How to Get in Shape for Baseball After a Long Lay Off
Some people argue that baseball doesn't provide the physical challenges of a sport such as hockey or football. While that may be partially true, being in shape at the start of the baseball season helps you perform and stay healthy. If it's been a few years since you laced up your cleats, getting back into game shape involves a number of fitness and baseball-specific exercises. Getting ready for the baseball season is about more than just lifting weights; practicing the sport itself helps restore your coordination and timing.
Stretch each major muscle group in your body to help get warmed up before more vigorous drills. Professional baseball players stretch before each practice and game as a way of keeping their muscles limber and flexible. Focus on your hamstrings, quads, back, shoulders and arms, all of which are integral to playing baseball.
Jog daily and include sprinting intervals in your routine to engage the different muscle groups in your body. Regular jogging helps improve your cardiovascular fitness, which is important in baseball. Sprinting in short bursts prepares you for times during a game in which speed is vital, such as stealing a base, running out a ground ball or chasing down a ball in the outfield.
Recruit a partner and play catch several days a week. While playing catch might seem somewhat mundane, it stretches and strengthen the muscles you need for baseball and also improves your hand-eye coordination and accuracy. When you're amply warmed up, spread out and play long toss, which is a training technique that all competitive and professional players use.
Visit a batting cage and take practice swings daily against a pitching machine. When you've been away from the game for a long period of time, one of the hardest things to regain is the timing of your swing. Practice hitting a variety of speeds of pitches, and if you can recruit a pitcher to throw for you, work on adjusting to breaking balls.
Focus on improving your foot speed, which likely decreased during your layoff, by jumping rope and using agility nets placed on the ground. Jumping rope improves your foot speed while providing a comprehensive workout, while agility nets help you build muscle and develop quick feet, which are important regardless of the position you play.
Lifting weights isn't absolutely necessary if you're a youth baseball player or already have a strong physique. If you want to build muscle, visit a gym and speak to a trainer about a training program that will tone your body but not bulk you up substantially, as too much muscle can reduce your speed and flexibility.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.