Scientific Proof – Muscle Activation Patterns of the Upper and Lower Extremities During the Windmill Softball Pitch

3-2 Count...Fast-pitch softball has become an increasingly popular sport for female athletes. There has been little research examining the windmill softball pitch in the literature. The purpose of this study was to describe the muscle activation patterns of 3 upper extremity muscles (biceps, triceps, and rhomboids and 2 lower extremity (muscles gluteus maximus and medius) during the 5 phases of the windmill softball pitch. Data describing muscle activation were collected on 7 post-pubescent softball pitchers (age 17-20 years). Surface electromyographic data were collected synchronized with a motion capture system and presented as a percent of maximum voluntary isometric contraction. Gluteus maximus activity reached, whereas gluteus medius activity was consistent during the single leg support of phase 3. Biceps brachii activity was greatest during phase 4 of the pitching motion. Triceps brachii activation was consistently throughout the entire pitching motion, whereas the rhomboids were most active during phase 2. The results of this study indicate the extent to which muscles are activated during the windmill softball pitch, and this knowledge can lead to the development of proper preventative and rehabilitative muscle strengthening programs. In addition, clinicians will be able to incorporate strengthening exercises that mimic the timing of maximal muscle activation most used during the windmill pitching phases.

This study explains to coaches and trainers alike that the windmill pitch uses the whole body when executing the skill and no one area is emphasized in the movement. This indicates that any program created for pitchers must target every area used in the pitching motion better yet coaches and trainers should create functional and sports specific workout which will be useful to strengthening the pitching motion.

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Scientific Proof – Study on Functional Strength Imbalance of the Lower Extremities

Jenna WarmUp - HurstThe purposes of this study were: to determine whether a significant strength imbalance existed between the left and right or dominant and non-dominant legs and to investigate possible correlations among various unilateral and bilateral closed kinetic chain tests, including a field test, and traditional isokinetic dynamometry used to determine strength imbalance. Fourteen Division I collegiate women softball players volunteered to undergo measures of average peak torque for isokinetic flexion and extension at 60-degrees and 240-degrees; in addition, measures of peak and average force of each leg during parallel back squat, 2-legged vertical jump, and single-leg vertical jump and performance in a 5-hop test were examined. Significant differences of between 4.2% and 16.0% were evident for all measures except for average force during single-leg vertical jump between the dominant and non-dominant limbs, thus revealing a significant strength imbalance. The 5-hop test revealed a significant difference between dominant and non-dominant limbs and showed a moderate correlation with more sophisticated laboratory tests, suggesting a potential use as a field test for the identification of strength imbalance. The results of this study indicate that a significant strength imbalance can exist even in collegiate level athletes, and future research should be conducted to determine how detrimental these imbalances could be in terms of peak performance for athletes, as well as the implications for injury risk.

Having this result, it is important for strength coaches to emphasize on exercises that promote balance in strength building for their athletes.  Make sure that exercises are both done in the dominant and non-dominant hand.

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Scientific Proof – Effect of Various Warm-Up Devices on Bat Velocity of Intercollegiate Softball Players

rachel battingNumerous warm-up devices are available for use by softball players while they are in the on-deck circle. It is difficult to know which warm-up device produces the greatest bat velocity in the batter’s box for softball players because on-deck studies with these individuals are sparse. Because the majority of warm-up device research has been conducted with baseball players, the primary purpose of this study was to examine the effect of various warm-up devices on the Bat Velocity of female intercollegiate softball players and compare the results with those of male baseball players. A secondary purpose was to evaluate 2 new commercially available resistance devices as warm-up aids. Nineteen Division I intercollegiate softball players participated in a warm-up with 1 of 8 resistance devices on separate days. Each of the 8 testing sessions had players perform a standardized dynamic warm-up, 3 maximal dry swings mimicking their normal game swing with the assigned warm-up device, 2 comfortable dry swings with a standard 83.8-cm, 652-g softball bat followed by 3 maximal game swings (20-second rest between swings) while hitting a softball off a batting tee with the same standard softball bat. Results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences in bat velocity after using any of the 8 warm-up devices similar to in previous baseball research. This indicates that the results for both male and female intercollegiate players are similar and that intercollegiate softball players can use any of the 8 warm-up devices in the on-deck circle and has similar bat velocities. However, similar to in other previous baseball research, it is not recommended that female intercollegiate softball players warm up with the popular commercial donut ring in the on-deck circle because it produced the slowest bat velocity.

Seeing the results of the study, it’s advisable to read up on any device you will be using as training or performance enhancement tools to know it’s effectivity. By this time coaches should know that having load on your bat is not advisable as warm-up tool on the batting deck.

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Scientific Proof – Study on Biceps Activity During Windmill Softball Pitching

3-2 Count...Windmill pitching produces high forces and torques at the shoulder and elbow, making the biceps susceptible to overuse injury. Little is known about the muscle firing patterns during a windmill pitch. Scientists think the Biceps muscle activity is greater during a windmill pitch than during an overhand throw.

In their study they had seven female windmill pitchers undergo motion analysis and surface electromyography evaluation of their biceps muscles during windmill and overhand throwing. Marker motion analysis, muscle activity, and ball release were captured simultaneously. Surface electromyography trials were collected and related to the athletes’ phases of pitching and throwing,

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Scientific Proof – Study of Strength and Conditioning Practices in a Varsity High School Athletic Program

VARSITY_PORTRAIT_030909_1831_01 4x6L framed webThe use of strength and conditioning to improve athletic performance, is growing among athletes of all ages. Currently, Idaho possesses no rules, regulations, and/or guidance for varsity high school athletics and strength training.  The purpose of this research was to explore the current practices for varsity level high school athletes and strength training. Specifically, we examined who designs and implements strength training programs for varsity high school athletes, what kinds of things they do for their programs, and whether the responsible party or emphasis of strength training changes depending on the gender of the athletes.  Coaches of soccer, basketball, and softball/baseball in three Idaho school districts were asked to complete an online survey. Results showed that seventy percent of the coaches who were eligible to participate responded to the questionnaire. Approximately half of the respondents coached male athletes and 45.2% coached female athletes. The majority of coaches provided strength training opportunities for their athletes, although only required participation. The majority of strength training programs were designed and implemented by either physical education teachers or head coaches. Physical education teachers designed and implemented the majority of the strength training programs for female athletes whereas head coaches designed and implemented the majority of strength training programs for male athletes. Coaches of both male and female athletes provided equal opportunities for strength training for their athletes, but coaches of male athletes were more likely to require their athletes to participate. Most programs included dynamic warm-ups and cool-downs, plyometrics, agility training, speed training, and conditioning and most programs were conducted three days a week for sessions lasting between 30 and 59 minutes. Compared to their female counterparts, male athletes were more likely to strength train year round and train using more sessions per week. The results of this study provide knowledge, where none exists, about strength and conditioning practices for three major sports in three large school districts in Idaho.

If more is known about strength training practices in high schools with athletic teams in soccer, basketball, and baseball/softball, individuals responsible for designing programs can critically examine their own programs to ensure that programs are fundamentally sound. It is important to document ones training program and it’s results to see if it’s effective or not.

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Scientific Proof – A Study of the Kinematic Motion of the Windmill Softball Pitch by Softball Players ages 11-14 years

ALLEN2011_02-26-11_135732__02_153_5x7_webA study was conducted to examine the joint motions and movement patterns of the kinetic chain in the ballistic skill of performing the windmill pitch. Seventeen healthy girls who were currently playing competitive fast-pitch softball volunteered for the study. Subjects were instructed to perform 5 successful fastball windmill style deliveries. We selected 1 pitch for analysis based on the velocity, accuracy, and subjects’ input. 6 digital camcorders placed at 60° apart was used for analysis. The subjects were divided into groups based on skill level: novice, intermediate, and advanced. The sequential progression of kinematic variables that resulted in increased throwing velocity and the contribution from upper arm, forearm, and hand possessed toward ball velocity were assessed. There was evidence of sequential progress among the arm segments in the intermediate and advanced groups. The patterns of the shared positive contributions made by each of the limb segments were similar among the 3 groups of participants. The novice group tended to rely on more of the upper arm and forearm than the other 2 groups. From this study, it is evident that all emphasis should not be placed on the shoulder, but training and conditioning methods should focus on the entire kinetic chain including the torso and the full arm segment, not just the shoulder in an attempt to gain the greatest velocity while performing the 360° arc of the windmill softball pitch.

This study helps coaches to teach their pitchers not to focus their strength on their forearm when pitching but distribute the power on the different parts of the body starting with the legs and torso. This then will remind strength coaches to create workouts that emphasize leg and core strength for pitchers.

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Scientific Proof – Effect of Visual Training on Batting Performance and Pitch Recognition of Div. I Softball Players

eyeThe study was conducted to investigate the effect of preseason visual training on bat velocity, batted-ball velocity, and pitch recognition. Twenty female NCAA Division I softball players were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups 5 weeks before the season began. Group 1 was the control group and received no vision training. Group 2 completed 18 vision-training sessions over the span of 6 weeks. Vision exercises consisted of visual flexibility, visual recognition, and visual tracking. Each session was performed with a game pad controller on a computer and lasted between 10-20 minutes. Prior to the beginning of the 6 weeks, all subjects were tested on body composition, grip strength, and vertical jump using a vertical jump apparatus to assess leg power. For Batted-ball Velocity, subjects were directed to hit softballs between a zone set up on the softball field and was measured by a radar gun set up behind home plate. Softballs were delivered at a mean velocity of 24.6 m/s from the automated pitching machine 13.1 m or 43 ft away from home plate. Subjects also performed pitch recognition where a softball was delivered from the same pitching machine and called out “ball” or “strike”. An official NCAA “strike zone”, adjusted for each player, was set-up behind each hitter. The number of correct responses was recorded. Both groups were also assessed on their depth perception, eye flexibility, visual recognition, and visual tracking. Once the 6-week training program was completed, all subjects were re-tested on the same parameters previously listed. Comparing Group 1 and Group 2 revealed significant difference in convergence percentage, visual recognition response time, visual tracking response time and depth perception. There were no significant differences in Bat velocity, Batted-ball Velocity, Pitch Recognition, or other visual components. These data suggest that vision training can improve an athlete’s vision skills; however there was no effect on their Batted-ball Velocity and Pitch Recognition or ability on the field during the preseason. Although there were no significant improvements in Batted ball velocity or pitch recognition, it must be stated that these softball players were engaged in 5 wk of preseason practice and the first week of their season. Therefore, these softball-specific skills were being practiced 6d/wk for 6 weeks by all players. It is reasonable to think that all players “on-field” skills were being trained daily and the additional visual training did not provide further benefits. A limitation of this study was Batted ball velocit. It is suggested that future studies count the total number of swings taken to see if there is a significant difference between groups.


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Scientific Proof – A Study on Upper Body Strength and Power Characteristics in Female Athletes Fastpitch

Workout in the snowA study was conducted to examine upper body strength power production in well-trained female Fastpitch softball athletes as there is limited research examining upper body strength and power production with softball players. Understanding the baseline strength and power levels in the upper body of these athletes and the load that can maximize power production has implications for training. This too it may determine the percentage load that maximizes power. Female softball players from the Western Australian Institute of Sport participated in this study. Descriptive measures and bench press strength were measured on day 1. On day 2, subjects performed bench throws with 40, 60 and 80 percent of their 1RM on a bench fixed on an above ground force plate with a position transducer fixed to the bar attached to a braking system.  The study used the reliability of bench throws as a measure of upper body power in this population. According to the results of this study, strength and conditioning professionals may utilize a slightly lower percentage of 1RM than other research has shown if dealing with a female softball population. Further, due to the homogeneity of these athletes in strength levels, it seems coaches limited for time can choose an absolute load close to 18-20 kg for use across this population to maximize power. However, strength coaches should evaluate the use of lower percentages to determine if this maximizes power output in a similar female population.


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Scientific Proof – Effect of whole-body vibration warm-up on bat speed in women softball players.

Axe Softball Club looking tough...Whole-body vibration (WBV) may enhance human performance via augmented muscular strength and motor function if used before performance. Because warm-up is a crucial aspect of preparation for performance, it remains unknown if WBV may enhance bat speed. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of WBV warm-up on bat speed. Eleven National Collegiate Athletic Association division I and II recreationally trained female softball players volunteered to participate. Subjects randomly performed 3 different warm-up conditions consisting of WBV alone, dry swings alone (DS), and WBV with dry swings (WBVDS). Whole-body vibration was performed on a pivotal vibration platform at a frequency of 25 Hz and an amplitude of 13 mm for one 30-second bout. Thirty seconds after each warm-up condition, 5 maximal bat swings were recorded. There was no significant difference between groups by training status, and there was no significant difference between WBV, DS, or WBVDS conditions. These results indicate that WBV warm-up may be used in place of DS to achieve similar bat speeds. Future research should investigate different combinations of WBV warm-up using various frequencies, durations, amplitudes, and rest times.

Exercise science continues to create new ways to improve performance enhancement and it is always important to test these new innovations. Warming-up is an important part of any activity and it is important that coaches make sure their players have warm muscles before practicing or playing. It doesn’t matter what form as long as the objective of warming is followed.

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Scientific Proof – Kinematics and Kinetics of Elite Windmill Softball Pitching

A significant number of time-loss injuries to the upper extremity in elite windmill softball pitchers has been documented. The number of outings and pitches thrown in 1 week for a softball pitcher is typically far in excess of those seen in baseball pitchers. Shoulder stress in professional baseball pitching has been reported to be high and has been linked to pitching injuries. Shoulder distraction has not been studied in an elite softball pitching population.

Three-dimensional, high-speed (120 Hz) video data were collected on rise balls from 24 elite softball pitchers during the 1996 Olympic Games. Kinematic parameters related to pitching mechanics and resultant kinetics on the throwing shoulder were calculated. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to relate shoulder stress and pitching mechanics. They found out shoulder distraction stress averaged 80% of body weight for the Olympic pitchers. Sixty-nine percent of the variability in shoulder distraction can be explained by a combination of 7 parameters related to pitching mechanics.

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