Anaerobic Training vs Aerobic Training and Its Affects on Baseball Player Development

Training Blog on January 16th, 2015 No Comments

In the past, I have typically shared with you interesting blog posts from the leading experts in the sports performance industry as it relates to in season and off season training for baseball players. Today I am going to do something different by writing my own. Today’s topic will be on pre-season training for baseball players. As we are weeks away from the start of baseball season, I wanted to share with all of you parents, players and open minded coaches the proper way to handle this critical training period.

At Own the Plate, our approach to offseason training follows the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Training Continuum as prescribed by Eric Cressey (http://www.ericcressey.com/the-absolute-strength-to-absolute-speed-continuum ). Eric Cressey is considered the leading expert in the sports performance field. This Continuum states that early offseason training (September to December) should be focused on building strength and power in our athletes. Further, it states that preseason training (January and February) should be focused on developing speed and explosion. Our players will tell you, their early off season workouts focus on creating the flexibility lost during the season then building their overall strength and power levels through the early January time period. We do this with multiple sets of heavy weights in the 6 to 8 rep range. In early January, the workouts shift to a primarily speed and explosion based workout. We do this with lighter weights, higher reps and faster movements. This method of training is directly responsible for the success of our athletes. It is why we are able to get the velocity numbers we see from our pitchers, the speed numbers we get out of our position players and the bat speed we get out of them as well. In a typical training session our athletes achieve well north of 200 explosive movements be it in the weight room, in a batting or pitching session and even more explosive movements in a combined workout. A pitcher in any given outing will average 100 pitches and a hitter rarely uses a tenth of that so our players are well conditioned to handle their season.

It is important to understand the bodies’ energy systems at play with regard to training and performance. The ANAEROBIC energy system is primarily responsible for producing short, quick and explosive bursts of energy in athletes and is the primary participant in building strength, speed and power. Any training that lasts from a few seconds to up to two minutes will fall in the anaerobic category. The AEROBIC energy system refers to physical activities of long and slower durations that require higher level of oxygen production to complete. With “anaerobic” exercises think sprinters and with “aerobic” exercises think distance runners. When it comes to sports performance, sprinters don’t train to excel in their sport by running a mile and distance runners don’t train to excel in their sport by running short sprints.

How does this apply to baseball you ask? Baseball is a sport where events occur in short burst. It takes a pitcher less than 5 seconds to deliver a pitch out of the windup and less than two seconds to deliver a pitch out of the windup. It takes a hitter less than a second to make a swing at a pitch. It takes a slow hitter less than 5 seconds to run to first base and less than 20 seconds to reach third base if he hits a triple. In between all of that is 1-2 minutes of inactivity before the next play begins. Get my point yet? EVERYTHING about baseball occurs using the anaerobic energy system and thus it should be defined as a power/explosion based sport. Why then are baseball coaches and trainers still requiring players to run the mile or participate in long durations of high intensity interval training with short breaks during their preseason training or after a pitchers outing? The answer can only be one of two things. Either the coach/trainer isn’t knowledgeable enough to prepare their players for the rigors of the season or the coach/trainer is trying to “toughen up” their players mentally. Either way, this is detrimental to their performance specifically when they are training to be more explosive at the plate, faster on the field or throw harder on the mound. When a player spends the 3 to 4 month offseason developing power, speed and explosion then spends 5 or 6 weeks doing preseason aerobic training  running miles and long durations of high interval training without breaks, the player is in fact detraining for their sport.

Baseball is a game that is slow to change and holds long held beliefs dear to heart. Coaches still teach hitting down on the ball to create backspin off the front despite motion analysis telling us that the best players do otherwise. Coaches still have pitchers ice after an outing despite the fact that ice slows down blood from reaching the muscles thus actually slowing the recovery process. It’s the same thing when it comes to preseason training. Running miles and long durations of high interval training are not doing anything to promote sports performance. This is scientific fact not some type of coaching philosophy.

The answer to preseason training should include multiple 20 to 60 yard sprints forward and backward and ladder, hurdle and ab circuits lasting no more than 10 -12 seconds with 1-2 minute breaks in between and plyometric exercises like rotational med ball explosions also in short burst. In this fashion, the players are generating multiple explosions in a short time frame with 1-2 minutes of rest in between which mimics the sport that they play.

We as coaches hold our players’ dreams and aspirations in our hands as most want to achieve big goals in the game of baseball. As a result, we must not let our egos get in the way of doing what is scientifically right at the expensive of our players’ development. We all manage in game situations different and that is one of the reasons why our game is so beautiful. However, on topics where there is science behind it, the faster we all get on the same page, the better our players will be for it.

-32 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training!!!!!

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