Total body strength and explosive power are the name of the game when it comes to training for baseball. But, it’s not big, bulky muscles that professional baseball players are after. Pitchers and catchers, infielders and outfielders all concentrate on specific exercises and moves aimed at building functional and dynamic strength, while taking into consideration the muscle imbalances caused by the sport.
You’re regularly swinging the bat from only one side (unless you’re a switch hitter), running around the bases in one direction, and planting with the same foot over and over to throw, as the STACK article “10 Best Baseball Strength Training Exercises” points out. This means that strength imbalances in your quads, hamstrings, forearms, chest, shoulders and back – all the key baseball muscles – naturally develop and must be corrected during your training sessions.
Explosive power is crucial for baseball players, since most of the action during the course of a game occurs in short bursts. Each athletic movement takes place for less than a second (swinging a bat) to about 10 seconds (catching a fly ball).
Since baseball players have a variety of body types and different roles that they need to perform, it’s important to keep in mind that training programs are tailored to each specific player’s needs.
“To create an effective program, we have to identify what’s required for players to be durable enough to perform their role on the team,” says James Clifford, professional strength and conditioning coach. “For example, if a shortstop needs to lose weight, having them run for long periods doesn’t translate as well to their position as interval training.”
With that in mind, here are the best exercises and workouts for pitchers, catchers and position players (infielders and outfielders).
Pitching a baseball is all about transferring power from your legs all the way up through your arm. So, if you want to excel on the mound – and decrease your risk of injury – you’ll need to work hard on not just your shoulders, throwing arm and back, but also your hips, legs and hamstrings.
This move will help you build single-leg and crossbody strength in your legs, hamstrings, glutes and hips. Stand straight, holding a dumbbell in your right hand, with your left hand at your side. Then, bend down and extend your right leg straight back, keeping your left foot (the opposite leg from the dumbbell) planted on the ground. Your right arm should hang straight down, while your body should form a T-shape when you bend.
Hold the position at the bottom, then return to your starting position. We recommend 3 sets of 10 reps for each arm and leg, resting 45 to 120 seconds between sets. Make sure to use a weight that’s comfortable for you.
This move helps with increasing shoulder mobility and flexibility, and it’ll stretch out your middle and upper back, as well as your torso.
To start, lie down on your back with your left knee bent and your right leg crossed over the top of your left leg. Then, roll to your left side (the bent knee side), bringing your right knee toward the ground. Use a towel or pad for cushion between your knee and the ground. Place your right arm parallel to your leg, then rotate your chest and top arm out, putting your arm straight up over your head. Next, bring your arm out and down the right side of your body in a sweeping motion toward your butt. Repeat the sweeping motion from your head to your butt for the amount of reps, then switch and do it with the opposite arms/legs.
Aim for 3 sets of 8 reps for each side, resting for 45 to 120 seconds between sets.
One of the keys to the catcher position is a player’s ability to be functionally mobile while in a deep squat position.
Strength and conditioning coach Ryan Stoneberg says in this Sports Illustrated article that his prescription for mobility starts with improving range of motion in the hips, ankles and thoracic spine. Stoneberg prioritizes single-leg and hip-dominant movements (squat exercises are minimal) – with a focus on pulling exercises rather than pressing movements – in order to help maintain an upright posture. Stoneberg also includes core work and grip strength in his catchers’ training regimen, always starting with a structured warmup with soft tissue work, mobility drills and muscle activation exercises.
Stoneberg recommends a band-assisted hip flexor stretch to create more range of motion in the hip – which can allow glute activation and a reduction in lower back soreness – as well as a cable pull-through to train the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) while reducing stress on the spine.
First, take a stretch or resistance band and attach it to a sturdy object that’s knee height or lower. Then, step into the band with one leg and pull it upward as high as possible. After that, walk back – creating tension on the band – and kneel down (your knee with the band around your leg is down) into a lunge position. Keeping a good posture, squeeze the glute of the downward leg and allow the band to gently pull your hips forward, creating a great stretch for the targeted area. In order to create more or less tension with the band, adjust the distance of where you kneel.
Attach a tricep rope to an adjustable pulley unit and drop it to the bottom position. Then, face away from the cable unit, assume a wide stance with a slight knee bend and grab the rope between your legs. Begin each repetition by reaching through the legs while maintaining a neutral spine position. Pull forward by forcefully extending your hips (not pulling with your arms) and finish each repetition by squeezing the glutes. You can also do this exercise with a stretch or resistance band if you don’t have a tricep rope and adjustable pulley available.
FOR POSITION PLAYERS (INFIELDERS & OUTFIELDERS)
Professional baseball players spend a lot of time strengthening their core, which includes the trunk, gluteal, pelvic floor and leg muscles, says Dr. Luga Podesta, a sports medicine and regenerative orthopedic specialist at Bluetail Medical Group in Naples, Florida, and a former team physician for two professional baseball teams in Southern California.
“Your core is your foundation that all your other muscles are based on,” says Dr. Podesta. “The core’s important for everyone. It maintains stability in your trunk, which allows your body to remain more balanced and perform more efficiently.”
This classic abdominal exercise involves the internal and external obliques. The rotation closely imitates the swing in baseball and corrects imbalances by working both sides.
To begin, stand facing the wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, using both hands, bring the medicine ball to the right side of your body. Rotate your torso and throw the ball toward the wall. Catch the ball off the wall and repeat this for 5 sets of 8 reps for each side.
Plyo push-ups are a better bet than the bench press because they take the shoulder through a larger range of motion without the stress of heavy weight. This exercise develops chest explosiveness that baseball players need for powerful hitting.
Start by assuming a push-up position, lowering your body until your chest almost touches the ground. Then, explosively, drive your body up by fully extending your arms. Land with your hands shoulder-width apart, then immediately perform your next rep. Perform continuously for specified reps. Our recommendation is 5 sets with 8 reps per set.