It's crucial for baseball players to keep their bodies highly conditioned. One inefficient movement can lead to muscle compensations and could cause injury over time.
With that in mind, here are some sport-specific, bodyweight exercises to help you avoid baseball injuries.
1. High Knees
- Standing with your weight on the balls of your feet and your arms crossed on your chest, raise one leg level with your hip and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Swiftly alternate legs, maintaining solid speed throughout the movement.
Sets/Duration: Beginners, 3x15 seconds, 5 seconds rest between sets; more advanced players, 3x30 seconds, 5 seconds rest between sets.
Coaching Points: Keep your arms crossed on your chest to eliminate any upper-body momentum that would assist the movement. Always land softly on the balls of your feet and not roughly on your heels.
2. Prisoner Walking Lunges
- Take a step forward about twice your normal stride length.
- With optimal posture, lunge down, bending both knees at a 90-degree angle.
- To engage your hamstrings and glutes, rise up on both legs while extending (locking) your rear knee before performing the next repetition.
Sets/Reps: 2x12 each side, 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
Coaching Points: Place your hands behind your head with your elbows bent to obtain greater thoracic mobility and pectoral flexibility. However, to quote Eric Cressey, president and co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance, "be sure to avoid really cranking those elbows back; chances are you already have plenty of range of motion."
3. Side Shuffles
- Start in the prone military push-up position, but instead of performing a Push-Up by lowering down, shuffle to one side simultaneously with your handstand feet (like a sideways-moving crab on a beach).
- Pause and hold the prone position for a solid second.
- Continue to shuffle, alternating from side to side. Remember to engage your core and gluteus maximus muscles for added strength.
Sets/Reps: Beginners, 2x12, 30-60 seconds rest between sets; more advanced players, 2x24, 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
Coaching Points: Keep a neutral spinal position throughout. Do not lean your torso to one side or the other, and do not let your hips hike up, creating unnecessary back strain. Do not cross your hands or feet, since this will diminish the proper rotator cuff and hip flexor action.
4. Cuban Press
- Stand with optimal posture.
- Raise your elbows in line with your shoulders and drop your hands down (palms facing backward) to create a 90-degree angle at your elbow joint (i.e., resembling a scarecrow position).
- Raise your forearms up 90 degrees to be in line with your shoulders. Keep your shoulders stable with your palms facing down so your forearms run parallel to the floor.
- Raise your forearms up another 90-degrees with your palms facing forward. Your elbows should be flexed and aligned with your shoulders at all times.
- In a "pressing" motion, bring your arms over your head while keeping your elbows slightly bent.
- Reverse these steps to complete the repetition.
Sets/Reps: Beginners and advanced players, 3x12, 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
Coaching Points: Although no weights are used with this exercise, be gentle while performing the movements, taking care to not force your joints. At first, you may want to use a mirror as a guide if you're unsure of your arm positioning.
5. Arm Circles
- Stand with your feet together to more fully engage your core.
- Extend your arms straight out to your sides with slightly bent elbows.
- Both of your arms should be in line with one another.
- Make arm circles about 12 inches in diameter with both arms simultaneously.
Sets/Duration: Beginners, 3x15 seconds each direction; advanced players, 3x30 seconds each direction.
Coaching Points: Do not flex your elbows. Your arms should remain extended straight out to the side parallel to the floor about 90 degrees from your torso.
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