August 21, 2017
Erick Mojica – B.S Kinesiology
So training, what’s the right way to do it? Well as I mentioned in Part 1, I learned from a lot of people throughout my playing career and most of it towards the end of it in college. There is no perfect program, but there are some basic principles in training for baseball. I’ll admit that I lean a lot towards Olympic lifting, and that’s because I agree with the training type, it is baseball-like from the perspective of fast and explosive movements in short bursts. I am by no means disregarding strength training and endurance exercises, but I think that is what ultimately translates to performance on the field.
The key aspect of any Olympic lift is the concept of Triple Extension. In any explosive movement such as a sprint, jump, pitching delivery, to produce a maximal force through the kinetic chain requires performing the movement with full extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joint when producing a force off the ground.
Now just because you are performing a Power Clean doesn’t mean that you’re going jump from 80 MPH to 90, but the transition of that type of training can provide some long term improvements to your explosive ability. My Strength and Conditioning coach at Avila was the first to introduce me to that concept, and it was Brent Pourciau that really validated that idea for me with pitching. Studying elite pitchers who throw 90+ MPH, the one common variable in every pitchers’ mechanics was their consistency in performing that Triple Extension in their delivery.
Brent’s 3X Pitching program with Top Velocity is based off of this concept. Going further into Biomechanics, pitchers who throw in the upper 90’s not only excel in performing this movement but also have a specific range of timing through various phases of their delivery.
Proper timing is dependent on a number of factors ranging from a pitcher’s body type as well as their “natural” mechanics and throwing motion. Pitchers have different balance points, separation mechanisms, and different release points, all of which factor into an individual’s most efficient mechanics. This is where I believe that using Biomechanical Data is the optimal way to approach your training.
Going back to training methods, this is where the fun begins for a Strength and Conditioning professional. To provide an athlete with the “perfect training program.” We have to look at a number of variables that could influence your performance. Maybe you’re a guy who can rep out 10 squats at 315 lbs. but your pitching coach says that you’re not using your legs when you pitch. Well, maybe some explosive training involving Olympic lifts and Plyometrics could benefit you prior to starting your season. In contrast maybe you do a good job of Triple Extending in your delivery, but you’re not performing very well in your lifts in the weight room. This is where program designing should be specific rather just jumping at it with a training program that you found online. It makes me cringe when a baseball player tells me that he wants to follow his favorite body builder’s training program to get ready for season. It’s not me trying to be a know-it-all, but I wish that more athletes would dig into research before just trying out any program.
With research comes a variety of approaches, some of which can bump heads in the field of Sports Performance training. Along with Top Velocity’s 3X program, I also like following Kyle Boddy’s Driveline program.
Driveline has a slightly different approach to developing pitchers, a big difference with using weighted balls to develop speed and power. They do not by any means disregard weight training, but many baseball guys buy into his program only thinking about the weighted balls. I was a victim to this kind of thinking in my early years in college because I noticed some immediate gains in my velocity training with weighted baseballs. It made sense to me at the time; get used to a heavier ball and the baseball will feel lighter resulting in increased arm speed. It worked for a while, but I eventually learned that I was relying on my arm to increase my velocity and not enough on my entire body being explosive when I pitched. There are many valid arguments to both sides, and I believe that both can provide you a great deal of information to find what approach can work best for your needs. I won’t spend too much time explaining their programs, some of it to encourage you to research it yourself 😉
Using resistance bands is of great interest of mine on multiple perspectives. I’m a big fan of the Jaeger arm care bands to strengthen out the rotator cuff muscles. I don’t care how much resistance training you do, working those cuff muscles with bands is extremely important in keeping your arm healthy. There is a great level of technique that should be applied when using those bands simply because it’s easy to slack off and lose focus on how you position yourself. Although the bands don’t provide a very heavy load on the shoulder, bad positioning can do more harm than good when using them. I think that they are a great tool for a warm-up and recovery, but have an educated approach for how you use them!
Along with arm care, my career was heavily impacted with the use of a band on my lower half mechanics. In the winter of my Junior year heading into the season, my coaches at Avila attended a baseball event where they met up with Lantz Wheeler, a pitching coach who created the “Core Velocity Belt,” designed to use resistance bands to teach you how to accelerate your body with specific direction. If you’ve watched Jered Weaver pitch, my pitching mechanics were nearly identical on the lower half.
Notice how I start off by leaning my center mass the 3rd base side?
For my entire life I threw across my body, something that I eventually realized was affecting my ability to throw harder and spotting the outside pitch to a righty. This belt helped me to re-learn my lower body mechanics after a solid three months of trying to land straight. To explain it better, my pitching coach tried endless ways to get me to stride towards the plate. Changing my leg kick like Kershaw, putting his cell phone next to my landing spot, you name it! I might be exaggerating but I spent a solid 2-3 hours a day just trying to fix my landing. It was really hard to make such a drastic change to my mechanics but I truly believed that it would make me a better pitcher. Well as soon as I got back to KC to prepare for the season my coaches introduced me to the Core Velocity program. I didn’t know much about it, but I bought in right away. At first it was crazy but it made sense, using a band to pull me in the direction that I’ve been working so hard to get away from. From a neurological standpoint, I have been throwing my entire life moving in the direction of the right handed batter’s box (I’m right handed). What if the band pulled me in that same direction so that I learn to use my body to counteract that movement? Ahh! Well it worked!!! The resistance of the band created a stimulus for my muscles to resist that force and use my hamstrings to contract stronger and maintain my body in a more linear path to the plate. BINGO!!! It still took many weeks to get it down, but I had the best year of my college career simply because I was using my body more efficiently. Not only was I throwing a little bit harder, but I was getting even better at commanding the ball to the outer half of the plate! Similar approaches are used for weightlifting purposes such as a valgus knee when performing a squat. Because resistance bands changed my career, I have a great interest in applying them for when I work with pitchers, and I encourage you to explore how it could possibly improve your mechanics in anything!
So what’s the right way to train? There is no specific program. I do believe in a foundation of strength training and Olympic lifting, but there are a lot of approaches that you can take to improve your game. I truly enjoy exploring a variety of methods so I will never tell you that it’s my way or the high way. Okay maybe I’ll blow up on you if you want to do CrossFit if you think it’s going to make you throw 100 MPH :P. Either way I think the most rewarding thing about being a Strength and Conditioning coach is being able to educate people on how to train. There is no perfect program, but there is the possibility of designing a program that will fit best to your needs as an athlete. Even if you’re not an athlete a great trainer or coach should be able to inform you on what approaches you should have to achieve your goals. Regardless I hope that this helps you baseball guys to look for great ways to improve your game. I had to figure these things out myself and when I did it was a little too late. As my theme continues, I HAVE ZERO REGRETS! I enjoyed the process and learned a lot while I played this wonderful game. For those who have dreams and aspirations of playing at the next level, be willing to not only put in the hours to your training but also to your learning! The more you know the better you can prepare!