How to Effectively Train the Lower Half for Baseball/Softball

Have you ever had a coach tell you needed to get stronger in the lower half? It’s one of the most common goals I hear when evaluating new athletes, and understandably, having a strong lower half means hitting and throwing the ball with more power. However, in order to achieve a strong lower half, it’s important that I explain the 3 planes of motion and the exercises we use to drive the best results for strong, powerful baseball/softball movements. So, let’s have a brief kinesiology review:

We have the opportunity to move in three planes of motion. These are the sagittal plane (straight forward), the frontal plane (side to side), and the transverse plane (rotational movements). You see, lifting weights is mostly restricted to the sagittal plane, which is great for getting really strong, but is also where many programs miss the boat. Imagine for a moment the sagittal plane as a train, straight forward with no ability to turn. Now imagine a power lifter turned short stop who can’t rotate or turn. Not ideal, right?

Lucas Sims and Tanner Roark of the Cincinnati Reds training for strength with the trap bar deadlift.    Strength is the foundation for power and safe weight lifting (squats, deadlifts, etc.) practices are the absolute gold standard to increase muscle mass, strength, and general athleticism.

Lucas Sims and Tanner Roark of the Cincinnati Reds training for strength with the trap bar deadlift.

Strength is the foundation for power and safe weight lifting (squats, deadlifts, etc.) practices are the absolute gold standard to increase muscle mass, strength, and general athleticism.

Good training uses an intelligent blend of weight training AND frontal/transverse plane development. Rotational athletes, like baseball and softball players, must be able to create and control several different types of motion across nearly all the joints in the body.

Michael Chavis of the Boston Red Sox. The swing requires adequate rotation at the hips, spine, in conjunction with tremendous lateral force production. (All outside the sagittal plane).

Michael Chavis of the Boston Red Sox. The swing requires adequate rotation at the hips, spine, in conjunction with tremendous lateral force production. (All outside the sagittal plane).

Below are a few common training drills we use in addition to weight lifting to help drive lower half contribution, address movement outside the sagittal plane, and have good carryover to baseball/softball movements.

Medicine ball SCOOP TOSS

This is probably the most common medicine ball drill used in the training world. It can be a game changer for creating rotational power, but it must be coached and performed correctly. This is a medicine ball training drill and should be performed as such; it is NOT intended to mimic a baseball swing. We instruct our athletes to focus on proper weight shifting and to make each throw with intent. The drill also allows the athlete to train sequencing, timing, back side drive, and shoulder/hip separation. Take a look at this tutorial:

LATERAL HEIDEN

This is a phenomenal drill to help athletes understand how to create frontal plane (side to side) power. The ability to load and unload the hips can separate good athletes from great athletes. This drill can help steal bases/change direction, throw harder, and swing faster. The heiden or a variation of it is in nearly every program we write because it has such tremendous carryover to baseball movements. As an added benefit it requires the athlete to land safely by decelerating and controlling the center of mass on one leg. Athletes who decelerate well put themselves at a much lower risk of injury. Be sure to master the foundational movements before progressing and/or loading this movement.

LATERAL SLED DRAG

The lateral sled drag is one of my personal favorites because it forces the athlete to maintain a firm midsection as he or she moves the sled. The outside leg drives through the ground in order to create the force needed to drag the sled. I like to have younger athletes visualize “driving off the rubber” during a pitch. It’s a great low-level drill to create “side to side” force with strong core.

It’s important to remember that these drills are performed in conjunction with safe, efficient weight lifting methods. Without sufficient strength and movement quality, the effectiveness of these drills will be compromised.

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