The linked article is old and has plenty to criticize about it, but there is some interesting takeaway from that article as it is still a top 5 find when researching "baseball strength training" through Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines.
A comment in this week's "Things Read In Other Moms' Basements" article really struck me in how far behind baseball STILL is compared to other sports in the area of strength and conditioning. When I hear someone talk about "dangers of weight lifting" or "adding arm strength to add power" or "too bulky" within the game of baseball, I absolutely cringe.
I'm not sure how many of you have been inside pro baseball facilities and college facilities. I can tell you from two that I saw this last year that the new clubhouse strength training area in Target Field in Minneapolis looks like an elementary school gym compared to the Nebraska football weight training facilities (and Nebraska has an entire separate facility for non-football athletes). The lack of knowledge in the game of baseball about how to properly strengthen an athlete is astounding.
Perhaps this is based in the hallowed tradition of the game and the fact that we like to trust our eye in viewing the ol' ballgame, but new statistics have intertwined into the common thought of the sport and taken evaluation of the result of the game to a new level. Perhaps it is finally time to take that next step in developing the players for the game as well.
I did a lot of my own training to go from an overweight farm boy to a walk-on lineman for a Big Ten football program. Surgery ended my pursuit, but the knowledge I gained in that pursuit sparked an interest in me that I've never really lost. I still subscribe to magazines and podcasts about power lifting. I lift for exercise and to encourage myself now in my weight loss after recovering from surgeries.
The basics of the motions of baseball are this: there is about a six-inch area of the body of a baseball player that will make him a more powerful hitter or pitcher, and no, this isn't a dirty comment! From about an inch above the belly button to the top of the thigh/hamstring is the most important part of a baseball player. Core strength and strong hip rotation will provide additional MPH on a fastball and distance to a fly ball. Football and track have known for years how to develop this. Take a look at a discus thrower on the international stage. The guy will be built for sure, but he will look NOTHING like a shot-putter for good reason. A great discuss thrower will do laps around any baseball player in core strength, yet both rely on that strength as the primary source of power for their sport!
The big picture things that baseball needs to move toward are three-fold:
1. Heavy weight is not the enemy. Guys who are 230lbs with low-fat are described as "thick" and that is never a good thing. Also, finding out a guy can bench press 335lbs or squat 515lbs is viewed as wasted training time or even an injury risk!
2. Machines don't cut it. Weight machines are good rehab items because they limit range of motion so as to not overextend muscles. They are VERY poor muscle developers for that same reason. Free weights require the body to take the weight through the entire range of motion. Emphasizing weight machines is like telling every hitter and pitcher to complete their action with no follow through. You drastically increase the chance of injury with such limitation.
3. Multi-muscle lifts are key. Those places that have moved away from machines are still mostly focused on dumbbell lifts for their players (other than bench press, oddly). Dumbbell lifts are auxiliary lifts, not primary. A bench press is a good example. If you do nothing but bench press for upper-body workout, you will develop larger biceps, triceps, shoulders, neck muscles, and chest muscles. Lifts that are awesome for the core are squats, deadlifts, and power cleans. Those lifts require intense focus on form and muscle control, much like repeating an ideal swing or pitching mechanics.
That's a very, very basic outline of strength conditioning in baseball. I could expand on this topic for page upon page, but I'm curious to what everyone here thinks. Is this the next SABR-esque movement in the game?