The off-season can pass by in the blink of an eye. Even though the cold and dark months between November and March remind you nothing of the game of baseball, they are the most crucial for ensuring you’ll be at your best come opening day. What you do with these months is what separates you from, and elevates you above, other players.
How Bad Do You Want to Get Better?
I can vividly remember sitting in our small high school gym and being handed a blank piece of paper by my coach. We were instructed to fill the piece of paper with our goals:
- - Win Back-to-Back Conference Championships
- - Win Sectional Title
- - State Champs
- - Gain 10 lbs.
- - Lead by example (Everyday!)
- - Make all routine plays in the field
- .- 300 Batting Average
This list was from my junior year of high school. Each year I would strive for, and ultimately achieve, more. This was only possible because within each goal was an action plan.
Let’s take a deeper look at the first goal in my personal list:
Gain 10 lbs
You’re cheating yourself by just writing down your goal and leaving it as that. That’s too easy. You have to ask yourself: how will I gain 10 pounds this off-season? Answering these questions will help you expand your goal sheet and create a roadmap for how it’ll be accomplished.
Below is what a piece of my final goal sheet looked like.
Gain 10 lbs
- -4x/week of strength training
- -Eat a lot!
- -Weekly weigh-ins
With an action plan your chances of reaching your goal increases exponentially.
As an athlete, many times a well-designed strength and conditioning program needs to be part of your action plan. When training properly you’ll be able to work towards accomplishing many things at once. Other than the obvious (getting jacked) a training program will also provide many other benefits as you head into your spring season.
- 1. Get Stronger
If you’re not using progressive overload, you’re missing out. If you’re somewhere between 14 and your mid-20s, your body is at its peak of hormone production. Testosterone and growth hormone are flooding your bloodstream. Taking advantage of an increase in production of these hormones is a wise decision. Progressively overloading your tissues and nervous system will allow your body to better deal with stress. You want to train to better be able to handle higher volumes and intensities. In short, gradually challenge your body more and more each week and you’ll become stronger and be able to handle increased demands of future training sessions and long seasons.
You also must appreciate that without a good base of strength it will be more difficult for you to improve other fitness qualities. If you were to fill up a bucket with various fitness qualities, you can only add so much until nothing else fits. You can either keep trying to force things into an already full bucket, or you can GET STRONGER. The stronger you are, the more force you can produce, and the bigger the bucket becomes. Now you have more opportunity to get explosive and increase your speed.
- 2. Increase Bodyweight
Studies have shown that an increase in bodyweight can lead to an increase in throwing velocity. If you go back to physics class…
Force= mass x acceleration. The more mass you have, the more force you’ll be able to produce, and in turn, the harder you’ll be able to throw. Obviously, there are other variables, mechanics being one of them. But, if you’re a high school or college player, it’s likely you’ll be able to pick up a few mph by increasing your weight. Couple your increase in weight with increased strength and power and you’ll be better at delivering and accepting force, and you’ll be able to mitigate injuries while continuing to throw harder.
- 3. Increase Range of Motion
Throwing a baseball is one of the most violent and high-velocity movements in sport. This is in no way a means to scare you. You just need to appreciate the importance of all of your joints working optimally so you’re not overstressing one area over another.
Maybe because of your lack of shoulder external rotation, your medial elbow is being stressed much more than it should. Or, if you lack internal rotation in your lead hip, it could lead to your throwing shoulder having to work way harder than it should during your delivery.
Making sure you have as much mobility as possible heading into a season is extremely valuable. A smart off-season training program will understand this and incorporate soft-tissue work, along with mobility training for your thorax, shoulder girdle, elbow, and wrist.
- 4. Rotator Cuff Strength & Endurance
Along with putting on mass in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and other prime movers, it’s also important to designate time in your training program for your rotator cuff.
Think of your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. It’s your cuff that will keep that ball centered on the tee. The better your rotator cuff is at centrating your humeral head in the glenoid fossa, the more durable your shoulder becomes. A strong rotator cuff will also help you have better control when decelerating your arm during the follow through of your throw.
- 5. Create Camaraderie and Develop Good Habits & Routines
The last major benefit of having an off-season strength and conditioning program has less to do with physical gains and more do to with gains in the mental and emotional realm. Training with teammates is a great way to create camaraderie and build team chemistry, as you’re all working hard towards the same goals.
Knowing you’re individually prepared is important, but having confidence that your entire team is prepared is powerful.
Developing consistency with an off-season strength and conditioning program is also a sure-fire way to carry good work habits and routines into your spring and summer seasons.
A quality off-season strength and conditioning program is one of the most valuable things an athlete can invest in. Take care of your body, put in smart work and you’ll be rewarded when the season rolls around. Even if you’re in high school and are playing a winter sport (which, if you’re an underclassman, I highly recommend) you should still make room for 1-2 strength training sessions each week in order to make sure you’re building your base of strength and have adequate amount of mobility.
Start today. Write down your goals, create action plans, and get to work!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Sirani is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Licensed Massage Therapist. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Applied Exercise Science, with a concentration in Sports Performance, from Springfield College, and a license in massage therapy from Cortiva Institute in Watertown, MA. During his time at Springfield, Mike was a member of the baseball team, and completed a highly sought after six-month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA.
Mike’s multi-disciplinary background and strong evidence-based decision-making form the basis of his training programs. Through a laid-back, yet no-nonsense approach, his workouts are designed to improve individual’s fundamental movement patterns through a blend of soft-tissue modalities and concentrated strength training.
He has worked with a wide variety of performance clients ranging from middle school to professional athletes, as well as fitness clients, looking to get back into shape. Mike specializes in helping clients and athletes learn to train around injury and transition from post-rehab to performance. If you’re interested in training with Mike, he can be found at Pure Performance Training in Needham, Massachusetts.