VELOCITY DEVELOPMENT FOR BASEBALL PLAYERS
Power development is of primary importance for athletes of virtually every sport.
Power can be defined as the ability to generate force in a short amount of time in order to accelerate the body and/or an implement. Power, simply put, is speed-strength.
In the sport of baseball, maximizing power output is essential for improving bat speed, arm velocity, and acceleration. Force production begins from the ground up, translates through the core, and expresses itself by powering through the body or implement. This summation of force and relay translates into “how high, how fast, & how far” in reference to sport application. Throwing a baseball is the most unique and dynamic movement of any sport. The kinematics of the baseball pitch requires a tremendous amount of force, repetition, and precision in order to create an explosive event. As a result of these factors, the susceptibility of shoulder dysfunction increases, and a variety of injuries may occur during the length of the season. “Though the shoulder is well suited to accommodate great range of motion, the sacrifice of strength and stability that is inherent in shoulder design produces a tenuous balance between elite performance and debilitating shoulder injury.”
In my experience, many training programs overemphasize strengthening the rotator cuff musculature and overlook the importance of the scapula stabilizers. The scapula stabilizers (posterior shoulder) are responsible for shoulder deceleration after ball release. It is during this phase that the shoulder experiences the most violent forces. If the scapula muscles demonstrate poor firing capacity and timing, the rotator cuff must compensate to absorb much of the force, thereby, increasing the risk of injury. Scapular stability allows the entire shoulder girdle to be effective at reducing and producing force. Training the shoulder complex requires a considerable amount of attention to detail.
During competition, the stabilizers may begin to fatigue with higher pitch counts, therefore, it is important to train at higher rep ranges with more emphasis on endurance.
The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles attached to the scapula that control gleno-humeral function. These muscles contract at a specific rate & timing in order to stabilize the humeral head in the socket during the throwing motion. The rapid transition between eccentric and concentric muscle actions during the baseball pitch produces tremendous forces on the gleno-humeral joint, contributing greatly to soft-tissue microtrauma of the shoulder complex. When it comes to the throwing shoulder, looser is better right up to the point of instability. With repetitive throwing, ligaments will progressively loosen allowing for increased ligament laxity. This laxity provides a paradox: performance may be enhanced, however, problems with stability may arise.
The harmonious relationship of the rotator cuff along with the scapular-thoracic muscle prove to be instrumental in properly accelerating & decelerating the throwing shoulder. By utilizing effective training principles, the athlete can enhance throwing performance, increase velocity, and reduce the risk of injury.