So you did your off season strength & conditioning work, you increased your strength, your hitting power, bat and arm speed. Now you’re in the middle of your season and guess what? The reality is, unless you’ve been engaged in an in-season strength maintenance program, you’ve probably lost most everything you gained in the off-season!
The research is clear. You start to lose strength in just a couple days if you don’t continue to maintain your strength. Without a strength training session, in 48 to 72 hours your muscles are already losing significant levels of strength you spent hours, days, weeks and months building.
Listed below are the keys reasons and and primary areas of concern you need to work on in-season to maintain your strength to keep your arm and bat speed up:
Since 80% of the power for bat and arm speed come from hip and shoulder separation, the ability to continue to turn your thoracic spine (t-spine) and hips is arguably the most important physical need to maintain (from a power and arm speed perspective). So you have to continue to train the muscles around your hips and spine that create and control hip and t-spine rotation to turn freely, fast and powerfully, without strain or injury.
Remember that the small muscles that control rotation of the spine are deep inside the body, around the spine and they connect to the bones of the spine. These muscles must constantly be trained to maintain their flexibility to allow the bones to continue to turn freely. If they don’t stretch easily, then these tight muscles will reduce your ability to turn your t-spine, fast or at all. That will reduce your ability to hit or throw with increased power and arm/bat speed. What’s worse, if they aren’t working correctly, stretching easily, they can be strained or torn which will sideline you indefinitely.
If an effective deep spinal rotational muscle exercise is selected, the select exercise will simultaneously strengthen the deep spinal rotator muscles on one side of the spine, as it stretches the spinal rotator on the opposite side of the spine. This action will reduce the time it takes to complete your program.
Once you strengthen these muscles in one direction (for example turning to your left), you’ll then need to repeat the exercise to your right. Doing this will effectively strengthen and stretch these muscles in just few minutes and help you maintain your hitting power and arm speed.
Many athletes unknowingly cheat when performing many exercises that are designed to improve t-spine rotation. There are all kinds of exercises out there using bands, cables, medicine balls, rods with bands attached that don’t actually work to train the deep spinal rotators to actually turn.
Athletes will often use their beach muscles, the arms, chest & shoulder muscles, to move the ball, cable or rods and they will feel their out abdominal muscles tensing and working and they see their hands moving in front of the chest, so they think they’re training their turn.
Even though some of their core muscles are working hard, most of the time it’s their outer core or abdominal muscles (internal & external obliques). While these muscles do help with bat and arm speed, the fact is, their deep spinal rotators may be working hard, but working to keep the spine from turning as they perform many popular core rotational exercises.
If your t-spine is turning then the sternum should be turning, keeping the hands in front of the sternum, and not allowing the hands to move independent of the sternum (and t-spine).
When the arms and sternum are turning together, there’s a better chance you’re training the deep spinal rotators to work as they need to work in hitting or throwing.
The PC360 Torso Harness targets the deep rotators of the t-spine as the harness is worn around the rib cage and allows the athlete to work both sides of the deep spinal rotators at the same time, without using the beach muscles.
As the athlete turns against the resistance of the band to their left, the deep spinal rotators on the left side of the spine are shortening while the rotators on the right side of the spine are stretching & lengthening. This is the same action that needs to occur in hitting & throwing motions.
To ensure that both the deep spinal rotators on both sides of the spine are equally trained, for both strength and flexibility, make sure you also train turning to your right against resistance. This will build muscle balance or symmetry allowing an even turn to the athlete’s left or right. This is huge in terms of injury prevention to keep from pulling a back (spine) muscle.
To help keep athletes on track in their in-season strength program, PC360 provides a tracking program. This program helps keep athletes accountable by showing when they did their program and awards them with points when they complete their program each day and week.
In Part #2 of this series we will discuss how to keep the hips turning in-season.
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