Written by David Snyder, DPT, CSCS
Fitness Tips, Health & Wellness, Sports
The crack of the bat, the smack of the ball as it hits your glove…baseball and softball season are almost here. With practices starting, now is the time to start getting your body ready! These exercises, for both your shoulder and your core will help you to improve your range-of-motion (ROM) while also improving the stability in your shoulder so you can avoid being side-lined by an injury. Along with reducing injury, the exercises will help you to be at your best on the diamond this season avoiding pain and fatigue.
March and April can often be cold and windy! This kind of weather can lead to tightness in your muscles thereby increasing risk of injury, especially in the shoulder and elbow. The exercises included herein will help to prepare your arm for the start of the season while decreasing your risk of injury during the early part of the season.
All the exercises below can be done on a daily basis and are important for both pitchers and fielders alike. The best part is you don’t need a lot of equipment, only a couple of bands that can be purchased online or at any sports retail store!
Rotator Cuff Strengthening
The video below uses bands/tubing to strengthen your rotator cuff doing both internal and external rotations. This exercise helps to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles which are a group of four muscles in your shoulder that help you to throw a ball.
- The first progression starts with your elbow by your side in a neutral position. Place a towel underneath your elbow to prevent the arm from moving. You can secure the band by tying a knot and placing it in the door jam. Closing the door will keep it in place. Take several steps away from the door so that there is tension on the band. Bring your hand towards your stomach for internal rotation.
- Turn and face the opposite direction and move your hand away from your stomach for external rotation. You can do both the external & internal rotations (3 sets of 10 reps – 1x/day).
- Progress by bringing your elbow out, away from your body in a 90 degree position. Stabilize your elbow and bring your hand up towards the ceiling for external rotation, switch to internal rotation by facing away from the band and bringing your hand toward the floor. Do both the external & internal rotations (3 sets of 10 reps – 1x/day).
To make the exercise even more challenging, hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand to work the scapula on the opposite shoulder.
Scapular Strengthening Progression
A great exercise for players to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade are Y, T and I exercises starting out on a table and progressing to an exercise physioball with weights. By strengthen the muscles around shoulder blade, you help to create more stability in the shoulder.
- Prone T’s, Y’s, and I’s on a table (3 sets of 10 reps – 1x day): Lying on a table on your stomach, lifting you arm keeping your elbow straight at a 45 deg angle above your head like you are making a “Y” with one arm. To perform the “T”, bring your arm perpendicular to your body, and for the “I” keep your arm directly by your side. When you progress to the physioball, it is a less stable surface and will challenged the shoulder more. Adding the ball drops makes it a more dynamic exercise.
- Prone T’s, Y’s, and I’s on physioball (3 sets of 10 reps – 1x day)
- Prone T with ball drop (3 reps x 30 seconds – 1x day)
Single Arm High Plank
A single arm high plank is a great exercise to help improve the stability of the shoulder. It can be a progression when performing a bilateral high plank becomes easy.
Start with 2 reps with a 15 second hold on each side. Start in a push-up position with your arms fully extended, slowly bring the opposite hand to the shoulder you are trying to strengthen and hold it there for 15 seconds. Try to keep the rest of your body from moving.
Lunge With a Twist
A good exercise to help strengthen your legs while improving core strength which is important with hitting and throwing is doing a lunge with a twist. This exercise is done by holding a medicine ball and taking a large step forward. Try to bring the back knee close to the ground while keeping your chest upright. Rotate the medicine ball to both sides and then push off the front leg and come back into the standing position. Repeat this on the opposite leg.
The sleeper stretch is a great stretch for the back of the shoulder or the posterior capsule – rotator cuff muscles. The video below demonstrates the proper position for this stretch.
Finally, as you get ready for baseball or softball season and if you are faced with an injury, HARTZ PT help get you back on the field quickly. With six locations around Lancaster County, we have an office close to you and can get you in to see one of our Physical Therapists within 24-48 hrs. With direct access we can see you without a physician’s referral and research has proven that quicker access to care gets you back in the game faster! Make this season your best…start training safely today!