Customized Summer Strength Training at RPP

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

We’re gearing up for another summer of strength training and motivating athletes to push themselves and each other to optimize athleticism come the fall.

Every summer I see dedicated athletes torn between pleasing their coach and joining some random summer team to “work their stuff” or taking what is possibly they’re last chance to spend an entire summer gaining a much needed 10-20 lbs, get stronger, improve their velocity or learn a new pitch. The reality is that often they’re experiencing no gains at all or even drops in weight/velo when they return to school in the fall. Bottom line is if your velo has stayed the same year-over-year your training SUCKS!

Being a great pitcher involves a multitude of athletic qualities, most based around strength. This doesn’t happen by simply playing baseball all summer. All performance metrics including throwing velocity, exit velo linear and change-of-direction speed, and injury prevention all are built, first and foremost, on a foundation of strength. Putting force into the ground is one thing but to be explosive you need to be able to do it quickly and that requires a good base of strength.

Once an athlete reaches 16-17 years of age, volume and intensity needs to be ramped-up to continue to make the same respectable gains they did when they were younger. In other words, training 4-5x’s per week is needed to reap the same benefits that the previous 2 days a week regimen used to provide at a younger age. Many athletes “intend” to train at a local gym wherever they are playing summer ball, but we all know that that almost never happens. Poor facilities and “thrown together programming “become un-motivating and thus the controlled fall of power begins…

So, for our older guys (high school, college athletes), we implement “Monthly Program Design” into our Summer Development Program” This is an unlimited monthly strength training protocol designed to go hand-in-hand with our throwing program on the other side of the nets. This complete protocol we feel, helps give our athletes the best chance to succeed on the field once the fall season starts back up again. Let me highlight the advantages of this program and why everyone wants to be a “Monthly”.

    • Based on a thorough head-to-toe assessment
    • 100% designed around the individual’s strengths and weakness
    • Unlimited training sessions (3, 4 or 5x per week)
    • Flex time (you can basically come and go as you wish)

Note: you need to be pre-approved to participate on this program.

So, How Does it Work?

This is the process we use here at RPP:

    • Physical Movement Screen
    • Force-Velocity Profiling
    • Program Design / Training
    • Re-testing

Let’s look at these, one-by-one.

Step 1 – The Physical Movement Screen

Each athlete will begin with a thorough initial movement and pitching assessment that will set the stage for individualized strength and conditioning and throwing programs, respectively. These programs correspond to 4-5 days a week of training. Programs can be designed to allow athletes to play local summer ball and allow for one day of throwing to work their stuff.

To do this effectively, we must first establish a “base-line of measurements” to help tell us the areas where the athlete most needs to improve. The big word here is “help”. While many coaches have an incredible eye, we cannot expect them to know the physical anatomy or bio-mechanical issues responsible for holding an athlete back from a movement standpoint, whether on the mound or at the plate.

With the use of goniometric measurements, movement screening, contact plates and the latest technology we create Force-Velocity profiles for every Monthly athlete as well. This allows us to remove most of the guess work in programming and gives us valuable information about the athlete that we can use to make adjustments in the weight room. Below are just a few of the things that we measure to help build the blueprint for each athlete:

Often, we can discover the what by looking at an athlete’s mechanics but the Physical Movement and Strength and Power assessment often tell us the “why”.

For example, if we have a pitcher who is opening his upper body early, and as a result is losing crucial hip and shoulder separation, simply telling or showing the athlete the issue won’t always work. This can leave both the athlete and the coach frustrated.  Often, they just accept it and move on. As a result, many athletes continue to ingrain poor movement patterns year-over-year.  I can’t tell you how often we observe this.  For us, however, if it’s a hip and shoulder separation issue, we would look for anterior core stiffness or back leg IR issues from the assessment.

Dr. Frans Bosch said it best…

“The body cares very little about what the coach has to say.”

Step 2 – Force-Velo Profiling

As far as athletic performance goes, strength, speed and power are KING. That’s why maximizing training protocols for a sport with movements as quick and explosive as baseball is paramount. Increasing Power involves:

    • Increasing Force (muscle fiber size and structure)
    • Increasing Velocity (the activation and rate of firing time of motor units)

That’s just pure physics. Improving either of these components, force or velocity, whichever is deficient in the athlete’s profile, can lead to increased power production and therefore optimize the explosiveness of the athlete. Finding which trait, force or velocity is deficient and making it the focus of your training block is the concept behind creating Force-Velocity profiles for any athlete.

(Lateral RSI)

Step 3 – Program Design / Training

All pertinent data is then collected and used to build out an athlete’s programming. This relies on many things such as assessment results, frequency of training per week and whether or not the athlete is playing local ball to name a few. While receiving and recording all this data is great, if you don’t know what to do with it, then it’s pointless. Be sure to ask questions during your assessment. Coaches need to have a thorough understanding of what they’re doing. It’s your money and your body. Here is a sample summary of internal notes our assessment program prepares prior to assembling each athlete’s Monthly program.

Training – Baseball is explosive, and a ball player needs to be trained that way. With our more advanced athletes, bar speed is monitored with Push Band 2.0 linear transducers to help an athlete train in a specific “zone” to help emphasize force production and create a specific training adaptation.

While measuring velocity during resistance training is not new, it was previously restricted to elite athletes and typically only done on explosive power exercises such as jump squats and ballistic bench presses. By getting external feedback on the speed of the lift, athletes can get immediate feedback on power and intent which goes hand-in-hand with great performance on the mound and field. It also allows us to adjust the weight either up or down to match the strength zone we are chasing.

It’s my opinion that technology will never replace the coaches, but the coaches who know how to incorporate technology into their programming and training will replace those who don’t.”

Step 4 – Periodic Re-Testing

After finishing a specific strength block, athletes may be re-tested on the issues found in the initial assessment and a quick Force-Velo profile is re-assembled to make sure the athlete is moving in the right direction.

Summary

While the use of technology has enabled us to take much of the guess work out of training, nothing can replace the effectiveness of great coaching and great cuing. That’s why there is always quality coaching available on the floor, to our Monthlies at all times. To participate in our Monthly Program Design, you need to be:

    • At least 16 years of age
    • Weight room (preferably RPP) proficient
    • Physically and behaviorally mature

“Giving the athlete exactly what he needs to be the best they can be, following a thorough initial assessment, is the basic premise behind our Monthly Design Program.”

See ya’ in the gym…