Category Archives: Pitcher

Rapid Rise of Brandon Finnegan

Great article by ESPN on the rise of Brandon Finnegan this summer to the big league’s and his contribution over the playoffs thus far!!!

Finny Royals

4 months ago we were working on his hip flexibility, taking care of his arm, and joking around on Saturday mornings after his starts and now he’s holding his own in the MLB Playoffs.  Great story and video here from ESPN.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2014/story/_/id/11661038/kc-royals-reliever-brandon-finnegan-rapid-rise

 

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Wall Angel Series

This video is on our wall angel series which might be the best scapular movement we do.  When done correctly, wall angels are one of the hardest exercises I’ve ever done.  Simply put they aren’t fun and they will make athletes sore in area’s they didn’t know exist.  We generally perform wall angels for 3-5 reps with controlled tempos as in a 5 count up and down w a pause at the top and bottom.  Or we might do a 2-3 count up and down with a 5 count pause at the top and bottom.  In either case we want control.

Quick points:
1. Make sure athletes keep their spine flat on the wall.  Don’t arch or let the rib cage flare up.
2. We want them actively driving their arms into the wall not just sliding up and down.  Even if they can’t get their arms to the wall we want them actively trying.  This alone helps to stretch out the anterior shoulder and chest into more external rotation.

Progressions:
1. Once we have worked for several weeks on the wall angel we can progress to include more dynamic stability using the bands.  Athletes partner up and can move the bands in any direction.  The more the better.  The athlete on the wall is forced to stabilize in any number of direction at a given moment.
2. The last progression that didn’t make it in the video is performing the dynamic stability version with the eyes closed.  Athletes now can’t react to what direction they see the band moving.  This really requires much more stabilization and kinesthetic awareness.

Scap Wall Slides for Throwing Athletes

Scap wall slides are great for the overhead athlete to activate the serratus anterior, a big time muscle for the overhead / throwing athlete. The serratus is an overlooked muscle in the grand scheme of shoulder function, but it might be on the of the most important for throwing athletes.  Right now, we’re perfomring scap wall slides as an activation warmup series prior to all our upper body work.  We usually focus on 2-3 sets of 5 reps with controlled movement and pauses at both ends.

Serratus Anterior Posts

Check out some of these previous posts for more info on the serratus and the scapular function and how to tie more serratus work into your training.

Throwing to Warmup

A problem I see often is athletes who dismiss the importance of a proper warm-up and none other come to mind more than pitchers.  All too often pitchers throw to warmup instead of warmup to throw.  This is still a huge problem in my eyes at all levels of play. 

Too often I see young athletes do no warmup prior to competition and begin their throwing program to warmup for their bullpen work that will precede their game. 

For years with the Angels as well as at the collegiate level I watched starting pitchers do maybe 5 min of static stretching and a couple of jogs back and forth and then start throwing a baseball at 60 feet.   What was even more annoying was on days they didn’t start they warmed up with the rest of the team which usually included a thorough dynamic warmup.   It has never made any sense to me that on the days they didn’t play the were more warmed up than the days they actually performed their sport. 

I’ve even seen pitchers warm up more for their running program on their “off days” at the professional level.  When I would bring this point up to coaches they would always answer with “They’re on their own.  They know what they need.  It’s whatever they usually do.”   The problem becomes that many of these kids come from not really having a structured program at the high school level.  So they just do what they did prior to games in H.S. 

Our starting pitchers at TCU have a specific warmup prior to their start centered around their movements and needs as an athlete.   It begins with a general body warmup but progresses to increasing movement and mobility throughout the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder as these areas become highly important in the throwing athlete. 

We start out around the hips creating movement on the front side to the back side.  From there we will move into our thoracic spine progression.  Towards the end of our warmup we move up the kinetic chain to the glenohumeral joint and create warmth and mobility here.  Our kids are sweating heavily by the time our 12 minute session is completed. 

When I first began implementing this warmup with our staff it wasn’t uncommon to see our starting pitchers velocity up by 2-4 mph. 

The problem was that they previously weren’t preparing their body for movement, and explosive movement at that.   Even though they had thrown for 20 minutes their bodies weren’t really that prepared.

Training the Rotator Cuff to Failure

I found a couple of interesting studies done on the effect of fatigue on shoulder proprioception.  The rotator cuff has essentially two functions: to stabilize and depress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa.  The following studies show how fatigue can create dysfunction in the shoulder. 

Effects of Muscle Fatigue on and the Relationship of Arm Dominance to Shoulder Proprioception

The first study displays how the proprioceptive ability of the shoulder decreases with muscular fatigue.  This should really come as no surprise to most coaches out there.  The authors state that muscular endurance without overly fatigue should be the priority in training. 
 

In the second study the authors demonstrated that fatigue in the rotator cuff caused superior head migration.  In other words the ability of the rotator cuff to depress the humerus was compromised.  Allowing the humerus to move upwards decreases the sub-acromial space which isn’t a good thing.   This space was decreased by up to 40% which is hugely significant. 

The most interesting thing in this study is the authors had subjects perform one set of prone T’s with the thumbs up to failure.  Failure was noted after the subject couldn’t raise the weight past 45 deg. and at least 40% decrease in strength was noted.  Overall, the average degree of fatigue was indicated by a 54% reduction in prone horizontal abduction.  The average weight used for the protocol was 3.94 kg and the average time to fatigue was 84 seconds. 

The second study should open eyes as after one set of 90 seconds, the cuff can be fatigued enough to create sub-acromial impingement.  Now think of all the athletes with shoulder problems that get blasted with 40 sets of RTC exercises everyday in an effort to strengthen their shoulder. 

The problems are not only in a single workout but can carry over to outside of the weight room.  If the cuff is constantly fatigued stability fades and we don’t want to lose its strength and stability when a pitcher is throwing 94 mph off the mound in the 7th inning.

The problems with training the cuff to failure is that you create instability, which is something we’re trying to eliminate.  Allowing the head of the humerus to move in a joint that is already having dysfunction may eliminate all the positives that are created with actually training the RTC.

Movement Screening

I got a question this past weekend from an athletic trainer on my article he saw in the December 2010 Training and Conditioning Magazine. 

Special Delivery

I read the article that you wrote in December of 2010 about the screening process and conditioning routines that you put your pitchers through throughout the year. We utilize a similar process that I started this past year. I also utilize Gray Cook’s FM screening, but I read that you have modified it and changed the order to fit more specific needs of a pitcher. Is there anyway that you can send me a basic outline of your program so I can compare it to what I have come up with and share more information with our pitching coach to try to improve our performance and technique. Thanks for your time and help. Good luck for the rest of your season.

Thanks for your question.  I include tests for lat length, pec minor length, scapular stability, ankle mobilty, and the Thomas test for psoas and rectus length.  We measure internal and external rotation at the hips and shoulders.  On top of this I do breakout sessions which are dependent upon score.   Often times a perfect score on certain parts of the screen will negate the need to search for more issues.  If an athlete scores poor we will go deeper with a breakout seession, as Gray Cook calls them I believe, and look for a more specific issue.  All in all it depends on the athlete as to how much we look at and how deep we probe.  

Remember we’re always looking for dysfunction in movement patterns.  If there isn’t a gross dysfunction don’t go searching for problems.  I get asked often as to why I measured one athletes ankle mobility but didn’t measure another.  Its most likely due to the fact that the other athlete didn’t have a dysfunctional movement pattern that could be caused by an ankle restriction.  They may in fact have a restriction or limitation if we dug deep enough but since it doesn’t affect their movement, we really have no reason. 

A lot of the shoulder portion of the screening is determined by the athlete’s injury history, and / or pain.  We do a fairly thorough evaluation for internal and primary impingement is there is has been or was a recent problem. 

If you do a lot with movement screening, Gray Cook has a new book out titled Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, and Corrective Strategies.   It deals a lot with his breakout sessions and where to go when a certain pattern produces a dysfuction.  I’m still working on it but I’ve heard great things about the material within.