How important is strength for baseball players? It is arguably the most important aspect of the game, particularly pitchers. Are enough baseball players utilizing their training time to improve this pivotal aspect of their game. It seems so much time can be spent on technique coaching, weighted balls, and other drills, that the motor that drives the pitch gets neglected. Here we will break down how work in the weight room impacts a throwing athlete and how we make that motor more powerful.
Aspects of training
Application- As was previously mentioned, we are looking to develop maximal strength that can be driven into the ground(ground force.) Knowing this, building block exercises such as squat and deadlift variation only make since. They both involve the feet being ground based and driving the feet through the floor to move a load. It is imperative to train for MAXIMAL strength. This means we lift heavy with our athletes. Each pitch a single bout effort to throw the ball as fast as possible. Light to moderate weight for sets of 10 on a squat or deadlift will have little carry over to a pitchers fastball. The most common misconception is that athletes should not lift too heavy in their offseason training to avoid injury. The fastest way to get injured is to train the tissues of the body sub maximally and then subject them to maximal effort during athletic performance.
2-Power- power is the ability to produce force Quickly. In physics, F=MA(force=mass x acceleration) With a combination of maximal strength training and power development, our athletes can train to produce the most force possible. This is more commonly known as the conjugate method, popularized by Louie Simmons.
Application- We want to develop ground force POWERFULLY when developing a pitch. The process of the pitch is less than a second from the time the pitcher starts pushing off the mound. We create power in multiple ways for our pitchers.
-plyos- box jumps, seated box jumps, depth jumps, broad jumps
-dynamic barbell lifts- same barbell lifts used in maximal effort training, however,
Instead of lifting as much weight as possible, we are moving the bar as fast as
3-Lateral force development. This aspect of the pitch ties in with both maximal and dynamic strength training. When the pitcher delivers the pitch, he is pushing off the side of the foot. Therefore, not only does the athlete need strong general ground force, but they need strong lateral force.
Application- Because of the lateral aspect of pitching, we choose lifts for out maximal strength training such as wide box squats and sumo deadlifts. These involve a large amount of lateral push on the way up. Along with our main barbell work, there are many ways we incorporate lateral jumps to develop powers in this plane.
4-Truck rotation- along with creating force through ground force, the thrower creates power through rotation through the trunk. Throughout the process of the throw, the chest and shoulders rotate counterclockwise(right hand pitcher) and drive towards the batter.
Application- the main way we develop this aspect is through medicine ball throws. There are many different way to apply these drills(standing rotational throws against a wall, kneeling rotational throws against a wall, rotational slams, rotational throws off one foot.
5-Core stability- while movement must occur throughout the spine/trunk, it is also important that there is a degree of stability. There’s is a difference in controlled movement through the spine, and sloppy unstable core movement. When a pitch is delivered, significant power will be lost if the spine in like a noodle.
Application- to improve the ability to brace the spine, we perform different variations of antimovement core exercises.
Anti-rotation- Paloff press variations
Anti-lateral flexion- suitcase carry, side planks
Anti-extension- all prone plank variations
6-Spine mobility- once an athlete has a base for bracing the spine under control it is important to develop mobility. The main focus in in the THORACIC spine, which is essentially the mid back. During a pitch, the thoracic spine rotates and flexes(bends).
Application- Our pitchers always maintain a protocol of mobility drills to improve and maintain these two areas of motion.
7-Ground to standing power transmissions- in more specific training, we need to make sure our throwers can efficiently transmit force from the ground through their body.
Application- A few of our favorite exercises for ground to standing power include any variation of a jump to medicine ball throw, and a squat or lunge into an overhead press.
8-Shoulder protection- Pitchers put serious strain on the shoulder joint. Throwing as hard as possible in the same movement pattern can put strain on any joint. Training should not add to the stress that throwers shoulder endure.
Application- the main way to keep throwers arms fresh is to strengthen the lower body. The more force they can create through ground force, the less the arm acts as the motor behind the pitch and the more it acts as the steering wheel.
During training, we keep the shoulder in as safe of a position as possible. With regular barbell back squats, the shoulder is in a heavily externally rotated position. Because of this, we put a heavy emphasis on our safety squat bar which keep the hands out front and the shoulder more neutral. We do have our throwers bench, however, we perform mostly reduced range bench press variations such as board press.
One of the most important ways to combat the constant force of pitching is to train the opposite motion of the pitch. Most injuries involved in baseball are overuse injuries. A pitch involves the arm/ shoulder joint being adducted and internally rotated. Knowing this it is important to train the shoulders in abduction and external rotation. This can involves many vitiations of rows, scapular retraction exercises, and band pull aparts.