FITLIFE at Horizon Baseball

Today takes me to the baseball field at Horizon High School where myself along with Coach K will spend a couple of hours training this year’s Husky baseball hopefuls. 

Horizon Baseball Training with FITLIFE

FITLIFE Health Systems has been providing strength and conditioning, flexibility, and arm care programs to the Horizon High School Baseball team since the very first day we opened our doors in February of 1997.  During my time as the athletic trainer at Horizon, August of 1994 to May of 1997, I developed a strong relationship with the coaching staff including Head Varsity Coach Eric Kibler, Assistant Varsity Coach Bob Strachan, Head Junior Varsity Coach Jerry Stone and Head Freshman Coach Pete Crimando resulting in FITLIFE becoming the unofficial provider of athletic enhancement training for their athletes.

In the early days, the athletes primarily came to our location at 9332 N. 95th Way in Scottsdale.  From 1997 – 2011 we had the privilege of working with hundreds of players who came to us in the summer, fall and winter preparing for the upcoming season.  Many of these athletes went on to play college and professional baseball.  In the summer of 2011 Coach K came to me with an idea, he wanted to include those players who found it difficult to get to FITLIFE and train as a program at Horizon after school.  I thought it was a great idea and we began in August of that year and it was a big success.  We have improved it each year with addition of new equipment and ideas allowing the athletes to train effectively and efficiently on and around the baseball field.

The Horizon Baseball coaching staff has committed their program and players to a year- round approach including pre-season conditioning, in-season training and post-season rest and recovery – something you don’t find these days.  The combination of pre-season strength and conditioning, yoga, long toss throwing program, in-season conditioning, and post-season rest and recovery is a model every high school should adopt for a variety of reasons.  The number of injuries in the program is minimal. The players come together as a program, the older players develop leadership skills, the younger players learn work ethic, commitment and teamwork.

This year we started the off-season FITLIFE program with a speed test on August 21st testing each players speed using 3 different distances.  We looked at 10 yards for explosive movement, 30 yards for home to first and 60 yards for linear speed.  Over the next 15 weeks training session follow a Periodized Training Model.

Phase 1 is endurance which meets 3 times a week for 5 weeks.  During this phase, we start each workout with a functional warm up for movement followed by form running drills.  The players then break up into 8 groups of 6-8 athletes with an upper classman as group leader and complete 8 stations.   Each station has 3 different exercises that focus on muscles used in baseball, anaerobic conditioning and core.  Using 30 second intervals for each exercise the station takes a couple of minutes to complete.  The goal is to complete as many repetitions as possible with proper form. After each station has been gone through twice we come together for either a static stretch or Yoga flow led by an upperclassman.  The entire workout lasts an hour and a half.

The next phase is a strength phase.  We continue the functional warm up and add form running drills to the warm up.  The same number of groups with 6-8 athletes and stations are used, however each station has 3 new exercises.  During this phase, instead of 30 seconds the athlete will perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions emphasizing the eccentric part of the exercise.  Eccentric muscle contraction is when the muscle lengthens at the same time it’s contracting.  It’s also know by many people as “negatives” and is imperative when training for strength gains.  During this phase, we meet twice a week for 5 weeks for an hour and a half.

Finally, the last phase is all about power and explosion.  The same format is used as far as functional warm up however during the form running drills the distance becomes shorter and the effort becomes all out.  Each station now contains 3 new exercises including either upper or lower body plyometric, quick rotational movements using bands and medicine balls as well as core work.   During this 5 weeks of twice a week we use a combination of sets and repetitions in our stations.  When this phase is complete we re-test each athlete. We primarily look at their pre-test and post-test speed improvements.  Over the years, we have continued to get excellent results and the players are then physically prepared for try-outs.

Hopefully you enjoyed learning a little about this outstanding program. If you’re interested in doing a program like this for you team or have any questions feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

John Neel AT

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