Learn Overload and Underload Baseball Training
Overload and Underload baseball training is nothing new. If you’ve ever watched a baseball game you will often see players warming up in the on-deck circle with a weight around their bat. While not a full overload training routine it is a form of overload training and helps them activate their muscles so that they’re ready to roll when they step into the batter’s box.
Underload baseball training is only done during practice sessions and involves swinging a bat that is lighter than their game bat in order to develop their fast-twitch muscles. Let's take a close look at why both of these training methods are important.
Why is Overload Baseball Training Important?
You hear a lot these days about the importance of exit velocity, and for good reason. Exit velocity is the speed at which the ball comes off the bat after being hit. It is the single biggest factor in determining how far the ball carries. For every 1 mph increase in exit velocity, you can expect the ball to carry an extra 4-6 feet. That kind of increase can make the difference between your ball being snagged on the warning track and disappearing into the stands for a home run.
Why mention this? Because, just as exit velocity is the single biggest factor in determining ball carry, bat speed is the single biggest factor in determining exit velocity. So, increased bat speed equals increased exit velocity equals increased ball carry and more hits.
Overload training is crucial for developing increased bat speed. By training with a heavier bat than you use during the game, you strengthen the muscles associated with your swing. Then, next time you’re staring at a fastball in the heart of the strike zone you can smack it out of the park instead of watching it get snagged at the wall.
Why is Underload Baseball Training Important?
Whereas overload baseball training builds overall strength and endurance, fast-twitch muscles enable you to react quickly to get the bat moving. The faster you can react and the faster you can swing the bat, the more time you'll have to consider the pitch and the more bat speed you'll be able to generate.
Underload training consists of using a bat that is lighter than your standard game bat in order to practice activating your swing and getting the bat moving quickly. When combined with the strength gains produced by overload training, underload training helps ensure your swing will activate faster and achieve a higher speed by the time you make contact with the ball.
How to do Overload Training
Overload baseball training is actually really easy, as long as you have the equipment. That ‘equipment’ consists of a bat that is heavier than your regular game bat. Just be sure it is no more than 20% heavier. Science indicates that training with a bat that is more than 20% heavier can be counterproductive because it causes you to change your mechanics.
Overload training itself is simple. Do a few warm-up swings and then do 5-15 swings with the heavier bat. You can choose to hit a ball off a tee if you like, or you can choose to simply practise your swing 'dry', with no ball on the tee.
How to do Underload Training
Underload baseball training is all about practising your reaction time and getting used to moving the bat quickly and accurately. The underloaded bat will be lighter than your game bat but again, not more than 20% lighter.
Underload training should be done at the same time as overload baseball training. Meaning you should switch off between the heavier and the lighter bats. You train with them the same way, by doing 5-15 swings either using a ball on a tee, or simply swinging through the tee dry.
When you finish the underload set, do a similar set with your game bat. Then take a few minutes to rest and repeat the entire routine, starting with overloading. Be careful not to exceed 15 swings with the heavier bat, as this too could force a change in your mechanics.
What’s Better Overload or Underload Baseball Training?
When it comes to overload/underload baseball training it's impossible to separate the two, and you should always do both as part of your bat speed exercise program. Swinging the bat effectively is a multifaceted endeavour that requires both strength and rapid reaction times. Therefore, if you only do overload or only do underload training you'll be selling yourself short and not optimizing your swing.