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July 26, 2022 10 min read

If you look at professional baseball players, their bodies aren’t typically jacked like football players or freakishly tall like basketball players. But to be able to swing a bat hard enough to hit a baseball over 300 feet or to sprint around the field before it catches you takes a lot of strength.

Baseball players have to be strong, but they also have to be functional, balanced, and coordinated. 

Upper body exercises that support twisting, throwing, and other overhead movements are important, and lower body exercises that help improve power and stamina can make a big difference.

Just any old workout routine may not benefit baseball players as certain movements for strength and function should be taken into consideration. Baseball exercises should be done with the intention of contributing to better, safer game play, so whether you’re in the infield or outfield, the moves you perform in the gym can make you a better player overall.

Should Baseball Players Strength Train?

There had been a debate for years whether MLB players should implement strength training or not because they were concerned with becoming too muscular and interfering with rotational movement and speed.

However, when steroids became an epidemic in baseball in the ‘90s, it proved that, although extremely frowned upon and banned in 1991, the bigger, more muscular players still had the potential to perform well.

Because of the ethical and legal issues of steroids, the MLB started testing for this substance in 2003, so baseball players that may have wanted to bulk up had to find a better way.

When it comes to a baseball training program, unlike football players or bodybuilders, the goal isn’t to gain a huge amount of muscle, but instead to focus on full body strength, shoulder and trunk mobility, and explosive power.

Why is Strength Training in Baseball Important?

Strength training in general can provide benefits to overall health and athletic performance, but in baseball players specifically, it can help create a foundation for faster running, better pitching velocity, more agility, and safer rotational and overhead movements.

Injury Prevention

Many baseball athletes, including youth and high school players, experience injuries to the elbow, commonly referred to as a “Tommy John” injury, and injuries to the shoulder. 

Younger baseball pitchers specifically can be at a higher risk of elbow and shoulder injuries, and up to 74% reported throwing arm pain when throwing.

Throwing fastballs over and over is bound to take a toll on the body, so taking preventative measures is extremely important for the health and success of players. Applicable strengthening exercises and stretching can help improve range of motion and better, safer function.

Improved Athleticism

About 20% of MLB strength and conditioning coaches implement Olympic weightlifting, like snatches, and clean and jerks, into their players’ routines as it can have a positive effect on power, ground reaction force, and overall physical performance. 

But, this type of training can also put extra stress on the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, so using it accordingly with a trained Olympic lifting coach is crucial.

Although baseball players should consider certain types of weight training, their main focus should be on creating more functional and dynamic movements that can be applicable on the field.

To help increase your energy, stamina, and performance check out Charged-AF to optimize anaerobic and aerobic capacity.

10 Best Exercises for Baseball Players

The bench press and back squat are popular exercises in the gym, but they may not be the best choice for every athlete. Baseball workouts should include functional exercises that help to mimic the moves players do on the field and help strengthen the muscles used frequently.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Hip mobility and flexibility is extremely important in baseball, no matter which position you play. Whether you’re swinging a bat, throwing a pitch, or sliding into home plate, if your hips aren’t strong or flexible enough, the risk of injury can be higher.

The Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise to help increase hip flexor flexibility while also strengthening the lower body. 

The quads, glutes, and hamstrings play a huge role in sprinting and acceleration, and this exercise helps target them.

Compared to the back squat, the Bulgarian split squat can elicit more focus on hip extension while demanding less stress from the knee joint. 

It can also provide more range of motion than a conventional lunge. Lastly, this is a single-leg exercise, meaning you can help build equal strength and muscle on both sides of the body.

How to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat:

 

  • Set up a bench or stable surface behind you.
  • Place one foot on the ground and one foot elevated on the secure surface.
  • Keep your head and chest up, and your core tight as you start to lower your body to the ground by bending your knees.
  • Once your front knee reaches a 90-degree angle, press your weight through your front heel to stand all the way back up to the starting position.

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Having the strength and mobility to rotate safely under force is extremely crucial to help avoid injuries and improve throwing or swinging performance. 

Rotational strength comes from the core, and core strength helps contribute to movement of the entire body.

The medicine ball rotational throw helps to increase core strength while mimicking the movement performed when pitching or swinging a bat.

The core plays an important role in rotation, but it also can help transfer force from your upper and lower body. So, having a stronger core can help make you a faster sprinter, better thrower, and all-around stronger player.

How to Do the Medicine Ball Rotational Throw:

 

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart to the side of a wall holding a med ball You should be standing about an arms length away from the wall.
  • Keep your core tight as you twist your body away from the wall, bringing the med ball to the hip farthest from the wall. Make sure to rotate the foot closet to the wall to face in your direction.
  • Continue to keep your core tight as you powerfully twist towards the wall, throwing the med ball against it. Again, make sure your foot farthest from the wall rotates to face your direction.
  • Hold this position and immediately catch the ball as it bounces back.
  • Reset your body before your next rep.

Push-Up

A bodyweight exercise as simple as the push-up can be a beneficial way to develop strength and muscles in the chest, and stability in the shoulders.

Rotator cuff injuries are common in baseball, especially for pitchers. 

Performing exercises that build strength and stability in the rotator cuff can help prevent these injuries.

The push-up can be a better alternative to the bench press for baseball players because there can be less stress on the elbow and shoulder joint, and the shoulder blades are able to move more freely, similar to how you throw a ball.

How to Do the Push-Up:

 

  • Set yourself in a plank position with your hands stacked under your shoulders, toes on the ground, and back flat.
  • Squeeze your core as you start to lower yourself to the ground by bending your elbows. Make sure to tuck your elbows slightly into your ribs to help avoid stress on the shoulders.
  • When your chest touches the floor, press back up, following the same path.

Box Jumps

Plyometric exercises can help build power and force, but they can also train the body to land safely after jumping. Box jumps can be great for building explosiveness, strengthening the lower body, and practicing coordination.

MLB player, Mike Trout, revealed that box jumps are part of his secret to staying explosive and keeping his endurance up, especially during the off season. 

Box jumps prove to help increase his vertical height on the field, which gives him the advantage when catching baseballs flying in the outfield.

Landing on the box also helps build the strength and stability needed for landing after a jump and can help prevent injuries and increase your rebounding when you hit the ground.

How to Do Box Jumps:

 

  • Set up a box about a foot in front of you.
  • Bend your knees to drop your hips slightly and bring your arms behind you.
  • Press off the ground and drive your hips forward to jump, and swing your arms up for momentum.
  • Land on your heels on the box with your knees bent.
  • Jump or step off the box and reset for another rep.

Dumbbell External Rotation

Baseball players use their shoulders throughout the entire game as they’re pitching or throwing the ball across the field. Keeping this muscle strong is important, but improving shoulder stability is crucial for injury prevention and better throwing strength.

The dumbbell external rotation helps to strengthen the infraspinatus, which is an important muscle of the rotator cuff

This muscle is responsible for rotating the arm, so external rotational exercises can be important for any type of throwing athlete.

You can do this move lying on your side or standing.

How to Do the Dumbbell External Rotation:

 

  • Hold a light dumbbell at your side with your elbow in tight and bent at 90 degrees.
  • Maintain this position as you start to move your arm away from the body while keeping your elbows at your sides.
  • Bring the dumbbell back into the starting position.

Turkish Get Up

Shoulder stability, core strength, and hip flexibility are all important factors for a baseball player, so an exercise that combines all these into one can make for an efficient training session.

The Turkish get up is a full body exercise that targets the abdominals, shoulders, upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, triceps, and lats. 

It can help strengthen these muscles while proving shoulder and core stability, hip mobility, and coordination.

Since you’re holding the weight in an overhead position throughout the entire movement, this exercise can help build overhead strength and stability, which is important for throwing and catching a high-flying baseball.

How to Do the Turkish Get Up:

 

  • Lie on the ground with one knee bent and the other leg straight.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the same hand as your bent knee and keep that arm extended towards the ceiling. Your other arm should be flat on the ground, making about a 45 degree angle.
  • Keeping your extended arm straight, start to sit up by using your core strength and pushing on your opposite arm.
  • Sit all the way up, so your palm is on the ground.
  • Lift your hips off the ground and bring in your leg that is straight, so you’re kneeling.
  • Slowly start to stand up, keeping your arm straight and core tight.
  • Lower back down using the same path.

Kettlebell Swings

The muscles in your posterior chain are important to keep strong in baseball to help maximize throwing and hitting power. 

Kettlebell swings can strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings while also increasing your explosiveness.

The kettlebell swing uses explosive power and your posterior chain to control the kettlebell as it swings. Practicing this movement can help generate more power when throwing a baseball or swinging a bat.

This exercise can also be great for challenging your cardiovascular fitness and endurance, so running around the bases can become less difficult.

How to Do the Kettlebell Swing:

 

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell on the ground between your legs.
  • Hinge over to pick up the kettlebell and hold it high between your thighs.
  • Keep your core tight and spine in neutral as you hinge at your hips, swinging the kettlebell behind you. The kettlebell should stay tight to your groin.
  • Drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to chest height.
  • Control it on the way back between your legs.

Cable Rotations

Being able to rotate the body under force can be the difference between a great hitter and a hitter risking an injury. Choosing exercises that not only rotate the body, but rotate it under resistance can help build the strength and function needed for baseball movements.

Cable rotations can build core strength and rotational function and can be beneficial for faster bat speed. 

Exercises that use a cable can provide a different intensity than a barbell or dumbbell could because the pulley system keeps your muscles under constant resistance.

You can do cable rotations with a cable machine, but you can also do it with a resistance band if needed.

How to Do Cable Rotations:

 

  • Stand facing the side of a cable machine, a few steps away from it.
  • Grab the handle with both hands and keep your chest up and core tight.
  • Keeping your arms straight and body controlled, rotate your torso towards the cable machine.
  • Start to rotate your torso the other way as you pull the handle with you.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

Hex Bar Deadlifts

The deadlift can be considered one of the Kings of exercises because of its ability to build full body strength. The hex bar deadlift is a variation that may allow you to lift heavier and push less stress on your lower back.

Your glutes and hamstrings are recruited during this exercise, and those two muscle groups play a huge role in running and jumping. 

Because of the hand positioning, the hex bar deadlift can help put the athlete in a better position, and taller baseball players may find it easier than using a barbell.

How to Do Hex Bar Deadlifts:

 

  • Load the bar with the right amount of weight for your fitness level.
  • Stand inside the hex bar with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Hinge over the grab the handles of the hex bar and position your body, so your hips are lowered, knees are bent, spine is in neutral, and core is tight.
  • Keeping your back flat, press through your heels to start standing up with the weight.
  • Extend your hips to stand all the way up.
  • Slowly lower back down in the same path.

Face Pulls

One of the more neglected muscles in the body is the posterior deltoid, but it’s important for keeping the shoulder balanced, strong, and safer from injury. Face pulls help to target the muscles in your upper back and your shoulders, specifically the rear delts.

Baseball players need to have strong, balanced shoulders because an imbalance could put you at a higher risk of injury and poor performance.

You can use a cable machine or a resistance band for this exercise.

How to Do Face Pulls:

 

  • Set yourself in front of a cable machine with a rope attachment on the cable. The cable should be placed in line with your face.
  • Keep your chest tall, core tight, and elbows high as you begin to pull the cable towards your face.
  • When the cable is in front of your face, slowly extend your arms to return to the starting position.

Better Exercises for Better Baseball

As an athlete, you have to be conscious of the exercises in your workout program. You want to make sure that what you’re doing is applicable to your sport and can help you become a better infielder and outfielder.

Although back squats and bench presses are a staple in the gym, they may not be the best for improving your game. Making time for stability and mobility exercises can help make you a better well-rounded baseball player.