MOBILIZE, ACTIVATE, PERFORM (MAPs)
I get it, it’s still cold outside. It may take you a while to feel warm, get those knots and kinks out of your body, and feel good before you start the game.
The biggest thing that worked for me when I was in my playing days was wearing enough layers where it wasn’t too hard to break a sweat when I started to warmup.
As a baseball coach, I want all of my guys to go through a team warm up. Aside from the team building benefits from having someone run the warm up other than myself, it’s good for getting everyone’s tissue temperature elevated.
The point of this article is to determine what the player could do after the team warm up. At the end of the team warm up, I like to say go to your “individual” warm up. Within this structure, we must mobilize, activate, and then perform.
Here’s some of my go-to’s for mobilizing, activating, and performing well.
Baseball requires a ton of range of motion from the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder(s). With that being said, in order to create true, acute tissue length changes, this should be performed once the body is warmed up and the nervous system is kicked on.
Moving from the top down approach, we should start with the shoulders. However, shoulder range of motion can actually be affected by the neck because all of those existing structures actually connect deep into then scapulothoracic complex.
To get some ROM back from your neck, grab a lacrosse ball or a tennis ball.
Start by rolling out the tissue of your upper trap, pecs, and neck. I would spend about 30 seconds on each muscle group just to decrease the activity of the over active muscles.
For the shoulder I like to think big and then dig deeper. For the “big”, starting off with shoulder CARS just to get further blood flow and mobilization into the shoulder joint is one thought.
Rather than using a long lever (your arm) that is heavily reliant on gravity, let’s lower our center of gravity so that we have to “think” less about our core being engaged so we don’t cheat in the wrong places.
After throwing and hitting all game, the last thing that you’re going to want to do is rotate even more because the amount of energy it takes out of your body. However, when warming up, it is important to get this movement pattern mobilized and prepared for multiple repetition.
If you’re feeling really banged up, you could also go back to the lacrosse ball and mash up the posterior shoulder and t-spine further.
Two drills that I really like are Quadruped T-Spine Rotations and the Twisting Chair.
Your ability to throw cheddar and drop nukes is highly dependent on front leg braking forces. Repetitive motions over and over again tend to get tiresome to the rest of the body, which is why it is important to make sure your joints are in a good firing position.
The hips create a multi-directional force production/reduction similar to the shoulder. Essentially, the hips are the “rotator cuff” of the lower half.
Once we set decent joint positions, then we should activate those same patterns. It’s important not to over do this step as it may cause fatigue when we move into the “performance” aspect, which includes moving at a higher velocity.
Activating the cuff for rotation and the scapula for stability, there are a number of different modalities that you could use.
I like the use of elastic tubing because it can be used to manipulate the strength curve. To put it in simple terms, you can make the movement much harder by changing the angle or the length of the band depending on where you are weak.
Here’s a quick series I like to use for my throwers:
The spine goes through an aggressive exchange from extension and rotation to flexion and even more rotation!
So, let’s make sure we take care of those movement patterns
Lunge OH Chops
Split Stance Rotations
The lead leg is going to go through a ton of internal rotation, so its important that we activate both internal rotation and external rotation of the hip.
Once we open up our movement patterns, cement them with activation drills, now it’s time to put them all together and perform. I’m a firm believer that your “catch and play” can dictate how your performance will go on the field.
To keep the shoulder nice and loose, we should follow what Mike Reinold has to say about playing catch before a game.
Keep the ball on a constant, fluid arc as you start to gain distance between you and your partner. I will also add that it is important that you put your entire body into every single throw.
Work on your foot work for each throw, your execution, and your follow through towards the target.
Get to the field early, go through your team warm up, then start to specialize your pre-game routine.
P.s., a few pre-game sprint progressions won’t hurt either!
Performing at the highest,
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS