Foundations of Baseball Performance: Part One - The Muscles (Free Exercise Program) $0.00

Foundations of Baseball Performance: Part One - The Muscles (Free Exercise Program)

By: Rebecca Moore |
Foundations of Baseball Performance: Part One - The Muscles (Free Exercise Program)

This article is part one of a two-part series. To make sure you don’t miss “Part Two - The Movements” along with an advanced exercise program, subscribe to the blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Each year, approximately fifteen million children play youth baseball in the United States.1 By the time they reach high school, approximately 500,000 players are still active, and at the National Collegiate Association of America (NCAA) level, only 25,000 athletes remain.2 If you’re treating or training an athlete who is looking to play baseball long term, strength is the foundation of creating an elite athlete. However, even the strongest athlete is susceptible to career-ending injuries. Today, we’ll examine the core elements of a baseball strengthening program for performance enhancement, but before we can understand what the strengthen, we have to understand why these exercises are crucial in injury prevention.

Why are Injuries So Common in Baseball?

When compared to other sports, baseball is not the first sport that comes to mind when you think about an injury epidemic. However, in recent years, baseball injuries have been on a steady increase. Multiple studies have analyzed the reality of baseball injuries, from youth sports to collegiate-level programs:

Youth and High School Baseball Injury Statistics

  • 25% of all sports injuries for children (ages 5-14) were baseball-related.2
  • Up to 74% of youth baseball players (ages 8–18) report some degree of arm pain while throwing, and 23% report injury histories consistent with overuse.2
  • 35-50% of youth pitchers will experience elbow and/or shoulder pain.3
  • Five percent of youth pitchers will suffer a serious elbow or shoulder injury within 10 years.2
  • Of a group of 754 athletes (ages 9-18), more than 43% pitched consecutive days, 31% for multiple teams with overlapping seasons and 19% pitched multiple games per day.2
  • 46% of youth baseball players surveyed said they were encouraged to keep playing despite having arm pain at least once.2
  • In youth baseball players, the elbow appears to be the most frequent serious injury resulting in time off.1
  • Shoulder injuries occur around 1.39–1.72 per 10,000 athletes.2
  • Juniors and seniors sustain 69% of shoulder injuries compared to freshmen and sophomores, due to participating at a higher level of competition and playing in more games.2
  • In youth baseball, players pitching when fatigued was the number one risk factor for injury.4

Collegiate Baseball Injury Statistics

  • Over a three-year period, the overall injury rate was 5.83 per 1000 athletes.2
  • Upper extremity injuries accounted for 66-75% of all injuries, with pitchers 75% of those injuries, followed by catchers as the second most common.5
  • 25% of all injuries were considered severe.2
  • The most common injuries were characterized as strains (23%), sprains (19%), and contusions (17%).2

Mechanism of Injuries

There are three ways that a baseball player can sustain an injury: player contact (colliding with another athlete), other contact (hitting the wall, getting hit by a bat or ball, falling onto the ground) and non-contact (a movement or group of movements that causes the body musculoskeletal injury, like a rolled ankle or an overuse injury). According to one study, the percentages of injury mechanisms varied between games and practices:6

  • Player Contact:11% in games, 3.8% in practice
  • Other Contact:45.1% in games, 29.2% in practice
  • Non-Contact:41.5% in games, 63.9% in practice

The majority of injuries are due to overuse, poor throwing mechanics and muscular fatigue/weakness. Other factors for injuries include:

  • Year-round baseball; not enough rest, no off season
  • Single-sport specialization
  • Velocity (for major league players)7

In part two of this series we’ll dive into more about these mechanisms of injury, but for now let’s focus on how to avoid injury and become a better baseball player. While rest and relaxation are crucial to let athlete’s bodies recover, therefore enhancing performance, weakness is one of the most common problems in youth baseball players. Strengthening programs have been shown to create a solid foundation of function for athletes of all ages. Let’s take a look at some of the foundational elements to a basic baseball strengthening program.

Muscles to Strengthen for Baseball Performance Enhancement

Baseball involves the entire kinetic chain working in harmony to produce effective movements (again, come back for part two!), but these are the best principle areas of focus for baseball performance enhancement and injury prevention:

  1. Shoulder
  2. Scapula
  3. Legs/hips (60% of baseball player’s kinetic energy comes from the legs!)
  4. Core

The Throwers 10 Program: A Free Exercise Program to Enhance Baseball Performance

Dr. Kevin Wilk DPT, PT, FAPTA has been a world-renowned physical therapist for decades. As a leading authority in the rehabilitation of sports injuries and orthopedic lesions, he is dedicated to the rehabilitation of sports injuries but also the prevention of sports injuries and improving performance. His career has focused on both healing and enhancing professional athletes, along with conducting years of laboratory research, biomechanical research and clinical outcome studies.

Years ago, he and Dr. James Andrews created The Throwers 10 Program: a comprehensive program for throwing athletes, encompassing exercises for the entire throwing arm and body. The exercises in the program have been carefully chosen based on EMG data4,5,6,7 and proven to significantly increase throwing velocity in high school baseball players.8,9 Based on movements that require little equipment, this program can be easily completed at home, in the gym or on the field - and pairs perfectly with the TheraBand CLX Resistance Band.

Ready to get started? Check out the Throwers 10 Program videos and printable exercise guide below - and check back next week in part two to get the Advanced Throwers 10 Protocol!

Watch the videos below to master the movements

Download our printable exercise guide to give your athletes a visual reminder of their exercise program


  12. Wilk KE, Andrews JR, Arrigo CA: Preventive & Rehabilitative Exercises for the Shoulder & Elbow. 6th Ed. Birmingham,AL American Sports Medicine Institute 1996