Reactive strength is the ability to switch from a maximal force following an eccentric stretch to a concentric action in a plyometric or a fast-rebound action. The speed between the eccentric stretch and the concentric action is telling and displays an athlete’s reactive ability.
This reactive ability is important for baseball players, especially high level throwers and hitters. The ability to relax, contract, and display such an explosive action in sport, such as pitching a 95 mph fastball or hitting a 95 mph fastball is essential to longterm success.
Athletes at OPP train for an optimal surplus of reactive strength and explosive strength. All while continuing to simultaneously develop maximal strength, speed strength, strength speed and isometric strength. This article was written to explain how we develop reactive strength using the conjugate method.
What is an optimal surplus?
Watch the video taken from our Baseball S&C Conjugate Course[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Explosive power is the ability to rapidly increase force – Tidow, 1990. Thus the faster the increase of strength in time, the greater the explosive strength.
So what is the best way for developing explosive power and reactive ability? From our experience, we know there are 3 ways of developing these traits that should be used in combination with each other. A conjugated sequence using the Maximal Effort Method, the Dynamic Effort Method, and Jump training.
Maximal Effort Method
This method is the best method known to increase intramuscular and intermuscular coordination. The CNS will adapt. Strength is largely neurological. Remember what explosive power is? The faster the athlete can increase strength in time, the greater the explosive strength. Think of maximal effort training as the ceiling for explosive strength development. Raise this ceiling, and watch the floor (explosive strength) now have the ability to raise to new heights.
Dynamic Effort Method
Lifting submaximal loads as fast as possible. This improves speed strength and explosive strength. We prefer to use accommodating resistance for this method and for the development of explosive strength we prefer 30-40% straight weight and 15 – 25% accommodating resistance (bands/chains) depending on the athlete. For speed strength development we are around 50-60% of straight weight and 15 – 25% accommodating resistance. I think some people forget that F=MA. It’s not old science, it’s just science. If becoming faster with heavier loads is the goal, ditch olympic lifting and add accommodating resistance to the classic lifts. Accommodating resistance will shift the strength curve and allow an athlete to accelerate through the full ROM without a deceleration phase. Olympic weightlifting consists of deceleration. Training to get good at olympic lifting is a large waste of time for a baseball player. Training time is much better spent on acceleration and moving as fast as possible. “It does no good to be strong in the wrong exercise” – Louie Simmons. Throwing weighted balls and medicine balls can be correlated toward the dynamic effort method, as throwing these submaximal loads at the highest velocity possible can contribute toward improving speed-strength and explosive strength in a more sport specific manner.
I think most coaches understand the importance of jumping and plyometric training for athletes regardless of sport. I think what can be overlooked is that if one wants to improve their jumping ability, they will need to improve their maximal strength and explosive strength. If maximal strength falls short, then the cap for explosive strength development falls short. When I say maximal strength, don’t think about the number on the bar. Think about the significant neurological stimulus that is received when doing a maximal effort or near maximal effort lift. Strength is the ability to overcome an external resistance (or resist it) through a muscular effort. Power is the rate at which work is done (work divided by time). As mentioned before, explosive power is the ability to rapidly increase force. During plyometric training an athlete must overcome their body weight at a very high speed in order to keep their amortization or absorption phase (the time on the ground) very short and quick. If the absorption phase becomes too long, then the elastic energy is reduced.
Another benefit from plyometric training is eccentric strength. But not the long negatives most coaches use to improve eccentric strength. To build eccentric strength an athlete can actually use in game, they should train for a faster absorption phase. An example of this would be to drop down from a higher box and rebound (absorb quickly) off the ground to a shorter box. For concentric strength, drop off a lower box and rebound to a much higher box, also known as depth jumps. Our athletes jump 20 – 60 jumps per lower body training session, depending on time of year, training experience and goal. We rotate our jumps frequently to keep things from going stale. Accommodation and staleness can happen in the muscles and the mind. So be sure to keep things interesting by rotating the jumps frequently all while keeping the main goal the main goal. Hit your target, but have fun doing it.
See blog: How we use plyometric training with our pitchers
To conclude, reactive strength should not be trained in isolation of other qualities. All special strengths and maximal strength must be continuously brought up year around to see a significant increase in reactive ability.
Explosive Strength – fast velocity
Speed Strength – intermediate velocity
Strength Speed – slow velocity
Isometrics – zero velocity
As you can see all of these strengths are interconnected. When trained in a conjugated fashion, the athlete can see tremendous strength, explosive strength and reactive strength gains.