Baseball Core Conditioning

Baseball Core Conditioning

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Baseball is a dynamic sport that requires participants to produce extremely high levels of power throughout the entire kinetic chain. They need to do this in order to properly play the game. Even though the end result of throwing or hitting a baseball demonstrates the amount of power a baseball player can generate, much of the power produced will be attributed to how stable that players core is.

Core stability in baseball is: the capacity of the muscles (that attach directly to the spine) to assist in maintaining proper body positioning in order for other muscles (that move the arms and legs) to create the necessary power needed to swing a bat or throw a ball. The core can be defined as the entire axial skeleton 360 degrees around. In essence, simply remove someones arms and legs and you will be left with their core.

The reason that core stability plays such an important role in creating the power necessary to throw and hit a baseball, is because when the core is properly stabilized, the muscles that create the dynamic rotation of the shoulder or trunk will have a much more stable platform to generate force from. This increases the power that can be created by the athlete.

When an individuals core is weak and unstable, there will be increased possibilities of faulty movements, or energy leaks to occur throughout their body. When the body has faulty movement patterns, force production will be reduced. The body will compensate and create as much power as it possibly can, but there will be a lower ceiling on the amount of power that can be ultimately developed. Additionally, there will be an increased chance of injury due to a body’s inability to maintain ideal joint positioning.

During the throwing motion, the shoulder goes into extreme external rotation in the cocking phase. This is followed immediately by extreme shoulder internal rotation, after the release of the baseball, in order to create maximum velocity/power. Elite pitchers will rotate their arm up to 8,500 degrees per second from the cocked position to the release position of a pitch. This equates to a pitchers arm spinning around 24 times in a single second (Popular Mechanics). This rapid acceleration and deceleration of glenohumeral joint occurs in unison with the scapula (which is attached to the spine by four muscles). The muscles that attach the scapula to the spine are the serratus anterior, elevator scapulae, rhomboid minor and major. These muscles help to stabilize the scapula and keep the proper biomechanics of the shoulder in order to place the least amount of stress on the soft tissue of the shoulder. When the biomechanics of the scapula are not functioning properly, baseball players and other overhead athletes will commonly get injuries such as shoulder impingement, biceps tendontis, shoulder bursitis, and or rotator cuff strains.

Other injuries that occur commonly in baseball players (that can be avoided by the athlete having optimal core stability) are lower leg injuries. These include anterior knee pain, hamstring, quad, and groin strains, and ACL tears. In addition, when the core is unstable, running biomechanics will be altered. This creates higher levels of ground force reactions that need to be absorbed by placing much higher levels of stress through the body. This then increases the chances of lower leg injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and anterior knee pain.

The sport specific skill of hitting is a unique and explosive activity that requires the hitter to generate enough force to swing a bat that can weigh up to 34 ounces within approximately 150 milliseconds. Depending on the speed of the pitch, the batter will only have approximately 75 milliseconds to decide if they are going to swing at a particular pitch. This sport specific skill happens so incredibly fast that, literally, in the time it takes for a human eye to blink, a batter has to recognize a pitch, decide if they want to swing, and then complete the swing in order to have a chance to successfully hit a pitched ball traveling over 90mph. When a swing is initiated, the body will have to rapidly accelerate the appropriate muscles of the legs, hip, core, and upper body in order to maximize the amount of potential bat head speed. As the large global muscles such as the quadriceps, glutes, external obliques, lats, and forearms fire rapidly to move the bat through the strike zone, there are tremendous forces placed upon the skeletal system as these large muscles fire. If the core is not stable there will be excessive forces placed upon the skeletal system and its connective tissue leading to eventual breakdown and injury. When the muscles that stabilize the core can be activated properly, the global muscles will have a solid platform in order to generate the maximum amount of force possible.

Achieving high levels of core stability is not only important from a sports performance standpoint, it is also vital in decreasing the amount of injuries baseball players can be exposed to due to the repetitive powerful rotational forces placed upon the athletes kinetic chain. Rotational forces are known to have a high correlation to increasing the chances of injury. Focusing on core stability in all planes of motion is one of the key steps in allowing an athlete to perform at high levels while staying injury free.

About author
Marty Miller

Marty Miller

Marty Miller is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) health and fitness educator with more than 20 years experience in sports medicine, performance enhancement and injury prevention. His academic credentials include a BS in Sports Medicine from Canisius College (NY) where he played Division I Lacrosse, a MS in Exercise Science & Injury Prevention from California University of Pennsylvania, and his Doctorate in Health Sciences from AT Still University in Mesa, AZ. Marty is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) with the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), and a Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Specialist (MMASCS).   His career began in professional baseball in 1994 with the Montreal Expos organization, where as a certified athletic trainer in the minor leagues. Marty left the Expos organization after the 1997 season and was later named the Director of Fitness at the BallenIsles Country Club, a five-star golf course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Marty also serves as a Master Instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and Everlast. He travels extensively as a health and fitness subject matter expert for lectures and panel discussions, and is an adjunct faculty member with the California University of Pennsylvania, where he instructs online graduate-level courses in Corrective Exercise/Program Design to physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other healthcare professionals. Miller became the New York Yankees first ever Director of Performance Enhancement in the spring of 2007.  His job was to evaluate and pre-determine musculo-skeletal injuries and place the players on a corrective exercise protocol while continuing their regular strength and conditioning programs. In 2008 Marty joined Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton Florida as their Director of Fitness and Spa Operations.  In 2011 Marty joined Mizner Country Club as their Director of Fitness and Spa operations. Since Marty began at Mizner Country Club it has been recognized as one of America’s Healthiest Club’s, and an Emerald Club of America. Marty’s personal interests include spending time with his 3 boys, training in mixed martial arts where he holds a second degree black belt, education, and working out.

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