In baseball, throwing and swinging are upper-body moves, but the power comes from the hips and legs. That's why lower-body exercises are critical to building the strength and power needed for throwing velocity, hitting force, and, of course, running speed.
Here are three of my top lower-body power-building exercises for baseball players. These exercises can and should be added to any athlete's baseball strength training program.
1. The Box Squat
The Box Squat is a fundamental movement for building lower-body strength and power for all sports. The reason the Box Squat is so effective for building explosive power is that when the athlete sits on the box, the lower body muscles of the hips and hamstrings relax and then are forced to contract explosively when the athlete stands up. This is a static state overcome by a dynamic force. As you take a lead off first base, you are in a static position. When you move to steal a base—boom!—you have to explode out of that static position.
Tighten your core and low back, sit back onto the box, roll your hips and explode up. It is extremely important that your lower back remain neutral and doesn't get loose when you sit on the box. ALSO: Think about pushing your feet away from the floor. This will activate your hip musculature and build a stronger foundation from which to move.
Sets/Reps: 8x3 @ 60-80% max
2. The Heiden Jump
A lot of trainers and athletes look for smart ways to implement exercises that are "baseball-specific" into their programs. The Heiden Jump is one of the few very translatable weight room exercises that baseball athletes can perform. It builds lateral power similar to the type of power a pitcher uses to push off the rubber.
Start with one leg behind the other. Jump out laterally and catch the jump on the opposite leg. It's important to be strong enough to safely and effectively "stick" the landing in more basic Forward Jumps before progressing to Heiden Jumps.
Sets/Reps: 3-4x4-6 each leg
3. The Lateral Sled Drag
Sled dragging has really caught on in the strength and conditioning field, and for good reason. It builds work capacity, power and strength endurance, ligament strength, and it can also build strength and power. However, as we know, baseball is a lateral game, so simply dragging sleds forward and backward, while beneficial, doesn't complete the picture. To build true baseball power, athletes should also perform various Lateral Sled Drags.
My favorite variation is the Step-Over Sled Drag. When performed correctly, it build tremendous strength in the hips, which translates to power.
Hook a sled to a belt and jump out laterally as explosively as possible. Stay as close to the ground as you can and try to cover as much distance as possible, then reset the sled and jump again.
Sets/Reps: 3-5x15-20 yards
Add these exercises to your current baseball strength training and watch your power shoot through the roof!
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock