In the sport of baseball, regardless of whether you are fielding, throwing, swinging, running or jumping, the ability to stabilize the core is essential. Regardless of whether you are playing in a game, going through pre-game drills or working in the weight room, the main job of the core is to ensure stabilization so that the forces that are initiated in the lower body can be transferred through the core into other areas of the body. When performing a squat (back squat, front squat or goblet squat), for example, the movement starts with the athlete applying force into the ground. This force is initiated by the lower body. It is then transferred through the core to the upper body, where the resistance is located. For successful performance, force needs to be efficiently transferred from the ground all the way up the kinetic chain. The core must remain stable in order to prevent energy leaks from occurring as the force makes its way up the kinetic chain. A stable core will help ensure that all, or most of the force applied makes its way to the resistance. Without a strong core, some of the force will be lost and the ability to move the resistance in a strong, efficient manner will not occur.
While a number of excellent exercises such as planks, stability ball roll outs and roll ups, and abdominal wheel exercises have been shown to be a great exercise for enhancing core stability. Occasionally the exercise needs to be changed to help keep the program fresh and players motivated. An effective alternative to “traditional” anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercises is the Pallof Press (Figure 1). To perform the Pallof Press:
- Connect a standard handle to a tower, and position the cable to shoulder height.
- Assume an athletic position – feet shoulder width apart, chest out, core tight and shoulders back.
- With your side to the cable, grab the handle with both hands and step away from the tower until you are approximately arm’s length away from the pulley.
- With the tension of the weight on the cable, fully extend your arms and isometrically hold this position for a 10-sec count and then return to the starting position. This is one rep. Perform the 3-5 reps and repeat on the opposite side.
Figure 1: Pallof Press start and finish positions.
- The closer you keep your feet together, the less stable the base and the greater the core activation. The wider the base, the more pressure on the legs and the less pressure on the core.
- If you’re having a hard time keeping your hips and pelvis from moving, you’re feet are too close
together and/or you are using too much weight.
- Keep your core tight and your hips under your shoulders.
- If you don’t have access to a cable tower, you can perform the exercise using a resistance band.
- For variety, you can perform the exercise from a kneeling position (Figure 2). Reduce your base of support by performing the exercise from a half-kneeling or split-stance positon.
Figure 2: Half-kneeling variation of Pallof Press.
- A more advanced variation is to add in a rotation of the shoulders (Figure 3). While doing this, be sure to keep your hips square and move only through available mobility at the thoracic spine.
Figure 3: Pallof Press with rotation.
Sean Marohn, M.S, CSCS, RSCC*D is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Cincinnati Reds. Zach Gjestvang, RSCC is the Reds’ Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and Trey Strickland, RSCC is a Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Reds.