How the Serape Effect Can Increase Throwing Velocity

The serape muscle group can be strengthened with both general strength training exercises and ballistic movements.

The serape effect refers to the stretch of musculature on the body that criss-crosses diagonally from the shoulders to the hips. It gets the name  "serape" from a garment worn in Mexico and other parts of Latin America that crosses the body in a similar fashion.

These muscle groups are especially important for rotational torso movements done at high velocities. Think of any type of throw, whether it's a baseball, football or a javelin. Find out how you can strengthen this muscle group with both general and specific exercises.

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The term "serape effect" was first used in the Logan and McKinney book Kinesiology in reference to this group of muscles: rhomboids, serratus anterior, external and internal obliques. These muscles wrap around the body and stretch diagonally across the body, providing an ideal length-tension relationship for maximal force production during rotational movements.

The role these muscles play is especially beneficial for their involvement connecting the limbs with the torso, which is a necessity for ballistic movements like throws and kicks. The core acts as a conduit where the connected serape muscles can effectively transfer large amounts of force from the hips and lower body to the throwing arm. These muscle groups interact so that during a throwing motion, the hip on the opposite side of the throwing limb helps to facilitate a more powerful throw.

The diagonal rotation across the muscle groups creates tension that results in higher throwing velocities. What really sets this effect off is the hips rotating across the transverse plane prior to a throw, helping to stretch the muscles to their greatest length and resulting in a more forceful concentric contraction. Visualize how a pitcher loads up his hips during the windup before throwing a fastball. The pre-stretch prior to the throw creates a rebound effect/stretch shortening cycle, and the stretch results in a more forceful concentric contraction. Because the muscles get stretched to their greatest lengths in rapid fashion, the concentric contraction to shorten them must be even more powerful.

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The transfer of power across this movement angle is beneficial for most sporting movements where the shoulder blades work independently of each other, one protracting and the other retracting (e.g., in a volleyball serve). This movement type is unique among strength training exercises used in the gym where the scapulae do the same movements—like on Pull-Ups. Similarly, the movement pattern where the serape muscles are fully engaged is during standing rotational and diagonal movement patterns, which is different from many commonly prescribed exercises in training programs that focus on less dynamic movement planes.

The serape muscle group can be strengthened with both general strength training exercises and ballistic movements. It would be wise to program general strength development initially and then add higher velocity ballistic movements afterwards.

Serape Effect Strength Exercises

  • Turkish Get-Ups
  • One-Arm Kettlebell Swings
  • One-Arm Push-Up
  • Inverted One-Arm Row
  • Power Serape Exercises
  • Rotational Medicine Ball Slam
  • Shot Put Medicine Ball Throw
  • Medicine Wood Chop Throw
  • Tornado Ball Slam

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