Pitching Core Training
By Dana Cavalea, CSCS, N.Y. Yankees strength coach
Every baseball pitcher wants to throw harder. That is, after all, part of what pro scouts look at before drafting a player. But while scouts will always be impressed with a blazing heater, they also look at a guy's physical development and stature. They want to know how well a pitcher will hold up throughout the duration of a long professional season. Physical development and stature also are indicative of a player reaching his full potential. So while fast fastballs are important, scouts look to draft athletes that have strong, durable bodies. I'll address both in this article.
The secret to a faster fastball is simply building a body that is strong, stable, and powerful. The first goal to any good lifting program for pitchers is to build stability around the joints while at the same time stabilizing the core. If your body as a whole is stable, you are less susceptible to injury and therefore become a more valued asset to your team. Many athletes these days go to the gym and lift as heavy as possible, sweat as much as they can, and then leave. This is far from a good program.
A good lifting program should not be based on how many times you could bench a certain weight or how wet your shirt is at the end of you training session. It needs to have a focus. By focus, I mean that you are trying to gain stability, strength, and power. In addition, that focus should always be changing depending on the season and on the goals that you have exceeded.
So let's assume everybody reading this article is a true beginner. One question you might be asking is: “How do I become more stable?” The answer to that question is simple: practice being more stable.
As a rule of thumb, overall stability is directly influenced by the stability of the core. (And by core, I don't mean the superficial abdominal muscles.) Our core consists of deep stabilizing muscles that sit below the abdominals. These muscles positively affect our posture when we demonstrate adequate strength and control of these muscles. Whenever we move our arms or legs, the first muscle group to engage is our core. If our core is weak, so will all subsequent movements. Its like swinging a bat with a slight crack in the handle. Your power on contact has been limited because of a weakness in the core of the bat.
Core stability exercises for baseball pitchers:
Balancing on one leg while keeping the torso erect.
Balancing on one leg and then going into a single leg squat.
While at the top of a pushup position, pull the stomach in tight, and hold that posture.
Supermans; While laying on your stomach with your arms extended out front, lift your chest and arms off the floor, while lifting your thighs off the floor simultaneously.
Hand walks; From a push-up position, keeping your hand planted, walk your feet up to your hands using small steps. Once your legs have reached full extension, then begin to walk your hands out so you back in a push-up position.
Adding a few simple exercises such as these to your daily routine will enhance overall stability dramatically. As you become more stable, you will begin to feel new found strength that will allow you to have better control of your body, and therefore everything you do from the pitchers mound.
Many strength coaches will tell pitchers in order to throw harder you need to lift more weight or use kettleballs or buy some other trendy pieces of equipment. The fundamental and underlying principle that needs to be addressed first is the development of stability. Once stability is achieved, the sky is the limit. That's because stability is like the foundation of the house or building, without a secure foundation you will always have cracks in your walls and breakdown during a storm. Think of your body the same way. If you never achieve stability, the storm of high forces and torques involved with the game of baseball will put cracks in your walls, and you will break down!
Dana Cavalea is the director of strength and conditioning for the New York Yankees. He is a national speaker on baseball performance training, as well as the owner of Major League Strength, www.mlstrength.com.
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