Written on September 21, 2009 at 4:36 am, by Eric Cressey
I got this question in person from the parent of a new athlete the other day and thought I’d turn it into a blog post, as I’ve received the email before on many occasions.
Q: I read with great interest your blog on Crossfit for Baseball, but my question would be what your response would be to a coach that insists that baseball players shouldn’t lift weights PERIOD? My son’s baseball coach is completely against it.
A: This is definitely going to be one of those “where to even begin” responses, but I’ll do my best. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll start with a quote directly from my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training:
“…resistance training exercises performed on stable surfaces have been demonstrated effective in numerous research studies with respect to improving a variety of athletic qualities, including:
muscular strength (5)
aerobic endurance (53)
running efficiency (54)
anaerobic endurance (5)
rate of force development (66,90)
reactive strength (66,90)
These qualities transfer to improved performance in a variety of sporting tasks, including vertical jump (74), throwing velocity (79), sprinting speed (22), and running economy (53).”
(FYI, these numbers are references from the e-book, so if any of you would like the exact studies, please just request them in the comments section)
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that your coach IS NOT looking to field a team that lacks agility, sprinting speed, jumping prowess, throwing velocity, rate of force development (think of a catcher’s pop time). In fact, even those who are clinging to a worthless training initiative like long-distance running for pitchers can get closer to their chosen training effect (as silly as it is) from lifting!
Taking this a step further, we know that resistance training can enhance immune and endocrine function, so players will get sick less often and feel better when game time rolls around.
And, just as importantly, remember that resistance training is one of the foundations of modern physical therapy. Would your coach tell a physical therapist that resistance training as part of a rehabilitation program was inappropriate? Of course not! How in the world it is within his scope of practice to tell a kid that lifting is bad for him – either in terms of increasing injury potential or decreasing performance – is completely beyond me. Throwing a baseball is the single-fastest motion in sports; you simply don’t decelerate 7,500 degrees/second of humeral internal rotation without at least a bit of muscular contribution.
And, let’s not forget that an ideal strength and conditioning program encompasses a lot more than just strength exercises. It includes good self massage work (foam rollers, etc), mobility training, sprinting/agility/plyos, and much, much more. It begins with a detailed assessment to determine what mobility or stability deficits may lead to injury down the road. It may also be the only avenue through which an athlete learns proper nutrition.
The fundamental problem is that many baseball coaches think of garbage like this when they hear the words “lifting weights:”
Can someone please tell me how my “biceps will develop” with this? Only at “Expert Village” does the biceps EXTEND the elbow. Yikes.
The take-home message is that a lot of coaches think that lifting programs are either a) a waste of time or b) flat-out dangerous. Sadly, as the videos above demonstrate, in many cases, they’re right. However, completely contraindicating lifting can really stunt the development of players and predispose them to injuries. Throwing is dangerous when done incorrectly, and so are sprinting, fielding ground balls, and taking batting practice. We don’t contraindicate those, though, do we? We educate athletes on how to participate in these training initiatives properly.
I can tell you that at Cressey Performance, each one of our pro baseball players lifts four times a week, throws the medicine ball 2-3 times a week, and does supplemental movement training 2-3 days per week during the off-season – and they continue lifting during the season (at a lower frequency and volume). This is true of both position players and pitchers.
Our high school guys get after it as well; I don’t know of many other private sector facilities in the country who have eight high school guys throwing 90mph+ before the age of 18 (with several more right on the cusp of this milestone). Something is working.
And, beyond just the direct training benefits of this system, there is something to be said for the camaraderie strength and conditioning does for teammates on top of regular practices. The fact that kids actually requested this says volumes!
Hopefully, blogs like this – and bright coaches who are “in the know” – will help to spread the word about what safe, effective training is – and where to get it.
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