Monday, August 29, 2011

Center of Mass in Hitting

I continue to hear arguments to where the weight of a player should be when they hit a baseball, is it out front is it back. The problem as I see it is not where it is from a philosophical stand point but from a scientific stand point. Can we determine where the weight should be based on biomechanics? Let’s take a look at a picture.

I made a few dots to look at an approximate location of the center of mass, they are in orange. The first dot is where the COM basically started and just after the point of impact the COM has moved back. So the COM is behind the front foot, but the majority of the player’s weight is being supported by the front foot as seen in the picture. So here is the contradiction that gets a lot of coaches and players. We want our weight back, but want it on our front foot. This is where a biomechanical explanation can help. In human movement the center of mass

ybe outside the players body and just because the weight of the player is supported by an arm or leg does not mean that is where the weight really lies. I hope that didn’t muddy the water. Just look at the picture, and then take a look at a few more pictures and in the majority of players that are at an elite level you will notice a trend. The trend will be that the COM is behind the front foot, no matter the distribution of the weight in the feet. Teaching a hitter how to control their Center of Mass both in the Performance Training Arena as well as while performing skills will increase the player’s awareness in space and increase cross over to the field.
I have included a variation of an exercise that is highly COM demanding that can increase a player’s power for hitting and lateral movement. The variation is a speed skater movement added to a lateral box hop. As you can see from the picture the players COM is probably outside the body, the weight is on one foot and moving in a lateral direction. If the players weight gets over the foot or drifts over the foot the player looses balance, just like in hitting a baseball. If the player drifts the player in most cases cant stay balanced which decreases his chances to hit.

Have fun with the exercise and take a look at those pictures and start looking at it from a scientific position and many times the problem will take care of it self.

Brian Niswender MA
Co-Founder Baseball Strength Coaching .com

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ingredient Caution: What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

Recently two elite level athletes tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, (Former American 100 Meter champion Michael Rodgers and Robert Kendrick, American tennis player) a stimulant that is now being put in energy drinks and energy pills for its amphetamine-like affects. 1, 2 Dimethylpentylamine or DMAA, is a potentially dangerous supplement ingredient that comes from a well-known flower---the geranium. The active form of geranium is a potent stimulant that can cause serious health effects like heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and possible heart attacks. It acts similar to ephedra, (now banned) another stimulant partly responsible for the sudden death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler in 2003, from heat stroke.

Last year the World Anti Doping Agency added Geranimine to its list of banned substances. Geranimine gives an adrenaline “rush” that lasts 3-5 hours. Next generation energy drinks (one named Clear Shot) and other dietary supplements like “fat burners” (AMP by E-Pharm) that are marketed to increase concentration and performance, contain this stimulant---often listed as geranium seed or stems on the label. Some energy pills and “party pills” also contain the stimulant and added caffeine, as well. Most of the products out there combine it with caffeine to produce a stacking effect that can potentially be lethal in certain situations. In high temperatures or heat indexes, the dehydrating effect of this combination could have serious health effects for an athlete.

The average high school or collegiate athlete, or any consumer for that matter, would have no idea that this ingredient is powerful and dangerous----especially when taken with alcohol or other prescription drugs. Coaches and trainers working with athletes need to ask athletes on a regular basis what supplements they are taking---or considering taking----and caution them on taking anything that advertises more energy, fat burning or better performance. The safest and most effective way to improve health, energy and performance is via whole fresh foods. And more enjoyable, too!

Kim Larson, RD, CD
Total Health
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Monday, August 15, 2011

Minimizing the Risk of Injury in Little League Players

It’s that special time of the summer again when young players flock to Williamsport, Pennsylvania in search of the Little League World Series Championship. Watching the games on television, you can’t help but notice the young pitchers and pay attention to how many pitches they throw and the types of pitches they throw. At the youth level, it seems that the pitchers who excel are the ones who are able to learn to throw a breaking ball. At that age, it is difficult for the hitter to recognize and hit that pitch. So, often the pitcher uses the curveball or slider frequently. Recently, in the media, there has been a lot of discussion regarding overuse injuries of the youth pitcher. The conventional wisdom was that throwing the curveball at too early an age would lead to injury in the young pitcher. However, research done by several authors in the past couple of years contradicts that idea.

A couple of studies done by The American Sports Medicine Institute (Birmingham, AL) and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (Farmington, CT) were done to evaluate and compare the biomechanical differences between the fastball, curveball, and change-up pitches. Both studies demonstrated that the stresses to the shoulder and elbow joint were greatest when throwing a fastball as compared to the other types of pitches. The authors concluded that throwing the curveball may not be responsible for the rising injury toll in young pitchers.

So, if it’s not the type of pitch, then what is responsible for what seems like an epidemic of shoulder and elbow injuries in the young baseball athlete? The answer, yet again, may come from research done at ASMI in Birmingham, Alabama. Three main risk factors seem to be more responsible for contributing to a young pitcher’s development of pain and injury: Improper Mechanics, Fatigue, and Overuse.

Improper Mechanics

I’ve wrote about this area in many of my articles and blogs, but it bears repeating again. The overhead pitching motion is a fine-tuned sequence of movements in body segments originating from the lower extremities and pelvis, progressing through the trunk, and culminating in the smaller, less powerful upper extremity structures. The better and more efficient the thrower’s mechanics, the better the chances of reducing stresses on the shoulder and elbow. Mechanical faults that alter the timing of the sequencing of events or place the body in an improper position can result in increased upper extremity forces and torques. These increases in joint stresses can lead to an increase in subsequent risk of injury. Even though the curveball, by evidence of research, is less stress full on the elbow and shoulder than the fastball, the pitch should still be taught by a qualified pitching instructor. Too often, a volunteer coach or parent attempts to introduce the breaking ball to a young pitcher. Without proper knowledge of the pitching motion and the specific grips and key teaching points, the athlete may learn incorrect technique which may surely elevate his risk of potential problems.


The ASMI study notes that young athletes who pitch with arm fatigue or throw more than 85 pitches per game are more likely to require elbow surgery. Younger, less experienced pitchers are unable to maintain their accuracy or level of performance as they become fatigued. The fine-tuned chain of events necessary to execute the throwing motion is altered and creates timing delays and compensations in movement and muscle activation patterns which may ultimately result in an increased risk of injury. Fortunately, many youth baseball programs have adopted limits on pitch counts per outing and mandated specific lengths of rest prior to returning to the mound.


Along with the number of pitches per outing, the length of a young player’s “season” also impacts his risk of potential shoulder or elbow injury. Adolescents who pitch more than 8 months out of the year are also several more times likely to require arm surgery. 8 months out of the year?! This seems absurd to me. The Major League Regular Season is only 7 months long and these are mature, seasoned, developed, and conditioned pitchers. If you enjoy playing baseball, that is fantastic! It is a great game. But as a youngster, go out and play other sports too. Learn how to move, run, cut, jump. Develop your overall athleticism. As you get older, then you can begin to focus on a sport that best suits your talents. If it’s baseball and pitching, then having a better foundation of athleticism can only help you.

The moral of the story is that if your son is going to throw the curveball, he should learn how to throw it correctly. It is important to learn how to identify when he is beginning to tire and be sure to allow for adequate rest and recovery between outings. Finally, avoid overuse by allowing your young player to become a multi-sport athlete. This will allow the body physically and mentally rest from the repetitive stresses of baseball and help to develop a better physical foundation for athletic performance.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Approaches to Core Training

As an incoming college freshman, I was sent a manual through the mail with my football team’s workouts for the summer ahead. The manual was about 75 pages of mostly strength routines and information about the testing we would undergo once we arrived for pre-season training camp. The only core routines were hand-jotted at the bottom of the typed lifting program sheets, on a single line reading, “Abs: 250 reps”. Even at 18 years old, with no formal training in exercise, I remember thinking... Gosh, there’s got to be more to it than that!

What Are the Goals of Core Training?

As with every area of strength and conditioning, the common answer, “To Enhance Performance, and Prevent Injury” applies here. A performance goal of core training is to strengthen and support the middle of the body for improved coordination of the body as a whole. Many coaches aim to prevent injury by adding support to the mid-section’s structural beam, the lumbar spine, by using draw-in and bracing techniques, emphasizing stability exercises (i.e. planks), and ensuring that training does not compromise the natural anatomical arch of the low back. Other considerations may include improving hip mobility or scapulothoracic stability, depending upon how broadly the core is defined in your program.

A Movement Balanced Approach

This approach is about being anatomically balanced in all movement planes. Historically, exercise menus of various sit-ups, crunches, and twists have focused on building the endurance of the abdominal and oblique muscles. The erector spine, quadratus lumborum, and transverse abdominis, for example, have been more often neglected by traditional core routines. There are a few ways to create balanced core routines, either by incorporating all movements of the torso into each core program, or by equally dividing the movements throughout the training week. Here is a list of core movements to build exercise menus upon:

o Flexion: (e.g. Sit-Ups)
o Extension: (e.g. Superman)
o Lateral Flexion and Extension: (e.g. Side Plank Hip Lift)
o Rotation: (e.g. Medicine Ball Side Tosses)
o Low Back Support: (e.g. Supine Dead Bug Progressions)
o Hip Mobility: (e.g. Quadruped Hip Abduction)
o Scapulothoracic Stability: (e.g. Front Plank Scapula Pinch)

The goal is to diversify the types of core exercises being performed, as no one method of core training has been deemed most beneficial in scientific literature.

Rotational Core Training:

There are two predominant approaches to rotational core training: (1) Rotational Power-Endurance, and (2) Anti-Rotation. Rotational power-endurance exercises are dynamic in nature and most often include twisting movements using resistance. Some examples include medicine ball (MB) side tosses, MB standing torso rotations, “Russian twists”, and supine “knee-up” low trunk rotations.

Anti-rotation, or rotational stability, exercises include stability movements of the torso against rotational forces created from the momentum of the limbs. Common examples include, Grey Cook’s kneeling chop and lift exercises (from his menu of FMS corrective exercises), Convertaball twists, cable core presses, and Keiser push-pulls combinations.

What’s the difference… Rotation vs. Anti-Rotation? Rotational exercises train the concentric and eccentric nature of the twisting torso, while anti-rotation exercises are focused at stabilizing the rotation of the spine to best maintain the upright posture of the body. For example, there are anti-rotational elements to many functional single limb weightroom exercises (i.e. one-leg squats or deadlifts, lunges, one-arm presses, etc.). While rotational power-endurance exercises (i.e. MB throws) are excellent to develop rotational range of motion and explosiveness, developing anti-rotational stability should first be addressed to ensure the body can handle the force production of repetitive twisting.

Eric McMahon, M.Ed., RSCC
Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach
Texas Rangers