How Baseball Ruined my Lifting: Part 1

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Baseball Ruined my Lifting

Wait, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Well, most of the time that is the issue. However, my problem has been reversed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE baseball and was obsessed with the sport as a kid. However, now I am a competitive lifter who just happens to play baseball. So, how did baseball ruin my lifting?

Asymmetries Abound

Baseball is a very asymmetrical sport. Lifting, on the other hand, is symmetrical (or at least it’s supposed to be). From the arm you throw with to your swing; you’re taking thousands of reps on one side only (unless you hit from both sides, but even then you will hit from one side more often). This single-sided, repetitive nature can lead to all sorts of problems, especially at the throwing shoulder; opposite side oblique; opposite side lumbar erectors; and thoracic spine. These are the structures that see the most stress during swinging or throwing.

If you have these asymmetries while lifting, it may exacerbate the problems. I’ve tried to press once since I started my baseball season and my throwing shoulder is cranky to say the least. Yesterday I tried to overhead squat, which used to be an everyday thing for me as a competitive weightlifter. Needless to say, I was less than spectacular. Because my shoulder is messed up, the bar was tilted overhead and caused me to shift a little to my non-throwing side.

The Shoulder

Since I started my season, not having played ball for 9 years, it was tough on my shoulder to just jump right into throwing again. This would happen to anyone, but especially to me since I seem to throw mostly with my arm. I rarely get all of my body into the throw and this is definitely a major player in my problems. However, I’ve been throwing this way since I was 5 years old, so there is only so much I can do to help my mechanics. Though, at least I’m aware of it, right? 🙂

My throwing shoulder is screwed right now. My pectoralis minor is tight; my serratus anterior is weak, leading to winging of my right scapula; and my right lat is super tight. Now, you can see that there may be some mobility issues associated with this scenario.

I would try to describe what goes on at the shoulder, and how to fix it, but why try to top Eric Cressey when I can refer you to his awesome posts? He is THE man when it comes to baseball shoulder issues. Go to EricCressey.com and search “shoulder” for all the information you need.

Oblique/Erectors

Let’s do a little drill; stand up and pretend to swing or throw. Did you feel a contraction at the lead side (left side for righties and vice versa) obliques/lumbar erectors? This is an issue for back and, actually, shoulder health down the road. The problem is that these muscles become over-developed and the force they produce overcomes the opposite side. Next time you’re around an athlete who has played baseball or soccer for many years, look at their obliques. I’ll bet that one side stands out more than the other.

Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine takes a beating with all the rotation involved in baseball. With all of that rotation to one side, there are going to be some asymmetries and compensations. Again, look at a baseball player with many years under his belt and you’ll find that they have more rotation range of motion in the thoracic spine to the side they normally rotate. Makes sense, right?

I wrote a post on The Importance of Thoracic Mobility a few days ago. Give it a look for more understanding and some resolutions to the problems you may face.

Movement

All of these asymmetries add up to a big, inefficient movement mess. Yes, baseball players are good at moving in their sport because their bodies have adapted to moving in that capacity. Now, place them in any other situation and they would not do so well. Again, if you work towards solving these asymmetries, they will move and feel better off the field.

That being said, there is a caveat in that last statement. Sometimes asymmetries are needed in certain sports, so I wouldn’t mess with someone too much if they’re in the prime of their career.

Coming up, part 2! I’ll describe what I’ve changed in my own program to help stave off some of these problems. I haven’t fixed anything, per se, but I have seen improvements and nothing has become worse.

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The ideas, comments and materials presented herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion or otherwise.

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