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Grip Strength for Baseball Hitters

Today's guest post comes from Scottsdale-based physical therapist Dan Swinscoe. He's been a great resource (and friend) to me over the years, and this post will show you yet another reason why that's the case. Enjoy! - EC

Sometimes finding what you’re looking for can be as close as the hand in front of your face. If performance enhancement for baseball is what you’re looking for, keep staring at that hand – because the strength of that hand is what we’re talking about today.

Two reasons, one for each hand, to consider that hands are important to your performance. First, they are the only body part that interacts with the bat and the ball. Secondly, our brains have more surface area dedicated to just the hands than any other body part except the lips.

With those two facts in mind, it seems reasonable to consider them as important to baseball performance. Also, research is suggestive of grip strength being correlated to both throwing velocity and bat speed. So, there’s actually three reasons for you.

If we think of you first as a person before a player, there are other benefits that matter off the field, too. Studies show people with greater grip strength have less cardiovascular and other types of chronic disease. In fact, it is now being referred to as an “indispensable biomarker for older adults” and directly correlated to longevity. The stronger the grip, it seems, the healthier you are.

Knowing that grip strength is important for our general well-being and for our performance within the sport, it makes sense to ensure grip strength gets some attention with our training. But how? What’s the best way to improve grip strength as a baseball player? Is the grip work that naturally comes with lifting weights enough? Does it matter if I’m a pitcher or a position player?

Many popular exercises to improve grip strength for baseball include things that isolate the hands: squeezing spring-loaded grippers, squeezing putty, or opening and closing the hand in a bucket full of rice. These exercises will make the hands tired, but that’s all. Because they train the hand in isolation – disconnected from the rest of the body – they’re limited in how much benefit they can provide for on field performance.

No body part works alone. In baseball, we often say “strong arm” when referring to a throw. In really, it’s the whole body that made the throw happen. If it was only the arm, you’d throw just as far sitting down as you do standing up, and we all know that isn’t true.

When swinging the bat, energy comes from the ground up. It is transferred from our legs through the core, to our arms, and finally to the bat. Any break or “leak” of energy along that kinetic chain ultimately limits the ability to transfer power to the ball from the bat. We want to be strong throughout that entire chain. Renowned biomechanics researcher Dr. Stuart McGill refers to this as “grip athleticism.”

Other exercises used for training baseball players like deadlifts, farmer carries, and kettlebell swings are much better. With these, your grip is an extension of the arm into the body and legs, instead of isolating it and training it alone. This is what you want. But even these great exercises also have limitations as they relate to baseball.

The limitation with these resides in the direction of the resistance. In these exercises the force you’re resisting tries to open the grasp along the line of the fingers, and the athlete tries to close the grasp along that same line. If you’re a pitcher, this is just fine. However, for a hitter, this is incomplete because when swinging a bat, there’s also force across the palm perpendicular to the finger line. When batting, my hands not only have to keep my fingers closed, but they must also resist the force perpendicular to my fingers that can open the hand and prevent me from delivering force through the barrel. The force will be directed one way for the top hand and the opposite way for the bottom hand.

It’s good to remember that as much as the batter hits the ball with the bat, the ball also hits the batter with the bat. This is Newton’s third law. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Thus, there is a torque across the palm in a “thumb-pinky” orientation that needs to be addressed in our training but most conventional grip exercises miss it.

Squaring up a round ball with a round bat is hard enough. We don’t want a lack of grip strength to be the reason for weak contact and decreased performance.

Position players really need exercises that challenge grip in this direction, too. The exercises mentioned above don’t account for that. Below are sample exercises I like to challenge this alternate angle of grip as needed for batting.

1. Jet Wings - Named after the pointy tip at the end of a jets wing, the idea here is to maintain your plank as you walk while your arm is out to your side. You work to keep the club bell horizontal despite gravity wanting to twist it. I use sets of 10-30 seconds.

https://youtube.com/shorts/xizkIFmRU20?feature=embed

2. Club Bell Halos -This is another standing plank. Keep your body and head still while you circle the club bell around your head, both clockwise and counterclockwise. I typically use sets of five in each direction. You can vary the stance also to add complexity to the challenge.

https://youtube.com/shorts/TImPeCWQJpU?feature=embed

3. Kettlebell Horn Curls - This is so much harder than it looks. I love the challenge to the hand, forearm and elbow. I program this like regular curls. They’re just harder.

https://youtube.com/shorts/g8D0UZfIaH0?feature=embed

4. Single Arm Hangs - The key to this drill is to let go with one hand slowly, then try to hang on while your body rotates each way. Once the natural rotation stops, the rep is over. This is another one that is much harder than it looks. Sets are usually 1-5 reps. Make sure you do this after swings, deadlifts, etc., as it really cooks the grip.

https://youtube.com/shorts/ST8GQ2rxRZg?feature=embed

5. Club Bell Chops – Use the top or bottom hand. The idea is that you resist the twist that comes with the chopping motion as we mimic bringing the bat toward the ball. We usually do sets of 5-10. If someone can do 10 reps cleanly, it’s time for a heavier club.

https://youtube.com/shorts/a2kbULzIQyw?feature=embed

I have yet to work with a player trying these exercises for the first time who didn’t immediately “feel” the benefit and want to do them more. I think they’ll be a nice addition to your training if you aren’t already using them.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist and strength coach in Scottsdale, AZ with over 30 years experience helping athletes move, feel and play better. His clinic is Train2Win Rehab and Performance. (www.T2WClinic.com). His online resources can also be found at www.FixYourFunction.com.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Shirts: Reincarnating a Classic

We decided to do another run of our most popular Cressey Sports Performance shirt of all time: our black home plate design. However, this time around, we decided to also make this facility favorite available in grey, too:

All shirts are $24.99 plus shipping. Just click on the bolded hyperlinks below to add them to your cart.

Black: XXL, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small

Grey: XXL, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small

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Our Favorite 3D Strap Drills – Installment 1

We use the 3D Strap a ton with our athletes, so I encouraged Cressey Sports Performance - MA coach Ethan Dyer to record a few of his favorite drills to share with a larger audience. Here they are (and I'll be chiming in with a second installment of this article myself very soon).

Also, if you haven't started using the 3D Strap with your athletes, I'd strongly encourage you to do so; they add a ton of options to your training bag of tricks. Definitely check them out at www.WhatsThatStrap.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY at checkout for free shipping on your order.

Enjoy! -EC


1. 3D Strap Lateral Sled Drag: One of the most notable benefits of the 3D Strap for baseball and softball athletes is that it doesn’t require any gripping. This means we can load up activities like reverse and lateral sled drags without having to worry about the neural and local fatigue associated with frying our grip and forearms, particularly in-season.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/rN3eWdUqnNs

2. 3D Strap Lateral Rotation: This is a piece of equipment that allows for significant tactile and sensory feedback while executing certain drills, like this lateral rotation. The helical, compressive forces and leading effect that the strap provides is unique and gives us plenty of ‘feel’ based options for our rotational athletes.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/zPc3c-3emb8

3. 3D Strap-Assisted Bowler Squat: The 3D Strap provides a ton of value for loaded single leg activities like this bowler squat. In addition to the previously mentioned ‘feel’ based input we get, we’re able to add significant loading to exercises where we might be looking for resisted or assisted range of motion.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/hXWuLpEPCS0

4. Split-Stance 3D Strap-Resisted Row w/Alternate Arm Reach: Even in post-surgical contexts, we can drive rotation through the upper body without needing to do any gripping. This may be less significant loading than an actual cable row, but if we’re looking to restore / maintain range of motion at the ribcage post-surgery, this kind of activity can be an excellent choice.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/v9Iq6CfAmPE

5. 3D Strap-Resisted Heiden with Stick: The strap isn’t a band, meaning it’s non-elastic. Because of this we can get more out of activities like resisted jumps for certain athletes. When we yank on the strap the force is applied over a very small amount of time, which should bias getting into and out of the cut with greater velocity. This cannot be done to the same extent with a band, making the 3D Strap a useful tool while programming for change of direction or return to run progressions.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/zNCIR4VxFEU

As you can see, this is an awesome piece of equipment that can really yield a variety of training benefits. We'll be back soon with more of our favorites, but in the meantime, you can check it out at www.WhatsThatStrap.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY at checkout for free shipping.

About the Author

Ethan Dyer serves as a Strength & Conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. He started as a client at CSP and eventually went on to intern at CSP-MA. Following another internship at Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, Ethan joined the CSP-MA team. He was a pitcher at the College of the Holy Cross before transferring to Endicott College to complete his undergraduate work with a major in Exercise Science and minor in Psychology. A Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Ethan has been a volunteer with both the Miracle League and Special Olympics, and has a passion for working with young athletes to help them fall in love with training while avoiding injury. You can follow him on Instagram at @Ethan___Dyer.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Trevor Rosenthal

We welcome free agent MLB pitcher Trevor Rosenthal to the latest podcast. We talk about transitioning from shortstop to pitching, and then from starting to relieving. He discusses why some pitchers thrive with being challenged at young ages while others struggle, and highlights some key components of his pre-game preparation. We also touch on lessons learned from Tommy John and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgeries, as well as key competencies of the best coaches he's had.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

You can follow Trevor on Twitter at @TrevRosenthal.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Baseball Skill Development from Youth to the Pros with Ethan Westphal

We welcome Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Pitching Coach Ethan Westphal to the latest podcast. Ethan brings a wealth of knowledge from the private sector, college, and professional baseball, and he shares how coaching approaches have to be adjusted for each population and environment. We discuss the mental side of the game, the importance of synergy across a coaching staff, and his "Aha" moments from utilizing markerless biomechanics technology at CSP.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

You can follow Ethan on Instagram at @cspfl_pitching.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Modern MLB Coaching Considerations with Radley Haddad

We welcome Pittsburgh Pirates game planning and strategy coach Radley Haddad to the podcast. In this conversation, we talk about what qualities facilitated Radley's transition from playing to coaching. We discuss the role of analytics in the game, and how information is best disseminated to players. Radley shares insights on the evaluation and development of catchers, and also speaks to the unique challenges that come with managing a younger roster in the big leagues. We even touch on lessons learned as a Cressey Sports Performance athlete of close to a decade before he retired.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

You can follow Radley on Twitter at @RadleyHaddad.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast – July 2023 Q&A: Swimming for PItchers, Sports Hernias, and Overtraining

It's time for another listener Q&A, so I cover three questions from our audience in this week's podcast:

  1. What do you think about swimming between starts for pitchers?
  2. One of my players was recently told he needed core muscle surgery. It seems like a broad term. Can you please enlighten me on what this is and what we could have done to prevent it? And why does it happen in baseball players?
  3. I have a pitcher whose velocity is down. His delivery doesn’t look off, and he hasn’t lost weight. He’s a real go-getter, so I honestly think he might be overtrained. What do you do in these situations?

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The Evolution of College Pitching with Jason Jackson

We welcome University of Alabama pitching and associate head coach Jason Jackson to the latest podcast. Jason speaks to how the typical college pitcher has changed dramatically over the years, but the fundamentals of pitching success largely remain unchanged. He shares insights on the transfer portal, NIL deals, the recruiting process, and integration of pitching, strength and conditioning, and sports medicine. "JJ" is one of the most progressive minds in the college game today, and this is an episode you won't want to miss.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

You can follow Jason on Twitter at @JJacksonBAMA.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
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Elbow-Supported Dumbbell External Rotations: Do or Don’t?

The elbow-supported dumbbell external rotation is a pretty common exercise in strength and conditioning circles, but does it hold value for overhead throwing populations? In today's video, I answer that question:

If you're looking to learn more about how I assess, coach, and program for the shoulder, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The Far-Reaching Effects of Pitching Velocity

I’m flying solo for this week’s podcast, as I discuss some of the downstream injury impacts - both direct and indirect - of the large increase in pitching velocity we've observed over the past few decades. Huge velocity is here to stay, so it's imperative that the health and human performance industries identify how it impacts player health.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Marc Pro. Head to www.MarcPro.com and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive an exclusive discount on your order.

 

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Marc Pro, a cutting-edge EMS device that uses patented technology to create non-fatiguing muscle activation. Muscle activation with Marc Pro facilitates each stage of the body’s natural recovery process- similar to active recovery, but without the extra effort and muscle fatigue. Athletes can use it for as long as they need to ensure a more full and quick recovery in between training or games. With its portability and ease of use, players can use Marc Pro while traveling between games or while relaxing at home. Players and trainers from every MLB team - including over 200 pro pitchers - use Marc Pro. Put Marc Pro to the test for yourself and use promo code CRESSEY at checkout at www.MarcPro.com for an exclusive discount on your order.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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