Athletic Goals: Strength and Conditioning for Baseball
Reading Time: 4 minutes 25 seconds
For a baseball player to excel in their position, they must build strength and muscle. A baseball strength and conditioning program often requires teams to have more than just a head baseball coach. Athletes may also work with a strength coach and athletic trainer.
The main responsibility of a baseball strength and conditioning coach is to prescribe effective strength workouts. These workouts typically aim to improve the following:
- Arm strength
- Bat speed
- Throwing velocity
Such performance traits are achieved through weight training, resistance training, and plyometric training. A major component of baseball strength training is injury prevention. Implementing injury prevention techniques for each baseball player is important, especially when Olympic lifts are part of the program.
One of the most common injuries in baseball occurs in the rotator cuff. A throwing injury involving the rotator cuff may be even more prevalent in certain positions, such as for a pitcher who is throwing for an entire game. This constant wear and tear causes degeneration in the shoulder region. This is why training for the baseball season should incorporate rotator cuff exercises for all positions.
So, let’s look closer at how to design an effective strength and conditioning program for baseball that accounts for the unique demands of the game.
The Demands of Each Baseball Position
There are a variety of positions in baseball, each requiring a different skillset. However, most of the positions demand similar movement patterns. This means that strength training can be somewhat similar for each baseball player.
Gaining maximal strength and lean muscle will help any position player improve performance. When strength training for a baseball swing you must focus on the shoulders, hips, core, forearms, and wrists.
Learn how time under tension can help with strength gains.
Pitchers and Catchers
The positions that differ most are pitching and catching. Demands of a pitcher are different than a player out in the field. And a catcher might have similar throwing demands but needs to maintain a completely different stance throughout the entire game.
Consider throwing up to 150 pitches in a single game. Pitchers must withstand constant throwing for hours and maintain high-speed pitches. Pitchers need strong shoulders to repetitively throw 150 pitches at 90 MPH and have them remain effective. It is inevitable for the rotator cuff to not take excessive stress. The more the training program focuses on building strength in the rotator cuff the less chance for injury.
A catcher has demands similar to a field player, but they are required to be in the crouched position for most of the game. Because of this, catchers need to focus on lower body strength, flexibility, and mobility.
What are the Most Important Muscles for Baseball?
The most commonly used muscles in baseball are the shoulders, legs, core, and forearms. This is the case for throwing and swinging.
The entire shoulder muscle is used during a baseball swing. More specifically, the posterior deltoid, rhomboids, and traps are most activated. Each of these muscles contract during the initial movement of a swing. Then they assist in bringing the bat forward to make contact with the ball.
When a baseball player throws, they use mainly the front deltoid and pectoralis muscles. Both muscles are assisted by the traps. The scapula also supports throwing movement and provides stabilization.
When a baseball player brings the arm back before throwing there is excessive stress on the rotator cuff and elbow. This is why it’s important to strengthen the entire shoulder region. Use lighter weights for rotator cuff exercises.
Corrective exercise for the shoulder can help prevent injuries from happening.
Without lower body strength and power, a baseball player’s swing is limited. The quadriceps and glutes are major muscles used for swing performance. Training legs for a powerful swing requires strengthening the external hip rotators.
Legs are also important for pitchers. The entire leg muscle is used during a pitch or throw. This includes the quad muscles such as the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris, as well as the gluteus maximus and hamstring muscle.
Baseball strength starts with having a strong core. Swinging a bat forces the body to stabilize, which places a lot of load on the abdomen. Strength training for the core comes through rotational exercise. There is plenty of rotation during a swing and it involves many different areas of the core. These areas are the transverse abs, erector spinae, external obliques, and internal obliques.
Minor core muscles used when executing a throw are the latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, and rectus abdominis. If these areas lack strength it will impact throwing velocity. Try including medicine ball training to help with rotational power for swinging and throwing.
Multiplanar training is also effective, especially training in the transverse plane.
If we break down the throwing motion, we can see that there are approximately six different phases:
- Wind up
- Follow through
In the cocking phase, wrist extension is at its greatest. During the acceleration phase or throwing phase, wrist flexion is at its greatest. The forearm muscle supports both of these movements. If a player strengthens the forearms, then their throwing velocity can improve.
Top Exercises for Baseball
A baseball athlete looking to improve overall performance must perform rotational exercises. These exercises target the core, shoulders, arms, and legs:
- Rotational landmines
- Medicine ball rotational throws
- Viper log rotations
- Standing cable baseball swing
- Plank variations
To help strengthen the legs, incorporate the following:
- Plyometric med ball exercises
- Lunges with rotation
- Medicine ball lateral hops
- Split squat jumps
- Single-leg medicine ball RDL to chest pass
Focus on the following to strengthen the shoulder and back region:
- Single-leg one-arm cable row
- Three-way dumbbell raises
- Internal and external plate rotation
- One-arm dumbbell row
- Single-arm dumbbell presses
Don’t forget that conditioning is an important part of baseball. Sprint speed and running mechanics are vital to a baseball player's success. A conditioning program comes in different forms. But the method of each segment should remain the same. Short, repeated bouts of intense exercise are how conditioning programs should be executed.
Even in professional baseball, a player will most likely only run 60 yards at a time. The conditioning training should mimic this environment. Effective conditioning drills incorporate the assault bikes, sleds, and rowers. You can even include a baseball conditioning drill. Or base running and sprints.
As a strength coach, your goal is to help athletes achieve their highest performance potential. To help you become a better fit for this role and accelerate your success, check out ISSA’s Strength and Conditioning certification.
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