If you are looking for a change of pace from doing traditional split-squats, try doing them of a 2” x 4” beam. Elevating your body as little as 2 to 4 inches and placing your feet in a parallel stride position raises your center of gravity, decreases your base of support, reduces stability, increases proprioceptive demand and is a relatively simple way to develop strength, balance and coordination. The ability to perform this relatively simple exercise easily and gracefully will also help improve stability, increase strength, reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
Start slow using only body weight as resistance and gradually build up. Sometimes even the strongest and most athletic players find that their balance is not what they thought. They have trouble controlling their body; ankles wobble, knees rotate in and out and the upper body sways side-to-side.
Start by assuming a split-squat stance on the 2×4 with your left leg forward and right leg back. There should be just enough distance between your feet so that the knee of your back leg touches the board approximately 1 to 2 inches behind the heel of your lead foot. Think in-line lunge in the Functional Movement Screen. Place your hands on your hips for balance, keep your torso tall, shoulders back and head up. Set your abs and lower into a split-squat until your back knee barely touches the board behind the heel of your lead foot. Drive your lead foot into the board and push yourself up to the starting position. Do 10 reps and switch legs, i.e., right leg forward and left leg back.
When you can do 2×10 on each side, you can make the exercise more difficult by increasing the tempo of the exercise and/or adding resistance. Do the exercise faster to improve balance and proprioceptive demand. Wear a weighted vest or hold a DB or kettlebell (KB) in the hand opposite the lead leg to increase strength. To increase strength and proprioceptive demand at the same time, try holding a KB at shoulder height on the side opposite the lead leg.
To make the exercise more baseball specific, assume that you are moving laterally to field a ground ball. When an infielder has to move to one side to make a quick backhand or forehand play, his feet are often in a straight line (parallel to each other). To make a forehand play (right handed players), assume a split-squat stance with your left leg forward and right leg back. Hold a DB or KB in your left (glove) hand, set your abs, lower your body into a split-squat, bring the DB/KB over the top of your left foot and place it about 1 to 2 inches above the ground and just inside your left foot. For a backhand play, stand with your right foot forward and left foot back. Hold the DB/KB in your left hand, lower your body into a split-squat, bring the DB/KB over the top of your right foot and place it about 1 to 2 inches outside your right foot. Make sure that your hips move straight up and straight down. Don’t lean to one side.
Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Detroit Tigers