One of the many rites of spring is to get out with your friends and enjoy a game of softball in the park. It sounds pretty innocuous, but statistics show that softball injuries lead to more emergency room visits in the U.S. than any other sport. So, how do you avoid becoming part of this statistic? Experts recommend off-season strength work and conditioning as well as maintaining adequate flexibility for the many strange positions you will inevitably thrust upon yourself. It’s all in the name of winning!
Strengthening muscles in the rotator cuff region is critical to longevity in this sport. Pure Austin fitness specialist Greg Galindo demonstrates one exercise for this purpose. The resistance band rotator cuff forward rotation is highly effective in strengthening rotator and anterior delt muscles used to throw the ball. This exercise, while subtle, could be critical to longevity in the sport, especially with the repetitive force put on these muscles and the fact that injury to this area is one of the most common. after tying a band to a bar slightly below shoulder level, Galindo stands facing away from the band, with his arm out at a 90-degree angle to his body, holding the handle of the band so that his elbow and shoulder are parallel with slight tension on the band. He then rotates the forearm forward without dropping the elbow, to the point that his fist is in line with the shoulder. Repeat 15 times on each side.
Torso rotation with a resistance band would be the first and most natural choice when looking to shore up rotational power in the core. Explosive torso power is obviously paramount to a strong swing. After wrapping a band around a pole, Galindo stands with feet hips-width apart, far enough away so that there is some initial resistance. He then pivots away from the pole, essentially swinging his arms. This strengthens core muscles with the focus on explosive torso and hip rotation to improve power during the swing and hitting the ball.
The speed skater is a great exercise to strengthen all the leg muscles, as well as develop power and speed. Galindo placed two blocks about five feet apart to provide feedback in this exercise. To perform the speed skater, stand with feet shoulders- width apart and bend your knees about eight inches, leaning forward while keeping your back straight and eyes lifted. Hop to the right about three feet, landing on your right foot, mimicking the motion of a speed skater, and touch the block. Repeat this movement in the opposite direction. As you get comfortable, increase the distance of your hops and start moving faster! Focus on a soft landing. Lateral agility and balance is critical when fielding the ball. Landing on one foot is also great preventative training, since ankle injuries are prevalent in softball. Because this is a power-based exercise, combining strength and speed, you will want to focus closely on execution. Do 15 to 20 reps per side.
The TRX is a handy training tool that travels easily. Here, Galindo demonstrates the TRX suspension wide pull-ups. He positions himself underneath the TRX, so that when leaning back he will make about a 45-degree angle to the ground while maintaining straight line from his heels to his head when in extended arms position. He then bends his arms to pull his body up. To decrease the difficulty of this exercise, position yourself in a greater angle to the ground, i.e., more upright. To increase difficulty, decrease the angle so you are parallel to the floor when extended. this exercise is great for the lats, rhomboids, and delts, as well as the core. Don’t let the shoulders creep up towards the ears. The difficulty level on this can be raised quite a bit by performing these pulls one arm at a time.
The plank walk-ups can raise your heart rate in just a few minutes and can be performed anywhere – a great exercise for your core-training repertoire. Start in the “top of a push-up” position. Drop to your right forearm, then your left forearm. then, push back up on your left arm, then back up on your right arm, until you are back at that top of a push-up. Repeat this 10 times in this direction, then switch, so now you are dropping down on your left forearm first, then your right. This exercise is great for total core strength and upper body strength. Do three sets in each direction, then if you can still pick up your arm, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Galindo uses the front/side delt raise to build crucial strength in the shoulder complex. He stands on a band with his front foot, providing medium resistance. He raises his arms up to shoulder level in front, then brings them out to his side, and lowers them back down. He repeats this movement 10 times, then reverses it. He will then bring his arms out from his side, until they in line with his shoulder, brings them back to the front, and lowers them down.