In part 1 of this installment, we covered three big inseason baseball and softball training mistakes:
- Not lifting heavy enough
- Slipping back into soreness due to missed workouts
- Failing to backdate for starts
In part 2, we’ll discuss the following:
- Drinking the wrong sports drink
- Crushing the forearms
- Missing the critical post-game window
Mistake #1: Drinking Sports Drinks
I realize that Gatorade is tasty. I also realize that low-carb sports drinks dry ones mouth out. I realize that many people dislike water.
However, we need to be remiss to the fact that baseball and softball just aren’t that taxing. Unless you’re a person who doesn’t eat during the day (also a stupid mistake) or has some low blood sugar issue of a medical nature, there’s little reason to drink sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or the like during practice.
Sorry – I know your thirsty, but your body is absolutely NOT in need of carbohydrates to keep going. Slugging a 32oz sports drink during a two-hour practice that is comprised of standing around fielding ground balls, swinging a bat, and getting yelled at for misremembering basic bunt defenses is needless and will contribute to fat gain. A good resource is Nutrient Timing, a book by John Ivy, if you want more information.
Other sports qualify for sports drinks – basketball, volleyball, football, track and field, soccer, lacrosse (sigh), boxing, to name a few – they’re fast-paced and much more demandig. Baseball and softball simply don’t; there’s too much standing around. Let’s be honest with ourselves – baseball and softball games and practices are slow, boring, and don’t require that much physical endurance. If you disagree, get in shape, then re-answer the question. If baseball practice is hard…you’re simply out of shape and spent your offseason being lazy.
So, instead, do this:
Get a SMALL sports drink and add 10 grams of unflavored whey protein to it. Drink that at the end of practice, as your first “meal” to help you recover for practice the next day. Or, buy any of the protein/carb “recovery” drinks and slug one of them. Water during practice, or a VERY dilute sports drink is okay. The following is a screenshot of a supplement recommendation I made for a local volleyball club:
Oh. And no – you don’t need electrolytes from your drinks unless its a 95 degree doubleheader. You get plenty of salts from the pizza rolls and french fries that make up the bulk of your diet.
Mistake #2: Crushing Forearms
If you want to throw faster, a great way to do so is to crush your forearms…in the offseason. If then, during the season, you wish to throw slower…crush your forearms.
The hands, and the forearms that control them, are like the tires on a car – they’re the last thing in contact with the baseball during a throw. If they’re strong and explosive, they add “whip” to the ball, that last little bit of oomph, much like a catapult. If they get exhausted, they’ll provide no such whip and velocity, feel and off-speed pitch break will suffer.
Can I cite a research study for this? No. However, I’m very in tune with my body and I have done the gamut of trial and error during my career. I hit forearms way too hard (I later realized) in late college and my first year of pro ball. My velocity fluctuated tremendously. I finally isolated the variable in July of 2010. My father discusses this forearm and glycogen depletion phenomenon at length in his book, well worth a read.
I had been consistent with my routine the previous four or five starts leading up to one of my career best games, a 1-hit shutout. My velocity held all the way til the end without dropping. After the game, I did A LOT of extra forearm work (even did ball-bucket farmers carries) to make sure I’d bounce back from my first 9-inning performance and keep my elbow healthy. The next time out? I got shelled and pitched at 87-91, averaging 88. In that shutout I hadn’t thrown a single pitch below 90.
I looked back and decided I did way too much. So, for the rest of the season, I limited my forearm exercises to a heavy workout immediately after the game and moderate workouts on day 1 and day 2. For the next 12 starts, my velocity was stable in every start, even as my innings broke 100 for the first time in my life. I followed the same routines the next two years and my velocity was stable. I suggest the following:
- No more than 2×10 of any forearm exercise within 2 days of the next start
- No farmers carries during the season
- Heavy gripper work is OK but in 2-3 short sets of 4-6 reps
- Aim to maintain strength, not wear the forearms out
- If you get a pump, you’ve probably done too much
Also, my “feel” for all of my pitches and my spin and movement is markedly different – worse – when I’ve done a lot of forearm work prior to that bullpen or outing. It makes sense – exhausted hands means they can’t function as dextrously, just like exhausted legs won’t run as fast.
Lastly, I do more forearm extensor work than I do flexor work. Why? Because the extensors are eccentric only during the throw, and the flexors are concentric. I’m not going to beat a dead horse and crush the flexors that are already heavily worked by throwing; I’ll train the parts that are undertrained during the game.
Mistake #3: missing the post-game window
Especially for relievers who could pitch the next day, after the game is the ideal time to do shoulder work, stretch, foam roll, or train in general. I’ll be utilizing this as a reliever this year. Why? If you play the next day, by doing your training after the game, you’ll have maximum rest before the next game.
And, I always experienced less soreness the next day when I’d perform shoulder exercises immediately after leaving the game. It was a good way to get my work in that left me feeling better, faster. Some players run and do other things after games, which is also a good idea. The more things you can accomplish post-game, the better.
My post-game routine for after outings this year is to:
- Perform shoulder and forearm care
- Stretch and foam roll
- Light upper body/core workout
Then, the next day, I’m planning on lifting legs in the morning, and throwing and running at the ballpark later that afternoon. I think this will work as long as all workouts are kept short, which is how in-season workouts should be, anyway. Moving blackburns are a great addition to your shoulder care and are easily done anywhere.
Stay tuned for part 3, and maybe a part 4 if I have more say.