​Christian Ballard and Cameron Monger - MAPS Academy

The Form Techniques To Increase Speed and the Strength Exercises Your Son Should Be Focusing On

MAPS Academy


(The Dynamic Hitter's Warmup mentioned in the video is currently wait-listed​, reach out to the guys at www.mapsfitness.com to be notified when ready)

Summary and Action Plan below


One thing we need to understand - speed is teachable! Typically there is a scale: Crap, Suck, Good, Great. Genetics do play a fact so you can’t always get a kid from Crap to Great, but you can most definitely go up a level or two.

Improved form (hands/arms moving back to front as opposed to side to side across the torso) combined with strength training will both improve speed.

The biggest mistake players are making is bad running form. If kids can’t maximize force into the ground they won’t run as fast as they can.

Stride length is important but is more an indicator of leg strength - how far you can propel yourself by pushing off of your leg - vs form. So increasing stride length, which is important, can be better achieved through strength training.

Two main components: Stride length and stride frequency. Christian and Cameron really focus on stride frequency and form - knee up and toe up - and for the younger guys under 10 years old they work on coordination as well. Ladder drills to work on footwork is helpful, just to gain body control and coordination.

MAPS starts working with kids as young as 7 years old. From age 7-14 is a window called “neuroplasticity”. That’s the peak time to really mold a kid into the athlete he’ll be moving forward in life. It’s important to have a lot of variability in the movements at this age, whether from actually training, other sports or preferably - both.

Taking your 8 year old son out in the yard and having him run sprints probably isn’t as productive as teaching him how to run (form) and having him go play tag (where his intensity will likely be higher).

Proper form:

Arms - elbows tucked close to body moving back and forward, not sticking outward.

Hands - move hip to chin (common problem is kids keep hands right near torso the entire time.

Knees - get them high, even with hip if possible

Foot - for the leg in the air, you want the toe pointing up (or forward really) as opposed to pointing back down toward the ground (in a tippy-toe manner).

Progression for form: 1. Marching. Walking, working on form of legs and arm movements.

2. A-Skips. Same form, now working on a bit more explosiveness but the foot skips off of the ground a small degree.

3. Snap Skips. Instead of focusing on foot drive downward like the first two, we’re working on knee drive upward toward the chest.

4. Knees up. Make sure foot is out in front, not below hips. Stay tall with the chest (which helps with stronger core).

5. Power skips - Stay tall, try to drive yourself up toward the sky.

Next we go into our start series. Starting properly and having proper acceleration you have to control your body angle. Don’t stand up too tall early!! Come out low and get to your full height 10-15 yards down the road.

Important cue: reach, reach reach with the arms, don’t get choppy.

Starting progressions:

  1. Falling starts. Get on tip toes and lean forward as far as you can and then reach reach reach. And finish on one knee, deceleration is very important as well.

  2. Push Up start: Pop up and sprint - reaching with arms and driving with legs/knees.

A problem to watch for with these progressions is “chicken necking” where the chest hunches over and head goes forward, you really want to try to stay tall. This can be a sign of poor core strength, which is common in young athletes.

Good exercises for improving speed - isometric holds. Which means being in proper running positions that you want, and holding still and making the body stabilize itself in that position. Holding a lunge position would be an example of this.

One good thing to remember is how long this process can take. You can make progress right away, but understand that improvement is a long road so don’t get discouraged if they’re not at a superstar level just yet.

Strength: 7-14 Being the peak neuroplasticity range, 7 years old is a good time to start.

Lack of progression based system at youth level. Starting with a 10 pound dumbell and learning a proper goblet squat is a good place to begin.

Giving young players odd shaped objects, like a 15lb sandbag, is great for letting their bodies figure out how to handle the load.

With youth athlete, we want to focus on the moderate weight and controlled, multiple repetitions. Not light weight for dozens of reps or high weight at low reps. Happy in between.

Box squats and med balls are great for the young athlete.

7-9 years old it is primarily body weight stuff, though sandbags and medballs are regular routines. Form with PVC pipe (over head squats) and proper pushups and squats are all very good exercises at that age.

At the middle school age they are in HS prep, so more dumbell work (not so much barbell work), but get them ready for what they’re going to be doing in HS.

High school is more specialized, can do heavier weight and also be more specific for the need - pitcher vs centerfielder, etc.

Movement variability is key for youth athletes.

Best baseball workouts to target: Lower half and core is where it’s at.

MAPS Academy have teamed with Mike Brumley of the Atlanta Braves to create a hitter’s warmup, so they’re “turned on” before they start hitting in the cage.

Most guys do their warm ups by just doing a few terrible swings in the cage until the rust feels gone.


One of the biggest takeaways from the entire summit: Movement Variability!

Time and time again it comes up, don't allow for your athlete to limit himself to the throwing, swinging and straight line running movements only.  Mobility is the first thing many high level trainers - particularly pitching trainers - will correct when the kids become older and more mature, so giving the kids a variety of movements to master starting at age 7 is outstanding.

Learn to goblet squat properly with a 10lb weight.  Do an overhead squat with a PVC Pipe (or even a bat), and work on proper form (chest up!).  Young kids can handle a lot more strength training than we realize.  Their core's are generally very weak. Avoid barbells or even dumbells for pre-middle school kids, but sand bags, medicine balls, J-Band exercises are phenomenal for improving performance.  Pushups, pullups and squats with body weight are classics as well.  Get active!!

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