Off-Season Strength and Conditioning Programming for Rotary Athletes

23 Aug Off-Season Strength and Conditioning Programming for Rotary Athletes

The rotary athlete participating in throwing and striking sports where speed generation occurs through the kinetic chain into bat, ball, racquet, or club have similar sequences by which energy is translated for optimal performance. As a result, the underlying physiological systems requiring development to enhance performance and limit the potential for injury are similar. We recognize the physiological requirements of the tennis player needing court coverage, compared to the golfer athlete impacting the golf ball with 8 times body weight with driver, and center fielder in baseball covering the outfield do have specialized needs for their sport and position to address. As a result specialization to accommodate these requirements needs to be implemented,  though the goal of all of these rotary athletes are the same in terms of development and translation of speed from the ground up into implement. That being said, the general templates of off-season strength and conditioning programs for these athletes are similar with the inclusion of segments specialized for their particular sport.

First and foremost we must recognize “cookie cutter” training programs do not work. Each and every athlete has differing components which will need to be addressed within a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. For example, a golfer athlete may have limited internal hip rotation whereas a pitcher could potentially have poor glute activation, both of which impede performance and increase the potential for injury, and both of which need to be addressed for the individual athlete to improve. A generalized strength and conditioning program often times will not provide the required modalities and exercises to assist in such examples.


Knowing the fact individualization within a training template is necessary, the first step in the development of off-season programming is assessing your athletes. Now the assessment entails a number of different components to look at all aspects of your athletes. Referencing Gray Cook a comprehensive assessment process will commence with a medical screening provided by a physician, move onto a movement assessment to determine the mobility, stabilization components, and movement quanlities of the athlete, and complete with performance testing to measure power, strength, endurance, and other qualities deemed important for the sport of participation. Unfortunately, the assessment process is at times completely ignored or only partially completed. This leaves big holes in the process of addressing the requirements of each athlete and what they need to develop in order to improve. The assessment process provides a “blue print” for the needs of each athlete within their strength and conditioning program. Keep in mind “IF YOUR NOT ASSESSING YOUR GUESSING” and guessing with million dollar arms and athletes is not a good thing.

Sport Specificity

Once the assessment process is completed with your athletes, the assimilation of the assessment findings can begin, and a game plan can be developed. Assuming your athletes were cleared by the physician during this process, the development of injury prevention and performance programming can commence. It becomes a relatively simple process as the programming basically consists of filling in the blanks within the Rotary Athlete Performance Training Template. One point necessary for the strength and conditioning professional is to understand the physical requirements of the sports their athletes are participating. It is necessary to know the biomechanical patterning of the kinetic chain during the throwing and striking motion, injury potentials within the sport, baseline power outputs for the sports, anaerobic/aerobic requirements, and SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) components. If a base understanding of the requirements of the sports are not known, the ability to develop your athletes appropriately is greatly lessened.

Mobility/Corrective Exercise/Dynamic Warm Up

The Off-Season is considered the time of the year where the athlete is not participating competitively. It allows for the focus of the athlete to be on development for improved performance and injury prevention for the upcoming season. This process begins with an evaluation of the assessment findings. The secondary step in the assessment process (after physician clearance) is evaluation of the athlete’s mobility, stabilization capacities, and movement efficiencies. This is also the point where the development of an off-season program  begins. Recognize if an athlete has limited joint mobility, a lack of soft tissue extensibility, an inability to segmentally stabilize the kinetic chain, or perform base movement patterns. The potential for injury, increases in performance, and overall development will be drastically limited. Secondly, if physical dysfunctions exist within these aforementioned areas any strength or power developed within a program will be limited in terms of usage simply because the kinetic chain is not efficient and will “dump” power as it is attempting to translate it through the body into bat, ball, racquet, or club.

In order of importance and template design addressing dysfunctions within the kinetic chain and movement patterns will be first in terms of order. Dysfunctions and movement patterning is tackled in the development of mobility, soft tissue extensibility, segmental stabilization, motor control, and multi-planar movement patterns. Referencing the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement in correlation with the athlete’s assessment findings will be the key on how to address these component with each individual athlete. A quick review of the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement indicates efficient human movement occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable segments. If this pattern of mobile joints and stable segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns will occur, and compensations will occur. Basic rule is to clean up the Mobility/Stability Pattern and then proceed onto the next segments.

As a result of this principle the Athlete’s training template will commence with Mobility and Soft Tissue Extensibility Modalities. The exercises within these segments of the programming will address the individual limitations of the athlete. For example, if the initial assessments found limitation in ankle and thoracic spine mobility, both of these segments of the kinetic chain would addressed in the initial stages of the programming. Always keep in mind the phrase “Mobility before Stability” as it pertains to template development. In order for efficient movement to occur and for the utilization of strength and power, the kinetic chain is required to have optimal levels of joint mobility and soft tissue extensibility. As this allows for movements to occur efficiently and the translation of energy to occur. A common error is the development of strength with poor levels of mobility. Such a situation deters from performance and can lead to injury.

Once the mobility and soft tissue extensibility modalities are implemented into the training template, attention can be turned to the second segment of training. This segment within the training template will address movement patterning, motor control, activation, and prepare the kinetic chain for more intense modalities to be executed in the programming. Recognize due to the repetitive movements of rotary athletes, and unilateral predominance of these sports, the kinetic chain has a tendency to develop compensatory patterns which are not necessarily conducive to optimal performance. One of our goals within the programming is to counteract these tendencies and return the kinetic chain to a position of balance. This segment of training encompasses this concept in addition to achieving the aforementioned goals. The title of this section of programming is often referred to as a Corrective Exercise/Dynamic Warm Up.

SAQ Training

After the athlete’s mobility has been addressed and the dynamic warm up sections are in place, the additional segments of the training template can be inputted. The next segment within the training template of the rotary athlete can go one of two ways. If the athlete is relatively advanced with acceptable levels of stabilization and joint integrity, the strength and conditioning coach can choose to implement SAQ training and power development as the next segments. If the athlete is found to have limited segmental stability and lacks joint integrity it will most likely require these segments to be prioritized before SAQ and power development. For the purpose of this article we are going to use an athlete via the assessment findings as example with acceptable levels of joint integrity and segmental stabilization allowing for SAQ and power training to be priorities within the programming.

SAQ training develops the athlete’s speed, agility, rate of acceleration, and quickness in accordance to the requirement of their sport. This is where sport and specificity will come into play. For example, a tennis player will require a very different set of qualities in comparison to a center fielder in baseball. As a result it is imperative the strength and conditioning coach understand the requirements of the sport in addition to the varying positions within a team sport. A third baseman will require a different set of SAQ drills then the catcher or right fielder for that matter. Know your sport and what it entails.

Speed training will encompass the enhancement of sports specific speed. Speed typically has two components to be addressed one of which is acceleration and the second is top speed. Most situations for the rotary athlete centers upon acceleration or how quickly you can get to your top speed. The number of situations where top speed is reach is significantly less for these athletes in comparison to initial acceleration. That being said, speed development for the rotary athlete is going to heavily weigh on the acceleration components of speed.

Agility is change of direction. How quickly can an athlete decelerate, redirect energy, and accelerate in a different direction. Improvements in the component of agility will include the development of neuromuscular power, balance, speed, acceleration, stabilization, and functional strength. These components are addressed throughout the comprehensive strength and conditioning program though this segment within the training template will contain drills requiring the athlete to utilize all of these components simultaneously.

The definition of quickness lends itself to the idea of reaction time and the athlete improving their quickness. Reaction time is the ability to react quickly to an outside stimulus. The reduction of an individual’s reaction time and a corresponding improvement in the athlete’s quickness results from the improvement in the area of biomotor skills. Biomotor skills relate to the ability of an athlete to cognitively recognize a stimulus, and react with the neuromuscular system correctly. The cognitive recognition concerns itself with audio or visual recognition by the brain of a stimulus, and then the transfer of this information into actual biomechanical movements by the body. Quickness drills will entail these concepts of reaction to stimuli.

Keep in mind SAQ training overlaps where the development of speed, acceleration, change of direction, and the reaction to outside stimuli are connected. The modalities and drills utilized within this section of programming will overlap resulting in improvements within all three segments. Individualization is necessary based upon assessment findings and skill level of the athlete.


After completion of SAQ training power development is the next segment within the rotary athlete’s training template. Power training for the rotary athlete entails initial rate of force production (IRF) and maximum rate of force production (MRF). The development of these two components will require differing loads, intensities, and modalities. IRF training tends to gravitate towards plyometrics with involvement of the stretch shortening cycle whereas MRF development will focus on motor unit recruitment with heavier loads. Recognize both will entail a component of speed in the execution and development of power within the kinetic chain. It is also important to recognize the need within the rotary athlete to develop power within the entire kinetic chain. As result of the entire kinetic chain, rotary components, and multi-directional aspects of these athletes the incorporation of rotary, lower body, and upper body body power training modalities is imperative within this segment of the training template.


After completion of the SAQ and Power segments of the programming, the next segments of the off-season training will be comprised of joint integrity, segmental stabilization, and pillar strength development. Dependent upon the athlete and sport these three segments can be separated into single categories or grouped together. For example, the baseball athlete, pitcher specifically will most likely have a separate category of scapular and shoulder integrity exercises due the stresses placed upon these segments of the kinetic chain during the pitching motion. Again, these categorical segments are very athlete and sport specific.

Regardless if the individual decision is to categorically separate these components of joint integrity, stabilization, and pillar strength these components are connected as it pertains to movement, efficiency, and power translation. Utilizing a phrase from Mark Verstegan “isolate to integrate” is an important component of this training segment. Recognize the production and reduction of force through the kinetic chain to create movement, execute athletic actions, and translate speed utilizes the entire neuromuscular system. Though know in order for efficient movement patterns to occur the coordination of the kinetic chains stabilizers, synergists, antagonists, and agonist must occur with the correct timing, sequencing, and control. This necessitates exercises and modalities addressing stabilizers of joints within the kinetic chain in order to provide the appropriate timing and joint control in order for the translation of energy to efficiently occur.

Pillar is simply a reference to an anatomical area of the kinetic chain and is comprised of Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex, scapular, and gleno-humeral joints of the kinetic chain. These structures are integral in maintaining optimal functioning for the rotary athlete and thus require attention in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. We can easily classify this segment of training as developing the hips, core, and shoulders. That being said a selection of exercises for each of these joint segments of the kinetic chain should be implemented. Recognize developing the stabilization capacities will require enveloping exercises developing not only strength and endurance but additionally motor control, timing, and appropriate firing patterns.

Functional Strength

The next section of the rotary athlete training template will encompass the development of total body functional strength training. Strength training for the rotary athlete focuses upon the prime movers of the kinetic chain and their ability to produce and reduce force in the creation of movement and translation of power. We know the rotary athlete utilizes their entire neuromuscular system in the execution of the athletic actions within their sports. As a result the integration of the kinetic chain in multi-joint movement patterns is a corner stone of this training segment.

The goal of the functional strength training segment of programming is as follows: Increase the force production and reduction qualities of the neuromuscular system, improve load bearing qualities of soft tissues, increase metabolic capacities, and enhance the motor recuitement/synchronization/frequency with the muscular system. A structured approach is best to achieve these goals and programming introduced by Mike Boyle creates a simplistic yet efficient way to achieve these goals. Boyle presents a system of functional strength development where training addresses movement patterns in an integrated format for both the upper and lower body. The classification of developing functional strength in the following patterns: 1. Lower Body Push, 2. Lower Body Pull, 3. Upper Body Push (Horizontal/Vertical), and 4. Upper Body Pull (Horizontal/Vertical) simplifies the process and addresses the needs of functional strength development within the rotary athlete. The specific exercises implemented within each pattern and segment of functional strength training will be very independent upon the individual needs of each athlete.

Energy System Development

The final section of the off-season strength and conditioning program template for the rotary athlete is ESD training. ESD stands for “Energy System Development” and every sport/position will require differing needs in this category of training. In general ESD training addresses the athlete’s lactate thresholds, alacate power, and aerobic capacities. These three components are very sport independent where a PGA Tour player will require a vastly different ESD program than that of the professional tennis athlete. It is important to recognize intensity is vastly more important than volume as is pertain to ESD training. Additionally for many athletes the concepts of acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction will be addressed within this section of training.


At this point we have provided a synopsis of the components and categories of an off-season strength and conditioning template for the rotary athlete. Listed below is a sample template of the training components included. Recognize the importance of assessments within this process and how programming can vary greatly dependent upon the individual athlete. No training program should be written in stone as modalities, exercises, and areas of focus can shift dependent upon the individual needs of the athlete, sport, and position in that sport. Utilize the information in this article appropriately for your sport and be sure to understand the requirements of your athlete and their sport prior to the development of such programming.

Sample Off-Season Strength and Conditioning Template


Calves Calves
Hamstrings Hamstrings
Glutes & IT Band Glutes & IT Band
Adductors & Quads Adductor & Quads
Upper Back & T-Spine Upper Back & T-Spine
Posterior Shoulder Posterior Shoulder
Forearm Forearm
Standing Calf Standing Calf
90/90 Internal & External Rotation 90/90 Internal & External Rotation
Bent Knee Hamstring Bent Knee Hamstring
Hip Flexor w/ Psoas Hip Flexor w/ Psoas
Glute Glute
Adductor Adductor


T-Spine Rotations Side Lying Opener
Ankle Mob. One Ankle Mob. Two
SL Cone Reach SL Toe Touch
Reverse Squat Pattern Lateral Tubing Walk
Pelvic Tilt – Anterior/Posterior Pelvic Tilt – Anterior/Posterior
High Knee Walk Lateral Lunge w/ Extension
Dynamic Walk Internal-External Lateral High Hurdles
Single Leg Walking DL Rotational Lunge
Linear Lunge w/ T-Spine Extension Dynamic Hip Spider
Inch Worm
Lean-Fall-Run Build Ups Agility Ladder – Lateral
Ball Drop Sprint Lateral Rings
Rotary Box Jump Lateral Bound w/ Hold
MB Side Throw MB Stepping Throw
MB OH Slam MB Chest Pass
Stability Ball Roll Out Side Plank Cable Row
Stability Ball Pike Stability Ball Jack Knife
Standing Cable Press Out Tall Kneeling Cable Push-Pull
Shoulder Integrity Scapular Integrity
Functional Strength/PMRS Functional Strength/PMRS
Rear Elevated Split Squat SL Suit Case DL
Tall Kneeling X-Pattern Pull SA Landmine Tall Kneeling Lunge Press
SL Box Squat Stability Ball Leg Curl
SA DB Row KB SA Carry
Conditioning Conditioning
Sled March 10 yd.  Lateral Slide Board w/ Touch