Home Baseball Content “My Coach Says I Shouldn’t Lift…”

“My Coach Says I Shouldn’t Lift…”

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)
  • power (5)
  • aerobic endurance (53)
  • running efficiency (54)
  • anaerobic endurance (5)
  • rate of force development (66,90)
  • hypertrophy (5)
  • reactive strength (66,90)
  • agility (47)

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.

Ouch.

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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  • OMG… I yelled out loud just that “OMG” when that bar fell on that guy’s chest. Holy… no wonder people are scared to lift.

    Great post Eric. I love learning from you.

  • Eric

    Good response. The information age is great. But the two videos and the no weights allowed baseball coach demonstrate that some people should keep their information to themselves.

    Kevin

  • Benjamin Kusin

    that is why we have thumbs. Unfortunately, some don’t have the brains to use them.

    I hope he recovered ok.

    on a somewhat related note (injury in weight training)there are several strongman guys at my gym and I have noticed that they commonly squat, deadlift, and clean with rounded low backs. One of them even squatted 135 butt to heels, stopped there to rest for half a minute under crazy flexion, and came up under more flexion. This was a light weight for him, but still.. . I wonder if that’s because of the tire flip and stone lift events. Rounding is very common there so the genetic anomalies who can lift this way without getting injured would be overrepresented in Strongman.

    Of course, some people (cough cough me) can make one mistake and get horribly injured. Who said life was fair?

  • Travis

    Eric, I would love if you could send me those studies from your e-book: 5, 66, 90, 22, 79. Thanks!

  • Travis,

    Here you go:

    5. BAECHLE, T.R., AND R.W. EARLE. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (2nd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000.

    66. SIFF, M.C. Supertraining (6th ed.). Denver: Supertraining Institute, 2003.

    90. ZATSIORSKY, V.M. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1995.

    22. DELECLUSE, C. Influence of strength training on sprint running performance. Current findings and implications for training. Sports Med. 24(3):147-56. 1997.

    79. VAN DEN TILLAAR, R. Effect of different training programs on the velocity of overarm throwing: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 18(2):388-96. 2004

  • Travis

    Also, with regards to that first video, what are your thoughts on the actual exercise of mimicking a swing? I understand, you do NOT want to perform exercises like this because you are tampering with the neuromuscular pathways that have learned “how to swing,” is that accurate?

  • He’s not really mimicking the swing. He’s got no hip rotation!

    The bigger issue is just that this guy looks like a tool – seriously.

    And, why would you do this when you could be throwing the crap out of a medicine ball and working on all the different factors that contribute to bat speed?

  • Travis

    Ha, tool was definitely the word that came to mind when watching that video. Yeah…med balls are THE MAN. Thanks for the articles and responses as always!

  • Jack

    Looks more like a half-assed (or less) version of a bodybuilder working his “horseshoes.” But at least the bodybuilder would show intensity……………this guy looks like he should take up knitting as a hobby.

  • David

    I saw an off-season lifting program for baseball at my school a while back.

    No joke, the coach prescribed something like 12 second reps–6 seconds down, six up–for stuff like cable crossovers, dumbbell flyes, bicep curls, leg extensions, etc.

    Thank you Eric for once again shining brightly through the darkness.

  • h

    re: sled pushing

    Some kids push with their elbows bent, and some with their elbows locked. does it make any difference?

  • bob prichard

    What are the studies 53 and 54?

  • Just wanted to let you know I read your posts regularly and they have all been GREAT! I was a decent baseball player in my day and keep all of the little tips in my head that you give just in case I have a little boy soon and he wants to be a baseball player like I did when I was growing up. If I had someone who knew how to improve my performance I just might have made it… or at least had the Internet when I was growing up!

  • Jamie V

    Remind me NOT to have my kid go to that baseball program. Wow. Completely against lifting???? Seriously???

  • Christine

    Jack,

    As a middle-aged mother of two (25 & 4) who knits and lifts weights, I can assure you that lifting is beneficial in that area, too. (I bet I could out-knit *and* out-lift that guy. At the very least, I know what my TRICEPS are for. 🙂

    And my first reaction to the headline on this post was: “Your coach is an ass.” But I like “tool” better.

  • Bob Parr

    I once read where, back in the 1940s, John Grimek went before a panel of “expert” college professors who were convinced lifting weights made athletes musclebound – and totally showed them up. Almost 60 years later we’re still having these debates? Being an total IDIOT while training with weights might be detrimental to one’s performance, but so what? Being an idiot while driving a car could very cause death. Does this baseball coach also tell his athletes they should refuse to get a driver’s license???

  • I remember in in High school my coach told me not to deadlift beacuse “slow lifts make you slow”. Great advice;)

  • James

    That second vid is also why ALL my resisitance training is BARBELL-FREE! If the free weights get heavy, they just fall harmlessly to my right and left sides.

  • Great post I have a Chiro that thinks like those coaches with one of my tennis players someone needs to wake him up
    Thanks eric

  • Chuck S

    Nick Nilson says that the bench press is one of the most dangerous exercises. He recommends doing it in a powerrack with the siderails set so the barbell can go no lower than just above your chest. He also doesn’t need a spotter this way.

  • Great Post Eric

    Rob

  • John

    Eric,
    Thanks to you my nephew is back as freshnman with a scholarship to a good university this year. Last year he had major elbow problems and that is when I turned my brother onto your site. He got my nephew into a good program with a PT using MAT as well as the right exercises. Here is what my brother had to say when I sent him this last blog; “Conor is trying to workout 2 times a week now. His schedule is brutal so arm fatigue is the biggest issue…” I am not sure what brutal means but you can surmise what a freshman would go through in stepping up to University ball.
    Thanks for your leadership in this area as well as all the great products you publish. They helped me get my rotator back in good shape and back to lifting.

  • John

    Just when I thought there was hope I get this from my brother; “OK, being pig headed here not talking about “training” – in other words, not talking about getting ready for the season or building muscle/flexibility/endurance… but talking about helping the arm to recover quicker between starts, from the fatigue of pitching 7 innings..something about lactic acid build up…Does long distance running help speed up recovery more than running sprints…aerobic vs anaerobic????” I am going to look at your previous blogs. I just don’t remember this specific topic so that I can quote you since is obviously fighting my input to dispell his ingrained belief of this myth. Just a couple of words in answer will help.

  • Wow, those two videos were eye opening to say the least. I can’t believe that second video though…sucks to be that guy. I wonder if he’ll get that dude to spot him again?

    Way too many people out there that need to keep their mouths shut and not give advice when they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • bill inman

    Long time before Mr. white professed that “you can’t fix stupid” I was preaching that as a rookie teacher in 1971. Guess nothing changes!!

  • Brian

    I would like to see the exact studies of this information please

  • Brian – see a few posts up in the comments section. They’re there.


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