Fastpitch softball athletes need exceptionally strong cores, legs and shoulders for throwing, sprinting and hitting. The right resistance training program can help you reach your peak performance, as well as protect you from injury. This short workout helps strengthen the posterior chain—your power source for running, throwing, pitching and hitting. It also includes task-specific exercises, such as trunk rotation for hitting and throwing, and shoulder stability for throwing and pitching.
Strengthening the Posterior Chain
The posterior chain refers to the major muscle groups linked along the back of your body, from the calves to the shoulders. Having a powerful and balanced posterior chain improves all aspects of your game, including sprinting, stealing, throwing, pitching and hitting. The following exercises are designed to develop your posterior chain power, build muscle endurance and reduce imbalances between dominant and non-dominant sides. Be sure to perform the same number of reps on each side, using the same amount of weight. For each exercise, repeat for 12 reps on the same leg, then switch legs. Perform a total of three sets of 12 reps per leg.
1. Medicine Ball Single-Leg Throw
For this exercise, use a soft, padded medicine ball against a solid wall, or a hard rubber medicine ball against a chain link fence. Stand sideways to the wall, a few feet away. Hold the ball with two hands. Lift the leg closest to the wall and keep it off the ground for the entire movement. Throw the ball at the wall while maintaining your balance on one leg.
2. Dumbbell Split Squat Jumps
Grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Stand a few feet in front of a bench or high step. Assume a split stance by placing one foot on top of the bench. Bend both knees and drop into a deep lunge, keeping your chest upright and hips back. Using your front leg, powerfully spring up and off the floor, and land on the ball of your right foot.
Stabilizing the Shoulder and Rotator Cuff
Shoulder stability, especially for the rotator cuff muscles, is crucial for any athlete who throws overhand. These exercises target the shoulder muscles responsible for decelerating the arm during the follow-through phase of an overhand throw or underhand pitch. Performing them as single-arm exercises instead of bilaterally is important for building muscle strength in your non-dominant side.
3. Single-Arm Lat Pulldown
Use a cable machine with a stirrup-type handle for this exercise. Start by grasping the handle with a prone grip (palm facing away from you) and your arm extended overhead. Keeping your chest elevated and the handle in front of you, pull down until your elbow is maximally flexed. Visualize your elbow being pulled down toward your hip pocket. Don’t let your chest drop, pull behind your head or push down on the handle. repeat for 12 reps on the same arm, then switch arms. Perform a total of three sets of 12 reps per arm.
4. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Use an incline bench with the back inclined at 45 to 30 degrees from vertical. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Start with both dumbbells pressed over your chest, elbows straight. Bend the elbows, letting the dumbbells come down to chest level. Press the dumbbells back up and repeat for 12 reps. Press with your entire body—press your feet firmly into the floor, tighten your quads and glutes and engage your core muscles. Don’t let your back flatten into the bench. Complete three sets of 12 reps each.
Building Strong Arms
The following exercises focus on the accelerator muscles of the upper arm, shoulder and chest. Both of these are examples of plyometric conditioning for power development. Power is the ability to generate force with rapid speed, which is important for pitch velocity, throwing distance and bat speed. For each exercise, repeat for 12 reps without resting. Perform a total of three sets of 12 reps each, resting for 90 seconds between sets.
5. Barbell Hang Clean
This is a complex, full-body exercise that builds functional strength and coordination. Grasp a barbell slightly wider than shoulder width and keeping your arms extended straight, lift it off the floor into a standing position. This is your starting position. In one quick, smooth motion, drop into a shallow squat while lifting the barbell up to your chest into the clean (or racked) position. Once the barbell is cleaned on your chest, slowly drop into a deep squat and then stand up straight. Be sure to keep your elbows up high throughout the squat movement. De-load the barbell by slightly dropping your body, letting the barbell come off your chest and lowering it into the starting the position.
6. Medicine Ball Chest Catch & Throw
You’ll need a partner for this exercise. Lie on the floor on your back, with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Your partner will stand by your head, holding a medicine ball above your chest. Have your partner drop the ball. In one smooth motion, catch the ball with both hands and immediately throw it straight up as high as possible.