Testing and Training the Complete Pitcher… Where do You Fall? Part1

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

Different types of race cars produce speed in different ways. They also switch gears in different ways to reach top speed.  Well, so do pitchers. In this 3 Part series, we’ll take a look at some of what I believe to be six of the biggest topics when determining and/or training a pitcher’s athleticism.

The Importance of Creating a Profile

An athletic profile gives us an overall picture of an athlete from a physical standpoint, as well as what needs to be done on the training side as part of his “long-term athletic development”. Every athlete is different, and their short and long-term programming should reflect that. Here are the big six:

  • Anthropometrics
  • Lean Body Mass (body fat %)
  • Strength
  • Power and Elasticity
  • Speed and Agility
  • Mobility and Stability

Today, we’re going to look at the first three. So, without further ado…

1. Anthropometrics – Anthropometrics tell us about the athlete’s frame. Would you tell a short pitcher to train and throw the same way as a tall pitcher? If you’re answer is “yes”, you’re in the wrong business. Mechanics can and will vary between tall and shorter pitchers at various stages of the delivery.

What is considered tall / short, and how does that affect how we train them?

Tall Pitchers (approx. 6’4” and taller)

  • Generally, have longer limbs
  • More mobility / flexibility (laxity)
  • Much weaker from a strength standpoint in the weight room

Shorter Pitchers (approx. 6’0” and under)

  • Generally, have shorter limbs
  • Less mobility
  • Much stronger in the weight room

Since anthropometrics is the least trainable trait, it becomes the major factor to base the overall training program, in both the weight room and on the mound.  In the example below, Marcus Stroman (5’10”) and Chris Sales (6’5”) both deliver Major League velocity but do so with completely different mechanics.

2. Lean Body Mass/Body Fat % – To move explosively through space requires an optimal level of power (a solid amount of muscle) and a minimal level of dead weight (body fat). Most major league pitchers sit anywhere between 12-15% body fat. Lean body weight is always a contributing factor to throwing velocity and in fact it is right up there with lateral jump distance as being the best predictor of throwing velocity. To learn more about lean body mass, check out a recent article I wrote on the topic (click here).

 

3. Strength – Being that I have written countless blogs and articles on the importance of being strong, today we’ll talk about two topics many coaches at the college level place a high priority on.

a. Deadlift (1RM, lbs.) – The deadlift is the gold standard for gauging lower body strength. The lower body is the foundation of pitching, and many other sports skills as well. The glutes, quads and hamstrings generate the majority of the power needed to pitch a ball. Without adequate lower body strength, the shoulder and arm must work extra hard to compensate for a weak lower body, making them more susceptible to injury.

(Deadlift)

b. Grip Strength (Kg.) – Grip strength has been an integral part of conditioning for baseball for decades. A strong grip also signifies a well-developed flexor/pronator group which is paramount for stabilizing forces at the elbow. Years of practical experience and scientific research indicate that grip strength can have a significant effect on offensive performance in professional baseball players as well.

(Grip Strength)

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll discuss power, speed and agility…

See ya’ in the gym…

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