Baseball is a sport that requires a very unique kind of fitness. During an actual game, there is much less emphasis on endurance than there is on explosive speed and very individual and articulate skill sets, such as pitching strikes, swinging bats and defending the bases to keep an opponent from advancing towards home.
This article will detail baseball speed training workouts; plyometrics, exercises, and specific drills that can aid in cutting down the time it takes to get from one place on the field to another.
The best speed training exercises for any given athlete are going to be the ones that mimic the movement that they need to do quickly within their sport.
For baseball, this means that the emphasis should be on taking off; generating a great deal of speed from a dead stop, as happens when someone is waiting on second to steal third or make the sprint for home when a ball has been dropped by a catcher or hit into the field.
The best option for players to replicate this kind of situation and create quick, agile feet is to sprint lines. Sprinting lines not only develops cardiovascular endurance, it does so in a way that calls upon maximum exertion of the lungs and muscles in a short amount of time. It also employs quick direction changes, which is crucial for a runner in this sport.
Example: Sweet Sixteen Sprinting Drill
This is originally a basketball drill that works well for developing baseball speed and agility as well.
To adapt the Sweet Sixteen running drill, designate a start and stop line, roughly spanning the length between the home plate and first (90 feet). Set a timer for 60 seconds, and try to run the length 16 times within that minute. Make sure to touch the line each time and at each end; taking shortcuts in practice will only give opposing teams an advantage.
Record sprinting times or number of sprints/lines fit into one minute and aim to always improve on the last score. This sprinting drill is best done at the end of a practice, just before cooling down and stretching.
Baseball Plyometric Exercises
Plyometric training forces a muscle to contract with full force after being loaded or lengthened; as in a jump squat where you must jump up vertically, directly from a squat position. Plyometrics for baseball should utilize similar movements to the ones used on the field. Training for vertical gains uses essentially the muscles that are necessary for powerful forward movement, as in sprinting. These plyometric exercises are ideal for players to build explosive speed in the lower body.
Work these exercises into your weekly trainings twice a week in conjunction with regular strength training. Plyometrics should not be done any more often than 2-3 times a week in order to prevent unnecessary injuries and muscle strains. Always make sure that you do the exercises on an even and relatively soft surface (never on concrete, grass is more ideal).
Combine regular team practices with plyometrics exercises, regular speed sprint drills and strength training and you will have some seriously fast sprinters on the field.