Rotational Power

March 22, 2018

Thoracic rotation is essential in baseball. Players need to develop strength in the core and thoracic spine to perform the two key movements of the sport—swinging and throwing. Players that can generate more rotational power from these areas will be in a better position to succeed on the diamond.

Gerry DeFilippo of EliteFTS breaks down the role of the thoracic spine in relation to the core when baseball players are swinging a bat or throwing a ball.

“After force is transferred from the lower half to the upper half and shoulders via the core, the thoracic spine (mid-back), must be able to rotate and the hips able to clear in order to square the body to the target when throwing the ball or when swinging,” he writes. “Lack of rotational power can severely limit velocity potential and swinging power. That is, an extremely strong base at the legs or shoulder may not see full potential utilized if a player cannot rotate at a similar rate.”

When training rotational power, DeFillipo believes it’s important to break down and understand each step of the movement. First, he points out that movements such as throwing and swinging are done in the frontal plane, which divides the body into the front and back. More specifically, the frontal plane components occur when the batter strides towards the mound and when a pitcher strides towards home plate. Then there is a transition to the transverse plane, which is where the rotation really takes place, such as when a batter brings their hands towards the ball as they swing or a pitcher brings their arm around to deliver a pitch.

Now that the different parts of these movements have been identified, it’s time to start training. DeFilippo recommends three exercises that fit into a basic progression. Together they will target the muscles and work within the planes of motion essential for building rotational power.

Sledgehammer Swings:

This exercise requires a sledgehammer and a large tire, or other equipment that serve an equivalent purpose. In order to experience full thoracic rotation, be sure to keep your feet perfectly squared. Start by holding the sledgehammer at your waist with your arms extended. Then rotate fully around towards one side, brings your arms back around, and rotate back to a squared position while simultaneously slamming the hammer on the tire. This movement helps to mimic that of a swing. 

Figure Eight Medicine Ball Slams:

Start out in your lateral pitching stance, holding a medicine ball with both hands. The exercise is performed in a lateral position as you transfer weight from your front leg to your back leg before rotating and slamming the ball into the ground. This targets both planes of movement and mimics the type of rotation done when throwing. Use a soft or carpeted surface to lessen the bounce of the medicine ball.

Counter-Movement Figure Eight Medicine Ball Slams:

This is the final exercise in the progression. Start in the same position as the figure eight medicine ball slam then hop laterally forward, laterally backward, rotate and slam the ball into the ground. Building up this kinetic energy with the forward and backward hop helps to build even more power in the legs, waist, and core. 

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