Well designed weight training programs for women’s softball can boost strength, reactivity, quick foot movements, and power while preventing injuries. Weightlifting exercises that share common elements with playing skills transfer well to game play. See The Principle of Transfer
Specific weight training exercises, for example, generate greater power for exploding out of the batter’s box, sprinting around the bases, and getting a faster jump on the ball. The multi-joint actions of whole body lifts enhance coordination between the muscle groups in the same kinetic chain of movement sequences.
The Training Process: As with any sports training program, the weightlifting program and weightlifting exercises must be designed to contribute to the total energy and skill requirements of softball. On a personal level, all training activities should improve position play, help each player achieve personal goals, and prevent injuries.
Start with setting goals. Then choose test items that represent important fitness components and specific skills. Examples of test items often include short sprint times, agility runs, the vertical jump, throwing and batting skill tests–whatever skills are important to each player or coach. The more closely the collection of test items represent competitive conditions, the better. This initial fitness assessment is the baseline measure on which you compare gains and losses after each phase of training.
Key exercises: The Olympic lifting variations, squat, bench press, and core strength exercises are among the Priority Exercises that offer many advantages for women’s softball. An example of a late pre-season workout follows:
Softball Days 1 and 2 Softball Day 3 and Core
This sample week assumes that the preceding phases of training have been completed (i.e., conditioning, intensive strength phases) and players are sharpening skills while maintaining levels of fitness during the competitive season.
These key exercises offer numerous advantages. They increase hand and forearm strength so crucial to batting and throwing. Substantial shoulder and trunk stabilization and strengthening also result from these activities.
In softball, muscle imbalances frequently occur from the repetitive, forceful execution of game skills (e.g., in rotator cuff area). The Olympic lifts and variations tend to offset potential muscle imbalances, helping to prevent injuries while improving flexibility.
Proper technique performed through a full range of motion in the Olympic lifts and the squat boost acceleration, improving explosiveness. They also add to joint integrity and balance lower body muscle groups, helping prevent knee injuries common to women. See Gender Differences
A battery of core strength exercises through all three primary ranges. These exercises stabilize the trunk and, with greater strength to hold low positions, players gain the advantage of greater speed and mobility to field balls.
Other Resistive Equipment: To supplement core exercises, medicine balls can assist with trunk strengthening and flexibility to help transform rotational force into enhanced batting and throwing performance.
Exercise bands, theraband, or surgical tubing are often used for improving pitching and throwing skills. While these devices offer advantages, one disadvantage is that they allow acceleration temporarily, then force deceleration of arm movements. Deceleration opposes natural pattern of summation of forces that occurs with throwing.
While contrary to popular belief about speed-accuracy trade-offs, players who can swing hard and fast with heavier bats tend not to sacrifice accuracy. When using weighted bats in practice, stay within 10-15% (heavier or lighter) of the bat used in the game. See The Principle of Variation
Close the loop on the Training Steps by using test results and your own observations to continually build in improvements.
After each phase of training, evaluate your progress on the test items you selected for your initial assessment. Use the results of each item and the composite results of all items to help you determine how to revise your training program.
Individualize your program as you see fit. Always remember to keep your long-term goals in mind, and integrate all training activities into the total training program. Use the 6 Training Steps as the process to keep you on track.
Adding these key exercises to your Softball Training Program can give your game an extra boost, as it does for many other players who incorporate them into their programs.
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