As baseball off-season training kicks into full gear, I've decided to provide a list of all-star exercises that have helped us produce the fastest, strongest and most powerful baseball players in the country. All of these exercises are easy to learn and will produce serious results!
Here's my list of the top 7 exercises that should be in your baseball off-season training.
1. Heiden "Skater" Jumps
Power development is very plane specific, meaning you need to spend more time on improving the particular plane in which your sport places the most demands. When pitching, you're exploding off the mound laterally with one leg and finishing on one leg. To improve power output in this plane you need to do more lateral power movements. The Heiden "Skater" Jump is one of the best exercises you can choose.
Above: Washington Nationals pitcher Matt Pirro performs a Heiden "Skater" Jump to improve his lower-body power.
2. Box Squat
The Box Squat is a great exercise to pack on muscle and improve strength in your lower half. I favor Box Squats as opposed to full-range Squats, since athletes can develop more starting strength at the bottom of the lift. Box Squats also distribute the load across the entire posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings), allowing your to maintain a consistent depth in your squat pattern.
3. Sprint Start Variations (Push-Up, Falling, Jump Back, Kneeling)
I like using each of these variations for different reasons. However, universally they all reinforce good acceleration technique and put you in an optimal position to sprint (45-degree forward lean).
Above: Youngstown State University catcher Anthony Santoro and Saint Rose College catcher Joe Deluca perform Acceleration Push-Up Sprints.
4. Any Rowing Variation
Overuse of the frontside of the body in baseball is the frequent and evident. Players are throwing, hitting and fielding constantly. After a while, this overuse leads to diminished velocity, performance and injury. To avoid this, you need to focus your training on building a strong upper back to support the shoulder to accelerate and decelerate in more efficient motor patterns. Some of my favorite rowing variations are Single-Arm Cable Row, Chest-Supported Row, Inverted Row and a Hand-Over-Hand Rope Sled Pull.
5. Farmer's Walk
The Farmer's Walk can dramatically improve your grip and forearm strength, as well as your upper-back and shoulder strength. This "strongman" exercise also builds tremendous true core strength, which I think is its best benefit. You can do Farmer's Walks with specialty bars like we're using in the video or just dumbbells.
Above: Saint Rose College catcher Joe Deluca performs a Farmer's Walk with 250 pounds in each hand for 15 yards.
6. Neutral-Grip Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press
There's no better exercise to build strength and muscle mass in the chest, shoulders and triceps. I like changing the pronated grip (overhand) to a neutral grip (palms facing in), because it gets you out of that fixed internally rotated position, which can wreak havoc on your shoulders. If you don't have access to a neutral bar, use dumbbells with a neutral grip.
7. Medicine Ball Rotational Throws (Scoop Toss, Shot Put Throws, etc.)
Medicine Ball Throws are great because they allow you to train rotational power more specific to your sport, in this case baseball. They yield greater power outputs more conducive to baseball, because you're training the exact planes of motion used in the sport. If you aren't already, you should definitely start throwing the crap out of medicine balls. The video below is one of my favorite medicine ball variations. It's an easy exercise to master, and it's more shoulder-friendly than others.
Above: Washington Nationals pitcher Matt Pirro performs a Medicine Ball Rotational Scoop Toss to improve his rotational power.