Home Baseball Content 5 Great In-Season Lower-Body Strength Exercises that Won’t Make You Sore

5 Great In-Season Lower-Body Strength Exercises that Won’t Make You Sore

Written on May 1, 2012 at 7:18 am, by Eric Cressey

One of the biggest concerns players have when it comes to in-season strength and conditioning programs is whether or not a particular exercise will make them sore.  It's a valid point, when you consider the profound effect soreness can have on a baseball athlete's performance - both physically and mentally.  As such, it's important to select exercises that provide a great training effect, but won't necessarily create a lot of soreness for a player.

The first important point to recognize is that strength exercise familiarity will minimize soreness.  In other words, if an athlete has already done an exercise in the previous 7-10 days, it shouldn't make him very sore (if at all).  This is one reason why I like to introduce new exercises in the week prior to the start of the season; we can "ride out" those exercises through the first 4-6 weeks of the season without worrying about soreness.

Of course, once you get past that initial stage, it's a good idea to change things up so that athletes will continue to progress and not get bored with the strength training program.  One way to introduce new strength exercises without creating soreness is to minimize eccentric stress; so, essentially, you're selecting exercises that don't have a big deceleration component.  This is tricky, as most athletic injuries occur from poor eccentric control (both acutely and chronically).  So, we can't remove them completely, but we can shoot for a 50/50 split.  To that end, we'll typically introduce our more intensive lower-body eccentric strength exercises (e.g., Bulgarian Split Squats) on a day when an athlete can afford to be sore (e.g., the day after a pitcher starts) for a few days.  If that isn't a luxury, we'll simply go much lighter in that first week.

To that end, here are five "general" strength exercises I like to use in-season with many of our athletes.

1. Step-up Variations - I'm normally not a big fan of step-ups for off-season programs because they don't offer a significant deceleration component, but they can be useful in-season when you're trying to keep soreness out of the equation.  Anterior-Loaded Barbell Step-ups are a favorite because they still afford you the benefits of axial loading without squatting an athlete.

2. Deadlift Variations - It goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of the deadlift (check out this tutorial if you need suggestions on How to Deadlift), as deadlift variations afford a host of benefits from strength, power, and postural perspectives.  They're also great because there isn't much of an eccentric component unless you're doing stiff-leg deadlift variations.  With that in mind, we utilize predominantly trap bar and sumo deadlift variations in-season.

3. Sled Pushing/Dragging - A lot of people view sled training as purely for metabolically conditioning guys, but the truth is that it actually makes for a great concentric-only strength exercise while helping to enhance mobility (assuming you cue an athlete through full hip extension on forward pushing/dragging variations).

Just make sure to keep the load heavy and distance short.

4. 1-leg Hip Thrusts off Bench - This is a great "halfway" exercise with respect to eccentric stress.  For some reason, even if you lower under a ton of control and with additional load (we drape chains over the hips), this exercise still won't make your posterior chain sore. A big shout-out goes out to Bret Contreras for bringing it to the forefront!

5. 1-arm DB Bulgarian Split Squats from Deficit - The asymmetrical load to this already asymmetrical (unilateral) exercise allows you to get a training effect without a ton of resistance (especially with the increased range of motion provided by the deficit).  It'll still create some soreness, but it's another one of those "halfway" exercises where the soreness isn't as bad as you'd expect, especially if you phase it in a bit lighter in week 1 of the new strength training program.

These are just five of my favorites, but a good start, for sure.  Of course, we still need to do a better job of educating "the masses" about how important it is to even do an in-season strength training program!

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15 Responses to “5 Great In-Season Lower-Body Strength Exercises that Won’t Make You Sore”

  1. Oliver Says:

    Hey great selection of exercises eric, no excuses for not training in season now because of soreness.I have a question about the single leg Romanian deadlift. You always stress the importance of maintaining the neck in a neutral position during deadlift and other exercises however this guy isn’t doing it in this variation, is there a reason for this like balance or something?


  2. Conor Says:

    These are awesome suggestions Eric! Great job educating the masses on important things most people or trainers wouldn’t even think were important.

  3. Anna Says:

    What type of rep range would be most ideal for in-season – maintenance to avoid soreness?

  4. Kjetil Says:

    @Oliver – I would say his neck is fairly neutral.. You can even see that he corrects himself in the first rep.. 🙂

  5. Krista Says:

    LOVE the single leg bb deads. Perfect for someone with a leg length discrepancy.

  6. Mitchell - Home Fitness Manual Says:

    Eric, these are definitely a step beyond what most people are probably using in their current lower-body routines.

    With the 1-leg hip thrust: Bret is for sure the reason behind it’s popularity. A variation I like to use in my workout is planting my foot on a stability ball for extra difficulty.


  7. Eric Says:

    Nice post Eric,

    In my experience the tempo has a significant impact on soreness as well. Having athletes use a slower eccentric movement (3-4 seconds) seems to lead to more delayed onset muscle soreness than using say a 1-2 second “negative”. Also as you mentioned unfamiliarity with a movement can lead to soreness. The plane and range of motion particularly seem to influence an athletes response along with tempo.

    Eric Beard

  8. Robert Argus Says:

    I used to use slow eccentrics and all it really did was make me sore. Now I just lower with control but really make the concentric phase explosive. Not only did the soreness go away but I got stronger and can now train more frequently.

  9. Shannan Says:

    Great Post.
    I want to follow up with a comment above and get your take on rep ranges in season, and frequency of training.
    Eg,Do u go lower reps and heavy in season. for example sets of 2 or 3 or a bit higher with 5’s?

    Just getting an idea as it is extremely hard to find valuable resources on in season paramaters for sports other than baseball. I am searching long and hard, and end up coming back to you, and tweaking off your recommendations.

    Keep the amazing work up.


  10. Ben Says:

    Don’t forget the Pendlay row. It also is largely just concentric, like the deadlift. Same with power cleans.

  11. Oliver Says:

    @ Kjetil, thanks for reply. He sure does correct himself in the first rep, but he gets progressively less neutral with every rep. maybe i’m just too pedantic, but i would be correcting this in my clients to make sure they keep their chins tucked in the hip flexed position. anyway, cheers again.

  12. Mike Says:

    I tried out those 1-leg hip thrusts and wow! I really like the feel of them and plan on adding them into my regular rotation. Thanks for the article!

  13. Nancy McDaniel Says:

    Hey Eric,

    As a personal trainer, I love your emails. I use so many of your exercises with my client’s. I’m only training one athlete right now, he loves the variety of exercises your web site provides.

  14. Dan Pope Says:

    Thoughtful exercises, do you guys ever drop your deadlifts after the concentric portion? Just curious because I know deceleration is such an important aspect to train but if its causing so much soreness maybe eliminating the eccentric lowering is beneficial.

  15. andy@emedoutlet Says:

    Last night I visited your site and to day morning I tried DB Bulgarian Squat… I could do max five at a time… It was real good… Thanks for useful info…

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