After the Anatomical Adaptation phase, training becomes specific to softball. You are now working with your players on the prime movers that will maximize the performance through your strength and conditioning gains. For this reason the athletes would be performing less exercises and would more specific rather than the multi exercise sessions like the previous phase. If you have small players, it would be the softball hypertrophy phase before the strength training phase.
The building of muscle size is one of the most popular activities in the fitness industry. In softball however it is not as “required” as many may feel. There are few sports that rely on the size of the muscles to perform at their maximum potential. One of those sports is football. Size is an advantage in the defensive line-man as their job in their sport is to stop the player in front of them from advancing to the quarterback. Hypertrophy training for softball players would be beneficial for athletes who are small and do not have a muscular body type. This will enable them to maximize strength gains and maximize power.
The following sports benefit most from the hypertrophy phase:
- throwers in track and field
- heavy weight boxers
- heavy weight wrestlers
- linemen in football
In these sports the goal is not symmetry but to improve the mass which will improve the strength of the prime movers or the most used muscles of the sport. You can see the difference between those sports and softball.
Softball Hypertrophy Training Points
All strength training needs to begin by determining the 1 RM max or the heaviest weight the athlete can lift 1 time. There are programs that will assist you in finding that number safely without having to have 3 people spotting so no one gets hurt. In hypertrophy training, the work load is between 70 and 80% of 1 RM. The key is to work to exhaustion with less rest in between sets as there would be for Max Strength training. The goal is the total exhaustion from a combination of the sets rather than per set. This stimulates the protein metabolism and chemical reactions that are required.
Perform the reps at moderate speeds to ensure maximum fatigue in the muscles. Do not slow down the execution as it may transfer to speed of execution when training specific systems. The number of sets can be anywhere from 4-7 with the recovery time between sets increasing as you get closer to the Max strength phase.
During the recovery time it is advised that the athletes stretch the muscles to maintain the length of the muscles which can shorten due to the number of contractions. A decreased range of motion will result, inhibiting softball performance. This is why you see many amateur body builders who look like they can not straighten their arms or shoulders.
This phase can be 4-6 weeks depending on the training level of the athlete and specifically the goals of the training. A softball player who is small for her height and would like to gain more strength may endure a 6 week hypertrophy phase before beginning strength training.
The determining factor needs to be the level of athlete, experience and the requirements of athlete that you are training.
There are 2 types of hypertrophy training. Type I is sport specific and focuses on the prime movers. This would be the focus late in the preparation phase for athletes. Type II is whole body training. It does not focus on an 1 group of muscles and is used for bodybuilding. This type can be used in the early preparation phase when balance is the main purpose of strength training.
The following are the most common variations for hypertrophy. There are in fact over 20 variations however these are the most common.
Some will complete up to 3 and even 4 exercises per muscle group which can be time consuming. Splitting up the mass workout into sections and then completed over the course of the week is a split routine.
- Monday / Thursday – chest and back
- Tuesday / Friday – Arms and Shoulders
- Wednesday / Friday – Lower Body
The athlete performs the repetitions until they can no longer execute the exercise and assistants provide the added support to allow them to perform 2-3 more reps.
This tactic puts the muscles in tension for a longer period of time than normal for a repetition. The athlete executes to temporary exhaustion and then assistants provide some resistance during the eccentric part of the contraction. The extended period of tension will contribute to muscle growth beyond the norms.
Exercising the agonist muscle and the the antagonist muscle during the recovery phase is a Super set. For example, exercising the biceps in a biceps curl then the triceps press right after then back to the biceps curl.
The recovery time between sets is minimized. The athlete may perform a set and then wait only 30-60 seconds before beginning the next set. The next set may not be as many repetitions due to fatigue.
Exhausting the small muscles that support the muscle being focused on before performing the exercise for the main muscle is pre-exhaustion. This ensures that the muscle of focus is lifting the entire load.
For most the hypertrophy phase will end as the Max Strength phase begins. For athletes that will continually rely so heavily on size and strength such as shot put and football players, they might continue during the maintenance into the beginning of the competitive phase however they would discontinue as the main competition is arriving.
It is recommended that youth (up to 14 years) should not be periodizing their training. They should remain in multi lateral training to ensure they are adapting their young bodies and preparing them for specialization safely and enjoyably. Injuries occur often in youth that are specializing too early and participating in training that more mature bodies are capable of doing.