Time to Train
By: Flint Wallace
Your off-season training must be different than your preseason and in-season. If you train too much the same way or too closely to the same way year-round, the growth stagnates, and the adaptation is much slower. When you train differently during different parts of the year, the adaption during that time of pushing and variance happens at a much faster pace.
Other sports have realized this for years and as far as the strength and conditioning goes, baseball has too. But in my opinion, when it comes to how we train the throwing aspect of this wonderful game, baseball has been much slower to adapt this ideology. I will be one of the first people to say that every players’ situation is unique and different, but I will also tell you that most throwers, pitchers or position players are undertrained. I believe a vast majority, not all, but most arm injuries are because of under preparation, not overuse.
You can’t do the same basic throwing program year-round and expect vast improvements. You may get small incremental gains by doing that but for most, you need significant improvements by next season and that is going to require different training.
Part of the issue is that many amateur players do not know when their off-season time occurs. I get that. But, each player needs to truly figure out when the best time of the year is for them to train or use as their off-season. This will be different from player to player.
For example, a high school pitcher who just finished his senior year and who already knows where he is going to be playing next year at the collegiate level might use the 10-12 weeks this summer as his off-season. He may not pitch this summer and truly spend the time on becoming a more prolific thrower. Improving his arm health, velocity, command, and durability so that when he steps on campus in the fall, he is fully ready to compete.
For a younger pitcher who is just finishing their junior year of high school or below, their offseason (training period) may be in the fall as this summer might be a time to be seen by college recruiters and/or pro scouts. But a player the same age that might be a little more ‘behind the eight ball’ per se may forgo playing this summer and spend that time training so they can close the gap on their competitive peer group. Because being seen by a recruiter or scout when you are not at the level of ability or skill he is looking for does not help you at all, and it could even work against you.
For the college pitchers, they may have to look at several factors as to when their offseason training period should occur- like how many innings they threw this past season. If they threw more than 60-70 innings, then they may not need to pitch this summer and spend that time training since they have had ample game time experience. If they have pitched 90+ innings, then they may not need to pitch in the summer. Instead, have a few weeks of active recovery throwing, then build back up the rest of the summer and use the fall to really get after their training. If the player pitched 20-40 innings, then he might need to go pitch some more this summer to acquire that game time experience and then use the fall for their offseason training. Then there is the guy who did not pitch much or at all. Most think that this guy needs to go pitch in the summer, but there is a reason they did not pitch, and it usually isn’t lack of experience. It is usually because of arm health, stuff, and/or command, and those things rarely improve by playing. So instead, that guy should probably use the summer to train.
If you are a position player, you should spend the summer as your off-season training time for your throwing development. You can spend a portion of each day working on creating a more robust arm, not just throwing enough to get “loose”, but truly working on creating a dynamic arm. I truly believe it is one of the easier tools to improve, and it is a tool that can show up every day. You may not get a hit on a certain day, drive the ball in the gap or out of the park or steal a base on any given day, but if you have a plus arm as a position player, that will show up every day. Whether it’s throwing a runner out from deep in the hole, cutting down a would be base thief, hosing someone at the plate from the outfield, or just keeping a baserunner from taking the extra base because he respects your arm, a good arm plays every day.
I believe training is a separator and true training should be different from your normal in-season routine. So, figure out the best time of the year for you to use as your offseason to become a more prolific thrower and to create a more robust and dynamic arm. Next, get assessed by qualified people that can help you create a holistic, hyper-personalized plan to accomplish just that very thing. Then, seek out or create a training environment that encourages, promotes, and nurtures growth.
Flint Wallace is the Director of Player Development at the Texas Baseball Ranch in Montgomery, TX. He is also the former Director of Baseball Operations at TCU and pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. For more information about the Texas Baseball Ranch visit http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/