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Offseason Training Tips for Hitters

Baseball season can be an exhausting grind. The number of games and practices seems endless, and the constant travel at the highest levels can take a toll on even the most dedicated athlete.

Many players want nothing more than to take it easy during the offseason, letting their minds and bodies take a break from the sport. Rest is important. But so is staying in shape for the upcoming season, says Greg Robins, strength and conditioning instructor for Cressey Sports Performance, a training facility for athletes in Massachusetts and Florida.

It’s no secret that pitchers need to stay in shape to maintain arm strength. The same is true for hitters. The key, explains Robins, is to pace yourself in any training program.

“If you do too much at first, then you’re going to end up putting a ceiling on what you’re able to do,” he said. “If you start at that line where you’re just doing enough to make progress, you can slowly add more to your training.”

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Whether you work out on your own or enroll in a facility such as CSP, Robins recommends keeping things simple at first, particularly if you haven’t trained on a regular basis. The last thing any player wants is to injure himself in the gym.

“If you’re going to get hurt, it’s going to possibly happen when you’re playing, but don’t do it in the gym,” he said.

At the beginning of the offseason, Robins said hitters should concentrate 80 percent of their conditioning on traditional free weight training and developing strength through squats, dead lifts, lunges, and other basic exercises. Many players are surprised how much progress they make simply using this basic training regimen. If done properly, they should see positive long-term results from a physical standpoint and at the plate.

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As the new season draws closer, training can transition to an 80-20 ratio of specific drills. In baseball conditioning, it’s difficult to simulate a drill or exercise that resembles a player’s position. Football linemen, for example, can practice squats similar to the motion of lining up during a game and hitting an opponent forward. 

At CSP, Robins utilizes medicine ball exercises. Hitters work with balls ranging from 4 to about 12 pounds, practicing different rotational and overhead throws to the ground. While this may not be an exact match to range of motion, velocity or muscle memory in batting, such exercises will help increase strength, quickness and bat speed.

Robins believes it’s important for certain parts of an athlete’s body to recover from the wear and tear of a grueling season, depending on their position and the physical movements that go with it. Hitters take hundreds or even thousands of swings, which can put a lot of stress on the wrists. Instead of exercises that put unnecessary pressure on cranky wrists, try pushups on dumbbells or other similar routines.

No matter what exercise you’re doing, try to do them with a good, straight wrist. Be careful about not throwing weights in your hands and letting them bend your wrist all the way back.

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to offseason training, Robins notes. Before starting any program, do an assessment of which exercise selections are best for your individual needs, rather than a cookie-cutter approach. Start training as soon after the season as possible to develop the habit of conditioning. Robins says the best pace is train hard for three weeks, then pull back to a lighter schedule the next week. Do this each month until the start of the next season.

“If you can always stay ahead of your recovery, then you’ll never dig yourself such a deep hole that you’re overtraining,” Robins said.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

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