Sprinting is the rapid fire of the specific muscles involved; likewise, swinging a bat is that same rapid fire of certain muscles, but on a rotational plane. Because you only have two-tenths of a second to react to a fastball, your body needs to be able to rotate those muscles quickly to the certain position they need to be in. If you train those muscles slowly, you won’t be able to make that fast movement.
To improve power and speed at IPI, we use explosive lifts rather than slow, controlled ones like the Bench and Squat. We complement this power work with speed drills and mechanics so athletes can use their power more effectively when they run.
One of the exercises we use is the Squat Jump, which many athletes perform incorrectly. Instead of sitting back on their heels in the proper squat position—where their butts come back and knees don’t fall much over their shoelaces—they take off from their toes; they think they always need to jump with their ankles.
You should always keep your back flat and hips back, so your torso is at a 45-degree angle. As you explode, push your heels into the ground and drive your hips upward. Many people allow their knees to fall forward, then push off from their toes, so their hips really don’t elevate—basically, their feet just come off the ground. We want movement from the hip region up, so the elevation comes from the center of the body, not just the feet and ankles.
Explosive Squat Jump
• Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than hip width, holding dumbbells at sides
• Sit back on heels and lower into quarter-squat position, keeping knees behind toes
• Explode out of squat position, jumping for maximum height
• Land in athletic position; hold landing
Sets/Reps/Recovery: 3-4 x 4-8 reps; rest for 2 minutes
Intensity: Begin with bodyweight and work up to 30 to 40 percent of standard Squat max
Modified: Perform with barbell across back
Advanced: Explode into next jump immediately upon landing
David Donatucci, director of IMG’s International Performance Institute (IPI)