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Training the Baseball Catcher

Written on December 3, 2008 at 5:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I’m a personal trainer who just started training a couple of baseball catchers.  I understand that your facility specializes in training baseball players.  I just want to know if you guys have any tips, or recommend any resources to find out common structural issues that occur with this position.  Perhaps what you guys have found through training catchers?  What lifts they should avoid, more specifically?

I have begun doing a ton of research and just wanted some ideas from you guys to help me out.  Any information would be greatly appreciated.

A: Well, first, there are certain things that none of my baseball guys do:

-Overhead lifting (excluding pull-up/chin-up variations)
-Straight-bar benching
-Upright rows
-Front/Side Raises
-Olympic Lifts (aside from the occasional high pull)
-Back Squats (we use safety squat and giant cambered bars instead, plus front squats)

I could go on and on with respect to the reasons for these exclusions, but for the sake of this blog, suffice it to say that it’s for shoulder and elbow protection reasons.  Fortunately, I wrote about my rationale in an old newsletter.

Catchers are obviously different than pitchers and position players in that they spend a lot of time squatting, so we have particular concerns at the knees and hips.

Whether or not I squat my catchers is dependent on age, training experience, time of year, and – most importantly – injury history.  If a guy is older and more banged up, we aren’t going to be squatting much, if at all.  However, if we’re talking about a younger athlete who has a lot more to gain from squatting (particularly if he isn’t specialized in baseball yet), I definitely think there is a role for it.

That said, regardless of age and injury history, I don’t squat my catchers deep in-season.  We’ll do some hip-dominant squatting (paused or light tap and go) to a box set at right about parallel, but for the most part, it’s deadlift variations.  We get our range-of-motion in the lower body with these guys with single-leg work.

As for structural issues, always check everything at the hip and ankle, as you should with any baseball player; it isn’t just about shoulders and elbows (although you will want to screen those, too, obviously).  Believe it or not, a lot of the pitching flexibility deficits about which I’ve written also hold true in catchers.

Additionally, I’ve found that a lot of catchers tend to lean to one side (adduct one femur), and over time, it can lead to some noteworthy imbalances in hip rotation range-of-motion.  You’ll also see a lot of catchers who lack thoracic spine range-of-motion because they spend so much time slumped over (not necessarily ideal catching posture, but it does happen when you’re stuck down there for nine innings).

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One Response to “Training the Baseball Catcher”

  1. Corey Duvall, DC Says:

    You said you get your ROM from one-legged activities. You do full ROM pistols with them? How do you deal with the pelvic translation? Do you see this in their pistol form?

    Are there any studies you know of for abdominal wall contraction and one legged activities? I noticed some significant oblique and quadratus lumborum DOMS after doing pistols for the first time a few years ago, despite having done tons of “oblique cruches” and “lateral bends” for years before that.

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