Five exercises to include in your baseball specific exercise training plan
Baseball requires athletes to go from a “ready” position, whether in the batter’s box, the pitcher’s mound, infield, or outfield, to full on explosive movement. Which means quickly generating maximal power in all three planes of movement (transverse, frontal, sagittal), for example twisting (swinging a bat, throwing), moving laterally, (getting in front of a ground ball), and sprinting (running the bases). Baseball players must also be agile in order to position themselves to field the ball as well as stay alive when on base. The shoulders, elbows, lower back, and knees of a baseball player must be able to withstand frequent throwing, swinging, running, and squatting (catchers), respectively. For a baseball athlete to prepare for competition, and/or even improve baseball-specific athletic performance, a baseball-specific exercise training plan is pretty much mandatory. That goes for baseball athletes of all levels, not just college and pro, after all, even the once-a-week recreational league player must be able to swing, run, and field at full speed. Because the specific needs of each athlete varies based on training experience, injury history, age, and ability, I always recommend a customized exercise program, however, below are five exercises helpful for nearly all healthy baseball athletes.
Multi-direction barbell lunge – Here we are talking about lunging, not only forward but also diagonally, laterally, backward (aka reverse lunge), as well as the reverse reverse cross-over lunge. These movements support and strengthen the muscles involved in running, swinging, throwing. Additionally, the “push off” movement of the lunge (moving back to the start position) partially mimics the stop and change of direction of a baserunner who after rounding a base, must quickly stop and get back. Include these in your preparation for spring training (think December through early March). Multi-directional lunges are also good for maintenance of lower body strength, so for baseball players playing/practicing less than 3x per week, these can be included in an in-season maintenance plan.
Wood chop – Great exercise to strengthen muscles used in swinging the bat, as well as throwing. Some variations to consider, high to low, low to high, or kneeling. As with the lunges (above) these are best in preparation for spring training, and during the season if you are playing/practicing less than 3 times per week. If you are playing 3 or more times per week, consider keeping them in once or twice a week, but opposite of your normal swing (so for a right handed batter, wood chops from left to right).
Lateral jump(s) – these are plyometric exercises, they require a quick jump to the side from a ready position. We often see this one performed in succession using barriers to hop over. However, they also work well one at a time, jumping maximally, returning to the ready position and repeating after a 10 second rest. The idea is to develop that quick first step, good for base runners and infielders. Additionally, helping generate additional force from the lower body when throwing. Once again, these are best for that pre-season prep. This is an intermediate level exercise, so be sure you have been strength training for at least six months before including these. No need to do these too frequently, including them once or twice a week is probably enough.
Forearms – Okay, “forearms” isn’t an exercise, but wrist extension, wrist flexion, ulnar deviation, radial deviation, forearm pronation, and supination are all valid forearm strengtheners. (Here's a video series including most of these). Why include these? Two reasons, the first, some research has shown an association with forearm strength and improved bat speed and/or hitting power. The second reason, well developed (strong!) forearms protect the elbow joint. Pick two or three from above, or rotate between all of them, include in the off season, you can do them in season but keep it to once a week.
Single arm chest press – These can be performed on a standard bench with a dumbbell, or standing with a cable pulley (harder to limit torso rotation but more functional). This exercise strengthens arm and chest but also involves muscles in the torso and back much in the same way as when we are throwing, and, to a lesser extent, swinging a bat. Like the wood chops, these are best in preseason prep, but also can be used in season once, maybe twice a week focusing more on the non-dominant side (non-throwing).
There are many more great baseball-specific exercises, I chose these because of their ease of use, small requirement for equipment, and balance of upper body, trunk, and lower body.
Hope this helps and thanks for reading!
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Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing center field for the Isotopes (TNB over 50 baseball) and the Pirates (Quabbin Valley 28+baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.