Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Chuck goes into a brief explanation of the kinetic chain in pitching in this video



“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.

Pitching Kinetics pt 1

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Baseball

A lot of time has been spent on researching and writing about strengthening the arm for pitchers, and deservedly so. With players getting $140 million deals, it is clearly a valuable topic. “How to add Velocity” has become the holy grail of sports with people claiming to have found the secret to adding however many mph to your fastball in 4 weeks! I even saw one contraption that claimed to add 10 mph in 12 minutes. I wish I was making that up.

While no one has found a formula that worked for everyone, there are some basic principles that will help with arm health, control, and might even add a few mph on the radar gun.

First and foremost, every athletic movement starts from the ground. The scientific term used when discussing the sequence of events of any body movement is kinetic chain. Because every athletic movement starts for the ground, the kinetic chain begins with the feet. Think of the kinetic chain as the cord for the energy to flow through to, in this case, the arm. If something is wrong anywhere in the kinetic chain, the maximum amount of energy will not get to the arm. This topic could be developed into a book so let’s stick to the bottom of the chain for now. One of the things I like to do with a pitcher when I first work with him is see how he is on one leg. In pitching, you are on both legs for a split second and it is a very awkward position. As you can see from your’s truly, the lead leg is about to land on the ground as the back leg may possibly still be down for a millisecond.

Point being it is a single leg activity. Have the pitcher jump forward and laterally on one foot, noticing the ability to push off and create power from each foot and the ability to control the landing. Also focus on asymmetries, like which foot creates greater power (greater distance) and which one is more stable in the landing. More to come later….

When most of us hear the word “conditioning”, we  think of either long distance running or repeated sprints with extremely short rest breaks. After all, if you aren’t gasping for air then what’s the point in doing it, right? In some sports this might be the proper conditioning. In a basketball game, for instance, there will be circumstances where there are 3 or 4 fast-breaks in row. Repeated sprints are very sports specific and necessary. It is common for you to sprint, stop, and have to sprint again with little to no rest.

How many times does this happen in a baseball game? If you want to play devil’s advocate you could say in a run down (or pickle) which would be accurate. The natural response here is how many run downs happen in a season and the answer is very few. So why train an athlete for something that might happen twice in a season?

Baseball is all about being explosive, followed by a rest period. Would’t it make the most sense to train like this then?

Try to get the old school definition of conditioning out of your head and replace it with the idea of being conditioned within the energy system (ATP-PC, Glycolytic, Aerobic) used primarily in the sport. For baseball, it would be the ATP-PC system which is used for short burst of energy of up to 10-15 seconds.

For a professional baseball game, the average time between pitches is 20 seconds. That means that after a sprint, swing, or pitch, the athlete will have at least 20 seconds of rest before another explosive movement occurs. And yet these athletes are “conditioned” by running 30 yards at maybe 75% of their max speed, line back up, and repeat.

I would go as far as to say that conditioning for position players isn’t an effective use of time. I would much rather spend the time working on sprint technique, crossover starts, and agility (this is assuming the athlete is in good general physical shape and not a total slob).

In a team setting it is much harder to work on an individual’s sprinting technique and conditioning (new definition) might be the best alternative. By implementing a work to rest ratio of 1:3 or 1:4, the athlete should be able to come close to full recovery. This will allow every sprint to be close to 100% of their top speed as opposed to just running not to pass out.

Train fast to be fast. Train slow if you want to be slow. Give your “conditioning” program some thought before implementing it instead of just regurgitating the same drills your coach put you through.

The distance aspect and pitchers conditioning will be addressed in the next post.

What kind of drills or conditioning principles do you like when working with baseball position players?