According to Eric Cressey, one of the country's best sports-specific trainers, there is a four-part continuum to physical fitness. On one end, you have absolute strength; while on the other, you have absolute speed. In between you'll find strength-speed and speed-strength. To achieve the perfect softball body, you need to perform softball-specific workouts in each category.
Warm-Ups, Agility, Balance and Cooldown
Anytime you get into the gym or out on the field to play softball, perform a dynamic warm-up. As the saying goes, "Warm up to throw, don't throw to warm up." Start with a light jog then do moving mobility drills like walking lunges, quad-pull walks, skips, carioca runs, arm circles and neck rolls. Execute agilities before every workout like cut-60s, 5-10-5 drills and three-cone T drills to make you faster on the bases and lighter on your feet fielding the ball. Develop stability while pitching, throwing or hitting by balancing on a bosu ball or balance board as part of your warm-up. Then finish each workout with your standard stationary stretches to prevent future injury.
Strong muscles give you the stability needed to turn ground forces generated by the hips and legs into bat, foot and throw-arm speed. And to benefit from more dynamically explosive exercises, you need a great deal of base strength. Get into a gym to lift free weights in a controlled manner to develop lean muscle, building your workout program on a six-week foundational strength period. Perform lower-body workouts on Mondays and Thursdays and upper-body workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays. Lower-body lifts include back and front squats; walking, forward and side lunges; straight-leg and Romanian dead lifts; and high step-ups. Use dumbbells to increase shoulder stability on upper-body days, executing lifts like the bench press, one-arm row, Zottman curls and three-way shoulder raises. Perform anti-rotational core exercises like planks every workout.
Power is the ability to generate force quickly. Throwing, hitting and on-field bursts of speed require power. Strength-speed exercises force you to move a lot of weight quickly to develop power, and should be added to an already strong body. After six weeks of developing a solid foundation through absolute strength exercises, start to integrate strength-speed lifts. Dead lift, jerk, push press and power clean force you to thrust your hips to add softball-specific, rotational power to the hip girdle, increasing throw and bat speed. Mix one strength-speed lift in with your regular lifting program per day. And make sure to get professional supervision and a spotter. These lifts can be dangerous if not performed properly.
This part of the continuum trains your powerful muscles to move even more quickly through plyometric exercises, resistance sprints and medicine ball throws, and it trains your cardiovascular system for the explosion-stop cadence of the game. Softball is a series of explosive actions followed by periods of non-action, so perform these anaerobic exercises at peak intensity and then rest for 15 to 20 seconds. Wear a weighted vast or hold a medicine ball for plyometrics exercises such as box jumps, drop jumps and lateral skips. Sprint with a weighted vest or a parachute, or run up a hill for resistance sprints. And perform medicine ball throws, executing at least one shoulder-powering overhead toss and one softball-specific rotational toss per workout with exercises like stride throw, hip toss, hammer, side chest pass and overhead throw.
In the game of softball, you won't be running for very long periods of time. And when you are running, you'll be all-out sprinting to the ball, to the base or to back up a throw. Mimic that in your absolute speed training. Long distance running increases cardiovascular endurance, but too much of it reduces muscular stamina. And you want stamina, to be ready to fire your muscles as hard as you can for softball's short bursts of high-demand activity. Increase muscular stamina with short, hard, body weight sprints, and ditch the jogging. Perform four to eight sprints of 40 yards or less, three to four times per week, all the way through your training.