There is a ton of misleading and incorrect information in baseball when it comes to the benefits and risks of explosive power training for the baseball player. Many coaches, especially those who played before the drug era, work hard to discourage their students from explosive resistance training. Especially when it comes to Olympic Lifting and their reasons are usually; it's dangerous, it will injure you, it has no effect on speed or velocity, or we didn't use this back in my day. This is unfortunate because for years Olympic style resistance training has been proven the most effective style of training when developing the power athlete (1,2,3) and if you have learned anything here at TopVelocity.net, you know that more power, equals more pitching velocity.
So, is all of these fears about Olympic Lifting as an effective approach to building the power pitcher valid? Hopefully, this article will give you all the information you will need to answer this question. Just based on my experience using these lifts in my career to overcome a potential career ending rotator cuff tear and seeing the results of those I have trained to increase pitching velocity with the Olympic lifts has convinced me, but I do not expect my experience to convenience you. This is why I have done the research for you.
The Evolution of Major League Baseball
Let's face it, this game has changed in the past 30 years. Sources show that it has dramatically changed in the last 10 years based on the information Eric Ding, faculty member Harvard University, discovered when surveying more than 15,000 Major League Baseball players from 1876 to 2007. The purpose of his study was to link obesity to mortality. He used baseball to do this because no other sport has the kind of data recorded through history like with baseball.
In this case study obesity was defined as either or both excessive fat or muscle gain. His research found that the Body Mass Index (BMI) of Major League Baseball Players had gradually risen in the past 130+ years. The studied showed 32% of players were overweight prior to 1880; 46.5% were overweight from 1940-1950, and 55.5% were overweight from 2000-2006. You can learn more by watching a speech he gave on this study here:
Ding's study proves that BMI has obviously increased every new decade in this game and it has especially spiked since 2000. What do you think is the cause of it? I don't think it is hot dogs because they were just as tasty back when Babe Ruth was devouring them as they are today and today they are actually healthier. I believe it is obviously weight training and drug use, mainly based on its consistent media attention since the late 1990s. It is also obvious to me that older coaches, who grew up in the '50s, 60's and even 70's, have no connection to this BMI boom in baseball based on the numbers from the case study. The study documented that BMI jumped considerably at 9% during the 6 years from 2000-2006. These coaches are obviously not as aware of this jump as those young baseball players who are competing in this game today. These coaches are also not aware of the 21 lb average weight jump from rookie ball to the MLB as I recently documented in the article called, Holy Grail Study Proves MLB Players Produce More Vertical Power. If these coaches were aware of this major change in the game of baseball, maybe they wouldn't be so frustrated with their lack of success with training the young baseball player today with the same old conventional wisdom of their era.
The Dangers of Playing Major League Baseball over Olympic Lifting
With added weight comes more potential to generate force and with this excessive force comes injury. The injury is as much a defensive factor in this game as holding runs on. Those who can increase forces mainly in the lower extremities, convert these forces into speeds and reduce injury, will win! There is no better training for the pitcher to enhance these forces, convert these forces into speeds and also train the body to become more efficient as to help it reduce injury than with Olympic Lifting.
A case study from the United Kingdom called, Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training by Brian P. Hamill, documented the injuries of thousands of young athletes in sports (4). This case study defines weightlifting as competition in the snatch and the clean and jerk; associated with weight training. These two lifts are the only lifts used in Olympic competition, so I will refer to weightlifting as Olympic Lifting. The research proved that Olympic Lifting was the safest of all the sports listed above like Rugby and Soccer which had the highest amount of injuries. Baseball was not included in this list. Another case study called, Epidemiology of Major League Baseball Injuries documented from 2002 - 2008 the number of injuries that occurred in Major League Baseball (5). This research shows 3.61 injuries occurred per 1000 athletes. Based on the UK study with the table here, when including all of the athletes participating in Olympic Lifting which was over 1,634, only 3 injuries occurred. That is less than the 3.61 per 1000 athletes who fell to injury in the MLB.
It should be obvious to anyone after seeing this data that the fears about Olympic Lifting and injury to the athlete is bogus. This data proves you have a better chance of being injured when playing baseball than when Olympic Lifting. In research by Lyle J. Micheli called, Physiological and orthopedic considerations for strengthening the prepubescent athlete, Micheli argues that repetitive impact sports such as running should give more cause for anxiety than should weight training (6).
Why You Can't Afford Not to Use the Olympic Lifts?
The studies of velocity specificity show that heavy resistance training is an effective approach to developing explosive power in the athlete. More specific, heavy resistance training that is specific to the movement pattern used in the skill the athlete is training for. Pitchers are throwing athletes and the Olympic clean and jerk, which is the only Olympic lift used in the 3X Pitching Velocity Program, is the only lift in the weight room that involves throwing the bar. Therefore the pitcher can train the body to move with the same muscular force production pattern in the heavy resistance environment of the Olympic clean to help increase power production on the mound. The only additional training needed is training the pitchers motor coordination to convert this explosive muscular force production pattern into the high velocity mechanics listed in 3X Pitching. This is accomplished with 3X pitching drills which were built to develop this high velocity pitching motor coordination.
CAUTION: The only caution within the Olympic Lifts should be based on the amount of weight used and the skill of the movement. Because these are the only lifts in the weight room where you are throwing the bar it creates more room for error, so the technique becomes critical to performance and injury prevention. Do not increase weight significantly until good technique has been developed. Use an experienced Olympic Lifting Coach to support you through this learning process.
1. Tricoli V, Lamas L, Carnevale R, Ugrinowitsch C. - Short-term effects on lower-body functional power development: weightlifting vs. vertical jump training programs. - Department of Sport, School of Physical Education and Sport, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil. - J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):433-7.
2. Hoffman JR, Cooper J, Wendell M, Kang J. - Comparison of Olympic vs. traditional power lifting training programs in football players. - Department of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey 08628-0718, USA. - J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Feb;18(1):129-35.
3. Channell BT, Barfield JP. - Effect of Olympic and traditional resistance training on vertical jump improvement in high school boys. - Oliver Springs High School, Oliver Springs, Tennessee, USA.- J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1522-7.
4. Brian P. Hamill - Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training - 36 Rowtown, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1HQ, United Kingdom. - Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1994, 8(1), 53-57.
5. Posner M, Cameron KL, Wolf JM, Belmont PJ Jr, Owens BD. - Epidemiology of Major League Baseball injuries. - William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas, USA. - Am J Sports Med. 2011 Aug;39(8):1676-80.
6. Micheli, L.J. Physiological and orthopaedic considerations for strengthening the prepubescent athlete. National Strength Conditioning Assoc. J. 7(6):26-27.1986.