Pitchers: STOP Running Poles!

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Alex, what’s the purpose of running poles? I’m a high school pitcher and I’m sick of jogging on days I’m not pitching. I’ve been reading your blogs and I feel I would benefit more from doing some lifting instead of running. What do you think? 

Chris A. 

Chris, you’re 100 percent right. Your game would benefit GREATLY from doing strength training opposed to running poles every practice. You telling me that’s all your high school coach is having you do really bothers me, and I’ll tell you why. Running poles is NOT making you a better pitcher AT ALL. There’s hundreds of other things you can do to improve your game(optimize mechanics, general strength training, power development etc.) in the time your wasting running poles.

How often do you think Mike Trout does any kind of long distance running? I would almost guarantee he NEVER does. Why would he? Baseball is a power dominant sport. Having said that, what about pitchers? Why are they different than position players? Yes, they aren’t swinging a bat as much as position players but pitchers still need to be extremely powerful. Last time I watched a Major League Baseball game I saw pitchers exploding off the mound on one leg, firing their core and throwing a 90 plus mph fastball to the plate all in one explosive POWERFUL rep. So why are trainers, and coaches training baseball players like long distance track athletes? Yes, a properly trained aerobic system is an important piece to a position player, or pitchers training as it provides multiple benefits, most notably recovery. However, aerobic work should NOT be a majority of any baseball players training program when their sport relies so heavily on being as powerful as possible.

Following up, I want everyone to realize that I’m not bashing the importance of a well developed aerobic system, but rather the METHOD most baseball players are using to train their aerobic system.

“Distance running to me does not offer significant enough movement variability to be a useful training option for developing the aerobic system.” – Eric Cressey 

Eric Cressey who trains predominantly baseball players, many of whom are professional, couldn’t have said it better! There are many ways we can not only improve our aerobic capacity, but also our power, unilateral strength, general strength, and mobility at the same time. Ways I’ve been incorporating aerobic work with my college and pro players is through variety. The specific aerobic system training we do is usually done on a movement/active recovery day.

Here are some sample aerobic based workouts we do:

1. Prowler Intervals – I like prowler intervals for pitchers as their improving unilateral lower body strength. We have to realize pitchers are pushing off one leg and landing on one leg, so single-leg work is a crucial piece that needs to be added in every pitchers program.

2. Pool Work – Ex: High Knee Intervals 30 sec. on 30 sec. off for 10-20 minutes.

3. Mobility Circuits – This is where I’ll have the guys simply “move around” for 30-40 minutes with a variety movement/dynamic warmup type of exercises to get their heart rate up. They improve their recovery, get their heart rate up, and improve movement quality so they can get into stronger positions on the field (pitching delivery, swing, sprint).

4. GPP Circuits – Since everyone has to be very powerful in baseball, it’s also useful to use power type movements and perform them extensively in a circuit type fashion to develop aerobic capacity. This GPP(General Physical Preparedness) circuit consists of a compilation of easy-to-master movements that are cycled through for a given period of time. What you want to do is pick 4-6 movements, keep a running clock of 10-20 minutes, perform each exercise at 60-70% intensity, and try to complete as many rounds as possible in the given time you set before hand. Here’s a sample GPP Aerobic circuit I did with St. Lawrence University Starting Pitcher, Emmett Dunn

Chris, unfortunately many coaches are “behind the times” in their training philosophies, especially in baseball. Believe me, I went through what your going through multiple times in my baseball career. What I suggest you do is show your coach this post, show him the research backing up how strength training improves velocity and change the game at your high school! Just because something was done in the past doesn’t mean it’s the best way to improve your game today! Hopefully this helped!

-Alex 

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