Catcher Specific Hip Warm-up Routine
Over the summer, one of our collegiate players was asked to begin a transition from playing only infield to taking on catching some innings. Making a quick switch like this can be a physically demanding proposition, especially for players who do not have the requisite physical components to do so!
Catchers are a unique breed of baseball players, not just because they have to deal with wearing foul balls off their body, but because their position has specific mobility requirements.
Not only do they need to have tremendous hip mobility (joint competency) but they also need to be able to handle those positions for a great period of time (position capacity). Both of these steps, I believe, are critical to plan for during the off-season to ensure that catchers are ready to hit the ground running.
The following video is an example of a hip mobility warm-up, or circuit, that we often use to help build up both the competency and capacity to handle catching. In the case of the collegiate catcher, we would perform the entire circuit 3-4 days / week.
In implementing this routine, we weren’t just trying to build articular competency & capacity but we were trying to make him more ‘mentally comfortable’ in different positions close to the ground. Something that you don’t really think about until you actually go through it. This would be analogous to ensuring an elite level swimmer gets enough “water time” in their preparation. Almost like cognitive periodization. To me, this becomes especially important when dealing with a player transitioning to catching more often or prior to the start of a season. We want them as comfortable as possible in their baseline position; this can be similar to the idea of making your preparatory period harder than the season.
To take it a step further, and something that we do with our pitchers, we can blend this movement work with the skill acquisition process. Theoretically, implementing mobility drills can open up ‘movement solution options’ that a catcher can add to their repertoire over time. In other words, we’re temporarily altering physical constraints which can aid in knocking out attractor states to re-pattern movement. Alternatively, we’re affording the mover more options in an effort to build greater movement degeneracy.
Before you just blindly follow this warm-up routine, it might be a good idea to first get assessed. While I do believe that going through this can improve your mobility over time, it may not be the most efficient, fastest, or safest route. If you haven’t done anything like this in your life, don’t expect to get through 20 minutes of this completely unscathed. Moreover, you may be a guy whose hips simply cannot get into these positions because of your bony anatomy. Remember, you need to be able to answer the question “Can your joints do you what you’re asking them to do?” This is exactly why we believe that a good physical assessment is critical to the development process and we encourage coaches and players to get it done at multiple points during the year.