Search YouTube for “MLB weight room training” and you’ll find plenty of gems – guys using the Smith machine for squatting, Hammer Strength incline pressing machines, and BOSU Balls being used in ways I can’t even describe. And believe it or not, these guys are often professional baseball players! And so the average person thinks that this is the way to get strong and to make it in the majors – use the machines at the 24 Hour Fitness and you too can throw 90 MPH!
Hopefully you realize that this is quite ridiculous. Smith machines, BOSU Balls, and fixed-motion machines are all inferior to simple free weight training with barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, plyometric boxes, and other types of implements that use compound movements to develop strength, speed, and power.
So why do professional players use these ridiculous machines? A big reason is “safety.” Guys who can throw 90 MPH, hit 40 jacks per year, or run a 4.6 40 tend to be treated like babies when they get into a professional system – especially if the team paid big bonus money to them. Remember Trevor Bauer and his “javelin?” Nomar Garciaparra was poking fun at Trevor, saying that his unorthodox training methods would have to go by the wayside when he became a professional baseball player. This type of thinking is pervasive in professional baseball, and it’s quite honestly a shame. Trevor Bauer trained his butt off to be able to throw as hard as he did, and to be forced to back off in the name of “safety” is absurd.
Want more evidence? Check out this video demonstrating “back squats” as done by players in the Houston Astros system:
Listen to the coach – he says that because some players don’t speak English, they use the Smith machine. It’s “safer.” Well, a few things:
- The Smith machine is not safer. By translating extraneous movement in the sagittal and coronal planes into “productive” force, you remove all semblance of athletic carryover with the Smith machine. It does not mimic natural human movement whatsoever.
- Training the glutes is important, and to do so requires going to parallel. I certainly agree. However, Hunter Pence’s squats are not parallel and are not being done with free weights, rendering them all but useless.
- Players do not speak English very well, and so you stick them on fixed-motion machines that are simple to learn but transfer very little to the baseball diamond. Perhaps instead of making your strength and conditioning program much worse for the sake of non-English speaking players, you could… hire a translator and actually staff your weight rooms throughout various levels of affiliated baseball?
We had a college player in the facility over the weekend who has aspirations of playing pro ball. He’s got fringe velocity and scouts have told him that he needs to pick up 4-7 MPH to get a look. Now, how we approach him will be vastly different than a pro guy who is already at 92-93 MPH, of course. The pro guy needs to stay healthy and build strength in a more conservative manner, while the college player needs an aggressive program that builds power, velocity, and overall athleticism. However, both programs can be written and maintained without the use of machines to replace solid compound movements like back squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.
If you have elite MLB velocity by virtue of picking the right parents and winning the genetic lottery, then congratulations! If you’re like the rest of us and need to train very hard to make it to the next level, take a look at the Pitching Program options we offer. Winter training starts next week with only five months to go before the HS season begins.