Training Athleticism in Pitchers – Part 2

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

Training Athleticism in Pitchers - Part 2 Top

In Part 1 of this series on training athleticism in pitchers (click here for Part 1), we talked about some key points in the delivery as well as the importance of being able to identify some lower half and rotational issues I see in many young throwers.  Today, we’ll dive in a little further and look at some physical factors that come into play when designing a throwing/strength training program.

3. Customizing Throwing and Strength Training Programs – This is first and foremost about creating a profile.

Nothing works for everyone. Great athletes go about creating good power and mechanics in different ways and different physical factors make each pitcher unique.

Building a profile helps us know where the weaknesses may be, as well as guide us to the best way to train in the weight room.  Here are some of the main factors we look at, height (short / tall), bodyweight (heavy or light), mobility/flexibility (tight or loose), strength (strong or weak) and elasticity (muscle or tendon speed).

a. Height… Short or Tall

Would you tell a short pitcher to throw the same way you would a tall pitcher?  Let’s be perfectly clear…

Tall pitchers (approx. 6’2” and taller) generally…

  • Have longer limbs
  • Have more mobility /flexibility (laxity)
  • Are much weaker strength-wise… these guys need to lift!!

Shorter Pitchers (approx. 6’1” and under) generally…

  • Have shorter limbs
  • Have less mobility
  • Much stronger in the weight room

Training Athleticism in Pitchers - Pitcher HeightsRandy Johnson – Tall                        Tim Collins – Short

b. Bodyweight… Heavy or Light

Surprisingly, according to Fleisig & Andrews (1999), rotational power does not vary much from high school pitcher to pro.  The main difference is the amount of weight that they are rotating with. This is a great example of the importance of lean muscle (not body fat!!), and its relationship to a higher velocity ceiling (click here for article on Mass Equals Gas). Increasing muscle mass is also directly related to how much force can be applied and safely dispersed throughout the body at foot strike.

In other words, nothing will be a bigger deal breaker for throwing harder and helping reduce the risk of injury than getting stronger by putting on more muscle!

If you want to know where you stand in regards to muscle mass, here’s a great reference for average weight ranges among young, high level pitchers based on height (Courtesy of Ben Brewster):

Muscle Mass and Throwing Gas - Image 5 (2)

If you’re not within 10-15 lbs. of the minimum end of the above range for your height, you need to get in the gym and also take part in a nutrition plan to put on weight (please click here if you would like more info on this topic).

c. Mobility / Flexibility… Tight or Loose

This tells us about many things, such as stride length. For example, if an athlete is tight, over striding could be counter-effective due to creating too much knee flexion at foot strike, creating too low of a position to get out of.

d. Strength… Weak or Strong

Strength/Speed (power)in  the pitching motion runs right through the continuum (refer to Point #1 earlier).  In general, taller pitchers (6’2” and above) tend to be flexible but weaker whereas their less tall counterparts (6’1” and under) tend to excel more in the weight room and be less flexible.  We generally assess an athlete’s strength by getting a 3RM (rep max) on various exercises to determine strength levels.

e. Elasticity… Muscle or Tendon Speed – Fast or Slow?

Fast guys – Longer tendons, quicker, straighter back knee at glute load, rely more on the tendons length and “elasticity”, need extra emphasis on strength training than plyos.

Slow guys – Shorter tendons, slower more back leg knee bend at glute load, rely more on the muscle size and “strength”, need extra emphasis on mobility work and plyometric training.

Summary:

The bottom line is that when it comes to pitchers there is no “one size” fits all. Make sure you fully understand and assess each one to be able to pull the right tools out of your toolbox. Anything less is simply bad training.

See ya’ in the gym…

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