Speed exercises are different for baseball. Players need to develop lateral strength and explosiveness. It's rare in baseball to begin running by moving straight ahead. Most of the time, you start sprinting by moving laterally, whether you're taking off to steal a base or running to field a ground ball.
The most functional way for you to train for this is to develop strength in your torso and hips, then progress to a baseball speed training program that develops overall power. A good place to start: strength exercises involving side-to-side movement.
Here's a list of basic exercises to build baseball speed. Choose one from each category to incorporate into your workouts, and periodically change your selections.
Baseball Speed Training
Lateral Strength Exercises
Sliding Lateral Lunge
- Set up with one foot on a slideboard or a furniture slider.
- Squat while letting your "sliding" leg move laterally away from your body.
- Stand back up, pulling your sliding leg back in toward your body.
- Sets/Reps: 3-4x8-10
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your legs.
- Stride laterally, keeping the weights between your legs.
- Sit back onto the heel of your stationary leg, keeping your shin roughly vertical.
- Maintain an upright chest. From the side, the lift should look like a squat.
- Drive through your heel and push yourself back up to a standing position.
- Sets/Reps: 3-4x8-10
Lateral Sled Drag
- Drag a sled sideways by performing a short crossover step in front of your lead foot.
- Keep both feet pointed straight ahead.
- Don't let your hips or shoulders turn.
- Reps/Distance: 3-4x120 feet.
Anti-Rotational Strength Exercises
Maintaining a stiff torso is extremely important when sprinting. Performing exercises that improve your ability to maintain a tight core during running can have a tremendous impact on your sprinting speed.
- Set up in a plank position with your hands directly under your nose.
- Lift one foot about 6 inches off the ground by contracting your glute on that side and extending your hip. Movement should occur at the hip; do not substitute knee flexion for hip extension.
- Keep your core tight and don't allow for any lumbar extension or rotation.
- Put your foot slowly back on the ground as softly as possible.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10-15 on each side, alternating legs.
- Set up in a push-up position with your feet wide and your hands narrow.
- Lift one hand to touch your opposite shoulder, while keeping the rest of your body completely still.
- Lower your hand slowly back to the floor and place it down softly.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10-15 on each side, alternating arms.
Lateral Explosiveness Exercises
Skater Jumps (Heidens)
Heidens are effective at developing an explosive first step, and they're very easy to do.
- Set up in a regular athletic stance.
- Leap side to side rapidly while swinging your arms like a speed skater (hence the name).
- Sets/Reps: 3x2-4
Med Ball Sprints with Baseball Starts
This is a take on an exercise that Joe DeFranco uses for sprinters.
- Start in an athletic stance as if you were on base.
- Sprint as if stealing a base, but begin the sprint by throwing the medicine ball as hard as you can in the direction you are running.
- Drive your body sideways powerfully by using both feet.
- Sets/Distance: 6-10x10-15 yards, with full recovery between sets.
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