I have been a big baseball guy for some time now. Many of my readers here know of my background as a baseball player, but in case you don’t, and to get a little better understanding as to how “into it” I actually was, here are a few historical points:
I played on 3 summer ball teams and 3 fall ball teams every year of my high school career. This meant that during a regular season in my teens, I would play upwards to 100+ games. A major league season is 163 games, so, for a 16-year-old kid, getting up into the 115 games range, along with school and such is a bit crazy. Oh, and this did not include camps, showcases, private instruction and getting together with buddies on the ball field to goof off. Needless to say, my life was baseball.
In college I used to go to double practices in the fall (I would practice with the position players, then after that with the pitchers. Then I would join them all to lift. I would then eat my dinner and head back to the gym for tee work and drill work on my own into the late hours. I guess while most people partied, I opted to play baseball most of the time. I just liked it that much.
In pro ball, as a pitcher, I would always keep a bucket of balls and a couple bats in my truck so that I could head over to the field in the late morning and take an hour or so of swings. It relaxed me. Even though we would spend 6+ hours a day at the field, I liked being there more than anything else in the world.
All of my jobs up until I became a trainer were baseball related. I was a grounds crew guy in high school. I interned at The Baseball Factory and did private instruction during college. And I instructed and coached at camps right out of college as well. The first company I ever started was right out of college called Baseball Fitness. Needles to say, I have a good deal of experience in the baseball world and given how I geek out about fitness stuff, one can only assume I did the same thing growing up with baseball.
Ok, pre-theory note. Hitting a baseball is majority visual. The theory I am spelling out talks mostly about the physical and neurological aspect of hitting or throwing a baseball. With that said, my theory should work for pitchers, and should be incorporated into hitting drills. But to become a better hitter, you need to be able to see the ball, recognize the flight of it, and react accordingly.
So, on to my theory.
Cut back your swing repetitions and pitch repetitions per week by at least 50%. This includes swings and pitches you take pre and during games. This does not mean you just swing and pitch les, it is a controlled method of training your reps. Here’s what I propose (I’ll use hitting as my example as hitters generally take way more reps than pitchers):
Day one - take no more than 50 swings to contact. Take plenty of dry swings to warm up, then use tee work, soft toss, or cage swings to accumulate your 50 swings. After each contact, take up to a couple minutes to analyze the swing and break down why it was good or why it was bad. Use that information to adjust to the next swing. Day two - go ahead and accumulate however many reps you feel necessary while incorporating the information you gained from the first session.
Day three – combine the first two days. Take 5-10 regular swings at a time, then take a few minutes to break down those reps and what went wrong/right with each swing. Hit about 5—8 rounds of this and call it a day.
Day four – back to your high rep day, incorporating past information
Day five – repeat day one. This time drill specific types of swings. Go only away, or only pull for all 50 swings.
Day six – high rep day again, this time working very specifically on adjusting to different pitches. Take swings in, middle and away, high and low, and try to have the reps as controlled as possible. If you take 150+ swings, try to make each and every one as close to perfect as possible. If that means taking 30+ seconds between each swing, do it.
Day seven – Same as day six but 2/3 of the swings. So, if you took 100 swings, only take 75 this day. Stick with the same approach.
The reason I think this will work is based on the idea that spending more time understanding what you are doing will do much more for you than just doing, over and over again. Using Olympic weight lifting as an example, it’s about practicing quality reps that helps perfect the ability to flawlessly move insanely heavy weights. The same should go for baseball skills as well. Perfect your ability to actually make contact and/or to throw a perfect strike and any time and you will be a much, much, much better baseball player. I have seen way too many young ball players spend hours in the cage, or on the mound pumping out rep after rep to never see any tangible gains. That’s because they are not letting their minds and bodies understand WHY a specific swing made such perfect contact, while the next one popped up. It is body control, proprioception, having a full understanding of where you, the bat and the ball are at all times. This does not mean you have to have the prettiest swing, it only means you must have complete control over that swing. And fewer reps will allow you to focus on that understanding without over-fatigue and the forming of sloppy habits.
This theory has not been put to practice. I actually am pretty amazed I have never heard of anyone trying this. But, based on my training for other skill-based movements, I am very confident it will help. And help a ton. It will also clear up more time for ball players to work on other stuff, like PFP’s, base-running and learning signs (all things that most baseball players take for granted and then lose layoff games because they suck at them)!! And of course, the more time you have the more time can be spent in the gym getting stronger, or at home recovering.
For all you baseball players and fans out there, I would love to hear your opinions. And believe me, I will be putting this theory to test with as many guys as I can this coming summer. So, then I’ll have real proof!
Never Stop, GET FIT.