Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are often “periodized." That is, they are broken into three or four phases over the year, with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness attribute.
For professional sports that utilize weights in their training -- which is most these days -- each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one.
A year-long baseball weight training program could look like the program I’ve outlined below. (Season cut-offs are based on the American baseball season.)
Early pre-season, January to February
- Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the layoff.
- Emphasis is on building foundational strength, muscle endurance and size (hypertrophy).
Late pre-season, March to April
- Players are working up to the start of the season and pre-season trials are imminent.
- Emphasis is on building maximum strength and power.
In-season, May to September
- Competition is underway and players are expected to be fully functional for competition.
- Maintenance of strength and power is emphasized.
Closed season, October to December
- You won the title; time to relax for awhile but you need to keep active.
- Emphasis is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity -- cross training, light gym work. Several weeks break from serious strength training is usually worthwhile. As pre-season approaches, more regular gym work can resume.
Sport-specific Training and Role-specific TrainingWithin a generic training program for a sport, further specialty sub-programs and cycles may be useful, especially in teams where members have specific roles and certain advantageous physical attributes apply. For example, a football quarterback and a defensive lineman will probably have a different program in the gym, one emphasizing speed and agility and the other bulk, strength and power. A pitcher is likely to do different gym work than a designated hitter or a catcher.
In baseball, your arm is everything, no matter what position you play. Training must be designed to strengthen and protect the throwing arm and shoulder at the same time. A ball player with an injured arm is not useful to anyone, no matter how big and strong his biceps or shoulders are. The pitcher’s arm, of course, is worth millions of dollars at the higher levels of the game and needs to be treated as an asset. Even if you are a budding young pitcher, taking good care of your arm with graded training and playing is an essential strategy for a long career.
A pitcher's strength training program may differ from that of a catcher. A catcher could place more emphasis on low squatting exercises for example, whereas a pitcher would emphasize arm endurance, power and also single leg balance and torso rotation. Pitchers need to work on strengthening the shoulder rotator cuff muscles to ensure freedom from painful and debilitating impingement injuries that can be long lasting.
Hitters rely on bulk, strength and power -- and a good eye -- to propel that ball over the fence. Soza, Bonds, and McGwire are good examples, notwithstanding the controversies over possible supplement and steroids use. Yet they still need to be agile in the field, designated hitters aside. A missed "out" can easily negate the value of a hit.
Consider the program presented here to be an all-round program, best suited to beginners or casual weight trainers without a history of weight training for baseball. The best programs are always specific to an individual's current fitness, role in the team, access to resources, and, no less important, the team coaches' essential philosophy. You will be best served by using the following program in conjunction with a trainer or coach.
If you're new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with the beginner resources.
Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season.