Pitching Seminar Annoucement – I am Super Pumped!!!

In one month I have the honor of presenting at this year’s Pitch-a-Palooza hosted by Lantz Wheeler in Nashville, Tennessee.  It is quickly becoming the premiere pitching seminar in all of baseball.

Lantz runs BaseballThinkTank.com which is an incredible resource for pitching information not to mention the fact that he works with some guys that can reach triple digits!!!

think tank

I should have mentioned this earlier but I am busy trying to put a really good presentation together because as you’ll see from the line of speakers below I have some really big shoes to fill.

The line up of speakers is incredible and I am really humbled to be part of it all.  I am just thankful that Lantz stumbled upon this site a couple of years ago and found the information that I’ve presented to be thought provoking and useful.

I am not sure if many people that read this site live in the Nashville area but I would suggest trying to get down there to be a part of this seminar.  If you can’t make it I know that Lantz records the whole thing and sells the DVD’s which would be great since you can watch it over and over again.  Here is where you can get more info on attending or buying the DVD’s.

While I am excited that I get to present I am equally pumped to learn from the other presenters. Here is a list of the presenters along with Lantz Wheeler and myself.  The coaches that I am mentioning are just from the pitching side of things – check out the whole line up here.

Paul Nyman:  the “Godfather” of Modern Day Pitching Mechanics.  This guy is a legend which is why he has gotten the highly coveted “Godfather” status.  Check out his paradigm shifting work at Setpro.com.  Click here to read the “Best of Paul Nyman” on Lantz’s site.

paul

Derek Johnson: pitching coordinator for the Chicago Cubs and former pitching coach at the Baseball Power house known as Vanderbilt University.  Coach Johnson is also the author of the “Complete Guide to Pitching” which is a great resource.

cubsa

Kyle Boddy: probably the biggest pitching nerd out there, I mean this in a good way.  He runs Driveline baseball in Seattle and has pushed me to become bigger and better pitching nerd as well.

driveline

Matt Blake: this guy has my dream job being the pitching coordinator at one of the best gyms in the world, Cressey Performance.  This however happens to only be one of his many baseball related jobs.

cressey

The following college pitching coaches are presenting.  If you don’t know who they are that’s because they are too busy coaching and don’t have as much to write about it and promote themselves.

Scott Brown:  Pitching coach at Vanderbilt University.  Winners of the 2014 NCAA World Series Champion.  Pretty impressive.

vandy

Butch Thompson: Pitching Coach at Mississippi St. University.  Runner up in the College World Series in 2013 and has 25 pitchers in the MLB Baseball.

miss state

Blake Herring:  Pitching Coach at Carson Newman University

carson

Kevin Erminio: Pitching Coach at Kennesaw St. University

kennesaw state

I will be sure to follow up with a re-cap of the seminar with some high lights of what I learnt from this amazing seminar.

Graeme Lehman

Long Toss Part 1 – Does it Strengthen Your Arm ??

Since it has been a long time between writing articles I figured that I owed everyone who reads this site a great series of articles that tackles a hot topic in the baseball world;

LONG TOSS

  • Does long toss strengthen your arm?
  • Will it increase your risk of injury?
  • Does throwing further mean you can throw harder?

These are some of the questions that I hope to shed some light on in this series of articles that is going to be at least 3 parts, maybe more by the time I’m done. Part one will talk about what long toss is and more importantly what it isn’t just so we are all on the same page.   Part two will dive into the research that’s out there on long toss and break it down into Layman’s terms. In the final part I will try to piece everything together and give some of my thoughts about how and when to implement long toss.

So here we go, lets start with what long toss isn’t.

Long Toss is NOT Pitching

Long toss allows you get a running start and throw the ball up at a 45 degree angle.

bafbk

Pitching requires that you have to start from a stationary position and throw the ball at a slight down angle in order to hit the strike zone.

bafkg

Obviously they are different from one another.

The ability to throw the ball far is great because that most likely means that you have the ABILITY to throw hard but that’s only one part of the game.  In order to succeed at any level you need the SKILL to change speeds and pitches while hitting your spots.

Let’s look at golf for example.  Who would you pick to win a round of golf Rory Mcllory or Tim Burke?  For those of you who don’t know Tim Burke, he is the 2013 long drive world champion and he can drive the ball 427 yards!!!

Rory only averages 310 yards which isn’t bad (3rd on tour) but it’s over a 100 yards shy of Mr. Burke. The problem for Tim Burke is that they are competing in golf and not a long drive competition which is why I would pick Mcllory to win in a head to head battle.  Golf requires a lot more than just a long drive.  Being long off the tee certainly helps but as the saying goes “you drive for show and put for dough”.  With pitching our putting is hitting spots while mixing speeds and pitches.  After all just look at what happened to Happy Gilmore in one of the best movies of all time.  Once he worked on his short game he was able to defeat the evil Shooter McGavin and win back his grandmother’s house.

gilmore

Both you and your pitching coach need to figure out where your strength’s and weakness’ as pitcher are in order to figure what you should be doing more of in order to succeed on the mound.  Just because you can throw far doesn’t mean you know how to pitch.

Why Are You Long Tossing?

If you ask this question to any player you’re probably going to get this answer:

I am trying to strengthen my arm!!!

Anytime we talk about strength we should be talking to the experts: strength coaches.  In an ideal world long toss is where there should be some overlap between the pitching coach and the strength coach.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be both which gives me a unique perspective on the subject.

Since we have heard many pitching coaches give us their thoughts on long toss I thought I would take more of a strength coach approach to the subject.

Long Toss is Just a Tool

If someone wants me to help improve their throwing velocity I do a full assessment and then I use my training tools according to the athletes needs in order to achieve this goal.  There are plenty of tools out there to help improve throwing velocity like weight training, stretching, weighted balls, long toss and plyometrics to name a few.  The secret of good coaching and improving throwing velocity is to know what tool you should be using because there is no one size fits all approach.  You also need to know how to properly use each tool otherwise you might get hurt.

Thanks to the work of Alan Jaeger long toss has become an extremely popular tool in recent years and when anything becomes popular enough there are going to be people that try to tear it down and we end up with a pendulum effect.

pendulum

This is a term I learnt from the strength & conditioning world because there always seems to a new training tool or philosophy that burst onto the scene and becomes very popular.  Think of things like high intensity interval training (HIIT), Swiss Balls, Kettlebells or any other fitness related product that you might have seen on an infomercial .  Some tools become so popular that trainers will only use this one particular tool for their entire workout.  Following a certain period of popularity there is usually a back lash that may or may not be driven by some type of research that denounces this particular tool and its supposed benefits.  Trainers and athletes then stop using this tool all together.

After a while the pendulum stops swinging back and forth and the tool in question finds its resting place.  Smart strength coaches however recognize that every tool has its purpose and it become part of their arsenal and will use this tool when the situation calls for it.   Good coaches have big tools boxes and know exactly when and how to use each one.

As far as tools go long toss is pretty powerful and can provide benefits all by itself but when it is used in conjunction with others tools like weight training and mobility training the results can be even better.  We have to realize that there are a lot of tools out there at our disposal and it is our job as coaches to select the right one.

If all you know is long toss it’s like being a handy man that only knows how to use a hammer and if you only know how to use a hammer everything starts to look like a nail.  This means that players are sometimes forced into long tossing when another tool might be a better fit for the job.

hammer

Not the Right Tool for the Job!!!

Long Toss is a Form of Exercise

As a strength coach I have a lot of tools in the form of exercises to get the job done.  Exercises can be classified into one of three categories depending on their intended effect on the neuromuscular system according to Dan Baker (a very smart Australian Strength Coach).

  1. General Exercises
  2. Special Exercises
  3. Specific Exercises

So what kind of exercise is long toss? To answer that lets look at these three categories in greater detail.

1. General exercises are those that we most commonly associated with the weight room and their goal is to increase the maximal force producing capabilities of the muscles that we need to throw.  We need strong legs to throw hard so exercises like lunges and squats can be classified as “general”.  This category has the biggest selection of exercises to choose from and because of that we must look at the risk vs. reward aspect of every exercise we select in order to maximize our training time in the weight room.

deadlift

“Generally” Speaking this is a great exercise!!!

2. Special exercises are more closely related to the actual athletic act and can be thought of as exercises that convert strength into power.  For throwing its exercises that might include jumping or med ball throws.  While there are a lot of exercises in this category we have to select those that have a chance of producing some type of carry over from the weight room to the mound – this was basically the subject of my master’s thesis.

mb toss

Just like with general exercises we have to weigh the risk vs reward aspects of each exercise.  Olympic weight lifting is an exercise that would fall under this “special” category.  As a player or coach you have to ask yourself if the risk of hurting your wrists and elbows along with the time needed to learn the Olympic lifts PROPERLY out weight the potential increase in force production that you would gain.

3. Specific exercises are similar in specific motor pattern, muscle recruitment, temporal sequencing and firing frequency to the actual act of throwing a baseball.  Long toss would fall under this category as would weighted ball throwing.  The amount of exercises that fall under the “specific” category are limited and as result they tend to get used a lot.

Great throwing programs use tools from all three categories and they are designed to work off of each other.  The strength you build with the general exercises is converted into power with the special exercises and then that power needs to be displayed in a specific manner to the pitching act which is where specific exercises come in.

Now that we know that long toss is just a tool/exercise that we can use to improve our throwing velocity we need to learn:

  • Who needs it?
  • When to use it?
  • How to use it?
  • How often to use it?

I hope to answer these questions in part three but before we do that we have to look at the actual research that has been done in the area of long toss in order to gather as much information as we can before trying to answer these types of questions.

Sincerely,

Graeme Lehman

Lehman’s Baseball Update

After years of neglect I have finally taken the time to organize this site and make it more manageable for anyone who wants to read these nerdy exercise science/baseball articles that I’ve accumulated over the last 4 years. At the top of the page you’ll find a menu that has organized most of my posts into nice and neat categories.  These topics represent what I’ve spend the most time studying and might want one day research so more than anything I needed to restructure the site for myself to try to keep most of my thoughts organized in one place.

Mechanics & Velocity: This page is where I’ve organized all of my articles about throwing hard.  Most of the articles are related to research papers that I try to translate into “Lehman’s Terms” so that coaches and players can understand and benefit from this great information.

Baseball Athletic Testing: I’ve added another page at the top dedicated to the testing of baseball players.  I’ve had a ton of interest on this subject ranging from MLB teams and Division I NCAA school’s to high school. It’s by far my most popular subject and I’m evening thinking of trying to clean it up (by this I mean adding in some more references) and try to get it published and sent out to more coaches since I think that this information is important and needs to get out there. I’d like to thank those that have sent back some of their testing numbers

PAP (Post Activation Potentiation): While I’ve only written one article about this subject I have studied it a lot.  When I originally started my master’s program I had the idea of doing some research about how this exercise physiology phenomenon could help baseball players improve their performance.  I even went so far as to write a literature review which I’ve posted up on this page so if you are really keen on the geekier side of exercise science you might want to check it out.

Rotator Cuff:The largest series of posts on this site explored the rotator cuff.  It goes into a lot of detail about this group of muscles that every baseball player has heard of but very few know and understand how it works.

I’ve got another topic in the works but it is a topic that I have only recently started to study so the articles are coming but I am very excited to jump into this rabbit whole because I think it has the most potential to help young players get better and benefit from the type of information that you can find on this site.

I hope that you enjoy the new user friendly layout of the site and I am looking forward to contributing more material in the near future.

Sincerely,

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS,

 

Wanna Get Drafted Out of High School? Here are the physical stats of players that did. How do you compare??

The purpose of this article is to give young baseball players an idea of just how athletic they need to be in order to play professional baseball.  While you might of heard about how big and strong major league players are you don’t often hear how strong they were when they got drafted as teenagers.  Use these numbers as a goal to work towards in the weight room and on the field.

scouts

How Fast and Strong do you need to be to grab their attention?

Below you will see how athletic profile of players of all between the ages of 16 and 19 in either Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets or Texas Rangers between 2005-2010.  Its even broken down into position players and pitchers.  See below for the actual reference.

So perform these same tests and see how your performance ranks compared to these athletes that have reached the same goal you are trying to achieve.

Athletic Profile of Professional Position Players – Ages (16-19)

jurikson

The very young and very athletic Jurickson Profar

Atheltic   Profile of Professional Position Players Ages 16-19
Weight (lbs) Weight (kg) Lean Body Mass (kg) %Body Fat
Body Weight & Fat 196.7 89.4 79.3 10.8
Jump (inches) Jump (cm) Peak Power (watts) Mean Avg (Watts)
Vertical Jump 27.2 69.0 10410.0 2128.0
Time (sec) Speed (m/s) Kinetic Energy (J)
Pro-Agility 4.45 4.11 754.3
Time (sec) Speed (m/s) Kinetic Energy (J)
10 Yard Dash 1.65 5.54 13171.6
Strength (kg) Time
Grip Strength 50.6 300 Yard Shuttle 51.7

Athletic Profile of Professional Pitchers Ages 16-19

homer

The Powerful Homer Bailey – Drafted out of High School

Atheltic   Profile of Professional Pitchers Ages 16-19
Weight (lbs) Weight (kg) Lean Body Mass (kg) %Body Fat
Body Weight & Fat 201.3 91.5 80.6 11.7
Jump (inches) Jump (cm) Peak Power (watts) Mean Avg (Watts)
Vertical Jump 26.3 66.8 10342.0 2129.0
Time (sec) Speed (m/s) Kinetic Energy (J)
Pro-Agility 4.68 3.91 698.0
Strength (kg) Time
Grip Strength 50.5 300 Yard Shuttle 51.6

Below you will find out how to complete all of these tests to get your own numbers.  Again us these numbers as a starting point and the numbers you see in these charts can serve as your goal.

Print these charts out and put them up in your gym to remind yourself of how hard you need to train in order to improve your physical tools in order to improve your chances of getting drafted as a teenager.

The Tests

Body Weight and Body Fat: stepping on a scale to see how heavy you are is easy enough but it would be nice to know how much of that weight is fat and how much of it is lean muscle mass.   Having a lot of body weight is a good thing because it allows you to generate more energy which you can transfer into the ball when you throw or hit.  But if that body weight is high because of fat you can’t generate the kind of speed needed to succeed in the game of baseball.

Try to find someone who is skilled using body fat calipers.  You can get them to measure your thigh, stomach and chest for body fat then plug into in the Jackson-Pollack 3 body fat formula which is the formula used in the study where I got these numbers.

10 Yard Dash: Due to the short amount of time and distance is does make it a bite harder to accurately time the 10 yard dash.  If you have access to laser gate timers then go for it.  If not use a stop watch.  If coaches can accurately measure a catcher’s pop time they can get a 10 yard dash time.  If your wondering why a 10 yard dash and not a 60 yard dash then click here to read about why acceleration is so important. http://lehmansbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/accelerate-your-game-how-to-improve-your-game-speed/

By looking at the combination of your 10 yard dash time and your body weight we can easily figure out how much energy you are creating.  Remember how I mentioned above how important body weight was in creating momentum?  If you are big and can run well then you create a lot of energy that can be used with a either a bat or ball in your hand.  Pitchers for whatever reason didn’t perform the 10 yard dash.

To calculate your speed and the amount of energy you create follow the these calculations

  1. To get Speed in terms of meters per second take the number 9.41 and divide by your 10 yard dash time.  (10 yards = 9.41 meters)
  2. Divide your body weight by 2.
  3. Take your speed number (step 1) and square it.
  4. Multiply the numbers you got from step 2 and 3 together to get your final kinetic energy factor number in Joules.

To learn more about importance of kinetic energy check out this article: http://lehmansbaseball.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/the-big-league-athlete-combine-how-to-better-test-for-baseball-playing-ability/

Pro-Agility: Again this test places an emphasis on short burst of acceleration, 3 of them to be exact.  The athlete must also show how well they can decelerate which takes a lot of strength and coordination.  If we apply the same the equation that we did for the ten yard dash then we can get reading on how much power is being produced with the momentum that each athete creates based on their speed and mass.  The only difference is that take the number 18.82 and have to divided the number of seconds it took you to complete the test.

pro agility

Vertical Jump: Once you get your vertical jump score in centimeters we can plug that into a formula along with your body weight in kilograms to calculate the amount of power you produce.  You will get two different scores both of which are measured in Watts which is a unit of power.  The “Peak Power” score tells you how much power you created during the take off while the “Average Mean” score is how much power you averaged for the entire jump.  They are different but both important because they have been shown to predict power numbers for hitters such as home runs and slugging percentage.

To learn more about the importance of jumping power in baseball read this article: http://lehmansbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/why-jumping-is-important-for-baseball-players/

Peak Power Equation = (61.9*cm)+(36*kg)+1822

Mean Average Power = (21.2*cm)+(23*kg)-1393

300 yard shuttle: Pretty easy to set up but not much fun to do.  Set up two cones 25 yards apart.  Run to one cone and then back to the first cone to complete one round of 50 yards.  Repeat that five more times for a total of 6 in order to run 300 yards.  Rest for 5 minutes then run it again.  Take the average of the two as your score.

Hand Grip:  For this test you need to get your hands on a hand grip dynamometer.  Pun intended.  Ideally it is made from the good people at Jamar because that is the brand they used in this study.

The Study: 

Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Frangala MS, Vazquez J, Krause MC, GillettJ and Pichardo N.  Effects of age on anthropometric and physical performance measures in professional baseball players.  Strength Cond Res. 2013 Feb; 27(2); 375-81

Sincerely,

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

Part 2 – Arm Slot and Trunk Tilt

Quick recap of Part 1 since I wrote it 3+ months ago.  This article talked about a study which reported that pitchers who threw with excessive contralateral tilt could produce more velocity than those who didn’t tilt as much.  This extra velocity came with a price which was more joint forces at the elbow and shoulder which could lead to an injury.  The amount that each pitcher tilt’s is going to dictate which arm slot they use since the arm should always be at 90100 degree angle from the trunk in order to maximize force and minimize injuries.

Part 2 will look at tilit, arm slots and postures but before we get started on part 2 I wanted to give you my top 4 excuses that it took me so longer to write this piece:

  1. Took a two week vacation with my wife to Peru
  2. The off-season is my busy time of year working with baseball players
  3. I moved to Kelowna from Vancouver (about 400km/250 miles apart) – started a new job as a strength coach and I am starting to work with some local baseball teams.  Both of which I am very excited about.
  4. The more I thought about this subject I started to think of more topics to discuss which is why this will turn into a three part series.

Picking Your Arm Slot

Based on the information from Part 1 it looks like throwing with more of an over the top arm slot which requires excessive contralateral tilt allows you to throw harder.  Even with the extra stress on the elbow and shoulder I think that most pitchers would be willing to take that risk in order to throw harder.

However each pitcher must select the arm slot that allows for the best chance at success since there is more to pitching than throwing velocity. Velocity is VERY VERY VERY important but it is still a only one piece of the pitching puzzle.

Some pitchers select their arm slot because it allows for more accuracy and/or movement even if it doesn’t allow for optimal velocity.  This a choice each pitcher and pitching coach has to make.  A lot of MLB organizations will take some of their pitchers and get them to throw with different arm slots that aren’t as common in order to increase their effectiveness and become a specialist out of the bullpen.  These are pitchers that have enough ability to play professional baseball but are maybe lacking a bit of velocity or skill to make it as a “normal” thrower.

images

Lefty Specialist with No Trunk Tilt

Considerations when Measuring Tilt

The authors of the study determined the amount of tilt each pitcher had based on the position of their head in relation to the landing foot at the point of maximum external rotation.  I loved that the researchers provided us with an easy to use tool that just about anybody can use.  Simple and non-complicated tools are great but I wanted to bring up a couple of points that we should consider before we start to classify our pitcher and their tilt.

Landing Foot Placement

If we measure tilt based on the head position in relation to the landing foot then we should look at where the foot is landing. If you land with either an “open” or “closed” position this is going to change the amount of tilt that you display since the foot is the reference point from which measure.  A righty that lands in an “open” position towards first base and still display’s tilt is going to be different than a pitch you lands with their foot in a straight towards their target.  Landing position is a topic for another article all together but just be sure to make note of it as well as tilt.

images (1)

Where’s this Tilt coming from? 

Knowing how much tilt a pitcher has is great but the term “trunk tilt” is a little too general.  The term “trunk” here refers to our spine which runs all the way from the base of our skull to our hips.  Because this structure is so long we need to figure out where exactly the tilt is coming from.  

spine

The parts of the spine that we really need to consider are the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.  The other regions of the spine (sacral and coccygeal) don’t provide any movement so we know that we aren’t getting tilt from here and if you are you’ve got bigger problems.

The reason that I am getting into more detail is that some portions of our spine are made to move and tilt more than others.  This steams from a concept I’ve come to learn and appreciate from my job as a strength and conditioning coach.  The concept is called the Join-by-Joint theory and it stresses how each joint in the body is designed primarily for either mobility or stability.  In reality each joint has some mobility and some stability but the amount of each is definitely not 50/50,  if a joint has a lot of mobility it will lack stability and vice versa. Look at the shoulder joint for example.  It is probably the most mobile joint in the body but because of that it is very unstable which is why we spend so much time working on shoulder stability exercises. 

joint by joint

Lumbar Region

If you look at the picture above you’ll see that the lumbar spine in red is labelled as a “stability” joint which means that we shouldn’t be getting much of our tilt from this area.  If you look at the muscles associated with the lumbar area you would find the “core” muscles and their role during the throwing motion is to transfer energy created from the lower body and funnel it towards the upper body.  Higher levels of stability here will allow a more efficient energy transfer which leads to higher throwing velocity.

Tilting from the lumbar would compromise its stability due to the fact that you are asking it to be mobile and not only will it decrease the amount of energy you can transfer (energy leak) but you’ll be placing yourself at a higher risk of injury when you ask a joint to do something that it isn’t designed to do.

Thoracic Region

Moving up the chain to the thoracic spine we find that it is labelled as a mobile joint.  The term mobile here is relative because their isn’t a ton of movement between the vertebra of the thoracic spine but in comparison to the other segments of the spine they are mobile.  The importance of T-Spine mobility is a topic that has been covered before however it’s importance is usually stressed in either the sagittal and transverse plane and not so much the frontal plane.

Sagittal mobility is important because most of our daily activities have us sitting down which increases the likelihood of you hunching forward which compromises our ability to extend. This ability to extend helps amplify the amount of external rotation you get at the shoulder joint which can lead to faster fastball’s. Transverse mobility through the t-spine can buy you some extra degrees of hip and shoulder separation which can also lead to, you guessed it, harder throwing ability.

When we look at tilt however we are looking at frontal plane mobility which looks to be important as well if you want to throw with a high arm slot.

download

Great Tri-Planar T-Spine Mobility Drill for those how lack it.
Be sure to not to move through your lumbar spine here – keep those hips steady!!!

Cervical Region

Moving further up the spine we find the region called the cervical which is labelled as a stable joint.  While our neck can move quite a bit (think of nodding your head in a “yes” fashion up and down as well as a “no” fashion going side to side) all of this mobility is coming from 2 of the 7 cervical vertebra.  These two vertebra are called atlas and axis and are specifically designed for these movements.  The remaining five don’t provide much mobility at all and are thus designed for stability. We don’t end up using this stability to transfer energy like we did with the lumbar stability because we have transferred that energy out towards our shoulder and elbow joints ultimately ending with the wrist and finally the baseball.

This lack of mobility means that the cervical spine is going follow the thoracic spine so if your trunk is tilted there’s a good chance that your head will be tilted too.  The implications of this are that if your head is tilted this means that your eyes are going to be tilted too.  This non-level eye sight line might make hitting your target a little tougher but with a lot of practice talented pitchers can make this adjustment. Especially if it means more velocity.

bauer tilt

Tilted Trunk = Tilted Head = Tilted Eye Sight

Part Three will dive it the rotation vs linear power talk and discuss what type of tilt might be best for you.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

 

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