Throwing Performance and Shoulder Health Series Part II: Spinal/trunk Mobility, Strength, and Power

Last month, we talked about the hips influence on shoulder health and performance when throwing.  If you remember, we discussed how more than half of the force generated while throwing comes from the hips and trunk.  Today, we’ll explore the second half of that equation: the trunk/core. We’ll do so with the same parameters we used in discussing the hips: mobility, strength, stability, and power.  We’ll ensure full range of motion with mobility, set a solid foundation with strength and stability, and bring it all together by training power.

So, we’ve worked on our hips and developed a more power “leg drive” while throwing. What’s next? Once we’ve generated force from the legs, we transfer this force through the hips to the trunk, where we will create torque (or rotational force). In the picture of Aldoris Chapman to the right (major league baseball’s fastest pitcher), look at how his front shoulder remains somewhat “closed” to his target as his momentum (generated from a massive leg drive) propels him forward.  This delayed trunk rotation can allow more potential force generation (think a snake coiling before it strikes), but it can only happen when we have adequate spinal mobility. Limitation in trunk mobility can lead to early shoulder/upper body opening to the target, resulting in reduced pitch velocity and increased stress on both the shoulder and the elbow. Whether it’s at school, work, playing video games, or working on the computer, much of our everyday life does not promote good spinal mobility, particularly in our mid and upper back (thoracic spine).  For this reason, it’s often important to incorporate mobility exercise for this region. Once we have the mobility, it’s up to our obliques, abdominals, and other trunk muscles to generate additional rotational force while our core must maintain stability throughout the motion. The first two exercises below will address trunk mobility, stability, and strength. The final exercise is a higher-level exercise that puts everything we’ve talked about so far (hint: trunk and hips) together in a more specific movement pattern similar to throwing to train power.

Good luck this month incorporating these exercises and feel free to post if you have any questions!  Stay tuned next month as we move our way to the shoulder blades (scapula) before finishing at the actual shoulder.

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