Baseball is the number one American pass-time. Soft ball, its direct descendant, is a variation of this sport and is played all across the country, whether young or old or even as a precursor and training for baseball. Contrary to popular belief, the ball in softball is harder than the one used in baseball, allowing it to travel slower and easier to hit, but harder to knock out of the park. The serves are also done underhand, and the diamond is much smaller than a baseball field. All in all, softball players need to sprint harder and apply more pressure to their swing.
In this article, we'll go over some of the best exercises to improve your game, whether batting, pitching, catching, or running.
Batters: When batting, most would assume that working the biceps will directly contribute to your batting strength and speed. In reality, batting is more about coordination and properly turning your entire body into the swing to fully connect on a great hit. While all upper body and auxiliary muscles are needed for the swing of the bat, the most important muscle group to target here is the core.
Not only does a strong core grant the flexibility to turn into the swing, but also helps to coordinate your entire body and increase reaction time. A good core is also necessary for sprinting between bases.
Pitching: Ever tried to lift heavy at the gym, and then subsequently tried to throw something? you'll notice that no matter how strong your arm muscles are (biceps/triceps) your throw is not as strong as you thought it might be. Pitching requires wrist and forearm strength, which are not the usual muscle groups that are targeted during a workout, as they are usually considered stabilizing muscles.
Field/Base: Catching and running can be obvious, leg muscles and cardio conditioning should be at the forefront of your workouts if you are trying to increase your speed and endurance. The often-overlooked muscle group is the hips, as the hip flexors are overworked when trying to turn and catch a ball in the outfield, or looking to stop short and change direction, sprinting to another base.
Summary: When working out to improve your ball game, focus on core, leg, cardio, wrist/forearm, and hip strengthening exercises.
Core and Hips
Bird dogs: One of the best exercises that target both your waist and hip mobility is the bird dog. This can be done anywhere as it only uses your body weight. You can make this harder by using a stability ball, or even more difficult if wearing a backpack or weighted vest. Begin by lying down on all fours, making sure to keep your back straight. Your hands should be under the shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Slowly lift one hand and the opposite leg at the same time, creating an area of diagonal balance. Engage your core and don't let your pelvis move. Hold for 3 seconds and return, repeat on the opposite side. 3 sets of 15 reps.
Leg press: If you are looking to isolate your legs, the leg press is one of the best exercises to do. If you do not have a gym membership, you can also substitute this with a resistance band, or perform bodyweight squats. Start by lying backward on the leg press machine, after you have loaded the optimal weight for your workout. Place your feet securely on the platform, and push slightly against it to gain traction and maintain a stable position. Only lift the safety bars when ready to perform the workout. Do not place more weight than you can handle on a set, as it is very dangerous. 3 sets of 6 reps.
Wrists and Forearms
Behind-the-back barbell wrist curls: These muscle groups are not often targeted as part of a workout, but can sometimes be engaged in certain exercises, such as curls and lateral pull downs. In this exercise, we turn them into an isolated focus rather than an auxiliary stabilizer muscle. Start by grabbing the barbell with both hands, and holding it reverse-grip behind your back. The movement should be intuitive as you curl your wrists upwards, and should feel your forearm engaged. Make sure to curl to the maximum range of motion to also engage the wrists. Your forearms should feel extremely sore, especially if they've never been trained in an isolation exercise before. 3 Sets of 15 reps.
Running: While it may seem obvious, running is the best cardio exercise for a softball player, especially HIIT running on either an inclined treadmill or on rough terrain. Not only does it shred calories, which helps improve your aerodynamics, but it also works the leg muscles - giving you the muscle memory required to compete harder on the pitch. If you are running for 30 minutes, perform intervals of 90 seconds jogging and 30 seconds full sprint 5 times. Remember to cool down afterward to relax the muscles.
Should softball players practice with baseballs?
No. Baseballs are much softer and will not help in training properly for a softball game. For batting strength, exercise with a heavier ball than usual to further develop muscle memory, making it easier to hit when thrown on the pitch. However, if you are practicing your catch, use a lighter ball as it flies faster, training your reaction time.
Should softball pitchers ice their arms?
Softball pitchers work with different muscle groups, chief of which are their forearms and wrists. For inflammation, swelling or soreness, place a cold compress indirectly on the affected area, either with a rag or through clothing to dull the severity. Once the swelling has subsided, place a heated compress on the affected area to soothe the pain.
When was softball invented?
Anecdotally, softball was invented due to a football game. The patrons of the Farragut Boat Club of Chicago, IL in 1887 were anxiously awaiting the score of the football game between Yale and Harvard. When Yale was announced the winner, one of their supporters threw a glove at a Harvard supporter, who batted it forward with a broomstick. This turned into a quick little game, but the boat club watched the joy and created their version: kitten baseball (which is now called softball)