Research supporting the methods of Volt Athletics to develop the baseball athlete.
Baseball is a game that is reliant on a specific set of skills such as hitting, throwing, and fielding. The ability to develop and maintain strength, power, speed, and acceleration throughout a season is not only vital to the performance and success of a baseball team it is important for keeping baseball players injury free. Maximum power, quickness, reaction, and high speed are among the dominant abilities within the sport. Maintaining power and maximum strength helps players succeed through the season (2). Due to its high reliance on anaerobic energy systems, the majority of training should focus on the ATP and phosphocreatine systems of energy production (13). From these listed training demands, Volt has prioritized three primary performance factors as the main sources of athletic development via implementation of a strength and conditioning program. The development of maximal strength, rotational power, and linear speed.
Baseball is an anaerobic, power sport that requires a foundation of strength to effectively generate high bat speeds. Greater bat speed has been described as one of the most important traits of successful hitters (16). Bat speed leads to hitting the ball farther and having the ability to see a pitch longer. Both of these benefits produce higher batting averages. Pitchers require a foundation of strength to not only be able to throw a ball at high velocities but to maintain a healthy arm in order to keep throwing a ball at high velocities. It has been demonstrated that strength training paired with a throwing program increases throwing velocity (9). Power and speed are greatly dependent on the ability to recruit the highest number of fast-twitch muscle fibers, this places maximum strength as a primary factor in a player’s quest for success (2). Strength is defined as the ability to overcome or counteract external resistance by muscular effort (17). The primary mode of increasing muscular force production in Volt programming is the inclusion of multi-joint, barbell-based, open & closed-kinetic-chain resistance movements. These movements include squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and other various movements where athletes are tasked with producing force into the ground while maintaining structural alignment. These movements are the most effective means of developing strength for athletes because they allow an athlete to move the largest amount of weight while focusing on their body as the base of support (9). Closed-kinetic chain movements, specifically, have a higher transfer of training effect to specific sporting movements (7).The ability express strength is not only important for the development of recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers faster, but to also increase the structural stability of the athlete to produce force more efficiently. The inability to properly support the body during single leg stance alters the forces that are transferred up and through the kinetic chain and ultimately lead to increased forces acting on the smaller more distal segments. Gluteal muscles play a direct role in maintaining the stability of the pelvis, catchers should strengthen the entire lumbopelvic-hip complex in order to increase throwing accuracy, decrease pop times, and prevent shoulder injuries (12).
Rotational Power Development
Rotational power is considered to be an important component of performance for baseball. Therefore, training the core in a manner that improves rotational power is necessary. Core stability has a significant effect on an athlete’s ability to create and transfer forces to the extremities. If power is created but not transferred, performance (i.e., sprinting, jumping, throwing, swinging, etc.) will be negatively affected. It is the responsibility of the lateral core musculature to not only facilitate a rotational action in several activities, but to also resist rotational forces in other activities. The stability created by the anterior and posterior core musculature in conjunction with the stability provided by the lateral musculature resisting rotation allows the forces created by the bigger movers of the lower extremity to transfer into the arms. Pitching or batting requires a stable base and transfer of force through the body into the arms, and requires rotation of that same stable base. If the core is too weak to handle the forces, rotation is likely to occur causing an energy leak and a break down in technique ultimately lowering power output and performance. A stable core will transfer the forces with minimal rotation and minimal energy loss (15). In baseball, it is vital for players to be able to create maximal angular velocity of their sport implement so that they can successfully strike a ball. Medicine ball training is useful for baseball players because it uses muscle patterns similar to that of a swing or throwing motion. The muscles of the torso are oriented in a continuous chain that run through a multitude of planes and layers from the hips to the upper back and arms. Because of this complex system and order of activation and action of muscles, resistance training movements, such as medicine ball throws, should be used for training baseball players. Throwing movements are often in the oblique plane progressing forward and downward across the body. For baseball players, medicine ball exercises that focus on this direction of movement, such as an overhead diagonal throw, are beneficial. Medicine ball training is a supplemental component of a training program and should be integrated as part of a periodized progressive resistance training program to optimize strength and power gains (5). In order to improve bat swing velocity, strength training should emphasize multi-joint leg exercises and explosive hip and torso rotational strength. To hit a ball hard or far requires not only good eye hand coordination and timing, but also explosive hip and shoulder rotation to generate bat velocity. In order to develop bat velocity, baseball players need to develop power. Results suggest that one way to enhance bat swing velocity of high school baseball players is to develop sport-specific, sequential, ballistic torso rotational strength by using medicine balls (16). The body’s core muscles have a criss-cross design. They wrap around the trunk of the body and are perfectly designed for rotating the hips and shoulders in an opposite direction. This diagonal pattern allows the hips to lead and the shoulder to follow in many ground-based activities such as throwing and batting (14). To that degree, medicine ball training is sport-specific in the sense that the velocity and range of motion of the movement can be manipulated to train the rotational power necessary for athletes (1).
Development of Linear Speed
Lower body explosiveness is critical to baseball, a sport in which fast lower body movements must be constantly made both in the field and at the plate. Jumping and sprinting use largely the same muscle groups with the same actions and explosive movement. It is not merely coincidence that many above average jumpers are also above average sprinters. Baseball is a game of inches. It cannot be predicted when that extra 2 inches will be needed to help win the game, but it will inevitably occur at a pivotal moment. Those 2 inches could not only mean the difference between out and safe, but win and lose, and championships and defeat (6). The fastest baseball players are able to accelerate rapidly and reach their top speed quickly. High running velocity and acceleration are important performance attributes for baseball players. Regardless of position, all the players accelerate maximally on the base path, approximately 3–4 times per game. This suggests that pure acceleration may be the most important trainable physical attribute if coaches desire to increase the game specific speed of their players (4). Development of acceleration must first be established through improving maximal force output and rate of force development. A fundamental relationship exists between strength and power that dictates an athlete cannot possess a high level of power without first being relatively strong (7). The more force an athlete can apply into the ground, the faster they can run, jump, and change direction (8). Volt institutes a progressive strength development program that focuses on maximizing force output and it’s translation into power and speed based movements.
Volt understands the variation in training that must accommodate the increased throwing volume associated with pitchers. Baseball pitching involves optimally coordinating movements of the upper extremity, trunk, and lower extremity to produce maximum ball velocity. The data indicates a high demand for lower extremity strength and endurance. Volt specifically incorporates a greater volume unilateral and bilateral lower extremity accessory training to facilitate dynamic stabilization of the lower extremities during the pitching motion. It has been suggested that improvements in lower extremity muscular strength levels may lead to improvements in pitching velocity. In effect, momentum generated from lower extremity musculature is a critical contributor to pitching velocity. When discussing the importance of the data from an injury perspective, the high muscle activity levels (both unilaterally and bilaterally), in conjunction with the high unilateral loading joint loading and extreme ranges of motion in the lower extremities, indicate that pitchers need to have sufficient levels of lower extremity strength and endurance to limit muscle strains and repetitive joint injuries. Data from this study provide strength and conditioning professionals more definitive evidence for the importance of lower extremity muscular strength and endurance training for pitchers. Specifically, training regimens promoting both bilateral and unilateral lower extremity muscular strength and endurance in multiple planes (similar to the movements in pitching) are critical to address the specific demands of the pitching motion (3). Translating that strength into improved rate of force development will set a foundation for the improvement in throwing ability. Both throwing accuracy and throwing velocity are critical for being a competitive and qualitative pitcher. It is recommended that baseball pitchers train for improvement of power (13).
Injury Prevention Methods
Upper extremity injuries are responsible for 75% of total time lost because of injury in collegiate baseball players with rotator cuff tendinitis being the most common injury. Imbalance of the eccentrically-activated external rotator cuff muscles versus the concentrically-activated internal rotator cuff muscles is a primary risk factor for glenohumeral joint injuries in baseball players. Baseball players typically have stronger internal rotator cuffs compared to external rotator cuffs. This is due to the amount of concentric actions a baseball player performs while throwing a baseball throughout the season. A program that is focused on strengthening the external rotator cuff successfully reduces shoulder rotator cuff imbalances (11). The Volt Baseball Program focuses on strengthening the external rotator cuffs in order to combat this shoulder dysfunction found in many baseball players.
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