Prepare for baseball

How to Prepare for Baseball or Softball

With the winter snow finally melting throughout the chilly parts of the United States, bats and gloves are coming out of closets.

But jumping too quickly back into a sport can lead to all kinds of painful and debilitating injuries. So Sports Without Injury asked Oakland A’s Assistant Athletic Trainer Brian Schulman what advice he can offer weekend warriors about how to prepare for baseball or softball. We added videos to illustrate his recommendations.

SWI: Static stretching has been controversial, with some studies suggesting it doesn’t prevent injury and might even hurt performance. What approach do you take?

Schulman: We focus more on a dynamic warm-up, getting a good blood flow to the body. Do five to 10 minutes of easy cardio exercise, bike or jogging, followed by active stretching such as a lunge. You’re getting the muscle fibers to recruit but holding those positions to get a little bit of a stretch.

Something else that’s probably overlooked is tissue structure, and the foam roller or tennis ball for myofascial release is one of the best things that’s happened in fitness.

Myofascial release with tennis balls by Vanessa Uybarreta

SWI: A lot of older athletes take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen before sports so they don’t feel sore afterwards.

Schulman: I would not feel comfortable answering about NSAIDs when I don’t know someone’s medical history. But instead I would say you should do everything you can to prevent injury by developing muscle strength.

SWI: What are the most important strengthening exercises?

Schulman: The first thing is to make sure your shoulder muscles can handle the throwing. It’s nothing sexy, it’s nothing fancy, but a good basic shoulder rotator cuff strengthening and stabilization program is what I would recommend.

SWI: What kind of exercises can do that?

Schulman: I’d start with external rotation of the shoulder.

Shoulder external rotation exercise with resistance bands by

I’d also recommend exercises that involves “pulling” of the shoulders back, such as lateral pull, low rows or bent over row.

Low row with a resistance band by Fitastic

SWI: What’s the best equipment for these exercises?

Schulman:  You can use anything. An exercise band is easy to use because you can take it anywhere. You’re not looking to build muscle strength. Using a exercise band with a high number of repetitions is going to give you a sufficient base to build off.

SWI: But shoulders aren’t the only joints that baseball players injure.

Schulman: It’s probably rare that the weekend warrior is going to injure an elbow and need Tommy John surgery. But you’re going to want to work on exercising your wrist to prevent tendinitis. Work on moving your wrist side to side (ulnar and radial deviation), and up and down (extension and flexion, supination and pronation):

Wrist and forearm exercises by Sportsinjuryclinic (You can use a baseball bat in place of the weights in these videos.)

SWI: Are leg and core strength important when you prepare for baseball or softball?

Schulman: Core strength is important, given the rotational demands of throwing and hitting. Plus baseball is a game of a lot of bending over to pick up balls.

SWI: So lots of crunches?

Schulman: I’m not a big fan of crunches just because it’s not an athletic movement. I recommend planks to get stabilization. And I recommend doing some rotation of the trunk, whether it’s resistance with exercise bands or cable column rotation movement.

Trunk rotation with exercise bands by Keith Vinci

I also recommend strengthening the posterior chain – your glutes — via deadlifts, bridges, or back extension.

Bridge exercise by Expert Village

SWI: Are there exercises that weekend warriors might need more than the pros to prepare for baseball or softball?

Schulman: I can imagine the older athlete not being on their feet so much. Proprioception and balance exercises are good for them. Balance on one leg, bend the leg a little bit, activate the glute.

SWI: Thanks! And good luck with the season.

Photo by baseball.teams

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