Developing Multidirectional Power for the Baseball Fielder
Written on July 13, 2020 at 6:27 pm, by Eric Cressey
Today’s guest post comes from Jason Feairheller.
When most coaches think of power development for baseball, a big focus is on developing rotational power for throwing and hitting with various medicine throws. Additionally, they’ll utilize lateral lower body power development to help pitchers get a better drive off the mound, or even the initial push off the ground of a base stealer. If these are the only types of plyometrics we train, there’s a missing piece – multidirectional plyometrics – that can help prepare athletes for the endless possibilities of movement for which a fielder must prepare.
Any position player may have to sprint forward or backward in any direction, depending on where the ball is hit. Although lateral movement is a huge part of baseball, and prepares an athlete for a lot of the movements they’ll see on the field, it does not account for all of them.
Just like Eric, I’m a huge fan of Lee Taft and his system for teaching and understanding speed. Lee breaks down speed into seven different patterns (detailed in this podcast). For the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the hip turn, and how multidirectional plyometrics can strengthen and make this movement pattern more powerful.
A hip turn happens all the time in a baseball. Whenever an infielders runs back to catch a pop-ups, or outfielders are tracking down a fly balls that are behind them in any direction, they are using a hip turn. The fielder pivots the feet and punches a foot into the ground to reposition themselves to sprint in the direction they want to go. There are lots of possibilities in terms of the angle at which the fielder might punch a foot in the ground. If I’m looking to improve this position, changing the planes of movements and angles of plyometrics can greatly improve the strength and power of this movement pattern. Think of how the swing of a batter changes slightly with different pitches and locations. The primary fundamentals are the same, but the swing will be slightly different depending on the location of the pitch. The same idea applies to developing power in all directions for a fielder. There may be slight changes in the angle of force off the ground, and we should prepare the body in training for what we will see on the field.
In the following video, I demonstrate the progression of lateral bound with a push back at three different angles, followed by hip turn at three different angles. You can see the similarities between the movements, especially when the focus is on creating a better “punch” into the ground to limit ground contact time. By limiting ground contact, an athlete is getting a more explosive first step, which can be the difference between making the play and not.
Power should be developed with two different types of focus. We are either trying to create as much force as possible with a jump or throw, or we are trying to reduce the time at which we do it. Going back to the example of a hip turn, the fielder will very rapidly punch a foot into the ground. If the fielder did this slowly with a focus only on creating force, he’d already be two steps behind; power is what matters. Plyometric drills with a focus on force should still be included in every program because they help strengthen different positions, but make sure to include some type of plyometrics with a focus on limiting ground contact. Begin with low level hops variations before progressing to more demanding exercises.
There are many different ways multidirectional plyometrics can help develop a more explosive player. Think of the movement patterns you might see on the field, and start thinking of ways you can help your athletes.
About the Author
Jason Feairheller is a co-owner and strength coach at Function and Strength in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Jason attended college at the University of Scranton, where he was also a member of the baseball team. Jason has lectured on strength and conditioning as an adjunct professor at Immaculata University. Recently, he was a guest on the Lee Taft Complete Sports Performance Podcast. He has also contributed articles on speed training, as well as taught the course, “Functional Speed Training for the Fitness Professional and Healthcare Provider.” You can follow him on Instagram at @FunctionandStrength, Twitter at @TrueFXS, or visit www.functionandstrength.net.
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