Fun little fact about me: I love baseball. But, what's not to love, really? Any excuse to get out into the sun with friends, drink a few overpriced cold ones and stare at hot men all day. (Fact: Ball players are known for their muscular rear ends, just sayin'! #teambautista)
I'm there with bells and a cute little sporty hat on! Earlier this month, I hit the Toronto Blue Jays home opener, and as I took a break from sipping my plastic cup of chardonnay and watched the players in action I suddenly found a new appreciation for their unique athleticism. They are quick on their feet and have impressive, explosive power. They have strong balance and waist rotation, and their sprinting capacities are next level. Naturally, I began to think of what kind of training they must do to get into shape for the season. Subsequently I discovered a fun new routine perfect for everyone, even if you're not planning on stepping up to the plate anytime soon!
Improve swing rotation and throwing power
One of the most integral motions when it comes to the game of baseball is waist rotation. Think about it: Whether it's swinging the bat or throwing the ball a far distance, it's all in the waist. Actually it's for this reason that baseball is a lot like boxing (my specialty); if you only use your arms there will be no power behind any of it. Therefore for both sports it's essential to strengthen the core and its capacity to rotate quickly and powerfully!
This is one of my favourite moves, period. It basically incorporates the whole body into one swift rotation. Grab either a medicine ball or a free weight. For this one I like to go heavy, so definitely grab something challenging; for women usually anywhere from 10-25 pounds.
- Separate the legs just wider than hip width apart and take a mid-squat position (drop the butt, bending at the knees but don't take it too deep).
- Hold the weight with both hands (side by side on the bar part of the dumbbell), keep arms straight and drop the weight to the outside of the left knee. Remember to keep your back nice and straight and your shoulders retracted.
- Keeping the arms straight the whole time, rotate the weight up and to the right, swinging it diagonally across the body. Pivot the left foot as you rotate through the core and straighten the legs at the same time, finishing the move with your arms overhead and to the right.
- Now, reverse the move making a wood-chopping motion, slowly slicing the weight down and to the left across the body until it is at the start position, on the left-hand side of the knee and you're in a semi-squat position. The slower you go on the way down, the better. This is where most of the oblique activation is, so take your time and really focus on tightening the midsection.
- Perform eight chops on both sides and repeat for a total of three sets.
Another fabulous exercise for strengthening body rotation is the Russian twist.
- Start in an upright, seated position with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping the back straight, grab the same weight as you used for the wood chop, holding it with one hand on either end of the dumbbell.
- From there, sit back on the tailbone, lifting your heels and feet off the ground so the body is making a "V" shape (known as the V-sit). Find balance here, stabilizing the body with the core so that it is perfectly still.
- Now, bring the weight to one side of the body (use your hip bone as a target) keeping the legs still and centered and the face forward. Now, quickly bring the weight to the other hip, rotating back and forth quickly and powerfully, feeling only the midsection twisting.
- Do this a total of 30 times, three times over.
Improve explosive footwork and quick transitions
Another unique skill ball players must have is transitioning quickly from fast footwork to throwing the ball. Whether it's an outfielder catching a fly ball and throwing to home plate or the shortstop shuffling to snatch up a ground ball before throwing to first, these transitions are everything in defensive baseball! There are a lot of fun, effective exercises that can be done to practice this specific skill.
This exercise is called a "skater" because the motion mimics that of a speed skater and it is an amazing full-body move. The version we will be doing for this routine is explosive and weighted; weights are not necessary, but add to the beautiful burn.
- Holding a lighter weight (three to eight pounds) in each hand, start with the feet hip width apart.
- Quickly and explosively jump to the right, landing on the right foot and tapping the left foot behind the body and to the right in a curtsy position. As the left foot touches down, so does the weight in the left hand, tapping down right beside the planted right foot.
- Straight from here, perform the same motion to the other side. Jump left, landing on the left foot and sending the right foot behind and to the left of the body in a lunge position, and tap the right hand down beside the left foot.
- Perform this exercise a total of 20 times and repeat three times over.
Shuffle and sprawl
Full disclosure: Most people despise this move. (Fact: most of the most effective ones are the most hated.) The shuffle and sprawl is a mixture of fast footwork and burpees. I'm sure you're familiar with the shuffle, even if you have never done it. It is a stereotypical football move.
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart, bend the knees and drop the tush into a semi-squat position.
- Now alternate lifting each foot just slightly in quick succession without dropping the heels down to the floor. The lift is not high but it is quick. It should almost feel like you are twerking. Seriously.
- Time yourself for 20-30 seconds and every five seconds perform the bottom half of a burpee: dropping hands to the ground, kicking feet back into plank position and reversing the motion quickly until you're back in the shuffle.
- Repeat this 30-second interval twice.
Improve sprinting speed
Unless you plan on hitting a homer every time you step up to bat, scoring a hit largely depends on sprinting like your life depended on it. You gotta get to first faster than the other team can throw there. Tall order, indeed. Thus, it's integral to work on speed.
You may remember these from high school gym class, or perhaps you've repressed those memories. Fair enough! For this sprinting drill:
- Set up markers at four or five different points: a start position, a second position, a third position, a fourth and a final. The points only have to be a few feet away from one another.
- Sprint to each position, coming back to the first position every time. For example, the order goes 1 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 1 - 4 - 1 - 5 - 1. Oh, and don't forget to touch your hand down to the ground at every line. Sound fun? It isn't, but it'll make sprinting to first base seem like a walk in the ballpark.
- Repeat this sequence at least three times.
Finally: This one will get the legs moving, heart going and quads burning in a hurry! Simply, it involves alternating lunges with a jump in the middle as quickly as possible while maintaining proper lunge form.
- Engage in a lunge with the left foot forward and right foot back; now, switch, jumping the right foot back and right foot forward while you're in the air.
- Now switch again, and again and again. The idea is that both feet should land in the new position at the same time.
- Do 20 switches, take a rest and repeat two or three times. I'm sorry in advance!