Speed is a key factor for success in most sports. In baseball, it is the only physical tool that is used on both offense and defense and is an essential quality that can keep a good player from becoming great. The key to improving speed is intensity of effort. Some authorities believe that when you train at speeds below 90% of maximum, you are working on something other than speed.1, 4
Data from track and field and that collected on MLB players suggest that you have to run at 90-100% of max speed to maintain and/or improve speed1, 2. With a small group of individuals (5 to 6 in a group), it is possible to test for max speed for each member of the group over a variety of distances and assign personalize training speed, distances and recovery times for each member. When working with larger groups or an entire team, however, time often does not allow you to develop personalized workouts. With these limitations in mind, the following guidelines were formulated for use when training a large group of athletes. The guidelines were developed after reviewing more than 20 years of time and distance data collected on MLB players during time trials, speed workouts and game situations. Guidelines have been adjusted to reflect running speed and recovery time by position for a variety of distances.
The fastest players over all distances are those who play the skilled positions in the middle of the field (second base, shortstop and centerfield). The second fastest are those who play on the corners (first and third base and right and left field). The slowest are the pitchers and catchers.2, 3
The use of the following guidelines to personalize speed workouts by position for a large group of players requires three steps:
- Place the athletes into 1 of 4 groups – skilled positions, corners, pitchers or catchers
- Determine the training distance(s) at which you want players to train
- Determine the appropriate target time and recovery time between repetitions (Table 1).
|Table 1. Target (sec) and recovery times (sec) by position and distance|
|Distance||Skilled Positions||Corner Positions||Pitchers||Catchers|
The target time, for example, for a group of skilled players running a 60-yard sprint is approximately 7.2 seconds. Players in this group should run each rep in 7.2 seconds or less to achieve a positive training effect for speed. Target time over the same distance for those playing the corners is 7.8 seconds. Target times for pitchers and catchers are 8.4 and 9.0 seconds, respectively.
Recovery time for all players is approximately three times as long as training time5. Skilled players in the above example should recover for 22 seconds between reps. Recovery times for others positions are slightly longer.
- Brunner, R. and B. Tabachnik, Soviet Training and Recovery Methods. Pleasant Hill, CA: Sport Focus Publishing, 1990.
- Coleman, AE and TL Dupler. Changes in running speed during a season of MLB baseball. J Ex Physiology OnLine, 7(3):89-93, 2004.
- Coleman, AE and L Laskey, Assessing running speed and body composition in professional baseball players. J Appl Sports Sci Res 6(4):192-197, 1992.
- Dintiman, G., et al, Speed Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1997.
- Wilmore, JH and DL Costill. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994.
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.