By Tim Kauppinen
Serious ball players are always looking for ways to get an edge on the competition – to gain an advantage. It's why you spend so much time researching methods of training that will make you faster and stronger – without taking too much time to get results.
That's why I believe that running hill sprints (which includes running bleachers and stairs) is a must for any baseball player looking to be the best.
This is because hill sprints provide a number of benefits to the baseball player. Here are the Top 5:
1. Hill Sprints Provide the Perfect Combination of Strength and Speed Training.
It's like lifting weights and sprinting at the same time. The hill gives resistance to your sprints, making them more difficult while being shorter in distance and duration. Including hill sprints in your training program can bring great results in as little as 15 minutes 1 or 2 times per week.
This training can help you develop great strength and power in your hips – the key to hitting farther, pitching harder and throwing longer.
2. Hill Sprints Build Stamina.
Endurance is something that every baseball player needs to keep consistency in your play in the later innings – but it is a special kind of endurance. If you want to perform at your peak, then long, slow distance types of cardio just won't work. When is the last time you had to jog around the ball field at 60% of your max heart rate for 30 minutes straight? Instead, your endurance training needs to mimic the demands of your sport. Those needs being – short bouts of intense exertion alternated with periods of lower intensity movements.
Hill sprints provide just this type of interval training. They will take your heart and lungs to intensities far greater than those found in jogging or traditional types of endurance training. Your body will become used to reaching these higher levels, and recovering quickly in between the "sprints." Not only that, with hill sprints, you will be able to spend much more time training at that high intensity than if you try to "go hard" at a steady state.
More and more scientific studies are showing that VO2 Max (the traditional measure of aerobic endurance) is improved as much – or more- by using high intensity exercise like hill sprinting. (And you can gain these benefits in incredibly short workouts). This endurance is due to the sprints upgrading your oxygen intake system with new capillaries, developing stronger heart and lung tissue, adding more energy producing mitochondria and increasing your tolerance to lactic acid buildup.
Without this endurance, your body will become fatigued as the game goes on (especially if it goes into extra innings). Fatigue can lead to a decrease in performance and the loss of your form and technique. Being tired can also lead to a lack of focus, which can kill your batting average or your pitching consistency (not to mention lead to costly errors).
Want to stay fresh and win in the 9th inning (and beyond)? Hill sprint.
3. Hill Sprints Increase Your Speed and Explosiveness.
Let's face it. Speed kills. Whether it's for stealing bases or chasing down a fly ball, speed development is key to your success - and hill sprints can help you get there.
Hill training promotes two important factors of your speed: hip strength and quickness.
First, when you run hill sprints, you will immediately feel the difference in your hips – especially your quads and glutes. Improving these "pushing" muscles in your legs will help get you up to full speed faster – greatly improving your chances of making it to the next base or covering ground to make a play.
Secondly, hill sprints can improve your quickness. Sprinting up hill forces you to shorten your stride slightly. This shorter stride forces you increase the turnover of those strides – making you run faster. Faster feet also translate into a lightning-quick first step – a great asset to have in any ballgame.
4. Hill Sprints Improve Your Mental Toughness
Besides all of the physical benefits of hill sprinting, they also promote mental toughness and goal-setting.
Looking up at the hill can be daunting when you are fatigued and nearing the end of your sprint session. By using the hill as a metaphor, you can see the importance of having a goal (the top of the hill), taking the steps necessary to reach it (one step at a time up the hill), and celebrating your success when they reach that goal (just like you'll celebrate after winning your next big game). Looking back down the hill after your workout, you can feel the satisfaction of accomplishing something that may have seemed an impossible obstacle.
With all of these benefits for you as a ball player, adding hill sprints to your training program should go to the top of your To Do List. It's no coincidence that Ichiro Suzuki and other baseball greats include hills and stairs in their off-season training.
Make yourself stronger, faster, better conditioned, injury resistant and mentally tough with this "old school" training. You and your fans will be glad you did. The opposing team won't be quite as happy…
Tim Alan Kauppinen, or Coach K, has over 20 years experience as an athlete and coach. He has worked with athletes of all ages and abilities in track and field, basketball, speed training and strength and conditioning after graduating from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a coaching emphasis. This has given him the privilege and the opportunity to coach athletes who have become conference champions, state champions and Division I college players. Coach K is the author of the Uphill Fitness Training, Ultimate Insider Speed Training Secrets and Iron Shins programs. He also publishes a FREE daily training email newsletter.
Tim can be contacted through his website at
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