In Part 1 of this series entitled “Does Size Matter?”, I talked about how we have seen an influx of MLB players that are taking their training to a new level. Videos of Bryce Harper deadlifting 500 and Chapman benching 3 plates are common in the off-season. These players are taking their general prep phase with a new vigor that we have not seen in past generations. One look around the MLB will show how important mass is to the modern baseball player. Aaron Judge belongs in a football uniform, yet we find him donning Yankee pinstripes. In the past, players had always trained specifically, which is important, but you will not lead you to your full potential. They hit the batting cages and long tossed but looked like they were desk jockeys that drank too much. Athletes need to take their general prep phase seriously, because this will allow them to reach their furthest potential.
What is general prep? It encapsulates everything that you do outside of your specific movement (hitting, pitching, etc.). General prep is often overused in advanced athletes (I will expand on this in a future post), but is also skipped by many youth athletes who do too much specific work. Many youth baseball players skip the weight room because many coaches still tell them that weightlifting isn’t important or can stunt their growth, neither of which are true. (Watch this video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCZKbr76Nh4 if you still believe the myth that weights will stunt your growth).
However, this is not happening to the new generation of MLB players. Just look how massive some of the players on the field are nowadays. Aaron Judge and Miguel Cabrera are two players that should come to mind for most. You must take nutrition and lifting seriously if you want to be an elite level athlete of at least 230 pounds. While there are genetics involved, you still need to be very devoted and put in many hours in the weight room. Many might argue that adding muscle mass won’t help you hit the ball, or increasing your back squat will not translate to a pitcher. These are also the same people telling you that command is king, and will promise you a college scholarship.
While they are partially correct, the weight room has no direct transfer, it will allow them to produce significantly more power. It is then the job of the athlete and coach to translate that power into on field performance.
While today I will focus on strength and size development (everyones favorite part of training) there are many other general prep categories such as mobility, speed and agility training. Strength however is the foundation of all these traits, if you miss this step in your training career you will be behind. This is because Strength will increase power and speed production. If you don't believe me, tell me how many 170 pound right fielders their are in the MLB today.
Power can be defined as the amount of force you are able to create times velocity. The faster you move a certain weight, the more power you can create. For example, you take two men, one who squats 405 and one who squats 225 for a one rep max. If we had each man take 205 for a set of 2 and do it as fast as they can, the guy that squats 405 will be able to move the bar faster, and thus create more power. This is because he can produce more total force. By working on your strength, you will be able to produce more power because you can produce more total force. So essentially go squat the house then you will have the ability to move light weights fast.
Speed can be defined by the ability to produce maximal muscle contraction over a given time period. for example: Speed-Strength is the ability to produce the greatest amount of impulse in the shortest amount of time. It would be equated like this: force multiplied by distance divided by time. While starting strength is the ability to recruit as many motor units as possible in the shortest amount of time. Both of these traits rely on the athlete’s ability to generate force, which is developed through building up your strength levels. If you don’t believe me go watch the NFL combine and tell me those aren’t the best athletes in the world. Why? Because they carry a lot of muscle mass, are strong, and run faster than anyone in the MLB. Once these strength levels are met you can then move onto other specific aspects, that work on these traits. Such as Velocity Based Training or plyometrics. However, you need to have a large base of strength before you should work on these traits.
While strength is very important, so is having a lot of mass (hopefully muscle mass, not body fat). Having more muscle mass will allow the athlete to have a higher potential for strength, which will then translate to more power production. You also want to look like you have been in a weight room.Relative strength does not matter in baseball because we are not in a weight class sport. No one cares that you can bench your bodyweight when you weigh below 180 pounds, you are still fuckin’ weak. You can be as big or as small as you want and can still play. So, by trying to stay under a certain weight (which can have its benefits if you play a certain position) you are limiting yourself. You should attempt to have as much muscle mass as possible because then you have the highest level of strength possible which will translate to higher power production. Unless you’re an elite athlete, you can benefit from more muscle mass.
I’m not saying you need to eliminate all specific exercises.You can squat a house, but if your swing sucks, you’ll probably still suck at hitting. Medball throws, explosive jumps, and Keiser-type work all have their place in a training program. But if you increase your squat and bench by 100 lbs, you’re going to be generating more power, plain and simple. And more power means you can hit the ball further and throw the ball harder.
This is exactly the trend that we are seeing in MLB players. They are bigger and stronger which translates to higher power production.
Some of the best powerlifters of all time have answered the question, “How do I increase my bench press?” with the simple answer, “Gain weight.”. Weight and strength and correlated, and we are seeing a trend of the top MLB players being “freaks” when in reality they have put in more work in the weight room and the kitchen to get them to where they are now. This is a lesson anyone looking to be an elite performer should internalize and begin acting on today.
In part three I will discuss how to develop these traits.