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Preseason Precautions for Baseball

Written on January 31, 2008 at 2:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

By: Eric Cressey

This off-season at Cressey Performance, we worked with 95 baseball players from 32 high schools, 16 colleges, and 8 major league organizations.  Needless to say, it was an exciting off-season and things are finally starting to calm down.

However, as the high school baseball season approaches, I’ve gotten quite a few questions from my high school guys about how to approach pre-season and in-season training.  Here’s a snapshot of what I told them in an email to all our athletes and parents.

What to Expect in the Preseason

Most of you will show up to tryouts and realize very quickly that they are tremendously physically demanding, in most cases, as a coach want to find out quickly who has worked hard in the off-season (hopefully, you!) and who deserves a spot on his roster (hopefully, also you!).  You’ve already taken care of the performance aspect of this challenge with your hard work this past fall/winter – and now it’s time to continue that work while integrating more sprint work over these final few weeks to prepare you for what’s ahead.

However, what you need to be aware of is that research has shown that preseason practice injury rates are more than three times higher than those of the in-season and post-season period.  If this research had been done on spring sports in New England, though, I suspect that those rates would be even higher.  After all, it is still 20°F and snowing in Massachusetts less than a month before the season is set to start!

To that end, you need to make sure that you always warm up sufficiently – or else you’re at a bigger risk of hamstrings, groins, or hip flexor strains.  Our athletes include a wide variety of dynamic flexibility drills prior to moving on to some light jogs, high-knees, butt-kicks, side shuffles, cariocas, and skips prior to “opening it up” with sprinting.  These warm-ups should be continued all season.

I highly recommend that you dress in layers and not remove your sweats until you have already broken a sweat.  It’s also a great idea to wear some compression shorts underneath your regular shorts/sweats.

Sprint Mechanics

On your sprint mechanics, remember to focus on landing with your foot under your body.  Don’t “paw” the ground and try to “pull” yourself along; this is where many hamstrings issues arise.  Trust in the strength that you’ve built and focus on putting force into the ground to propel you along on the balls of the feet, avoiding heel-striking.

Guys who overstride tend to pull hamstrings more often.  Ground reaction forces (GRF) can range from four to six times an athlete’s body weight, and simply moving the point of ground contact forward a few inches can markedly impair an athlete’s ability to decelerate those GRF.  Intentionally overstriding will make you slower and more likely to get injured; warming-up sufficiently and trusting in your athletic ability will keep you moving quickly and safely.

On your acceleration work, remember “head down to the mound.”  Keep the chin tucked as you accelerate; you shouldn’t be looking up.  That big forward lean gets shin angles in the right place, and helps generate momentum to get you moving faster.

Remember that the faster your arms move, the faster your legs will move.  Hip pocket to eye socket with that arm action!

Over the Next Few Weeks

Our athletes will be doing a lot of sprint work on the turf at Cressey Performance over the next few weeks; it will be a combination of starts (10-15 yd) and upright sprinting at 70-90% of maximum speed (along with some sprint mechanics drills in warm-ups).  Ideally, you should be sprinting 2-3 times per week – but don’t get in the habit of thinking that you need to do a ton of aerobic work or treat these sessions as interval training.  Your goal should be complete recovery between sets, as you want to optimize sprint mechanics.

Again, this is not the time to go crazy and run all out!!!  Save that for when you’re stealing bases with healthy hamstrings and hip flexors in April!


Pre-season nutrition can be summed up in three words – or, one word three times:

Calories!  Calories!  Calories!

Most guys really undereat during the preseason period and wind up dropping a lot of weight – both muscle and fat.  We can lose the fat with all this added sprinting without losing the muscle by keeping quality food intake up.  If you find that your weight is dropping quickly, make sure you get the food intake up.

Treat your baseball training sessions just like you do your training sessions in the off-season.  Recognize that you need quality protein and carbohydrates during/after each session, with plenty of water.  Biotest Surge is a good option for its convenience, especially with higher-workload tryouts/practices.  Chocolate milk works well, and you can never go wrong with fruit/yogurt or fruit/cottage cheese combinations.

In-Season Training

In the professional ranks, position players often lift four times per week.  In college, it’s 2-3 sessions/week.   There’s a reason for this trend; in-season training is important!

Maximal strength is the foundation upon which power improvements occur.  Keeping strength up is important for maintaining the peak power you need for throwing, sprinting, hitting, diving, you name it.  Resistance training enhances strength, obviously – and it also has endocrine, immunity, injury prevention, and bone density benefits as well.

If you are a middle school, freshman, or junior varsity player, your #1 goal should be long-term development.  To that end, physically, you should treat the in-season as if it’s the off-season.  In other words, keep training as much as your schedule will allow!  Obviously, things get busy between practices, games, and schoolwork (and school always comes first), but just realize that this isn’t a time when you should be concerned with modifying workouts because you don’t want to sore for games or practices.  I know it sounds hard to appreciate now, but you’ll thank me years from now!

Varsity guys can get away with slightly fewer sessions if they’re more experienced athletes – but you still need to shoot for about two sessions a week.

Position players can jump in whenever schedule allows.  Pitchers should aim to lift the day after starts, whenever possible, as well as another session (generally around the same time that they throw bullpens).  I am NOT a fan of distance running between starts – or even running foul poles – but that is a rant for another day.  Suffice it to say that I think these efforts would be much better devoted to other training avenues.

In-season, frequency, not duration, is the name of the game.  You don’t have to be in the gym for hours and hour; just stick to the “meat and potatoes” exercises and you’ll easily maintain – and possibly even build on – the gains you made this off-season. And, you’ll stay healthy.  You would be amazed at what 20 minutes 2-3 times per week after practice or a game will do.

Going in to the off-season, I’m sure a lot of you had goals of throwing 90mph, hitting 15 homeruns, or stealing 25 bases.  However, while you’ll certainly achieve a lot of success on these statistical measures, the statistic with which you should be most concerned is the games-missed statistic.  At Cressey Performance, our goal is to have every Cressey Performance athlete healthy enough to play every game this season.  Many of you have put all the hard work in this off-season to make this a reality initially, but it is going to take a continued dedicated effort in-season with your warm-ups, flexibility drills, strength training, and nutrition to sustain what you’ve built for the long haul.

Good luck this season!


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