In last week’s Part 1 of softball and baseball conditioning, we helped improve your aerobic condition and bat speed. This week, swing with strength by training your core, legs and forearms.
The core (abdominals and lower back) creates a powerful twisting motion during the swing. Rotational torque provides speed and momentum to the arms and eventually the bat head.
Like other muscles, it is necessary to develop strength by using resistance. A common mistake with abdominal training is to perform body weight-resisted exercises and expect the abdominals to continually gain strength.
In the beginning, you will develop strength, but after a while the exercises become nothing more than calisthenics or maintenance. To develop strength, you must add some sort of resistance. The good news is that you can use most of the same traditional stomach exercises plus added weight, to get the desired results.
Weighted crunches: Lying on your back with legs up in the air, hold a weight of your choice at straightened arms length. Using only your upper abdominals, raise only the upper body, keeping your back flat on the ground. Four sets of 20-40 repetitions.
Hanging leg raises: Hang from an overhead bar, with your feet not touching the ground. Your grip should be about shoulder width. Contracting the lower abdominals, lift the legs together, knees bent at 90 degrees, so the knees are just above waist height. Lower and repeat. Four sets of 10-25 repetitions.
To make this more difficult add weight slowly, using a very low weight at first. This exercise is already tough to perform.
To increase difficulty without adding weights, keep your legs straight while lifting them.
Do Not rock back and forth. It allows you to raise your legs easier, but not rocking works your core a little better.
Standing weighted twists: Put yourself into an athletic stance with your feet spread at a comfortable distance and your knees slightly bent. Hold a weight about six to 12 inches in front of your body.
After a slow warm up, begin to twist at the waist—do not twist or bend at the knees—as rapidly as possible. The key to rapid movement is to maintain a low, balanced stance and make sure your shoulder reaches the chin on the twist. Four sets of 20-40 repetitions.
Never underestimate the value of leg strength for good, powerful hitting. The legs do not appear active, and in terms of movement, they really aren’t. But it is the strength of the legs that enables the abdominals and core, which promotes bat speed.
As the swing begins, the stride is in place and the body begins to rotate. Without a firm base, the body will not be able to generate any strength from the legs into the trunk. Simply, the force is generated from the ground, into the legs, to the trunk and finally the bat.
Without leg strength, the force necessary to start a powerful bat is not produced. To take it a step further, the swing might be flawed due to only upper body generation and nothing to stabilize the legs. Do not expect to have the best swing or the most powerful bat if you are only going to work on the upper body and ignore your legs.
Beginning with the grip and finishing with the forearms (the two are connected), the bat head will take the proper path if there is strength in the hands—yes, hands not forearms. The grip strength (fingers, hand) is the most important part of forearm strength for baseball.
Take a look at a swing and follow through. The movement is not about forearm flexors or extensors. There is really no point in the swing where these movements are dominant, but the hand strength is involved the entire time.
You can have strong forearms, but not necessarily a strong grip. This is why you must work grip specific exercises into your routine, such as squeezing tennis balls. This will strengthen the fingers, hand and overall grip.
Add these exercises to the already common wrist curls and reverse wrist curls for your forearms, and you’ll have excellent results.
Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based JockBoyLocker.com and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.