Baseball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Baseball stretches to improve your performance and do away with baseball injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 14, 2010 | Updated November 12, 2018
For a baseball player, the upper body anatomy is critical in the game. Proper baseball stretches in your baseball training program will help to ensure your safety. Let’s take a look at the muscles used in the game.
Muscles used in Baseball
The wrist and fingers, arm and shoulder are of utmost importance during pitching and throwing. The primary muscles of the upper body used are pectoralis major, posterior deltoid, teres major and the rotator cuff muscles. The serratus anterior muscles help to stabilize the scapula. The posterior labrum, posterior rotator cuff, anterior elbow capsule and the distal biceps are a few examples of the muscles that are most used and can be protected with regular baseball stretches and conditioning exercises.
Most Common Baseball Injuries
Baseball players are vulnerable to a range of acute injuries, a few (such as being struck in the chest with the ball) occasionally fatal. Collision with the ball or another player can cause contusions or fractures in the face, upper or lower body.
Acute injuries in the lower body include:
More commonly, baseball players suffer from a range of overuse injuries, including:
- Rotator cuff tendinitis, an acute irritation of the tendons and muscles of the shoulder. The injury is most common in pitchers
- Knee tendinitis, an irritation of the tendons and muscles of the knee. The frequent stops and starts involved in the game are particularly stressful.
Overuse injuries tend to produce sore or aching discomfort which worsens with continuation of the activity. Pain is due to inflammation and swelling. Rotator cuff tendinitis is one of the most common injuries in both baseball and softball. Elbow injuries on the other hand are largely restricted to baseball, due to the different nature of the pitch. Leg and ankle sprains and various contusions are quite common but often – unlike overuse injuries – do not require any significant time off the field.
Diagnosis of injuries may initially be based on the nature of pain involved. When upper body pain is stabbing or acute (rather than a dull ache), a mechanical problem is often to blame. Such pain is often the result of tearing injuries, including the labrum of the shoulder, the posterior capsule, or the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow.
Mild overuse injury may be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, rest and analgesics, as well as with alternating ice and heat on the affected area. Chronic overuse injuries may require avoidance of stressful activity in the injuries region and in some cases, surgical intervention. Fractures and more severe sprains likewise necessitate medical care.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Musculotendinous overuse injuries, generally of the shoulder and elbow are common afflictions for baseball players. Pre-season training and conditioning are critically important in helping to prevent both overuse injuries and traumatic or sudden injuries like sprains. Strength training and attention to cardiovascular fitness are believed to reduce overuse injuries by over 50% while diminishing the severity of injuries which do occur. Attention to proper technique, particularly during throwing activity can help reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries as well as sudden injuries including muscle or ligament tearing.
The following tips can also help avoid injury:
- Always warm up muscles and properly stretch, prior to play. Equipment should fit properly and be worn correctly.
- Wear proper protection, including a batting helmet.
- To avoid overuse injuries, do not exceed 80 to 100 pitches in a game or 30 to 40 pitches in a practice.
- Catchers require a helmet with facial protection, as well as padding for the throat and chest.
- Wear properly fitting, cleated footwear.
- Be certain the playing area is free of debris.
The Benefits of Baseball Stretches
Coaches and trainers are now emphasizing the benefits of a complete baseball training program to maximize performance and prevent injuries. Stretches for baseball in particular have many benefits that should not be overlooked. Here are a few:
- Regular baseball stretches are key to maintaining flexibility, which in turn fosters a good posture and reduces lower back pain and discomfort.
- Stretching exercises in baseball training can increase a player’s athleticism by controlling muscle imbalances, which can cause muscle strain and also contribute to clumsiness, which in itself can lead to injury.
- Even the simplest baseball stretches, as part of your overall baseball training program help to promote blood circulation, which improves mental alertness and coordination.
- Regular baseball stretches can help prevent injuries like:
º Rotator cuff tendinitis, a condition that causes acute irritation in the shoulder tendons and muscles.
º Knee tendinitis, a condition that causes irritation in the knee tendons and muscles.
º Musculotendinous overuse injuries, generally of the shoulder and elbow.
- Finally, even the most basic baseball stretches can just make you feel better. Glossing over it in your regular baseball training, however, could cost you dearly.
Despite the numerous benefits, it is important to bear in mind that stretching can have detrimental effects when done incorrectly. Improperly done stretches can over time cause permanent damage to ligaments and joint. When performing the stretching exercises below, be sure to warm up first and if any of the exercises cause pain or severe discomfort, discontinue immediately. Review my article on the rules for safe stretching for more information.
The Top 3 Baseball Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for baseball; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.
Elbow-out Rotator Stretch: Stand with your hand behind the middle of your back and your elbow pointing out. Reach over with your other hand and gently pull your elbow forward.
Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Watch the Baseball Stretches below
Click on the play button below to watch the 10 minute baseball stretching exercises video.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.