The following article will discuss our belief as to how an individual can learn how to:
1. GET HEALTHY:
- As the game of baseball has evolved a major point of emphasis for all pitching coaches has been how to increase velocity. Yet, as professionals, we should never focus on throwing harder if the athlete presents with pain or maladaptive movements.
- Regardless of how familiar the coach is with the athlete, the first step towards any productive program should be a thorough movement assessment. This assessment must have the central focus of being investigatory and preparatory for the athletes future training applications.
- Assess for:
- Current injury state
- Proper movement patterns (especially for shoulders, hips and ankles)
- For adequate force production and force absorption capabilities
- i.e. strength & stability
- Pitching mechanics (video)
2. ENGRAIN MECHANICS: (through the use of medicine ball drills)
- Through the lens of empirical research, the coaching staff at AW is currently evaluating how the utilization of specific medicine ball drills can improve mechanics and throwing velocity.
- The goal of this research is to suggest that a pitcher may not have to endure stressful off-season throwing programs to improve both mechanics and throwing velocity.
3. JUMP > 200 TIMES A WEEK:
- The angular separation between the throwing shoulder and drive leg hip has been touted as providing up to 80% of the energy demand needed for effectively throwing a baseball. Research has found that in order to increase this angular separation and aid in its energy transfer the pitcher must produce a significant amount of ground force through the drive leg and the landing leg at different points throughout the pitching sequence.
- Jumping, especially unilateral in the horizontal and transverse planes, has very similar applicational elements to the actions exhibited in a pitch. We have found that once we can get our athletes to the point of jumping over 200x a week their power outputs (tested on a Keiser machine) has drastically improved…so has velocity!
4. LIFT HEAVY THINGS OFTEN:
- Force production is at the core of athletic performance! Strength and conditioning principles are now well received by any serious athlete and/or coach and should be appropriately applied.
5. HANG FROM A BAR:
- Often scapula kinematics, serratus anterior, lat and the all elusive lower trap strength are brought into the conversation when discussing the proper strength and functionality of a pitcher’s throwing arm. When discussing how to enhance/strengthen these areas many of the exercises that come with the greatest applicable impact happen up on a pull-up bar.
- Chin/pull-up variations (eccentric, weighted, etc.)
- Kipping motion (no pull-up, knees-to-elbow)
- Front lever variations
- Inverted row variations
6. BECOME MORE ATHLETIC
- For far too long it has been established that pitchers didn’t need to be athletes; they just needed to know how to throw the ball. Thankfully this antiquated mindset is dying and dying fast as we see the emergence of physical specimens in our highest level of play.
- An athletes ability to generate force is either compounded or limited by their ability to effectively transfer this force/energy. Pitching is about kinematic sequencing, the accuracy of neuro-firing, and the resulting power output. Being a better athlete (i.e. performing movements like change of direction, power cleans, bounds, etc.) will only aid in the quality and quantity of improvement in a pitcher.
7. NEVER RUN LONG DISTANCE
- Long distance running is counterproductive to any athlete interested in improving power production, which as we learned earlier is a primary concern of every pitcher.
- The energy demands, muscular requirements and power capacity of long-distance runners only replicate long distance runners, not most other athletes. Just because the game is long does not mean the athlete needs mindless aerobic endurance to be able to withstand the duration. The athlete needs to be able to produce an incredible amount of force approximately 100 – 120 times over the course of the game with short duration breaks in between each bought. With approximately 12 seconds of rest between each pitch and no more than 2 seconds of work time that’s a 1:6 work to rest ratio with about 4 full minutes of work time.
- Sprint & sprint often!