Coaches Series: Winter Break Training Program for Pitchers
This is the first of several articles written by former Driveline trainer and now Head Coach at Lake Erie College, Cam Castro, detailing the application of Driveline’s programs and equipment at the small-college level (Twitter:@Castro_Turf).
How to Prepare for the Season on a Small School Budget
As Ryan Faer noted in his recent blog post, In-Season Training, Can We Develop and Win At The Same Time? – the high school season is almost here and coaches are trying to determine the best way to transition their players from off-season development to in-season victories.
We cannot simply abandon the off-season program and begin an entirely new training regimen abruptly. Rather, we must strive to transition smoothly between the two.
At the next level, college programs are transitioning as well – as their players are in the midst of battling the winter break woes. At this point, most schools across the country have sent their players home for the holidays with a plan for continued development on the home front. This typically comes in the form of a weight lifting routine, throwing schedule, hitting philosophy and maybe even a nutrition plan (let us coaches worry about polishing off the holiday leftovers).
After having spent the past three and a half months on things like fall team practice, intrasquads, throwing programs, individual work, and weight training – college coaches have turned the reins over to the athletes. Meaning simply, for anywhere from 4-6 weeks we are counting on our athletes to be self-sustainable and rely on them to continue the work we started in the fall semester.
Each athlete has to be on-ramped into more than just a throwing program. They need to understand your system, culture and training philosophies. He needs to know the drill work, the technique, the recovery exercises as well as the specific lifts in your strength program. This is why the fall is so vital – we spent this time instructing proper movements, teaching drill compliance, breaking down compound lifts and instilling our training ideologies with each athlete.
This let us customize each athlete’s program as he headed home for winter break. For some this might include an on-ramp for an athlete coming off a shutdown, a de-load for an athlete who just finished velocity work, or a high output program targeting velocity development. This is all coupled with a weight training program designed to target fitness, strength and/or functional deficiencies.
Now having coached at both the NCAA Division II and III level, I understand the restrictions that we all go through as coaches during the winter months. But I think most coaches would agree when I say that the 4-6 weeks our athletes are home on their own can set the tone for our season, for better or worse.
How to Set Up Athletes for Success at Home
Okay let’s get down to the nitty gritty of it – most of our athletes do not have access to the equipment needed to perform our throwing program in its entirety: wrist weights, shoulder tube, or a trampoline. And most programs, including ours, don’t have enough Plyo Ball ® and weighted balls on hand to give each player his own set. We were fortunate enough however to give each pitcher his own set of Jaeger Sports J-Bands this year.
Knowing we did not have enough to go around but not wanting to provide nothing, we took a quick inventory on what equipment we had on hand and then divided the athletes into two separate groups.
We wrote them 4 week programs based on the equipment I knew we’d be able to send them home with. As noted above, each athlete already had his own set of J-Bands:
Equipment Used: Black Plyo Ball ® & Weighted Balls (9oz – 4oz)
The athletes on this program are our guys who need to stimulate velocity development while at home. Using weighted ball long toss instead of pulldowns attempts to provide the stimulus of high intent weighted ball throws for velocity while training the proprioception of total force vs. peak force in extension and compression long toss.
Keep in mind that none of these athletes are doing traditional velocity work with these weighted balls, as many of them do not have access to a radar gun. They are instead substituting weighted ball long toss for weighted ball pulldowns. These athletes are following the guidelines of a weighted ball long toss test we conducted in the fall – similar to the one conducted at the Driveline facility.
Equipment Used: Plyo Ball ® (Green – Gray)
The athletes on this program are our guys who had a heavier load of velocity training during the 6 weeks prior to winter break. The goal here is to maintain arm fitness levels and stimulate improvements in movement patterns using the constraint training that Plyo Ball ® provide.
As you can see the recovery routine in both programs is identical and features a steady diet of upward tosses to maintain internal rotation of the throwing shoulder, band pullaparts for improved scapular function, and side-lying external rotation tosses for constrained ER improvement. They couple all this with another set of our J-Band routine (more specific sets and reps for all drills can be found in the Driveline Coaches Starter Program).
The point here is both groups of athletes were sent home with specific goals and training tasks in mind that we believe are necessary to their own personal development and preparation for the coming season. The equipment we needed to make this work was no more than three items – J-Bands, Plyo Ball ® and weighted balls.
Our goal over winter break was simply to provide each and every athlete with a detailed plan for continued development while keeping in mind that as a small college program, we could not go out and get every guy his own set of Plyo Ball ®, wrist weights, shoulder tube, etc.
As we all know, in small college baseball we sometimes have to get creative in providing our players development opportunities. I believe the examples outlined above can be easily executed (by on-ramped athletes) at any small college baseball program.
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