You are on page 1of 29

February 2005

Volume 4, Number 1

National Strength and Conditioning Association

Bridging the gap between science and application

Baseball / Softball


Body Composition and

Baseball Performance
Frank J. Spaniol, EdD, CSCS
Appropriate body composition has a significant effect on baseball
skill. Players at all levels of competition should be aware of
their body composition and the important role it plays in
success on the field. This article will discuss why body composition is important for baseball players, how to determine your
body composition, and provide you with average body fat
percentages for players at the high school level, all the way up
to the major leagues.


Developing Strength and

Power for Fastpitch Softball:
The Driving Force of the Game
Sophia Nimphius, MS, CSCS
Strength and power are important for all fastpitch softball
positions. This article will examine how to set up your training
program and improve your strength and power. Also included
is a sample training program for pitchers.


Hitters Checklist: Consistent

Hitting Through Preparation
Adam H. Naylor, EdD
Concentration on the playing field is about thinking the right
thing at the right time. But what are the right thoughts at what
time? This article discusses how to develop a hitters checklist,
addressing the correct thoughts at the correct time for the batter.
This checklist will provide you with better focus, leading to
better at bats.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 2


Training Table
Sport Nutrition Primer


Joseph M. Warpeha, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT

What should you eat before, during, and after exercise? This
column teaches you what foods you should fuel up on to
optimize your performance, and when to take them.

What is the explanation behind the people who do not appear

overly muscular but are clearly stronger than the bigger, better
built people? It is motor unit recruitment. This issues column
will take a look at what motor unit recruitment is, and the
potential for strength increases that lie within.

Ounce of Prevention
Preventing Rotator Cuff Injuries


The overhead throwing motion in baseball puts a large amount

of stress on the shoulder. As a result, shoulder injuries are
common in baseball players. Try implementing these exercises
to help build your rotator cuff strength, and decrease your
chances of ending up on the bench with a shoulder injury.

Train for the Game

A Medicine Ball Progression for
Developing Core Strength and Power

One at a Time
While score is important, a focus on score or some other
outcome measure during competition (e.g. total weight lifted,
time in the half-marathon, place at regionals) often detracts
from the task at hand. The alternative is to focus on what is
controllable; that is, what needs to be done right now to be
successful. This column will discuss how to keep your focus on
what is controllable, and what is happening now.

Agility Runs with Swim Noodles

Agility training does not require expensive equipment. This
column looks at an inexpensive method to set up your agility
drills that incorporates visual and auditory stimuli.

Mind Games
Suzie Tuffey Riewald, PhD, NSCA-CPT,*D

Mark Roozen, MEd, CSCS,*D


What is Motor Unit Recruitment?

By Debra Wein, MS, RD, LDN, NSCA-CPT

Jason Brumitt, MSPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS


In the Gym


Fitness Frontlines
G. Gregory Haff, PhD, CSCS
The latest news from the field on: varying bat weight, half time
muscle temperature and performance, physiological adaptations
with cardiovascular machines, and nutritional supplementation

Tracy Morgan Handzel, CSCS

This training progression is designed to incorporate a variety of
elements for improving core strength in rotation. It graduates
from easy to more difficult, and includes injury prevention,
strength, and even agility and speed training elements.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 3

NSCAs Performance Training Journal is a publication

of the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(NSCA). Articles can be accessed online at
All material in this publication is copyrighted by
NSCA. Permission is granted for free redistribution of
each issue or article in its entirety. Reprinted articles or
articles redistributed online should be accompanied by
the following credit line: This article originally
appeared in NSCAs Performance Training Journal, a
publication of the National Strength and Conditioning
Association. For a free subscription to the journal,
browse to Permission to
reprint or redistribute altered or excerpted material will
be granted on a case by case basis; all requests must be
made in writing to the editorial office.

NSCA Mission
As the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, we support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application, to improve athletic
performance and fitness.

Editorial Office
1885 Bob Johnson Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906
Phone: +1 719-632-6722
Editor: Keith E. Cinea, MA, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT
Sponsorship Information: Robert Jursnick
Graphic Design/Layout: John K. Conner
Typesetting/Production: Suzann K. Henry
Illustrator: Cedric Taylor

Editorial Review Panel

Kyle Brown, CSCS
John M. Cissik, MS, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D
Chris A. Fertal, ATC, CSCS
Michael Hartman, MS, CSCS
Mark S. Kovacs, MEd, CSCS
David Pollitt, CSCS

Talk to us

David Sandler, MS, CSCS

Share your questions and comments. We want to hear

from you. Write to Performance Training Editor,
NSCA, 1885 Bob Johnson Drive, Colorado Springs,
CO 80906, or send email to

Brian K. Schilling, CSCS, PhD

David J. Szymanski, PhD, CSCS
Chad D. Touchberry, MS, CSCS
Joseph M. Warpeha, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Randall Walton, CSCS

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 4


Debra Wein, MS, RD, LDN, NSCA-CPT

Sport Nutrition

epending on the duration,

intensity, and type of exercise you are performing,
there are three stages where
nutrition plays a role in performance
before, during, and after activity. One
of the primary goals of sport nutrition is
to optimize the availability of muscle
glycogen, thereby insuring optimal

Pre-Exercise Nutrition
Properly nourishing yourself before
exercise should:
Prevent low blood sugar during
Provide fuel by topping off your
muscle glycogen stores.
Settle your stomach, absorb gastric
juices, and prevent hunger.
Instill confidence in your abilities.
Remember, fasting is detrimental to
performance, and is strongly discouraged
before exercise or performance.
The pre-exercise meal should consist
primarily of high carbohydrate, low fat
foods for easy and fast digestion. Since
everyones preferences for, and responses
to, different foods are unique, it is
recommended that you learn through
trial and error what does and does not
work for you. For example, some people
respond negatively to sugar intake within
an hour before exercise. The temporary

boost that some people experience after

eating foods with a high sugar (sucrose)
concentration such as candy, syrups, or
soft drinks actually causes an increase in
insulin production which will be followed
by a rapid lowering of blood sugar, and
can lead to decreased performance. In
addition, fructose (the sugar present in
fruit juices) ingested before exercise may
also lower your blood sugar and cause
gastrointestinal distress in some people,
but not others.

How much time should you allow

before exercise after eating?
Allow adequate time for digestion and
normalization of blood glucose:
4 hours for a large meal.
2 3 hours for a smaller meal.
1 hour for a blended meal, a high
carbohydrate beverage (10 30%),
or a small snack.

During Exercise
When an individual has been consuming
a diet sufficient in carbohydrates, 60% or
greater, there is enough energy present in
the muscles to fuel workouts and other
activities completed within 60 90
minutes. On the other hand, during
prolonged, strenuous exercise lasting over
90 minutes, carbohydrate ingestion at
regular intervals during the exercise is
beneficial 2, 3. For example, consuming
8 ounces (1 cup) of a sports drink
containing a 6 10 % carbohydrate

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

concentration every 15 20 minutes can

delay the onset of fatigue. This is equivalent to a rate of 0.8 1.0 grams of
carbohydrate per minute or approximately
24 30 grams every half hour.

Post-Exercise Nutrition
When and what you eat after a work-out
can have a serious effect on your recovery.
Adequate recovery means that your
muscles are rested, re-fueled, and ready
to perform again, which is extremely
important for people who exercise every
day. Inadequate recovery can lead to
chronic fatigue and a gradual decline in
your performance. Be selective in what
you eat after exercise; wise choices will
help you recover quickly and enable
your muscles to work better the next
time around. For the fitness enthusiast
whose workouts generally last less than
90 minutes, your main concern is to
re-fuel with a well-balanced, high carbohydrate diet. However, if your workouts
typically last longer than 90 minutes and
are exhaustive, the timing of your
meals is additionally important. Your
body needs about 20 hours to replenish
its fuel stores. Furthermore, this will
only occur if adequate carbohydrate
(approx. 500 600 grams depending on
your body size) is consumed during this
time 2, 3. The first 2 3 hours after exercise
are critical for youdont wait to eat.

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 5

For optimal glycogen re-synthesis, follow
these target intakes during the 20 hours
following a workout:
Immediately after exercise
(15 30 minutes): 75 100 grams
Within the next 2 3 hours after
exercise: 100 grams carbohydrate.
Every 4 hours thereafter: 100 grams
For example, since 1 gram carbohydrate
= 4 calories, 75 100 grams = 300 400
calories. In practical terms, you could
take in 75 100 grams of carbohydrate
by eating:
A banana and a bagel.

Sport Nutrition Primer


About the Author

1. Koopman R, Wagenmakers AJ,

Manders RJ, Zorenc AH, Senden JM,
Gorselink M, Keizer HA, van Loon LJ.
(2004). The combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate
increases post exercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects, American
Journal of Physiololgy Endocrinology and
Metabolism, Nov 23.

Debra Wein, MS, RD, LDN, NSCACPT is on the faculty at The University
of Massachusetts Boston and Simmons
College. She chairs the Womens
Subcommittee of the Massachusetts
Governors Committee on Physical Fitness
and Sports and is the President of
The Sensible Nutrition Connection, Inc.

2. Position of the ADA, Dietitians

of Canada, and the American College
of Sports Medicine. (2000). Nutrition
and athletic performance. Journal of
the American Dietetics Association,
100:1543 1556.

12 cup raisins and a slice of bread.

2 cups of orange juice and a cup of
Current research also suggests that
protein, when consumed along with the
post carbohydrate fuel, can increase the
rate of glycogen resynthesis and improve
recovery 1.

3. Rosenbloom C. (2000). Sports nutrition, A guide for the professional working

with active people, Third Edition. Chicago;
The American Dietetic Association.

A high carbohydrate beverage (10 30%

carbohydrate concentration) can also be
used as an immediate source of carbohydrate replenishment. These beverages can
be especially useful after a workout in
the heat when you may be more inclined
to drink than to eat. However, high
carbohydrate beverages are not complete
foods; they do not contain all the nutrients your body needs for good health
and top performance. If you use these
beverages in your training regimen,
make sure you follow soon after with a
well-balanced, high carbohydrate meal,
and plenty of fluids.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 6

Ounceof Prevention

Cuff Injuries
for Pitchers

Jason Brumitt, MSPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS

Figure 1. Muscles of the Rotator Cuff (posterior view)


Injuries to the shoulder are
common in baseball. The overhead
throwing motion places significant
stresses upon the shoulder1.
The strength training program
performed by many baseball
players is often inadequate to
maintain shoulder health and
maximize performance. Training
the shoulders rotator cuff muscles
should be performed as part of
a complete strength and conditioning program.


The Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff consists of 4 muscles: the
supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor,
and the subscapularis (see Figure 1). These
muscles originate on the scapula and
insert upon the humerus (the bone located in the upper arm). The rotator cuff
muscles function to elevate the shoulder,
create rotation about the shoulder,
and provide biomechanical control to
maintain normal shoulder health.


Not Shown: Subscapularis

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 7

Ounceof Prevention

Preventing Rotator Cuff Injuries for Pitchers

The Role of the Rotator Cuff Exercise Descriptions

Sidelying External Rotation
Muscles during Throwing
Each phase of the throwing motion is
highlighted by specific muscle contractions. During the beginning or cocking
phases, the rotator cuff muscles contract
concentrically (muscle shortening
contractions) to elevate the shoulder and
position it into external rotation. During
the throwing and ball release phases, the
rotator cuff muscle action is eccentric
(muscle lengthens) to minimize the
potentially damaging stresses placed
upon shoulder1. Training the rotator cuff
must be performed utilizing exercises
both concentrically and eccentrically.
Performing these exercises should improve
performance and may help to reduce the
risk of injury.

Exercise Program
Table 1 provides an exercise program for
rotator cuff strengthening. The goal is
to train the endurance capacity of these
muscles versus training for power and
size. Training should begin using minimal
or no weight while performing high
repetitions (25 30 repetitions per set).
When you are able to perform the
exercises without the burn (fatigue),
increase each exercise by one to two
pounds, or use a heavier elastic band.
Table 1. Rotator Cuff Exercise
Perform each exercise 1 3 sets,
25 30 repetitions each.
Sidelying External Rotation
Prone External Rotation
Prone Horizontal Abduction
Standing External Rotation (concentric)
Standing External Rotation (eccentric)

Lay on your side with your throwing arm

resting against your torso. The elbow
should be maintained in a 90-degree
angle. Rotate at your shoulder raising
your hand upward. Technique errors
include raising your elbow off your side
or rotating at your spine (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Sidelying External Rotation

Prone External Rotation

Lay prone (on your belly) with your
shoulder and elbow positioned at 90degree angles. Start with your hand
directed toward the floor. Rotate the
shoulder (externally) by raising the hand
in an upward direction (see Figure 3).

Prone Horizontal Abduction

Lay prone with your arm hanging straight
down. Raise your arm, with your thumb
pointed up, to a horizontal position (as
shown in Figure 4).

Figure 3. Prone External Rotation

Stand, holding weights, with arms at side.
Raise your arms (thumbs up) angled 35 to
45 degrees from the center of your body
toward shoulder height (see Figure 5).

Standing Shoulder External

Position arm and shoulder at 90-degree
angles (see Figure 6). Rotate your hand
toward the ceiling (shoulder external
rotation) (see Figure 7). Take a large step
backward. Return your arm to its starting
position, allowing only a controlled internal rotation motion. Take a step forward,
and then repeat the sequence. This
sequence trains the rotator cuff eccentrically. To perform the concentric motion,
perform the shoulder external rotation
(see Figure 7) without taking a step.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Figure 4. Prone Horizontal Abduction

Figure 5. Scaption

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 8

Ounceof Prevention

Preventing Rotator Cuff Injuries for Pitchers

1. Meister K. (2000). Injuries to the
Shoulder in the Throwing Athlete, Part 1.
American Journal of Sports Medicine.
28(2):265 275.

About the Author

Figure 6. Standing External Rotation
(start position)

Figure 7. Standing External Rotation

(eccentric motion start position/concentric motion finish position)

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Jason Brumitt, MSPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS

is a board-certified sports physical therapist
currently working at Southwest Washington
Medical Center. His clientele include both
orthopedic and sport injuries. He provides
athletic training services to area high schools
through a hospital community program.

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 9

Baseball / Softball
Step 5: Determine your waist factor.
Waist Factor = Waist measurement x
4.150. Example: if your waist is 34,
34 x 4.15 = 141.10

Body Composition
and Baseball Performance

Step 6: Determine your lean body mass.

Weight factor waist factor.
Example: 310.82 - 141.10 = 169.72
(169.72 would be your lean body

Frank J. Spaniol, EdD, CSCS

It is no secret that todays elite baseball
players are bigger, faster, stronger, and
leaner than their predecessors. In fact, it
has been debated that the increased
physical size and strength of the modern
day player has had the most significant
impact on the record-breaking performances of the past decade. Simply stated,
physique plays a vital role in athletic
performance, and appropriate body
composition has a significant effect on
baseball skill. Subsequently, players at all
levels of competition should be aware of
their body composition and the important role it plays in success on the field.
The purpose of this article is threefold:
1) discuss how to estimate body composition, 2) evaluate results and compare to
baseball-specific norms, and 3) discuss the
effect of body composition on baseball

Test Your Body

Many methods are available to estimate
body composition including hydrostatic
weighing (underwater weighing), skinfold
measurements, and bioelectrical impedance 1, 3, 9. For the purpose of this article,
a single-site circumference measurement
will be utilized due to its simplicity and

practicality. The following steps should

be used to estimate body composition
using the single-site circumference
measurement 2:

Step 7: Determine your body fat

weight. Body fat = body weight lean
body mass. Example: 200 169.72 =
30.28 (30.28 would be your body fat).

Step 1: Measure your bodyweight to the

nearest pound.

Step 8: Determine your body fat percentage. Body fat percentage = body
fat / body weight x 100. Example:
30.28 / 200 x 100 = 15.14% (your
percent body fat would be 15.14%).

Step 2: Measure your waist circumference (at the umbilicus or bellybutton)

to the nearest half-inch.
Step 3: Multiply your bodyweight by
1.082. Example: if you weigh 200 lb.,
200 x 1.082 = 216.4.
Step 4: Determine your weight factor.
Weight factor = bodyweight + 94.42.
Example: 216.40 + 94.42 = 310.82

Compare Your Results

After calculating your percent body fat,
the next logical step is to compare your
results to other baseball players of similar age, position, and competition level.
Use the following chart to compare your
results (see Table 1):

Table 1. Average Percent Body Fat for Baseball Players


School (4)

NAIA (5)





















NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Major League
NCAA DI (6) Baseball (2)

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 10

Baseball / Softball
Body Composition and
Baseball Performance
Excess body fat provides few, if any,
performance advantages for baseball
players. In fact, tests of hundreds of
baseball players indicate that the best
performers consistently possess low
percent body fat and high lean body
mass 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. In addition, baseball players
should also work to increase lean body
mass (muscle mass) since research suggests
that increased lean body mass enhances
strength, power, agility, throwing velocity,
and bat speed 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Also, it should
be noted that too little body fat can
negatively influence athletic performance;
a percent body fat of less than 5% is
considered unsafe for male athletes 2, 9.

Body Composition and Baseball Performance


About the Author

1. Baechle TR, Earle RW. (2000).

Essentials of Strength Training and
Conditioning: National Strength and
Conditioning Association. Champaign,
IL: Human Kinetics.

Frank Spaniol, EdD, CSCS serves as

Professor of Kinesiology at Texas A&M
University-Corpus Christi. He served as
the Head Baseball Coach at Morehead
State University from 1989-95 and currently chairs the Executive Council of the
NSCA Baseball SIG. Dr. Spaniol can be
contacted at

2. Coleman AE. (2000). 52-Week Baseball

Training: A proven plan for strength,
power, speed, agility, and performance.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
3. Heyward VH, Wagner DR. (2004).
Applied body composition assessment.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
4. Spaniol FJ. (2004). Physiological characteristics of adolescent baseball players.
Manuscript submitted for publication.

As discussed, research suggests that
appropriate percent body fat can enhance
speed, power, and agility 4, 5, 6. In addition,
increased lean body mass can significantly
enhance strength, power, throwing
velocity, and bat speed. Therefore, it is
suggested that aspiring baseball players
do the following: 1) learn to monitor
percent body fat, 2) implement a sound
sports nutrition program designed to
control percent body fat and maximize
lean body mass, and 3) employ an effective strength and conditioning program
designed to improve strength, power,
and baseball skill. While success in these
areas will require education, discipline,
and hard work, the effort can be rewarded
with significantly improved baseball

5. Spaniol FJ. (2004). Physiological characteristics of NAIA intercollegiate baseball

players. Manuscript submitted for publication.
6. Spaniol FJ, Melrose D, Bohling M,
and Bonnette R. Physiological characteristics of NCAA Division I baseball
players. Manuscript submitted for
publication. 2004.
7. Spaniol FJ. (2002). Physiological
predictors of bat speed and throwing
velocity in adolescent baseball players
(Abstract). Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, 16(4):1 18.
8. Spaniol FJ. (1997). Predicting
Throwing Velocity in College Baseball
Players (Abstract). Journal of Strength
and Conditioning Research, 11(4):286.
9. Wilmore JH and Costill DL. (2004).
Physiology of sport and exercise. Champaign,
IL: Human Kinetics.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 11


Mark Roozen, MEd, CSCS,*D

Agility Runs with

Swim Noodles

he definition of agility is the

ability to decelerate, accelerate, and change direction
quickly while maintaining
good body control without decreasing
speed1. In athletic events, agility success is
also dependant on stimuli such as visual or
auditory response2. To incorporate these
factors into your training program, try
this inexpensive way to include auditory
and visual stimuli to your agility training.

group that has been set up. Continues

the run until the course has been completed.
With the ease of moving the swim
noodles, just pull up the wood dowel and
rearrange the noodles into a different
pattern to completely change up the drill.
The only limitations to what you can do
are the limits you place on yourself.

Other Drills
Listed below are just a few patterns or
drills that can be used:
Backward and Forward Runs
(see Figure 2)Have your partner
give verbal cues as you go back and
forth between different color noodles.
Star Drill (see Figure 3)Place 5
noodles in a star pattern. Beginning
in the center, go to the color noodle
that is called out, returning to the
center after each run.
Z-Pattern Runs (see Figure 4)Set
the noodles up in a Z-pattern, but
at a variety of distances or levels.
As you approach, a color is called,
and you run to that color. With the
placement of the noodles, you will
either go short or go long.

Figure 1.

Swim Noodles
Swim noodles can be bought at any
shopping center or pool supply business
for just a few dollars. The noodles come
in a variety of colors (visual stimulus), and
with a small wood dowel that you can
pick up at any hardware store in your
area, they can be placed in the ground in
different patterns for a variety of agility
The example below is a Zigzag Cutting
Drill (see Figure 1). Take the noodles
and place them at different locations in
a zigzag pattern, varying the horizontal
and vertical distance.

Figure 2.

When performing the drill, break toward

the first set of noodles, and have your
partner provide a verbal cue (auditory
stimulus)the color of a swim noodle.
Plant and brake in front of that colored
noodle, and then explode to the next

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 12

X-Pattern Runs (see Figure 5)This
drill is similar to the Star Drill and
Z-Pattern Run. Have a center start
point, with the noodles set up at
various distances in an X-pattern.
A color is called and you run to that
colored noodle. You can learn the
drill in a progression by first starting
the drill in a specific pattern (e.g.
counter-clock wise). Then progress
to movements by verbal color calls
only, providing a variety of directions
and movements.
Sprint and Cut or Backpedal and
Cut DrillsTakes off at a sprint,
when a color is called out, break
towards that color noodle. You can
also begin the drill by backpedaling,
and follow same procedure.

Agility Runs with Swim Noodles


About the Author

1. Brown LE, Ferrigno VA, Santana JC.

(2000). Training for Speed, Agility, and
Quickness. Champaign, IL: Human

Mark Roozen, MEd, CSCS,*D, is owner/

director of Performance Zone, a Fitness
and Training Center in Granbury, TX he
opened in the fall of 2003. He received his
BS from Northern State University and his
MEd from Tarleton State University. He
has been an active member of the NSCA
since 1987. Mark has served on a number
of NSCA committees. Presently he serves
on the Nominating Committee and is the
chair of the Membership Committee. He
can be reached at

2. Twist P. (2001). Lighting Quickness.

In Foran, B (Ed.) High-Performance
Sports Conditioning (pp. 99 118).
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Figure 4.

Adding visual and auditory stimuli to

your training program will not only help
improve your agility, it also adds a great
deal of variety. As stated, there is no
limit to how you can use the noodles to
enhance your agility training program.

Figure 3.

Figure 5.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 13

Train for theGame

Tracy Morgan Handzel, CSCS

A Medicine Ball
for Developing Core Strength and Power

raining progressions consist

of a series of exercises that are
sequenced together systematically and with a specific goal
in mind. Most often progressions begin
with a basic functional movement, or
a part of a functional movement. The
progression continues by incorporating
more complex and demanding movements that still focus on the goal, but may
contain other elements of performance
as well. For example an agility training
progression may begin with a basic
change of direction exercise, but may
continue with exercises that demand
change of direction with greater balance,
deceleration, and change of direction,
and finally progressing to drills that
incorporate deceleration, change of
direction, and acceleration.

Use light weight medicine balls

for training in rotation. The goal in
medicine ball training is to improve
your ability to be explosive. Medicine
balls that are too heavy may slow
your movement down, making you
less explosive. Furthermore, experts
believe that heavy weights in rotation
contribute to spinal injuries and low
back pain1.
Give all your effort and throw as
hard as you can during each exercise.
Rest between each repetition.
Regardless of your sport or position,
perform each exercise on both sides.

Training Progression
Lateral Throw

The training progression provided here

is designed to incorporate a variety of
elements for improving core strength in
rotation. It graduates from easy to more
difficult, and includes injury prevention,
strength, and even agility and speed
training elements.

Standing in a typical batters stance,

grasp a light med ball in both hands.
Wind up with the med ball, by pulling
it backwards and shifting your weight to
the back leg. Swing explosively and
throw the med ball across your body,
transferring your body weight forward.
Do not stop at any time, but make the
movement as fluid as possible. Perform
10 12 repetitions (see Figures 1 & 2).

Medicine Ball Training Tips

Lateral Throw and Sprint

Be sure to begin your training session

with a dynamic warm up. Examples
of dynamic warm ups can be found
in the archives of the NSCAs
Performance Training Journal.

Figure 1. Lateral Throw (start position)

Perform the exercise as described above

and finish by sprinting to first base.
Perform 8 12 repetitions, and yes, perform them on the opposite side as well.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Figure 2. Lateral Throw (finish position)

Kneeling Throw
This exercise requires more involvement
of the core musculature as the legs become
uninvolved. Kneel on the left leg and
keep the right foot on the ground so that
the right knee is at a 90-degree angle.
Holding the med ball with two hands,
wind up, and swing from the right
hand side as described in the previous

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 14

Train for theGame

A Medicine Ball Progression

drill. Your lower body should remain

stable through the entire exercise. Perform
8 12 repetitions (see Figures 3 & 4).

Single Leg Throw

This exercise demands great balance and
helps develop the coordinated explosive
effort between the torso and back leg
which is often used to create a powerful
push off (see Figures 5 & 6).
Stand in a balanced position on the right
leg. Holding the med ball in two hands,
wind up by rotating backwards as
described previously, and load the right
leg by flexing at the ankle, knee, and hip.
Swing explosively and throw the med
ball across your body as hard, and as fast
as you can. After you release the ball,
transfer you weight to your front leg.
This should be a smooth transition
with no stops in motion. Perform 8 12

Figure 3.Kneeling Throw (start position)

Figure 4. Kneeling Throw

(finish position)

Figure 5. Single Leg Throw

(start position)

Figure 6. Single Leg Throw

(finish position)

Medicine Ball Superman

Your back muscles cannot be ignored
when training for improved core power.
Lay face down on the ground with your
arms and legs extended. Hold a light
med ball in your hands, and squeeze a
light med ball in between your ankles.
Keeping your legs and arms straight, lift
them off the ground for a count of 6
seconds and relax. Some back experts say
that endurance type training may be more
effective than strength type training in
preventing low back injuries1. Therefore
repeat 15 30 times (see Figure 7).

Medicine Ball Tennis

This activity combines explosive core
strength with quick and powerful movements. With a partner and a light weight
med ball that will bounce, play a game of
tennis. Use both hands to forehand or
backhand the ball over the net to each
other. Try to move each other around

Figure 7. Medicine Ball Superman

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 15

Train for theGame

A Medicine Ball Progression

the court to incorporate reactive abilities

and movement skills. Beginners: first
player to 8 points wins. Intermediates:
first player to 15 wins. Experts: best of
three sets, 8 points each wins.

1. McGill S. (2002). Low back disorders:
Evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

About the Author

Tracy Morgan Handzel, CSCS is the
owner and head Performance Coach of
Train for the Game in Atlanta, GA. She
currently trains elite and professional tennis players and writes training related
articles for various trade publications.
Tracy has served as assistant director at the
International Performance Institute and
assistant strength and conditioning coach
at the University of Washington, San
Diego State University, and the University
of California San Diego.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 16

Baseball / Softball

Developing Strength and

Power for Fastpitch Softball
The Driving Force of the Game
Sophia Nimphius, MS, CSCS

he level of competition in
the sport of fastpitch softball
has risen sharply over the
past decade. This can be
attributed in part to the international
attention brought to the sport with its
addition as an Olympic sport in 1996.
To be competitive at such elite levels,
softball athletes must place greater
emphasis on strength and conditioning
to increase overall level of play and performance. Although similar to baseball in
many respects, softball is played on a field
with smaller dimensions. The distances
between the bases are only 60 feet
compared to 90 feet and the pitching
distance is also shorter, between 40 and
43 feet depending on the league of play.

side dominance may be responsible for

significant strength and power differences
between the dominant and non-dominant
legs in some collegiate softball players
(Newton, unpublished data 2004).

To minimize the chance of developing a

large imbalance, strength training should
become a key component of training.
Simple changes to an exercise such as the
lat pull-down or squat can be used to
emphasize one side at a time (See Figures
1 & 2), minimizing strength imbalance.
Balancing musculature will allow you to
be a more versatile player in eliminating
a weaker playing side and may decrease
the potential risk of injury.
Each position in softball may demand
slightly different movements, physiological
demands, or result in different common

Figure 1. Example of 1-arm lat pull-down at starting (left) and ending (right)

Softball therefore places unique demands

on an athlete to repeatedly develop speed
and power over short distances. With this
in mind, increasing strength and power
could be the driving force behind success
in an increasingly competitive sport.

Softball Specific Needs

The nature of the sport of softball may
cause the development of a favourite or
dominant side. Such favouritism or single

Figure 2. Example of split stance squat at starting (left) and mid-point (right)

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 17

Baseball / Softball
for increased
performance it is
extremely important
for a pitcher to
develop lower body
injuries3. Therefore, it is important to
separate softball players into similar
categories for a position specific needs
analysis. For example, players would most
commonly be separated into infielders,
outfielders, catchers, and pitchers.
Following this separation by positions
one can recognize the slightly different
exercise selections that may help athletes
increase strength in their position specific
movements. An example of exercise
selections that could be added to a
general strength program for position
specificity is shown in Table 1.
Infielders rely predominantly on speed
and agility in a lateral motion. Therefore,
adding a lunge directed laterally instead of
the traditional forward lunge could help
strengthen the muscles more associated
with the movement of an infielder.
The main concern for outfielders would
be the ability to sprint to a spot and
make long, strong throws. Therefore,
emphasis on power development with
jump squats and bench press throws is
critical, but all softball players could
benefit from training with ballistic style
movements such as jump squats and
bench press. This type of training has
been shown to increase both sprint speed
and throwing velocity4.

Developing Strength and Power for Fastpitch Softball

Catchers are unique in that they spend a

large amount of time in a squat position.
To be able to explode out of this position
for fielding or throwing is crucial.
Therefore, an emphasis on strength and
power in and out of this position can be
obtained using the suggested full range of
motion squat or power clean (performed
starting from the floor).

Pitcher Specific
Developing a Driving Force
in Pitching
Possibly the most overlooked player on
the field in terms of strength and conditioning may be the pitcher. In a survey
of female collegiate windmill pitchers,
69.8% of the pitchers reported doing the
same resistance training and conditioning
program as the rest of their softball team.
In addition, these surveys revealed some
interesting information on key areas of
weakness and/or overuse that lead to
injury. As level of competition increased
from Division III to Division I, so did
percentage of pitchers experiencing

When it comes to pitcher specific

strength and conditioning, most often a
focus is made on strengthening of the
upper body, specifically the rotator cuff
to combat the common shoulder injury 5.
However, for increased performance it is
extremely important for a pitcher to
develop lower body power. The true drive
behind pitching is a result of the force
developed in the legs during the windmill
When designing a strength and
conditioning program for a pitcher,
emphasis should be placed on the use of
multi-joint, explosive exercises. For
example, exercises such as the power
clean, jump squat, and bench press throw
contribute to both the strength and
explosiveness of an athlete.
Another area related to performance that
must be considered is power endurance,
or the ability to maintain power and
therefore pitching speed throughout the
game. To improve this type of conditioning, one should add some type of repeat
high speed/power drills. For example
short length repeat sprints with a sprint

Table 1. Example of position specific movements and related exercises to

strengthen muscles in a similar movement pattern.



Position Specific


Lateral speed and change

of direction agility

Lateral Lunges
Jump Squats


Sprint speed, long throws

Jump Squats
Bench Press Throws


Ability to move out of

squat position

Full Squats
Power Clean


Windmill pitch (repeat lower

body power)

Hang Clean
Jump Squats

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 18

Baseball / Softball
to rest time ratio between 2:1 and 3:1
allows for increases in both anaerobic and
aerobic capacity1, which is a crucial part
of pitching success. A sample program
for a pitcher looking to increase power
endurance can be found in Table 2.
This program is designed to use a slightly
different set and repetition range during
the ballistic squat jumps and bench press
throws in an effort to emphasize multiple
bouts of peak power production as a
pitcher would need. The rest of the
program is set up to increase strength

Developing Strength and Power for Fastpitch Softball

of major muscle groups while still

remembering to have exercises such as
the 1-arm lat pulldown (Figure 1), and
split stance squat (Figure 2) for muscle
balance between sides.
In addition to resistance training, a
suggestion for two sessions of interval
running on the opposite days to strength
training has been made. As physical
condition increases, the length of these
sessions can be increased, however it is
important to keep the session within
your ability. This means that increasing

the total time too quickly will not allow

you to successfully be working at a near
maximal speed, which is key to developing power endurance, or anaerobic
capacity. Therefore, always try to roughly
monitor the decline in speed or power
throughout the workout, in addition to
the work to rest ratio. For example,
recording the distance covered during
the sprint portion of the interval, or if
the distance for the sprint is standard,
recording time to complete the sprint
can be monitored.

Table 2. Example of basic pre-season strength and conditioning program for a pitcher seeking power endurance.







Plyometric or

Resistance Training



Jump Squats (30 50% 1RM)

Bench Press Throw (30 50% 1RM)

Back Squat

Hamstring Curl

Upright Row

1 arm Lat Pulldown

Hang Clean

Push Press

Split Stance Squats

Incline Bench Press

Seated Row

Jump Squats (30 50% 1RM)

Bench Press Throw (30 50% 1RM)

Back Squat

Hamstring Curl

Upright Row

1 arm Lat Pulldown

Pitcher Specific Drills

Intervals: 60 ft repeat sprints

with 3:1 rest ratio

Plyometrics: Bounds, Drop

Jumps, Medicine Ball Toss Drills

Intervals: 20 ft repeat sprints

with 2:1 rest ratio

Pitcher Specific Drills

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 19

Baseball / Softball
The plyometric session on Wednesday
should be completed before the strength
training session. A variety of exercises
could be used, however bounds (both
single leg or two leg), and drop jumps
(stepping off a box between 20 to 60 cm
and performing a vertical jump immediately) have been suggested. In addition,
upper body plyometrics can be performed
using a medicine ball. Medicine ball
drills can include two-handed over-head
throws, chest passes, twists, as well as
many other variations. Monday and
Friday are set-aside as days for the pitcher
to work on specific drills such as spins,
which emphasize correct directional spin
of the ball for pitches to break effectively.
It is very important when balancing the
training for the sport and supplemental
training (resistance training, intervals,
plyometrics) to allow for rest and recovery.
Typically, softball practice is performed
in the afternoon, therefore it would be
most beneficial to perform any supplemental training in the morning in order
to spread out training and allow maximal
efforts at both sessions.
Strength and conditioning is an area that
an athlete can always work and further
improve upon. Training to further develop
your strength and power can increase
your ability and confidence to perform
at a higher level both up to bat, and in
the field. Implementing this type of
preparation into you training can truly
provide you with the driving force
behind success in fastpitch softball.

Developing Strength and Power for Fastpitch Softball


About the Author

1. Fleck S. (1983). Interval training:

Physiological basis. NSCA Journal,
5(5):40,57 63.

Sophia Nimphius, MS, CSCS is currently

a graduate assistant in the School of
Biomedical and Sports Science at Edith
Cowan University, Perth, Australia and
pursuing her PhD in Sports Science. She
earned her BS in Biology and BS in Sports
Management at Barton College in Wilson,
NC, where she also played basketball and
softball. Ms. Nimphius was a strength and
conditioning graduate assistant and assistant softball coach at University of
Wisconsin- La Crosse before becoming a
graduate assistant at Appalachian State
University where she received her MS in
Exercise Science. She is currently playing
for Western Australias State Softball team.

2. Hill JL, Humphries B, Weidner T,

Newton RU. (2004). Female collegiate
windmill pitchers: Influences to injury
incidence. Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research., 18(3):426 431.
3. Kraemer WJ. (1983). Exercise prescription in weight training: A needs analysis.
NSCA Journal, 5(1):64 65.
4. McEvoy KP, Newton RU. (1998).
Baseball throwing speed and base running
speed: The effects of ballistic resistance
training. Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, 12(4):216 221.
5. Rudolph BS, Smith AL. (1999).
Strength training for the windmill softball
pitcher. Strength and Conditioning
Journal, 21(4):27 33.
6. Stone MH, OBryant H, Garhammer
J, McMillan J, Rozeneck R. (1982). A
theoretical model of strength training.
NSCA Journal, 4(4): 36 39.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 20


Joseph M. Warpeha, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT

What is Motor
Unit Recruitment?

ommon sense seems to

dictate that bigger people are
stronger than smaller people.
Oftentimes that is the case,
but what is the explanation behind the
people who do not appear overly muscular but are clearly stronger than the
bigger, better built people? Every gym or
athletic team has that one person who is
not real muscular or big, but can bench
press more than the people who weigh
100-lbs more and look like they can
move the most weight.

Increases in muscle
size seem to be
relatively limited
when compared to
the ability of the
system to increase

The key is motor unit recruitment. Not

only is this the key to lifting more weight,
but it is crucial to other aspects of performance like running faster and jumping
higher. There are other physiological
factors that influence the potential for
strength like fiber type and tendon insertion, but they are largely non-modifiable
so this discussion will deal with the largest
trainable factor, the ability to recruit
motor units.

example, on your first ever day of lifting

you tested your bench press maximum
and it was 135-lbs. After training for a
month you tested it again and it increased
to 185-lbs but your muscles did not
appear to have grown at all. Maybe on
the first day you only were able to recruit
50% of available motor units within the
related musculature and, after subjecting
the neuromuscular system to the new
stimulus for a month, you were able to
recruit 65% of available motor units for
the task. Neuromuscular adaptation can
occur almost immediately and is the reason why your first ever set of bench press
was probably extremely shaky and the
second set was already visibly smoother
and more fluid.

A motor unit is a motor neuron and the

muscle fibers it innervates1. We see the
concept of motor unit recruitment best
when a person first begins a resistance
training program. Within the first few
weeks, strength increases dramatically
with no visible changes in muscular size.
This is due to the neuromuscular system
learning to recruit more motor units
to overcome the given stimulus. For

Increases in cross-sectional diameter

(hypertrophy) occur with training as well
and is another way the body increases

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

strength. Certainly a larger muscle will

be capable of greater force generation
than a smaller one. Increases in muscle
size seem to be relatively limited when
compared to the ability of the neuromuscular system to increase efficiency.
However, the neuromuscular system will
adapt to a given stimulus over time and
then cease to improve further without
new and different stimuli.
This is one of the greatest challenges
facing strength coaches today. How can
a coach train his or her athletes to keep
getting stronger and faster when they
already have such efficient neuromuscular
systems? There is not one single answer
to this question because each athlete is
different as are the demands of his or her
sport. There are quite a few new training
techniques that have come out in the
past 10 20 years that were designed to
deal with the problem of overcoming
In the next issue of NSCAs Performance
Training Journal, this column will deal
with one method in particular for overcoming that sticking point in your
bench press, that 30-inch vertical, or
that 4.7s 40-yard dash time. It is called
accommodating resistance and it is
becoming more and more prevalent in
the training programs of the strongest
and fastest athletes.

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 21


What is Motor Unit Recruitment?

1. Baechle TR, Earle RW. (2000).
Essentials of Strength Training and
Conditioning (2nd Ed.). Champaign, IL:
Human Kinetics.

About the Author

Joe Warpeha, MA, is an exercise physiologist
and strength coach and is currently working
on his PhD in exercise physiology at the
University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. His
main area of research is conducted at
the St. Paul Heart Clinic and involves
left-ventricular dyssynchrony in heart
failure and its assessment with ECHO
tissue Doppler imaging. Joe is also actively
involved in vascular biology research at the
University of Minnesota, particularly as it
relates to endothelial dysfunction. He is an
instructor at the University of Minnesota
and teaches beginning weight training in
addition to the advanced weight training
and conditioning class. Joe has certifications
from the NSCA, ACSM, USAW, ASEP,
and YMCA and is a two-time national
bench press champion in the 165-pound
class with multiple national and state
records to his credit.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 22

Baseball / Softball

Hitters Checklist
Consistent Hitting Through Preparation
Adam H. Naylor, EdD

t is often said that the hardest thing

to do in sport is to hit a baseball. It
requires great timing, explosive
power, flexibility, vision, and concentration. These things are so difficult to
do a great baseball/softball player often
fails at getting on base two-thirds of the
time. This reality, combined with the
excitement of the game and desire to do
well on the field often leaves the most
critical of hitting needsfocusdifficult
to achieve.
A ball player that is able to effectively
focus at the plate often has a strong
presence in the batters box, sees pitches
early, notices their rotation, displays great
plate discipline, and hits the ball well
often. Unfortunately, there are many
things that can wander into ones mind
when digging into the box and awaiting
the pitchers delivery such as: Whats the
count? What pitch am I looking for?
Keep your weight back, etc. Though
many of these thoughts might be reasonable, very few of them ought to be carried
into the batters box. Certainly this makes
sense, but it is also much easier said than
A common sport psychology myth is that
great players do not think when they are
playing well. In essence suggesting that

ball players empty their heads of all

thought when at the plate. This would
suggest that an athlete, when playing well,
is thoughtless. There are few circles
in life where thoughtless would be
perceived as a good thing, and this is
certainly true on the diamond. Great
hitters are extremely efficient in their
thinking. In other words, they think just
the right amount, neither filling their

A ball player that is

able to effectively
focus at the plate
often has a strong
presence in the
batters box
heads with excessive chatter, nor trying
to achieve a clueless state by emptying
their heads completely. Their purpose is
clear and their minds are focused on
simple targets. Concentration on the
playing field is about thinking the right
thing at the right time. A good player
that understands this principle and
creates a systematic approach to hitting
can be finely focused for every pitch.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

A good way to achieve this state of focus

is to develop a hitters mental checklist. In
essence as a hitter gets physically ready
for an at-bat by grabbing equipment and
warming up, he/she should also prepare
mentally by systematically going through
a checklist of thoughts and ideas that
must be attended to and effectively
managed. The utility of a checklist is
analogous to a grocery list. Preparing a
grocery list gives a shopper direction as
they wander the aisles of the supermarket.
Each time an item is crossed off the
shopper moves closer to checking out
and a successful trip to the supermarket.
Finally, when leaving the store, the shopper is confident that they are ready to
prepare meals throughout the upcoming
week. Similarly a batter working through
a pre-bat checklist can step into the box
confident and focused on the next pitch.
There are a few foundations to a good
hitters checklist:
Take care of the body and the
mind. A body that is warm and
ready to swing is useless without a
brain ready to focus.
Get rid of big thoughts early. While
strategy, timing the pitcher, and
swing mechanics are important, in
the batters box feelings and focus
should be simple, so the batter can
read the pitch and react accordingly.
Consistency is important. Many
average hitters have a routine they
do prior to batting when games are
going well, but unwisely stray away
from it when they are nervous or
struggling. A good hitters checklist

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 23

Baseball / Softball

Hitters Checklist

Hitters Checklist
In The Hole
Key Thoughts
Key Actions

On Deck
Key Thoughts
Key Actions

Digging In
Key Thoughts
Key Actions

Play Ball!
Key Thought

Figure 1. Hitters Checklist

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

is most important when stakes are

the highest and pitchers are the
Avoid the trap of thoughtlessness.
Going through the actions of a
hitters checklist is worthless if ones
mind is not cleared and they do not
feel the way they want to feel when
standing in the box.
A good at bat begins long before a pitch
is thrown. Whenever possible, it ought to
begin in the hole (3rd player in line to
bat), and be a purposeful routine of
thoughts and actions that leads to plate
discipline and good swings. In the hole is
clearly a time to assess the situation ahead
and grab equipment (helmet, batting
gloves, bat, etc.). Key thoughts at this
point in time often have to do with
reminding ones self of the game situation,
the pitchers strengths and weaknesses,
and reminding ones self about necessary
technical adjustments. Key actions revolve
around checking equipment, pine-tarring
the bat, and making sure one looks
good. These are important thoughts and
actionstake care of them early, because
they do not belong in the batters box.
The on deck circle is the next important
place during preparation. Thoughts begin
to simplify and focus while the body gets
warm. By watching even a small amount
of baseball on television, one notices
superstitious actions, swinging of multiple
at bats, focused starts, and a variety of
stretches. Key thoughts at this point in
time revolve around final technical
thoughts (such as turn the hips, keep the
hands inside, etc.). Key actions are two
fold, they are activities that help the athlete activate the body and feel ready, and
they revolve around taking a few swings
to time the pitcher. Timing is important

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 24

Baseball / Softball
for the elements of the hitters checklist.
For example, it is too late to time the
pitcher when standing in the batters box
and likewise, few would appreciate it if a
player were swinging bats to warm-up in
the dugout.
After leaving the on deck circle, it is time
for the player to get comfortable in the
batters box and settle in for a good at
bat. This requires a relaxing action, such
as taking a good slow breath to manage
the excitement of digging in, and perhaps making sure to stand tall to project
an image of confidence. Key thoughts at
this time are simple and straightforward.
Rarely should they extend beyond 2 3
words. They ought to either be a key
swing thought, quick bat, and/or a
batter reminding him/herself of the
pitch for which they are looking.
The body is now ready, the body is
focused, and it is time for the final
thought. The final piece of the hitters
checklist is the player visually picking up
the pitchers release point.
See figure 1 for a card that can help
develop a purposeful hitters checklist.
At each stage one or two key thoughts
ought to be identified. Key thoughts can
be focus points (timing the pitcher), a
few words to ones self (stay back), or
reminders of goals. Also at each stage it
is important to identify key actions.

Hitters Checklist

Key actions can be obvious such as

grabbing a batting helmet or swinging a
weighted bat, but also should include
calming actions such as taking a deep
breath when stepping into the batters
box. Note that just prior to the pitch
being thrown there is only one key
thought. This is because the goal is to
read the pitch and react. While developing the checklist, make the thoughts and
actions as specific as possible. Take some
time to write out a clear and tangible
preparation plan that will be the most
useful and easily remembered during the
excitement of a game.

About the Author

Dr. Adam Naylor is the Center Coordinator
and Sport Psychology Coach at the Boston
University Athletic Enhancement Center
and the Sport Psychology Coach for
SPORT-Rx (Pemborke and Bridgewater,
MA). He works with individuals, coaches,
teams, and organizations competing at all
levels of sport. Of further note, he serves as
consultant to Baseball Analysis and
Training (B.A.T.) He can be contacted at

While this might seem like a complex

process, purposely checking off thoughts
and actions from in the hole to when the
pitch is thrown is actually a simplifying
process. At the beginning of the checklist
thoughts are broad, focusing on strategy.
At the end they are simple and focused
on hitting. When an action or thought is
completed, mentally check it off the list
and move on to a finer focus. At the
beginning of the checklist, the body is
excited, but not ready. At the end it is
loose and filled with relaxed-energy,
which is necessary for the patient process
of waiting for ones pitch, and then
exploding through the contact zone.
Committing to a purposeful hitting
checklist will lead to consistent at bats,
smarter baseball, and greater success on
the diamond.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 25


Suzie Tuffey Riewald, PhD, NSCA-CPT,*D

One at a Time

core matters. The score of the

baseball or softball game after 9
innings dictates whether you
win or lose. Likewise, in other
sports, score, time, place and/or various
personal statistics matter. After all, two
of the reasons many of us participate in
sport are to compete and to win.
While score is important, a focus on score
or some other outcome measure during
competition (e.g. total weight lifted, time
in the half-marathon, place at regionals)
often detracts from the task at hand. An
over-focus on outcome can lead to all
sorts of mental gymnastics most tied to
things you cannot control. Do thoughts
come up like, If I strike him out, I
know the next up is a batter who hit a
double in the first inning, or I cant let
him get on base, our lead is only 4 3
and that would bring the winning run to
the plate? The alternative is to focus on
what is controllable; that is, what needs
to be done right now to be successful.

What Do You Control?

Lets start with what you dont control.
As the pitcher, for example, you dont
control the batter, you dont control
your teammates or their response to a
ball hit to the infield or outfield, you
dont control the runners on base, you
no longer have control over the last
pitch that you threw low and outside or
the pitch you will throw if the count gets
to 3-2, and even more importantly, you
dont have direct control over whether
you win or lose the game. So why waste

your mental energy and focus on such

What you do control is the pitch you are
throwing right now and how you throw
that pitch right now. One pitch at a
time, one strike at a time, all you have

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

control over is right now. Direct your

energy to this one pitch, in this one at
bat, in this one inning. The concept of
one at a time applies whether you are
the batter or playing in the field. Or, for
that matter, this concept applies across
sports as focusing on one shot at a time

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 26

in golf, one ball at a time in tennis, or
one repetition at a time in weight lifting
effectively places mental energy onto the
controllable aspects of performance.

Easier Said Than Done

While it makes sense to focus on one
thing at a time and to place mental
energy in the here and now, it can be
quite challenging to do so as situations
(3 0 with bases loaded) and past experiences (Ive bobbled the last two
ground balls hit to me) can draw your
focus away from the present. Following
are a few suggestions to help keep your
focus on one thing at a time:
1. Know yourselfBecome aware
of those situations that are most
challenging for you mentally; where
you find yourself mentally drawn
away from this ball or this pitch.
Be vigilant in these situations and
purposefully direct your attention
appropriately before you have lapses.
2. Use CuesIdentify cue words or a
specific behavior that can help bring
your focus to right now. It can be as
simple as all you control is right
nowfocus on it, look for the
seams in the ball, or a slap on the
thigh to get your mind where it
needs to be.

One at a Time
4. Make a CommitmentCommit to
the mental approach of one at a
time. Recognize that while initially
it might be difficult to implement,
with practice and persistent, it will
become a more nature way for you
to approach your performance.
To enhance your performance, you need
to focus on your performanceright
now. It is wasted mental energy to focus
on what did happen or what might
happen. Instead, direct your focus to
what is happening right now. One at a
timeone pitch at a time, one ball at a
time, one play at a time.

About the Author

Suzie Tuffey Riewald, PhD, NSCACPT,*D, received her degrees in Sport
Psychology/Exercise Science from the
University of North Carolina Greensboro.
She has worked for USA Swimming as the
Sport Psychology and Sport Science Director,
and most recently as the Associate Director
of Coaching with the USOC where she
worked with various sport national governing bodies (NGBs) to develop and
enhance coaching education and training.
Suzie currently works as a sport psychology
consultant to several NGBs.

3. Catch yourselfYoure going to

slip; youre going to mentally drift
to a past play or upcoming batter.
The key is to not get trapped in
such ruminations and instead bring
your focus back to this ball. Use
your cues to do so effectively.

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 27


G. Gregory Haff, PhD, CSCS

Does Varying Bat Weight in

Warm-up Change Swing
Pattern in Baseball Players?
Researchers from the Department of
Kinesiology at Texas Christian University
created a study to examine the effects of
the common practice of warming-up
with bats of modified weights prior to
entering into the hitters box. Ten baseball
players were recruited as subjects and
performed three different warm-up
protocols which required five swings:
condition I utilized a standard bat,
condition II utilized a standard bat plus
0.6 kg lead donut, and condition III
utilized a hollow plastic bat. After the
5 warm-up swings the subjects then
performed 5 additional swings with a
standard bat. Analysis of the data revealed
that adding weight to a standard bat
during warm-up reduces the movement
velocity of subsequent standard bat
swings. Interestingly, the researchers also
determined that the weighted warm-up
protocol resulted in a change in the
contribution of the lead arm to the bat
swing, this may partially explain why bat
velocity was decreased. The analysis of
condition III revealed similar bat velocities in the post warm-up test to that of
condition I, and resulted in significantly
faster bat velocities than condition II.
After analyzing all the data the researchers
concluded that warming up with a bat
that is heavier or lighter than the bat the
hitter is actually using results in a
decrease in the overall bat swing velocity. Based upon these findings it may be
recommended that batters warm-up
with the actual bat that they will be
using once entering the batters box.
Southard D, Groomer L. (2003). Warmup with baseball bats of varying moments

of inertia: effect on bat velocity and swing

pattern. Research Quarterly for Exercise
and Sport, 74(3):270 276.

Does Muscle Temperature

Affect Performance Before
and After Half-Time?
Recently Researchers from the Institute
of Exercise and Sports Sciences at the
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
examined the effect of re-warm-up practices in soccer on sprinting speed. The
researchers divided 16 soccer players into
two groups. The first group (RW)
participated in a low intensity half-time
warm-up consisting of moderate intensity
(~135 beats/min or 70% of max heart
rate) running intervals, while a control
(CON) group rested passively. The
muscle and core temperature of each
subject was assessed prior to the first half
of play, immediately after the first half,
immediately prior to the second half,
and immediately after the second half.
There were no significant differences
between the two treatment groups before
or after the first half. The core and muscle
temperatures were significantly higher at
the cessation of halftime for the group

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

that participated in the re-warm-up

treatment. Interestingly, during the
second half the subjects who did not
participate in the re-warm-up protocol
experienced a significant 2.4% decrease
in sprint speed, where as the re-warm-up
group did not experience a decline in
sprinting speed. Additional, analysis
revealed that muscle temperature was
significantly correlated with the decrease
in running velocity. This data suggests
that in soccer the onset of the 2nd half
of play is associated with a decrease in
sprint performance capabilities if no
re-warm-up protocol is utilized. The
researchers suggested that the implementation of a re-warm-up protocol
might be warranted in soccer players.
More research is needed to determine if
this practice would also be warranted for
American Football Players.
Mohr M, Krustrup P, Nybo L, Nielsen
JJ, Bangsbo J. (2004). Muscle temperature and sprint performance during
soccer matchesbeneficial effect of
re-warm-up at half-time. Scandinavian
Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports,
14(3):156 162.

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 28


G. Gregory Haff, PhD, CSCS

The Effect of 12 Weeks of

Training With Various
Cardiovascular Machines

Is Nutritional
on the Rise?

female varsity athletes. International

Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise
Metabolism, 14(5):586 593.

Recent research from the Department of

Physiology at Trinity College in Dublin,
Ireland suggests that in moderately
active females, similar physiological
adaptations occur regardless of training
device when volume and intensity of
exercise are equated. Twenty-two semitrained female subjects were randomly
assigned to either a treadmill running
group, stair climbing group, or elliptical
training group. All subjects trained 3
days per week progressing from 30 minutes at 70-80% max heart rate to 40
minutes at 80-90% max heart rate. All
subjects had their body composition,
body mass, and maximal aerobic capacity measured prior to the initiation and
immediately after the completion of the
12 weeks of training. After the 12 weeks
of training all three groups significantly
decreased their body fat percentage.
Additionally, each group significantly
increased their aerobic capacity.
Interestingly there were no significant
changes in overall body mass between
the groups or in response to the 12
weeks of training. Based upon these
findings the researchers concluded that
it did not matter which cardiovascular
machine was used with semi-trained
individuals. Regardless of the machine
utilized similar alterations in body fat
and cardio-respiratory fitness can be
achieved over 12 weeks if intensity and
volume of training are controlled.

In a recent study Collaborators from

Simmons College, Brown University,
Childrens Hospital in Boston, and
Boston University examined the prevalence of traditional and nontraditional
supplement use. Traditional supplement
use was defined as using single and
multivitamin/mineral supplements, while
nontraditional supplement use was classified as using herbals, botanicals, and
other biologic nutrients. One hundred
and sixty two collegiate female varsity
athletes were recruited as subjects in order
to assess supplement use. Results of this
study suggested 65.4% of the athletes
assessed utilized some form of dietary
supplementation, with 36% of the
subject pool using a multivitamin and
mineral with iron. Twelve percent of the
subjects reported using an amino acid/
protein supplement, while 17% of the
subjects reported using an herbal/
botanical supplement. When subjects
were asked why they took supplements
the overwhelming majority (60.1%)
responded that the use of supplementation was to improve health. When asked
where they received their supplement
information 53% of the subjects reported
that their family as the primary provider
of supplement information. The
researchers concluded that nutritional
supplementation is on the rise and that
more educational resources are needed
to educate coaches, athletes, and the
general population about the efficacy
of traditional and non-traditional
supplement utilization.

About the Author

Egaa M, Donne B. (2004).

Physiological changes following a 12week gym based stair-climbing, elliptical
trainer, and treadmill running program in
females. The Journal of Sports Medicine
and Physical Fitness, 44(2):141 146.

G. Gregory Haff, PhD, CSCS is an assistant professor in the Division of Exercise

Physiology at the Medical School at West
Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.
He is a member of the National Strength
and Conditioning Associations Research
Committee and the USA Weightlifting
Sports Medicine Committee. Dr. Haff
received the National Strength and
Investigator Award in 2001.

Herbold NH, Visconti BK, Frates S,

Bandini L. (2004). Traditional and nontraditional supplement use by collegiate

NSCAs Performance Training Journal |

Vol. 4 No. 1 | Page 29