The competitive season is coming up, a time in which many players will screw up and leave themselves playing at less than their best. In-season baseball and softball training can get complicated, so I’m going to share a large handful of my tips to hopefully add ballast to that ship (lest ye sink!).
#1. Sinking back into soreness-zone
When you start lifting weights for the first time (or doing anything physical, for that matter), what happens? You get super duper sore after that first handful of workouts.
What happens after a few weeks? You stop getting sore.
Many players make the mistake of giving themselves two weeks off to get acclimated to their new schedule, which effectively resets the sore-o-meter. When they finally make time to get back to the gym, they have a normal workout and end up really sore the next day, then subsequently become tentative about returning to the gym the rest of the season:
Takeaway: Stay consistent to keep soreness away.
#2: Switching to high-reps
High reps (10-20) build endurance and muscle size. This is proven. And, I’ll tell you that from years of experience, high-reps are more exhausting than short sets of heavier weights. ESPECIALLY on throwing arms.
Our goal during the season is to keep maximal strength as close to off-season levels as we can. High rep sets, by definition, are performed at 50-75% of one’s 1-rep maximum. So, they do a poor job of training maximal strength. This is why powerlifters, Olympic lifters, sprinters and the like all perform sets with low-reps and higher amounts of rest – to build strength.
So, to retain as much as possible, we need to train with a higher percentage of one’s max. If your squat max is 400lbs, then we’d be working the 80-90% range for 5-8 sets of 1-3 reps. Bob Alejo, author of Double Play advocates this style of training – it’s low volume and allows an athlete to get max-strength work in without exhausting himself.
The easy rule of thumb that I use is this:
- Pick a repetition scheme. For big-lifts, sets of 1, 2 or 3 reps are good.
- Choose a weight that you could do for 2 more reps and use that.
- This will ensure that your weight is heavy but is light enough to not be exhausting. For example:
Say I want to do 4 sets of 3 (a 3RM is 90% of 1RM). My front squat 1RM is 355. 90% of 355 is 320. That would be my off-season 3RM max weight. During the season, we’ll use, for a 3-rep set, a weight that I would do for 2 extra reps, in this case my 5RM. 5RM is 85%, which in this example is 301.
So, I’d grab 301 pounds (300, really – I’m not going to add Oreo cookies to the bar) and do that for 3 reps. This would leave a little extra in the tank to not exhaust me, but would still be heavy. I accumulate a good training volume by performing a handful of sets.
Takeaway: Don’t forget about maintaining max strength.
But, you don’t want to be maxing out during the season. Choose 1-3 reps, and use 90% of the weight you would normally use for that rep scheme. Rule of thumb is take the normal weight you’d use, add two reps, then use that weight.
Mistake #3: Failing to backdate for optimal dosage
Every player needs a calendar. They need to figure out when the next game is, when the next day he is starting, pitching, or whatever. From there, you “backdate” – figure out your workload based on peaking for the next game.
Some coaches do this for players, but it’s really each player’s responsibility – he or she needs to understand how his or her body responds to things by trial and error with workouts, throwing, hitting, running, etc. to make sure he’s fresh. Too many players either do nothing – trying to always be fresh – or do too much, trying to make sure they’re extra fit during the season. Neither approach is ideal.
Ideal is “optimal dose” – do exactly as much as is needed to get the desired result. If taking one pill per day gets the same result as taking two…why would any sane person take two?
Backdating allows a birds-eye perspective of the training and competition schedule that allows for heavier workouts where there is more rest and lighter workouts where rest is short. For a starting pitcher, this is relatively simple – heavier workouts are the ones in the first two days after a start. The closer the next start gets, the lighter the workouts and throwing becomes. But, too few players seem to grasp this concept. Errors in backdating and workout volume EASILY result in decreased miles per hour, sprint and batspeed. Workloads need to be optimally dosed.
Takeaway: Plan your week. If you don’t know how, ask a soccer Mom.
Plan out every week – assign heavy, moderate and light workloads where appropriate, based on amount of games and rest days in between. If Coach won’t tell you, do your best to guess when you’ll be in the lineup next. If you’re a freshman, though…asking about playing time is a BIG No-No.