Every time I hear about coaches making their players distance run it makes me want to pull my hair out (If I had any). Just because it is baseball tradition, and “it’s the way we’ve always done it,” does not make it correct.
It's common to hear pitching coaches tell their players to “go run your poles” because it will flush out the lactic acid and increase your pitching endurance.
Current research leads us to believe aerobic capacity does not limit pitching endurance and there is no lactate build up after throwing.
In the research study conducted by Potteiger et al. (1992), the researchers tested 6 college level pitchers on their VO2, heart rate, and their blood lactate levels before, during, and after a simulated 7 inning baseball game.
Myth #1 Lactic acid Build Up
A pitcher’s arm may be sore after an outing, but it is not because of lactic acid build up. Here’s an excerpt from the study:
“Lactate values did not very over time and were within normal resting physiological ranges at all measurement times.”
Research shows there is an increase in lactic acid production during intense exercise, but it is matched by its removal during recovery resulting in no net increase.
In other words, lactate levels recover during rest between pitches and the 5-6 minutes between innings…..myth busted.
Myth #2 Improves Pitching Endurance
The goal of running poles for many coaches is to increase their pitchers aerobic system and help them pitch deeper into games.
The results of this study showed that VO2 did not limit performance of the pitchers. They were at such a low percentage of their VO2 max (45%), that it is believed that oxygen uptake is not a factor at all. The energy supply of the pitchers was replenished between pitches and during the rest periods.
Why do we insist on training pitchers like endurance athletes when their VO2 is not a limiting factor to pitching endurance? Pitching relies predominately on the ATP and phosphocreatine energy systems (anaerobic), and the majority of conditioning for a pitcher should attempt to improve that system.
A pitchers training program should include exercises to maximize their ability to generate power such as strength training, med ball throws, plyometics, and sprinting.
As coaches we must be able to rationalize every exercise we ask our athletes to do. If our answer is, “because it’s the way we’ve always done it”.…. That's not good enough.
Potteiger, J., Blessing, D., & Wilson, G. D. (1992). The Physiological Responses to a Single Game of Baseball Pitching. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research