Before diving into a comprehensive throwing or training session for baseball or softball, it’s important to get warmed up.
“We want to get our body warmed up and moving in those different directions that the game may call for it to move,” says Frank Velasquez, director of sports performance for Allegheny Health Network. To accomplish this, Velasquez recommends a dynamic warmup routine that will help you break a sweat before you even pick up a ball.
To get started, find an area of the field, gym or training facility roughly 20 to 40 feet in length to make sure you have enough room. There are eight exercises Velasquez does with his athletes prior to training: skips, side shuffles, backpedal, karaoke, high-knee butt kicks, hamstring kicks, diagonal bounds and, finally, straight-ahead strides.
For skips, start at one end of your designated area and skip to the adjacent side. Velasquez notes that your arms should be pumping in the same forward direction as your legs. They should not be traveling across your body. Once you’ve reached the far end of your area, turn around and repeat your skips back to your starting point.
For your side shuffle, get in an athletic stance and shuffle from one end of your space to the other and back again. Keep your toes facing forward as you bring your feet together and apart down the line.
Following the side shuffle will be your backpedal warmup. Velasquez thinks of the backpedal as a backward run. “It’s very important to keep your nose over your toes” to maintain balance, he says. Stay low and pump your arms through the movement, following the same down-and-back routine as the previous dynamic warmup exercises.
After your backpedal comes your karaoke warmup. The karaoke step starts by crossing your right foot in front of your left foot, creating an “X” with your legs. Step out with your left leg to break the cross and follow with your right foot behind your left. Repeat as you shimmy your way to the end of the line.
“We’re looking for trunk rotation here,” Velasquez says. “We’re not looking for speed of feet, but more (for) rotation movement and lateral movement all built into the run.” Once you reach the end of your area, karaoke back to your starting position. Lead with your left foot instead of your right.
Moving onto high-knee butt kicks, Velasquez stresses the importance of keeping your knees up as you maneuver down and back. “Traditionally, you see butt kicks, the knee doesn’t flex at all, the hip doesn’t flex. But we want to get that knee up with the hip flexion.” To accomplish this, think of bringing your entire calf up as you high-step.
Next are your hamstring kicks. Like an overexaggerated skip, this warmup will have you hopping and kicking from one end to the other. “Again, arms are going in that forward direction,” Velasquez notes.
Following your hamstring kicks are diagonal bounds. Velasquez suggests that you try to load your ankle with lateral force as you bound from side to side, from start to finish, and back again.
Finally, round out your dynamic warmup with some straight-ahead strides. You can even add a few high-intensity sprints as an exclamation point on your training.
In addition to your dynamic warmup routine, you can also benefit from adding foam rolling exercises to your pre-training program.