As coaches and athletes, you deserve more than just another can’t-see-my-super-secret-velocity-program-until-you-buy, so below we are excited to present the full table of contents and a sample chapter.
The full book contains a complete velocity and pitching program plus all the research we’ve been doing into pitching mechanics and pitching training. It covers everything from the Jaeger long toss program (Alan wrote the forward) to blending weighted ball training into the season.
We continuously update the book itself at least once per year and we now have over 40 different programming templates (which are the same as we use in-house).
Table of Contents
Foreword by Alan Jaeger
Overview of the Driveline System
Stress-Response Cycling: Understanding Basic Physiology
Mechanisms of Adaptation: How we Improve
Constant Iteration: Train, Test, Evaluate, Repeat
Recovery is King: Staying Healthy is the Best Velocity Program
Assessing the Body: Starting from Scratch
Taking Inventory on Day 0
Assessing Pre-Existing or Previous Injuries
Pitching Mechanics: Developing a Deeper Understanding of Movement
The Traditional Model of Pitching Mechanics
Anatomy 101: A Brief Overview of the Baseball Pitcher’s Body
Avoiding Emulation: Checkpoints and Comparisons
The Lower Half: Loading, Striding, Rotating, Blocking
The Trunk: Rotation, Stabilization, Flexion
The Arms: Separation, Pickup, Disconnection, Driveline, Recovery
Mobility and Activation: Pre-Throwing and Post-Throwing Training
Self-Myofascial Release: Foam Rolling and Trigger Point Work
Dynamic and Static Stretching: Striking the Balance
Resistance Bands: Shoulder and Elbow Care
Wrist Weights: Overload Corrections
Oscillation Therapy: Dynamic Stabilization
Joint Strengthening: Isometrics and Compression
Strength and Conditioning: Physical Preparedness
Understanding Strength: How to Train It
Core Movements: Getting the Form Right
Accessory Movements: Training Specificity
Endurance Training: Building the Right Motor
Throwing Program: Developing Healthy Velocity and Efficient Mechanics
PlyoCare Ball Training: Positive Pattern Building
Long Toss: Auto-Regulated Throwing
Weighted Baseballs: High-Intensity Throwing Training
Medicine Balls: Heavy Ballistic Development
Pitching Work: Velocity off the Mound
Throwing Injuries: Red Flags in Your Delivery
Programming Cycles: Putting it All Together
Evaluating Testing Data to Build the Roadmap
Seasonal Training: Identifying the Correct Strategy
Yearly Suggestions: The 10,000 Foot View
Sample Programs: Off-Season and In-Season
Nutrition and Supplementation: Fueling the Body
Overview of the Driveline System
Our approach to training athletes is unique. The generally accepted method of learning how to throw and pitch is to take private lessons from an instructor – typically one who has college or professional experience – and try to apply what you’ve learned on the mound. Questions on arm care, recovery, velocity-specific development, weight lifting, and corrective exercise are left to the trainee to answer himself. Hacking the Kinetic Chain is significantly different in that we aim to have an all-inclusive system that attacks the problem from multiple angles, since throwing 90+ MPH and staying healthy isn’t a single-input single-output simple machine.
Internalizing the ideas of stress-response cycling, adaptation, auto-regulation, iteration, and recovery are key to grasping the entire program. While templates are provided in the Programming Cycles chapters and on the companion website for a good foundation, each individual athlete has different motivations, work ethics, injury histories, and starting ability levels. As such, individualization of the programs is not only recommended, but expected after the initial phases are completed.
This chapter will focus on the general concepts of the book at large. These pillars of the training program are the theoretical planks that build the platform and a solid understanding of this entire chapter will enhance your ability to apply the lessons from all the chapters. While the remainder of the book was designed to be a reference book – flipping to the chapters as needed during a reading session – this chapter should be read straight through.
Stress Response Cycling: Understanding Basic Physiology
Athletes in various disciplines do the same thing over and over again for years, hoping to see improvement. Many athletes and coaches accept that physical maturity is the only way to improve performance. If the athlete simply continues doing the same amount of work for years, he will reach his goal. Unfortunately, sports science does not agree with this methodology. Hans Selye developed a general model for biological stress in the 1930s, which boiled down to three phases:
- Alarm Stage: Initial stress is placed on the body.
- Resistance Stage: Recovery of the stress and increased resistance is seen.
- Exhaustion Stage: Chronic stress or too much acute stress has caused maladaptation or dysfunction, and performance goes down.
In the 1970s, Hungarian scientist Nikolai Jakowlew put forth the concept of supercompensation, which most informed coaches base their training around. Jakowlew’s ideas were built around single-factor supercompensation, where an initial fitness level is observed before a training stress is applied. Immediately after the training stress, the target’s level of fitness is decreased due to fatigue from the training. Later, recovery kicks in and allows the athlete to enter a period of supercompensation, where the now-current fitness level surpasses the initial fitness level.
If another training period is scheduled before the recovery portion completes, overtraining may occur, possibly causing negative effects or even injury. However, if a training period is scheduled too far out from the last training session, the positive effects of supercompensation may be lost. It’s easy to see how timing plays a vital role in any athletic training endeavor – yet that doesn’t stop your average gym-goer from sitting on the bench press and putting up 225 pounds every single training session for the same amount of reps and sets, or watching your fellow pitchers throw on the sidelines and staying at 120 feet every time they go play catch.
This simple model of fitness improvement is sufficient for novices when it comes to training, but not for those who are more advanced. Novice trainees are simply those who have a low tolerance for work capacity and a low threshold for developing a higher fitness level. The word sounds loaded and negative, but it merely describes a state of training – in fact, most athletes who have been training for any considerable length of time long for the days they were novices and saw “beginner’s gains” when velocity was easy to come by and weight kept flying on the bar!
As an athlete sticks to a program and develops fitness through a well-modulated program, a plateau will be reached where the athlete starts to see fewer and fewer gains and they come about after longer and longer intervals of time. This places the athlete squarely in the intermediate category, where training complexity must go up. The goal is no longer to see increased results from workout to workout, but rather on a longer time horizon achieved on by planning ahead. (Mark Rippetoe explains these stages rather well in the books Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training, and any reader looking for more information on these topics is highly encouraged to purchase said material.)
For the purposes of the Driveline Velocity program, all athletes are considered novices at the onset of the training period. You may disagree with this classification, particularly if you already throw hard for your age, but, once again, this is not a negative descriptor. It merely labels your current training levels – not your current performance levels. As such, the programs that come later in this book start off basic with significant rest periods. If you have ever had the pleasure of training on a program that has a heavy squat-based workout day, then you know the first few weeks of heavy squatting cause severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Training for the first few weeks with the PlyoCare and weighted ball training methods outlined here can and often does produce short-term soreness and discomfort in areas that were previously never stimulated.
The two largest factors that cause trainees to regress in their ability level are excessive time off from training and loss of lean body mass. Athletes who do not adequately maintain their levels of achieved fitness will find themselves quickly losing their hard-won gains. Those who do not pay enough attention to proper nutrition and maintenance training will lose lean body mass, extending recovery time and reducing fitness levels as well.
It is therefore imperative that all athletes complete the on-ramping phase of their programming and get into the novice stages smoothly where they can make the largest gains as quickly as possible. This usually takes 3-4 months, which is well-timed for an athlete in the off-season. The athlete can enter maintenance programming throughout the season, getting in spare workouts and “banking” tough training periods when he can.
Athletes who continue to train for months and years on end will eventually reach a plateau where simple day-in and day-out weekly programming is not sufficient to stimulate progress. Any attempt to add extra reps, sets, or intensity causes overtraining. At this point, recovery becomes the most important goal of the program to reduce the chances of injury, and high-intensity training may need to be cycled in slightly more sporadically to ensure progress without overstressing the body or central nervous system.
All of these points are taken into account in the Programming Cycles chapter. Individualization is generally necessary beyond the on-ramping cycle. For pitchers with an abnormally poor mechanical pattern, pre-existing injury, or structural issue piling on tons of work may not be appropriate. The same can be said for the professional pitcher who is already close to the top of the ranks of baseball.
Mechanisms of Adaptation: How We Improve
Adaptation is simply the decreased physical response to a stressor on the body due to constant exposure of the stressor. For example: after prolonged exposure to loud construction noises, that noise level blends into the background and is not perceived as loud as it was when it started.
This phenomenon is a double-edged sword and closely ties into Stress Response Cycling. As you continue to train using PlyoCare balls for arm care and mechanical smoothing, your arm get stronger and your mechanics become more efficient. After all, those are the goals of the program! However, over time, these workouts become part of what you must do. They now form the “maintenance” cycle that will you must continue for years on end to ensure your arm stays healthy and your mechanical pattern does not regress. These exercises no longer improve your arm strength or delivery, but they do reinforce it and keep it solid. To make further improvements, you will need to increase the stress levels or change the modality of training.
Adapting to the workout determines how your maintenance program will be chosen and designed. What used to be a grueling workout that taxed your body will now simply become your daily warm-up. This is a clear adaptation to the stressor and shows that you have become significantly stronger and holds true across all domains – strength, endurance, plyometric ability, etc.
Multi-factor training is the method by which this program improves your ability level across many domains simultaneously to maximize overall gains. All throwing drills done near high intensities are multi-factor – many changes are happening, though not all of them are good:
- Physical mechanical pattern is changing based on the demand / drill being performed (good)
- Positive structural changes are occurring (muscle recruitment, increased mobility around targeted joints – both good)
- Central nervous system is becoming more efficient at coordinating motor units (good)
- Negative structural changes can occur due to initial faulty technique and/or general stress (decreased internal rotation of the shoulder, decreased elbow flexion/extension range of motion – both bad)
Using a multi-factor training methodology maximizes efficiency and overall return on training time, but it is vital to manage the negative adaptations that occur from a high intensity throwing and training program. Recovery plays an enormous role in this program. For advanced athletes, recovery is the most important part of their training program. You are only as good as your ability to train, and coaches and athletes alike too often neglect recovery.
This training program has specific sets, reps, and workout schedules. These are great places to start; however, as your body adjusts to the stress they will no longer continue to propel training gains. The programs outlined here serve two purposes. First, introduce you to a multi-factor training program while you figure out which modalities work best. Second, provide a basis for individual test/re-test iteration beyond the novice stage. Not all pitchers are built the same, so it would be highly inappropriate to prescribe a one-size-fits-all program. That being said, most “throwing” programs on the market lack structure. One of the aims of this book is to clarify an appropriately structured pitching training program so future generations of pitchers can achieve their goals.
Auto-regulation describes the ability to discover limits through training. Alan Jaeger’s long toss program is perhaps the best example of this when it comes to baseball, and plays a prominent role in this book. By not setting time or distance restrictions on yourself, you can break through barriers and limitations or figure out when to ease off the accelerator. The mental and psychological gains are equally as important as the physical gains, and auto-regulation is the best method by which these limits can be discovered.
Constant Iteration: Train, Test, Evaluate, Repeat
“What gets measured gets managed.” –Peter Drucker
The single best thing you can do to improve your quality of training results is to write down everything you do related to training. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Sets and reps of every exercise done in the gym
- Number of minutes or hours spent reviewing your mechanics on video
- Amount of calories and their macronutrients that you consumed
- Hours of sleep obtained on a nightly basis
- How well you paid attention to recovery protocols
By daily committing to paper (or an online journal) everything you’ve done, you will see your results laid bare as you compare your day-in and day-out routines.
At the Driveline Sports Science Lab, we chose the exercises and movements in this book over the course of years and years of experiments – most tightly controlled and analyzed! The scientific method forms the basis of all of our attempts to add or remove training modalities:
- Formulate an idea / attempt to solve a problem
By coming up with a test case, we make a prediction and hypothesize what may happen. We then test the modality in a controlled environment and see what the impacts were to our athletes over a given time period. If the results are positive, we make the change. If they are inconclusive, we may schedule further testing. If they are negative, we scrap the change.
This methodology is laid out later in the book to ensure that you find your best individual way of training and maintaining your fitness levels.
Recovery is King: Staying Healthy is the Best Velocity Program
There is nothing cool or manly about being injured due to insufficient recovery. Losing weeks to months of training time because you skipped mobility and passive training methods due to their “boring” nature is what will eventually cause you to miss your goals and will keep you from competing at the highest level.
One of the greatest stats a baseball pitcher can have in today’s game is not wins, strikeouts, or ERA – but simply innings pitched. How many pitchers are injured on a regular basis in Major League Baseball? Serious elbow and shoulder injuries were responsible for over 80,000 days on the MLB disabled list from 2001-2010. That’s over 219 years stolen due to arm injury as a result of throwing. College and professional organizations alike highly covet an average pitcher capable of throwing 200+ innings per year. Yesterday’s standard is now becoming increasingly rare as velocities spike and pitchers neglect their recovery protocols.
Hacking the Kinetic Chain features many exercises meant to promote recovery of the pitching arm and the entire body. As you become more advanced and throw harder, recovery becomes significantly more important – as it takes higher and higher intensities to disrupt homeostasis and generate a neuromuscular stimulus. Fatigue is a byproduct of increasing the intensity and volume of the work. To dissipate and mitigate fatigue, a great deal of attention must be paid to both active and passive modalities that improve recovery time. Not all recovery modalities are exercises – proper nutrition, sleep, rest, study, and passive work play large roles in maintaining a healthy and productive body.
This program has many recovery training options, tested thoroughly in the Driveline Sports Science lab. Active recovery techniques like PlyoCare Rebounders and J-Band cycles restore bloodflow and provide positive stimuli to the affected areas. There are also recommended passive techniques like electrical muscle stimulation, compression therapy, and trigger point work. While not all modalities will be available to every athlete, it is important to find which exercises and options work best for you and use them religiously.