Exercise Classifications for the Baseball Pitcher

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*I apologize in advance for any gleaming generalizations that take place in this article. My aim is to shed light on the exercise selection for baseball pitchers. In order to this other concepts need to be acknowledged.

The physical preparation of the baseball pitcher is widely misunderstood, and misdirected. As is the case with many approaches to sport preparation there is a seeming disregard for the actual demands of the sport / demands of throwing a baseball.

The physical preparation of a baseball player is trivial in of itself. Baseball presents a few key attributes that make it very different from other team sports.

  1. A baseball player’s success is far more dependent on inherited physical traits, skill development, and mastery of the sport, than it is on a high level of physical preparation.
  2. There is a delicate balance between physical preparation means having a positive or negative impact on the baseball player’s performance.
  3. There is also a delicate balance of what the physical preparation means are.
  4. Dependent upon the age of the baseball player physical preparation can serve a vastly different purpose. Are we preparing them to sustain a level of performance, or repeat a level of performance more consistently, or are the training means geared towards actually improving the on field performance?

Direction Of Training Transfer: Is the training moving us in a positive, negative, or indifferent direction?

– In terms of throwing a baseball, there may be no means that cause a very direct transfer, there may however be general means that seem to give this perception due to the fact that many baseball pitchers are grossly under prepared physically.

General Preparatory Exercises:

–       “Typically refer to those exercises that are used for conditioning but do not have a direct correlation to improvement of the sports skill or sports event (except for low level athletes). “

–       In the case of throwing a baseball virtually all traditional free-weight, body weight, and cable based movements.

  • Barbell Exercises: Squat, Deadlift, Supine Bridge, and Single Leg Axially Loaded, Rowing Variations
  • DB Exercises: Squat, Deadlift, Lunge (Including Lateral), Horizontal Press, Horizontal Rowing Variations
  • Cable Exercise: Pull Through, Press, Row, Rotational Stability (Isometric) Variations
  • Push Up, Inverted Row, Glute Hamstring Gastroc Raise, Chin Up, Lunge Variations
  • Scapular/ Humeral Movement Education Drills: Prone Trap Raises, Prone Abduction, Prone External Rotation, External Rotation Variations
  • Sagittal Plane Based Jumps: Vertical Jump, Box Jump, Broad Jump, Single Leg Jump Variations
  •  Linear Speed: Sprint Variations, *Excluding side start variations

Specialized Preparatory Exercises:

–       “These exercises as the general preparatory exercises, do not repeat the competitive actions as a whole or in their separate parts. However they use similar muscle groups in their execution. The training work serves to activate the functions and body systems from which an increase in sports results in the main movement depend. Identical or close to identical regimes of muscle work and different functions of other systems are involved. “

–       In the case of throwing a baseball this is probably the extent that a gym based exercise will ever be in terms of being “baseball throwing specific.” I’ll make a case for some other options later.

–       Due to the high velocity of the arm action associated with throwing, most of the exercise selections will deal mainly with the lower body, trunk, and the cooperation of the two.

–       “Lateral Power Development” – Skater Jumps and their variations

–       Medicine Ball Work – Rotational and overhead variations

–       Single Leg Landings – Box Jump w/ single leg landing, medial and lateral hurdle hops

Specialized Developmental Exercises:

–       “These exercises repeat the competitive exercise in its separate parts. In executing them one in the same muscle groups participate, together with activation of similar muscle systems and organs.”

–       “More or less recreate all the elements of the competitive activity, and in so doing, make it possible to more effectively and selectively have an effect on improving or developing the same or other physical abilities. “

–       I’m not sure that you can recreate any part of the delivery at the same velocity that is taking place in competition.

–       You may be able to re-create movements for the lower body.

  • Back Leg: Lateral push off from the mound, very close variations
  • Front (Plant Leg): Single leg landings in external rotation. Single leg landings in external rotation w/ immediate knee extension.

–       I would couple organized throwing programs into this category.

  • Long toss – organized intelligently

The caveat to this whole discussion:

–       Short off-season, long competitive season.

–       Have to examine that direction of training transfer again. Certain movements may not be optimal.

–       Specificity needs to be gauged by more than just the correlation to a positive training outcome in the short term, but also in the terms of the entire season, and career.

Greg Robins is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Greg has worked with clientele ranging from general population to professional athletes. His unique experience in many different aspects of fitness, strength training, and athletic preparation have helped him become an unbiased authority on all things fitness and performance related. Outside of coaching Greg is a former collegiate baseball player, active member of the MA ARMY National Guard, and enjoys power lifting.

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