“Conditioning” for Pitchers

Posted: August 26, 2012 in Baseball

No need to beat around the bush, DISTANCE RUNNING IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE FOR PITCHERS. We will start with the logical reasoning and work our way to the science behind this novel concept. This article piggybacks on many of the same concepts as the “Conditioning” for Baseball Position Players article, so it would be helpful to read that one first.

1. Would you rather have your pitcher look like a marathon runner or a sprinter? Especially in the lower body…

I don’t think anyone would want their pitching staff to look malnourished, scrawny, and weak, which are the words that come to mind when I glance at our Finnish friend. His body certainly doesn’t scream power or explosiveness. If you don’t want to have the same physique as someone, then why would you train like them? I still can’t figure out why anyone would think that “endurance” for a pitcher was achieved by doing that same motion continuously at a very slow pace. Last time I watched a baseball game the pitcher did not continually repeat his delivery for 20 minutes straight without ever pausing. Instead, let’s try to look like a sprinter by training like a sprinter.

2. Most of the time, distance running (or any long distance conditioning) is prescribed to pitchers after they finish throwing off a mound, like after a game or bullpen. The thought here is to flush the system of the lactic acid to prevent it from building up and causing soreness. This actually makes some sense: get the blood pumping to remove the waste. The only problem is its completely wrong on two levels. 1. Soreness is not caused by lactic acid. It is caused by delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS occurs from eccentric (stretching of the muscle) stress causing micro fractures in our muscles. 2. Lactic acid is produced, but is cleared by the our body while we’re still pitching. I was fortunate to be part of the follow up study for Between Inning Recovery Methods for Pitchers. The discovery that I found most interesting was that the blood lactate levels with our group of pitchers was close to pre-activity levels after the game simulation. To summarize, our body flushes itself.

3. Condition within the sports specific energy system. See “Conditioning” for Baseball Position Players.

4. Distance running trains the slow twitch fibers. Two types of muscle fibers exist in our body. Type I fibers (slow twitch) produce energy through aerobic pathways and have slow contractile speeds. Type II fibers are broken down into three subdivisions: type IIa, type IIb, and type IIx. Type IIb and IIx are more anaerobic and explosive, while type IIa is kind of a mix between type I and type IIb and IIx. As of right now, the exercise physiology world believes you are born with a certain number of type I and type II fibers and cannot convert one to the other. The type of physical training you do, however, can change the characteristics of the fiber (mainly type IIa) to behave more like the opposing fiber. So if we train to be explosive, our type I and type IIa fibers become more explosive and less aerobic. TRAIN FAST TO BE FAST!

5. Last but certainly not least, distance running decreases power production and strength. This occurs because of the fiber characteristic changes noted in the paragraph above. A loss of power would, theoretically, result in the loss of velocity. Matt DiLallo explains in his article that it is more important to focus on the velocity aspect (Displacement x Time) of the power equation since force is not a major issue in baseball due to the weight of the baseball and bat.

If you aren’t convinced yet, just google long distance running for pitchers. Every link on the first two pages is against it as well. Hopefully this is one baseball tradition that will change sooner than later.

  1. […] awhile. Two of these points came up when we were discussing recovery for pitchers. After reading “Condtioning” for Pitchers, you know that lactic acid levels have returned to normal during an outing so flushing the lactic […]

  2. […] in velocity over the past 20 years, baseball still has a long way to go before old school myths, like long distance running, are out of the game. Not that I have all the answers, but proper training will decrease the chance […]

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