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5 Rotational Power Exercises for Baseball Performance

A strengthening program for baseball that doesn’t include rotational movements and “controlled rotation” is simply incomplete. Like the pitcher that throws 100 mph but has no idea where the ball is going, neither one is very effective.

Many of the primary activities in baseball consist of some amount of rotation in a powerful manner. Training should closely mimic the movements and energy systems utilized during the game.

Being able to rotate, and create powerful rotation is a must for baseball performance.

Try throwing a baseball with any force without rotation in your trunk. Have you ever hit a baseball out of the infield with just your arms and no trunk rotation?

 

Have you ever attempted to steal second without turning and driving your body in that direction? Not only would you look silly, but you’d be out! Get the point?

Baseball is a rotational sport. We must train that way!

Baseball players should train to generate force from the ground to fingertips in a rotational movement plane. Two areas that are largely responsible for controlled rotational power are the hips and the core.

 

The Hips and Core

When looked at more closely, the true function of the hips in baseball (and most other sports for that matter) is to stabilize the core from below and produce powerful but controlled rotation of the lower body on the upper body.

The role of the core is to control rotation and streamline the power generated below to the upper body. With most of this power coming from the explosive, rotational unloading of the hips, the teamwork between these two areas becomes obvious.

Now that we understand that importance of rotational hip and core strength and how they relate to the mechanics of pitching and hitting, what should you be doing about it?

Try incorporating a variety of controlled rotational exercises and conditioning drills focusing on maximizing hip and core strength and coordination.

 

Focusing on these areas during our training can help any baseball player develop rotational power that translates directly to the baseball diamond.

The game of baseball requires short bursts of speed and power followed by long periods of rest. Because of this, your exercise programming should include adequate rest periods of 1 minute or greater.

Adding the following exercises to your lower body/core training will most likely awaken the muscles you never knew you had. Now you realize the importance that strengthening them can have on every aspect of your game!

 

Rotational Exercises

Here are five simple exercises that will help you develop rotational strength and power. Try them out during your next training session.

 

Back Leg-Loaded Medicine Ball Throw

 

Side to Side Medicine Ball Slam

 

Single Leg Rotational Medicine Ball Slam

 

Rotational Landmine Press

 

Rotational Cable Push-Pull

Should Baseball Pitchers Use Long Distance Running for Conditioning?

We figured it out years ago, and it was a good thing we did: Conditioning for pitchers needed to change. Strength coaches declared Sprinting is the way! Down with distance running! All of a sudden, gone were the days of jogging mile after mile, pole after pole.

But, is this the only way? Is every other type of running “making us slow?” As both a veteran pro pitcher and strength coach, I say no. We strength coaches have been making impractical, dogmatic recommendations that need to improve.

 

Good Advice Gone Too Far?

Strength coaches meant well when we banned distance running: sprinting better suits the needs of a baseball pitcher by training them to be more explosive. A pitcher isn’t continuously moving for seven to nine innings with an elevated heart rate like that of a distance runner. Rather, he explodes; gathers; repeats. He is most like a cheetah, going full-speed or lying in wait with little in between.

But as leaders in the industry, we should worry about how others interpret our information. What started out as a smart new way to condition pitchers has become a source of dogma, confusion, and, in many cases, a new problem. I heard again recently, from a coach I greatly respect:

 

Pitchers should only do sprints. I’d never have them run anything longer than 60 or 100 yards; any more than that makes them slow.

 

The advice might be sound, but it’s not one bit practical.

This is also a case where any finger I point comes right back at me. I’ve written this same statement in previous articles, expressed the same sentiment to coaches and players over the years. I embraced the never run distance mentality in college and tried implementing it during much of my pro career. “No distance for me,” I declared! A year or two in, I stopped flying that flag in favor of the everything in moderation flag. 

 

The Problem: A Program is Only Good If People Follow it

The problem here lies in the real-world practicality and application of a sprinting-only conditioning regimen. I’m a firm believer that any training program is only as good as its:

  • Practical application – is it realistic given the resources and the environment a person lives in?
  • Realistic expectations – would most players actually be motivated to do it? Or is it too hard?
  • Viability in both the short and long term – will this just burn a player out, cause injury or put him further off-track later on? Can it work for years to come?

I lived on both sides of the fence, both as a full-time strength coach and as a pro pitcher who spent multiple seasons as both a reliever and starter. I killed myself with strength in conditioning in college, and now have perspective on what striking a balance feels like.

 

 

I’ve watched former Major Leaguers conduct their pre-game routines, and helped rookie players build theirs. I know what it feels like to do pre-game sprints at 3:00 pm, in 95-degree heat, before game #118 in late August. Programming workouts for tired, beaten-down ballplayers is not as straightforward as it is sometimes professed to be.

Here’s what your players are thinking when you tell them that sprinting is the only thing that’s good for them…

 

#1. If Sprinting Is My Only Option, And I Don’t Have the Energy Today…What Else Do I Do?

If running slowly will make a player worse, and he’s too tired, hurting, or unmotivated to sprint, then he may just pack it in and not do any conditioning. Is that what we want?

I personally don’t believe that doing nothing is better than doing something. Is a 10-minute jog on a day when I’m exhausted really that bad for me? Especially if I don’t have the energy in my legs to legitimately sprint?

 

#2. Our “Sprints” Are Actually Hard Jogs – Is That Still Worthwhile?

If you haven’t watched players sprint in pre-game – at any level – then you need to. 90% of them perform a half-hearted effort that is five hard steps followed by coasting. Most “sprints” are merely hard, short runs.

If a coach prescribes six 60yd sprints, he’ll get a 360yard hard jog…which is useless.

 

#3. Sprinting is Hard and It’s Very Hot Outside. Are You Sure It’s Good For My Longevity?

I think coaches sometimes forget. A 90% sprint won’t build the power and explosiveness that we intend. So if a player bears down and truly gives 100%, the time, does my likelihood of injury increase? They still have baseball to play, after all. 

You want me to run only sprints in the months of June, July and August? In pre-game when it’s 95 degrees for three straight months and I have a game every night?

My knees hurt, my Achilles tendons are swollen. I wear cleats for 4 hours a day. Is sprinting really the best thing for me? What if I can only go 70% without pain? Is sprinting all the time good for my longevity? Will I start breaking down earlier?

A reasonable volume of sprints for a relief pitcher is 200-300 total yards per day. It’s a little longer than that on the sprint days for starters. 200-300 yards breaks down into four 40s and two 60s, or seven 40s. If you run those hard, it takes a lot of out of you when you’re on your feet all day, pitching at night with two days off per month as a pro.

And it’s not better as a college player. They have practice on non-game days. They walk to class.

Or as a high schooler. They play other sports and have practice for all of them. They don’t get enough sleep or eat enough.

 

#4. We Don’t Build Good Conditioning With the Amount of Sprints We’re Often Capable of Doing.

Personally, I pitched better when I was in good cardiovascular shape. I felt stronger on really hot days and my body reacted in a more positive manner to in-game stresses like pressure situations. Good conditioning allowed me to feel stronger and more in control when I was under fire.

And, I knew that I couldn’t get enough volume in sprints to both stay sane, stay healthy, AND get into good shape – it’d take too much sprinting to build the cardiovascular endurance I wanted, and my knees sometimes start barking at me late in the year.

 

#5. We Don’t Lose Our Velocity or Ability Because of a Few Lousy Jogs.

During my playing career, I jogged or ran longer distances 1-2 times per week in the offseason and in-season. Nothing changed, except it allowed me to stay in better shape, burn more calorie and keep my bad weight down, and gave me something to do when I was too tired for more of those horrible sprints.

What’s wrong with moderation? Certainly a jog or longer set of intervals once or twice per week won’t ruin me.

Does anyone have an example of when a player showed some measurable decrease in velocity because he ran distances longer than 60yards a few times per week? If it’s as ruinous as we all claim, there should be casualties.

 

#6. Longer Distances Have Value In Other Ways

400 meter sprints are maybe the hardest thing I did as a player. In the last 150 meters, your body starts flailing because of how tired your legs, core, upper back, and lungs get. You try – often in vain – to not trip over your feet. You feel your core legitimately give out; a jellyfish-like feeling ensues as your limbs feel out of control.

Is this not the same phenomenon we try to prevent in the 7th inning of a start? Pitchers get tired – in their legs, their arms and their core – and they try to hold their mechanics together. I think 400 meter runs do a darn good job providing functional conditioning: giving a pitcher the mental and physical conditioning to keep themselves together and make good pitches late in the game.

 

#7. Isn’t Everyone Different? What About Individuality?

Most good strength coaches are champions of individuality, constantly reiterating that we should place all our clients into the same category, program, etc. But with conditioning recommendations, it’s pretty much one-size-fits-all. Why is there a disconnect?

I totally understand that though unique, we are all united with standards – yes, all baseball players need explosive training, no matter who we are. But, we are also all wired a little differently; can you really say that jogging hurts me, even when I say that my body feels better, I think I pitch better, and it keeps me in good cardiovascular shape?

Talk to pitchers. Some say that they thrive on a little (or a lot) of distance running. Sure, maybe they don’t know that they’d be better if they changed their ways. Or, maybe they’ve found what works for them.

 

Where We Go From Here

I think most strength coaches would agree that 75% effort sprints aren’t the way to more explosive pitchers. But, in years of observing my peers in pro baseball, 75% is the average effort level with which pitchers perform their sprints.

I think it’s safe to say that if you’re prescribing sprints, your players will give you 75% effort sprints on most days. Do your recommendations change, knowing that? Why not run 75% effort for longer distances, to let them burn more calories and challenge their heart and lungs?

Or, we can dial it back, be less dogmatic, and allow more diverse conditioning choices so that when players are told to sprint, they actually feel able to give it a true 100%. We need to admit to ourselves that some longer distance runs aren’t leading to any measurable decline in the velocity or ability of pitchers who do them.

A vast number of players jog as part of their routines and it can’t be killing all of them. Could they be made a little better by sprinting more? Maybe. But, the common sprinting prescription is akin to a doctor telling a diabetic patient to eat nothing but vegetables. Sure – great advice for his long term health!  But, it’ll never happen. Such unrealistic advice just shows that the doctor isn’t in tune with how to help his patients improve their habits. A strategy that shows a balance of best-case scenario and realistic expectations is best.

 

Creating a Balance Conditioning Plan

We should be looking to advocate for balanced conditioning plans, ones that better address the following:

  • Reasonable demands of mental and physical energy
  • Accumulated fatigue over a long season
  • Environmental demands such as the oppressive late-summer heat
  • Individual differences in what makes a player feel prepared
  • Starter versus reliever
  • Body composition, prior injury history
  • The desire to keep pre-game routines motivating and challenging
  • Many athletes don’t have access to joint-saving cardio machines like bikes or ellipticals that can still allow for a decent workout with reduced stress

 

Preparation is Key

Finding balance in training programs is as difficult in baseball as in any other sport – there are so many unique demands and the season is so long. But, if we marry practical advice with sound methodology and exercise choices, then we can better prepare ballplayers to both get better and stay healthy for the long term.

Does Electrical Stimulation Speed Recovery in Baseball Players?

***Disclaimer – placing electrodes on a player (or yourself) does not come without potential risks. The potential for electrical burns and infection are a real thing that warrant, at least in our opinion, the consultation of a professional.

 

In recent years, there has been a major increase in the usage of EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) units in the baseball world. From the MLB to the high school ranks, it seems like everyone has jumped on the “ESTIM unit” bandwagon, claiming that their inclusion has dramatically improved their performance. Supporters often cite improved blood flow, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and a quicker return to performance as the key benefits.

 

How Do EMS Units Work?

EMS units work by delivering electrical pulses through multiple electrodes, which are positioned over muscle motor points or painful areas. Depending on the frequency, intensity and waveform, the target of the stimulation is either at the sensory level (lower intensity) or the muscular level (higher intensity).

The units that are important here are what most people see on social media – the ones that elicit a muscular contraction to improve peripheral fluid flow in the body. The rationale being enhanced peripheral blood flow will accelerate the removal of metabolic waste, decrease inflammation, and promote a quicker return to a player’s performance baseline. In short, it speeds the recovery process after a tough game.

 

 

What Does The Research Say About The Effectiveness of EMS Units?

Professor Nicola Maffiuletti, a leading expert on the recovery process, gave a tremendous lecture for Aspetar Sports Medicine in 2013 on EMS based on a literature review that he co-authored.

In his presentation, Maffiuletti reviewed the available research on these units, their potential mechanisms, effectiveness and practical application. Here are some of the major takeaways.

  • Only 3 of 19 studies showed that EMS was more effective than passive recovery in regards to the return of muscle strength, power, activation and contractility.
  • All the other studies were unable to detect a difference between the two in healthy active individuals, recreational sportsmen and professional athletes. EMS was found to be equally effective compared to other modalities in all but one study.
  • Voluntary contractions may be better than EMS at increasing bloodflow because people are able to contract a greater amount of muscle manually. Recruitment via EMS—even at a very high visual analogue score (how much pain you can tolerate) —can only recruit around 15% of the muscle cross-sectional area. If you have ever tried ramping up the intensity on these units, you understand that it can get pretty uncomfortable and sometimes even painful! Of that 15%, it is mostly superficial muscle fibers that are recruited. To recruit deeper fibers and increase that percentage, you would have to increase the intensity of the stimulation. This can only feasibly be accomplished by improving an individual’s tolerance via persistent exposure; something that is difficult to accomplish.
  • However, according to Maffiuletti, using higher intensities can actually create muscle fatigue: “If you increase the intensity, you are creating fatigue that is 5 times faster than a voluntary contraction.”
  • There have been many case reports of muscular dysfunction resulting from overusing EMS units. If we overuse these devices we run the potential of creating long-term issues in how the muscle fires.
  • Lactate removal is faster with active recovery than it is with EMS.
  • Perceptual recovery – defined in the studies as the point when subjective psychomotivational factors were fully restored to pre-exercise levels. Subjects were asked to quantify or rank the perceived effectiveness of recovery modalities or quantifying their perceived energy and enthusiasm. EMS has been shown to be equally or more perceptually effective as a means of recovery than passive or active recovery

Maffiuletti concluded that EMS is unlikely beneficial for improving physiological recovery compared to both passive rest (including a placebo condition in one study) and other recovery modalities. EMS is, however, likely beneficial for improving perceptual recovery compared to passive rest, and possibly beneficial for improving perceptual recovery compared to other recovery interventions.

 

STUDY: Effects of Three Recovery Protocols on Range of Motion, Heart Rate, Rating of Perceived Exertion, and Blood Lactate in Baseball Pitchers During a Simulation Game.

There is, however, one often cited study in the baseball community by Warren et al. that looked at three different modalities and their effect on a pitcher’s recovery in-between innings. The authors found that a Compex Unit (EMS product) improved blood lactate removal significantly while active and passive recovery did not. Moreover, the Compex group, as well as the active recovery group, reported a significantly lower rate of perceived exertion.

Removal of lactate, however, is a naturally occurring process that can take minutes to an hour or two depending on the specifics of the exercise. Lactate removal has not been a good indicator of recovery outside of those timelines. If we know that lactate and metabolite removal is mostly completed within an hour post exercise should it really be the target of any of our interventions? Using EMS in-between innings to reduce lactate concentration may have some merit to it, but we probably need more research before we start making drastic changes.

 

Should Baseball Players Use EMS?

There is a general lack of evidence to support the idea that EMS improves physiological recovery and return of strength or power compared to other recovery modalities (passive, rest, or otherwise).

If our goal is to improve circulation of blood and fluid flow through a muscle contraction, then EMS seems to be less effective than alternative methods in which voluntary contractions are used. Moreover, if used inappropriately – with too much frequency and intensity – EMS may cause more harm than good.

These units are, however, potentially useful in promoting perceptual recovery, a placebo effect in which the player believes he feels strong and ready to play than perhaps he really is. In the baseball world, this may be a significant factor in returning to baseline performance. If an athlete perceives that he is more prepared to throw because of the twenty minutes of stimulation, then this may warrant its inclusion from time to time. EMS units, however, can be very expensive and it’s important to consider whether a device that provides only perceived benefits is a good use of financial resources.

Do you use EMS? Leave us a comment and tell me about your experience!

Should Baseball Pitchers Run Long Distances?

There is still an on-going debate about conditioning for pitchers: running poles. Unfortunately, the old school thought of running poles seems to dominate the new school thought of taking energy systems into account when training baseball players.

You’re running poles for the wrong reasons.

Not only will this article provide the more efficient way for improving conditioning for pitchers, but it will also provide counter arguments for two common misconceptions.

Pitchers, I’m sure if you ask your coach why they make you run poles they will say one of two things: 1. You need to be conditioned or 2. You need stamina to go deep into a game.

To provide the clearest answer for all pitchers and coaches reading this article, let’s tackle these two arguments.

 

“You need to be conditioned”

I believe that it’s extremely important to have a well-developed aerobic system to recover during a workout/game or from intense training sessions/games.

However, is running poles the best option? I don’t believe so. In my opinion, you would benefit much more from performing movement based circuits.

Utilizing movement based circuits was something I picked up from my time down at Cressey Sports Performance where many of the athletes performed “movement days”.

To give you an example, here’s an example of a complete “movement day” many of my athletes have performed :

In this workout, I was able to not only improve the athlete’s aerobic capacity but also his movement quality, hip mobility, thoracic spine (upper back) mobility, ankle stability, core stability, scapular control, anterior core control, spinal stability etc.

Long-distance running is not able to improve upon all the above.

 

“You need stamina to go deep into a game”

Do you really think running pole after pole is improving a pitcher’s ability to explode off a mound and throw a ball as hard as possible to home plate?

I don’t think so.

Here’s what I think: I think pitchers have to be extremely powerful. Think about it… If you’re a pitcher, you’re EXPLODING off the mound and throwing the ball to home plate (single fastest motion in all of sports) and you’re doing this for upwards of 80-100 times a game.

You can call this “stamina” but my intuition tells me that by executing this explosive maneuver 80-100 times a game will require the athlete to possess a good amount of alactic capacity.

I think that if the athlete (in this case, the pitcher) improves alactic capacity in the specific limb required, it will allow them to maintain velocity deep into a game.

I also believe the pitcher will be able to improve resistance to a shoulder/arm injury as the arm won’t have to overcompensate for lower body fatigue.

Just because something has been done for years (running long distance) doesn’t mean it’s right. In my opinion, there are much better ways we can improve our performance other than running poles.

Rather than running yourself into the ground by running poles, focus on improving your movement patterns during the season.

3 Ways Baseball Players Can Become More Explosive

Baseball is a game of explosive movements, but is often trained like an endurance sport.
Too often, baseball players are running poles or some other type of long distance running. They need to train explosively to match the demands of their sport.

Though coaches prescribe distance running to help get players in shape, getting in shape for baseball is different than getting ready to run a 5K race. In baseball, you need to be able to perform an explosive movement and then repeat.

Your body adapts to what you constantly do. If you are consistently training slow, then when it is time to perform, you will perform slow.

The right training program is more important now than ever because throwing velocity, power-hitting, and speed on the basepaths are more valuable than they have ever been. To be able to keep up with increasing performance standards, players must train to be explosive. And to improve explosiveness, players have to train explosively.

 

Three Exercises That Improve Explosiveness in Baseball Players

Sprinting, jumping and throwing medicine balls are exercises that should be emphasized to help players increase power and explosiveness.

No training method will perfectly replicate an actual baseball game, but training should mimic what a player is required do over and over. Instead of running poles for 20 minutes or running suicides, a player should run sprints, throw medicine balls, and jump.

 

Sprinting

Players don’t need to be elite sprinters and spend all their time working on sprinting, but it should definitely be part of their training plan.

Sprinting is the most explosive movement a person can do, yet many baseball players don’t train it, despite the obvious fact that most running on the diamond comes in short bursts. Sprinting doesn’t get enough love in training.

Yes, sprinting will better prepare a player for the game, but it will also help him get faster and become more explosive. Both are great results, especially in a sport in which speed and power are crucial for success. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get faster or get yourself in “baseball shape,” sprinting should be an important part of your program.

 

How to Add Sprints To Your Workout

When programming sprints, there are numerous options. A few variations include hill sprints, sled sprints, and regular sprints on flat ground. When sprinting, it’s important to remember to not turn it into an endurance session. Players need to build up the amount of reps they perform, get enough rest in between sets, and make sure they are putting the same intensity into each sprint.

So, depending on where a player is in his training cycle, 6-12 sprints per session is a good number of reps. When performing these reps, anywhere from 10-60 yards are good distances to use.

When it comes to rest, 1-3 minutes in between each sprint is a good amount. The shorter the distance, the lower the rest.

 

Medicine Ball Throws

Baseball is a rotational sport and is also very repetitive, so being able to produce power while rotating is crucially important. Both hitting and throwing are rotational movements, so being good at rotating powerfully applies equally to all positions. Being able to rotate and put force behind it is what will allow ballplayers to continually throw harder and hit for more power.

Like any skill, in order to get better at rotating and repeat it over and over, a player has to work on it.

Nothing will replace throwing and hitting, but incorporating rotational medicine ball throws into a player’s training is a great way to work on rotation, get stronger in the transverse plane (the plane in which we are twisting at the hips), and learn to put more force into the ground.

When throwing medicine balls, it is important that they are performed with a high intensity. Each throw should be explosive and work on developing power. Doing this will help a player produce more total power, but also help improve his ability to give maximal effort repeatedly.

Two of my favorite medicine ball throws are the Standing Scoop Toss and the Rotational Scoop Toss:

Just like with sprinting, it’s important not to turn it into an endless session of throws. Too many throws in a session will reduce the ability to put maximum force behind the ball, which is what is required to become more explosive over time.

To avoid an endurance session, 2-5 sets of 2-6 reps per side is a good number of reps and you should still be able to put enough force behind the ball to get outcome you’re looking for.

The goal is force and velocity, so be smart about the weight of the ball. When in doubt, stay on the lighter side – 2 to 6lbs.

 

Jumping

Finally, jumping must be part of a player’s preparation if he wants to be well-rounded. Developing power through jumping will improve force production and have great carry over on the field.

When it comes to jumping for baseball, the plane of motion matters. Sagittal plane jumping -such as vertical jumps – will help develop power, but won’t have as much carry over as lateral-based jumping or frontal plane jumping. The skater jump is a great example of a lateral jump, and the broad jump is a common frontal plane jump variation.

These examples – as well as single leg jumping variations – will better prepare the athlete for the demands of the game and have more carry over to baseball compared to vertical jumps.

Two common jumping drills that I perform are the Band Resisted Broad Jump and the Lateral Skater Hop:

When programming a workout it is important to have a plan. Endless amounts of jumps will turn into conditioning and won’t produce the desired result.

Jumping should be done in the 1-5 rep range, with the focus being to keep the effort and production close to the same. When jumps start to get outside this rep range, the ability to produce the same amount of force goes down.

Just like the throws, 2-5 sets of 2-5 reps per side is a good number of reps. The more intense the jumping variation, the lower the total amount of jumps you should perform.

The goal with each jump is distance or height, so always focus on each rep being as close to the same as possible.

 

Improve Your Performance on the Diamond

No longer should baseball be looked at as a game that you need to get ready by running poles or other forms of long distance running.

Remember: your body adapts to what you repeatedly do. Because baseball is an explosive sport, force your body to adapt to explosive movements. Sprinting, medicine ball work and jumping are all explosive movements that will properly prepare your body for the demands of the game. Consistently program them into your baseball training routine, and you’ll soon be performing at a higher level.

Why GIRD May Be Normal and a Lack of Internal Rotation May Not Lead to Injury

In the sports medicine world, we not only want to treat deficits the athlete presents with, but more importantly, combat the root of the problem itself. In this way, we can prevent future injuries from occurring in the first place.

If we can improve our understanding of underlying pathology and have a greater appreciation for the factors that truly cause injury, we can really make a positive impact as clinicians. Sounds good, right?

In terms of baseball players, there has been a lot of recent research that has discussed the concept of “GIRD,” or glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, and its role as a potential precursor to injuries, particularly in overhead athletes such as baseball players.

But what if this loss of internal rotation doesn’t really matter in regards to injury, and that other measures, instead, could be more important to understand if a baseball player is at an increased injury risk? Before we dive into that, let’s first take a look at exactly what GIRD is.

 

What is Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit (GIRD)?

According to an older and outdated definition by Kibler, GIRD occurs when an athlete demonstrates “altered shoulder internal and external ranges of motion where internal rotation is decreased and external rotation is increased in the dominant arm when compared to the non-dominant arm.”

Since this early definition, it has become well identified in the literature that this alteration in range of motion may in fact be normal in overhead athletes, such as baseball pitchers. Mike Reinold has an article describing why GIRD may be normal.

Reinold, who has worked with 1000’s of both injured and healthy baseball players, states that he believes that “a loss of side-to-side IR is actually a normal anatomical variation in overhead athletes.”

He continues by stating that GIRD should not be considered pathological unless there is “subsequent loss of total rotational motion in the dominant arm as well.”

Other sources have attempted to define GIRD as occurring when the internal rotation deficit is greater than 20° to that of the non-dominant arm. But even this has limitations as another arbitrary figure.

This newer definition that Reinold has established, works to specific the loss of internal rotation to the athlete themselves in terms of their respective total range of motion, as opposed to an arbitrary number that may have a large standard deviation across many different overhead athletes.

 

GIRD vs. Total Range of Motion

While an athlete, especially an overhead thrower such as a baseball player, presents with limitations that reflect Reinold’s definition, how important is this loss of motion from a clinician’s perspective?

Now, am I going to worry or be alarmed by a loss of internal rotation that the athlete has with pitching over the course of the season? I suppose I may be in the event that the loss of internal rotation is not equally gained into external rotation, as the total range of motion would be negatively affected.

I’ve been taught that if the athlete has the same total motion throughout their full shoulder range with variations in internal and external rotation, then we can leave it without true intervention and move on, certainly if the athlete is asymptomatic.

On the flip side, if the athlete has lost internal rotation without a reciprocal gain of shoulder external rotation, I will certainly investigate why that may be. These limitations could be due to soft tissue limitations, bony changes into humeral retroversion, or capsular restrictions.

In particular with humeral bony retroversion, it’s critical to understand why this change exists. As young children play baseball, they compete with their respective growth plates in their humerus “open.” This is so that proper natural growth can occur, and that the bones will become longer as time progresses.

While these growth plates are open, throwing a baseball is a constant throughout the year. This continual cocking back of the arm while throwing “rotates” the humerus upon the growth plate, creating a retroversion moment of the bone over time.

This retroversion moment has even been described as “wringing out a towel” by Reinold, to explain the forces that are occurring at the humerus.

Ultimately, once the growth plates close, the retroversion is essentially sustained in that position that was allowed by throwing consistently over several years.

Because of this, baseball players have a natural, expected increase in external rotation within their dominant throwing arm compared to their other, non-dominant arm, that did not throw over the course of a childhood.

This physiological concept is a way to digest and understand the relative differences between arms in a baseball player, including the change in external rotation in the dominant arm being normal and expected anatomical variation.

 

What About Loss of External Rotation or Shoulder Flexion?

So we’ve established what GIRD is, how it can impact athletes, and the importance of both total and internal rotation shoulder range of motion. If shoulder internal rotation isn’t as important on its own, what other measurements can be performed to predict injury risk in a baseball player?

A recent article by Christopher Camp was published in September 2017 by Arthroscopy that highlighted other clinical measurements that may be greater predictors of injury than shoulder internal rotation.

The study followed one MLB team during a 6-year period and measured 81 pitchers over the course of the team’s annual physical examinations during Spring Training.

All elbow and shoulder range of motions were measured for each athlete, with a complete follow-up throughout the season to track any subsequent injuries with both days missed (DM) and re-injury status among other information recorded.

The article concluded meaningful information from the athletes over this time period that relates to the use of shoulder internal rotation measurements:

• The only independent variable that reported an increased risk of either shoulder or elbow injury was the presence of a shoulder ER 5° deficit (dominant arm external rotation was not at least 5° greater than non-dominant arm).
• Shoulder flexion deficits of 5° carried increased odds of sustaining an elbow injury.
• The presence of GIRD (defined as shoulder internal rotation deficit of greater than 20° compared to the non-dominant shoulder) did not carry an increased risk to the shoulder or elbow.


 

This study essentially found that within a large sample size of elite level baseball players, that there is decreased reliability on the use of GIRD to dictate whether a player is at increased risk of sustaining a shoulder or elbow injury.

The article also reports that the use of shoulder external rotation and flexion measurements may be more indicative of the risk of shoulder and elbow injuries, respectively.

Ultimately, I believe that as a profession we need to be able to look at solid clinical research such as this, utilizing a group of clinicians that actually treat baseball players, to make more effective conclusions about the health and status of the athletes we work with.

 

Final Thoughts on GIRD and Moving Forward

I believe in physical therapy and rehab in general, there’s a lot of buzzwords, hot topics, and just outdated information.

I think that GIRD is just one of the concepts that while important in the proper context, such as the loss of external rotation that occurs in conjunction with the loss of internal rotation (total range of motion loss), on itself does not hold as much merit as it receives in textbooks and other resources.

The article by Camp truly demonstrates that there are other factors to consider when attempting to understand a baseball player’s injury or their potential likelihood of injury.

It’s also important to note that these clinicians did not need to use diagnostic ultrasound or other fancy systems or equipment to predict an injury, rather using their clinical judgment and embracing the basics to interpret the findings.

I’m certainly not dismissing the concept of GIRD, but I think it’s important to consider the other deficits that may be present before concluding an athlete is at increased risk for injury. Every baseball pitcher is unique in their own appearance, mechanics, and even measurements that can all be seen as healthy and asymptomatic.

Being able to be a communicator with the athletes we treat about their arm using sound evidence-based research and experience will not only allow the athlete to build their rapport and confidence in you as a clinician, but facilitate a relationship that allows you to prevent injuries and truly achieve our ultimate aforementioned goal more effectively: getting to the root of a problem before it causes injury.

How MLB Pitchers Use Mental Imagery to Enhance Their Performance

The following is an excerpt from Bob Tewksbury’s new book, “Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball.”  In this great new book, Tewks, a former Major League pitcher and mental skills coach for two of baseball’s legendary franchises (the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants), Bob takes fans inside the psychology of baseball.  Click here to learn more about the new book.

The mental game is extremely important for baseball players, and below, Tewks shares a great story of how MLB pitcher Jon Lester has used mental training to his benefit.

 

Ninety Percent Mental

Make no mistake; thoughts become things.

If a pitcher thinks, “don’t walk this guy” or “that pitch was a strike” and allows that thought to occupy his mind, the thought will lead to that reality. As a result, your focus will be not on the execution of the next pitch but on the emotion from the distracting thought.

This takes focus away from the task at hand and any pitch thrown without trust, confidence and conviction will not lead to a positive result.

Breathe.  

That is where my book begins, and it is where my book will end.

Breathe.

A concept so simple a newborn grasps it as soon as he greets the world. An act that eventually becomes so difficult an old man on his deathbed can no longer accomplish it.

In between, breath sustains life. And if you can master the art of controlling it, it can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, maintain health, sharpen focus, improve job performance and, yes, in so many of our lives, cause stress to melt clear away like March ice on Opening Day.

Breathe. It is where we were midsummer in 2013, and Jon Lester had had it.

Around him, the Oakland Coliseum, a rapidly deteriorating ballpark that he detested, had never looked so untamable. Behind him, the first half of an inconsistently choppy season continued to clutter his mind. Ahead of him, the second half of a season that refused to produce answers appeared just as ominous.

At this point in its cracked-concrete life, the Coliseum was becoming notorious for sewage backups. Seriously. The major leagues? A plumbing system that may as well have been constructed during the California Gold Rush periodically caused toilets to back up, water to leak into both clubhouses and dugouts, and a resulting stench that could singe the hairs in your nostrils.

Breathe? Hold that thought. The Oakland Coliseum maybe isn’t the best place in the major leagues to preach this concept. Yet there I was, in my role as a mental skills coach for the Boston Red Sox, late afternoon, sitting in the dugout anyway.

The periodic sewage, the stench, the antiquated clubhouses, none of that, by the way, is why Jon Lester disliked the place. What so many outside the game don’t always understand is that every single road trip is foreign. Every field has a different look, a different view, a different background. Comfort breeds confidence, and nothing this side of health is more vital to a professional athlete than confidence.

Always, it seemed, for whatever reason, Lester was uncomfortable on the mound in the Oakland Coliseum. Every time he started a game there, the whole place just looked different.

“I don’t know what it is,” he says. “There are stadiums you get to and it never looks good. You always feel isolated. Detroit’s one of those for me. You get on that mound and nothing looks right. It just doesn’t fit you, for whatever reason. Toronto was the complete opposite. I love Toronto. I thought their mound was one of the best mounds in baseball. The way the backdrop is, it makes you feel like home plate is right there.

“Oakland was one of those places I never felt good in. I think it’s because of the [massive] foul ground. Home plate, it looks like you’re throwing to the batting cage over there. I’ve never really had good games there. So you have these different things that go through your mind when you get in these different places.”

In the previous season, Lester had limited the Athletics to just one run and four hits over 6.2 innings, striking out nine and walking just one. But the Red Sox lost 3-2. Never had a good game in Oakland? As my old manager in Minnesota, Tom Kelly, often said, “The mind is a very dangerous thing.”

On this day, there was a lot on Lester’s mind, and too much of it was diminishing returns. At 8-5 with a 4.60 ERA, 2013 in so many ways was a continuation of 2012, statistically the worst of his career: 9-14 with a career-worst 4.82 ERA. For the man who worked five and two-thirds incredibly impressive shutout innings as a rookie in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series at Colorado’s hitter-friendly Coors Field, this was foreign land, uncharted territory, a rock and a hard place he never would have imagined. Too many negatives were living rent free inside his head.

At twenty-nine and with the All-Star break waiting on the other side of the weekend, Lester was set to make his final start of the first half on Saturday night. At this point, he was certain of only one thing. What he was not going to do was step into the break without exhausting his search for solutions.

As David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and the rest of the Red Sox swung away in batting practice on this Friday afternoon, Lester looked into the dugout and spotted a potential life vest. He and I had first met in 2002, when Lester was eighteen, shortly after the Red Sox scooped him up in the second round of the draft. As part of my work with the Red Sox, I made it a point to meet as many minor-leaguers as I could as they entered Boston’s system. Just as the ball is held together with those red stitches, so, too, are the relationships in this game. They can never be tight enough.

Preparation never was a weakness for Lester. Few worked as hard as he did. But there was one area I felt could help improve his performance. I told him how I used mental imagery throughout my career. You’ve heard the expression “mental imagery”? The body doesn’t know the difference between a real or an imagined event and, therefore, the body will go where the mind takes it. During the tough times, mental imagery exercises I had developed helped me battle the fear of failure and insecurity that, always, are an athlete’s toughest opponent. During the good times, the mental imagery reinforced the foundation upon which I operated.

The short answer was that, no, Lester had never tried imagery before any of his starts. He had flirted with the idea of it just once, long ago, and he didn’t like it for a very interesting reason.

Lester was never much of a reader because his admittedly short attention span just won’t allow it, but he nevertheless devoured the legendary Harvey Dorfman’s The Mental ABC’s of Pitching: A Handbook for Performance Enhancement when he was in high school. He read it in three days, matter of fact. It was during his senior year, and he had decided to not play basketball that winter in order to focus on baseball, and he read the book about a week before his first start.

Looking for a way to focus amid the swirl of professional scouts and college recruiters who were creating chaos in his life at the time, Lester inhaled the book and immediately went out and threw a no-hitter in that first start, punching out nineteen hitters. He came within one out of a perfect game.

And that is why, more than a decade later, he still shied away from imagery. Because, as he told me, he just knew he could not replicate the success of that no-hitter with nineteen strikeouts.

“It just so happened that it was one of those days that just kind of fell in line with what I was doing and I was like, ‘I can’t get back to that place. If I try to do imagery again, it won’t replicate the outcome,’” Jon says.

“That’s the first thing you think of when you do it. You think of the last time you did it and what happened.”

I shared my personal experiences of having used imagery for most of my career, and how powerful a mental tool it had been for me. He seemed intrigued. I asked if he would be willing to try a guided imagery exercise with me to give him a feel for what I was talking about. It was the right moment. At this point, Lester was open to anything that might help him.

We walked up the long tunnel leading from the dugout back into the visitors’ clubhouse and disappeared into a small office. He sank into a leather couch. He slouched down, getting comfortable, his head leaned back against the top of the couch. In full Red Sox uniform, he tugged his baseball cap forward, tilted to shield his eyes from the room’s harsh fluorescent light.

“Okay, now that you are comfortable, I want you to close your eyes and focus on your breathing,” I told him.

I spoke slowly, softly. “Inhale through your nose… feel the air as it slowly passes down through the back of your throat and into your lungs… feel your chest rise and expand… now hold it… now exhale slowly and fully through your mouth.”

We repeated that sequence three times. As we did, I noticed Jon gradually sink deeper into the couch. His jaw loosened. His mouth opened slightly. His leg twitched. I paused, surprised he had become so relaxed so quickly.

“You are now relaxed and ready for your imagery practice,” I said.

Following a few seconds of silence, I continued. “Now, imagine yourself on the pitcher’s mound tomorrow night. Feel your spikes as they rest firmly on the pitching rubber. Feel the seams of the baseball as you grip the ball in your glove, which you hold up directly in front of you.”

I led him through game situations. Through facing two batters while pitching from the windup. One batter while pitching from the stretch. I worked to create pictures in his mind, each associated with a particular pitch. Fastballs down and away for called strikes. Changeups cloaked in the illusion of fastballs, creating swings and misses. Slow curveballs floating in for strikes, the hitters helplessly watching them go by. Deadly cutters that made those hitters look foolish.

I went through each batter he would see in Oakland’s lineup the next night. I detailed various situations he might face and how he would successfully respond to them. Someone commits an error, this is how you react to it.

This imagery exercise went on for about eight minutes, and then I instructed Jon to open his eyes and reorient himself to the room. When he nudged his cap up off of his face, he looked like he had been sleeping. Wow, I thought. He really got into this.

“What did you think?” I asked. He said he liked it but that at times my dialogue went a little too fast. Because of that, at times, he said, he struggled to fully create images in his mind. This was good feedback for next time. Most important, there would be a next time. He was buying in.

We agreed to implement this brief imagery practice into his pregame routine the next night. The best time, we decided, would be after his pitcher’s meeting, around five o’clock. Before each start, the starting pitcher, catcher and pitching coach meet to go over that night’s opposing lineup and implement a game plan. Right after that, Lester would go to the trainer’s room, lie on the table, cover his eyes and re-create, as best he could, what we had just done.

On the field that Saturday night, Lester felt more comfortable than he had all season. He threw a called third strike by Coco Crisp to start the bottom of a 1-2-3 first inning. Induced a ground-ball double play in the second from Nate Freiman and wound up stranding two Athletics and holding them off the scoreboard. Derek Norris touched him for a solo homer in the fifth, and then Oakland scratched two more runs off of him in the sixth.

But on this night, the internal results following his session the night before became the most important element.

“It was almost like I had already pitched,” Lester says. “I felt more relaxed and prepared. We lost 3-0, but I pitched a lot better. I felt more in command with what was going on in the game, with situations that arose during the game.”

We talked again the next day about implementing imagery and visualization permanently into his pregame routine. We decided that I would record a guided imagery program for him to use prior to his starts during the season’s second half. We discussed the content and timing of the script that day, and I made the recording during the All-Star break.

Over thirteen starts during the second half of the season, Lester would go 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA. Best of all, that run would stretch deep into October, where a quiet room in Fenway Park and an imagery program on Lester’s iPod would combine to become as beautiful in Boston as the autumn orange- and red-tinged trees along the Charles River…
BREATHE.

 

Get Bob Tewksbury’s Book Ninety Percent Mental

Bob Tewksbury is the mental skills coach for the San Francisco Giants and was formerly the mental skills coach for the Boston Red Sox. He has a master’s degree in sport psychology and counseling from Boston University. Drafted by the Yankees in 1981, he won 110 games over a 13-year career (from 1986 through 1998) with the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, and Minnesota Twins, and was named to the National League All-Star team. He lives in Concord, New Hampshire.

New Pitch Smart Pitch Count Guidelines to Protect Youth Arms

In today’s baseball game, the name of the game is velocity. At youth summer tournaments, radar guns reign supreme, and recruiters scout those who can throw the hardest. While pitching speed can help a pitcher dominate a lineup, the effects of throwing hard over and over again can cause serious damage to our youth athletes.

Another issue amongst youth baseball players is overuse. Between little league, summer teams, camps, and club teams, some players are competing throughout the calendar year.

The result of this has led to an uptick in Tommy John procedures (UCL reconstruction), as well as “Little Leaguer” shoulder and elbow injuries.  The one factor that has continued to be shown to increase youth pitching injuries more than anything else has been overuse.  Simply put, injured youth baseball pitchers have been shown to throw more pitches per game, more innings per year, and more months out of the year.

To combat this epidemic of overuse during the velocity era, Pitch Smart, a combined Major League Baseball and USA Baseball initiative, provides guidelines for pitching volume, resources on youth injuries, and risk factors for becoming hurt.

Youth Baseball Pitch Count Guidelines

The youth baseball pitch count guidelines established for workload are different for ages 7-22 and provide information regarding required rest. For instance, a 10-year old would have a daily maximum of 75 pitches, with only 21-35 pitches that could be thrown with 1 day of rest.

This is different than for a 17-year old who, according to these guidelines can throw a maximum of 105 pitches in a game, with 1 day of rest allowing for 31-45 pitches.

These pitching guidelines allow for youth athletes of varying ages different workloads that correlate better with their respective skeletal maturity and physiological limits of both their static (bones, ligaments) and dynamic stabilizers (muscles).

These guidelines, if followed by coaches and parents alike, can not only allow players to be more fresh and effective when they play, but keep them healthier in a systematic and organized way.

The guidelines for workload limits can be seen below for the various age groups.

pitch smart youth baseball pitch count guidelines

 

 

Why Pitch Count Guidelines Matter

Not only has overuse shown the highest correlation to youth pitching injuries, reported that youth pitchers who participated in the Little League World Series whose pitch counts exceeded the recommendations, resulted in significantly greater future injury than those who followed the guidelines established.

By protecting youth baseball arms and allowing for important periods of rest, these youth athletes can participate in multiple sports and reduce the amount of overhead workload sustained.

The guidelines are also critical because they combine these pitch count recommendations with suggestions for each of the age groups that include information on certain pitches, months per year playing baseball, as well as what the priorities of that age group should be.

For instance, 9-year olds should focus on physical fitness and fun, learning baseball rules, and the general concept of teamwork, while 16-year olds should prioritize developing new pitchers and mastering their current ones.

Final Thoughts

The new Pitch Smart guidelines organized by MLB and USA Baseball include pitch count recommendations and suggestions per age groups that can provide useful information that can lead to the improved health of youth baseball arms.

Pitch counts can act as a hard stop for workload for baseball players in a pitching outing of any age based on skeletal maturity development as well as the physiological limits of that particular athlete.

These recommendations can be helpful for youth athletes, but they must be enforced by both coaches and parents to ensure that they are being fully met.

To learn more and check out the new Pitch Smart guidelines for yourself, visit http://m.mlb.com/pitchsmart/pitching-guidelines/.

The Thought Process of a Big Game Pitcher

Why does one pitcher succeed with below-average velocity and “stuff,” while another who throws 96-98mph posts a 7.00 ERA?

Why do flame-throwing rookies have such a hard time getting outs, despite amazing ability? Regardless of how hard a pitcher throws, he must learn how to read hitters, execute pitches, and process all the information he’s given on every swing a hitter takes.

In this article, you’ll learn the process of big-game pitchers, the guys who teams trust when the game is on the line. Becoming an Ace takes a lot of mental bandwidth, and I’ll give you an outline below to help expand yours.

The Four-Zone Process

Between at-bats, we need to remind ourselves all our duties before and after the pitch. Within this checklist are simple things like knowing the score and which base we’ll back up on a double.

But, there are higher-level processes like analyzing the hitter, the situation, our own strengths and weaknesses, and how it all fits together when we choose the next pitch.

In short, smart pitchers are much like computers. The more experience one has – both playing the game and going through a logical, analytical process – the faster one can process larger amounts of information.

The faster you process the simple pieces, the more bandwidth you free up to think clearly about the reason you’re choosing the next pitch. And, you MUST have a reason behind every pitch you throw.

Zone 1: The Big Picture

In this zone, we’re standing in the grass behind the mound. We just retrieved the ball following the conclusion of an at-bat, and we’re taking it all in to prepare for the next one.

We think about the big things, such as the score, the inning, base runners (where and who they are), what base to cover on a single or extra-base hit to different parts of the park, where to go with a comebacker or bunt, and the overall situation. What needs to happen next for us?

Zone 2: Focus on the Hitter and Runner, and situation

In this zone, we’re standing at the bottom of the mound, narrowing our focus from the big picture and more custodial tasks (like which bases we cover).

We narrow our focus and think about the hitter and the baserunners – what threats they present and how we’ll deal with them.

The first focus can be who’s up, and what has he done thus far? 0-2 with two Ks, or 2-3 with two doubles? What do we know about his habits, swing, etc.? What’s the situation ask him to do? Bunt? Swing away? Hit behind the runner?

What’s he capable of? Can he hurt us? What can’t he do? How did we pitch him last time? What’s his swing look like? What do we see? What’s his approach?

The next focus could be who is on base? Is it a stealing situation? Is there a base open? If so, will that change how you pitch the hitter?

How fast are the base runners? Is the lead runner a stealing threat?

How aggressive have you seen the baserunners lead, steal or break on balls in the dirt? Do we know if they like to go on a certain pitch?

Considering all the above, how much attention do they need to be paid? What do I think I might throw first pitch? Do I need to protect it if that’s the one I choose?

The last focus can be what’s the situation? What is the best possible result?

What do I need? Strikeout? Ball to stay on the infield? Do I have a base open? Is the double play in order?

Is the hitter likely to change his approach because of the situation? Am I changing my approach because of the situation? How does mine match up with his? What’s my escape route? How do I get the result I want?

Zone 3: Planning for the Pitch, At-Bat and Running Game

In Zone 3, we are straddling the rubber as the hitter completes his warm-up swings. This is our waiting position – as he gets in the box, we then step on the rubber and narrow our focus even more. What do we want the catcher to put down?

First, we summarize the hitter. What are his tendencies? What has he done?

What does his approach appear to be? Does it change as the at-bat changes?

What are his weaknesses? Does he have a swing flaw? Slow bat? Obvious bat path? Where does his bat-path live?

Next, we remind ourselves of our strengths. What are we good at? Does our strength match his weakness?

How did we pitch him last time? Did it work?

What do I feel confident in today? What do I want to stay away from?

What can I not allow him to beat me on? What is my go-to pitch when the game is on the line?

Lastly, we do some planning of the at-bat.

If I get my intended result on the first pitch, where might I go next? If I don’t, what am I probably coming back with?

How likely is it that the runner steals on the first pitch? The second?

Do I need to pick over on the first pitch? What move do I show him? A? B? C?

Am I in big trouble if this runner steals the next base? Is this a base-open situation? Do I need to throw it over the plate if I fall behind? Or, can I pitch him tough until the end?

What’s the first stepping stone to the result I want?

Zone 4: Choose your pitch and execute

We’ve done our diligence and checked off all the questions above (and probably many more).

With all the work done, we step onto the rubber and peer in to get our sign. We’ve chosen our pitch and know what we’re doing with the runner. Now, ALL the work is done, which leaves us with one thing left: Execute this pitch.

The One-Pitch Mindset: Crucial, But Difficult

One we’ve considered all possible information and chosen a pitch we believe in, it’s time to block out all potential consequences, stakes, results, AND all the stuff we were just thinking about. None of it matters once we’ve come set.

After the pitch is chosen, the pitcher has one job: lock his eyes on the mitt with tunnel vision and give 100% focus to executing the pitch.

Nothing else can come between the visual tunnel to the mitt. Not the roar of the crowd, the potential embarrassment if he lines it into the gap, not our potential release if our ERA goes up. None of it.

Our job is to execute one single pitch. Then, execute one single pitch. Then, execute one more single pitch. If we do that until our day is done, we’ll have strung together the best possible outing.

Remember this old proverb, “A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”?

Pitching is the same way. One pitch at a time, then look back at the end and see what you’ve strung together, how a string of single pitches joined into an amazing outing.

The Secret Formula?

If someone out there tells you that pitching in games merely expresses your currently skill level…they’ve never stepped foot on the mound. These people think throwing is pitching, and it’s not.

You don’t learn any of this stuff until you’re on the mound, taking in the situation and thinking your way through it. You can become a darn good thrower in practice, but you don’t become a pitcher until you’re in the heat of the moment and forced to think your way through it.

And, if you don’t have a coach who is pushing you to think through the above checklist, you’ll never stick at the highest levels of baseball. Pitchers make it, throwers don’t – it’s just that simple, because at every level, hitters get smarter and there will always be guys who can turn around a 99mph fastball.

Learn How to Become the Ace of Your Staff

If you want to learn this stuff faster, to not have to suffer through years of trial and error not knowing what to look for, and not knowing the best strategies to live by, my online course Ace of the Staff is for you.

I designed this 13-hour, 80+ video course to pass along the lessons it took me a decade to absorb, so that younger pitchers with a passion for the game can learn faster, and climb higher.

3 Single Leg Exercises to Build Strength and Improve Force Production for Baseball Players

This is no secret. As a baseball player, you need to be able to produce force and you need to be able to absorb force. Being able to do these two things will give you the ability to be powerful, but also help reduce the risk of injury.

When we look at throwing, and more specifically pitching, if you can’t produce or absorb force, you’re going to put a lot more stress on your arm. Not only that, but you will not be able to produce enough power to throw with any real velocity.

If the legs are not doing their part, you have to try to develop power and arm speed somewhere else. This somewhere else is the arm, because in its “mind” it knows it needs to do something to catch up.

 

Using Strength to Improve Stability

When it comes to being powerful, tinkering with mechanics will help, but really a lot of this comes down to your strength, stability, and body position. If you have good relative strength, you’re going to be able to get into better positions.

Pitching is a very explosive movement and requires a lot strength and stability to maintain good body positions.

To become explosive, you must put a lot of force into the ground. Therefore, you will see athletes who put on good weight have a big tick in velocity.

They are putting on relatively good weight, which will help them get stronger, and will ultimately help them produce more force and be more stable to absorb it.

Now when focusing on getting stronger, you want to prioritize unilateral strength. Pitching and throwing is mostly done on one leg, therefore getting strong on one leg will have more carry over.

Building single-leg strength will help you produce power and give you stability to transfer your weight and energy from one leg to the other. By being able to transfer your weight effectively, you will be able stay in a better position to pitch.

With this, I have picked these three single leg strength exercises below because it hits all three sides of the spectrum. The reverse lunge, single leg RDL, and the single-leg hip thrust.

 

Front Squat Reverse Lunge

When it comes to building single-leg strength, this is the king of single-leg exercises. Not only will this exercise get you strong, it makes you absorb force when you step back, and then put force in the ground to drive up.

Another added benefit is the torso position it forces you to be in. Because of the front squat grip and the weight being in front, it helps keep you in a more upright position and makes your anterior core work extra hard, so that you don’t tip.

When pitching, it’s important to be able to create tension at the right time and this exercise requires the same. Being able to create tension through the core is important to maintain good position and being able to push in to the ground.

 

Single Leg RDL

Single Leg Training for Baseball Pitchers

When pitching, you should be able to transfer your weight from your back leg to your front leg, and be able to put your foot in the ground while getting over your front leg.

This exercise not only teaches you to load that front leg, but also put force into the ground and get over it so you can get extension on your pitch.

The ability to get over the front side and get extension will not only help you throw harder, but will add deception to your pitch.

This exercise is going to challenge the glutes and the hamstrings, as well as the core because it helps you stabilize so that you do not tip your pelvis laterally.

The ability to stabilize and get over your front leg not only allows you to get into a better position but allows you to put more force into the ground. With the RDL, you have to be able to load the front leg and then drive it through the ground, and in this case, drive your hip through.

 

Single Leg Hip Thrust

Single Leg Training for Baseball Pitchers

The single-leg hip thrust is a great exercise because it targets the glutes and teaches good hip extension. This exercise is less dynamic and more of a pure glute exercise.

Hip extension is important when it comes to pitching and all three exercises require you to be able to do so to do the exercises correctly.

This exercise, compared to the others, is usually unweighted. However, if you get a point where you want to use weight, you can put a band, bar, or sandbag over your hips.

Pitching is a powerful, explosive movement and requires good single-leg strength and stability. It is important to gain good, relative, single-leg strength so that you can put your body in good positions to allow yourself to produce a lot of force into the ground.