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The Best of 2013: Baseball Articles

This section is a new addition to the "Best of EricCressey.com" series.  Check out the top 5 baseball articles from the past year:

1. The Truth About CC Sabathia's Weight - I couldn't seem to stop typing this response to a New York Times piece on Sabathia's weight, and the result was a 3,700 word thesis!

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2. 7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane - These movements are beneficial for anyone, but particularly for baseball players.

3. Regaining Scapular Control: Always Good Intentions, Often Bad Technique - Here's a detailed video on how to train the prone 1-arm trap raise.

4. Improving Thoracic Mobility in Throwers - Check out these great thoracic spine mobility drills we use with our throwers.

5. 21 Reasons You're Not Tim Collins - This was a fun piece to write; I'm glad my readers have a good sense of humor!

I'll be back tomorrow with the last installment of our "Best of 2013" series.

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The Best of 2013: Strength and Conditioning Features

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each blog being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2013 at EricCressey.com:

1. Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better - This series is mostly CP coach Greg Robins' work, but I jump in here and there. Installments 28-52 ran this year.  Here were the most popular ones:

Installment 28
Installment 48
Installment 33
Installment 37
Installment 47

2. Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – I kicked off this (ongoing) feature in early 2012, and it was as huge a hit this year as it was last year.  My goal with this series is to feel like you have a coach right there with you. Here were the ones we ran this year:

Installment 5
Bench Press Edition
Installment 6
Installment 7

3. Pitching Performance: Understanding Trunk Position at Foot Strike - This was a three-part series co-authored with CP Pitching Coordinator, Matt Blake.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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4. Assessments You Might Be Overlooking - I just kicked off this series, but there are some important points covered in the first two installments:

Installment 1
Installment 2

We're close to wrapped up with the Best of 2013 series, but there's still more to come, so check back soon!

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The Best of 2013: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2013, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year.  Here goes...

1. 7 Myths of Strength Training for Women - This post by former Cressey Performance intern Sohee Lee made me realize that we need to feature more female-specific content in 2014, as it was a huge hit!

2. Sleep: What the Research Actually Says - The good folks at Examine.com contributed this incredibly well-researched hit from 2013.

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3. 6 Common Turkish Get-up Mistakes - CP coach Greg Robins walks you through the issues we find ourselves correcting most frequently with this complex exercise.

4. Pelvic Arch Design and Load-Carrying Capacity - Dean Somerset never disappoints with his creative topics and awesome insights on functional anatomy and corrective exercise.

5. 5 Indirect Core Stability Exercises for the Upper Body - Greg Robins gets his second hit in the top 5! There are some great video demonstrations here.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2013.

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The Best of 2013: Strength and Conditioning Videos

Yesterday, I kicked off the "Best of 2013" series with my top articles of the year.  Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year:

1. Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes: How to Spot What Your Throwers Need - This is a free 47-minute presentation I made available to all my baseball-specific newsletter subscribers this year.  You can still access it at no charge.

Individualizing

2. Warm-ups for Sparing the Shoulders - This came as part of a post for Schwarzenegger.com.

3. Supine Alternating Shoulder Flexion on Doubled Tennis Ball - This upper back mobility/soft tissue drill was a big hit!

4. Fine-Tuning the Band Pullapart - This is a very popular exercise for shoulder health, but it's commonly performed incorrectly.  Try these modifications!

5. Standing External Rotation Hold to Wall - This is an awesome warm-up that requires no equipment.  We use it a lot with our throwers when they're on the field and don't have access to a table to do prone exercises.

As you can see, 2013 was the "Year of the Shoulder" at EricCressey.com!  I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2013.

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The Best of 2013: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With the end of 2013 at hand, I’ll be devoting this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com. I’ll kick it off today with my five most popular articles from the past year.

1. Why You Struggle to Train Overhead – and What to Do About It - This article ran recently, and judging by the response, I should have written it up years ago!

2. 15 Static Stretching Mistakes - Do you need to stretch?  Maybe not! And, even if you do, you might be making some of these common mistakes.

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3. 20 Ways to Prepare Athletes for Success in Sports and in Life - There are lots of valuable life lessons in this one, so it got a lot of love on social media.

4. 6 Tips for People Who Stand All Day - All the mobility and stability recommendations out there seem to be geared toward people who sit all the time - until now!

5. The Deficit Deadlift: A Strength Exercise You Can Do Without - Deadlifts are popular, and deficit deadlifting is controversial, so this webinar I did made for a popular post.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2013" feature.  Up next, the top videos of the year!

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Happy Holidays!

With the holidays upon us, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I'll be away from the computer for a few days to recharge the batteries and catch up with family and friends.  I promise to be back soon with some new content for you - and I guarantee that EricCressey.com won't disappoint in 2014!

In the meantime, happy holidays to all my readers!  Thanks so much for your continued support.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Squatting and Pulling with the Taller Lift - I always enjoy Charlie Weingroff's writing, even though it doesn't come frequently.  This was an excellent piece that reflects a lot of my own views on training taller athletes; just because a guy is taller doesn't mean you blindly contraindicate movements with him.

Is Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptation - This is a great review in the Strength and Conditioning Journal from Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, and it covers a topic that has long been debated in training circles. 

9 Tips for Consistent Workouts - This is a solid article from Charles Staley, and it's timely, in light of how many New Year's Resolutions folks will fall off the bandwagon in the next 6-8 weeks.

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Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 2

In our first installment of this series on arm care, I discussed scapular positioning.  In this second installment, I'll cover another big mistake I commonly see throwers make:

Doing a ton of rotator cuff exercises before throwing.

Pre-throwing warm-up approaches constitute a great example of extremes.  On one hand, you have the guys who crush an energy drink and do a few arm circles and then go right to throwing - and they're obviously not doing enough.  On the other hand, you have some guys who go through 30 different exercises for the cuff and scapular stabilizers. - and before you know it, it's an hour later and they're exhausted, yet still haven't picked up a ball.  As always, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

We have many examples available across multiple sporting disciplines that show the impact of fatigue on performance and injury risk (Bill Hartman covers many of them in this great post).  At the other end of the spectrum, not warming up sufficiently can be equally problematic.  As such, it's about finding the sweet spot for every pitcher.

I generally try to "lump" each of our throwers into one of three categories: tight, loose, or middle-of-the-road.

The tight guys need to go out of their way to extend their warm-ups so that their body temperature is higher before they pick up a ball.  These are the guys who commonly don't hit their best velocity numbers until after the third inning or so.  The goal of the warm-up is primarily to get length (potentially even with some manual stretching, if indicated) - and follow it up by doing a bit of activation work to establish some good stiffness in the right places (anterior core, posterior rotator cuff, scapular upward rotators).  To me, this group requires the longest warm-up, but even still, it's 20 minutes, tops.

The loose guys are the ones who have considerable joint laxity (hypermobility). 

As a result, we really don't need to establish any new range-of-motion; we need to enhance stability in the ROM they already have.  Loose guys are always the most likely to get thrown under the bus with bad arm care programs.  Stretch them, and you'll make them worse or injured.  Do too much cuff or scapular stabilizer work before they throw, and they'll fall off early in terms of velocity and health. With this group, we don't do much ground-based mobility work; we prefer to get them standing up and moving around.  They'll work in movements like prone external rotation to "groove" true external rotation, and get some rhythmic stabilizations, too.

Again, we're talking about 15 minutes at most.

The middle-of-the-road guys are, as you might imagine, a combination of the previous two groups.  They don't need quite as much mobility work as the tight guys, nor do they need quite as much stability work as the loose guys. It's more of a balancing act, but we're still not exceeding 15-20 minutes.

If you're looking for a general guideline on what our guys might do, here's a brief synopsis:

A. foam rolling - 5 minutes
B. mobility drills - 8-10 minutes
C. scapular control drills (wall slide variations, prone trap raises, etc.) - 2 minutes
D. rotator cuff activation drills (prone external rotation, rhythmic stabilizations, and maybe 1-2 sets of band exercises) - 2 minutes
E. easy movement training and sprint build-ups (5 minutes)

As you can see, at most, this takes 24 minutes.  And, this number comes down because not everyone does every exercise.

Exchanging quantity for quality in the warm-up has been one of the most important modifications we've made in the past with injured or underperforming throwers we've seen.  The benefits are due to both the addition of valuable exercises, but more significantly, taking away an excessive amount of unproductive work that's just piling fatigue on top of the rotator cuff before throwing.

With all this in mind, if you're "that guy" who takes forever to warm up, it's probably time to cut back.  As CP pitching coordinator Matt Blake has joked, "If you need a post-workout shake after your warm-up, you're doing it all wrong."  Start thinking about ways to make the pre-throwing period more efficient - and then get your volume in at a later point in time.

Looking for more insights like this?  Check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships, where we discuss scapular posture and movement evaluation techniques (along with many other topics) in great detail.  We just announced our next Phase 1 (Upper Extremity) event: January 17-19 at CSP in Hudson, MA.

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3 Considerations for the Aging Athlete

At Cressey Performance, we’re largely known for our work with baseball players, but that’s not to say that we don’t have our fair share of “weekend warriors” – those who like to get after it in the gym well into their 40s, 50s, and 60s – in the mix.  With that in mind, we haven’t done a great job of reflecting this in our online content, so we’re going to start to remedy that today!  In today’s post, CP coach Greg Robins introduces his top three recommendations for the aging athlete. -EC

1. Seek out a professional evaluation.

Without fail, we are approached daily at Cressey Performance by individuals looking for our “pitchers” program, our “strength” program, or any other number of set approaches to dealing with one type of scenario. The truth is, we don’t have those lying around anywhere. Instead of writing “outcome-specific” programs, we write “athlete-specific” programs. Where am I going with this?

There is no “older athlete” specific program. There are only trends in training older athletic populations that must be considered when evaluating them, and then writing their programs. To be honest, the older athlete needs this attention to detail moreso than many of the younger athletes we see at CP. Why?

It’s simple, really: older athletic populations have accumulated decades of the same repetitive movements, on top of a growing list of nagging injuries, serious injuries, aches, pains, and so on.  

If injury is derived from this equation…

 

 Number of repetitons x Force of each repetition

_______________________________________________________

 

Amplitude of each repetiton x Relaxation between repetitons

 

…then you can imagine just how much higher the figure for “N” has grown in comparison to their considerable younger counterparts.  And, keep in mind that degenerative changes kick in easier and linger longer as we age.

In short, the first and most important consideration for the older athlete is to have their movement evaluated by a qualified professional so as to formulate a safe and productive plan of action for training. Without this information exercise selection becomes a shot in the dark, rather than a well formulated choice of movements to meet the person where they are at.  For those looking to self-evaluation, Assess and Correct would be a good a great DVD set to review.

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2. Improve your recovery.

Aging populations will find that their ability to recover from bouts of intense exercise has steadily diminished as they age. Therefore, recovery measures must take a front seat in their approach to getting better while staying healthy. These populations should place a premium on the standard sources of improved recovery, namely sleep and nutrition. However, I would like to touch upon another factor, often neglected, that can help tremendously in the older athlete’s approach.

Aerobic capacity, or improved aerobic fitness, will be paramount to their success. Your body runs on three main energy systems:

  • Aerobic
  • Anaerobic
  • ATP – PCr

When it comes down to producing energy, the body’s currency is ATP. All of these energy systems are channels for producing the currency of your body’s energy. Each has their way of doing so, and each does so in a different context.

Many of us associate aerobic exercise with long duration activities, and therefore a long duration of ATP generation. We see anaerobic exercise as short duration, and therefore, a short duration of ATP generation. In short, that’s mostly correct. You can view ATP-PCr as an even shorter duration generation that the anaerobic energy system. While ATP-PCr, and the anaerobic energy systems are capable of producing a lot of ATP quickly, they also run out of currency quite fast as well.

The facilitation of the aerobic energy system is important because it’s always in play. In other words, the better trained it is, the more ATP it is generating for you over the course of the entire bout of exercise. This leads to better ATP production in general – in the short term, the ability to repeat the short term, and the long haul in total. That’s important to the older athlete, and any athlete for that matter.

Need proof that it matters? Here’s a 2001 study showing a positive correlation between aerobic fitness and recovery from high intensity bouts of exercises published in 2001.

chaindl

To take it a step further, a well-conditioned aerobic system doesn’t just help you recover during the workout; it also helps you to recover between workouts, faster! It plays a large role in giving you the energy required to repair, and helps you to “switch” into your autonomic nervous system, which is optimal for increased recovery.

I highly recommend you read further on how this relationship plays out, how to train it, and how to evaluate it by reading Mike Robertson’s article here. Also, you’ll benefit from checking through the lengthy list of information and tools from Joel Jamieson.

3. Manage Volume Better.

If we take into account our first two bullet points, then it’s important that we address training volume in general. Mismanaged training volume can accelerate the equation in our first point, as well as hinder our recovery efforts laid out in point number two.

In general, aging athletes will need to be more cognizant of the total work they are doing and its effect on their outputs. A positive in training this population is that they have spent considerably more time listening to their body. This is important, and should not be disregarded. Instead of blindly following any program, I would urge the older athlete to learn from past experiences and back down when their body is telling them to do so. Many times, the more experienced the athlete; the better they are at doing this.

Additionally, I would challenge the older athlete to deload, or “back off” more often. This is an easy way to manage the volume of training in their favor. Many programs will load for 3-4 weeks and then unload for one. However, older athletes can benefit from cycling in periods of backed down volume and intensity more often. Here are two such scenarios.

  1. High / Low Organization

High – Low organization is among my favorite ways to train an older athlete. It was developed originally to train very high-level athletes to ensure top outputs every time they train. By getting a high output one week, and then letting them recover the next week, there was much less chance of accumulating fatigue, and having the athlete continually training at something less of what they were actually capable of achieving. This gave them a chance to repeat high outputs more often, as well as top those efforts.

It makes sense in the training of older athletes as well. In a similar fashion to these high-level trainees, high outputs will take a lot out of the tank for the older populations. Since our goal is still to improve the performance of older athletes, while minimizing injury, this is a great approach.

  1. High / Medium / Low Organization

This is another solid option. In this example we are loading an athlete for two weeks, and then unloading them for one. The first week would be high intensity; the second medium (with slightly more volume), and the third week low in both intensity and volume. It’s basically a play on the first example, and can be used for an older athlete who may be able to handle more volume. It’s also a better choice for the older strength athlete who will need the second week of increased volume to continue making progress on the lifts, as well as the technical practice of performing the lifts under decent load more often.

If you’re looking for more deloading strategies, I’d encourage you to check out Eric’s e-book on the subject: The Art of the Deload.

art-of-the-deload2

In conclusion, the older athlete needs to place a premium on correct movement, recovery measures, and management of volume or training stress. With those three considerations in mind, there is lots of room for improvement at any age!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/16/13

Here's this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Nutrition in the NBA; Part 1: Lessons Learned in LA Help Howard's Career - This was a great article at CBS Sports on the awesome work my buddy Tim DiFrancesco has done on the nutrition front with the LA Lakers.  It's part of a multi-article series on nutrition in the NBA (including a section that discusses another friend, Mike Roussell, and his work with Roy Hibbert).

10 Best Unilateral Exercises - I like (and regularly use) several of the variations Bret Contreras highlights in this article.

Genetics, BDNF, Rehab, and Performance - Bill Hartman summarizes a conversation he had with Eric Oetter, and then discusses some practical applications.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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