I am getting ready for my high school baseball season. I am going to be a freshman next year and read your web site and have a list of questions I hope you can help me out with. Being a baseball player, what are some exercises that would help me perform better? I want to increase my vertical jump and wanted to know what I can do to strengthen my legs? Will that help me from getting injured?
Mike V. from Keansburg, N.J.
I think it's really awesome for an eighth grade kid to be thinking about what he can do to get ready for his high school baseball season. That in itself shows character! What is most impressive is the fact that you want to strengthen your lower body!!! Most kids your age can't get passed bench pressing and bicep curls. With that being said, I would focus on adding in a lower body day if you haven't already.
Make sure on your lower body day you focus on exercises that will increase your Posterior Chain strength (hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors). If you haven't learned how to squat and deadlift , I would suggest you do!! The squat and deadlift will do wonders for increasing your overall lower body strength and will definitely help toward increasing your vertical.
Regarding injury, if you properly execute the lifts and gradually increase the resistance (not being a hero in front of your friends) you will definitely increase range of motion in your joints as well as strengthen the tendons, ligaments and bones which will lead to injury reduction and greater performance gains in the gym and on the field.
Lets say your new leg day lands on Wednesday. I would have you perform a main lower body bi-lateral lift as in a (squat or deadlift variation), followed by a unilateral lift (lunge or step-up variation), a posterior chain movement (glute ham raise, back extension or reverse hyper extension), and end the training session with some abdominal and grip work. I would construct your lower body day like this:
1) Barbell Squat- start with the bar and warm up to a working weight that you will be able to handle for five sets of five reps. If you are a beginner, stick with the bar and practice good form. Don't be concerned with the weight! Develop a solid technique and gradually add weight each week breaking a record from the previous week. Training the squat in this fashion will not only help build technique, but will increase strength. Remember, if your form looks like crap, the weight is too heavy!
2) Dumbbell Lunge- 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps each leg. You can alternate or work one leg at a time.
3) Low Back Extensions- 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
4) Dumbbell Floor Crunches- 2-3 sets of 12- 25 reps.
5) Dumbbell Holds for Time- 2-3 sets of as long as you can hold a heavy pair of dumbbells until you have to let them go. If you can barely hold on to them for 2 seconds than it's probably too heavy!
Stick to this lower body day for 3-4 weeks at a time. Every Wednesday you should have the intent to be better than last week. Whether it's an extra couple of reps (within your rep range) or a five pound personal record, you should be able to do more every time. In about 3-4 weeks, change the exercises so you don't burn yourself out. When you start getting stronger, your rep range will have to change for that first exercise. Until then good luck and let me know how you make out kid.
A Side Note:
Flexibility is a part of training. There is not one strength training program that will give you the maximum benefits for performance if flexibility isn't part of the program. Remember that the weight training that is performed is increasing tension within the muscles and of the surrounding joints as well as increasing lean muscle tissue. During this process, it is vital to maintain flexibility in order to keep the body explosive, fast, and mobile. You want to train to be strong and fast, not strong and slow. The point of it all is to set a time to stretch the entire body out, not right before a training session.
Another Side Note:
Your hand is the first point of contact holding the bat, gripping the ball, or closing the mitt on a ball you just scooped out of the air. Increased strength in the wrist's, forearms, and grip will increase bat speed and control. If you want to have command on the bat, ball, and mitt then train the grip!
The only way to be great is to train for it!