(This is the second in a series of posts detailing the Velocity Development Program at Driveline Baseball.)
As we talked about in the Throwing portion of the Velocity Development Program, adding velocity to your fastball and becoming a better baseball athlete is simple. But not easy.
Throwing a baseball at maximal velocities predominantly involves the ability to generate a large amount of speed-strength. Speed-strength is the ability to produce high amounts of power very quickly, and to train for it, you must train on both ends of the absolute speed / absolute strength continuum. Today, we’ll focus mostly on the absolute strength portion, but we’ll slide into the middle of that spectrum – training for power.
Athletes participating in the Velocity Development Program at Driveline Baseball all train for strength using a variety of implements, including barbells, dumbbells, and regular bodyweight exercises. Strength is binary – it is the answer to the question “Did I move this heavy object that is producing a resistance force of X?” It is not so-called “functional strength” which is popular in today’s personal training groups. There is nothing “functional” and nothing “safer” by doing BOSU ball squats, lunges, or “unstable surface training.” These movements might be good for rehabilitation purposes, but lower extremity instability training has very little (and almost no) carryover to regular athletic movements in healthy populations. So if your trainer or coach is recommending you do unweighted lunges, squats, or even throw baseballs off an unstable disc because it “works more muscles,” you know you need to look elsewhere.
Strength plays a large role in deceleration immediately after throwing a baseball – humeral internal rotation velocities can reach (or exceed) 7,500 degrees/sec, and simply pulling lightweight resistance bands and doing stretching isn’t going to cut it. Developing the musculature that supports the posterior shoulder girdle will help to protect connective tissue and increase velocity as well!
Here’s an analogy I like to use all the time: Imagine that you’re going to race a car against another car in a straight line over a quarter-mile distance. What features do you want that car to have? An engine capable of producing high torque and horsepower, for sure. Good tires to get traction on the ground and launch quickly, too. Perhaps a stiff suspension to transmit force properly throughout the chassis. But what if I told you this race had a cliff at the end of the quarter-mile track? All of a sudden, what features do you want the car to have? Now you’re interested in the braking system of the car! If the car has an elite braking system, then you can go faster before slamming the brakes to stop yourself from plummeting over that cliff. And if the car has terrible brakes, then it doesn’t really matter how powerful the engine is, now does it?
The body works the same way through a series of proprioceptive feedback mechanisms. This can immediately be evidenced with a heavy barbell deadlift: Even if a lifter’s legs, trunk, and core are capable of lifting the heavy barbell off the ground, if his grip is weak, it will not budge off the ground a single inch. His grip might be strong enough to carry it to 1/8 lockout, but his brain knows that the grip isn’t going to do what he wants it to do, so the bar doesn’t move at all. Your body’s deceleration muscles (mainly the posterior shoulder muscles and posterior chain) work in a similar fashion – you need to train it properly to unlock your best fastball velocities.
Read more about power after the jump…
Power is simply the rate at which work is performed. So if you squat 200 pounds in 1.0 seconds and later squat 210 pounds in that same 1.0 seconds, you’ve generated more power in the second lift attempt. It goes without saying that increasing your strength directly impacts the ability to generate power, which is linked to creating speed-strength in athletes.
Focusing on developing power works very well for most athletes – creating faster bar speed in barbell lifts like the squat, bench press, press, deadlift, and power clean help stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) in ways that typical absolute strength training doesn’t.
Examples of Strength and Power Training
Enough talk – here’s some videos of Driveline Baseball athletes demonstrating some strength and power exercises.