1. Perform a proper warm up
If you’re a player who doesn’t perform a proper warm-up you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage on the field. You won’t be as fast and explosive and you’re unnecessarily increasing your risk of an injury. Don’t just get to the field and start throwing as hard as possible. Warm up your body. Perform a dynamic warm-up and some pre-throwing activation drills.
An effective pre-game baseball warm-up should prime your body to perform by elevating your body temperature, improving mobility and activating your central nervous system. The result is improved strength and power, work capacity, mobility in baseball-specific skills and reduced risk for injury.
After you finish general baseball warm-up exercises, you can prepare for the specific activities you’ll be doing, such as throwing and fielding.
2. Perform Soft Tissue, Mobility and Flexibility Work
Baseball players are prone to muscle imbalances due to the one sided nature of the sport – ex. throwing and batting. Players need to work on mobility as the season wears on. You should spend time foam rolling the major muscles of their upper and lower body to keep their muscle tissue functioning optimally. In addition, you should focus on the areas of the arm that take much of the stress during the throwing motion: the posterior shoulder, the biceps, and the inside of the elbow. It is well known that throwers lose internal rotation of the shoulder and elbow extension over the course of the season, leading to more stress being placed on the shoulder and elbow. Doing soft tissue work and stretching these three areas can go a long way to helping them maintain mobility and lower your injury risk.
3. Maintain your strength during the season
The training you do during baseball season is every bit as important as your off-season workouts. If you fail to challenge your muscles over 4 to 5 months, you will lose strength, power and size as the season progresses—and increase your chance of injury. Players who don’t consistently strength train will see a drop in their velocity, power, and speed – both throwing and running. Training intensity and volume are lower during the baseball in-season because of the high demands of the competitive season.
Simple strategies include:
- Shortening the training sessions. Train for 45-60 minutes instead of 90.
- Limited weight training to 1-2 days per week
- Decrease the total number of sets performed during the session.
- Minimize exercises with high amounts of eccentric stress to help reduce muscle soreness.
4. Focus on Proper Recovery
You can do all the right things in the gym, pregame, and postgame but it will mean nothing if you do not fuel/refuel your body properly, get an adequate amount of quality sleep, and/or maintain a hydrated state.
Nutrition: Focus on eating lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains to ensure that your body is prepared for competition. Try not to go into a game with an empty fuel tank. Eat a meal 3-4 hours or a snack 1-2 hours before exercise. Choose carbohydrate-rich foods with some protein within 30-60 minutes of finishing a training session or game to help your body recover faster. Whole grains including bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, fruits and low-fat milk and yogurt are good choices after workouts.
Sleep: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of injury. 7-9 hours is recommended for kids ages 8-18.
Hydration: Your body is more than 50-percent water, and your muscles depend on water to function properly. A dehydrated body cannot compete at its peak. Drink enough so that your urine color is pale lemonade to clear and so that you are urinating frequently throughout the day.
5. Listen to Your Body
When your arm is sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you it has been overworked or over stressed. To some degree, the warning of soreness is OK — as long as you listen to it. And this philosophy applies to not just your arm, although that is where most baseball injuries occur, but throughout the whole body. Listening to your body means resting when you’re sore, implementing some recovery techniques such as foam rolling, massage, stretching, and icing and speaking up when there is pain. Pain changes everything. There are two primary reasons that playing through pain is a bad idea. First, pain often is a sign that something is seriously wrong. Pain can indicate injury to structures in the arm such as the UCL (the Tommy John ligament) of the elbow, rotator cuff of the shoulder, or growth plates in bones of the elbow or shoulder. Second, pain will alter motor control. It will diminish awareness of body position which can lead to not only decreased performance, but also to compensations which can result in injury in other areas. If you are experiencing pain or soreness that persists more than 2-3 days, then you should seek out sports medical attention to ensure that your issue is addressed appropriately.