Editor's note: This is one in an occasional series of fitness columns by the Sacramento River Cats' strength and conditioning coach, Sean Doran.
Everyone who has ever been to a gym has seen the guys who go in and bench-press their way through a workout or stand in front of the mirror doing set after set of biceps curls.
In baseball, or any other sport for that matter, that is exactly the workout we try to avoid. It serves no purpose in a sport where one of your primary movements is throwing. Your chest and biceps strength have very little to do with being able to throw a baseball or swing a bat. Our main muscle groups for upper-body workouts are the upper back, shoulders and triceps.
Pitchers as well as all of the position players on the field do many of the same lifts. You will need a gym for most of this, but some of the moves can be done at home.
Push-ups and dumbbell bench press: If you are unable to do at least 10 push-ups, I would steer clear of bench press. Start on your knees with your hands shoulder-width apart and under your shoulders. Lower your chest down toward the ground to a baseball's height and return to the top. If this is too easy, try again from the normal push-up position. Once you can do 10 easily, feel free to try a dumbbell bench press.
Inverted row: Position a barbell on a squat rack at about hip height. Lie under it on the ground and grip it with your palms. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Place your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Keep your torso straight from your shoulders to your knees and lift yourself up to the bar, trying to touch your chest to it. Pause at the top and then slowly lower yourself to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times as you build up strength.
Lat pull-down/ pull-up: In the gym, find the lat pull-down machine. You can choose to use the wide bar or individual handles. Adjust the weight to start light. Pull down the bar/handles to the top of your shoulders, pause, then return them to the starting position. Continue for 10-15 reps. As you build strength and raise the weight, try a pull-up. The lat pull-down will build the muscles necessary to complete them.
Shoulders: As we covered in the first article on shoulders, there are several directions that we would like to strengthen. These will be done in the standing position with light dumbbells at first. For the first exercise, lift the weights until they are straight out from the shoulders with the thumbs pointed upward. In the second, lift the weights until they are at a 45-degree angle out in front of you.
For the third exercise, you must be in a bent-over position. Raise the dumbbells straight out from your shoulders. Slowly progress to heavier weights.
In these past four articles we have discussed shoulder health, lower body strength, core strength and stability, and upper body strength. When you combine all of those, you create a stronger and more complete athlete.
Take your time getting familiar with the exercises before adding too much weight and you will reduce the soreness that comes with jumping right into a lifting program. You have the tools. Now it's time to get started.
What: The Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A's has been a training ground for Barry Zito, Eric Hinske, Eric Byrnes and other players who've gone on to success in the Show. Here are times and days for upcoming home games at Raley Field:
7:05 p.m. today-Friday: River Cats vs. Tacoma Rainiers; next homestand is April 26-29 vs. Tucson
Where: Raley Field, 400 Ballpark Drive, West Sacramento
Cost: $8 and up for single games, $792 and up for season tickets
Contact: (916) 371-4487, www.rivercats.com