Softball Training Variables for Success

Softball Training Variables

Softball training variables are the components of training which are focused on a specific phase of the yearly training plan.  The activities chosen based on volume and intensity of training, will depend on the conditioning of your team and your athletes, the age of your athletes and the time available for training which is related to the level that your team is playing at.

Softball Training Variables

There are 4 components that constitute the Load in training.

  • volume
  • intensity
  • density
  • complexity

Volume (Quantity of work)

This is the amount of work that includes the following:

  • the time or duration of training
  • distance covered or weight lifted per unit of time
  • number of repetitions

Softball volume often includes more technical and tactical work as the competitive phase arrives and less physical work.  As your athletes become more advanced, volume will increase as their performance level increases.  It is critical though, that young athletes are not over burdened with too much volume.

The Preparatory phase or pre-season should contain more physical conditioning, which can also be done in the form of technical drills through repetitions.  This is why creativity is so important to prevent boredom.  There are 2 ways to consider when calculating volume.

Relative Volume:  the total amount of training for the entire team which includes physical / technical and mental training.

Absolute Volume: The amount of training done per athlete per unit of time

Following is a guideline from Istvan Balyi’s Long Term Athlete Development model for effective volume of work requirements which includes competition:

Developmental Stage

training / competing

Competition to training ratio

Active Start 0-6 years

Daily activity / Multi sport

no formal competition

FUNdamentals 6-8 years

Daily activity / Multi sport

no formal competition

 Learning to Train 8-11 years

3 times per week

30% – 70%

Training to Train 11-15 years

6-9 times per week

 40% – 60%

Training to Compete 15-21 years

6-9 times per week

 60% – 40%

Training to Win 18+

9-12 times per week

75% – 25%

Active for Life

As desired

As desired

________________________ ________________________ ________________________

Increasing volume can be done in the following ways:

  • increase the time frame of the training session
  • increase the number of sessions for the microcycle
  • increase the number of repetitions for drills
  • increase the duration of the activity

Intensity (Quality of work)

The amount of work done during a given amount of time is the intensity.  The more work performed the higher the intensity.  Psychological intensity must not be neglected in this equation.  For example when a batter is up to bat in a very important game, where the score is close and the team is relying on her to get a hit in order to stay in or win the game, you cannot deny the level of intensity that may be experienced.  Following are some values to use in determining intensity:

  • to measure speed look at meters per second
  • to measure strength look at rate per minute
  • during competition look at game rhythm
  • athletes perception of psychological intensity

Higher volumes and lower intensity training is recommended during the preparation phase to prepare the body for the more intense specific exercises.  High intensity exercise (of 85% or more) should be no more than 40% of this time period.

The duration of a game is 90-120 minutes, however the actual amount of activity that a softball player will do is less than 10 minutes for an entire game not including pitchers and Catchers.  This makes softball an anaerobic alactic sport that requires strength, speed and ultimately power to be successful.

Increase the intensity in the following ways:

  • increase the velocity related to the distance covered
  • increase the number of repetitions in a given amount of time
  • decrease the rest interval between repetitions
  • increase the number of high intensity activities

Intensity amounts:

  • H (high) 90 – 100% max intensity
  • M (medium) 80 – 90% max intensity
  • L (low) 50 – 80% max intensity

Rest Intervals

The amount of time between one activity to the next is the recovery time.  This value will determine the level of recovery and fatigue that your athlete experiences during and after training.  The optimal amount of recovery will prevent fatigue. The value of this factor depends on the type of training being done, the level of fitness of your athlete and the desired training effect.  A highly trained softball player may not require the same amount of time for recovery depending on the activity.   A low intensity activity will require a lower recovery time than a higher intensity activity.

Following is a recovery time guideline:

  • endurance – 2:1 (2 times the rest that the activity took)
  • high intensity (lactate training) -1:3 to 1:6
  • Maximum Strength / Power – 2 to 5 minutes


Softball is a complex sport filled with complex skills.  This increases the neuromuscular demands and has the potential to create muscular strain during the learning process and can decrease the ability to adapt.  High levels of coordination are required for most skills in softball.  The psychological aspects of softball increases the amount of stress and can even increase the HR  up to 30 beats per minute, which puts more strain on the body, increasing fatigue.

This is a training variable that will affect the recovery time required between games depending on the psychological stress endured. The manipulation of volume, intensity and recovery time is a complex task in itself.  In order to allow the team to peak at the right time with an optimal combination of physical, mental, technical and tactical skills, volumes intensities, and recovery time will need to be managed effectively to promote optimal adaptations for ideal performance.

Application to Training

It is critical to monitor athletes not only to evaluate progress but also to see how the volumes and intensities are affecting their internal responses.  The adaptations to training directly correlate to the volumes and intensities applied in the planning.  The intensity must exceed 30% in order to have any effect.  Activities that are above the optimal intensities can lead to overtraining and even stagnation. Therefore it is important to know your athletes and to adhere to the requirements of softball.  One of the considerations for softball as well in planning is the total demands of the game depending on the competition level and importance of the game.

Being that this is a complex sport with so many elements of stress, not all including physical demands, a total demand is more appropriate to consider as it also includes psychological and social intensities.