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Blocked training is an interesting topic in hitting and pitching right now. It’s much more fashionable to do more random training to force the hitter or pitcher to adapt to their environment. I absolutely think there is a time and a place for randomized training, which is obviously harder and more like a game. And that time and place is after the blocked training has finished.
Blocked Training is similar to the act of ‘chunking’. In learning, chunking is breaking down a task into parts and focusing on one part before putting the parts together again.
An example of this would be a piano player playing a certain part of a song over and over so she can master the key strokes needed before playing the entire song again.
In hitting, this would be breaking down the load, stride, turn and finish with the Rebel’s Rack.
Random Training is more similar to the game as there are more variables. Just like in a game, a pitcher can throw any pitch in any count at any location.
In batting practice, this would be a pitcher mixing fastballs, curveballs and changeups randomly. In pitching, this would be throwing different weighted balls instead of just a standard baseball.
— Ronnie Dawson (@ronniedawsonn) January 29, 2019
Coaches today want players to ‘solve problems’ and ‘figure it out’ when they’re training. This is obviously something that’s important to be able to do in games and practice as players must adapt quickly to the changing environment of the game.
The issue with this ‘trial and error’ technique is that it completely devalues and underestimates the value of an expert coach. For instance, if a player literally CANNOT do a movement needed to hit a certain pitch, then the ‘work arounds’ they attempt do not have an optimal chance of succeeding.
Coaching a hitter on the transition from hip hinge to side bend and working that movement over and over gives the hitter a ‘chance’ to correctly solve the problem of hitting with proper posture. Check out how one of the best hitters in the game does it.
JD Martinez 2013 vs 2015 pic.twitter.com/QUEecKZ2tM
— Craig Hyatt (@HyattCraig) December 12, 2015
Many studies have been conducted that examine the difference between blocked and controlled training vs randomized training in skill aquisition. Consistently, the randomized training group seems to do better in the testing. But a major hole in the studies is the fact that expert coaches are not used in the blocked training group.
Novice coaches working with novice players lead to limited improvement and growth directly from coaching.
Blocked training is completely and totally reliant on the knowledge and communication skills of a coach to a student. If a study of game play effectiveness is conducted with randomized training vs blocked training and the coaching during the blocked training is non-expert level, of course the randomized training will be more effective.
A common argument against verbal ‘blocked training’ would be, ‘did you get coached on how to walk’? Generally, in healthy children, walking is a natural progression after crawling and is not ‘coached’.
But lets talk about a skill that isn’t ‘hard wired’ into humans. Perhaps riding a bike? Were you coached then? Did you use training wheels? When your mom or dad took those off did they run behind you holding the seat of the bike saying things like ‘you can do it’ and ‘keep peddling’ and ‘I’m right here, i won’t let you fall.”? Did you start the same way over and over or repeatedly practice starting the movement of the bike? What about repeatedly practice stopping both with hand breaks and foot breaks? Of course you did...and that was all blocked training.
What about swim lessons? They’re full of blocked training from stroke practice, to kick boards, to verbal cues and games that teach skills.
These skills are repeated and tested, at differing levels of difficulty before you ‘pass’ the swim test. Then, and only then, do most parents allow their children to swim on their own. Why didn’t you just get thrown in the pool and told to figure it out? Why didn't the ‘random environment’ of water not allowing breath force you to grow gills?
I contend that most human action is NOT innate and must be coached to be optimized. Even as I sit here right now, typing about 80 words a minute, I think back to my Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing” computer program that I worked on in my youth. Constant drilling like “d, e, d, e, d, e, d, e” to learn proper key strokes, learning the ‘home row’ of asdfjkl; and understanding how to type without looking down.
All of that blocked training allows what I’m writing today to be fast, accurate, and efficient. Blocked Training at its finest. Because of that training, I can type anything almost as fast as iI can think it.
Find someone that knows how to block train your flaws out of you or build a proper turn into you. They must be expert COACHES and not necessarily expert PLAYERS.
Make sure they measure your initial starting point, track your progress, and continue to test the methods to make sure you’re getting the best information possible.
Block train, do as much as you can to improve your pattern, then test, stress and retest the pattern. Find your failure point within the pattern, and re-block train that issue in the same settings.
Randomize when ready, but not whenever, and never before the hitter or thrower has the chance to have an optimal pattern through blocked training.