We have been strategically progressing our Mach 1 Baseball athletes since November. We are seeing athletes who have been training for years to being new lifters. Importantly, our first step was to build their foundations with proper form, core strength, stability and manageable weight loads that would promote baseline strength development. We progressed to a more strength-focused phase, while never losing sight of the all-important corrective exercises needed to keep our pitchers healthy. Building strength requires additional load and adequate repetition schemes to promote hypertrophy- basically, we needed our athletes to get bigger and stronger. On average, our athletes gained 6 lbs on muscle from our foundational strength period through hypertrophy as measured using an InBody 550 Body Composition Analyzer. One might wonder, “If this is working so well, why change the focus of the program?” This is a fair question. Could we continue working through strength phases and have our athletes continue to gain muscle? Yes, probably so, especially given the young training age of some of our athletes.
But with a power based goal of throwing a ball with greater velocity, we have to progress to a more power-centric training program through the months of January and February. While strength is the maximal force you can apply against a load, power is proportional to the speed at which you can apply this maximal force. You could apply this same definition to any dynamic movement in sport- jumping, kicking, running, and, yes, throwing. So, for the next two-three months we will be more power-centric and speed/strength-centric. There are no absolutes in our programming, therefore there will still be exercises geared toward promoting stability, mobility and balance which will not require maximal efforts. But, the core lifts will require great mechanics, aggressive weight loads and a desire to get more explosive.
During this phase of training it is really important to recover correctly through proper nutrition, 10-12 hours of sleep each night and days off between workouts. If you have any questions about your workouts, please email email@example.com. If you need help with your sports nutrition program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Jaeger, who has worked with several MLB organizations and players wrote an article a few years back, ( see below for the entire article) with his thoughts on how to attain the needed foundation, but to get the work accomplished indoors. If we at MACH 1, and All-Starperformance, http://www.all-starperformance.net can be of help with your training let us know.
Here’s how it’s done:
“Assuming you’ve done a very thorough Arm Care/Surgical Tubing warm up, use the first 5 minutes to have your players play normal catch as if they were outdoors (the first 5 minutes of warm up should come pretty quickly due to the increased work load with the surgical tubing). I would assume that if your players are in good shape they will get out to 120 feet in 6-8 minutes. Once they’ve hit the wall of the indoor facility (ie 120 feet), they can stay there as long as they desire, especially if that’s all the distance they want on that given day (ie they bull-penned the day before). But if it’s a Long Toss day, they should come back in to a net (again, this is assuming you have an indoor batting cage/net) and finish their throwing program the following way: Just as you would expect with regular Long Toss, the more stretched out your arm feels the farther you are going to throw the ball, and the more your going to need to raise your angle. Therefore, as your arm gets looser, keep aiming slightly higher on the net as if you are simulating the same angle as if you were throwing outdoors.
For example, at 60 feet, there is no real angle yet, but as you “move back” in theory every ten feet, your might move your target up one degree or so ( a few inches). That would suggest that after you “moved back” to 100 more feet, your new focal point is raised up to about 10 degrees on the net. Thus, if you were able to throw outdoors as far as 300 feet, your angle up should be approximately 30-35 degrees. Naturally, distance and angle may vary from player to player but the bottom line is that in time, you’ll start to know how high to aim, depending
on “how far out you would have gone outdoors”, and how many throws you need to make at each increment. The idea is pretty simple — the more stretched out your arm becomes the more you raise your focal point. As you take your arm through the same motions as if you were long tossing outdoors you will begin to notice that you are getting the same sensation you’re accustomed to feeling at 120 feet, 200 feet, 240 feet and 300 feet. If you are someone who is already intimate with your arm these sensations should come pretty quickly.
Once you get to your desired distance and feel completely stretched out, it is time for the “pull down” or downhill phase of Long Toss (if that is what your workload is that day). This is the time when you would normally come “back in towards” your throwing partner if you were outdoors. So, to simulate this pull down phase into the net imagine that you were coming in toward your partner in 10 foot increments with each passing throw (so it would take you 24 throws, or 240 feet, to go from 300 feet to 60 feet). With each throw, simply lower your focal point on the net by one degree or so, and keep lowering this focal point until you are back to 60 feet. Once back at 60 feet, you may begin to notice that in order to maintain your furthest throw that day (e.g. 250 + feet) you actually have to aim lower than chest height to keep the ball on a line. This is because you are compressing a great deal of distance (250 + feet) into a very short space (60-65 feet). Another way of saying this is to aim 20-30 degrees downhill(your partners waist) and make sure you are maintaining your furthest throw (by not decelerating) and the ball should end up no higher than chest height or so. This lower focal point will teach the body (mind) how to be explosive downhill and how to notdecelerate. And if you’re a pitcher, and you want to work on getting even more leverage out in front, simply lower your focal point down to your throwing partners shins or toes (see jaegersports.com/articles) and see if you can get it to where the ball is endingup at knee height. Again, it all comes down to lowering your focal point and not decelerating in order to maximize the compression of your furthest throw into your shortest throw; to be in the best position possible to have optimal leverage downhill with explosiveness. If you are a position player you can aim a at your partners belt line (which should equate to the ball ending up at your partners chest if done correctly).
Note: once you come back to approximately 120 feet with your pull downs into the net, it would be ideal to go back out with your throwing partner to the 120 foot range in the gym and finish your pull down phase back in to 60 feet with your partner. Naturally, throwing the ball to someone rather than into the net will give you more realistic feedback.
By the end of your pull downs, you will have taken your arm through the same Long Toss throwing routine as if you were outdoors, without any height or distance restrictions. In essence, what the arm needs is full range of motion uphill and downhill just as if it had been throwing outdoors without any restrictions. This ability to “stretch” the arm out thoroughly, and “pull down” aggressively through a well prepared arm is what allows the arm to best condition — it’s what allows the arm to evolve, rather than regress indoors.
A Smoother Transition into the Spring
What you do during the time you are forced indoors is not only crucial to the development and maintenance of a players arm, but also, to allowing pitchers/players to make a smooth transition into the Spring when they do go outdoors. Remember, when players get outdoors after being indoors for months they are often excited and in a “hurry” to get going. If their base was not maintained and strengthened well indoors you may have a lot of players vulnerable to breaking down simply because they have gone from 1st gear to 5th gear in a couple of days. When a pitcher/player rushes into shape the first thing that tends to suffer is recovery period, which is also a sign of poor conditioning (poor recovery period is a sign that the arm is heading into a precarious position). In either case, players who didn’t do the proper work to condition and maintain the health, strength and endurance of their arm indoors are very vulnerable to not only losing arm strength, but to breaking down.
Conditioning the arm indoors through the Fall/Winter months is imperative. Emphasizing Surgical Tubing/Arm Care exercises is Step 1.…Step 2 is Long Toss. Though it may seem difficult to throw 300 feet into a 120 foot space it can be done. Put rather bluntly, there is no substitution for distance throwing (Long Toss) — it, along with Surgical Tubing exercises, is the most important factor in the development and maintenance of a players arm throughout the Fall/Winter months, and to best ensure a safe transition period into the Spring. Again, it’s all about making the time and being creative. Now that you are aware that there is a way to condition and develop your players arms thoroughly, despite the “limits“ of being forced indoors for a rather significant period of time, you can do something about it,
Thanks for reading!
The MACH 1 Team
It’s the middle of December as this is being written and we’re in the middle of the offseason, which means a pretty heavy training schedule. The bulking phase is slowly turning into the strength/speed, explosive phase and athletes are starting to notice a little more fatigue following their workouts and a subsequent lack of recovery/get-up-and-go leading into their next training session. There are many ways to improve this recovery process and I’ll be going over a more psychological/neural approach towards recovery.
Let’s set the scene really quick. Music is blaring, teammates are shouting at you trying to motivate you to make the next big lift that you sort of doubt you’ll be able to do, adrenaline is at an all-time high right now. The sympathetic nervous system is in full force and it’s a necessity to even come close to getting that weight up. Your body is entering a pseudo fight or flight state. So not only are you muscles breaking down, but your body’s immune system is taking a beating as well. The fix for that is to enter into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).
Sometimes a cool down (foam rolling, stretching, etc.) isn’t enough to significantly enter into a parasympathetic state. A great way to achieve this is to take slow controlled breaths. In through the nose, into the belly (diaphragm), and out through the mouth. A technique called box breathing is also another great way to achieve this. Box breathing is where you inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold that air in for 4 seconds, exhale out the mouth for 4 seconds, hold that exhale for 4 seconds, and repeat for ideally 4 minutes. Another way to get into a parasympathetic state is meditation. Don’t be intimidated or put off by the fact you’ve never meditated before. The apps Calm and Headspace are free and will guide and teach you how to do it. It’s shown that 10 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation can have multiple benefits on the body and mind.
If you’re interested in rehabbing an injury or improving your body’s capacity to resist injury, let Gestalt Performance take care of you. We have an office in Troy, MO at Winchester Spine and Sport as well as Eureka, MO at Comprehensive Chiropractic. For more information like this, follow Gestalt Performance on Facebook, Twitter, or Instragram.
Keep working hard,
Gestalt Performance co-founder