Best Workouts for Catchers
Want to make sure you’re on your A-game? Read on to learn about exercises for catchers that’ll keep you strong and injury-free.
As an athlete, it goes without saying that you need to be in tip-top shape to last through the season and finish strong. Baseball is no exception.
Some baseball players play not just multiple games in a week, but sometimes multiple games in one day! You need to not only be a strong athlete, but well conditioned. This will keep you on your A-game and free from common baseball injuries (and off the bench).
As a baseball catcher, you are squatting and throwing with each pitch of every game, sometimes over 100 times! You’re not just “catching a ball,” you’re throwing out base runners and blocking the plate and pitches. Make sure that your training and conditioning reflect your position’s unique demands.
In this guide we’ll go over some exercises specific to baseball catchers to make sure you’re playing your best all season.
Arm strength and proper technique are two aspects of your training to focus on to play well and prevent baseball injuries. We’ll go over some exercises and techniques that you can practice and incorporate into your workout regimen so you can perform your best. Proper arm care for baseball and softball players will go a long way.
Arm Band Work
Band work is vital to build, maintain and protect the shoulder. Band work works the little muscles in your shoulder and helps injury prevention, endurance, recovery, and even velocity. Add bands into your warm up or after a practice to keep your shoulder and arm nice and strong as an elite baseball catcher.
Arm Band Exercises: Arm Band Exercises
When baseball catchers use surgical tubing as opposed to heavy weights, it helps them train for serious throwing while protecting the shoulder muscle. This allows the baseball catcher to focus on strengthening and stretching the front and back of the shoulder muscles. Surgical tubing is an inexpensive and simple tool that is easy to slip into your catchers bag, coaches bag, or softball backpack and bring with you wherever you go.
Arm circles warm and oxygenate the shoulder, while providing good flexibility and range of motion. This exercise also strengthens the smaller, weaker rotator cuff muscles. Arm circles also provide muscle balance, create endurance and promote better recovery periods. Before games and practices, make sure to get in a few arm circles before actually throwing.
Wrist Throwing Exercise
It is very obvious that when pitching and throwing, wrist strength plays a vital role. If you have a strong wrist you will be able to throw harder, quick, farther and with less fatigue. A simple, yet great wrist exercise is to position your forearm at a 90-degree angle to your shoulder and hold a baseball in your hand. Now support your elbow with your other hand and throw the baseball by only using your wrist. A few tosses every day will add significant strength to your wrist.
For someone who is new to long toss, it might take a couple of weeks at a relatively short distance to strengthen and lengthen the arm to where it feels good before moving on to a longer distance and strengthening phase.
Practice throws at a shorter distance and then keep moving back, until you are at a sufficient distance. Each week continue to back up and eliminate short hops. By practicing throwing at different distances, you’ll develop the muscle so that you have sufficient arm strength to throw anywhere on the field.
Another great way to build arm strength and improve your throw is to practice quick tossing. Have a partner stand 10-20 ft. apart from you and rapidly toss the baseball back and forth between each other. Your aim should be to toss the baseball right, but with quick and solid strength.
Pitch framing is an act of subtly receiving the pitch close to your chest, resisting the urge to stab at pitches and turning borderline pitches into strikes. The art of pitch framing is important as youth catchers progress into elite baseball catchers.
The point of pitch framing is to give the illusion to the umpire that a pitch actually crossed the plate and is a strike. When a baseball catcher frames a pitch, the goal is to try to give the umpire a clear view of where they caught the ball. To do this, it is important to catch the ball out front with a slight bend in your elbow. If you catch the ball out front you are able to catch the ball and slightly move your arm or glove towards the strike zone.
The first step in pitch framing is to make sure you are setting up correctly for the pitch you are receiving. If you call for a pitch outside, make sure you are behind the plate a few inches in that direction. When receiving the pitch and framing, it’s important, as a baseball catcher, to move your body along with your glove. By swaying slightly with your body, you reduce the amount of arm movement required to catch the ball.
The next step is to get around the ball. Getting around the ball means catching the outside of the baseball and closing the four fingered section of the glove in the direction of the strike zone. The outside of the baseball is the side of the ball furthest away from the middle of the strike zone.
Now let’s go over the different types of pitches.
When you are preparing for an inside pitch, go ahead and line up a couple inches inside to put your body in a better position to receive the ball. As the pitch comes, sway your upper body towards the pitch. As you sway your upper body towards the pitch, focus on catching the ball and turning your wrist in towards the plate, to bring the ball towards the plate. Hold the ball there a couple of seconds to allow the umpire a good view.
Similar to inside pitches, make sure you line up a couple inches outside. As you receive the pitch, you will need to catch the pitch with your thumb down (similar to a backhand). As you reach across and catch the ball, focus on bringing the ball slightly towards home plate with a smooth motion. This will give the impression that the pitch was on the corner, rather than an outside pitch.
A high pitch is typically a difficult pitch to frame. It is important to minimize movement, since the umpire can see this pitch at a better angle. To frame a high pitch, move your wrist forward to drop the top of your glove down as you catch the ball.
With a low pitch it is important as a baseball catcher to get your body low to receive it. In your crouch, keep your arm horizontal to the ground and move your arm slightly up, with minimal movement.
Pitch framing is an important catcher technique to practice and preach to all levels of baseball catchers. It is a catching technique that can help a baseball pitcher dominate hitters and increase the likelihood of winning.
Once your arm and shoulder are warmed up and loose from long toss practice, one of the next techniques to work on is the pulling down aspect of the throw. This is the key to increasing your speed. The pull down is the whip action that gets the ball to the glove as fast as possible. You should only work on increasing the speed of your pull down technique when your arm is fully warmed up and stretched.
When you start practicing your pull down technique, you and your friend, teammate or partner should move closer together. Pay attention to the speed of your arm when you pull down and try to speed it up. Slowing down the arm slows down the ball.
When you practice hard and push yourself to get stronger, better, and faster, you’ll eventually be able to throw accurately and successfully from 300 feet. And you’ll be able to throw out a runner at second base with ease.
Core Strength Training
A strong, stable core is important for any athlete. Without a strong, stable core, loading extremities with extra weight is risky and limited, and puts you at risk for injury.
Every movement a catcher makes involves the trunk, so it is really important to learn how to strengthen the core in order to prevent injury and build the power to be explosive. The core includes the oblique muscles, abs, hips and the lower back. A strong balanced trunk and torso are necessary in baseball so that the limbs are able to be in control and move powerfully.
Incorporating planks into your practices and weight training is important to train the abdominal muscles and stabilize your core while behind the plate. Here is proper plank form: Plank Video.
Rotational medicine ball throws are another good option for catchers.
Additional Core Exercises: Core Exercises
Leg Strength Training
Don’t forget to give your legs some attention too. Baseball catchers must be able to pop up from the squat position quickly to throw to second.
Consider adding squats to your workout. Proper form here is key to maximizing your workout results and preventing injury during the squat. Although there are different variations of squats, basic form involves keeping your feet a little wider than hip width apart, toes forward.
Bend at your knees and press back into your hips, “sit” back into the squat with your toes and heels on the ground, shoulders back, chest out. Press into your heels and straighten your legs to get back up.
Add weight to challenge yourself. Use a barbell or weights by your sides and increase the weights as you get stronger.
Consider adding jump rope into your workout routine to improve your foot speed and coordination. Experiment with different variations - jump with both feet, alternating feet, etc.
In addition to jump rope, practice your sprint times and do hurdles to improve your speed.
Plyometrics are explosive movements that help build power. To engage your lower body, practice jumping up as high as you can from a crouching position and repeat. You can also try jumping up onto a bench. This explosive power you build by practicing plyometrics from a squatting position is especially important as a catcher.
For your upper body, practice explosive throwing movements using a medicine ball. Throw a medicine ball using both hands against a wall, or slam it into the ground from over your head. Increase the weight of the medicine ball as you get stronger.
Don’t Forget - Stretch!
Many young baseball players skip this incredibly crucial part of baseball training. Far too often, young baseball catchers do not stretch their muscles enough and end up earning themselves an overuse injury and a seat on the bench.
Stretching is an essential part of building up your strength though. Flexibility and arm strength go hand in hand. The right training program will include ample time to stretch your arms and other muscle groups in addition to building up the muscle.
Great stretches for arms include cross body shoulder stretches, overhead tricep and shoulder stretches, and arm circles. You can also use surgical tubing.
Don’t forget about the rest of your muscles! Be sure to stretch your hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles regularly to prevent cramping during practices and games. Aside from dynamic stretching, consider foam rolling.
It’s not just about your performance on the field that counts! Put the work in during practice and during exercise so that your muscles are able to handle the demands of the catcher’s position and you are performing your best. Incorporating a variety of exercises and stretches is the best way to ensure that you are not only a well-rounded catcher, but a well-rounded athlete.