An effective baseball core workout should improve core stability and rotational power. Most professional baseball players possess an above-average—hopefully elite—amount of each of these attributes.
However, the majority of younger baseball players don't know how to do a proper baseball core workout. They gravitate toward high-rep ab exercises like Crunches and Sit-Ups, hoping to develop a strong core, but in reality they aren't doing much to improve their baseball performance.
Before we get into how to train your core for baseball, you need to understand the core's role in baseball skills.
What is the role of the core?
The core isn't just your abs, as many believe. It's every muscle from your chest to your upper thighs, all the way around your body. These muscles are designed to brace your trunk to prevent your lumbar spine (lower back) from moving, creating a solid foundation for your limbs to move explosively, which ultimately increases your power and reduces your risk for injury.
Your core plays a huge role in throwing and swinging. The stronger it is, the more power can be transferred when you drive off your legs when swinging or throwing.
How to use your core
To learn how to properly use your core, you need to learn how to breathe and brace.
When you breathe diaphragmatically (deep into your stomach), you strengthen and engage all the muscles of your inner core. These often overlooked and underused muscles are critical for stabilizing your core.
To breathe diaphragmatically, take a big inhale through your nose and fill your stomach, lower back and sides with air. This lays the foundation for everything you will in the weight room and on the field.
(I'm only scratching the surface here with proper breathing mechanics. If you would like to learn more, message me on Twitter.)
Now on to bracing. If you're standing in front of me and I go to punch you in the stomach, you'll tense up and "squeeze" your abs. When you do so in this scenario you are bracing.
Bracing is important because it's involved in pretty much every exercise you do. However, some exercises require more intense bracing than others. A 500-pound Squat obviously requires more tension than a Plank. This is why squatting and deadlifting are tremendous exercises to develop true core strength.
Now that you understand some foundational core training principles, let's count down my favorite exercises for developing strength, stability and power in the core!
Baseball Core Workout
I don't have a specific baseball core workout. Instead, I use a template that allows my athletes to perform a variety of exercises that have maximum transfer to the field.
Better yet, the template is super simple. Perform one med ball rotational exercise after your dynamic warm-up and before strength work. Finish your workout with 1 or 2 direct core training exercises. That's all it takes.
Choose one of the following to perform after your warm-up and before strength exercises.
Watch Toronto Blue Jays Outfielder Nick Sinay demonstrate the exercises in the videos below.
Med Ball Rotational Exercise
Med ball rotational exercises are perfect for baseball players, because they improve power in a movement pattern similar to what is used when you swing a bat or throw a ball. Most of the power in these exercises comes from driving through your rear leg, rotating your hips toward the target and finishing with a slight rotation in your upper back. Your core should remain stable and not rotate. This protects your back and maximizes the transfer of power.
Choose one of the following variations, depending on your experience. Begin with a light med ball and perform the throwing exercises explosively. The goal is speed, not slow, lumbering throws.
Beginner: Russian Twist—3-4x10-20 each side (these can be performed at the end of your workout)
Intermediate: Med Ball Scoop Toss—3-4x6 each side
Advanced: Tornado Ball—4-6x5-10 seconds (be careful not to rotate or throw your spine)
Choose one or two of the following (from different sections) to perform at the end of your workout.
Planks teach your abs and other core muscles to prevent your lumbar spine from extending, referred to as anti-extension. This is one of the best ways to train your abs in a way that improves sports performance. Also, training your core this way will help improve your form on heavy lifts, such as Deadlifts and Squats.
Beginner: Plank—2-4x30-60 seconds (squeeze your abs to make this more difficult)
Intermediate: Plank With Agitation—2-4x30-60 seconds
Advanced: RKC Plank—2-3x3-6 (1 rep is a 10-second max hold followed by 10 seconds of rest)
Pallof Press Variations
Pallof Press exercises involve holding a band or cable in front of you with the resistance coming from the side. The perpendicular force wants to twist your torso, forcing you to resist it, which is called anti-rotation. This is another critical aspect of developing a strong and stable core.
Beginner: Pallof Press—2-3x10-20 each side
Intermediate: Pallof Hold—2-3x30-60 second hold each side
Advanced: Anti-Rotation Alphabet—2x A-Z each side
Loaded carries might give you the most bang for your buck in core training. Just walk upright holding weights. This improves core stability, hip stability, upper-body strength and grip strength. It's even a great way to build muscle.
Baseball players should only perform these toward the end of the week, because they're very taxing on the grip. Also, take 1-2 days off from hitting after you do them so they don't impair your swing mechanics.
Beginner: Farmer's Walks—3-4x20-60 yards
Intermediate: Imperfect Farmer's Walks—3x30 seconds
Advanced: Stop and Go Farmer's Walks—3x30 seconds
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock