When New Year’s Day rolls around, it should serve as a signal the offseason is drawing to a close for baseball players. Those who have done little strength and conditioning work since the season ended will need to shake off the cobwebs in preparation for spring training. In all fairness, a lot of players are banged up in one way or another at the end of the season and use the offseason to get over those nagging injuries. But, bear in mind, plenty of ‘freak’ injuries have happened to athletes as they prepare for spring, so is critical you listen to your body regardless of how many times you’ve gone through this before.
First off, the Front Squat.
Of all the exercises, this one will tell you what kind of shape you’re in and provide optimum ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of time and effort. It utilizes lower body strength, anterior core stability, and increases hip, knee, and ankle mobility. Technique is extremely important here as knee or back injuries can happen if the front squat is done improperly or you’re not warmed up. When it’s done right, the exercise forces you to stay upright and utilize core stability to complete the movement.
Keep your hands in front of your body, so your shoulders are in a safer position. Keep in mind that with baseball related movements (like throwing) coming up soon, the stress needs to be off your shoulders, so keep your arm safe and out of risky positions. This exercise is critical for increasing force production. For those who don’t have a barbell, a kettle bell is fine.
The next one on my list is the Romanian Deadlift.
Nothing works the major abdominal muscle groups quite like this one. The Romanian deadlift utilizes the hips and builds strength in the glutes and hamstrings. This helps develop the kind of explosive power baseball players need in the heat of battle.
Beginning with your bar or dumbbells from the ground, use your hips to lift the bar/dumbbell. Unless you’re experienced, I don’t recommend doing the single leg Romanian deadlift. The more advanced weight trainers who do the one-legged version will get the added benefit of developing balance and proprioceptive feedback. That’s another way of saying it develops your perception of where your body is in space, which contributes to balance. That comes in handy after stealing second base standing up and trying to stay on the bag as you’re being tagged.
Number three is the Single Arm Row.
So we’ve gone from major abdominal muscle groups to using dumbbells, bands, cables, or pulleys to work one lat and arm at a time. Obviously, doing it that way allows you to focus on one side at a time. I know it’s tempting to think of this as an arm exercise but really it’s designed to work your back, mainly your lat muscles. Try to maintain good movement in your shoulder blade while working back muscles and you’re on the right track.
Number four is the good old Push-Up.
I know many gravitate towards the bench press, but baseball athletes should really do this one. For one thing, it’s a lot safer on the shoulders than your typical bench press. It’s effective because it forces athletes to learn to control their shoulder blades. If you do it right, your shoulder blades will move on the rib cage. At the bottom of the movement, the shoulder blades are close to the spine, but then at the top of the push-up the shoulder blades move on the rib cage away from the spine. The push up has the added benefit of working your core muscles. Again, this one beats the bench press hands down.
Number five is the Hip Thrust.
Speaking of working your core, here’s another good one for that. Hip thrusts also target the glute and hamstring muscles. You work the core when thrusting up and a strong contraction of the glutes. It’s so important for ball players to creating lower body strength. Think of pitchers which generate power from their lower body. This one has the added benefit of not requiring weights. As you get better, you can add a dumbbell and then a barbell to create more force production.
So there you have it. Five exercises designed to get you primed and ready for that first day at spring training. Enjoy!