Keep your hands strong
Up until about the 1980’s, weight training was considered to be not very productive for baseball players. Old time players felt lifting weights tightened up their bodies too much and didn’t prepare them for the functional flexibility required for running the bases and throwing a baseball. When you look at all of today’s arm injuries and the epidemic of strains and pulled muscles, I have to admit that the old timers may not have been that far off.
Even though weight training was pretty much taboo, there was one type of exercise that old timers did pretty consistently during the season and that was hand strength training. I have personally heard players like Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Davey Johnson say that they constantly worked on their hand strength during the season.
(By the way, if you are a young player and have no idea who Aaron, Robinson, and Johnson are, smack yourself twice and do some research on the history of baseball right now!)
The long season can take quite a toll on the hands and keeping them strong will play a big role in getting you through the summer months.
Here are some drills that old time players would routinely do:
Basic hand gripper reps. Today, hand grippers have become pretty advanced but the basic ones still cost less than $5.00 and work just fine. In the car or in front of the TV, hand grippers are an easy way to keep your hands and wrists strong. Basic grippers look like this …
Upside down hand gripper reps. Take a basic gripper and turn it over like this …
Now use your bottom two fingers to grip the one side and use only your two throwing fingers to reach across and squeeze the other side (the photo does not show this). These types of reps specifically work the two fingers responsible for just about all of your pitches. Strengthen these two fingers and you might get a little extra snap on your pitches to increase movement and velocity.
Wrist curls. For older players, basic wrist curls are great for the forearm but during the season it is better to cut the weight and do more reps. There are several different types of wrist curl exercises so look online and see what’s out there. Some variations work the elbow too!
Newspaper crumbles. Lay out a sheet of newspaper flat on the floor or table. Put your hand palm down in the center. Keeping your hand in the same spot, use your fingers to crumble up the newspaper into a small ball. Put another newspaper down and repeat.
Sand work. Click HERE for a short video on some of these. Like the photo to the right, I’ve seen it done with a bucket of rice as well.
Hand strengthening drills can be great for baseball players but be careful not to overdo them. Like any exercise training routine, too much of any one thing often causes more problems than they solve. Just ask all the muscle bound beasts in the big leagues who seem to visit the DL every other week.
Remember … bigger muscles often mean bigger injuries. You don’t have to be a hard core weight lifter. Just don’t neglect your hands.
Tomorrow’s post: The fingers go between the head and ball