High School baseball season is upon us! Fresh clean jerseys (thanks Ma), shiny cleats, sunglasses on the hat, and wrists taped to add essentially no support. It’s go-time and the boys are excited!
But the hype will only last so long - it is still an over 20 game season that spans 3 months. And the time to shine is March, April, and especially May in the postseason. Which begs the question, “How can I play really well now, really well through league play, and really really well in May - the postseason?” This brings us to the pitfall that most high school athletes fall into - peak performance during weeks 1 and 2 and no game plan for the following 3 months.
What do I mean? A little bit of sport performance science is needed here. Here is how long adaptations from training last if you stop training:
Strength: ~4 weeks
Repeat-Power: ~2 weeks
Speed: ~1 week
Let’s give an example in baseball terms.
You trained hard in the off-season, put on 10 pounds of muscle since last season, and now you can hit a ball 380 feet to left center - a bomb! After 1 month of not training for max strength, you notice you’ve lost a few pounds and the jersey seems a little looser. At the plate, you get “all of it” on a barreled ball to left center. It pulls up at the warning track at 360 feet. Why? You did not keep the hard earned adaptation you developed in the off season. You stopped training.
This is GOOD news! Why? Because there is a component of the game that a vast majority of your competition are not addressing - there is an edge that you can take advantage of. Here is how…
For simplicity, let’s focus on one component for now - weight train HEAVY once per week. I can hear your response already, “But I don’t want to be sore!” What if I told you you can lift heavy, not be sore, and feel better the next day. Too good to be true? Believe it. It’s true. The reason you feel sore after the workout is connected to the weight you move (in sport performance, we call this intensity) AND the number of reps (what we call volume).
So in your mind, you are probably thinking, “Okay, I now know I need to lift weights in season, but I do not want to be sore. So I think what I will do is lift lighter weights to keep in shape. And since it is easy to lift lighter weights, I will do a few extra reps.” Aka, low intensity, high volume. True, you will not be sore. BUT, will you keep your strength? Unfortunately, no. Your strength gains will diminish. Without being exposed to heavy loads, you lose adaptations to your nerves and muscles.
So what if we did the opposite? What if, rather than lifting lighter weights, 3 sets of 10, we lifted heavy weights, 85% of your max, but we only did 3 sets of 3 reps? Just 9 reps. “Just 9 reps?” Yes, just 9 reps - high intensity, low volume. The next day, possibly to your surprise, you would NOT be sore. And, most importantly, YOU WILL STAY STRONG! …(And you would feel surprisingly good… maybe even better than before… but more on that another time)
So at a quick snapshot, the science says strength train twice per week. 1 day power focused, 1 day max strength focused. All of it is lower volume (lower reps). And yes, there are still lots and lots of other components that go into what and how to train in season, like don’t forget to mix in necessary pre-hab exercises to keep your body healthy. But when executed intelligently, you will not peak week 2 of pre-season. You will be strong and powerful and fast throughout the season and into the off-season.
Note - with the fact that you are a developing high school athlete, with this training program in combination with games and practices, that 380 foot “got all of it” hit, by the end of the season you are likely looking at 390 to 400+. And pitchers, a similar trend will be seen in throwing velocity.