Shhh…don’t spoil the surprise, but it’s okay for baseball players to lift during the season. Actually, it’s highly recommended. Shocked? Don’t be. In fact, all the cool college athletes are doing it. STACK cordially invites you and your teammates to a baseball training gathering, hosted by Dave Ohton, San Diego State University baseball strength and conditioning coach. Refreshing expert knowledge is provided, but don’t forget to BYODB (Bring Your Own Dumbbells).
Who: Dave Ohton, who molds some of the top baseball players in the nation, including MLB number one draft pick Stephen Strasburg (yes, the “man, myth, and legend” of NCAA baseball with a real 103 mph heater)
What: Baseball training advice to maintain off-season strength and muscle gains; relieve mental stress during preparation for games; and enhance baseball-specific technique
Where: Your weight room
Why: No offense, but most baseball players are inherently weak. Warning-track power is probably due to two factors, according to Ohton. “A majority of it’s because high schoolers play a lot of baseball growing up,” he says. “They’re either in-season, in a fall season, or in a travel season—from Little League to varsity—so there’s not much time to devote to the weight room.” Thus, “They miss a major adaptation window to improve their strength and power performance.”
Second, Ohton believes that most baseball athletes can barely bench their body weight due to fear of training by the powers in control. He says, “The biggest controversy behind baseball strength training is that athletes are afraid to lift because they’re being told by mentors not to do so.” Discard the mindset that “because I don’t know how to do it, I won’t do it.” Ohton asserts, “We strength train to improve performance, not to create power lifters.”
Guest list: San Diego State’s in-season strength training workouts consist of the following partygoers:
Pitchers: A majority of SDSU pitchers’ training depends on practice, game and travel schedules.
“Typically, we like to bring in the pitchers for a workout the day after they throw,” Ohton says. However, immediately following a start or relief appearance, Ohton restricts their workout to six to 10 exercises. He explains, “No major exercises—we get them in and go through a shoulder, back, and hips program. We call it a ‘flush’ program.” The “flush program” allows pitchers to feel loose and prepared for the next lifting session, which is a more extensive workout with the rest of the team.
Position players: During season, Ohton encourages his position players to lift two or three times per week. “Depending on their day off, Monday or Tuesday will be a hard program,” Ohton says. “Their second day consists of a quick workout of five exercises, not including core or abdominals.”
When: On non-game days, SDSU focuses on keeping its position players moving in the weight room.
“We take the players through a warm-up and then always hit quick-foot ladders,” Ohton says. After a dynamic warm-up and either quick-foot ladder or jumping rope, Ohton’s program continues with a 12- to 20-minute workout. “The specific workout changes, but it usually includes two or three major exercises along with plenty of core and minor or assisted exercises,” he says.
To create a quick-pace atmosphere, Ohton limits each exercise to one to three sets. “Fewer sets will prevent the players from adding heavy weight, because they have to maintain rest between sets,” he says. “We’re hitting all body parts, front and back.”
Squat and Lunge variations are always included with the lower body workout. “We might hit regular Lunges, Medicine Ball ‘Touch’ Lunges, Press Lunges or Twist Lunges,” Ohton adds. Focusing on the lower body during the season can prevent injuries and help a player recover quickly from a slight pull or tear.
For upper body lifts, SDSU hitters love the old-fashioned Bench Press. “I can’t keep them away from it,” laughs Ohton. “We’ll use a six-inch pad and perform a Towel Bench Press, which keeps pressure off the shoulders.” If Benching helps your psyche or boosts your ego, then it’s a benefit.
On game day, some of Ohton’s dedicated players want to get a quick lift in three or four hours before the game. But Ohton warns, “We’re off legs. Any exercise that might lead to spasms or tightness in the lower back is off limits.” Each player has his own unique pre-game routine, and if a quick, light lift alleviates nervousness, then incorporate it into your ritual.