Strength and conditioning in baseball has become a staple in almost every organization around the country, from travel ball all the way up to the majors. Constant debates occur about how to increase a pitcher’s velocity, enhance a hitters exit velocity, develop the most effective arm care program, and the list goes on. This post focuses on catcher’s mobility. Although it is not a hot topic, it certainly deserves some love and attention.
Like any position in baseball, catchers participate in specific training. It is not uncommon for players to struggle as they develop the essential skills they need to perform. And it’s not always because of their technique or focus, they simply may not have the required mobility to get into the positions. This can be extremely frustrating for the coach and player as they may not know the importance of mobility. Understanding the physical demands of the catching position is crucial as most people do not have the stamina to maintain the positions for long periods of time. With substantial improvements in mobility players will experience increased comfort and ultimately advance their game.
The three areas of concern for catcher’s mobility are the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine. Below, I break down each one of the aforementioned areas and give you two exercises that can help.
Catchers sit with their ankles in a dorsiflexed, slight everted position. Not only are they at the end-range of motion in their primary stance, but they also need to be able to sway back and forth. Obviously, this position puts a ton of stress on the ankles!
In order to increase the level of comfort while sitting behind the plate, catchers need to improve the range of motion in their ankles. By simply performing an ankle mobility circuit prior to catching will immediately makes the squat position easier.
Here are two exercises to improve ankle mobility:
Get in the half kneeling position and hold down the toes and heel using your hands.
Push body weight forward and allow the knee to glide side-to-side over the toes. Should feel this all around your ankle.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 sways each way.
Get into a downward dog position and slowly rock back and forth on one foot.
Try to get the heel to the ground feeling your calf stretch.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 rocks per side.
Kids spend a lot of time sitting; in a classroom, doing homework, playing video games, watching Tik Tok, or any other sedentary activity. In turn, this can adversely affect the hip flexors, glutes and hip internal rotation; all of which are important in squat mobility. Less time on the couch and more time being active will lead to fewer injuries and certainly improved mobility in the hips.
Here are two exercises to enhance hip mobility:
This is an interesting one that can really open up your hips when done correctly.
Get down in the prayer position and walk your hands forward, spread your knees and feet out.
Tuck your pelvis slightly and sit back. Should feel stretch in the groin area.
Lean forward and internally rotate each hip one at a time. It is important to not compensate by crunching down or leaning to one side.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.
Looking to open up your quad and hip flexor? Boom- this is your stretch. You can use a bench or couch (hence the name) to get into the stretch.
Simply get in the half kneeling position and prop the back leg up on the bench or couch. The closer you are, the more intense of a stretch you’ll get. I recommend starting out further and slowly work your way closer.
After you position yourself in the stretch, squeeze your glute on the back leg and ensure your ribcage is down.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 20-30 seconds each leg.
The thoracic spine typically doesn’t get as much attention as the ankles or hips, but it is equally important. Being able to have the proper extension in the upper back is important in order to sit into a squat with an upright chest.
T-spine mobility comes into play in a few areas of catching. Hard to be a “big” target for your pitcher with the chest falling forward. You want to be “long” and neutral in the spine in order to create a big target. Pop time can be negatively affected as well. Poor t-spine mobility makes it difficult to receive the ball and throw in a fast manner. Just like the other two areas, we can work on the mobility in the t-spine.
Here are two exercises to improve thoracic mobility:
Not only is this great for t-spine extension, but it helps stretch the lats as well.
Kneel down in front of a bench while holding a PVC pipe.
Place your elbows on top of the bench and slowly sit back on your heels. Try to maintain a neutral spine and shoulder position. Should feel a stretch in your lats and mid back.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.
May be a fan favorite because sometimes, when youre lucky, you get a nice release in your spine.
Lay down on your side, create a 90 degree angle in your hips and knees, and arms stacked in front of you.
Slowly take your top arm and rotate your body without letting your legs move at all. Your head follows your hand. Try to get your top shoulder down to the floor behind you. Should feel a great stretch throughout your upper back and chest.
Recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps each side.
I hope after diving into these areas of need you understand how important mobility is for a catcher. Create a daily routine to follow in order to stay on top of the rigorous demands of the position. This will help keep the joints healthy and feeling good.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below. There are plenty of other mobility exercises that can help so would love to hear your favorites!