Strength is the foundation for most skills in softball. Skills such as power and speed will be enhanced which maximizes skill execution with adequate strength. The amount of time spent on Softball Maximum Strength training phase will depend on the length of the preparation phase or the pre season.
How strong an athlete becomes is not necessarily dependent on how large the muscles are. By using the most effective Maximum Strength methods it is possible to increase strength without building muscle mass. The exercises in this phase are concentric as most sport movements are concentric in nature.
Relative strength is essentially overall strength. It is related to body weight and maximum strength. The higher the relative strength the better the overall performance.
Softball Maximum Strength Training Variables
Maximum Load Method (Isotonic)
It is possible with this method that less trained athletes will experience some hypertrophy or increase in muscle size. This is due to the exhaustion of the muscle fibres and depletion of protein which is refurbished in excess during the recovery phase if the diet is rich in protein.
85-90% 1RM is the ideal load depending on the training level of the athlete with a low number of reps. For advanced softball players up to 100% can be used however recovery time will need to increase 3-4 minutes to increase maximum strength rather than for hypertrophy.
Benefits of Maximum Load Method:
- recruits fast-twitch muscle fibres
- contributes to the development of power
- increases muscular endurance
- improves relative strength
- enhances coordination and synchronization of muscle groups
This training method should only be used when athletes have had a good foundation of anatomical adaptation. It is not recommended for junior athletes who are not yet fully matured and could experience injuries as a result.
This is a static movement or lack of movement that involves an immobile resistance. This includes attempting to lift a weight that is beyond the athlete’s ability and attempting to move a permanent structure. This method can be used while maintaining strength although is not useful in developing power or speed.
The difficulty with this method as a strength training tool is that the angle of the muscle does not move, which prevents any gains in the required range of motion for the softball skills. Almost every motion in softball is in some form dynamic motion which this method is not.
It is recommended that you use exercises that mimic softball skills to have any benefit from this method of training.
- 80 – 100% 1RM
- 4-6 exercises
- duration of contraction per set 6-12 seconds
- duration of contraction per session 60-90 seconds
- number of sets per session 6-9
- rest interval 60-90 seconds
- frequency 2-3 sessions per week
Tetanus Training Method
This method of which the goal is maximum tension in the muscle, is best used during the late hypertrophy and early max strength phase. It is made up of slow contraction speed with bouts of isometric contractions. The difference in this method is that the load can be higher 70-100% 1RM however the recovery time between sets is lower. This can exhaust the muscles promoting protein synthesis.
It can also be used in the late preparation early competitive phase to maintain maximum force.
Methods of Tetanus Training:
- Isometric Contraction – 1-2 at 4-6 seconds at 80% (prime movers)
- Isometric Dynamic – an isometric immediately followed by a dynamic movement
- Dynamic Explosive – throwing a heavy implement then a lighter one
- Complex Drill – slow eccentric, isometric, then concentric contractions
- Complex followed by a 10-15 meter sprint
- Complex followed by 3-5 plyometrics
The opposite of the concentric force is the eccentric force. When performing a biceps curl for example it is not the actual curl but the movement of bringing the dumbbell back to its original point. Because an athlete can move more weight during an eccentric contraction, it is considered to be more effective than a concentric contraction.
The caution with this type of training however is that because the loads can be higher than for the concentric movement, loads higher than 1RM could be used which would require assistance in getting the weight to the starting point. Attempting this without assistance can be dangerous and even more so depending on the exercise such as a bench press. For this reason it is not recommended that athletes with less than 3-5 years of quality training and experience.
The concentric training should be used by those that are not yet ready for such demanding loads.
This method combines maximum force with plyometrics and can be done at the end of a maximum strength phase. This combination of power and strength can be beneficial for softball which relies on power, however must also be done carefully.
The athlete completes a heavy load activity followed by a quick or explosive move increasing the rate of the fast twitch muscle fibres.
- drop jumps
- jumping squats
- drop push-ups
- medicine ball throws
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.