5 More Off-Season Observations – Part 2

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

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In Part 2 of this 2 Part Series, we’re going to take a look at look five more “aha! moments” from this past off-season at RPP.  If you’d like to read Part 1 please click here.

In looking back and reflecting on what we offer young athletes during the off-season, I think a lot of folks don’t totally understand and/or appreciate what we do.  Imagine this, a high school pitcher’s body that throws a baseball at 80+ mph achieves that speed from hand break to finish in 2-3 seconds.  That’s comparable to some of the fastest Italian sports cars out there.  How you could not get young pitchers physically prepared for this type of explosive movement is frankly beyond my comprehension.  Here we go…

6. There are a lot of mechanical issues at “first foot strike” that can be cleaned up from a strength and mobility standpoint – Here at our Pitching Lab, we utilize a 4-camera high speed system to help us analyze pitching mechanics. Position at first foot strike (when the lead leg first becomes fully weight bearing – see below) puts the athlete in an “open book” place where you can review many topics. Depending upon the angle you are viewing from (front, side, top) we can analyze things such as stride length, arm slot, location of forearm, and stacking of the upper body to name just a few.

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In the photo above we can see a huge compensation in the lower lumbar and a late arm action (greater than 90 degrees at foot strike) resulting from a weak core and poor t-spine mobility. Creating core strength in the weight room in the half kneeling position can help build up resistance against rotational forces, while resisting lumbar extension at the same time.

(Core Stability – Stride Length Drill)

7. Once again, the weakest link in young athletes is their core- – While we’re on the topic of the core, let me start by saying that 80% of every young athlete under the age of 16 comes into my gym exhibiting a weak and underdeveloped core! And with good reason. Growth spurts, poor training habits and extended periods of sitting and playing video games and texting all day have developed a culture of young adults with weak cores and lower back pain.

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By focusing on ALL aspects of the core (anterior-front, rotational, and lateral stability-obliques and Q.L.), we build strength around the entire mid-section and not just the front. Remember, the core needs to be strong on all sides. If not, we’ll fall into compensations at the weakest point, much like a tent missing a support system.

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8. Increase in forearm speed and velocity while maintaining or even decreasing UCL stress – In our Pitching Lab, we track many things including:

  • Stress to the UCL
  • Forearm speed at ball release

We test for these two parameters at the beginning and then again at the end of the off-season. While there is a general increase in forearm speed (due to extensive mobility work and strength training), stress to the UCL ligament stayed in a safe and normal range or even decreased in most of our throwers, basically more ball speed with no added stress to the UCL.

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9. Many parents still only care about velocity – Even after improvements in mobility, strength, body image, confidence, and mechanical corrections in the delivery, it’s still always amazing to me that to many parents the success of their kids off-season programming is based on what it says on the radar gun. Looking at the radar in February is interesting but not really where I would focus my attention. Believe me, I understand the importance of velocity but there is a better time to assess it and it’s not in February. I have tried explaining this to parents that when the weather gets warmer, combined with the adrenaline rush of throwing to live batters in games or tournaments and/or basically just throwing on a more regular basis, they can expect a gain of 2-5 mph by mid- to late-May.  But every situation is different.

10. A consistent dose of weekly strength and mobility work, absolutely, has a positive effect on a player’s overall athleticism… especially pitching mechanics – I’ll end with this. Pre- and post-assessments don’t lie (I am referring to early November vs. late February). While every athlete’s improvements were varied across strength, mobility, lean body mass, or all of the above, everyone became more athletic, and I mean “everyone”. Ask any college coach where they rate “athleticism” on their scale. I think you might be surprised.

Watching our pitchers on a daily basis during this time period, what was most apparent to me was the improvements in strength, mechanics, reduction in arm stress and increase in t-spine and shoulder total motion.  These are some of the elements of a pitcher’s success and what I like to call the “sauce”.

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Remember, keep your strength and mobility all season by getting in one or two “in-season lifts” at RPP. Please also feel free to visit our website for the in-season baseball schedule.

See ya’ in the gym.