Atlanta’s gay softball leagues are already on the diamonds. Whether you compete or just want to be in the right shape to play ball, use this two-part training guide. First up: aerobic and endurance drills.
Let’s start with a few guide rules for your personal version of spring training:
• Develop a basic aerobic foundation in early training stages.
• Utilize numerous strength-training tools
• Prioritize rotational power and range of motion
• Develop multi-planar strength
• Minimize the use of machines
• Grip strength endurance and shoulder integrity are key
• Practice numerous quickness and agility drills
• Learn basic sprint mechanics
• Core strength is essential
• Perform drills to enhance body awareness
• Speed strength is more important than absolute strength
• Never neglect skill training
Start at home plate with teammates or friends. Time yourselves from home plate to home plate to get a base time. Have a set time that you should complete each of the laps. I use nine laps because of the number of innings we play. Practice until you finish under the time required to make the lap count. This helps toughen players for game and competition.
Start out at Home Plate and run around first base, making an aggressive turn, then dive back into the bag. After diving back, get up as fast as you can and head to second base to do the same thing. Repeat at third base, then slide feet first into home plate to end the round.
Besides basic conditioning, this drill helps to build speed and quickness back to the bag. Also, it is helpful to work on quickly leaving the bag as well as helping to recognize how big of a turn you can make around a bag and make sure you get back in case of a throw.
A good way to prove the get-back theory is to have someone in the outfield and at second base try to get you out every couple of times through. Repeat the exercise two or three times.
Line up baseball gloves in the outfield at about 25-foot intervals apart and away from you. Start the drill with a ball in your hand, run to the first glove, set the ball on it and come back to the line.
Go back and get the ball, come back to the line, go to the second glove and set the ball down and go back to the line, etc.
Alternate Tools For Bat Speed
There are a some devices that are advertised to increase bat speed. My advice is to stick with the basics, because there are so many variables that affect bat head speed and can’t be directly trained, especially pitch recognition or reaction time. Strength and hitting mechanics are variables that can be improved by other means.
One thing used often, but incorrectly, is the weighted bat. When you are using this tool as a way to become stronger, it is important to maintain your game swing—your swing should not change even though the weight of the bat is increased. Most of the time the weight of the bat is far more than is needed to increase power in a swing.
The development of power should also address the need for speed. Speed of movement must be present if power is to be increased. Speed can be slightly reduced if a weight is used, only because power increases when using the correct weight.
Movement is also important when training for power. For the swing to increase in power, the weighted swing has to be similar to the regular swing, or there is no transfer of power. It’s the same when you are running with a weighted vest or ankle weights. If you run differently with the weights, then it does not have a positive effect on your normal running style.
My suggestion is to use a bat that is only a few ounces heavier than your regular bat. Try to use the same length as well. The swing will be the same, but because of the added weight, you will be increasing power without compromising your normal swing.
Be careful not to use the weighted bat in normal game or batting practice situations. Your reaction time will be the same, but your bat will be slower at game speed. I recommend hitting off of the tee or using soft toss to work on your weighted game.
Next week: Core Training plus Leg and Forearm Training.
Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based JockBoyLocker.com and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.