The 10 Training Guidelines for Athletes Who Participate in Throwing Activities
Training a thrower requires a paradigm shift from the traditional approaches used to condition an athlete. You need to integrate the prepare, medicine compete, store and repair cycles of softball OR baseball with traditional volume, look load, frequency, intensity, and duration training variables.
In addition, this on-the-field and in-the-gym training must be done in three positions (circle, figure 8, upright) with three movements (linear, circular, angular) and in three torso planes (sagittal, transverse, frontal) using isometric, concentric, and eccentric resistance in a closed-chain/ open chain sequence.
Protocols should integrate cross-specific flexibility work, body work, joint-integrity work, machine work, and free-weight work for useable strength and endurance, and be complemented with enough cardiopulmonary work to develop an efficient stamina base to support the prepare, compete, repair cycles. With regard to a stamina base, it should be noted that softball/baseball (like most sporting activities) requires both anaerobic and aerobic production of energy.
Here we present rules 1-10:
- Static stretching can artificially stretch the tendons and ligaments, which iscounter- productive for a thrower. Avoid static stretching before the core temperature is elevated. Dynamic flexibility and range-of-motion movements (think Dynamic Warm Up) are more movement friendly and effective. You must think “flex” the muscle instead of “stretch” the muscle in a Warm Up to Loosen Up to Throw sequence when preparing the body for practice and competition.
- Training while standing on either or both feet on a stable surface must be complemented with training on an unstable surface. Train on stable and unstable surfaces. This is more important for pitchers. A baseball/softball pitcher or throwing athlete is not on both feet at the same time during a delivery. For baseball pitchers that work down a slope (that is rarely uniform from one mound to another) and not on flat ground maintaining balance and posture on unstable surfaces during development training must be incorporated into a daily activity.
- Absolute strength, developed in the weight room, doesn’t necessarily translate to useable strength on the mound or on the ball field. Being able to bench press 250 pounds doesn’t mean that you will be able to throw 95mph. Remember: Absolute strength is not the answer and absolute strength training must be sport specific and relative to developing the skills needed to compliment competitive performance and injury prevention.
- It is dangerous to quickly lift heavy weights. Heavy weight moved quickly (as in power lifting) may be good for muscles, but is definitely bad for the body’s joints. Throwing is already a joint-stressing activity. Heavy lifting without regard to muscular symmetry and joint integrity is especially inappropriate for throwers.
- Don’t equate power-lifting strength with throwing strength. Power lifting is linear and not specific to throwing. Throwing is a powerful movement, but not, by strict definition a power movement. Throwing is the summation of linear and rotational forces delivered into a softball or baseball. Throwing/pitching is more a function of timing (i.e. the sequential order of unlocking angles) than a function of time.
- Train for flexibility. Strength without flexibility is useless to a thrower.
- Train the small muscles first. Throwers are only as strong as their weakest link. In the sequential muscle loading and translation of energy through the kinetic chain- from the feet to the fingertips, synergists and secondary muscle groups have the priority over prime movers.
- You will never throw harder than your genetic predisposition. The type and percent composition of muscle tissue (slow twitch/red muscle fiber vs. fast twitch/ white muscle fiber) is genetically determined. Research has shown, however, that you can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of what muscle tissue you have by properly overloading and under loading resistance training. This type of weight work can help a thrower increase the capacity of their genetically determined maximum velocity.
- Support your throwing strength efforts with stamina training. To perform at the maximum level of your potential, you must engage in stamina training, as well as resistance training. Stamina work requires a balance between aerobic activity for delivery system efficiency and anaerobic activity for enhanced lung capacity.
- Ensure that the integrated-training modalities in which you engage are cross-specific to the biomechanics of an efficient delivery to create usable strength, not absolute strength. The natural pathway programming of movement efficiency works best when resistance-training protocols properly address the composition of muscle mass by finding a balance between bulk, lean, and fat. Too much bulk precludes flexibility, too much lean exacerbates joint trauma and micro-tears and slows down recovery time, and too much fat impedes neurological efficiency and energy translation (nerves don’t work in fat).