There are two very important reasons for baseball players to include back training into their strength and conditioning program – injury prevention and improved performance. By strengthening the muscles on the backside of their shoulders, baseball players are able to better decelerate their arm when throwing, reducing the stress placed on the shoulder. The back also plays a large role in creating power in both batting and throwing. With the help of a well-designed training program, that incorporates a healthy amount of back training, a baseball player can expect to hit the ball further, throw the ball harder, and stay healthier in the process.
Research has shown that a baseball player's arm can rotate at a velocity of 7500 degrees/second (link). To get an idea of how fast that is, if the arm was detached from the shoulder, it would rotate 20 times in one second. With these massive forces on a baseball player’s throwing arm and the repetitive nature of the sport, it is extremely important to have the strength to counteract the violent throwing motion. While the muscles on the front of the body contribute to throwing velocity, it is the muscles on the back of the body that slow the arm down after the ball is released. That is why all baseball players should prioritize back training, to keep their arms healthy throughout the entire season.
A less talked about, but equally important role the back plays is in creating throwing and batting power. Sometimes referred to as the posterior oblique sling, the back helps transfer power diagonally from the lower to upper body. For a right-handed thrower, this allows the right glute to “connect” with the left shoulder, which creates the torque necessary for a hard throw. For a right-handed batter, the same glute and shoulder link to allow for a powerful swing of the bat. Without a solid back and core, much of the power generated from the lower body would be lost.
Exercises to include in your baseball training program:
Barbell Deadlift – a staple in any good strength and conditioning program, the deadlift is a great exercise for developing strength in the entire posterior chain – including the back.
Prone WTY Raise – this exercise helps strengthen the smaller muscles around the shoulder and scapula, while also improving scapulohumeral rhythm.
Single Arm Bent Over Row – because baseball is largely a unilateral sport, it is important to teach the body to move independent of the other side.