Strengthen Your Core For Baseball
The core of the body can be defined many ways, but the important thing to remember for baseball players is that it is what every athletic move you make revolves around. The ability to stay stacked between your legs when you're heading to a ground ball, generate a powerful swing, and throw a baseball at high velocities all require a strong and stable core.
What is the core?
Speaking generally, the core is made up of the muscles in the front of your trunk (abdominal), the sides (obliques), the lower back (lumbar), and the hips (glutes, hip rotators). There are many more muscles involved in core strength, even the lats and pecs can be included, but for the purposes of this article the regions above will be our target.
The abs, obliques, lower back and hips all must be rock solid in baseball players in order to provide an optimal base for explosive action. One of the most important skills an athlete can have in terms of generating power in a useable way, is grabbing force from the ground and moving it upward through the body to the bat or ball. The core is what truly passes momentum and force from the lower to the upper half for the swing or throw. If any part of the core is weak, a tremendous amount of this force is lost and with it leaks all the power that we need to crush the ball or throw it with big velocity.
How do we train the core?
One of the most important things to understand before a training program is designed for core strength is that the core is much more than just the abs. Simply grasping the many pieces and roles of the core will give an athlete a better understanding of how to train it.
The abs in the front of the body direct flexion, or the action of bending the trunk forward in relation to the hips. The obliques control rotation, and the back provides the strength needed for extension which is the opposite movement from flexion.
Keep in mind that what the core is actually designed to do, is resist these movements. Much of the reason for this design is to protect the spine, which doesn't have much of a range of motion at all. Your body would be very poorly designed if the trunk was allowed to rapidly move in one direction with no control mechanism to protect the spinal column. The obliques therefore could be viewed as rotation resistors more than rotation generators, as an example. This is very useful when we discuss how to train the core properly.
Remember that the body will only let something move as fast as it feels physically able to stop safely. In other words, your abs will only be allowed to flex your trunk at a speed and degree which your lower back is able to resist and stop. Likewise, you'll only be able to generate rotation at a speed that the opposite oblique and the rest of the core can slow down. It's a safety mechanism really, and it's easy to understand why uncontrolled movement of the trunk of the body could be very dangerous, particularly to the spine. It's also easy to see how an inability to control the core can lead to an acute lack of athleticism.
How to strengthen your core for baseball
The first thing a baseball player should do to strengthen his core is to strengthen the muscles within the core. Here is a list of the primary muscles to focus on:
- Rectus abdominis
- Internal/External obliques
- Spinal erectors
- Quadratus lumborum
- Glutes, hip rotators
This covers all sides of the core and it will provide the strength that you need for the trunk to operate at a high level. There are dozens of great exercises to work on each muscle group, a lot of good ones can be found through widely available resources, none better than this one: Eric Cressey's High Performance Handbook
Strength is the first part, stability is the next one, and it's what truly creates a strong core for baseball. Again, the ability of the core to resist movements is where stability comes from. Think of your body as a chain that needs to transfer energy through it. It starts at the ground and makes its' way up. If any part of the chain is unstable the energy will be lost. As discussed above, strengthening one or two sides of the core is insufficient, you must surround the spine and the center of your body with strong muscles.
Stability needs to be the focus when you're working on your core for baseball. Crunches do not train stability necessarily, they train strength. Stability is created from the core's reaction and resistance to movement. Therefore, you must train your core in a complex and holistic manner where it's required to stabilize movement.
Here are two of the best tools around for training the core this way from our friends at Oates Specialties:
These tools teach your core to resist and stabilize your body while it's in motion, which is the essence of transferring energy and power up the body.
The first thing to do is strengthen the muscles which the core is made of by isolating them with focused workouts, as we've discussed.
The second step is to train your core to be stable. There are many ways to do this as well, and the two tools listed above are a great place to start.
Baseball players will benefit in every single movement they make if they spend time making the core stronger and more stable. The swing will be more powerful, the throw will be more accurate and strong, speed will increase, and overall health and posture will be upgraded. The core is the centerpiece for athleticism on the baseball field, make it strong and reap the benefits.
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