With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2016" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.
1. 1-arm TRX Row w/Offset Kettlebell Hold - Every good program includes plenty of horizontal pulling, and this is a way to incorporate a good core stability challenge at the same time.
2. Grip Width for Conventional Deadlift Technique - Getting the grip width right is one of the most important strategies for optimizing your deadlift technique.
3. Hip Extension and the Bulgarian Split Squat - The bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated split squat) actually takes more hip mobility than you might appreciate, and this excerpt from Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement goes into detail on the subject.
4. Tall Kneeling Cable Press to Overhead Lift - This is an older video, but I just uploaded it this year, as it made for a great "Exercise of the Week" inclusion.
5. Rhythmic Stabilizations: Where Should You Feel Them? - Rhythmic stabilizations are a great way to improve rotator cuff timing - but only if they're performed correctly. In this video, I answer one of the most common questions we receive about them: "Where should you feel them?"
I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2016!
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With 2016 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.
1. 5 "Combo" Core Stability Exercises - Great strength and conditioning programs are all about delivering results as efficiently as possible. Here are some exercises that'll help you do so by making your core stability training more efficient.
2. 10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age - The popularity of this article makes me realize that I need to devote more of my writing to the more mature athlete who still likes to get after it in the gym!
As we wind down to the holidays, here's the last installment of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance for 2016.
1. One of the most overlooked benefits of medicine ball training might be the frequency at which it can be trained.
Before I get to this point, check out this old video of mine on the Absolute Strength-Speed Continuum (if you haven't seen it already):
One of the things I've been thinking about is that medicine ball training doesn't absolutely crush people the same way that absolute speed work (whether it is sprinting, jumping, throwing a baseball, or something comparable), strength-speed (Olympic lifts, jump squats), and heavy lifting does. You could likely train it every day, and while it wouldn't be optimal, people could handle it and still derive some benefit.
More than likely, it's just a sweet spot in the "Force = Mass x Acceleration" equation. The mass is pretty low (especially since there really aren't huge ground reaction forces like we see in sprinting), and the acceleration drops off quite a bit. This likely parallels what we see with baseball vs. football throwing; the football is just much less stressful.
This doesn't help us a lot in the question for developing peak power, but it does give us a really good option for training power - especially rotationally - more frequently.
2. Good thoracic positioning will help you make the most of your overhead medicine ball training.
Speaking of medicine balls, check out this side-by-side comparison of two athletes that I recently posted on my Instagram account. On the left is one with a "normal" thoracic curvature and set of movement capabilities. He can get into thoracic extension at the top, and effectively flex at the bottom to deliver the scapula to the correct position for ball release. On the right, though, notice how flat the upper back stays at the ball release position. We'd like to see him able to round a bit more to ensuring a good convex-concave relationship between the scapula and rib cage.
3. Narrow exercise selections make for impressive lifters, but less impressive athletes.
With our typical minor league baseball player, we may actually have time to get through six 4-week programs over the course of an offseason. In six months - especially if we happen to have an athlete who is genetically gifted for strength development - we *could* get guys freaky strong on a few big lifts. We choose not to, however. Why?
A narrow exercise can lead to some very impressive weight room performances on a few lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, clean, etc. This specificity can be great if you want to be a one (or three) trick pony (powerlifter), but not quite as helpful if you're an athlete who actually needs to change directions. To this end, a few thoughts:
a. I'd much rather see an athlete with a more versatile "strength portfolio." Show me a 200-pound athlete who can front squat in the mid-300s, deadlift in the mid-500s, turkish get-up in the 80s, and do axial-loading single-leg work in the mid-200s, and I'll show you a guy that has a great foundation to really move well.
b. These strength numbers aside, eventually, your priority needs to shift from just building strength to actually using that quickly. Simply chasing a number on one lift can quickly leave you unprepared in a particular movement/plane or in the context of creating more usable strength. I out-deadlift all of our pro baseball players, but many of them can broad jump longer than I can; who is using their force more efficiently?
c. If you do insist on this narrower "main" exercise selection can be offset by variety in warm-ups, sprint/agility work, and assistance strength training drills.
d. I think narrower exercise selections have the most benefit in beginning lifters and teenage athletes who need to build a solid foundation and awareness of putting force into the ground. I'd honestly have no problem with sticking with the same 3-4 "main" exercises for 3-4 months straight in this population, although you have to be sensitive to the fact that some athletes will get really bored quickly. For this reason, we'll try to simple incorporate subtle changes; as an example:
Month 1: Trap Bar Deadlift (6-8 reps per set)
Month 2: Trap Bar Deadlift (4-5 reps per set)
Month 3: Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Band or Chains
Month 4: Low Setting Trap Bar Deadlift
Obviously, we don't rigidly adhere to this, but it gives you a feel for how to add some variety without overhauling things and having to completely re-groove a new skill.
That's all for 2016; happy holidays!
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The Fitness Entrepreneur's Handbook - Pat Rigsby is one of the brightest business minds I've ever met - and certainly among the top guys in the business of fitness. I was thrilled when he asked me to write the foreword to this new book. This is a must read if you're in the fitness industry.
5 Lessons on Coaching - I published this guest blog from former Cressey Sports Performance intern John O'Neil one year ago, and it was a huge hit. There are definitely some great coaching lessons in here.
Top Tweet of the Week
Maybe the problem isn't the weighted balls. Maybe it's one coach giving an entire team of 14-year-olds the exact same weighted ball program.
Good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. This week's "Stuff to Read" was a breeze to pull together, as there was some outstanding content on the 'Net since our last installment. Before we get to it, though, just a friendly reminder that my 30 Days of Arm Care feature is currently at Day 28. You can view all the videos on Twitter and Instagram using the #30DaysOfArmCare hashtag. Now, on to the good stuff!
Physical Preparation Podcast with Dr. Stuart McGill - Bold statement: this was probably the best podcast to which I've ever listened. Dr. McGill is so smart and cutting-edge that you can't drive while listening to his stuff or else you'll find yourself pulling over constantly to scribble notes.
As you’ve probably already noticed, it’s been a bit quieter on the blog of late. Normally, I try to get up at least two – and usually three – new posts per week. Over the past few months, it’s been more like 1-2 posts.
With two facilities in two states – and a pair of two-year-olds at home – life has a very brisk pace to it right now. The baseball off-season keeps me very busy, so when October through February rolls around, some things just have to take a back seat. For me, that’s usually writing and traveling for speaking engagements. In-person coaching is what I love, and this is the absolute best time of year for it.
Fortunately, though, it doesn’t have to be “either/or” for me; rather, it can be “and” if I select a convenient medium. To that end, I’ve done more video content on the social media front with my 30 Days of Arm Care series and some random videos of our pro guys training.
Right now, I’m prioritizing the most time-sensitive demands (in-person training), particularly because they’re the part of my professional responsibilities that I love the most. And, obviously, it’s a goal to prioritize family time above all else, and I need to get my own training in.
Simultaneously, while I’d much rather write detailed content and film longer videos, it’s not always feasible – so I’ve conceded that some quick social media posts and even the occasional guest contribution from another writer are solid ways to keep the ball rolling in the right direction with my online brand while I manage the pro baseball off-season.
As I thought more and more about this time crunch conundrum, it goes me to thinking about how it parallels what folks deal with on the training front. Two key principles – prioritization and concession – really stand out in my mind.
The best training programs are the ones that clearly identify and address the highest priorities for the lifter. If a 14-year-old kid can’t even execute a solid body push-up, putting him on a 3x/week bench press specialization program probably isn’t the best idea. Likewise, if a 65-year-old women can’t even walk from the car to the gym without back pain, she probably shouldn’t be learning how to power clean on her first day. These prioritization principle examples might seem obvious, but not all scenarios are as clearly defined. There are loads of factors that have to be considered on the prioritization front once someone has more training experience: duration of the window to train (off-season length), injury history, personal preferences, equipment availability, etc. It’s not always so black and white.
If you’re going to prioritize, it invariably means that you have to concede; very simply, you can’t give 100% to absolutely everything. If you go on a squat specialization program, you need to concede that you’re going to train your deadlift and bench press with less volume/intensity and later in your training sessions. Not everything can be prioritized all the time because of our limited recovery capacities.
Looking back, while I didn’t realize it at the time, these two principles help explain some of the popularity of my High Performance Handbook. By giving individuals various options in terms of both lifting frequency (2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week) and supplemental conditioning protocols, it afforded them the opportunity to prioritize and concede as they saw fit while still sticking to the primary principles that drive an effective program.
Additionally, because they were the ones selecting which route to pursue, it gave them an ownership role in the training process. My good friend (and Purdue Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach) Josh Bonhotal went to great lengths to highlight how important this is to the training process in this article. I love this quote in particular:
As I wrap my head around this even more, it makes me realize that when we educate an athlete about prioritization and concession - usually in the form of a thorough evaluation where we demonstrate that we want to individualize our programs to their needs - we're empowering them as part of the decision-making process. And that's where "buy-in" and, in turn, results follow.
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I hope your week is going well. I had a blast in Nashville this past weekend while speaking at the Pitchapalooza event, but now it's back to the regular craziness of the baseball off-season. I'll have some new content later in the week, but in the meantime, here are some good reads for the week:
30 Days of Arm Care Updates - You can see all these videos (currently on day 23) via the hashtag #30DaysOfArmCare on both Twitter and Instagram.
Pre-Suasion - This is the second book I've read from Robert Cialdini, and while neither of them were directly written for strength and conditioning coaches, they can both really help the way we interact with our athletes.
The Ideal Business Show with Pete Dupuis - Pat Rigsby interviewed my business partner, Pete Dupuis. This is a great listen for all fitness professionals interested in the business side of the industry.
New Boss Derek Falvey Looks to Make an Imprint with Twins - Derek Falvey is the new team president of the Minnesota Twins - at age 33. That's an incredible accomplishment, and this article sheds some light on how he quickly ascended through the MLB front office ranks. There are great lessons in here for up-and-comers in any field. Derek has become a good friend, and I'm really excited to see where the Twins go in the years ahead behind his leadership.
Top Tweet of the Week -
A minor-leaguer just told me he's had 10 pitching coaches in 3 yrs. It's a good reminder that you always have to be your own best coach.
Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Nancy Newell. Nancy is a rock star when it comes to working with our softball players, and today you'll see why. Enjoy! - EC
The conventional belief in fast-pitch softball has been that the underhand throwing motion places minimal stress on the shoulder and pitching-related injuries are therefore rare. As such, unlike its baseball counterparts, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) has zero pitching regulations in place to monitor pitches thrown per game, innings played, rest between appearances, and number of required pitchers per team. This mindset puts these young athletes at a higher risk of injury. Here’s why:
1) Significant forces and torques are experienced at the shoulder and elbow.
It’s true the forces and torques experienced at the shoulder for females do not match the forces produced with overhand pitching in males. Males typically have bigger frames (height x weight) and muscle mass to produce higher forces than their female counterparts, so we should expect to see higher forces in males verse females. However, the forces produced by females relative to their height and weight are significant enough to cause injury to their bodies over time.
During the deceleration phase, baseball pitchers create forces at the shoulder measured as high as 108% of body weight in professional pitchers. Softball pitchers on the other hand have to resist glenohumeral distraction forces of up to 80-94% of bodyweight while also controlling a maximum internal rotation torque velocity greater than 5,000 degrees per second. The combination of high rotational forces at the shoulder and elbow place a stressful workload on the biceps tendon, pectoralis major, and subscapularis to resist internal rotation and forward translation of the humerus along with pronation of the forearm. Consequently, Shanley et al. noted up to 80% of all girls playing high school softball reported having shoulder injuries (discomfort, pain, or strains). Barrentine et al. (college pitchers) and Werner et al. (youth pitchers) both demonstrated that compression forces needed to resist distraction at the shoulder were close to 1x body weight. Furthermore, the Werner group noted, "Excessive distraction stress and joint torques at the throwing-arm elbow and shoulder are similar to those found in baseball pitchers."
Note from EC: as an interesting aside, another study from the Werner group demonstrated shoulder stress almost 20% lower in elite (Olympic) softball pitchers even though their velocity was significantly (5mph) higher. This parallels what we see in high-level baseball pitchers; the best athletes out there find more efficient ways to pitch, and understand how to effectively distribute stress across multiple joints. They're also generally stronger, and therefore able to tolerate higher training and competition loads. This is just a friendly reminder that your untrained 14-year-old isn't highly trained, biomechanically efficient, or skeletally mature.
2) Pitch counts are extremely high.
Young female athletes are now specializing in softball year round and playing at least 52 and sometimes upwards of 72 games per year. These athletes play for their high school team (12 games); participate in summer ball or tournament play which have around six 3-day showcases with up to nine games per tournament (30-54 games); fall ball (10 games); then attend numerous winter clinics.
A 2016 Lear et al. study helped shed some much needed light on daunting pitch count numbers being thrown by young women. It has been reported that high school softball pitchers may average about 99 pitches over 5 innings of work. Lear additionally stated, “In tournament play, youth players may throw every game of a weekend tournament, reaching upwards of 1,200 pitches in a 3-day event.”
Dr. James Andrews, a renowned orthopedic surgeon and authority on the topic of throwing injuries, had this to say in his 2013 writing of Any Given Monday: “There is a common belief that the throwing underhand is a natural way to keep a player safe from injury, but this is definitely not true. The repeated movement and velocity of pitches thrown, even in the windmill style, are now even tearing the ‘Tommy John ligament,’ resulting in a UCL injury. Pitching limits matter in softball as much as they do in baseball.”
3) Kids are lacking in the strength and conditioning department.
Compounding these issues is the fact that many young athletes do not get exposed to strength training until their freshman year of college, resulting in poor rotator cuff strength, scapular control, and a lack of both muscular and kinesthetic awareness. These factors, coupled with kids spending less time outdoors and more time on their couch absorbed in a digital reality, is not helping the situation either. Just to put this in perspective, WebMD noted that 85% of kids aged 14-17 own cell phones and spend an average of 6 hours per day checking social media and playing games. Without a solid foundation of strength and conditioning, young athletes are at a higher risk for injuries to begin with; with a program, their bodies are more prepared for the demands their sport places on them. Take three of those hours staring at a screen and devote them to a consistent strength and conditioning program and we have a different story.
Softball pitchers will continue to be negatively impacted by the effects of overuse unless associations above implement a change. Until then, softball pitchers need to focus on:
• Getting stronger
• Tracking pitches thrown
• Effective and honest communication with coaches and parents
• Putting the softball down for a few months
About the Author
Nancy Newell (@NancyNewell2) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. Nancy earned her Bachelors Degree in Fitness Development from the State University of New York at Cortland. You can read more from her at www.NancyNewell.com.