As a ballplayer, the demands of your sport are complex. You will need explosive power across three planes of motion; you’ll need symmetrical strength and muscle balance in a sport that often requires unilateral power and skill. Multidirectional plyometrics in training will prepare you for the diverse movement demands - regardless of their position on the field.
Training The Body Through The 3 Planes Of Motion
The three planes of motion refer to the anatomical positions of your body.
The frontal plane relates to the front and back of the body as though it was moving side to side, left and right, as though on a track. Exercises could include:
- Side-raise of the arms or legs to adduct and abduct the shoulder and hip,
- Side shuffles or cossack squats,
- Side bends to work the obliques,
- Inversion and eversion.
Most commonly, the injuries associated with the frontal plane are of the ankle. In extreme cases, this could include sprains where the foot is placed squarely on the ground, but everything above the ankle continues to move laterally.
For ballplayers, balance training and plyometric movements performed laterally, particularly those which mimic the fast changes of direction required in the sport, should be included in any training program.
The sagittal plane relates to the left and right of the body, as though it was moving forward and backward. Usually, movements that happen on the sagittal plane relate to exercises where there are flexion and extension of a joint. Exercises could include:
- Back squat
- Bicep curls
- Triceps pushdowns
- Front lunges
- Walking and running
- Vertical jumping
- Calf raises
- Climbing stairs
For ballplayers, the sagittal plane is excellent for getting stronger and faster, but it can often miss the dynamism and multidirectional that the sport requires when used alone.
The transverse plane bisects the body into the top and bottom halves along a horizontal track. Transverse exercises are a crucial component of baseball and softball training because of the demands of the sport for rotation and stability along the midline. Exercises could include:
- Bench press
- Chest and back flys
- Any movement involving spinal rotation, such as woodchops
- Any limb rotations
- Shoulder and hip rotations
For ballplayers, the hip turn is a vital component of the sport, with batters using it to generate power from their lower bodies, and catchers using it to turn and chase the ball dynamically.
Correcting Muscle Imbalances
625,000 baseball injuries occur in the United States each year. The most common are shoulder, elbow, groin, and hamstring injuries caused by strength or mobility imbalances from overuse. Muscle imbalances are common in baseball because it’s a unilateral sport - meaning the same side of the body does all the work.
The most straightforward way to correct a muscle imbalance is to train the non-dominant side of the body. Non-dominant side medicine ball drills are popular for this, but don’t perform them the same way you’d swing a bat or throw a ball. This exercise aims to improve proprioception and body control while making your non-dominant side do some work that evens out the muscle imbalances.
Developing Symmetrical Strength
The human body is naturally asymmetrical, so the development of symmetrical strength is desirable only as far as it prevents injury. If the asymmetries become too exaggerated, it could become an issue. But don’t worry too much about training for exactly symmetrical strength.
Working with a coach to address unilateral weaknesses is advisable. Much of the work to develop symmetrical strength for ballplayers particularly has to be done in the sport context. Restoring a neutral orientation in a movement could be done simply by performing more work on the lagging side.
Developing a training program for any sport-specific athlete should always be done in the context of their sport. For dynamic sports like baseball and softball, multidirectional power will be vital. Many training programs focus (perhaps too much) on becoming stronger in the sagittal plane, and neglect the need to change directions rapidly and generate rotational power.
Developing stability across all three planes of motion, and becoming stronger in the most commonly injured areas - shoulder, elbow, groin, and hamstrings will be critical components to any ballplayer’s training regime.
Imbalances and asymmetries should be corrected only in so far as they pose a risk of injury. The simplest way to do this is simply by making the non-dominant side to twice or three times as much work.
Need help with getting your baseball or softball players more powerful? Give us a call at 757-647-3042