To improve your softball performance, you must train the right parts of your body the right way. Softball requires explosiveness. Whether you are swinging, throwing or pitching, your body must violently explode in a split second. To do this, you need rotational power.
Contrary to popular belief, your abs don't produce that power. Rotational power is largely generated from the hips. The job of the core is to remain stable and transfer force to your upper body. It's critical that you train lateral hip strength and stability so you can safely perform rotational moves.
Hip training for softball should focus on lateral movements for rotational power, with the added benefit of cultivating the ability to move in different planes to pitch or make plays on defense. The following training progression is ideal for injury prevention and recovery. Progress through each section as your hip strength improves.
These motor control exercises, commonly used for warm-up or rehabilitation, activate the gluteus medius muscles, which keep your hips, knees and ankles aligned to prevent knee injuries. Weak gluteus are a common cause of weakness when rotating and a contributor to knee pain and ACL tears.
Side-Lying Clamshell with Resistance Band
- Lie on your side with knees bent.
- With a resistance band around your knees, raise the top knee toward the ceiling. The gluteus medius and maximus muscles will fire to perform these rotational movements.
- Sets/Reps: 2x50
Side-Lying Straight-Leg Hip Abduction
- Lie on your side with a resistance band around your ankles.
- Lift the top leg toward the ceiling.
- Sets/Reps: 2x50
Bodyweight stability is a part of the functional progression toward generating maximal strength. Once you're adept at these exercises, they become accessory and warm-up exercises.
- Perform for time, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Side Plank with Hip Circles
- Lift your leg from the side plank position and make small circles.
- Do 20 clockwise and 20 counter-clockwise.
Single-Leg Ab Wheel
- This exercise challenges the obliques along with the lateral stabilizers of the hip.
- Sets/Reps: 1x10 to start. Add sets as you get better.
High-Plank Hip Abduction
- Start in the Push-Up position with elbows extended.
- Slowly kick one leg out to the side, then the other leg.
- Sets/Reps: 1-2x10-30
- Sets/Reps: 1-2x10-30
Once you achieve proper technique and stability, progress to more dynamic exercises. Progression in the weight room leads to dominance on the field.
- With a resistance band.
Overhead Lateral Lunges
- Hold a plate overhead and perform sets of 10 reps.
Single-Leg Barbell Good Morning
- Start light until your balance is under control. As you get stronger, treat it like a strength exercise with progressive loading.
- Sets/Reps: Perform sets of 2-3 reps.
Perform these in sets of 10 with progressive resistance. Assume a wide stance and focus on lateral stability.
Beyond dynamic movements comes the progression to power, specifically working to stabilize the lateral hip while rotating. This will elevate your softball performance by allowing you to generate power when hitting, throwing or pitching.
Med Ball Rotational Throws with Legs Stable
- Quickly rotate your midsection, separating your torso from your hips, and slam a med ball against a wall.
Med Ball Shuffle to Shot Put
- Shuffle toward a wall and explosively shot put a med ball into the wall, focusing on the follow through.
Lateral Med Ball Slams
- Rather than slam the ball straight down in front, get in an athletic stance and twist to slam the ball to the floor, past the right and then the left hip.
To be a complete athlete and ensure total dominance, you must be strong. Incorporate these strengthening exercises for the lateral hips.
Lateral Sled Drags
- Perform these heavy for 15 to 30 yards at a time.
- Sets/Reps: 3x5-8
Single-Arm Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats
- Perform the Split Squat with your rear foot elevated while holding a single dumbbell to your side
- Sets/Reps: 3x5-8 each leg
- Hip Stretching Exercises for Speed and Power
- Strong and Mobile Hips, Part 1: Introduction
- Strong and Mobile Hips, Part 2: Hip Flexibility
- Strong and Mobile Hips, Part 3: Hip Strength
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