By Dana Cavalea, CSCS, N.Y. Yankees strength coach
When it comes to warming the body up in order to compete in a baseball game or practice, it is imperative that we are not only heating up the muscle, but more importantly we are turning ON the muscle, while activating the Central Nervous System.
So this sounds like some mad scientist talk, huh? Well a simple way to look at this scenario is this: When you insert the key into the ignition of you car and turn what happens? You develop a spark that turns on the powerful V-6 or V-8 engine under the hood, right? We can look at the body in the same way. The body’s nervous system sends electrical currents from the brain through the spinal cord, to the muscles of the body to create movement via muscle action.
Now lets take a step back. Typically a warm-up is used to “loosen up” before we play, but what are we loosening up? Muscle? Most coaches and players understand that flexibility plays a tremendous role in the injury prevention process, but we spend entirely to much time on stretching individual muscles and neglect that power of the nervous system and the fact that muscles are not used individually, they are used in small groups or clusters. Static Stretching, or stretching using long holds should be used to increase flexibility on typically restricted areas, which in baseball are: hip flexors and quads, groins, lats, and hamstrings. It would be fair to place special emphasis on these areas as a corrective stretching measure, but this should be followed immediately with whole-body stretching, or better known as Dynamic Stretching.
Dynamic Stretching is a new paradigm rocking the field of sports performance because it is extremely effective, allowing athletes to increase ranges of ACTIVE flexibility, meaning ranges of motion they are creating on their own, but most importantly we are switching the focus from stretching to activating. This activation is the nervous system firing muscles in groups and sequences rather than just isolated muscles. In a nut shell this translates to: If you want to be prepared to play, MOVE. If you are laying on the field stretching, you are not maximizing your warm-up.
The benefits of dynamic stretching
Activation of muscles that are typically “off”
Balance, Coordination, and Stability
Development of Greater Athleticism
Increased Conditioning Level
The benefits of Dynamic Stretching are endless. This is not just a short-term fad, but is being used throughout the Major Leagues and is becoming more of a standard and demonstration of progress in this industry. The advent of Dynamic Stretching is the result of scientific research, but most important practical testing on the benefits. Dynamic Stretching is extremely challenging for athletes early on, but the adaptation phase is very quick and the new feeling of balance and strength takes place rapidly.
If you have not had any exposure to Dynamic Stretching in the past think about crossing over, after all, if the Pro’s are doing it, you should be also. The great part about this stretching method in addition to the previously mentioned benefits is the fact that it can be as challenging as you want it to be, and uses many different training methods such as: foot quickness/ plyometrics, balance drills, speed development techniques, and lateral movement development. When all this is built into a warm-up that will be performed on a daily basis, success is a guarantee.
So, if you aren’t Dynamic yet, Get Dynamic! After all, what do you have to lose besides you flexibility?
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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