What do MLB players Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria, Delmon Young, Curtis Granderson, J.A. Happ, Jair Jurrjens and Ryan Zimmerman have in common?
They've all recently spent time on the DL due to an oblique sprain, a common athletic injury that is especially prevalent among baseball players because of the role the obliques play in baseball-specific movements. (See Develop Rotational Power With Strong, Flexible Obliques.)
Anatomy and Function of the Obliques
The oblique muscles lie just under the pecs on each side of the rectus abdominus muscles (i.e., in the "six pack" area). There are actually four oblique muscles, right and left internal and right and left external. The internal and external on each side are at right angles to each other. That is why one side at a time is generally injured, rather than both sides.
In baseball, the obliques are heavily engaged in core control and rotation, generating power on one side while stabilizing the other. For an effective pitch, throw, or hit, a player must generate power by rotating his hips while his trunk stores energy that is unleashed with the throwing or hitting action.
Oblique Training and Rehab Strategy
As both a training and a rehab strategy, focus on strengthening your obliques and their antagonists (i.e., the muscles on the opposite side of the body, not easily visible in the mirror): the serratus posterior muscles, lower traps, lats, spinal extensors, glutes and even the hip abductors. Here are some options for training and rehabbing an oblique sprain in baseball.
Training for Strength
- Russian Twists on a Swiss Ball with Resistance
- Pallof Presses
- Side Planks with dynamic movements, including Rows or Leg Lifts
- Side Bends on a Glute Ham Raise Machine
- Suitcase Deadlifts
- Single Arm Overhead Lunges
Training for Power
Training for Mobility
Prevention Through Strengthening
- Lat Pulldown
- Pull-Up Variations
- Romanian Deadlift
- Bent Over Rows
- Single-Arm Face Pulls
- Ab Wheel
Prevention Through Power
Prevention Through Mobility with Yoga
A non-traditional but very useful modality for athletes who require mobility, especially in the hips, is to perform hip opening exercises through yoga. Yoga requires getting up to speed on the proper poses and techniques, but they are beneficial for opening the hips and effectively generating power for baseball.
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