Everybody wants to throw harder. Everybody wants to throw more strikes. Everybody wants to play big time Division 1 baseball. The difference is who is willing to put in the work.
As a college athlete the first thing that we learned was simply how to do the work. The fall velos would be down, guys would struggle simply because we were working harder than they ever had before. But once their body adapted, numbers skyrocketed. There is no shortcut and there shouldn’t be! If it was easy everybody would do it. Every high school kid could just do some work in the weight room, hit a little bit, and they’d be Division 1 caliber players. Guys could play a little catch, throw some bullpens, and they would be 90 mph plus with a swing-and-miss breaking ball.
In order to be a high-level player in baseball, what you need to do is simple but it isn’t easy. You need to workout and increase your overall level of strength. You need to also train in a way that makes you able to use that strength quickly. You need to improve your mobility in a way that builds strength through a full range of motion so that you can reduce the risk of injury while performing better. You need to throw efficiently and without pain so that you are able to throw often. If you’re a hitter you need to move efficiently and train in a way that challenges your ability to make solid contact.
It is simple, but the work is not easy. It won’t be just doing one drill perfectly or just focusing on one thing, one day in the cage or in a bullpen. The guys at the highest level work on their craft every day. They know they just need to get better, it’s not that they aren’t good enough but they can’t just stay where they are or they will be passed. And a sophomore in high school is in the same boat, even the best in the state needs to work to be better. The body adapts to stresses that are place on it. If you just train to maintain there will be regression.
Train to get stronger, you don’t need to be a 500-pound squatter to be a good baseball player, but you need to be able to execute basic movements with some resistance. Jump often and not the same way every time, jump sideways, jump off and on to one leg. Train for rotational power, some type of medball throw or rotational core work that happens quickly.
Skill work needs to be done often and with great intent. It should challenge you, there is a time and a place for low pressure work, but it needs to be done at near 100% effort from varying levels of constraint. Overload and underload training is good for most of the population but needs to be progressed slowly and particularly on the throwing side safety parameters need to be established first.
A place like Bardo’s can be dangerous. People think they can just show up and get better just by walking through the door. No matter what program you do or who you work with if you just show up, go through the motions, and only try at the things you are good at, you won’t get the results you think you deserve. But if you show up ready to learn, trust what you feel, and work on what you aren’t good at on your own, the sky's the limit. It’s simple but it’s not easy.
For some examples of what hard work looks like check out Healthy Heat on Instagram and Facebook. Get after it!
Have you ever taken a lesson where your coach keeps yelling out one phrase, like “use your legs”, over and over? Did you struggle the whole time to make the adjustment and your biggest feedback was only “yes” or “no”? Have you ever struggled to execute a pitch only to have your coach tell you to change something, and the next one was way better but it didn’t feel any different? Have you ever you felt like you made a change, had a lights-out pen, and then the next time you pitched you felt terrible and your “stuff” wasn’t as good as your bullpen? It’s not that you’re not coachable, it’s the words.
It has almost been a year since we partnered with the Florida Baseball Ranch, one of the top developmental programs in the country. Randy Sullivan has been amazing to work with and all of us have learned a lot from him. One of the biggest pieces that he has continued to emphasize is that words get in the way.
We want to change movement patterns without conscious thought. Everything in baseball happens far too fast for an athlete to actually tell his body what to do. Much of the “old school” teaching has been done using conscious thought. A coach tells an athlete what to do, the athlete interprets the words, then tries to execute the movement, the coach tells them how to do it differently. The changes that are made may carry over for a short time, but when the intensity is ratcheted up, athletes will typically revert back to old habits. We want to lead athletes through guided discovery, based on feel and execution to train the body not the mind.
In our individualized programs athletes are given corrective drills that force them to execute drills within certain constraints. This allows the athlete to figure it out on their own. You may not remember what you hear, but your body will remember what it felt.
Noah may not be Aroldis Chapman yet, but through this drill he is able to feel his lower body work in a way that is similar to the guy that throws the hardest fastball in baseball.
At the end of the day the most important things for a thrower are answering the following questions:
If we can check off all the boxes, then it was a perfect throw. There may be things that need more work in terms of movement, but it can never be at the expense of our four checkpoints. The most important thing about the four checkpoints is THERE ARE NO WORDS OR INTERPRETATION. It is merely simple feedback that doesn’t require an “expert” or even another observer. Target hit, boom, celebrate it, and do it again.