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Training Considerations For Baseball:
Developing Explosive Power
By Matt McManus

Baseball is a sport played in short, explosive bursts. Whether throwing a pitch, swinging the bat, or sprinting for a ball in the outfield, speed and power are paramount. Training in the weight room should therefore be geared toward producing maximal forces in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, because of the rotational emphasis of the sport and the need to protect the shoulder, wrist, and elbow, several of the methods for developing explosive power in baseball differ from those commonly used to train athletes in other sports.

While Olympic weightlifting movements such as the clean, jerk, and snatch are fantastic exercises to develop explosive power in athletes, their inclusion in a throwing athlete’s training program should be avoided. Throwing athletes live and die on the health of the shoulder, wrist, and elbow. For these athletes, various pulls from different positions can deliver the same benefit in terms of power output without adding unnecessary stress to the athlete’s arm. The video below shows one of our athletes performing a clean pull. This exercise allows the athlete to exert a tremendous amount of speed and power without worrying about catching the bar on their shoulders. Additionally, they can often progress in weight faster (and therefore derive greater benefits sooner) because proficient technique is easier to attain.

Explosive Jumps and Throws
While the aforementioned clean and snatch variations can help athletes produce tremendous speed and power with an external resistance, sports are not played with external resistance. In order to train and develop maximal speeds we must, therefore, also train with extremely light or no resistance. Explosive medicine ball throws and plyometrics, along with short sprints, are great for developing maximal speed and power. Below are a few of our favorites.

Medicine Ball Scoop Throw- These can be done for height or distance. These are great because they are FUN. Athletes will compete not only with each other to get the farthest throw, but also with themselves, having a mark to beat each rep.

Box Jump- Another great option because of its measurability. Adding height to a box and beating your friends is a great motivator. Aside from a basic standing box jump, we can add more advanced variations by doing a 1 step box jump, a vertical jump or depth jump to a box jump, or a single leg box jump.

DB or BB Squat Jump- This exercise has the added benefit of forcing the athlete to react to the ground. Maximal height and short ground contact time are the emphasis. In other words, we’re trying to develop as much force as possible in as short a period of time as possible.

Rotational Power
While traditional triple extension exercises in the sagittal plane (clean pulls, box jumps, etc.) are still valuable in baseball, power development in the transverse plane (rotation) is equally, if not more, important. The explosive rotation required of an athlete when they throw or swing a bat can be trained with different medicine ball throws. Two variations we like to use are below.

Repetitive MB Side Wall Toss- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your knees bent. With the ball at your back hip, drive off your back leg and rotate your hips, shoulders, and head together to throw the ball into the wall. Catch and immediately rotate back and fire the ball out again as fast as possible.

MB Punch Throw- Because this throw is more powerful than the previous one, we’ll set up slightly farther back from the wall. Hold the ball at your chest with both hands, like you’re squeezing it together. Lean back on the back leg and drive explosively toward the wall, turning the hips, shoulders, and head together while driving the back hand through the ball. While the side wall toss is more of a pulling or scooping movement, this is more of a pushing movement. Allow the ball to bounce after it hits the ground instead of attempting to catch it and make each repetition as fast and explosive as possible. Your goal should be to get the ball to roll all the way back to you. 

Every position on the baseball field requires players to move and react quickly and explosively. By incorporating the traditional triple extension exercises (simultaneous extension of the hip, knee, and ankle, as in sprinting) and rotational exercises described above athletes can develop tremendous speed and power for the field.

Keep in mind, a comprehensive program encompasses much more than what is discussed in this article. Basic barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight strength exercises form the foundation of training and help eliminate the imbalances that can develop from always throwing or hitting on only one side. Additionally, arm care exercises help keep the shoulder healthy through a full season and linear speed and lateral movement are imperative for playing defense and running the bases. All of these components are vital for the long-term development of baseball players and all are incorporated in our programs at Axis. 

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