When Bergen Catholic catcher David LaManna walked into my facility, athleticism was oozing off of him. The data after his assessment showed us a bat speed of 96 mph, already very respectable for any high school senior. What transpired in the next 12 weeks is a testament to both David’s work ethic and the power of strength training. Last week he walked in and informed us that his bat speed was clocked at 101 mph the previous weekend. He also said he’s never felt stronger. This is no coincidence. Let’s take a look at why.
First let me note that David has been training here 4 days / week. An athlete of David’s caliber will not see this type of substantial gains in performance just training 2x’s / week in the off-season. Anyone that tells you otherwise is selling you snake oil. 2x’s /week is fine for maintenance during the season but that’s about it. Some may look at an increase of 5 mph and say “not a big deal”. Let me tell you “it is” when your starting at 96 mph.
Creating power and great bat speed involves many things. Electromyography testing (a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles) regarding “the baseball swing” and upper body involvement shows that the role it plays is minor compared to that of the lower body. Thus, improving David’s hip mobility, strengthening his lower body (“posterior chain”), improving t-spine mobility and further developing his “elastic power” was just what the doctor ordered in helping him to create a quicker and more powerful swing.
Hip Internal Rotation – When coming through the swing (the unloading phase), much like a pitcher coming down the mound, the lead leg hip needs to have good IR to help with deceleration as well as taking much of the strain off of the lower back by creating good extension in the back leg. Here’s a great one:
T-Spine Mobility – Getting great separation between the hip and shoulders takes more than just great hip mobility. T-spine rotation and extension are the other key contributors that allow this separation to occur. Very similar to pitching or any other movement involving rapid rotation, improving t-spine mobility (creating rotation where you want it), will prevent an athlete from getting that rotation from their lower lumbar region and avoiding lower back and oblique strains.
(Side Lying Windmills)
Lower Body Strength – The fast twitch muscle fibers (used for quick, explosive movements) of the posterior chain are where a majority of our power in the swing is generated from. Exercises such as dead-lifts and hip bridges focus on the same muscles (glutes, hamstrings and core) that are the major players in the un-loading phase of the swing as well as creating rotation. Equally important is the ability to hip hinge (get the hips back) during the “pre-loading” phase. Learning to use the big muscles to do both of these big jobs is crucial in order to avoid using the smaller accessory muscles and increasing the risk of injury. So, first we worked on David’s hip hinge with some patterning.
Then we cemented that hinge and worked on posterior chain strength with some help from the “king of all exercises”.
(Trap Bar Deadlift)
Strengthening the Core – The core is at the center of anything that involves creating power. When training the core two of the main areas we focus on are:
- Anterior Strength and stability
- Transfer of Power
First, we build anterior stability giving the athlete a great stable platform to swing from.
In addition and contrary to popular belief, the core does not create force during the swing. Its primary responsibility (much like a pitcher) is to transfer force from the lower body, up through the core to the upper body. This exercise basically puts it all together.
(Dynamic Cable Lift)
Elastic Power – Finally, the “quick punch” of power generated from the back leg during the un-loading phase of the swing relies on great elasticity in the tendons enabling the batter to apply more force into the ground. To get the most out of this energy source you have to train the fast twitch fibers with a minimal delay between loading and unloading. If too much time is spent in the loading phase energy is released as heat and is not there to help spring back on the next movement. This video explains it all.
(Split Squat Jumps)
A great hitting coach can “drive the car”, but not if the car isn’t fully tuned up and ready to go. Getting strong and mobile is the key.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)