Most baseball players understand that core strength is critical—how else could you perform basic skills like throwing a ball or swinging a bat? However, to properly train the core for performance gains—and to stay healthy—you must first understand what the core is and how it functions in baseball.
The core comprises several muscle groups in the front and back of the body, spanning from the chest and upper back down to the thighs. The core muscles work in unison to transfer power generated in the lower body to the upper body and to redirect it to a ball you throw or hit with a bat. These muscles also stabilize and protect the spine, particularly in the lower back (lumbar spine), which is subject to enormous force from upper-body movements.
Many baseball players mistakenly overwork the lower back with core exercises like Sit-Ups, Side Bends and Russian Twists, which have very little carryover for baseball performance and can even cause pain and injury to the lower back.
Instead, your workout should focus on stabilization exercises that force core muscles to resist movement. This helps strengthen the connection between the upper and lower body. These core-specific exercises will improve throwing and hitting power—and help your core maintain control of your body during explosive hitting and throwing motions (which protects the spine).
Begin your baseball-specific core training by adding four types of stabilization exercises to your core workouts. They can be performed in addition to other core training, like Med Ball Rotational Throws; however, perform only one exercise from the list below during each workout. For maximum improvement, be sure to perform each of the four types of movements throughout the week.
Start at three sets of eight to 12 reps and add reps as you develop strength.
Anti-Extension: Prevents the lower back from overarching; reduces stress on the spine
Recommended Exercise: Physioball Rollouts
- Kneel on mat with hands on physioball
- Keeping body rigid, roll out as far as possible, extending arms past head; do not let hips drop
- Allow head to drop between arms for full extension
- Come back to start position; repeat
Anti-Lateral Flexion: Prevents excessive stress on the lower back when bending side to side
Recommended Exercise: One-Arm Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift
- Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than shoulder width
- With one hand, hold dumbbell outside of leg on same side
- Pushing back hips and keeping weight on heels, squat until dumbbell touches ground
- Drive up to starting position
- Repeat for specified reps; perform set on opposite side
Anti-Rotation: Builds a strong connection between the lower and upper body to ensure power is transferred efficiently from the legs to the core to the arms
Recommended Exercise: Pallof Press
- Assume athletic stance with feet wider than hip width and body positioned perpendicular to cable
- Grasp handle with both hands directly in front of chest
- Keeping core tight, extend arms in front of chest
- Flex arms and return to start position with control; repeat for specified reps
- Perform on opposite side
Hip Flexion With Neutral Spine: Increases strength and stability in the abs and other core muscles without compromising back health
Recommended Exercise: Physioball Jackknife
- Assume Push-Up position and dig toes into top of ball
- Keeping back flat and core stable, drive knees to chest to roll ball toward hands
- Extend hips and knees to roll ball to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
For more exercises and information, check out Robertson Training Systems president Mike Robertson’s comprehensive approach to core training. Head over to his website for more.