The Director of Performance at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida, Jason Riley trains over 20 pro baseball players every off-season, including All-Stars Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman. Whether you’re looking to win your beer softball league or just get in better conditioning, these custom-designed moves (as demonstrated by Riley himself) will improve agility, range of motion and functional strength.
1. Physioball (PB) Stabilization (PB Prayers with single leg knee drives)
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 6 reps on each side and progress to 3 sets of 12 reps on each side
Purpose: To strengthen and provide stability thru the core and shoulders
Description: Place elbows on ball, keep belly button drawn-in, push elbows slightly away from body and keep a straight line from heels to head. Slowly drive right knee toward the ball with the right toe up, keeping the left leg straight. Place right leg back down next to left leg and repeat with the opposite leg
2. Split Squat Cable Rows
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 8 reps and progress to 3 sets of 15 reps on each side
Purpose: A multi-joint exercise used to strengthen the lats and glutes and provide stability across the posterior chain
Description: Grab a cable pulley handle with the right hand and keep right arm extended, place left leg in front of the body in a lunge position, but make sure right knee is not touching the ground. As you start to pull the handle toward you with your right hand, slowly push your left heel into the ground and extend your left leg. As you finish the pull with the right hand, make sure that the shoulder is pulled down and back (like your pinching a golf ball between your shoulder blades).
3. Kneeling Opposites with Single Arm Row
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 8 reps and progress to 3 sets of 12 reps
Purpose: To provide stability throughout the core and strengthen the lats, rhomboids and opposite side glutes.
Description: Kneeling on a bench, place a dumbbell in the right hand. Slowly row the right arm toward your ribs as you extend the left leg behind you at the same time. Make sure to squeeze shoulder blades together and don’t let your shoulders shrug toward your ear. Try to feel like your pulling the right shoulder toward your left hip. The end position should be so that your left leg is extended straight behind your hips and your left glute is squeezed tight.
4. Physioball Reverse Hypers
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 10 reps and progress to 3 sets of 15 reps
Purpose: Strengthen back extensors, glutes and hamstrings
Description: Place a small medicine ball (2-3 kg) between your feet and place a physioball either on a bench or on the ground. Place the hips near the top of the physioball, and slowly squeeze glutes and raise both legs as you try to squeeze the medicine ball between your feet. End position should be a position where your body is in a straight line from shoulders to heels and your body is parallel to the ground.
5. Prone Extension with Abduction
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 5 reps and progress to 3 sets of 8 reps
Purpose: To stretch out anterior shoulders and strengthen posterior shoulders
Description: Lying prone (face down), place both hands behind the small of your back. Slowly retract shoulder blades (squeeze them together) and reach your hands as far down toward your feet as you can. Once you can no longer reach, raise your hands off your back and elevate as high as you possibly can. Slowly release your hands and bring them to a T position (arms straight out to side), while keeping them elevated above the ground as high as possible.
6. SL Step Downs with Counterbalance
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 6 reps and progress to 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg
Purpose: To strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings and provide hip/knee/ankle stability
Description: Stand on a box or bench about 24 inches in height on a single leg. Hold a dumbbell with both hands, slowly lower the non-support leg down the box, keeping the toe facing the box, not the ground (don’t let the toe point toward the ground). Make sure the first movement is the hips moving backwards, not letting the knee collapse over the toe on the support leg. Once you reach the ground, use the support leg to push yourself up the box (only the heel of the non-support leg should touch the ground).
7. Linear Wall Drills
Sets/Reps: Start with 2-3 sets of 6 seconds and progress to 3-4 sets of 10 seconds
Purpose: To teach proper running mechanics for acceleration, which will assist in base running mechanics, base stealing mechanics and post-swing starts
Description: Lean into wall and keep draw-in mechanics thru core for extra stability. Punch right knee toward wall and keep weight on the ball of the foot on the left foot. Keep right toe dorsiflexed (pull big toe to top of shoe) so that the bottom of the shoe is parallel to the ground. Extend off of the left leg and make sure your pushing thru the ground and activating glute. Drive right leg down to the ground and try to land in the same spot as the left leg, while at the same time, punching left leg toward wall and mimicking the same mechanics as previously mentioned.
8. Lunge Lift Throw to Acceleration
Sets/Reps: Start with 2 sets of 6 reps and progress to 3 sets of 10 reps on each side
Purpose: To create rotational power thru the hips and core and to teach deceleration of the opposite side obliques, which will assist in bat speed and deceleration
Description: Start in a lunge position with the left leg (leg closest to the wall) in the forward position. Rotate the ball to your right with your arms and torso, trying not to let the hips rotate as you rotate your torso. Accelerate and throw the ball toward the wall about 2-3 feet in front of your hips, as you do this, push off your left leg and step forward with your right leg and decelerate the ball as it bounces off the wall. As you catch the ball, try to maintain an upright posture with your torso and allow very little movement thru the hips, knees and ankles.