By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
The increases in pitching velocity and the distance guys are covering when they go yard tells one thing for sure… Guys are getting in the gym and getting bigger, faster and stronger. Period.
That’s great. As a matter of fact, nothing could make me happier as a strength and conditioning coach. But let it be said, with training comes a responsibility on educating athletes as to how and when is the best way and time to incorporate it. This gets especially tricky when it needs to be integrated with a throwing program. What I’m really saying is that a great program should incorporate throwing and strength training as ONE program and not viewed as two separate entities. This is the premise of the closed loop training which we provide at the Pitching Lab here at RPP. Let me try and briefly explain why one hand washes the other.
When an athlete lifts, he is spending valuable energy that he must pay back via recovery before going at it again the next time. Much like paying back a debt.
As we get closer to the season and throwing is introduced alongside lifting, the amount of debt payback is doubled. Stack up enough debt, and both an athlete’s recovery and performance will tank.
Any strength training program that’s combined with pitching / throwing needs to be highly coordinated to be effective.
This is the first thing we need to understand when we start putting together a strength and throwing program. As each athlete’s size, strength and other characteristics differ, so must the overall program. We break this down into three parts:
- Physical Preparation
- Skill Preparation
Let’s look at these separately…
Physical Preparation – This is strength, mobility and power. This is where a lot of guys miss the boat. These goals will likely create the greatest initial performance improvements as well as lay down a “grass roots” foundation of strength and mobility for the future when training protocols get more advanced. It also goes a long way in helping to reduce the risk of injury.
An example of this would be a 6’2” high school junior weighing 165 lbs. with a less than average deadlift or split squat. For this athlete playing fall ball and spending that much needed energy on the weekends pitching becomes not only meaningless but counterproductive to his physical preparation. Getting in the weight room earlier (September / October) to work on some hypertrophy prior to starting a strength phase in November / December should be the priority and just what the doctor ordered.
Skill Preparation – This is all about honing in on the athlete’s technical ability. This includes analyzing and correcting mechanical issues, pitch development and command as well as creating a higher velocity ceiling.
That same 6’2” athlete coming in at 195 lbs. with great performance in the weight room needs to dedicate more of that that valuable energy to movement specific training that will enhance his short-comings on the mound. While strength training should never be out of the equation for this athlete, it should not be the priority. This athlete needs to focus working on mechanical issues, mobility and concentric and eccentric force production.
(Lead Leg Back Foot)
(Side Lying Windmill)
(Hop and Stop)
Periodization – Let me start by saying this. Both types of athletes need to spend time in the weight room and working on throwing movements and skills throughout the off-season. However, each athlete simply needs to spend the bigger part of his time on what he needs the most to optimize performance. This is all about individualized programs and customization (click here). And to achieve this, you need a complete initial physical and throwing assessment / evaluation. Like Mike Reinold said “If you’re not assessing… you’re guessing”.
On a final note, please make sure you’re getting a thorough assessment to determine where you fall on the physical / skill preparation profile. Your off-season program should be designed with this in mind and most importantly make sure it’s performed by a highly qualified strength and conditioning coach / facility with a great track record (click here).
See ya’ in the gym…