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#AnythingButSoft: How to Build Strength Using New and Old Exercises

We believe that softball is more than a sport - it makes players #AnythingButSoft on and off the field. This season, we'll be sharing tips and insights from leading coaches, nutritionists, and parents alike and talking about how softball makes athletes #AnythingButSoft. 

There are several different ways to build strength over the course of a softball season. Some of the methods tried and true while others are newly developed concepts.

You don’t have to pick one or the other.

Tom Calnen is president of the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Associationand the softball coach at Troy (Michigan) High School for over two decades. He's also the owner of the Warehouse Training Center in suburban Detroit, an indoor facility where dozens of softball and baseball players train.

Through observing what college programs and minor league teams do for their strength training programs, Calnen is like most coaches in that he likes to mix newer training methods with more traditional ones to enhance the strength of his players.

Through it all, there is a common theme to what areas Calnen wants to build strength in.

“Hands, wrists, forearms and shoulders,” he said. 

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Newer Methods Sometimes Rely On Old Technology

Calnen said a bulk of the newer exercises he likes involve bands, which have become incredibly popular with trainers in recent years. In particular, Calnen says bands can work internally and externally on the rotator cuff.

For example, a popular exercise is one in which a player takes a large band and holds the ends of it with each arm, as if their arms are in a “goal post” position vertically. The player doing the exercise then pushes the band down towards the ground to strengthen the rotator cuff.

“You are rotating the humeral head inside the shoulder socket, and you are mimicking the throw,” Calnen said.

In addition to strengthening the rotator cuff, Calnen likes exercises that build up strength in the forearms and wrists, which in turn increases bat speed.

One exercise involves players doing a clean and jerk with a bar, where the athlete lifts the bar from the ground and then uses their wrists to flip it up on their chests or shoulders. This might be a more traditional exercise with boys, Calnen said, but with more and more girls getting into powerlifting, it has become somewhat of a new way to build wrist and forearm strength with girls.

Another training method gaining popularity is using a medicine ball for a variety of exercises that build arm and core strength. One example Calnen likes involves holding the ball up in the air and slamming it to the ground. He also likes an exercise in which the athlete sits on the ground while moving the ball side to side across their body.

You Don’t Have to Overthink Some Traditional Training Methods

Of course, there is an old and timeless way to build up arm strength during the season that will never go out of style.

“Long toss is far and away the best thing in the world for strength in the arm,” Calnen said. “I incorporate long toss in everything we do.”

Obviously, that can be a challenge in the winter for players living in cold-weather states with gyms being used up for basketball or other sporting events, but whenever there is at least a decent day outside Calnen has his players doing long toss in a parking lot or on a dry field.

For building wrist and forearm strength, Calnen said an old and popular training method is to attach a weight to a rope that is on a piece of wood, such as a broomstick or a bat. Then the players hold the wood with their hands on each end and use their forearms to life the weight by rolling the rope up the wood.

From GameChanger and Keith Dunlap.

Softball, #AnythingButSoft, Softball Player Development, Softball Tips & Drills