T Nation

Lifting for Baseball

I don’t know how many baseball players there are out there, but every season I have the same problem: I’m not willing to give up lifting or baseball, and I cannot train my bi’s or shoulders as frequently as I’d like to without paying for it. I get severe tendonitis in my biceps tendon in the elbow, and my shoulder hurts like a sumbitch. Throws from the outfield are weak when my arm is trashed. I play Wednesdays and double-headers on Sundays. I’ve tried to train bi’s the day after a game, but the soreness from throwing hurts my lifting, and the soreness from lifting hurts my throwing.

There has to be a better way, the pros throw every day and most of them lift weights. Should I just accept the fact that most of them are juicing, or does anyone have a solution?

You may be surprised to learn that the pros cycle down the number of days the train as the season progresses. They play roughly 162 games over 180 days. Obviously they have to train on game day, or no training would get done. In spring training they may lift 4x week, but as the season progresses the lifting decreases sometimes as low as two days a week.

Try lowering your volume and spending some time focusing on rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer training. Doing some form daily for a while. Keep your lifts basic while in-season.

Use the offseason for higher volume work and to prepare. I would also spend next winter working on a long toss program in conjunction with focusing on fixing the problems.

Usually biceps tendonitis comes at the shoulder level. Most of the times elbow problems are related to the forearm.

Hey, Scrub, check out Blanchonettes’ article on eccentric exercises for rehabing tendonitis @ www.t-mag.com/html/body_114eex.html. Char-Dawg turned me on to it. I’m in the process of giving it a go. I had a shoulder and elbow problem both. Just haven’t quite figured out how to do rehab on my forearm.

Tree, any ideas? That was a great post, BTW.

Tampa-Terry- Give me a few specifics on your forearm and I’ll try to help.

If you want, you could focus on chins and pull-ups along with narrow pressing movements for your upper body and squats and deadlifts for lower body. That way you’re covering all your bases as far as prime movers in the swing.

Bottom line, you can’t train like a body builder while trying to be an athlete. Pick one.

With regards to your arm problems, use more of the active recovery techniques outline in a few articles. Soft tissue work is important as well to decrease scar tissue. A.R.T. works well. I’ve had good success with Accupunture as well.

I saw a presentation at SWIS this past year from Dr Dale Buchberger. The gist was that ‘overhead’ sports has no room for all the lifts you’re looking to integrate.

Take a break from the bicep training. No one cares how big your arms (or delts) are except for you. You do however have an entire team that cares if you can gun a runner out at second base or not. Besides, how important are your delts and bi’s if you can’t throw?

I would definatley incorporate a lot of plyometrics into your program.


I would say that plyo’s aren’t necessary for baseball conditioning to any large degree. I believe that nothing should ever be completely dropped from a program, but there is little stretch shortening in the swing. The only other skill within the sport that requires the lower body would be running/feilding.

Is that where you’r thinking came from? Just curious as I’m starting to train more baseball players.

Would you agree with the use of sprinting and Olympic Lifts?


Maybe I should have pointed out that this is a definite localized inflammation on the biceps tendon where it splits in the elbow. I had complete fractures of my radius and ulna just proximal to the wrist about ten years ago. Thought I fully recovered, but maybe things are slightly out of whack.

Anyway, going by what has been said here, and the fact that nobody else on my team has this pain, it doesn’t seem like a common thing. I’m going to try only doing eccentric arm work to see if that helps. And yes, I’ve been neglecting my forearms, that could be part of it. Ball players should have strong forearms anyway.

I’ve noticed a difference from doing deadlifts and sprints, my hams and lower back muscles are much stronger. Thanks for all the replies, I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’re biceps tendon is inflammed consistently, you may also want to see a chiro/physio to assess your shoulder joint balance.

My long head tendon gets inflammed whenever my shoulder joint starts to carry too far in the anterior portion of my glenohumeral joint.

I know you had been doing some shoulder stability work. I wonder if it’s time to leave that alone yet.

Good luck.

I’ve cut back on my in season volume this year. I normally play 2 doubleheaders per week and they are most of the the time on back to back days. I had some leg injuries in the past two years which I recently had taken care by going to an ART provider.

I decided to go with Waterbury’s Next Big 3 training program, and lot’s of stretching this year.

There are only a few Olympic Lifts that translate well over to baseball movements. High Pulls, Single Arm DB Snatches and maybe hang cleans.

A little Plyometric work is beneficial, especially in the upper body using medicine balls. Some lower bodywork that is floor based will also translate well.

The lower body actually assists in bat speed, arm speed and balance. Most successful baseball players have huge legs and a huge rear end.

For Biceps pain down by the elbow look into eccentric shoulder strength. If you rotator cuff is weak then the biceps will fire to pick up the slack for the rotator cuff when decelerating the arm.

You can use a rice bucket to help strengthen your forearms and grip. I also recommend a good shoulder-strengthening program, focusing on rotator cuff and scapular strength.

Back down on the biceps training until it calms down and check your throwing mechanics to insure you are using a good delivery. Lots of times I will advise throwing athletes to change their mechanics slightly and that alleviates a lot of their pain and still allows them to deliver the ball forcefully.


I like alot of the exercise recommendations that you make and backing off the throwing for some time is another great suggestion.

However, I do not recommend suggesting to your throwing athletes, particularly baseball players, to alter their throwing mechanics without the advice of someone who teaches proper throwing mechanics. It is true that sometimes a persons throwing mechanics can lead to injuries. But I have found that when a player alters his normal throwing mechanics without the benefit of a professional who understands these movements can lead to even more severe injury. I have seen this occur to many guys in minor league baseball, myself included.

My suggestion would be to allow the injury to heal, then rehab the injury, and then contact a teaching professional who will work with the person to alter their mechanics in a systematic way to prevent future breakdowns.

I’m not suggesting he alter his mechanics on his own, but taking a good hard look at the way he throws will be beneficial. I use digital motion analysis to break down the movements, find weakness and ways to alter them. I?ve been rehabilitating throwing athletes with upper extremities for a long time. Some post surgical, some pre-surgery, and spent quite a bit of time studying throwing mechanics. Many an athlete has avoided surgery by completing a sound rehab program, followed by mechanical work, followed by a long-toss throwing program.

Most people throw incorrectly relying too much on their shoulder for arm speed and not using enough trunk and legs. By modifying their mechanics you can teach them where to properly recruit the power from, remove unnecessary stress from shoulder and improve their velocity and arm durability. Most of them actually find the new way of throwing to be easier, more comfortable and more effective.

Changing poor mechanics can be a daunting task. If they have been throwing that way for 25 years, its going to take lots and lots of perfect repetitions to break their bad motor engram and develop a new one.


Now that you have stated it that way, I am in complete agreement with you.

I have had many young kids and some college players come to me after injuring themselves when giving improper advice by people with no knowledge of biomechanics. So I am always leery of simple statements like you gave earlier. But now that you have explained in more detail what you have in mind I think you nailed it.

Tree . . .

I need an anatomy book! Let’s see, two related areas that are “tender” are above and below the elbow, both on the medial side when my palm is facing down. Possibly bicep attachment (above the elbow) and forearm flexor (below the elbow)?

The other area that is tender is once again above the elbow, but on the lateral side. Possibly the tricep attachment?

I’ve been wanting to jump into Bryan Haycock’s HST program, but am worried about the effect of the compound multi-joint exercises on joints that are obviously in need of rehab and higher volume. On the one hand, chins and dips just don’t sound like a good idea, and on the other hand, I hate the idea of not working/neglecting the upper half of my body.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

How often should one do long tosses in the off season and how many throws should be done?

During the off-season the optimal days per week to long toss would be around 3. The distance and number of throws starts off low and short and progresses when a session is completed pain free.

Typically I have them start between 45’-60’ (some throws at each distance) and throw around 30 tosses. When a stage is completed pain free they advance at the time of the next throwing session. Typically the throws increase in 15’ increments and may increase by 10-15 throws/session. If a session is not completed pain free, or they are unable to throw straight line then the numbers remain the same until they can meet those criteria.

There is always some warm-up throwing, and they throw at multiple distances each session.

Every throw uses a crow hop, and each one must be thrown on a straight line. Lobbing the ball is not going to improve durability or velocity.


My typical off-season throwing program was a 6 day program.

Days 1,3, and 5 were maintenance throwing. Each session lasted 20 minutes. The 1st 5 minutes was a warm-up at about 45-60 feet. The 2nd 5 minute segment was at 90 feet. The 3rd 5 mintue segment was at a 120 feet. And the final 5 minutes segment was a cool down at 60 feet. If you are a pitcher you can use that last 5 minutes to work on your pitches. However throwing on this day is maintenance so throws should not be on a line, there should be some arc to the throws.

Days 2,4, and 6 are long toss days. I begin with a 3 minute warm-up at 60 feet. Then go to 90 feet for two minutes. After that warm-up, I went to 120 for 5 minutes(all throws with no arc). Then out to 150 for another 5 minutes(all throws with no arc). Followed by a cool down at 60 feet for 5 minutes.

In conjunction with the program, I would do some sprints or a 10 minute jog after the throwing to avoid some of lactic acid build-up that would cause stiffness the following day. Also make sure you are consistently doing a routine for rotator cuff and scapular maintenance.

Hope this helps.


Sorry to drudge up the old topic, but there seems to be little contribution of the stretch shortening cycle in the baseball swing, so how do you justify the transfer of plyos. Maybe you can elaborate on that or explain why I’m incorrect in my thinking.

I agree that the lower body does have a large impact in the ability to generate bat speed and power, sorry if I gave you the impression I felt otherwise, but wouldn’t concentrating on Strat strength and Speed strength be a better use of training time?

I’d appreciate your thoughts.

My definition of plyometrics is an exercise that enables a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible. Every time an athlete swings the bat, or makes a throw thats exactly what they are trying to do.