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Don’t Try Conditioning Little Leaguers Until You Read This First

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This is Part 1 of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers:

This will be the start of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers.

In this post we’ll go over:

  • The six properties of muscles,
  • The properties of muscles that can be developed for baseball,
  • The wrong conditioning, and
  • Is there an order to develop the muscles?

Conditioning for baseball (and softball) is relatively new. At the end of the baseball season in 1982, in the Cleveland Indians training room, I had a discussion with Phil Seghi, the general manager. The training room consisted of a table for massage, a full body whirlpool and an ice maker.

Dr. Stanley:  “The baseball players should be put on a strength and flexibility program“.

Phil Seghi: “Lou Boudreau never lifted a weight in his life“.


The 6 Properties of Muscles

1. Strength – tension developed by muscles. It requires the brain to send a signal to contract a higher percentage of muscle fibers.

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

2. Speed – the ability to develop tension quickly.

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

3. Endurance – the ability to contract muscles for a long period of time. This involves slow twitch fibers. In baseball, we should be thinking of increasing the ability to “do work” instead of endurance.

4. Flexibility – the ability to relax a muscle

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

5. Spring – the ability to  store and release energy. This occurs in the connective tissue around the muscle, the fascia, and/or the tendons.

6. Coordination – the ability to contract muscles and relax muscles in a pattern that allows for the efficient movement.

Leonidas Sabanis photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Leonidas Sabanis Olympic Snatch photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Muscles can be trained for these properties individually and  in some combination (ie. Speed-strength, Endurance-strength, Speed-endurance).

The Properties of Muscles that can be Developed for Baseball

All of the properties can be developed by specific exercises with the exception of reception of Nerve impulses.

However, as part of strength development, we need to enhance the transmission of nerve impulses by the brain.

The Wrong Conditioning

When my son was eight, I took him to a “natural” body building competition, thinking if nothing else, it might inspire him. He noticed that when the competitors walked on the stage there was something strange. He said:

Dad, they walk like robots, is there something wrong with them?”

Do either  of these look like they can play baseball?

Photo courtesy of 7arb.net

Abel Kirui photo courtesy of takethemagicstep.com

Both of the above are well conditioned, but they are not conditioned for baseball.

The body builder is conditioned for endurance-strength, and the marathoner is conditioned for endurance.

Is There an Order for these Characteristics to be Developed?

Flexibility is the first property that needs to be developed. If a muscle is tight, it is difficult to get into proper positions to develop strength.

Next time we will discuss the latest science on Flexibility.

[Note from Joey: this is a timely post by Dr. Stanley.  He mentioned that conditioning for baseball players is fairly new.  Yes, we’ve come a long way since the Doc had his run in with Cleveland Indians GM Phil Seghi in 1982.  BUT, the sport has NOT done a good job in the area of corrective exercise.  Consider how bad Tommy John surgeries have gotten.  Think of the stretching that is done in Yoga, as a critical form of corrective exercise.  And how many guys are engaging in this practice on their own.  One guy in particular? Jose Bautista.]

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to what coaches need to know about flexibility training for Little Leaguers…

Joey Myers
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6 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    That big muscle guy may not be able to hit, catch, or run, but he’d lead the league in being hit by pitches – and I definitely want him on my side if the benches clear.

  2. Bob
    Bob says:

    Doc … I may be jumping the gun here, but I have a question about flexibility, and it’s role in speed and force production. I have coached hockey for years, and we have a saying … “Strength without flexibility will slow you down.” There are several reasons for this, but the underlying factor occurs at the neurological level. I’ll be brief … As you know … shunt muscles support joints and their primary function is basically ‘damage control’ – I.E. our bodies will not let us injure ourselves without some sort of trauma. What happens is (and this is obviously a reflex action as most movement is), the body will sense undue/unhealthy pressure on a joint and shunt muscles will contract to stabilize. If the player has a great amount of strength in the muscle body, and little flexilbility, the joint will stabilize/cease up and the player will not be able to move that segment with their max velocity, because the joint will be inhibited.

    What are your thoughts please. If you plan on covering this in a later posting, I’ll wait ’till then for your input. Thanks …

  3. Dr. Stanley Beekman
    Dr. Stanley Beekman says:

    Hi Bob, I don’t know the real reason as to why they are so tight, but I can give you some ideas.
    The simple answer is that they train to be in a constantly contracted position. At the end of their work out they pose which causes them to contract all the muscles. In baseball, after a workout the ball players swing a bat.
    Additionally, there is an old time strong man by the name of Maxick. He talked about muscle control and that to become more fluid you have to train the antagonists to relax.


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