Baseball is as competitive as ever and young athletes are always looking for an edge on their competition. One of the ways they seek to do this is with off field strength and conditioning.
This can be a powerful addition to a baseball athlete’s sport performance plan. That said the type of off-field training you choose is very important.
If you choose what’s “trending” in the fitness industry you are not optimizing the potential off-field training has to improve your on-field performance.
For example I frequently get asked what I think about Cross-Fit for young athletes and baseball players.
First, I respect the culture that Cross-Fit creates for it’s members. They do a great job of creating camaraderie and an environment that motivates folks (who might otherwise despise exercise) and encourages them to test their limits. From a programming perspective for the most part they focus on full body movements and not isolationism like bodybuilding, so that’s a plus.
However, there are several things that concern me when applying Cross-Fit type programming to developing young athletes and more specifically baseball players.
Most young athletes lack foundational strength.
Kids that can barely hold themselves up in a basic push-up or lunge are being tasked with highly technical lifts and explosive movements. Young athletes with poor posture, limited joint mobility/core stability are being subjected to high volume (lots of sets and reps) training programs that overload their already weak and under conditioned bodies.
Just like with throwing or hitting, it’s important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.
The movements place a lot of stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders. For that reason alone it’s not a good fit.
And it’s not just the stuff that is included in these workouts that can be problematic it’s the stuff they are leaving out.
A rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address the small hinges that swing big doors. Qualities like thoracic spine mobility, hip mobility, rotator cuff strength and function, anti-rotation core strength and opposite side rotation are essential for enhancing on-field performance and more importantly ensuring the athletes can play consistently and not sitting out due to nagging injuries.
I would go so far as to say programs like Cross-Fit are not workouts at all. They are practices. They make you better at Cross-Fit. It’s a competition!
Just like baseball is a competition and you use batting/fielding/pitching practice to improve your skills so that you can improve your on-field performance.
I’m all in favor of athletes trying different sport/competitions but for competitive baseball players Cross-Fit type workouts just aren’t a good fit.
Instead of enhancing performance most popular fitness trends will push athletes closer to the brink of injury, while reinforcing poor movement quality and joint mechanics especially in the case of one-side dominant, single sport, rotational athletes (baseball, tennis, quarterback).
I see baseball players being exposed to programs that are inappropriate due to lack of specificity (Cross-Fit, Football programs). Or training modalities that actually hinder athleticism (body-building, long slow distance running) or workouts that amount to little more than a glorified warm-up routine that doesn’t meet the complete needs of what should be explosive/powerful athletes (band programs).
The answer is finding a conditioning program that meets the unique needs of the modern baseball athlete. They don’t need to be pampered but they also should not be hammered. A training program, should boost athletic performance and not teach a kid merely how to survive a workout…
I developed my program Forever Fit over 15 years ago to meet then needs of all developing young athletes. To give them what they are missing out on due to lack of free play.
In the last 5 years I have been working hard on developing Baseball Fit because this generation of baseball athlete needs what it provides. Modern baseball athletes need something that counteracts the unique demands of their sport while also providing them with the crucial athletic growth they need to realize their full potential on the field of play and in the game of life.