Functional Range Conditioning (FRC): What it is and Why Baseball Players Should Train With it
I recently came across a post about Noah Syndergaard and how he changed his offseason training style.
Noah is a guy who has a bunch of life on his fastball, obviously. Standing at 6-feet, 6-inches, I think the last thing he needs is more strength. The writer of the article quoted Noah saying the same.
Last season, he was riddled with injuries. He noted that he always wanted to leave the gym feeling taxed and completely burned out. If he did not feel that way conceptually, he would always do a little extra stuff on the side on what has been programmed for him.
I think the “extra stuff” may have created a bigger impact on his health than he liked.
After learning about the correct way to train his body, Noah realized that he did not move well. He was un-athletic and was not mobile to be an elite pitcher.
Then, Syndergaard found FRC.
Functional Range Conditioning Concepts: CAR’s, PAIL’s, and RAIL’s
Dr. Andreo Spina, the founder of the FRC system, has revolutionized true mobility training.
Joint restrictions are definitely restrictions from the subsystems of tendons, ligaments, and muscles. However, ultimately, it’s really a restriction from the nervous system.
The difference between flexibility and mobility is very simple: usable range of motion. Rather than trying to crank a joint into it’s end-range of motion, we should be trying to utilize as much motion within that same joint as possible. This way, the athlete is better able to utilize more movement safely and efficiently.
Research has shown us that baseball players will lose range of motion in typically the following joints: lead hip internal rotation, trunk rotation, overhead range of motion, shoulder internal rotation, and sometimes shoulder external rotation.
Since we know where players will lose range of motion, we can use the concepts from FRC to give players more usable range of motion in these joints that they will typically lose during the season if not maintained correctly.
CAR’s are Controlled Articular Rotations. These movements won’t help you increase joint range of motion, but they will aim to keep the joint healthier by consistently and constantly moving them around.
For example, in the throwing arm, performing CAR’s may be an important tool to use to keep the arm healthy.
PAIL’s are Progressive Angular Isometric Loading. PAIL’s aim to strengthen muscles that are being placed on a stretch with the use of isometric contractions. An isometric contraction is when the joint angle is constant.
If your hip is flexed (knee to chest), the progressive load would be the glutes and hamstrings on the opposing side of the same leg.
RAIL’s are Regressive Angular Isometric Loading. RAIL’s aim to strengthen the muscles when they are at an end-range within the joint with the use of isometric contractions.
If your hip is flexed in the same example, the regressive load would be the hip flexors and the quads on the same side.
Whenever there is a restriction in movement, this is when we would use PAIL’s and RAIL’s to open usable range of motion.
Muscles have to be lengthened and contracted in order to learn how to move. When we apply and isometric load at these end ranges in both positions, it tells your body that this position is safe, therefore leading to new range of motion. More importantly, more usable range of motion.
Concepts to Practice and Application
I think it is best to perform any applications of FRC at any point during the season. It may be the most important for the day after your throw when it is your “off day”.
Keeping good care of your throwing shoulder is definitely important, but taking care of your entire body is just as important. If you spend 20 minutes a day just moving around and keeping your joints healthy, it will make all the difference.
What will pitchers lose again?
Lead hip internal rotation, trunk rotation, overhead range of motion, shoulder internal rotation, and sometimes shoulder external rotation.
If you spend 2-3 minutes on each aspect, that will easily get you towards 20 minutes.
Once you perform any mobility training and open up new ranges of motion, then it is important to perform certain exercises that will make the movement “stick”, so an external load is needed.
I think FRC revolutionized the game of baseball. Not only does it make complete sense, but pitchers are really buying into it because they understand the concepts behind it and they are aware that part of their sport is expanding their ranges of motion to sometimes extreme measures.
Here’s a sample on how to move each joint using PAIL’s, RAIL’s, and CAR’s.
Lead hip internal rotation: 90/90 Position
Stay Strong and Mobile,
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS