Core Concerns

Strengthen your core! Do sit ups, low back extensions, plank until you pass out! WRONG! The core, or mid-section of your body is so super important that this topic cannot be glazed over; how to properly strengthen your core.

The legs get the ball rolling, in a big way, at the on-set of a pitch. If you’re unsure how this happens, go here to learn how to develop leg power. The legs then need to transfer this power to your core.  The entire action of the body is synonymous to a whip.  And this whipping motion can best be seen at the core.

No matter if you teach hip and shoulder separation or not, this happens naturally. If you’re a non-believer; how do you think the body goes from facing laterally (to either 1st or 3rd base) to facing forward? The legs open up first, then the trunk follows suit after the stride leg contacts the ground (in a good representation of it). The amount of separation you get here may directly correlate with how hard you can pitch a baseball.

A study completed in 2006 by Tom House, PhD and the National Pitching Association1 proved that up to 80% of a pitchers velocity comes from hip and shoulder separation. It is important to note that this study was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, and there are methodological concerns (at least from me) that may deem the results of this study invalid. Regardless, House has pushed baseball research in the right direction, and even if the core is not responsible for 80% of pitch velocity, we know that it is responsible for a large portion of it. For if we didn’t have a flexible and powerful mid-section, we couldn’t transfer any power up to the arm, from the legs.

The 4 Components To Strength Train Your Core

Your core needs to be flexible.  There is a great degree of range of motion that occurs at the spine, specifically thoracic extension and rotation, and flexion and rotation with a baseball pitch. The same is true for batting.  You will rarely need to work on flexion and rotation, as this posture is easy to come by throughout our normal day.  Extension and rotation will become limited over the course of a season, and the older you become, because it’s not a posture that we normally assume every day.  If you have good thoracic extension and rotation, you will have great ability to power down into your pitch. Here is a great way to improve thoracic extension and rotation range of motion with a foam roller by one of my colleagues, Mike Reinold.

Your core needs to be strong and somewhat powerful. The core isn’t necessarily a power producer, it’s does a better job transferring power produced by your legs.  As much as your core needs to be flexible, it needs to be able to stiffen up at a moments notice in a sequential fashion, just like when a whip is cracked. This is termed dynamic core stability.  The reason why “planks” are not good for baseball players, or pretty much any athlete is because planks work static core stability; and in sports we move. So we need to have stability dynamically. Great dynamic stability will transfer over to great static core stability, but not the other way around.

Your core is also unique in that it takes a beating over and over again, so it also needs to have great muscular endurance over this wide range of motion.  Your core needs to be the jack-of-all-trades; it needs to be flexible, strong, powerful, and have great muscular endurance to last an entire game.  Here is an example of an exercise that will work all 4 components when you add in progressions. It is called the Torture Twist.

Did you enjoy this article?  Comment below and let me know what you’re thinking about core strength for baseball pitchers. Which exercises do you like best?

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References:

  1. House, T. NPA Velocity Study. (2006) Accessed via .pdf file from the world wide web on 1/5/2013.
  2. Common sense opinions from an expert  :)