Combating High School Weight Training Programs for Baseball

I had an opportunity to present this topic to the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches’ Association in January of 2012. It was a great opportunity to help better coaches’ approach to implementing a strength and conditioning regimen into their programs. Keep in mind, my message was directed towards those coaches whom did not have control over their high school weight programs, nor did they have much input into those programs. Bashing all high school weight training teachers was not the intent of the presentation, but to better paint a picture of how to combat some of the strength protocols which were being implemented. I have personally met several weight training teachers that do a great job in terms of developing athletes, and I have met some that might be better off teaching badminton and flag football in their respective schools.

Here are some common problems with poorly designed high school strength and conditioning protocols:

1. Ratio of push to pull is not balanced.

It’s not common to see a 2 to 1 push to pull ratio in high school weight training, or even higher.

2. Back squatting for overhead throwing athletes.

Putting a baseball player in the back squat position adds stress to the valgus nerve of the elbow.

3. Olympic lifting.

Baseball players tend to have more joint laxity in the shoulder, thus performing clean and jerks and snatches put baseball players at higher risk for shoulder injuries.

3. Ignoring in-season needs for overhead throwing athletes.

Baseball players, specifically pitchers, need to have a specific in-season strength and conditioning regimen that coincides with throwing protocols. If a pitcher is set to start that day, he sure as heck does not need to pound out 12 sets of presses.

4. Too much focus on “Pimp My Ride”.

I stole this analogy from a former coach of mine, Jamie Sheetz. In short, we have all seen the show Pimp My Ride on MTV.  If you haven’t seen the show, here is a quick summary. MTV selects people who drive ridiculously beat up and ugly cars followed by restoring those cars. So, a crappy car comes into the shop, and leaves with a fresh paint job, a sound system that would blow your eardrums out, and possibly an additional flat screen t.v. installed in the back seat. The catch is, MTV never touches the motor. So, what is the connection to strength and conditioning? It’s pretty simple; there is too much focus on aesthetics rather than focusing on building the motor of our athletes. The lesson? Make athletes better movers. Period.

Let me reiterate, this is not intended to bash all high school weight training teachers, but only to high light some common problems I have seen and heard about. I will leave it up to baseball coaches to determine if this occurs in their programs.

So, how does a high school baseball coach combat a poorly designed program?

Unfortunately, some of the protocols are irreversible and will not change, but there are ways to add beneficial exercises into practices or conditioning sessions. Here are a few tips:

1. Focus on scapular strength.

Scapular wall-slides, forearm wall slides, rhythmic shoulder stabilization exercises, and iso-metric band holds are just to name a few. Focus on external rotation of the shoulder and pulling exercises. Check the links below for some examples:

Scapular Wall Slides http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZDO_nc8Fdk

Quadruped Rhythmic Stabilization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmWJtWeQcBI&playnext=1&list=PLC59224241588DB3A&feature=results_video

2. Implement upper and lower body mobility drills into warm-ups and conditioning sessions.

 Here are a few  links to some mobility exercises that can be implemented right away.

Walking Spiderman with Overhead Reach http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ar0g-ztdVg&playnext=1&list=PL111754073FFA0930&feature=results_video

Quadruped Extension Rotation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47TFfKzpfVk

Wall Hip Flexor Immobilization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of6OYuyYCxE

*NOTE – Videos were taken from Cressey Performance – www.ericcressey.com

3. Educate players (without bashing a co-worker) on the importance of becoming a better mover, rather than trying to look like Lou Ferrigno.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit, I had to learn the hard way. Getting players to buy into becoming better movers and not having the biggest biceps in the school is tough, but have substance to what you are telling them. Take a look at Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, or Cole Hamels and you will see these guys won’t be winning any bodybuilding competitions anytime soon.

This being my first blog attempt, please critique below in the comment box. If my grammar was terrible or I was completely off with my topic, don’t hesitate to criticize! Thanks for looking.

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One comment

  1. Scott Turner

    Loved the clinic you put on at the MHSBCA convention last year. I have very, very little knowledge on weight training and what you said makes sense. Do you have a workout plan available for the off-season that is really spelled out like day 1, day 2, etc…?

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