Home Posts tagged "Baseball Workout"

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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3 More Reasons We Don’t Have Our Baseball Players Bench Press

Today's guest article comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. Tony is also one of the contributors to the new Cressey Sports Performance Innovations resource, which is on sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. Enjoy! -EC 

I wouldn’t break the Internet if I told you that we don’t use the barbell bench press to train baseball players at Cressey Sports Performance.

As a powerlifter, I love the bench press. It’s a solid choice for general fitness folks, too. But by now, it’s widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting really strong on the bench press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. And if you dig a little deeper, there’s some more specific reasoning why the bench press doesn’t show up in most programs at CSP.

1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations to Throwing

When you throw a baseball for a living, it’s likely that a handful of things will happen, including:

• Increased glenohumeral external rotation
• Decreased glenohumeral internal rotation
• Decreased elbow extension

So basically, you get a shoulder that’s loose in the front and tight in the back, along with an elbow that doesn’t straighten all the way. But what happens at the torso and lower body?

• Decreased scapular upward rotation
• Decreased soft tissue quality (lats, rotator cuff, pec major and minor, among others)
• Abnormal spinal curvature (i.e. lumber and/or thoracic hyperextension)
• Decreased hip rotation (most often loss of hip internal rotation)

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Now we have scaps and hips that don’t move well, gritty tissue surrounding the shoulder, and a spine that’s stuck in extension. This paints a grim picture and it’s not as bad as it sounds, but what does bench pressing do to help this situation?

The answer? Nothing. In fact, it feeds into many of these dysfunctions.

Coach someone into a proper bench press setup and what do you get? Global spinal extension, scapular retraction and depression, humeral motion WITHOUT scap motion, and heavy loads placed on the pecs, delts, lats and triceps. The stresses are eerily similar to throwing, albeit at slower speeds and heavier loads.

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We spend a lot of time each offseason trying to restore movement quality in our baseball players, which means staying away from many of these gross extension patterns and exercises that lock the scaps in place. You can’t justify strength gains at the expense of movement quality. As Gray Cook says, don’t build strength on top of dysfunction.

2. It’s Not Speed- or Plane-Specific

In order for a movement to transfer to sport, it needs to have some degree of specificity. We have to look at the plane in which the movement occurs (sagittal, frontal or transverse) and where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.

Granted, simply getting stronger has direct transfer to sport without being specific. Otherwise, strength coaches wouldn’t have jobs. However, research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific and that traditional sagittal plane power exercises (jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches, etc.) have limited transfer to throwing a baseball. We've seen plenty of pitchers with sub-20-inch verticals and 90-mile-per-hour fastballs to back this up. Research from Lehman et al. (2012) backed this up as well.

Rather, frontal and transverse plane movements like Heidens and med ball throws work better. So building a fast, crisp bench press might make a football player incredibly powerful, but it won’t transfer much to baseball.

Also, bench pressing is simply too slow to have much transfer. If you look at the force-velocity curve (also known as the strength-speed continuum), throwing a baseball is all the way at the velocity end. It’s a light load moved incredibly fast. Benching is on the other end: a heavy load moved slowly.

High-load, low-speed lifting might benefit some athletes who have spent their entire training career on the pure velocity end (i.e. the travel team athlete who plays all year and never lifts weights), but we can still “fill in” this gap with push-ups and dumbbell bench pressing. And while we can train our athletes to develop force quickly and move heavy weights with ballistic intent, it’s too far removed from baseball to have much of an impact, especially for athletes who are already pretty strong.

3. It’s Not Very Self-Limiting

In my experience as a lifter and coach, I’d wager that most of the poor decisions in the gym occur on or near the bench press. People are much more likely to overestimate their strength capabilities while benching than they are squatting, deadlifting or lunging. If health and performance are our two top priorities, we need to pick exercises that don’t unleash our athletes’ inner meathead.

An incorrectly performed bench press can put an athlete in some lousy positions. Elbows flared, body squirming with hundreds of pounds hovering over their throat; that’s the LAST place I want my athletes. Sure, any heavy exercise can be risky, but a missed rep on a push-up or landmine press has less potential for disaster. Even the dumbbell bench press requires a light enough load to get into the starting position, making it a more self-limiting choice.

If you coach multiple athletes at once, you won’t see every rep of every set. As hard as you might try, it’s impossible to see everything in a high school or college weight room. That said, picking exercises that are self-limiting while still effective makes for a safer training environment. For our athletes at CSP, that means more push-ups and landmine presses than barbell bench variations.

Conclusion

The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.

If you DO bench press and use it with your athletes, you won’t want to miss our newest product: Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. It’s a collection of 11 webinars from the staff members at CSP with tons of great fitness and business content, including my presentation, “10 Things I’ve Learned About the Bench Press.”

CSP Innovations is on sale for $50 off until Sunday at midnight, so click here to grab your copy now!

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About the Author

Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.BonvecStrength.com.
 

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Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Baseball Development

We had a great staff in-service on strength and conditioning programming yesterday, and it really got the wheels turning in my brain. The end result was this video, which is especially timely, given that many professional baseball players are about to begin their off-season training.

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5 Steps to Becoming a Baseball Specialist

Today's guest post comes from physical therapist, Eric Schoenberg. Eric is an integral part of the Elite Baseball Mentorships team. 

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A thought came to mind as I was considering how we can work towards reducing the incidence of injury in baseball: we need more specialists.

If we use the field of medicine as a model, the Total Knee Replacement has pretty much been mastered. Of course, there is room for improvement, but over the past 25 years, this surgery has become a massive success. The biggest reason for this is a progression of specialization:

MD > Orthopedist > Orthopedic Surgeon > Knee Specialist > Total Knee Replacement (TKR) Specialist

If you need a knee replacement, you don’t go to your primary care physician. Instead, you schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon that specializes in TKR. So, if you are a baseball player, why does it make sense to work with a “general” strength coach or physical therapist?
[bctt tweet="Every profession matures into a state of “super-specialization” as it develops."]

Strength coaches and physical therapists have a great opportunity ahead of us to move our professions forward in this manner.

The current entry point for a strength coach is minimal. Most commonly, entry into the field falls somewhere between a fitness certification and a 4-year degree. In some cases, you will see dual degrees, Master’s degrees, and the occasional PhD.

However, there is no direct path available to niche into a “baseball specialist.” Instead, we have private sector, college, and even some professional strength coaches that may have seen baseball players by chance, but have no more experience with them than any other sport. It’s not a criticism of them, though; there simply isn’t an established “curriculum” they can pursue. As a result, in most cases, highly “specialized” baseball players are being managed by “general” strength coaches.

I have to believe that this is as much of a contributing factor as any to the high incidence of injury in the baseball world. By the time these athletes make it far enough in their careers to have access to “baseball specialists,” they are often too damaged for even the experts to manage.

Here are five tips to establish yourself as a trusted resource in the baseball community:

1. Watch baseball.

Don’t just watch it for entertainment value. Study the movements. Use slow motion and rewind on your TV. Watch video online and gain a better understanding of the actions and positions unique to the sport. Once you think you have it figured out, you are only just scratching the surface. Keep studying! Start to recognize why faulty mechanics can lead to improper distribution of stress and ultimately injury. By doing this, you can pair this knowledge with your individual assessment of the athlete to create a more optimal training program.

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2. Spend time on a field.

Baseball players are unique in their habits and tendencies. Gain a “feel” for the game. Understand the culture of the game. Learn how to identify with and communicate with athletes that are much younger than you. Understand that most of their time on the field is spent standing around and waiting. Educate your players on how to optimize this time to prepare mentally, hydrate, properly warm up, etc. It is not enough to say you used to play baseball 20 years ago; nobody cares. My credibility and effectiveness in managing baseball players increased 10x once I started spending time at the field as part of a team. Create an angle to quickly establish trust and common ground with the athlete and watch your results dramatically improve.

3. Understand the unique physical characteristics and demands of baseball players.

Baseball players have physical characteristics that differ from other sports. Educate yourself for the benefit of your athletes. Learn about humeral retroversion, gross extension patterns, laxity, valgus stress, dynamic stability, rotator cuff timing, etc. Work towards understanding the importance of stability of the landing leg, proper hip hinge pattern, and the importance of tri-planar single leg balance. Don’t “stretch” a guy that is already too loose. Instead, give him some stability and watch his pain go away. The baseball player’s anatomy is a long way from “neutral.” Do your best to bring them closer to the middle and not further away. For example, your ability to recognize that a baseball player should not be cued to pull their shoulder blades “down and back” because their shoulder blades are ALREADY down and back may save dozens of careers.

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4. Master functional anatomy and human movement.

Understand the critical role of the scapula. Train the rotator cuff in the throwing position through the entire range of motion (especially end-range external rotation). Learn how the kinetic chain applies specifically to baseball. Hitting and throwing are highly coordinated, precisely timed, multidirectional movements. Don’t train your athletes with single joint exercises that only occur in the sagittal plane. Learn about hip/trunk separation to maximize power and explosiveness. Be able to educate the athlete on what it means to have a labral tear or understand the specifics of an ulnar nerve transposition. If you can’t explain these pathologies, then how can you minimize risk when working with these athletes? Take pride in your job on this front.

5. Be willing to respectfully challenge the “institution of baseball.”

CSP coach Tony Bonvechio wrote a blog post a while back where he warned about the dangers of the phrase “this is how I’ve always done it.” I find myself observing on a daily basis that regardless of level – little league, high school, college, pro ball – at least 80% of the player’s warm up routine is exactly the same. How can that be? We have progressed as a profession; however, kids on baseball fields across the world are all doing the same useless warm-up routine.

An example of progress is Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. He has softened the traditional stance of getting to the ballpark at 1pm for a 7pm game. Instead, they have created a culture that emphasizes more sleep, nutrition, and recovery and his players love him for it. (and, by the way, the team is doing pretty well, too).

If we want different results, we have to continue to move towards a different approach. The efforts of strength coaches and physical therapists to move towards becoming baseball specialists will go a long way in helping to reach this goal.

If you are interested in learning more about our approach to managing baseball athletes, we'd love to see you at one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next three-day course - this one focused on the lower-extremity - is August 21-23, with Thursday, July 21 serving as the early-bird registration deadline. You can learn more HERE.

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The Best of 2015: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2015" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. Common Arm Care Mistakes - Installment 6 - In this article, I talk about how important it is to select arm care exercises that truly appreciate the functional demands placed on the shoulder and elbow during throwing.

2. Changing Baseball Culture: A Call to Action - Physical therapist Eric Schoenberg makes a call to action to step away from four baseball traditions so that we can more easily prevent baseball injuries.

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3. What is a "Big League Body?" - Big leaguers come in all shapes and sizes. Your baseball strength and conditioning programs need to appreciate that.

4. 6 Physical Attributes of Elite Hitters - Here are six physical characteristics that elite hitters seem to share.

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5. Projecting the Development of High School Pitchers -  Cressey Sports Performance Pitching Coordinator Matt Blake shows what a difference a year can make in projecting high school pitchers for college baseball success.

If you're interested in learning more about how we assess, program for, and train baseball players, I'd encourage you to check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next course will take place January 17-19, 2016 at our Hudson, MA facility. You can learn more HERE.

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Get Up to Get Down: The Impact of Scapular Movement on Pitch Location

Today's guest post comes from physical therapist Eric Schoenberg. Eric is an integral part of the Elite Baseball Mentorships team.

Every baseball player on the planet has heard their coach say “stay on top of the ball”, “get out in front”, and/or “throw downhill”. It is an easy thing to say, but a little more difficult to teach. A common response that I hear from players that I work with is: “I understand what the coach is saying, but I don’t know how to actually get my body to do it”.

There are many mechanical reasons why a pitcher will struggle to create this downhill plane. (e.g. front leg stability, trunk tilt angle). However, on the movement side of things, one of the main culprits that we see is a lack of scapular upward rotation. If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you know that EC has hit on this topic for years. I wanted to add some thoughts to this critical concept.

If a pitcher lacks the ability to “get up” (insufficient scapular upward rotation and/or elevation), he will not be able to effectively get his hand out in front to maximize velocity. Pitchers will describe this feeling as “cutting the ball off” or “feeling stuck”. The result is a decrease in velocity and difficulty “getting down” in the zone. It is very common for this to occur later in the season once the off-season training effect has been lost and the predictable loss of range of motion (shoulder flexion, upward rotation, hip and thoracic mobility) kicks in.

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The most effective pitchers share three things in common: consistent velocity, consistent location, and health. None of these are possible with faulty scapular movement patterns.

The best time to establish proper scapular upward rotation is in the off-season (NOW!). The challenge comes with educating the athlete on how to not lose this motion during the season.

By now, we are aware of the importance of wall slide variations, back to wall shoulder flexion, and trap raises. However, the message of consistency with these exercises EVERY DAY during the season cannot be overstated. This is akin to brushing your teeth. A habit needs to be established and it then needs to be repeated. Every baseball player that I see in my office for elbow or shoulder pain comes in with faulty scapular movement. This is certainly not the only thing that leads to pain in pitchers, but it is certainly a good place for us to be looking early on.

A great exercise that we have been using to emphasize “getting up and out in front” is the One-Arm Band Rotational Row from a Low Setting.

This drill is much more about the deceleration phase than the actual rowing pattern, however all phases of the movement are important. I prefer to use a band instead of a cable due to the increased velocity of the recoil. This is a great drill to use in a training or warm-up program. With that said, I find the best application is to be used in a pre-throwing program (preferably the last drill before a pitcher picks up the ball to begin throwing).

Set-Up: Wide base to emphasize hip mobility. Front foot should mimic where the land foot is in the delivery. Back foot and hips are rotated fully so the athlete is “squared up” in the sagittal plane. Coaching from the Posterior View will give you a good vantage point to see this.

Instruction: Initiate the rowing motion from the hips first, then the thoracic spine, then the scapula, and finally the humerus. Make sure the athlete’s elbow doesn’t end up behind the line of his body. Back foot should rotate to mimic the position on the rubber with the hip hinged and loaded. Cue the athlete to decelerate the band with his body (core, front hip) and not just with his arm. Coaching from a 90 degree angle to the side will show this the best.

A key component for a pitcher to develop/maintain velocity and location is to make sure that their body is in a stable position to deliver their arm (and the baseball). The One Arm Rotational Row accomplishes this by via the following avenues:

1. Single Leg Strength

a. Land Leg: Proper stability and balance to accept weight, stop forward momentum, and translate force from the ground up the chain.

b. Drive leg: Ability to hinge back into drive hip and not translate forward (toward 3rd base for a RHP) or collapse into valgus. Keeping weight through the whole foot and not just on the toe

2. Stable core throughout delivery – especially as trunk and hips start to separate

Leaking into anterior pelvic tilt or lumbar extension will drive scapular downward rotation and depression (resulting in the hand moving under or around the ball, as opposed to staying behind the ball).

3. Optimal Thoracic Positioning

This drill drives thoracic flexion moment to allow for a congruent platform for the scapula to ride up and create the desired extension at ball release.

Give this drill a try with your athletes (make sure to train both sides) and emphasize consistency with their scapular upward rotation exercises in order to develop a more durable arm with improved velocity and location.
If you are interested in learning more about our approach to managing baseball athletes, we'd love to see you at one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next three-day course is January 17-19, with December 18 serving as the early-bird registration deadline. 

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6 Physical Attributes of Elite Hitters

After reading Bobby Tewksbary's great resource, Elite Swing Mechanics, I've been thinking about the characteristics of elite hitters. Just as Bobby breaks down swing mechanics to identify growth areas, I'm always looking to find physical limitations that might interfere with an athlete's ability to best "acquire" the swing mechanics guys like Bobby are seeking. Here are six physical attributes I've noticed in most elite hitters.

1. Sufficient Hip Mobility

You don't have to look any further than the rise in hip injuries over the past decade to recognize just how aggressive the hip rotation is during the baseball swing. In particular, it's essential for hitters to have sufficient hip internal rotation and extension. Unfortunately, these ranges of motion are usually the first to go in the dysfunctional lumbopelvic (hip/lower back) postural presentations we see. As the pelvis dumps forward into anterior tilt, it blocks off internal rotation - and the athlete will preferentially extend through the lower back instead of the hip.

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This leads to not only limited hip function, but also an increased risk of injury. The athlete may develop bony overgrowth (femoroacetabular impingement; read more here) on the head of the femur or the hip socket, a torn labrum, a sports hernia, or a number of other hip issues. There may also be extension-based lower back pain, including stress fractures and disc injuries. This loss in hip motion is generally related to point #2...

2. Sufficient Core Control

Many of the hip mobility restrictions we see in these athletes aren't just because muscles are actually short, or bony blocks have developed to restrict range of motion. Rather, they may be in place because the athlete's core control is so out-of-whack that alignment issues actually limit range of motion. Imagine driving a car that's out of alignment; turning to one side will ultimately wind up being more difficult. The good news about this scenario is that it's often possible to get quick changes in an athlete's hip mobility just by modifying posture, incorporating positional breathing, and doing a bit of activation work. I've seen athletes gain more than 30 degrees of hip internal rotation in a matter of 30 seconds without manual therapy or stretching, so adding some core control in the right places can definitely be a powerful thing.

Remember, the research clearly demonstrates that the core works to transfer - not develop - force during the baseball swing. Its job is to take the force developed in the lower extremity and make sure that it is delivered to the upper extremity and, ultimately, the bat. This function should be reflected in the exercise selection we use, as we gravitate toward rotational medicine ball variations and chops/lifts rather than sit-ups, crunches, and side bends.

3. Sufficient Thoracic (Upper Back) Mobility

One of the key points Bobby made in his article earlier this week was that Pujols - like all elite hitters - gets his hips moving forward while his hands are still held back and up (and actually moving further back and up). To do this, you need three things. We've covered the first two: hip mobility and core stability. However, you also need sufficient mobility through your upper back to allow this "separation" to occur. Even if the hip and core components are ideal, if the upper back isn't sufficiently mobile, the hands can't stay back to allow a) force transfer without "energy leaks" and b) the right timing for this transfer. As Bobby also noted, if the hands can't stay back long enough, the hitter has less time to see and react/adjust to the pitch that's thrown. In short, a physical limitation can quickly become a mechanical issue. I should note that while thoracic rotation (transverse plane) is predominantly what we're seeking, you can't have sufficient rotation if you're stuck in a rounded upper back posture (flexion/sagittal plane). If you look like this, you'll need to get your extension back to help unlock the rotation you seek.

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4. The Ability to Hip Hinge

This point really goes hand-in-hand with #1 from above, but I think it's important to distinguish the hip hinge (hip flexion with a neutral spine) as pre-loading, whereas the extension and internal rotation that takes place is actually unloading. In other words, the former stores the elastic energy we need, while the latter releases it over a sufficient range of motion. Candidly, I'm shocked at how many young athletes have lost the ability to hip hinge correctly. You'll see it quite a bit in more advanced hitters as well, and they're usually the higher-level guys who have hip and lower back problems. If you can't effectively pre- load your hips, you'll have to go elsewhere to get your power - or you just won't create it. A detailed review of what a good hip hinge is and how to train for it could be (and is) a full-day seminar. Basically, this is as much a stability limitation and patterning problem as it is an actual flexibility deficit. Put these three components together, and you have your "mobility" potential.

Without getting too sidetracked, here's a quick rule with respect to the hip hinge: players need to be able to touch their toes without a huge knee bend (greater than 30 degrees) or hyperextension of the knees.

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Sure, we need to consider how much posterior hip shift there is, whether they can reverse the lumbar curve, and whether they return from the toe touch with predominantly hip or lower back motion, but I think the quick screening rule from above is a good place to start.

5. Lower Body Strength/Power

You don't have to be an elite powerlifter or Olympic lifter to hit home runs. However, you do need enough strength and - just as importantly - the ability to display that force quickly. On the strength side, I seriously doubt you'll find many hitters in the big leagues who aren't capable of deadlifting at least 1.5 times their body weight, and if you do find some, they're probably guys who have been around for quite some time and gotten much more efficient with their patterning to use every bit of force they have in the tank. Or, they're just carrying too much body fat. On the power side, it's not good enough to just be a weight room rockstar. It's also important to be able to take that strength and apply it quickly in more sport-specific contexts with drills like rotational medicine ball throws, sprinting, jumping and, of course, hitting and throwing. Once you've got the foundation of strength, your power training can really take off - and that includes your swing mechanics. Until you're able to put more force into the ground, it's going to be difficult to generate more bat speed unless you have glaring deficiencies in your swing mechanics that can be cleaned up.

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6. Great Sports Vision

You can't hit what you can't see - and elite hitters almost always have elite vision. Some of this is outside your control, but I always encourage all our baseball guys to get thorough yearly eye exams. I'm a bit biased because my wife is an optometrist, but I've seen players for whom vision corrections with contact lenses and glasses has been a complete game-changer.

Wrap-up

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of physical attributes of high-level hitters, but it's a good start. Building on this point, as examples, you'll notice I didn't say "tremendous forearm strength" or "a huge bench press." Some guys might have these "proficiencies," but that doesn't mean they're absolutely essential for high-level hitting. Many hitters might develop appreciable forearm strength from the act of hitting over many years, but that doesn't mean they had to specifically train it to make that advancement. And, on the bench press front, there may be guys who've trained the bench press heavily, but never recognized that it might not have had much of an impact on their hitting performance. This is why we have to look at the big picture and see what ALL elite hitters are doing to be successful.

If you're looking to learn more about the technical aspects of hitting that go hand-in-hand with these points, be sure to check out Bobby's Elite Swing Mechanics e-book. I highly recommend it - especially at such a great price. 

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Is One-on-One Personal Training Really Dead?

Just about every fitness business coach out there will vehemently assert that one-on-one training is "dead," and that you have to go with semi-private (small group) training to stay relevant and profitable. Obviously, we work with almost exclusively semi-private training at Cressey Sports Performance, so I think there is some merit to this assertion.

semiprivate

The rationale for both the business and client is sound. The business can see more clients in a given amount of time, which is a deviation from popular trainers being limited to the number of hours they can train. The client gets more affordable training, allowing them to participate more frequently and do so with a more flexible schedule. Plus, there is added camaraderie from training alongside others in a motivating environment. Win/win, right? 

With that said, there are still some very profitable fitness facilities doing extremely well with one-on-one training thanks to their geography. Usually, these facilities are in affluent cities like New York where rent is very expensive and higher training prices can be charged. It's also common with celebrity trainers who may have clients who seek out privacy during training sessions. My last three true one-on-one clients have all been MLB All-Stars who had short time-frames with which to work, significant injury histories, and challenging family schedules that didn't make our semi-private "pro group" hours feasible for them.

Taking this a step further, though, I've always said:

[bctt tweet="Your business model should never dictate your training model."]

Business rationale aside, though, I'm of the belief that one-on-one training is vital to the long-term success of the coaches, not just the business in question. One-on-one training is where you hone your craft, learning to get more efficient with your cueing. It's where you learn how to be conversational with clients without interfering with the flow of the session. It's when you learn how to "read" clients: do they learn best with visual, auditory, or kinesthetic cues? It's when you learn to manage a schedule, and build rapport with clients who are new to the "gym scene."

Every single one of our coaches at both the Massachusetts and Florida facilities were successful personal trainers before they were successful semi-private coaches. And, each of our interns needs to demonstrate proficiency in a one-on-one context before we'd ever consider letting them handle scenarios with multiple athletes simultaneously. We hire exclusively from our internship program, so nobody works at CSP unless they've thrived in one-on-one training already; I feel like it's that important.

You see, we might be predominantly semi-private training, but all of our clients receive a lot of one-on-one attention, particularly in the first 1-2 months of training. We created the baseball strength and conditioning "niche," and a big differentiating factor is that we meticulously coach arm care drills in ways that are slightly different for each athlete, depending on their presentation. Can you imagine teaching a prone 1-arm trap raise to 5-6 people at the same time?

One of the "concessions" you make with larger group training is that you are going to let some less-than-perfect reps "go." I've watched large hands-on sessions at conferences with fitness professionals as the participants, and there are bad reps all the time - and this is in a population that should know exercise technique better than anyone! It's just reality. For me, though, I don't want a single bad rep performed with any of our arm care work. The baseball shoulder has so little margin for error that anything less than perfection with technique is unacceptable.

If we teach it meticulously up-front, we not only create a great movement foundation that will make it easier for the individual to thrive in a semi-private environment, but also clearly establish in the client's eyes that we are still taking into account their unique needs. We can do all this because we have sufficient staffing to make this work.

ECtable

Conversely, if you're a single trainer and insist on billing in a semi-private environment and don't want shoddy exercise technique under your roof, you better carve out some time in your schedule for individual instruction. You have to move well before you move a lot.

What does this mean for the original assertion that "one-on-one is dead" (with a few notable exceptions)? Well, I'd argue that it should read:

One-on-one training is dead from a billing standpoint. It's still vitally important from a coaching standpoint - particularly in facilities that don't want to just deliver a "vanilla" product.

The same coaches who tell you to go to semi-private training will usually encourage you to go to watered down, one-size-fits-all programming templates. That might work okay if you're just doing general fitness training, but it fails miserably if you're working with clients who want to be absolutely awesome at what they do.

One-on-one training takes place every single day at Cressey Sports Performance, a "semi-private" facility that has done double-digit growth in every year since it opened in 2007. And, I know of loads of other facilities that incorporate it extensively under the semi-private umbrella.

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One-on-one training isn't dead. It's just being called something else.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/8/15

It's not just any Monday, as today kicks off the 2015 MLB Draft, which is always a big event in the Cressey Sports Performance world. To that end, I thought I'd use this installment to highlight a few old posts I've made on the subject. There are some good lessons on perseverance and long-term athletic development in these articles.

6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development - This was my 2014 post-draft feature, where I discuss key characteristics of successful players.

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MLB Draft Thoughts: Talking vs. Doing - This was the 2013 post-draft feature, which highlights that actions speak louder than words.

Draft Q&A with Eric Cressey: Part 1 and Part 2 - This two-part article was actually an interview of me for Baseball America prior to last year's MLB Draft. I think it delves into a lot of important topics for up-and-coming players as well as coaches and parents.

Enjoy the draft!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/11/15

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers who read this blog; I hope you all had a great day yesterday! As a belated gift, here are some recommended resources for the week:

A Doctor's View of CrossFit - I thought this was an excellent interview at T-Nation with Dr. Stuart McGill, arguably the world's premier spine specialist. He definitely covered some points that haven't been mentioned previously in the Crossfit debate, and you'll find quite a few one-liners you'll want to commit to memory. One that stood out to me: "Olympic lifting must find the lifter. Not the other way around given the special anatomical gifts needed to lift with efficiency and injury resiliency."

An Interview with Eric Cressey, by Jason Glass - Jason and I talked shop a few weeks ago, and you can listen to the podcast online now. We covered a lot of topics, the foremost of which was training rotational sport athletes.

Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing - I had a great conversation with a seminar attendee this weekend about this very topic, so I thought I'd bring this great guest post from Jeff Albert (minor league hitting coordinator for the Houston Astros) back to the forefront.

hips

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