Lower Body Training for Baseball Players

Baseball players are often viewed as the laziest of all athletes and such training for baseball is misunderstood. Most coaches believe that long distance running is the key to increasing a pitcher’s stamina and that position players and pitchers should not lift weights because they will get tight. These statements are completely FALSE! In fact, lifting weights can actually help increase mobility, power, explosiveness and speed. Aside from skill, lower body strength is one of the most important attributes a baseball player can have. The lower body and core generate the power and explosiveness needed to throw a ball and hit a ball with maximum force. A strong lower body will help decrease injuries, increase recovery, and bridge the gap between strength and power.

After 5-10 minutes of soft tissue work and a complete dynamic warm-up, our athletes will start with a Max Effort squat or deadlift variation. We work up to a 3-5 rep max above 85% of 1RM. Here are some examples of the variations we use:

• Back squat
• front squat
• Zercher squat
• Box squat
• Front squat grip +box squat
• Straight bar deadlift
• Trap bar deadlift (both low and high handles

After our Max Effort movement, we perform unilateral training. Unilateral training is critical to improving muscular imbalances and is used a preventative measure to keep the lower back, hips and knees healthy. We typically perform 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps (we aim between 36-50 total reps). Below is a snapshot into some of the movements we use:

•Step ups-performed with dumbbells or a barbell
• Walking lunges- performed with a sandbag, dumbbells or kettlebells
• Reverse Lunges-performed with a sandbag, dumbbells, barbell (on the back or with a front squat grip), kettlebells (goblet or rack position).
• Bulgarian Split Squats

After unilateral training, we perform posterior chain work. Posterior chain work is necessary to improving athletic performance and also decreasing hip, knee, and lower back pain. Additionally, posterior chain work will have a significant impact on increasing your max squat and deadlift. We typically perform 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps (we aim between 36-50 total reps). Here are some sample movements we use:

• Romanian deadlifts
• Kettlebell swings
• Back extension
• Glute ham raise
• Good mornings

After these 3 movements we end the session with conditioning. My favorite finishers are the sled, prowler, jumping rope or heavy farmer walks. Most baseball players need to build strength in the upper back so farmer walks are a great choice. We limit the conditioning to 10-15 minutes. While this is the template we use with most of our athletes, it is not written in stone. The exercise selection, load and volume, depends on training experience, goals, as well as other factors. Beginners usually cannot squat or deadlift with proper technique because they are often too weak to get into the proper position. With these athletes we focus on overcoming muscular imbalances and we will goblet squat and perform a ton of posterior chain work as well as unilateral movements. Below is a sample session my baseball players perform in the off season: Lower body day 1) M.E Front Squat- work up to a 3-5 rep max. 2) Sandbag Lunges- 3-5 sets of 7-12 reps 3) RDL’s-3-5 sets of 7-12 reps 4) Prowler push- 4 trips- 200 feet each trip 5) Grip/Abs- Circuit style for 5-10 minutes
The important thing to remember when training the lower body is to limit the amount of exercises to around 3 or 4. If you train these 3 or 4 lifts properly, anything more will just be overtraining. Also, avoid most leg machines like the leg extension and leg curl. These do little to nothing for increasing functional strength that can be used on the ball field. Instead, opt for compound movements that give you a great bang for your buck.

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