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Combining Strength Training And Throwing Programs For Baseball Pitchers

The increases in pitching velocity and the distance guys are covering when they go yard tells one thing for sure… Guys are getting in the gym and getting bigger, faster and stronger. Period.

That’s great. As a matter of fact, nothing could make me happier as a strength and conditioning coach. But let it be said, with training comes a responsibility on educating athletes as to how and when is the best way and time to incorporate it.

This gets especially tricky when it needs to be integrated with a throwing program. A great program should incorporate throwing and strength training as ONE program and not viewed as two separate entities. Let me try and briefly explain why one hand washes the other.

When an athlete lifts, he is spending valuable energy that he must pay back via recovery before going at it again the next time. Much like paying back a debt.

As we get closer to the season and throwing is introduced alongside lifting, overall training volume is increased and the amount of debt to payback is doubled. Stack up enough debt, and both an athlete’s recovery and performance will tank.

Any strength training program that’s combined with pitching / throwing needs to be highly coordinated to be effective.

This is the first thing we need to understand when we start putting together a strength and throwing program. As each athlete’s size, strength and other characteristics differ, so must the overall program. We break this down into three parts:

  • Physical Preparation
  • Skill Preparation
  • Periodization

Let’s look at these three separately…

Physical Preparation

This is strength, mobility and power. This is where a lot of guys miss the boat.

These goals will likely create the greatest initial performance improvements as well as lay down a “grass roots” foundation of strength and mobility for the future when training protocols get more advanced. It also goes a long way in helping to reduce the risk of injury.

An example of this would be a 6’2” high school junior weighing 165 lbs. with a less than average strength numbers in the weight room.

For this athlete, playing fall ball and spending that much-needed energy on the weekends pitching becomes not only counterproductive to his physical preparation strength-wise, but adds extra and unnecessary mileage on the arm.

Getting in the weight room earlier (September / October) to work on some hypertrophy prior to starting a strength phase in November / December should be the priority and just what the doctor ordered.

Skill Preparation

Video Analysis and Mechanical Remapping

The use of video analysis helps us break down mechanics, not only from a bio-mechanical standpoint but also from a sequencing and delivery view point. From there, we can better prepare a set of individualized throwing correctives into the throwing program.

Timeline and Throwing Sessions

I am not going to get into the specifics of the timeline too much here, but during a four-month off-season program there should an ample shutdown period which would allow for a heavier lifting schedule. Here is a summary timeline from November – February:

Frankly, I think it’s a must that pitchers throw 2x per week in preparation for the spring. Throwing 1x per week does not allow the connective tissue of the arm to develop the resiliency necessary to resist the demands of a high-level throw.

 

Pitch Design and Development

We have had a Rapsodo baseball camera in-house for a while and it has changed how we evaluate certain aspects of pitching. We are discovering things about pitchers that were unfathomable just a year ago without this technology.

You can use the information from a Rapsodo in a long-term development plan with pitchers in ways unheard of even a few years back, both for improving their existing repertoire and also in new pitch design and development. Here is a typical screenshot from the device:

While strength training should never be out of the equation for this athlete, it should share the spotlight with more sport-specific work such as correcting mechanical issues, addressing his mobility and increasing force production through plyometric training.

Periodization

Let me start by saying this. Both types of athletes need to spend time in the weight room and working on throwing movements and skills throughout the off-season.

However, each athlete simply needs to spend the bigger part of his time on what he needs the most to optimize performance. This is all about individualized programs and customization.

A complete initial physical assessment and throwing evaluation will give us the roadmap and help us make the best use of the time spent with our athletes.

On a final note, please make sure you’re getting a thorough assessment to determine where you fall on the physical / skill preparation profile. Your off-season program should be designed with this in mind and most importantly make sure it’s performed by a highly qualified PT/strength and conditioning coach or AT with a great track record.

See ya’ in the gym…

 

 

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.