Four Exercises To Start TODAY To Improve Performance and REDUCE In-Season Injuries
Medicine Ball Toss
Not only has medicine ball training been shown to provide greater sport-specific training improvements than many other types of exercise, but it also comes with the ability to decrease the risk of injury in the obliques and abdominals. Medicine ball training was recently shown to be superior to increasing bat speed in baseball players compared to those performing grip and forearm strength exercises.1 Medicine ball training allows for the ability to rotate and exert as much power as possible because of the true freedom of movement. We can throw it as hard as we can because it’s not weight and we can release it. Medicine ball training has been shown to be effective for hip and trunk strength.2 Over at Fuller Hitting, baseball and softball athletes have been taking advantage the use of power training the use of medicine ball training for some time now. The goal with med ball training is to focus on generating power from the trail leg/back hip, so we usually keep the weight light in order to train explosively, and quickly. Some researchers have concluded that frontal plane movements are best for improving ball velocity in pictures, but we like to incorporate all planes and rotations.
Nordic Hamstring Curls
The Nordic Hamstring Curl, or Nordics, have been shown to a very effective hamstring strengthening exercise. These same muscles generate the power and are significantly active during sprinting when most hamstring injuries occur (think of those videos of people pulling up on their way to 1st base). This exercise is incredibly effective at decreasing injuries in hamstrings with all sports, including professional baseball players.3 This exercise has been shown to reduce injuries in the hamstrings by as much as 51%. This strengthening exercise is also effective at elongating the hamstrings more effectively than static stretching. Which is important, because, did you know that hamstring tightness leads to you to be 8.7x more likely to experience plantar fasciitis?4 The same injury which caused Jacoby Ellsbury to miss significant time this past season. Perform 2x5 one time per week and increase up to 3x5-8 reps by the time the season starts. Other things to consider, baseball players are most likely to injure their hamstrings in the month of May, so start strengthening now. Another interesting fact: if you have your team (33 players) perform the simple program above, then you can prevent 3 players from hamstring injuries that season (see: Numbers Needed to Treat = 11)5.
A common buzzword in the rehab and training field for baseball players is “GIRD” or glenohumeral internal rotation deficit. GIRD became popular several years ago as studies showed it is an adaptation to throwing (you increase your ability to reach back and can’t turn your arm in as much). However, recent research has shown that total flexion range of motion (or the ability to raise your arm in front of your body as high as you can) is a better predictor of elbow injury than GIRD is.6 The shoulder and whole upper extremity is related as part of a kinetic chain. Use this drill to improve your shoulder ROM. I know this may be read by people with more of a focus towards pictures and hitters, but it is still important to work on increasing shoulder range of motion because unless you are the DH you will be throwing. Sadly, it is also possible to even need Tommy John or hurt your elbow while sliding (see: Gleybar Torres). Performing this exercise requires you to breathe deeply into the stretch and allow your trunk and upper back to sink down, while your arms stay on the ball to improve range.
Recent research shows just how important the lower extremity and trunk is for proper upper body positioning. The hips are responsible for the transfer of energy from the group up to the bat, or to the ball. In another rotational sport, golf, the hips and lower body are responsible for generating around 50% of the power in the swing.7 The lower extremity is the foundation of which these movements occur both glute medius (side of the hip) in the glute maximus (buttocks) have been shown to be very active during baseball motion. Training the bridge or hip thrust will allow strengthening and require proper stability in the hips and trunk, and can be done anywhere, just avoid eye contact.
Try these every other day! Get started!
For any of the research articles, DM me and I will attach them in a PDF if you are curious to read more about them. If you have any questions at all or would like to build upon these, DM me at @SmartRehab.
Dr. Jeffrey DeLucia, DPT