If you're a baseball player, your performance depends heavily on a strong, flexible core. Your core helps with motions such as twisting and throwing, essential skills for hitters, pitchers and basemen.
Traditional strength training may not be enough; your core workout needs to go beyond pure power. Flexibility, stretching and smart rehabilitation are key to avoiding a painful strain in your core.
Core Injuries on The Rise
Professional baseball players may not be paying as much attention to the core as they should. In a study conducted by Dr. Joshua Dines of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, core injuries such as abdominal strains were shown to account for 5 percent of total baseball injuries.
Unlike the more common shoulder and arm injuries, core injuries tended to keep players grounded for longer periods of time, up to 35 days. Re-injury was also found to be a common problem. To avoid this, engage in a comprehensive core workout that incorporates stretching and flexibility training.
The best core exercises incorporate multiple muscle groups, help increase flexibility, and develop balance and coordination. Working multiple exercises into your routine, with several reps will help develop your core, decreasing your chance of injury and increasing your power when throwing and hitting.
The basic forward plank is an essential core exercise for baseball players. As compared to a crunch or sit-up, the plank engages more muscles in your core and lower abdomen, including your obliques.
The forward plank is simple; start in a position similar to a push-up, with your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-length apart. Lift your body up so that your back, hips, and legs form a straight line. Hold the position for one minute, or as long as you can without shaking.
2. Modified Sit-Up
A modified sit-up is a good core exercise that helps protect your spine from injury. Start in the sit-up position, but place your hands flat on the floor underneath your lower back, supporting your spine. Bend your knees, and only lift your head a couple of inches off the floor at a time.
3. Bird Dog
Balance, coordination and strength are key characteristics for baseball players. The Bird Dog is a modified plank exercise that helps develop all three. Start on your hands and knees, with your palms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
Slowly lift your right arm and left leg straight out, until they form a flat line from your big toe to the tip of your middle finger, parallel to the floor. After five seconds, slowly bring your arm and leg back to the starting position, and alternate with the opposite arm and leg. Repeat this for up to one minute, or as long as you can without shaking.
Work these core exercises into your training routine well before the start of the season to avoid injuries. Athletes are most likely to strain their core at the beginning of the season.
Strength-training alone is not enough to ensure your core is fit and ready for the demands of a baseball season — stretching is just as important. Try a yoga class to limber up your core and minimize your chance of an injury during a game.