Conditioning for Baseball

How many times have you seen coaches tell his team to go for a run and have him sit back in the dugout and not know why he is having his athlete’s go on a mile run or why they are running those poles? Coaches need to step back and ask themselves, when in the sport of baseball is the athlete doing a long, slow distance run in games? More than likely the coach believes they are flushing the lactic acid or building aerobic capacity. It has not been proven that baseball builds any kind of lactic acid in recent research therefor it is an alactic sport. Though if you train the right energy system they will turn lactate to energy. All the poles and milage the guys are running will do more harm than good by building an excess of lactic acid in the body. When the body doesn’t know how to clear the lacate in the body, it begins to build up and a toxic environment is created within the body. Once the body reaches this state, the pH levels begin to drop and the muscles are now compromised. Then you have another coach that may say he wants to build mental toughness through long distance running. I believe there are many different ways to build mental toughness other than running. I firmly believe that a coach needs to understand the demands of baseball on the body. Coaches need to know biomechanics of the swing, arm motions and especially energy demands of the sport. Baseball is a special breed of guys and those guys are extremly underserved.
For the sport of baseball we want to get away from the traditional idea of conditioning involving long distance and running poles. We have many reasons why we use more sprints or anaerobic types of conditioning. Baseball stresses the anaerobic system, it is a short powerful movement and running poles will not help with the power output due to the fact that the hitter would be training the aerobic system. Aerobic capacity still can be built however through different types of anaerobic movements such as tempo runs. We do not want to train an athlete as a marathon runner and a baseball player. They need to stick to their sport and let the hitter be a hitter. Hitters and Pitchers are repetitive athletes in the way they throw and hit. Adding a run where they repeat their running motion as well for an extended period of time is not necessary. Since baseball builds so many asymetries we use change directions in sprints and short powerful anaerobic movements instead. Another reason to stay away from long distance work is the lack of range of motion created by the long distance jog. During the jog the athletes hip will more than likely not go past 30 degrees of flexion. Therefore, the hips will be tighter because the hip joint will not get into ideal flexion at the hip as much as it does in sprints.
There are two different kinds of running mechanics, acceleration and top end speed. In short acceleration is short distance, powerful and is mainly stressed anaerobically. Top end speed is after acceleration has ended and maintaining speed is of importance. Baseball being a quick and powerful sport, acceleration is the main type of running seen. So why wouldn’t we want to develop the kind of running if they are both stressed by the same energy system? Running poles is neither short distance, powerful, or stressed by the same energy system. While performing sprints and other shorter distance runs, the athlete will be able to develop power. When the athlete runs long distance they will have a hard time maintaining their strength and body weight as well. Running long distances doesn’t require the athlete to produce as much force into the ground compared to that of sprints. Athletes become faster by using their strength in the lower body and anterior core to produce force in the ground and Ground Reactive Forces (GRF) propel the athlete in the direction the force is produced into the ground. Since running poles and/or long distances don’t require much force in the ground the strength is not being used and if its not being used then it becomes lost. Sprints require the athlete to express force in the ground rapidly and quickly. This now requires the muscululature of the lower body and anterior core to now fire and fire quickly.
With this the are many other ways to condition a baseball player more effectively other than long aerobic work. Coaches need to take the time and realize at times they are doing more harm than good to the athlete.

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