Archive for the ‘Softball’ Category

One of the most overlooked factors when it comes to throwing velocity is mobility/range of motion. By increasing mobility in certain areas of the body, you can unlock the ability to throw with higher velocities without even touching a weighted ball or dumbbell. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t train with weights or throw weighted balls if you’re looking to increase your velocity, but if you’re not following a good stretching program that improves range of motion in the RIGHT areas, you’re likely leaving valuable MPHs on the table.

With that said, here’s 5 stretches you can do right now that will help increase your throwing velocity.

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The start of the spring season for youth baseball is almost upon us, and high school and college baseball have been going strong for a few weeks now, so this seems like an appropriate time to talk about a few common problems that baseball and softball players can run into during the season. These are all fixable problems, but if left unchecked they can lead to injuries down the line, so it’s a good idea to get out in front of these issues and try to prevent them before they start.

Youth baseball players, especially those in their late tweens/early teens, may be at a higher risk of injury due to an increased load placed on their bodies during the season. Around age 12, these athletes start playing longer seasons on bigger fields, with additional demands from fall ball to consider as well. Also, these athletes typically don’t participate in good offseason training programs to prepare their bodies for this kind of load. When you take young, unprepared athletes and subject their bodies to a much heavier load than they’re used to, injuries have a tendency to occur.

However, we know that baseball players tend to suffer similar injuries/lose mobility/lose strength in basically the same areas, which means that we can be proactive and address these potential problems before they start, thereby greatly decreasing the likelihood that a baseball player will suffer an injury. To that end, here are 5 exercises/stretches you can do to keep yourself healthy throughout the season:

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This post stems from a discussion I had with one of the softball players I train. I made the statement that most softball players could benefit from overhand throwing instruction, because their mechanics are typically substandard when compared with those of baseball players. She retorted that softball players have to short-arm the ball and throw with a low elbow because they have to get rid of the ball more quickly due to the fact that they play on a smaller field. In other words, they “don’t have time” to utilize proper mechanics. But in reality, throwing with proper mechanics doesn’t take any more time than throwing with poor mechanics.

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The Problem

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it:  many strength and conditioning programs for girls aren’t very good. And this is a shame because it prevents many young women from fully realizing their athletic potential, potentially costing them college scholarships. For whatever reason, the majority of training programs for young women seems to be more oriented towards traditional “speed and agility” work, with less of an emphasis placed on overall strength and power training. So basically, lots of cones and ladders and TRX, and not a lot of squats and deadlifts. This is a mistake.

5 pound bicep curls? On a Swiss ball? Stop it.

5 pound bicep curls? On a Swiss ball? Stop it.

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Every time I evaluate a new client, the first thing I do is run them through a posture and movement screen. Basically, my objective is to evaluate how the athlete stands, and how they move. This gives me a jumping-off point when prescribing corrective exercises and mobility/soft tissue work. When evaluating a baseball player – especially a pitcher – the first thing I look at is the shoulder girdle.

Pictured: the shoulder girdle

More specifically, I’m looking at the scapulae – the flat bones that sit on either side of the thoracic spine. One of the most reliable indicators of future shoulder and elbow health is scapular positioning. Ideally, the scapulae should sit right up against the ribcage and glide smoothly across it. But with throwing athletes, what we often see instead is this:  (more…)

As a catcher, your primary job is to catch the ball when it is thrown to you. Your job doesn’t stop with just catching the ball, though. All catchers should be able to effectively frame pitches, which consists of catching the ball in a way that makes pitches look good to the umpire. In order to frame pitches well, you need to possess strong forearms and wrists capable of stopping the ball’s momentum and making the glove go where you want it to.

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When I was younger, around 10 or 11, I remember always hearing my Little League coaches say “practice makes perfect.” Sometime around 1998, the phrase morphed into “PERFECT practice makes perfect,” because practicing like garbage clearly isn’t going to positively impact your game, but if you practice having perfect form and giving 100% on every rep, you will move along the line in the long, slow trudge towards perfection. Now obviously, perfection is not really attainable. Therefore, there is no such thing as “perfect practice.” But there is something to be said for maintaining a certain level of purpose and concentration during practice, as repetition will contribute to establishing muscle memory and thoughtless good mechanics. If you have to think about what you’re doing during a throw or swing, your attention will be divided and your performance will suffer as a result. By performing thousands of reps with good mechanics, you build a base of muscle memory so that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing.

So what happened at my Little League practices after our coach had just finished telling us about the importance of perfect practice? We went into the outfield to throw knuckleballs at each other during warmups. Of course. (more…)

I’ve been informed that my video about Blackburns is too “long” and “boring” and that I’m “monotone” in the video. So I’ve decided to post these photos of the Blackburns positions for easier and less boring viewing. For a written explanation of what Blackburns are and what they’re for, click here. And yes, I’m aware that I have freakishly long alien arms.

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One of the sillier notions regarding the act of hitting a baseball is the idea that batters should “swing down on the ball”. I remember having this cue drilled into my head as a young hitter, and I still hear it from time to time nowadays. The reasoning that coaches give for this is the fact that a downward swing angle will create backspin on the baseball, which will help the ball carry farther, whereas an upward swing path will create topspin, which will result in less distance.

In fact, there’s even a batting tee endorsed by Ken Griffey Jr. called the Instructo Swing, which forces players to hit down on the ball. If you don’t have a downward swing path when using the Instructo Swing, you are rewarded by smashing your barrel into a piece of blue metal.

That's a homerun swing if I ever saw one...

That’s a homerun swing if I ever saw one…

But if we look at Ken Griffey Jr’s real-life swing, do we see that kind of downward swing angle? If you’re good at reading context clues, you already know the answer.

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First, a little background information:

Balance is one of the most important things when it comes to designing a sound strength and conditioning program. For example, if a program includes 3 pressing exercises, it should also include 3 pulling exercises to maintain strength balance across the body. If somebody performs a ton of bench pressing without any rowing-type exercises, the mucles in the chest will become bigger and stronger, but the muscles in the back will not. Over time, this discrepancy in strength between the chest and back will lead to, at best, poor posture and, at worst, an injury. Since nobody wants to be injured, it’s typically a good idea to make sure that you try to balance movements in your strength and conditioning program.

This concept isn’t confined to pushing and pulling, however. Every movement at every joint should -in theory- be balanced. This, of course, is assuming that no imbalances exist to begin with. If somebody does have an existing strength imbalance, or they play a sport that requires repetitive movement (e.g. throwing), they should adjust their program to account for these issues.

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