Training The Baseball Athlete in the Fall

Once again, Labor Day is upon us… an unofficial welcoming to the beginning of the Fall Season. School is back in session, football is less than a week away, and Baseball athletes are preparing for what will be a long, yet productive year full of hard work, dedication, compromise, and accomplishment!

I find Labor Day to be the perfect starting date to begin our Fall Training…we celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of the working person by putting in some hard work of our own! Truth is, there are a lot of coaches out there who circle December 1st on their calendars as the “official baseball preseason training” start date. While this provides a quality amount of time (12-14 weeks) to prepare an athlete for the upcoming season, I see that as a mistake. The fall is undoubtedly the most important window for baseball training for a couple reasons:

  1. It follows the most physically (and mentally) demanding 6 months of competitive play. For this reason, we need to use the beginning of the fall as a time to restore movement, get healthy, refocus mentally and prepare to shift intentions towards making improvements.
  1. Due to the college and high school competitive schedules, this is also the time of year where the least amount of baseball activity is taking place. With baseball activity low, their focus as athletes can be on getting in the weight room and making some serious gains prior to the preseason months of December, January, and February.

While we all want our athletes to be getting bigger, stronger, faster, etc. all year round, it is important to keep in mind the peak times for training stress vs. the peak time for skill development. What I mean by that is, as strength & conditioning professionals it is our job to understand when it is time to back off the specific baseball skill development piece and get after it in the weight room and vice versa.

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Below is how we manage our overall training stress (both skill specific and strength) during the fall leading up to the primary competitive season (Spring):

*Note: Our facility is located in New England, therefore we tailor our sport seasons and training cycles around our ability to get outside and on a field, this outline may need to be shifted slightly if you have the ability to be on-field earlier than mid-March.

 

September:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:Low
Focus:Movement Restoration –> General Physical Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:Very Low
Focus:Visual Learning & Walk-Throughs

 

October:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:Moderate
Focus:General Physical Prep –> Athlete Specific Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:Very Low
Focus:Visual Learning & Walk-Throughs

 

November:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:Moderate
Focus:Athlete Specific Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:Low
Focus:Fundamental Skill Development-Acquisition

 

December:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:High
Focus:Athlete Specific Prep –> Baseball Specific Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:Moderate
Focus:Fundamental Skill Development- Retention

 

January:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:High
Focus:Baseball Specific Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:Moderate
Focus:Advanced Skill Development- Acquisition

 

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February:

Strength Development:

Training Stress Level:Moderate
Focus:Position Specific Prep

Baseball Skill Development:

Training Stress Level:High
Focus:Advanced Skill Development- Retention

Based on the outline above, you can see that both the skill and strength development process is stretched over the course of a 6 month period. Focusing more specifically to the fall months (Sept, Oct, Nov), strength development is progressed gradually from general physical prep to athlete specific prep while the skill development side focuses primarily on visual learning (swing/throwing analysis, situational game play, etc) and basic fundamental skill acquisition.

 

SEPTEMBER STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT (General Physical Prep):

For the first few weeks of September, our focus falls in restoration as well as laying the groundwork for the later months of the fall. With Baseball being incredibly one-sided, several adaptations take place over the course of a season due to the repetitive nature of the sport. It is important to address those adaptations before skill-specific baseball movements begin again, otherwise we begin feeding into overuse patterns. Below are a few examples of some myofascial release methods, mobility/corrective exercises and strength training exercises that are used in the early fall season to restore motion to adapted tissues and create a basic foundation for strength work.

 

Myofascial Release:

Glute                                                                Pec

Adductor                                                       Bicep

Lat                                                                      Tricep

Trap                                                                   Forearm

Infraspinatus/Teres Minor

 

Mobility/Corrective Exercises:

Non-Dominant Side Thoracic Windmills

Doorway Slides

Shoulder Rolls

Band Pullaparts

Band No-Money

Serratus Slides

 

Strength Exercises:

Bilateral Squats

Pushups

TRX or Inverted Rows

Scapular Stability Work

Rotator Cuff Work

 

OCTOBER STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT (General Physical Prep –> Athlete Specific Prep):

October marks the transition from the General Physical Prep phase into Athlete Specific Prep phase.  The goal of this training cycle is to begin to introduce athletic movements and begin training overall athleticism. Training stress will increase from the last phase through slight increases in volume and intensity as well as an introduction to more ballistic movements. Below are a few examples of some myofascial release methods, mobility/corrective exercises and strength training exercises that are used mid-fall to progress off of the foundation built in the previous training cycle.

 

Myofascial Release:

Full Body Foam Roll

*6-8 rolls over each major muscle group, 8-10 rolls over areas from September Myofascial Release

 

Mobility/Corrective Exercises:

Glute Mobe Rocks

Spiderman Lunge w/ Thoracic Rotation

Thoracic Extension

Back To Wall Shoulder Flexion

 

Strength/Early Stage Power Development Exercises:

Lateral Bounding (Accepting Force)

Low Box Drops (Accepting Force)

Med Ball Scoop Toss

Deadlift

Split Squat

Single Arm Cable Press

Single Arm Cable Row

Continued Scapular Stability Work

Continued Rotator Cuff Work

 

NOVEMBER STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT (Athlete Specific Prep ):

November training lies solely around continued athlete specific preparation. What this means is there is a continued focus on developing athleticism to build a well-rounded, functionally strong athlete. This is the third and final cycle of the fall training program before baseball specific activity picks back up in the preseason baseball months of December, January, and February. Below are a few examples of some myofascial release methods, mobility/corrective exercises and strength training exercises that are used in the late fall to transition into preseason training cycles and baseball-specific activity.

 

Myofascial Release:

Full Body Foam Roll

*6-8 rolls over each major muscle group, 8-10 rolls over areas from September Myofascial Release

 

Mobility/Corrective Exercises:

Glute Mobe Rocks

Spiderman Lunge w/ Thoracic Rotation

Thoracic Extension

Back To Wall Shoulder Flexion

 

Strength Exercises:

Lateral Bounding (Transferring and Accepting Force)

Box Jumps (Transferring and Accepting Force)

Moving Med Ball Scoop Toss

Deadlift

Lateral Squat

Dumbbell Incline Press

Dumbbell Row

Continued Scapular Stability Work

Continued Rotator Cuff Work

 

By this point in the fall, every baseball athlete should be well prepared for the demands of the winter months. Early winter months will be the most physically and mentally demanding months of the year as training stress is at an all-time high while the baseball activity focus is on skill retention. Check back in for the Winter Edition soon!

This is a guest post by Joe Hudson, MS, CSCS. Joe is the Director of Sports Performance at the Advanced Performance Academy in Palmer, MA.
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