Why Strength train for Baseball?

For years baseball players have been labelled the worst athletes amongst the four major professional sports in North America. However in the last 20 years we have seen a remarkable improvement in player’s strength and conditioning. Players today are bigger, stronger and faster. Professional baseball players now realize that working on their swing or pitching mechanics in the off-season is just as important as increasing their maximal strength through resistance training.

We are now starting to see teams and organizations implementing strength and conditioning programs for their players, and most teams now have strength coaches at every level of professional baseball. So why have so few amateur players/teams embraced this key element in their off-season program? Why do they continue to focus solely on “skills” and “fundamentals” every winter? Sure Billy has a smooth swing and he hit .400 last season but 80% of his hits were singles and he’s 16 years old and 150lbs soaking wet. Will working on his swing and hitting a thousand balls of the tee and iron mike make him that much better next season? Maybe he’ll hit .450 or .500 that will for sure get him noticed by some pro scouts or some interest from some schools in the States right? Think again.

Scouts like kids who hit doubles and homers. Scouts like guys who are big and strong. Scouts like guys who throw hard. Heck, go to Central Scouting Bureau and read scouting reports on players, you will see it for yourself in almost every description of a player. You will read stuff like “Big Frame”, “Pro Body”, “and Strong as a horse”. You will also read stuff like “Great Swing, needs to get stronger”, “Small Frame”, “Lacks power to drive the ball”.

Throwing Velocity and Bat Speed/Ball Exit Speed can be increased through resistance training. I have listed an article that shows ten studies that each demonstrated a positive effect of weight training on throwing velocity. The authors in the review above also have a table that summarizes 26 studies that examined the effect of different strength protocols on throwing velocity and 22 of the 26 showed increases over controls who just threw[1]

So with that being said I would like to share with you our results this past off-season that we got with one of our baseball teams, Team Ontario.

Team Ontario is a group of Elite 16-18 year old ball players who play out of the PBLO. We started a 2 x week training program, 1 upper and 1 lower starting in November and running through to March. Of course the first thing we did here at SST is we tested them to see where their strength level was at. Then we tested them again at the completion of their program. Testing included; 10 yard runs, pro – agility shuffle and sprint, push ups and supinated chin ups. The results were nothing short of spectacular!

I’m not going to list individual numbers but I will provide team averages:

  • Push ups went from 26.8 to 35.1
  • Chin Ups went from 5.6 to 9.9( full chins ups- full extension and a four second eccentric component)
  • 10 yard run times were awesome with every single athlete improving his time.
  • The worst time when we started was a 1.96, when we tested again it was 1.79.
  • The best time when we started was a 1.59, when we tested again it was 1.52.
  • Most importantly our team average times dropped by more than 10/100 of a second.
  • Same with Agility Sprint and Shuffle times. Amazing! Not to mention how much their Front Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts poundage went up.

How did our athletes make such incredible gains? Here are some examples of exercises we used in their program.

  • Upper body: Chin ups (supinated, pronated, neutral, thick bar, thin bar), DB and BB incline Bench Press, Scap Retractions, Rope to Neck/Face, Every Row you can think of, external rotations…and many more
  • Lower Body: RDL’s, Trap Bar Deadlifts, Front Squats, Sled Pulls, Tire Flips, Split Squats, Hamstring Curls…and many more
  • Plus we incorporated core and low back work, as well as plyo’s and med ball work.
  • Foam Rolling and Static stretching plus a sound nutrition protocol with proper supplementation.

I can’t wait to see how our guys do on the field this year, something tells me we will be seeing a lot more doubles and homers, as well as our pitchers throwing Gas!

[1] Cressey, Eric. Strength Training for Pitchers. January 2009