Find a League In Your Area
by Dan Potts, C.P.T.
Motion Studies by Anthony Frascello, All Rights Reserved
(This article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of HardBall Magazine)
Most amateur adult ballplayers understand that power and
flexibility in the arms and legs are critical to the ability to perform
athletic movements. While this is true, it is not the whole story. Athletic
movement and balance are triggered and controlled by the muscles in the center
of the body, or core.
An untrained core can cause poor posture, which detracts
from hitting, throwing, and fielding function. A strong, healthy core area
contributes to low back and hip function, and plays a major role in the health
of the shoulder capsule. For the powerful muscles of the extremities to perform
at peak efficiency, the core muscles must be well-trained.
Effective body core training requires the use of
rotational/diagonal movements in a sensible exercise program. Some of these
exercises not only train the core area, but also replicate the movements and
requirements of the game of baseball.
The core area can be trained with a variety of modalities. I
prefer medicine balls, dumbbells, swiss-balls and pulley movements. Since 1992,
I have used core movements to train aspiring college and professional baseball
athletes. Invariably, they have experienced tremendous gains in mobility and
quickness and explosive capacity.
Bench presses, barbell curls and behind-the-neck presses
serve no direct purpose, and may be detrimental, in a baseball conditioning
program. The barbell bench press often irritates the front part of the shoulder
capsule. If you must bench press, use dumbbells. The behind-the-neck press can
cause cervical column and rotator problems. Barbell curls can build
over-developed biceps, which may create undue pressure in the elbow of the
Almost every athletic movement in baseball requires
diagonal/rotational movement and, therefore,core strength. A shortstop moves laterally to his right, backhands the
ground ball, plants his foot and rotates his trunk as he throws to first.
A pitcher, as he lifts his front leg, rotates his body away
from the batter; completing his delivery, he rotates back toward the batter and
follows through across his body. The batter triggers his swing with a slight
backward weight shift, then drives his hips open, transferring his power at the
right moment with rotational movement.
As a beginning program, I have selected three simple
movements to strengthen the core. In the second phase of the program (our next
article), we will add three exercises to build explosive power in the body
core. In subsequent articles, we will focus on movements to enhance an
athlete’s ability to perform specific baseball skills.
It is critical to perform
the strengthening movements three times per week for at least three weeks
before advancing to the power exercises. The services of a qualified
physical trainer, familiar with the concepts of core strength training, can be
a tremendous benefit in the implementation of this program.
Before undertaking this program, thoroughly assess your general physical condition, cardiovascular
health, and the soundness of your legs, hips, back and spine. Medical doctors are best qualified to make
These exercises contribute to the general health and tone of
the body core, specifically training the muscles of the hips, abdomen, lower
back and sides.
This movement strengthens the tranverse spinal area, forcing
the body to stabilize itself in a diagonal pattern from the shoulder to the
opposite hip. In a classic horse stance, elevate your straightened right arm
with your thumb pointed upwards, while extending your left leg up and back
behind you . Hold this position for five seconds. Then switch to the opposite
side. Perform 3-5 times each side.
This movement is great for your lower abdomen, lower back
and obliques. With feet elevated on a bench or a swiss ball (advanced
variation, adds instability), elevate your hips upward, hold for a two-count
and relax. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps. As your lower back muscles become
stronger, you may prolong the ‘hold” position or, for another variation,
perform a rapid "half-stroke” movement with no hold.
This exercise will improve the health and tone of the
external oblique muscles and upper hip flexors. Lie on your side with knees
together and bent. As shown in Figure 3A, support your head with your top
hand, rotate your trunk about 45° back and extend your bottom arm, palm
to the mat. Keeping the knees bent and together, raise your legs off the mat
(Figure 3B). Perform three sets of ten repetitions each side.
Be careful. Start with one set of each exercise and
gradually add more. Closely monitor your soreness the following day. As your
core area becomes stronger, you should notice marked improvement in your
ability to execute athletic movements.
* Editor’s Note: The purpose of
this article is to make professional traning concepts and techniques available
to MSBL/MABL members. No MSBL/MABL member (or any other reader of this
magazine) should begin this exercise program without a thorough medical
assessment. HardBall Magazine, and the editor, author and photographer of this
article, assume no responsibility for injury to anyone who claims to have been
damaged in any manner by attempting to use the information herein.
Dan Potts is an Elite Athlete Strength Specialist in the Seattlle area. A former University of Washington baseball player, Dan currently plays for the Rainiers of the Puget Sound MSBL. He has trained Olympic, collegiate and professional athletes for nearly two decades, specializing in developing biomechanically functional programs for the advanced skilled athlete. Dan works with several of Seattle's top hitting and pitching instructors, developing strength programs for their more promising players.