Tagged: speed

Accelerate Your Game: How to Improve Your Game Speed

Today’s article is going to focus on running speed as it relates to the game of baseball.  The kind of speed that raises your batting average with infield hits, the kind of speed that makes infielders rush plays.  These are examples of real baseball speed.

When you think of the fastest athletes in the world you think of 100 meter sprinters how are undoubtably fast but do they have the kind of speed you want?

Running speed can be broken down into two basic categories (1) acceleration and (2) maximum running speed.  The acceleration phase lasts roughly from the 0-30 meter mark and the maximum running phase kicks in after that until you reach your max running velocity which can’t really last much beyond 100 meters.

Which category do you think you should work on? Acceleration or Max Speed?

Well considering that the bases are only 27.4 meters (90ft) apart it becomes obvious that acceleration is more important than max speed.  This should make you question the tradition of running a 60 yard dash as a means of scouting baseball players.  Even if you rip a double, a triple on an inside the park home run you are running on a curve which doesn’t allow to reach top speed.  If on defense you have run 60 meters in a straight line to field a ball you might want to question your defensive alignment. I wrote another article on the 60 yard dash that you can read here: New and Improved 60 yard dash

Types of Acceleration

Acceleration itself can divided into two phases (1) pure acceleration (0-15 meters) and (2) transitional acceleration (15-30 meters).  Which one of these types of acceleration do you think is more important in baseball? Well if you caught the advanced on-line publication of Dr. Eugene Coleman’s and Dr William Amonette’s study you would know just by looking at the title.

Pure Acceleration is the Primary determinant of Speed to First-Base in Major League Baseball Game Situations

From 2007 to 2010 a coach in the Houston Astro’s bench sat in line with first base and timed how long it took 302 different players to reach first base.  Those 302 players by the way represented approximately 67% of every position player in the majors during that time span.  In total they timed 1896 sprint times from home to first unless the ball was hit by a pitcher, designated hitter or a lollygagger. If you don’t know what a lollygagger is watch this clip from the best baseball movie of all time Bull Durham.

In addition to timing them to first base, which is a pretty standard practice among baseball coaches, they also took a split time at the half way point between home and first.  Home to first is 90 feet (27.4m) and the running lane starts exactly at the 45ft  (12.7 m).  They used the first half time split (0-45ft/12.7m) as their pure acceleration time and the second half (45ft/12.7m-90ft/27.4m) as their transitional acceleration time split.

Through the use of some fancy statics these authors were able to determine that the first half was more important than the second half in determining your total home to first time.

This is Great News

If you are an aspiring young baseball player trying to climb your way up the baseball ranks this is great news because now you know what you need to work on in order to make a real difference in your game.  You need to work on your pure acceleration.

Here are times from the study broken down into positions in case you want to compare yourself.

Cathers (n=35) Fastest Time 75th percentile 50th percent 25th percent
Home to running lane 2.51 2.65 2.77 2.86
Home to first base 4.24 4.41 4.53 4.64
Infielders (n=138)
Home to running lane 1.97 2.53 2.61 2.7
Home to first base 3.84 4.24 4.36 4.46
Outfielders (n=129)
Home to running lane 2.25 2.49 2.57 2.68
Home to first base 3.81 4.18 4.31 4.42
reference #1

Pure Acceleration

The running technique that you need to get your body going from stand still is very different than the one you usually hear about when people are taking sprinting techniques which are geared towards max speed. First of all you must lean forward a lot more than normal.  Try looking at the ground until you pass the start of the running lane. The first couple of steps are also going to be a lot slower in the sense that your feet will be in contact with the ground longer compared to top end speed.  Since your feet will be touching the ground for more time it is important to put as much force into the ground as you can.  Putting force into the ground is the name of the game.  The more force you put into the ground the more you stand to benefit from when it comes back up and pushes you forward.

With our forward lean we really need to focus on pushing this force not only into the ground but behind us as well.  Try thinking about pushing the ground away from you.  This is pure physics: every action as an opposite and equal reaction.                                      Newton’s Third Law in Action

The best way to increase the amount of force you put into the ground is with weight training.  Use big compound exercises like Squats, Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, RDL’s and Hip Thrusts with high loads (75-90% of your max) for 2-6 reps and multiple sets.  If these lifts are your primary focus in the weight room and you continue to improve upon them you will increasing your running speed or at least your potential to run faster.

Forget the 60 yard dash and Worry About your 10 yard dash

The 10 yard dash is becoming a more and more popular test for sports like baseball, football and any other sport that relies on bursts of acceleration.  The test itself is pretty simple: mark off 10 yards and get someone who is good and quick with a stop watch to time you.  Practicing this test will help you get better at accelerating plus it’s not too hard on the body since it hopefully won’t last more than 2 seconds.

How do you rank?

Below is a chart with some ten yard dash times from some published studies that looked at professional baseball players along with some times from college players from my own study that recently got accepted and will be published soon.

Pro Players (Texas Rangers)
Level 10 yard dash
Rookie Ball 1.57sec
A Ball 1.59sec
AA Ball 1.58sec
AAA Ball 1.55sec
MLB 1.52sec
Reference #2
Pro Players (Mets, Reds, Tigers & Rangers)
Age 10 yard dash
under 16 1.65sec
20-22 1.64sec
23-25 1.63sec
26-28 1.62sec
 Reference #3
NWACC & NAIA College Baseball Players
Throws 10 yard dash
Righties 1.62sec
Lefties 1.66sec

*These numbers are from my study

I hope that this shed some light on why acceleration is more important than max speed along with a couple of ideas and guideline to help you improve you ability to accelerate.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

References

1. Eugene Coleman AAmonette WE.  Pure acceleration is the primary determinant of speed to first-base in major-league baseball game situations. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jun;26(6):1455-60.

2. Hoffman JRVazquez JPichardo NTenenbaum G. Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players.  J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2173-8.

3. Mangine GTHoffman JRFragala MSVazquez JKrause MCGillett JPichardo N. EFFECT OF AGE ON ANTHROPOMETRIC AND PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE MEASURES IN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYERS. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr 10. [Epub ahead of print]


The New & Improve 60 Yard Dash

The new and improved 60 yard dash

Baseball is a game steeped in great traditions but our means of evaluating a baseball player’s athletic ability by having them run 60 yards in a straight line is one tradition that we should change.

The reason for improving the 60 yard dash is that it is not very specific to the game of baseball.  When do you ever run 60 yards in a straight line? The base’s are only 90feet/30yards apart and if you are an outfielder and have to run 60 yards in a straight line to chase a ball down the gap or the line you might want question how you are positioned.

The only time I have ever seen a straight 60 yard dash at the park is in Washington or Milwaukee and even this was between innings.

Even these guys need agility to avoid Randall Simon's Bat

Agility vs. Speed

Baseball is a game that is built of very short bursts of activity which places a more emphasis on acceleration and agility than it does top end speed.  Agility is listed as one of the 5 tools that a baseball athlete needs in order reach the next level.

https://lehmansbaseball.wordpress.com/5-tools/

New Research!!

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning by Priest et al. (2011) used a 60 yard agility test called the JJ Shuttle as part of the tryouts for an NCAA II baseball team.  I liked the study but found that their test had too many stop and go’s (4 change of directions) which didn’t mimic a baseball game unless you are caught in a run down against a little league team.

This could go on forever!!!!

My version of a new sixty is going to blend of sprinting and agility to get the best of both worlds while still totalling the traditional 60 yards.

Here is how to set it up:

Pick a start line and set cones at the following yard marks:

  • 20 yard mark
  • 25 yard mark
  • 50 yard mark

To complete the test:

  1. Sprint the second cone (25 yard)
  2. Change direction and go back the first cone (20 yard mark)
  3. Change direction and sprint to the final cone (50 yard mark)

This will total 60 yards which should keep the traditionalists happy but will give you not only speed but change of direction, deceleration and most importantly acceleration measures.

In baseball terms you can think of breaking early at first base in order to get picked off.  Your first sprint causes the defence to make the first throw from the first baseman you change directions and head back to first hard which draws a long throw from the middle infield at which point you change directions and head into second base hard.  The distances are little off but you get the idea.

Don’t Forget Power

The study that I mentioned did however account for the weight of each player and measured what they call the K-Factor (kinetic factor) which is based on a combination each athletes weight and speed.  A 200lbs player who can run 7.5 sec is going to have a higher k-factor and more power than a 150lbs player that gets a faster time of 7.2 seconds.

Of the top 10 times recorded in the study only one was a pitcher while no catchers made the list which is no real surprise.   However 6 of the top 10 highest K-Factor scores were produced my catchers or pitchers.  This kinetic/power score is more important if you are a pitcher, catcher, and corner infielder because your game is going to be built on how much force you can produce and transfer to the ball through your arm or your bat.  Middle infielders and outfielders will need pure speed.  Regardless to make it to higher levels of baseball you need to be both big and fast so keep track of both your size and speed.  If you can gain 10lbs and still be just as fast you will improve your power.

Graeme Lehman, MSc©, CSCS

Reference:

Priest, JW, Jones, JN, Conger, B, and Marble, DK. Performance measures of NCAA baseball tryouts obtained from the new 60-yd run-shuttle. J Strength Cond Res 25(10): 2872–2878, 2011

Tis’ the Season for Size & Strength

There is a magic formula for adding lots of muscle in order to become bigger and stronger and the three components are:

  1. Eat Lots of Food
  2. Get Lots of Rest
  3. Lift Lots of Heavy Weights

There is no better time for the college baseball player to take advantage of this size and strength formula then the holidays. Finals are over and you’re heading home to get some quality home cooking and catch up on all the sleep that has escaped you during the previous semester.  To make it even better aside from catching up with friends, family and buying some christmas gifts your days are relatively free to do as you wish.  So lets take advantage of these precious weeks and make some gains!!!

Let’s look at these elements individually.

1. Eat Lots of Food:  This is the easiest one since you will be heading home to your parents who will feed plus it is the time of year there’s always a surplus of food lying around.  We need to apply some rules here since we gain the right kind of weight.  The goal is to add extra muscle mass that will help us put more velocity on that ball whether you are throwing it or hitting it.

  • Protein First – this is the building block of muscle so ensure that you are eating this at each meal.  Try to ensure that most of o your protein comes in th form of real food like turkey and save your protein powder for certain times of the day like post workout – more on this later.

Gives you amino acids and makes you go to sleep – Perfect!!!

  • Go Nutty – we need a surplus of calories to add size and good fats in the form of nuts are great since they are calorie rich and good for you .  This time of they are typically lying around the house and various x-mas parties.  Try to stay away from peanuts (not an actual nut – it’s a legume) and focus on almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamia and pistachios.  These are great any time of the day except post workout.
  • Workout Nutrition – Follow this sequence when you lift weights
  1. Eat a meal 2 hours before the gym
  2. Mix a recovery shake that has at least 30 grams of carbs (sugars) and 20 grams of protein (whey) and start drinking this as you start your workout and finish before your done.
  3. Mix another recovery shake and drink it after you are done within 30 minutes of finishing your workout – try not to gulp it down but rather make it last for about 10 minutes as you get ready to leave he gym.
  4. About 60-90 minute after you finished your last rep consume a meal that has carbs and protein.  Turkey sandwich’s are great here.  Make sure they are real food items – no more shakes.
  5. Nap
  6. Continue to eat every 4 hours

Those are the basics but here are a couple of more tips on the nutrition side of things

  • Eat a minimum of five meals
  • take fish oils – just omega 3’s – 5-10 grams per day (Ascenta is your best brand here)
  • drink plenty of water – 5 liter minimum
  • Stay away from really sugary foods like those candies as much as you can.

#2 -Lots of Rest: When you sleep your body is very anabolic which means that it can build muscle.  The Cuban national weightlifting team is required to sleep 10 hours at night and take a 2 hour siesta in order to optimize their training.

Strong like bear means you must sleep like one

Your levels of growth hormone are at their highest about one hour into your deep sleep  If you follow baseball you have heard a lot of controversy about players taking illegal forms of growth hormone in order and you only have to ask Mr. Bonds about the benefits of growth hormone. We are going to do it the natural way by getting lots of restful sleep. Here are some tips for resting over the holidays

  • sleep in a very dark and slightly cool room
  • try to maintain a regular sleep schedule
  • take magnesium and zinc before bed – the supplement called ZMA is great for this but you can make your own with 20-30 grams of zinc, 400-500mg of magnesium and 10 mg of B6.  The crazy thing is that this supplement (ZMA) was developed by Victor Conte who ran BALCO – another link to Mr. Bonds.
  • Read some fiction before you go to bed – don’t stimulate your system with video games or ay electronics for that matter.  Gradually bring your system down by reading in order to keep that brain sharp for next semester – try something funny.
  • Static Stretch – besides being good for overall mobility and preventing injury going through a series of stretches will also bring your system down a couple of notches.  Be sure to hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds to tell your muscles that it is time to relax.
  • Nap – when you take your siesta be sure that you do it right and find a place that you can lie down in a dark and quite room.  On days that you lift try to time your nap after your workout.  Go for either less than 30 or more than 90 minutes due to our natural sleep cycle.  If possible go for the more than 90min.
  • Chill Out – the holidays can be crazy which can cause us to stress and become catabolic which makes our bodies eat away at muscle and store fat.  Avoid stressful situations and enjoy the time with friends and family.

#3 – Lift Lots of Heavy Weights :This is the only stress that I want you to place on your body over the holidays because it is what sets in motion this “cascade of events” that will make your body build more muscle.  I am not going to go into exactly what you should do in the weight room since that goes well beyond the scope of this article but below are some guidelines.  If you need a program for the holidays or anytime of year contact me at: graeme.lehman@gmail.com

Your only “stress” over the holidays

  • Lift heavy weights – the only way to make your body add muscle (which it naturally doesn’t want to do) is stress it with heavy weights.  We will back off with an “easy” but for now push your body and its ability to be strong.
  • Hit large muscle groups – squats, deadlifts, presses and rows should dominate your program
  • Frequency – lift often but not too often – 3-4 days per week should be good
  • Get in and get out – treat your lifting session like a job since it is the only thing that you have to do over the holidays.  If you are in the gym for more than 60 minutes you are making friends and not gains.

Follow these basic components and you will slap on muscle that if nothing else will help you fill out your uniform better. Graeme Lehman

Exercise Fundamentals Series – #2 Rest

#2 – Rest

Part one of this series looked at “stress” while part two will look at  the “rest” portion of the fitness formula.

“Stress” and “Rest” can be likened to the Yin and Yang of ancient Chinese Philosophy.

baseball ying yang
Yin & Yang = Rest & Stress

We have all seen this symbol and how it represents balance between these two equal but opposite forces – a balance that must be respected if you want to achieve higher levels of fitness.

If you have too much stress/yang and not enough rest/yin you will beat yourself up and tear your body down – this is no good.

too much stress

But if you provide too much rest/yin and not enough stress/yang you’re body will not positively adapt and will become fatter and lazier.

There is a basic concept in exercise that you must learn to accept otherwise you will be literally wasting your time and effort in the gym.  The concept is that we DO NOT get bigger, faster and stronger during our workouts but rather the time between them.  Tough to grasp I know but keep following along.

The stress you place on yur body during your workout just gets the ball rolling towards your goals of becoming more powerful baseball player.  If you give your body a chance to rest we just have to rely on our body’s natural ability to adapt so we are better prepared to meet the demands of this stress if we come across it again.  This is why we can progressively lift heavier weigh we have conditioned our body to do so.  In the world of Exercise Physiology this model is either called “Super compensation” or “Fitness Fatigue”.

Fitness Fatigue Model

These two models are slightly different from one another but they both basically state your body will improve its fitness level following a stress if you give it the chance.  The rest that you provide your body then becomes vitally important if you want to make positive gains.

Bottom line

Follow your workouts up with periods of relaxation.  Food and sleep are two of our best weapons to make the most out of our recovery time between workouts. Don’t forget about all the other distresses in our lives – if you can learn how to handle them, you will be well on your way to seeing the results that you want.

working hard on his resting

Take home points

  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Go to bed before midnight
  • Don’t watch tv or look at a computer screen 30 minutes before bed
  • Take a breath with Epsom salt (form of magnesium that helps muscles relax)
  • Make sure all your school work is done (another form of stress you need to control)
  • Have a post workout drink with carbs and protein to start the recovery process as soon as possible.
  • Try taking an adaptogen in the form of a Ginseng to help your body cope.
  • Try breathing exercises

Graeme Lehman

Exercise Fundamentals Series – # 1 Stress

This is the first of a three part series on the basics of exercise.  The fitness industry has done a phenomenal job of complicating things and confusing people but it is my mission to break down all the geeky science and fitness myths into “Layman’s Terms” so you can succeed with whatever your fitness goals may be.

If want to create a body that is capable of pumping ut big league power then you have to follow this simple 3 step formula:

  1. Stress your body– provide a physical stress to your body that is just beyond what you are capable of doing.
  2. Rest your body- let your body repair, grow and adapt to the stress.
  3. Repeat – be consistent

That is basically it ladies and gentlemen; everything you read about exercise can be classified into one of these three categories.  While there are of course a lot of finer details that I will discuss in further articles about these three basic components I will just focus on the fundamental principles for now.

#1 – Stress – Build Legendary Strength

Willie Mays Kneeling on Ground

The legend of Milo of Croton is the old story of a  in weight lifting and illustrates the point of stress and how it builds strength.  The legend states that as a young man Milo lifted and carried a newborn calf on his shoulders while walking around and he continued to pick up and carry this calf everyday as the calf grew into maturity forcing his body to become stronger.  The story culminates with Milo walking into the Olympic stadium carrying a full grown bull over his head.

lM

This story represents a principal in the exercise science world called progressive overload.  This principal, first identified by Dr. Thomas Delorme, requires a gradual increase in volume, frequency, intensity or time in order to produce a positive adaptation such as decreased fat stores and increased muscle.

The tough part about this progressive overload principal is that you have to push your body beyond its limits because if you don’t, your body will not make any changes.

db rack

Start on the top row and progress to the bottom (don’t forget about the middle row and technique for each rep too!!)

The bottom line is you are going to have to work hard and keep pushing yourself to get to where you want to be. Stop judging your workouts on how sweaty you are or how sore your muscles are the next day.  To see if you are on the right path just simply ask yourself if you did better than the last time you did that workout.  If the answer is “Yes” then congratulations you just had a great workout and are on your way.  It is beyond the scope of this article but there will be times that you will have to purposely underachieve in order to make bigger gains but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

The path towards your goals is simple but it’s not easy.

 

The Five Athletic Tools

This post is a copy of what you will fnd if you click on the “5 Tools” on the menu bar.  This is the basis of my philosophy when it comes to training for baseball.

I hope you enjoy it.  Just got my stats for my thesis on lower body power and its correlation to throwing velocity so there will be plenty of geeky information to come.

Are you a 5 Tool Athlete?

Th primary goal of this of this blog to help baseball players become better athletes and in order to do so I have create what I call my 5 Tool Athlete Program.

If you are interested in taking your game to the next level read and follow along with any of the posts that are labled as “5 Tool Athlete”.

Here is a post that describes the “5 Athletic Tools” for baseball players.

 

Ball Player or Athlete?

Baseball is one of the most powerful sports earth.  Hitting and throwing are two of the most explosive actions that you’ll find in any sport.  Despite this some people don’t consider baseball to be a sport that requires a lot of athletic ability to be successful.

This stereotype is a result of the fact that baseball is game that places a high demand of skill.  Skills like hitting a round ball squarely with a round bat or the skill to make a ball look like it’s coming faster than it is just to have it fad away at the last possible second.  High levels of these types of skills can help you compensate for a lack of other skills such as athletic ability, after all if you are very skilled at hitting your ability to run doesn’t matter much.

Hit Em’ Where They Ain’t

This is part of the reason that those who play baseball can be described as a “ball player” or as an “athlete”.  The ball player might have a lot of skill such as hand eye coordination but may lack speed or strength while the athlete posses plenty of speed and strength but is deficient in the skill side of the game such as fielding, hitting or pitching.

“I’m no athlete…I’m a ball player” – John Kruk

Even with the pitching position some guys are known as good throwers will others are “pitchers”

Jamie Moyer – pitcher

Brandon League – Athlete

The five tool player

For the non baseball fans out there a “Five Tool Player” is a term used to describe a player that has all of the necessary abilities to excel at the game of baseball – someone that can do it all.

The Five Baseball Tools are:

  1. Run

    Willie Mays circa 1954

  2. Field
  3. Throw
  4. Hit for Power
  5. Hit for Average

These types of players are a rare breed and every coach wants a roster full of them because they are have an ideal combination of athlete and ball player.  Some examples of some “Five Tool Players” include Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr to name a few.

Griffey always got a good jump and had a good jump

If you want to be a five tool player you have to first identify what area’s you need to improve upon.

Are you more of an athlete or a ball player? 

Should you concentrate on your ball player or athletic skills right now?

It is in our nature to work on what we are already good at and avoid what we are not good.

More time in the batting cage rather than the squat cage

For the most part young baseball players that have been playing every summer day for the last 5 plus years have spent a lot of time and energy building their ball player skills by taking tons ground ball and BP (batting practice).  Running around and playing catch does provide the benefit of building some athletic skill but it does not do provide as much upside or benefit that occurs when you focus on improving your:

  1. Speed
  2. Strength
  3. Agility
  4. Endurance
  5. Mobility

These happen to be my 5 athletic tools

The Off-Season

One of the challenges that occurs when you start playing higher levels of baseball is that there is less time to focus on building your athletic skills in the off-season because there just isn’t as much off-season.  This is too bad because this is the time when you should be focusing on becoming a better athlete in order to bring your game up to the next level.

Not only will a strength and conditioning program provide you with more speed and strength but a smart program will increase your chances of avoiding injuries which could sideline you and it is impossible to get better when you are hurt.

Your Athletic Skill Resource

Baseball is evolving and today’s game demands that in order to play at the top-level you must have a lot of skill, both baseball and athletic.  And it is the purpose of this blog to help improve your athletic skills.

Be sure to check back to this blog on a regular basis in order to learn more and more about how you can improve your athletic skills and avoid injury.

Check back in the archives to see the off-season program that was listed which is a great place to start.

Graeme Lehman