Training close to 1,000 different athletes the past 7 years, I have messed up their programming many times. I have taken many different approaches to try and ensure that what they are doing is yielding maximum results on the field and in the weight room. I have taken the “get as strong as possible approach”, I have taken the lighter weight, move fast approach. What I have found is we need something in the middle of the two. Researching post activation potentiation (PAP), Velocity Based Training (VBT), and reading about the Triphasic approach by Cal Dietz have all opened my eyes to a new way of being a true technician and strength coach.
The biggest thing I have learned is that not all the athletes need the same things, even though the physiology of the body primarily works the same in most sports. ALL athletes are rotational athletes, and the initial muscular action in sport usually starts with an intense isometric or explosive isometric contraction along with stores of elastic energy. Which is followed by the stretch reflex of the concentric muscle action. All of these factors determine how to approach programming. We need to use all of this information to enforce proper neuromuscular patterns.
Everything mentioned above needs to be taken into account when designing training programs. We cannot train at the same tempos or under the same loads and intensities year-round. Furthermore, we cannot prescribe the same exercises throughout the year. Just because the athlete throws and hits a ton does not mean they should do a ton of medicine ball rotary work. Learning when to eliminate or add movements to a program will help the athlete on the field. For example, if the athlete is increasing his throwing loads, we want to decrease his chin-ups and rotational work because both are lat dominant and rotary movements, and they may do more harm than good.
After much research, we have stuck to a solid philosophy of adapting the strength-speed continuum while limiting, eliminating and adding movements in certain phases. This has been a game changer for us. Knowing where bar speeds need to be in different phases of the year has yielded a huge transfer from weight room to the baseball diamond. If you want to throw fast or run fast you need to train fast at times vs training heavy slow all the time.
While programming, we need to think that force productions are different for bilateral vs unilateral movements. Each athlete has a dominant leg or arm. This shows in the sport of baseball. We see a lot of coaches addressing the back or drive leg in the throwing motion, although the support leg (landing leg) is the leg needed to produce greater strength and force. We should attempt to increase the rate of force production in prescribed programs. We do this by adding plyometrics, speed and strength measurables the closer we get to the season.
However, none of this matters if the athlete is not consistent. We always see a huge drop off in attendance when baseball season rolls around. If an athlete does not continue in all phases of the program the athlete will not get the desired results. Most of the time the athlete comes back in the weight room further behind from when they initially started, if they put a stop to their development. If the athlete stops training in a strength block, how are they ever going to achieve the power it takes to throw with higher velocities without working into a speed-strength phase? Injuries become more prevalent this time a year as well because the sport specific skill work is put in front of the development in the weight room. We train all year to be strong and powerful. So, in-season why would you want to stop training?
Everything matters to gain the desired results and see the hard work transfer to the field, from the programming to the consistency of the athlete.