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Explanation of the Performance-Based Training Program

 I felt that there was a need for reliable and proven training information for coaches, parents, and athletes who were unfamiliar with this area. You can now access this comprehensive, easy-to-understand resource guide to creating and implementing training programs for high school and college athletes. I created this guide during my time as a strength and conditioning coordinator at the college level. It was also part of a project that I completed for my Master’s thesis. The resource guide includes instructions on how to design and implement year-round programs. Also included in the guide:

  • Explanation of program design

  • Explanation of assessment procedures

  • Strength level charts

  • Player Work-Out cards

  • Off-season calendars

  • Conditioning program, including endurance training and sprint training,

  • Form running skills

  • Agilities

  • Plyometrics

  • Medicine ball training


Please feel free to print or save these documents and personalize the program for your athletes by using Microsoft Word and Excel. However, please note that these documents are copyrighted and published and may not be used for personal financial gain.

Softball and baseball are activities that demand a high degree of refined skills. Being skill-related sports, nothing can replace the practice and repetition of the specific skills associated with each sport.  However, an effective training program can help improve performance on the field.  Softball and baseball are sports that require athletes to make quick and explosive movements, have great balance and overall body strength and coordination, as well as maintaining an excellent flexibility level. Being involved in a sport such as softball or baseball makes it important that you maintain a very high level of strength, stamina, and joint stability.  By participating in a training program, the athlete will be more resistant to injury, and if injuries do occur, they will be able to recover from them more quickly. Also, the stronger and better conditioned the athlete is, the more productive they will be during competition.  This manual has been developed to help guide you through all aspects of a training program that are necessary for you as a softball/baseball player. In this manual you’ll find a detailed training program and explanations of the various drills, exercises, and movements.

Performance-based training encompasses a variety of training components that produce physical benefits that correlate to an athlete’s on-field performance.  The exercises and movements contained within a performance-based training program are meant to prepare an athlete for a successful performance during competition.  In performance-based training, there is less emphasis on the aesthetic outcomes of training—how an athlete looks—and a greater emphasis on how the athlete performs in competition.  A performance-based training program also seeks to address any weaknesses or imbalances that the individual athlete may have.


Performance-based training is comprised of four components related to the development of a totally conditioned athlete.  The components include strength/power training, endurance training, speed training, and flexibility.


In regards to the strength and power training component, this program is very specific and planned out in advance and is designed to increase the strength and power that is needed to become a more efficient athlete.  The program is intended to work specific muscle groups and movements that are involved with most sports.  The exercises utilized in this program will accomplish the following objectives if performed correctly:

1. Increase the strength and power required for the explosive movements utilized in sports.

2. Improve the efficiency of muscular movements necessary for an athlete by simulating movements that are used in competition.

3. Decrease the chance of injury by strengthening each of the muscle groups and the connective tissue.

4. Develop confidence in the athlete’s ability during competition through the goals that they achieve throughout the training program.


The strength/power program consists of a group of primary exercises and a group of supplemental exercises.  The primary exercises focus on the major muscle groups and movements and include the bench press, squat, power cleans, deadlift, incline press, close-grip press, power press, jerks, bent-over rows, and military press (*primary exercises should not be performed by anyone who has not received instruction on proper technique).  The supplemental exercises focus on the muscle groups that assist in the primary movements. 

The structure of this program is dependent upon the athlete's one rep maximum (1RM) in each primary exercise.  The 1RM is the amount of weight the athlete can lift on one maximal attempt in a primary exercise.  It is important that this 1RM be very accurate for the athlete to benefit from the program.  More information on finding the athlete’s 1RM can be found in the testing and assessment section. 


Once the 1RM has been found, the workout is planned for an initial eight-week cycle, which will be referred to as the standard program.  Throughout any training period, the athlete will be using weights based upon average intensities (the percentages for each phase).  These weights can be found by multiplying the athlete's RM for each primary exercise by the average intensity percentage for that particular week, or by using the enclosed intensity chart. 


The training program consists of a year-round cycle which is broken down into four microcycles: off-season, pre-season, in-season, and post-season.  For a baseball player, for example, the microcycles would look like this: off-season (September – January), pre-season (January – March), in-season (March – May), and post-season (May- August).  The post-season and off-season emphasis is on building a strong foundation for the pre-season and in-season training.  As the program progresses through the pre-season cycle and into the in-season cycle, the training goals become more sport-specific and there is a greater emphasis placed upon maximal strength and power.  During the in-season cycle, the players should be in peak physical condition.     


Each training microcycle is further broken down into three different phases, with each phase concentrating on a particular average intensity level.  These phases all have a specific training goal, and the parameters of each are structured to maximize physical gains.  Altering the number of sets, reps, and the level of intensity of the exercise places a different stimulus on the body, therefore promoting optimal muscular growth. 


Phase one is the base phase.  This phase incorporates light weight and high reps to build the athlete’s endurance and a foundation for strength.


Phase two is the strength development phase.  During this phase, an athlete will begin to notice an increase in strength.  The weight lifted is moderately heavy, while the reps are relatively low.


Phase three is the peak and power phase.  During this phase, the weight is very heavy while the reps are very low.  This phase helps the athlete become accustomed to lifting heavy weights while maximizing their strength and power gains and preparing them for the next eight week cycle.


If the athlete completes all of the sets and reps required for a primary exercise at any time during the eight-week period, then their 1RM may be adjusted upward since the athlete will become stronger throughout the period.  A five to ten pound increase is usually sufficient.  The sample in the program design section shows that the 1RM should at least be increased five pounds during Week 5 and also Week 7 due to strength increases throughout the training cycle.  If, at any time, the athlete fails to accomplish the prescribed number of reps at the prescribed weight, the 1RM should be kept the same or slightly lowered.  Also, in Weeks 5 and 7, the 1RM can be kept the same if the coach feels that the athlete has not made significant progress.


Once the athlete has finished an eight-week cycle, they should engage in one week of active rest.  During this week of active rest, the athlete should once again test in each of the primary exercises to find their new 1RM to be used for the next training cycle.  Also, they can participate in moderately intense activities such as basketball, swimming, bicycling, etc.


To ensure that the training program remains fresh, a variation of the initial eight-week cycle may be used.  The format for this training program, referred to as the secondary program, includes some pyramid sets for core lifts in particular weeks.  The primary difference in this program is that the sets and reps change every week, instead of every two weeks as in the standard training program.  Examples of both programs are included in this guide.


In other sections of this training guide, you will find the general guidelines which are used to plan the core lifts, followed by the specific percentages and repetitions used for the core lifts.  The bench press is used as an example.     




It is important that you record the weight that you use on each exercise. Every time that there is a rep change, change the weight you use as well. High intensity while training is a must!  Be aggressive and powerful throughout each movement, and if you can make the rep target on the last set of an exercise, then the weight should be increased for the next workout. 


Just going to the weight room and lifting weights  and doing the number of sets and reps required for each exercise, doesn’t guarantee that you will make any real progress. Some athletes never miss a workout yet they make little, if any, progress. The same can be said for conditioning, agility, and speed work. Just doing what’s written up doesn’t mean that you’re getting the most out of a designed training program.  Improvement is all about INTENSITY.  Without intensity, you will not be able to achieve maximum results.  Intensity in the weight room is developed largely by:

1.  The amount of weight that you use on each set of each exercise (overload).

2.  The regular progression of increasing the resistance or weight lifted throughout the entire program.

3.  The effort put forth by the athlete.


Without regular progression and weight increases, strength levels will not increase.  If you do 3 sets of 12 reps on the squat with 135 lbs. and the following week your workout calls for 3 sets of 12 reps on the squat, don’t use 135 lbs--you’ve already done that!  Increase the weight-- that’s where the progression comes in.  If one week an exercise requires you to perform 10 reps, and the following week it requires you to perform 8 reps, you MUST increase the resistance/weight in order to continue making strength gains!


There are some exercises in the training program that don’t require a continual increase in the amount of resistance or weight.  This would include the supplemental exercises that use dumbbells or lighter amounts of weight.  With these exercises, find a weight that provides adequate resistance throughout the movement and stay with it for a while, concentrating on full range of motion and quality movement on each rep. Even on these exercises, however, you may eventually need to increase the resistance or weight. 


Intensity in your conditioning, agility, and speed work is developed by working as hard as you can on each sprint, each plyometric, or each agility that you perform.  The goal times that have been provided in your conditioning program are very general and should be used only as a starting point. You must determine what the appropriate goal time is for each athlete, and have them work to improve it each week. If the athlete is pleased because they made all of the goal times one week, then they should not be pleased the next week unless they surpass some of the times from the week before.  Never settle for doing as well as you did last week!


Finally, understand that the way you eat, the rest that you get, the way that you treat your body, makes a big difference in the way you train and perform.  Increase carbohydrate intake prior to workouts.  Balance your carb and protein intake after workouts.  Keep fat to a minimum.

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