How to Condition for Baseball


Why Long Distance Running is Not the Answer

Conditioning for baseball is one of the most misunderstood concepts at the high school, college and professional level. Time after time, I see coaches instructing their players, especially pitchers, to run polls and other forms of long distance running. This is without a doubt my #1 pet peeve when it comes to conditioning baseball players. I will never understand why running long distance is accepted as the norm at virtually every level of baseball. Pitching, throwing, swinging and running are all explosive movements, while long distance running is slow and steady. If you want to be fast, you need to train fast. If you train slow you will be slow! Not to mention long distance running can lead to overuse injuries and your joints take a pounding which can lead to injury! In this post, I will explain to you why long distance running is not the answer and I will also offer a much more effective way to condition for baseball.

First off, besides being very boring and monotonous, running for distance offers little to no benefit to baseball players. In fact, I will go as far and say it can inhibit performance. Conditioning for any sport is a matter of training the correct energy system. In order to understand what energy system is predominate in a sport, one must consider the work to rest ratio and also the physical demands of the sport. For example, pitchers perform a very explosive movement and then rest 20 seconds or so before they throw again. For the purpose of this article we will talk about the aerobic and phosphogen energy systems. In a nutshell, the phosphogen energy system is associated with very short explosive durations (less than 10 seconds). This energy system uses creatine phosphate to produce energy (not use oxygen) and does not produce lactic acid. On the other hand, the aerobic energy system is associated with long durations and the use of oxygen and the accumulation of lactic acid. Which energy system do you think applies to baseball? The explosive movements related to baseball tap into the phosphogen energy system and thus the only way to improve a baseball players conditioning would be to improve the production of creatine phosphate. Since long distance running trains the aerobic energy system, there is absolutely no carry over to baseball. Instead baseball players should train more like sprinters, not like cross country runners.

Personally, none of my baseball players ever run over 60 yards for conditioning. Baseball is unique because unlike basketball, football, soccer and other sports, baseball requires little no conditioning and thus, our conditioning work is in fact speed work. The protocol for speed work includes running less than 60 yards with FULL RECOVERY. Instead, of wasting time doing pointless long distance running, our athletes focus on doing sprints to improve speed and baseball conditioning. A sample conditioning workout for baseball may be to perform 5-10 sprints for 10-40 yards with full recovery. This type of conditioning usually isn’t necessary till the pre season phase. During the off season we end our workouts with finishers on the prowler, sled, or will perform circuits with dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags or barbells. While this type of conditioning is not necessary for baseball, it does help improve work capacity which is critical to the long term success of an athlete. Additionally, overcoming muscular imbalances by improving mobility and strength plays a critical role in the development of baseball players.

Keep in mind that the term conditioning is specific to the physical demands of a sport. Being conditioned for baseball is extremely different than conditioning for cross country. Here is a quick example of how you can design your conditioning for baseball players.

Off Season- Perform sled work, prowler, complexes and other forms of anaerobic conditioning to raise work capacity. Please check out this article for more information

Pre Season- Cut down on the anaerobic conditioning and replace it with sprint work. Anywhere from 1-3 days a week will get the job done. It varies depending on the athlete’s health, their goals, and how far from the competitive season they are.

Competitive Season- During the season, I do not prescribe any addition conditioning. At this point, the athlete is playing almost every day and no additional speed or conditioning work is necessary. The goal in season is to maintain current strength and speed abilities.

Please keep in mind that this post is not a cheap shot at all the coaches that make their players perform long distance running. Instead, the goal of this post is to raise the awareness of why long distance running is not the answer to improving conditioning in baseball. So let’s recap the major points:
• Long distance running will have absolutely no carry over to baseball because it trains the aerobic energy system which is not the energy system used during baseball
• In order to improve conditioning, baseball players should focus on performing sprints and other explosive movements with almost full recovery between reps/sets.
• Performing conditioning work on the sled, prowler and complexes is beneficial to baseball players because it will improve work capacity which is critical to the long term success of an athlete. This type of conditioning works the anaerobic energy system (opposed to the aerobic) which will have more of a carry over to baseball related activities.
• Don’t underestimate the important of strength training for baseball. Strength is the foundation upon which speed and other abilities are built. By overcoming muscular imbalances, baseball players can help prevent injuries while also improving performance.
• Lastly, if you want to be fast, you have to train fast. If you train slow you will be slow. Cut out all the poles and other forms of long distance running and start doing some sprints!

Joe Meglio
Performance Enhancement Coach
Performance Supplements

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  • John Doe

    first

  • Bryce Newton

    Hello, I am a high school baseball player and I am in the off season right now. I am 6’3 and 228 pounds. I did not have the greatest season last year and do not know if I will make the team this up coming year. I need a way to loose weight fast before Baseball season comes up again. If you could please give me tips on loosing weight that would be great.

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