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An athlete's offseason training determines how they will perform during the season. The off-season is approximately four months. This is where players address performance traits outside of sport-specific workouts. Workouts often include speed, agility, strength, and power training.
It's important during this time to shift the training focus to improve physical qualities that assist sports performance. Baseball players are relieved from the regular number of practices. This allows time for rest and further development in skills that indirectly affect performance.
As a general guide, off-season programs normally start with a heavy focus on speed and agility. When the program approaches the halfway mark, the focus shifts more to peak strength and power. A baseball workout should progressively increase training for strength and power.
This workout approach during spring training involves using lighter weights. If you are a coach, you know that lighter weights and more volume after a season are critical to prevent burnout.
Once the athlete approaches the halfway mark in a training program they can expect to see increases in intensity. This means the frequency of training will become less. Let's break down the training frequency for speed and agility vs. strength training.
Running mechanics and footwork are skills that every athlete needs. Baseball players are required to steal bases, chase fly balls, run to first base, and more. Sprint technique can be addressed through the following drills.
Band Resisted Shuffle Runs
This is a great drill to work on base stealing. Have athletes in pairs. One athlete holds a resistance band around the waist of their partner. The partner in the band will shuffle back and forth and, on a cue, will turn and sprint. This drill helps with lower body explosiveness for acceleration, change of direction, and speed.
Technique is crucial if you want to gain speed. Outfielders especially need to be fast when chasing down fly balls or hits. Proper running mechanics can be attained by attaching a harness and sled to athletes. Perform proper running marches by emphasizing knee drive and arm mechanics. Stay on your toes or the balls of your feet. This teaches proper foot drive into the ground along with the other mechanisms.
Agility Ladder Drills
All agility ladder and hurdle drills are excellent for improving footwork. The ickey shuffle, two feet shuffle, lateral hops, and high knees are effective. But if you had to choose one of the best drills for a baseball player it would be a hip rotation ladder drill.
If you are a coach, instruct athletes to start on the side of the ladder. Begin by stepping the right foot in the ladder and rotate the hips to the left. Move through the ladder, continuously rotating the hips and placing the right foot in and out of each square. Hip rotation is crucial for baseball players in hitting a ball, catching a ball, and running bases.
Perform agility and speed training at least 3-5 times per week. Each workout should last no more than 1.5 hours.
Approximately four weeks into the off-season, athletes should have attained adequate rest. By now they are proficient in speed and agility training. This is when you can start implementing power training into the program.
Power training includes weight training and plyometric training.
Cleans and jerks
Snatches and push presses
Medicine ball training
Power training is performed at a low intensity with low repetitions. Use 65-75% of your 1RM and complete 2-4 repetitions of each exercise. Work with up to 5 sets total with 3-5 minutes of rest in between.
Fast forward another four weeks and athletes should add in strength training. Strength training will help athletes build more muscle mass and strength. This provides a good foundation for the upcoming season.
Strength training includes exercises such as the following:
If you are a coach prescribing strength training to athletes, you must understand training intensity and volume. In this part of the off-season program, complete 4-6 sets of 5-8 repetitions. Utilize 3-5 minutes of rest in between sets and work with up to 85% of your 1RM.
Here are the A-B-C's of strength training.
Frequency of training is greater during the speed and agility segment. This is because the body undergoes much less load and intensity. As the athlete progresses through the training program, the load and intensity become greater. This requires the frequency of training to decrease. Arm strength for bat speed and throwing will improve come baseball season.
Day 1 - Acceleration Focus Day
10-yard start sprints
Sled harness sprints
Starting position 5-yard runs
Day 2 - Speed Focus Day
Day 3 - Rehearsed Drills
Day 4 - Reactive Drills
Mirror sprint or shuffle drill
Reactive ball drop
Partner banded shuffle runs
Day 5 - Agility Ladder Drills
2 feet in, 2 feet out
Day 1 - Power
Day 2 - Power
10-yard acceleration sprints
Day 3 - Power
Partner banded shuffle runs
Kettlebell swings or medicine ball work
Coaches can add in two additional days of strict agility training. This includes agility ladder and hurdle drills.
In this segment, both upper body and lower body training will be addressed each training day. Utilize both dumbbell and barbell exercises accordingly. Core strength must be worked at the end of each day or on off days. Encourage athletes to perform corrective exercise to help strengthen the rotator cuff.
Day 1 - Total Body Strength
Bent over barbell row
Day 2 - Total Body Strength
One-arm dumbbell row
Day 3 - Total Body Strength
Partner banded shuffle runs
Medicine ball rotational throws
This strength training program retains each type of training. It combines them into one program. Conditioning is an important aspect that can be performed on off days during the last 4-8 weeks.
During the strength segment though, athletes should perform just three days a week. The two main strength lifts should take up most of the workout. Meaning, perform the most sets here, up to 5-6 sets.
Avoid adding in intense training on off days. Light conditioning and agility training is permitted. No ball work is necessary until the athlete gets closer to the season.
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