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4 Spring Training Tips from MLB Strength Coaches

Posted 2/27/2017 by UHBlog

Conditioning for baseball and softball is an important part of getting ready to play. Talk to us about how to avoid injury and stay on the field.

4 Spring Training Tips from MLB Strength Coaches

Do you know the difference between going out to the ball game versus coming out of the ball game? It starts with proper conditioning, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Nate Tekavec, PT, CSCS.

“With any ball sport, you should be utilizing exercises that work the entire body,” he says. “It's important that you include your legs, body core and arms. To focus on only one area would be a disservice since you need your entire body in play, whether you're hitting, running, pitching or throwing.”

Here are four tips to keep you strong and on the playing field:

  1. Core exercises. For the core, Tekavec recommends planking exercises, which have numerous variations. The important thing to remember is to hold your body stiff. This develops strength in the muscles connecting the upper and lower body, as well as the shoulders, arms and hip, which you'll need for hitting and running.
  2. Lunging exercises. These simulate many of the moves you'll be performing on the field or at bat.
  3. Balancing exercises. According to Tekavec, most movements in baseball and softball require you to shift from or stand on one leg at one time or another. Exercises that strengthen each leg independently, such as one-legged squats, help to develop your balance and strength.
  4. Shoulder exercises. Often, ball players are sidelined by shoulder-related injuries. Your rotator cuff area is particularly susceptible to injuries, Tekavec says.

    The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. They stabilize your shoulder, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. They act as a decelerator when throwing and if not working properly, can lead to worse injuries, such as dislocation of the bones in the arms.

    “Throwing over hand is not a natural motion to begin with and it can very stressful,” says Tekavec. “The rotator cuff is very important for a thrower, and every position has to be able to throw the ball. You should also be working on the muscles that stabilize your scapula or shoulder blade.”

    The stabilizing muscles attach the scapula to the body. They function to make the scapula a stable, yet mobile, foundation moving with the arm.

    Cables and resistance bands that you pull against are good exercises for the shoulder muscles. Push-ups are also good shoulder strengtheners.

There are websites or Youtube videos that show you how to accomplish most of these exercises. However, seeing a physical therapist or trainer is usually a good first step to ensure you're doing the exercises correctly and getting the most benefit from each movement. For younger children or someone coming out of “retirement,” the watchful eye of a physical therapist, instructional pitching coach and/or a baseball academy can really help.

“While you can find suggestions everywhere, they may not be what the athlete truly needs,” Tekavec says. “Having someone assess your strength, range of motion and other variables allows you to fine-tune specific activities that are needed to keep you injury-free.”

Incorrect movement can lead to aches and pains. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor or get a referral to a physical therapist:

  • Twinges
  • Sudden onset of pain in the joints or muscles
  • Tightening of the muscles

“Studies show that injuries of the rotator cuff and other joints may be part of the aging process,” Tekavec says. “If you are already likely to have these kinds of injuries – and add to that years of the stressful motions in baseball or softball n you can see how important proper care of your body is. We can help.”

Nate Tekavec, PT, CSCS, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals & Sports Medicine – JCC in Beachwood, Ohio. You can request an appointment with Tekavec or any other health care provider online.

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