Are Leg Strength and Power Important to Baseball Pitching?
It is amazing that the perception is out there that you need a stronger arm to throw the ball harder. It couldn’t be more false unfortunately. The research states quite the opposite actually. Please don’t misunderstand, there needs to be focal training programs for the shoulder and scapular muscles that will not only aid in velocity, but more importantly decrease the risk of injury.
The theory of proximal to distal kinematic sequencing is important to understanding the power behind the throw. The throw is actually initiated by the lower body and progresses through the core before accelerating the arm and finally the hand. When the sequence is out of order, it is thought that energy is lost, performance decreases, and other body segments step up to compensate, which in turn leads to injury. For example, if the stride leg cannot absorb the stress during landing a ripple of force can move up to the trunk creating “whip-like” action forcing the shoulder to catch up thus loading the structures of the shoulder and elbow. Over time this will lead to some form of injury.
What Can We Conclude?
It is a small body of research that explores this area, however, the findings are very conclusive.
1. Proximal to distal kinematic sequencing occurs during the throwing mechanic.
2. Leg drive is important for throwing velocity and improving strength, power, and endurance should transfer to more efficient throwing.
3. While all leg muscles are involved on the pitching motion (Campbell 2010) focus on the gluteal muscles during training will be of great benefit due to the relation of the gluten and pelvic rotation (Oliver 2010).
4. The adductors (groin) is thought to be more involved (Yamanouchi 1998) then previously suggested and not activated during most standard exercises. More specific exercises need to be devoted in order to strengthen and condition this group.
The theory of kinetic chain sequencing is important but most likely one of many factors associated with injury and power loss. A combination of training sequencing and leg strength will reduce the risk of injury and increase power undoubtedly which is why proper coaching and strength programs are important. Make sure if you choose to participate in a strength and conditioning program, the coach has an understanding of the concept and research out there and that you are just doing a “work out” that may ultimately harm you.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when an athlete “pulls” a muscle?
The most common response is that the athlete should’ve stretched more or that they need more flexibility to prevent that injury. Multiple studies have shown this to be an incorrect assumption. There is actually a direct correlation between aerobic fitness and injury prevention. Aerobic fitness levels can actually aid in recovery as well. This is why baseball pitchers engage in some form of conditioning on the days that they are not throwing.
So the answer may be evident but let us pose the question of which is better: static stretching or dynamic stretching?
Both, but only with an aerobic component and activities that emphasize strengthening, jumping, or other similar activities. A proper warm-up should include, but not be limited to, some form of running activity laced with a dynamic stretching program and a short static stretch.
Whatever it is that you as a coach, parent, sports medicine professional, or athlete choose to do for a pre game routine, make sure it has scientific validation. Don’t just do something because that is the way it has always been done.
You don’t think that you can work out or stay in shape due to an injury? Here is proof that you can.
Athletes who are injured often worry about losing fitness during time away from training. Detraining or deconditioning is a fact of life when you stop training. You should want to maintain a base of fitness and strength. Before you do any exercise after an injury, it’s wise to get the approval and recommendations of your treating physician, therapist, or Athletic Trainer. Follow their recommendations for when you can resume exercise, how much, and what type of exercise is best. Studies have shown that you can maintain your fitness level even if you need to change or cut back on your exercise for several months. In order to do so, you need to exercise at about 70 percent of your VO2 max at least once per week.It may take some creativity and the flexibility to try new things. Most athletes find training through injury is possible and not terribly difficult. The key is to maintain the right attitude and protect the injured part until it heals. Use this time to increase your strength and foundation in other areas to prevent future injuries. It is important to maintain your fitness level while injured. This will not only decrease the risk of future injury but decreasing the lag time when you return to play.