Alex Amin (2022) - 9 mph Jump In Mound Velocity
Alex Amin (2022) was a player that came to us weighing 161lbs and 6’ 1” tall, with an original pull down velocity of 68.1 MPH with a 5 oz ball. Alex’s goal was to improve all aspects of throwing, both on the mound and as a position player. We were given 16 weeks to train before the beginning of High school baseball, following his soccer season in the fall. Our staff created a training plan that would be dominated early by improvement of strength and throwing specific mobility, which would then transition into a, throwing on-ramping phase, leading into the beginning of the high school season. After 16 weeks Alex left us weighing 170lbs, a near 10lb increase as well as a PR (Personal Record) pull down of 80.9 MPH which equates to an unbelievable increase of 12.8 MPH. The rest of this post will discuss some of the training that Alex performed over his offseason, as well as give a glimpse into what a typical offseason for a TCAT trainee is like.
The term mobility and flexibility are often used interchangeably, even though they are quite different. Flexibility: The passive ability of a specified musculotendon group to move about a Range of Motion (ROM). Where as Mobility: The active ability to move musculotendon group to move about a Range of Motion. An example to better explain these concepts would be the difference between bending at the waist in an attempt to touch ones toes (flexibility) or while standing on one leg, attempting to lift the other leg as high in front of yourself as possible (mobility). Both movements involve the same group of musculature however they provide very different movement results.
Now that terms have been clearly defined we can dive further into two specific mobilities; Thoracic spine, and hip mobility. These mobilities are important for all athletes but especially for rotational athletes such as baseball and softball which rely on proper sequencing of the kinetic chain.
For our purposes we will say that the Thoracic Spine (Tspine) runs from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. This area demands high amounts of flexion, extension, and rotation.
During a pitchers delivery they must work through all these ranges of motion both individually and simultaneously. Below are examples of pitchers being in extension and rotation as well as rotation and flexion respectively.
Lacking in any of these qualities can prevent maximal velocity regardless of strength, proper T-Spine mobility is also highly correlated to arm health.
A few sample mobilities are provided below.
The hip complex is one of the most complicated structures in the body and provides numerous functions. For the context of this article we will be focusing on Internal and External Rotation of the hip.
Is one of the most common areas lacking in athletes of all ages. Proper External Rotation (ER) allows the athletes to hold their center of gravity over their rear leg longer which contributes to increasing velocity via creating hip to shoulder separation which will be covered later on. As we see in the image below Chapman is holding onto ER of the hip which is shown by his knee pointing the opposite direction that his weight is going. As well as the creases in his pants of the rear hip. This will allow him to hold his center of mass back until just prior to foot strike, at which point internal rotation will begin.
Internal Rotation (IR) of the hip is what begins rotation of the pelvis, initiating the start of the throwing motion. Proper IR is required to allow maximum forward rotation until release of the ball. As we see in
the picture below internal rotation has begun which is signified by the rear knee pointing down to the ground as well as the rear hip beginning to extend. If we look again at the pants, we can see that the creases near the hip are beginning to flatten out.
Sample Hip Mobilities
Although cuff timing is not directly linked to mobility it fits nicely into this section. Cuff timing can be thought of as how the main muscles of the shoulder girdle interact with each other. A simple example of this would be how the upper trap, lower trap and serratus anterior interact. Muscles can only create pull not push. It is important that all the muscles involved create the right amount of tension at the correct position in the movement. The serratus anterior helps to pull the bottom of the shoulder blade into the arm pit which allows the arm to get overhead. If this muscle is weak it can limit overhead mobility, which will cause a compensation of other muscles in the long run. Drastic compensations that are present for long periods of time are a major cause of injuries.
These two exercises are great for improvement of cuff timing because they force the athlete to focus on the movement of the scapula in a controlled setting, which eliminates unnecessary external factors that are present during throwing such as, lower body mechanics or throwing strikes.
During Alex’s initial assessment we saw that he lacked external rotation, had protracted shoulders which means they are pulled unnecessarily forward at resting posture, as well as a lack of Tspine extension. We used a few of the exercises discussed above to help correct his deficiency’s which allowed him to develop strength in deeper ranges of motion as well as allowing for reduced stress on structures that were previously immobile.
Strength: The ability to exert force on an object over no specific period of time.
Power: The ability to exert force on an object under a time constraint.
Plane of Movement: Human movement is separated into three specific planes; Frontal, Sagittal and Transverse.
We can think of the biggest difference between strength and power; power is limited by how much time we have to complete a desired action where strength is not. This means that power has more direct application to a sport setting, because sport is always under a time constraint, such as hitting a thrown ball. This does not mean that building strength is useless, the human body is a complex system, it requires many factors to work in unison to function at its highest capacity. Strength is actually a pre-requisite to power, meaning more strength allows for higher levels of power to be expressed. However, it is important to understand that strength and power are quite specific to the plane of movement. The Frontal plane can be thought of as side to side movement, whereas the Sagittal plane is front to back such as walking, and the Transverse plane is rotational. The two main aspects of baseball, hitting and pitching, occur in both the frontal and transverse plan simultaneously.