Baseball is a fast and explosive sport that requires tremendous strength and power. It is extremely important to have a strong lower half to help with sprinting speed, force generation from the legs to the hips, and then rotating to hit far and throw hard.
To gain strength in the lower half, I think the best implements are barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.
These implements will engage the most musculature, train for upper body stability, and allow the legs to train for power and strength. These are movements that can be trained and overloaded over time.
I recommend these movements in the early off-season, fall ball, winter, and in-season training regimen. How heavy, how often, and what exercises you are using are determined by the game schedule and your training readiness.
In this article, I will be going over the 8 best lower body exercises for baseball players to help you run faster, hit farther, and throw harder!
Lower Body Exercises For Baseball
The Front Squat is one of the most important movements an athlete can master. This bilateral squat will help develop strong legs and reinforce the strong anterior core.
This is also a great option for baseball players because the front rack position of the barbell strengthens shoulder and upper back stability.
- Set the height of the squat rack so that the barbell is about 1-2 inches below the flexed elbow (Elbow pointing toward the squat rack prior to taking the weight off the hooks).
- Walk closely to the barbell and place it very close to your neck.
- Assume a proper front rack position, using two to three fingers under the bar.
- Bring your elbows up and the barbell should now be resting on the raised anterior deltoid muscles.
- With your front rack, lift the bar off the hooks.
- Take 2 steps back and set your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Toes slightly pointed out.
- Maintaining a strong front rack, take a deep breath, and brace the core.
- Initiate the squat by hinging the hips back and bending the knees simultaneously.
- Descend into the squat with control until your hip crease is slightly below the knee.
- At this point, the core should be braced, the front rack strong, elbows up, and the lifter is ready to drive out of the “hole” and stand the weight back up.
- Keep a balanced foot with a strong arch, drive through the heels, and drive the hips until you are back at the top of the movement and ready for the next rep.
In regards to your setup and form; treat every rep like it’s a 1 rep max. Put a tremendous amount of detail in your setup (Do it the exact same way, every rep). Make small gains in weight over time.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlift is by far my favorite variation of the deadlift for athletes. Because of the hexagonal shape that allows the athlete to stand inside the implement, you get to benefit from all the benefits of the deadlift with little risk.
The Trap Bar Deadlift is a great lower body exercise for baseball players (both pitchers and position players) because it trains the whole body, strengthens the posterior chain musculature (Glutes, hamstrings, back), and challenges your grip.
- Step inside the trap bar.
- Place feet roughly shoulder width apart.
- Slightly turn their feet outward (engaging the glutes).
- Take a deep breath to brace the abdominal muscles.
- Hinge at the waist and bend at the knee simultaneously until you’re able to grab the bar handles.
- As you pull yourself down into the setup position, maintain a neutral head posture, with eyes fixed on something about 1-2 feet in front of you.
- In the final setup position, pull the chest up, and shoulder blades back, while still maintaining a brace in the abdominal muscles and get ready to lift.
- Start by pulling the “slack” out of the bar. This is where the lifter needs to create tension by slightly pulling into the bar and pushing their feet into the floor before maximal contraction/attempts.
- Next, the lifter drives their feet through the floor, drives the hips forward, keeping tension in the abdomen and upper back (DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK), maintaining the hand position over the midfoot, the lifter stands tall with the barbell, and locks the repetition in.
- It is important that each repetition is locked in and controlled at the top of the movement.
- Take in a big breath, maintaining a braced core and shoulder blades pulled together. The hips will push back and the knees will bend simultaneously.
- The weight should be maintained in a position over the midfoot. The athlete will continue to lower the barbell until the weights rest on the floor and prepare for the next repetition.
Easily the most common mistake for deadlifts of any kind is allowing the back to round, placing unnecessary stress on the back. Keep the back flat throughout the movement and the core braced.
Do not bounce the bar off the floor between reps. Yes, bouncing the plates off the floor into the next rep may make the lift easier to do, but it’s also a good way to allow your technique to break down. Reset for each rep.
Unlike barbells which have a standard weight, hex bars weight can vary from one bar to the next. Keep this in mind if using set weights off of your training program.
Bulgarian Split Squat
It is also very important for baseball players to train in single-leg movements. As athletes, we know we sprint, hit, and throw, pushing off a single leg. Therefore, we need to train and be strong on a single leg.
The Bulgarian Split Squat is one of my favorite movements for training for strength on one leg.
By having one leg behind you and one leg out in the split squat stance, we replicate the shin angle similar to sprinting and pitching/throwing release points. Holding dumbbells will train the grip that we know is tremendously important for our forearms.
This movement also reinforces abdominal strength, upper body stability, and upper body posture.
- Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
- Get set up in front of your bench, reach one foot back and place it on the bench. Make sure you feel comfortable and balanced before proceeding.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body and to keep the dumbbells from swinging unnecessarily.
- Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
- Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
- Repeat until all reps are completed on that leg and then switch sides.
Coaching Points (Fixes to Common Mistakes)
When you step out, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your set up there is a good chance that you are placing the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).
Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot.
Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes give themselves way too little distance from the bench. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues (like coming up on the ball of the foot as mentioned above).
The Kettlebell Swing is a fantastic movement for all athletes. This exercise reinforces hip flexion and extension and can translate over to the field in our ability to run and jump.
I like this movement for baseball, especially because as baseball players we spend a lot of time in hip flexion. Getting ground balls, bending down in a ready position, and waiting to make a play.
The Kettlebell Swing reinforces the rapid hip extension we need to sprint and jump. This exercise will help increase performance and also act as an injury preventative.
- Approach the kettlebell with a stance slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Take a deep breath, slightly bend the knees, hinge at the waist, and squeeze the kettlebell with both hands.
- Maintain a neutral spine, eyes focused on something just in front of you.
- Initiate the movement by pulling the dumbbell off the ground and into the “power position”.
- The power position is where the hips are flexed (loaded), knees are slightly bent, and you are now going to drive the kettlebell forward.
- Extend the hips and knees, driving the kettlebell forward.
- The kettlebell will drift from the hip extension to about shoulder height but should not go any higher.
- Gravity will bring the kettlebell back down.
- Actively “pull” the kettlebell back to the power position. You should never feel loose or out of control as you swing.
- As you pull the kettlebell and prepare for the next rep, remember to keep a tight abdomen and upper back.
- This movement is fast and works on rapid force development via hip and knee extension.
The Kettlebell Swing is a great movement to train rapid hip extension and flexion. Remember to always keep a neutral spine.
Choosing the proper kettlebell weight is important. Heavier is not always better. Because of the rapid nature of the kettlebell swing, the emphasis should be on velocity, speed, and power.
I would recommend starting light and you will be able to increase weight easily as you get more comfortable with the movement. I highly recommend novice lifters start with the kettlebell swing before moving to more complicated movements such as cleans or snatches.
Front Foot Elevated Goblet Reverse Lunge
Baseball is a sport where we stand around for a period of time and then we need to explosively respond to the ball. The front foot elevated goblet reverse lunge helps train this pattern. In this movement lower body absorbs an eccentric load and then transfers that force back into an athletic stable position.
In the reverse lunge, once again we see shin angles that are very specific to baseball. This is also a very knee-friendly movement.
Once the reverse lunge is complete, I queue players to “drive” back to the starting position with their toes pulled up and knee pulled up, holding at the top of the rep. This is very similar to how sprinters and jumpers train in track and field.
The goblet hold (using a kettlebell or dumbbell) is good for core strength and upper-body stability. This movement can also be done with dumbbells at the side. I would recommend that as a progression.
- Start standing behind a box or platform that is a few inches high (the box does NOT need to be tall).
- Place one foot on the box, ensuring your foot is centered and toes are pointing forward.
- Step back with your other foot and lower the back knee until it is a few inches from the ground.
- Keep your chest up and your core engaged as you lower into the lunge.
- Push through your front foot to rise back up to the starting position, driving the back knee up in front of you.
- Repeat for the designated amount of reps, then switch sides.
I want to emphasize again that the box does not need to be tall. A few inches tall is enough to create the desired effect. A bumper plate laid on its side can work as a platform if it is flat on the sides.
When you step back, make sure to keep the feet hip to shoulder-width. A common mistake I see is stepping directly behind the front foot which creates a ‘tight-rope’ effect that makes it easy to lose balance.
Goblet Lateral Lunge
One of my favorite movements for baseball players, the Goblet Lateral Lunge has many benefits. In baseball, we move laterally on the field constantly. In the field, getting to ground and fly balls. On the bases, changing directions to tag up or get back. Lateral lower body strength is crucial to enhancing performance and decreasing the chances of injury.
In the goblet lateral lunge, we are training flexibility and strength in the adductor, groin, and inner thigh muscles.
At the same time, because of the goblet position, we are training upper body posture and stability. Once the bottom of the lateral lunge is met, I queue players to “drive” back to the starting position. I like this movement because of how specific it is to what we see on the field.
- Cradle a kettlebell at the chest, both hands under the bell.
- Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart
- Step out laterally, wider than shoulder-width
- Shift your weight towards the foot that just stepped out (the lead leg).
- As you shift your weight, bend the lead leg and keep the back leg straight.
- Push the hips back, keep the chest up and keep the lead foot flat on the ground (do not shift to the ball of the foot).
- Finally, extend up and step the trail leg back up to hip-width.
- Continue until the distance assigned is completed*
*Lateral Lunges can also be done in place if you are short on space. Instead of bringing the trail leg to the lead leg after lunging, simply drive the lead leg back to the original starting position and then repeat.
In this scenario, I like to alternate legs back and forth.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
Another very important movement for baseball players is the single-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift.
In baseball, we are often waiting around for a period of time and then responding to the ball. Whether that’s because you hit the ball or you’re playing the field. With this in mind, hamstring strength is critical.
The single-leg Romanian deadlift helps strengthen those hamstrings. Focus on keeping strong foot tension and a big arch in the foot. With a slight bend of the knee, engage those glutes and hamstrings.
I also love this movement (even slightly more than regular RDLs) as it focuses on balance and stability of the down leg. This movement will keep us healthy and strong and avoid any hamstring issues.
- Approach the barbell with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep a neutral spine, take in a deep breath, hinging at the waist and slightly bending the knee, and grab the barbell with both hands pointed (Knuckles down)
- Standing nice and tall, squeeze the shoulder blades back and create tension in the abdomen.
- Keeping a neutral spine, fixing the eyes forward (DO NOT CRANE THE NECK BACK).
- Initiate the movement by lifting one foot off the ground, bending the off-leg knee slightly, pushing the hips back, hinging at the waist, and keeping a slight bend in the knee.
- Create and maintain tension in the arch of the foot and imagine squeezing the floor with your toes. This will help maintain balance and engage the small musculature of the foot and shin.
- The eccentric movement will continue until the barbell is about 3/4 down your shins.
- Once the barbell is about 3/4 of the way down your shins, start to extend the hips, keeping tension in the abdomen and keeping the upper back nice and tight, straightening the knees until you return to standing in the starting position.
- Squeeze the glutes in the last 1/4 upward movement to maintain engagement and help with balance.
- Maintain the arch of the foot. When performing single-leg movements, it is very important to maintain balance to yield all the benefits of single-leg exercises.
- It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back.
- Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering the weight) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing the weight back up).
Prowler Pushes are not just a great exercise for developing lower body strength, but they can also make a great conditioning tool for baseball players.
Pro Tip: Use lighter weight and a quicker pace to focus on conditioning. Use heavier weight and a slower pace to emphasize strength development.
- Set your prowler in an area where you can push it at least 20 yards without hitting anything.
- Load the prowler with weight.
- Get behind the prowler and grab the high handle position.
- Hinge at the waist, bend the knees and extend your arms.
- Drive your legs and push the sled forward.
The prowler push is a full-body movement. Keep the core tight, nice neutral spine, and keep those arms extended (Arms can be bent when focusing on heavier loads).
Focus on a strong knee drive and pushing through your feet to keep the prowler moving. Your body angle will be very similar to how you start a sprint. So the lower body action should be very similar to running.
A very important consideration here is the surface you are pushing on.
Ideally, you are pushing the prowler on turf. This gives enough surface tension so that the prowler doesn’t glide or get stuck too easily. If you are pushing on a slicker surface like concrete or carpet, you may have to load more weight on the sled.
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Big arms may look good in a uniform, but a strong lower half is what drives performance on the field.
Utilizing the exercises I’ve listed above as part of a complete strength and conditioning program will help improve your performance on the field (hitting, throwing, sprinting) and reduce your risk of injury.