Building the Foundation
From Complete Conditioning for Baseball by Pat Murphy, Jeff Forney
When you build a house, you don’t start with the roof--you first lay the foundation and then build up from there. So it goes with baseball conditioning. A good training program begins with a strong foundation phase that includes both cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. As you know, playing baseball requires certain levels of fitness, strength, and speed. The higher the level you achieve in these areas, the greater potential you have as a player. It’s often the case that an increased level in one of the areas leads to an improvement in another. For example, to increase your speed, you need to exert more power against the ground. The ability to exert more power comes from an increase in strength. So, to increase your speed, try supplementing your wind sprints with squats and power cleans. These exercises use three times the muscle mass of any other weight-training exercise for the legs while approximating the movements used in the sprint stride. Let’s take a quick look at the building blocks of our conditioning program: cardiovascular fitness, range of motion, strength and muscular endurance, and speed.
Basically, cardiovascular training allows you to accomplish more work with less fatigue; it leads to faster recuperation between sets, exercises, and workouts. Cardiovascular exercise fits into one of two categories: aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen). Aerobic training increases the body’s demand for oxygen, which in turn adds to the workload of the heart and lungs. This kind of training gets oxygen to the muscles more efficiently, allowing them to work longer during conditioning or competition. It also works to burn excess or unnecessary body fat. Some of the more popular forms of aerobic exercise include distance running, cycling, stair climbing, and jumping rope. Anaerobic training includes exercises that burn energy without the use of oxygen. Glycogen stored in the muscles is the primary fuel used during anaerobic exercise, which includes activities requiring short bursts (10 to 20 seconds) of energy, such as sprinting and weightlifting. These short bursts also lead to an increase in your heart workload, although not for the sustained period that aerobic exercise requires. Because baseball movements are generally short and explosive, conditioning for baseball includes much more anaerobic training than aerobic.
Range of Motion
Once we have established good cardiovascular fitness, we want to improve our range of motion, which is critical in baseball. Stretching exercises and warm-up techniques that take the muscles through a full range of motion help improve overall flexibility.
Strength and Muscular Endurance
We stressed earlier that a sound baseball conditioning program consists of more than just weight training. However, weight training is the primary means of building the strength that helps us improve our speed, power, and agility. The key is to keep the focus on improving strength and not just bulking up.
Speed is a measure by which all good athletes, including baseball players, are judged. A player with speed automatically possesses a weapon that separates him from a slower opponent. There is no way to defend speed except through speed itself, so if you can become quicker than the players you face, you will have an edge over them.