Rotational Training for Baseball (Part 3).

Part One of this series included general observations and commentary on sport-specific training, with a brief introduction to the three planes of motion. 

Part Two highlighted 5 key points regarding strength training for baseball.

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Here we tackle the fun stuff - sport-specific power training for baseball.

Power training for baseball should bridge the gap between (relatively) heavy load, controlled movements and actually throwing, hitting, and running like a beast. The perfect strength training program for any given individual is worth little in terms of performance if it doesn't translate to demonstrating high amounts of rotational force (Torque) QUICKLY.

How exactly do you develop power in the transverse plane? Are traditional plyometric power exercises safe and warranted for baseball players? Is power development plane-specific? Here are a few key points regarding power training for baseball.

1.Traditional plyos are warranted for baseball players.

"Why are you training a baseball player to jump? This isn't high jump or basketball." 

I will admit that I'm biased toward traditional power training with leaps, bounds, tuck jumps, hurdle jumps, depth jumps etc for a very bad reason. (I'm a good leaper, well, for an old man). Also, there are only a handful of lower body, transverse plane specific plyometric exercises to choose from. I think Eric Cressey would agree that lateral hops are a great baseball specific exercise, but they can only take you so far.

Although traditional plyos are predominately sagittal plane movements, they remain a great way to supercharge the nervous system. They are total body efforts that require the athlete to develop body control and optimize ground reaction force. They are by all means the best way to reach and develop fast twitch muscle fibers.

You could achieve much of the same effect with triple the injury risk and time invested by doing the Olympic Lifts. This backhanded compliment about Olympic lifting comes courtesy of this entry where I lay out why O-lifts are not the best choice for most athletes.

Plyo push-up variations...sure.
Traditional plyos should not receive the same emphasis as they would for, say, a long jumper. But there is definitely room for them. Plus, most athletes benefit greatly from leaping and bounding off one leg, and baseball players are no exception. Single leg launching and landing does require great transverse plane strength and stability.

2. A word of caution.

Please be aware that knees and feet are at risk for those who throw caution to the wind. The type of impact, total number of repetitions, form, and fatigue should be monitored and progressed gently. My clinic records prove that even strong athletes may suffer injuries from careless application of plyos.

Awesome-making, shin-eating machine.
Build up the impact gradually. Don't perform high power movements when in a state of extreme fatigue. Variations of single leg plyos are great, but don't perform repeated single leg bounds across cement or hardwood. Control the deceleration while landing your jumps. Only jump as far and as many times as you can land well. There are a handful of tricks to the trade that many trainers are apparently unaware of.

3. The total body whip.

I would argue that the most baseball-specific exercises are power/plyometric exercises that 1) incorporate the transverse plane, and 2) use everything between the ground and the hands. While traditional lower extremity plyos have their place in a baseball training program, the majority of plyometric training for baseball players should incorporate these two criteria. Our options are quite limited here. There are really only a handful of exercises to do and I think about 60% are worth the time.
Or stomach the thought of swinging an actual ax.

Baseball players should be on a steady diet of throwing the med ball, clubbing a tire (or something), and hitting with an over-weighted bat. "Battling ropes" may serve some purpose as well. How heavy should those items be? They should be heavy enough that the exercise is not replicating the exact mechanics of throwing and hitting. Baseball players take enough stress and strain with their repetitive tasks. On the other hand, the objects should not be so heavy as to hinder the athletes peak power production (i.e. the athlete can still move relatively quickly).

4. Intent precedes content.

Maybe it's just me, but it's irritating to see athletes doing 20-rep wall balls and box jumps with 60% effort. Using plyometric power exercises to hit your lactate threshold and determine your willingness to suffer is a great way to test the integrity of your connective tissue. This is not the time to drone through the motions as if the training effect you desire is magically going to happen. Instead, do what it takes to throw the med ball like you're trying to knock the wall down. Hit the tire like you're battling for your life. Feel the impulse, energy generated between your feet and dead earth, traveling through your hips, torso, shoulders and out of your hands.

There's something very satisfying about the thump of a tire or brick wall.

5. Work smarter and harder. 

Progress isn't always measures in duration and impacts. Just because you have 20 good jumps, throws, or tire hits in you now doesn't mean the goals should be 60 or 100. Hit it with more force. Tuck jump the hurdle, measure vertical- and long jump distances, and time the short sprints/agilities. Radar some med ball throws or measure the distance covered. The younger crowd at GoWags swings a standard (relatively) heavy wooden bat at pitched balls. Measuring ball exit speed gives good incentive for and objective measurement of full effort.

Apply these principles and there you have a comprehensive baseball - specific training program. Certainly comment if there are any additional considerations that you have found beneficial. I hope to unpack many of the ideas presented here into a series of short videos. Let us know if you have any questions that you would like to be addressed.

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