Strength Training for Baseball: The Off-Season Workout | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Complete Off-Season Baseball Workout, Part 2: Strength

January 13, 2014

Must See Baseball Videos

Part 1 of this series focused on fixing your body following a long and intensive baseball season. Part 2 focuses on improving your body and performance in preparation for a new season.

Strength training for baseball: myths

Strength and performance training hasn't gained as much traction in baseball as it has in other sports. Coaches and scouts have shunned it because of a set of long-held beliefs that just aren't true. Let's take a look at some of these prevailing myths and get to the truth, so you can improve your game.

Myth 1: Lifting weights will make you muscle bound.

This is probably the most common baseball myth. It is usually followed by an example of a guy who did Bench Presses and Curls for an entire off-season and came back with shoulder pain and decreased velocity.

Reality: Poor programming, not strength itself, leaves you muscle bound. Athletes often seek me out to work on their flexibility. They believe their tightness is caused by lifting, but really it's because they didn't work enough on their flexibility during their training.

Let's look at the NFL for comparison. Here we have athletes who are bigger, faster and stronger than most baseball players. Safeties in the NFL can weigh 210 pounds and run faster than most centerfielders, with terrific movement in all ranges. Did lifting make them "muscle bound" and limit their performance? No, it improved their performance and increased their ability to compete.

Myth 2: I need more time playing my sport.

Baseball players tend to believe that simply playing the game year-round gives them enough to compete on an international level with athletes from every demographic.

Reality: The best athletes are training—join in or miss out. Strength training is most apparent when you make the jump to a full-sized field and heavier bats. The bigger and stronger athletes are the ones who move ahead.

Myth 3: You are either born with talent or you aren't. 

Without the right genetics, it is nearly impossible to make it to the highest levels.

Reality: Talent is real, but the right effort and work can change your odds.

Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the physical makeup typical for success. Stephen Strasburg wasn't a phenom until he lost weight and improved his body. Dedicating yourself to the right training plan can fix your weaknesses and maximize your strengths.

So what is the right program?

Before you choose exercises for what you want to accomplish in the off-season, think about what kind of athlete you are. Are you super explosive with fast swings, fast legs and quick reactions? Or are you a slower athlete who is super strong, with slower swings but enough strength to muscle the ball where you want it?

Nearly every athlete falls somewhere along this line. Grade yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. The 1 athletes are fast and explosive—think shortstops and centerfielders. The 10 athletes are super-strong, often bigger athletes—think first basemen.

Understanding what type of athlete you are will help you choose sets, reps and a focus for your training. If you are already massively strong but can't jump over your gear bag, spending all your time getting stronger isn't the answer. If you are the fastest person on the team but are too weak to drive the ball into the gaps, strength is a priority, not more sprinting.

Pick a program and stick to it

The most important thing to remember when doing your off-season training is to stick with the program you choose. Training once in one week, then training three times a week for a few weeks and missing another week won't cut it. If you want to get better, you need to make training a priority.

Many a coach has spoken these words but they beg repeating: The best program done with little intensity isn't as good as a mediocre one done with great intensity. So pick your program, find your focus and commit to becoming a better baseball player.

How to design the right program

Step 1: Decide on a realistic schedule.

It doesn't make sense to design a program for 16 weeks when you only have 10. Prescribe things based on your time constraints.

Step 2: Have a goal for each phase.

Break up your training into three- or four-week phases. Each phase should work a physical trait or small number of traits important to maximizing your athletic ability.

The last phase should focus on the most important performance aspects—speed, power or a combination of both.

Step 3: Have a purpose for each exercise.

Why are you doing a Deadlift? Why are you doing a One-Arm Cable Row? Why are you benching? If you can't give a reason, get rid of it. You don't have time to spend doing things that lack a purpose. Becoming better is the goal. Make sure that what you are working on gets you there.

A 12-week program

Weeks 1-3 - General preparation and muscular growth/improved work capacity
Weeks 4-6 - Strength focus
Weeks 7-9 - Muscular size and increased power training
Weeks 10-12 - Strength and power focus


General prep/work capacity

  • 12-15 reps
  • <60% of a 1 rep max

Muscle gain

  • 8-12 reps
  • <75% of 1 rep max

Strength/muscle gain

  • 5-8 reps
  • 75-85% of 1 rep max

Strength and Power

  • 3-5 reps
  • 90-95% of 1 rep max

Here are a few more guidelines:

  • Primary lifts follow the phase focus and its prescribed reps.
  • Accessory lifts should stay between strength and muscle gain, unless work capacity is the goal.
  • When introducing a new lift, it is better to do more sets of fewer reps than lots of reps.

Here are two programs for two different phases. The first is a muscle gaining phase workout, and the second is geared toward strength. This athlete is assumed to be a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10—not too springy, but not just strong either.

Muscle-gaining workout

1a) Foam Roll

2a) Dynamic Warm-up

2b) Correctives

Power development (look for this in Part 3 of the series)


3a) Front Squat

  • 4 x 10

3b) One-Arm Cable Row

  • 4 x 8

4a) Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

  • 3 x 8

4b) TRX Row

  • 3 x 12

5a) Plank Hold

  • 2 x 20 sec

5b) Half-Kneeling Band Apart

  • 2 x 12

5c) Pallof Press

  • 2 x 10 ea.

Strength phase workout

1a) Foam Roll

2a) Dynamic Warm-up

2b) Correctives

Power development (look for this in Part 3 of the series)


3a) Trap Bar Deadlift

  • 4 x 5

4a) Landmine Press

  • 3 x 8

4b) Stability Ball Hamstring Curls

  • 3 x 8

5a) Push-Ups with Vest

  • 3 x 8

5b) Face-Pulls

  • 3 x 10

5c) Farmers Walk

  • 3 x 20 yards

Both workouts follow the same initial set-up, from foam rolling to correctives. Each has a dedicated section for power development, and each has paired sets. In strength phases, it is helpful to do the primary exercises alone to allow full recovery and focus on the exercise itself.

Read more:

Bill Rom
- Bill Rom is the Director of Performance Training at Prospect Sports (Farmingdale, N.Y.), where he has worked with several NFL, MLB, and Division I athletes. A...
Bill Rom
- Bill Rom is the Director of Performance Training at Prospect Sports (Farmingdale, N.Y.), where he has worked with several NFL, MLB, and Division I athletes. A...
Must See
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,518,162
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 2,772,532
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,797,524

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Wisconsin Views: 224,260
Path to the Pros 2015: Training Days Views: 117,335
Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 388,894
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

4 Deadlift Variations to Increase Your Pull

The deadlift is often considered one of the fundamental exercises for developing the strength of an athlete. Although very taxing on the nervous system,...

Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

Develop Core Strength for Throwing

Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

The Science of Building Muscle: 2 Ways to Maximize Hypertrophy

Improve Soccer Agility with Lateral Strength Exercises

These 3 Single-Leg Movements Will Improve Your Squat Technique

5 Exercises to Develop Soccer Power

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

7-Exercise Core-Blasting Workout

How NOT to Perform a Pull-Up (With Fixes)

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

Reach New Training Heights With Resistance Band Exercises

Mike Boyle's 5 Tips for More Effective Workouts

How Functional Training Has Overly Complicated Strength Training

4 Simple Golf Core Exercises to Increase Your Driving Distance

Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

Dominate Your Bench Test With This Strategy

7 Strategies for Faster Workout Recovery

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

Kyle Lowry's 12-Week All-Star Training Program

3 Post-Activation Potentiation Combos for Explosive Strength

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

3 Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercises to Boost Your Performance

Make Lifts More Challenging With Resistance Bands

Mike Boyle: 4 Small Muscles That Can Lead to Big Gains

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Exercise

How Often Should You Vary Your Exercise?

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Youth Athletes

How to Design a Greco-Roman Wrestling Training Program

4 Weaknesses That Can Ruin Your Exercise Technique (With Fixes)

Master the Lateral Lunge to Improve Your Hockey Stride

Increase Your Explosiveness with the Power Curl

7 Best Lower-Body Strengthening Exercises

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

7 Ways to Work Out Competitively Without CrossFit

A Better Way to Train Your Core