Pitchers need core strength.
Because poor core strength can set off a series of chain reactions throughout your body that results in a weak, inefficient delivery.
Anterior core strength (meaning the strength of the core muscles on the front of our body) is key for achieving the proper amount of lumbar extension, which in turn affects the position of the trunk/thorax (rib cage).
This position is like the "center of the universe for a pitcher," as a good position creates a stable platform for the shoulder blades, which ultimately affects the position of the scapula, ensuring great "ball and socket" congruency and a better arm position at ball release when moving toward the plate.
It's a lot, right? Here's how it looks in chart form:
And it all starts with the core.
Today we're going to look at an example of how postural issues developed through insufficient core control can cause issues higher up in the chain as a pitcher's delivery unfolds.
Recently a 17-year-old high school pitcher came to us for an evaluation. A thorough assessment quickly confirmed that he was already quite athletic, but he was looking to take it to the next level. These were his stats:
- Height: 6-foot-3
- Weight: 190 pounds
- History: Lower-back pain, anterior shoulder and medial elbow pain
- Pitching Velocity: 82-85 mph
During his initial assessment, we observed a huge anterior pelvic tilt along with excessive lumbar extension, and the bottom of the rib cage protruding forward when trying to get his arms overhead. This signified a weak, unstable anterior core. Along with this, he presented with tight lats and insufficient t-spine extension, causing scapular depression and downward rotation and helping to attribute to much of what we will discuss today.
This is a great example of how strength and mobility issues can affect pitching mechanics and delivery. Getting in the weight room to build some good anterior core strength and get in some extra mobility and activation to the lats and serratus should be a massive help.
It's also worth noting there's no way to fix these issues during a pitching lesson. It's going to take a lot of time and training from the athlete to address this postural issue, as no cue in the world will help them overcome the limitations of their body.
The issues this athlete presented are far from uncommon. So, what might a plan of attack look like for him? I'm glad you asked.
It would start by helping him achieve greater lat length and t-spine extension.
This exercise is great for turning down lat function, getting some more length, and working on t-spine mobility. This will take some of the stress off the lower lumber while trying to "lay back."
We also want to strengthen the anterior core and improve scapular upward rotation.
This is a great exercise to not only strengthen the anterior core but to work on breathing, as well. Using a band to add resistance while reaching helps work on scapular upward rotation by strengthening the serratus, a great bang for the buck.
A Static Lunge with Band Rotation can help us address many of the athlete's needs in a functional fashion:
Four months later, that same young pitcher has gotten his core and the rest of his body much stronger. He's put on nearly 15 pounds of muscles and is hitting 86-88 mph vs. the 82-85 he was when he first arrived. He has obviously made tremendous strides.
Hopefully, this article has helped you realize that something anatomically can be holding you back, even if you are "athletic." My best advice is get both a physical and a biomechanical assessment from a qualified PT or strength coach. If you're not sure of one in your area, ask around.
For those of you who aren't sure how to tell if something anatomically is holding you back, don't worry, you're not alone. Often an "isolated issue" like weak anterior core muscles really isn't so isolated at all. A great pitching delivery requires many parts of the body to work together in harmony, and one kink can cause issues all throughout the chain.
- Find Your Weaknesses in Just 10 Minutes With The Functional Movement Screen
- 3 Worst Core Exercises for Baseball (and What to Do Instead)
- Core Exercises for Baseball: Try These 3 Moves for Power