By

Training the Core in Youth Baseball
By Tyler Gniadek, CSCS, RSCC – Chicago White Sox

In an attempt to better serve the coaches, players and parents involved in youth and high school baseball, the PBSCCS periodically publishes information on factors that can affect conditioning and performance at these levels. Topics are selected from questions submitted by participants, coaches and parents involved in youth and high school sports.

The question for this posting was from a high school baseball coach who asked“What is one of the major areas of conditioning that that many youth and high school coaches fail to devote enough time to that will improve on-field performance and what exercises would you recommend to work on this area?” For a response, the PBSCCS contacted Tyler Gniadek, CSCS, RSCC, minor league strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago White Sox, for his response.

“After observing the practice and pre-game activities of youth and high school games, I believe that one area that can have a significant effect on performance, but does not get adequate attention is core training”. – Tyler Gniadek, Chicago White Sox

A strong core provides a stable base from which the arms and legs can move. When you run, jump, hit or throw, the core stiffens when the foot hits the ground, bat hits the ball or fingers released the ball so that all of the force created by the hips, legs and arms can be transferred through the core and applied to the ground, bat or ball. A weak core allows the trunk to bend instead of staying stable which causes energy to leak away from the point at which the force is applied to the ground, bat or ball. This loss of force is called an energy leak. Energy leaks can result in a loss of running speed, jumping ability, throwing velocity, throwing distance and bat speed. Energy leaks can also cause smaller, weaker, support muscles (synergists) to be overworked as they try to compensate for the loss of force in the larger muscles of the hips, shoulders, legs and arms. This, in turn, can increase the risk of injury in these support muscles.

Regardless of whether you are a youth or high school player, you should not underestimate the importance of core strength and stability. Your power comes from your core. If your core is not strong and balanced, your ability to generate explosive power in your hips, legs and arms will be limited. Baseball, like most sports, utilizes the body as a whole. Power is initiated in your hips and legs and then transferred through your core to your arms and hands where it is applied to the bat and ball. A strong core will transfer more power to the bat and ball. A weak core will deliver less power. Your core is not just involved in hitting and throwing, it is also involved in running, sliding and jumping.

Regardless of whether you are running for a fly ball, sprinting to first base, diving for a ground ball or jumping up to throw to first, the strength and stability of your core will make a huge difference in whether you are successful or not. The power to make routine and exceptional plays relies on core strength and stability. A strong stable core will help you be explosive in the field, on the bases and at the plate.

Many of the athletes I work with on a daily bases tend to have poor posture throughout the day. They slouch which is caused by hours of sitting. Professional baseball players spend many hours sitting at lockers, watching video, sitting on the bench between innings, sitting on long bus rides, and many hours of video games, texting and tablet use. Younger players also sit a lot in school, doing homework, texting and playing video games. The exercises listed below are not only beneficial for athletes of all ages but for their parents. They can be done at home with little to no extra equipment. Some of the exercises I have can be performed with bands or tubing to make the movements more advanced, but bands are not required to perform the exercises.

When performing isometric exercises, hold each rep for 10-15 seconds with approximately 10 second rest between reps in order to build endurance while avoiding cramping form oxygen starvation.

Sets, Reps and Frequency. Start by performing 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps each of the following exercises 2 to 3 times per week and gradually progress to 3-4 sets of 10 reps of each exercise.

Dead Bug. The spinal loads observed during the dead bug and its variations are very low, making it a safe and effective movement that activates the erector spinae, rectus abdominis and glutes to increase core stability. Performing the exercise against the resistance of bands or tubing will help improve core strength.

  • Lie down on the floor with your lower back flat on the ground, knees raised to 90 degrees, both feet dorsiflexed (toes pulled up) and both arms and hands pointing straight up.

 

 

  • Set your core and then slowly lower your right arm toward the ground as you slowly extend your left leg towards the ground while keeping your opposite arm (left arm) and leg (right) in the starting position. Stop your right arm and left leg just before they touch the ground. Pause and return your right arm and left leg to the starting position and then perform the same movements with your left arm and right leg. This is one repetition. Complete 6-10 reps.

 

 

  • To make the exercise more difficult and increase core strength, place tubing or resistance bands around your feet as pictured below and repeat the exercise. You can also hold a weight in the hand of your non-moving arm for additional resistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side Plank on Your Knees. Side planks help stabilize and strengthen the muscles on the lateral side of the body and are an effective starter exercise for beginners who lack strength in the muscles on the lateral side of the body.

  • Start by laying sideways with the left side of your body on the ground with both legs flexed at the hips and both knees bent to 90 degrees. From this position, place your left elbow under your left shoulder and perpendicular to the ground. Your left knee and elbow should be in contact with the ground. Your right thigh, knee, lower leg and foot should be stacked on top of your left thigh, knee, lower leg and foot and your right arm should be in front of your body to help maintain balance.
  • Set your core and keeping your back straight, lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulder to your knees.

 

 

 

 

  • Hold for 10-15 seconds and then relax, return to the starting position and rest for 10 seconds. This is one rep. Perform 6 reps and repeat the exercise on the opposite side. Start with 2-3 sets of 6 reps on each side and advance to 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side.

 

 

 

 

  • When you can perform 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side, extend both legs to from a straight line from your head through your feet so that your contact points with the ground are your elbow and the outside of your bottom foot as shown below.

 

 

 

 

Glute Bridge. The glute bridge helps to establish gluteal dominance during hip extension. Squeezing your glutes during this exercise will help eliminate hamstring dominance and decrease the spinal loads during squats. This also is a good movement to improve anterior core control and low back health.

  • Start from a supine position with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hands down by your sides with your palms down.

 

  • Set your core and push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground to form a bridge. You should have a straight line through your knees, hips and shoulders.
  • Hold this bridged position for 10-15 seconds before slowly returning to the starting
    position. This is one rep. Rest for approximately 10 seconds and repeat the exercise. Start with 2-3 sets of six, 10-second bridges and gradually progress to 3-4 sets of ten, 10-second reps.
  • If you feel tightness in your hamstrings on the way up, forcefully contract your core and glutes and push through your heels to help remove the stress from your hamstrings and place it on your glutes.
  • When you can perform the bridge with perfect technique for 3-4 sets of 10 reps, repeat the drill with one foot on the ground and the opposite leg straight up in the air to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
___
Tyler Gniadek, CSCS, RSCC, is a Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Chicago White Sox.
About the Author

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Secured By miniOrange