Why and How Strength Training Is Benefitial To Velocity and Power Gains in Baseball and Can Improve your Running Speed
I honestly never thought I would need to write an article about this, but it still seems that the benefits of strength training and pitching/hitting and running are still not universally understood. So, here I go. Here is a breakdown of why strength training is important. To fully understand this, you must understand what occurs during rotational movements, fully grasp the planes of motion involved with rotational movements, and lastly, know why improved ground force application improves running speed.
What Occurs During Rotational Movements?
Rotational movements are frontal before they become transverse
The frontal plane is the plane involving lateral (side to side) movements. While throwing or swinging are identified as transverse (rotational) movements, they also involve a frontal component before any rotation takes place. As a result, I like to break down these movements in two phases: the frontal movement portion and the transverse (rotational) component. Basically, any lateral loading in a throw or a swing takes place in the frontal plane, and this makes ability to place force into the frontal plane very crucial.
When it comes to loading weight laterally, there are some simple physics involved. As Newton’s Third Law of motion states: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Basically, any force we apply into a load or lateral movement reproduces an equivalent force in the opposing frontal direction. Think of it this way. A pitcher comes into his windup (placing force frontally into the ground on his back leg). This force exerts back in the opposite frontal direction towards the catcher (for a pitcher) or towards the ball/pitcher (for a hitter). Applying common sense would tell us that the stronger a baseball player’s lower half is (specifically in exerting force into the ground), the better they would be in using their lower half to generate power for swinging and throwing. Cue the deadlifts and lunges/split squats. Oh, and do not be afraid to throw in side lunges and other frontally loaded strength movements!!
Breakdown of Tangent Force and how it contributes to torque creation/rotational power
After the body frontally loads, rotation takes place. Newton’s third law also applies here. Torque is the initial movement required to produce rotation. The greater the force perpendicular to the axis upon which something rotates, the greater the torque needed to produce rotation. Essentially, if a pitcher rotates into their initial frontal load, their hip is the axis point upon which they are rotating. Core strength anteriorly (in front of the body) is what resists this rotation and will require more torque be placed to cause rotation. As we now know thanks to Newton’s third law, higher forces placed into torque will produce higher forces back into rotation.
Re-direction of ground forces up the kinetic chain once lead leg plants
After rotation begins and energy has been frontally loaded and begins to transfer in the opposing direction, the lead leg needs to be firm and strong to absorb ground forces and direct them back up the kinetic chain to finish off with a powerful and explosive rotation! Eccentric training (the negative or lowering portion of an exercise) can help improve the ability to absorb forces and re-direct them back up the legs and into the torso for an explosive rotational movement. If we take a look at Newton’s First Law, we can understand this even better. Newton’s First Law states: “an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Essentially, think of the lead leg like a seatbelt in a car. If you crash your car and are not wearing a seatbelt, you will continue to move in the direction the car was heading and fly through your windshield. The seat belt is the force that stops your forward motion. Similarly, the lead leg acts as the seatbelt in a rotational movement and helps harness power moving towards the target before re-directing it back up the chain to finish off a strong and explosive rotation!
Improving Ground Force Application and Rate of Force Development (RFD) To Improve Running Speed
Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. Coincidentally enough, he also exerts almost 6x his bodyweight into the ground with every stride he takes. What does this tell us? It shows us that improving the amount of force you place into the ground with either a squat or deadlift will most likely make you faster. Being able to place a higher multiple of your bodyweight into the ground will allow you to become faster. This tells us that a 6.8 60-yard dash runner can become a 6.4 runner. It is not just genetics. Take one of my athletes for example. This athlete ran a 6.7 (with a deadlift of 365 pounds). He now runs a 6.4 and deadlifts 515 pounds. Coincidence? I think not.
In addition to ground force application, the rate at which you can produce this force (moving stride to stride), can be improved via power specific training (dynamic squats/deadlifts, sled sprinting, jump training etc.).
Not much to conclude with here besides the following sentiment. Strength training can and will help you throw harder, hit the ball harder and further and run faster. It is pure science.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.