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5 Non-Traditional Exercises for Catchers

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Director of Performance, Tim Geromini. Tim takes the lead with our catchers at CSP-FL, so I'm excited that you'll get a chance to take a glimpse into the expertise he brings to the table each day. Enjoy! -EC

With spring training right around the corner, most of the media attention is on the pitchers coming in to camp, but what about the guys catching them? The demands of catching a full season are unique and with that in mind, here are 5 non-traditional exercises we use with our catchers at Cressey Sports Performance.

1. Catcher Pop-up to Shotput

Although nothing can truly simulate working on technique like being in pads and actually being on the field, you’ll see a number of things in this exercise that look similar to what a catcher might do in a game situation. We start by getting into the catcher’s stance with a runner on base and have them close their eyes. I will then roll or place the ball to a random spot, forcing them to react when I clap my hands and they open their eyes. From there, the goal is to get to the ball as fast as possible and in a position to throw the ball as hard as possible into the wall. The reason we have them close their eyes and find the ball is to work on reaction time and identifying a loose ball. In game situations, a catcher doesn’t always know where the ball is after the initial block. One of the main benefits of the exercises is working on hip mobility and being strong getting from the crouch position to an upright throwing position. We usually program this for 3 sets with 3 reps per side with a 6-8 pound med ball.

2. 1-leg Kettlebell Switches

A lot of focus for catchers is centered around hip mobility, as it should be. However, losing sight of ankle stability is a mistake. Enter the 1-leg Kettleell Switches. In order to execute the exercise properly and get the most out of it, I recommend being in just socks or barefoot. The kettlebell doesn’t have to be heavy at all for this to be effective; most of the time, I start athletes with 10 pounds.

As you can see, the first movement is a hip hinge with a slight knee bend. From there, we cue the client to “grab the ground” with their feet and make sure the toes stay down. Go as wide with your arms as you can while maintaining balance, and switch the kettlebell from side to side. Your goal is to keep your foot from deviating into pronation/supination and your hips to stay level. From the side view, you want to make sure the athlete maintains a neutral spine. You may notice that if your client has a flatter foot, this can be more challenging to stay away from the foot pronating in. Likewise, if your client has a high arch, it can be challenging to maintain the big toe staying down.

We usually program this as part of a warm-up or paired with an explosive lower body exercise. We'll do 3 sets of 8 reps per side.

3. High Tension Ankle Mobilization

A Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) inspired exercise, the high tension ankle mobilization is working on taking your ankle through end-ranges of dorsiflexion with control of that range. It is important to go through this exercise slowly, as rushing through it generally doesn’t lead to as much tension or control of your range.

Start by getting into a good half-kneeling position, making sure not to sit your hips into abduction or adduction. From there, imagine pushing your foot through the floor and slowly take your knee as far over your middle toes as you can without your heel coming off the ground or the ankle pronating in. Then, slowly lift your heel off the ground maintaining your knee staying out in front of your toes as much as possible. Once you go as far as you can then slowly return while driving your foot through the floor. Now that you are back to the original starting position with your knee over your toe pause, the lift your toes towards your shin and start to lift the front of your foot off the ground, still pushing your heel through the ground. Once you can’t go back anymore, slowly return to the starting position.

Because this exercise requires a lot of tension and effort, we usually program this for 2-3 reps. You can put this in a warm-up or pair it with an ankle stability exercise such as the 1-leg kettlebell switch. If you deem the client has sufficient ankle mobility, this exercise isn’t always necessary and the focus can be more on stability.

4. Seated 90-90 Hip Switches w/Hip Extension

Another drill of FRC origin, seated 90/90 hip switches are a great hip mobility exercise, but often are not performed correctly if they are rushed. What do we get out of this exercise? Hip internal rotation, external rotation, flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction...all while maintaining a neutral spine. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Before prescribing this exercise, make sure to check your client’s hip range of motion and medical history first. If your client has femoroacetabular impingement or some other pain in their hip, this may not be the best fit for them.

The key coaching cues are to keep your hips as far separated as possible during the exercise and maintain a neutral spine. If you notice your lumbar or thoracic spine flexes, then use your hands on the ground as support. We usually program this exercise for 3 reps per side.

5. Deep Squat Anti-Rotation Press

There are many variations of the anti-rotation press (better known as the “Pallof Press”), but this version gets as specific to catching as any of them. Make sure the cable or band is set up at sternum height. When you press out, make sure your hips and feet stay neutral (don’t rotate toward one side). From the side view, you want to make sure the spine is neutral. You can hold this for breaths, time, or reps.

Wrap-up

These are just a small piece of the puzzle that is training catchers, but hopefully it gets your mind working to innovate and individualize for these athletes!

About the Author

Tim Geromini is the Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter (@timgeromini24).

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