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Faster bat speed is a result of proper technique and total body strength.
Strength training for baseball players is always a source of debate. Many baseball coaches believe that heavy resistance training should be avoided, as it may impede the smooth, flowing movement pattern of the shoulder during a throw or swing. On the other side, strength and conditioning coaches believe that faster throws and swings are the result of increasing strength. The ideal program lies somewhere in the middle, where proper throwing and hitting technique is combined with appropriate strength training of the entire body.
General Resistance Training
When a baseball player perfects the swing of the bat, the power and speed generated by the bat comes primarily from the lower body and core. General strength training for the entire body will help to increase bat speed. Performing exercises such as squats, lunges, chest press and push-ups will all contribute to a stronger total body. While none of these exercises are specific to a bat swing, generally increasing your strength has an overall positive effect. The biggest gains from improving general strength are usually observed in baseball players who are new to strength training or who are unconditioned.
Once general strength is achieved, the player should work on improving his ability to generate explosive power. When the baseball swing is done correctly, most of the speed and power comes from the lower body. Plyometric exercises such as squat jumps, lateral bounding and lunge jumps should all be incorporated to assist in developing quick and explosive lower body strength.
Rotational Strength Training
Developing rotational strength can be effectively accomplished by using weighted medicine balls. Performing an exercise such as a side throw -- where the player holds the medicine ball in both hands, swings both arms to the right and then quickly back to the left while throwing the ball -- will increase the power of the bat swing. Combining exercises, such as a lunge with a medicine ball twist, is another effective way to develop rotational strength. Players should always use caution when performing these types of exercises. Start out with a lightweight medicine ball and progress slowly, particularly with throwing exercises, to ensure that the rotator cuff has adequate time to adapt to the stress.
Specific Swing Training
Performing a baseball swing with a heavier or lighter bat than one typically used during a game can be effective for developing bat speed and power. While the use of bat sleeves and donuts is often seen even in the youngest of players, this type of training is actually advanced and should only be performed by players that already have adequate strength and strong technique. The goal of this training is to develop the specific motor pattern involved in the swing, including the number of motor neurons being recruited and the order in which it's done. When performing these light or heavy bat swings, players should stay within 4 ounces of their game-bat weight. Going outside of that range will diminish the benefit to the swing.
To Strength Train or Not to Strength Train
While the benefits of strength training in baseball players is often debated, it appears that there is definitely a benefit as long as appropriate technique is also developed. Younger players should focus on general strength and gradually move to include explosive power, rotational strength and, finally, swing-specific training.