Westside for Baseball?

TAGS: stability ball, neary, defranco, baseball, even-esh, westside, athlete, Elitefts Info Pages

I had finally done it! After countless hours of talking about it and planning just how I was going to do it, I opened my own performance enhancement training business. Well sort of…

I talked the owner of a baseball training facility into allowing me to use a dumpster overflow area—all 300 square feet of it—to set up my equipment and go to town. I figured the hard part was done. Now, all I had to do was the fun stuff—train athletes. But how was I going to train them?

I’ve been a big fan of Elite Fitness Systems, Westside Barbell, Joe DeFranco, and Zach Even-Esh, and I’ve seen great, personal results using their methods as well as the conjugate training system. Still, I knew I had to come up with my own variation of these training ideas in order to train the population that I most commonly encounter—baseball players. Having played baseball in college and coached high school baseball, I was very familiar with the design of today’s baseball players’ workout. I also knew what they were lacking. Armed with this knowledge and all of the articles and Q&As I’ve read at Elite over the years, I designed the following template for the baseball players that I train.

Day 1: ME lower body

1)      Squat or deadlift variation, cycle up to a 3 RM (1 RM for advanced athletes with high relative training age)

2)      Unilateral exercise, three sets of 10–12 reps

3)      Posterior chain exercise, three sets of 12–15 reps

4)      Rotational abdominal exercise, three sets of 20 reps

5)      45-degree external rotation, two sets of 25 reps

I know what everyone is thinking—isn’t this Joe DeFranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards program? The answer is yes, with a few minor alterations. Fifty percent of the time the ME exercise is a deadlift variation. Why? Well, because my athletes perform another lower body day when they squat, and I don’t feel it’s necessary to put undue stress on the shoulder capsule and biceps tendon. They already endure tremendous stress through playing and practicing baseball.

I don’t have the luxury of having a glute ham raise or reverse hyper so the pool of exercises for the posterior chain is limited. I have to be creative. Some exercises I like are the natural glute ham raise, single leg deadlift with a barbell or dumbbell, band good mornings, hamstring curls, and stability ball hip extensions. Because most movements in baseball are performed in the transverse plane, the abdominal exercise on day 1 is rotational in nature. The majority of the time the athletes will perform some type of throw or rotation with a medicine ball for this exercise.

The last exercise is a 45-degree external rotation with a band for shoulder and rotator cuff stability and integrity. Because a shoulder injury ended my playing career, I take special precautions in each workout to safeguard my baseball players from the same fate.

Day 2: ME upper body

A1)   Horizontal press variation, cycle up to a 5 RM (3 RM for advanced athletes with high relative training age)

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B1)   Horizontal pull variation, for every set of pressing including warm-up sets perform a pulling exercise for one set of eight reps

2)      Vertical pull variation, perform pull-ups/pull-downs/chin-up variations, three sets of 10–12 reps

A3)   Elbow flexion (biceps) exercise, two sets of 10–12

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B3)   Elbow extension (triceps) exercise, two sets of 10–12

A4)   Static abdominal exercise, two sets of 30 second holds

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B4)   90-degree internal/external rotation wall-ball bounce, two sets of 30 seconds

ME upper body is a day that all guys get cranked up for because they know they’re going to do some “benching.” In actuality, the ratio of chest to upper back work is 1:2. The horizontal press is normally a flat bench press or floor press using either a barbell or dumbbells. Sometimes I’ll cycle in a push-up of some kind or the incline bench press just to give the workout some variety. I want to avoid burning out the athlete or having the program turn stale.

The horizontal pull movement can be a seated, dumbbell, barbell, or body weight row with multiple grips. The vertical pull movement is normally a pull-up or chin-up, although sometimes I’ll substitute with a pull-down depending on the athlete. Athletes with a weak grip will perform bar hangs after their last repetition of pull-ups to help remedy this. For the static abdominal exercise, athletes will perform a prone bridge on the forearms or a side bridge on the right and left forearms.

The 90-degree internal/external rotation wall ball bounce was an exercise I learned from a physical therapist while rehabbing my shoulder from my baseball-related injury. Stand six inches from a wall with a medicine ball in your throwing hand. Bring your arm up so that you’re at 90-degrees as if you were going to perform external rotations with a band. Now, as quickly as you can, bounce the ball off the wall for 30 seconds making sure that your arm stays at 90 degrees and that your elbow doesn’t dip below your shoulder. Start with a 1–3-lb medicine ball. Gradually add time to this exercise every time you’re able to perform it with perfect form.

Day 3: DE lower body

1)      Box squat, eight sets of two reps with 45–60 seconds rest (advanced athletes will begin to use bands starting with monster mini’s)

If the athlete performed a squat variation on day 1:

1)      Plyometrics, pick any two of the following exercises and perform 3–4 sets of five reps:  box jump, broad jump, lateral box jump, tuck jump, or snap jump

2)      Posterior chain exercise, pick one of the following exercises and perform three sets of 12 reps: band good morning, pull-thrus, stability ball hip extensions, band hamstring curls, or stability ball hamstring curls

3)      Sled drags, pick either forward, backward, or lateral drags and perform 3–4 trips of 40 yards

A4)   Trunk flexion, pick one of the following exercises and perform three sets of 25 reps: V-ups, sprinter sit-ups, or stability ball sit-ups

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B4)   Face pulls, three sets of 25 reps

Day 3 will be a dynamic lower body day. I chose to have two lower body training days because as a former baseball player and coach, I see how important the musculature of the lower body is for a baseball player. Hitting, pitching, fielding, and base running are all baseball skills dependent on having strong and explosive legs. The majority of the time the athlete will perform dynamic box squats on day 3 unless they squatted on day 1 as their ME movement. In that case, the athlete will perform unloaded plyometrics.

The second exercise of the day is a posterior chain exercise. Normally, the athlete will perform a band or stability ball exercise for this posterior chain movement. The athlete will then perform sled drags—forward, backward, lateral, or a combination of the three. The athlete will then perform his last two exercises as a superset, going back and forth with no rest between a trunk flexion abdominal exercise and a face pull.

Athletes normally perform these three workouts on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday sequence to ensure proper rest and recovery. It’s imperative that there’s at least 48 hours between ME and DE lower body days. At times, I may have athletes who need a fourth training day. On this day, I’ll follow Joe DeFranco’s Westside for Skinny Bastards day 3 upper body repetition method. In my opinion, this template gives any trainer the ability to be creative and design an individually specific program that will prepare his players to perform at a high level on the diamond.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.

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