The Baseball Strength-Speed Continuum: The Phases of a Successful Offseason

A well-designed program should not only improve strength and speed, but do so at the appropriate times.

Setting athletes up for success in their respective sport requires not only great programming, but great timing in regard to where a player is in their training year. Let's face it: Everyone wants improvements in strength and speed. A well-designed program should not only deliver both, but do so at the appropriate times. Here's how we do it at Rockland Peak Performance with our baseball players:

Strength is a huge foundation for producing power, so the general idea is to make an athlete as strong as possible in the beginning of their offseason training and then use this strength to increase speed (power) as we get closer to the start of the season. Let's take a closer look at this continuum and how we utilize it with our players at Rockland Peak Performance (along with some exercises that are often included in each phase).

Building Strength

This is the first couple months of the offseason, and it's the time to get strong.

During this period, utilize low reps combined with high intensities. Very little conditioning or movements specific to the sport are done at this time. The athlete has just finished being explosive and playing baseball all season, so we're really trying to emphasize strength training using the big movements (i.e., Deadlifts, Squats, Presses and pulling movements). This is particularly effective with our younger ball players who are just starting a strength program for the first time. They have spent their entire childhood at the far right of the timeline above so their bodies are primed and ready to get strong. Most will stay in a strength phase the entire offseason, working on things like posterior chain strength and upper-body development.

Building Strength/Speed

As the offseason progresses, we move a little more to the right of the timeline by adding explosive lifts at 60-85 percent of one-rep max as well as pairing them with weighted jumps to introduce explosive power. At this time, we begin to get the athlete moving while still creating a strength training effect.

Building Speed/Strength

We add sport-specific conditioning drills and movements to the program as we get the athlete ready to begin their next season. Med Ball work is ramped up by introducing rotary movements with resistance, such as med ball throws, into the strength program.

Weighted complexes (a series of exercises performed in sequence without stopping) replace the heavier intensity sets in the weight room, and transitional sprints/change-of-direction drills (notice I didn't say long distance running) become the emphasis in this phase.

Building Speed

This is generally February for ballplayers. Our main focus is to apply the strength we have acquired in the offseason to create power in movements that will translate over to speed and endurance on the field. In addition to strength training, transitional sprint work and plyometrics are ramped up to comprise roughly 20 percent of the program and even more movements specific to the sport are added. In regard to pitchers, we also take into account January and February (pitching lessons, bullpens, long toss etc.) and adjust their programs accordingly. For example, replacing med ball throws with weighted ball decelerations.

Training the right systems at the right time is crucial to making sure you are "peaking" when it comes time to start your season. A well thought-out game plan also helps both the player and coach understand the task at hand from week to week. Offseason training programs should not be generic or stock. Our program design is a well thought-out process designed with the time of year and where an athlete is within their season in mind. Simply plugging in a program you find online which makes no consideration of where you are in your athletic year will not produce comparable results.

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