“” Speed Training for Baseball Players - Driveline Baseball

Speed Training for Baseball Players

| Blog Article, Offseason Training
Reading Time: 7 minutes
speed training

By Sydney Jenkins, High Performance Intern

Why speed training

Sprinting is often overlooked in training programs for baseball players, especially pitchers. The benefits of taking position players through a speed program are obvious—but pitchers can greatly benefit from a speed program as well.

Believe it or not, pitchers are athletes too, and developing their athleticism should be a focal point of their training, including speed training. Training an athlete on all ends of the force-velocity curve is an essential part of making them better.

When we train fast and train heavy, the line will rise, benefiting the athlete by not only moving the force-velocity curve but also developing the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, and glutes) in one of the most dynamic ways possible.

The posterior chain is heavily involved when sprinting; as sprinting distances are increased, so is the involvement of the hamstrings, and if we can train that athletically, athletes will run faster and have lower risk of hamstring injury. Power development benefits aside, pitchers will sprint to back up and/or cover bases during games, and they need to be physically prepared for it.

Importance of technique

When speed training for pitchers, technique may not seem important, because their top sprint speeds are unlikely to alter the outcome of any games. But just as in strength training, by focusing on proper form we ensure that we are getting the most out of the training and reduce injury risk.

With that in mind, there is a line to be drawn when it comes to changing an athlete’s mechanics. First, if an athlete’s given form isn’t putting them at higher risk for injury, it may not be beneficial to alter their natural mechanics. Additionally, if those natural mechanics are enhancing (or at least not detracting from) performance, then making a change might not be the best route.

Changing an athlete’s mechanics can actually cause short-term performance declines, so if a quick performance enhancement is what you want, it is best to implement small adjustments to save the body from having to adapt to a larger stimulus.

The biggest thing to remember here is that all athletes are individuals and will have individual sprint technique, just as not every pitcher will have the same delivery. That said, there are still standard principles that will reduce the risk of injury while maximizing performance within a player’s individual style. This is true for both pitching and sprinting—if their “uniqueness” is part of what makes them fast and keeps them safe, why would we change what they are doing?

Organizing sprint training

When organizing sprint training, it is important to on-ramp by beginning at shorter distances and gradually building up week to week. Each distance requires different skills and technique, and the weekly progression should be building upon this. Acceleration is a key component in running fast, and if an athlete can’t accelerate then we can’t expect them to run fast at longer distances.

This also applies to technique. If an athlete can’t meet the technical demands of short distance sprints, they likely won’t be able to perform at longer distances. Additionally, if an athlete begins a sprint program at intensities and distances they are not prepared for they will be at a higher risk of injury and/or overtraining; a sprint program should progress from short distances to long distances to prevent this.

Drill selection

Beginning at 10 yards is beneficial not only for reducing hamstring injury risk, but also to help train sport specificity. 10-yard sprints require a different balance of sprinting skills than 60-yard runs; they involve more strength, power, and explosiveness, and less of a focus on top end speed with the start from a static position. Most of the accelerations that are seen in game situations operate within the 10-yard range, so being able to train this explosiveness early will only help when players are running longer distances, too.

20-yard sprints are a continuation from 10-yard sprints and focus more on transitioning from a forward lean to an upright position. Hamstring activity is increased at this distance, as stride length is longer and momentum increases. 40- and 60-yard sprints have an increase in momentum and rate of force production.3 The hamstrings are extremely dominant at these distances and will determine the difference between running fast and running slow.

Certain drills can help develop certain skill sets. For example, flying sprints help to improve the transition from acceleration to top-end speed, as well as improving speed in general. Build-ups are useful when you want to work on running mechanics and building speed. Tempo runs help to induce recovery from high-intensity sprint days, as well as working on running technique, as they require running longer distances at a slower pace.

Baseball is a sport that requires high maximal power outputs, and sprinting is a skill requiring maximal power output. To train for sport specificity, strength coaches should include sprint work in their programs.

Building a speed program

When building a speed program into an athlete’s training, the training economy demands must be considered with changes reflected in their lifting and throwing volumes and intensities. In a phase like this example template, the focus is on high-intensity work lined up with like throwing, but if the volume of the sprints was too high then it would likely detract from the throwing and strength work it is meant to complement.

A good rule of thumb to avoid overtraining is to tailor the speed work emphasis to the overall phase emphasis, so if an athlete is in a lower intensity and higher volume phase on the mound and in the weight room, their speed work should match those intensities and focus on accumulating volume with low to moderate intensities. If an athlete is in a velocity phase, their speed work should be focused on lower volume. 

The provided program is a four-day speed program that would typically be paired with a strength phase in the weight room and a velocity phase on the pitching side. The focus for day one is a linear acceleration focus, aimed at being high-intent to line up with a high-intent throwing day.

Day two is a running recovery day, aimed at being low-intent to line up with a throwing recovery day. Day three is a plyometric/medicine ball throwing day, aimed at being medium-intent to line up with a medium-intent throwing day. Day four is a change of direction day, aimed at being high-intent to line up with a high-intent throwing day. 

FREE 6-WEEK SPEED PROGRAM

The drills for each day are prescribed specifically to work on the focus for that day.
The focus for day one is to teach the athlete what triple extension in the back leg feels like, as well as force the athlete to use the posterior chain powerfully to propel forward from a dead stance.

Day two is focused on sprinting technique and to induce recovery from the previous high-intent sprint day.

Day three has two focuses: power output via medicine ball throws/slams, and reactivity/stabilization via plyometrics. The stabilization portion of the plyometric exercises comes from sticking the landing at the end of each drill. This is an extra step in teaching the athlete how to decelerate from a fast movement. Day four’s focus is to teach the athlete how to properly/efficiently (quickly/powerfully) change direction.

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