Lower Extremity Body Weight Exercises
By Nate Shaw, ATC, RSCC*D – Arizona Diamondbacks
Every baseball season I receive a number of questions from young players and their parents asking – “What can I do to increase leg strength at the ball park without any equipment?” While there are a lot of exercises that will increase lower body strength without the need for weight lifting equipment, it’s better to perform a sequence of 3-4 exercises designed to provide a specific outcome(s) than to do a lot of unrelated exercises that might or might not provide the results that you want. The following is a sequence of three fairly simple exercises that players can do at the ball park that will help improve strength fairly quickly. And, all you need is grass and gravity and there is a lot of both at every ball park.
Squat. The first exercise is the two-legged body weight squat. The cues are simple. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Keeping your weight on your heels, eyes forward, chest up, and butt back, tighten your core and sit down and back like you are sitting on a chair. Be sure that you sit back at the hips and don’t just bend your knees and shift your weight and knees forward. You can cross your arms over your chest or extend them forward for balance. Squat as low as you can and make sure that you keep your weight back so that your knees stay behind your toes. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps and gradually build to 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Split-squat. The split-squat is sometimes called an in-place lunge because your feet stay on the ground from start to finish and your center of gravity moves up and down between your feet. This is a great exercise for beginners because it requires less balance than the traditional lunge that requires you to move your body weight and center of gravity forward, backwards and up and down. Start in a lunge position you’re your feet shoulder-width apart and one foot forward and the other foot back. Keeping your weight on your front heel and back toe, tighten your core and squat down until you your front leg forms a 900 angle at the hip and knee and your back leg forms a 900 angle at the knee. Make sure that you squat straight down so that you lead knee does not extend beyond your toes, and squat until your back knee almost touches the ground. Keeping your weight on the heel of your front foot and toes of your back foot, drive up and back through your heel until you return to the starting position. If you wobble a little, that’s OK. You can spread your feet a little wider to widen your base, tighten your core a little bit more to stabilize your hips and/or extend your arms to the sides to help improve balance. Perform the recommended number of reps and then switch the position of your legs and feet and repeat the exercise. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps with each leg forward and gradually build to 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
RDL. This is a single-leg exercise so, it will require a little more balance than the previous double-leg exercises. Start by standing on your right leg with your knee slightly bent. Tighten your core, and keeping your right knee in the semi-flexed, starting position, bend forward at the hips as you slide your left leg straight back as if you are trying to touch it to a wall behind you and reach down with your left (opposite) hand and touch the toes on your right foot. Maintaining your balance, extend the right hip and return to the starting position. Begin by moving slowly from start to finish and gradually increase the speed of the movements. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg and gradually build to 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
These are three fairly simple, effective exercises that increase the strength of the muscles on both sides of the lower body, increase joint stability, and improve balance. These exercises are also safe and you can do them anywhere utilizing only your body weight. As your strength, balance and coordination improve, you can increase the number of sets, increase the number of reps, or increase the speed at which you perform the reps to make the exercise harder. Don’t, however, increase more than one variable at a time. If you increase the number of sets, don’t increase the number of reps or exercise speed.
To see a video of these exercises, visit the D-Backs Baseball Academy at
Nate Shaw, ATC, RSCC*D is the Major League Strength and Coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nate has over 17 years of experience in professional baseball including three with Tampa Bay and 14 with the Diamondbacks.