Why Eccentric Strength and Control is Important in Baseball
This post is mainly for those baseball players who are starting to feel the fatigue halfway through the season. After practicing and playing 6 days a week, whether you are accustomed to this workload or not, your body is going to show some portion of eccentric control loss.
But, what is this “eccentric” word? Let’s think of eccentrics as the loading portion of any movement.
When you swing, the eccentric portion is loading your back hip (stretching the glute and internally rotating) which is paired with the loading of your anterior oblique system.
When you throw/pitch, the eccentric portion is loading your back hip the same way, which is also paired with the loading of your anterior oblique system.
When the body becomes fatigued, it makes it even harder to control this eccentric portion of movement. This is why most injuries occur during the eccentric portion of movement, because that movement is no longer strong enough to withstand the forces that are being produced.
Instead of making another argument on why this makes in-season training that much more important, let’s go over some exercises that we can use to gain more eccentric control and why it is important in baseball.
We must not forget that the hips are the rotator cuff of the lower body. The lower half initiates all baseball movements, most of which are rotational in nature.
The more that you swing and throw and rotate, your hips might get cranky because they need that dosage of strength and eccentric control. These airplanes are SUPER hard to perform correctly because of multiple reasons:
- Upper leg and pelvic dissociation and rotation
- Exposes asymmetries
- Decreased point of stability makes the working hip work that much harder
- Because they are just simply hard to do!
The lunge is one of the most specific movements a baseball player can perform in the weight room. I love to use lunges and its variations during the season.
This motor control drill, the crescent lunge, forces the athlete to remain a rigid trunk (maintain core stability) when moving through a single leg stance, which is what we see in hitting and throwing.
We also get the added benefit of stretching out the anterior (front) portion of the trail leg, and getting the shoulder blades to move overhead.
These are similar to the airplanes. However, the main difference is the action at the hip. During ball release when throwing and deceleration when hitting, the hip internally rotates while the trunk follows it.
Again, the hip is the rotator cuff of the lower body, so we must perform movements that attack all 3 planes of motion, with rotation being of the upmost importance.
Does anyone see a theme here with the lower body? HIP ROTATION!
This can be used a regression from the airplanes and bowler squats, since we have more points of stability and less working parts to focus on.
It’s important to control hip rotation for power production, but especially for power reduction.
Reverse Bear Crawls
With baseball being a one-sided sport, reverse bear crawls with truly show a weakness in your core stability, and here is why.
You start in the most stable position (4-points). As you crawl on the ground, there is an opposing limb pattern, which forces the oblique system to fire since we want to resist the hips “leaking open” during a crawl.
We also get the added benefit of the closed-chain movement for the upper body, getting the shoulder stabilizers to fire while the core is engaging, which is truly baseball-specific.
Blackburns (for internal rotation)
Arm acceleration is the fastest motion in all of sports. Acceleration is followed by deceleration, which makes force reduction even harder. This is why the concept of eccentric (loading) control makes sense in baseball. No eccentric strength = injury waiting to happen.
When performing this exercise, it’s important to keep the legs extended, core engaged, head in a neutral position, and let the muscles of the back and shoulder do the work to really isolate control.
Paired with internal rotation of the shoulder is scapular protraction. I utilize this “Y” pattern every time I see my baseball guys because of 3 big reasons:
- the upper trap tends to get way too overactive, so we want to shut that off for the most part and let the serratus and lower trap work together
- we get the thoracic spine (upper back) stabilizers to kick on as we’re reaching at the top
- we get the external rotators to fire when we guide back with the thumbs
This pattern is huge for controlling arm deceleration.
Again, these movements are extremely important in baseball because injury occurs during the eccentric portion of movement.
For my baseball guys who train the day before the game, we’ll mainly focus on power development at a volume we know that will not induce any fatigue based on past programs, and we will pair those with eccentric control movements to get them game ready.
Try out some of these exercises, tag me on social media, and let me know what you think!
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS