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During the softball season, it’s important for players to reinforce patterns that were developed in their offseason training to minimize the risk of common injuries, such as pain or discomfort in the shoulder, lower back, and hips.
Nancy Newell, a strength and conditioning coach for Cressey Sports Performance, helps many elite softball players focus on proper movement, core exercises, and using legs and hips for power, rather than just their arms.
Newell recommends four drills pitchers and hitters can use to build lower and upper body strength. Each can be done either individually or as a team.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Skill Set: Pitching/Lower Body Strength
Difficulty Level: Easy
Average Time to Complete: Approximately six minutes for three sets of 10
Equipment Required: Dumbbell
Goal: Develop and groove a squat pattern that focuses on lower body strength and anterior core
Description of the Drill: Cradle the dumbbell in between the palms of your hands, holding it just slightly off your chest. Your stance should be moderate, toes slightly pointing out, hips tucked under with your belt buckle up to your chin. Break at your knees first, as if you’re sitting straight down, eyes looking up.
If you feel tension in your lower back, you’re leaning too far; be sure to use your abs, creating a shelf for the dumbbell. You can use a heavier weight than five pounds if necessary to feel the tension in your abs.
Add Difficulty: Rather than having your buttocks touch the ground, break right below the knees, pushing them out, pause for three seconds, then power up. You can also perform a barbell front squat to change the variation.
Skill Set: Pitching/Upper Body Strength
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Average Time to Complete: 5-7 minutes for three sets of eight per side
Goal: Create shoulder and rotary core stability
Description of the Drill: Hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, feet should be closer together than a normal pushup. Lift one leg about two inches off the ground, keeping your hips level rather than shifting down. Arms should break at a 45-degree angle, lower your chest to the ground, then power up.
Add Difficulty: You can either add an external weight vest or a pause when you reach the bottom.
Tempo Rotational Medicine Ball Scoop Toss
Skill Set: Hitting
Difficulty Level: Easy
Average Time to Complete: Six Minutes
Equipment Required: Medicine Ball
Goal: Develop a whip effect with hip movement while maintaining a solid middle trunk, allowing the upper trunk to stay slightly rotated so as not to pull off every pitch
Description of the Drill: Set up in your preferred hitter’s stance. The med ball should be held in both hands and “glued” to your hip, staying low. Push to the floor, using your hips to throw the ball into the wall on your opposite side, mimicking a swing. If you do three sets of four reps, create tempo with the first rep at 25 percent, second rep 50 percent, third at 75 percent, and the final set an all-out throw to the wall. You should become more explosive with each rep.
Add Difficulty: Start with an eight-pound ball for the first two reps, then switch to a four-pounder for the last two.
One-arm Cable Rotational Row
Skill Set: Hitting
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Average Time to Complete: Six minutes
Equipment Required: Machine cable or band
Goal: Teach hitters rotational power using their hips rather than arms
Description of the Drill: Start in a split stance position facing north, using only one arm, extended. Push into the ground with your left foot, and rotate your hips so you’re facing east. Eyes should be pointed straight down when you start, finishing straight ahead when rotating. Be sure to end in a neutral position, without rocking or shrugging your shoulders.
Add Difficulty: You can increase the level of difficulty by adding more weight.
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.