Should Pitchers Run Long Distance?

TAGS: Joe Meglio, pitchers, run, baseball, Sports Training

As a college baseball player and strength coach, my biggest pet peeve is watching pitchers run countless poles. It amazes me that many coaches still believe long distance running will increase stamina and help the recovery process.  This myth has been accepted at almost every level of baseball. Baseball is a power sport. It is a game of quick, short, and explosive bursts. There isn't any endurance component in baseball. Therefore, performing long distance won't enhance pitching performance.

Pitchers perform a very explosive movement and then rest 20 seconds or so before they throw again. Because long distance running trains the aerobic energy system and phosphogen energy is the predominate one in baseball, long distance running has absolutely no carryover to baseball performance. Instead baseball players should train more like sprinters, not like cross-country runners. Other than all out sprints, pitchers can perform hill sprints, Prowler pushes, sled drags, and battling ropes. These forms of conditioning are far superior to long distance running because they will increase general physical preparedness and increase work capacity. In addition, it will also build mental toughness—a key component to athletic performance.

Why long distance running isn't the answer

  • It will lead to overuse injuries because your joints take a pounding. Throwing a baseball is a very unnatural motion which causes muscular imbalances in the hip and shoulder. Long distance running will only contribute to hip issues because there isn't any hip extension during jogging. Overtime, the shortened range of motion will prove to be detrimental to overall performance.
  • It's very boring and monotonous. Let’s face it—nobody gets any pleasure out of running 40 poles.
  • There isn't any lactic acid build up after pitching. Many coaches believe long distance running will increase stamina and break up lactic acid build up. This would be great if lactic acid actually accumulated after pitching, but it doesn't.
  • It trains the wrong energy system. Running long distance has absolutely no benefit for stamina because it trains the wrong energy system. These principles can be applied to position players as well.

How should pitchers condition?

Conditioning is specific to the physical demands of a sport. Conditioning for baseball is extremely different than conditioning for cross-country. Here's a quick example of how you can design your conditioning for baseball players.

Off-season: Perform sled work or Prowler or hill sprints for 5–10 minutes after the training session twice a week.

Pre-season: Cut down on the anaerobic conditioning and replace it with sprint work. Anywhere from 1–3 days a week will get the job done. It varies depending on the athlete’s health, his goals, and how far from the competitive season he is.

Competitive season: During the season, I don't prescribe any additional conditioning. At this point, the athlete is playing almost every day, so no additional speed or conditioning work is necessary. They get a ton of speed work in during their games, and they will be conditioning during practice. The goal in-season is to maintain current strength and speed abilities.

 

How can pitchers increase their stamina and endurance?

The best way for pitchers to increase their stamina and endurance is to build their pitch count. This starts in the off-season and pre-season. During this time, pitchers should take a gradual approach to building their pitch count.

 

Conclusion

  • Long distance running will have absolutely no carryover to baseball because it trains the aerobic energy system, which isn't the energy system used during baseball.
  • In order to improve conditioning, baseball players should focus on performing sprints and other explosive movements with almost full recovery between reps/sets.
  • Performing conditioning work by dragging the sled, pushing the Prowler, and running sprints will be beneficial to baseball players because it will improve work capacity, which is critical to the long-term success of an athlete. This type of conditioning will build a better all around athlete.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of strength training for baseball. Strength is the foundation upon which speed and other abilities are built. By overcoming muscular imbalances, baseball players can help prevent injuries while also improving performance.
  • If you want to be fast, you have to train fast. If you train slow, you will be slow. Cut out all the poles and other forms of long distance running and start doing some sprints!
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