Should Baseball Players Lift In-Season? (Yes! Here’s How)


The culture of baseball and weight lifting has drastically changed over the past few decades. Lifting weights to enhance baseball performance has been generally accepted by most to be a good idea. But what about in-season?

YES! Lifting in-season will help maintain the strength and power that is built in the off-season.

Do the goals of each session change compared to the sessions in the off-season? Of course. But to stop lifting in-season altogether would generally be seen as a bad idea.

In this guide, I will be going over the top 5 reasons to continue lifting in-season, personnel considerations for coaches, and the competition-lifting-life-recovery balance!


In-Season Lifting


1. Maintaining Strength and Power

Working Out to Maintain Strength and Power

I generally recommend baseball players lift at least 2 days per week. This allows for a nice blend of maintenance, recovery, and injury prevention. Of course, players that have red-shirted, injured but can still lift (just upper or just lower), or players that are available but lower on the depth chart can lift more than 2 days a week.

The first day after a weekend series is the more intense, full-body strength day. This is ideally Monday or Tuesday. This day should be focused on the compound Olympic lifts, barbell movements, and heavier dumbbell movements.

The second day is typically after the midweek competition, either Wednesday or Thursday.

Because competition is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this lift is light, explosive, and focuses on range of motion, and injury prevention. I called this lift a “primer” because its goal was to prime the athlete for the 3 days of competition.

2. Posterior Chain Activation

The posterior chain is the most critical to maintaining throughout the season.

I define the posterior chain as the muscle groups along the backside of the body (Rear delts, rotator cuff, erectors, lats, glutes, and calves). This group of muscles is primarily responsible for “slowing” the body down which in turn allows the body to move faster, sometimes referred to as the “go muscles”.

Posterior chain activation through movement prep and super set into the lift is ideal. This way the athlete can work their posterior chain volume into the lift without losing time.

For Example:

Movement Prep

Supine

  • Band Resisted Glute Bridge x 10
  • Banded Side Clams x 10 Each Leg
  • Banded Psoas March x 10 Each Leg

Prone

  • Single Leg Glute Extension x 10 Each Leg
  • Rear Delt Superman x 10
  • Hand Cuffs x 10

Quadruped

  • Hip Circles x 5 Each Way
  • Hip Abductions x 5 Each Leg
  • Bird Dogs x 5 Each Leg

Lift A

1a. Trap Bar Deadlift 3×5

1b. Leg Wide Adductor Stretch x 3 Each Leg

2a. Dumbbell Bench Press 3×6

2b. Banded External Rotation 3×12 Each Arm

3. Muscular Balance

In baseball, we tend to overuse one side of our body and not the other for obvious reasons. With that in mind, the weight room can be a great place to balance the body.

Instead of doing med ball work on the dominant side, which is already being used, I would recommend still performing med ball work on the non-dominant side.

Research suggests that if one side of the body is training, there is a cross-bridge neurological effect for the non-moving side.

For example, if a player hurts their right thumb and can’t press with that side. It would still be beneficial for that athlete to lift with just the left side, while the right side rehabs.

Movement prep focusing on restoring flexibility and mobility is also going to help balance out the musculature or movement deficits. Activating the posterior chain, myofascial release with foam rollers, and breathing techniques are all great to implement into an in-season lifting program.

4. Injury Prevention

Shoulder Injury

An intelligently designed in-season program will help to mitigate injuries as well. In baseball, we commonly see shoulder, bicep, lower back, groin, and hamstring injuries. When designing the in-season program, focus on these areas:

  • Foam Rolling Routines
  • Flexibility and Mobility Routines
  • On-Field Warm Ups
  • Weight Room Exercise Selection

5. Mental Health

Lifting weights has also been shown to have a positive correlation with mental health. People in general benefit tremendously from lifting and the positive mental chemicals released in the brain.

A baseball season is long and grueling. Sometimes lifting weights really helps athletes in-season move their bodies differently, get their minds off of the season, or get their minds off of school or personal life.

This is also why it is important for a coach to keep things fresh, keep a positive outlook, and have high but reasonable expectations for their athletes.


Personnel Considerations


Pitcher Throwing a Baseball

This is a message to coaches:

Do not treat all your players the same!

Your personnel goals will be similar but should not be identical in the weight room. In my experience, in-season college baseball personnel should be broken down in the following way:

Starting Pitchers: Heavier emphasis lifting session the day after they appear. “Primer” lift 48 hours prior to weekend appearance.

Starting Position Players: Heavier emphasis lift Monday. “Primer” lift Wednesday or early Thursday. Keep in mind catchers here. The starting catcher may need more emphasis on range of motion, mobility, and overall less lower body volume.

Bullpen pitchers: Heavier lift Monday. “Primer” lift Wednesday or early Thursday. Keep in mind here some bullpen guys can be randomly called to start or if they have a hot hand, throw more innings. Be on the same page with the manager and pitching coach about upper body lifting volume and innings pitched.

Red-shirted, injured, low-inning players: These are athletes that can get as much lifting volume as they can handle. Ideally, they are training, sprinting, and lifting and taking advantage of the time they have to get better.


Balancing Competition, Lifting, Life, and Recovery


It is critical to balance competition, lifting, life, and recovery. This will help maximize performance, stay healthy, and increase your quality of life. The season is long and grueling.

Focus on your warm-ups. You do these every day, every practice, every lifting session. If you focus on improving your movement during these times, you will see a big improvement in your game-day readiness, resilience to injury, improved, balance, flexibility, and mobility.

Focus on moving weights with the best possible form possible ALWAYS! This isn’t just for the in-season of course, but movement quality is always the goal. Move the weights fast. Control your eccentrics, keep your core strong and explode through your concentric.

Every rep matters!

Recover like a champion. Eat, sleep, and live your life to perform on the baseball field. Don’t let anything get in the way of your goals!


More Links and Info


Looking to take your game to the next level? Check out some of my other baseball articles:

The 7 Best Lower Body Exercises For Baseball Players

The 7 Best Upper Body Exercises For Baseball Players

ChristianG

Christian Gangitano has 6 years of experience coaching collegiate sports performance. He coached field and court sport athletes at Longwood University, University of Richmond, and Elon University.

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