As a baseball athlete, you need to consider two important aspects of your training: total body strength and explosive power.
But first, consider the muscle imbalances caused naturally by the sport. For example, you swing the bat from one side. You run around the bases in one direction. You plant with the same foot over and over to throw. This means strength imbalances in your quads, hamstrings, forearms, chest, shoulders and back—all the key baseball muscles—naturally develop and must be corrected during training.
As for the importance of explosive power, consider that all action in baseball occurs in short bursts. Each athletic movement takes place for less than a second (swinging a bat) to about 10 seconds (catching a fly ball).
Check out the slideshow for 10 baseball strength training exercises that will correct muscle imbalances, address the key baseball muscles and ensure you have the explosive power necessary to dominate your opponents.
Strong forearm muscles allow you to whip the bat through the zone, just like the powerhouse hitters of yore.
• Grab heavy pair of dumbbells
• Lock shoulder blades into place
• Keep knees slightly flexed and walk around gym until grip starts slipping
• Safely set dumbbells on the floor
Sets/Time: 3x max duration; perform at end of workout, twice per week
Plyo Push-Ups are preferable to the Bench Press, because they take the shoulder through a larger range of motion without the stress of heavy weight. Plus, this exercise develops chest explosiveness that baseball players need for powerful hitting.
• Assume push-up position, then lower body until chest almost touches ground
• Explosively drive body up by fully extending arms
• Land with hands shoulder-width apart; immediately perform next rep
• Perform continuously for specified reps
Rotational Med Ball Throws
This classic abdominal exercise involves the internal and external obliques; its rotation closely imitates the swing in baseball. Work on both sides to correct imbalances.
• Stand facing wall, with feet shoulder-width apart
• Using both hands, bring med ball to right side of body
• Rotate torso and throw ball toward wall
• Catch ball off wall and repeat for prescribed reps
• Perform on opposite side
Sets/Reps: 5×8 each side
Your hamstrings create speed by allowing the knee to flex and the hip to extend. By training hip extension, you can steal more bases and reach peak speed even more quickly. Exercises such as a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift work the hamstring while stretching the muscle.
• Balance on one leg, holding dumbbells at sides
• With balancing leg slightly bent and back flat, bend forward at waist until dumbbells are just above floor
• Return to start; repeat for specified reps
• Perform set on opposite side
Band Face Pulls
For baseball players, the muscles that need particular work stretch from the upper back to the shoulder blades. If these often-overlooked muscles are weak, then injury to the rotator cuff is more likely to occur.
• Hold rubber tubing with arms extended out in front of face
• Point thumbs up
• Pinch shoulder blades and pull hands to face
Planks are a great way to develop core stability and strength. (And remember, your core is not another word for your abs—it’s a series of muscles, including your glutes and lower back, that stabilize the spine.) A strong core allows you to react to a ball hit in the gap or explosively drive a ball down the line.
• Lie on stomach with elbows bent underneath
• Raise body until only elbows and toes touch ground
• Keep body rigid and flat by tightening abs and butt
Sets/Duration: 3×30 seconds
This is the king of all exercises. Baseball players will directly benefit by doing Deadlifts because they target the glutes, one of the largest muscles in the body. To swing the bat powerfully, your glutes need to fire to create a strong rotation at the hips.
Learn how to perform the exercise: Master the Deadlift, Part 1: The Conventional Deadlift
Strong quads help you transition power from one foot to the other, like making a pivot on a cutoff throw. But Squats often have negative effects for baseball players, creating overstretched shoulder joints. However, you need to strengthen your legs, so I recommend performing Barbell Lunges instead.
• Begin with bar on back in standing position
• Step forward into lunge position, keeping front knee behind toes
• Lower until back knee almost touches ground
• Push back into standing position without changing torso angle
Sets/Reps: 5×8 each leg
Side-Lying External Rotations
Keeping the rotator cuff muscles healthy is important for baseball players. You are training for muscular endurance with this exercise, so don’t try to increase the weight beyond your limit. Throwing a baseball also works these same muscles, so you might want to use this exercise only during the off-season.
• Lie on side, holding light dumbbell in front near mid-torso with elbow bent at 90-degree angle and palm facing in
• Keeping elbow pinned to side, rotate hand away from body until forearm is parallel to floor
• Return to start; repeat for specified reps
• Perform set with opposite arm
When you work out, your body’s soft tissue contracts and can develop tight spots. (Baseball players particularly have tight hips, hamstrings, biceps and rotator cuffs.) Foam rolling will cut your chance of injury; it acts as a massage for the soft tissue. This same type of procedure can be followed for the quads, IT bands, shoulders, upper back and lower back.
• Place foam roller under muscle group
• Roll slowly back and forth for one minute
• Roll on muscle; avoid bone