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How To Avoid Baseball Injuries

No matter what type of baseball workouts you’re doing, it’s crucial to understand how you can personalize the training and concepts you’re using to find ways to make it best fit you. At no point during the year is this more important than during the competitive season where performance needs to be at its best while simultaneously you are also at your highest risk for injury.

Since we want in-season performance and not in-season injury, I want to talk with you today about a few ways you can personalize your training to make sure you’re investing your time in the gym, and not just spending it.

Adapting to Your Current Ability

A major mistake made by both baseball athletes and their coaches is to try and make all squares fit into a circle.

What I mean is, for example, trying to force all baseball players to perform the conventional deadlift. Although this approach is well-intended since it’s a great exercise, the thought process overall is misguided given the extreme variations between different athletes.

It just doesn’t make sense to place everyone in the same box with our drastically different individual states of mobility, strength, stability, limb length, torso length, leverages, etc. Taking one-size-fits-all approaches not only ignores our physical differences but also opens baseball players up for a greater risk of injury during the in-season.

Yes, we are all human beings. But we aren’t built the same.

It’s like saying, “Well, they are all just cars – so you can load anything in them and they’ll be good to go”

Really?

Because I can tell you that although a heavy-duty pick-up truck and a smart car are both made up of four wheels and two axles, one is going to be able to handle a lot for load and stress than the other before it starts breaking down.

This is exactly why it’s unrealistic for a guy who is built like a big hitter to move in the same way as an agile outfielder. Granted, both can change levels, run, move laterally, etc. However, they perform their movements drastically different due to their varying structures. Because of the individual structures we have as humans, no given exercise can ever truly be perfect for everybody.

In the case of our deadlift example, some athletes may have the structures where they can utilize many different variations – whereas others may be more limited to only a couple different deadlift exercise selections.

For example, some baseball players – based on their unique structure, ability, or injury history – may be unable to maintain the back arch needed for spinal stability during a stiff-legged deadlift. Some of their teammates may be able to maintain this stability but experience back pain when doing so. However, those same individuals may be able to display both spinal stability and comfort during trap-bar deadlifts and sumo style deadlift variations.

These different techniques offer slightly different joint positioning, due to a wider stance and more upright posture, that may be more conducive to a baseball player’s current ability, unique structure, and past injury history.

At the end of the day, what I want for you to get out of this section is that you should be making athletes fit the exercises, and instead, you should be making the exercises fit the athletes.

There are many variations out there of all exercises that you can use to tweak your approach so that you can stay healthy and pain-free during the season. Remember, we are in the gym to become better baseball athletes, and not better weightlifters. This means you need to work with your unique movement capability, so you can prevent creating a new problem or exacerbating an old one.

Work Around Your Injuries, Not Through Them.

Now, this may seem like a crazy rule for some of you – but if an exercise hurts you, modify it.

It’s crazy to me the number of baseball athletes out there who have the “whatever it takes” mindset towards this. Look, I appreciate the motivation and toughness, I really do. But there are smart places and dumb places to use this mindset in. Working through injuries instead of around them is definitely where the dumbness kicks in.

Now, I’m not talking about the pain associated with muscle fatigue and training hard – I’m talking about pain-pain. The kinds that are associated with aches, pains, flare-ups, and sharp sensations during movement. Such problem areas in almost all cases just simply need time to health through rest, or they may be actual injuries – which can be explained as compromised areas of the body that can no longer tolerate the same level of load and will not further improve through training.

In any case, training through injuries never works:

  1. You won’t make progress because you can’t train at the intensities required to make progress.
  2. You will further exacerbate the issue, making things worse than they already are over time.
  3. You are reducing your baseball performance with no accompanying benefit.

Although the above seem like common sense, many people continue to try and train through injuries and not around them – which is a situation of having more ego than brains. Many athletes refute and say things like “Well, I can’t not do the main exercises!” – as if taking a couple weeks off would tank their performance.

Whether you have sore knees that affect your squats, bad shoulders that affect your overhead/bench pressing, or an injured lower back that stops you from deadlifting properly…there is always a way.

I’ve been working with athletes for years around these issues, here is a list of alternatives you can use that are the combination of my knowledge on biomechanics and the experience I have had athletes using these as temporary replacements until the issues resolve themselves.

ISSUE: Bad knees that are getting aggravated by traditional squats and lunges.

ANSWER: Use these following exercises in a trial-and-error format to train around the issue for the next one to two training blocks:

  • One-leg one-arm DB Romanian deadlift
  • DB reaching lateral lunges
  • BB Romanian deadlifts
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • BB good mornings
  • DB reaching forward lunges
  • Weighted sled forward push
  • Weighted sled forward pull
  • Weighted sled lateral pull
  • Single and double leg hip thrusts
  • Hamstring curls on stability ball
  • Low lateral mini-band shuffles
  • 45-degree hip extension
  • Glute-ham raises
  • Nordic hamstring curls
  • One-legged leg press

ISSUE: Back pain that makes it hard to load your spine directly through either squats or deadlifts.

ANSWER: Use these following exercises in a trial-and-error format to train around the issue for the next one to two training blocks:

  • Split squats
  • Front foot elevated split squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Goblet squats
  • Alternating reverse lunges
  • Front foot elevated reverse lunge
  • One-leg 45-degree cable Romanian deadlift
  • Leg press
  • One-legged leg press
  • Weighted sled push
  • Weighted sled forward pull
  • Weighted sled backward pull
  • Russian step ups
  • Single and double leg hip thrusts
  • Lateral mini-band shuffles
  • Low lateral mini-band shuffles
  • Stability ball hamstring curl
  • Machine leg extension
  • Machine seated hamstring curl

ISSUE: Injury or limitation that puts stress and/or pain on the shoulder joint during traditional pressing movements like the BB bench press or BB overhead press.

ANSWER: Use these following exercises in a trial-and-error format to train around the issue for the next one to two training blocks:

  • Landmine press
  • Rotational landmine push press
  • Banded step and presses at chest height
  • Chest flies
  • One-arm standing cable chest press
  • Push-ups on rings (or) TRX attachments

Remember, all of the above categories of “issues” and “answers” are only options for you to experiment with to see if you’re able to perform them without pain. Certain injuries are more limiting than others, so there are never any guarantees. But in most cases most of the time, I am still able to provide my athletes excellent full workout programs that work around the issues using many of the above friendly exercise options.

It should also be pointed out that even if you don’t have any injuries or issues whatsoever, using some of the above options can be a great idea because it helps you maintain your current healthy-body winning streak.

Not only are they easier on your body, but if you haven’t done any of these before they can be a great introduction during the in-season to keep your body healthy but still challenge it in new and innovative ways to continue progressing your strength, mobility, work capacity, and athleticism.

Your Two Rules When Selecting Any Exercise

You and your coaches have a seemingly endless variety of exercises to choose from when designing your baseball performance programming. It is this variety alone that helps you stay injury-free and always improving your baseball performance as the successful training blocks begin to start stringing together.

Don’t be trapped by the dogma of certain exercises, there are always ways to get things done without aggravating our issues or working outside of our current abilities. Here are the two rules I want you to follow whenever working through your exercise selection process in your program design:

  1. It has to be comfortable.
  2. You have to be in control.

When a movement is comfortable – it’s pain-free, feels natural, and works within your current abilities/structure.

When you are in control of a movement, this means you can execute the movement with a high degree of competence from a technical perspective. For example, when squatting, you demonstrate good weight distribution throughout your feet, you keep your posture, you brace your core, you don’t break position going below parallel, and the whole squat looks smooth and deliberate.

Put another way, you have to own the movements.

Sometimes to allow for both comfort and control, we need to digress before we progress. For example, doing lots of DB goblet squats is a great way to get ready for the BB front squat if you haven’t mastered that movement yet – and this is ok, only do something when you’re ready for it. I’ll say again, we are here to be better baseball players, not better weightlifters.

In some cases, you will just have to simply avoid certain exercises and emphasize other ones in order to reach the next level in progression and attain both comfort and control of your new movement.

Recap

From a strength training perspective, staying healthy during the baseball in-season is a relatively straight-forward process. You must:

  • Adapt to your current ability
  • Work around injuries and not through them
  • Make sure you are both comfortable and in control of your exercise selection

If you’ve checked those above boxes, you’re going to be doing yourself a whole lot of good.

Of course, other major factors are important as well for health during the season such as your nutrition, sleep, stress management, attention to recovery, and maintenance of healthy mobility. But those can be the topics of a future blog post.

I hope I was able to provide you some insights and ideas to use in your programming today and that you’re ready to hit the ground running for a healthy season. Make sure you’re following one of our Baseball Training Programs. Go get it!

About the author

Kevin

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