Sports Performance Guidelines for Baseball

22 Jul Sports Performance Guidelines for Baseball

To improve performance, increase bat speed, throwing accuracy, sprinting ability, change of direction, and prevent injury in your game, it is necessary to develop the “five physical pillars” of the kinetic chain. Empirical evidence also suggests it is best to develop these physical components in order. Begin with mobility, then progressing to neuromuscular efficiency, and completing the process with power training. Following this sequence provides the correct ratios of mobility to stability, and prevents the possibility of injury to a player who is not physically ready to implement a specific training modality.

The goal of your baseball strength and conditioning program is to develop a physical foundation allowing you to execute the athletic actions associated with baseball efficiently and effectively. This is accomplished through the development of the “five physical pillars” of your body. We will now look at what is required from your body in terms of mobility, neuromuscular efficiency, stability, endurance, and power.

Mobility/Stability Pattern

Before breaking down the “five physical pillars” of baseball individually it is important to discuss a concept that is very central to athletic development. The concept we are referring to is the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. This principle was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle. This principle states efficient movement within the kinetic chain of the human body 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 in these movement patterns will be the result. Table 1.2 below provides a joint-by-joint view of this pattern within the human body.

Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement Table:

Foot Stable – Ankle Mobile – Knee Stable – Hip Mobile – Pelvis/Sacral/Lumbar Spine Stable – Thoracic Spine Mobile – Scapula-Thoracic Stable – Gleno-Humeral/Shoulder Mobile – Elbow Stable – Wrist Mobile – Cervical Spine Stable

As you can see from the above table the human body “feet to fingertips” operates in an alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint throughout the entire kinetic chain (i.e. body). It is obvious joints such as the elbow and knee are not rod like pieces of iron that do not flex or extend, but rather these joints are stable in terms of limited degrees of motion. For example, the knee joint does not rotate in 360 degrees of

motion as does the hip or shoulder, rather it operates essentially in one plane of motion flexing and extending. As a result this joint is considered a stable joint where as the hip, shoulder, and ankle require large ranges of motion for human movement to occur efficiently.

Relative to the baseball swing the mobility/stability pattern of human movement allows for the creation and transfer of energy through the kinetic chain from “feet to fingertips” into the bat. If the mobility/stability pattern is dysfunctional relative to the baseball swing, the development of speed will be limited, transfers of this speed to the bat will be compromised, and the ability to execute a consistent swing will be limited.

For example, if a hitter had limited hip mobility. The ability to rotate the hips in the swing would be limited, and the initiation of speed could be hindered. This would result in a loss of speed, an inefficient transfer of this speed to the bat, and most likely the development of compensations or poor hitting mechanics.

As you can see from the above example, the mobility/stability pattern of human movement is integral to hitting and deficiencies within it will adversely affect every aspect of baseball from hitting, to base stealing, to throwing. Development of the “five physical pillars” supports the mobility/stability pattern of human movement and are a great benefit to it.


The first pillar is mobility. Mobility is a combination of both joint range of motion and flexibility. Joint range of motion concerns itself with the actual articular structure of the joint (i.e. skeletal structures), and flexibility has to do with the extensibility of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) surrounding the joint. To better understand the relationship of joint range of motion and flexibility let’s define both.

Flexibility can be defined as the optimal extensibility of all soft tissues surrounding a joint to allow for full range of motion. (Michael Clark, Director: National Academy of Sports Medicine) If certain muscles are “tight” or ligaments become “un-pliable” the ability for a joint to move through multiple ranges of motion may be hindered. For example, the golf swing requires the hip to be mobile in order to execute correctly. If the surrounding soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, tendons) are “tight” the hip will be immobile and unable to operate through the ranges of motion required too execute the golf swing correctly.

In addition to flexibility, range of motion is the second component of mobility. Mobility as stated above is the combination of normal joint range of motion and proper extensibility of the surrounding soft tissues. Range of motion is simply the number of degrees a joint should be able to flex, extend, or rotate. For example, the elbow joint is considered a hinge joint that only flexes and extends. The elbow joint should flex or extend a certain number of degrees. Limitations in the degrees of flexion and extension would be considered a limited range of motion in relation to the elbow joint.

Mobility could be limited by a lack of extensibility by the surrounding soft tissues of a joint or the articular (i.e. skeletal) structures of the joint. For example, if the ankle joint were to have bone spurs, mobility in this joint would be limited not from the soft tissues surrounding the joint, but rather the articular components of the joint. Typically, mobility issues for the baseball players are a result of flexibility issues rather than joint range of motion.

Neuromuscular Efficiency

The second “physical pillar” is neuromuscular efficiency, which is often referred to as balance. It is defined as the ability of the neuromuscular system (nervous and muscular systems) to maintain the proper alignment, center of gravity, and coordinate the body during biomechanical movement. (Gray Cook, Athletic Body in Balance, 34) Throughout the entire swing, it is necessary for the ball player to maintain certain angles, create a weight transfer, coordinate muscular movements, and generate speed. To perform this properly, you must be able to maintain balance of the body as a unit and control your extremities (i.e. arms and legs).

Neuromuscular efficiency within baseball is a responsibility of both the body and the mechanics by which you hit, run, and throw. Improvement of your neuromuscular efficiency capacities on the “physical side of the equation” will allow your body to execute the athletic actions associated with baseball with greater efficiency and ease.

The process by which the athlete improves their neuromuscular efficiency is via specified exercises challenging the body’s current state of balance, movement coordination, and kinesthetic awareness. Over time these training modalities will improve one’s neuromuscular efficiency and overall athleticism.


Stability is the third pillar of our five pillars. Stability can be defined as the ability of any system to remain unchanged or aligned in the presence of outside forces (Greg Rose, Titleist Performance Institute Manual, 86) The development of stability within the neuromuscular system is contingent upon muscular strength. Strength is defined as the ability of your body to exert the required levels of force to perform the functional movement at hand. (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 369)

Basically, stability in the hitting is contingent upon muscular strength, and in order to execute the swing effectively and generate bat speed, a certain level of muscular strength is required. This allows your body to correctly sequence the muscular contractions required in hitting in addition to being a precursor to power generation in athletic actions.

Stability tends to be the “stumbling block” for many younger players. They simply do not have the muscular strength in their bodies to execute the swing while generating speed into the hitting zone. A tendency of the swing breaking down, releasing the hands early, and an additional hitting flaws will occur.


The fourth pillar of your strength and conditioning program for baseball is muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle(s) to repeatedly perform a physical action over an extended period of time without fatigue. Performing repeated physical actions such as the baseball swing causes fatigue within the muscular system. As a result, muscular performance can decrease. Once this occurs the ability to swing the bat efficiently is compromised. Endurance as with muscular strength is again a problem area for many younger players and more seasoned players when the season becomes longer and more games are played. As is the case with muscular strength, the ball player does not have the endurance capacities developed within their neuromuscular systems required for not only hitting but the additional athletic actions of the sport. Over time the result is a decrease in performance. To prevent such a situation from occurring during a game or season, it is necessary to develop muscular endurance.


Muscular power is the final physical pillar, and is the final factor that is necessary for optimal performance on the diamond. Muscular power can be defined as the ability of the body to create the greatest amount of force in a short amount of time. (Vladimir Zatsiorsky, Professor Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Pennsylvania State University) Basically, power is one component of developing bat speed in addition to

enhance performance in other areas of the game. The more speed that can be developed by the body the more potential for increases in bat speed, running speed, and general athleticism on the diamond. So it is a great attribute for any golfer, junior player included, to develop the power components of the body.

In order to increase the power outputs of your muscles, it is necessary to implement specialized exercises. These types of exercises, referred to as plyometrics, jump training, Olympic lifting, or Med ball work will enhance the ability of your neuromuscular system to develop power, which in turn, as stated above, will enhance the amount of speed generated by the body.


Let’s put all this information together so you have a solid understanding before moving on. Mobiltiy, neuromuscular efficiency, stability, endurance, and power comprise the “five physical pillars” of the golf swing. The “five physical pillars” support the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. Development of these five pillars is necessary to execute the athletic requirements of hitting, fielding, throwing, and running efficiently. Inefficiencies in any one or all five of these categories will directly affect the execution of hitting, throwing, fielding, and running. The athlete will often have physical deficiencies within the areas of neuromuscular efficiency, stability, endurance, and power development hindering the ability to perform optimally at all facets of the game.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

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