Everyone in the game of baseball understands the importance of core strength and stability. Hitting and pitching coaches empirically know that the core is where power comes from. Scientists have shown that core strength and stability are necessary to prevent injuries, improve mobility and optimize performance (1, 2). Athletic trainers and strength coaches have used both the empirical evidence provided by position coaches and research provided by scientists as a basis for developing a number of exercise choices. While there seems to be near-universal acceptance of the importance of core strength and stability, until recently there was little consensus as to which exercise or type of exercise is most effective. Current research reveals two key points about core training. First, exercises performed from a standing position are more related to the movements required in game situations than those performed in a horizontal position and second, compound movements are more effective than isolated movements such as crunches and lateral crunches (3, 4,5).
While research indicates that compound, multi-joint movements performed in a horizontal position, such as planks with hand reach, bird dogs with resistance and mountain climbers, are effective for engaging both the deep and proximal muscles of the trunk, we prefer to use these as “level 1” or preparatory exercises for players with stability issues and use sport-specific, multi-joint exercises such as resisted MD ball rotations, chops and lifts to develop the functional core strength and stability needed to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
Resisted MD Ball Rotations. Stand in a “ready” position facing a partner. Hold a MD ball at chest level with both arms fully extended and hands on each side of the ball. Set your abs and keep your arms straight and the ball still as your partner applies pressure with one hand on the ball in an attempt to make you rotate to one side. Using eccentric contractions of the muscles of the core slowly resist the rotary force applied to the ball as your body rotates in the direction of the applied force. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Resisted MD Chops. Start from the same position used in the previous exercise holding a MD ball at chest level with both arms fully extended and one hand on top and the other hand under the ball. Your objective in this exercise is to eccentrically resist the downward force (chopping motion) applied by your partner. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat the exercise for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Resisted MD Lifts. Start with both arms fully extended and the ball outside one knee. Hold the ball with one hand on top and the other hand under the ball. Your partner kneels down outside the ball and applies and upward (lifting) force to the ball. Your objective is to eccentrically resist the upward (lifting) force applied by your partner. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat the exercise for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS
Head Strength Coach, Texas Rangers
Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Texas Rangers
- Okada, T., et. al, Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 25: 252-261, 2011.
- Brophy, R., et. al. The Core and Hip in Soccer Athletes Compared by Gender. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 30: 663-667, 2009.
- Gottschall, j., et al. Integration Core Exercises Elicit Greater Muscle Activation Than Isolation Exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 27:590—596, 2013.
- Colado, J., et al. The Progression of Paraspinal Muscle Recruitment Intensity in Localized and Global Strength Training Exercise is not Based on Instability Alone. Arch Phys and Med Rehab. 92:1875-1883, 2011..
- Okada, T., et. al, Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 25:252-261, 2011.