Deadlifts for Softball Players?

Deadlifts often times scare coaches because a) to be performed correctly they require lots of coaching b) the athletes are picking up a bar off the ground that is very heavy (at least should be if you want to get benefits from the deadlift), and c) you always hear about people hurting their back doing deadlifts (most likely when performed incorrectly).  So, are they worth doing with softball players?  If an athlete has been progressing up to the deadlift via other exercises, is being coached on how to correctly perform the deadlift, and has sufficient hip mobility to avoid lumbar flexion, then I will answer this emphatically with two words: HELL YES! As Gray Cook (one of the most knowledgeable coaches in the world) says, it’s one of his favorite exercises for the core and hips…two vital areas for softball players.

Furthermore I’d rather find out down the road that I am wrong about something I’m being proactive with because I really believe in it, rather than avoiding it out of fear.  Now obviously with this statement, one has to use logic as well.  I don’t do traditional Olympic Lifts with my players, so one can rightfully ask: isn’t that “living in fear” instead of being proactive and trying something? My answer is, no- not if I already believe that it’s probably not worth it (see my philosophies on Olympic Lifting).  The deadlift does not fall under that category.

A junior and senior from our 2012 record setting team each pulled 295 lbs. on a 1 rep deadlift max.  “Unofficially” over the summer of 2011, one of those athletes pulled 315 lbs. (when she was really focusing on maximum strength).  This player, a second basemen slapper at a body weight probably somewhere near 130 lbs, led the conference in stolen bases and was near the top of the conference in batting average and runs scored.  The other player led our team in home runs.  A senior pitcher who pulled 240 lbs. was our ace and had her best year in college.

Now, do these kids pull heavy amounts of weight because they are great athletes, or does pulling heavy weight lead to becoming great athletes?  My answer is, if there’s a correlation between strength and performance*, then who cares?  Get them stronger either way.

When we are talking strength, we are not talking 10-12 reps of little pink dumbbells.  We are talking getting your butt over a bar loaded with a ton of weight, and picking it up off the ground with perfect form, using the glutes, hips, core, and even lats and lower traps.  Most people reading this will know, but correct technique is A MUST.  I hate hearing about herniated disks and strained lower backs due to terrible deadlift technique.  Players need to progress up to this point, and if you do start using deadlifts, and they still can’t straighten their back when getting down to the bar, then do something about it…for example raise the bar with bumper plates stacked underneath or do rack pulls.


*A quick and easy search shows numerous studies pointing toward yes, strength helps big time.  Here is just one on the effects of throwing velocity when increasing strength- Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC. Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):148-56.

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  1. Is the Risk-Reward Worth It (Program Design)? « Northern State University Softball

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