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.
The Biggest Loser……..Our View of Kids
We have all seen or heard of the show The Biggest Loser and many feel that this is the best approach with kids. Belittle and berate them with the hopes that they will be broken down so coaches can “build” them back up. I can say that this approach is acceptable for adults (if that is what they want), however, is a much poorer approach with children. Adults are biologically and psychologically prepared for this type of treatment, but children are not. We often drive children to the breaking point thus turning them away from particular sports and an active life. Childhood obesity is on the rise and we as adults are trying to attack it from a logical point of view. We need to attack it with a child like passion, with raw emotion based on science. The real kicker is, it doesn’t take science to know that the more active an individual is, the more energy they expend, and wait for it…..the more weight they lose. Now with that being said, lets apply that same principle to coaching children in athletics. Often we pursue coaching from an adult standpoint, trying to accomplish particular goals because that is what we are comfortable doing. Let’s step outside the box and not think of children like our equals—they are still kids and the science lays out a wonderful model of developing them. The kicker is the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model actually has the potential to lead to better athletes, but still allows for children to learn healthy lifestyles. Look at the way you or your child’s coaching model is portrayed, if it the “Jillian” model (from the Biggest Loser) then the retention rate will be lower for kids to continue athletics thus increasing the potential for obesity.