Building Baseball Speed Part 2

Welcome back to my series of how to help baseball players run faster so that they both can score more runs on offensive side of the game while also taking runs away on the defensive side by tracking down the baseball.  Part 1 went into a lot of detail about just how fast big league player and how you can measure your own speed.  In final two parts I am going to talk about how to implement sprint/acceleration training into a baseball practice and finally some specific drills, cues and exercises that have been proven to help increase running speed by improving mechanics and/or strength levels.

Before we get into that I need to cover some basic principals of sprint/acceleration training because without these in place you are essentially going to spend a lot of time and energy making your players slower and putting them at risk of injury.

How do you practice getting faster?

The only way to get better at running faster is to practice running faster.


Here is example of what a good sprinting practice might look like for a baseball player that I stole from a renowned sprinting coach Derek Hansen, he consults with NFL teams on speed training and the last time I checked all those guys are pretty fast!!

Yards Reps
10 4
15 4
20 4
* Intensity @ >90%

Look pretty simple doesn’t it?  I like that the distances aren’t that long which shifts our focus to acceleration rather than top end speed.

That piece of information at the bottom with the asterisk however is vital. Intensity is where most players and coaches fail when it comes time to improve running velocities.  Their training sessions aren’t intense enough to make improvements.

Are your workout’s intense enough?

The firs thing we need to do is make sure our definition of “Intensity” is the same.  In the world of exercise science the word intensity is used to define how hard you are working compared to your all out 100% effort.  If in the gym your max squat is 200lbs you would need to be lifting 180lbs or more to be in the >90% range.

Outside of the exercise science world the term intensity can used to describe anything that is hard.  If you did 50 squats with 150 lbs I bet you would call that intense because you might of passed out or threw up. But just because something is hard doesn’t make it intense.


That weight on the bar might only be 50% of his max but I bet he would say that it was an “intense” workout.  He would be wrong.

For me as the coach the only way I know if that workout was “intense” enough is to look at how fast your ran each sprint to see if it was above that 90% mark compared to that athletes 100% that was established during testing.

This table shows individual sprint times for five 20 yard sprints.  You will notice how the times get slower and slower to the point that the average time falls below the 90% intensity mark that we need to improve sprinting speed.

Sprint # Time Intensity
1 3 100
2 3.25 92
3 3.5 85
4 3.75 80
5 4 75
Avg 3.5 86.4

This is only for 5 sprints.  You can bet that the times would keep getting slower and slower.

Why is Intensity So important?

The principals of improving velocity whether it is throwing or running speed are the same when it comes to the level of intensity needed to make improvements.

In the throwing industry we usually refer to intensity with the word intent.

Great pitching/throwing coaches like Kyle Boddy, Alan Jaeger and Lantz Wheeler stress the importance of having the intent to throw hard.  Without enough intensity/intent your body isn’t forced to make the necessary improvements (i.e improved mechanics, muscular recruitment, stretch shortening cycle) need to help you throw harder.

The problem with running is that it is very hard on the body.  It is extremely taxing on our nervous system, muscular system, metabolic system and pretty much every system in the body.  This means that it is going to take a lot longer to recover between reps than throwing does.  If we were to count sprinting in terms of the number of strides we took versus the number of sprints we performed we could then more closely compare it to throwing.

If you don’t rest long enough you aren’t physically able to run at a fastest enough speed to be considered >90% no matter how hard you are trying.  Even if you are giving 100% effort it doesn’t mean that you are getting faster.  It means that you are getting better at running “kind of fast” which doesn’t help you on the field in a game.  In fact it could make you slower and increase your chances of getting hurt which happens a lot when you try to run fast when you are too tired.

Slow Down to Go Fast!!!

Sounds stupid doesn’t it.  But again we are talking the rest in between sprints.

slow down

In most team sports coaches won’t give their players enough rest between sprints because they either want to get done them quickly because there are so many other things that they want to work on like hitting and fielding.  Then there are times when coaches want to make things more “intense” and run their players through hard sprinting sessions.

Here is a complete table of the sprinting workout which this time includes rest periods.

Yards Reps Rest
10 4 60 sec
15 4 90 sec
20 4 120 sec

This whole workout will take just under 30 minutes following a good warm up and its best to do this when your players are both mentally and physically fresh.

The good news is that you only do this type of workout twice a week but that still might take too much time out of a practice schedule for some coaches.  In the next article you will see a couple of suggestions of how to integrate it into a practice plan but I wanted to touch on another important factor, volume.

Don’t Turn That Volume Up Too High!!

The volume is the total number of yards that you run in any given workout.  In the workout above you a run a total of 180 yards ([10×4]+[15×4]+[20×4]=180).

More doesn’t always mean better!!

You can go higher than this but just know if you increase the volume you increase the amount of time it takes to recover between workouts.  We will start to add volume each week but we do this gradually so that the body has time to adapt.  The same thing goes with your arm.  If you throw a ton (i.e pitching in a game) you need more time to rest then you would if you only played catch with a bit of long toss.



You need to look not only at the volume within a workout but within a week.  Don’t do a bunch sprint training the day after double header – this cumulative volume will be too much which can put your players at risk

Here is a complete 4 week sprint training program.  Be sure to separate these training sessions by at least 48 hours.

Day 1
Distance Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Yards Reps Reps Reps Reps Rest (sec)
10 4 5 5 5 60
15 4 4 5 5 90
20 4 4 4 5 120
Day 2
Distance Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Yards Reps Reps Reps Reps Rest (sec)
10 3 4 4 4 60
15 3 3 4 4 90
20 3 3 3 4 120


I hope you found this both informative and useful.  The next two parts will be up soon so that you can implement this type of training into your baseball practices.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS












One comment

  1. Matthew C. Reppert

    Excellent stuff Graeme (and thanks for the sample sprint workout)!

    I’m a huge proponent of recovery and rest, and trying to get athletes to get the proper rest between sets is a crucial, but often overlooked part of any program. I never understood why pitchers were told to run endless poles, but then were forced to rush through sprint workouts. It makes so much more sense to just train what is needed, avoid wasting time on what isn’t, and actually make progress.

    From a whole-team perspective, I’m sure we’ve all seen the “conditioning” drill where the whole team runs a base at a time on the coaches whistle. Players are never rested, the intensity drops with time, and I’m sure they’re all thinking, “Don’t waste energy because we’re going to be here all day.” We can also safely assume their running form deteriorates significantly as well. Maybe it makes the coach feel better, but I can’t see that moving anyone forward.

    That said, I’m looking forward to part 3. Keep up the good work!


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