Endurance training for a baseball player is illogical. We are not endurance athletes.
I remember a mentor of mine telling me I needed to “pound the pavement” to prepare for spring training. He was a former MLB player, and I trusted his guidance. He believed that distance running gets a player ready from a cardiovascular perspective. He was wrong. From nsca.com:
The aerobic base was traditionally developed using long-distance, continuous running. However, research has shown that endurance exercise lasting longer than 30 min has detrimental effects on power output (7,8). According to a study published by Rhea and colleagues, endurance training and power training are not compatible and should not be trained at the same time for baseball players.
In baseball, everything revolves around a single rep. We take a violent swing, we rest, we repeat. The same can be said for the delivery of a pitch. While a pitcher may throw 100 pitches, it is closer to 100 sets of 1 repetition than 1 set of 100 repetitions.
While my mentor was correct that strengthening the heart muscle is good for us as human beings, he was off with his assessment that the training makes sense for baseball players. The longest distance we will ever run on a baseball field is 360 feet, perhaps a few more if we factor in angles on the rare inside the park home run. As an outfielder, if I’m manning center field and run from gap to gap, north or south or a combo of the two, my distance will never be longer than 100 feet in any direction. If I was a cross country runner training for a 5 mile race, would I train by sprinting 35 yard blasts? Of course not. So, as baseball players, why do we seek out training that’s actually breaking us down?
Endurance training has also been shown to decrease muscle fiber size, muscle strength, and muscle power, all of which are detrimental to a baseball athlete (4).
Instead, we should be optimizing for speed and power in short bursts.
Power is defined as P=(force x displacement)/time. Increases in power can occur in two ways: increase the ability to exert force (get stronger) or decrease the amount of time it takes to exert the force (rate of force development).
When we’re swinging the bat, taking off for second base, or throwing a fastball, we want to be explosive in that short period of time. Time spent in the weight room or performing plyometric moves will have a much larger impact than running more miles.
The larger takeaway is that you should constantly be evaluating your actions relative to your goals. Working hard isn’t enough; you also need to be working smart. From jamesclear.com:
Putting in a lot of time might make you tired, but simply working a lot (even if it’s 10,000 hours over the course of your career) isn’t enough to make you a top performer. It’s not the same thing as practicing deliberately. Most people who think they are working hard are merely developing the skill of being in the gym”
Once you know your goal, do your homework to find out what practice will help you get there.