Jul 19, 2018
Armed & Ready, Part 2
Tory Stephens

Part 1 of this article can be found here.

The first offseason training block for the Texas Tech University baseball team begins when our athletes return to campus in late August and lasts five weeks until the beginning of October. When the players first report, we put them through our program orientation. This involves our Sports Dietitian, Dayna McCutchin, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, completing her initial individual evaluations and education on all nutrition-related items. In addition, we explain our yearly plan so every guy is all-in on what we are doing and why, and we teach our mobility, stability, and movement prep routines.

Orientation is also when we cover our arm care protocols. It doesn’t matter how talented or strong a baseball player is, if his arm isn’t healthy, he will not see the field — whether he’s a position player or a pitcher. We dedicate a lot of time and attention to making sure the arm functions the way it is meant to, and our arm care routine takes up the first 15 to 20 minutes of each daily offseason workout. The routine consists of exercises that address T-spine mobility, lumbar stability, rotator cuff strength, serratus anterior and scapula activation, soft-tissue mashing, and stretching.

After orientation, we spend the rest of the first week on testing the vertical jump, pro-agility drill, and stance-start 30- and 60-yard dashes using laser timers for consistency and accuracy. In addition, I use a half-gasser test that I adopted from Raychelle Ellsworth, MSCC, CSCS, Associate Director of Sports Performance at Texas A&M University. I use times that are suitable for baseball players, meaning they must run 18 out of 20 half gassers in less than 16 seconds with a one-minute rest in between each one. The team also gets a two-minute timeout when all the players agree to take it.

For our lifting in Block 1, we follow a traditional linear periodization model that focuses on hypertrophy and building work capacity. Many of our incoming freshman and junior college players lack a foundation of strength and power, so we spend the first block establishing (newcomers) or re-establishing (vets) a good strength base. That way, we can progress to training power, velocity, and explosiveness in our later blocks.

Baseball requires players to throw a five-ounce baseball or swing a 30- or 31-ounce bat. In order for athletes to do those tasks efficiently, we can’t simply replicate those same loads and movements and expect to increase power, acceleration, and force production. Instead, we use our core lifts with heavy loads and a wide range of velocities, along with Olympic lifts and their variations.

Speaking of loads, I do not use a max out testing day in the weightroom during Block 1. Rather, players start every offseason with a blank max. To determine loads, we use “training maxes,” which are 90 percent of their calculated one-repetition maximums. These maxes are obtained utilizing daily record keeping to compute their theoretical maxes from the workouts each week. Athletes pencil in the weights they use every set and then go off the previous week’s weight to determine their load for the next workout.

For instance, players are assigned reps per max and will use the most weight they can complete for those assigned reps. Looking back on the previous week’s workouts, they will have a good idea of what their set weight should be. If they can’t finish the prescribed reps, they will take 10 to 15 pounds off for the next set. They’ll add up to 15 pounds if they achieve the prescribed reps. This scheme is used until we establish their three-repetition maximum (3RM) training max on core lifts in week five, which then determines percentages and intensity ranges in Block 2.

Beyond strength and power, our other focuses in Block 1 are speed, reactiveness, and conditioning. During this phase, we build a firm aerobic base for the rest of the offseason, and it’s when our conditioning volumes are the highest. With our newcomers, the emphasis is on teaching proper sprint mechanics, building work capacity, and increasing conditioning levels. Returning vets spend this phase re-establishing their conditioning base.

Most of our conditioning exercises during Block 1 include linear speed/acceleration work, agility drills, change-of-direction drills, and resisted runs. Some common drills we use are 10-yard stance start variations, flying 20’s and 30’s, heavy sled tows to mimic the acceleration posture, and mini-hurdle wicket runs to mimic and teach top-end speed posture.

Here’s a week-by-week breakdown of our programming in Block 1:

Week 1: Orientation and testing.

Week 2: 3×10 on core lifts, 3×5 on Olympic lifts and variations.

Week 3: 3×8 on core lifts, 4×3 on Olympic lifts and variations.

Week 4: 4×5 on core lifts, 5×3 on Olympic lifts and variations.

Week 5: 5×3 on core lifts, 6×2 on Olympic lifts and variations. Establish 3RM training max on core lifts.

Tory Stephens, MSCC, is in his 22st year as a strength coach and seventh as Assistant Athletic Director/Director of Strength, Conditioning, and Nutrition at Texas Tech University, where he works with the baseball team.

Shop see all »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
website development by deyo designs
Interested in receiving the print or digital edition of Training & Conditioning?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites: