An Upper-Body Baseball Training Routine for the Off-Season

STACK Expert Matt Tanneberg provides an off-season upper-body workout for baseball players.

Baseball season is long and grueling. Major League teams play 162 games plus playoffs; college players play around 50 games plus playoffs. Teams can play three or four games on consecutive nights. With such schedules, baseball players must prepare their bodies for the stress of the long haul.

The big ideas with baseball training are to create stability in the core, gain rotational power, build fast-twitch muscle fibers, encourage shoulder stability and mobility and, most importantly, develop leg strength. Whether you are hitting, pitching, fielding or running, your legs are the most important part of your body in this sport. Your power while hitting and pitching comes first from your legs and second from your core (which not only includes your abs but also your back muscles).

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This training regimen focuses on the upper body. During off-season training, go through this upper-body routine two times per week, with leg days in between.

Baseball Training Program


Foam roll upper body

Instead of casually rolling around on the foam roller, roll on each muscle until you feel a tender spot (it will feel like a bruise), then stay on that spot for 20-30 seconds. This breaks up the adhesions—or "trigger points"—in your muscle. Spend approximately 5 minutes finding tender spots and working them out.


Shoulder Circles

These open up your shoulder joints to loosen them up and create more mobility.

Hold a 2- to 5-pound weight. Let your arm hang down by your side. Slowly swing your arm in one direction five times, then switch directions.

Do 2 repetitions.

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Wall Walks

These work on mobility and stability of the rotator cuff. These are a tough exercise to master.

Start with your shoulders perpendicular to a wall. Place the hand closest to the wall flat against it at shoulder level. Slowly walk your fingers up the wall, keeping your shoulders relaxed. If you shrug, you recruit your deltoid muscle and won't get the benefit of the exercise.

Walk your hand up five times, then switch sides.

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Overhead Stick Movement

This increases your shoulder range of motion, especially with internal and external rotation.

Get a piece of PVC pipe or a long stick and hold it with your palms facing away from you. Lift it overhead and back behind you as far as you can. Bring it back overhead to the stating position.

Go through 10 repetitions.

3-Way Raises

These develop abduction strength in the shoulders.

Hold  a 5- to 15-pound dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the floor. Lift the weights straight out in front of you. Bring your arms down and lift them back up at a 45-degree angle. Bring your arms back down and lift them up directly to the side. Lift the dumbbells only to shoulder level, then slowly bring them back down.

Complete 5 repetitions of all 3 raises.

Internal/External Rotation

This exercise works your teres minor, infraspinatus and subscapularis muscles (rotator cuff muscles). It is more about proper form and range of motion than the amount of weight.

Hold a band with handles in one of your hands. Stand with your shoulders parallel to the band (you are facing to the side) and hold the band in the hand closest to it. Slowly bring your hand toward your torso then back out the other way. Keep your elbow tucked next to your side for the entire range of motion. This is internal rotation. Next, keeping the band in the same hand, turn your body 180 degrees so you are facing the other way. Again, your elbow stays directly by your side. Externally rotate your shoulder in the other direction.

If you are having trouble keeping your elbow tucked by your side, put a towel there and make sure you don't lift it off.

Complete 10 repetitions of internal rotation and external rotation on each arm.

Double-Arm Scarecrow

This one works on external rotation of the shoulders, which is key for throwing.

Get a band with handles and hold them with both hands. Facing the bands, bring your arms up so your upper arms are parallel with the floor, then rotate your forearms back as far as you can. Pause at the end of the range of motion.

Do 15 repetitions.

Superband Splitter

This one helps you stay back in retraction and strengthens your rhomboid muscles.

Hold a superband in both hands. Keep your shoulders relaxed and separate the band as far as you can.

Hold for 5 seconds for 15 repetitions.

Face Pulls

This one strengthens your accessory-pulling muscles.

With a band in both hands, pull directly toward your face and pause for 5 seconds.

15 repetitions.

Military High Pulls

This strengthens your deltoids—your dominant shoulder muscles.

Stand over a barbell. Keep the curve through your low back. As soon as you slouch, you put stress on your trapezius muscles. Pull up from your elbows, then relax.

Complete 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Chops, Lifts

Set the cable machine as high as it will go. Keeping your core tight, bring the weight down toward your opposite hip. Next, set the cable machine all the way to the ground. Keeping your core tight, pull the weight up into the air. Your oblique muscles are the main muscles being worked—these are big muscles to strengthen for baseball players as they help with rotation.

Complete 2 sets of 10 Chops and 10 Lifts.

Pallof Press

This one creates core stability with motion.

Stand facing the cable machine. Pull the weight with both hands toward your chest and hold for 10 seconds.

15 repetitions.

Rotational Med Ball Throws

This one creates dynamic strength in your core from throwing and catching the medicine ball.

Holding a medicine ball, stand with your shoulders perpendicular to wall. Throw the ball from your side against the wall, contract your core and catch the ball on the rebound.

Complete 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.

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