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No two baseball players are built alike, which means training requirements can vary person to person. However, all still need to start with a strong base and balanced muscular strength in the kinetic chain [the path of muscle activation during a movement]. I like to say that baseball players must train from their toenails to fingernails, so below is my guide to a pre-season workout.
Start with a good flexibility program. Perform a dynamic warm-up before and a static stretching routine after competition or training to ensure flexibility and mobility for full range of motion when pitching, throwing or batting.
Once you’re warmed up, it’s time strengthen the legs, core and upper body, because they have a direct effect on each other. These areas can also directly influence the movement of the shoulder and arm. Many baseball players are surprised to learn that shoulder injuries can actually result from weakness elsewhere in the body—reason enough to start strength training.
Lower Body Strength and Speed
You need to have balanced lower body strength, since the legs drive the rest of the body. A program should begin with functional, bodyweight strength exercises—such as Bodyweight Squats and Lunges—and progress to resistance exercises that load the legs to produce balanced strength and power, like Deadlifts and Squats. I also recommend performing agility training, form running and plyometrics to add a speed development component to your training program.
Baseball players need to concentrate on the core to prevent low back issues and trunk instability. Swinging and throwing are generally one-sided and can lead to weakness in the opposite side of the core. Perform a variety of core exercises—such as Russian Twists, Pikes, Reverse Crunches and Suitcases—to ensure each muscle of the core is sufficiently strengthened.
Upper Body Strength
For the upper body, I use a 2:1 ratio for back to chest exercises, varying exercises as much as possible. This helps your throwing motion be as natural and fluid as possible, but the most important aspect of the ratio is muscular balance. Your shoulder program should progress with your throwing program and consist of exercises that stabilize the shoulder and strengthen the rotator cuff—such as Front and Side Dumbbell Raises [do not raise dumbbells above the shoulder] and YTWL. This helps your shoulders withstand the force produced by the rest of the body.
Everything you do to prepare for the season is progressive in nature. Don’t start going too heavy, too early, or you will peak and burn out far too quickly in the season. Also, always make sure to give your best effort in the weight room or your body will not be able to perform at its best during the season. Remember, what you do in the off-season will directly affect your performance in-season.
Sean Marohn has an associate’s degree in fire technology from Shasta College, a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from California State University, Chico, and a master’s degree in human performance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In grad school, he was an assistant strength coach for the baseball and football teams, including the baseball team who went to the 2001 College World Series. Marohn has worked with the minor league programs for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent two seasons as the strength and conditioning coach for the Cincinnati Reds AAA Affiliate the Louisville Bats. Since 2005, he has worked as the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league strength and conditioning coordinator.