Dumbbell exercises strengthen your shoulders, but do not necessarily enhance movement.
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Like baseball, softball requires power, agility and quick reflexes to pitch the ball, strike the ball and sprint in different directions without getting injured. Thus, you need strong and mobile shoulders, spine and hips to perform these skills to excel in your game. Although dumbbell exercises can make your joints and muscles stronger, they don't always guarantee that you'll be able to swing the bat accurately or move and change directions quickly.
Movement, Not Muscles
Instead of thinking about which muscles to train, think of exercise in terms of movement, such as lunging, pushing, throwing and turning, suggests SoftballPerformance.com. Full-body exercises that train different muscle groups and joints together can improve your coordination and body awareness that you cannot do so with typical exercise machines that isolate body parts. Sample exercises include the lunge and shoulder press, lunge and lateral raise, single-leg squat and dumbbell press and dumbbell stepups. Train with one or two dumbbells to create different challenges in your workout.
Interval Training with Dumbbells
Running on a treadmill like a marathoner won't help you improve the power, strength and endurance demands of softball. A study performed at the AT Still University in Mesa, Arizona, showed that baseball players who performed speed-endurance training had about seven times more leg power than those who performed moderate- or high-intensity, endurance training. SoftballPerformance.com recommends that you use the interval training method, not long-duration aerobics like a marathon runner, to develop endurance, strength and power. Interval training has you perform repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise followed by a longer period of lower-intensity exercise. For example, perform 15 seconds of standing lunges followed by one minute of dumbbell stepups with a lighter weight.
Relaxation, Not Tension
No matter how heavy you can lift, dumbbell training won't give you the snapping power you need for your pitches, throws and swings. Although the softball pitch and bat swings are different than boxing punches, they both require your shoulders to produce a snapping motion like a whip, not a pressing or pushing motion, says boxing expert Johnny Nguyen. The shoulder press and lateral raise require you to maintain constant, muscle tension throughout the exercise, which isn't required in softball. However, the snap requires your muscles to relax right before you pitch and after the ball leaves your hand. The biggest difference between lifting dumbbells and softball skills is time. Throwing the softball and sprinting are much quicker than lifting a dumbbell or doing lunges and stepups.
Because of the shape and weight distribution of the dumbbells, it's difficult to train rotational movements that your body needs to produce power in softball. Dumbbells exercises strengthen your hips and shoulders, but it doesn't mean that these muscles can move well when you try to jump and catch a fly ball or change directions quickly between bases. This is based on the SAID principle, which stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands. This refers to how your body adapts and improves at what it's specifically trained to do. A better way to improve rotational, full-body power would be to incorporate medicine ball and elastic band training with dumbbell exercises, such as overhead medicine ball pass and standing rotation with a band.