This post was written by Jake Davis, Strength and Conditioning Specialist for DNA Sports Center.
I’m a pretty laid back guy. But, when it comes to strength training for baseball players, I can get fired up.
That’s because baseball players are particularly at risk for bad training from coaches whose only credentials are having played baseball themselves – in many cases years before for the same school they’re coaching now.
Way too often, I hear that baseball players are asked to do things like benchpress and wide-arm pushups – exercises that will actually HURT their ability to throw by ignoring important muscle groups and over stressing the rotator cuff.
I’m not a baseball player, so you wouldn’t want me to teach your son baseball. But for some reason, it’s considered OK for people who have never studied strength training to teach athletes strength training. That’s unacceptable.
The baseball throw is one of the most powerful movements in sports. Kids need to learn to respect it and prepare for it properly.
That’s why I created a Baseball Arm Velocity program at DNA Sports Center specifically to protect and strengthen players’ arms.
The program has three main components:
Flexibility and Mobility – I call these exercises “pre-hab” because you do them BEFORE you need rehab. They are absolutely essential for injury prevention. Flexibility work outside of the flexibility exercises in the program can be prescribed as necessary. However, remember that lack of shoulder mobility is often times due to tight pecs. Typically, a player who is hyper-mobile and not stable will be at greater risk of an injury than a player who is too tight.
Fitness – Hamstring pulls are common for baseball players who are inactive. So, this program includes sprints and other exercises whose sole purpose is keep players in shape. (After all, if you’re injured, you won’t be throwing at all!)
Strength – We focus on the the legs and core, because they’re where everything starts. Then, we train the upper body to accommodate the increased power being generated. We strengthen the muscles in the arms and back – not just the ones that push the ball forward, but the ones that STOP the arm after the throw. Your brain subconsciously knows how hard it can actually throw before it does damage to the body. If the muscles in your back can handle the job of slowing the arm down after the throw, it will know that it’s OK to throw harder. This program also focuses on various pulling exercises. Many athletes already do too many pressing variations, which leads to tightened pecs and diminished throwing flexibility.
My program’s main priority is for athletes to STAY HEALTHY and AVOID INJURY, both in the camp and during the season. We always weigh the risk vs the reward cautiously for any exercise. The goals are to increase total strength and maintain soft tissue quality and shoulder stability.
Phases of the Program
I built my program in three phases.
The first phase, “anatomical adaptation,” gets the body used to training.
The second phase, “hypertrophy,” is all about actually growing the muscle mass.
The third phase, “power,” is all about applying the new techniques and strength for explosive results.
Every 5th session in this camp is a technique session, meaning that the athletes should actually throw with a baseball instructor. This is to help the athletes maintain and or correct their throwing technique as they grow stronger, because their mechanics will change drastically throughout the course of the camp. Also, they risk tightening up if they don’t continue to throw.
I’ve seen athletes improve by as much as a 10 MPH after going through my program. Others have made increases that helped them get into the D1 playing range.
A lot of baseball players wrongfully assume that they won’t be able to throw as well if they get too strong or too big. But as long as they continue throwing throughout their training, they should be able to adapt and use their new strength in a way that increases their ability on the field and decreases their chance of injury.
I hope you consider implementing a similar program at your own baseball facility, but only if you have a certified strength and conditioning specialist on staff.
About Jake Davis
Jake is the Strength and Conditioning Specialist at DNA Sports Center. He has a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from Wilmington College, where he was also a student-athlete on the wrestling team. Jake is certified with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is also officially trained through the Parisi Speed School.