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If you’re around the game long enough, eventually you will hear something along these lines: “He’s just shaped like a baseball player.” What does that mean? What is baseball shape? Do baseball players have to build their bodies a certain way?
Ask yourself, What muscles are important for baseball? The most important are probably leg muscles, including the thighs, calves, and the gluteal muscles that make up our rear ends. After those lower-body muscles, experts most likely will cite the core muscles, e.g. abdomen and hips; forearms; and shoulders.
The most important actions in baseball depend on the drive forward, or the push from one foot to quickly shift all the weight onto the other foot. It happens with every swing and pitch, and most first steps for fielders. Quick steps of the feet and legs are required for almost all fielding acts, as well as to commence baserunning.
Passive baseball fans may think strong arms are most important for baseball. The arms may guide a bat or snap a throw ~ but the power behind swings and pitches comes from the legs.
- 1 What is ‘Baseball Shape’?
- 2 Do Pitchers Need Strong Legs?
- 3 Other Key Baseball Muscles
- 4 Final Thoughts on Muscles and Baseball Play
- 5 Related Questions
If you hear someone say “He looks like a baseball player,” think of Pete Rose, or Cal Ripken. Even the player Ripken emulated, Lou Gehrig, was shaped like a baseball player, back in the 1920s and ‘30s. That is, big thighs, tight waist, and wide strong shoulders.
Rose was shaped like a fireplug: stocky, with huge thighs. Look at old pictures and you won’t notice bulging biceps. In the old days, players naturally developed big thighs from all the pushing, or squatting low repeatedly for each pitch.
Today, with kinesiology advancements and modern body-measurement tools, trainers can pinpoint where muscle strength is needed, whether for power, or injury prevention. One big difference you will notice in a player from his last high school year to his first season in the minor leagues is he’ll be much larger in the thigh area.
But one might say, but Rose wasn’t a power hitter. While true (though he did hit 16 home runs in a season twice, and 160 in his career, plus lots of triples and doubles), it remains as stated above, that leg strength is imperative for a great number of baseball movements:
- Running and sprinting
- Squatting low repeatedly (catchers and infielders)
- Lateral moves (side-to-side, again for catchers and infielders, and outfielders who crossover with the legs for jumps on balls)
- Throwing with authority
- Jumping up, forward, or sideways on dives
- Swinging a bat
- Landing on slides
- Pitching (especially)
Important muscles for baseball are in the thighs, calves, feet, hamstrings, quads, and around the knees and feet.
Everyone thinks of the arm when conjuring up images of pitching. Yet, in fact many parts of the body are involved with the shifting of weight, drive, and torque before the arm raises the ball and the hand releases it forward. Legs play a big role, and are vital for long-term pitching success.
“The use of a pitcher’s legs are so important, the drive of your body takes so much pressure off the arm,” said Chris Palomarez, who runs Hard Knocs pitching and batting instruction sessions for youths in Southern California. “Not everyone has a thunderbolt for an arm. Hence, that’s why legs are truly a pitcher’s best friend!”
Aside from providing drive for the body and reducing the load on the arm, maintaining strong legs by running builds stamina, which starting pitchers depend on. When pitchers get tired, they can make mistakes which batters hit hard. That’s a reason you see groups of players jogging back and forth along the outfield warning track during batting practice. They are pitchers maintaining stamina and leg strength.
The core muscle group ~ abdomen, trunk, and hips ~ are vital for any athlete. Most of the time these muscles work together to perform an act with excellence, such as during a baseball swing. The core muscles are also vital for stamina, and helping to prevent injuries in other parts of the body.
Bat swinging depends on strength to twist the entire mid-area of the body, until the arms take over at the end to guide the bat to the ball. Pitchers need solid cores to handle the transition of energy from the lower body (those legs again) through the mid-section, and to the arm to throw. Think of core muscles as the conduit of energy from the legs to the arms.
Almost everything involved in baseball involves at least a little twisting, probably more so than any other team sport. All that twisting puts pressure on the core muscles group.
Some baseball watchers might say the forearm muscles are most important for baseball play, and it would be difficult to argue. The forearm muscles go along with strong wrists and hands that altogether can produce impressive throws, and powerful swings. Many say Henry Aaron had the strongest wrists in the game ~ even though they looked skinny, they were strong enough to hammer 755 career home runs.
Forearm muscles pull hand grips tight, imperative for pitching, and in gripping a bat. They also turn the wrists during the process of throwing breaking pitches, or through a batter’s swing. Some experts will say that strong forearms equate to strong hands, which helps speed reaction times to pitches, and faster bat speeds.
Altogether these muscles, along with the small muscles in the hands that move each finger section, help provide power to tosses and length to hit balls.
Aside from benefitting players with added strength while hitting or throwing, keeping the shoulders strong and limber is vital for avoiding typical baseball injuries. The socket that attaches the upper arm to the upper-shoulder muscles is a complicated mechanism, with many tendons, cartilage, and muscles holding the whole package together.
Baseball players often strain muscles, or tear tendons or cartilage, swinging bats or throwing. They also bruise shoulders running into each other or into walls, and sometimes dislocate the shoulder while diving head-first onto the ground. Strong shoulder muscles can help avoid some of these ailments.
At first glance, most baseball players might not appear muscular. However, at the top levels, baseball players are quite strong, in the areas of the body where they need it most.
Baseball playing depends much on the legs, for fast running as well as to drive forward to throw and hit well. Much of baseball involves twisting the mid-area of the body, e.g. the stomach and muscles to the side and just below, so maintaining a strong core helps for better play.
Finally, instead of bulging biceps seen on players in other sports, baseball players depend more on the forearms and wrists in their play. Baseball might not appear to be the crushing “contact sport” seen on fields, rinks, and courts, but the players indeed depend on very strong bodily areas to create power needed for long hits, deft baserunning, and very fast throws.
Question: Are there any tendons important for baseball players?
Answer: A lot of baseball old-timers will cite the Achilles tendon connecting the back of the foot to the shin bones as essential to baseball play. Similar to what was cited above about leg muscles, the Achilles is a big, strong tendon relied upon for almost every significant baseball motion.
Q.: Why does it look like more baseball players are fat than any other sport?
A.: Mostly this is due to how baseball uniforms fit. Certainly, some baseball players could lose a few inches in the mid-section. But most baseball players are very fit, whether they look it or not. The tight pants, elastic belts, and shirts tucked in tight just don’t hide any extra pounds. A lot of football players, too, have big bellies ~ but their shoulder pads and jerseys pulled out of the pants helps hide it better.
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