SAVAGE = Deadlifts, Squats and Bench Press?
When I first met Jack (not his real name) in 2015, he had just completed his freshman year of college. His first year as a mid-to-upper 80’s lefty at a D2 program hadn’t gone as well as expected. When he arrived on campus the baseball program had jumped headlong into the heavy weightlifting culture that is pervasive in our game. The key to velocity, they believe, is in the weight room. According to more than 1 internet guru, “If you can’t deadlift or squat 2 1/2 times your body weight, you shouldn’t even think about trying to throwing 90+ mph.”
Well, we all know that’s simply not true.
For every guy that can do that, I can show you 20 who can deadlift and squat the entire gym and can’t throw it 85. And, I can show you 20 more who are straight up milk toast in the gym and can throw it 95.
Listen, being strong is good. But there is a point at which you’re strong enough and at that point, diving deeper into heavy lifting isn’t going to help. In fact, it can make you worse… or get you hurt. That’s what happened to Jack He ruptured a disc in his lower back and missed 9 months with pain and neurological symptoms radiating into his leg. In 2015 he reported to our summer training program and spent a month getting better. The next time I saw Jack, it was 2017 and this time he had a rotator cuff tear after transferring to a new D2 school. He rehabbed and interned with us for the entire summer and made it back to the mid 80s again. During that time we wrote and implemented SAVAGE Training: Transferring Gains From the Gym To The Game. Jack drank the Kool Aid, executed the plan and saw tremendous gains. He returned to his new college to learn that the new strength and conditioning coach was programming heavy deadlifts, squats and bench press from all the players on the team. During pre-testing Jack deadlifted 365 3 times and squatted 345 once. He opted out of bench pressing.
What The SAVAGE Plan Did For Jack
After the testing was complete he told the coach he would not be engaging in any deadlifts, or squats in training due to his back injury, nor would he do any bench pressing due to his rotator cuff injury. To their credit, the coaching staff respected his injury history and allowed him to perform the SAVAGE weight training program he learned at The Ranch over the summer. However, there was a lot of good natured ribbing when he used his shoulder tube, aqua bags and hung weights from the bar with elastic bands instead of piling heavy plates onto the end of the bar. For the next 4 months, Jack executed his SAVAGE plan and when the fall season ended, the coach asked to perform exit testing before going home for the winter break.
Jack’s Big Surprise
To everyone’s surprise, including mine, Jack out-lifted every pitcher on the team! He deadlifted 475 lbs 3 times, squatted 450 and bench pressed 250 lbs… having done exactly zero of those lifts over the previous 3 months. What does this mean? Maybe nothing…
Or maybe it will be a revolutionary breakthrough in the world of strength and conditioning for baseball players. SAVAGE training uses variable stimulus, stabilization of attractors and goal directed exercise to create highly specific adaptation in the dynamic system that is the training athlete’s body. My theory is that the robustness and efficiency created by Jack’s SAVAGE weight training program allowed him to express strength in a way he had never experienced. By robust we mean difficult to perturb and by efficient we mean conserving energy. Could it be that lifting with variable instability resulted in the same adaptations as months of grueling and potentially damaging heavy weight lifting? If so, then we are definitely on to something very important.
You can bet your SAVAGE bottom we’ll be testing it this summer.
Our Weekend Elite Performance Boot Camp schedule is posted. We’ll be teaching everything there is to know about the SAVAGE Training Program that allowed out 103 summer program attendees to achieve average velocity gains of 4.5 mph over 8 weeks and average command increases of 13% over the same time period.
To sweeten the pot a little, check out this new policy.
Sign up for any boot camp and we’ll give you a digital copy of FBR SAVAGE Training: Transferring Gains From The Gym To The Field (totally free). We’ll also give you a 30 day membership to our Durathro® Training System — our online continuing benefits program — that will turn your 2 -day camp into a 32 day experience.
Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS