The new year is here, which means the offseason is almost over for most of you. For some of you, season is right around the corner already with the offseason quickly dwindling away! Hopefully you have put a strong strength and conditioning program together for yourself this offseason; regardless if you have or haven’t, I’m here to help with my top five exercises that you should be doing this offseason. These are my top five most “bang for buck” exercises to help increase maximal performance for the upcoming season. Let’s get started!
- Front Squat
Using the front squat movement is imperative for increasing force production in the best position possible as a baseball athlete. I like this exercise for multiple reasons. First of all, with your hands in front of your body, your shoulders are in a much safer position as compared to a back squat. Taking that stress off of your shoulders is important, especially with baseball activities such as throwing right around the corner. Keeping your arm safe and out of risky situations is key. The front squat is also great because with the weight in front of you, it forces you to stay upright and utilize core stability to complete the movement. If you’re looking for the best “bang for buck” exercise, this is it. This exercise incorporates Lower body strength, anterior core stability, increases hip, knee, and ankle mobility, is shoulder friendly, and increases force production. What else could you ask for? And the best part is, this exercises is customizable. Don’t have a barbell? No problem, use a kettle bell and complete a goblet squat, as it’s called in the biz. No kettle bell? Use a dumbbell and hold it in a goblet position (squat pattern with dumbbell out front of body and against your chest). If you are new to front squatting, use a dumbbell or kettle bell first before progressing to a barbell to increase the load of the movement. Always learn to move well and move in a full range of motion before adding a higher load.
2. Romanian Deadlift
Romanian deadlilfts are unique in the fact that they require a tremendous amount of glute and hamstring involvement. This is exactly why I love this exercise! Unlike the squat, which is a knee dominant exercise, the Romanian deadlift is a hip dominant exercise. This means that the movement is done through the hips. The Romanian deadlift requires a lot of gluteal and hamstring strength, which are huge muscle groups for creating explosive power in baseball. If you haven’t done this movement before, it can be tricky at first.
It is important to remember that this isn’t a squat; you are moving through your hips. Start with your bar or dumbbells from the ground. Use your hips to lift the bar/dumbbell. Notice I said bar or dumbbell. Again, like the front squat you can do this exercise with either one. You can also do this exercise unilaterally (one legged). Doing a single leg Romanian deadlift adds a higher level of balance and proprioceptive feedback. Proprioceptive feedback gives your body information regarding where your body is in space, which contributes to balance.
3. Single Arm Rows
There are a lot of variations to this exercise that would allow you to use dumbbells, bands, cables, or pulleys. However, the point is this: Make sure it is one arm at a time. Making this exercise unilateral allows you to focus on one arm at a time. Let me back up a minute, I used the word “arm.” Forget I even said that because I don’t want you to think of this as an arm exercise, this is a back exercise that you primarily use your lat muscles (major back muscle). Having good movement in your shoulder blade and firing your back muscles is the most important part of this movement. Most baseball athletes do not get enough back, or posterior chain, work in their workouts and this exercise can really help add volume to posterior chain work. When done correctly, I really like this exercise to create good movement patterns with a lot of volume.
I absolutely love to use push-ups with my baseball athletes. This is a great push movement that is much safer on the shoulders than your typical barbell bench press. My favorite part about push-ups is that athletes learn to control their scapulas (shoulder blades). When done with correct form, the shoulder blades will move on the rib cage. At the bottom of the push-up, the shoulder blades are close to the spine (retracted), but then at the top of the push-up the shoulder blades move on the rib cage away from the spine (protracted). Why is this important? Because teaching the shoulder blades how to move properly through a full range of motion keeps your shoulders healthy. I don’t think I need to explain why a happy shoulder is a healthy shoulder for baseball athletes. Keep those babies moving, and move them WELL!! Scapular movement isn’t the only thing I’m excited about with push-ups; this exercise requires a lot of core stability and upper body strength. This is a great exercise to work on multiple things, which is why it cracks my top five that you need to be doing!
5. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts, also commonly referred to as hip bridges, are a great posterior chain exercise that, like the Romanian deadlift, targets the glute and hamstring muscles. This exercise requires a tight core when thrusting up and a strong contraction of the gluteal muscles. Again, like the Romanian deadlift, this is huge for creating lower body strength in the right areas for carry over to the ball diamond. This is an exercise you can perform without weight to really get the form down correctly and then progress by adding weight with a dumbbell and then a barbell to create more force production through the posterior chain.