Parents who understand the modern-day impact of technology know how important it is for their kids to exercise. Children are naturally full of energy, but unfortunately, much of their time is spent on computers or smartphones involved in gameplay, texting, and social media. Being on the computer keeps the mind active but the body is inert and not getting any exercise. Children who play Little League baseball are getting exercise during team practice a few times a week, and it’s a great idea to supplement practice with youth baseball exercises to keep their bodies in shape.
So, why is youth baseball exercise important? These are exercises that help improve strength, endurance, reaction time and burst energy that’s critical to playing baseball well, and having fun playing the game.
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These 4 exercises are geared to the physiology of young players. They will not only help them to stay fit, they also help them avoid injuries when practicing baseball drills and during the stress periods that gameplay exerts on the body. Children do not have the muscle or bone development that adults have so their exercise program should be resisted oriented without using weights.
The exercise routine for youth players is resistance training just like weight lifting, except weights are not used nor are they necessary. Youth players under 14 can improve their strength and endurance greatly and prevent injury by performing a set of simple exercises.
Youth Baseball Exercises Help Improve Baseball Skills
The aim of youth baseball exercises is first and foremost to help prevent injury on the field. At the same time, their ability to hit, run and field greatly improves by working out the body in advantageous ways.
All the muscles in the body are used when playing baseball, but the key muscles are the quads, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, forearms, and back.
Each of the three main activities players engage in require strength in the form of bursts; For example, when a hitter reacts to a pitch and swings the bat, or a runner on base reflexively runs when the ball is hit, or an infielder responding to a fast ground ball, the body “bursts’ into action from an inert state to a moving, active state.
When the muscles are strong and in tune, players are able to respond with better reflexes and greater coordination.
The “core” is an integral part of every move in baseball. The abdominal muscles, the glutes, hips, and pelvis, keep the body stable and are key for the power transfer from the feet and legs to the upper body.
- Hitting: Swinging mechanics utilizes the entire body, starting with the feet and up through the shoulders and wrists. In a typical swing, the power moves up the legs, through the core (torso), then to the shoulders and through the arms, and finally the wrists and fingers.
It’s important that the legs of baseball players are strong because the leg muscles are the key to a powerful swing. Without the power surge through strong leg muscles, the swing will be slower and weaker. The legs give the upper body the power it needs to go through the swinging motion from stance to load through swing.
- Fielding: Players need to move quickly on their legs to field ground balls and fly balls. The shoulder muscles, called the deltoids, are used in throwing; the better developed they are, the harder and more accurate a fielder can throw. The triceps are also important for the windup before the throw, and the lats of the back help put speed on the ball.
Retrieving a hit baseball requires strong leg muscles, specifically the hamstrings located behind the legs, as well as the calves.
- Running: Running is an aerobic exercise that utilizes the body’s respiratory system as well as the leg muscles, core, and upper body. Hamstrings, quads, glutes, the hip flexors and the calf muscles are the key running muscles of the body.
Running in baseball begins with an energy burst that starts either after the batter hits the ball or when the runner reacts to a hit ball or when he attempts to steal bases.
Baseball Exercises to Build Strength and Endurance
Unlike football, a game in which building up the muscles and increasing strength is required, baseball players do not benefit from having giant, overdeveloped muscles. Football and ice hockey are contact sports whereas baseball is based on individual performance. Each play involves one or several players acting towards a common goal.
The main purpose of doing baseball exercise is to improve strength and endurance.
- Prevent Injury: throwing, running and fielding can result in shoulder rotator cuff injuries and pulled hamstring muscles. Building muscle strength can help prevent these injuries.
- Body strength: Players who can exert more force on an object (in baseball, the ground underneath feet when fielding and running), will have more control and better coordination. Swinging at the baseball requires both strength and a high-speed bat swing.
- Speed and agility: When a batter makes a hit, he needs to get out of the batter’s box and run down to first base as quickly as possible. This requires a maximal energy burst. Energy bursts also occur when attempting to steal bases. The more power and strength a player has, the faster he can run hit and react on the field n the form of energy bursts.
- Endurance: Being able to react and then run fast, running from first base and then keeping the speed up through second base and on to third base requires endurance. Exercises that develop not only the running muscles but also the cardiovascular system, will help build resilience in running.
Which Baseball Exercises Build Strength and Endurance in Youth Players?
Youth exercises are resistance exercise that does not require weights. Application of these exercises on a regular basis will help improve strength, agility, and endurance.
Players should start these exercises with lower intensity. Don’t try to outperform other players, just do the number of repetitions your body can handle, then stop. Over time, you will be able to increase the repetitions in each set. Players should never overextend themselves when exercising, especially when starting out.
This is a great resistance exercise that builds upper body strength and increases the size of the muscles in the arms and the back. Grip strength is also increased significantly.
Grip the bar underhanded so that your palms face you. Set the bar initially at a height that doesn’t require maximum effort. Repetitions are key to building muscles needed for baseball, so set the bar lower so you can do more repetitions.
Recommended: 10 chin-ups, 3 sets
This is another great resistance exercise. The difference between a chin up and a pull up is that in a pull-up, the palms are facing outwards, the opposite hand position of a chin-up. Pull-ups are more challenging than chin-ups, so set the bar at a height that will allow you to do 7 to 10 repetitions and 3 sets at a time. Raise the bar when performing these sets and reps becomes easy.
Pull-ups develop the back muscles, especially the lats. They also build forearm and bicep muscles.
This exercise focuses on building strength in the leg muscles and the abdominal (core) muscles. Developing these areas will help transfer greater power to the upper body, especially for swinging the baseball with more power. It also helps with more efficient energy bursts.
Stand straight with the feet spread hip-width apart. Feet apart, place your hands on your hips. Now, tighten the stomach muscles and begin to lower yourself down, as if moving to a sitting position. Now, move back up to a standing position, and repeat.
When tightening the abdominal muscles, always keep your back straight, and lift your chest. I guarantee you will feel this exercise in your legs because the legs are supporting your upper body weight without the help of the back. But the benefits reaped from doing repetitions and sets on a regular basis will be worth it.
It’s recommended to start with 10 repetitions and 3 sets. Don’t do squats on a daily basis, but instead, build up to a daily regimen of squats, rushing into this will lead to sore muscles, taking you out of your practice routine. Build up slowly and don’t rush.
This simple and fun exercise is great for youth players. They can jump rope for up to 30 minutes at a time. Breathing is so important in baseball especially during bursts, which occur often during gameplay. Jumping rope greatly improves the cardiovascular system as well as providing other key benefits.
Jumping rope improves coordination while burning calories. It also helps improve bone density and helps to decrease ankle and foot injuries in gameplay and team practice. But perhaps the greatest advantage of jumping rope is the improvement of cardiovascular health, which in turn greatly helps endurance.
Youth baseball exercises aren’t intended to wear players out; rather, they are intended to gradually increase muscle mass while improving cardiovascular efficiency. Building up the body will help players improve their skills and to become more versatile, so they can play more fielding positions while increasing the power on their swings and the energy bursts for running and fielding.