Outside of the truly educated strength and conditioning specialists, grip strength is largely under-discussed and under-appreciated. Most athletes throughout their baseball career will resistance train 2-4x per week throughout the year for 10-20 years and never incorporate exercises that are specifically designed to train the various muscles of our hands and forearms. And if they do, it’s normally just one type of exercise. This is an incomplete approach to grip work because we have pinch strength, crushing strength, static holds, lever strength, and finger extension strength.
Meaning, although heavy deadlifts or farmers walks are an absolutely excellent exercise for grip strength, I wouldn’t call it a complete approach to your grip work. This is important to care about because, who wouldn’t want to be taking a complete approach to their baseball training to become the best baseball player they can possibly be?
Grip strength has been connected by both research and experienced coaches to have a strong link to batting speed and batting power. In fact, a study out of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research tested 343 professional baseball players within the Texas Rangers organization and found that grip strength was significantly correlated to home runs, hitting percentage, and total bases.
Why do we see such impressive numbers like this for grip strengths effect on batting?
Kinetic movement chains.
You see, every time you swing the bat it is a total body movement, and our bodies generate power from the ground up. Power is largely created within the lower body/hips, transferred throughout the core, and then expressed through the limbs. Force generation occurs from larger muscle groups (legs/core) and is transferred to smaller muscles groups (hands).
Think about a punch, all of those big KO punches you see on the UFC highlights are as powerful as they are because the fighter rotates his hips with the punch. He doesn’t just sit there and extend his arm, he rotates his hips so he can put his entire body behind the punch.
That’s how you knock someone out, and that’s also how you knock a ball out of the park.
What does your grip strength have to do with any of this?
Because it’s the last part of the movement chain and it has to hold on to the bat.
A weakness in this chain of total body movement will result in an inefficient transfer of power which ultimately leads to a decrease in power output. You can think about it like your body has “energy leaks” that are resulting in a decreased bat swing speed and decreased batting power.
Always remember, you’re only ever as strong as your weakest link. Most people’s weakest link is their grip (think about chin ups, rows, and deadlifts—most peoples grip gives out before their back does).
To remedy this problem, we’ll add speed and distance to your hits by training the hand and forearm muscles. It’s nothing crazy or different either, training for grip should be treated just like any other muscle group would. You should have a measured baseline level of strength, you should re-evaluate that strength at different parts throughout the year to ensure you’re making progress, and train it 2-4x per week for maximum gains. The hands can recover super fast, so most athletes can train them 4x per week, but it’s not a requirement.
Here are some excellent exercises you can choose to incorporate into your programming to increase your batting speed and batting power:
- Dumbbell crushers
- Crush grippers (this is a training tool you can buy)
- Towel shrugs
- Towel chin ups
- Plate crushers
- One hand plate pinchers
- Two hand plate pinchers
- Hex DB holds
- Round DB holds
- BB holds
- DB farmers walk
- BB deadlifts
- Wrist roller
- Thick rope climbing
- Adding Fat Gripz to your pulling exercises such as rows, chins, etc.
- Sledgehammer levering
- EZ bar levering
- Plate wrist curls
- BB wrist curls
- BB reverse wrist curls
- Behind the back BB wrist curls
Finger Extension Exercises
- Rice digs
- Banded/Elastic resisted open and closed hand motions
Throughout a given training cycle, I would recommend combining more than one aspect of your grip training into your workouts. Meaning, you can save time and train with a decreased frequency per week on your grip if you do both crush and finger extension in the same workout, or any other combination you can think of. Here are some examples of mixed grip strength exercise workouts you can add to the end of your current training regime for some more *oomph* behind your batting power.
BASEBALL GRIP STRENGTH WORKOUT #1
Static + Lever
Farmer’s walks: 3 x 30secs with 90secs rest between sets
Seated BB supinated wrist curls: 3 x 6-8 with 60secs rest between sets
BASEBALL GRIP STRENGTH WORKOUT #2
Crush + Pinch + Finger Extension
Dumbbell crushers: 4 x 9-12 per hand with 60secs rest between sets
Two hand plate pinchers: 2 x 20-30secs with 60secs rest between sets
Rice digs: 3 x 20secs with 60secs rest between sets