Home Baseball Content Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 7

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 7

Written on November 18, 2014 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this month's edition of "musings" on the sports performance training front. Here goes...

1. Professional athletes don't need "special" exercises; they just adapt faster and need special progressions.

One of the most important lessons coaches can learn with professional athletes is that they don't need crazy advanced exercises. Far too often, coaches will assume that because a client is a high-level athlete, he/she will automatically require some fancy, innovative drill. The truth is that they need the basics, just like everyone else. You'd be amazed at how poorly some of the most high-level athletes you'll see actually move when you get them out of their sporting environments.

That said, they are unique in their ability to adapt to a given stimulus quicker than their "less athletic" counterparts. Movement quality will improve dramatically from one week to the next, and strength and power can increase much faster than you'd expect from "normal" folks. This is obviously a blessing, but can also be a burden, as it means programs may need more updating on-the-fly to continue challenging the athlete. Additionally, you have to be cognizant of the fact that their strength levels may actually increase faster than their motor control and connective tissues can safely handle. In other words, you have to be careful not to load bad patterns or degenerative tissue tendencies.

2. Don't worry about the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum if you're untrained or detrained.

With over 55,000 views on YouTube, this is one of my most popular videos ever:

The lessons here have tremendous value to athletes of all ages and ability levels - except novice trainees, or athletes who have recently been detrained. In other words, if we're talking about a 13-year-old kid who has zero resistance training experience, or an athlete who just finished a long, grueling season and has lost appreciable strength, then you need to build strength up first.

Effectively, treat these scenarios as if an athlete is all the way to the right (speed) end of the continuum. They need to build a foundation of strength up before they'll benefit from any of the other modalities - or even be able to perform them safely. This is one reason why handing an aggressive weighted ball program to an untrained 13-year-old kid might be harmful, and why doing a ton of plyos with a volleyball player who just finished a long season is silly. Give them what they actually need, not just what you think is "sexy."

3. Efficient rotation is efficient rotation - and consistent across multiple sports.

One thing I'm really excited about with respect to our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility is working with a wider variety of rotational sport athletes beyond just baseball. My business partner, Shane Rye, is an accomplished lacrosse coach, and Jupiter also happens to be home to loads of golfers of all levels. I've also got a big tennis background, and am excited to explore opportunities on that front.

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There are a load of commonalities among all rotational sports, and it's going to be exciting to see how our training approaches impact these other sports. How can I be so sure?

Have you ever noticed how easily baseball and hockey players pick up golf? And, have you noticed how many athletes were drafted in multiple rotational sports? Think of Tom Brady in baseball and football, and Tom Glavine in hockey and baseball. These guys weren't what you'd call "powerhouse" athletes; in other words, they weren't freak athletes that played baseball and football. Rather, you could argue that they're just guys who learned to use their bodies really efficiently in rotational patterns.

4. "Where do you feel it?" is as important a question as "How does it look?"

Every once in a while, you'll observe an athlete with a movement that looks absolutely perfect, but might not be "felt" in the right place. Or, it might even actually cause pain. This is why it's so important to always solicit feedback on where an athlete (especially a beginner) feels an exercise, as opposed just assuming it was fine just because it "looked good." As an example, I commonly see athletes who "feel" all their shoulder exercise rotation drills in the front of their shoulder, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

Without getting too "geeky" on this front, many times, the reason we have discomfort or the "wrong" feeling with drills is that athletes are paying close attention to the osteokinematics - gross movements of internal/external rotation, flexion/extension, adduction/abduction - of the joint in question, but not paying attention to the arthrokinematics of that same joint. In other words, the rolling, rocking, and gliding taking place needs to be controlled within a tight window to ensure ideal movement.

In the external rotation variation, as we externally rotate the arm, the humeral head (ball) likes to glide forward on the glenoid fossa (socket). The glenohumeral ligaments (anterior shoulder capsule), rotator cuff, and biceps tendon are the only things that can hold it in the socket. In a throwing population, the capsule is usually a bit loose and the cuff is a bit weak, so the biceps tendon often has to pick up the slack - which is why some folks wind up feeling these in the front, thereby strengthening a bad pattern. There are also a bunch of nerves at the front of the shoulder that can get irritated, but that's a blog for another day!

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5. Making your room colder can be really helpful for sleep quality.

Everyone knows that turning off electronics before bed is important for sleep quality. Additionally, getting your room as dark as possible definitely makes for better sleeping. Very few people pay attention to the temperature of the room, though. I can definitely speak to its importance, though.

As many of you know, my wife and I moved to Florida in early September. As part of this transition, I made three trips back up to Boston over the course of September-November. On each of those trips, my sleep quality was insanely better than I have in Florida. The difference? Roughly 8-10°F in the temperature of my sleeping environment. With that in mind, we're cranking up the air conditioning a bit more - and thanking our lucky stars that the Florida summer has wrapped up. If you're having trouble sleeping, tinkering with the temperature in your sleeping environment might be a good place to start. Also, I'd encourage you to check out this great guest post I published a while back: Sleep:What the Research Actually Says.

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  • Scott

    Thank you for posting this article. I am 41 and play tennis and volleyball. I began researching studies on strength training lately because I have not been getting the results from my recent training modalities, such as improvements in jumping and force output with spiking and tennis hits. In the studies I read it presented information that workout plans with high weights and low reps were great at developing optimum strength, but did not improve speed or the quickest production of force. They said in order to optimize maximum force production and speed someone would need to train with about 50% of their 1 rep max, for about 6-8 reps, and between 4-8 sets. I jus switched my routine to that format, but it is too early to see results if their will be any. From this video I understand the different training modalities better, but now I wan tto know what would be the best periodization program to use if I am a year round athlete. If I just played one sport, say baseball, and had one season, then I can easily see how I could design a year round program in which I could focus on absolute strength during the off season and transition to speed strength in season. For for a year round athlete, what is the best program to follow year round?

  • Definitely interested in what you find from the rotational training. Been playing around with some of it myself, but unable to find longterm plan/progression patterns

  • Joshua Tate

    This is another in a long line of great posts. There is one unrelated issue, on my mobile browser (how I seem to browse most these days) the Facebook/twitter/whatever box floats right over the text the entire time. I’ve seen this before and simply stopped using some sites because it was so hard to actually see and read the content. Thanks.

  • Matt Kramer

    Boy do I love me some brachial plexus these days! Great post, EC!

  • I was going to ask, why the change from CRESSEY PERFORMANCE to CRESSEY SPORTS PERFORMANCE? Emphasizing the expansion to other sports, business tactic, or for legal reasons?

  • sane thing was happening to me… The solution- zoom out! My screen was at 110% at 100% it doesn’t happen

  • Ken Powell

    Hi Eric – dropping in to thank you, as always for you, your team’s incredible contributions to training community – and to remark on your comment (we’ve traded notes about this offline):

    “I’ve also got a big tennis background, and am excited to explore opportunities on that front”

    Your ‘management of overhead athletes’ presentation is amazing; the way you deconstruct pitching as it relates to shoulder, well – always leave me hoping one day you’ll do same for the tennis serve. The altered trajectory of throw (up, not forward) the leap (generated off back foot but lead with front hip), discussion of cartwheel action vs. (or including) fulcrum relationship through front of chest (instead of over top of shoulders) – and the fact you’ve a stick/racquet in your damn hand as you ‘throw’…!

    This issue (as well as other biomedical stoke analysis) would benefit greatly from the Cressey Team review.

    Thank you, again, for your on-going generosity at site/blog.

  • Scott

    I second Ken’s request for a dissection of the tennis serve. Also, would love to attend the upcoming shoulder conference in Jupiter. I live in Orlando, and my wife is pregnant, and I’m unable to attend the conference because it’s close to her due date. I’m a tennis coach in Orlando and have multiple clients with similar should pain – in addition to feeling it myself. The pain is located in the front of the shoulder – maybe where the biceps tendon connects? You said that it’s “a blog post for another day!” I’d be really happy to see a post about that… and also want to know if you’ll be making anything available from your shoulder conference… or should I just buy the Optimal shoulder performance handbook? Thanks, Scott.


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