Strength in Numbers #62
As we get back to our educational tour, Jordan and I traveled from Louisiana to Orlando to educate the University of Central Florida staff.
It was an awesome opportunity for us, as Kaylee Shores, who is an expert in integrating the ArmCare platform, had become the athletic trainer for the baseball team.
As a result, we had all stakeholders in the room, including Greg Lovelady, the Head Coach for the team. Typically, head coaches have not attended our education for reasons unknown. Potentially, they have felt that the pitching coaches, medical staff, and strength and conditioning staff would be responsible for maintaining arm strength and ensuring training and workloads are individualized by these stakeholders.
However, this situation was different, as we entered Coach Lovelady’s office and he welcomed us with open arms and was intrigued about what we offer and how we can provide a competitive advantage for the team.
In the room, we also had Assistant Director of Sports Performance, Jeremy Fradin, who oversees the team’s strength and conditioning programming. Then, finally, we had the principal driver of the approach, Pitching Coach, Nick Otte, who will make the programming adjustments for his pitchers based on their strength and range of motion data.
Collectively, they are unified, and we dove in deep.
After the first section on how to use the platform, we looked at their pitching schedule to determine the best way to implement daily, weekly, and monthly decisions.
I was impressed to see how they undulate their training programs.
Undulation is so important to the body versus a stepwise progression where demands continually get more difficult and that volume and intensity increase linearly, which is seen in many throwing programs. Undulation means that the work intensity alternates between high and low intensity, and that volume is adjusted based on these demands.
Undulation looks like a wave pattern in the training program. It is designed to progress upward to increase capacity (that’s right, conditioning the arm to throw more at higher intensity). As intensity increases, the volume of work must reduce.
Similarly, as the intensity is reduced, the volume is to be increased. One issue is that starters tend to have high volume and high intensity on game day.
Therefore, during the training week, it is essential to monitor daily strength to ensure that the undulation (wave load between high and low intensity) is not extreme, or else it could be a shock to the arm.
Periodization Models for Training Athletes
In the images above, you can see three different training models that coaches utilize to enhance the performance of their athletes:
- Linear Periodization refers to a system of training that features intensity increases and volume decreases. This is usually phase-based training (endurance, growth, maximum strength, power) that is unsuitable for in-season throwing programs and more conducive to weight training.
- Undulated Periodization refers to a training schedule that alternates intensities throughout the year, where volume is increased, and intensity decreases. That way, there is ample rest and recovery between throwing and training bouts.
- Exponential Periodization is the third periodization model common in off-season throwing programs and is most risky as volume and intensity increase together. For example, the common buildup in exponential periodization of pitching counts goes 4/60, 5/75, 6/90, etc., between innings and pitches.
I recommend the undulated periodization strategy for in-season, but you have options in the off-season to use either linear periodization or undulated periodization to advance physical abilities.
To reduce the risk of injury, I believe an increase in demands using an undulated periodization model is best (think stock market graphs that undulate that trend upward) and avoid exponential increases in volume and intensity together.
Across all periodization models, strength needs to be evaluated so individualized adjustments can occur. Strength measurements allow the coach to keep the foot on the gas, put the shifter in neutral, or pump the brakes to ensure proper recovery and rest.
At the University of Central Florida, it’s a science.
To close out our in-class portion, I went through many training demonstrations for the group focused on improving lateral trunk stability, overhead strength, and hip function, all contributing to increased maximum arm strength and neurological recruitment. You can get an idea of my training focus for throwing athletes by seeing one of my recent posts on Linkedin featuring a whiteboard session I had with an MLB team.
At the intersection of throwing arm speed and throwing arm position (strength and tissue length), baseball players will reach a path of enlightenment that pushes the boundaries of throwing arm performance and stress resilience.