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The Phenomenon: A Must-Read for Baseball Players, Coaches, Parents, and Fans

Back on a busy day in the fall of 2015 at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, I looked over and saw a "huddle" of our professional baseball players standing by the entrance to the gym in the middle of their training sessions. The music was pumping and there was a great training energy, so it had to be something good that had caught their attention. I was coaching on the other side of the gym, so I let my business partner, Brian, check it out. 

A bit later, Brian walked back over, and I asked him what was up. "Rick Ankiel stopped by."

"Oh yeah?" Immediately, my brain went in a few different directions. I remembered that he was traded for long-time CSP client Tim Collins in 2010. I thought of some of the ridiculous throws Rick had made from the outfield during his "second" MLB career. I thought of how insane it was that he made it back to the big leagues as a hitter after his pitching career was cut short.

And, of course, I thought of how he'd been arguably the most storied case of "the yips" in my lifetime.

Before I could answer Brian in any more detail, though, I was cut off by one of our minor league guys.

"Rick's the man. He's helped me so much."

As it turned out, he had another role of which I wasn't aware. A year after his retirement, the Washington Nationals had hired him as a Life Skills Coordinator. There were a few Nationals players at the facility that day, and all of them raved about him.

As luck would have it, Rick lives in Jupiter, and he became a familiar face around the facility. It didn't take long for me to realize why all the guys were singing his praises. Rick's an awesome dude who is always smiling and has loads of great stories to tell. I joked that he's like the governor in a room full of baseball players, doling out fist bumps to minor leaguers and a bear hug to Max Scherzer. Just as importantly, though, Rick has a tremendous amount of wisdom to share - and the perfect demeanor for delivering impactful messages. 

Rick and his wife Lory have become friends - and even neighbors - of ours. Our kids were at an Easter egg hunt with their kids on Saturday, and Lory has passed along school recommendations for my wife. Last month, Rick was kind enough to meet up with one of our high school pitchers who was struggling with command issues. The only guy in Major League Baseball history besides Babe Ruth to have 10 wins on the mound and 50 home runs at the plate is the most down-to-Earth person you'll ever meet. And, he's remained unconditionally positive in spite of a very tough childhood.

Where am I going with all of this? The yips don't discriminate. It doesn't matter if you're the nicest guy on the planet, the toughest guy in the locker room, the hardest working guy in the organization, or a remarkable athlete destined for success.

Now, many years later, Rick is opening up about what he went through in his awesome new book, The Phenomenon. It was released today, but I was fortunate to get to read through it ahead of time. It's absolutely fantastic.

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Baseball players, coaches, parents, and fans will all appreciate this book.

It's a powerful story with a great reminder that baseball is a challenging game of millimeters that can humble even the best players very quickly. It's also proof that fans rarely have any idea what the athletes they see on TV are going through.

The term "must-read" gets thrown around all too often nowadays, but in this case, I really think it holds water. If you appreciate baseball in any way, you'll enjoy this book. You can pick it up HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/13/17

I hope you're all having a great week. I'm a few days late with posting this because we were a bit more content heavy earlier in the week, but the good news is that it gave me a few more days to round up some excellent content for you.

Kabuki Strength Chat with Eric Cressey - I joined Chris Duffin and the rest of the Kabuki Strength crew for a podcast last week. We talked baseball strength and conditioning, business development, and fitness industry trends. Check it out!

STEM-Talk with Dr. Stuart McGill - Any podcast with Stu is a must-listen podcast! This one doesn't disappoint - and I particularly enjoyed his commentary on the flawed medical model as it relates to treating lower back pain. 

It Took Me 10 Years to Become an Overnight Success - This was an excellent post from my business partner, Pete Dupuis. He shares some awesome insights on little things that can lead to long-term success - if you're patient.

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8 Takeaways From Complete Sports Conditioning

I've spent the early part of the week working my way through Mike Boyle's new resource, Complete Sports Conditioning. To say that I've been impressed has been an understatement, as it's a fantastic resource that offers a nice blend of research, anecdotal observations, actual programming recommendations for those who need to manage energy systems development in athletes. It's on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Friday.

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That said, Mike's presentations got me thinking about a variety of conditioning-related topics, so I figure I'd do a bit of a brain dump here to highlight some of my favorite take-home points from this resource. 

1. This quote kicked off Mike's initial presentation on the right foot! 

Using extra conditioning to try to enhance "mental toughness" might yield some benefits in young athletes who have larger windows of adaptation in work capacity - and because just about anything works for untrained athletes. In more experienced athletes, however, throwing in a bunch of extra conditioning usually just leads to increased injury rates - and the realization that it's super challenging to try to take the spots off a leopard.

2. You don't have to be an aerobic rock star; you just have to be good enough.

I deal with a lot of baseball players, and it's important that they have a solid aerobic base. This allows them to bounce back faster between bouts of intense exercise (i.e., throwing 95mph or running to first base) and training sessions. They don't have to have elite aerobic capacity, though.

We've always used a resting heart rate below 60 as our standard for a "sufficient" aerobic base with the baseball guys, and it was good to hear Mike reaffirm this (referencing Dave Tenney of the Seattle Sounders).

Honestly, most guys show up at the start of the offseason with a sufficient aerobic base (via this measure) because it's something that is relatively easy to maintain once established. As Mike noted, “You can get ten minutes of aerobic work with a good warm-up.”

And, as I noted in Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits, we will do exactly that (albeit with extended warm-ups) with our guys in the first month of the offseason.

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There has definitely been an industry-wide trend of heavily emphasizing aerobic base work - and that's a good thing - but we have to be careful about taking it too far with athletes who have other important qualities they need to train. That said, remember that very low intensity work (below 70% of max heart rate) affords "easy gains" that can promote recovery and help with long-term adaptations to training, so if folks have the time for it, adding a little bit in won't hurt (assuming the modality is appropriate).

3. Appreciate the interaction between biomechanics and physiology.

It's our natural tendency to get "boxed in" based on our specialty. As an example, I'm a shoulder and elbow guy, so I'm naturally going to be drawn to learning more about those joints as opposed to seeking out continuing education on the foot and ankle, even though that's my biggest weakness. It's just like training athletes; they like to do what they're already good at, and as coaches, we need to be cognizant of giving them what they need.

This has parallels in the conditioning discussion. Many coaches will be incredibly physiology driven, meaning they understand the cardiovascular and (possibly) endocrine responses to a given training protocol. However, in my experience, these folks are often the most likely to overlook the biomechanical side of things, and that has an even larger contribution to injury risk in athletes. Mike demonstrated that he's a guy who understands both sides of the equation well. A few key points that stood out:

a. With treadmills, the athlete isn’t creating hip extension. Rather, the belt moving is creating hip extension.

b. Most "traditional" conditioning - all cardio equipment and straight-ahead sprinting - occurs almost exclusively in the sagittal plane, but most sports injuries involve frontal and transverse plane challenges that go uncontrolled. Incorporating slideboards and change-of-direction work like shuttle runs to conditioning programs is imperative to check both the biomechanics and physiology boxes.

c. Rowing might be blast heart rate up, but from a biomechanical standpoint, it can irritate a lot of lower backs and hips. I've even seen folks deal with forearm/elbow overuse issues from adding in extra gripping with rowing on top of their normal lifting programs. It's probably not an awesome conditioning option for team sports athletes.

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d. Shuttle runs are far more intensive than tempo runs because of the deceleration/acceleration components involved with changing direction - but they also allow you to train to prevent injuries better than straight-ahead running (even if heart rates are matched to the tempo approach).

This leads to...

4. Year-round competitive play may have eliminated the need for "conditioning."

When athletes is playing hockey, soccer, basketball, or some other conditioning-heavy sport, they are stressing both the same movement patterns/muscles and the same energy systems. And, if you think extra conditioning is going to help a basketball player who is already playing five games per week, you're sorely mistaken. If you add more in, you're likely going to increase injury risk and lose valuable training time that would be better focused on enhancing other athletic qualities like strength and power. 

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5. Heart rate based training is superior to time-based interval training.

Time-based interval training prescription is very arbitrary, and Mike demonstrated it in real-time with a collection of athletes from different backgrounds performing conditioning on heart rate monitors. When time during the "hard" portion of the interval is matched, athletes will have a lot of variability in how quickly their heart rates recover. A 15s: 45s work: rest ratio might be a piece of cake for one athlete, but absolutely crush another one. 

Cardiac drift - a phenomenon where heart rate will gradually trend upward as a training session progresses - will likely exaggerate this even further. The further up it goes during the "work" period, the further down it'll have to come during the "rest" portion.

The take-home point is that monitoring heart rate allows you to individual conditioning in a way that promotes faster adaptation - and gives you peace of mind that you're actually training what you want to train.

6. Maximum heart rate is highly variable.

At Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, we have a 57-year-old client who is a competitive skisurf (ocean paddling) racer. His max heart rate is 180 beats per minute, which effectively blows the "220 minus age" model for predicting max heart rate out of the water. Mike Boyle is about the same age, and he mentioned that he, too, can get up to the 180bpm mark. 

Conversely, I'm sure there are other folks who can't come close to their age-predicted max heart rate. I'm 35 years old, and I'm not sure that I could touch 185bpm, as I always seem to be an "under responder" when it comes to monitoring heart rate.

The point is that you never know unless you measure it and plan accordingly. Having an idea of both resting and max heart rate is really helpful for planning things out.

7. "If I have young kids, the last thing I am going to be worried about is fitness, and the first thing I’m going to be worried about is fastness."

I loved this quote and absolutely plan to steal it (thanks, Mike). If we are talking about SPORTS conditioning, the faster athlete should theoretically always win, and that's why it's so important to start with speed development. This comes through getting stronger and training power.

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Starting with speed is also particularly important because fatigue is the enemy of motor learning. If we want young athletes to pick up new skills, we can't introduce these challenges with a huge conditioning element that may impede that development. Sure, aerobic exercise offers benefits for motor learning, but as we noted earlier, most young athletes are already getting an "accidental" aerobic stimulus with some of their other training. As the saying goes:

[bctt tweet="Move well before you move a lot."]

If I had to ballpark an age, I'd say that it would be a bad idea to do targeted aerobic work with anyone under 15 years old. Free play and multiple sports is the name of the game up through age 12, and then the 13-15 year-old athlete has remarkable windows of adaptation for strength and power, making this a perfect time to initiate more targeted strength and conditioning work. Specific low-intensity steady state work just gets pushed out because athletes have to be athletic and work on the most pressing growth areas.

Apologies to all the middle school cross country coaches who are reading this!

8. Good conditioning programming is heavily based on common sense.

If you're ever struggling to really appreciate what athletes need, sit back and watch the sport. Appreciate how much ground an athlete covers, how much time is spent at maximum speed, how many changes of direction take place, and how much time he/she spends with the ball/puck. These observations will tell you just as much as researching the energy systems demands.

These are really just a very small tip of the iceberg with respect to what this excellent resource contains, so I'd definitely recommend you check it out for yourself, especially since it's on sale for $100 off through tomorrow (Friday) at midnight. You can check it out HERE

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/5/17

Happy Hump Day! This time of year, I get Wednesdays off, so after we take our daughters to gym class, I'm getting in a lower body lift and then headed out with my wife and one of our clients for some sea kayaking in beautiful Jupiter, FL.

Complete Sports Conditioning - I'm currently going through this new resource from Mike Boyle, and it's excellent. What I like the most it that it's a blend of research and anecdotal evidence from Mike's decades in the strength and conditioning field. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who works with individuals for whom energy systems development is a significant priority. It's on sale for an introductory $100 off through Friday at midnight, too.

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The Single Dumbest Thing Trainers Do - With tax day rapidly approaching, it seems like a good time to reincarnate this. If you're a trainer, why are you doing your own taxes?

Physical Preparation Podcast with Mike Potenza - This was released in late February, but I just got around to listening to it. It's an excellent chat with a really bright NHL strength coach.

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A Tip for Turning Off the Lats (Video)

The Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion is one of my favorite shoulder mobility exercises, as it forces individuals to learn how to integrate good core positioning with adequate overhead range of motion and stability. Unfortunately, some people struggle with really learning to shut the lats off to allow for proper overhead movement. Here's one strategy we like to employ:

*note: during the video, I said "reflex neuromuscular training" and meant to say "reactive neuromuscular training." Sorry, I get excited when I'm talking about shoulders. 

For more strategies like this, be sure to check out our Functional Stability Training resources, which are on sale for 20% off through Monday at midnight. Just enter the coupon code MLBFST to get the discount at www.FunctionalStability.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/23/17

Here's some recommended reading from around the strength and conditioning and nutrition worlds from the past week:

What to Do When You Don't Like Vegetables - I liked this article from Precision Nutrition because it touched on good long-term strategies more than just creative ways to "hide" veggies in what you normally eat. The infographic at the end is clutch.

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You Don't Need More Self Discipline. You Need Nuclear Mode - Have a bad habit you're trying to kick? Nate Green discusses nuclear mode, a strategy you might want to employ.

The 10 Dumbest Motivational Sayings - I contributed to this T-Nation roundtable discussion on hackneyed sayings that really need to go away.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 27

 I didn't get a chance to write a February installment of this series, so I'll do my best to over deliver with an extra few bulletpoints in this March edition.

1. Use video even if you don't think you need to use video.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was about time I learn how to use iMovie on my iPhone. What better way than to film pieces of my training session and put them all together?

Interestingly, beyond proving that I’d actually entered the 21st century from a technology standpoint, there was an added benefit: I identified some subtle technique issues that I could address. I didn’t like the inconsistent way I unracked the bar from set to set on squats, and I was slipping into more forward head posture than I would have liked on my TRX fallouts. These aren’t epic technical faults, but over time, they’d certainly detract from an optimal training effect. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t videoed. And, this is coming from a guy who uses video regularly with his athletes.

On the whole, I think folks video TOO MUCH nowadays. A phone on the training floor is usually a distraction and interferes with the training process. However, used correctly, video can be a tremendous resource – and one I’ll be using more with my own training.

2. Think of assessments as descriptive, not predictive.

There is a ton of research out there on how to predict sports injuries. When it really boils down to it, though, we learn that:

a. the single best predictor of future injuries is a previous injury (duh)

b. predicting injuries is really, really hard

Why is predicting injuries so challenging? Very simply, injury risk is incredibly multifactorial. Injuries occur because of a remarkable interplay of systemic, biomechanical, and physiological factors – and they’re mixed in with pure happenstance: collisions, hit-by-pitches, poor weather conditions, and equipment malfunctions.

As such, it’s challenging to say that any single assessment will ever truly be a gold standard in predicting injuries. Accordingly, we should think of the assessment process as descriptive above all else. In other words, what we see when we first encounter an individual is their “default pattern:” how they’ll respond to a chaotic environment in the real world “fight-or-flight” scenarios.

For example, consider one of my favorite assessments, the overhead lunge walk:

When first challenged with an overhead lunge walk, many athletes dive into knee valgus, use a short stride, and slip into lumbar extension and forward head posture. Sure, we can clean a lot of these things up in a matter of less than 15 seconds, retest, and get a better outcome. That doesn’t fundamentally mean we’ve improved their movement quality or reduced their risk of injury, though. Effecting lasting changes takes time and lots of high-quality reps. However, the descriptive nature of the assessment guides our program design, which gives us a road map for these efforts.

3. Go unilateral to progress anterior core stability drills into rotary stability challenges.

When we categorize our core stability drills, we’ll break them down into the following designations:

a. anterior core (resisting extension of the lower back): rollouts, fallouts, etc.
b. rotary core (resisting rotation of the lower back): chops, lifts, etc.
c. lateral core (resisting lateral flexion – or side bending – of the lower back): 1-arm farmer’s walks, side bridges

With both rotary and lateral core “dominant” exercises, we can appreciate that the anterior core is also working to resist extension as we do a chop, lift, or farmer’s carry. In other words, we’re always controlling the sagittal plane above all else.

However, when we perform anterior core challenges – rollouts, fallouts, bodysaw drills, and basic prone planks/bridges – we really don’t get much of a challenge to rotary or lateral core stability. With four points of contact (two feet/knees and two arms/hands), the challenge outside the sagittal plane is minimal.

Fortunately, we can quickly and easily “bias” our anterior core work to get us additional challenges in the frontal and transverse planes by simply going to unilateral or asymmetrical set-ups. This is one (of many) scenarios where a TRX suspension trainer can be a game-changer. Here are two favorites: the 1-leg TRX fallout and TRX flutters:

 


4. Coaches need to train.

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days.

Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes.

Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games.

Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip.

Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes.

You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic.

If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow.

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6 Key Factors for Developing Pitchers

When you ask most people what makes an elite pitcher, you’ll usually get responses like “velocity,” “stuff,” and “durability.” And, certainly, none of these answers are incorrect. However, they all focus on outcomes.

When you dig a bit deeper, though, you’ll realize that these successful outcomes were likely heavily driven by a collection of processes. If you rely solely on what the radar gun says or how many runs one gives up as success measures, you don’t really learn much about development. Conversely, if you dig deeper with respect to the characteristics of an aspiring pitcher’s approach to development, you can quickly recognize where some of the limiting factors may be. Here are six characteristics of any successful pitching development approach:

1. Openmindedness

Very simply, the athlete has to be willing to try new approaches to further his development. What gets you from 80mph to 88mph will rarely be what takes you to 95mph. Openmindedness precedes buy-in, and you’ll never make progress if you aren’t fully bought in. Twins pitcher Brandon Kintzler had a significant velocity drop from 2014 to 2015 - and that loss in velocity contributed to him spending most of 2015 in AAA instead of the big leagues. Fortunately, those struggles led him to being openminded - even at age 31 - to trying out Cressey Sports Performance programming, and he regained his previous velocity and then some. And, before 2016 was over, he was their big league closer.

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2. Prioritization

Good assessments identify the largest windows for improvement/adaptation, and excellent programs are structured to attack these growth areas. All too often, athletes simply want to do what they enjoy doing as opposed to what they really need to be doing. Of course, this relates back to the aforementioned “buy-in” described. Another MLB closer, Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson, saw an even bigger velocity jump after his first off-season (2013-14) with CSP.

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A big chunk of that had to do with a greater focus on soft tissue work and mobility training to get that fresh, quick arm feeling back. Sam loves to lift and would tend to overdo it in that regard, so he actually improved by doing less volume. Effectively, he had to prioritize removing excessive fatigue - and implementing strategies to bounce back faster.

[bctt tweet="You can't take a fitness solution to a fatigue problem and expect positive results."]

3. Attention to Detail

Inattentive throwing, mindless stretching, and half hazard lifting techniques all come to mind here. It drives me bonkers to see athletes “give up” reps, and my experience has been that this is the most readily apparent thing you notice when you see high school athletes training alongside professional athletes. When it comes to throwing, athletes need to learn to throw with both intent and direction. Corey Kluber is among the best I've ever seen in this regard; whether it's in lifting or throwing, he never gives up a rep with wasted, distracted effort - and it's no surprise that he's become such a consistent high-level performer in the big leagues over the past four seasons.

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4. Diligence

A great program can be rendered relatively useless if it’s executed with mediocre efforts. The truth is that while many athletes Tweet about hard they work, the truth is that very few of them actually putting in the time, effort, and consistency needed to even come close to their potential. Another Cy Young award winner and CSP athlete, Max Scherzer, takes the cake on this one. Max is always looking for ways to make individual exercises and training sessions harder by adding competition.  He'll have other athletes jump in to chase him during sprint and agility drills, and he'll regularly reflect back on previous week numbers to verify that progress is always headed in the right direction.

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5. Continuity

I think this is one of the biggest struggles with developing arms in the college environment. The nature of the academic and athletic calendars – in combination with NCAA regulations – makes it very challenging to have continuity in pitchers’ throwing programs. As a result, there is a lot of ramping up and shutting down throughout the year. Athletes don’t get the consistency needed to optimally develop, and they don’t get the rest needed to optimally recharge. When you chase two rabbits, both get away.

6. Environment

The right training environment makes a good athlete great, and an average athlete good. It’s why we’ve gone to such great lengths to foster a “family” environment at both Cressey Sports Performance facilities. We want athletes to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, thereby increasing accountability to something more than just a workout sheet.

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Interestingly, as you look at these six factors, points 1-4 are intrinsic (specific to the athlete), whereas points 5-6 are extrinsic (specific to the environment/circumstances). Points 5-6 have a massive impact on points 1-4, though.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath note that while you will almost never effect quick change a person, you can always work to change the situation that governs how a person acts - and do so relatively transiently.

With that in mind, changing the situation by heavily emphasizing continuity and environment are outstanding avenues to enhancing the previous four factors. First, you’re more openminded if you see training partners getting great results with training approaches you haven’t tried before. Second, you also learn to prioritize when you look around and athletes are outperforming you in certain areas. Third, you pay more attention to detail when you’re surrounded by other athletes working toward the same goal. Fourth, your diligence is enhanced when there is a competitive environment that challenges you to be better each day. And, all these improvements are magnified further when continuity is in place; they happen consistently enough for positive habits to develop.

An appreciation for how these six factors are related is why we structured our upcoming Collegiate Elite Baseball Development program for the summer of 2017 the way we did. The program is 10 weeks in length (6/5/17 through 8/12/17) to ensure optimal continuity. It's for pitchers who are not playing summer baseball.

Each athlete will begin with a thorough initial movement assessment that will set the stage for individualized strength and conditioning programming - which corresponds to six days a week of training.

There will also be individualized throwing progressions designed following initial assessment, and ongoing throwing training - weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis) as part of the group.

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All the athletes will receive manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist twice a week, and nutritional guidance throughout the program.

Last, but not least, we'll incorporate a weekly educational component (a presentation from our staff) to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training.

The best part is that it'll take place in a motivating environment where athletes can push each other to be the best they can be. By optimizing the situation, you can help change the person.

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Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com - but don't delay, as spaces are limited and we'll be capping the group size.

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Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 2

It's time for part 2 of "things you aren't doing - but SHOULD be doing - with a Jaeger Band." In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1, too. Also, be sure to pick up a J-Band HEREif you haven't already done so.

Without further ado, here are five more exercises to try with the oh-so-versatile J-Bands!

6. Core-Engaged Dead Bugs

In this core stability drill, we use the tension from the band to build some extra core stiffness to resist lumbar extension (lower back arching) and (to a lesser extension) rotation during leg lowering. Add a big exhale at the bottom to fire up the anterior core and reaffirm good positioning.

7. J-Band Assisted Leg Lowering

This builds on our previous drill from a core stability challenge standpoint (straight leg is harder than bent-knee), but also helps individuals improve their hip mobility. Make sure to double up the band to get sufficient resistance, - and don't do this with cleats on!

8. J-Band Assisted Quadruped Band-Assisted Thoracic Rotation

Here's a Functional Movement Systems inspired drill we'll use with those athletes who have very limited active thoracic mobility into extension. In other words, they passively rotate well (with the assistance of the assessor), but can't get to that same range of motion actively. The band assistance reduces the gravity challenge against which an individual has to extend and rotate.

9. Band-Assisted Overhead Squat

I've traditionally done this drill with a TRX, but one day, I had an athlete try using the J-Band on the road when he didn't have a TRX handy. His immediate response was that it was "frying" his lower traps. Maintaining continuous tension in scapular posterior tilt and thoracic extension really takes this squat pattern assistance drill up a notch. 

10. Side Bridge with Horizontal Abduction

Once an individual gets a solid feel for arm care, I'm all for integrating core stability with scapular control and rotator cuff challenges. This is one advanced progression along those lines. I say "advanced" because many individuals struggle to get a true "T" positioning on horizontal abduction; instead, they'll yank down with the lats (more on that HERE). That said, I recommend athletes perform this on video or with a coach watching the first time, as they'll usually be in the wrong pattern. The goal is 90 degrees of arm elevation, and you should feel this predominantly in the mid-traps.  

That wraps up this two-part series - but it's certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative exercises you can integrate with a versatile piece of equipment like Jaeger Bands. With that in mind, if you don't already have a set in your training bag, I'd highly recommend you pick up a J-Band. Your arm - and the rest of your body - will thank you for the investment!

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Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 1

Go to just about any baseball field in America, and you'll find Jaeger Bands (J-Bands). They're well established as great tools for getting in some quality arm care - and doing so conveniently.

What you might not realize, though, is just how many exercises you can do beyond the traditional J-Band sequence. With that in mind, I thought I'd introduce ten exercises our guys often do with J-bands when they're looking to step up their training while on the road. Today, we'll cover the first five.

1. Chops and Lifts - Popularized by the innovative rehabilitation specialists at Functional Movement Systems, these exercises are awesome for teaching core stability as it relates to resisting excessive rotation through the lower back. Depending on the height of the band, too, they can also challenge an athlete's ability to resist extension (too much arching of the lower back).

2. 1-arm Rotational Row w/Weight Shift - I absolutely love this drill for guys who have poor extension down the mound and need to learn to accept force on the front leg. The goal is to get in and out of the front hip - and also learn how to "sync" this loading/unloading up with proper movement of the thoracic spine, scapula, and arm.

3. Lateral Lunge w/Band Overhead Reach - Similar to the chops and lifts from above, you get great core recruitment in resisting extension and rotation, but in this drill, we also add some additional upper body and hip mobility challenges.

4. Serratus Wall Slides w/J-Band - I love me some serratus activation drills - and the J-Band is a great way to progress these exercises. Before you try it with a J-Band, though, give it a shot with a foam roller using these cues:

Then, grab your J-Band and go to town on a dugout wall. If you don't feel "cleaner" scap movement at ball release, I'll be stunned.

5. Side Bridge w/Band-Resisted Hip Extension - Side Bridges are some of the best lateral core exercises there are - but some folks will do them with incomplete hip extension, thereby falling into a faulty stabilization pattern that overrelies on the hip flexors. I like using the band to teach that terminal hip extension. To make this challenging, do them "high-tension" style: brace as hard as you can, squeeze the glutes together like you're trying to crush walnuts between your buttcheeks, and exhale as hard as you can. If you're doing them correct, you should be struggling by the end of five breaths - and you'll probably gain some hip internal rotation in the process.

That does it for part 1! I'll be back in a few days with five more creative uses for a J-Band. In the meantime, you can pick up a J-Band at http://www.jaegersports.com/J-Bands-Cressey/.

*A big thanks to Marlins pitcher Tyler Kinley for the help with demonstrations for this article!

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