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What is Rice Bucket Training in Baseball?

As I was scrolling through some baseball videos I came across one video where a former pitcher mentioned something about rice bucket training. My first thought was that rice bucket training sounded way too easy to be something that could help baseball players with their forearm strength, but before I completely dismissed it I decided to test out this training method to see how well it works. Before we get into how well rice bucket training works, let’s first describe what is rice bucket training in baseball.

In baseball, rice bucket training is when a player fills a bucket with rice and performs specific movements with their hands submerged in rice. Rice is used to provide some resistance when performing these movements, which helps players increase forearm strength and grip strength.

A blue, five-gallon bucket filled with rice with is resting on a wooden floor

Although rice bucket training is closely associated with pitchers, forearm strength is important for all players in the game because forearm strength helps baseball players with throwing and hitting. I also performed some rice bucket exercises and they were harder to do than I originally thought.

How to Do Rice Bucket Training

Rice bucket training is a fairly simple concept – get a bucket, some rice, and dig your hands into the rice. But what hand movements are the best for rice bucket training? Below are the exercises I tried.

A general rule of thumb is that beginners can start out doing each rice bucket movement 20 times and work their way up to 50-100 times each.

To test out how well rice bucket training works, I went through each of the eight exercises below and did them for 20 reps each movement. These exercises took about 6 minutes to complete for one arm and the end result is that I could feel a pretty good burn in my forearm.

8 Rice Bucket Training Exercises

1) Twisting Paddle Hand

Spreading fingers over a five-gallon bucket of rice to perform a move called "Twisting Paddle Hand"

Start by spreading your fingers wide and dig your hand into the rice. Once your hand is submerged into the rice, twist your open hand from side to side

2) Squeeze and Release

Hand reaching into a five-gallon bucket of rice to grab a handful of rice and squeeze

With a wide-open hand, grab as much rice and you can from the top of the bucket and squeeze the rice as hard as you can.

3) Deep Grabs

Dipping hand into a five-gallon bucket of rice to perform a move called "Deep Grabs"

Jab your hand deep into the bucket and squeeze the rice as hard as you can. Bring your hand out of the rice and then repeat the movement by jabbing your hand deep into the bucket of rice.

4) Pinchers

Dipping thumb and pointer finger into a five-gallon bucket of rice to pinch the rice between the fingers

There are three separate movements included for pinchers (one for each set of fingers/thumb combination). For each of these movements, dig your hand into the bucket and pinch the rice in between your fingers and thumb:

  1. Pinch with your pointer finger and thumb
  2. Pinch with your middle finger and thumb
  3. Pinch with your last two outside fingers and thumb

5) Twisting Fist

Making a fist over a five-gallon bucket filled with rice

Dig your hand about halfway into the bucket and make a fist. While your hand is in a fist, twist your arm from side to side.

6) Fist-Circles

Jab your hand about halfway into the bucket and form a fist with your hand. With your closed fist move your wrist in a clockwise circle and then in the counter-clockwise circle. This movement is designed to be a wrist exercise so try to move your wrist and keep your arm still.

7) Hand Shake

Dipping hand into a five-gallon bucket of rice like you're shaking someone's hand

Dig your hand about halfway into the bucket and move your hand as if you’re shaking hands with someone.

8) Punch and Finger Spread

Make your hand into a fist and punch your fist into the rice. Once your hand is submerged into the rice, spread your fingers and lift your hand out of the rice. Repeat this movement.

Use 25-30 Pounds of Rice and a 5 Gallon Bucket for Rice Bucket Training

Two bags of rice on either side of a blue, five-gallon bucket

Although the concept of rice bucket training is easy, the most common thing people wonder about is how much rice do you put in a bucket of rice.

As a general rule, rice bucket training can be done with 25-30 pounds of rice. A five-gallon bucket will hold almost 30 pounds of rice and is a great size to use for rice bucket training.

For more resistance, you can also use more rice by getting a bigger bucket. As an example, some bodybuilders will fill an entire 44-gallon trash can with rice in order to warm up their arms or to do some forearm training.

The photo above shows the materials I used to perform these rice bucket training movements. Each bag of rice was 20 pounds and I was able to pick these up from Costco. The five-gallon bucket was from Lowe’s and it only held about 30 pounds of rice.

Athletes Squeeze Rice to Increase Forearm Strength

Knowing how to perform a rice bucket training routine is great, but it also makes sense to know the why behind the routine. Why do athletes squeeze rice?

In general, athletes squeeze rice to build strength in their forearms and to increase grip strength. Some athletes will squeeze rice to warm up their arms while other athletes squeeze rice as a way to rehab an arm or hand.

When a player gets injured, it’s important for them to slowly work back into their training routine. Rice bucket training is a great way for injured athletes to work on their fingers, wrists, forearms, or shoulders while not having to worry about over-using their injured arm with too much weight.

Forearm strength is important in baseball, especially when throwing a ball and swinging a bat. The more baseball players work on their forearm strength, the harder they can throw a ball and the harder they can swing a bat.

Does Squeezing Rice Work for Grip Strength?

Once you understand how to perform training with a rice bucket and you understand the why behind the movements, the next logical thing to wonder is if rice bucket training is worth it.

In general, squeezing rice is worth it when trying to work on forearm strength and grip strength, but the general consensus is that rice bucket training should be combined with other exercises to achieve the best results.

From doing the above rice bucket movements, I can definitely say that rice bucket training was more challenging than I originally thought. But if a player’s goal is to increase grip strength, I can see the benefit in incorporating additional weight exercises into the routine.

Rice bucket training is best when it’s one part of an overall training program so make sure you work closely with a trainer or coach to figure out the best way to incorporate rice bucket training into your baseball routine.

Rice Bucket Alternatives

Some people who look into rice bucket training may also be wondering about what else they could use that would do the trick. What are some rice bucket alternatives?

Some alternatives to using rice include sand and pea gravel. The density of sand and pea gravel is different than rice, but they can provide a different level of resistance for those who do not want to use rice.

Although I have not used either of these materials myself, these are some common alternatives to rice that I have seen others referencing while they are searching for alternatives to rice bucket training.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.