Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

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4-Week Training Program to Improve 60-Yard Sprint Time

By Agyei Augustine, CSCS, MAT and Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E

With baseball and softball showcases and high school and travel team tryouts about to start, players are trying to gear up to run a fast 60-yard sprint time. While many coaches, require the 60, few, if any explain how to run it or how to train for it. The 60 is divided into 3 sequential phases: 1) Acceleration; 2) Top Speed; and 3) Speed Endurance. If you can improve performance in one or two of these phases, you should to run a faster 60. If you can improve all three you should run your fastest 60.

Work on each phase once per week to improve each phase. Don’t run repeat 60s to see how fast you are. World Class 100-m sprinters like Usain Bolt don’t run the 100 every workout. They work on starts one day, transitions the next and speed-endurance the next. They train each phase independently of the others and put them all together in meets at the end of the week.

Acceleration occurs for the first 12-25 yards (depending on the strength and power of the athlete). A fast acceleration enables you to reach max velocity (top speed) quickly and efficiently.

The transition phase, the next 10-15 yards, occurs in the middle of the run and you transition from acceleration to top speed. In this phase, you become more upright and shift from applying primarily horizontal ground reaction forces to primarily vertical ground reaction forces.

Speed endurance, the final phase, occurs about 15-25 yards from the finish line, and the goal is to prevent deceleration. At this point in the sprint, you are upright and running at top speed so, there is nothing to do but hold on. For many team sport athletes who seldom sprint this distance, holding on for more than 10 yards before decelerating can be a challenge. Many baseball/softball players accelerate at approximately the same rate, but around 50 yards, those with more speed endurance pull away. They pull away, not because they are getting faster. They pull away because they are able to maintain top speed longer. In order to run your best 60, you have to work on all three phases of the sprint.

This post provides information and drills for each phase of the 60 and will help you prepare to run your best 60.

ACCELERATION involves two very important concepts; 1) your set-up and 2) your first step. The following explains why your set-up and first step are important and how to get off the line with an efficient and powerful acceleration.

Set-up. Running your best 60 starts with a proper set-up. The set-up is essential because “you can’t recover from a bad start.” A proper set-up positions your body, i.e., arms, hips, legs and feet, in the best position to move quickly and apply maximum force in the direction of the finish line. Loren Landow of the Denver Broncos takes it a step farther and says “If you don’t start with the correct posture, you won’t be able to find the right posture once you start moving.” When testing the 60, most coaches and officials require players to start from a lateral base runner stance. The proper stance is:

  1. Stand in an athletic position with the head and chest up, hips, knees and elbows flexed, and your feet approximately shoulder-width apart of slightly wider

  1. Drop your lead foot about one-half of a foot’s width behind your trail foot to make it easier to open your hips

  1. Open your lead foot, i.e., turn it about 450 from parallel to open the hips in the direction of the finish line; this lets you get your hips and upper body facing the direction of the finish line ASAP on your first step. Put about 60% of your weight on your front foot and 40% on the inside of your back foot. Note: You do not have to worry about the pitcher picking your off so, both feet do not have to be facing forward and weight does not have to be evenly distributed on both feet.

  1. Place your left hand between shoulder and chin height with elbow flexed 90o to create a short lever arm that can move forward quickly in sync with the extension of your right leg with a drop step or backward when starting with a POP or crossover step.

  1. Let your right arm hang down loosely inside your right knee to create a long lever arm that can help create a max force when you extend your legs. Your right arm and hand will move back with a drop step and forward with a POP or crossover step.

  1. Flex your back knee inward slightly to create a positive shin angle and put your weight on the inside of your back foot

  1. Your chin is tucked, hips flexed, back flat, eyes down and center of gravity over your base of support, not forward, i.e., not on your toes because you don’t want to be leaning forward when your goal is to move laterally

First Step. Your set-up or posture will allow you to move efficiently in the direction of the finish line with no wasted movement. When taking the first step, the most common mistake is to turn and then run. Turning and then running is inefficient and wastes valuable time.

  1. While the drop step has been shown to be most effective when stealing bases, you can choose whatever method you feel most comfortable with when testing in the 60; drop step, POP step or crossover step

  1. Take your first step, drive your arms forward and back opposite your legs and start the acceleration phase

  1. Keep your body low and eyes down during acceleration (5-7 steps)

  1. Keep your feet low to the ground and gradually increase stride length for the first 5-7 steps

  1. Let your trunk gradually come to a more upright position after 5-7 steps as you start to transition from acceleration to top speed

Acceleration Drills. Since you will be tested from a base runner position, all drills should begin with a lateral start. Effective lateral acceleration drills include the following:

  1. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle away from the finish line, stop and sprint. This drill is a low-level plyometric drill that creates momentum, proper joint angles and lower body elastic energy away from the starting position that can be used to enhance your starting ability and first step. From an athletic stance, with your right side facing the finish line, shuffle 3 time to your left, stop with your right foot open and most of your weight on your right foot. As you stop, open your hips, turn your head and chest to the finish line, pump your left arm forward and your right arm back, drive off your right foot, crossover with your left foot, pump your arms hard and sprint laterally 10 yards.

 

  1. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle toward the finish line and sprint. This is another low-level plyometric drill that creates momentum and proper joint, but this time toward the finish line, that enhances starting ability and helps ensure a powerful first step. From the same set-up as in the previous drill, shuffle 3 times toward the finish line. As you land on the third shuffle, open your right foot and hips, turn your head and chest to the finish line, pump your left arm forward and your right arm back, drive off your right foot, crossover with your left foot, pump your arms hard and sprint laterally 10 yards.

 

  1. Half-kneeling lateral starts. This is an advanced drill that develops lateral strength and explosive power and acceleration out of a single-leg stance. Start from a half-kneeling position with your right knee up and left knee down. Move your right foot out about 2-3 inches outside your right hip to create a positive shin angle. Turn you head and shoulders slightly inward toward the finish line. With your left arm up and right arm back, drive off your right foot to push the left knee up, open your hips to the finish line, pump your arms hard and sprint laterally 10 yards.

 

  1. Lateral Sprints. Set-up, perform your first step as a drop, POP or crossover step and accelerate for 10-15 yards.

Top Speed Drills. When running the 60, most baseball/softball players accelerate for 10-15 yards before transitioning into to top speed. Therefore, when preparing for the middle of the run, practice flying starts. Flying starts are build-up sprints in which you accelerate for a given distance and build-up to top speed, e.g., 20 yards, and then maintain or hold top speed for an additional 15-25 yards. In a flying 15, for example, you would fly (build-up to top speed) at 20 yards, and hold it for an additional 15 yards. Start all top speed drills with two skips to overcome momentum, then fly (build up to top for a given distance) and then hold/maintain this effort for 15-25 yards. The following is a suitable progression for flying starts when working on transitioning to top speed.

  1. Flying 15: Start with two skips then fly (build up to top speed) at 20 yards and hold for 15 yards

  1. Flying 20: Start with two skips, then fly (build up to top speed) at 20 yards and hold for 20 yards

  1. Flying 25: Start with two skips, then fly (build up to top speed) at 20 yards and hold for 15 yards

Speed Endurance Drills. As previously noted, many players slowdown in the third phase of the 60 because they lack speed endurance, i.e., they can’t maintain top speed through the finish line. Research and practical experience indicate that most baseball/softball players can hold max speed for no more than 30 yards. Therefore, when working on speed endurance, athletes should rarely run longer than 30 yards. Why? The answer is “specificity of training.” If the goal is to sprint at max velocity, and you can’t hold it for more than 30 yards, why would you want to run further than that? If you slow down (decelerate) after 30 yards and run an additional 10-30 yards, you are practicing to be slow, which is the opposite of what you are training for. If you can accelerate, achieve max velocity quickly and hold it to the finish, you will run a fast 60.

Speed-endurance drills are not max effort runs. The goal is to achieve 75-80% of max effort after 20 yards and hold it for 30-50 yards/ Start each drill by performing two skips to overcome momentum, then build up speed to 75-80% of max after 20 yards and hold it for 30-50 yards. The following is a suitable progression when working on speed endurance. Start from a base runner position.

  1. Two skips then build up to 75-80% of max effort at 20 yards and hold this pace for 20 yards; total distance is 40 yards

  1. Two skips then build up to 75-80% of max effort at 20 yards and hold this pace for 30 yards; total distance is 50 yards

  1. Two skips then build up to 75-80% of max effort at 20 yards and hold this pace for 40 yards; total distance is 60 yards

The Training Program. Sprinting is a highly neural event and fatigue cannot be allowed to become a factor when training for speed. You should always train when you are fresh, i.e., before strength, plyometrics, etc. Warm-up before speed training and stop when you become fatigued. Fatigue inhibits central nervous system and the ability to run fast. Stop when your mechanics break down. You will run only as fast as your mechanic’s permit. Train 3 times per week with at least 24 hours between training sessions and full recovery between sets and reps. Alternate days of hard (speed endurance), easy (acceleration) and moderate (top speed) workouts. The following is a sample 4-week training program.

Wk

Day

Goal

Drill

SxR

1

1

Speed-end

2 skips, build to 75-80% at 20 & hold for 20 yd

2×4

2

Acceleration

3-shuffle left & 10-yd sprint to right

2×4

2

Acceleration

Test start & 10 yd sprint

2×4

3

Top speed

Fly 15: 2 skips, build to 20 & hold for 15 yd

2×4

2

1

Speed-end

2 skips, build to 75-80% at 20 & hold for 30 yd

2×4

2

Acceleration

3-shuffle right & 10-yd sprint to right

2×4

2

Acceleration

Test start & 15 yd sprint

2×4

3

Top speed

Fly 20: 2 skips, build to 20 & hold for 20 yd

2×4

3

1

Speed-end

2 skips, build to 75-80% at 20 & hold for 40 yd

2×4

2

Acceleration

Half-knee lateral start & 10-yd sprint

2×4

2

Acceleration

Test start & 20 yd sprint

2×4

3

Top speed

Fly 25: 2 skips, build to 20 & hold for 25 yd

2×4

4

1

Pre-test

60-yd start & sprint 20 yd

2×4

2

Pre-test

60-yd start & sprint 40 yd

2×4

3

Test

60-yd start & sprint 60 yd

2×4

 

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Agyei Augustine, CSCS, MAT, is Performance Coach Director and NFL Combine Prep Lead Performance Coach, Landow Performance, Centennial, CO. Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM has over four decades as a head strength and conditioning coach (Astros 1978-2012) and strength and conditioning consultant (Rangers 2013-2020). He is Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Website Education Manager.

 

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