Baseball Conditioning Drills with the Chicago White Sox

Allen Thomas is in charge of keeping Chicago White Sox players in tip-top shape all season. Learn his recipe for superior baseball conditioning.

Time to start conditioning for the baseball season. Better go hit the track and start running laps, right?

Think again, pal. You're a baseball player—train like one. Do you ever jog around the base paths? Yeah, maybe when you go yard, you run the diamond with the lumbering grace of the Great Bambino—your reward for blowing up the opposing pitcher. But for the rest of the game?—you need the wind and conditioning to perform at top speed.

Getting into baseball shape comes not from training like a marathoner, but from baseball conditioning drills—which is where Allen Thomas steps in. As the strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago White Sox, Thomas is in charge of keeping his players in tip-top shape all season. His recipe for superior baseball conditioning? Lateral speed-agility drills.

"These conditioning drills put you through every angle you would take on the baseball field," Thomas says, "whether it's swinging and coming out of the box, getting in a pickle or taking an angle on a ball in the gap. You'd be crazy not to train in those ranges."

By performing baseball conditioning drills two days a week, the White Sox maintain great speed and agility while increasing their lung capacity, which gets them moving fast and keeps them moving fast throughout the 162-game season.

Thomas has more drills than we have space to cover, so we chose the following four goodies for you to get ready to dominate the diamond.

Wheel Drill

The wheel drill is elementary, but vitally important. "The whole purpose of the wheel drill is to develop lateral speed-agility without creating a false step," Thomas explains. "It's very simple, but the repetition in this drill definitely eliminates a false step and increases your lateral speed-agility. It's unbelievable."

According to Thomas, the Wheel Drill delivers benefits in every facet of the game, from a pitcher coming off the mound to field a ball, to a catcher moving to block one in the dirt, to an infielder moving laterally to stab a hard liner, or a runner stealing a base. The drill promotes quicker movement in all situations, while simultaneously improving overall conditioning.

Perform 3 reps of the drill for each leg 2 days a week. Rest 30 seconds between reps to get full conditioning benefits.

Wheel Drill

  • Set up 12 cones like the dial of a clock
  • Stand in middle of circle in two-point stance
  • Keep right foot planted, lunge left foot to 12:00
  • Step back to start position
  • Lunge step to 11:00 and back to start position
  • Repeat for positions 10:00 through 6:00
  • Repeat with right leg keeping left foot planted
  • Lunge right foot to 12:00 and back
  • Lunge step to 1:00 and back
  • Repeat for positions 2:00 through 6:00

Pro Agility

The Pro Agility effectively develops quick changes of direction and rapid acceleration. The variations train different movements. Perform 3 reps of 2 different variations 2 days per week. Rest 10-15 seconds between reps.

  • Set up three cones five yards apart
  • Start at middle cone in two-point stance
  • Sprint five yards right or left to outside cone
  • Plant, touch line and sprint 10 yards in opposite direction to far cone
  • Plant, touch line and sprint five yards in opposite direction through middle cone

Pro Agility with Shuffle

Perform drill with shuffle step

Pro Agility with Carioca

Perform drill with Carioca step

Pro Agility with Sprint/Backpedal

Perform drill with sprint-backpedal-sprint pattern

ZigZag Drills

  • Every variation of a ZigZag Drill teaches different elements of body awareness.
  • No Plant/Cut—Emphasizes quick chopping of the feet, so you can change direction without a pronounced plant or cut.
  • Plant/Cut—Teaches how to stop fast, change direction and accelerate in a new direction.
  • Forward/Backpedal—Develops the ability to move in and out of different movements as well as picking an angle of direction when you can't see which way you're moving.
  • 360's—Helps you pick a new angle of direction rapidly when coming out of a reverse pivot.
  • Perform 2 reps of each variation 2 days per week. Rest 30-60 seconds between reps.

ZigZag Drill with No Plant/Cut

  • Start at first cone, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Turn around cone, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Do not cut or plant during turn
  • Keep chopping feet to execute turn
  • Repeat pattern, zigzagging through each cone

ZigZag Drill with Plant/Cut

  • Start at first cone, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Plant on outside of cone, cut
  • Sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Plant on outside of cone, cut
  • Sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Repeat pattern zigzagging through each cone

ZigZag Drill with Forward/Backpedal

  • Start at first cone, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Pass cone, then backpedal at 45-degree angle to next cone
  • Pass cone, then sprint at 45-degree angle to next cone
  • Repeat pattern, zigzagging through each cone

ZigZag Drill with 360's

  • Start at first cone, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Pass cone, turn clockwise, reverse pivot, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Pass cone, turn counterclockwise, reverse pivot, sprint to next cone at 45-degree angle
  • Repeat pattern, zigzagging through each cone

Crown Runs

Thomas says, "Most of the time, players don't run straight through the bag. When they run out of the box while the ball is in the air or gap, they run along a curve like a 'C'." This drill mimics that path, which makes stretching a single into a double easier. Perform 4-6 reps 2 days per week. Use walk back to the start as your rest.

  • Set up two cones 30 yards apart
  • Place third cone in middle and to the right
  • Sprint from first cone to last cone in arc motion around middle cone

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASEBALL | BASEBALL DRILLS | ENDURANCE TRAINING | TRAIN | SPRINT | DRILL | CONES | CONDITIONING DRILLS