Why Pitchers Should Avoid Cardio Workouts

Recent studies show that cardio workouts do not benefit pitchers. STACK Expert Vinny Caposio shares the correct training recipe.

In a recent baseball training study, researchers from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recorded in-game heart rates of 16 professional baseball starting pitchers in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. The study showed that the pitchers' heart rates varied slightly from inning to inning, and that "inning-dependent psychological factors" caused the changes.

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The results show that baseball pitching is predominantly an anaerobic activity. Consequently, when developing conditioning programs for professional baseball starting pitchers, strength and conditioning practitioners should prescribe high-intensity exercises.

Another study by the Department of Physical Education at the University of Illinois examined ways to increase endurance by having participants add three days of strength training to their routinesfor a total of 10 weeks. These researchers found that certain types of endurance performance, particularly those requiring fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment, can be improved by strength training. As an added benefit, they also found that after 10 weeks, leg strength was increased by an average of 30 percent.

RELATED: Should Pitchers Ice After Throwing to Prevent Shoulder Injuries?

We all know how important leg drive is for pitchers!

What Does This Mean?

Contrary to popular belief, pitchers—and other explosive athletes for that matter—do not need to incorporate aerobic training into their routines. While training aerobically may increase "general fitness levels," it's not what pitchers need to enhance their performance.

Baseball players are fast-twitch athletes. They perform high intensity, short duration movements with adequate, often substantial, rest between reps. By training aerobically—long duration, low intensity, few or no rest periods—they would be enhancing an ability they do not use on the field.

What pitchers should be doing is lifting weights. Strength training not only increases work capacity, it also grows muscle mass, decreases fat and increases strength and power.

RELATED: 5 Exercises Pitchers Should Avoid—and Several They Should Do

What Is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic training is any training that is low intensity, long duration and/or is performed with little or no rest.

A Common Mistake

The most common training mistake is failing to recover fully between repetitions. If you do not recover fully, your training becomes more aerobic and deflates your results. An example is stringing together a series of sprints. Though sprints are high intensity movements, stringing them together slowly turns them into slow-twitch movements and starts training the wrong energy system.

What Should I Do?

  • Lift weights. Focus on the main lifts. Learn the Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press. Include accessory movements like Split Squats, Lunges, Dumbbell Presses and core stability exercises like Planks, Side Planks and Farmer's Walks.
  • Learn proper sprinting technique. For young athletes who lack a proper foundation of strength, learning how to move properly will be way more valuable than running sprints. Learning how to move efficiently and increasing strength will increase your speed dramatically.
  • Learn how to properly warm up before and cool down after each training session.
  • Learn how recovery methods like foam rolling, deep tissue massage, icing, heating and contrast showers can help you.
  • Teach yourself about nutrition. Eat a ton of veggies, cut down on sugar and bad carbs like white bread.
  • Once you have built a foundation of strength—by achieving 1.5 times your body weight on the Bench, 1.75 times your body weight on the Squat and 2 times your body weight on the Deadlift)—begin incorporating power and speed exercises into your training. Start learning how to perform and incorporate Olympic lifts: Cleans, Snatches, Speed Box Squats, Speed Deadlift, Speed Bench Press and Sprinting.

At my New York strength and conditioning gym, we use this training template to create programs for our athletes. It's simple, easy to follow and most importantly, it gets results.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASEBALL | SQUAT | BENCH PRESS | DEADLIFT | SPEED TRAINING | PITCHER