'Just Say NO' to long distance running
Ron Wolforth Coach Ron Wolforth of PITCHING CENTRAL & THE TEXAS BASEBALL RANCH is referred to as "The Pitching Coaches Pitching Coach" He has become synonymous with velocity creation and the development of arm speed while increasing pitchers' arm health and durability allowing them to throw harder, longer. He has assisted over 30 high school and college pitchers gain 7-15 mph in just weeks and months instead of years. He has been instrumental in supporting 27 athletes in his facility to be drafted and over 40 obtain college scholarships in the past 5 years! Coach Wolforth also hosts the monthly "Elite Pitchers Boot Camps" in Houston as well as the annual December "Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp" also held in Houston. (Events are listed on the WebBall calendar.) (Click to close.)
I certainly did as a player. I logged miles upon miles of running.
So then why am I today considered by many as one of the world’s leading advocate of the abolishment of long distance running or ‘poles’ for pitchers and replacing them with sprints and agility work?
I personally could think of few training protocols that would be more harmful to pitchers.
Primarily because not only doesn’t this type of activity improve the abilities of the pitcher to perform at his optimal level, it almost may be considered ‘anti-training’. In fact it is so bad on so many levels that I personally could think of few training protocols that would be more harmful to pitchers. If I didn’t know better I’d think running poles was designed by a position player as a conspiracy to reduce the effectiveness of pitchers. If only that were true at least it would have some logical basis. Unfortunately the truth is much worse. Even when we are wrong we often think we are right.
To believe in long distance running for pitchers almost requires the suspension of logic and reason. Unfortunately we’ve ALL been there before haven’t we? I know I have. Someday I’ll create an AA meeting of sorts for us pitching coaches. I’ll start the meeting. "Hello everybody, I’m Ron and I used to have my pitchers run long distance…the group will counter "Hi Ron"…shake their heads in affirmation and the next coach will confess. It will be good for our souls.
So let’s cut to the chase. Some of you are furious with me right now. I can hear the righteous indignation now… "Who are you Wolforth? I’ve been coaching for X years…have turned out X number of so and so’s and they ALL ran long distance. Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
My response: They ALL also probably wore a jock as well. But that didn’t mean that wearing a jock CAUSED them to be studs.
Cause & effect
We all must be VERY careful in our assignment of cause and effect.
Let me give you another example I use in my consulting of college and professional pitching coaches who are long time proponents of long distance running for pitchers.
At the scene of almost every traffic accident are skid marks. Would it be sound to assume that because skid marks are so prevalent at the scene of accidents that they therefore must play some factor in causing the accident? After all…where there is smoke…there’s fire. Right?
But we know that skid marks are an ancillary effect of the accident and not the cause. So we must be VERY careful not to assign an inaccurate relationship or connection from one thing to another.
First, if you are running distance now…Stop immediately.
Even if it’s for recovery on the day after you pitch. Stop. Don’t believe me…research the topic. You will find what I tell you is the truth.
Here are my top 5 reasons (I have over 50) why you should have your pitchers sprint instead of run long distance or the obligatory 'poles'.
1 You are training the wrong energy system
A pitcher will explode in a burst lasting 1-2 seconds…then rest for 10-15 seconds…then explode again. He will repeat the process in sets of 15-20…separated by 12-15 minutes of rest…then repeat. A Pitcher will exclusively use his ATP/CP system. Therefore, without question, he should train explosively.
The detailed information on energy systems
in Ron's original draft echoes what we have under training.
The longest any baseball play will last is 15 seconds. Therefore, no baseball player…let alone pitcher… should EVER train outside of that 15 second window. EVER. If one does, he is training an energy system he will never use. Long distance running is in fact SO bad its two energy systems off. Not one.
2 You are training & recruiting the wrong muscle type
For details on muscle fiber types, click here
By long distance running we are training and recruiting Type I fibers. The EXACT opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. We want to recruit and develop as many Type IIb fibers as possible.
3 You are reducing mobility/ flexibility
We know that Tim Lincecum’s stride length is 110% of his height. I’m sure you would agree that most power pitchers really get a great deal out of their legs, hips and lower back.
But it is well documented that long distance runners are very susceptible to shortening of the hip flexor, a decrease in the activation of the psoas and a reduction in hip extension. By using a repetitive movement like jogging over extended periods of time, long distance runners almost always lose mobility in their hips and see a reduction in their ability to generate stride length.
Sound like a good plan to you? Didn’t think so.
4 The negative effects on the stretch shortening cycle
Think of muscles as a group of rubber bands. To shoot a rubber band you pre-stretch it before you let it go. Much of a pitcher’s velocity…by my reading as much as 35% of a pitchers velocity…. comes from stored elastic energy being released. Therefore this effect is significant!
In layman’s terms the quicker we can put a muscle on stretch then let it go (and thereby releasing the elastic energy) the better. In other words the longer the activity takes the more that elastic energy diminishes or dissipates.
The great news is that the human body is better than a rubber band because we can actually train those specific qualities to make our tendons more efficient at collecting and releasing elastic energy.
Long distance running is in fact the antithesis of ‘a short, fast eccentric movement’ (the stretch) followed by an immediate concentric movement (the snap).
Poles in the manner to which they are typically done could be more aptly described as "The Plodding of the Living Uniformed Zombies". I don’t know about you…I don’t want by pitchers to plod…I want them to be electric and dynamic.
5 Simply use your eyes & your common sense
Picture a world class 100 meter sprinter standing next to a world class marathoner. Which one of these do you want your pitcher to look more like?
The Bernstein Principle in Motor Learning: The body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity.
If long distance running was the key to great pitching performance, Ethiopians and Kenyans instead of Dominicans would dominate our sport.Our goal at the Texas Baseball Ranch: To create electric, durable arms and bodies to support the arm.
The goal of many young Dominicans is to get away from the abject poverty of his island and come to the land of opportunity with all of it’s incredible wealth and prosperity. To do so he knows he must either
- throw it 95mph,
- Hit it incredibly far
- Run like the wind
- Be able to cover incredible stretches of ground with supple and lightning fast hands or
- some combination of those 4.
Long distance running not only doesn’t fit this goal…it impedes or constrains its achievement.
What’s YOUR goal?
Does your training fit the goal? In part 2, Ron Wolforth outlines what to do instead of long distance running.
Few things are more steeped in tradition than is baseball. And few things are more established in the training of baseball pitchers than pitchers running long distance between starts. If you’ve ever been to a high level practice, you’ll see dozens of athletes jogging in the outfield warning track. It’s a practice commonly referred to as ‘poles’.
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