The number one question I get from high school coaches is how they should train their pitchers and position players differently. My usual answer is they most likely don’t need to be trained differently.
They Need General Development
Too many athletes at the high school level lack general development. It’s highly likely that most high school athletes have a very small base of actual training built. High school is the age that most formal training begins. Their training age is very low if they have trained at all. Male athletes begin to biologically mature just before or during this period where strength can begin to accrue. They need general movement skills that blend into strength, power, and speed development.
The foundation for future development should be built around the basic movements essential to all athletes:
These are all movement skills that are fairly non-specific to any position but vital for developing athletes to learn. These basics should make up the foundation of any program regardless of the position played.
Play the same positions
The majority of baseball athletes play all over the field during their baseball season. At the high school level the best pitchers are often the best positions players as well and vice versa. The best athletes on the field play because they’re simply the best athlete. At the end of the day rotation is rotation. Colleges are littered with high school shortstops all over the field. Why? The best athletes coming up through the younger ages are almost always placed at shortstop. Guess how many times I get told “Our best pitcher is also our starting shortstop.”
At higher levels as demands rise and movement / event specialization occurs absolutely there should be variances in what happens between a position and pitcher. But even at higher levels the differences are often smaller than most would realize.
There are big rocks that every baseball athlete needs at the high school level regardless of position on the playing field.
Rotator Cuff and Scapular Stabilizers
The rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers ARE big rocks that should be a part of virtually any baseball athlete’s repertoire. Outside of general movement patterns the backside needs special attention to keep athletes healthy.
1. Teach proper pulling, pushing, and reaching patterns
Many athletes don’t receive the full scapular stabilizer benefits of upper body training. They will cut movements short, such as the top position of a pushup, or the bottom position of a row. The scaps need to move through full ranges of motion to fully reap their ability to assist in stabilization as well as motion through the glenohumeral joint. For more on teaching proper scap patterns find my recent article Scapular Stability in Motion.
2. Educate athletes on the importance of ARM CARE.
I realize many levels don’t may not have formalized training programs so arm care takes on increased significance. Options are often limited to arm care before and after throwing at the field or none at all. None at all happens much more than people want to believe. Athletes need to be educated on the importance of not only doing their routine but doing with it with focused intent on proper movement. The scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff are often after thoughts in many programs but a few minutes of focused work daily will go great distances in keeping athletes on the field.
Core and Pelvic stability
Building stabilization through the pelvis and core should be huge priority at the high school level. With the amount of skill work being done throughout the year, athletes need a strong torso to withstand the stresses of a one-sided sport year-round. Specialization and overplaying aren’t going away so coaches need to build resilient athletes in the process. The biggest injury no one hears about are stress fractures in the low back from repeated rotation and extension. Building a stable mid-section is one piece of the puzzle to combating spinal stress fractures. Core stability, pelvic control, hip and thoracic mobility, technical movement patterns, etc. all factor into the equation.
Most should know my passion for getting athletes to move correctly as the basis for all future training. But movement patterns aren’t just limited to the Big 5 patterns I talk about in my book Movement Over Maxes. Skipping, hopping, shuffling, jumping patterns with coordinated arm swings, circles, spins etc. all add into an athlete’s movement bank. The more movements an athlete can be exposed to the more body control, coordination, and general athleticism they will possess. Warmup periods are a phenomenal way to add value to a program.
Developing strength when ready is an important base for developing athletes. Absolute strength is the foundation for the entire strength continuum to a certain point. Many athletes never reach that point. Strength in a developing athlete will assist virtually every endeavor. Skill development can be taken to a new level with greater levels of general strength. Don’t neglect the importance strength can play in overall development.
Learn to Train
The process of training as a young athlete goes way beyond just the physical gains. Training builds awareness in athletes. They begin to become aware of their body, their movement, how one movement may affect another, how their body feels on a given day, how their body responds when they feel a certain way, etc.
Training builds life qualities in my opinion as well. It can build confidence, requires commitment and sacrifice, and often alters nutrition in a positive manner. It can show athletes the reward of consistency. Training teaches delayed gratification, and eventually large progress will be the result of consistent process.
In the end developing baseball players need to be trained as athletes not as pitchers or position players. They don’t need specialized work in the weight room. Train them to control their body, move well, get strong, and more than anything train with consistency. Once they have fully developed those qualities and the need for higher level of training is required to produce a stimulus should they begin to advance into greater, more specific means.