With the season beginning to get underway, I thought it would be a great time to emphasize that while practice is great for your “technical” work, improving your throwing velocity, exit velocity and first step quickness all start by improving and maintaining power and elasticity. These are developed in the gym and are the topics in Part 2 of this 3 Part series on training the complete pitcher (click here to read Part 1).
Lower Body Power (watts) – Results indicate that the best predictor of over-all performance is lower body power. Power is the combination of strength and speed. Whether it be throwing or batting or running, all power initiates in the lower body prior to being transferred up the kinetic chain and ultimately into the hands. Lower body power (along with lateral power) is also the biggest determining factor for throwing velocity as well as first-step quickness and change-of-direction abilities.
Upper Body Power (meters / sec) – Upper body power is a great indicator as to how fast we can produce strength up top. This is directly correlated to trunk rotation as well as a harder and faster transfer from lay back to pronation during the throw. This allows us to maximize the highest amount of power being transferred from the lower body as well as not overusing the arm. Ironically, this is one metric many pitchers perform poorly on.
Note: The use of linear transducers such as the PUSH band and Tendo Machines to measure power (in Watts) can not only help give us a more accurate metric during testing, they can also give the athlete objective data during a training session to help prevent under and/or over-training.
(Upper Body Power Testing)
Lateral Power (m/s) – Due to the lateral nature of the pitching delivery, lateral power is the best test to help determine the amount of “motor potential” an athlete has for throwing hard. This has outperformed all other tests in our facility and proven to be the best metric to help determine a pitcher’s ability to throw hard. So, if throwing gas is on your list of tools in the toolbox, improving your ability to create power laterally should be at the top of your “to-do” list.
Elastic energy is the body’s ability to store and release energy from connective tissues, namely the tendons. How quickly this process happens is due to the large “cross-sectional area” (CSA) of the shoulder tendons and is vital to explosive performance on the mound and the field. Now, there will be some variation in both the length and CSA of these tendons from person to person allowing some to have naturally gifted arms. Since different people will have slightly different tendon size and quality not everyone will use the same strategy to load into external and unload into internal rotation. Athletes with good tendon strength (stiffness) are less likely to get injured as well. As a result, we use several tests to see how fast or “elastic” each athlete is.
Testing – The Reactive Strength Test is one such test. The test is based off of ground reaction time and jump height in which a numbered “index” is assigned. This helps us determine the athlete’s quickness in transitioning from eccentric to concentric movements. It also helps identify what type of plyometric training is most appropriate for the athlete as well as giving us a baseline to go off of when re-assessing.
Stay tuned for Part 3 where we’ll discuss mobility, speed and agility.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)