For any athlete, the off season is a critical time of the year for training adaptations. More specifically, in the baseball population, there are some unique differences that make the off season so critical. In this article, and the ones to follow, we will be going over the specifics of designing an off season training program for baseball players. What makes this period of the year so important for ball players is that during these months we are creating a base for what is ultimately setting us up for success during the long months of the season.
The first of the off season program is the Early Off Season Program. This period happens right after the end of a long in season. For each player, the duration of this phase could vary dependent upon a few different this such as: competitive level or age of the athlete, any injuries incurred during that year of playing, length of season, the degree of dysfunction the athlete presents as well as any goals the athlete might have going into the next season.
Here are some of the points discussed in the video:
In order to prioritize where we start we must assess each athlete. There are many ways in which you can do this from very specific biomechanical markers and test to general movement screens. The main takeaway is that in order to truly prioritize first steps of the early off season phase there must be some level of testing that takes place to see what the athlete needs most. This sets the base before jumping into 4-5 months of hard training. Without this important step you are limiting the long term efficacy of your program. It is also useful to add that this part of the process can happen with anyone from a qualified strength coach to a physical therapist, just be sure that the individual has a reason for the tests being administered and has some understanding of the unique biomechanical needs of baseball athletes.
The main goal of the early off season is to restore general movement qualities. From the assessment we are able to determine how well or poorly the athlete moves. Because of the highly repetitive nature of the sport, baseball athletes become very patterned over the course of the season. We are determining how patterned or asymmetrical the athlete is in our assessment and based upon where the individual falls on this continuum is where we decide the length of their early off season phase. This looks a whole lot differently for a young high school athlete than it does for a professional level pitcher with ten years pitching in the big leagues. That said, for most high level baseball athletes this phase can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
Once we establish what the athlete needs most we focus on building a baseline of movement and strength capacities. Some of the movement qualities we are looking to build back up are things like low level plyometrics that focus on decceleration and landing mechanics, squatting, hinging, single leg strength and stability, rotation, pushing and pulling. Our way of addressing these patterns are very general movements and are relatively low on intensity and force/velocity curve.
Additionally, we are looking to build a baseline of strength from which we will be building upon in the coming months. This allows us to adjust and prepare our muscle tissue for being comfortable under loads again.
Lastly, and most importantly, avoid specificity during these weeks. We want to put the ball down or at the very least avoid any high intensity throwing. Take a break from sprinting. Take some time away from hitting. By doing this we will allow any asymmetries/patterns and soft tissue restrictions that have built over the course of the year to calm down and reach some level of neutral. Without this we would constantly be chasing our tails throughout the year and the compounding effect of the year would bring injuries and to threshold much quicker.
Hopefully these are things you can start applying to your athletes and ball players. Next we will be discussing the meat of the off season training protocol and how to navigate through the different stages of the off season.