Feb 28, 2022 • 5 min read
Baseball and softball remind us of summer days outside and making friends that last a lifetime. Although there is plenty of sitting in the dugout, the sport requires quick bursts of speed, strong muscles to throw and catch, and a great team spirit to cheer on your teammates. Baseball and softball helps kids build core muscle strength, leg muscles and upper body strength. Players often have to start and stop on a dime when running from base to base, to tag a player out, or catch a fly ball.
Players often sit or stand around for a long time then suddenly run at full speed, which is a recipe for injury. Baseball and softball players benefit from stretches that open the shoulders, as well as stretches that support the legs for sprinting and sliding. Here are four poses that open up the shoulders and lengthen the hamstrings, glutes and quads to keep athletes playing ball.
Use a bat to help assist you in these next two poses.
Why it’s good: The standing side-bend stretch opens your shoulders and chest. It improves your mobility for faster bat swings and pitching.
How to do this: Keep your shoulders loose with this feel-good side stretch. Spread your arms, place your hands at opposite ends of the bat and lift it over your head. While maintaining your grip, lean to the left. You should feel a stretch across the right side of your torso and hold for 20 seconds. Lift the bat back to center, then lean to the right and perform the stretch on the other side.
Why it’s good: Low lunge is a great way to stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Strengthening these muscle groups will help you stretch those tired legs from standing, crouching, and fielding ground balls.
How to do this: Bend your right knee until your thigh is parallel and your shin is perpendicular to the ground, stacking your right knee directly over your right ankle. Extend your left leg behind you with your left foot flexed. Place the bat with the end down and handle up, perpendicular to the floor. Line it up in front of your left hip and in line with your right foot. Put your hands on top of the handle of the bat and use it for support. A low lunge targets your hip flexors, which are key for running. The bat allows you to go a little deeper and also gives you some balance.
Why it’s good: The figure four position is a deep stretch that targets the outsides of your hips and your glute muscles for all of that sprinting. This move helps open your hips and you don’t have to get off the bench to do it.
How to do this: Lift your right leg and place the outside of your right ankle on top of your left mid-thigh, making a “4” shape with your legs. Keep your right foot flexed and lean forward at the waist. You can place your left hand on the sole of the right foot and press in toward the midline. You can place your right hand on your right knee and apply gentle downward pressure to deepen the stretch in your right hip. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch legs.
Why it’s good: Happy baby is a great way to open the hips and stretch the inner thighs, especially before a game or practice. It promotes hip flexibility to help with those quick sprints to steal a base or tag a player out.
How to do this: Start by laying on your back. Raise your legs with your knees apart, and the soles of your feet pointing up to the ceiling so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Reach forward with your arms and either grab your big toes or the outside edges of both feet with either hand. Pull on your toes and slowly guide your knees toward the floor. Your entire lower back should press against the floor during this stretch. If you feel it rising up, back off the stretch a bit until it flattens out. Hold for about 30 seconds, breathing deeply. End the pose with a gentle rock side-to-side to massage the low back.
Feel free to practice these stretches at home or even in the dugout before or during a game. Because there are long periods of sitting time in baseball and softball, it’s a good way to keep your muscles warm and limber before you need to sprint to homebase or tag somebody out for the winning play. No matter your sport, stretching is always a homerun.
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Sarah Kostin is a freelance copywriter, published author, and former children’s librarian. With a background in yoga, mindfulness, life coaching, and ultramarathon running, Sarah has a passion for writing about fitness, mindset, personal growth, and overall well-being.