Shoulder Strengthening Exercises for Softball
Whether you’re an outfielder who needs a stronger throw to the plate, an infielder who needs a quicker throw to first, or a player rehabilitating after an injury — your shoulder needs to be strong in softball. In particular, you need a healthy and strong rotator cuff. Your rotator cuff allows you to throw overhand, and if you are a pitcher, it allows the underhand windmill motion.
This guide will lead you through a few different exercises that can strengthen your rotator cuff, which will strengthen your throw. When doing each exercise, go about it carefully. When it comes to your throwing shoulder, make sure to go slowly and take your time; it’s more about quality than quantity. Afterwards, make sure to ice down.
Most of these exercises require some equipment. Here is a list of what you’ll need:
- Small, weighted balls (preferably the size of a softball). Make sure they weigh at least three pounds.
- A large, fully blown-up fitness/exercise ball.
- A block, sturdy enough to support your bodyweight and wide enough for both hands to be comfortably placed on it.
- A small stool.
- A small exercise trampoline.
Warm up with a Weighted Ball
You should always warm up your shoulder before starting any exercise routine. This warm-up is fairly simple — just follow these steps:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a weighted ball with your throwing hand.
- Bend over so that your back is slightly arched. Your throwing arm will hang below you; let it relax.
- Use your shoulder to move your arm in a clockwise motion, making 10 small circles.
- Switch directions and make 10 small, counterclockwise circles.
- Now, put the weighted ball in your other hand. Repeat the previous three steps.
- Next, place the weighted ball back into your throwing hand.
- Repeat steps 2-4, but with larger circles.
- Finish the warm-up by repeating the previous step with the weighted ball in your opposite hand.
Now that you are fully warmed up, move on to the next exercises.
This exercise is quite simple and can be done virtually anywhere, so long as you have a wall in front of you.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, close enough to the wall that when an arm is extended forward, your fingertips barely touch it.
- Now, you can either envision a box on the wall that’s one square foot in size, or you can actually draw a box on the wall with chalk or masking tape. Place only your index finger in the middle of the box.
- Using only your shoulder, move your arm so that your index finger writes every letter of the alphabet in capital letters. The letters should take up the entire box.
- Once you get to “Z,” go backwards back to “A.”
- This is your first set; repeat once.
- Optional: You may do this exercise with both arms, or only your throwing arm. The choice is yours.
This exercise requires a fully blown-up exercise/fitness ball and open space. It can get challenging, so pace yourself. If you feel a burning sensation in your shoulders, that’s okay! It means your shoulder muscles are working!
- Squat down in front of the fitness ball. Lean your torso over the top of it.
- Extend both hands down in front of the ball until both palms are firmly on the floor.
- Walk your hands forward so that your body rolls over the ball. Go until your waist is fully supported by the ball.
- Lift your legs off the ground and extend them behind you; your entire body should be parallel to the floor.
- The next step requires some balance. First, steady yourself on the ball by tightening your core muscles. Now, walk your hands out slowly until only your shins are on the ball. Keep steady.
- Next comes the hard part. Complete five slow push-ups. Keep your core tightened so you don’t fall off the ball. If you aren’t strong enough to do five full push-ups, it’s okay to only go halfway down — you’ll get there, eventually.
- After your five push-ups, walk your hands back until your waist is again supported by the ball. This is only one repetition, so don’t rest!
- Repeat 10 times.
It’s especially important to go slow with this exercise. You want to focus on using the muscles in your shoulders to control your body weight through the entire set.
The Stair Walk
This exercise can be done with one block or with a special three-step staircase (it looks like a pyramid).
- Start in a push-up position on your knees, with your back straight and both of your palms on the floor. Your hands should be directly to the left of the block.
- First, lift your right hand and place it on the block. Then, follow suite with your left hand.
- Next, step your right hand down onto the floor. Follow suite with your left hand.
- Now, lift your left hand and place it on the block. Follow suite with your right hand.
- Then, step your left hand down onto the floor and follow suite with your right hand. Notice how your hands are “walking” up and over the step.
- This is one repetition. Repeat 10 times.
With this exercise, you start slow, but you’ll gain momentum as you get more comfortable. Of course, don’t get lazy. Make sure each hand is sturdily placed on the ground before going forward.
For this exercise, you will need a small fitness trampoline, a stool, and a weighted ball.
- Position the trampoline against a wall (unless it has a stand) so that its face is angled towards you at somewhere between 45 and 70 degrees. Basically, you want it angled such that when a ball is tossed into it, it will bounce right back to you.
- Sit on the stool, with your feet planted firmly on the ground and your back straight. With the weighted ball in hand, raise your throwing arm to shoulder-height. Bend your elbow so that your entire arm makes a 90-degree angle. Your elbow and shoulder should be aligned.
- Make sure that you are holding the weighted ball as you would a softball — in your fingertips, not in your palm. Now, your arm will mimic your throwing motion. Using only your shoulder to rotate your entire arm, gently rotate backwards (less than 45 degrees), and then lead with your elbow as your shoulder rotates forward. Snap to release the ball towards the trampoline.
- Aim to throw the ball in the middle of the trampoline. The follow-through of your toss will be limited. You will rotate your shoulder forward either until the ball bounces back to you (which you’ll then catch and go back to your starting position) or until your forearm is parallel with the floor (you’ll have to raise it back up to catch the ball anyway).
- This is one repetition. Repeat for 20 throws.
Cool Down with a Weighted Ball
Now that you are done with the exercises, you need to cool down. Repeat the weighted ball exercise from the beginning of this guide. After you’ve completed your cool-down, ice your shoulder for at least 20 minutes.
Patience & Persistence
It’s common knowledge that you can’t build a strong throw overnight. Some players are naturally born with an innate ability to throw with tremendous speed, and some are not. These exercises, though, will help get you up to par if your throws are lacking — whether it is from an injury or just a weak shoulder. Just remember, be persistent with these exercises and really commit to them. If you’re serious about getting to the next level in your performance, don’t hesitate to start. Your throws can get stronger!