The 2-Week Taper: In-Season Considerations
Why Less is More at the Beginning of the High School Baseball Season
Phew. This off-season FLEW by. I can't believe it's March already!
I've seen endless amounts of PR's and goals crushed on the weekly at Infiniti Sports Performance. I absolutely cannot wait to see these athletes compete on the field this Spring so they can see that all of their hard work allowed them to excel on the field.
I'm also absolutely thrilled that there are a lot of athletes still training during the season...I think it's because they "get it". When I asked about their in-season plan, they immediately went to "Jarad, I don't know how I can't not come to the gym...I have to get here at least once" or something along those lines.
However, during the first 2 weeks of the season, we should be tapering or "cutting down" on what we do in the weight room. Here are a few reasons why, and these will be followed by what to expect during the season when it comes to training.
Coaches absolutely abuse the whole running thing during tryouts
When a program has a lot of kids that try out, somewhere upwards of 40 athletes, it makes it easier to make kids want to quit. How do they do that?
Run, run, run, more running, endless running, and last but not least, more running.
Maybe those who actually enjoyed the running will join track instead!
All jokes aside, there are a lot of coaches that do A LOT of running in the beginning of the season to "get the players in shape" for the upcoming season during the first 2 weeks. As performance coaches, it is our job to manage stressors. Thinking along the lines of workload volume, if a player was training 3x/week and sprinting 2 of those, their volume has INCREASED 300% BY RUNNING EVERY DAY FOR 6 DAYS! This is an injury waiting to happen if we still introduce our sprint work during the initial parts of the season.
Hence, this is why a taper is needed, and less is more at this point. Let the coaches do their thing because ultimately, that's who the athlete needs to attend to first before listening to us if they would like to play and compete.
Once games begin, the intensity of practice usually goes down, and this is when we slowly re-introduce our sprint work so we can maintain the athletic quality of speed.
2. Over-Use Injuries Are Real!
Overuse injuries are real, and they could be hiding beneath the surface. One aspect of in-season training is maintenance of joint health. Here's what gets abused over and over again in the game of baseball:
The left ankle gets over worked when performing multiple base running drills, leaving the other muscles on the same side to become overworked
The pelvis tends to get dumped into an anterior tilt during the swing as well as an overactive quadratus lumbordum from lateral tilt, which can lead to low back pain and stiffness during rotation
Hamstrings get tired and over worked from changing surfaces of sprinting (turf in the off-season to hard dirt with cleats during practice)
The posterior (back) aspect of the shoulder takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
The medial (inside) aspect of the elbow also takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
The thoracic spine (the mid back) gets out of whack and shows muscle imbalances from swinging, which can also lead to altered muscle firing patterns
The cervical spine (the neck) gets over worked from looking over one shoulder for multiple at bats
To prevent any injury from occurring, we must do 4 things religiously well:
mobilize/desensitize the overactive joints, which will be very common among most of the population
activate the problem areas associated with baseball
learn how to reset the body and find peace of mind with relaxation techniques/breathing drills
continue to get stronger and preserve your power stores
3. Performance Enhancement
"If you don't use it, you lose it".
This is the biggest concept to understand when training in-season. You spent all winter developing your strength and power to get ready for the long season ahead.
For every week taken off from training, usually 3-5% of your strength gains will be lost, dependent on training age. For the entire high school season being at least 12 weeks, that is at least 36% of your strength gains out the window. You could train ONCE a week during the season and further maintain and improve your strength numbers to keep your strength around. Easy fix.
However, speed and power on the other hand tends to be lost a lot quicker. You will be displaying your speed multiple times throughout the week from base running and getting to balls over your head, but if you're not training your speed at some point then you are limiting yourself as a baseball player.
On the other hand, let's just think about the aggressive action of the upper body during the throwing motion. Repeated eccentric stress will result in a loss of strength and mobility in some joints. To prevent this loss from being chronic, you need to strengthen these areas and try to get as close to your "baseline" as possible.
Even for those athletes who have a low training age, in-season training can still be viewed as furthering your development!
4. Recovery Management
We like to use restorative techniques and modalities in our popular recovery room during the season, taking "arm care" to a whole other level. These techniques include, but are not limited to:
foam rolling and lacrosse ball trigger point release
Marc Pro systems
There are a ton of modalities that we can use to promote recovery for the baseball player, and we usually voice our opinion to get your visit in within 48 hours of your last pitch. While the body should be doing most of the work itself when it comes to recovery, we assist in the process with the techniques and tools listed above.
However, since there are many ways to instill "recovery" work with the baseball player, we do not want them to get married to these concepts. Here is why: Our body craves adaptation, and it also can get habituated to the same stimulus. Just like how we periodize and vary our strength programs, the same concept goes for recovery work.