There is no doubt that strength and conditioning will play a large factor in your player’s ability to push forward to the next level. Baseball is a grind. In high school, a typical schedule involves two or three morning-lifts per week, practice after school on all non-game days, and games. And guess what? It gets harder in college. Three lifts per week, practices on Monday-Wednesday-Thursday, and games on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Players will break-down if they aren’t conditioned for the grind.
For youth players, it is fantastic to get them excited about strength and conditioning while building good workout habits and work ethic. As a player progresses through high school, the strength and conditioning element becomes even more important. Some people chose to spend money on strength and conditioning coaches two or three times per week. I wrote an article on some helpful tips for choosing the right strength and conditioning coach for your player. Click here to read it.
Plus, with baseball, the types of exercises are different from say football. With football, the player is trying to develop more muscle mass along with powerful and explosive movements. Baseball development is more focused on small fibers for overall strengthening and injury prevention, agility and fast footwork, lower-half power and explosiveness, and core strength and balance.
For example, with football, you’ll likely see a player on a bench trying to max his bench press with a barbell weighted for low reps. In baseball, you’ll see a player using a yoga or stability ball for his bench and a pair of dumbbells for his press weight. This exercise is more dynamic with a core and balance component mixed with a free motion upper body workout. The baseball player is also more focused on higher reps and lower weight. Because of this, you can safely start strength and conditioning for baseball at a young age, say 9-10 years old. Plus, you can make the exercises more fun rather than being a slave to the bench or squat rack.
In fact, you can easily set up a garage gym that is very baseball-specific which will set your player apart from the others. And he can use this gym from his youth age all the way through high school. The exercises are a blast and he will get stronger with each passing year. Injury prevention is also high on the list of benefits too. Having colleges watch his games will mean nothing if he isn’t in the lineup. At the end of this article, I’ll also reveal our secret weapon for development that you won’t see in most gyms. Keep reading.
So, how have we set up our garage gym for baseball? Here’s a photo of our equipment.
Small Fiber Development
This is a major focus in my household. Torn labrums, bum rotator cuffs, Tommy John, and the list goes on for arm injuries. The great thing about building up and strengthening the small muscle fibers that support these vital body parts is that the exercises involve a limited amount of equipment. You will see a pair of 2-pound dumbbells, a 65cm yoga/stability ball, a 2-pound soft weighted ball, set of quality resistance bands/tubes, and a pair of ankle resistance bands. If you want to purchase any of these, I’ve linked each piece to Amazon.
We do a small muscle fiber routine using the yoga ball and feather-light dumbbells. We also hold the weighted ball in a hand (palm down) with arm extended and then open your hand allowing the ball to drop a couple inches and then quickly re-palm the top of the ball to catch it. Of course, what would a small fiber routine be without a series of armband exercises? And then ankle bands? Yes. We actually put them around our wrists and put both palms on a wall about shoulder width apart and then walk your hands all over the wall while keeping your hands at least chest high or above your head. We call it spiderman. Really gives your shoulders a workout if you do it right.
Speed and Agility Training
No surprise to see the good ole agility ladder. A staple for any home baseball gym. There are simply hundreds of ways for your player to navigate the ladder. We even take ours to the baseball field and set it up in the outfield behind shortstop. Have the shortstop show off his fancy footwork on the ladder and then hit him a ball as he exits the last rung. He fields it, throws to first, and then jogs back to the ladder to do it all over again.
Here’s a 9-rung agility ladder set that comes with five adjustable speed hurdles, four cones, and a jump rope. You can easily set up an “Olympic” course in the garage and see how fast he can make it through all four stages. A sample course might start with jumping rope 10x, then running through a shuttle course between the cones, then basic in/out with the ladder, and then finish it off with five hurdles at various heights. Guaranteed all the neighborhood kids will want to compete for the gold!
Two other pieces you see in the photo is a parachute and an elastic band attached to a belt. These are typically sold together. And please don’t try to use them in your garage! Take this into the back-yard or perhaps a street with little to no traffic. Kids absolutely love the parachute. The challenge is to get it to rise off the ground as they’re running. If they slow down, it starts to drop. Speed up and it rises while making it harder to run. It’s pretty cool and helps to develop a start-low and lean-forward mentality to build speed quickly and fill the chute.
Lower-Half Power and Explosiveness
Time to find an old-SUV tire. Have him squat down and flip that sucker as fast as he can from one end of the garage to the other, and then back again. Simple. But it works his legs, back, and arms. Total body workout if he uses the right technique. Plus he gets to pretend he’s Tim Tebow. Here in Florida, that’s very important.
For the older player, there’s a 15-pound barbell and a pair of 25-pound plates. 65-pounds for an easy clean and jerk so he can squat for high reps. Or he can put the bar across the back of his shoulders and use the aerobic step for a more dynamic exercise. Just have him laterally step up with his right foot, then left, then down with his right foot followed by his left. Then go back in the other direction. He can also do lunges with it but I feel that dumbbell lunges are more dynamic and productive.
There’s also a pair of 20-pound dumbbells (you’ll need two of these) for lunges. He can get as creative as he wants with the lunges. Forward, backward, sideways, etc. Maybe mix in the step. 12″ Steel Plyo Box. More dynamic the better.
And then there’s the 20-pound adjustable weighted vest. We like this vest in particular for its smaller profile making it easier to jog or play basketball with. Try having him do some light aerobic exercises while wearing the vest. Use the step with these aerobic exercises as well. He can also do lunges while wearing the vest. You can even lay out the agility ladder and have him do some basic ladder skills while wearing the vest. Super fun and very challenging.
Core Strength and Balance
While sitting on the yoga ball with his hand behind his neck, have him lean back and then go forward with crunches. Wear the weighted vest and do the same. There is so much you can do with a yoga ball for core strength. Here’s a video that can give you a head start with 100 yoga ball exercises for your core. As you can see, this is an extremely versatile piece of equipment!
Stand like you’re about to hit a ball off the tee into your garage net. But instead, grab your yoga ball and hold it at waist level. Twist and bring the ball behind your back hip and then with a hitting-like motion, throw it into the net. You can also use a 20-pound weighted medicine ball for this exercise.
And now for the bonus tip. You might have noticed something in the upper-left corner of our gym photo. Looks like a wooden skateboard only without the wheels. In front of it, you see a single wooden wheel-like cylinder. This is the wheel for the board.
You actually set the board on top of the wheel and put your feet on the skid pads about shoulder-width apart. The idea is to keep the board from touching the ground by using your balance. As you get better, you can actually move the board left to right and right to left by putting more pressure on one-foot versus the other. As he advances, you can toss him a baseball for him to catch with his bare-glove-hand while continuing to balance himself. Then he can transfer to his throwing hand and toss it back to you while still balancing himself.
This is the ultimate exercise for balance, small fiber development in his hips and legs, and core strength. In the beginning, he will only use his legs for balance. Soon thereafter, you will start to see him contort to engage his core to maintain balance. Once his legs and core start to work together, then start throwing him baseballs. Progress up to the weighted medicine ball. And then toss him a yoga ball. Once he masters it all, then have him jump rope on it! I’m telling you, it’s a game changer no matter what position he plays. However, if he pitches, then get ready for some major gains in accuracy, stamina, and then velocity! Click here to purchase your own secret weapon — the Carrom Wooden Balance Board on Amazon or just click on the picture.