Home 2013 July (Page 2)

Elite Baseball Mentorships: The Importance of Hip Rotation

Today’s guest post comes from my friend and colleague, physical therapist Eric Schoenberg.  Eric is an integral part of our Elite Baseball Mentorships.

The ability to properly assess, interpret, and manage hip range of motion (specifically rotation) is a critical skill in preventing injury and improving athletic performance in a baseball player.  Proper hip rotation sets up better alignment and direction in the pitching motion which sets up proper pelvic and trunk rotation and an improved ability to generate torque.  Stodden, et al. reports a direct correlation between increased hip rotation ROM and increased throwing velocity.

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As we covered in Phase 1 of the Elite Baseball Mentorship , a pitcher who does not internally rotate fully through the back hip will tend to land closed-off.  While some pitchers may use this to improve deception or get more movement on their pitchers, this positioning can lead to the pitcher (especially a less experienced one) to either miss high and arm side or attempt to throw across his body and cut the ball.  The pitcher will in turn try to “make up” velocity with his arm/shoulder due to the movement faults in the kinetic chain. This compensation is a very common cause of shoulder and elbow injury in pitchers.

Weaver closed stride

Additionally, Kibler, et al. notes that kinetic chain deficits are discovered on examination in a majority of patients with SLAP (superior labrum anterior-posterior) injuries. Deficits in hip abductor or extensor strength, deficits in hip rotation flexibility, or core strength weakness have been identified in 50% of SLAP injuries.

In Phase 1 of the mentorship program, we discussed in great detail the importance of understanding total motion of the shoulder as a key risk factor in pitching injuries. A recent study from Garrison, et al.  once again demonstrated that total ROM (ER + IR) is a better metric for predicting injury risk than GIRD (Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit).

These same concepts also apply to the hip.  However, there are fewer research studies and less consistent findings of hip ROM norms in rotational athletes.  In addition, you will see some clear differences in ROM based on position (pitcher vs. hitter) which need to be appreciated when designing training and rehab. programs.

Tippett reports increased hip IR in the trail leg (vs. lead leg) of college baseball players. In contrast, Hills (2005) reported no significant difference in hip IR between the back hip and lead hip in hitters, however hip ER and total ROM was significantly greater in the back hip. Whereas, Laudner, et al. notes that in pitchers, there is less internal rotation of the trail leg than position players resulting in a less effective and potentially more dangerous throwing motion.

Anecdotally, as we look at the lead leg in a hitter, internal rotation force often exceeds available hip internal rotation ROM resulting in microtrauma to passive structures and resultant instability of the hip (i.e. abnormal gliding and shear forces of the femoroacetabular joint).  As a result, and similar to the shoulder, the athlete will lose dynamic stability (motor control) causing unequal distribution of force on the weight bearing surfaces and finally osseous (bony) or labral pathology ensues.

Finally, from a strength prospective, there is a clear difference between recruitment patterns used to hit a baseball vs. throw a baseball.  EMG studies by Shaffer and Jobe et al. show hitters rely much more on the lower half and core for power development and transfer, while using the upper extremity/hands more for position and direction.  On the other hand, pitchers seem to rely more on energy created in the core and upper extremity, potentially placing pitchers at an increased risk for upper extremity injury.

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Key Takeaways

1. Failure to properly identify and correct hip ROM deficits (especially lack of hip internal rotation in pitcher’s drive leg) will result in increased injury risk throughout the kinetic chain.

2. Asymmetrical rotational patterns in baseball players result in need for training and rehabilitation programs to work rotation in both directions.

3. Continued proof of the need to respect structural changes (i.e. retroversion) as well as position specificity (i.e. pitcher vs. position player) in developing effective training and rehabilitation programs.

4. From a treatment perspective, don’t just rush to stretching what seems “tight”. Consider the principles of relative stiffness, pelvic alignment, breathing patterns, and lumbopelvic stability before we start cranking away at the hip joint.

If you would like more information regarding the mentorships, please visit our website, www.EliteBaseballMentorships.com.  The early bird registration deadline for the August 18-20 Phase 2 Mentorship is this Thursday, July 18, 2013. Click here to register.

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6 Years and 6 Proud Moments for Cressey Performance

Today's guest post comes from my business partner, Pete Dupuis.

I’m pleased to say that tomorrow marks the 6-year anniversary of Cressey Performance being in business.  This also happens to be the 5th consecutive year that I have brought the upcoming date to Eric’s attention, only to learn that he was completely unaware of the occasion. I guess time flies when you're having fun!

6th-Birday-Rosette

In years past, Eric has been thankful for the reminder and eager to pull together his annual “lessons learned” blog post.  This time around, he told me that our 6th anniversary is “just about as cool as turning 22”, and that I was welcome to take the annual write-up off his hands.  I’ve decided to run with it, but will be taking a different approach. 

Instead of presenting a collection of lessons learned, I’d like to highlight the six moments and/or accomplishments I am most proud of during CP’s brief history.  Please note that this list is absolutely not prioritized in any specific order.  I’d be perfectly fine with each and every one of these six topics being #1 on this list.  Here goes!

1. 2,320 in 2,190

CP has worked with 2,320 different athletes during the 2,190 days we’ve been in business.  This means that I’ve had the pleasure of outlining our price points and training model so many times that I can effectively give the pitch on auto-pilot. I have also spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning the answer to the question “so what do you do?” that pops up every time I sit down next to a stranger at a wedding.  You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to articulate what we do without just taking the easy way out and saying “I own a gym”.

Most importantly to me, this statistic means that we have managed to generate more than one lead a day over a 6-year span without ever spending a dollar on conventional advertising.  Instead, we focus on results, and never say no when someone asks if they can get their hands on a CP t-shirt to wear around their baseball clubhouse.  I couldn’t tell you what the industry standard is supposed to be for successful lead generation, but I am proud of this number.

2. Our Dream Facility

As we’ve mentioned before, our first facility was smaller than the footprint of our current offices.  Upon opening our doors during the summer of 2007, we were in a space that could be best described as “bare-bones”.  The windows were broken, the space was dusty, and the bathrooms were questionable at best.  With this being said, I was every bit as proud of that first unit as I am of our current facility.

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On August 26, 2012, we opened the doors to a training space that fits our needs perfectly.  I spent the majority of the three months leading up to this event preparing the layout for the space, installing carpet tiles for the warm-up area with our resident handy-man Pickles, and painting accent walls in the office.   During that same time, Eric, Tony, Chris, Greg and Michelle were keeping CP cranking at a record-setting pace so that the bank account was getting replenished while I spent aggressively at Home Depot and Perform Better!

I think I speak for our entire team when I say that we are thrilled with our new-look gym. 

3. Productive Internship Program

At last count, CP had had the pleasure of working with over 70 different interns.  These 70 individuals not only worked hard to become better coaches during their time with us, but they also helped to create a training experience for our clients that kept them excited about training, and eager to be part of the CP community.

It seems that all of our former interns have gone on to be great professionals within our field, and many have successfully transitioned to being influential contributors to the world of health and fitness.  I am pleased every single day to see them doing big things throughout this constantly evolving industry.

In six years, I have reviewed more than 500 internship applications, executed roughly 200 telephone interviews, and sent out over 400 emails notifying applicants that they have not been accepted (least favorite part of my job).  When all was said and done, the 70 accepted applicants rose to the top of the list, and we’ve been very fortunate to have their help in cultivating the CP Family.  Which leads me to…

4. CP Family

A couple of years back, we had an intern who was truly flustered when I told him that my biggest piece of advice for making the most of his experience with us was to focus on creating relationships with our clients.  He had just completed an internship at a strength & conditioning facility where he’d been specifically told, “you’re not here to make friends…you’re here to coach."

This couldn’t possibly be further from the mentality we have when it comes to creating a family atmosphere within the walls of CP. I am fortunate enough to wake up excited to go to work every single day, and it is because I’m going to a place where my job is to make friends and facilitate an environment that people are excited to visit.  We take this component of our business very seriously, and there are many CP clients who I consider to be part of my inner circle of friends.

Most importantly, this type of environment is one that can’t exist without employing a staff that truly cares about its clients.  While I haven’t gone ahead and given the CP team it’s own spot on this list of achievements, I can say with confidence that you will not find a staff in this industry that cares more about being great at what they do. 

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5. Seeing the System Come Full Circle

Following the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Eric wrote a fantastic post about the accomplishments and work ethic of current Chicago Cubs prospect, Kevin Brown.  Kevin has been a regular at CP since the end of his sophomore year of high school.  In the time since we’ve been working with him, we’ve watched Kevin transition from scrappy middle infielder on his high school varsity baseball team, to a division one baseball player who set multiple school records at Bryant University, to a 22nd round draft pick who has since signed his first professional contract.

Kevin is, in fact, one of just a few athletes we have seen make this progression in their baseball careers (Travis Dean being another), and it has been rewarding to be able to observe the process first-hand.  I am proud of the fact that both of these athletes have been with us since the very first few months we were in business, and I’m proud of the fact that they both made it a priority to get a training session in at CP on the day that they each left to report to their first day as professional athletes. As you can see, they did not hesitate to sign the Pro Athlete Autograph Wall at CP.

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6. The Fact that We're Just Hitting Our Stride

In a way, I’m more excited about what we’re going to accomplish, than what we have so far.  I’m excited about the career prospects of the 40 CP athletes who have been taken in the last three MLB First-Year Player Drafts.  I’m excited about the coming 2014 Draft.  I’m excited about our relationship with the good people at New Balance Baseball.  I’m excited for our college ballplayers to return to fall-ball ready to reap the benefits of a summer of hard work.  I’m excited to chat with the next person who calls to inquire about our services.

When finally stopped to think about it, I realized that I’m just plain excited about what we’re doing here.  And that’s pretty exciting.

To learn more about Cressey Performance, check out our website, or watch this video to learn more about our Elite Baseball Development Program.

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Thank You!

Thank you for your purchase of The Specialization Success Guide! You should have received download instructions and an email receipt already, but in case you haven't, please just email us at ec@ericcressey.com and we'll make sure to get you anything you're missing.

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Exercise of the Week: Slideboard Bodysaw Push-up

It goes without saying that push-up variations are among the best exercises you can incorporate for athletes for a number of reasons.  One problem with them, however, is that some athletes eventually get to the point that they can't progress them to make them challenging enough to provide an ample training effect.  That's why I like the slideboard bodysaw push-up; check out the video below to learn why:

Looking for more exercise tutorials like this?  Be sure to check out Elite Training Mentorship, where several coaches (myself included) upload these on a monthly basis - in addition to staff in-services, webinars, articles, and case studies.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/10/13

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

Sports Rehab Expert Interview - Yesterday, Joe Heiler interviewed me about the new Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body product, although we actually covered a number of topics. The interview is free.  Also, if you're interested in checking out FST - Lower, you can do so here.

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Elite Training Mentorship - The July update was just posted last week, and (along with an article and two exercise demonstrations), I did a webinar on evaluating scapular positioning to determine if the bench press is contraindicated for your clients, particularly those with a history of shoulder pain.

Groin Injuries in Hockey Players - This was an awesome post from Peter Nelson on Mike Reinold's blog - even if you have no interest whatsoever in hockey.  It parallels one of my presentations (Preparing the Adductors for Health and Performance) from the FST - Lower DVD set, and also leads in to some of Mike's material.  You'll get a little taste of the Postural Restoration Institute in this article, too.

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Baseball Development: What’s with All the Power Arms?

Back in the summer of 2013, a good friend of mine attended the a well-known national showcase with one of his athletes.  It was an invitation-only event for the best rising senior baseball players in the country.  At the end of the event, he texted me to comment on just how crazy it was that it seemed like dozens of kids were hitting 95mph on the radar gun at this event.  And, sure enough, in the post-event write-up, they commented on how over 100 kids topped the 90mph mark. 

That is a huge deal.

You see, if you backtracked just 10 years, 90mph was a huge feather in your cap - and it essentially meant that you'd be getting drafted out of high school.  Now, on a regular basis, we have dozens of kids nationwide consistently throwing 95mph+ even when there were only 35 major league pitchers in 2011 whose average fastball velocity was higher than 95mph!  As I've mentioned before, average fastball velocity is higher in Low-A than it is in the big leagues. 

The question, then, becomes, "Where are all these power arms coming from - particularly at the younger levels?"  That's a question I'll answer today.

1. More specialization.

It goes without saying that early sports specialization across all sports is, unfortunately, at an all-time high. 

However, baseball is particularly interesting because there is an extremely high likelihood of arm injury along the way.  In fact, according to a 2008 study from Oullette et al., 57% of pitchers suffer some form of shoulder injury over the course of a season.  And, that doesn't even take into account elbow, neck, core, and lower extremity injuries/conditions.  It goes without saying that just about every player will have an issue or two (or 30) pop up over his four years of high school - and it's one reason why we don't see any more "clean" MRIs during post-draft physicals for high round picks. They're all damaged; it's just that some are worse than others, and we need to figure out which of the chips in the paint and rust on the hubcabs are clinically significant.

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When kids specialize in one sport at an early age and try to play it year-round, it's like betting your life savings on the roulette wheel - except your chances of winning are even smaller.  And, even if it works out and the kid manages to be the next star, you dodged a bullet - and he very well may just be waiting for problems down the road, as a lot of the early specialization kids actually have very "old arms" even if they aren't symptomatic. 

Not surprisingly, the rise in specialization (as evidenced by the growth in popularity of fall ball teams, showcases, and opportunities to play for multiple teams during the "normal" baseball season) has paralleled the rise in velocity and injuries.  Can long-term baseball development be successful without specialization?  In my opinion, absolutely - but you have to tie up all the loose ends, and that's what my next few points will all be about.

2. Video analysis

If you want your velocity to increase immediately, there is no quicker avenue to doing so than reviewing pitching mechanics on video.  Our pitching coordinator, Matt Blake, uses the RightView Pro set-up extensively at Cressey Sports Performance for this very reason.  Many pitchers are visual learners, so this approach to coaching helps them to learn what needs to be corrected much more efficiently - and it's also of benefit to the pitching coach, as many movements in the pitching delivery occur so quickly that they really can't be spotted by the naked eye.

Surprisingly, there are still a ton of college and minor league teams who don't have video available to their players.  Access to video can be a huge game-changer, and it's one reason that a lot of high school kids are throwing harder and harder.

3. Competition

Ask any coach what one of the best ways to motivate male athletes is, and he'll tell you competition.  Most teenage guys thrive on trying to beat their buddies, opponents, or records that are in place.  Nowadays, there are more opportunities to compete (and less preparation), and any player in the country can hop online and see how his velocity compared to other guys' at the last showcase.  Although commonly overlooked, these competitive opportunities are big motivating factors to players.

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4. Strength Training

I often tell athletes that "If you don't run fast, you won't pull your hamstrings." In other words, strength training can be a player's biggest asset, but also his greatest downfall if he doesn't approach it correctly.  You see, if strength training isn't approached correctly, it can do a world of harm - both acutely and chronically.  Obviously, the likelihood of getting hurt increases if you move with poor technique under external loading.  However, taking it a step further, strength training "solidifies" movement patterns.  This can be great in a rehabilitation context if you free up some new mobility and then want to create stability within that range of motion (or just maintain what you've got).  However, if you lift like a moron, you'll mostly just teach yourself to be better at moving like crap - and that's when chronic injuries kick in.

Unfortunately, casual observers to exercise physiology don't get that there is a huge difference between appropriate and inappropriate strength training for baseball players. And, this is why there are quite a few "old school" folks in the baseball world who attribute some of the high injury rates these days to lifting.  What they should be attributing the injury to (in part) is inappropriate strength training exercise selection, volume, and technique.  After all, there are just as many guys get hurt late in the season because they cut out lifting and lose strength!

Simply stated, strength training is helping guys throw harder; there's no doubt about it.  It's how that strength training is programmed and what's done to complement it that determines if the increased velocity will lead to an injury. Nothing happens in isolation.

5. More aggressive throwing programs

A decade ago, throwing programs were far from what they are today.  Nowadays, up-and-coming throwers are using weighted baseballs and long toss more than ever before.  No two pitchers are alike in how they respond to these modalities, but having them as tools at our disposal has certainly helped us to increase pitching velocity with countless throwers.

6. Less distance running

One of our minor league pitchers stopped in to check in with me over his all-star break a few weeks ago, and he came bearing great news.  He'd hit 98mph on the radar gun four times in a single inning a few nights earlier - after never having been above 94mph before this season.

Sure, we did a lot of things differently with his programming this off-season, from strength training, to throwing programs, to mobility and soft tissue work.  However, the single biggest change he made (in my eyes, at least) was that he started sprinting between outings instead of distance running.  I have seen this time and time again, and I'm happy to report that more and more coaches at all levels are starting to pick up on it, too. 

Everybody ran long distances back in previous decades.  Yet, we throw harder nowadays.  And, everybody seems to run long distances in baseball in east Asia.  Pitchers throw harder in the U.S.  Sure, there are a lot more factors that contribute to pitching success than velocity alone, but these observations are impossible to ignore.

7. More objective ways to quantify velocity

Have you ever wondered if pitching velocity has increased simply because technology has improved, and we therefore have more accessible means of measuring it?  The price of radar guns isn't as high.  Every stadium has a radar gun.  They make pocket radar guns, and there are even iPad apps to measure velocity. 

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Basic accessibility to this technology has likely contributed to kids pushing the envelope of what they would otherwise think they were able to do.

8. More peaks, fewer valleys

Remember when Justin Verlander hit 101mph on the radar gun in the 9th inning of his no-hitter in 2011?  You could call that a "peak" velocity moment.  In short, it's a lot easier when the stakes are higher, people are watching you, and the adrenaline is pumping.  Major League pitchers don't have as many of these because their professional seasons are a long grind: possibly 200 games in 230 days, if you include spring training and playoffs.

Younger pitchers, however, are more "excitable."  With shorter seasons, there are more "big games."  With showcases and tournaments each weekend, the stakes are higher. Heck, they get excited if a girlfriend comes to watch them pitch. In the lifting world, we call it the difference between a training max and a competition max.  A competition max may be as much as 10% higher because a lifter is deloaded from training stress and put into a higher pressure competitive situation. In young pitchers, everything seems to be a competition max.  It's great for demonstrating big velocity numbers, but may interfere with long-term health and development.

Wrap-up

Clearly, there are a ton of factors that have contributed to guys throwing harder at younger ages in today's baseball world.  They don't all apply to each thrower, as different athletes will generate velocity in different ways.  While this increase in average velocity has definitely made pitchers more dominant, it has, unfortunately, been accompanied by a greater frequency of injuries.  Understanding the factors that contribute to these velocity increases is the first step in determining how to keep kids performing at a high level while minimizing their risk of injury. 

For more information, I'd encourage you to check out 7 Reasons Pitchers Shouldn't Do Year-Round Throwing Programs Part 1 and Part 2.  Additionally, you can explore these topics in much greater detail with us at our Elite Baseball Mentorships.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 47

Thanks for CP coach Greg Robins, here are this week's list of tips to fine-tune your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Use old wrist wraps to rig up chains.

While there are some very solid products out there to rig up chains for deadlifts, sometimes you just don’t want to spend the cash.  In my case it is especially true when you only need them once every four months or so. Some people may get by just fine draping the chains over a bar, but I find they tend to move around and fall off too often when using them for reps.

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There is one very simple solution. You can use an old set of wrist wraps (or new ones, if you prefer), to hold the chains in place. It works out great, and is as easy as just tying the wrap around the top of the chains. If you find yourself having a similar issue getting the chains to stay in place, give this a try next time you pull against chains!

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2. Avoid elbow hyperextension on pressing exercises.

Many people, especially females, have significant joint laxity. When a joint has the ability to reach undesired ranges of motion, you will often find that folks use this end range as the preferred method of getting “stable.” Instead of actively holding positions, they will continue to move until they run out of room, and rely on a les than ideal positioning.  As an example, check out this picture of one of our boot camp clients on her first day doing push ups.

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Without assessing for this, or keeping an eye out for it, you will find many clients performing push-ups and other pressing exercises like this. Now that you are aware of it, fix it! If you notice them hyperextending the elbows, coach them to stop at neutral!

3. Consider these tips to make Turkish get-ups less tedious.

I like the Turkish get-up. It’s a great exercise, and it makes its way, in some form or another, into most of my programs. The only issue I have with it is that it can be very tedious. While the mind numbing length of doing multiple reps per side is one turn off, there is also another issue. Due to its drawn-out nature, many of our athletes will hit one rep with great technique and then rush through the next 2 or 3. While keeping an eye on every rep and ensuring proper technique is one solution, it isn’t always feasible, especially in a semi-private setting. Instead, consider these alternatives:

a. Program a single repetition per side: I like working the get up with only one rep at a time. It allows you to go heavier, which has the benefit of forcing you to be strict with your positioning. If you go heavy enough a single rep can easily last over 30-45sec. That length has a similar time under tension to other, more common, rep schemes. When you consider there are fourteen steps to a complete get up, doing one rep is actually a lot more involved than it may seem.

b. Litter the get-up within other exercises: One thing I love to do is start and end other exercises with a Turkish get up. Some examples include doing the first half of the exercise and continuing into an overhead carry. When you reach your desired carry length you can perform the other half. Another option is to perform a certain amount of overhead presses in the standing position, half kneeling position, or floor presses in the supine position.

4. Eat more raisins.

Raisins are chalked up to be a “kid snack.” However, they are a pretty darn good option for the active population as well, especially athletes who may be looking to bulk up with a convenient, calorically dense option. Raisins provide a great source of readily usable energy for intense training sessions. Furthermore, they are an excellent source of anti-oxidants. Furthermore, they are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. Not to mention they provide a decent amount of fiber as well.

As noted in Jonny Bowden’s book The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth, the grapes raisins originate as are often highly saturated in pesticides. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to look for organic varieties. Next time you are looking for a good source of fast acting carbohydrates, consider eating a handful or two of raisins!

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5. Stay basic and specific when you’re unsure how long you have an athlete.

With all the information available today, it’s easy for us to jump ahead to more complex training protocols. There is no shortage of excellent programming out there, formulated by some of the brightest minds in strength and conditioning. However, many of these programs are not the right choice for the majority of the population.

While these methods have evidence to support their effectiveness, they are often used with highly trained individuals, and carried out over an extended/known period of time. In the private sector of S&C you aren’t always sure how long you’ll have an athlete.

Before you hop into contrast training, tempo training, or any other complex method, consider tapping out your potential with a more basic approach first. In many cases your end goal will be most greatly improved with a more basic approach that is specific to your desired outcome.

Take this recent study, for example. The School of Health Sciences, at The University of Ballarat in Australia studied “The Acute Effects of Conventional, Complex and Contrast Protocols on Lower Body Power.” The study looked at three different approaches to improving peak power output. The traditional approach included only counter-movement jumping. The other two included a mix of jumping and resistance training. The result favored the traditional approach for an acute improvement of peak power. This isn’t to say the other approaches wouldn’t be superior long term, but as I stated before, often times you will not have an athlete long enough to make changes with a more complex approach.

The take away is that you need to identify what you want to give an athlete by training with you. When he or she is only under your guidance for a short period of time, make that item a priority, do it often and do it well. That item may not be very specific to their sport, but the training needs to be specific to that item. In order to get an acute change in a certain quality your best bet is to give that quality the most attention.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/3/13

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

I Throw, Therefore I Am - Thisewas a great Boston Globe article on the evolution of throwing - and there was a similar piece written in the New York Times, as they both reported on the same study results.

Massage Tools: Gua Sha and The Like - This is an outstanding blog from Patrick Ward on the effects of various instrument-assisted soft tissue treatment approaches.

The Truth About Overhead Pressing - My business partner, Tony Gentilcore, authored this article on reevaluating your shoulder function and strength and conditioning programming over at T-Nation.

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