Pitching Strength

By Mike Griffin, former K.C. Royals strength coach

There are literally thousand of exercises to choose from when designing a strength program. So how do you choose which exercises are best for improving your athletic ability?

I have created a list of principles that should guide coaches when they are picking exercises to use for their strength program. It’s important to understand that even though two exercises work the same muscle group, they aren’t always equally as effective for baseball players. If you use these principles, your program should be very effective and efficient.

Baseball related movements always begin with you applying a force to the ground. Imagine trying to throw a baseball after being dropped from a plane without your feet on the ground. Then throw a ball while standing on the ground. Which instance will you be able to throw farther. This is why your exercises should be ground based.

In any baseball movement, if there is any weakness between your feet and your fingertips, you will be limited by that weakness. Many times the core area is where the weakness will occur. Your core section should be used to stabilize you during all your standing exercises. When sitting or lying down, the bench or machine stabilizes you instead of your body doing the stabilizing.

Free weight exercises is the next principle that should be applied to your exercise selection. Exercise machines are great for some things like rehab but they should be limited for healthy baseball players. Similar to the discussion about core stabilization, free weight exercises require the body to stabilize the joints and balance the weights. Machines keep the movement fixed in a certain plane but nothing is fixed in baseball.

The exercises for your baseball program should be specific to baseball movements. Many baseball movements are done with your weight on one leg or the other so its wise to include exercises like lunges to be able to develop strength and balance while on one leg.

Strength programs should keep players balanced to increase performance and reduce injury. An example of balance would be the anterior shoulder girdle vs. the posterior shoulder girdle. Many times you can see a players shoulders “rolled forward.” This decreases the proper range of motion and can lead to shoulder injuries because they don’t have the strength to decelerate the arm after releasing the ball. Another example of balance is the balance between hamstrings and quadriceps. Exercises like squats and lunges and doing them through the full range of motion uses quads, hamstrings, and glutes so it should eliminate some of the balance issues.

Periodization is another issued that should be considered when designing a strength program. A good program will change throughout the year to achieve certain results. Periodization is discussed in more detail in a later section.

Overload is the last principle, but certainly not the least important. A program that doesn’t use the overload principle will never produce strength gains. The basic idea of overload is that additional stress needs to be applied to the muscle for them to change. If a muscle is never exposed to more stress than it can handle, it will never adapt by getting stronger. Although not all programs are very efficient, strength gains can be made through nearly any program that uses the overload principle.

Take a look at your workout and compare it to these principles. There are some exercises that are very hard to adapt to some of these principles but a majority of your exercises should fall in line with the principles. Good luck with your training and keep working hard!


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