Shoulder Exercises for Baseball
A lot of baseball players are hesitant to get into the weight room. They are hesitant to do different movements because they are constantly worried about the stress and inflammation can put on their shoulders. Instead of targeting that weakness, or the actual joint, they avoid it altogether because they had some old-timer tell them they will get big and bulky, lose mobility, lose ball speed, or lose the capability to throw very effectively.
Now on the field, practicing long toss is great for shoulder health. But when we are talking about movements in the weight room, some of the really key factors we can do is focus on all the rotation that occurs in the shoulder joint.
5. Banded External Rotation
If we can get into the weight room two to three days a week and focus on doing banded external rotations. This is a key movement. Every baseball player can do this movement two to three days a week. It doesn’t cause a ton of pain in the joint but does a great deal to build joint integrity for longevity.
The movement is performed standing. Anchor a band to a pole or object that will not move. The bands need to be about chest height. Grab the band with each hand. Put the arms out as if flexing the bicep, but don’t flex. Have the hands pronated. From there, rotate at the shoulder so the forearms are parallel with the ground and then go ahead rotate the shoulders so the forearms are perpendicular to the ground.
While coming through the eccentric movement, go very, very slow. Baseball players need to squeeze and learn how to use their rhomboids and traps. This will create better coordination from the muscles which will lead to a healthier shoulder girdle, a healthier shoulder joint.
Do three sets of ten to twenty reps with a seven to ten second eccentric. This will help the shoulder to rotate internally and externally much more effectively.
4. Standing Banded Powell Raise
Typically the Powell raise is done laying on the side with a dumbbell. In this case, we will be standing and using a band. We want to focus on the rear delt, the rhomboid, and everything the shoulder blade will be doing. Have the arm nice and long with no bend in the elbow. Pull the band all the way across the body.
Perform three sets of ten to twenty reps two to three days a week. Do this movement with each arm. This will give a nice pump in the upper back. It will lead to a lot more effective control of the ball. The shoulder will be healthier, sturdier, and more stable to provide a better foundation when throwing to alleviate stress and pain in the shoulder.
3. Rotating Thoracic Kettlebell Press
This is a pressing movement. Now listen, baseball coaches and baseball players: pressing won’t cause death. It will actually help shoulder strength and shoulder stability. It is okay to press a little bit.
We want to rotate the thoracic spine ninety degrees and then press the kettlebells overhead. We will then rotate one-hundred-eighty degrees to the other side and then press overhead, repeating the rotation into the press back and forth.
This movement helps coordinate the trunk with the shoulders. It helps improve shoulder girdle mobility in the thoracic spine and helps create greater stability. It also helps to coordinate the triceps with the deltoids, rhomboids, and everything that goes into the shoulder girdle.
It is important to train the skill of co-contraction inside of the shoulder. This movement improves the co-contraction through various ranges of motion. This is key for shoulder health for baseball players.
Do this once or twice a week for five to ten reps once or twice a week for three sets. Go light one day to focus on mobility. Go heavier the other day to work on strength. Do it over time, build into it, and don’t go heavy right away.
2. Dumbbell External Rotation
This is likely the best movement baseball players can do.
We want an almost ninety-degree angle from the knee into the armpit. We want the backhand posted solidly on the bench. Have a nice and controlled eccentric. This will strengthen the rotator cuff drastically. It will help with pitching, throwing, long toss, and shoulder stability. It will also help with pressing and pulling.
This movement will keep the shoulders healthier while trying to improve any shoulder-related movement. Utilize this movement twice a week for three sets of ten to twenty reps. Do it with a lighter weight and then do it with a heavier weight to increase strength. The shoulder is a little bit faster twitch so working up heavier dumbbells is worth it. Just slowly build into it.
Now if there are any tight areas or pain areas, go super, super slow through those areas for that eccentric tendinopathy. This will help with improving shoulder stability over time.
1. Meadow Swings
This is a great movement for the rhomboids, mid-traps, and rear delts. It is performed with dumbbells on an incline bench with the chest on the bench, eyes facing the floor. The dumbbells hang from the arms and the movement is a nice and short swing into a raise.
This movement is performed for a longer duration. We want to focus on squeezing the shoulder blades and hugging the upper spine at the top. For shoulder health for baseball players, it is a lot of upper back work.
As the reps add up, we will start to feel this movement in the rotator cuff as well. The swings are performed over and over again. The whole point is long duration and time under tension. This will improve stability and general power output.
Do this movement for two to three sets of forty reps. Work straight through this movement once a week.
With a more stable shoulder with greater co-contractions, we will be able to throw the ball a little harder. Not only will we be able to throw the ball faster and farther, but and we will also have healthier shoulders from bulletproofing the shoulder girdle to be more stable. This stability will greatly increase joint integrity and keep us throwing farther and harder over longer periods of time. Shoulder health is equivalent to career health in baseball. Perform these movements never have to come off the field.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.