Guest Post: Nate Shaw, Arizona Diamondbacks Strength Coach

Designing training programs for baseball players can be very simple.  There are a few concepts to focus on before you get started.  A successful program is one that a player can complete without a large risk of injury.  A successful program also helps the athlete achieve some specific goals.  The program should take into consideration that all baseball players are throwing athletes.  If you adopt these concepts there is a good chance that you will be on the right track to getting the best program together for your athletes.

There is a line in a country song and it says to "be sure you don’t outsmart your common sense."  That thought process is also a general weight room guideline.  It’s better to not go in any direction rather than go in the wrong direction.  Injuries from a training program are unacceptable.  Here are some exercises that I avoid with my players at all costs.

  1. Any behind the neck pull down, behind the neck press or overhead shoulder press
    1. This group of exercises requires less than optimal shoulder positioning.
  2. Any type of single bar (barbell) bench press
    1. Chest exercises can augment faulty posture and therefore throw off ideal shoulder arthro-kinematics.  Supine bench press de-trains the serratus anterior because of the immobilization of the scapula on the bench
  3. Crunches
    1. This exercise group can help create faulty posture patterns that augment shoulder and low back pain.
  4. Leg Press
    1. The exercise movement is very slow and not very specific to many baseball movements.  Leg strength is very important but when the ball is in play the play makers are typically on one foot and have to be able to be moving very fast.
  5. Leg Extensions
    1. This exercise can often cause the patella to track incorrectly.  It also leads to a shortening/tightening of the rectus femoris.  Ideally your program doesn’t cause any muscles to become short or tight.

These exercises are not the best selections available.  Given a deeper look the astute strength coach can prescribe exercises that offer more positive with less risk than those mentioned above.

            Goals and goal setting are a very important part of a program.  These goals can be personal, but they should also include direction based on your evaluation.  Direction is crucial to the success of your athletes program.  Evaluation goal examples include increased thoracic rotation, increased hip internal or external rotation, strength or flexibility.  These goals should be based on the athlete’s needs in regard to position, age, bodyweight, strength, body comp, ETC.

The final concept to consider is that all baseball players are throwers.  The most important joint in the kinetic chain is the throwing shoulder.  So playing it smart in regards to protecting the shoulder joint is a very intelligent approach.  In the absence of X-ray vision, there is no way to identify what type of bony configurations and growth an individual may have.  In some cases bony alignments cause a decrease in the space available for overhead movements.  Alignments coupled with poor thoracic rotation mixed with a poor exercise selection may provoke injuries that may very well have been avoided otherwise.  To be sure the shoulder is as well prepared as possible it is crucial to strengthen the scapula stabilization musculature.  There are a ton of exercises available for the scapula.  Manual, Isotonic, isometric, tubing, and cable weights all offer different variations of the same exercises.  Be sure to remember shoulder external rotation and vary the position and the type of resistance of the exercises chosen.  Being that you can’t make the team sitting in the tub, you should save your shoulder bullets for throwing activities.  Remember that injuries in the weight room are unacceptable and the astute strength coach has a reason for everything he/she does or doesn’t do.

Nathan Shaw ATC, CSCS
Major League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator
Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Club

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