- softball is not a high cardio sport like soccer, basketball, or volleyball
- softball does not require the same kind of physicality like football or wrestling where size and strength matter quite a bit
- players can get away with not being in top shape or not being as strong as they could be and still play the game well enough
Because of these factors, it’s easy for players, parents, and coaches alike to overlook the importance and benefit of conditioning in our sport. It’s easy to forgo conditioning in favor of skill work, pitching practice, or hitting practice. Doing so, however, robs you of the useful benefits conditioning provides and makes you that much easier to beat by those who understand these benefits and train hard for them by including conditioning in their softball training program.
What kind of advantage can you gain through conditioning? I’ll give you a few examples…
Here are 5 things conditioning can do for you:
Increase Your Athleticism: Conditioning done right makes you quicker, more powerful, and more agile while helping you prevent pesky and/or serious injuries. Good conditioning also helps you gain a better understanding of how their body works and so you move and play in ways that are both most efficient and effective for performance.
In short, you get more “bang for your buck” producing greater results with less energy and effort. Guess who lasts longer on long tournament weekends or through a whole season…
Is it the player who produces more with less energy or the player who has to work harder to produce the same results because they aren’t moving in the most efficient and effective manner in practice or in games?
Increase Your Endurance: I can’t count how many times I’ve heard coaches say that softball is not a marathon, therefore players don’t need to be “conditioned.” I’ve also heard people say that plays in our sport don’t even last a minute so “conditioning” and “endurance” don’t matter.
Have you ever tried to play 4+ softball games in one day? Do you know what that feels like? Then do that for 3-4 days in a row for 4-5 weekends in a row. Or try playing 50-60+ games in a season and tell me if any of that feels like a sprint!
How do you think pitchers who pitch back to back games feel? Do you really think endurance doesn’t matter?
Have you seen pitchers get “tired” and start giving up bombs in the 5th inning of the game every…single…time they’re in the circle?
I’ve seen it so many times. Pitchers look great for 3-4 innings, then all of a sudden they start missing spots every other pitch and get hit all over the field.
Giving up more hits at the end of the game is not entirely because the batters have seen the pitcher more times so the pitcher is at a disadvantage. In fact, I’ve seen good pitchers get MORE effective as the game wears on because they figure batters out after an at bat or two. They know hitters weaknesses and what to throw to exploit those weaknesses by the time they see them for a 3rd or 4th time.
When pitchers simply can’t hit their spots and throw the pitches they need to take advantage of hitter’s weaknesses, it’s fatigue. It’s lack of endurance.
Have you ever tried pitching for precision when your fresh vs when your tired (i.e. just finished running bases)? The ball just does NOT go where you want it to. I’ve tried. It really stinks. No matter how much you concentrate on your form and technique, when your muscles are drained, they’re drained. They don’t perform the way you need and want them to when they get to that state. They need to recover before they you regain control. Pitchers who are in shape, in condition, recover faster than those that aren’t. Plain and simple. Some pitchers literally empty their tank before the game is done and will NOT physically recover in time to be effective any time during that same game, maybe not even that same day.
That’s another reason some coaches do not let certain pitchers hit. It’s not only because they can’t or for safety reasons, it’s also because some pitchers aren’t in shape enough to effectively handle both hitting and pitching.
This fatigue factor doesn’t only apply to pitchers. It applies to every player performing a technical movement ont the field, like hitting a ball, fielding a ball, or throwing a ball. That’s right, it affects every player!
But it’s not only during games or tournaments when endurance benefits you. Think about this…
You can take 10 quality reps in a hitting station before your form and technique break down, but your opponent can only take 5. Then their next 5 reps aren’t quality reps at all.
Who is going to get more out of their training? Who is going to make greater improvements from their training therefore producing better results on game day? YOU! Because you can last longer at a higher level of performance, giving you a higher number of QUALITY reps in practice vs someone who doesn’t have the endurance to take as many reps at that same level of quality.
Develop Persistence: Conditioning is a great time to practice persistence, to keep going even when you’re tired, when training gets hard, and when you feel like giving up. Do those feelings ever occur during a game? During a season? Of course they do! Conditioning gives you an excellent opportunity to practice persistence and determination even when circumstances are less than ideal and you aren’t at your very best. It gives you an opportunity to practice finishing as strong as you can instead of giving in to frustration and fatigue and giving up.
These are important characteristics of successful athletes! Conditioning gives you a way to practice overcoming these challenges in training so when you face them in a game situation, or in your season, you can dig deep and keep moving forward because you’ve trained yourself to do so in conditioning.
Show Progress: One of the coolest thing about strength and conditioning is the ability to compare your own performance now to where you were before. You can test yourself, track your progress, and celebrate along the way. This is SO key for motivational reasons. It’s tough to go out day after day to train when you’re not sure it’s producing any results. Maybe your home to first time improved or your mile time is faster. Maybe you can do more pushups in a minute that before or maybe you can DO a pushup now when you couldn’t before.
When you can SEE evidence of your own progress at regular checkpoints, it confirms that all the hard work you’re putting it IS working. That it’s worth it, you’re getting better and making progress. No sane person puts themselves through HARD work for no reason. There must be some kind of pay off. Often times seeing your own progress is critical in keeping you focused and on track with training vs getting a point when you’re just going through the motions because you’re not sure the extra effort matters.
Train Your Mental Toughness: Any challenging conditioning program leaves players whining and moaning and and bending over with their hands on their knees or doing various other things that tell you they feel like they’re about to die.
As a competitive athlete facing an opponent, is this ever what you want your opponent to see?
NO. Absolutely not.
No matter how they feel, no matter how tough things get, the most successful athletes don’t show signs of weakness or defeat. Conditioning gives you a change to practice your composure when you’re frustrated, tired, and challenged physically and mentally.
- If you can stand strong, calm, and confident even when your mind and body are screaming to quit…
- If you can stay composed and verbally HELP your teammates instead of whine and complain with your body language and your words during conditioning…
- Imagine how well you’ll carry yourself in a game when things get tough, when things aren’t going your way, when everyone around you feels like quitting…
- Imagine the positive impact you can have on yourself and your team when you find a way, despite all that, to encourage and uplift your instead of spout out negativity and frustration!
Add that to the physical softball skill work you do and the result is overwhelmingly better than skill work alone. If you’re overlooking the benefits conditioning give you, stop it!
It doesn’t take long to incorporate some conditioning into your day/practice. You can get a LOT done in 10 minutes or less!
There’s no excuse to leave this aspect of your training out.
Simple workout idea, no equipment needed
50 situps (not crunches)
40 bodyweight squats (get those thighs parallel to the ground!)
30 walking lunges (don’t let your front knee pass your toes)
20 pushups (get on your knees if you have to, keep your core tight!)
10 burpees (drop down to the ground-chest, stomach, thighs all touch the ground, jump your feet to your hands, jump up and clap your hands over your head)
Do this as quickly as you can while maintaining good form. You can also cut this workout in half if you’re just starting out (25, 20, 15, 10, 5).
*Remember: always check with your physician before starting new workouts or exercises!
Need more workout ideas?
Fastpitch411.com includes a super simple dugout workout plus I’m adding more ideas soon!
Also, Barry Lovelace, The King of Core, has a few training DVDs you can use…
Stacie Mahoe shares lessons learned from decades around the diamond. Enjoy her unique insights on softball and life from years as a player, coach, parent, and fan of the game.