Training Softball Catchers… “The Unsung Heroes”

By Nunzio Signore (B.A., CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Blog 8 - 1The catcher is somewhat of an unsung hero in regards to duties on the softball field.  In order for catchers to be at the top of their game, they have to first be comfortable from a mobility standpoint in an ungodly uncomfortable position.

Besides the obvious job of catching the ball, catchers are also responsible for calling pitches, adjusting to a variety of pitchers (not to mention personalities!!), blocking, throwing and making sure they have a great “pop time”, just to name a handful of topics.  It’s needless to say that catchers can take a beating during a long season.

Designing strength and conditioning programs for a catcher can be like trying to hit a moving target. You need to treat them as if they were throwing 100 pitches a game (because they are), as well as taking into consideration that they are in a squat position for hours on end. This can be of concern in regards to the knees, especially in the female population due to the “Q” angle of the hips (more on this later). A large degree of importance needs to be placed on ankle stability, t-spine mobility and hip mobility. Creating mobility in 3 major areas can go a long way in helping any catcher succeed.  Let’s look at these one by one from the bottom up, ankle, hip and t-spine.

Ankle Mobility – Having good ankle stability allows for getting into the deep squat or “primary stance” and stay there more comfortably. Without ankle mobility a huge strain will be placed on the already taxed hips.

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 Primary Stance

Ankle mobility also allows the ankles to evert (angle in). This is crucial so they can “sway” to the left or right without too much movement of the receiving arm. Too much arm movement can have a negative effect of an umpire’s opinion of a pitch.

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We use tri-planar ankle mobs to help with this:

(Tri-planar Ankle Mobs)

Hip Mobility (internal rotation) – Many young female athletes have a large amount of “Laxity” (loose joints), especially in the hips and hip flexors. Pair this with a prolonged period of time in the squat position and you’ve got a cranky set of hips, not to mention a high risk of ACL injury. Being able to go from squatting to standing is initiated from the hips, so increasing flexibility will help take some of the stress off of an already beat-up set of quads, not to mention their lower back.  Here’s a great exercise we use with pitchers and catchers alike:

(Lateral Sl. Board Lunges)

T-spine mobility – Good t-spine mobility is always key, but especially when in the “secondary stance” (usually when a runner is on base, or there are two strikes on the batter).

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Secondary Stance

Good thoracic extension also helps keep the shoulders back making her a bigger target for the pitcher. The t-spine is also the major player in transferring power from the lower body to the upper. This is paramount for helping to increase “pop time” (the time from when the ball hits the catcher’s glove to when it touches the glove at second base).

(Dynamic Cable Lift)

Last but certainly not least, t-spine mobility helps prevent extended rounding of the back and thus saving the lower lumbar.   Here’s a great one:

(T-spine Extension – Foam Roller)

These are some examples of what is our protocol here at RPP in training catchers.