I figure I’d put it here first. This is an article I just wrote for a big site. Enjoy! -Kyle
Let me just give you some background on why and how I decided to write an article on how I train my pitchers and baseball players. First off, I recently went on my honeymoon and I literally had a dream on our first night in Fiji about some training protocols for my pitchers at Newell Strength. Secondly, I had phone interviews with Louie Simmons (one of the highlights of my career and a day I will never forget) and Jim Wagner (Trevor Bauer’s of UCLA’s private strength and pitching coach). Add this to the fact that more and more pitchers and baseball players have been finding their way over to me. If you were born in the 80’s or before, you most likely saw the movie, Major League, and if you saw it, then you remember Wild Thing. But how did Wild Thing get to be such an animal on the mound?
I wrote my thesis paper for my master’s on biomechanical aspects of the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is a complex ball and socket joint. The joints of the shoulder include: glenohumeral joint, acromioclavicular joint, scapulothoracic joint, and the sternoclavicular joint. The rotator cuff is an anatomical term given to the four muscles that act to stabilize the shoulder. It holds the head of the humerus (ball) in the glenoid fossa (socket) (Neuman, 2002). One thing that is often overlooked by many strength coaches is the demands that are placed on the shoulder joint for an overhead athlete. The tremendous range of motion in the shoulder makes it extremely unstable, leading to a high rate of injury. Just a few more scientific terms, stay with me, it is useful to know some of this. The scapula (your wings-the big flat bones located on your lateral upper back) must internally and externally rotate and posterior tilt to maintain ball and socket kinematics (Plum, Van Cingel & Kibler, 2010). Many times, my baseball players will tell me that their shoulders are sore or just not feeling right. This can be due to possible impingement. Impingement is compression and abrasion of the rotator cuff structures during arm elevation (pitching). The supraspinatus has an internal moment arm of 1 inch for shoulder abduction-supporting the load by the hand about 20 inches distal to the glenohumeral joint (GH). The creates a mechanical advantage of 1:20! Meaning the supraspinatus must generate a force of 20x greater than the weight of the load! In addition to this, the shoulder has been shown to have a peak angular velocity of 7000°/second!
Ok, now that we got the science part, lets examine some ideas for a baseball player and pitchers workouts. First and foremost, it is essential to strengthen the external rotators because the internal rotators will grow exponentially stronger from so much throwing if nothing is done to correct the imbalance. This can be done through incline rear deal raises with a pause at the top, explosive dumbbell shoulder cleans, face pulls, scarecrows or reverse flyes with a band and pull aparts to name a few. I prefer to also have the baseball pitchers perform a lot of pulling rather than pressing. I find that many pitchers and players are weak in the upper back and strong and short in the chest. For pulling, we do a lot of TRX rows and variations of them, neutral grip pull-ups with the shoulders retracted and depressed just like in bench pressing and Prowler rows.
Also, because of many impingement problems found in pitchers, I like to stay away from too much pushing. The pushing that I do perform with these althletes includes: medicine ball pushups (activation of the upper back and scapular muscles and rotator cuff, alt. incline db pushups (for stability) and standing sled pushing with the sled behind.
Obviously, core training will be key, but we do not go overboard. We pick 2 exercises from the stability and bracing, anti-extension or anti-rotation category and perform them at the beginning of the workout. As for lower body development, we do a lot of dynamic squatting deadlifting along with box jumps. Because most of these athletes are high school age, I do not do a lot of 1RM work, but we do our max work through sets of 5 reps on the above exercises. Sled dragging is always essential in an athlete’s program for hip and posterior chain development. We focus a lot of posterior chain development and ‘hip-hinging’. You must not forget that in addition to pitching or playing the field, at this level, they also still must hit. So in addition to increasing throwing velocity, all my ball players have seen an increase in hitting power with the above program. Lastly, we work on the start of their 60 yard dash which is performed at their combines. The start is critical in any short sprint and for this, I can find no better reference than Joe D’s Mastering the Combine DVD. If you happen to have a stim machine, put it on your players shoulder region or elbow region, especially the day after throwing. For how to use stim on athletes, pick up a copy of the Charlie Francis’ Training System, he goes into great detail on it in his book. Fresh out of ideas, until next time!