I frequently get asked the question, “what are the best exercises for baseball players?” I typically respond with, “it depends…” It depends on the athlete, what we find in their assessment, what their training age is, etc. But today I’m going to give the people what they want and provide a list of my Top 10 baseball specific exercises!
TOP 10 BASEBALL SPECIFIC EXERCISES:
- TURKISH GET UP: I don’t necessarily love the term “functional” when it comes to describing an exercise. It’s a term that has been used very loosely and is often times associated with idiotic “exercises” such as back squats on a physio ball. With that being said, the Turkish Get Up is truly one of the most functional exercises you can do. It’s what we would call a “bang for your buck” exercise because it covers so much in just one exercise. The get up offers a tremendous amount of mobility in the hip and thoracic spine. It provides stability throughout the entire shoulder girdle and anterior core. Lastly, it serves as a full body strength exercise specifically targeting your shoulders, core, and lower body. I would much rather see a baseball player be able to do a Turkish Get Up with a load of 70-80lbs instead of a 300lb bench press.
- LONG LEVER INCH WORMS (Anti-Extension Anterior Core Exercises): The core musculature plays a very important role when it comes to throwing or pitching a baseball. One of the core’s number one jobs is to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body. When you think about everything that goes into throwing a baseball and the incredible amounts of speed and power that are displayed in that throwing motion, you quickly realize there is little room for error. The throwing motion is initiated by putting force into the ground from your back or trail leg. That force is then transferred further up the kinetic chain to the all-important core and then continues to travel to your upper body and finished through the arm. If the core is weak, it becomes an “energy leak” where the force or energy that was initially created then dissipates when it gets to the core and is not able to continue to carry up to the arm. When this happens, best case scenario is you throw with less velocity. The worst-case scenario is you get hurt because of the compensation strategies that will take place in your shoulder and or elbow to make up for the velocity that was lost through your weak core. I like the long lever inch worm because it not only challenges your anterior core by resisting extension the further you walk your hands out but it also provides stability and strength throughout the entire shoulder joint.
- LIFTS, CHOPS, PALLOF PRESS VARIATIONS (Anti-Rotation Core Exercises): No one can argue the fact that baseball is a rotational sport that requires tremendous strength and power in the transverse plane (rotational). Anti-rotation exercises are a staple throughout our off-season training, but play a critical role early on in the offseason after our baseball athletes have just spent up to nine months living in that rotational plane. Resisting rotation and training that physical attribute will ultimately help improve your strength and power in that movement.
- ROTATIONAL & OVERHEAD MED BALL THROWS: After we resist rotation early on in the offseason, we then put a heavy emphasis on training rotation. This typically takes place in phase two of our offseason training program when we start our light implement power work with rotational and overhead med ball throw variations.
- KB ARM BAR: Pitching a baseball is the most violent movement in all of sport and is, quite honestly, terrible for your arm. With a proper strength and conditioning program and arm care program, these dangers can be minimized. I chose the Arm Bar to represent as my “arm care” exercise on this list. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as strictly an arm care exercise. It’s more of a pseudo mixed exercise that can be plugged in as an arm care exercise or programmed in the actual lift. I chose to do this because I wanted “arm care” represented in this list, but I didn’t want to take a deep dive down the arm care rabbit hole right now ( I will do a separate blog on my Top 10 Arm Care Exercises another time.) The kettle bell arm bar is a unique blend of shoulder stability and thoracic mobility that challenges the athlete to maintain proper glenohumeral (ball and socket) congruency. It helps allow the athlete to gain better body awareness in understanding what that correct ball in socket position feels like. It also helps you learn how to shut off larger muscle groups such as upper traps and lats in order to turn on smaller stabilizers such as the muscles of the rotator cuff.
- HEIDENS: Throwing or pitching a baseball, as well as the takeoff phase in stealing a base, is done so predominantly in the frontal plane. Just as much as baseball is a game played in the transverse plane, there are also important movements that take place in the frontal plane. Pitching is an example of this. Being able to laterally push off of the mound and generate force with that back leg is the first step in being able to produce the velocity that every young pitcher is chasing. The Heiden jump, also known as “skaters,” is a great exercise for producing force in the frontal plane as well as receiving and accepting that force in the landing phase of the jump.
- SINGLE LEG RDLs: Google an image of a pitcher at their follow through and note the close resemblance between that image and someone doing a single leg RDL. It is remarkably similar. It is probably a position/exercise pitchers should get strong and sturdy in, right?
- REAR FOOT ELEVATED SPLIT SQUATS: In #6, I discussed the importance of back leg power production in the frontal plane and how this creates velocity and momentum towards the plate. Equally as important is the lead leg or stride leg and its ability to decelerate or “apply the breaks.” There is plenty of research supporting the importance of the lead leg and its role in creating velocity by being able to absorb force quickly and act as the “breaks” to create a catapult like action through the arm which, in return, produces the velocity. The rear foot elevated split squat is one of my all-time favorite exercises for developing critical unilateral leg strength and stability, regardless of the sport. You can click here to read more about my love of rear foot elevated split squats as well as my thoughts on unilateral lower body training.
- 1 ARM LANDMINE PRESSES: I’m a huge fan of the landmine press and its ability, if done correctly, to help promote scapular upward rotation. This is important because it’s the same motion (scapula moving on the ribcage (scapulothoracic) that we are trying to encourage and create efficiency in with throwing. Another reason I really like the landmine press is that most athletes can be cleared to press at this angle even if they have not been cleared to vertically press overhead. We see a lot of athletes that really struggle to achieve true overhead shoulder flexion without compensating through the lumbar spine. Because the landmine press is pressing more at a 45-degree angle, this allows the athlete to still reap the benefits of a vertical push without compromising their core integrity and lumbar positioning.
- BAND PULL APARTS: This was difficult to narrow down to just one pulling variation, but I went with the band pull apart because of it being more of a posterior deltoid and cuff focused exercise. As a bonus, you receive a lot of the same benefits of any traditional row or horizontal pulling variations.