Welcome to Florida! Home of year-round baseball, from little league to high school.
Is the idea of no real rest just as disturbing to you as it is me; especially in light of the recent rash of elbow injuries and Tommy John surgeries which Dr James Andrews has attributed to year-round “competitive” throwing. But the issue for rest & recovery is equally as important for position players as it is pitchers. So the solution should be fairly simple: just don’t play year round. Easier said than done in Florida. There’s impeccable weather, fields everywhere, late winter/spring baseball, then highly competitive summer travel ball (scouts galore), and then there’s fall ball. And then it starts all over again. Sure rest is possible, just not practical. This is unfortunate as our future professional baseball players miss out on an opportunity to truly rest and recover while making appropriate strength gains. Furthermore (by playing baseball year-round) they miss out on the athleticism that can be acquired from playing other "off-season" sports capable of making them more athletic baseball players.
So when dealing with the year-round Floridian baseball player we should first, encourage the athlete and his family to seriously consider “significant” time off (R&R) from baseball as part of their year-long plan – in other words let the body repair itself from the stress that has been placed upon it from the demands of baseball; and just because you don’t feel sore doesn’t mean that you don’t need to recover and rest. However, getting them to “buy” into this idea of rest is going to be an uphill battle.
So here’s the deal; Florida baseball players just aren't getting adequate rest. Since this is the situation we will more than likely be faced with then we need to get involved. We need to make sure that the ballplayers rest when they can and that they are implementing well thought-out strength training and conditioning programs that are designed to: 1) continue to reduce the incidence of injury and 2) continue to enhance/maintain on-field performance. These training programs need to be organized and structured as if it’s a 12-month in-season program; in some regards it really is. Based on this “12-month” thinking we should first consider what can be minimized or possibly eliminated all together. This is merely a partial list, yet they represent a foundational-start for establishing that 12-month, in-season “Florida” training program.
(1) Minimize or eliminate in-gym agility drills. These drills are typically predictable type drills and just take away our focus from valuable training time. Weekly practices, pre-game infield/outfield and actual in-game action will be enough work for your players to get “real”, open-loop (unpredictable) agility drills.
(2) Minimize or eliminate actual rotational drills in favor for more Core Stiffness drills that emphasize anti-flexion, anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation of the trunk. For the same reasons outlined above, with running, throwing and hitting weekly practices and games provide plenty of actual explosive rotation. Therefore, it’s more advantageous to improve/maintain core stiffness in order to help handle these rotational demands.
(3) Minimize or eliminate isolation training all together in favor of total body training programs. The idea is not to stress individual joints by training muscles in isolation but rather to distribute training forces over multiple joints and multiple muscle systems. Training muscles in isolation are more susceptible to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) than if we spread forces over multiple muscle groups. This is extremely important - as it's possible on-field injuries could be exacerbated if your baseball players are on the field (whether it be practice or game situations) with muscle soreness acquired from isolation training. This cannot and should not happen.
As an example, consider a machine-based chest press vs. a ground-based, split-stance cable chest press: the machine-based version isolates muscles, while the ground-based version engages multi-muscle systems. Both target the chest, shoulders and triceps however the split-stance cable press provides additional advantages such as: ankle stiffness, hip flexor mobility, anterior core stiffness, and free motion of the scapula.
SIDE NOTE: it has been researched that we are only capable of pressing approximately 30%-40% of our 1 Rep Max during the split-stance cable press; not because the pushing muscles lack the necessary strength but because there is a lack of core stiffness (stability). This is referred to as Stabilization Limited Training (SLT) a form of training in which the production of force and execution of movement is limited by the strength of the stabilizers and not necessarily of the prime movers involved in a particular exercise. In other words, during functional ground based movements, such as split-stance (S-S) cable press, the prime movers can only provide the amount of force that the core and related stabilizers can support.
The whole point is to increase total body strength that can be expressed on the field and not necessarily in the gym. Does this mean that we don’t do any traditional exercises that isolate muscles? Not at all. We have our players implement them, only when they can provide adequate rest and recovery during an off-season.
All in all, here in Florida rest & recovery will continue to be a precious commodity. When it happens fantastic. And when it doesn’t we simply express our concerns and share our “year-round, in-season” training philosophy.
Out train the game.