Conditioning for Baseball: Part 2

By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, CSCS

Billy Hamilton, Mike Trout, Dee Gordon
Billy Hamilton, Mike Trout, Dee Gordon



Yesterday we discussed how training the aerobic energy system would be beneficial for baseball.  And not just baseball, for almost any sport.  Many people would argue that “if you train slow, you’ll be slow.”  To which I’d reply – true.  However, we must not overlook the benefits of the aerobic system and neglect training this unique workhorse-energy-producer.

If you missed the post, check it out here:

Aerobic Training For Baseball

So we KNOW that we shouldn’t neglect the aerobic energy system, but we also KNOW that we can’t rely on ONLY training this system, unless of course you’re a marathoner (and even then, sprint work, form running, and tempo work is still beneficial/important).

This leads us into other training considerations.  I will keep this baseball specific, but know that these ideas carry over across various sports.

Baseball is a game of SPEED and POWER, Just like most other sports.  The person who is the biggest, strongest, and fastest usually has the upper hand.  In baseball, power leads to harder hit balls and greater pitch velocity.  Speed leads to extra base hits, stolen bases, and a better defensive presence.

So in conjunction with our aerobic capacity training, we clearly need to train for speed and power.

If we review, we know that the body relies on three different energy systems with three different fuels, all with unique characteristics.  We already discussed the aerobic system, so let’s look at the other two:

  • ATP-PC System
  • Anaerobic System

But with an emphasis on the ATP-PC System.

The body will always use some degree of all three systems during exercise, but the type of training will obviously dictate which system dominates.  During baseball, the activities that drive performance directly are the two listed above.  Both are short and explosive with limited energy supply.  But like I said before, baseball is a game of speed and power.  Both of these energy systems provide those qualities much more readily than the aerobic system.

Let’s look in detail at the ATP-PC System.  For those science lovers out there, we know that “ATP” stands for Adenosine Triphosphate.  The “PC” stands for Phosphocreatine.  This is a substance that is stored in small quantities within the muscle cells and helps with force production.

ATP is what scientist to believe the “energy currency of life.”  In this case, it is important to us because if we need a very fast release of energy (think speed and power), then the ATP-PC system is what we want to use.  It is the least complicated (least chemical steps), so it is the most readily used.  Also, since creatine is stored in the muscle cells themselves, it is readily available as well.

This system is activated at the very beginning of high intensity exercise, but it only lasts around 5-15 seconds before it is depleted.

But in many sports, such as baseball, our activities don’t usually last 15 seconds.  Swinging a bat takes less than a second.  Sprinting to first base (should) take less than 5 seconds.  Tracking down a fly ball in the outfield takes around 3.  So since our activities are so short in duration, we will have time to replenish depleted stores.

Good news, right?!

Since the science is out of the way, this leads us to HOW to train the ATP-PC System.

Well, if we know that the system only “works” for 5, 10, maybe 15 seconds, than our training should mimic that.  We also know that it allows us to work at high intensities, as well.  So that should be a consideration.  And as usual, we want our training to be as sport specific as possible.

So here are some ideas for training the ATP-PC System with baseball being our primary sport.

Max Strength

  • Training for maximal strength isn’t always what we aim for, because “strength” isn’t always associated with “speed.”  But I do believe there is a time and a place for it (OFF-SEASON!)
  • 3 x 3 rep scheme @ 85-100% 1 RM.

Speed and Power

  • Lifting sub-maximal weight at a much faster rate.  (Train fast to be fast!)
  • POWER = FORCE X DISTANCE/TIME…Work per unit time.  That’s how you get more powerful.
  • 6 x 3 rep scheme @ 40-80% 1 RM.

Acceleration & Starts

  • Learning how to accelerate is CRITICAL for baseball!
  • Repeated Sprint Ability” – the ability to use speed, quickness, and agility repeatedly in a game.
  • Hard Starts & Flow Starts
  • Since the distance from home plate to 1st base is only 90 ft, the ability to accelerate and reach (near) top speed as quickly as possible is huge.
  • Power and start mechanics are critical for distances less than 30 meters (most of baseball!)

Max Velocity Sprints

  • Increasing overall top speed
  • Reducing the limits of the CNS’s “central governors” and unlocking the potential of our body to be fast!
  • Flying 20’s and Flying 30’s
  • Repeat 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s

Medicine Ball Training

  • Total Body Power Development plus fast twitch fiber activation/recruitment
  • Scoop Toss
  • Side Toss
  • Back Toss
  • Falling Push Press for Acceleration
  • 3 x 5 repetition scheme, 3 minutes rest between sets.

So now that you have some ideas of how to train for SPEED and POWER, we should note that this type of training can be very taxing on the Central Nervous System.  The CNS needs AT LEAST 48 hours to recharge from high intensity sprint work!  In between these sessions is where we can utilize lower intensity work, such as our aerobic conditioning, work capacity, cardiac output training, etc.  This will actually help us RECOVER more quickly than doing nothing!



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