Strength-Speed: Customized Mechanics for Baseball Pitchers

This post comes from Graeme Lehman, who has been working on his “customized mechanics” series on his website. Graeme aims to build mechanics and train each athlete based on their physical profile. You can find the original post here. Be sure to check out his website for more great content.

Below is the chart that Graeme uses to illustrate how we must train each pitcher differently.

 

Today’s focus is going to be on “Strength-Speed” which is a type of strength that is described as moving a moderately heavy load at a moderate speed. This is important because when we initiate the pitching delivery we are in fact moving a moderate load, in the form of your own body weight, at a moderate speed, before moving faster and faster as we climb the kinetic chain and let go of the baseball.

To put some numbers with the term moderate we can think of an external training load as being about 75-85% of 1RM while the speed is in the 0.75-1.0 m/s range.

The intent on moving the load, however, should not be moderate since you should be moving at a max speed. Due to the load, the speed then slows down to this “moderate” range.

Looking at the chart below we can see some of the exercises that are associated with this part of the force-velocity curve.  These types of exercises help us measure both how much “strength-speed” an athlete has as well as providing a means to train and improve this area, if this athlete needs to spend time and energy improving this athletic quality.

 

The two types of exercises that we see on either side of “Strength-Speed” are Olympic Lifting and weighted jumps.

Before we move onto the controversial topic of Olympic Lifting for baseball players I do want to mention that traditional lifts like deadlifts, bench press or squats can also be performed in this range of moderate load and speed.

However, it’s harder to use them as an assessment tool since approximately 34% of each lift is spent accelerating while the remaining 66% is spent decelerating the weight.

 

Olympic Lifting – The Controversy for Baseball

Olympic lifting for baseball is a controversial topic but controversy gets people’s attention.

In fact, there is a good chance that you are reading this site due to the fact that I did an interview with Eric Cressey discussing my research since it helped him justify why he doesn’t use Olympic lifting with his baseball players, in particular pitchers.

In this interview, we talked about how he was receiving a lot of criticism when he wrote that he doesn’t use Olympic lifts for his pitchers.

For some strength and conditioning professionals, this was blasphemous since Olympic lifts are held in such high regard for some coaches.

But like any exercise or drill we must weigh the risks vs the rewards to see if it is the right tool for the job. In my opinion traditional Olympic lifts like the clean and snatch do not provide enough rewards to outweigh the risks which could be an injury to the wrist’s and elbows, not to mention the fact that it isn’t a great predictor of throwing velocity since it isn’t specific enough to the movement.

Lower body power that can be attained from moving a moderate load at a moderate speed can definitely help out when you’re on the mound. This is especially true of weaker players.

Let’s look for a “Win-Win” situation where we can work on producing this type of force with the lower body without having to catch a heavy barbell on our shoulders and wrists.

Movements like jump shrugs or high pulls allow for us to “reject what is useless and accept what is useful”. These are known in the S&C world as Olympic Lifting derivatives.

In fact there are research papers like this one or this one out there that show that Olympic weightlifting derivatives that don’t include the catch phase like a high pull or jump shrug produce just as much benefit.

If we are going to use these types of lifts then we need to find a way to quantify them and the best way to do this is to measure bar speed.

Radar guns don’t pick up barbell velocity very well so if you want to use Olympic lifting derivatives to assess how much “strength-speed” a particular athlete has then you need to get your hands on a device like the tendo unitbar sensi or push device.

The reason that you need to quantify the speed is that if we only use the weight on the bar as a guide the Olympic lifts tend to be too slow in order to get the benefits we want from training in strength-speed zone.

“I’ve mentioned this before idea before here when I read an article by Dr. Bryan Mann who is an expert in the field of velocity based training.  He recounts a story about how he measured the velocity of the Olympic lifts with his football team when the weight on the bar was the primary focus.”

When he measured the speeds, they were in the 0.6 to 0.8m/s range when his guys were performing hang cleans so it was only the fastest guys that were just barely in this “strength-speed” range of 0.75 to 1.0 m/s.

The proof that it was too slow came when they tested vertical jumps and didn’t see any improvements. But when the speed of the bar became the focus, the jump heights went up.

Jump height is a far better indicator of on-field football performance which is the reason we don’t see Olympic lifting at the NFL combine.

Remember that we are using the weight room to increase our performance on the mound. The fact that we aren’t lifting the weight with one leg in the frontal plane, like we see on the mound, still means that the benefits that a pitcher gets from using Olympic lifts, even if they are performed fast enough and safe enough, might not be the right choice for each athlete.

But I do really like how they can be used to help an athlete initiate power from a complete stand still. This is an area that I feel a lot of players with lots of mobility, elasticity and limb length could use since they can’t get enough FORCE in the first place in order to take advantage of these qualities which help produce SPEED. Remember that FORCE x SPEED = POWER.

So if a player is generally weak like we talked about in the absolute strength article it is pretty safe to assume that their strength-speed isn’t very good either. Personally, I like to use some traditional lifts like squats and deadlifts with an emphasis on speed to help increase this quality while also making them stronger overall.

Even if the bar spends more than half the time slowing down I still take it over trying to catch the weight.

Even guys that have lots of absolute strength can benefit from this type of training if they can’t move 75-85% of their 1RM in that speed range that we are looking for.

In other words, this player is strong but slow, which doesn’t allow for max power when we are talking about a 5 oz. baseball.

To sum things up here I think that in most cases Olympic lifts don’t provide baseball players the biggest bang for their buck but if you are going use them I suggest:

  • not catching the weight
  • starting from a standstill
  • measure bar velocity

The next part of this series will talk about weight jumps as we make our way towards “speed-strength”.  This one should be fun to put together since I have some examples of guys that can throw 95mph+ doing some weighted jumps.

The 3 Foundations to Your Nutrition: Macronutrients

When it comes to nutrition and athletes, understanding what you are consuming will go a LONG way! The 3 foundations fall under 1 major umbrella: macronutrients. Often known as “macros,” carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, supply all the energy to perform important bodily functions and daily activities.

The majority of your diet is made up of macronutrients.

Carbohydrates are glucose and can give long term or short-term energy depending on what you eat. Fats are energy dense foods and are separated into two groups: saturated and unsaturated fat. Protein helps recover your muscles faster from workouts.

In this blog, we will break down each macronutrient and go over some food choices!

Download My Top 10 Baseball Game Day Nutrition Tips

 

Carbohydrates

To start off I will give a little run down of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are formed from monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. The longer and more complex carbohydrate chains take longer for the body to digest. Longer digestion times supply energy over an extended period of time, while shorter chains and shorter digestion times provide quick energy supplies.

Polysaccharides (which are the longest chain) mostly include plants such as: rice, starch, whole grains, and beans.

To digest carbohydrates, it all starts with the mouth…of course. The first place where carbs are broken down is in the saliva. Saliva breaks the chains into polysaccharides, then they pass through the bloodstream into the small intestine.

Finally, they are stored as glycogen, more specifically known as glucose energy.

Now that the bases are covered we can get to how carbohydrates affect a daily diet. Carbs are the fastest macronutrients in and out of the body. When consuming carbs think of the time period you have before you need to exert energy and how long the energy needs to last. For example:

  • Right before a workout what should you eat? White bread, fresh or dried fruit. White bread contains smaller chains that are easier to digest. Which gives a brief burst of energy.
  • In the morning before work or school, what should you eat? Whole grain bread, lean protein, or other nutrient-rich foods. The wheat bread contains long chains of saccharides which make the energy last longer because they take more time to digest. These are things to consider for your diet. This gives you energy for a longer amount of time.

 

Fats

Now here is a rundown on fats. The most important fact to understand about fats are the two major categories: saturated and unsaturated fats.

According to the American Heart Association, “Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.” To identify them simply look for the fats that are solid at room temperature.

Examples of Saturated Fats

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Fatty beef
  • Lard and cream
  • Lamb
  • Pork

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. “An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is one or more double bond in the fatty acid chain.”  

Examples of Unsaturated Fats

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Canola
  • Soybean
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil

Fat is digested slower than carbs because it doesn’t go through the stomach and blood vessels as fast.

In a healthy diet or nutrition plan fats should provide the majority of energy. Each fat gram contains 9 calories, compared to carbs and proteins which only hold 4 calories.

Fats help make and balance steroid hormones, transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The healthiest diets have a variety and a balance between fats and avoid consuming processed fats as much as possible.

 

Download my Top 10 Game Day Nutrition Tips for Baseball Players

 

Proteins

Protein helps give us the “I’m full’ factor. It evidently takes longer than carbohydrates and fats to digest. Part of the reason pertains to protein starting the digestion process later in the stomach while carbs and fats start earlier. First, the acid in the stomach breaks apart the protein structures to make way for the pepsin to break apart peptide bonds.

Protein should be implemented into your diet, but it might not be the same as your peers. It can be based off your body size, preference, and needs. But the most important part is to have an assortment of protein sources.

High Protein Food Options

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Chicken breast
  • Oats
  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt

Proteins are also filled with Branched Chain Amino Acids, the building blocks to your recovery and muscle repair. Make sure you have a lean protein source with every meal through the day!

 

Putting It All Together

Know we know that carbohydrates are the fastest macronutrients in and out of the body.

When consuming carbs think of the time period you have before you need to exert energy and how long the energy needs to last.

Fats should provide the majority of energy and the healthiest diets have a variety and balance between fat foods and avoid consuming processed fats as much as possible.

Finally, protein should be implemented into your diet, but shouldn’t be the same as your peers. It can be based on your body size, preference, and needs. But the most important part is to have an assortment of protein sources.

Adding this to your knowledge of diets and macronutrients has already provided you with the tools for a great nutrition plan.

Two Common Curveball Mistakes Pitchers Should Avoid

As a youth baseball coach, I spend a significant amount of time shaking my head at easily taught aspects of the game that go overlooked. When youth pitchers begin throwing curveballs—somewhere between the age of 12 and 15, typically—they embark on a long journey with mastering what is a very difficult pitch to get right.

I advocate learning a curveball at 14 or 15—not younger—yet admit that it takes a long time to develop the pitch properly. The reality is that pitchers need a high-quality breaking ball by the time they are 16 if they want a chance at being recruited to pitch in college. When taught properly and given consistent coaching and feedback, a pitcher can learn to develop a solid curveball in 6-12 months. My 15U team this year had a fantastic season using a curveball for the first time, just a year after I taught it to all my pitchers.

Does a curveball in the repertoire help a young pitcher succeed in the short term? Sure—the brains of 12-year-old hitters simply can’t figure out the physics to help them make consistent contact against even bad breaking balls.

However, I am steadfast in my belief that this stunts long-term development of pitchers, as they learn to rely not on command and a changeup (both of which they’ll need later on in their careers) but rather just flipping in a curveball whenever they’re in a jam. This is not the way.

Yet, when it becomes time to learn the pitch, it can be a very difficult process. In today’s article, I’ll share two tips that I see most pitchers struggle with—how to locate the curveball, and how hard to throw it.

 

Tip #1: How Hard Should You Throw Your Curveball? As Hard As Possible!

I recently watched a very polished 15U pitcher throw against my teams with excellent mechanics, command and fastball velocity. “This kid’s going to be good!” I said to myself. Then, I saw his curveball for the first time. I cringed. He threw it way too softly, eased off it, and showed a nervousness about throwing it full speed. If only he saw himself on video, he’d agree that:

  • He slows his arm down significantly
  • Sinks into his front leg, causing his arm to get beneath the ball and float it upward
  • Doesn’t finish the pitch, easing off his follow through for fear of bouncing it

 

This is very common and understandable—the curveball is harder to control than a fastball, so pitchers mentally try to ease off and just toss it in there.

The problem is that when a curveball is thrown at less than 100% intensity, it will “pop up” out of the hand, making its trajectory look very different to a hitter. Though young hitters aren’t good at recognizing this at first, they start to pick it up well in high school and beyond.

To keep the curveball looking like a fastball the longest, a pitcher has to throw it at 100% intensity, often trying to mentally throw it harder than the fastball, even.

Learn more about how hard to throw the curveball, including how much slower it should be and more in the video below.

 

Tip #2: Use Focal Points to Locate the Curveball

The curveball doesn’t fly straight…duh, right?

Well if it doesn’t fly straight, then why does every young pitcher who throws one stare right at the catcher’s mitt?

As pitchers, we have to place our eyes on a focal point where we want the pitch to start, not end up. With the fastball—because it’s straight—this location is the same. Yet with all types of pitches with break, including curveballs, sliders, sinkers, cutters, changeups, etc.—we have to account for the break.

This means that if your curveball breaks 12 inches straight down—and you want it to end up at the catcher’s mitt—you should choose a point to focus on that is 12 inches above the mitt, and basically try to “start” your curveball there. This makes sense, right?

Yet, many pitchers either never learn this, or learn it very late. I learned it when I was 20 years old, pitching in summer baseball after my sophomore year at a small Division-I school. This tip is HUGE yet overlooked, just as it was in my development.

For illustrations showing what this looks like, watch the video below. Using focal points can change everything!

 

Improve Your Curveball Using These Two Tips

These two tips discussed today can make a huge difference, as they both address mistakes I see on a daily basis. If a pitcher is easing off his curveball, hitters will hit it hard. And for those who have trouble locating, using focal points will give a concrete way to improve command.

 

Want to Learn More From Coach Dan?

Check out Dan’s two pitching books on Amazon, along with a list of his other favorite pitching and mental training books.

Watch the rest of his free YouTube online curveball course

And, sign up for his weekly newsletter here, where you’ll get his newest videos and presentations sent to you as soon as they’re released.

Hotel Workouts for Baseball Tournaments

Summer and travel baseball are in full swing, but how can you maintain your workouts on the road? Hotel gyms can be hit or miss, trust me, as a player and coach, I’ve seen a lot of hotel gyms.

In this article, I will give you a dumbbell workout and a bodyweight workout you can perform on the road to maintain your strength and performance at your next tournament.

If you are not a subscriber to Esposito Strength Club, make sure you click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out! You will also get access to all of my Free Online Baseball Courses!

Tournament Baseball

First off, there are baseball tournaments EVERY week of the summer. There is no shortage of tournaments and hotels are now popping up all around these sites.

Most baseball tournaments are pretty consistent when it comes to how many days you will be at whichever tournament. More than likely, you will likely play in 3, 5 or 7 Day tournaments.

Another item to keep in mind is the potential for long car rides and plane trips. Your sleep may be impacted as well. I remember experiencing my first red-eye flight with my team from Boston going Detroit at 3 am to go to AAU Nationals when I was 16. That was not fun. It took me at least 2 days to feel recovered. I’m just glad my start wasn’t during those first few days.

Now add the following to the mix:

  • Hot summer days
  • High effort performances
  • Hotel/restaurant food every day

That is a perfect mix to breakdown your body.

 

The Problem with Hotel Gyms

Hotel gyms are very hit or miss. I have been in some hotels where it was like any other gym with dumbbells, cable tower, and medicine balls. Everything you would need to get in your entire lifting session.

I have also seen the other spectrum. Here’s your broken down treadmill, a yoga mat, and exercise bike from 1992.  Don’t forget the inspiration poster near the empty water fountain. Don’t be shocked if you also find lots of turquoises and or maroon.

 

Plan Ahead

Hopefully, the hotel you and your team are staying in has a fancy website to book your stay with images of their amenities (hint: google your hotel). When you’re looking for the gym, also check out the what kind of food and nutrition they will have

Download my Top 10 Game Day Nutrition Tips for Baseball Players

 

The Warmup

Yes, you still need to warm up. I get kids all the time who come in from a game and want to jump right into their lift.

Don’t make the excuse. Take the 5-10 minutes to get your body ready. For some, doing this warmup may be plenty, especially if you just played a doubleheader in 90+ heat on turf. If that’s the case, drink water and eat some food. Try to see if you can work out at a later time or different day.

 

Foam Rolling (5-10 rolls per body section)

 

Active Series

 

The 1 Dumbbell Workout Program

Yep, you guessed it, you will only need 1 dumbbell for this workout.

Why just 1 dumbbell? Hotel gyms rarely go beyond 50 pounds if they even have dumbbells. For most of you older athletes, that can’t replace your heavy barbell squats or deadlifts.

So, what can we do to maximize your workout for the equipment and space provided?[H3]

We can still work strength, but we can also make sure your movement quality is being maintained. We can also work on your core stability, balance, and prepare your body for the next few games ahead.

Being sore is not the goal. When you have a small window AND limited equipment, the goal is to maintain your high performance.  This will keep your body from breaking down until you get home back to your gym and standard program.

 

Circuit 1

How Many Sets: 2-3

How Many Reps: 6

Exercises: Contralateral Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive, 1 Arm Bent Over Row, Standing Anti-Rotation Press

 

Circuit 2

How Many Sets: 2-3

How Many Reps: 6

Exercises: Goblet Squat, Yoga Pushup, Dead Bug

 

Circuit 3

How Many Sets: 2-3

How Many Reps: 6

Exercises: Contralateral 1 Leg RDL, Forward + Reverse Bear Crawl

 

The Bodyweight Workout

Now, if your hotel does not have dumbbells, here is a great bodyweight workout you can perform. This can be done in your hotel room or in an open space.

Maintaining good movement quality is the main purpose of this bodyweight hotel workout.

 

Circuit 1

How Many Sets: 2-3

How Many Reps: 6-8

Exercises: Bodyweight Squat, Yoga Pushup, Dead Bug

 

Circuit 2

How Many Sets: 2-3

How Many Reps: 6-8 (Hollow Holds are :15s each leg)

Exercises: Bodyweight Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive, Split Stance Reaching RDL, Level 1 Hollow Hold

 

Putting It All Together

Summer baseball can be long and draining. I know of baseball programs who play in 6-8 tournaments throughout the summer. That’s 1/2 to 3/4 of your entire summer!

On a minimum, you are losing 4 days where you can work out if you leave on a Thursday and get home on Sunday.

You need to take care of your body. Finding 30-45 minutes to perform these workouts will help keep you healthy and performing at a high level!

Is Heavy Lifting Good For Pitchers?

If you look around social media, you’ll see that more baseball pitchers are lifting “heavy.” This is, in general, a good trend – pitchers were coddled and treated with fragility for years.

But, pitchers are different – different than position players, and they’re different than other athletes in general.

But, how different are they? Is heavy lifting good for pitchers, in the same way that it’s good for other athletes? Let’s discuss.

 

First: Is Lifting Heavy Even A Real Distinction?

Honestly, it’s a stupid, often meaningless term.

As far as I can tell, it simply means that a person tries hard to lift weights. If you lift consistently and try hard, well, then by default you’ll get stronger, weights will get heavier, and there you go – progressive overload eventually leads to heavy weights.

Really, “I lift heavy” just means “I do what I’m told and I try to get stronger in a progressive manner.”

For players who have been in a decent college program, they get this by default. Most large programs with good strength coaches have their baseball players – including pitchers – do the big compound lifts like chin ups, squats, deadlifts, etc.

One who defines himself as “a pitcher who lifts heavy” is really just a pitcher who enjoys lifting and pushing himself more than others. The heaviness of it is partly just a choice to keep progressing.

Remember: if you can only squat 150lbs, you can’t just choose to lift heavy one day and squat 315. It takes time.

What’s actually important, though is this: When a pitcher draws the line.

 

When Lifting Heavier Becomes Riskier than the Reward

We need to look at the big picture.

The problem is, what you’re doing today may not be hurting you precisely today. But, it may be eating away at you. Ask a career distance runner – his knees felt fine at 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50. But by 55, he has no cartilage left and is in chronic pain.

Missing a rep trying to get up a 455lb deadlift today may not hurt anything but pride. But, here’s what it’s doing to an arm that’s extremely valuable to a pitcher:

  • Passing tremendous strain through the forearms, elbows,
  • Passing tremendous strain through the biceps tendon (which attaches to the labrum)
  • Passing tremendous strain through the back, shoulders, spine
  • Building a large, thick upper back that may not be good for shoulder mechanics and flexibility

 

Now, the SAID principle states that the body responds to the demands placed upon it. We know this to be true – do enough push ups, and your chest will grow bigger and stronger to do the job more efficiently and protect the tissues from being damaged by the activity.

Specific

Adaptations to

Imposed

Demands

 

If we want our pitching arm to be stronger and more resilient to injury, we have to impose stress on them, and weightlifting is a great way to do this. Think about rock climbers – they have the strongest forearms and fingers on the planet, because they impose the task of clinging to tiny holds on the face of a sheer rock.

Yet, rock climbers have injuries – though fiercely strong, forearm muscles tear and tendons pop. The body must recover and keep stresses below the failing threshold of the weakest tissues in the chain. The very thing that made them strong also breaks them down.

 

When Is Heavy Too Heavy?

I’ve worked with many, many young baseball and softball players as a full-time strength coach. It frustrates me that countless young kids imitate college players and the clients of very green trainers; they want to work out exactly as they do, because it looks cool on Instagram.

Just because it may work for one player (or appear to be working today) does not mean it’s good for that player long-term, or good for others at all.

Bro! Pitchers should lift heavy, bro!

Before I tell you what I think is too heavy, I’m going to tell you: I’ve seen firsthand how my strength training programs have affected hundreds of young pitchers, unlike many internet-only trainers. I adjust workouts each month in my academy, especially as their throwing volume changes. It’s complex and learning how to optimize an athlete’s workout in person is important.

I’ve seen firsthand how complaints of elbow pain decreased when I lowered the volume of heavy deadlifting, overhead pulling, and farmers carries. All are great exercises to build strength, but can make throwing arms angry.

Yet, getting strong is important. There are three phases that determine if you need to keep pushing, or start backing off to maintain strength and reduce injury risk.

 

Foundation Phase: Large Upfront Gains

Athletes with a low training age (0-3 years) are going to make large performance gains – including throwing harder – by getting stronger and putting on muscle, provided their flexibility doesn’t suffer too much.

This means getting big lifts up to:

  • Squat: 1.0x bodyweight on the bar for 8 reps
  • Romanian Deadlift: 1.0x bodyweight on bar for 12 reps
  • Trap Deadlift: 1.5x bodyweight on bar for 6 reps
  • Front Squat: 1.0x bodyweight on the bar for 8 reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrust: 2.0x bodyweight on bar for 8 reps
  • Chin Ups: 8 reps from full hang with no assistance

 

Johnny Wholstaff, a fictional pitcher who is 16 years old and weighs 160lbs, should hope to be able to:

  • Squat 160 for 8
  • RDL 160 for 12
  • Trap Deadlift 240 for 6
  • Front squat 160 for 8
  • Hip Thrust 320 for 8
  • Do 8 chin ups.

 

These are good benchmarks for a pitcher aged 13-21 with a low training age, and he will see good results from reaching these milestones. Use them as a guide, not as an absolute.

 

Intermediate Phase: Higher Weights, Diminishing Reward

Once a pitcher can check off all the above big lift benchmarks, usually after 3-5 years of training, he’ll enter an intermediate phase where he is:

  • Pretty strong
  • Pretty good at lifting, as far as technique is concerned
  • Still seeing performance increases, but at a lower rate

 

We are all aware of diminishing returns, and they start to show up here – we’re now fighting for smaller incremental gains in performance. That’s okay! – keep going. Now, we’re building to fill our strength and power “bucket.” Go beyond the recommended weights we had before.

But, that bucket is getting full…

 

In the graphic above, courtesy of Mike Reinold, he was explaining that athletes need a routine that establishes balance – they need strength, but not at the expense of other things like arm care, or good mechanics.

Likewise, pitchers need to throw and have good mechanics, but can’t throw so much that they leave other areas underdeveloped or bodies over-stressed.

As the strength bucket fills, injury risk increases, as tissues are getting stressed much higher to squeeze out ever-smaller performance gains.

 

The Maintenance Phase

Okay. Now, you’re a high school senior, college or pro pitcher. You’ve got a moderate training age (3-6 years) and you’re pretty strong. You weigh 175-220 lbs. If you can lift the goal weights we discussed, it’s time to start allocating more of your time to different things.

Why? Because…

  • You’re strong enough
  • Injury risk is high
  • Performance gains through weightlifting are now very low
  • The risk vs reward is no longer worth it

 

You deadlift 445lbs. You want to get to 495.  Okay – why? What will that do for you? Add more velocity? Probably not. Improve your slider, curve or changeup? Nope. Improve your command? Nope.

Okay. So why? To be the best at weightlifting? To earn a pride button for being the strongest pitcher in the bullpen?

Personally, I reached this phase at age 21, but didn’t know it. I realized it at age 25 and when I did, I started allocating more time to other things, other than simply lifting heavy weight. I had filled my strength bucket and making it overflow wasn’t going to make me a better pitcher.

Are you a powerlifter, or a pitcher? Once you can do the following, it might be time to move on and start allocating less time to strength work and more time to other types of training:

  • Trap Deadlift or Regular Deadlift: 405lbs x 3 reps
  • Squat: 365 x 5 reps
  • Front Squat 335 x 5 reps
  • Chin Ups: 15 bodyweight reps, which is equal to around 5 reps with 50 pounds added
  • Barbell Hip Thrust: 405lbs for 8 reps
  • Farmers walks: 40 yards with 120lbs per hand
  • Bench Press: simply not an important measure of strength for a pitcher.

 

My Recommendations For Pitchers:

Pushing to ultra-high weights on any given lift will have a negligible effect on pitching prowess. It will almost certainly make your arm irritated if you’re lifting that way while pitching at even a moderate volume. And, the risk versus reward simply is not there.

Lifting consistently and progressively (which ultimately means heavy) is great. Yet, it’s important to know when to say when.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Get a program from a trainer who has played the game him or herself, or has worked with a lot of players in real life.
  • More isn’t always better, and there is a definite point of diminished returns that affects risk and reward.
  • Exercises should fit the athlete, not the other way around.
  • When returns are so diminished that they pale in comparison with the risks, then it’s time to back off, move on, or choose new exercises
  • Realize that the goal is the sport, not being the best at lifting.
  • There are countless ways to build explosiveness without the Olympic Lifts, which are sometimes deemed “essential.” No exercise is essential – exercises are merely tools and multiple tools can do the same job.
  • Be careful of the monkey-see, monkey-do that is all too prevalent on social media.

 

Want More Pitching Help?

Check out two of my best resources, both of which are completely free:

 

How to Throw a Hammer Curveball YouTube Video Course

Go here to check out my free online course hosted as a playlist on YouTube.

 

The Pitchers Development Checklist

Go here to get the free checklist to figure out if the pitcher in your life is doing everything he should be to reach the next level.

 

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below!

What 4 Months of Off-Season Strength Training Did for This Baseball Program

Results and data speak for themselves.

In this article, I will be breaking down the results of 8 baseball teams ranging from 13u to 18u which we had the pleasure of working with this off-season and winter here at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance. I will provide examples and how to’s of several exercises as well! See how this baseball program increased power, strength, and performance!

If you are not a subscriber to Esposito Strength Club, make sure you click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out! You will also get access to all my Free Online Baseball Courses!

 

Why We Tested Our Athletes

First off, we like to test and collect data for many reasons. The main priority for us is knowing whether our program was successful or not successful.

I am a true believer in assessing myself as a strength coach and if something was implemented that did not achieve the results I would want or expect, I definitely don’t want to continue to make the same mistake the next year! As a coach, we also have to progress and develop our programs and coaching abilities.

 

What Data?

This is an area which I don’t know why many programs or coaches do not implement.

It’s all about your athletes getting better right? A huge game changer for us once the off-season ended was handing out progress reports of starting and ending data for each athlete. We held team meetings where we discussed results, goals and much more.

What’s even more important is the kids continued to train even after their “program” ended. This is awesome as many kids just simply stop training during the season.

Don’t make that mistake of not training! For more on that Click here for 5 Mistakes Baseball Players Make in-Season 

I believe there are two main excuses as to why most don’t test their athletes…those are:

  1. You don’t have (make) time.
  2. You are afraid you and your coaching philosophies will be proven wrong.

 

Look, I get it from a time perspective, but you are in full control of the practice plan and strength program. You make the time!

If you are afraid of being shown your training program really wasn’t as effective as your marketing led that to be…well either grow and make changes or stop coaching.

 

The Other End of the Spectrum

While testing can be a great thing, I do need to touch on the other end of the spectrum: over analyzing or collecting data just to say you collected it.

I have seen it before. I have seen some of the most unnecessary tests and assessments performed. I don’t know who actually cares to measure or needs to know the hand size of a 10-year-old baseball player but I’ve seen it done.

Sick, your 11 now and your hand grew 1/8 of an inch, our training is so good

Was it the training that caused that? Probably not as much as the sun going up and down a whole bunch.

Look, that even happened in our off-season tests. We measured the athletes’ height…but I did not include it on the final reports, many kids are in puberty and maturing…that’s a VERY big variable for me to say had nothing to do with getting taller.

If you are going to collect data, use it! Find out what went right, what went wrong, and how to make adjustments to help the athletes next season!

 

What We Tested

As we entered the off-season training, we needed to make a list of tests and measurements that were:

  • Applicable to the athletes
  • Made sense for baseball players
  • Able to be consistently replicated
  • Take 3 Sessions to perform
    • We did not want to lose too many training days

 

Our Training Parameters

I wanted to break this down a bit more for the coaches and parents who run baseball programs. I am sure some of you have a similar layout to roster structure.

  • 8 Total Rosters
  • 120 Total Athletes
  • 3 days a week of Strength Training
  • 1 Hour Per Training Session
  • 4 Total Months
  • 48 Total Workout Sessions
  • 6 of those sessions were allocated to testing, goal setting, and result breakdown and exit meeting

 

What We Tested

During the first week (November) and last week (February/March 15) of the strength program, we measured the following:

  • Body Weight
  • Grip Strength on Right and Left Hand
  • 60 Yard and 10 Yard Sprints (weather permitting)
  • 300 Meter (weather permitting)
  • 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test
  • Broad Jump
  • Lateral Bound on Left and Right Foot
  • Vertical Jump Height
  • Med Ball Stepping Overhead Throw

 

We used the GFlight to measure jump height. I absolutely love the GFlight. It’s portable, convenient, and consistent with its data and performance. Here’s a recent post for more and my review. Want a GFlight? Pick one up here and use code ESPOSTRENGTH for savings!

For velocity readings for the Med Ball Throws, we used Pocket Radar. Similar to the GFlight, it was easy to use, portable, and consistent. Here’s a great post from Mike Reinold on 3 Ways Pitcher’s can use radar to enhance performance…and check out the flame-throwing lefty in his videos…

Some of the goals of the baseball program were to simply get bigger and stronger. We only had an hour with the teams, and one of the areas we chose to not allocate much time to was speed and agility. As a strength coach, I do know many of these kids are multi-sport athletes, so that was not a major concern for me. Playing basketball, hockey or other sports gives plenty of agility and footwork.

We also know there is a high carryover when you perform strength lifting and plyometrics that translate into force production of sprinting and change of direction.

We chose several power development markers (broad jumps, lateral bounds, vertical, med ball) to track. We know these have a very strong correlation to baseball players performance and development.

 

Estimated 1 Rep Max

For our older athletes (15u, 16u, 17u, 18u) we used an estimated 1 Rep Max (e1RM) to safely find working weights for athletes. This also lets us have a better idea of appropriate weight selection for athletes, without the risk of performing a true 1 rep max test.

Every phase of the off-season for the older teams was specific in regard to developing strength and power and then using the new found strength to become explosive. This helps translate to on-field performance!

We had 3 main exercises we chose to track e1RM. Those were pushups, squats, and deadlifts.

Want to know your estimated 1 rep max…bookmark this link and use this 1 Rep Max Calculator

 

Here are some videos of the testing we performed this off-season!

 

The Results

These kids absolutely crushed their lifts. We were very clear from the beginning that the results would not happen overnight. Showing up consistently, lifting with good form, and properly increasing their weights was a great start.

While we had great results across all of the testing data, some of the areas that stood out were the power development of the Broad Jump, Vertical, and Lateral Bounds. On top of that, we created very good symmetry in the body from Right to Left on both Lateral Bounds and Grip Strength

We had a 42.98% increase in Right Leg Lateral Bound. For right-handed hitters and throwers, that is HUGE. More force to generate with will translate into higher velocity, and more power when hitting!

One of the other benefits to note is many athletes gained body weight during the off-season. While we gained weight, we also increased all power metrics…AND our running numbers either stayed at the baseline or improved. Even though we gained weight, our running did not get slower!

See the charts below for a full breakdown by age group!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How We Got Results

#1 Item that helped with results: showing up! That was something that was awesome this off-season. Almost all of these athletes were committed to coming to the gym and 100% bought into their personal development!

With that set, setting the foundations for this year and long term success was our top priority for these athletes. The programs were designed to hit the major areas for youth and developing athletes:

  • Strength and Power
  • Stability
  • Proprioception
  • Force Acceptance
  • Force Development
  • Med Ball Work
  • Plyometrics

 

We focused on what I call the pillars of strength: push, pull, hinge, squat, carry, core, balance. All of our workouts incorporated some type of movement or skill associated with those pillars.

 

Program Design for 13u and 14u Players

For our youth athletes, we always focus or the learning and mastering the basics. For a vast majority of this age group, it was their first time lifting or following a sports performance program.

This age group sets the tone and prepares them for heavier loads at older ages. You will be way ahead of everyone when you get into your 15 and older range from a strength development perspective.

We kept our rep ranges in the 8-12 for most of the exercises and focused on quality over quantity. Our progressions were designed to maintain their focus during the entire lift to be self-aware of their movement and patterns. For example, using 1 weight in a contralateral hold challenges your lateral flexion while performing a reverse lunge. This is a great progression for a standard reverse lunge.

 

Program Design for 15u, 16u, 17u, 18u Players

We had 4 significant phases for this age range during the off-season.

  • Phase 1 was re-acclimating to the gym after time off, as well as ensuring the lifting movements were ideal!
  • Phase 2 was continuing on our linear progression and added in some Isometric holds, and preparing the body to accept heavier loads.
  • Phase 3 was our heaviest load phase. We reduced the number of reps and increased the number of sets. This allows to safely get under heavier loads all within a linear progressive training approach!
  • Phase 4 was our speed phase. We take the muscle and strength we gained during the previous 12 weeks, and we teach it to become explosive and powerful. We reduce the weight as well to provide the proper stimulus for training, and prepare for tryouts and the season!

 

Just a note, we did not progress the athlete to the next phase just because the program called for it. This was where we would individualize for the athlete. If they required more time to master a movement, we simply allowed them that additional time.

 

How to Videos

Here are some great demos and how to videos of some of the exercises we used through the off-season training program. Many of these were crucial to power development as the data shows!

 

Final Thoughts

This was a great off-season for these athletes as the data shows. It was awesome seeing the progress from start to finish. Thanks to everyone at Champion (Kiefer, Diwesh, Kristy) for being a huge part of the success of these athletes!

We were very excited to show all the athletes at the end of the year meeting their results. It was great to see the kids talk about their goals and seeing their faces when they realized how they did not just hit their goal, but absolutely crushed it.

If you are interested in this type of training and results for your teams, send me a message below!

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Adductors

When it comes to your adductors, or groin muscles, stretching is one of the most common go-to interventions to keep you from straining or pulling your groin. Stretching is one of the tools we use, but how do we strengthen your groin and adductor muscles?

This article will breakdown additional ways to help you strengthen and keep your adductors healthy.

If you are not a subscriber to Esposito Strength Club, make sure you click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out! You will also get access to all of my Free Online Baseball Courses!

 

What Are Adductors

The adductor muscles (inner leg) are a group of 5 muscles that attach to the pelvis. The adductor muscles play a crucial role when it comes to performance, especially for baseball players. The adductors assist with back leg drive, separation, and hip extension. This includes explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, and throwing.

For example, pitching requires the adductors of your stance leg to eccentrically stabilize while you drive towards the plate. Then the stride leg adductors have to stabilize as you drive your stride foot into the ground and transfer energy from the ground up to the pelvis, torso, and arm. Once you release the ball, your adductors must eccentrically slow your body down.

Slowing down one of the most violent movements in sports like throwing a baseball is a total body movement. When an area of the body is compromised, other locations will pick up the slack such as tendons and ligaments.

 

How to Stretch Your Adductors

Groin strains often happen with a sudden lengthening of the groin muscles when they are pushed past their limits of range of motion. This can occur in baseball and rotational sports, as well as other sports that involve cutting, reactive and quick stops and starts. Groin injuries are less frequently studied than upper extremity injuries in baseball, but they are still important to consider when training.

 

Here are a few examples of when this occurs in baseball:

  • Pitchers/thrower strides
  • Hitter’s back leg movement
  • Reaction and drop steps that occur in the field
  • Catcher drop and blocks

 

The Split Stance Adductor is a great stretch for the groin and adductors. This allows the athlete, to find their available range of motion and work within that range. This stretch allows athletes to maintain the length needed in their adductors to keep performing at a high level on the field while reducing injury risk.

 

Improve Rotational Power

The adductors play a huge role when it comes to rotating the hips. Transferring kinetic energy from your lower half to upper half will help lead to more potential velocity and power to your swing.

This shuffle is focused on bringing as much speed and momentum as possible into the Med Ball Scoop.  We still want to stay loaded onto your back hip to allow your adductors to lengthen. This will help create more force into your rotation and get good separation from the upper half and lower half.

This “separation” works together to transfer force between the upper and lower body. This is why you see elite athletes, such as baseball hitters or tennis players, rotate explosively through their hips and torso when making contact with a ball.

This med ball rotation exercise specifically targets your ability to powerfully rotate, which is needed for several sports skills, including hitting, throwing and changing directions.

 

Lateral Force Production

Adding bands to some of your jumps, like lateral bounds are a great way to increase your force production. The lateral bound is a great measure of pure power output in the frontal plane and developing power from your groin and adductors. The lateral bound is often tested inside gyms, combines, and athlete intakes.

If you have cranky knees, the band resisted lateral bound also helps decelerate your body at landing.

Coaching Cues:

  1. Secure a light or thin band to a post, rig, or sturdy surface around waist height.
  2. Toss the band around your waist, step out to the point where there is some tension on the band and set up in an athletic position.
  3. Perform a lateral bound
  4. Walk back to your starting point and repeat.

If you are a beginner, work on your jump mechanics first, and progress into these.

 

Eccentric Strength Development

Baseball players can experience high amounts of eccentric stress in their adductors. This is more than likely due to the amounts of high intent throws, swings and the quick reactions that occur in games and practices.

Your groin and adductor muscles help you absorb force when changing direction laterally. Seeing as baseball is played mostly in the frontal and transverse planes, you are asking a lot from your groin and adductors!

So how do we gain eccentric strength for your adductors and groin?

 

The Copenhagen Plank

For those unfamiliar with the Copenhagen Plank, this plank is no joke! For starters, you are getting a great core exercise but on top of that, your adductors are engaged to hold you in that plank position. There is also research supporting the eccentric strength increase while performing the Copenhagen plank.

See the video below for a great demo and breakdown on how to perform and progress the Copenhagen Plank: [H3]

 

Strengthen Your Adductors

For baseball and rotational athletes, we need to make sure we also have plenty of strength to be able to support the force absorption and production that occur every day in the sport.

The Bottom Hold Lateral Lunge

The bottom hold lateral lunge is a great frontal plane strength exercise you can add into your workouts. I personally like the bottom hold as I feel it allows you to find a good lateral position without trying to wrestle the weight into a goblet. Your arms are allowed to stay long like a deadlift letting you get into a similar hinge position. The bottom hold allows you to load this position more so than a goblet, so the strength aspect is slightly higher in this variation

 

The Set Up:

  • Start by holding the kettlebell or dumbbell underneath you.
  • Step laterally and hinge into your landing leg.
  • Bring the weight toward the inside of your shoe/foot
  • Return back to your starting point and repeat on both sides for the desired reps.

 

Final Thoughts

The adductors play a crucial role in athletic performance and development. Yes, we can stretch them, but that is just one piece of the puzzle.

I hope this post helped you learn additional ways to strengthen and support your adductor muscles to help reduce the chance of a groin strain.

5 Major Mistakes Baseball Players Make In-Season

With baseball season officially upon us, I wanted to break down the 5 mistakes I commonly see baseball players make in season and how you can avoid them. Baseball players often stop working out, and they have poor sleep and nutrition habits. These problems are compounded by poor time management skills. Here are some easy solutions on how to manage your time wisely to maximize your season!

If you are not a subscriber to Esposito Strength Club, make sure you click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out! You will also get access to all of my Free Online Baseball Courses!

 

1. You Stop Working Out

Look, I get it. I was a player and I remember the hectic schedule of school, practice after school, games, travel, lessons…but like a said above, it’s a SCHEDULE. I don’t know of many NCAA or Pro level teams not lifting in season. Making it a point to find 2-3 hours per week to take care of your body is not that much to ask.

Let’s put that in perspective. In a recent survey of time spent playing Fortnite during the week, 29.4% said they played Fortnite 0-5 hours per week while 32.5% played for 6-10 hours per week.

Now, I’m not saying to not play video games because, like many, I like to merk some noobs playing Battlefield 1 on the PS4 from time to time, but I don’t let it impact my training or my job.

 

What are Your Priorities?

Baseball in-season strength training is important for staying healthy and maximizing performance. Remember, some of you have spent months of training to get into the best shape you could be leading to this season. Your off-season was designed to maximize your on-field performance.

That can also be said about your in-season program, not only can you still increase your strength, but you are also maintaining your movement quality. This will have a large impact on your durability throughout the season!

If you stop training altogether, you run the risk of breaking down sooner, especially with an often hectic and busy baseball schedule. For some of you, you will go from 1-2 hours a week of baseball to potentially 15-20 hours!

Other in-season benefits will vary from player to player but include maintaining strength, managing stress placed on tissues during the season, and working to continue your athletic development.

If you are not sure what to do for in-season strength training, make sure you check out the program Mike Reinold and I put together: Champion In-Season Baseball Performance Program.

 

Baseball In-Season Strength and Conditioning Guidelines

I recently put together an In-Season Baseball Strength Training Series. I breakdown common myths, misconceptions, schedules and more! Make sure you check those out below.

In-Season Lifting Part 1: General Guidelines

In-Season Lifting Part 2: Youth Baseball

In Season Lifting Part 3: High School Baseball

 

2. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is by far one of the most common areas that teenagers neglect. I’ve been there myself. On school nights, I used to stay up past midnight watching TV, playing video games (being on your cell phone wasn’t a thing yet in 2000-2004 when I was in high school). I’d wake up at 5:45 am and repeat for the week. Then on the weekends, I’d sleep till 1-2 in the afternoon. I was a SLUG! My grades suffered, and my body recovery was terrible.

 

Why Does Sleep Matter?

Sleep is one of the body’s most important biological functions with roles in performance, cognition, learning, development and mental and physical health.

While there are numerous consequences as a result of inadequate sleep, identifying sleep problems and following the recommended sleep guidelines can help ensure sporting performance is maximized.

 

 

From an academic perspective (don’t forget, STUDENT-athlete), we know having adequate amounts of sleep will increase your performance in the classroom. Not only can your test scores increase, but your cognitive function, thinking, and creativity can see improvements as well.

Now, put yourself in the mind of a college coach and recruiter…the more colleges you qualify for academically, the more you can consider athletically!

 

Sports Performance Benefits

From an athletic perspective, having an adequate amount of sleep has tremendous improvements to your performance.

“Sleep is the most potent performance enhancing activity that we know of.”

– Jeffrey Kahn, Sports Performance Scientist.

In a recent study, student-athletes who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night are 70% more likely to get injured. If you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep, you are reducing your reaction time by 18%.

Baseball is a reaction sport. Hitters are reacting to the pitcher. Fielders are reacting to the hitter. Baserunners are reacting to every pitch and play of the game! 18% is A LOT to lose.

Again, sleep is an obstacle that all athletes have to face. When you get optimal sleep duration (8-10 hours), one night of sleep improves motor learning task speed by 20% and accuracy by 39%. Baseball players improve reaction times by 122 milliseconds. To put that in perspective, a 90-mph fastball takes about 400 milliseconds to travel from the pitcher’s hand to home plate. Improved sleep can also decrease fatigue by 40%. I guess you could say sleep is important.

 

How to Help Your Sleep

  • Turn off the TV
  • Limit blue light use (phones, tablets, laptops, computers) 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Read a book
  • Watch caffeine intake during the afternoon
  • Get consistent with your sleep and wake-up schedule
  • Put items that can be a distraction in a different room

 

3. Your Nutrition Is Lacking

The nutrition and food choices you make every day will have a tremendous impact on your energy levels, baseball performance, and your overall health!

Without proper nutrition, you can become lethargic, you can lose the ability to concentrate, and you are missing out on your body’s ability to recover. All of these will have an impact on your academic and sports performance.

You need to remember; your food is your fuel. The quality and quantity of your nutrition matter a whole lot, especially in sports performance.

I really want to make sure you realize that this is not a “diet.” Diets are often restricting, limiting, and often difficult for athletes, especially NCAA, high school and youth athletes to follow. What we want is an abundance of good quality, highly nutritious foods.

 

A mistake many make is looking for a quick fix or a quick solution to what needs a long-term commitment. Sure, adding in nutrients you may be lacking and cutting out junk food will help short term, but you need to remember sports performance is year round.

 

Drink More Water!

Drinking water is something many athletes lack. Water can help maximize your body’s natural functions, as well as help you maintain your energy levels and brain function. Your body is constantly losing water throughout the day, then you go to play games and practice in hot weather.

While sports drinks do have some positives such as electrolytes and good carbs, you are also taking in large amounts of sugar.

 

Taking Control of Your Nutrition

I recommend you track your food and nutrition daily. This will give you a good idea of your eating habits, intake, and nutrient timing. You can use apps on your phone or computer, or the old-fashioned journal works just as well.

Another helpful tip is meal prepping and planning. Planning out your food will allow you to create and stick to a schedule. This will help you make better choices throughout the day. If you are not shopping for yourself, talk with your parents and help out with the grocery list.

Finding a nutrition plan can be hard as it should be unique to the individual. Everyone has different needs based on activity levels, goals, schedules, and personal lifestyles. I would recommend you see a nutritionist for more on that!

 

4. Time and Schedule Management

We touched on this above regarding strength training and finding time to lift. When it comes to time management, everyone can always do a better job. The number 1 excuse I hear from athletes, especially in-season, is they don’t have enough time. I call BS.

Athlete schedules can be all over the place in today’s sports world. There is really no way around that as that has become the norm for playing sports. What changes though are your priorities and your choices. These choices and priorities will impact your sleep, nutrition, and development.

 

What’s Out of Your Control

To begin to work on your time management, you must make a list of necessities or items that just simply won’t change or go away. For example, we know your school schedule really won’t change all that much. From roughly 7:30 till 2:30, you are unavailable.

Once the weather cooperates, typically your baseball games and practices are usually right after school. On average, you can be done by 5 pm. If you don’t get in bed until 10 pm, what are you doing with those 5 hours a day… which equals 25 hours from Monday-Friday?

Well, you have to eat, and family time is huge, don’t forget that. We also know you will have homework. Obviously, that will depend on your school, grade, and course load but that could take up 2-3 hours a day right there.

So that leaves you with potentially 2 hours a day or 10 hours during the weekdays. Those 10 hours can be spent on self-development, strength training, sport skill development, hanging out with friends or personal time.

 

How to Work on Your Time Management

I would highly suggest you make a daily schedule or journal for yourself to see where your free hours are and how you can maximize your time. Keeping a schedule will allow you to take control of your daily routine, start controlling external factors a bit better, and manage some potential stressors.

 

5. You Ignore Recovery

When we put the previous 5 mistakes together, that adds up to a lack of recovery and potentially impacts your baseball performance. Baseball is a very violent sport from a biomechanical standpoint. The demands and forces placed on your body are some of the highest in sports. Taking care of your body is like charging your batteries.

 

 

I recently heard a very good analogy from Cory Schlesinger, a strength coach at Stanford University. Cory discussed an analogy he got from Jordan Shallow and compared the athlete’s injury risks with outside factors.

“Jordan Shallow gave me this metaphor, he was saying this fungus will fill up a pond and it doubles its size every day. So, if it starts off at .2, then the next day is .4, he asked me, if it’s going to fill up a whole pond in 30 days, what’s the day it’s half full. Day 29. That’s how I look at the human body. It’s literally the last thing and then boom. We could’ve had all these interventions from Day 2 to Day 28 or Day 29 even, but it’s that one last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

 

What does that mean?

There are many factors that go into your athletic development. As athletes, being able to manage your stress, school, sleep, nutrition, time management will lead to an optimized sports performance environment for you to thrive in. All those factors mesh and work together.

For example, many coaches will look for the exact moment of a sore arm, or injury from sport, but will forget to look at all the other factors that could’ve led to that injury. While being injured is not ideal, getting healthy and making sure it doesn’t happen again is key.

 

Final Thoughts

One big takeaway I hope you got from this post is that all of these mistakes can be 100% controlled by you. Your body’s recovery can be impacted by being proactive with your time and schedule management. This will allow you to maximize workout schedule and outside factors and stressors. Your nutrition and sleep will have an impact on your performance on and off the field as well as in and out of the classroom.

All of the mistakes work cohesively together. It’s up to you whether they work for you or against you.

The Baseball Recruiting Process is Failing Us

In the early 2000’s TV series “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” Drew Carey used to open every show by saying, “a show where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.”

Drew Carey’s repetitive opening line could be applied to much of baseball’s recruiting and player development landscape today as majority of it simply doesn’t matter. The structure of the seasonal baseball schedule from youth to college is broken.

Money has been a driving factor in year-round play and “elite” travel teams where winning is placed at the highest importance. Many teams are marketing “developmental programs” where they play 5 plus showcase events through the course of a season.

Though these programs are marketed as developmental, it is the last point of focus for the coach or organization.

Showcases, invite-only tryouts, all-stars, All-American games and rankings are all designed as incentive based reasons to pay more money for a better chance at getting recognized as elite.

In some cases, these opportunities can be useful but majority of the time just as Drew Carey used to state, “everything is made up and the points don’t matter.”

 

It Starts at the Youth Level

Athletes at the youth level today are simply playing too much. It happens from a combination of parents’ desires for their kids to be on elite teams and teams desiring to grow profits or build into organizations with year-round tournament play.

Individuals, leagues, organizations and cities are profiting off the high volume of teams playing in these events, so more are hosted.

Special events are designed to sound like they are more elite such as “All-American games, invitationals, select tournaments or teams… etc.”

These are simply another opportunity to continue to generate revenue for the event hosts and allow the parent or player to feel as if they are continuing in the right direction for future success of the athlete.

Future success of the athlete at the youth level though is built around the development of skill and overall athleticism, not the number of trophies held on a mantle.

As the athlete matures and the lack of focus on skill development continues, many athletes find themselves injured or behind the curve in the recruiting process to reach the next level.

Natural maturity with proper focus of skill development can catapult an athlete’s career once both have been given time to work together. Often, these will be most noticeable within the early years of high school.

 

Showcase/Tournament Marketing

With a continually growing competitive recruiting circuit, college coaches are competing for younger and younger talent. Freshmen in high school for most college coaches are the youngest to receive notice.

Showcases are a place in which an athlete with adequate talent can “show off”. Tournament and showcase organizations claiming you can be seen at events are not lying. College coaches do attend events nation-wide to find unknown players.

However, what these events are not advertising is what it actually takes to receive the interest of a college coach.

For pitchers, it is clear that you must first pass the radar gun test. When a college coach sees a player who may be a “prospect”, the first thing they do is pull out a radar gun to determine if they fit the velocity they look for at the level of their college.

D1 schools look for 90+ mph, D2 schools look for 85+ mph and D3, NAIA will look for 80+ mph. Junior colleges will differ by region.

For example, Florida junior colleges will look for guys who can compete at the D1 level as most of the major D1 transfers will end up at Florida JUCO’s. This is different in northern JUCO’s though where 80 to 85mph may allow you to receive a scholarship.

 

The First Step in Recruiting

The first step in setting a plan to get recruited is determining your current skill level as a player and deciding if your talent level lines up with the caliber school you are looking to be recruited by.

If you are shooting for an SEC or ACC school at the D1 level then you are going to need to be very refined as a pitcher to catch the interest of one of those coaches.

Before wasting your money to attend events in which you hope those schools will be attending, it is best to decide if you are currently someone that coach may be interested in.

First impressions can be everything to many recruiters. Just like a job interview when you first present your skills you want to provide a “wow” factor.

If you are hoping to attend a high level D1 school and you showcase yourself for that coach throwing 75 mph you are likely going to be passed over or crossed off their list.

It is better to skip these events and spend this time developing your skills and developing yourself physically. Once you have developed the skills needed to provide the “wow” factor for a coach at the level you desire you can take these skills and then begin to showcase them effectively.

 

Showcases Are Not the Only Way to be Recruited

Showcases today look like a herd of livestock. Roaming around a field in the masses, numbered and asked to perform specific tasks in which they are rated for their performance.

Showcases can be an opportunity but in today’s world there are an abundance of opportunities in which a player can drive his name to the top of a coaches recruiting board.

From attending specific school camps (as mentioned previously) to sending schools video of your skills, there are ways aside from showcases in which a player can be recruited.

We recently had a player who added a coach on twitter, messaged him, got a call and received a scholarship offer. You do not have to pay thousands of dollars for an opportunity to receive a scholarship. You simply must understand the level at which your talent aligns and be consistent in your approach to show a school you fit their needs.

To get the most out of the recruiting process, here’s how the baseball community can offer guidance:

  1. Make your time as a youth purposeful in skill and physical development.
  2. Understand what coaches look for at each level and do not buy into the event marketing.
  3. Make your first step as a player to reach the needed skill level of your desired school.
  4. Avoid getting lost in the shuffle of showcases by being practical in your approach with recruitment.

3 Ways Baseball Pitchers Can Use a Radar Gun to Enhance Performance

One of the simplest, yet most effective training aids for any baseball pitcher is a radar gun.

At one point in time, I was actually against having youth baseball pitchers use a radar gun too often and focus on velocity, but I actually think that there are a few great benefits.  And with recent advances in technology of radar guns, people can easily get an affordable pocket-size radar run, like the Pocket Radar, to use at home.

One of the key differentiators I see between amateur and professional baseball pitchers is often just intent.

What I mean is, our pro ball pitchers tend to throw with much more intent than our younger pitchers.  Sure, this could be that pro ball pitchers are older, bigger, and stronger.  But intent isn’t just an output of mass and strength.  It’s also an output of intensity, which is something many youth need to learn.

Even in our sports performance programs at Champion, our early focus with people new to training is developing intent when training.

So while I don’t necessarily want our amateur baseball pitchers focusing solely on velocity, I still think there are a bunch of great uses of a radar gun during training.

Here are my top 3 ways baseball pitchers can use a radar gun to enhance performance.

 

Enhance Power Development

Have you ever used a radar gun to check your velocity?  No matter what your velocity was on the first throw, what did you every time on that second throw?

Try to throw harder, right?  Of course you did, we all do!

In the motor learning world, this is a form of extrinsic feedback referred to as “knowledge of results.”  This can be used to give immediate feedback to the player to enhance technique, but also motivation.  We see this all the time, especially in athletes who are competitive in nature

We know that using external feedback and knowledge of the results in the sports performance world helps increase power output.  For example, in one study using external feedback of results was shown to help improve vertical jump performance.  In a 2014 study the Journal of Human Movement Science, it was shown that using feedback of vertical jump height performance results in an immediate increase in vertical jump performance, as well an 18% improvement in jump height over a 4-week training period.

One way that we apply this knowledge with our baseball players is with medicine ball power drills.  In this video, you can see we are using a radar gun set up to monitor the ball velocity.  The athlete is encouraged to ramp up his intensity on subsequent throws until he reaches his maximum velocity.  We’ll record this and try to improve over the course of his program, just like we would by recorded weights during his lifts.

 

Monitor Throwing Intensity

Another great use of a radar gun for baseball training is to monitor throwing intensity.  This is important for a few situations:

  1. A player returning from an injury that wants to slowly develop load to healing tissue
  2. A player preparing for a season that wants to slowly build capacity of the arm to handle stress
  3. A player inseason that wants to manage his workload more specifically

Monitoring the number of throws performed or pitch counts during a game is important, and something that we have shown to correlate to predicting both injury and performance.  However, using the quantity of throws on its own is too simplistic.  Overuse is more of a combination of quantity and intensity.

Compare one player playing light catch for 30 throws versus another long tossing for 30 throws.  Which one do you think was more stressful on the body?

By using a radar gun, you can document and build gradual progressions more appropriately.  Distance becomes less of a factor, and intensity becomes more specific.

Here’s an example of how we use a radar gun to ramp up a throwing session.  In this video you can see a few throws that slowly ramp up to the max intensity that we want that day.  The athlete then does his best to remain right around that velocity to get his work in for the day.

 

Improve Pitching Velocity

Using a radar gun to help improve pitching velocity is probably the most obvious.  When it comes to actually training to enhance pitching velocity, it has been shown that if pitchers know the speed of their pitch during their training, the have a larger increase in velocity.

In a recent study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, it was shown that if players were able to see their throwing velocity, the players were able to enhance their velocity by 4x more than if they did not know their speed.  That’s pretty amazing to me, and based off the same mechanisms of motor learning discussed above.

Another past study compared the throwing velocity of youth when instructed to “throw the ball hard” vs the same instruction with radar gun results.  Again the study showed that simply instructing the athlete to throw the ball hard does not increase velocity as much as when they can visually see the results.

In another interesting study in tennis players, it was shown that training for 6-weeks with feedback of serve velocity had a significantly greater improvement in velocity than a group that did not know their results.  But what is most interesting, is that this same group stopped training with external feedback of their velocity and still showed that the velocity improvements were retained 6 weeks after the program.

What this could mean is that training with the knowledge of your velocity not only helps motivate you to throw harder, but perhaps also trains you to continue to do this even when external feedback is removed.

So while I don’t think amateurs players should always be focusing on enhancing their velocity, I do think there are a few good reasons why the should focus on knowing their velocity.  Just like anything else, is the focus is on what is more important, a radar gun can not only be helpful to enhance performance, but also to control and monitor workload.

 

What Radar Gun Should You Use?

There are a few options when looking at purchasing a radar gun.  As you can see from the above examples, I value the convenience of having one on me.  So I value one that is portable and easy to use.  I’ve personally been using the Pocket Radar and think it’s perfect.  We’ve compared it to the more expensive guns, and it’s always just as accurate, but so much easier to use.

The new Smart Coach model is awesome, it can connect to an app on your phone or tablet via bluetooth, or even an external display.  This is what we’ve been using at Champion and everyone has loved it.