weightlifting for baseball

The Ultimate High School Baseball Lifting Program

Our understanding of the human body increases with every passing year. For maintaining general health, it’s now known that regular general exercise helps in the prevention of diseases while also increasing energy and endurance. Athletic training for baseball players is now found to be extremely beneficial for high school players’ performance in several key areas. For maximum results and benefits, what is the ultimate high school baseball lifting program?

High school players, as well as college and pro players, improve themselves through weight training and exercise so they can play more competitively. High school players wishing to compete on a higher level will get involved in weight training programs. In the modern era, playing the sport at this level has become much more competitive than ever before.

Baseball players, unlike football, for instance, play both offense and defense in every game. They need to be able to hit fast pitch baseballs and run with intense stamina. On defense, infield players must have split second reaction time to chase and field ground balls moving away from them in every direction, and to have powerful throwing arms. Outfielders have to track and run after high fly balls and are able to throw accurate with strength over long distances.

Baseball players have to go from an inert state one second, then explode the next.

How does a weight training program benefit high school ballplayers?

High school athletes devote anywhere from 8 to 20 hours per week in activity related to baseball, either directly in team practice or a combination of practice drills and workouts. While drills give you an aerobic workout through running and fielding, drills don’t build strength and endurance like a weight lifting program does.

Weight training increases endurance, reduces muscle fatigue and chronic pain, improves reaction time and even your quality of sleep. But there is so much more!

Weight Training Improves Body Composition

A lot of ballplayers think that running is the best way to lose fat, but in truth running is great as a cardiovascular exercise. But it won’t reduce body fat all that much. Weight training increases lean muscle mass which will boost metabolism.

If fat loss is your priority, it is recommended that you start a weight training program for three to four days each week, as well as a speed and conditioning program if your schedule permits.

Weight Training Builds Strength

On the surface, building strength a lifting program seems obvious. But strength training dramatically increases leg strength, coordination and power, all of which makes you faster in every field position around the diamond.

In weight training, energy efficiency is improved 10 to 20 percent. When you improve how efficiently you produce energy, you improve your overall endurance.

Simply stated, in hitting, fielding and running, the body moves from an inert state to an active state in a fraction of a second. This occurs when you are at bat, on the field, or on a base. Players stand still one moment, and in the blink of an eye they swing at a fastball, tear speedily to the next base, or react to a fast hit ground ball.

Moving from an inert to an active state requires significant energy bursts. So, when you improve your energy efficiency, you have more powerful energy bursts. Weight training will increase your ability to react more quickly.

Weight Training Enhances Your Nervous System

The human brain is a complex system of neural pathways. Throughout life, the brain grows neural pathways when we perform activities in our daily lives. These include things like learning, reading, playing a musical instrument, and playing sports. The neural net grows as more information and skills are developed.

When the body performs strenuous physical activity such as lifting weights, the muscles send signals to the brain, impacting the neural net. When this occurs, reacting time improves, you have a quicker starting speed.

This is a very simplistic explanation. So, without going deeper into human physiology, what it comes down to is that everything you do, teaches the brain.  From these activities, the brain grows. Brain function improves. Weight training improves the brain’s ability to learn, and in return it vastly improves your athletic performance.

Weight Training Improves Mental Health and Grows Self-Confidence

Athletics involves more than physical activity. Snap decisions are made by athletes in every sport. In baseball, state of mind is critical for follow through and achieving success in every play you make.

When you are batting at the plate, you will perform much better with a positive state of mind. Feeling good about your abilities will help you to hit, field and run better. Self-confidence is everything. Even if you are a superior athlete, if you have a poor mindset or question your ability for even a second, the likelihood of failing increases dramatically.

Weight training, building muscle, reaching a plateau and then breaking through it, will help you do better in all aspects of playing the game. With increased self-confidence, you will take a chance in a play that you may not have thought possible trying before.

All baseball players should incorporate some form of resistance training, but they need to be certain it’s a baseball specific weight training program.

Building a High School Baseball Weight Lifting Program

Your lifting program should be designed to build strength, size and athleticism. You’ll want to increase your strength and endurance. Any lifting program you do must help make the energy bursts needed in a typical ball game more powerful and effective.

When your strength is increased, you can then build your foundation of speed and athleticism.

Absolute Strength and Relative Strength

An example of absolute strength is being able to move against heavy resistance or lifting big weights. Think of a bodybuilder who can lift once an enormous amount of weight. Another is being able to push a heavy car.

Relative strength is someone who is strong for their size and based upon how well they move their body through space. A person with good relative strength can perform chin ups and sprints well.

It’s not a good idea, though, to enter a weight lifting program so you’ll be able to do one specific thing or another. Focusing on dumbbells or barbells may make you stronger in one area only, but you may still not be able to perform a set of chin ups or be able to sprint any better.

You don’t want to enter a weight program without direction. Your focus should remain on building endurance and strength.

Don’t Build Muscle Mass for the Sake of Building Muscle Mass

Lifting weights to increase the size of your muscles won’t make you a better athlete. Having big muscles will change your appearance but it may do next to nothing to help you explode off first base and run like the wind to second. Weight training for baseball players is for building specific muscles that will give you the strength you need to perform the functions of a baseball athlete.

The three activities baseball players perform are

For each of these activities specific parts of the body are utilized.

Fielders need strong arms for throwing, strong legs and great footwork to be able to move quickly to get in front or to backhand grounders. Both infielders and outfielders need to be able to move quickly to get under fly balls.

Running: Like most of what you do in a ballgame, a runner needs to be fast and have explosive power. One moment you’re inert, taking a lead off the base. The batter gets a hit and in less than one second a runner needs to run at high speed to the next base. There is also athleticism in being able to slide head first or doing a hook or leg slide. Movements are fast: standing still, next, bursting into a run, and finally, end the run with a slide.

A runner needs strong legs, but also good upper body strength. Running requires a strong upper body to increase momentum

Hitting: It’s quite obvious that upper body strength is key to having a powerful swing. But there must also be power in the legs for a powerful stride, swing and follow through.

Specific Weight Training Exercises for Baseball Athletes

Building Leg Strength

Strong legs are critical to a baseball athlete’s success. Your legs are being worked in all three physical actives of running, fielding and hitting. Your legs are your base through which everything else you do builds from.

In weight training, a baseball athlete would perform squats and the deadlift. Players must first learn how to do squats and deadlifts properly to get the most out of the workout.

When starting out with squats and dead lifts, start by using lighter weights. Put your ego aside in the gym. Don’t start with heavy weights and try to master them first. Weight training is all about residence, and one needs to build their resistance from the ground up.

Body builders start with light weights, overcome the resistance and gradually move up to heavier weights.

Squats

  • a compound, full body exercise that helps build up and strengthen the muscles such as thighs, hips and buttocks and hamstrings. It also strengthens bones and ligaments.
  • Squats are performed using a barbell which is placed behind the neck.
  • You start by moving back your hips and bending your knees and hips to lower your torso with the weight, then returning to an upright, standing position.

squats for baseball power

Dead Lift

  • a weight training exercise in which you lift a loaded barbell off the ground to hip level, then lowering it back to the ground.  The dead lift works on the thighs and hamstrings, as well as the arms, hips and forearms.
  • Begin by standing behind the bar with it nearly touching your legs.
  • Set your weight in your heels and stay with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Hinge your hips and prepare to lift the barbell.
  • Make sure your spine stays long and straight and not bent.
  • Take care and don’t allow your knees to move forward past your toes. Now grip the bar with your arms outside your legs. Then lift.

deadlift for baseball

There are specific ways to preform the squat and dead lift, and there is a risk of injury when not done right.

Squats and dead lifts are two of the three main bodybuilding exercises. The third is the bench press and this will also be incorporated into the weight training program of baseball athletes.

Building Upper Body Strength

While using your arms to throw, whether as a pitcher or a fielder, one of the most important parts of the body that’s not always thought about, is the back. The back supports every throwing motion that you make and is the “backbone’ which is behind all your body’s movements.

Three helpful training exercises that help to strengthen the back are chin ups, supine rows and dumbbell rows.

Supine Rows

The supine row primarily works the muscles of the upper back (trapezius and latissimus dorsi), along with the biceps.

To execute the exercise.

  • Lie flat on the ground under a bar, set at chest height.
  • Hold the bar with both hands using an overhand grip.
  • Keep your arms straight.
  • Keep your body straight with your upper body hanging with your heels on the ground and close together
  • Pull your chest toward the bar until it touches.
  • Return to your starting position.
  • Good form is when your body remains straight throughout the movement.
  • Make sure your chin remains tucked during your upward motion.

pullups for baseball players

The bar can be moved lower or higher to make the movement more challenging. The lower the bar is, the more difficult the movement becomes.

Dumbbell Rows

Dumbbell rows (or bent over rows) are another exercise that strengthens the latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles on the back. These latissimus dorsi muscles run along the sides of the back.

The back muscles that are targeted varies based on how it’s performed. It can be done in a variety of ways. Dumbbell rows also increase the size of the back.

Dumbbell rows can be performed with an incline bench or leaning and lifting dumbbells off the ground.

  • Place your right arm and right knee on an incline bench.
  • With your left hand, lift the dumbbell to your chest side.
  • Lower the dumbbell and repeat. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions each.

You can also perform dumbbell lifts without an incline bench.

  • Bend the back. Keep it straight and stationary at all times.
  • Bend down and with your hands, pick up the pair of dumbbells.
  • Lift both to your chest, them move your arms back down.
  • Perform three sets, 10 repetitions each.

Your Mindset when working out

Your mind-muscle connection is important. The mind-muscle connection exists. If you think about your muscles during weight training, it has been found that results improve, specifically when you focus mentally on which muscles you are trying to develop.

For example, if you were to think about, or “visualize” the latissimus dorsal muscles of your back, focus by visualizing them, they become “activated” by the brain and develop more quickly.

Focusing on the muscle groups you are developing is part of an overall strategy to make the weight training program more effective. Your focus should move from the process of lifting and the resistance of the weights, over to which part of the body the weights are developing.

Strategy for an Effective Weight Training Program

When you decide to begin a baseball lifting program, you need to establish which weight lifting exercises you’ll perform and then how many sets and repetitions you’ll do. When setting reps and sets, the result you want is to build muscle mass by enlarging the size of the muscle (hypertrophy) and increase the rate at which you burn energy (metabolic rate). The number of sets you do for each lift will impact both of these.

Next, you’ll need to do a “reality check” and determine how much you can lift and sustain. Don’t ever take on more than you can handle when lifting weights. Serious injuries like muscle tears and rotator cuff (shoulder area) injuries will happen that will not only put you on the disabled list for the season, but the injury may take over a year to recover from.

Trying to lift more than you are able or trying to do too many reps is an unnecessary pursuit. It is counterproductive because you won’t gain the energy and stamina you need to be a better athlete, one who can have exploded from an inert state, nor will you swing better and with greater power and accuracy. When you work within your zone of ability and focus on the weight, reps and sets that are right fo your body type, you will see improvements and have better performance even than those who can lift more or do more heavy lifting reps. It is all relative.

With that in mind, two levels are recommended.

Younger and Less Strong Athletes

  • Begin building volume with lower reps and sets.
  • Focus on traditional strength work and muscle building will follow.
  • As muscle mass grows, you will increase your metabolic stress, or “pump” and will able to convert muscle to energy much more quickly.

Stronger and More Experienced Lifters

  • Lift with higher rep sets to create more mechanical tension due to heavier weight loads.
  • Higher rep sets will increase metabolism beyond current levels gained from previous or current weight lifting.

Gaining Power, Pain Free

A balanced weight lifting workout includes exercises that feels easier and have a lower impact. But they go a long way to improve athleticism, and the ballplayer’s ability to have high energy bursts as well as improving strength in key areas in the upper and lower parts of the body. Passing over these weight exercises negates the benefits of heavier lifting.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench presses
  • Supine rows
  • Chin ups

Plyometric Exercise and High School Baseball Weight Training

Plyometrics are a system of exercises in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and then suddenly contracted.

Plyometric exercises involve jumping, starting, stopping and changing directions. This makes muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. Plyometric exercises are performed in addition to an athlete’s weight lifting routine.

Plyometrics are part of an explosive training workout. These exercises are designed to increase energy and explosiveness, critical for baseball players.

Incorporate plyometric exercises in any weight lifting program you do. These exercises are in bold print below.

  • Front squat – box jumps

  • Deadlifts – lateral jumps

When you pair a plyometric exercise with a weight lifting exercise, you increase your crucial SSC abilities. These include running, jumping and other movements made in a ballgame that requires explosive changes in momentum and velocity. A ballplayer’s ability to make explosive movements is a fundamental skill.

Explosive Training

Baseball athletes make explosive movements in the course of every ballgame, and your ability to move explosively from an inert, relaxed state is key. Performing the right plyometric and weight training exercises is more important now because throwing velocity, power hitting and speed on the base paths has become increasingly competitive. To be able to keep up with modern higher performance standards, weight lifting programs must include explosive training.

Training exercises should as close as possible mimic your explosive movements in real game play.

Split Weight Training

When creating a weight lifting exercise regimen for yourself, you will include plyometric exercises such as sprints, lateral jumps, box jumps.

The purpose of weight lifting is to build muscle mass and increase metabolism. The best approach to weightlifting is a split workout program. Split system training is weight lifting that divides weight lifting sessions into two separate body regions. This is usually upper and lower body training.

This means that one weight lifting session works on the upper body, and the next on the lower part. On the day where you work on your upper body, you will develop the chest, shoulders and triceps. At the next workout, you will shift focus to the back and the biceps.

Here are a popular, established series of split workout sessions.

Day 1: training the chest, shoulders and triceps

Day 2: Back and biceps

Day 3: Leg exercises.

Baseball Athlete’s Weekly Weight Training Schedule

Here is an example of the way you should organize your weekly workout schedule, and which muscle groups to develop. This is a split exercise program, each session working on developing specific parts of the body. But first, it’s important not to overwork and straining muscles to the point where the workout becomes ineffective.

Precautions to keep in Mind When Performing Split Training Workouts

  • Chest and Triceps: Don’t do chest workouts the day after you’ve worked on your triceps, or vice versa. The triceps are involved heavily with movements used to hit the chest. If you work your triceps the day before working your chest, these muscles will be fatigued and will limit the productivity of your chest workout.
  • Back and Biceps: Don’t workout on your back the day after working out your biceps. The biceps are heavily involved in pulling and rowing movements that are used to build up the back. You’ll limit the results you could get when your workout your back because your bicep muscles will be fatigued.
  • Squats and Deadlifts: Don’t perform squats and deadlifts on consecutive days, because both exercises utilize the same muscle groups. They both target the glutes, lower back and hamstrings. It’s best to have a few days rest between these lifts.
  • Trapezius Muscles: These are the muscles of the back of the next and the lower spine that reach to between the shoulder blades (scapulae).
  • Forearms: The forearms are already being used in many weight lifting exercises, so it’s not necessary to isolate them in a workout.
  • Abdomen: Always incorporate an intensive abdomen exercise. While the abdomen is used in lifts, it’s never a direct focus. Incorporate weighted sit-ups, crunches and leg lifts.
  • Legs: Leg strength is the key to success of every baseball player. Strong legs will improve athletic performance, help you to run faster. Legs that are strong are critical to explosive movement in baseball.
  • Lower Back: Don’t overwork the lower back and avoid doing too much specialization lifting. Overworking the lower back could result in muscle fatigue, and this in turn will affect your overall performance. Only do enough lower back weight training to keep it strong. You should be able to walk away from a weight lifting session without being in pain in the lower back.

Back Specialization Workout

Monday: Low repetition horizontal pulls

  • Set a fixed barbell to a height that is roughly equivalent to your waist
  • The higher you place the bar, the easier the movement gets. This allows you to be more vertical, and this removes the weight of your lower body from the lift.
  • Position yourself under the bar so that the bar is directly over the middle of your chest
  • Extend your legs completely out. Place your heels on the ground, feet facing upwards.
  • Grab the bar with hands wider out from your shoulders.
  • Next, squeeze the muscles of your buttocks.
  • Then, lift yourself off the floor, supported completely by your arms. Your entire body should be off the ground.
  • Begin pulling yourself up. Tuck your elbows and raise your chest.
  • As you move closer to the bar, retract your shoulder blades by moving them closer to your spine.
  • Now slowly lower yourself back down in a controlled fashion
  • Don’t let your shoulder blades move back completely. Keep them slightly retracted.

 

If you’re unable to move the barbell up, make the exercise easier. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.

Keep your glutes (buttock muscles) and your abdomen active the whole time and control the movement.

A General Weekly Weight Training Program Example

The following is a 4-day schedules for an effective split weight training program for baseball athletes. Use the weight training exercises described above to incorporate into any of these 4 weight training regimens.

4 Day Split Lifting Schedule and Muscle Training Focus

OPTION 1:

Focus on Chest and Triceps, Back and Biceps

Monday – Chest, Triceps and Abs

  • Barbell chest press
  • Dumbbell chest press
  • The Plank
  • Include sit-ups for abdominal conditioning.

Tuesday – Back and Biceps (Forearms may also be added)

  • Pull-ups
  • Wide-grip lat pulldown
  • One arm dumbbell row (see above for detailed description
  • Barbell curl
  • Spider curl
  • Reverse barbell curl
  • Alternate barbell curl (right arm, left arm)

Wednesday – OFF

Thursday – Shoulders, Traps and Abs

  • Bent over dumbbell lateral raise
  • One arm cable lateral raise
  • Push press
  • Wide grip machine upright row
  • Dumbbell lateral raise
  • Seated barbell shoulder press
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Friday – Quads, Hamstrings and Calves

  • Barbell squat
  • Leg Press
  • Dumbbell walking lunge
  • Leg extensions
  • Deadlifts
  • Lying leg curls
  • Standing calf raises

Saturday – Off

Sunday – Off

OPTION 2

Focus on Chest and Biceps, Back and Triceps

Monday – Chest, Biceps and Abs

  • Bench press
  • Bent over row
  • Chin ups
  • Incline bench fly
  • Push ups
  • Dumbbell overhead press

Tuesday – Quads, Hamstrings and Calves

  • Barbell squat
  • Leg Press
  • Dumbbell walking lunge
  • Leg extensions
  • Deadlifts
  • Lying leg curls

Wednesday – Off

Thursday – Shoulders, Traps and Abs

  • Bent over dumbbell lateral raise
  • One arm cable lateral raise
  • Push press
  • Wide grip machine upright row
  • Dumbbell lateral raise
  • Seated barbell shoulder press
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Friday – Back and Triceps (Forearms may also be added)

  • Lat pulldowns
  • Bent over rows
  • Close grip barbell bench press
  • Seated dumbbell press
  • V bar pulldown

Saturday – Off

Sunday – Off

Sets and Repetitions for weight exercises

These are general sets and reps established for athletes. As mentioned earlier, adjust for size and strength. If you can’t perform the sets and reps listed, don’t worry. Work up to it. Once there, you will have the confidence you need to be an exceptional baseball athlete.

Bench Press:  3 sets, 5-12 reps

Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 Sets, 5-12 reps

Upright Rows: 3 Sets, 5-12 reps

Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets, 8-15 reps

Cable Extension: 3 Sets, 5-12 reps

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