Adding muscle mass has long been known to affect how baseball players can move and play. Too much muscle can limit swinging ability, reduce agility in the field and hinder mobility outside the batter's box. However, a muscular build is important for power and performance; it just needs to be developed in the correct manner. After all, it takes muscle to power the ball over the fence multiple times a season. Great players like Chris Davis of the Orioles and Gian Carlo Stanton of the Marlins, who boast thick frames and tremendous batting power, have proved that a muscular physique can be an asset on the diamond.
Today, with the advances in exercise science and the acceptance of functional training as a culture, baseball players are building muscle correctly and benefiting from large boosts in performance. To do so requires not getting caught up in just pushing for higher numbers. Bench pressing 500-plus pounds doesn't mean a player will hit more home runs. The goal is to become a better baseball player by adding strength and muscle in the right places.
To create a baseball strength training routine that builds muscle without sabotaging performance, follow these rules. Some may seem rather basic, but with proper implementation, they will ensure that players add muscle properly—i.e., in a manner that supports their baseball performance instead of hindering it.
Rule 1: Keep Your Goals in Mind
Legendary strength coach Dan John referenced this rule at a lecture at Michael Boyle's Strength and Conditioning clinic. Coaches and athletes should always keep their goals in mind during everything they do in the weight room. It's easy to be distracted by other (sometimes fancier) movements that may look cool but won't benefit performance.
Create a plan that will help you achieve your goals and put full effort into it. After carrying out your plan, assess your performance. Was the plan effective? Did you gain strength? Did your overall baseball performance improve? Then set a few new goals and develop a new plan to push your performance even higher.
Rule 2: Form and Function
Sloppy reps equal sloppy results. Whenever you work through an exercise, focus on full range of motion, not just finishing a rep. Working on full range and including corrective work that improves mobility will help you maintain flexibility while you pack on muscle.
Choose exercises that meet the demands of your sport and position. Although, some exercises carry over to every sport, a few should be used more often than others. In baseball, athletes should move laterally in the frontal plane to mimic on-field demands and perform medicine ball and plyometric drills to improve their power at the plate.
Rule 3: Intensity = Success
If you observe the first two rules, Rule 3 is the last one you will ever need. Effort is different for everyone. Some put in a little effort and get good results, but athletes who truly commit to pushing themselves to the limit achieve superior results. You can use the best exercises in the world, but if you fail to put forth adequate effort, the work will be wasted.
What Does a Baseball Muscle Building Plan Look Like?
Here is a "Phase 1" program that you can begin to use to help build muscle and improve your baseball performance.
When done correctly, adding muscle can be an instant performance booster for baseball players. But if it's executed poorly, a muscle-building plan can actually be a detriment to performance. When building the perfect program, keep your goals in mind and select exercises accordingly. Commit to your program and work hard. Ideal exercise combinations are wasted with sloppy form. Take the time to craft an appropriate program, take a focused approach and execute your plan to perfection for immediate improvements in performance.
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