As we move closer to the start of the high school baseball season, our priorities in the weight room must change as well. Before we discuss what should be done during this time period, we need to define what the “pre-season” actually is.
When talking about time periods for strength and conditioning, there is a big difference between off-season and pre-season. There is also a difference between pre-season lifting and pre-season games.
Most people understand the off-season pretty quickly, in lifting and games it is the time period where there are no in-season games being played.
Pre-season however is slightly different. It technically falls under the off-season umbrella (no in-season games being played) but priorities make a major switch. This is different from pre-season games which are typically anything before league or conference play in at the amateur levels.
SO WHAT’S DIFFERENT?
The biggest and most universal difference between off-season and pre-season lifting is the priority of game skill vs lifting.
Off-Season = huge focus on getting bigger, stronger and faster with a small emphasis on game skill. The weight room takes precedent over the field. It is ok to be tired, spend less time practicing and take days off.
Pre-Season = everything switches. The focus becomes on your game and field skills and utilizing the new strength and speed you developed in the off-season. This is where practice time picks up and weight room time falls. If for whatever reason you had to choose between a lifting session or practice session, the practice session should be your choice
SO NO MORE LIFTING?
This is where you will find a ton of different philosophies. Yes we all scale back on lifting and increase on field demands but do we scale back intensity? Do we train for speed? Do we only do sport specific lifts? Do we just condition?
For the sport of baseball I prefer to utilize a 2 month long “pre-season” period. This works out well because the athletes come back from Christmas break at the beginning of January and the season begins late February or early March.
The 2 months or 8 weeks are broken down into 3 phases
This phase will look more or less like our off-season lifting blocks. Athletes are just coming back from a 2 week break and more than likely did not do anything. This 3 week block is put in place to get them under the bar again and “get back in lifting shape.”
Phase 1 = Monday – baseball specific conditioning, Wednesday – traditional lift, Friday – agility training with circuit style lifting. The circuit is not meant to gas them, it is all explosive lifts with adequate rest between sets.
Here is where we begin to really change our approach. We will up the intensity of the conditioning day on Monday but keep it baseball specific (no one should throw up), we will begin to transition Wednesdays lift into heavy posterior chain lift and keep Friday as our “athletic” day. I have found using terms like “athletic day” help the players understand the intent much faster.
Phase 2 = Monday – baseball specific conditioning, Wednesday – heavy posterior chain lift, Friday – agility training with circuit style lifting (still not gassing them)
This phase really depends on a lot of factors. We are now approximately 2 weeks away from Game 1 and many teams will actually stop lifting at this point. I think that is a major mistake.
During phase 3 I would continue the same schedule that we had during phase 2 with some slight adjustments to the lifts.
Adjustment 1 – only condition on the 2 Monday’s prior to Game 1. Once in-season game’s begin, I will end the conditioning day.
Adjustment 2 – the phase will actually last for 6 weeks. During season our goal is to produce the best on the field product. This means we should not have to deal with major soreness during games. Extending the lifts for 6 weeks means I will be changing the lifts less often. Each time the lifts are changed it should only be a minor adjustment, regular pushups to feet elevated push ups. We should never make major changes like push ups to bench press. Athletes will be sore for weeks and on-field performance will suffer.
ON-FIELD PERFORMANCE IS THE PRIORITY!
You need to be able to analyze your athletes and make adjustments based on their needs. Some coaches still push the envelope during season, some do not. It all comes down to what your athletes can handle and how well your off-season went.
The weight room should never take away from on-field performance. Utilize proper recovery techniques and keep them running on a full tank as much as possible.
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