The Importance of Balance Training For Baseball

The Importance of Balance Training For Baseball

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The specific demands of baseball requires a lot: players need to be able to change directions quickly while attempting to fields balls, run the bases, and avoid other players on the field.

 

Changing Directions Quickly:

This constant change of direction requires baseball players to be able to immediately reduce force, and then produce force in multiple planes of motion. During this constant change of direction, the kinetic chain should optimally be able to make the necessary dramatic changes in direction while maintaining proper joint alignment. If the athlete is able to make explosive changes of direction, without the kinetic chain falling into a movement compensation (such as knee adduction and internal rotation), the athlete will be able to change direction more efficiently and decrease their chances of non-contact injuries.

 

 

Balance:

PITCHERS:

Examples of when balance is important in the game of baseball can be seen during the specific requirements of baseball. Those include throwing, hitting, and running.

When a pitchers throw balls to home plate (after pitching from the wind up or from the stretch position), they will (at some point) have their lead leg off the ground and flexed at the knee and hip, all while standing on the back leg. Pitchers only hold this position for a split second. In order to go from the cocking phase to the throwing phase of a pitch, they must maintain perfect balance as they begin to drive off the back leg. Just before the pitch has been released, the pitchers’ front leg will hit the ground while their back leg is in the air, again creating the motion of pitching to be a single leg balance exercise.

If pitchers do not have good balance when they are standing on their back leg, they are likely not going to be able to deliver as much velocity. Additionally, they may loose the ability to have optimal control on their pitch. If they lack balance on their landing leg, again, velocity and control can be hindered. In addition, when a pitcher does not consistently drive off their back leg properly and/or land on their front leg properly, their pitching form can change. This creates a decrease in performance. Concurrently, the change in pitching mechanics can lead to additional strain on their shoulder, elbow, and back (leading to potential injuries such as rotator cuff strains, shoulder bursitis, and medial elbow strains).

 

THROWING IN OTHER POSITIONS:

These exact throwing mechanics apply to the rest of the players on a team as well, the only differences are that: their throws are less frequent, their throws may come from different arm angles (depending on how the play unfolds), and they will be throwing while standing on flat ground (the pitcher has the advantage of throwing off of a mound).

The use of multidirectional balance exercises will be important as the game of baseball is played in all three planes of motion. Fielders will have to react to balls in the air and on the ground coming from all directions. This creates throws from all possible angles. Even pitchers will have to react to balls in multiple planes of motion after they pitch the ball. They become a fielder as soon as the pitch has been thrown and will be forced (multiple times a game) to field their position… just like the remainder of the team.

 

RUNNING:

Baseball requires players to run in all three planes of motion in order to field a ball; however, that is not the only time they are required to run in all three planes of motion.

Once a players hit a ball while batting, they immediately run towards first base. Frequently, as they run past first base, they will hit the base with one leg as they continue to run past it in order to slow down. A player without great balance may hit an elevated base at full speed, and create excessive movement in his/her lower extremity, increasing their chances of injury (when the lose their balance). Common injuries that could occur from a lack of balance while hitting a base at full speed include: ankle sprains, knee sprains, or muscle strains.

If they successfully make it to first base, they may need to immediately change directions and head for an additional base. OR, if another batter hits a ball, they may run from the base they are already at in order to score a run. Once the players hit a base and make a turn towards the next one, they have to hit that base and then instantly change angles. The base runner will be running at full speed and be required to stop, change directions, and head back to the base they were at previously. These rapid changes of direction require a high level of balance (as they rapidly decelerate themselves and begin running in another direction). Baserunners are not the only players that face these demands. The players in the field perform these exact changes in direction according to their particular position and responsibility during that play.

 

HITTING:

High levels of balance can even bee seen when a baseball player is hitting. Hitting is a dynamic, explosive activity that requires the hitter to generate high levels of force in order to have a chance of successfully hitting a pitched ball. As the pitcher delivers the ball, the hitter will begin to stride with his/her lead leg in an attempt to time the swing perfectly to the pitch that is being delivered. Hitters will have their own unique swing, but most players will pick up their front foot temporarily, leaving them on or primarily on a single leg for a spilt second. If the hitter has excellent balance, it will be much easier for them to maintain their weight distribution and deliver a better swing at the pitch.

 

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The use of balance exercises in baseball players’ resistance training program will ensure that they will have the ability to maintain their center of gravity over a narrow base of support. Single leg balance exercises of varying levels, in different planes of motion, are an excellent way to restore lower body biomechanics. This creates a solid platform for more explosive movements, as well correcting any particular movement dysfunctions the athlete may have.

About author
Marty Miller

Marty Miller

Marty Miller is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) health and fitness educator with more than 20 years experience in sports medicine, performance enhancement and injury prevention. His academic credentials include a BS in Sports Medicine from Canisius College (NY) where he played Division I Lacrosse, a MS in Exercise Science & Injury Prevention from California University of Pennsylvania, and his Doctorate in Health Sciences from AT Still University in Mesa, AZ. Marty is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) with the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), and a Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Specialist (MMASCS).   His career began in professional baseball in 1994 with the Montreal Expos organization, where as a certified athletic trainer in the minor leagues. Marty left the Expos organization after the 1997 season and was later named the Director of Fitness at the BallenIsles Country Club, a five-star golf course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Marty also serves as a Master Instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and Everlast. He travels extensively as a health and fitness subject matter expert for lectures and panel discussions, and is an adjunct faculty member with the California University of Pennsylvania, where he instructs online graduate-level courses in Corrective Exercise/Program Design to physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other healthcare professionals. Miller became the New York Yankees first ever Director of Performance Enhancement in the spring of 2007.  His job was to evaluate and pre-determine musculo-skeletal injuries and place the players on a corrective exercise protocol while continuing their regular strength and conditioning programs. In 2008 Marty joined Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton Florida as their Director of Fitness and Spa Operations.  In 2011 Marty joined Mizner Country Club as their Director of Fitness and Spa operations. Since Marty began at Mizner Country Club it has been recognized as one of America’s Healthiest Club’s, and an Emerald Club of America. Marty’s personal interests include spending time with his 3 boys, training in mixed martial arts where he holds a second degree black belt, education, and working out.

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