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|
|Home to running lane||1.97||2.53||2.61||2.7|
|Home to first base||3.84||4.24||4.36||4.46|
|Home to running lane||2.25||2.49||2.57||2.68|
|Home to first base||3.81||4.18||4.31||4.42|
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|
|Pro Players (Mets, Reds, Tigers & Rangers)|
|Age||10 yard dash|
|NWACC & NAIA College Baseball Players|
|Throws||10 yard dash|
*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
3. Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Fragala MS, Vazquez J, Krause MC, Gillett J, Pichardo 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]
There is a magic formula for adding lots of muscle in order to become bigger and stronger and the three components are:
- Eat Lots of Food
- Get Lots of Rest
- 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.
- 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
- Eat a meal 2 hours before the gym
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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
#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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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:
- Stress your body– provide a physical stress to your body that is just beyond what you are capable of doing.
- Rest your body- let your body repair, grow and adapt to the stress.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even with the pitching position some guys are known as good throwers will others are “pitchers”
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:
- Hit for Power
- 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.
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.
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:
These happen to be my 5 athletic tools
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.
Do I have big league skills?
This is a question that every baseball player wants to know the answer in order have an idea what to work on so that they can get to that level of the game. But in order to answer this question you have to know a couple key pieces of information
- What level are my skills at now?
- What level do my skills need to be at in order to play professional baseball?
Then we have to look at the different categories of baseball skills that make up a baseball player:
- Mental Skills (mental toughness, leadership, grittiness, etc)
- Baseball Specific Skill (fielding, hitting, base running, pitching, etc)
- Athletic Skills (speed, power, agility, etc)
Both mental and baseball specific skills are tough to measure in regards to putting an exact number on them; sure coaches can tell you that you need to get mentally tougher or improve your hitting skills but they can’t give you an exact number or percentage to shoot for. I have never heard a coach say with certainty that if you improve your grittiness by 34% you will make it to the Big Leagues. Even baseball scouts can’t measure players with exact figures for mental and baseball skills, they can only rank them in comparison to other players which is more of an art than a science.
The athletic skills on the other hand can be measured and ranked accurately and thanks to some researchers and the Texas Rangers organization we now know just how much athletic skill one needs to play professional baseball.
For two years these researchers tracked 343 players within the Rangers organization and measured athletic attributes like agility, jump height, grip strength, power and sprinting speed along with physical characteristics like height, weight and body fat and they separated them into categories based on what level of professional baseball they played.
Here are some of the results:
|Vertical Jump (cm)||70.1||70.1||69.1||71.1||71.9|
|Vertical Jump Peak Power (watts)||10,798||10,823||11,127||11,435||11,542|
|Grip Strength (kg)||103.5||105.2||111.6||115.6||111.0|
|10-Yard Sprint (seconds)||1.57||1.59||1.58||1.55||1.52|
These results clearly demonstrate that the players in the Majors are in fact bigger, faster and stronger than the guys in the minors.
The New Baseball Stats – Athletic Stats
Baseball is a game of stats and the researchers did not ignore this fact. They looked at the players stats over the course of the two year period and found that certain tests were great at predicting a players ability to steal bases or hit home runs even within their level of baseball. Here are some highlights of these stats from this study and how it relates to the game of baseball.
Question: Want more Stolen Bases?
Answer: Improve your Ten Yard Dash
Rational: The 10 yard dash which measures acceleration which more important than top end speed because it is very rare to hit top speed in baseball. Acceleration is needed to track down a fly ball, cut off a grounder, steal a bag or beat out an infield single; all of these examples don’t have you hitting your top speed. The big league players on average had the fastest 10 yard dash times.
Question: Want to hit more home runs and increase your slugging percentage?
Rational: Power is the combination of force and velocity (for more on Power check out the “5 Athletic Tools”) so when you take the jump height (velocity) and combine it with force (body weight) you get power. The vertical jump scores of the big leaguers was higher than the other levels but the real story is when you look at the fact that they also weigh more than the other players which means that they are in fact more powerful. And baseball is a game of power.
This is a very interesting study because baseball is considered to be a very “skill” dominated sport where if a player is very good at hitting or pitching they don’t have to be the greatest athlete in order to reach the top level of the game. We are always reminded that baseball players are not athletes when we players like Babe Ruth and David Wells are used as examples but these two guys were athletic enough and possessed extreme levels of both baseball specific and mental skills which enabled them both to succeed. Today’s baseball is becoming more and more competitive and this study shows that athletic skills are playing a deciding role in who plays in the “Show” versus the minors.
The Study: Anthropometric and performance comparisons in professional baseball players.
The authors: Hoffman JR, Vazquez J, Pichardo N, Tenenbaum G
Where I found it: J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2173-8.