Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

The 5 Core Principles of the Overhead Athlete

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Joe Hogarty, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Baltimore Orioles

Joe begins his first season as the Orioles’ Major League strength and conditioning coach and 7th seasons working in the Baltimore organization. Prior to joining the major league staff, he spent the previous two seasons as the Orioles’ Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator.  While with the Orioles minor league system the past two seasons, Hogarty was responsible for implementing data to further.gunnertechnetwork.comelop programs and procedures in accordance with injury prevention and performance enhancement.

Joe spent four years as strength and conditioning coach with the Orioles’ AAA affiliates at Norfolk and Ottawa while assisting the Major League staff in Spring Training in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Previous to joining the Baltimore Orioles, Joe served as an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning intern for the Boston Red Sox in 2003.

Hogarty carries certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA).


The throwing motion of baseball and softball determines that athletes in these sports are overhead athletes. But other sports such as volleyball, position-specific football (quarterback), tennis, water polo, etc., also have overhead athletes. All these sports are ballistic and explosive in nature and relate to the same basic core principles. All principles must be based on biomechanics, anatomy and exercise physiology.

Core Principle #1—Training Patterns Differ from Season to Season


This is where training organization comes into play. Conditioning coaches need to establish a plan that is specific to the season and the needs of the athletes. Doing the same movement off-season and continuing it into the in-season may create issues of over-use injuries (tendonitis, bursitis). So, in the sport of baseball for example, the conditioning coach must be diligent in differing training patterns and exercises along with volume, load and intensity to build toward the start of beginning a throwing programs in the sports of baseball and softball toward the goal of starting fall-tryouts/camp/spring training with good mechanics and good arm strength.

Core Principle #2—Managing Pitcher’s Paradox thru the Kinetic Chain


The throwing motion of an eight ounce baseball at high velocity is an unnatural act. Basic mechanics and shoulder anatomy dictate this. In baseball, this Pitcher’s Paradox is compounded by the fact that the ball is thrown at maximum velocity, trying to create spin or movement on the ball while entwining the kinetic chain of hips, core, head position while accelerating and decelerating one’s arm.  Pitchers must focus on maintaining good range of motion for internal rotation and continue to strengthen the stabilizing muscle of the scapulo-thorasic joint including the rotator cuff muscles (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis), scapula stabilizing musculature including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, levator scapulae, and trapezius (upper/mid/lower as illustrated).  Anterior musculature is not a strong part of our training protocols with pec major and minor.gunnertechnetwork.comelopment utilized for stability rather than total power and hypertrophy.


Core Principle #3—Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts

Orthopeadic Doctors Yocum, Jobe and Andrews have advanced the sports medicine of the arm and shoulder in their practices. With the Baltimore Orioles we have considered the teachings of  Jobe and Andrews along with Orthopeadist Ben Kibler of Lexington KY and Physical Therapist Phil Donley in West Chester, PA. In order for these types of exercises to be useful, it’s vital to have proper throwing mechanics, which is the very first “do”. Here communications with the pitching coaches and the athletes is essential. At this level we have the advantage of video analysis, which allows us as conditioning coaches to be in tune with the skills (pitching) coach. My responsibility is to blend the arm, shoulder and core/kinetic strength with influence in.gunnertechnetwork.comeloping conditioning programs from an injury prevention standpoint for each pitcher.




Core Principle #4—Total Workload: Determining and Communicating


The conditioning coach balances sports medicine, conditioning work and all throwing activity into total work load that is manageable and to the benefit of the players. This takes communication and planning and is all about being organized and creating relationships by being proactive. This leads to the important goal of gaining trust of all involved. With the Baltimore Orioles, our plan during the season is maintenance based workouts with the outcome of season long consistency. Because of this situation, we don’t change our program day-to-day or week-to-week during this time period. By introducing something new one could create an issue that we don’t need to deal with. It’s a conservative but necessary approach and helps build trust. For my part, I try to keep daily logs of workload, however, the bullpen coach does a great job of looking through the work week and putting it into a grid that gives me an idea about the starting pitchers (one through five) with regard to where their throwing workload has been for the past seven days. Since these guys are on a set schedule we can plan. I can look at each pitcher and the game activity each has been involved with including the number of pitches. I know when each is working on the side, etc. This set schedule allows for more planning. The big issue is with the bullpen pitchers and understanding where these guys are insofar as their workload is concerned and knowing how to interact with them on an individual basis.

Occasionally, I’ll have one of them come in early just to get some of the soreness out by doing some aerobic type exercises then a light workout doing our sequencing of upper, lower or total body. In addition, we might do some core work and rehab work in the form of foam rolls or low frequency vibration plate.

Part of the communication process is working with players to read their bodies and, in most cases, motivating them being proactive and interactive; again building trust. I can in real time track the game and pitchers outing that provides pitch by pitch live stats so I know immediately when any particular pitcher comes out, what he has done and combine that with the work week chart that we do. We adjust the workout accordingly.

In the area of the starters, it’s more of coming to an agreement as to what to do, showing up on time and come in ready to work with a focus on the next side mound or start day.

Core Principle #5—Training is Part of a Set Routine


It’s important to establish a training routine. We don’t want players to come into the weight room wanting to make dramatic changes in their program mid-course. In resistance training one finds a blend of modalities that works for a particular player. We do want freedom of movement with the athletes controlling the pattern of movement. We want to avoid flux in training patterns because we don’t know exactly how any particular individual will respond. An overhead athlete is a fine-tuned athlete and to perform at this level on a daily basis for 162 games, 30 plus starts for a starting pitcher, places a lot of demand on the individual. So consistency and trusting in your plan establishes a set routine. If change is needed, it’s a group decision of myself, the medical staff, the pitching coach (if it’s an issue on mechanics for example) and of course the player.

Part of the routine is recovery. Here rest at the right time and eating right are important. This can be a challenge because these are adults and one doesn’t want to be in their face all the time. The best strategy is education and taking advantage of educational opportunities. At Camden Yards in Baltimore the clubhouse incorporates underwater treadmills along with hot/cold contact plunge pools. These are key pre or post-game strategies of recovery and regeneration. They are also used if an athlete has some sort of injury issue where aerobic and anaerobic work can be done underwater in the patterns they are accustomed to and without the stress of normal treadmill running in the lower half of the body. A new thing that some teams have gone to is anti-gravity treadmills. These treadmills have a system call Alter-G. This consists of a moveable enclosure where an athlete can run with 20 to 30 percent of their bodyweight. This concept is similar to an assisted pull-up only it involves total body running. These are major investments, but we are dealing with million dollar athletes so the cost is more than justified.

Appling Core Principles to Young, Developing Players

This is a tough question. Currently, there are advertising campaigns out of Dr. Andrews’s clinic in Alabama to minimize injury to throwing athletes at the little league level that require operative intervention. Other efforts include the MLB/U.S. Government “Let’s Play” campaign. Recently we had an in-house event, which featured Michelle Obama, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Orioles. I don’t blame athletes for wanting to get better at the sport. However, in my opinion, the key concept is that players should strive to get better at many sports. This means that at an early age, young athletes should diversify their physical activity by playing multi-sports and going out and having fun. This flies in the face of one of the core principles of establishing a pattern of training and not varying from it, especially during the long baseball season. But these younger players are at a totally different level and I’m not taking just about workouts—but life in general and youth.gunnertechnetwork.comelopment. Playing multiple sports will add to a young player’s athletic ability. For the young athlete who plays spring and fall baseball, it might advisable to add a sport in-between the seasons. The rule of thumb here is that baseball is a power sport so the selection of another sport is to select a power sport. For example, a baseball or softball player might do track but not cross-country endurance running.

In regard to resistance training, there are organizations that provide good guidance. In Baltimore, Cal Ripken and his baseball training center in Aberdeen, MD try to teach kids how to play correctly and, in addition, the right way to train, eat and hydrate. Cal is a huge advocate of proper.gunnertechnetwork.comelopment as illustrated by his continuous play for 21 years. The question as to when to start training and conditioning for a sport I believe is somewhere around age 13 as the athlete enters high school. This decision to begin resistance training should be done based on where an athlete is at in his or her level of skill. For younger, growing athletes it’s important to consider total workload and the stress their young,.gunnertechnetwork.comeloping bodies are under.

By following the basic/core principles an overhead athlete can survive and thrive in the competitive environment regardless of level and age of the athlete.


Article provided by Performance Conditioning Baseball/Softball the Official Publication of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society


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