Next time you watch a professional baseball game have a look at the physiques of the players. Take special note of how muscular and strong nearly every single one of them appears. That’s because they are. Compare this to the physiques of players in high school and college. You’ll notice a similar trend: those in the greatest shape (strongest) are the ones that make All-Star games and get drafted. Being muscular and bigger makes you a better baseball player.
So if that is the case, then why are most high school baseball players 150lbs dripping wet with zero muscle? Likely somewhere in their lifetime they have been told that they don’t want to build too much muscle because it will affect their swings and/or their throwing. They’ve been taught by “traditional” coaches that baseball is a game of speed, grace, and especially hand-eye coordination, and performing only exercises training these traits should be used. It was assumed that traditional strength training would somehow interfere with those coveted traits.
Unfortunately this could not be further from the truth.
Not having any muscle at all and worrying only about “baseball skills” falls on the total opposite end of the spectrum. If baseball is all about how far you can hit a ball and how hard you can throw one, then wouldn’t power and strength be a big component to the baseball player? For the high school baseball athlete, this seems to be totally forgotten. This affects not only the player’s game, but their overall health as well. If you don’t have the muscle strength to continually throw a ball as hard as you possibly can, but still attempt to (like 99% of pitchers at the high school level) then something has to give. Unfortunately the thing that gives is often the athlete’s body. They end up with shoulder or elbow problems, tendonitis or worse – a muscle tear or other serious injury that requires surgery and down time (if they are ever able to bounce back from it anyways).
Baseball is a sport that requires the whole body to be fit and strong. Everything is used to throw, hit, and run. Some areas are especially important for success (both in the activity and in staying injury-free). Let’s take each spot on the athlete that needs to be powerful and healthy and break down the best way to achieve those results.
The glutes (your butt cheeks) are the biggest muscle group in the body and are a part of every athletic movement you perform. Because of this they not only have to be strong, but everything connected to them must be strong as well. This is accomplished by performing whole body movements that strengthen the entire posterior chain. Exercises like Box Squats, Trap Bar Deadlifts, Glute Ham Raises, KB Swings, Good Mornings, Straight Leg Pull-Thru’s, 45 Degree Hypers, Super Mans, and Hip Bridges are the best exercises any athlete can do to strengthen this portion of their body. These exercises will also train athletes on how to correctly utilize these large muscle groups.
If you have strong glutes but weak hamstrings and lower back, then the power that is generated from the glutes unfortunately doesn’t transfer very well to where it needs to go ( For example: through the hamstrings into the ground during things like running and jumping; pushing off the rubber/ground to throw; or up through the lower back into your arms to swing a bat or throw a ball).
The exercise that every athlete (at any level) loves to do the most is bench press. Although this is a great exercise for shoulder, tricep, and chest strength, athletes tend to ignore balancing it out by performing any back work. This causes a forward rotation and poor posture of the shoulders. This becomes a problem especially with pitchers who start losing their range of motion because of a weak upper back (when compared to their chest). They start altering their mechanics to continue to throw as hard as possible, posing a significant risk for serious injury.
Band Pull-Aparts, Pull-Ups, Rows, Shrugs, and Deadlifts are the best exercises to not only make the upper back stronger, but also provide the balance between the chest and back. Thus causing the shoulders to return back to a more neutral position and providing better range of motion and posture.
Shoulders & Arms
These can be grouped together because so many exercises you perform for one of these muscle groups involves the other. The best exercises that can be done to not only develop strong shoulders and arms, but also keep them healthy are Push-Ups (weighted, un-weighted, feet elevated, close grip, neutral grip, plus any other variation), Incline DB Press, DB Seated Power Clean & Presses, and DB Hammer Curls. These exercises not only provide the strength needed to make the shoulders and arms powerful, but they work each muscle group from multiple angles providing muscle balance and stability.
Luckily most baseball players have this step down. They see these professional ball players with big forearms and realize that grip strength plays a huge part in being able to control and power a bat and ball. So they spend all their time performing wrist rollers or forearm curls. However what they fail to realize is there are three different types of grip strength they need to be working on – crush grip, pinch grip, and support grip.
A crush grip is the form of grip strength most people think of when you talk grip strength. It is the kind that is attributed to crushing something between your fingers and palm (like a hand shake or squeezing something as hard as possible). To work this type of strength, athletes need to perform clamp squeezes or use something like Captains of Crush grips to not only provide increased resistance, but also make sure they are performing a full range of motion.
Pinch grip is the grip used when trying to hold something between your fingers for an extended period of time. When throwing a pitch, this type of grip is most utilized as the ball sits between the fingers and not up in the palm. So by making this type of grip stronger, you are increasing the power and movement on your pitches and throws in general. You also utilize this type of grip strength when making a play in the field by catching a ball and squeezing the glove shut. Common sense says that the quicker you close the glove, the better chance the ball has of staying in there. You can work on this type of grip strength by performing Plate Pinches.
Support grip is what is used when you are holding onto something. A combination of this and the crush grip are the main types used when holding and swinging a bat. The best way to work on this type of grip is Farmers Walks. (Not incidentally, Farmers Walks are also fantastic for working the rest of the body as well). Grab something heavy in each hand and take off walking for as long as possible. At Genesis we use heavy kettlebells, sandbags, kegs, dumbbells, and even specially designed farmer walk handles that allow you to add weight as needed.
Every baseball player needs muscle to make them a better player. Hopefully by adding in a few of these exercises to your current training regimen you will notice a difference not only in your game, but also how you are feeling between games and as the season progresses.
If you have any questions or are in the Houston area and want to play at that next level, then contact Genesis Athletic Performance today. You can email us at Info@Genesis-AP.com or call the facility directly at (832) 380-5GEN.