Starting Strength Training for Baseball Players

Written By: Nick Esposito

Starting Strength Training for Baseball Players

Nick Esposito Head Shot

Nick Esposito | Champion Physical Therapy & Performance

I am a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). I currently work at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance with Mike Reinold and some of the brightest Strength Coaches and Physical Therapists within the Boston region & nationally.  At Champion, we work with all types of clients. This includes adults, multi-sport athletes ranging from youth, high school, NCAA, MiLB, MLB, and NFL.

I've been working with baseball players for a long time. Part of my goal is to make sure we are teaching youth and older baseball players, coaches, and parents how to start a strength training program.

I’ve worked with youth baseball players for over 10 years now, as a baseball coach and a strength coach. I have also been a speaker at an NSCA Seminar, where I spoke on “Training Today’s Youth Athletes.”

Within this article, I am going to breakdown some of the benefits, myths, and things to look out for when starting a strength training program for a baseball player.

Your strength program should focus on every aspect found within this article with the end goal helping you increase your throwing velocity, increase your bat speed, get faster and help you become a better baseball player! Because of this, baseball players need specific items within a program, especially in terms of core strength and arm care.

Should Baseball Players Strength Train?

Strength Training by far is one of the most misunderstood components for baseball players. There are many myths that are still used today by coaches and instructors. Yes, even college programs are stuck in “old” ways.

Common Myths:

  • Kids Shouldn't Lift
  • Growth Plate Issues
  • Weights will Make You Bulky
  • Just Need to Use Resistance Bands
  • You Should Wait till you are in College
  • Baseball players don't need to lift weights
  • Light Weight and Higher Reps

Yes, those are some concerns, but many of those myths have been disproven. A lot of the time, it comes down to the exercise selection and the program that is being performed.

Here are 3 Studies I'd Like to Highlight:

#1: Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From The National Strength And Conditioning Association

“Despite outdated concerns regarding the safety or effectiveness of youth resistance training, scientific evidence and clinical impressions indicate that youth resistance training has the potential to offer observable health and fitness value to children and adolescents, provided that appropriate training guidelines are followed and qualified instruction is available. 

In addition to performance-related benefits, the effects of resistance training on selected health-related measures including bone health, body composition, and sports injury reduction should be recognized by teachers, coaches, parents, and health care providers. These health benefits can be safely obtained by most children and adolescents when prescribed age-appropriate resistance training guidelines”

Read the Study

#2: Strength Training in Children and Adolescents: Raising the Bar for Young Athletes?

“Children can improve strength by 30% to 50% after just 8 to 12 weeks of a well-designed strength training program. Youth need to continue to train at least two times per week to maintain strength. The case reports of injuries related to strength training, including epiphyseal plate fractures and lower back injuries, are primarily attributed to the misuse of equipment, inappropriate weight, improper technique, or lack of qualified adult supervision.

Youth—athletes and nonathletes alike—can successfully and safely improve their strength and overall health by participating in a well-supervised program. Trained fitness professionals play an essential role in ensuring proper technique, form, a progression of exercises, and safety in this age group.

Read the Study

#3: Resistance Training in Youth: Laying the Foundation for Injury Prevention and Physical Literacy

“Resistance training among these at-risk populations has been shown to reduce injury risk by up to 68% and improve sports performance and health measures, in addition to accelerating the development of physical literacy. Recent recommendations, position statements, and national initiatives advocate for the incorporation of resistance training with qualified instruction among these groups.

Resistance training in addition to free play and other structured physical activity training can serve as a protective means against injury and a positive catalyst for the development of physical literacy to offset the impact of diminishing physical activity and early sport specialization in today’s youth.”

Read the Study

When Should Baseball Players Start a Strength Program?

In a recent survey I posted on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, I asked a series of questions for Baseball Players, and their personal experience with their long term development. I had a tremendous response, including MLB players, Minor League players, players from all NCAA divisions, & high school athletes. Thank you to all who took the time and submitted their answers!

There were 2 important questions that I want to share with you...

Question #1

"Do you wish you started strength training at an earlier age to help your long term development?"

96% responded with a YES. 

Of the 4% who said no, all were under the age of 15 when they first started a lifting program.

Question #2

"What advice would you give to an athlete in high school about when to start strength training?"

98% of responded by saying they should have already started, ASAP, or prior to high school.

Here are some common reasons I’ve heard from athletes and parents for NOT starting a strength training program earlier:

  1. Not sure what exercises to do
  2. Worried about injury risk
  3. Not sure how many reps or sets to perform
  4. They aren’t “ready” for strength programs

Those are all valid reasons! Not to mention, often times when parents and coaches think strength training, the mind often goes towards heavy 'one rep' max lifting or “heavy” weight exercises within an unsupervised weight room. We’ve all seen it, and yes, that is NOT what I would recommend for someone starting off with strength training.

Within this article, I am going to help breakdown the components of a strength program and what baseball players should be doing in the gym to maximize their training.

What Makes a “Good” Strength Program for Baseball Players?

When it comes to strength training, you MUST master the basics. This is one of the items that is commonly skipped, and THE most important aspect needed. Let’s dig deeper into each aspect of what’s needed for baseball players.

The Warm-Up for Baseball Players

Baseball players and athletes often overlook the importance of their warm-up. This is not something to take lightly. Taking care of your body can lead you to better workouts, recovery, and better results.

Like all athletes, there are certain areas that can become "tight" and require some mobility and specific stretches. Because of this, I've worked with baseball players exclusively for the last four years. The commons areas that begin to impact performance are the shoulder, hips, adductors, and glutes.

Those areas are your big drivers and link your power from your lower to upper half when running, swinging, and throwing. The warm-up is the perfect time for Baseball Players to prime and prepare the body. These exercises are great to help regain range of motion, reset posture, and reacclimate your body after a long day of sitting in class, or on a bus, or in the car.

Reaction and Power for Baseball Players

Many players, parents, and coaches are looking for faster, explosive and more powerful baseball players.

This is the part of your workout where we will develop those skills needed by baseball players to help you hit the ball further, run faster, and develop more power from your lower half.

Sprinting, Speed and Agility Drills for Baseball Players

The exercises used for speed and agility training will improve your:

  • Acceleration
  • Deceleration
  • Change of Direction

This area of a program important to baseball players because baseball is a reaction sport. You are reacting to a ball being hit, pitch being thrown, and constantly adjusting your movement on a baseball field.

Remember, it’s not about “puking” or being out of breath… you want to master the basics of sprinting mechanics so you can perform at a high level on the field!

Plyometrics and Jumping Exercises for Baseball Players

Exercises like jumping and other plyometric movements are a fantastic option for baseball players if you wish to:

  • Increase explosive strength due to an improved rate of force development.
  • Increase reactive strength due to greater storage and re-utilization of elastic energy.
  • Improve your ability to transfer force through the joints and minimize energy leaks.

These are great for baseball players because explosive power is what separates a higher level player from the rest. Being able to land, absorb forces and produce more force will have a positive impact on the field.

Remember: Focus on your landings! Way to many sacrifice form so they can stack up the boxes as high as possible. We commonly start with Depth Lands, then box jumps to a 12” height for our youth athletes and older athletes work their way up as they develop and get stronger! [Check out my article How High Are You Actually Jumping for more on that.]

Med Ball Exercises for Baseball Players

Using medicine balls in your workout can teach you to link your lower body, core, and upper body power together into 1 powerful movement. Med Balls are beneficial because they:

  • Improve coordination in movements demanding a high rate of force development in all planes of motion (rotational power).
  • Raise the ability to control and decelerate rotational forces.
  • Improve kinetic linking through which helps the ability to generate and transfer force through the body.
  • Have some injury prevention qualities by the athlete learning to control rotation and deceleration.

After seeing some of those benefits, you can see why medicine balls are commonly seen in all sports performance programs but especially in baseball strength training.

Med Ball exercises are important even if you’ve never done movements like this before. Med Ball exercises slowly introduce you to drills that excite your nervous system, enhance coordination and contribute to a well-rounded training program. For med ball weights, we use anywhere from 2lb for throws and tosses to the wall and up to 8lb for slams to the ground.

Strength Training for Baseball Players

Strength training for baseball players is one of the most overlooked or under-utilized training opportunities in the game today. The importance of strength training should not be underestimated in the long-term development of your game. The following are a few of the benefits of strength training for baseball players:

  • Balance and Body Control
  • Improved range of motion
  • Stability
  • Transfer of Power
  • Injury Prevention
  • Overall Performance

Baseball utilizes the entire body as a whole through kinetic linking.  This means that almost every play, throw or swing uses muscles from each part of the body.  Most movements start in the legs, which creates a strong base for initiating your movements.

It is important for all parts of the body to be strong, but the core is the key to achieve good balance and explosive movements all over the baseball field. Baseball requires so many different abilities throughout the course of a game such as running for a deep fly ball, landing on one foot, or diving for a ground ball and having to jump up to throw to first.

We also focus on the Foundational Lifting Patterns. Programs should focus on building the Foundational Patterns to set up for future success.

Here’s what I commonly refer to as my “Foundational Lifting Patterns:

  1. Pushing (pushups, pressing motions, etc.)
  2. Pulling (rowing, and pulling motions, etc.)
  3. Hinge (Deadlift, Romanian Deadlifts, Hip Hinge, etc.)
  4. Squatting (Bodyweight Squat, Goblet Squat, Front Squat, etc.)
  5. Carry (Farmer Carry, Suitcase Carry, Goblet Carry, etc.)
  6. Single Leg (Split Squat, Step-Ups, etc.)
  7. Core (Plank, Anti-Rotation, Dead Bugs, etc.)
  8. Arm Care (Bands, DB Shoulder Exercises, etc.)

Finding the Right Strength Program for Baseball Players

At Champion, we've worked with hundreds of baseball players, from Little League to MLB All-Stars. We know what it takes to maximize your baseball performance.

Our programs are designed to enhance all aspects of athletic performance, including strength, power, mobility, speed, agility, and endurance. We don't build one-dimensional athletes. However, when it comes to baseball, you also can't just perform a generic program, you must understand the unique demands of the sport.

Most strength and conditioning programs are built around football, but baseball players have different needs. There are many common exercises we DON'T perform in baseball players, as well as additional exercises just for baseball players.

These programs have been designed by Champion Coach Nick Esposito and Physical Therapist Mike Reinold, who together have an extensive background working with elite baseball players. You'll follow a program based on the same ones we developed for our professional athletes.

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Our 12-Week Advanced Baseball Performance program is perfect for High School and College baseball players that are ready to focus on enhancing baseball-specific quality. This program is designed to prepare you to get ready for your baseball season. Click below to learn more about the program and SAVE 10% on the program!

If you are just starting off, our 12-Week Youth Baseball Performance program is perfect for younger pre-high school players looking to get started in a sports performance program that is focused on enhancing baseball-specific quality. You'll start building the foundation for future performance enhancement and set yourself apart from your teammates. Click below to learn more and SAVE 10%!

Nick Esposito Head Shot

Nick Esposito | Champion Physical Therapy & Performance

I am a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). I currently work at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance with Mike Reinold and some of the brightest Strength Coaches and Physical Therapists within the Boston region & nationally.  At Champion, we work with all types of clients. This includes adults, multi-sport athletes ranging from youth, high school, NCAA, MiLB, MLB, and NFL.

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