It’s still the dead of winter, but the days are getting a little longer everyday, meaning spring training is once again drawing near. It’ll be the ballplayers who maintained a good offseason workout regimen who will have the edge on opening day. Diet is important too. The idea that we can throw common sense dietary rules out the window after the season is wrong. We’ve all heard of players who show up to camp 25 pounds overweight and are still out of shape and underperforming when the season starts.
Don’t be that guy.
So, what does a good offseason routine look like? Certainly, it can vary according to each player. Age is a factor, injuries are a factor, but the one thing to remember is that maintaining your skill level demands staying in shape.
We’re all a little different, but our offseason routines should include a balance of cardiovascular training, strength and flexibility training. Obviously, you’re not expected to stay in midseason form throughout the year nor would I ever advise you to do so. But, you don’t stop being an athlete just because it’s the offseason. That means you need to maintain a level of running speed, strength and mental readiness that the average accountant or secretary may not have to.
I also have to state that for ballplayers, maintaining a good fitness level is not enough. They must also incorporate exercises specific to their position. If you’re a pitcher, you need to do certain limbering work unique to your position. The same goes for catchers, fielders, etc. I’ve spoken in the past about specific weight bearing exercises that help ballplayers stay in shape in preparation for the season.
One option is a 4-day workout program focussing on the lower body for two days, upper body for one, but let’s talk a bit about cardio.
Ball players know their jobs are physically and mentally demanding, so cardio fitness helps players adapt to that and recover from any nagging injuries. I recommend starting every exercise session with a 20 minute aerobic exercise either cycling or on a treadmill. I like 400-meter sprints and I recommend distance running to get that heart rate and endurance level up.
The other big part of an offseason training regimen involves strength and flexibility. We need to maintain a balanced body and that means muscular endurance and stabilized joints. Keeping yourself as flexible as possible allows you to untighten those muscles and expand the range of motion for your joints, a critical part of avoiding injury.
A typical offseason weight training routine involves lifting weights three or four times a week. I recommend taking a day off between workouts for rest and recovery. Most athletes know to stretch before a workout but it’s important to do so after as well. I’ve gone into depth about five specific weight-bearing exercises on another blog and invite you to check it out.
As far position-specific exercises, these are critical to maintaining motor skills whether you’re pitching, batting or fielding. Maintaining strength on the rotator cuff in the offseason is critical so please include a lightweight routine to do that. The most popular exercise for that involves lying face down on a bench with shoulders straight out and elbow bent at 90 degrees toward the floor. As you hold a light dumbbell, raise the hand forward until the hand is level with the shoulder. Then slowly lower your hand until it level with the shoulder.
There you have some ideas for the offseason. It can be a challenge staying motivated over the long winter months. That’s the psychological part of your routine. Just remember, spring comes faster than you think.