Tips to Increase upper body throwing power
Dr. Larry W. McDaniel analyses the role of the upper body muscles in the overhand throw.
The phases involved in the analysis of gross motor skill movements may include the preparatory, the force phase or execution of the skill, and the follow through. The purpose of the preparatory phase (eccentric stretch phase), when analyzing catcher's throwing to bases, includes cocking the arm in the opposite direction of the throw, prior to the start of the force phase. These movements are the foundation for all plyometric movements, a quick stretch followed by a concentric contraction. The preparatory process aligns the bodies segments involved in the throw in a favourable position to not only generate and impart force on the baseball but to facilitate accuracy. The problem specific to catchers may be that often time's catchers may throw from the same position as they catch or receive the pitch without the luxury of maximum force generated by the lower body when moving out of the catcher's stance. This paper will focus on the development of power in the upper body so that catcher's may improve throwing force and accuracy with or without generating force from the lower body.
Fundamental Movement Analysis of the Core and Upper Body Muscles When Throwing
The fundamental movements of the core upper body muscles or trunk that are utilized in the throwing motion include flexion of the spine, rotation, and lateral rotation of the trunk to the opposite side of the throwing arm. While in the throwing motion the arm speed (humerus of the shoulder joint) produces force as the shoulder joint is medially rotated and extended. The elbow joint produces power by quick extension of the elbow while the wrist produces force on the ball by flexion and or ulna flexion of the carpals. Flexion of the fingers is an important function of the phalanges as they impart force prior to the release of the ball. Training tips were divided into the following areas; fingers, hand, forearm, triceps, shoulder joint, and trunk. All of these areas may need unique training methods due to the demanding skills placed on a catcher when throwing. The activities to develop power were selected to stimulate the muscles involved in the joint movements analyzed previously in the throwing motion.
Tips for training the fingers, hand, and thumb muscles
When training the hand muscles start off by squeezing a racquet ball or tennis ball with your thumb and fingers mimicking the closing of a glove or grasping a baseball. This activity may increase thumb and finger strength. Increasing thumb and finger strength in catchers may improve the skills related to grasping the ball in the process of throwing or catching. By squeezing a racquet ball or tennis ball the number and severity of thumb and finger injuries may be reduced. An additional advantage of increasing thumb and finger strength in catchers may be the reduction of the number of baseballs being dropped while catching and the development of increased force when throwing. This exercise's should be done to failure 3 times with each hand. Alternate right and left hand exercises while letting the muscles in the free hand recover. These exercises may be performed on alternate days.
Tips for training the forearm and wrist
The first exercise recommended for this area may be performed with an Olympic bar. With the bar on your buttocks, using an overhand grip, relax and contract the forearm by alternating flexion and extension of the wrist. This exercise should be performed for 3 sets at 15-20 repetitions per set. Wrist rollers that provide wrist flexion exercises may be more effective by reversing the direction of a weighted wrist roller to include wrist extension. The next exercise (if available) is to fill a 5 gallon bucket with rice or corn kernels and try to dig towards the bottom alternating right and left hands. This exercise strengthens your grasping movement. By opening the hand and closing the hand when digging in the rice may strengthen both the extensors and flexors of the fingers and thumb. Next post one forearm at a time on a bench while allowing the wrist and hand to extend past the support. Use a light dumbbell to perform the following exercises. First with your hand in a neutral position mimic the movements of pounding a nail with a hammer. This movement is ulna and radial flexion which may be used in throwing and catching motions.
Tips for training the arm and triceps muscles
The triceps is a major functioning muscle in a catcher's throwing motion of the upper arm. Supine overhead triceps extensions, standing kickbacks, triceps pull downs with a rope, overhead dumbbell extensions, and close grip bench are exercises that strengthen the triceps muscle. The triceps are an important muscle used in throwing. The catcher may not always have time to gather momentum with their legs and throw the baseball like players at other positions. A catcher's arm action has to be short and quick to throw out runners attempting to steal a base. Standing and supine overhead throws with a medicine ball will also activate the triceps. The triceps may be even more stimulated if each overhead throw is started with the elbows flexed. When the focus is on strengthening the upper body it is important to remember to use the leg muscles as little as possible. The following is a list of plyometric exercises to develop the triceps.
1. Medicine ball chest pass
Hold the medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Push-pass it to a partner, as in performing chest passes in basketball. Your partner should immediately pass the medicine ball back to you upon catching the ball. Try to pass the ball back as quickly as you can. Force is generated by horizontal adduction of the humerus, extension of the elbow, flexion of the wrist and fingers. The core muscles of the trunk are in flexion when the ball is released.
2. Ballistic push-ups
Ballistic push-ups are simply push-ups where you launch yourself off the ground with each repetition. Upon landing, immediately launch yourself back up. Variations of this exercise include clapping your hands in mid-air after you push yourself off the ground, or launching yourself with enough force that both your hands and your feet are airborne. Another variation involves a slight lateral movement with each repetition, so that your body traverses a circle with your feet at the centre. Try to spend as little time as possible in contact with the ground. Force is generated by horizontal adduction of the humerus, extension of the elbow, flexion of the wrist and fingers. The core muscles of the trunk are in a static state of contraction.
Tips for training the trunk (core muscles)
The core muscles of the trunk include the abdominal muscles, internal oblique, external oblique and back muscles. Catcher's need powerful core muscles to throw the baseball with force when the legs are not integrated in the throwing motion. Notice that plyometric exercises were selected over weight training exercises. Barbells, dumbbells, and weight plates may not be as safe or reduce the risk of injury when training the core muscles for power as medicine ball activities. Medicine ball plyometric activities will be explained in detail below.
1. Overhead Throws
Force is generated by extension of the shoulder joint and elbow, flexion of the wrist and fingers, and flexion of spine.
2. Side Throws
Force is generated by diagonal movements of the shoulder joint, flexion of the elbow, flexion and ulna/radial flexion of the wrist, flexion of the fingers, while the spine rotations and lateral flexes.
3. Overhead Backward Throw
5. Explosive Start Throws
Force is generated by horizontal adduction of the shoulder joint, extension of the elbow, flexion of the wrist and fingers, and flexion of spine (once and upright trunk position has been established).
6. Single Arm Overhead Throws
7. Squat Throws
8. Tire throw
The tire throw is performed much like a discus throw. Grip the inside edge of the tire, then rotate the trunk in the opposite direction of the throw keeping your elbows slightly flexed with the lead arm shoulder height and the throwing arm approximately hip high. Once the arm and tire are behind the body quickly rotate the trunk to the left (for throwing with the right arm) and release at approximately a 45 degree angle in the direction your want to throw. Force is developed by horizontal adduction of the shoulder joint, flexion of the elbow, ulna flexion of the wrist, and flexion of the fingers prior to the release of the tire, rotation and lateral flexion of the spine to the opposite side. Perform the number of repetitions it takes one to throw and sprint to the tire to complete a lap around a running track.
Work to rest Interval of 1:5 to 1:15, 3 sets of 3-6 repetitions, are recommended for power activities. 1:5 work to rest intervals are recommended for training the glycolytic system while a 1:15 intervals are recommended for the ATP-PC system. These metabolic systems may be enhanced by plyometric activities.
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About the Author
Dr. Larry McDaniel is an associate professor and advisor for the Exercise Science program at Dakota State University, Madison SD USA. He is a former All - American in football and Hall of Fame athlete & coach
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