Working out for baseball requires a good plan.
This is a new series on Baseball Brains where we will lay out the keys to developing a good plan for baseball workouts. Like many of the most important parts of rising to a high level in baseball, it all starts with a smart and solid plan.
Subscribe to our website and join us to be kept up to date with all of our new articles!
Working out for baseball means targeting weaknesses.
Doing the same workouts that all of your football buddies are doing might not be the best thing you can do for your body and your development. Everybody has individual strengths and weaknesses that are unique to their body and to their current stage of physical development.
Every repetition that you take in the batting cages should be taken with one thing in mind: eliminate weaknesses.
Baseball workouts are no different, they must eliminate YOUR weaknesses.
If all you do is show up to the field and work on the things you're already good at, there will be holes in your game that will lower your development ceiling. Baseball workouts are the same as any other training, they must eliminate the things that are holding you back from being the best baseball player you can be.
We must know our weaknesses to get rid of them.
If you accept that there are aspects of your overall strength and conditioning that are unique to you and weaker than they should be, then the first step is to identify exactly what they are.
Many players go into the weight room or the batting cages for their baseball workouts and really have no idea whether or not they're doing the best things for their personal progress. They just do workouts they are told to do, or that others are doing, and call it a day.
There is a much better way to plan your baseball workouts than to just do what you've always done, or what your P.E. teacher says is good for you.
Baseball workouts should always start with a movement screen.
Some people hear the term "Functional Movement Screen" and run the other way. That's something that only professional baseball players do, or that a doctor has to perform.
While it's true that professional baseball players undergo movement testing every year (sometimes more than once) and they are often performed by Physical Therapists or other medical personnel, that doesn't mean you can't do it too.
A Functional Movement Screen is really just a set of exercises and stretches that test the athletes body to see if there are any movement inefficiencies or problems.
What does a movement screen test?
The primary things that a movement screen tests are:
- Mobility: This is most easily described as the athlete's ability to control his entire range of motion in a healthy way. Flexibility is a component of this, because it helps determine what the total range of motion is.
- Stability: The body's ability to control itself under stress and maintain healthy and strong posture.
- Coordination: The body's knowledge of how to control separate parts independently, and in concert with one another, in a healthy and efficient way.
- Asymmetries: One side of the body is compared to the other to make sure that they are moving and acting relatively alike, and that there aren't any limitations caused by repeated "one side" actions (like throwing).
What parts of the body does the movement screen cover?
A good one covers them all. There are a few that are extremely important for baseball players, such as:
- Ankle Mobility
- Hip Mobility
- Thoracic Mobility
- Shoulder Mobility
- Gluteal and Hamstring Flexibility
- Core Stability
- Arm Internal and External Rotation
And there are many more, but those are enough to give you the idea of what we really need to be testing. Looking at the list above, think about how many baseball players you know that have actually tested these things.
What do those things have to do with baseball workouts?
Does your friend know that the reason he can't squat more is because his ankle mobility is limited by his Achilles and Calf muscle?
Does he know that he can't throw the medicine ball farther for the SPARQ test because he doesn't have optimal lumbar mobility?
Did you know that most professional pitchers who end up with a SLAP (Labrum) tear in their shoulder also have substandard internal rotation in their lead hip?
Is the external rotation in both of your arms the same? Should it be?
A lot of athletes think that doing baseball workouts means increasing strength, but there's way more to it than that. In the above examples, those athletes might be plenty strong enough to perform the lifts or throws, but they can't because of MOVEMENT limitations.
You cannot be sure that you're doing everything possible to be the best baseball player you can be, until you've completed a movement screen and identified your weaknesses.
There are TONS of mechanical issues that hitters and pitchers try to fix for years by listening to a coach tell them to fix it, when in reality there are physical limitations that are causing the fix to be impossible.
Hammering out the exact issues makes it easy to plan a baseball workout that will eliminate those problems and send you on to the next level of your training.
How to perform a movement screen
There are many different ways to perform a movement screen, but there are a few things that all of them should have in them.
For starters, hip mobility is HUGE for baseball players. Here's one of the tests that we use in our Complete Athlete Screening Protocol that does a great job of testing the hips:
Exert from the eBook:
Modified Thomas Test
How to perform test:
Athlete will lie with back on table, with left knee pulled to chest for test of right hip/leg. The edge of the table should hit the athlete a few inches higher than the middle of the hamstring. Observe knee angle hanging off of table, inward or outward angling of the upper leg, and hip/thigh behavior.
Significance of test:
If knee is not flexed at 90 degrees at rest, the indication is tightness in the quadriceps. Note on score sheet the angle of knee flexion, 90 being straight down.
If the hip or upper leg come off the table when the opposite knee is pulled to the chest, this indicates stiffness in the deep hip flexors. In the “notes” section of the score sheet, indicate how severe this tightness appears, if present, by comparing both sides.
If the leg is pulled to the chest and the testing leg moves into abduction (much more common than adduction), this indicates tightness in the lateral hip. Lateral hip tightness is tested further in the Ober's test, where trainer will gather measurements related to hip flexibility and mobility.
The Modified Thomas Test is a great start when it comes to hip mobility, and there are many more tests that we use everyday.
If all you do is test your hip mobility in this way and fix any of the issues found in the results, you'll be doing a lot more than a lot of baseball players. The truth however, is that if that is the only test you're performing you're still only doing about 5% of what you could be doing to identify your own physical limitations.
You should be testing your mobility in all joints from the ground up, starting with the ankles. Think of your body as a chain, and be sure you're analyzing each link of that chain to ensure it's operating optimally.
Most amateur athletes would be AMAZED at the new heights they could achieve if they started their baseball workouts every year with a movement screen.
Our eBook includes a score sheet with clearly defined rules for scoring, allowing even a novice to perform a full screen. In our opinion, this is the most important thing athletes could do before they ever start a baseball workout, and it's the most important thing we sell.
We have also bundled the screening protocol with our "50 Best Corrective Exercises and Stretches eBook", so you'll know exactly how to fix every issue that you find during the screen.
Click on the picture to check out the deal, or become a member of our site to support our work and get 50% off of this eBook, and to get all other eBooks in the store for free or nearly free.
Athletes are unwise to start baseball workouts without a movement screen.
We always compare athletes who start their baseball workouts before they perform a movement screen to somebody putting a Ferrari engine in an old Toyota Corolla (we love Toyota by the way).
Adding a bunch of strength to a body that isn't moving well or that has imbalances from side to side is going to eventually cause major issues. At the very least, the athlete won't know what he could truly be achieving if his physical limitations were cleaned up first.
Hopefully you find a lot of helpful information in this article, our mission is to help baseball players become the best possible athletes they can be. From there, we work on the skills and fundamentals of the game to create high level performers on the field.
It all starts with knowing what your weaknesses are, so you can get rid of them.
Remember that this is only the first in a series of tips for your baseball workouts, see you soon!