Today I wanted to present a case study from a hitter I have worked with this offseason and highlight the progress he has made over the past three months. This post will highlight some of the systems and principles we have used in his program such as OnBase University physical screening, K Motion 3-D swing analysis and most importantly the team approach working alongside the hitting coach.
Step 1: Baseline testing and assessment results
Each of our baseball performance programs begin with an initial assessment. This process consists of OnBase University physical screening, Functional Movement Screening, Power and Strength testing, Video analysis and K Vest 3-D swing analysis (watch the video below to get an inside look at this).
Here are some of the primary findings of the initial assessment:
OnBase University Hitting Screen:
The picture on the left highlights the athlete's initial OnBase University Hitting Screen. The OnBase University hitting screen allows us to see if and how a player's body is altering their swing mechanics. Many times players are trying to get their bodies into positions that they are not physically capable of achieving during the swing. This can limit exit velocity, power, consistency and overall performance.
This screen can quickly identify if poor technique could be due to poor movement quality. This screen looks at several key movement patterns the body performs during the baseball/softball swing such as your ability to rotate, your core control, your ability to maintain posture and your ability to maintain live and independent hands during the swing. The green dots indicate a passing test, while the yellow and red dots indicate a physical limitation that could be affecting the player's mechanics and efficiency.
To summarize the results of the OnBase University screen, the hitter demonstrated good mobility throughout, but struggled with exercises that challenged his control and stability. He specifically struggled with the core control tests: the pelvic tilt test and the pelvic rotation test. These tests are highlighted below:
Pelvic Tilt Test:
The pelvic tilt test looks at your ability to control the position of your pelvis and your ability to transfer power from the lower body to the upper body. This is important for both sequencing and maximizing power production in your swing.
Pelvic Rotation Test:
This test looks at your ability to separate/disassociate your upper and lower body. This is very important for proper sequencing and power creation during the swing. There are two common reasons that players struggle with this test. Some athletes do not have adequate mobility in their hips or spine to create this separation. Other athletes have the mobility, but they lack the control or stability to create hip and shoulder separation. This player was in the latter category. He had more than enough flexibility to perform the test, but he lacked the ability to stabilize the upper body while rotating the lower half. While performing the test the upper and lower body would want to move at the same time. When we stabilized his shoulders during the test he had no problem performing the movement and reported that it felt much easier.
The primary finding from the video analysis was dead hands. Dead hands "refer to the inability to create live and independent hands in the positive move" (OnBase University). The distance of the hands from the nose should increase during the positive move. In this case the hitter's hands were not separating from the nose at all during the positive move. *The coach/hitting instructor was the key determining factor in identifying dead hands as the mechanical issue that needed to be addressed
*Many hitting characteristics such as dead hands are due to underlying physical issues mentioned above. Combining the physical screen with the video analysis allows us to determine your unique "body-hitting" connection. Initially we suspected that the body could be a contributing factor to this as the player had a difficult time disassociating his lower body from his upper body. The ability to disassociate the lower body from the upper body allows the hands to remain back while the lower body initiates the first move.
K Vest 3-D swing Analysis: Connecting the Dots
When we combine the K Vest 3-D swing analysis data with the results of the video analysis and physical screen we can start to connect the dots to help make programming decisions. In regards to the kinematic sequence there were a couple of trends we noticed (for more information on the kinematic sequence click here). First, we can see an issue in sequencing with the pelvis (red line) and torso (green line) peaking at the same time. We also noticed an issue with energy/speed transfer during the swing. In this case there was an issue with energy transfer from the lower body (red) to the torso (green) and from the torso (green line) to the arms (blue line). This is indicated by minimal gap being present between these lines on the kinematic sequence graph (circled area on the graph below). This means that the player is losing out on speed and power in his swing.
When we combine the K Vest 3-D swing analysis data with the results of the video analysis and physical screen we can start to connect the dots to help make programming decisions. There can be a couple different reasons for the sequencing and energy transfer issues mentioned above: 1) physical limitations, 2) hitting inhibitors (such as dead hands), 3) equipment.
In this particular case we notice a lack of energy transfer from the lower body the upper body. What is it that connects these two segments? The abdominals. In the OnBase University Hitting screen the primary physical limitation we observed was core control (Pelvic Tilt and Pelvic Rotation test). The abdominals play a significant role in performing these movements. Beside this, we also noted a lack of energy transfer from the torso to the arms. In this case, dead hands can be related to this lack of energy transfer as little separation is created between the arms and torso and can cause the player to miss out of the benefit of the stretch shortening cycle of the arms during the swing.
Power Testing Results:
As you can see in the results below the athlete had below average power in several areas and in particular the upper body, core and rotational power. This can limit the players ability to create bat speed, power and exit velocity.
Step 2: Create a Program
Based on the results of the assessment we initially focused on core control from a corrective exercise standpoint. These exercises were incorporated into a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. Below is a sample of the progression for the core control exercises that we performed. These exercises demonstrate a progression using various forms of assistance as well as different postures and positions to increase the challenge of the movement. The athlete was able to progress through this series over a 2 week period and demonstrated a passing pelvic tilt and pelvic rotation test after this point..
Pelvic Tilt Progression:
Pelvic Rotation Progression:
As mentioned above these exercises were part of a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. This program was designed around the primary findings of the assessment. The program consisted of hinging, squatting, single leg training, pushing and pulling patterns and chopping and lifting patterns. We also incorporated some exercises and training principles from Jason Glass's High Triplexity program and I would strongly encourage any baseball players to check out his podcast and training philosophies. You can feel free to contact me for a more in depth breakdown of the program.
Step 3 Reassessment:
After creating the program we have scheduled reassessments throughout the program to make sure progress is being made. Below are the results of the reassessment.
OnBaseU Hitting Screen (1 month later)
In comparison to the initial screen, the athlete was able to successfully pass each test on the OnBase University hitting screen. While the primary area we were focused on was core control, there was some carry over from the athlete's training program to some of the other tests that he initially had difficulty with such as the wide squat test and lateral step test. A perfect screen is not the purpose or intent of the screen, it just happened to turn out that way in this case.
It is also important to note that we were regularly reassessing the core control tests during the training sessions and did not wait until the monthly reassessment to recheck these.
K Motion 3-D Swing Analysis:
There are some noticeable differences in comparison to the initial findings on the K Vest 3-D swing analysis. First off, you can see that the sequencing is improved with the lower body (red line) leading, followed by the torso (green line), then the arms (blue line) and finally the bat (gold line). In addition to this, you can also see significantly more space between each of the lines. This indicates more speed and energy being transferred between segments during the swing. In short, this equals more exit velocity and more power.
*As mentioned above we worked closely with the hitting coach during this process to address the technical aspects of the dead hands characteristic.
Power Testing (1 month and 3 month follow up):
Looking at the power testing results at the 3 month reassessment also shows significant improvements across all areas. You can observe the athlete's progress below:
Summary: A couple of the key takeaways
1. The value of getting a baseline assessment and reassessment: This helps to identify your unique needs and help you get the most bang for your buck and make sure there isn't any low hanging fruit you are missing. Reassessment helps make sure you are making appropriate progress in those areas.
2. The Team Approach: throughout the program we worked very closely with the hitting coach. This was crucial in identifying which mechanical aspects they were prioritizing. We could then see if the body was a contributing factor to this.
3. Do you possess the basic movement patterns required for your sport? As we mentioned above many times athletes become focused on adding more strength and power. However, do you possess the movement capabilities to actually express this strength and power in your swing? In this case the athlete was lacking some of the basic core control movement patterns that were limiting his ability to properly transfer energy in his swing and not allowing him to express the strength and power he already possessed.
4. Also very important to note that the athlete in this case is one of the most committed athletes I know. He brings great commitment and effort to each training session. You can have a great plan on paper, but it still takes buy in and effort from the athlete to get the most out of it.
If you would like to get more information about our baseball training programs or any of the concepts mentioned in this post feel to contact us at 260-222-6157 or firstname.lastname@example.org