Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of fitness columns by the Sacramento River Cats' strength and conditioning coach, Sean Doran.
When you watch a baseball player swing a bat, the last thing you may think of is what muscles are actually causing the bat to swing so hard.
The same muscles are used throwing a ball, swinging a golf club or taking groceries from the car.
You hear a lot of reports while watching sports highlights about how a player has an abdominal strain or has pulled an oblique muscle.
Without strengthening, a player's core can sustain serious or season-ending injuries in a single swing. Today, we provide a few exercises to limit the chance of injury.
All you need for these are the floor you're standing on, a towel and maybe a light medicine ball if you are inclined. Core strength doesn't come from flashy machines or spendy programs promising instant results.
Here are a few to get you started.
Planks: Start with your elbows at a 90-degree angle, on the floor under your shoulders. Your palms face downward. Remain on your elbows and lift your torso and legs up off the floor, as you would when in the push-up position. Try to keep your body straight from your shoulders to your heels. Hold this position as long as you can.
Side planks: These are a similar position, but now you will be up on one elbow at a time. (From elbow to hand, your lower arm will be at a 90-degree angle to your body.) Stack your feet on top of each other. Raise your torso and legs into a position that is rigid and straight from your shoulders down to your feet. Hold the pose as long as you can. Do both sides.
Crunches: Everyone has done these at some point, but there are a few things to remember. Roll up a towel and place it under the small of your back. Lay flat with your knees bent and feet pointed straight ahead. Place your hands across your chest or by your temples not behind your head, which can strain your neck.
Using your abdominal muscles, lift your shoulders about 6 inches off the ground, pause, and return to the ground. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps until you feel comfortable with more.
Russian Twists: This is a little more advanced. Start in the same position as the crunch. This time, crunch up to have your shoulders about 12 inches above the ground. With your hands in front of you, twist them to one side and lightly touch the ground. Next, twist all the way to touch the ground on your other side. Repeat 10 to 15 times until comfortable with more reps. To increase intensity, lift your feet off the ground or hold a light medicine ball.
As with any exercises, be sure to start with just a few repetitions to make sure you don't have pain associated with the movements. These simple exercises should help you strengthen your core and keep you off the disabled list.
Next week: How you could benefit from staying strong up top.