As the days get longer and the flowers start to bloom, we know one thing is certain: Diamond sports are just around the corner. With spring comes a renewed passion for baseball and softball. From youth T-ball all the way up to adult recreational softball leagues, there is a place for anyone to be involved in the sports. They are available for athletes of all ages and abilities and are great ways to get outdoors and boost fitness levels.
A great way to stay fit
Playing either baseball or softball in and of itself is great for fitness. Both games combine a variety of movements in a variety of planes we might not incorporate on a day-to-day basis. They become effective ways to test the body, as both sports require fitness factors such as speed, core strength, power, and mobility.
Within each sport itself, the demands for each player become very different with a variety of movements. A catcher will squat over 100 times a game, while a pitcher can often throw over 80 times a game at close to maximum effort. Meanwhile, an outfielder may have multiple multidirectional sprints compared to an infielder’s short lateral movements dependent on reaction time.
Whether you’re game ready or need to get that way, the following exercises will help make sure your body is prepared when it comes time to hit the base paths. And if you won’t be taking the field anytime soon, these movements will help put a new swing on your current workout routine.
Hip flexor steps with rotation
One of my favorite dynamic warmup movements for increasing hip mobility and thoracic rotation is the hip flexor stretch with rotation. If a player could only do one stretch, it would most likely be this one.
Hip flexor steps incorporate stretching the back side hip flexor group along with the front side groin. Adding a single arm rotation gives us movement about the rib cage and allows us to free up motion we most likely don’t incorporate in normal daily activities. Many of us are seated throughout the day, so anything we can do to open up and extend the hips will put us on the right track for health.
The movement includes five steps with each leg, rotating the inside arm up with each rep. Reach for the sky and exhale all your air for even better rotation.
Pushup with dumbbell row
The pushup with dumbbell row exercise is a great combination movement for athletes in that they can accomplish multiple things with one task. Pushups are great for much more than just chest and shoulders. They incorporate high levels of core stability and scapular movement and teach athletes how to control their own body weight.
When you add a dumbbell row to the pushup, you now get scapular retraction as well as increase the challenges on the core, forcing it to stabilize in more than one plane. It now becomes an anti-rotational core movement, which creates rotational strength and power.
A set is generally 6 to 10 pushup reps, alternating a row with each one, using 5- to15-pound dumbbells.
Lunge with chop
The lunge with chop is a total body movement from a split lunge stance. It requires stability throughout the lower body, while the upper body rotates in a chop pattern. This movement is great in that it combines stability and mobility.
All sporting movements require this combination in one form or another so it’s an important one for training. The variation below is more specific to throwing a baseball as pitchers open up and throw across their front leg, bracing on it.
Perform 5 to 10 chopping reps on each side using a 5- to 10-pound plate or dumbbell.
Whether it’s on the diamond or just in your backyard playing catch, the three movements above will help get your body ready when the time comes to pick up that ball and glove. Get moving with America’s pastime and on your way to a healthier you.
DON’T SKIP THE DOC!
Before starting a new exercise program, check with your primary care physician. He or she may recommend variations that are better for your health and wellness. To find a physician on the medical staff at Methodist, visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/FindAPhysician.
Zach Dechant is senior assistant director of strength and conditioning at Texas Christian University. He oversees the development of baseball, as well as runs quarterback development for football. For nine years, Dechant has trained a group of up to 30-plus Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball players throughout the off season. For more information, follow him on Twitter @ZachDechant or at ZachDechant.com.