Baseball constantly employs the phenomenon known as the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). This is when muscles are stretched through a quick countermovement and contract with greater levels of force than from a standstill.
When throwing a baseball, the SSC can be observed in pitchers who exhibit good hip/shoulder separation. This term refers to the act of rotating the lower body before the upper body, which stretches the muscles of the front of the body and the shoulder, allowing for a more powerful contraction in those muscles.
Another way to use the SSC when throwing is to begin to bend at the waist before bringing your arm forward. This also stretches the muscles across the front of the body, facilitating a more powerful throwing motion (Check out this med ball routine specifically for pitchers.)
Medicine ball throws are a great way to develop this velocity. Use the SSC to your advantage with the following three med ball drills.
Coaching Points: For each med ball drill, make sure that your hips are driving the movement. Also, try to “pop” your back leg off the ground by contracting the glute muscle in your trail leg to help provide power at the end of the movement.
Step-Back Shot Put
This is an excellent drill for learning hip/shoulder separation. Make sure to initiate the movement at the hips. Lead leg height can be adjusted depending on whether you are a pitcher or position player.
- Take a short jump-step onto your back leg
- Drive forward off your back leg
- Rotate your front foot to point directly at your target
- Powerfully rotate your hips, then rotate your upper body
- Maintain a stiff front leg, “pop” your trail leg off the ground and swing it around you
- Shot put the ball into a wall with as much force as possible
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The Step Slam is a good way to work on using the SSC across the front of your body. It teaches you to use your trunk during the throwing motion. Keep your hands back long enough to feel the stretch across the front of your body, and maintain a stiff front leg.
- Lift the knee of your stride foot and step forward
- Keep your hands high until after your foot hits the ground
- Begin the slam motion by bending at the waist, then finish the slam by throwing the ball down with your arms
- Follow through fully and “pop” the back foot off the ground by powerfully contracting your trail leg glute
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The Rotational Slam combines elements of the Shot Put and the Step Slam. It requires you to use a combination of linear and rotational power, which makes it more similar to the pitching motion than the other two drills.
- Begin in a split stance with your feet wider than shoulder-width and the ball in front of you at belt height
- Bring the ball back and over your head in a “sledgehammer” motion, while lifting your front foot off the ground and shifting your weight to your back foot
- Rotate your front foot to point toward your target
- Rotate your hips powerfully and slam the ball straight down on the outside of your front foot
- Again, “pop” your back leg off the ground by extending the hip powerfully and swing it around you
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Get more exercises in STACK’s Med Ball Exercise Library.