Baseball is often called America’s favorite pastime, and while watching the sport is a perfect, laid-back way to spend an afternoon, those who play and coach the sport can attest that it’s harder than it looks!
Baseball requires a huge amount of skill, and mastering the skills required to play baseball requires a lot of repetition with an exact movement pattern you need to perfect.
But while other aspects of training for the sport like cross-training and weight-training are undoubtedly beneficial, one of the best ways for baseball players to unlock their full potential is by practicing the specific skills required to play the game over and over again.
This is also a major component of Overload-Underload training, and is a great training method for improving bat speed in baseball. But Overload-Underload training isn’t just found in baseball, but in many sports and actually has its roots in track and field.
The goal of this kind of training is to sharpen your reflexes and to help you react quickly and effectively to a ball coming your way, so you can knock it out of the park!
It involves reducing and increasing the weight of your bat whilst performing specific drills, therefore training our muscles to react quicker.
Below, we’ll define some key terms when it comes to Overload-Underload training, its benefits, and take a look at how safe it is for young athletes to adopt this technique.
Defining A Couple Key Terms
This involves practicing with bats that are heavier than the bats your hitter would normally swing. This is pretty easy to achieve, as it just involves including bats that are heavier than normal into batting practice.
This improves the swings the hitter makes, as it increases the resistance in their regular swing movements.
The opposite of overloading, this involves your hitter using a bat that is lighter than they would normally use. This aids hitters in making really impactful swings, sharpens their reflexes, and makes them speedier.
Bats that are hand-loaded have a thicker or heavier handle, improving the strength in your hitters’ hands and forearms. Hand-loaded bats also work similarly to overloaded ones as they increase resistance in regular swing movements.
When your hitter picks up a normal bat, it will feel lighter after having used the hand-loaded bat, and more impactful.
What Works About Overload-Underload Training For Baseball
As we mentioned in the introduction, baseball requires a lot of skill, and while cross-training and working out in the weight room can make a difference to your game and athleticism, you usually find there is little correlation between the numbers you rack up in the weight room and how you perform on the field.
Players who forgo the weight room and might seem a bit weaker for it, but achieve batting speeds reaching 100 mph on the field are a testament to how effective the Overload-Underload training method is.
But while work in the weight room undoubtedly provides a good base and is a good way to stay fit and healthy, repetitive and consistent practice at hitting or pitching is sure to make way for more victories and successes on the field.
There have also been numerous studies conducted over the years to see how Overload-Underload training affected performance and safety.
Most of this research was done by throwing a baseball, and found that the velocity of the players improved significantly, but that the overall health of the players remained the same or improved.
This is notable, as throwing a baseball does put stress on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in your arm.
Two of the most significant studies conducted regarding Overload-Underload Training and bat speed improvement were conducted by Coop DeRenne, who found that Overload-Underload training was a simple but effective way to improve performance over a short period of time.
Is Overload-Underload Training Safe For Children?
Yes, Overload-Underload Training can be incorporated into little league practice safely as long as the players are properly prepared.
An important thing to remember is that bat speed isn’t a priority at first. Body movements need to be practiced and mastered first before the emphasis turns to batting speed.
Once your players have achieved good body movement then you can start incorporating Overload-Underload Training into your practice to improve bat speed.
It’s also important that once the basics of body movement are down, and you want to start incorporating Overload-Underload Training into your practice, to not overload or underload their bat in a way that interferes with the hitter’s ability to swing.
This will be a learning curve and will take a bit of tweaking and experimentation, but take it easy and one step at a time, so your player doesn’t develop any bad habits.
Overload-Underload Training is undoubtedly one of the most promising and exciting training methods in baseball. Many coaches find that improvement is actually harder to achieve in more advanced players, as they are already so skilled and fit.
But Overload-Underload training can be both beneficial to advanced players and beginners.
But as we have seen, this method isn’t revolutionary or anything new, or limited to baseball. In fact, Overload-Underload Training flew under the radar for quite a long time.
But what makes this training method so exciting and effective is that you can train the skills needed for optimum performance on the diamond, such as throwing and hitting, on the diamond itself.
And while focusing on building muscles has been a huge focus of baseball training and performance for good reason, the results of Overload-Underload Training proves that just as much work on the nervous system yields fantastic results.
While this doesn’t mean we should neglect training and conditioning in the weight room, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of Overload-Underload Training. It should definitely be a part of every player’s training regime.
If you’re a player or a coach give this method a try, and you’re sure to see results in your individual performance and the performance of your team!