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A well trained athlete will be much less likely to be affected by fatigue, which will ultimately affect technical/tactical and mental skills. There are 3 types of skills in used in sports physical training. Not all are as specific to softball as in other sports. Physical training for softball should be sport specific. Youth however should not be training specifically unless they are over 13 or 14 and should be working on anatomical adaptation instead in a well rounded program.
Types of skills in softball:
- cyclic – repetitive motion
- acyclic – a combination of motions that result in an end result
- acyclic combined – cyclic followed by acyclic
Most cyclic sports, require exceptional endurance and speed for perfecting the cyclic movements to maximize efficiency in the economy of physiological resources. When you consider long distance running for example, in order to maximize performance, each step must be the same. For baserunning in softball however, the distance can be anywhere from 35 to 60 feet when you consider the lead off and the arrival at the next base. For this reason, cyclic is not as critical for economy and the regeneration aspect but is for the simple speed of getting to the base as fast as you can. Any deviation from perfect running form, which is common in most athletes, takes away from the directional force that each step produces in the forward direction.
Acyclic sports benefit most from power, agility and speed training. The combined abilities are a combination of physical skills in which training is a foundation to optimal performance. Softball is no exception. Without strength, agility and all of the other components to various degrees, your players would not be able to perform to their highest potential. An appropriate physical training program will enhance all technical and tactical skills and should be given equal amount of focus in your annual plan.
Energy Systems and Physical Training (a simple approach)
What is Lactic Acid?
After approximately 8-10 seconds of intense activity, the glycogen (created by food intake) that is stored in the muscle cells and liver, begins to break down releasing energy to create more energy (ATP). As this process occurs at high intensity, oxygen is not available and the lack of oxygen during the breakdown of glycogen creates the lactic acid. As the exercise continues, fatigue occurs preventing the athlete from continuing. For the muscles to attain full restoration of glycogen can take up to 24 hours. Active recovery (light activity) such as an exercise bike for 15 – 20 minutes can enhance the body’s return to homeostasis, removing lactic acid from the muscles. A good aerobic training base can facilitate the recovery from physical training and competing.
Softball is not considered a lactic acid sport because all activities take less than 7 seconds. Even an inside the park home run will likely take less than 6 seconds of full exertion. If a player is sitting in their infield ready position for more than 8 seconds then lactic acid can build. The same is for the catcher. If continued then fatigue will build which can affect other parts of their game. For this reason, it is advisable that the fielders get in their ready position after the pitcher has taken the signal. They will only be in that position for up to 2-3 seconds if your pitcher is efficient. The catcher on the other hand will often use the knee savers or for the old school, they just need to train their legs. Knee savers are a good tool though for pitching practice and warm up.
Anaerobic Alactic System (0-10 seconds)
- the shortest energy exertion time period
- explosive power is used
- 3-5 minutes for full recovery from activity – 70% recovery in the first 30 seconds
- known as the ATP – CP system
- lactic acid is not produced
Anaerobic Lactic system (10 seconds – 2 minutes)
- anaerobic endurance and power is used
- full recovery can take up to 24 hours
- lactic acid is produced
- known as the Anaerobic Lactic Acid system
Aerobic System (over 2 minutes)
- long distance activities
- uses oxygen
- glycogen is broke down with oxygen which prevents the lactic acid build up
- fats and proteins can be used for energy as the glycogen in the muscles is exhausted
- aerobic capacity increased through training will determine the efficiency of this system
Most sporting activities use a combination of these energy systems. A good aerobic training base is important to maximizing the benefits of each one, combined with sport specific training as you arrive to your competition phase. Understanding the energy systems and recovery times will allow you to design the most productive sport and position specific training programs. Softball is no exception. An aerobic base is a good foundation for recovery but not to be used as a physical tool in this game. In fact, too much aerobic training can diminish speed, power and agility as a result. Work with a trained physical trainer if you do not have the resources on hand and take into consideration other sports your athletes might be participating in. Be sure to include Nutrition considerations as you plan your season. If your players are not eating well, it will show not only in their training but their competition as well.