Home 2009 November (Page 2)

Stuff You Should Read: 11/12/09

As you're reading this, I'm either watching a seminar in Arizona, or flying back from the trip.  Luckily, I prepared this list of recommended reading for the week in advance: Is the Seated 90/90 Stretch Safe? - This great Q&A with Bill Hartman emerged following a question from a reader after we released Assess and Correct.  It's definitely worth a read. The Best Exercise You're Not Doing - This was an excellent piece from Matthew Hertilus last week at T-Muscle.  We use the Turkish Get-up quite a bit with our athletes, and this article does a fantastic job of teaching the lift - complete with video tutorials. Returning to Deadlifting after a Back Injury - This newsletter from a while back was a popular one.  If you've got poor deadlifting technique or you've had an injury performing the lift in the past, it's definitely worth a read.
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Strength Exercise of the Week: Standing 1-Arm Cable Rows

The standing 1-arm cable row is one of my favorite exercises for shoulder health; here's how to do it correctly.

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Two Anterior Core Progressions

Here's a quick continuation of last week's newsletter, which featured some introductory anterior core training exercises and the rationale for them.  You'll need a TRX set-up to do these; it's an awesome investment, if you haven't picked one up already.  They make it very easy to take your training anywhere you go.

For more information on my overall approach to core training and where these exercises fit in, I encourage you to check out Part 3 of my Lower Back Savers series.

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Programming for Athletes vs. Training Athletes

A while back, I wrote an article that went into quite a bit of detail on appropriately allocating CNS-intensive stress.  Check it out HERE.  Likewise, a bit later, Mike Boyle introduced a fantastic DVD of a presentation on CNS-intensive training. In hindsight, a lot of the concepts in both my original article and Mike's DVD are probably best appreciated by taking a look at some sample programs.  Some stuff we are doing right now with one of my pro pitchers is a perfect example, so I thought I'd turn it into a feature for today's blog. First off, we're talking about one of the most gifted natural athletes I've ever seen.  He has some incredible reactive ability, and just as significant to this discussion, he doesn't hold back...ever.  We are talking an incredible motivation to train and a complete willingness to do everything put in his program to a "T."  He is every coach's dream, but it can certainly pose more of a challenge with respect to program design.  Here's what his October training schedule looked like: Monday: Medicine Ball Work (88 total throws), Low-Volume, Less Intense Plyos (24 total landings), Lower Body Lift Tuesday: Upper Body Lift Wednesday: Medicine Ball Work (80 total throws), Plyos and Movement Training Thursday: Full-Body Lift Friday: Easy Flexibility Circuits (recovery-oriented) Saturday: Medicine Ball Work (88 total throws), Low Volume Sprint Work, Full-Body Lift Sunday: Off Looking at this schedule, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday are really the CNS-intensive days - and a schedule like this had worked well for him in two previous off-seasons when he wasn't quite as highly trained.  Each year, he dropped body fat, gained a ton of strength, increased his power numbers, and directly transferred those gains to increased velocity on the mound and zero injury issues.

Last month, though, our guy was feeling a little banged up two Thursdays in a row.  The challenging sprint work on Wednesday was taking too much out of him prior to Thursday's lift.  So, we simply decided to consolidate things a bit more, and drop our sprinting volume a bit.  Here's what this month's schedule looks like: Monday: Movement Training, Lower Body Lift Tuesday: Medicine Ball (68 total throws), Upper Body Lift Wednesday: Easy Flexibility Circuits (recovery-oriented) Thursday: Movement Training, Full-Body Lift Friday: Rotational Medicine Ball Work (66 total throws), Easy Flexibility Circuits (recovery-oriented) Saturday: Overhead Medicine Ball Work (12 total throws), Less Intense Plyos (24 total landings), Full-Body Lift Sunday: Off In this set-up, our CNS-intensive days are Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.  In other words, he's got one less training session per week that's really challenging - and he's seeing great progress without any of the little issues that he noticed last month. This off-season, we will have over 30 professional baseball players.  Some are big leaguers, some are on the cusp of making the big show, and others have a few years of work ahead of them to reach that dream.  No two of them are identical.  Every evaluation is unique.  There are different health histories, different positions on the field, different ages, and different training experience levels.  Every program needs to reflect these differences. This is a great opportunity to talk about the interaction of programming for athletes and training athletes.  Early on in an athlete's career, it's all about training them: teaching techniques, educating them on when to push and when to hold back, and how to progress.  As they get more advanced, they know a lot about this stuff - so the programming gets more challenging as they get more individualized. This is the main tenet upon which we have built our Elite Baseball Development Program at Cressey Performance. While many facilities will just put a program on the board and train a group of individuals off of it, we firmly believe that the real work to make athletes successful goes on behind the scenes when we're reviewing their evaluations, watching videos of them throwing/hitting/sprinting, and compiling a program that's right for them. It's also an observation that led Bill Hartman, Mike Robertson, and I to create Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.  If you aren't assessing, you're just assuming - and that's a recipe for mediocrity at best.

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A Semi-Related Note While we're on the topic of baseball, I wanted to send out a quick congratulations to my buddy Dana Cavalea, the strength coach for the NY Yankees, on his first world championship.  Admittedly, I'm not a Yankees fan, but Dana's a great dude who does an excellent job, so you have to give him some love for an outstanding season. That said, Dana and some colleagues are putting on the 2nd Annual Major League Strength Coaches Clinic at St. John's University in New York on November 21, 2009.  I won't be able to present with my schedule, unfortunately, but I did present last year and can assure you that it's a top-notch event.  I'd strongly recommend you check it out HERE.
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Rollouts: Friend or Foe?

Q: I recently purchased Show and Go and noticed that you include barbell rollouts in the weight training program.  I did this exercise at the end of an aerobics class and was told by the fitness instructor not to do it, as it was a dangerous exercise. Given it's in your book, I gather you deem it a safe exercise. What is your opinion on this exercise? Do you know why some people say it's a dangerous exercise? A: As with just about everything, the devil is in the details.  For many individuals, this is a fantastic exercise.  For others, it may be too advanced.  And, for another group of folks, it just isn't good because it gets absolutely butchered technique-wise.  Let's attack this piece by piece with a rationale for its inclusion/exclusion, and then some training options and coaching cues:

(yes, I know I said "A" and then "2."  Gotta love live TV!) You can progress this exercise a bit more by either elevating the knees slightly or going to a band-resisted ab wheel rollout.  Just a heads-up: in this video, the athlete should have stopped a bit shorter in the top position to avoid the subtle lumbar rounding that took place; it's a good demonstration of technique that's good, but not quite perfect:

To learn more comparable exercises and see how they fit into a comprehensive weight training program, check out  Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.  

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Supine Bridge

For more mobility exercises, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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The Be-All, End-All Throwing Program from your Favorite Snake-Oil Salesman

Note from EC: Today marks our second guest blog post from pitching expert Matt Blake.  I couldn't agree more with everything he says! [Cue the annoying, overly excited infomercial salesman voice] This is the throwing program that you have all been waiting for, it's the super-duper secret that people haven't been telling you about 95 mph throwers, and lucky for you, it is now available for F-R-E-E !!(For the first 5 days and then one incredibly low payment of $449 if you do not return the product within those 5 days).....All you have to do is order the product, follow it for a week and 95mph is a snap of the fingers away, it is just that easy...

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Alright, well I can honestly say I just made myself throw up in my mouth a little bit writing that out, and the sad part is that this type of advertising and promotion letters both the baseball and fitness industry. There are two main points that I want to touch on surrounding this type of promotion. 1) Yes, there are some good products out there, I'm not denying that, but I can promise you, anything that is worth having is not free, and does not pretend to be free to lure you in. 2)  There is no single product on the market that is the be-all, end-all in either industry. Eric and I have had this talk many times. Yes, he likes the kettlebell. No, it is not the end of the world. We can keep our squat racks; they still have use. And you know what? Product A may even work better when complemented by Product B.  Whoa, whoa whoa....are you trying to tell me that the kettlebell can be used in a program with dumbbells and barbells? That's not how this thing was sold to me. Yes, scary thought I know, but let's think about this for a second. And, I'm going to bring this back to the baseball side of things to avoid really stepping on my tongue. People ask Eric and me all the time whether or not we like long toss, medicine balls, weighted balls, aggressive velocity drills, lead-up drills, mound work, flat-ground bullpens, etc...and the answer I almost always give is "Yes." "Wait, what? I just asked you if you like seven different types of training for pitchers and you gave me one 'yes.'" That's correct, and to take it a step further and really complicate the matters, we even like kettlebells and different squat variations for pitchers among other things.  And we use a ton of different weights of both baseballs and medicine balls.

My perspective on this is that all of these modes of training have an application in building a pitcher capable of throwing the ball 95mph. Obviously, there are some genetic limitations and other factors involved in getting there, but to really optimize the training, I think all of these need to be applied in the right proportions. These proportions would be determined based upon the individual's current makeup (age, weight, relative strength, mechanical understanding, etc...) and their developmental goals, which should be discussed between player and coach to make sure everyone is on the same page and being realistic. A great example of this is the throwing program Eric used last winter for Shawn Haviland, a pitcher in the Oakland A's system that was drafted in the 33rd round in 2008. For Shawn's particular case, he was a player who pitched in the mid-to-high 80's with a good feel for pitching. As Eric wrote previously, as good as this is, late round draft picks do not get a lot of leeway to prove themselves and can be released in the blink of an eye. To give Shawn the best chance to succeed, Eric thought it might make sense to be a little more aggressive with his throwing program in an attempt to boost his velocity. So, aside from the strength training and mobility/flexibility work, throw in some med ball variations, aggressive long toss, a weighted ball program, and some extensive decelerator work and one might think we're playing with fire here. Well, this season Shawn took his velocity from 87-88 to 90-94.

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So, which piece of the puzzle gave Shawn this huge velocity gain? Was it the med ball throws or was it the weighted ball program? Was it the aggressive long toss or the increased strength? I'd like to believe that it was the individual's commitment to the program in its entirety. Each piece served to complement the next.  This was a program designed for Shawn Haviland to execute in the winter of 2008-2009; that's it. This same program may not make sense in the winter of 2009/2010. I'm sure some similar pieces will be involved, but in a different context with different proportions depending on where Shawn is in his developmental path. This same program certainly wouldn't be prescribed to a 15-year-old just learning about pitching mechanics and strength development, and probably would not be prescribed to a 1st round draft pick with a 92-95mph fastball and a million dollar signing bonus hanging over his head. That's the reality of the situation. Each case needs to be looked at in its own regard and after deciding on a strategic vision of where the player wants to be, then a comprehensive program would be built with the appropriate drills and exercises to help the player take his game to the desired level.  The X factor in all of this is how much time and effort a player is willing to commit to becoming a better player, because this ultimately determines where the player will end up. In the end, this all relates back to the first thought in this blog: there is no one single be-all, end-all answer for pitching development. There are modes of training that should be considered and blended to come up with the right recipe for the particular individual.  Yes, there will be crossovers for players at similar points in their development because we have a finite number of training applications, but they would be applied based on reason. So, before you jump at the next best gadget that is going to give you the 95mph arm you have been looking to buy, make yourself an informed consumer and do some active research to get multiple viewpoints. Believe me, the same product/program that claims to have given someone 95mph, probably has someone claiming that it ruined their arm. I would go as far as to say that neither of these claims are right in their entirety and that there are a lot of external factors involved, but it is your job to do the homework and decide for yourself. Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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Two Sunday Night Freebies

Just a quick heads-up for my loyal weekend blog readers... 1. Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Roussell just provided a free fat loss training session example using Alwyn's new 4x Method.  Check it out HERE.  With their updated Warpspeed Fat Loss program almost ready for release, these two give you a good taste of what's to come. 2. I did the Fitcast with Kevin Larrabee on Friday morning, and the full audio is available (also at no charge) HERE.  We talked about assessment, programming, whether squatting is "safe," my recent deadlifting specialization program, and our new product (Assess and Correct).  My portion kicks in about halfway through the episode. 3. Speaking of Assess and Correct, today is the last day for the early-bird price.  At midnight tonight, it'll be gone forever, so if you haven't taken advantage of this offer yet, now's the time!  www.AssessAndCorrect.com.

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