of this study was to examine selected physiological responses during a single game of baseball pitching. Six college-age men with varsity pitching experience at the collegiate level participated in the study. Subjects pitched a simulated game during which heart rate (HR), blood lactate (LA), serum glucose (SG), free fatty acid (FFA) and oxygen consumption ( O2) were measured. Serum creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) were analyzed 24 hours after exercise as an indicator of skeletal muscle damage. HR exhibited a quadratic effect (p 0.01). There was no change from pre-exercise values for LA or SG. FFA did increase significantly throughout the game (p 0.01). O2exhibited a quadratic effect during each inning (p 0.01). Values ranged from 4.9 ml•kg−1•min−1at rest to 20.6 ml•kg−1min−1 during pitching. CK and LDH were significantly elevated 24 hours after exercise. Results indicate that the physiological responses which occur during the pitching of a game correspond with an intensity equal to continuous exercise at 45 percent of O2 max. The increase of muscle enzymes 24 hours after exercise may indicate muscle damage, and warrants further investigation.
Note: VO2 max is less than half, this makes it clearly obvious that a pitcher never taps into the aerobic energy system as 45% of one’s VO2 max is approximately what would be utilized while power walking. The researchers went on to state that they believed the levels were elevated at all simply as a way of re energizing ATP stores between pitches.
Insights from Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite
"Clemens and Pettitte concentrate their heavy lifting on the lower body, including multiple sets of squats and leg presses. The combination of strength and conditioning in the same agility drill reproduces the challenges a pitcher faces in later innings - the need to still throw hard without getting winded."
Strength Coach opinions:
Robert “Dos” Remedios (NSCA College Strength Coach of the Year)
Asked about pitcher conditioning and running…
“I like LOTS of interval work. Not a fan of foul poles since I see to much steady state, survival style running when the athletes do this. I like to mix up longer sprints (100 ayrds) and shorter springs (10-50 yards). Length of sessions depend on the intensity of the sprints. The closes I would get to steady state running is fartlek style runs of condinuous running with 30 yard strides - 40 yard sprints-30 yard strides-20 yard walk etc. etc.”
Jason Ferruggia (Over a decade of personal training experience, including D1 baseball players)
“To improve speed, baseball players should be trained like sprinters. There is no endurance component to the game of baseball so any kind of endurance training is counter productive. You may sprint to first to beat out an infield single, then five minutes later sprint to second to break up a double play. Ten minutes later you may sprint ten feet to field a fly ball and then have another thirty minute break before you run again. This is not a grueling sport! Do not ever train baseball players for endurance. Work on starting speed and the first step out of the batters box and the first step on a steal. Teach them proper technique for both. Do all of your sprints with adequate rest periods as well. Most work should be no more than the distance from home to first. Secondary concern would be running home to second or home to third. But the frequency of that happening in games makes it a lower conern on the totem pole… “
Coach Dan Huff, CSCS
“I know this concept flies in the face of traditional training concepts, but I have to agree - Sprint training is more beneficial to baseball than long distance running.
This is not to say that long distance running has no place at all in preparation for the sport, but sprint training (or interval training) will provide much greater benefit than distance running.
If you look at the game of baseball the farthest a player will have to run is 360 feet and that is on a homerun. Most plays require the athlete to sprint 90-120 feet and then rest 50-90 seconds before doing it again. The athletes training program should closely mimic this intensity level.
The main reason that distance running should be included in a baseball players program is for weight management. To give you an example of this, today I was working with a collegiate player that has a try-out with the Padres at the end of the month. They have basically told him that he needs to lose 10-15 pounds. This is where the traditional caardiovascular exercise comes into play. But even in this situation, I have him alternating workouts between spring intervals and long distance running.”
Steven Ellis (Former pitcher in Cubs Organization and active pitching instruction coach) and Mike Griffin (Strength Coach worked with University of Nebraska Baseball and Football)
“The goal of any baseball conditioning program should be to increase the ability to repeatedly do short explosive movements without a decrease in power. Baseball is full of these very short explosive movements, like swinging and throwing, and a decrease in power in one of these movements can cost you a game.
Your conditioning program should increase your ability to repeatedly do short explosive movements without a decrease in power.
Many times controversy begins with the issue of long distance running, particularly in training pitchers. Many coaches have been taught that players, especially pitchers, need to run several miles a day.
A lot has changed since many of these coaches started their career, and the research doesn’t always agree with them.
How a pitcher’s body works
To truly understand the difference between the two you need to know how your body gets the energy to do work There are three main energy systems the body uses:
- aerobic system.
Each system is used at different moments for different reasons.
In general, the ATP-PC system is the most powerful, but has the shortest duration. Glycolysis gives medium power and has a medium duration. The aerobic system is the least powerful but can last a long time.
Baseball uses the ATP-PC system almost exclusively.
In general, a baseball player will use an explosive movement like a swing or pitch, then rest for at least 12-15 seconds.
Conditioning should reflect that work to rest ratio.
Remember that the main goal of a baseball conditioning program is to repeat those explosive movements throughout the game. There are usually three different types of conditioning: speed work, agility, and plyometrics. They all have different uses and should be trained differently.
Conditioning will change throughout the year. During the beginning of the off-season will focus on more strength gains and less conditioning. As the season comes closer conditioning will become more important.
Conditioning for pitchers changes in a similar way between each start.
The day after a start will contain the most volume of running. Long sprints is a good choice for this day because it will keep the blood flowing for an extended period of time flushing the arm and helping get rid of the soreness.
As the week progresses the length of the sprints will decrease but more sprints should be done.
The day before a start, conditioning should be intense but very low volume.
Dana Cavalea CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach, New York Yankees
If we actually break down what conditioning is meant to be we would arrive at a simple definition: To increase the current work capacity which will allow the athlete to train at a higher level with less strain on the cardiovascular system of the body.
The determining factor that will allow a coach to see whether or not his athletes are in shape is their ability to get their heart rate down at a rapid pace, a.k.a. recovery heart rate. Now this statement doesn’t mean we should run our ballplayers for 1 or 2 miles and then see how fast their heart rate drops.
When it comes to actually devising a conditioning program there are several variables that we need to keep in mind:
• Work to Rest Ratios that take place in this particular sport
• Athletes current conditioning level
• Time of the season
• Goal of the conditioning program
In order to create the most efficient program possible without wasting time or overtraining our athletes we must analyze the sport that they play. Often times I hear coaches say that they test their athletes with a 1.5 mile run at the beginning of the season to test their AEROBIC shape because baseball players need endurance because it is a long season. Well I hate to break it to those coaches, they are training their athletes AEROBICALLY for and ANAEROBIC sport!!
So what does this mean to the average coach. Simply put, we are basically training our ballplayers to be distance runners when in fact our sport replicates more of a sprinters game. If we are training for distance, the speed of the run is typically going to be at a slower speed, whereas if we are focusing on our sprinting, we will be training at a higher speed. Our bodies will adapt to the type of training we give them.
If we train SLOW, we will be SLOW! If we train FAST, we will be FAST!
Since baseball is a game of quick bursts on the base path, while chasing down fly balls, while swinging, and pitching, we must work to replicate that action and DISTANCE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!
The only distance I would recommend a ballplayer do would be early in the year, ex. November/ December/ January on standard exercise equipment such as a bike or elliptical just so they are able to build an aerobic base and establish basic conditioning levels. As the season approaches, that method will slowly change to high intensity intervals and sprints allowing maximal effort for short bursts with a full recovery, allowing the heart rate to get back down to just above resting.
In regards to the aforementioned variables we will break each down accordingly.
Work: Rest Ratios that take place in this particular sport
In order to make a conditioning program as sport- specific as possible we need to analyze the sport. In the game of baseball most actions are short, quick, and explosive. Usually the work: rest ration in baseball is about 1:3. For instance if you are in the batters box and swing, the anticipation of the pitch and then the swing might take a total of 15 seconds and then you would have between 45 seconds and a minute off before the next time you set in the box, creating a work to rest of 1:2-3. So when devising a program, one option might be to mark off a distance of about 30-40 yards and have the athletes sprint out at full speed and hold a timer to see how long that run takes. After you get the time, the rest would be 2-3 times that.
Athletes current conditioning level
Each athlete on the team is at a different conditioning level. It is important that you monitor your athletes as they participate in each conditioning session. Once their form and posture begin to collapse, then it is time to stop the drill and let them get a full recovery so they are able to maintain proper mechanics and lessen the risk of injury. Once the mechanics begin to fail consistently, that is the athletes body saying that is enough. We must monitor body language to prevent overtraining.
Time of the season
As mentioned previously, our conditioning workouts in December are much different than those in February. In December it is ok to build that aerobic base on standard equipment, but once we start approaching the season we need to elevate the intensity and begin to work the athletes outdoors doing quick sprints, base-running, pass patterns, and sprinting in fielding patterns used during the game.
Goal of the conditioning program
The goal of the program should take the athletes goals into consideration and as previously stated each month should have a particular goal based on how close to the season you are. If an athlete is overweight, obviously conditioning would need to be a major focus and some significant amount of time would need to be dedicated to it. If an athlete is already in peak shape, we might need to make the conditioning program more intense by adding a higher intensity or increasing the volume of the intervals. Instead of doing 3-4 two minute intervals, maybe we will do 6-7.
It is very important to not OVERTRAIN athletes. The volume of playing, lifting, and conditioning is enough to create a syndrome of overtraining and actually reverse performance goals making the athletes perform worse. When form goes, cut the drill even it has only been 1 minute. Change distance running for quick burst sprints and intervals and monitor the time it takes for the heart rate to drop. Using a heart rate monitor is a great way to see this. Finally, pay attention to your work: rest ratios. More is not always better, most of the times it is worse.
Steve Zawrotny MS, CSCS
Long slow distance running is also a very poor way of developing leg strength, something that is valuable for a pitcher to have. The act of pitching occurs in a very short timeframe, not continuous and long lasting as occurs with LSD running. Pitching is more analogous to a single rep of a plyometric exercise using the legs. Consider the muscular development and strength of the legs of marathon runners versus 100 meter sprinters. Baseball & softball players are aiming for something in between these two extremes. Finally, LSD training can detract from strength and power development, so keep this activity to a minimum as discussed above.
Uselessness of static stretching, published scientific research:
The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles
WD Bandy and JM Irion
Department of Physical Therapy, Health Sciences Center, University of Central Arkansas, Conway 72035-0001.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE. To date, there are no reports comparing duration of static stretch in humans on joint range of motion (ROM) and hamstring muscle flexibility. The purpose of this study was to examine the length of time the hamstring muscles should be placed in a sustained stretched position to maximally increase ROM. SUBJECTS. Fifty-seven subjects (40 men, 17 women), ranging in age from 21 to 37 years and with limited hamstring muscle flexibility (ie, 30 degrees loss of knee extension measured with femur held at 90 degrees of hip flexion), were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Three groups stretched 5 days per week for 15, 30, and 60 seconds, respectively. The fourth group, which served as a control group, did not stretch. METHODS. Before and after 6 weeks of stretching, flexibility of the hamstring muscles was determined by measuring knee extension ROM with the femur maintained in 90 degrees of hip flexion. Data were analyzed with a 4 x 2 analysis of variance (group x test) for repeated measures on one variable. RESULTS. The data analysis revealed a significant group x test interaction, indicating that the change in flexibility was dependent on the duration of stretching. Further post hoc analysis revealed that 30 and 60 seconds of stretching were more effective at increasing flexibility of the hamstring muscles (as determined by increased ROM of knee extension) than stretching for 15 seconds or no stretching. In addition, no significant difference existed between stretching for 30 seconds and for 1 minute, indicating that 30 seconds of stretching the hamstring muscles was as effective as the longer duration of 1 minute. CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION. The results of this study suggest that a duration of 30 seconds is an effective time of stretching for enhancing the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Given the information that no increase in flexibility of the hamstring muscles occurred by increasing the duration of stretching from 30 to 60 seconds, the use of the longer duration of stretching for an acute effect must be questioned.
An Acute Bout of Static Stretching: Effects on Force and Jumping Performance.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 36(8):1389-1396, August 2004.
POWER, KEVIN 1; BEHM, DAVID 1; CAHILL, FARRELL 1; CARROLL, MICHAEL 1; YOUNG, WARREN 2
POWER, K., D. BEHM, F. CAHILL, M. CARROLL, and W. YOUNG. An Acute Bout of Static Stretching: Effects on Force and Jumping Performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 8, pp. 1389-1396, 2004.
Introduction/Purpose: The objectives of this study were to examine whether a static stretching (SS) routine decreased isometric force, muscle activation, and jump power while improving range of motion (ROM). Second, the study attempted to compare the duration of the dependent variable changes with the duration of the change in ROM.
Methods: Twelve participants were tested pre- and post- (POST, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min) SS of the quadriceps and plantar flexors (PF) or a similar period of no stretch (control). Measurements during isometric contractions included maximal voluntary force (MVC), evoked contractile properties (peak twitch and tetanus), surface integrated electromyographic (iEMG) activity of the agonist and antagonistic muscle groups, and muscle inactivation as measured by the interpolated twitch technique (ITT). Vertical jump (VJ) measurements included unilateral concentric-only (no countermovement) jump height as well as drop jump height and contact time. ROM associated with seated hip flexion, prone hip extension, and plantar flexion-dorsiflexion was also recorded.
Results: After SS, there were significant overall 9.5% and 5.4% decrements in the torque or force of the quadriceps for MVC and ITT, respectively. Force remained significantly decreased for 120 min (10.4%), paralleling significant percentage increases (6%) in sit and reach ROM (120 min). After SS, there were no significant changes in jump performance or PF measures.
Conclusion: The parallel duration of changes in ROM and quadriceps isometric force might suggest an association between stretch-induced changes in muscle compliance and isometric force output.
Effect of Acute Static Stretching on Force, Balance, Reaction Time, and Movement Time.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 36(8):1397-1402, August 2004.
BEHM, DAVID G.; BAMBURY, ANDREW; CAHILL, FARRELL; POWER, KEVIN
BEHM, D. G., A. BAMBURY, F. CAHILL, and K. POWER. Effect of Acute Static Stretching on Force, Balance, Reaction Time, and Movement Time. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 8, pp. 1397-1402, 2004.
Purpose: The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of an acute bout of lower limb static stretching on balance, proprioception, reaction, and movement time.
Methods: Sixteen subjects were tested before and after both a static stretching of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and plantar flexors or a similar duration control condition. The stretching protocol involved a 5-min cycle warm-up followed by three stretches to the point of discomfort of 45 s each with 15-s rest periods for each muscle group. Measurements included maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVC) force of the leg extensors, static balance using a computerized wobble board, reaction and movement time of the dominant lower limb, and the ability to match 30% and 50% MVC forces with and without visual feedback.
Results: There were no significant differences in the decrease in MVC between the stretch and control conditions or in the ability to match submaximal forces. However, there was a significant (P < 0.009) decrease in balance scores with the stretch ([down arrow] 9.2%) compared with the control ([up arrow] 17.3%) condition. Similarly, decreases in reaction (5.8%) and movement (5.7%) time with the control condition differed significantly (P < 0.01) from the stretch-induced increases of 4.0% and 1.9%, respectively.
Conclusion: In conclusion, it appears that an acute bout of stretching impaired the warm-up effect achieved under control conditions with balance and reaction/movement time.
Superior and Effective Alternative to Stretching
Its Warm Outside… But Are You Warm Inside??
Dana Cavalea, CSCS
What do you mean warm inside? When it comes to warming the body up in order to compete in a baseball game or practice, it is imperative that we are not only heating up the muscle, but more importantly we are turning ON the muscle, while activating the Central Nervous System.
So this sounds like some mad scientist talk huh? Well a simple way to look at this scenario is this: When you insert the key into the ignition of you car and turn what happens? You develop a spark that turns on the powerful V-6 or V-8 engine under the hood, right? We can look at the body in the same way. The body’s nervous system sends electrical currents from the brain through the spinal cord, to the muscles of the body to create movement via muscle action.
Now lets take a step back. Typically a warm-up is used to “loosen up” before we play, but what are we loosening up? Muscle? Most coaches and players understand that flexibility plays a tremendous role in the injury prevention process, but we spend entirely to much time on stretching individual muscles and neglect that power of the nervous system and the fact that muscles are not used individually, they are used in small groups or clusters. Static Stretching, or stretching using long holds should be used to increase flexibility on typically restricted areas, which in baseball are: hip flexors and quads, groins, lats, and hamstrings. It would be fair to place special emphasis on these areas as a corrective stretching measure, but this should be followed immediately with whole-body stretching, or better known as Dynamic Stretching.
Dynamic Stretching is a new paradigm rocking the field of sports performance because it is extremely effective, allowing athletes to increase ranges of ACTIVE flexibility, meaning ranges of motion they are creating on their own, but most importantly we are switching the focus from stretching to activating. This activation is the nervous system firing muscles in groups and sequences rather than just isolated muscles. In a nut shell this translates to: If you want to be prepared to play, MOVE. If you are laying on the field stretching, you are not maximizing your warm-up.
The great parts of Dynamic Stretching are:
- Strength Development
- Activation of muscles that are typically “off”
- Balance, Coordination, and Stability
- Development of Greater Athleticism
- Increased Conditioning Level
** REDUCED INJURIES
The benefits of Dynamic Stretching are endless. This is not just a short-term fad, but is being used throughout the Major Leagues and is becoming more of a standard and demonstration of progress in this industry. The advent of Dynamic Stretching is the result of scientific research, but most important practical testing on the benefits. Dynamic Stretching is extremely challenging for athletes early on, but the adaptation phase is very quick and the new feeling of balance and strength takes place rapidly. Dynamic Stretching for Baseball are available on DVD at www.mlstrength.com in the Performance Store.
If you have not had any exposure to Dynamic Stretching in the past think about crossing over, after all, if the Pro’s are doing it, you should be also. The great part about this stretching method in addition to the previously mentioned benefits is the fact that it can be as challenging as you want it to be, and uses many different training methods such as: foot quickness/ plyometrics, balance drills, speed development techniques, and lateral movement development. When all this is built into a warm-up that will be performed on a daily basis, success is a guarantee.
So, if you aren’t Dynamic yet, Get Dynamic! After all, what do you have to lose besides you flexibility?
**The most cutting-edge baseball-specific DVD, Dynamic Stretching for Baseball is brought to you by Major League Strength and available at: www.mlstrength.com in the Performance Store.
Dana Cavalea is the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the New York Yankees. He is a national speaker on Baseball Performance Training, as well as the owner of Major League Strength, www.mlstrength.com, a sports performance training company designed to educate coaches, ballplayers, and parents on the advancements in the field of Strength and Conditioning for baseball. Join our newsletter and post your questions at www.mlstrength.com