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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.