Having a strong upper body is essential for baseball players. A strong upper body will help you hit farther, throw harder, and be resilient to injury. It is even more important that baseball players train their upper bodies intelligently.
You need to consider your shoulders, elbows, and wrists in every movement that you perform. Upper body training is not about getting jacked and pumped up like a bodybuilder. Training the upper body for baseball is all about functionality, sport-specific, low risk-to-reward ratio movements, that will directly carry over to throwing and hitting.
To gain strength in the upper half, I think the best implements are barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. These implements will engage the most musculature and can be trained and overloaded over time. Never sacrifice your form for weight!
You are not going to see a lot of bodybuilding or bicep and tricep exercises here. Compound movements train these muscles naturally anyways.
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 7 best upper body exercises for baseball players to help you stay healthy, hit farther, and throw harder!
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Upper Body Exercises For Baseball
The Weighted Push-Up is one of the best movements a baseball player can master. I love the weighted push-up for baseball players because it is a horizontal push, that can be overloaded, and is very shoulder-friendly.
Load this movement with bumper or iron plates along the midback (Chains work well too if you have some). Because the scapula is free to move, you will find the weighted push-up to be very shoulder-friendly. Remember to go slow in your progression.
A strong posterior chain is essential for shoulder health and upper body strength. The weighted pull-up trains this posterior chain (Lats, upper back, rear delt, rotator cuff) to be strong and resilient.
Another added benefit of the pull-up is core and lower back stabilization. A full range of motion in your pull-ups is critical for success here. I like to progress players into weighted pull-ups. We initially will start with an eccentric phase, followed by an isometric, and finally a concentric one. As lifters advance, weight can be added with a weight belt.
I typically program pull-ups in the early off-season and winter programs. I avoid most heavy overhead movements during fall ball and in-season training regiments due to the high load on the shoulder throwing in-season.
Dumbbell Bench Press
The Dumbbell Bench Press is one of my favorite exercises for baseball players. This horizontal press can be progressively overloaded easily and there are lots of variations (Floor press, alternating, single-arm).
I like the dumbbell as a pressing implement more than the barbell for baseball players. The dumbbell allows for more natural movement in the shoulder, is more specific to throwing (single arm training), and requires more stabilization.
Feet Elevated Inverted Row
Horizontal rows are one of the key components of a healthy baseball player’s strength training routine. One of my favorite rows is the feet elevated Inverted Row. This is a challenging variation because as you elevate the feet, you have to stabilize the core as you row. I recommend a pronated grip.
Remember, a full range of motion is critical here. Hang all the way down, row your body as one unit, squeeze the shoulder blades, and lock in each rep. Horizontal rows help balance out the shoulder and train those posterior chain muscles to be strong and resilient.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
A classic horizontal row that I love for baseball players, the One Arm Dumbbell Row. This is a great rowing variation for single-arm training.
An awesome benefit of this variation is the non-rowing shoulder needs to stabilize as the other performs the row. Because your positioning is perpendicular to the floor, you are also training cross-body tension, engaging that core, and resisting rotation.
We know anti-rotation in the gym will aid in our ability to display rotational power on the field, so this is a great movement to train often!
Barbell Bent-Over Row
A lift that I think can be pushed heavy with proper technique and programming, the Barbell Bent-Over Row is a great horizontal row for baseball players as well. Barbell implements are unique in that they can be progressively overloaded easily.
This is a great rowing variation that I think baseball players can benefit from. It trains the horizontal rowing pattern, trains the posterior chain, is joint-friendly, and can be trained heavier over time. This movement checks all the boxes for benefitting baseball players!
Single-Arm Landmine Press
One of my favorite implements, the landmine, is a great tool for training single-arm pressing. Place the barbell in the corner of the weight room or wedge it between the racks and you are ready to press.
I love this variation for baseball players because it puts you in that athletic, ready position. It is also very shoulder-friendly, allowing the scapula to freely move. With proper loading and progression, players will see this press directly carry over to the field!
Upper body training is important for baseball players. Getting strong with basic movements like push-ups and pull-ups will only benefit your health and performance. Utilizing barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells to overload your upper body work is great as well.
Balancing pushing and pulling movements is important. In general, for every 1 push repetition programmed, I would aim to have 3 pulling repetitions programmed.
Remember why you are training. Everything you do should have some type of carry-over to your sport. You are not training for bodybuilding. While increased upper-body mass happens as a byproduct of proper upper body lifting, it is not the goal by itself.
Focus on proper form, progressive overload, and continue to work hard on the field and you will see your results pay off!
If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out my favorite lower-body exercises for baseball as well!