Elite athletes in the 21st century spend immense amounts of time preserving their bodies, and today’s conditioning, workouts, and recovery sessions look vastly different from any other time in the history of sports.
No matter the sport they play, athletes put in the reps in the weight room, and while there are varying degrees of strength across the different sports, all athletes—including baseball players—need to focus on muscular strength.
Are baseball players strong? Baseball players are strong. They have to be in order to maximize the power needed at their respective positions, to be effective when they’re batting, and to protect their bodies over the span of their careers. All baseball players should incorporate strength training into their workout routine.
What Muscles Do Baseball Players Use the Most?
Since baseball players do a lot with their hands and arms, like catching, throwing, and swinging a bat, it’s easy to think that the muscles in the hands and forearms are most critical for baseball players.
And while those muscles are important, they’re not the only part of the picture — or even the biggest part. With all aspects of strength training, it’s important to work with proper form, select weights that are safe for you, and to err on the side of caution when first doing the exercises.
The mechanics of swinging a baseball bat in order to effectively hit a ball require players to engage a range of muscles. The body goes through a huge twist when a player swings the bat, and for that reason, a strong core is critical.
While people immediately think “washboard abs” whenever someone says “core,” the muscles that make up the core are actually more complex than that. The core includes your abdominal muscles, your lower back, the pelvis, the hips, and the glutes.
As such, you’re not going to get a strong core just by doing loads of sit-ups or crunches. Instead, incorporating exercises that focus on that twisting motion will be of great benefit to baseball players, like Russian twists, medicine ball twisting throws, and hanging leg raises (with and without twist components).
Anti-rotation exercises like Paloff presses and single-leg deadlifts also strengthen core muscles and increase balance, which is crucial for baseball players. The mechanics of overhand throwing are unilateral, and so baseball players should train for balance as they move through those positions.
When baseball players need to explode from home plate to make it to first base, they need to utilize all of the muscles in their legs. Doing exercises that strengthen the quads, hamstrings, and calves help baseball players run fast.
In addition, how strong your legs are impacts how hard you can throw–which seems a bit backwards, but it’s true. Whether you’re throwing a punch or throwing a ball, you have to start from the ground up.
Squats and squat variations (goblet squats, Bulgarian split squats, landmine squats). Since a squat is an up-and-down movement, you work your hamstrings and your quads.
Calf raises and jump rope are great to incorporate so that your calves not only gain muscle, but also so that the ligaments and tendons around a baseball player’s ankles help protect them from injury.
Baseball players need to have a strong upper body, as well. Incorporating vertical (pull-ups, lat pull downs) and horizontal pulling motions (rowing and row variations) can help engage the muscles in the back that allow for more power when throwing.
Bicep and tricep work will help protect the elbow joint, which can often be strained while throwing the baseball. Doing bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, hammer curls, and dips will help keep those joints in good shape. Pitchers in particular need to do exercises that protect their elbows and shoulders.
It’s also critical for baseball players to have a strong grip and forearms. Exercises like wrist curls and wrist twists, as well as hanging from a pull-up bar and engaging your scapulae will develop those muscles.
Compound and Full Body Exercises
Isolation exercises have their place, but it’s also important to include exercises that work many muscle groups at once. That’s going to more effectively simulate a game or real-world scenario. These types of exercises also help increase balance.
Turkish get-ups are a great full-body exercise, where you lay on the ground and hold a weight above your head with a straight above your head. Without bending your arm, you move to a standing position and then back down to laying.
Other types of exercises like dumbbell walking lunges, push-ups, pull-ups (especially weighted pull-ups) and lunges with twists are also great exercises to work more than one group at once.
Why Do Baseball Players Need to Be Strong?
Full body strength will improve every aspect of your baseball game. You’ll run faster, hit and throw the ball farther, and build your endurance to last through the whole game. In addition, baseball players put their bodies through a lot of stress in positions that can cause a lot of wear and tear.
Keeping your body fit and strong is going to protect you from injury in the long run. By doing the correct exercises, you’ll strengthen the ligaments and tendons around your joints and the intrinsic muscles, which are the small muscles deep within the structure of the muscle, which are closest to the skeleton. This will help prevent injury and keep you playing for as long as you want.
Some of the strongest baseball players to play the game have also had the longest careers. Derek Jeter played into his 40s, as did Ichiro Suzuki. Jeter focused on lifting weights in the gym, while Suzuki focused on bodyweight exercises and routines that he did multiple times a day. Before them, Ty Cobb played 24 seasons from 1905 to 1928 and did supersets in the gym while his peers focused much less on their fitness.
Professional players focus much more on strength training in today’s era of sports science and load management, and if you’re playing baseball, you should add these types of exercises into your training plan.
Baseball players don’t tend to look very muscular, especially when compared to players of other sports. However, it’s critical that baseball and softball players work on their strength.
Training the core, leg, and upper body will help players perform better on the field and reduce injuries off of the field. No matter what strength training exercises you choose, be sure to practice proper form.