Spring Training seems to be an area where there hasn’t been much clarity given as to what a player should really be prepared for. It used to be a time for professional baseball players to come together in order to prepare for the season. They would work out, start throwing and knock of the rust.
Well, those days are long gone. For players, the game has become more and more competitive. From the advent of the tech revolution to the enhanced development techniques employed by clubs and private practitioners alike- there lies much less room for “rust” these days. This is especially true for the MiLB athlete.
Below, I lay out my thought process on what spring training should look like for athletes in 2 different positions within their organization.
Major Leaguers have the shortest off-seasons of all professional baseball- especially if they played into the playoffs.
Typically, an MLB off-season is roughly 4.5 months (October through mid-February) or 3.5 months (November through mid-February. This makes training somewhat of a tight squeeze. However, MLB’ers don’t really need to be game ready at the beginning of camp. This is why coordination between off-season performance coaches and MLB organizations is so vital.
Having said that, there is surprisingly little of that in the industry today. It is my belief that the first 3-4 weeks of Spring Training should be an extension of the off-season for the big-league guys before transitioning to more of an in-season approach. This would extend the effective off-season to 4.5-5.5 months which leaves a lot more room for adaptation to occur.
Instead, performance coaches tend to rush the process. They will either ramp up too quickly, or they will progress so slowly that very little gets accomplished in the way of improvement. This is where I think the industry needs to make an adjustment. It’s the lowest hanging fruit of the field. There MUST be coordination between performance coaches and professional clubs.
This one is pretty straight forward, so listen up. You have to be ready for camp!
For this group, Spring Training is no longer a place to come get ready. It is- for all intents and purposes a showcase. You are being evaluated and compared to your competition.
The organization brass is present. This is your one shot to make an impression before either being sent out to an affiliate, marooned in extended or outright released. This requires your best foot forward. This should be seen as one of your peaks, so your weight training in Spring Training should have a decreased volume with a focus on your on-field performance.
I think clubs send mixed messages at times. They will tell them not to pick up a ball until after Christmas, but they expect the athlete to COMPETE in February. This barely provides enough time for a ramp-up much less any chance to improve qualities like command or pitch design. I just think it’s a bad strategy for success.
Much gets made of the no-throw period of 4 months, but there is peripheral research to suggest that if an athlete can’t take that amount off, then it’s actually better not to shut down at all, but to continue throwing at low volumes and intensities. It’s about time that some clubs speak with a clear voice as to expectations.
Spring Training Programming
With all of this being said, I believe physical training during Spring Training should follow these rules of thumb:
Generally, as volume of workload increases on the field throughout the spring, our volume decreases in the weight room. On low volume, high intensity days on the field, do the same in the weight room. On moderate intensity/volume days on the field, do the same in the weight room. And on low intensity/ low volume days, match it in the weight room. Take the recovery.
The only days you should stray from matching the volume and intensity is on high volume days. High volume/ high intensity on the field equals an off day in the gym. Moderate intensity/ high volume equals low volume, moderate intensity in the gym. Low intensity, high volume should mean high intensity/low volume in the gym.
Spring Training is a great time of year, and I hope this little overview helped clear some things up for you. At the very least, you understand what my approach would be if I were in charge of running a Spring Training weight room.