By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
Most highly motivated and highly skilled athletes are generally also very bright. So, when it comes to learning and “buying in” to their training regimen, they’re all ears. This is called “athlete education” and nothing can be more rewarding than watching them “do what it takes to be exceptional”, while reaping great results at the same time.
Ramsey High School’s Ryan Vatcher, who is now on his way to play up at Babson College, is a perfect example. Ryan came to us in July 2016 after complaining of tightness around his elbow and chronic lower back pain. He was also looking to put on some lean muscle mass to become more athletic on the mound. After a thorough assessment, he put in the work, strength training 4-5 days/week throughout the off-season coming into the baseball season at 210 lbs., 28 lbs. up from the 182 lbs. frame he started back in the summer. His core strength improved dramatically and he gained twice as much mobility in his t-spine. This carried over to his performance on the mound as well as the extra muscle mass helping to distribute some of the stress of throwing to alleviate his back pain completely.
(Ryan Vatcher – Strength Program)
Plain and simple, Ryan did “what it takes to be exceptional”.
After his high school season was over, Ryan opted not to play summer ball. Instead, he chose to work on his strength and mobility by living in the gym and working on fixing some mechanical issues through an intensive 5 day/week throwing program. He was also hoping to gain some MPH coming down the mound.
Utilizing a 4-camera video system, we were able to pinpoint a few issues that we thought were draining much needed energy from his delivery. The two we’ll review today are:
- Excess Lumbar Extension at Foot Strike
- Early Trunk Rotation
Excess Lumbar Extension at Foot Strike – The combination of landing closed at foot strike and a lack of IR in his front hip was causing Ryan to excessively arch his lower back to create what I like to call “fake lay back”. This creates a “slow arm” in which the arm gets too far behind the body causing excess and unwanted torque (ER) at the shoulder during the acceleration phase. In addition, he would have to “cut” the ball across his body to get back to the plate, putting additional stress on the medial elbow as well. Getting back some lead leg IR, strengthening the front leg and working on landing in the driveline was just what the doctor ordered.
After 3 months of hard work, we see a much more forward upper half and relaxed neutral spine at foot strike on the right as opposed to where we started on the left.
Once again, we just provided the knowledge, Ryan “did what it takes to be exceptional”.
Early Trunk Rotation – Due to a lack of rotational core strength, Ryan’s ability to resist rotation of the trunk as his lower body began to rotate was severely compromised causing him to open up his upper half early (see below left). Working on rotational core stiffness helped create a stronger more stable upper half while coming down the mound. In turn, this helped enhance hip and shoulder separation, creating a stronger whip at ball release taking stress off the arm and avoiding excess rotation in the lumbar spine.
(Core Stability at Stride Length)
Also noteworthy is that through the combination of landing in the driveline, eliminating lumbar extension and increasing rotational core stiffness, we see a much quicker and less compromised arm position (inside of 90 degrees) at foot strike on the right.
The result? A more athletic delivery as well as alleviating stress in the lower back, anterior shoulder and elbow. As for velocity, Ryan’s Run and Gun at the end of June sat at 87-88 mph. And today….
(Ryan Vatcher August 2017)
I can’t take the credit for this. Ryan just “did what it takes to be exceptional”.
See ya’ in the gym…