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SandBell Training for Baseball

August 22nd, 2012

Joey Votto loves the SandBell.

By Chuck Wolf, MS, FAFS Human Motion Associates Orlando, FL

If I knew about strength and conditioning back in my baseball playing days 39 years ago as I do now, I would still be playing. I know one of the training tools I would add to my arsenal would be the SandBells® and the Hyper Vest® PRO weight vest by Hyperwear! There are many types of equipment that would be used in the program, such as medballs, dumbbells, ViPR, but SandBells add a different dimension than the others.

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If I need strength and muscle growth, free weights definitely are my equipment of choice. But in sport, that strength needs to be able to be applied in a three dimensional environment, and therefore, I must train within a planned three dimensional approach. I must harness the mass and momentum that I generate; be able to decelerate, stabilize, and accelerate, and often in different directions.

Baseball is a sport that requires strength, power, speed, agility, and finesse. Whether it’s hitting the ball, throwing, or fielding, the player must be able to transition from one position to another, while simultaneously moving their feet in a synchronized, random manner to allow the player to successfully execute the play at hand.

For example, if a shortstop is fielding a ground ball to his or her right, the player must get to the ball, and usually field the play with their left hand reaching across their body to the right side while bending forward to a height between the knee and ankle. While this action is taking place, there is a reaction within the body that must catch the ball, decelerate their motion, and position themselves to transfer the ball from the glove to their throwing hand. As all this is occurring, the player must also plant the right foot, while simultaneously getting into the correct biomechanical position to be able to produce a strong and accurate throw to the intended target. Obviously, this random movement must be trained and an instant reaction to the prior situation.

The above scenario cannot be trained by strength training alone. The traditional model of strength training is typically isolated, single joint and concentric before eccentric environment. In fact, this is opposite of how the body physiologically, effectively, and efficiently operates.

The typical power lifting movement patterns are sagittal plane dominant (front to back). This is not to say power lifting patterns are not effective in developing power and explosiveness, however, many traditional baseball training programs limit the training to the above characteristics i.e. focus on sagittal plane training.

As a former baseball player, and a biomechanics specialist, my experience has shown me this model has significant limitations. Like any sport, training needs to incorporate phases in strength and force development, mobilization in all three planes of motion, explosiveness, and sport specific, task specific movement within the program design.

The traditional model of training often has “blocked” model design. Blocked model is usually low complexity, low skill level single movements in a pre-determined, sequenced design. This often is characteristic of the traditional strength training model.

Blended into the program design is a high complexity, high skill level of “random” paradigm. This is necessary in the skill specific, task specific phase of training because actions in all of sport are random needing a reactive response. These activities call for the need to control mass and momentum, deceleration at high loads, and multi- directional acceleration. I have found many interesting and positive results with athletes when I use the SandBells and Hyper Vest PRO weight vest during their training sessions.

Historically, I have regarded medicine balls as part of reactive, random training. I now complement this phase of training with the use of SandBells. The very interesting issue using the SandBells is the additional deceleration required toward the end phase of the motion. The athlete experiences this deceleration after making a catch or movement with the SandBells, as the sand in the unit continues to move and shift during the its motion and the athlete feels a “second” wave or surge of momentum that must be harnessed. Many athletes have expressed they have gained increased control as a result of working with the SandBells. On the field, the athletes have expressed an increased ability to change directions with greater power.

Weight vest training with the Hyper Vest PRO allows the athlete to increase loads, but not increase stress on the joints. Whether wearing during form runs, lunges, squats, or agility work, the Hyper Vest PRO has been a very useful and productive tool to improve athlete’s performance on and off the field.

Click to watch the SandBell and Hyper Vest PRO exercises for baseball video!

Products in the Video

  • Pitch Training Exercise – 15 lb. SandBell and 10 lb. WaterBell
  • Group Footwork Drill – 10 lb. SandBell
  • Reaction and Mobility Drill – 10 lb. SandBell
  • Core Stability Exercise – 30 lb. SandBell
  • Core Stability + Footwork – 30 lb. SandBell
  • Lateral Squat Shuffle with reGrab – 15 lb. SandBel
  • Squat Toss – 10 lb. SandBell
  • Short Burst Sprints – Hyper Vest PRO loaded with 10 lbs
  • Resistance Sprints – Hyper Vest PRO loaded with 10 lbs
  • Lateral Sprint Drill – Hyper Vest PRO loaded with 10 lbs

About Chuck Wolf

Chuck has been teaching workshops, presenting at conferences, running seminars with fitness professionals through to elite athletes of many different sports all over the world. Currently sought after as one of the industries top educators, Chuck brings a whole new approach to how we look and train the body.
Chuck has a Masters of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from George Williams College, and specializes in Applied Biomechanics. He presently is the Director of Human Motion Associates, in Orlando, Florida, consulting with clients ranging from the rehabilitation setting to professional athletes of the highest level. Chuck works extensively with many of the top 50 PGA players in the world and also has worked with numerous professional baseball players and other high level athletes. He has emerged as a leader of functional anatomy and biomechanics within the fitness and sports performance industries and works extensively with internal medicine physicians, orthopedic specialists, neurosurgeons, and physical therapists addressing musculoskeletal issues and developing corrective exercise programs. Chuck has presented at many national and international conferences and written numerous articles and produced many educational videos in the areas of human motion, sports science, and human performance.

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