For baseball and softball players, plyometrics can be a newfound training boost. Exercises in this category are designed to help improve explosiveness and body control. This makes them great for athletes looking to put some bounce in their gym time.
Including plyometric exercises in your training for running speed improvement can help add depth to your routine. These movements can vary in the amount of stress they can put on the body. Adding plyo exercises with varying intensity can help train you for multiple conditions.
LOW-INTENSITY PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES
Jumping rope can be a great low-intensity plyometric workout for baseball and softball players. “There’s a lot of benefits to jumping rope,” according to Frank Velasquez, director of sports performance for Allegheny Health Network. “It works not only on low-level plyometrics for bouncing up and off the ground, but agility and cardiovascular training.” You can add jumping rope to your exercise list, either for reps or time, whichever fits your program best.
MEDIUM-INTENSITY PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES
For some medium-intensity plyometric drills, Velasquez recommends lateral bounds and broad jumps. For your lateral bounds, get into an athletic stance and load your back leg by shifting your weight to that side. At the same time, bring your front leg behind your loading leg for added preparation. Next, take a strong lateral leap and land with your corresponding foot. So, if you were moving to your left, you would:
- Load your right leg.
- Bring your left leg behind.
- Jump to your left.
- Land on your left leg.
Repeat your lateral bounds for five to eight repetitions. Be sure to bound back to your starting position. Load your opposite leg for a balanced workout.
For your second medium-intensity plyometric exercise, Velasquez recommends broad jumps. Again, start in an athletic stance. To load your body and legs for your jump, reach your arms straight up and swing them down to your sides. At the same time, squat deep in preparation for your leap. Think of yourself as a coil that needs to compress for the most spring. Once you’re loaded, take a strong forward leap, landing on soft, bent knees in a controlled manner. Velasquez says it’s important to land with bent knees rather than straight legs. This can help eliminate stress on your knees, such as when they collapse in on themselves.
“If you see that in your athletes,” he says, “they’re not ready to do the broad jumps at all. You want to make sure when they land, they’re nice and stable. Use the knees as shock absorbers; don’t land on stiff legs.”
HIGH-INTENSITY PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES
To round out your plyometric exercise routine, try performing some high-intensity drills. For these workouts, you will need a 24-inch plyo box. Beginning with box jumps, load your weight as you did with your broad jumps. Instead of forward, though, go up and land on the plyo box. Be sure to give yourself enough room between your launching position and the box itself, so you don’t hit your knees or arms off the corners on your way up.
“The important part here is that you load properly,” Velasquez says. As you load down and get into a potential energy position, force your arms back and use your entire body to get up onto the box.
When performing box jumps, remember to land on soft knees to help avoid stress on your joints. You should also get into the habit of stepping off the box in between repetitions. Don’t jump off. This can help save your knees by eliminating a landing from the elevated surface.
“Another high-level plyometric jump is what we call our depth jump,” Velasquez says, “where our athlete starts on top of the box and then they simply step off like they’re stepping off a cliff. They step off and land.” As with broad jumps and box jumps, watch for any stress on the knees. If you see that your knees are collapsing in on one another, skip this exercise until you’ve strengthened your glutes and backside.
Use these tips to add another layer to your running speed training for baseball and softball. You can also experiment with other drills and techniques in your training, such as exercises designed to target first-step quickness.