The 10 Best Core Exercises For Softball Players


Every position on the Softball field requires a strong, powerful core. Softball is a rotational-based sport and training should be specific to the movements most prevalent to what we see on the field. Softball players must consider this sport-specific rotational movement, time of year, history of injury, and training readiness when selecting core exercises.

Softball players need a strong core in all planes of motion, resisting trunk extension, stabilizing the trunk, and rotating powerfully. All of these movements work together. The more a softball player is able to control and stabilize the core, the more power the player can generate through the hips and shoulders.

I would define the “core” as any musculature from the shoulders to the glutes. The movements I will be listing are going to train this musculature utilizing bands, bumper or iron plates, stability balls, and med balls. These implements allow for more sport specific-training and help prevent injury. (I will write more about barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell training in different articles).

I recommend doing exercises 1-6 as part of the early off-season, fall ball, winter, and in-season training regimen. These are great to do in the weight room as an auxiliary exercise built into the program with a superset or circuit.

I recommend exercises 7-10 as part of the early off-season, fall ball, and winter training regimen. As you are competing in games, I would take a lot of med ball work out, as you are getting a lot more regular live at-bats.

However, I do think med ball work is great for warm-ups prior to practice. Also, if you happen to be on a bye week or have significant downtime. Med ball work can supplement to maintain rotational power.

In this article, I will be going over the 10 best core exercises for softball players that will help you stay healthy, build your core, hit harder, and throw farther!


Core Exercises For Softball


1. Weighted Front Plank

The weighted plank is one of the best exercises for training the core and stabilizing the trunk. Adding an external load to the exercise is a great way to progressively overload and push your core to the next level.

Lie face down on the ground. Pull your toes in so you’re on the tips of your shoes. Your arms should go straight out. Make fists with your hands and make sure your elbow is under the shoulder. Your weight should be on your forearms. Have a training partner place a bumper or iron plater on your mid-back. Create tension in the abdomen and brace!

Regular bodyweight planks are great exercises as well to do as warm-ups before lifting or field sessions.

2. Side Plank With Disruption

Lateral Plank

The side plank is a great core exercise for training trunk stability and engages the obliques more than the traditional front plank. The reason this is so important is because of the way we hit and throw the softball, we know having strong stabilizing obliques and trunks will help us stay healthy, hit hard, and throw far.

Lie on your side. Stack the ankles and make a straight line with your body from head to toe. Bridge the hips up and engage the glutes. Brace abdominal muscles and engage the upper back. Your weight should be mostly on your down forearm.

With the up arm, you have 2 choices. You can put your hand on your hip or straight up in the air. A training partner will be the one disturbing your side plank by pushing or pulling your up arm, making you brace and stay strong in your side plank. It is important here that the training partner does not give too much or too little resistance.

Regular bodyweight side planks are great exercises as well to do as warm-ups before lifting or field sessions.

3. Stability Shoulder Taps

It is very important for softball players to have strong trunks and shoulders, especially while moving. The stability shoulder tap trains this movement.

Assume a push-up position. Some players need to start with a push-up position with slightly wider than normal feet. As you get better at this movement, you can bring your feet to hip or shoulder width.

Stabilizing your trunk and down arm/shoulder, Tap your left shoulder with your right hand. Pause and hold the tap for about 1 second. Avoid rotating at the hips. Try to keep your shoulder and hips stacked, controlled, and engaged. Alternate each side until you have completed the set.

Stability shoulder taps are great exercises as well to do as warm-ups before lifting or field sessions.

4. Stability Ball Push-Up Hold With Disruption

The stability ball is a great implement for softball players to train their cores and shoulder stability.

Grab a stability ball (A diameter of 55 or 65 works best). Assume a push-up position on the stability ball. Engage the core and upper back. Maintain a rigid, neutral spine, and brace. From here, have a partner tap and disrupt the stability ball. It is important here that the training partner does not give too much or too little resistance.

5. Leg Raise Series (6 inches Series)

One of my favorite exercises for anterior core stability, the leg raise series is great for softball players. The leg raise series trains the abdominals to brace and engage the hip flexors. The better a player gets at this series, the more slowly and controlled they can perform it. This is a great movement for softball players that need to train their cores and hips in coordination.

Lie down on your back and place your palms flat on the ground (Underneath your butt makes it a little easier but may be good for athletes that deal with lower back pain). Straighten your legs all the way out, pull the toes in toward the shin, and hold your heels 6 inches above the ground (in general 6-10 inches is acceptable here but don’t go higher in this stage of the series).

At this point, I think it’s best to have a training partner call out the series. The series has several options:

  1. 6-inch hold
  2. 12-inch hold
  3. Flutter Kick (Big or Small)
  4. Scissor Kick
  5. Legs Out Wide

Each set of the series should last about 20 seconds. Focus on core control. Once the low back comes off the floor (Ribs flaring up is the sign here) or you feel the movement more in the hip flexors instead of the core, it is time to stop the set. This one burns so enjoy it!

The leg raise series is great to do as warm-ups before lifting or field sessions.

6. Anti Rotational Pallof Press

Anti-rotational and bracing movements are very important for softball players. This will help mitigate overuse injuries and train the core to be strong and resilient. This in turn helps you hit hard, throw far, and do so without getting hurt because of overuse.

Grab an exercise band that provides about 20-30 pounds of tension. Wrap it around a pole, exercise rack, or perform with a partner. Get into a nice athletic position, slight bend of the knee, hips back.

With good tension on the band, grab the band with two fists interlocked, and press from the breastplate straight out. The band will be pulling you toward the rack. Resist this rotation by bracing the abdominals and upper body. Slowly press out and bring it back to the start.

Anti-rotational Pallof presses are great exercises as well to do as warm-ups before lifting or field sessions.

7. Around The World Med Ball Slam

Med Ball Slam

The around-the-world med ball slam and other med ball slam variations do a great job training rapid force development utilizing the whole body. The reason I like this variation the most for softball is because of the movement at the shoulder. This variation is great for softball players looking to develop a powerful core while also working shoulder stability.

Standing tall, hold your med ball in front of you. Lift the med ball, rotate it around your head, and slam it to the ground as hard as you can. You will notice your opposite foot (opposite to the side you slam on) pivot similar to the way it would in the batter’s box. Catch the ball and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides until you are done with your set.

8. Split Stance Side Med Ball Slam

I love the split-stance variation of the slam because it is more sport specific to throwing and hitting.

Take a split stance and try to keep your feet pointed straight ahead. If your right foot is out front, take the med ball overhead and slam it as hard as you can down and to the left. You can catch the ball and repeat. If you have a wall or partner, this will be helpful to get multiple reps in a row without resetting your feet. Try to maintain balance and core stability as you slam the ball.

9. Rotational Med Ball Slam With Approach Into Wall

This is one of my favorite movements for softball players because of how specific it is to the sport itself. This med ball movement is very specific for pitchers and slap hitters. But all softball players can benefit from the rotational power that can be trained here.

Hold the med ball with open palms. Take at least a 2 step approach, load the med ball with a counter-movement, and focus on the trunk and hips delivering the med ball into the wall. You should not feel any strain on the shoulder here. Take pride in breaking some med balls here!

10. Med Ball Rotational Toss For Distance

This is by far my favorite movement for softball players. This is as specific as you can get to the rotary power needed in softball and therefore very important.

Take a stance similar to the one you would have in the batter’s box. Hold the med ball with open palms. Gain momentum with a counter movement and load the back hip. From here, rotate and toss the ball as far as you can (This movement can also be done with a wall). The emphasis here is on the core and hips delivering out at a launch angle similar to what we would see on the field. Do not “throw” the ball.

Each repetition should be fast and explosive. You’re essentially trying to hit a home run. Take pride in setting a distance record. Keep track of each attempt!

I must reiterate here:

Med ball work should be a priority in the off-season. When regular at-bats are low, look to gain power with those med ball movements.

When you are in the regular-season focus on those planks, side planks, and anti-rotational movements. These movements will help you stay healthy through the grueling season.

Final Thoughts

The core is incredibly important for softball performance in throwing and hitting. It is also important to consider your core work in conjunction with your regular at-bats, throwing program, and game schedule.

A healthy core routine that consists of stabilization, anti-rotation, and med ball power work is important and can take your game to the next level!

In addition to a strong core, softball players also need a strong and powerful lower body to generate power in the batter’s box and on the mound. Here are my 7 favorite lower body exercises for softball players.

 

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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