Aug 6, 2018
Armed & Ready, Part 4
Tory Stephens

Part 1 of this article can be found here.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Part 3 of this article can be found here.

In past weeks, we’ve introduced the Texas Tech University baseball team’s off-season training program and detailed Blocks One and Two. This week, we’ll take a look at Block Three.

Once we have established base strength and hypertrophy in Block 1 and covered all three muscle contractions with our Block 2 triphasic training, we dive into our eight-week Block 3, which runs from mid-November to mid-January. Block 3 is the phase our players look forward to the most because our high volume of throwing and practices from the fall mini season are over, and the bulk of this block is done during winter break. For that reason, the workouts are very simple. I’ve learned that if you give players a lengthy or intimidating workout to do at home on their own, they either won’t do it or they will do their own thing — neither of which are good options.

Block 3 is when we establish the majority of our raw strength and power. I use the “5-3-1 Method” for our core lifts, created by strength coach and power lifter Jim Wendler. Athletes do a week of three sets of five, then a week of three sets of three, and the third week is a set of five, a set of three, and a set of one. In the last set, athletes always strive to perform as many reps as possible. Then, they deload for a week with three sets of five using lighter weight. I really like the 5-3-1 because of its simplicity, the amount of raw strength it produces, and the mental toughness it creates with the “reps plus” sets.

In Block 3, we switch to a four-day-a-week program because our baseball volume is low. The four-day split also allows us to work the 5-3-1 Method effectively. Three days are spent on the three core lifts — Monday is squat, Tuesday is bench or a variation, and Thursday is dead lift — and Friday is for full-body volume with four exercise supersets. We do not perform Olympic lifts during this period to keep things simple and safe for players at home.

After the core exercise of the day, the athletes can choose how many accessory lifts to do. Getting the multi-jointed base lifts in develops raw strength without spending a lot of time in the weightroom, so I leave the extra work up to the players. Some athletes spend several additional hours in the gym, while others may be there only 30 to 45 minutes for the core lifts. The accessory lifts we offer during Block 3 include: stiff leg dead lift, anterior loaded split squat, landmine press, chest-supported single-arm rear delt raise, chin-ups or underhand grip lat pulldowns, and an ab circuit, among others.

As for the schedule, we follow the 5-3-1 Method for three weeks, then deload for a week, and repeat the pattern with newly established maxes. All percentages assigned are based off of players’ training maxes.

Here’s a week-by-week breakdown of our programming in Block 3:

Week 13: Warm-up sets, then 5×65 percent, 5×75 percent, 5+x85 percent on core lifts, accessory exercises of athlete’s choice.

Week 14: Warm-up sets, then 3×80 percent, 3×85 percent, 3+x90 percent on core lifts, accessory exercises of athlete’s choice.

Week 15: Warm-up sets, then 5×75 percent, 3×85 percent, 1+x95 percent on core lifts, accessory exercises of athlete’s choice. Establish new max here.

Week 16: Deload. 5×40 percent, 5×50 percent, 5×60 percent on core lifts, accessory exercises of athlete’s choice. No plus sets this week. Insert 90 percent of the new maxes into the routine and repeat the cycle again for weeks 17 to 20.

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.

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