Strength, Conditioning and Prevention Training for the Thrower

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Inside Performance (IP) Baseball in North Vancouver on the topic of “Strength and Conditioning for the Baseball Player”.  The workshop was put on by two true professionals in Graeme Lehman and Mike Wilson both Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS). These gentlemen are offering their services at IP Baseball as well as contributing to other individual baseball programs around the Lower Mainland of BC.

It was certainly refreshing to hear their talk as they covered a lot of great information but, most importantly, shared an excellent approach to training the baseball athlete.  Mike started by speaking to the “Long-term Athlete Development” (LTAD) program and gave us all a little perspective on what it takes to become an “Elite Athlete”.  Essentially, the program states that it will take roughly 10,000 hours of training to gain elite status.  If an athlete trains or practices for 3 hours/day from age 10 to 20 they will break the 10,000 mark.  That just puts a bit of perspective into how much work and dedication is required to become elite at your sport or activity.  Now that’s not to say if you simply put in the hours you’ll wind up on the draft floor for an MLB team because it’s really a lot more complicated than that.

The LTAD program offers a great framework for guiding coaches and kids through different stages of development from childhood to adolescence.  You can visit www.canadiansportforlife.ca/learn-about-canadian-sport-life/ltad-stages for a detailed breakdown.  Basically, the LTAD stages breakdown the goals and objectives for children participating in sport and activity at different ages, doing the right things at the right time.  Mike stressed the need for fundamental movement development in kids 12 and under as a priority.  He also suggested that we shouldn’t be going to the weight room until 15 years old.  I couldn’t agree more with this!  Athletes need to learn fundamental (and optimal) movement patterns before they start to train strength on top of their movement.  This idea is mirrored by the Functional Movement Systems (FMS) approach which is to avoid training strength on top of dysfunction.  We could discuss this topic for eons but simply it was nice to see how passionate Mike was about this approach.

Graeme then took the reins and broached the topic of “increasing throwing velocity and reducing arm injuries in the weight room”.  Graeme is a great resource to baseball players as he conducted his Masters Degree research in the field of baseball and, as mentioned previously, is a CSCS.  Graeme’s talk covered training speed, mobility, and core stability as well as some arm specific exercises for the overhead athlete.  Something we need to understand as baseball players is that throwing hard and efficiently doesn’t start and end at the shoulder.  The approach Graeme spoke on is a holistic one that considers the entire body and, as we say in the health field, all the kinetic chains that are involved in throwing.

Our bodies learn to move in a way that takes the path of least resistance.  If we have tight muscles or connective tissues that cross a specific joint, the body will compensate to accomplish the desired goal of “A to B” even if it is “A to B, via C, D, and E”.  What I mean by that is, for example, if we don’t have mobility at one joint we can still accomplish a skill (like throwing) by taking up movement in neighboring joints (through compensation) to accomplish the task.  The problem is that these compensatory mechanisms are usually what we consider “dysfunction”.  This dysfunction leads to increased risk of injury or may be already masking injury to underlying tissue.

Players can take advantage of guys like Mike and Graeme who not only want to train athletes to increase their performance but also keep them on the field and healthy throughout the season.  I am really hoping these guys will be putting on more talks (and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to do a few of my own) at IP since it’s really one of the few premier indoor baseball-specific facilities that we have here in the Lower Mainland.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below or send me an email at peter@w4pt.com

Posted in Arm Safety

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