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When I became the strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Astros in 1978, one of the primary concerns of the front office, manager, coaching staff, athletic trainer and some players was “will lifting weights cause muscular fatigue and have a negative effect on position players’ offensive performance” Since there was no research literature to review and no other strength and conditioning coaches in MLB to consult, the decision was made by the GM and manager that all resistance training workouts for position players (we called them weight lifting sessions back then) would be supervised and held after the game. Following home games, workouts were held in the weight room located adjacent to the home clubhouse in the Astrodome. After road games, workouts were held in a corner of the visiting clubhouse or an adjacent hallway using body weight movements. On trips to the two teams with weight rooms, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, workouts were held after games in the home weight rooms.

After consulting with colleagues at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and NASA, I designed a simple research project to determine if lifting weights after a game had a positive, negative or no effect on offensive performance in the next game. I recorded workouts both at home and on the road and kept a record of game-by-game performance (ABs and hits) for each position player. At the end of the year, I looked at the data for players who worked out after each game and totaled their number of ABs and hits in the next game. I also looked at data for players who did not workout after each game and totaled their number of ABs and hits in the next game. I then compared the offensive data in games following a workout with that in games not preceded by a workout to determine the effects of working out on offensive performance in the next game.

Table 1 compares the data in games following a workout to that in games not preceded by a workout. Figure 1 is a graphic display of the data in Table 1. Inspection of Table 1 indicates that players who worked out the night before a game the next day hit 17 points higher than those who did not workout the night before a game and 10 points higher than the team average. While these data could not be used to prove that working out the night before the next game will improve offensive performance, it was used to demonstrate to management and players that working out the night before the next game will not have a negative effect on performance in the following game.

 

Table 1. Offensive performance and workout status – 1978
Status AB Hits Avg. SD
Workout before 1682 446 .265 .057
No workout before 2258 560 .248 .056
Total 3940 1006 .255 .058

 

 

Because we played home games in-doors in an air conditioned facility and most teams did not have a visiting weight room, most of the Astros players continued to work out after games from 1978 to 2012 and similar data were recorded on a yearly basis. While the inclusion of year-by-year data is beyond the scope of this article, similar results were observed from year to year. That is, offensive performance based on batting average in games preceded by a workout was higher than in games that were not preceded by a workout (Table 2 and Figure 2) and working out the night before the next game did not have a negative effect on performance in the next game.

There were a lot of advances in strength and conditioning between 1978 and 2012 to include improvements in equipment design, training techniques, recovery methods, nutrition, etc. Other improvements included mandatory certified additions to strength and conditioning staffs of all teams and at all levels, home weight rooms in all MLB stadiums and visiting weight rooms in most MLB stadiums.

The purpose of this project was not to justify the resistance training program, but to objectively determine the effects of lifting weights during the season on offensive performance. This was the first project of its kind in MLB and the results along with the data collected during the following years helped ensure the buy-in of the players and management for future seasons to come.

 

Table 2. Offensive performance and workout status – 1978 – 2012
Status AB Hits Avg. SD
Workout before 56,688 15,266 .269 .059
No workout before 75,616 17,408 .230 .055
Total 132,294 32,674 .247 .057

 

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Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC-E, FACSM, was the Head S&C Coach for the Houston Astros from 1978-2012 and is currently a strength and conditioning consultant for the Texas Rangers and Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

 

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