Should High School Baseball Players Lift Weights?


High school baseball players are often misinformed when it comes to whether they should lift weights or not. I’ve heard some coaches in the past say things like “lifting will make your arm tight” and “lifting will mess with your natural arm slot”.

I am here today to dispel these falsehoods.

High School Baseball Players Should Lift Weights!

An intelligently designed weight lifting program will help baseball players run faster, hit farther, throw harder, and reduce the risk of injury.

In this article, I am going to go over some exercise science to increase baseball performance, 5 exercises baseball players should do, 5 exercises baseball players should not do, and more!


Exercise Science and Increased Baseball Performance


Lifting weights is a critical part of developing baseball players to be the best athlete they can become. Some things that need to be considered when lifting weights for baseball performance:

  1. Readiness for weight room training (experience in the gym and access to qualified coaching/materials)
  2. Exercise selection (weight room movements and access to equipment)
  3. Time of year (In-season vs. Off-season)
  4. History of injury (Prior injury or coming off a high load season)

Energy System Development

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

There are 3 primary energy systems that deliver ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) to the muscles which fuel our work on the field or in the weight room. These systems all work together. Each system is used primarily in certain time frames of work but at no point are any of the systems completely “off”.

  1. Creatine Phosphate System: Produces quick energy for the first 5 seconds of work. Exhausts after 12-15 seconds. Example: Sprinting from first to second base.
  2. Anaerobic Glycolysis System: Produces energy and peaks at about 15 seconds. Example: Running for a triple.
  3. Aerobic System: As we approach a minute of work, the aerobic system becomes the main producer of energy. Example: Pitchers and Catchers use this system in the field.

I do want to reiterate here that all players use all systems.

For example, a pitcher will use the creatine phosphate system to deliver as hard of a pitch as possible within a very short amount of time. But he will also use the other systems to help recover and repeatedly perform his high-intensity pitches.

It is important for all players to train these systems.

In my opinion, the anaerobic glycolytic systems and aerobic systems can be trained through practice and in the early off-season.

The creatine phosphate system is trained very naturally during the game of baseball because hitting and throwing are all about producing as much power as possible, as quickly as possible. This is also a system that can be trained in the weight room through explosive sport-specific strength training.

Increased Strength and Power

Strength and power can be trained and increased in the weight room. In the off-season, baseball players should focus on increasing strength with full body, ground-based, compound movements. Compound movements are movements that utilize more than one muscle group at a time.

Utilizing bodyweight movements like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and glute bridges are all great options. Progressive overload is important for the weight room.

As you progress, increasing reps, sets, and weight are critical to continue becoming stronger. Utilizing kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells is great for progressive overload.

Training for power is critical to baseball development. As you increase your strength, it is important to continue to train speed and power. Med ball movements, plyometric jumps, weighted sprints, and multi-directional sprints are all great to train sport-specific power for baseball.

Increased Flexibility and Mobility

Pitcher Throwing a Baseball

One of the main hesitancies I have heard from baseball players when it comes to lifting weights is that they are worried they will get tight. Studies have shown that proper, full-body exercise regimens, with a focus on the full range of motion, will not only not impair flexibility, but may increase it.

It is important to note here the difference between flexibility and mobility.

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to passively move through a range of motion unrestricted and without pain. Mobility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to actively move through a range of motion.

Lifting weights with proper form and range of motion is key!

Some reasons lifters feel acute tightness after lifting is due to the natural process the body goes through to recover from exercise. Chronic tightness may be due to other factors like poor form, going too heavy, poor diet and hydration, and poor sleep quality.


5 Exercises Baseball Players Should Do


1. Med Ball Side Toss (To Wall Or For Distance)

Med Ball Side Toss
Photo Credit (Srdjan Randjelovic / shutterstock.com)

By far the most sport-specific movement, med ball work to improve core power is a must for increased baseball performance!

2. Weighted Sprints

One of my favorite exercises for baseball, weighted sprints will help train sport-specific explosive sprinting. After doing weighted sprint training, I have the athlete sprint without weight so that their last reps feel natural and fast.

3. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are one of my favorite upper body exercises for baseball players. Pull-ups strengthen the upper back, lats, rotator cuff, and stabilizes the lower back and core.

4. Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press is a great option for horizontal pressing that baseball players can progressively overload to strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

5. Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

One of the best deadlifting options for baseball players, the trap bar deadlift is a great option to strengthen the entire body and challenge the grip.


5 Exercises Baseball Players Should NOT Do


1. Distance Running

Baseball players do not need to train in distance running!

Is it important to be in shape and be able to practice and compete consistently? Yes.

This can be trained by progressively increasing practice load and time, low-impact conditioning circuits, and interval aerobic training. Baseball is a fast and explosive sport and it should be trained as such.

2. Heavy Barbell Overhead Press

Heavy barbell overhead pressing is unnecessary for increasing baseball performance and could result in injury to the shoulder. Safer pressing movements like landmine pressing or dumbbell pressing would be more beneficial and less risky.

3. Heavy Barbell Bench Press

I love horizontal pressing. I just don’t prefer heavy barbell bench pressing for baseball players because of the risk of potentially injuring the shoulder or compounding existing shoulder issues.

I prefer push-up variations, dumbbell bench press variations, and landmine pressing.

4. Machine Chest Press

In general, I do not like machine movements. Especially for pressing. There is no stability involved and the locked, pre-determined range of motion is not going to be specific to the athlete.

I will always prefer a ground-based, full range of motion movement to machines.

5. Barbell Upright Rows

Baseball players often times deal with anterior shoulder tightness and need to work on work their upper back and posterior chain. The barbell upright row tends to add to anterior shoulder discomfort and upper trap development. I would prefer upper back options such as rope face pulls and rear delt raises to the barbell upright row.


Final Thoughts


Baseball players should lift weights!

Baseball players need to:

  1. Work through an intelligently designed plan (With a qualified coach/materials)
  2. Train all systems specific to the sport of baseball
  3. Train with a full range of motion
  4. Recover from training with proper nutrition and quality sleep
  5. Choose appropriate exercises for the sport of baseball and their specific history of injury and time of year

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ChristianG

Christian Gangitano has 6 years of experience coaching collegiate sports performance. He coached field and court sport athletes at Longwood University, University of Richmond, and Elon University.

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