by Lee Gordon
Baseball training has evolved over the past few decades. The days of pitchers using sand cans (an empty tennis ball case filled with sand) to strengthen their arms have been replaced by intricate band training and isolated muscle movements. Baseball is a high velocity power sport requiring high degrees of acceleration and velocity relative to accelerating objects very quickly such as a ball, bat or the body when stealing second base.
It has been discovered that if athletes can train with resistive loads at higher velocities they will significantly improve their ability to develop power at higher velocities and thus run and throw faster as well as swing a bat with higher velocities. Elastic bands have an advantage over steel weights in that they can apply significant resistive loads to the athlete but do not possess hardly any mass since the rubber only weighs a few ounces.
“Steel weights have a lot of mass which means the athlete cannot accelerate 40 pounds of steel very quickly and achieve high training velocities,” said Mike Wehrell, CEO and founder of VertiMax, “Whereas an athlete can accelerate a few ounces of rubber applying 40 pounds of resistance very quickly due to the lack of mass and thus achieve very high training velocities and stimulate power production and strength at higher velocities to garner significant sports specific performance gains in baseball.”
Linear and Lateral Speed Training
Football players focus on a 40-yard dash to determine speed. In baseball, the focus is on the 90-foot dash. If you are lucky, you can jog around the bases, but the difference between a good player and a great player can be a fraction of a second running down the first base-line. According to its website, VertiMax says that its band training will, “Improve explosive leg power 6 times more effectively than plyometrics and improve overall baseball related athleticism.”
At the same time, when a baseball player, pitches, bats or accelerates on offense or defense they use a variety of muscles that cannot be trained in a coordinated fashion for optimal power and speed development with conventional training equipment. What band training does is allow coaches to apply resistance to multiple points on a ball player’s body while they are performing the complicated throwing and bating movements at very high velocities to enable sports specific power development for higher throwing velocities, better acceleration and more powerful hitting.
Toronto Blue Jays center fielded Colby Rasmus has used the VertiMax training for years and credits the band training to his accelerated rise through the minors. “I was introduced to Vertimax through the Blue Jays,” Rasumus said, “Vertimax has helped me in all aspects of my game. After a few workouts, I started to notice improvement in both my leg and arm power. This has increased my vertical, which has also helped my defense in the outfield. Meanwhile, the adjustable resistance bands I use during my hitting drills have added power to my swing.”
The versatility to re-configure into hundreds of baseball training configurations gives VertiMax the ability to radically improve the power associated with every critical baseball movement. Delivering effective results and training versatility has made the VertiMax V8 the most dynamic piece of baseball training equipment in the world and highly sought after by baseball players at all competitive levels-that’s why it’s used by more than half of major league and college programs. But the bulk of the users are high schools and little leaguers who benefit from the training at an early age.
“I coached Tyler Rahmatulla, a shortstop on the Mater Dei High School Baseball Team, who led the 16 & under Junior Olympic team in home runs. He participated in our six-week VertiMax training program,” said elite coach and trainer John Elliott, “In the beginning we were only trying to lower his 60 yard dash time and increase his lateral movement, and that did happen. But we noticed another significant improvement! Tyler pitches on the team, and he had increased his fast ball from approximately 85 to 90 mph! VertiMax training.”
Strength and Power
Everyone wants to hit home runs, but you don’t have to spend hours in the weight room or take performance enhancers to do it. Band training has been proven to increase speed and power at the plate—giving hitters the muscle resistance training needed to hit the ball 400 feet. But more than that, catchers have found band training to give them that extra pop when gunning down a runner at second base and pitchers that extra push when throwing off the mound.
“VertiMax has the versatility to configure into hundreds of training configurations to apply the most advanced speed training technology for developing athletic speed and acceleration in any direction,” Wehrell said, “The 8 bands integrated into the system also allow very sports specific training configurations to apply counter torque to the hips and shoulders to increase throwing speed and explosive torque in the legs, hips and upper torso to maximally increase bat speed and hitting power. Multiple bands can be attached to various parts of the athlete to enable cutting edge drills such as “pop ups” for catchers, leg & hip rotation loading for pitchers and developing acceleration to allow players to get to hard drive balls quicker and make those game changing plays.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres and 14 of the top ranked NCAA baseball teams are just some of the proponents of the VertiMax. Each team uses the product to transform its athletes into the fastest and most explosive players possible. But it’s not just power or speed that is benefitted by resistance bands—strength and conditioning coaches are now using the VertiMax in rehab-realizing that using the resistance bands are more effective than traditional rehab measures.
How the Pros Use Band Training
One of the biggest proponents of the VertiMax are the Toronto Blue Jays. Donovan Santas is the strength and conditioning coordinator at the Jays’ facilities in Florida. Inside Pitch spoke to Santas to get a better understanding of how the major league team uses the VertiMax training in their everyday workout —breaking it down to each specific position and what he sees as the biggest advantage to using the training platform.
Rehab: “We use it primarily off platform. Any kind of lower body, soft tissue injury, knee, hip, back or ankle injury we use the VertiMax. We love the band resistance to belt them up and do some easy moving and move into some lunging. We love that as one of our rehab protocols to get guys moving again.”
Outfielders: “We put them in their outfield stance and do a drop step and sprint back like they will go back on a ball. You can do a lot of different things with that as a reactionary tool and sprint back.”
Base stealers: “We put our base stealers in the stance and get ready and turn and sprint. They (VertiMax) came out and re-wound our V8 model so we can get out there quite a long ways. They can get 3-4 hard good bursts before they relax and let the bands decelerated they get a good spring out of it.”
Middle Infielders: “One of the drills I love deals with the middle infielders. We will put them in their infield stance and put resistance to the right and have them do a cross over step. So a shortstop backhands a ball and that force is pulling them to the right and the bands help them decelerate and accelerate into a throw. When they are getting ground balls deep in the hole, they decelerate and make the throw, it gives them great training. I don’t think athletes get enough work in deceleration training. A lot of injuries can happen there too if you aren’t strong enough or prepared.”
Pitchers: “We get our guys in the basic pitching stance and have them go up in their stride and go right through their motion with the belt on their feet. What it does is guys that will collapse on their back side, if we pull them into their collapsing; it pulls them into correct posture. If I pull him in to where he is collapsing, or collapse more with the resistance, it forces the body to compensate and turn on the muscles that are dormant and should be firing. If I have a guy who is falling forward or leaning, we will pull him into the lean and makes his body make him stay back. We are feeding the problem to make them fix the issue.”
Catchers: “We put them in the squat with the band and drive forward into a knee block and we’ll do band resisted broad jumps with them. Our catching coordinator loves that drill where we make them explode into a sliding knee block.”