As a strength coach who predominantly works with baseball players (high school to the major leagues), I can say without hesitation that someone asks me at least once per week how he can lower his 60-Yard Dash time.
It's a valid question and something that warrants our attention. Baseball players must be able to beat out a drag bunt or steal a base. Speed training should obviously be an important aspect of your development as a player.
However, when it comes to speed—and by extension, agility training—my approach may be a bit new to you.
The Problem With Speed Drills
Before we get into my actual recommendations, we need to address the big, purple elephant in the room. Young athletes—and their parents—assume the agility ladder and cone drills will make them faster.
The thing about speed training—and this applies to most of the young athletes who walk through our door—is that they need to be strong in order to be fast.
Think of strength as a glass of water. The water in the glass is your agility, power, speed and speed endurance. Since most young athletes are weak to begin with, they can't put much water in the glass, thus limiting their speed development. You need to make the glass bigger (increasing strength), so it can hold more water (increasing your potential to get faster).
It's akin to taking a family car and giving it all paraphernalia that make it appear fast (i.e., spoilers, a slick paint job, chrome rims, etc.). Do you think this car will win a NASCAR race? Sorry, but the cast of Jersey Shore is more likely to win a Nobel Prize in macroeconomics.
It's just an illusion. A car won't perform at a high level unless you actually increase the horsepower of the engine.
The same goes for speed training. Agility drills, ladders and cones may seem like the cool thing to do. But if you really want to get faster, you need to increase your strength so you can put more force into the ground to propel you forward faster.
Strength Training for Speed
For high school athletes, organizations such as Area Codes and Perfect Game consider a 60-Yard Dash time of under 7 seconds good, and 6.6 seconds elite. If you want to improve your 60 to get into these zones, you must—you guessed it—get stronger.
Work your lower body twice per week. I know, I know—you want a bigger upper body. But that won't do much to make you faster on the basepaths.
Focus on primary lower-body lifts that develop your glutes, hamstrings and quads. The best exercises are Deadlifts, Squats and Lunges. And don't get too cute with crazy variations. Stick to the basics, especially if you're a beginner.
Baseball Speed Workout
If you're experienced in the weight room and are ready to begin speed work, here is a two-day per week speed program that I use with my high school baseball players.
Linear Speed Work (Day 1)
- Falling Starts - 4x15 yards each leg (60 seconds rest)
- Build-Ups - 4x30 yards each leg (90 seconds rest)
Lateral Speed Work (Day 2)
Use the same Warm-Up as above, but perform the lateral drills instead of the linear drills.
- Heiden's - 4x5 each leg (60 seconds rest)
- Side Shuffle to Build-Ups - 10 yards + 20 yards each side (90 seconds rest)
Avoid Distance Running (Like the Plague)
Do not, under any circumstances, prioritize distance running. It makes absolutely no sense—unless you want to get slower. As noted above, baseball requires short bursts of energy and speed. Last time I checked, the distance between bases is only 90 feet, not one mile.
Don't Do Too Many 60's
Elite 100-meter sprinters rarely ever perform 100-meter sprints to prepare for a race. Instead, they work in the 10- to 30-meter range to hone their technique and improve acceleration. The same thing goes for baseball players.