Baseball and softball combine a huge range of skills: hitting, pitching, throwing, running, and fielding to name a few. If you want to be an all-around threat, you need to address and practice each of them accordingly. While many view running as the most innate of those abilities, there are still several ways to build the lower body strength necessary to quicken your step for both the field the base paths.
Baserunning is all about acceleration—acceleration out of the box after contact, as the pitcher begins to throw to the plate to steal a base, as soon as you read that a fielder won’t catch a ball. You need to know when it’s time to go or when a 90-foot risk just isn’t worth it. To fine-tune your acceleration and build fast-twitch muscle fibers, resistance running is the key to upping your speed.
One option that will add resistance to your run is a wind resistance chute. Wind resistance chutes can add anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of resistance to give you the simulation of running through wind or water. Unlike running through water (which can be inaccessible and—well, cold) the SKLZ speed chute allows you to quick-release for a “shot out of a cannon” feeling. Most importantly, since the chute provides more resistance the quicker you run, it can increase your strength no matter how fast you are.
You can also achieve high-speed results with a sled. You have options in this department, whether you prefer a sled filled with sand or a sled that uses traditional weights, like this one from PRIMED. It allows you to vary the weights from single-digit beginner totals to 250 pounds (for legs worthy of Rickey Henderson).
If you don’t have a chute or sled to work with, hit up the nearest gym. “Use a treadmill that is not turned on and treat it like you are pushing the sled,” suggests Josh Maio, co-founder and head coach of Gotham City Runners. “Grab the rails in front of you and just start forcing the tread yourself without any mechanical assistance to replicate pushing the sled,” he says. Another advantage of doing this is that you will get continued resistance as the tread wants to return to a stationary position. “You want to accelerate to a sprint and hold that pace for 20-30-second intervals,” says Maio.
Whether you choose a chute, a sled, or a treadmill, these options allow you to train on your own time. “Resistance training like this will help your reaction time from the plate onto the base path, and it will also build strength in your hips to keep you out of the trainer’s office,” says Maio. Simply put, if you want to shave seconds off your base running, you’ve got to put in the work. You’ll know when you’ve worked hard enough when the league checks your birth certificate to make sure you’re not half-cheetah.