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Vertical Leap: You might be wondering why I’m starting this section off with a recommendation for vertical leap training. The truth is that vertical leap is highly correlated to fastball velocity as well as other key athletic performance indicators. Highly-innervated motor units and a high ratio of fast-twitch muscle fiber are key genetic traits for a pitcher who wants an explosive fastball as well as the power forward who wants to dunk. While your genetics may limit you to some extent, Kelly Baggett’s Vertical Jump Development Bible will show you how to maximize your vertical leap in a realistic manner. Translating maximum strength into usable power is exactly what we want to do on the baseball diamond, and there is very little difference when it comes to maximum power in terms of vertical leap. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Check it out!
Starting Strength: This is, bar-none, the best single resource on strength training for anyone. Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training is not only an easy-to-follow strength training program, but a full comprehensive discussion on why particular exercises were selected, what your form should look like, and a great primer on the basic tenets of exercise science as it relates to getting strong. Mark Rippetoe is the subject matter expert with regard to novice strength training – a category that 90%+ of the people who go to the gym fall under, even if they’re already quite strong! If you care at all about being a strong athlete – baseball or otherwise – you need to own this book. Period.
Core Training: Every baseball coach and player knows that core training is vital to performance on the diamond for both the pitcher and the position player. It means the difference between an 87 mph fastball and a 91 mph fastball, 95 mph batspeed and 102 mph batspeed, and most important of all – durability and longevity over grueling long seasons. Combat Core is one of the best manuals available that dispels the myths of core training (do lots of sit-ups) and focuses on real results that will dramatically increase performance and give you that six-pack of abs you’ve always been wanting.
Fat Loss: Those who know me also know that I’m not a big fan of rapid weight loss for athletes. It’s not prudent and rarely makes sense – you end up losing a ton of lean body mass, you can’t train hard when you’re starving, and you lose a lot of strength while your skill atrophies. However, some clients who have put in the time and have gotten to the intermediate stage of programming while eating big and getting strong want to drop fat mass before the season starts but don’t want to sacrifice their gains. Warp Speed Fat Loss is for them. This diet isn’t easy, but in 28 days of strict dieting and workouts, you can see dramatic changes in body composition. This product comes highly recommended if you’re looking to shed a few pounds and look good for the summer months.
Maximum Strength: This book is worth the purchase price for the warmups and dynamic stretching/flexibility routines alone! Eric Cressey (owner of Cressey Performance) has written an outstanding book that covers how to safely develop and train for Maximum Strength in a clear and concise manner. It’s a great training routine to follow after you blast through the novice stage of programming (such as finishing up your Starting Strength program), but the book is worth buying immediately so you can put the mobility drills into your daily routine right away. They’ll help prevent injury and improve soft tissue quality, keeping you on the diamond longer and feeling better than ever.
Unstable Surface Training: As I pointed out in a post of mine, unstable surface training is all the rage at your local gym. You have personal trainers putting healthy basketball players, baseball pitchers, hockey goalies, golfers, and athletes of all kinds on BOSU balls doing 5 lb. curls or quarter-squats to “balance their core.” It’s simply a load of BS. Eric Cressey studied this type of training in-depth while at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Lab and published his results in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (click here for the abstract). However, Eric goes far more into detail in his e-book dedicated to this very topic, appropriately named The Truth About Unstable Surface Training. In the book, he discusses why unstable surface training (UST) can be dangerous for healthy individuals but can be a perfectly acceptable exercise to help rehabilitate people with ACL damage or repair! This is a must-buy if you work with athletes who are injured or have mobility problems!