When to start your off-season training?

Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy

This time of year we get hundreds of calls from parents and players looking to set up their off-season programs with our instructors here at RBI.  One of the first questions they ask is typically “when should we start.”  Now, the business side of me would love to say, today!  However I know that it is not always in the best interest of the player to be doing lessons/workouts or even picking up a bat/baseball at certain times of year. 

Typically I will ask a series of questions such as: 1. Is he playing or did he play fall baseball?  2.  When did the summer season end?  3.  Did he pitch and if so how much/how often?  etc.  This will give me a good idea as to how much time the player should take off from skills training and when a good time to start back up would be.

Here are a few guidelines I go by when booking off-season program’s:

– Any player who played fall baseball in September-October should take a minimum of 4 weeks off after the fall season ends.  Depending on the age of the player, I would highly recommend this time to get on a strength and conditioning program to restore some of the muscle balance that a player loses over the course of a season.  Baseball is a very lop-sided sport and most injuries occur due to muscle imbalances. 

– Players who did not play fall baseball should have taken the September-October months to get on a strength & conditioning program to prepare their body for the off-season, pre-season, and in-season work that lies ahead.  These players I suggest starting up in November knowing that we’ll miss some time due to the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years).  This gives us an opportunity to hit the ground running come January.

– Pitchers are always a bit different than non-pitchers.  Pitchers need to realize that you need to establish a progression of throwing before you begin “pitching.”  Too many kids come to me in January and February and haven’t picked up a baseball since July and are looking to start pitching workouts.  It doesn’t work that way.  The best players (and those looking to minimize the risk of injury) need to spend 4-8 weeks building arm strength and conditioning those intricate muscles used mostly by overhead throwing athletes before even thinking about stepping on the mound. 

Work backwards!  If you are preparing for a high school tryout which we know in Massachusetts is the 3rd Monday in March then you should set your off-season training program backwards from that date.  You need to ask yourself, what kind of shape do I need to be in by that date followed by figuring out HOW you are going to get to that point and how long it’s going to take you to get there. 

–  Don’t peak too soon!  A lot of players that begin their program too early are typically forced into it by their parents or are simply afraid that they will fall behind other players if they don’t.  I can tell you this, if you are on a solid strength and conditioning program and working on improving your athleticism, you will not be behind…you will be ahead!  Also, a lot of the younger players who are “forced” into it do not present much mental focus and it becomes simply a waste of time and the player develops bad habits. 

– Hitters need to spend time “getting back into the swing of things” through various tee drills and soft toss before even bothering with overhand batting practice and far before seeing any live pitching.  You have to get your technique to where you need it, get repetitions with that technique, THEN look to incorporate that muscle memory into more of the “reaction” type drills like front toss, overhand BP, and live pitching.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful in trying to figure out when to begin your off-season training.  If you have any questions specific to your situation, please don’t hesitate to email me at jbreen@rbiacademy.com!

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