Smell the summer air, what goes great with summer? Softball! No matter what your summer sport, it is better to train prior to your game to maximize your strength, endurance, and skills.
Softball, like golf draws much of its power from rotational force. As you swing the bat your core strength determines how powerful you hit the ball. Once the ball is in flight, your body must use explosive speed to get you on base, ok, for some we wouldn’t put explosive and speed in the same sentence, but that is the idea.
Any softball workout program is enhanced by basic strength training.When we begin training we need to develop conditioning strength before beginning more specific activity. Once you’ve cleared your plans with your health care provider, start with basic strength training. Choose one to two exercises per muscle group and lift weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles in eight to ten repetitions. Once you’ve built a base of strength you can begin adding activities specific to softball.
Core is important in this sport. All your power comes from your middle. You want to train these muscle groups in tri-planar movement, with overload. Translation: Move in many different directions and use something to add weight to your movement. It is important to have significant strength through the core before you add external weight, which is why you want base strength. Try using something to create an unstable surface to work from. For example: Using your bat begin with both feet flat on the floor, legs a little further than hip distance apart, knees bent. Begin gently swinging your bat side to side to warm up rotational muscles Next, try the same movement on a BOSU ball (a piece of equipment used for training on an unstable surface.), Finally, take the same movement and add weight to the bat. Notice the difference between the different movements. What happens to the abdominal muscles when asked to work on an unstable surface? Remember, you must be able to maintain good form. Once you can no longer maintain good form you know you’ve reach your limit and you must begin to build strength and endurance in those muscle groups before going further into the movement pattern.
To train the core in multi-planar movement get creative. What types of movement mimics the skills you will need during your game? Begin with these movements and then build on them. Try doing the movements on one foot or while shifting your weight from side to side. Keep the abdominals tight to protect your back and notice how these muscle groups work together. Think of ways to engage these muscle groups as a unit to effectively build your power.
Most of us not only need to hit the ball but we need to be able to get on base. Running the bases takes explosive speed. We go from standing still to moving quickly and then we stop as quickly as we started. This type of movement requires some training to keep injury at bay. Once, again a baseline of strength is necessary before tackling too much, and talk with your health care professional before beginning any exercise program. Set up a sprint course during your workout. Begin by walking for one to two minutes, warm-up and move with purpose; get your heart rate going, then all out run for thirty to forty-five seconds, recover while walking and then repeat. Parking lots are good for sprint courses; find a parking lot with empty slots and use the lines as your markers. You can develop different workouts to keep you interested. It is also important to cross train. Using other types of cardiovascular workouts (i.e. Different cardio machines, movements, or workout formats) use the sprint model to challenge your explosive speed. Cross training will keep you from over-training and you’ll be less likely to get injured or develop your speed without balance to your body.
Flexibility is incredibly important in this sport. If you work to develop strength without training flexibility you’ll end up with increased strength, but limited movement patterns due to limited range of motion. This sets you up for injury and you will not maximize your new strength or skills.
When training for softball this summer, think about the movements you do during your game, then mimic those during your workouts while adding challenge, by increasing your speed or weight while performing the movement. After developing your base strength through general strength training, pay extra attention to your core and get creative with movements in many directions, on unstable surfaces,followed with stretching after every workout. Swing batter, batter, Swing!