The off-season is the optimal time to work on things that can improve performance in the coming season. The following is a brief discussion three things that you can do during the off-season to improve your performance in the coming year.
- Build a strong and powerful lower half. Your hips and legs are your power generators. Without a strong and powerful lower half, you will not reach your maximum potential as a pitcher or position player. Imagine trying to build a house on sand, what would happen? The house would eventually crumble and fall because it has no foundation. You need a strong foundation. There are no weak athletes who are fast or powerful. Look at the best power hitters and power pitchers in MLB today, their legs look like tree trunks. To build a strong and powerful lower half, start with being able to control your body weight and then add external resistance. Good starter exercises are squat and touches, RDLs, box split-squats with the rear foot elevated, reaches in 3 planes and walking lunges. When you can do these with perfect form, add resistance.
- Create a stable and active core. Anyone who has ever played the game can tell you how important the core is in swinging, throwing, running and jumping. Core strength is essential to perform at your max and stay healthy. A strong core will help stabilize and brace the spine for explosive swings and throws. Unfortunately, many players have been told to limit their core training to flexion – extension and spinal rotation exercises. Recent research indicates that exercises like crunches, sit ups, side bends, Russian twists and other forms of spinal flexion, spinal extension and lumbar rotation exercises have minimal use in baseball. To train the core properly, you need to understand the how the core works in game situations. When you swing and throw, power is initiated in your hips and thighs, and is then transferred by the core to your upper body, arms and hands where it is applied to the ball. If your core is weak, your ability to hit with power and throw hard will be limited. The core is important in all aspects of the game. A strong core will also let you transfer forces generated in the legs throughout the body when running the bases, tracking down a fly ball and blocking balls behind the plate. All athletic movements in baseball involve both the lower body and the core. To develop strong core stabilizer muscles, focus on front and side planks and tubing holds and pulls.
- Move in the transverse and frontal planes. Flexion and extension occur in the sagittal plane. Lateral movements occur in the frontal plane and rotary movements occur in the transvers plane. Until recently, many players did most or all of their power exercises in the sagittal plane (squats, lunges, power cleans, etc.). While sagittal plane movements are not bad, players need to cut back a little on the number of exercises performed in the sagittal plane and do more rotational MD ball exercises and lateral movements. Use sagittal plane exercises to help build a solid foundation of strength, and then incorporate exercises designed to build power and explosiveness in the transverse (rotations) and frontal plane (moving laterally) to maximize your performance on the field. Do rotational MD ball exercises from knees, one knee, lunge and standing positions to improve transverse plane movements. Do lateral movements and lateral jump and landing exercises to improve frontal plane movements.
Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC-E, FACSM, was the Head S&C Coach for the Houston Astros from 1978-2012 and is currently a strength and conditioning consultant for the Texas Rangers and Professor in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake.