Adult Baseball training and conditioning tips

Keep yourself primed and ready to play into your golden years.

When I stepped out on the baseball field a few years ago, I thought I was going to be in a good position, physically speaking. It had been 25 years since I'd played a sanctioned game baseball game.

I knew I wouldn't be an All Star right out of the gate, but figured I wouldn't have any problems adjusting quickly. 

I had a physical job, exercised regularly and played softball a couple times a week. Adding in baseball should have been easy right?

Well it was and it wasn't. 

Adapting to 3 hour games went fine. Moving around to get to balls wasn't a problem. Throwing and hitting was fine though it took time to get used to making longer throws and seeing faster pitching. 

What was a challenge was the explosiveness of the game. The muscle control needed to throw longer distances accurately. The smaller window to decide when, if and where to swing the bat. 

Already being relatively fit, went a long way. But it was a wake up call to how far I had to go to be in baseball shape.

It was very humbling. Believe me. 

All of these can be improved with work and training. Since that first game, I've put hundreds of hours into being and staying ready for baseball. It helps me be a better player on the field. 

Just as important, it has largely kept the injury bug away. As a middle aged adult, that is probably the most important aspect of working out and training. Injuries not only affect your time on the field, they can impact your life off the field. 

Background

I've worked out since I was a teen. There have been periods where life got in the way and I didn't put in the time I should. But I always found my way back to it and got back to work.

At one point, I was considering becoming a personal trainer. I went so far as to take and complete multiple courses on training, nutrition, muscle science and movement. I ended up deciding that becoming a professional trainer wasn't going to work with my schedule. 

But I've used what I learned for my own training and to help friends and family. It gives me a good foundation for which choices to make to reach my goals. 

While I have knowledge of training and fitness methodology, I am not a professional. I'm not going to provide a detailed training regimen that will have you hitting 400 ft bombs and pitching 100 mph. 

There are people out there that do that for a living. Some good and some bad. But not me. If you want a prescribed regimen, I'd suggest finding a good trainer to meet you needs. 

I do, however, relate my experiences and tips in my writing. 

If you play baseball or are thinking about it, here are some tips and guidelines I use to stay healthy, avoid injury and remain on the field. 

General fitness

You're overall health is important whether you play a sport or not. You often hear the phase "consult your doctor before..". There's a reason for that. 

Everyone is built different. Lifestyles are different. And face it, life gets in the way sometimes. Knowing where you stand health wise before starting a fitness or training regiment is just smart. It gives you an idea where to start, what you can currently handle and where your goals can be set. 

Too often we put the cart before the horse. We want to hit and throw hard, so we start working on that without taking into account what type of condition our bodies are in. 

Whether you plan to play in tournaments, leagues or just want get out in a park with the kids, it's always good to start at the beginning. You might think you are already in good shape. You could be or you might not be. If you haven't worked out in a while, it may be a surprise to you where your fitness level is once you start. If you already play, there's still usually room for improvement. Working on your general fitness gets you on the path to taking on more specialized training. 

Balance, stability and muscle control is a great place to start. You need those in every day life and they are essential for any sport. They are pretty straightforward attributes. Your body works on them without you even knowing. Still, they can be improved upon and are important.

Balance and stability often go hand in hand. Standing, walking, even sitting up are examples of ways we use them every day. But they also apply in different ways we don't think about. Stability in the shoulders when throwing and balance when striding in our swing are examples in an active setting. Working on these can set you up for success.

Flexibility is next on the list. Being able to have a controlled, full range of motion is good for your muscles and joints. It always allows you to maximize muscle forces. Over time, we have a tendency to lose flexibility if we aren't actively maintaining it. 

Try touching your toes. If you can't you have work to do. How far behind you can you reach with your arm? Can you touch your heel to your opposite hip? 

You may already have good flexibility. Even if that's the case, it's still something to work on regularly to maintain. Being limber will help with many of the movements used in baseball and goes a long way toward preventing injuries. 

Cardio. Few really enjoy it, but it has a very strong function in your health. It improves blood flow and trains your body to have better oxygen intake. 

I'm not saying you need to run a marathon. But including cardio activities in your life has numerous benefits. Running, biking, swimming, even walking, are good examples and have the added benefit of adapting you to plenty of active movement. 

Core training could be included with stability but I have it separate here. That's because it has so many functions in an active body. It creates stability, aids balance and should be flexible. Having a strong core will make more advanced training easier and safer. Ignoring the core will have an opposite effect. 

Your core muscles all work together constantly. Keeping them in relatively good shape helps every other movement you make. 

Nutrition is key as well. Food is fuel. Treat it that way. The better you eat as far as nutrient balance, the better results you will have. That doesn't mean you have to eat rabbit food at every meal. But making sure you are getting the right targets for carbs, fats and especially proteins will make training pay off much more. Getting your fill of the right micro nutrients will have you feeling your best as well. No one wants cramps when low on potassium. 

What nutrition looks like is different for everyone. It's dependent on your starting point, activity level and goals. If you want to lose weight you need few calories than you burn, period. If you want to gain weight you need more. If you want to gain muscle, you need to eat enough protein, often enough, that it creates protein synthesis.

If you neglect your nutrition, you are setting yourself back. 

Along with nutrition is hydration. Like food, your body needs water and your needs will be different from person to person. It's better to stay ahead on hydration. Dehydration leads to diminished performance and can lead to health issues if habitual. 

Striving to have good overall fitness and health is a good goal for anyone. 

Weight training

Weight training can be a great tool. But only if you take it seriously, have a plan in place and are following a regimen suited to your goals. 

First of all, be safe. Know the proper way to perform lifts. Have spotters or safety equipment available. Getting injured sucks. 

Have patience going in. But keep pushing yourself. The simplest way to explain the purpose of weight training is that you are adapting your muscles, joints and neural receptors to the stresses you put them under. The rest and repair part of the cycle is necessary for adaptation. The body is an amazing thing if you treat it right. 

An important concept to remember is progressive overload. This means over time, as your body adapts to the workout, you add to the volume (sets/reps) and/or intensity (weight/tempo) to adapt to higher stresses. 

As an example, Think of squatting 100 pounds. Your goal is 300. Starting at the 100, each week you add 10 pounds to the bar. Over months, you'll build up to your goal. This is a simple example. 

Progressive overload is a concept you'll use in many forms of training and preparation in sports. In baseball, you see it every year when pitchers report to spring training a couple weeks before position players. When they show up, they aren't throwing 100% and 100 pitches. They start building their arm up over many sessions until they reach their target in volume and intensity. 

Getting the right training plan is important too. Bodybuilders, powerlifters, and athletes are going to need different programs to meet their goals. Likewise, baseball players, football players and marathoners would have different programs to follow. 

Because of this, it's not a bad idea to work with a trainer or coach to develop a lifting plan to fit your goals. 

Your voluntary muscles are made up of two types of muscle fibers, "type I" and "type II". Type I is called slow-twitch. They produce less force but take longer to fatigue. Long distance runners, long distance swimmers and bicyclists heavily train these fibers for their goals. In lifting, these are trained by very high rep, relatively low weight sets.

Type II are called fast twitch. They are responsible for fast, explosive movement, produce larger forces, but tire quickly. Sprinters and Olympic lifters focus on these. They are trained in the gym by doing low volume reps at higher weights. Plyometrics are a great tool for developing these fibers, too.

For most athletes, a mix of training of both muscle types is needed for optimal performance. In baseball, for an example, a catcher will recruit type I for squatting behind the play all game, but type II for popping up and throwing to 2B. 

As a baseball player, you will have multiple elements to a workout plan. General strength building, baseball specific lifting, explosive movement training, core training,  flexibility training and recovery intervals. All of this is in addition to on the field training. 

One aspect to consider in your lifting plan, especially for athletes is muscle balances. Baseball motions like throwing and hitting are very repetitive. It's reasonable to workout to improve the muscles used for these movements.

Just as important, though, is working the muscles that counter the agonist or primary ones. The antagonist or counter muscles provide joint stability and compliment the agonist. Especially important in explosive movements, they also act in controlled deceleration. 

The limiting factor on a race car isn't the engine. It's the ability to brake quickly and safely. That's the role of the antagonist muscles. Examples are your rear shoulder, bicep and upper back quickly slowing down your arm after delivering a pitch. 

Ignoring these muscles is a ticket to injury. Because of this, most baseball weight training programs will be balanced but have particular emphasis on back, rear shoulder, rear leg and core targeting lifts to provide stability for normal baseball movements. 

Injuries suck. Do what you can to prevent them.

Your workout during the season and offseaon will look different. The offseason will have more of a strength building and recovery focus. In season workouts will have more on field and explosive elements to go with conditioning. Both should include flexibility, core and stability exercises as well.

Mind-muscle training

May the force be with you.

At least when it comes to physical activity. After all, movement is essentially managing the force your muscles exert. Where, when, how fast, and how much exertion expended. This is true whether you are throwing a pitch or typing on a computer. 

Those muscles are controlled by neurons firing charges through their pathways between your brain and the muscle. That muscle has many parts that work together to contract and release. 

Many of our movements we do without thinking. When we walk, we don't even think about it. Our bodies do this pretty efficiently. Thats because we've done it so much throughout our lives that our muscles are adapted to the forces necessary to achieve this task. 

But we can control and be more efficient at walking if we choose to. And that's true of other activities we want to train, too.

When you are new to an activity, that neural connection is not very efficient. Think of infants trying to take their first steps. They must learn to walk. It's not pretty at first,, but once they get the hang of it. You are chasing them everywhere. 

Even if you have sufficient muscle, you likely aren't recruiting them to their current potential when you first begin a new movement. 

As you train your muscles to be more efficient, you will often see quick jumps in ability. A big part of that is you are recruiting existing muscle fibers to act together when you perform a movement. 

You see this a lot when you first start a workout program. Strength gains will come quickly as your muscles become more adapted to the lift. But you will come to a point where you "peak". Improvement will slowdown because you're at a point of top muscle recruitment efficiency. To see further gains requires progressive overload to create fibers that can create more force. 

That's why practice is important. Practice can help you but it can also hurt you. Because every time you perform an activity, you are training your muscles to perform the way you practice them. This makes practicing good techniques and using proper form so important, especially with an activity new to you. You want to reach that "peak" of performance. At that point improvements can still come, but will require more focused development. Many never reach that initial peak do to bad habits or coaching.

It's often difficult to correct a bad habit. It's better to learn it right from the beginning.  Even if that means taking it slow at first. Whether it's lifting, throwing or hitting, developing that mind-muscle connection is a major step in success. 

Baseball Training

This is where the real work begins. 

Baseball is waiting until it's time to explode. Whether swinging, throwing or running, it's done at a level of maximum effort. 

Baseball is a hard game. It takes hard work to be good at it. It's a marriage of force and precision. 

Hitting a baseball isn't easy. Hitting it where nine opponents can't get it is even harder. Failing 7 out of 10 times is still considered success. Even getting to that average takes a lot of training and practice. 

This should be taken into consideration in training. Don't be discouraged.. This is a place that the concepts in fitness, weight training and mind-muscle control get applied to baseball specific training. 

Developing a good swing form is important. If it's sloppy or inconsistent, it's going to make hitting difficult. Building a solid swing is the starting point to hitting success.

Beyond that and just as important is developing bat control. A good swing is worthless if you can't get the bat on the ball. Having enough strength to swing the bat is needed. Likewise, training yourself to recognize and react to pitches on time is necessary. And having the muscle control to put the bat where your brain tells it is what separates good hitters from those that struggle. 

All of these elements require practice. For it to transfer to game success, make every rep deliberate. Don't just go through the motions. Have a plan everytime you step in for batting practice. At the top of that list should be barreling up while swinging with good technique. 

It can take thousands of cuts to develop a swing that produces at the plate. Make every one of those count. Remember, it's more difficult to correct a bad habit than to develop a good one to begin with.

On the field, the same principles apply. Whether you are an infielder or outfielder, developing good footwork and throwing mechanics should be a priority. Efficiency is important. Every second counts on defense.

Taking good reps makes the game slow down for you. When you are relying on your athletic ability instead of fundamentals, the risk of a fielding or throwing error rises dramatically. There's often a tendency to rush that pulls throws off line or leads to booted balls. 

By developing your muscle memory and control through repetition you can field the ball with urgency while having technique ingrained. This really slows down the play from your perspective. You have less of an urge to rush. You will field more balls cleanly and make solid, accurate throws. 

Remember, you are training your muscles to efficiently do what you tell them. The more you do this, the more it feels like instinct. 

Pitching is a specialized position. But it still requires the same philosophy to training. 

It demands good reps and proper form. Creating efficiency and muscle memory is the first tool in locating pitches and improving velocity. 

Pitching requires explosive movement along with endurance. Because of this, it's especially important for hurlers to develop solid practice habits, adhere to a good throwing program and go through the steps of proper arm care and development. Out of all positions, pitchers have the highest risk of arm and shoulder injury. Being proactive in injury prevention is essential to taking the mound long term. 

Catcher is another position that's very specialized. It requires good throwing fundamentals, leg strength, endurance and a mental toughness that must be developed. 

Behind the plate, you have to expect to get beaten up. You hope to catch the ball with the mitt, but often you'll have to use any body part you can to stop a ball. Sometimes there's no choice as foul tips are unpredictable. The practice of blocking balls in the dirt is taxing, but will make doing it when it counts feel natural. In a game it can be the difference in a run scoring or holding the runner. 

Pitch tracking is also a skill that needs development. Hitters do this to determine whether to swing or not. Catchers do this for the purpose of catching, blocking and catching base stealers. It's a mental focus that can be improved with practice. Like infielders taking groundballs, the more pitches you track, the more the game slows from your perspective. This makes your reaction time better. 

Another mental exercise is pitch calling. Just arbitrarily calling pitches and locations will often lead to your pitcher getting rocked. Every pitch to every batter is a data point. 

Catchers need to train themselves to analyze. Take into consideration the pitcher, batter, game situation, pitches thrown and the umpire's strike zone. Then call a pitch based on those factors. Like everything else in the sport, it takes practice to develop. 

Getting the best out of the pitcher is an important skill. So is keeping the hitter guessing. Treat it that way. 

Injuries

Face it. We are older. With each year, our risk of injury increases. 

That's all the more reason to keep your body healthy and prepared for the stresses you put on it while playing. 

Injuries happen a lot in baseball. Because of the explosive exertions needed to perform, even a well trained body can succumb to them. 

Because of that, injury prevention is important to minimize the impact the stresses put on our muscles and joints. 

Adapting yourself to the movements and intensity you play with can help. Maintaining muscle balance around joints is important to decrease damage from insufficient deceleration. Giving yourself quality recovery time between workouts and baseball activity can reduce overuse injuries.

And because injuries do happen, take them seriously. I know it's in a lot of our nature's to play through the pain. We don't want to show weakness. But at the same time we want to be fit to take the field in the future. 

This is where I will say it. If you are injured, you should go to a doctor and get it evaluated. Some of you will, some of you won't. But at least consider it. Don't run yourself out of the game because you want to tough it out. 

Final Thoughts

Having the opportunity to play baseball as an adult is a blessing. 

We aren't out there because our parents force us. We aren't chasing scholarships or trying to get drafted. Our childhoods are behind us. But we still get keep a piece of it by taking the field.

We play because we choose to. We enjoy it. It fulfills us. It provides a challenge that we are hungry for. 

At the same time, there are obstacles for us. There are jobs and families that need our attention. We have responsibilies and other interests that compete for our time. They are important and part of adulting is making the right priorities. 

Because of this, training may take a back burner. We don't have the pressures to practice that we did as kids. Instead, we have to take the initiative and choose to be serious about our development as a player. 

And that's what it comes down to. A choice. If you choose to train or not is up to you. But I certainly recommend that you do. Even if you just put the effort into living a healthy lifestyle, it will keep you on the field longer and with more joy and success. 

Because, at the end of the day, we want to be playing the game we love. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided you with information that will help you along your baseball adventure. 

I'd love to here your thoughts on training and body conditioning for baseball. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

And if you know someone that could benefit from this, I welcome you to share it. 

⚾️⚾️⚾️

Play ball





 




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