5 DRILLS YOUR SOFTBALL HITTER SHOULD BE DOING

This article has 5 drills that will improve your hitting in softball.

Begin by facing the pitcher with both feet while having the upper body emulate the positioning of a normal stance for hitting in softball. Without utilizing the lower half, allow the hands to slide into the correct slot and drive through the ball to an extension hold position.  Due to your hips being open, your hands are going to either want to roll over the ball or your torso will turn off too quickly thus creating a slicing action with the bat. In order to ensure that your upper half (hand path) continues toward the pitcher, this drill will reinforce that early over rotation does not happen before full extension is reached.

Go through the first half of your swing slowly and under control to bat/ball contact.Once arriving at the proper contact positioning, ensure the barrel is behind your hands and you are palm up/palm down with slightly bent elbows. Then, while leaving your lower half in the proper position for contact, retract your hands back to their original starting position before driving through the ball for a smooth full cut.

Start with bringing your front foot next to your back foot or slightly elevated. Separate your front foot from your back foot while simultaneously loading your upper half. Complete this twice before pausing after the separation phase and completing a full swing. The focus of this drill should be separating the back shoulder/hands region from the front hip/leg region. This proper separation position will ensure that the athlete is maintaining centrifugal stability throughout the swing opposed to drifting through the load and commitment phases of the swing.

Speaking of load and commitment….Begin this drill by separating the upper body and lower body to achieve the proper loaded position. Then, violently commit just the lower body by leaving the upper body in a loaded position. The commitment phases of the swing should be signified by the front heel making contact with the ground while the back heel comes off the ground. This violent action should be driven by the musculature of the hip region and not just elevating the body on the back toe.  Once separation has been achieved for a third time, complete a smooth full cut through the ball. Note that this should not be a power drill as the stretch-shortening cycle has been compromised due to trying to reinforce proper body positioning.

Jump back onto your back foot while simultaneously loading your upper body. Once the front side of your body has achieved the proper tilt angle, complete a full swing using the power harvested into the explosion of the hips into the swing.

Hitting in softball is awesome especially with these drills that work on hitting in softball. These drills make you better at hitting in softball.

12 Exercises Your Baseball Pitcher Should Be Doing

Over the past few years, we have been lucky enough to work with some very talented baseball athletes (more exclusively, pitchers) and decided that we would share 12 exercises for pitchers that we feel have attributed too much of their progression with us.  The main focus of these 12 exercises is to challenge the athlete is all three planes of movement while closely looking at their shoulder and spinal stability.  Check out the videos and explanations of each exercise below and look out for future articles diving deeper into our affinity with each of these movements.

Exercise: THORACIC GET UP:

Set Up: Kettlebell, Dumbbell

Purpose: Strengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously requiring extensive squat musculature activation of the lower body. 

Execution: Drive the kettlebell straight up overhead. Ensure that the kettlebell, wrist, elbow, and shoulder are in a direct line with one another and that the shoulder is in external rotation. This external rotation should remain intact throughout the entire movement and will be aided by the lower trapezius stabilizing the inferior spine of the scapula. Begin the movement by looking up at the kettlebell and descending into a squat position while reaching the palm of your free hand to the floor. Lower body squat mechanics should remain normal. The end of the movement should have a straight line down through both arms to the floor.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed with a 3-second tempo countdown, 3-second tempo count hold, and a 3-second tempo count up. Use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as a guide for rep count and weight load.

Exercise: TRANSVERSE LANDMINE PRESS

Set Up: Landmine

PurposeStrengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously stressing hip internal rotation and external rotation demands similar to that of a pitching motion. 

ExecutionWith the left knee up and the right knee down, start with the barbell in the right hand. The shoulders of the athlete should be square to the front foot with the barbell rested in front of the right shoulder. The athlete should drive through their right knee and left foot in order to stabilize the body and press across their midline to their peak reach capacity. At the end of the movement, the athlete’s ear and bicep should be in-line.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed at a steady and powerful rate up while being conscious to not over-reach the shoulder. Rotation and elbow extension should finish simultaneously. The eccentric portion should be performed at a slower and controlled tempo. 

Exercise: LOW POWER STEP UP

Set Up: DBs, Box (box height should be below knee) 

Purpose: Improve the power drive (knee and hip extension) on the front side leg. 

Execution: Begin with the front side leg on top of the box. Lift the foot on the box and then rapidly drive down into the box simultaneously extending the hip and knee. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise should be performed with powerful intent during each repetition. It should be performed on the front side leg only. 

Exercise: LATERAL SLED DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with rope/handle attachment

Purpose: Teach the athlete how to create and generate lateral power similar to that experienced during a pitching motion. The movement should be performed off of the drive leg in the direction that the athlete pitches from.

Execution: Begin the exercise with the handle in pitching arm hand. While stabilizing the shoulder, the athlete will then drive their back drive leg into a crossover motion across their front leg. This motion should be repeated rapidly with powerful intent off of the drive leg on each repetition. 

Coaching Cue: The athlete should work to achieve triple extension on their drive leg during each repetition while keeping their hips and shoulders squared.  

Exercise: SLED LEG DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with significant load

Purpose: Create massive extension through the front side leg and improve ground reaction force (GRF) with front side foot. 

Execution: The goal of each repetition is to decrease the time it takes for the athlete to achieve ground-foot contact and extend the hip and knee. The athlete should have their chest forward on the sled with an overloaded sled so that the only thing propelling the sled forward is the rapid leg extension. 

Coaching Cue: Each repetition should be aimed at a decreased time to knee extension.   

Exercise: BENT OVER HEXBAR ROW

Set Up: A hexbar inserted into a landmine with plate

Purpose: Lower trap activation while maintaining a more conducive elbow angle. This exercise will also activate the rhomboid, mid-trapezius and internal stabilizers needed to hold this position. 

Execution: The athlete should be centered in the middle of the hexbar so that the weight is evenly distributed around the athlete. This varies from a traditional bent over row as the weight is not solely located in the front. This even distribution will prevent excessive rounding of the back and will be easier to maintain a proper posture position. Additionally, this exercise varies even further from a t-bar row as the positioning of the plate and the angle of the hexbar prevent the athlete from over pulling and over-activating the upper trapezius muscle.     

Coaching Cue: This movement should be performed with a controlled tempo concentrically with a three-second eccentric tempo. Pausing at the end of the concentric phase prior to beginning the eccentric phase will be beneficial for reinforcing proper activation and positioning. 

Exercise: DB SOTTS PRESS

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: This exercise will put a great deal of stress on the internal stabilizers during shoulder flexion. It will demand and elicit one of the greatest needs for mobility and strength of the upper and lower body.  Lower trapezius activation will be necessary in order to stabilize the inferior spine of the scapula and prevent it from ‘winging’ during shoulder flexion. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells on their shoulders and descends to the bottom position of their squat. While still activating midline and internal stabilizers of the hip region, the athlete will then press the DB’s overhead. The overhead press should be achieved without significant changes to the squat position. 

Coaching Cue: This is a clearly incredibly difficult movement and should only be performed by an individual who is well-established and competent in the weight room (not just a great pitcher). The wrist, elbow, and shoulder should be directly inline with the bicep finishing next to the ear. The athlete should maintain proper spinal posture and midline activation throughout the entire range of motion of the press. A three-second tempo can be applied to the concentric, amortization, and eccentric phase of the movement. 

Exercise: DB POWER CLEAN

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: Teaching triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. Demanding eccentric strength capabilities when catching the weight and teaching the athlete how to manipulate their lower body in order to generate power through their upper body. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells at their side in a power hang position. While simultaneously and rapidly extending their hip, knee, and ankles they will thrust their weight upward in a straight line. Once the weight has reached the pinnacle of its height the athlete will then drop underneath the load and catch the DB’s on their shoulders in the same power position that they originally launched the weight from. 

Coaching Cue: It is important to pick an appropriate load that will tax the athlete enough to need to achieve triple extension. The athlete should avoid pulling the weight upward with their arms and instead launch the weight with their lower half. Additionally, the athlete should be catching the weight in a strong position and not being overmatched by the momentum of the load when landing. 

Exercise: SL ECCENTRIC HIP THRUSTER

Set Up: Barbell, bench

Purpose: Develop unilateral eccentric strength of lower half posterior chain musculature. Activation of the glute and hamstring. 

Execution: The athlete should find a comfortable position for their back on the bench with the barbell evenly distributed across their waist. The athlete will then raise the bar to full hip extension with two legs and eccentrically decelerate the weight using one leg. 

Coaching Cue: This action should be performed as a negative with a 3-5 second tempo downward. 

Exercise: HEXBAR DEADLIFT

Set Up: Hexbar

Purpose: Develop ground reaction force in the vertical direction. Develop strength through musculature of the posterior chain. 

Execution: This is a play on the traditional deadlift however the weight is now more evenly distributed around the athlete opposed to in front of the athlete. This will be more conducive for posture awareness while pulling heavy off of the floor. Additionally, for a throwing athlete who experiences difficulty with posterior shoulder activation, having the handles at the side of the athlete during this movement will allow for a better upper back and shoulder position throughout the entirety of the lift. 

Coaching Cue: This lift can be performed with a powerful and rapid rate during the concentric action and a controlled 3-5 second tempo during the eccentric phase. 

Exercise: KNEELING ANTI-ROTATION PULLDOWN

Set Up: Band attached at an overhead angle 

Purpose: Train the athlete to resist torque in order to generate torque. Teaching the athlete how to brace their midline and achieve separation between their upper and lower body.  This movement will require activation and stabilization of the front leg glute while also demanding stabilization of the hip internal and external rotators. 

Execution: With the right knee up, left knee down, the athlete will have two hands fastened around a band over their left shoulder. With straight arms and a braced midline, the athlete will then pull the band down toward the right knee, pause, and then return to their original position. The hips should remain square and the right knee should remain stable through the entirety of the exercise. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise can be performed two ways. It can be performed with a tempo pull down with a hold at end range of motion with a tempo deceleration on the way back or it can be completed as a negative with a coach pulling the athlete through the concentric phase and then completing a negative during the eccentric phase. 

exercises for pitchers is exciting because exercises for pitchers can help with throwing and staying healthy. Exercises for throwing are to keep the shoulder strong and healthy through these exercises for pitchers that are shown above. Exercises for pitchers can be lots of different types of exercises for pitchers. We really stress exercises for pitchers. when pitching you can get hurt but doing exercises for pitchers you may not. i personally like exercises for pitchers because exercises for pitchers are also fun. fun is good when doing exercises for pitchers.

Interview with Coach Matt

Cassie: Briefly explain how you got involved at AW. 

MattI got involved with Athletes Warehouse because of SUNY Cortland Baseball.  Nick Serio, who played there before me thankfully reached out to me to make the connection.  When I went down to meet with Cassie and Nick for my interview I was sold right there.  I didn’t even say much because I didn’t know what to say other than I was inspired but inside a fire was lit and I called my parents right after saying I need to do this, I need to be part of this.  I didn’t quite know what I was getting into, I just knew I had to be part of it and the feeling I got listening to Nick explain his vision that day has never left me and its been over 3 years where I have not lost that feeling. 

Cassie: What was your first impression of the building?  

Matt: A lot of people get this question who saw the building before it was actually built and couldn’t believe that it turned into what it did.  I can honestly say I was never surprised.  I took the job because I knew Nick was capable of doing it.  I walked into a beat down warehouse with not a single weight in it and it didn’t scare me for a second.  We got to all help build this place together and that experience alone is something I can’t describe in words.  From demolition to laying rubber, to carrying equipment in and out, to painting, to building an upstairs, everything was part of this journey.  So my first impression was really…when do we start?  Tell me what to do and let’s do it because I was part of a team that still blows me away every day. 

Cassie: Describe what the culture at Athletes Warehouse means to you?

Matt: I have been part of teams since I was 6 years old.  I’ve played in State Championships, World Series, Super Bowl’s, Sectional games, etc competing at high levels my whole life and not one time have a been a part of a culture like we have at Athlete’s Warehouse.  I have never been on a team where every single member is on the same page and is striving towards the same goals.  Not only do we get to be part of this culture together we get to share it with youth athletes, adults, friends, family, the world!  We want everyone to understand the culture we have created because it is by far the most important and precious part of Athletes Warehouse.  It is truly a family that is successful because of the people we have and because we grind every day together to keep this culture.

Cassie: When did you know you wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach?

Matt: I knew I wanted to be a Strength and Conditioning Coach early on in my life, let’s call it sometime around sophomore year in high school.  I didn’t really know what a strength coach was yet but by the time I was in college I knew I wanted to train athletes and particularly youth/HS/College level athletes.  My whole life I was in a gym working out, not to be an athlete because I never had a real Strength and Conditioning Coach.  I did the typical Squat, Bench Deadlift and thought I was a bodybuilder at 165 soaking wet.  I knew almost nothing of what it meant to train like an athlete and how to train to become a better athlete.  When I was in College I really knew I wanted to be someone who could help educate and teach young athletes how to train properly and help them carry that on for their athletic career and for the rest of their life. 

Cassie: If you couldn’t be a strength coach, what would you be doing?

Matt: If I couldn’t be a strength coach I would have tried to become a Navy Seal or an Army Ranger.  If that didn’t work out I would own my own farm down south and obviously have a private gym in my barn.

Cassie: When you think of the word, ‘successful’ what comes to mind?

Matt: I would have to say, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Everyone views Arnold as just a body builder but if you want to know how successful he really was google him one time.  He was a successful entrepreneur while he was body building, speaks multiple languages, had a very strict routine throughout his career, was a successful actor, became a governor and was one of the best body builders of all time.  I don’t know of many people who have dominated so many different careers in a lifetime.

Cassie: Favorite/most influential book or reading material and why?

Matt: If anyone wants to know I am horrible when it comes to reading books.  I am 27 and I still am on page 18 of Harry Potter Sorcerers Stone.  Honestly, the most influential/favorite book I have ever read is by one of our very own Cassie Reilly-Boccia “ Finished it”.  If you haven’t read it, you should start today.  It is my favorite book because, in the mist of competition for a National Championship, Cassie was also writing a book on the ups and downs, successes, the culture of her experience and senior season at Alabama.  Like I said I am horrible at sticking to a book, this book I couldn’t put down because I felt like I was there.  I have the privilege of knowing and working with Cassie and this book gives you a glimpse of why she is so successful and has been so successful her entire life.  I had the opportunity to meet her Coach and work with another one of our own Ryan Iamurri, along with a few other players from Alabama.  I have never in my life met such down to earth, genuinely good people and because of their character and who they are as people, that is why they are successful.  The fact that I get to be part of a team with them on it is such a privilege and I wish I met them sooner in my life.  This book influences you on so many levels, whether you are an athlete or not.  I have read the book twice and it never gets old.

Cassie: What type of workout are you following now?

Matt: After all the years of trying to figure out a workout routine for myself, I finally began writing my own program.  I labeled it Common Sense, to be sarcastic but serious at the same time.  It is a program that requires 45-60 minutes a day, involves body building, athletic movements, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, sprints, and conditioning.  It’s probably my favorite workout program I have ever been on and have been writing it for 6 months now.  If your no longer a competitive athlete but still want to work hard, and work out properly let me know.

Cassie: What is your favorite movement to perform?

Matt: Obviously, my favorite movement will always remain the Bench Press and I really don’t need to explain that one.  I started doing it in my basement when I was maybe 12 and could barely bench the bar.  Now I look forward to doing it every week.  My two other favorite movements would have to be the Sumo Deadlift and the Snatch.  Not only do I just love doing the movements myself I just think they are two of the greatest movements everyone should be doing.  Both require different levels of technique, One requires you to rip heavy weight off the floor and the other requires you to take a weight from the floor and bring it over your head.  What better movements are there?  P.S. really anything involving a barbell I love.

Cassie: What is your favorite post workout meal?

Matt: A long time ago I thought eating chicken wings, bacon and burritos was the key to becoming big and strong.  Although I’ll never admit I am wrong, I have changed my personal opinion towards this matter.  Now, I would much rather drink a whey protein shake with a lot of dextrose in it, while my spaghetti and meatballs or chili over rice warms up in the microwave.  If I am still hungry wash it down with a few scoops of peanut butter and a glass of whole milk.

Cassie: What is your favorite exercise to do with an athlete?

Matt: Although the Front squat and Sumo Deadlift are two of my favorites for athletes, I go back to above and will have to say the Snatch.  Not only does it require such great technique, it can be used for power, for kinematic sequencing, even for strength in a sense.  Another reason is that you can use this movement from multiple positions (the floor, a hang, from blocks, turn it into a complex, etc).  There is just something special about using power, strength, and technique to bring a bar smoothly overhead.  Every athlete should be able to at least complete this movement in some fashion. The best part is you do not need a lot of weight to complete the movement and even young kids can learn this movement when training. 

Cassie: Most influential/inspirational athlete you’ve ever trained?

Matt: Most influential athlete I have ever trained is a female athlete named KC Wallace. KC traveled from Massachusetts – that’s right Massachusetts – to come down and train with us.  She came in 5 days a week and knew exactly what she wanted, knew her goals, knew her strengths, her weaknesses, everything.  I used to stay up late every Sunday to program for her because I was excited to get to the gym and work with her the next week.  Even if I was having a rough day or I was tired whatever, when she walked in, I got fired up to train her and I think that should say a lot about who she was as a person and as an athlete.  What describes her even more, is she always had a good attitude, always brought 100% effort and never walked in or left without saying hello and goodbye to everyone.  Every athlete should strive to get on her level.  Everyone who has busy schedules should take a lesson from her, traveling every weekend to play lacrosse, getting Division 1 looks she could have easily just said I don’t need this, but she didn’t she traveled from Massachusetts to get after it every single day.

Cassie: Favorite part of your job?

Matt: Favorite part about my job is…it’s not a job.  I love when I hear people complain about their “job”…. “I don’t want Monday to come I have to go back to work”.  I don’t have to ever say that.  I get to wake up and work with the best team I have ever been a part of, be in the best training facility I have ever seen,  and I get to help athletes of all ages become better athletes, better people, and help them reach their goals.  In my opinion, I don’t have a job… I simply get to wake up and do what I love every day and I get to do it with the people I love. 

Cassie: Who has been your favorite coach?

Matt: My most influential coach is my Track Coach in High School, Coach Palmer.  In high school I thought I was a football player, who also played basketball and baseball.  I thought I was pretty talented and looked at Track as just a sport where you ran in circles.  I quit basketball my junior year to workout and get ready for baseball and football.  Coach Palmer who lived up the street from me, wrote me a letter and asked me to come run track.  I thought about it, had a few friends on the team and said what heck I will try it.  First day of practice we ran 400’s.  I ran my first one got blown away by kids who I thought were not even athletes and from that day on I gained a way different appreciation for the sport.  More importantly, Coach Palmer who was in charge of 50 + track athletes made the last two years of my high school athletic career, two of the best years of my life. I got to go to huge meets, compete in state championships but more importantly, be part of a team in a sport that is primarily an individual sport.  His ability to teach, coach and have a positive impact on so many kids at once was so impressive to me.  I am so grateful he wrote me that letter and forever I will take his coaching qualities into my life and try to have an impact on youth athletes the way he did to me and so many other athletes who had the privilege of running track for Coach Palmer.

Cassie: Favorite quote?

Matt: If you hung out with me before any game in my life you would know I could give you about 50 movie quotes, legendary sports coach or Bruce Lee quotes because it was part of my pregame ritual.  So many sticks out that I really think it is impossible for me to have a favorite. I will explain one quote that made me a better athlete especially in college playing baseball.  The quote comes from legendary Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra.  “You cannot think and hit at the same time”.  The quote is so short and simple and he is talking about baseball but I viewed it as a freshman in college as so much more.  In baseball, as a hitter, you sometimes get caught thinking about everything in the world.  Is it a curveball or fastball? Should I bunt? Is my dad here?  Is coach going to get mad I took the first pitch fastball?  I don’t want to let my team down, etc….I could go on for days, basically for you non-baseball players….the more you overthink the worse it gets.  I took this and ran with it as a player but I still have it on my background on my computer.  I think it applies to life and especially with the young athletes we get to work with.  They’re more worried sometimes about was that rep perfect, is this workout really helping me, I have a test tomorrow I can’t focus on working out,  I had a game earlier, I’m tired, I don’t want to workout,  It’s early I don’t want to wake up,etc…again I could go on for days.  The point is sometimes in life whether you’re at the plate, under a heavy barbell, having a rough day, you just have to put aside all the extra garbage, hut your mind down and go for it.  You’re in the moment right now, just do it.  I kind of live a lot of my life like that, especially when I was a player.  The reason I love that quote is because it made me really think outside the box and realize whats important.  There is a song called “Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney.  In the beginning of the video, Saints Coach Sean Payton is talking to a high school football team and is talking about Friday Night games or as he calls it “these tonights.”  He explains that these tonights go by fast and if you’re focused about a party, a relationship, a test, college something other than the game right in front of them then you’re focused on tomorrow.  If you are prepared for a game, prepared for a job interview, prepared for life then you shouldn’t have to over think.  You cannot think and hit at the same time just made me approach a lot of what I do in life a little different, that is why I love it.

Cassie: What is one thing you cannot live without?

Matt: I can honestly say one thing I can’t/don’t want to live without is my better half, Maria.  Some may think that is cute or whatever but to me, it’s nothing but the truth.  We started dating in a very difficult time, I was in my masters, coaching baseball, an assistant strength coach, working an 8 hour day at a local t-shirt warehouse and she was trying to enjoy her senior year while competing one last time for a national championship for women lacrosse.  Yes, it was a good time but we had difficulty hanging on especially when she graduated and I was doing the same thing for one more year of my Masters.  I packed up my bags after we lost in the World Series that year, drove home said bye to my parents and drove down to Pleasantville, New York to start my next chapter.  The problem was she wasn’t with me.  We had a choice to make and she took a huge risk moving down here to find a mediocre job but so she could be with me.  For a few months, we lived in the same town in different houses and barely saw each other.  Finally, we found an apartment and slept on an air mattress for months with not a lot money but we had each other and we figured it out  The fact that she took that risk to make us work summed it all up for me.  It wasn’t easy for the first couple years but we got through every struggle, good time, bad time together.  I am sure everyone has some sort of similar story but that is the beginning of our story and as much as I talked about how important the Athletes Warehouse Team is to me, she is just as important because she and I are in this life together, that’s our team. She has been with me through the tough times and has been my rock throughout the last 5 years of my life, from being there through my masters to making a leap of faith and honoring my passion for my career.  We make decisions together and are going through life learning it together, growing up together, without her I don’t think I could be the person I am today.