Progressive Sports
Steve Sobonya M.A., C.S.C.S.


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Training baseball pitchers, things to think about

By Steve Sobonya M.A., C.S.C.S.

When training a baseball pitcher at any level, it is important to evaluate and train every area of sports performance for this athlete: MUSCLE BALANCE FROM THE GROUND UP, lower leg balance and strength, leg strength, hip strength, abdominal and back strength, shoulder muscle balance, arm strength, wrist and hand strength and the ability to transfer force. All of these components need to be trained with equal care and intensity.

The kinetic chain of movement for throwing is optimized when each and every link is trained to transfer the force that is started from the initial forces created from the legs pushing from the ground. If any link is weak or out of muscle balance, force is lost, velocity is lost, control is lost. Thus, all pitchers must have a training program that allows for the transfer of balanced force, through a series of joint movements that allows for the controlled transfer of these forces.

As a strength coach, I would recommend that all pitchers perform weight training on a consistent basis. However, the training sessions should be geared at the goals stated above. The athletes must be strong at each joint witch allows them to transfer force to the next joint of the kinetic chain.

After extensive research, I have concluded that the best transfer of force occurs when the muscles at each joint are trained for muscle balance (an agonist is trained in the same manner as the antagonist). When muscles are trained in a balanced fashion, the central nervous system will allow them to have a greater range of motion. Therefore, allowing for greater FLEXIBILITY. Any force generated through a greater range of motion can be accelerated to the next force producing joint. Therefore, the greatest hindrance in the transfer of force is the LACK OF JOINT FLEXIBILITY. If the joint can not bend in a rapid and fluid fashion....the force is not fully transferred. Therefore, the pitching motion is changed and velocity and ball movement is lost.

According to research, flexibility can be gained with muscle balance training and also with extensive and specific flexibility training. Muscle balance is easy to train for......if you train one muscle, train the opposing muscle. If trained in balance, the central nervous system will allow the joint to move thought a full range of motion. However, when dealing with the hips and trunk, it is very difficult to train these muscles evenly and also have the same response from the central nervous system. Therefore, it is important for pitchers to train for flexibility in the hip and trunk region. The research states that an aggressive stretching program with these muscles can also be a valuable way to elicit a positive and 'balancing" response from the central nervous system. Remember that most muscles will work more effectively when the nervous system is communicating with them. Performing both strength and flexibility exercises can elicit a response. If the Nervous system communicates with these muscles they create force, and the flexibility of the joint will allow the transfer of force. Thus a more effective pitcher.

Training ideas:

1. Balanced strength training: exercises including body balance and coordination; strength with the lower leg; quads, hamstrings (total leg functional exercises). hip exercises; trunk exercises for the abdominals and the back; shoulder exercises that work the pecks, serratus, rhomboids, deltoids, rotator cuffs, traps, and upper back; tricep exercises; bicep exercises; and hand and forearm exercises.

2. Balanced flexibility training exercises for the hips, trunk and shoulder: splits, side splits, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abdominals, obliques, spinal erectors, and the LQ area.

3. Medicine ball exercises that are directed at the fluid transfer of force.