The Top 6 Stability Exercises for Overhead Athletes

Big Thank YOU to Dr. Eric Dixon, for this weeks health and wellness fastpitch article!

The Top 6 Stability Exercises for Overhead Athletes
By Dr. Eric Dixon, DC, MS, NSCA-CPT

In the game of softball, it’s becoming more and more trendy to try to gain strength and power at a young age. The parents that I talk to are looking for their child to be the strongest, fastest, and most skillful player on the field, which is great. I would want the same thing for my child. For future reference, please note that I said “on the field.” This article outlines the Top 6 ways that softball players can stabilize their bodies and can help keep them “on the field” and away from injury.

With all the hype in mainstream media about lifting weights and sports performance, it’s very easy to see barbells, battle ropes, dumbbells or kettlebells as fun, shiny, new toys. However, often times sport and strength coaches forget or just don’t know that there has to be some pre-requisite of relative strength (control of bodyweight) in order to allow an athlete to perform certain strength exercises. Pre-requisites like proper stability and mobility of the body are mandatory in order to lift weights safely, efficiently, and with the intent that they are made for.

Here is a quick quiz for coaches:
1) How many of your softball players can touch their toes? (Fingers to toes, not put their elbows on the ground. Too much mobility can be bad as well.)
2) How many can perform a bodyweight squat without the knees collapsing inward, rounding the low back in a hunched position or falling backwards?
3) Are you having them squat and deadlift with weight?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you might be guessing at your training protocols, or you have a one-size-fits-all program implemented.

Answering questions like the one posed above is crucial in individualizing a training routine to the needs of each athlete. All athletes are different, and to be honest, exercises that are good for some can actually make others worse. This is one of the many reasons we screen (using FMS) each of our athletes before they ever do a single exercise in our facilities, SPORTCHIRO+ and Accelerate Health & Fitness. Without abiding by these movement “rules,” you are asking for injury or at the very least compensatory movements. I routinely see these sidelined athletes in my office as patients with pain everyday. Many times now, it’s not even an injury related to sport, but rather their training. Isn’t training supposed to make you better? Not injure you?

Here is a list of some softball stability drills that I have put together that will help progress your overhead athletes as they begin moving into strength training programs.
1) Dead Bug with Kettlebell Overhead-
2) Hamstring Curls on Exercise Ball-
3) Bear Position Hold/Crawls-
4) Half Kneeling Horizontal Band Pulls-
5) Suitcase Kettlebell Carries-
6) The Turkish Get Up-

Mastery of these basic exercises is a pre-requisite to proceeding to power and strength programs. When your athlete is able to progress, hopefully she will progress to well written programs such as the one that TJ Allan wrote about here:

In conclusion, it is mandatory to move well before you begin to repetitively lift weights. Relative strength and control of bodyweight movements have to precede resistance training. Be sure to work with a professional who understands proper progressions and regressions to progress athletes at their own pace, not necessarily at the pace of the protocols. After all, the goal of training is make you stronger, faster, and more powerful AND to keep you on the field!


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