Home 2017 August

Should You Play Fall Baseball?

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, John O'Neil.

We know that playing baseball year-round is a bad idea, but how do you determine if it’s a good idea for youth athletes to skip fall baseball and focus on developing themselves for the spring? Societal pressures – parents, coaches, scouts, recruiters - have dictated that if you’re a player and not doing as much total work as your competition is, you won’t keep up with the curve, but we know that’s not the case. Intelligent work will always trump total volume of work. The tough part lies in the action of identifying which athletes are better off sitting out a supplementary competitive season for the sake of success in the main season. Here are three questions to ask if you’re considering fall baseball and long-term baseball success is your goal:

1) How many innings did you throw during the spring and summer?
2) Are you playing another sport?
3) Are you adequately prepared for success within the fall season?

1) If you’re a pitcher and have thrown greater than 100 innings during the spring and summer seasons, fall baseball is highly contraindicated. A February 2011 study from Fleisig et al. provided the data for us that a youth pitcher, ages 9-14, is 3.5 times more likely to need an elbow or shoulder surgery down the road if they throw more than 100 innings in a calendar year. We can theorize and maybe think that a high school pitcher can afford slightly more innings, or, we could ask the question, what does a high school pitcher really gain out of throwing more than that? If they haven’t attracted recruiting attention in their first 100, you’re either not good enough to pitch at the next level OR have a very poor strategy for exposure. As CSP-FL co-founder Brian Kaplan has often said:

I’m in favor of shutting down pitchers at 100 innings, and I will provide more detail about when 100IP might not be the ideal number in point 3.

2) If you’re currently playing another sport, how does playing baseball as a secondary sport impact your long-term development? What is the goal of fall baseball? If the goal is skill acquisition and repeated exposure in a game environment, how does your commitment to the other sport detract or enhance from playing baseball?

Let’s take the high school soccer or football schedule. Most teams will have some type of organized activity six days per week, leaving one day a week where baseball can be the priority. From a skill standpoint, I would consider it more detrimental to both swing and throwing mechanics to be doing those in a fatigued state. Moreover, not providing the athlete with a true off day for the duration of the fall will lead to a much greater likelihood of an injury in the primary fall sport they’re playing. For position players, how much baseball skill work do you expect to get in only playing on weekends? A typical game might only involve a dozen swings and a handful of plays in the field, and that includes pre-game warm-ups.

If you’re not going to take a day off, maybe work on qualities in the gym that will ensure more long-term success. If you have the time given the constraints of the other sport, get to the cage/field multiple times per week if you feel the need to get more reps at the plate or in the field. Early specialization is not the answer for youth athletes. From a physical preparation standpoint, we know that specific physical preparation (SPP) is only as good as the general physical preparation (GPP) that underlies it. Even if baseball is the long-term primary goal, allow kids to develop GPP through other sports and specialize at the latest possible moment.

3) If fall ball is productive, what are the reasons? There are several: repeated  game exposure can ensure success on a baseball field from a perspective of tension and arousal, as we can’t simulate those in the cage.

However, if the competitive season is already close to six months long, when does the athlete have time to develop other athletic skills that will carry over to success within the competitive season? Fall ball may be a time where you gain exposure to scouts/recruiters, or great for the northeast athlete who only played 30 games in spring/summer. But, if you can’t set the athlete up for success in the short fall season, why bother? Specifically, how much skill work can the athlete get in to be set up for productive game play?

For pitchers, this means getting in multiple throwing sessions per week outside of competitive throwing days within the fall season. It also means that the pitcher needs to have been ramped up and be ready to throw in game situations in the weeks prior to the season, making it tricky when the gap between summer and fall baseball is anywhere from 2-6 weeks. For every week off of throwing, I’d like to see pitchers ramp up for at least an equal, if not a double amount of time prior to getting back out there (one week off = 1-2 weeks ramping, 2 = 2-4, etc.). It doesn’t matter if you’re only throwing a few innings every Sunday. Be prepared to be successful every time you toe the rubber. This is a case where even if the pitcher only threw 50-80 innings – far short of the 100 recommended in point 1 – it’s not a good idea to throw them into the fire if they can’t play catch, long toss, and throw bullpens during the week.

If you fall into the three categories I outlined above, I’d advise against playing fall baseball and instead working on physical qualities that will ensure success from a more long-term perspective. Get to the gym, get stronger, faster, more athletic, work on durability, take time off from throwing, and prepare yourself for a successful spring and summer season.

Who Definitely SHOULD Play Fall Baseball?

If you do not fall into the categories above, you may still be asking if playing fall baseball is right for you. There are two categories of high school players who need to be playing fall baseball if they expect to move on and play at the collegiate level. As outlined above, even these players need to prepare for the fall season as if it were their main competitive season. In other words, they need to be sure they are throwing, taking BP, and training regularly even if only playing on weekends.

1) High School Seniors who don’t yet have a collegiate commitment
2) Players who didn’t play much during the spring/summer seasons

1) If you have a chance to be recruited to play in college, but haven’t yet received the right opportunity for any multitude of reasons, fall baseball can be a last-ditch effort to get in front of coaches and scouts. Many Ivy League and D2/D3 schools recruit well into the fall. Make sure you are picking the right spots, though. Get out to showcases/tournaments/camps where these coaches will actually be in attendance, given that it is your last chance to play in front of them. This will require far more advanced than (definitely) the spring and (usually) the summer season will. You can’t just play in any local weekend fall ball league and expect coaches to come find you if they haven’t already. For senior pitchers, you can be a little more aggressive with your workload during this time because the summer after senior year of high school will most likely be a low workload or complete dead period. For underclassmen, stick more stringently to the guidelines given above.

2) If you are a player that missed significant time during your main competitive season, regardless of grade, fall baseball is a very good idea. This could be in the case of someone who was injured and had to sit out, or, someone who was buried on the bench and only got half the amount of action as some of his teammates. In this case, keeping up with what everyone else is doing in terms of yearly workload is a very important thing. This will make you better on a physical level, as repeated exposure to better pitching and facing better hitters will have carryover to the main competitive seasons. Additionally, your comfort level in a competitive game experience could make or break your ability to play at the varsity high school level in the spring, or your ability to be good enough to get recruited in the summer that follows. Identify the biggest areas of need that will drive your ability to be successful long-term and address them. If you haven’t played in real games very much, this could be the limiting factor.

As you can see, the decision on whether or not to play fall baseball is a very individual one. Be sure to consider all these factors as you make that decision.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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Atlanta Seminar Announcement: November 5, 2017

I just wanted to give you a heads-up on one-day seminar with me in Atlanta, GA on Sunday, November 5, 2017.

Cressey scapula

We’ll be spending the day geeking out on shoulders, as the event will cover Shoulder Assessment, Corrective Exercise, and Programming.  The event will be geared toward personal trainers, strength and conditioning professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and fitness enthusiasts alike.

Agenda

9:00AM-9:30AM – Inefficiency vs. Pathology (Lecture)
9:30AM-10:15AM – Understanding Common Shoulder Injuries and Conditions (Lecture)
10:15AM-10:30AM – Break
10:30AM-12:30PM – Upper Extremity Assessment (Lecture/Lab)
12:30PM-1:30PM – Lunch
1:30PM-3:30PM – Upper Extremity Assessment Case Studies (Lab)
3:30PM-3:45PM – Break
3:45PM-4:45PM – Upper Extremity Mobility/Activation/Strength Drills (Lab)
4:45PM-5:00PM – Q&A to Wrap Up

Location

Rapid Sports Performance
105 Smoke Hill Lane
Building 105, Suite 120
Woodstock, GA 30188 

Continuing Education Credits

The event has been approved for 0.7 CEUs (7 contact hours) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Cost:

$199.99

Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction, so be sure to register early. Each of the previous offerings of this seminar sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.

Click here to register using our 100% secure server! 

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Questions? Please email ec@ericcressey.com (organizer) or mike.berenger@go-rapid.com (host).

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Sports Performance: Study the Majority, and Stop Cherrypicking Exceptions to the Rule

Last week, I Tweeted out the following statistic:  

As can pretty much be expected, this Tweet was met with a thumbs up from frustrated coaches and parents who know a skinny pitcher who could really benefit from weight gain, but still refused to crush calories. That was the 98% of interaction with these numbers.

The other 2% - as can also be expected, after years of social media "exposures" - was people who wanted to disagree. An example:

"Not true. My 6'0 180 pound son throws 93 and threw 90 when he was 5'10 165."

Another:

"So you're encouraging guys to just get fat and they'll throw harder? Why isn't Bartolo the hardest thrower in MLB then?"

In the research world, these exceptions to the rule are called outliers and are nixed from the data set. In the magical world of social media, they are liked, retweeted, celebrated, enshrined, put up on a pedestal - and ultimately almost become the rule. Unfortunately, those who try to replicate the exceptions wind up woefully inferior.

Remember the generation of kids who thought that they could a) abstain from lifting weights and b) go to really up-tempo, cross-body deliveries in hopes of becoming the next Tim Lincecum? With a few exceptions, they become the skinny guys who couldn't throw strikes - or convince anyone to be their catch partners because they were so erratic. And, they really didn't put themselves in great positions to throw hard, in most cases.

Lincecum himself faded as he approached 30 years old, due in part to hip surgery. After a short comeback attempt in 2016, he hasn't pitch in almost 1.5 years and currently sits at 1,682 career innings. Currently, 27 active pitchers have more career innings pitched than that - and only two weigh less than 195 pounds.

This isn't a vilification of Lincecum, either; he recognized he was an outlier and made it work for a successful career that included multiple Cy Youngs and world championships. That's a lot different than the 16-year-old with no track record of success insisting that he can throw 2,000 innings in the big leagues at 140 pounds. That's not backed by demonstrable results or even the slightest bit of logic. Need further proof that you're better off following the masses (pun intended)? 

1. The size of the average MLB player has increased from ~186 to ~210 now (really good analysis here). Not surprisingly, average fastball velocity in MLB has increased dramatically during that same period.

2. Go check out this list of active leaders in innings pitched. Take note of how few are under 200 pounds.

3. Go check out this list of active leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Take note of how few are under 200 pounds. This guy is eighth on that list (and rapidly climbing). He's 6-3 and 210-215 pounds, but not the "absurdly bulky" many naysayers insist will happen if a 16-year-old kid adds a few hundred calories per day. Max is just big enough to use gravity effectively while remaining athletic.

4. We have loads of studies demonstrating that heavier pitchers throw hard. If you want to pick just a few, use this one and this one. Hopefully, the N=1 Twitter researchers can appreciate that their studies don't have quite as much validity as the peer-reviewed research that is published in the Journal of Biomechanics and Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.

5. This recent study reported that larger individuals signed professional contracts earlier and made it to the big leagues at a younger age. It also reaffirmed that bigger guys throw harder. Go figure.

6. Go to any powerlifting meet - or simply peruse some records online - and it won't take you long to realize that the heavier guys are the stronger guys. Strength is force. Power is work divided by time. Throwing a baseball is a sport-specific application of power.

Strength is also a foundation for stability: active control of joints. If you lack it, you'll rely more on passive restraints: ligaments, menisci, intervertebral discs, labrum, etc.

If you want to be successful in anything in life - sports, business, education, relationships, you name it - you are better off looking at what has worked for the majority of individuals who have previously been successful.

And, the research, anecdotal evidence, and logic is very much in support of gaining good weight being a wildly effective method for most pitchers to gain velocity, be more successful, and become more durable. You might be the exception to that rule, but chances are that you haven't actually tested the weight gain waters enough to know for sure. Eat up. 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/28/17

This week's recommended reading/listening has a bit more of a lifestyle/chronic disease theme to it, but I'm sure you'll still find these resources very useful.

Physical Preparation Podcast with Nick Littlehales - This podcast might have been the best one I've listened to ion 2017. This is an outstanding discussion on sleep strategies from one of the best in the world on the topic.

Can Supplemental Vitamin D Improve Sleep? - This was an insightful post from the Examine.com crew in light of some research that was recently published.

25 Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies to Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease - I read this article from Precision Nutrition with great interest, as there is some family history for me in this realm. This is an excellent review of the research we have at our fingertips.

August 25 Facebook Live - I did this Q&A on Wednesday afternoon; you can watch the recording of it here:

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Optimizing and Progressing Arm Care

The prone horizontal abduction - also known as a "T" - is well known as a popular arm care exercise that has been around for decades. Unfortunately, it's commonly performed incorrectly. In today's video, I cover the most common mistakes - and then add a progression I like to use with folks once they've mastered the technique. Check it out:

Keep in mind that these cues also apply to "T" drills you perform with bands, TRX, or any other implements as well.  

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New Cressey Sports Performance Baseball Caps Now Available!

We just got a new shipment of Cressey Sports Performance baseball caps in and they're available for sale. These bad boys are one-size-fits-all snapbacks and go for $25 plus shipping and handling:

CLICK HERE to order using our 100% secure server!

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5 Reasons to Use “Fillers” in Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

One of the first things some individuals notice when they come to observe at Cressey Sports Performance is that we often pair “big bang” strength and power movements with lower intensity drills. This is also a common programming theme many of those who have completed my High Performance Handbook program have noticed.

As an example, we might pair a prone trap raise with a deadlift…

…or a hip mobility drill with a bench press.

We call these low-intensity inclusions “fillers.” Truthfully, though, I’m not sure that this name does them justice, as “filler” seems to imply a lack of importance. In reality, I think these drills have a profound impact on improving each client/athlete’s session. Here are five reasons why.

1. Fillers slow advanced athletes down on power and strength work.

Optimal training for strength and power mandates that athletes take ample time between sets to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have a tendency to rush through this type of work because it doesn't create the same kind of acute fatigue that you'd get from a set of higher-rep work. Muscular fatigue is a lot easier to perceive than neural fatigue. In other words, you'll want to rest more after a set of six squats than you would after a set of six heidens, even if you were attempting to put maximal force into the ground on each rep with both.

By pairing the strength or power exercise with something a little more mellow, we “force” athletes to take adequate rest and get quality work in on subsequent sets of the “meat and potatoes.”

2. Fillers provide extra opportunities to work on basic movement competencies and corrective exercises.

If something is important, do it every day. For some people, this might be hip mobility work. For others, it might be some rotator cuff work. You might as well do it when you’d otherwise be standing around resting.

3. Fillers improve training economy – and may even allow you to shorten the warm-ups a bit.

This point is best illustrated with an example. Let’s say that I would normally do an 8-10 exercise dynamic flexibility warm-up before my lifting-specific work. Then, I’m warming up to a 600-pound deadlift like this:

135x8
225x5
315x3
405x3
455x1
495x1
545x1
585x1
600x1

On that warm-up progression, I have eight “between-set” breaks to get in a little extra work. Sure, I’m loading on plates, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bang out a few quick reps of ankle mobility or scapular control work. This can be pretty clutch – especially once I’m at the heavier warm-up sets that require a bit more rest – as it can actually allow me to shorten my earlier general warm-up period a bit.

When it comes to training economy, everyone wants to talk about exercise selection (picking multi-joint exercises) and finding ways to increase training density (more volume in a given amount of time). However, don’t forget that movement quality work is still “work.”

4. Fillers help to prevent “backups” in the training facility.

This is a double-edged sword. If you’re doing some hip mobility work between sets in a busy commercial gym, if you aren’t careful, it probably will increase your likelihood of someone stealing your squat rack.

However, in the collegiate, professional, and private sectors, incorporating fillers can be invaluable in preventing log jams where many athletes are trying to use the same piece of equipment at the same time. If you’ve got three athletes sharing the same trap bar, fillers can help things flow a bit smoother – particularly because it keeps less-than-attentive athletes from screwing around between sets.

5. Fillers may give deconditioned clients active recovery between sets to make the most of their time with you.

For some clients, the warm-up is the workout. In other words, they may be so deconditioned that even a set of the Spiderman with hip lift and overhead reach will get their heart rate up. If you paired this mobility drill with an inverted row, it might be a perfect fit for their fitness level. Conversely, if you paired that inverted row with a Bulgarian split squat, it might crush them. In this case, the filler is hardly a filler!

Fillers might have a connotation of “unimportant,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Try incorporating them in your programs to get higher quality work, improve training economy, and bring up weak links.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/21/17

I finished up my NYC seminar yesterday and am sticking around to spend a day in the city with my wife today, but I prepared a recommended reading list for you to enjoy in the meantime. Check it out:

Attentional Focus and Cuing - Nick Winkelman wrote this great article for Club Connect's online magazine. If you're looking for a good introduction to internal vs. external focus cues, this is a good place to start.


Source: ClubConnect.com

20 Tips for Young Coaches - Mike Robertson crushed it with this new podcast with tips for aspiring coaches.

The Ideal Business Show with Eric Cressey - Speaking of podcasts, this interview I did for Pat Rigsby a year ago, and I still think it's one of the best ones with which I've been involved.

Top Tweet of the Week -

Top Instagram Post of the Week -

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Arm Injuries, Sports Science, and Player Development

Earlier this week, I hopped on The Motus Global show with Will Carroll, and we covered a ton of ground in the 40 minutes we chatted. From arm injuries, to sports science, to player development, there's a lot of good stuff in this podcast. You can check it out at the links below:

Overcast: https://overcast.fm/+JRLCkbN08

or

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-motus-show/id1245348721?mt=2

Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: When Precision Tops Effort

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, John O'Neil.

Openly communicating expectations on an exercise-by-exercise level as a coach can go a long way in ensuring the outcome of the chosen program is as intended. A typical new client we see will give near maximal effort on every exercise, not understanding that heavier does not equal better and there’s a problem if something that’s meant to be lower intensity becomes a straining exercise. Too often I see random exercises done with an inappropriate amount of weight because the client doesn’t understand that harder isn’t better; smarter is better. While you want to pile plates on for some lifts, with others, the load is less important than the execution. The important thing is that the athlete/client understands your intentions as the person who wrote the program – and that communication is a two-way street.

In our model at Cressey Sports Performance, we will typically pair something that is meant to be heavier with something that is meant to be lighter. Only a few exercise will meant to be loaded heavily, and in the rest, precision of technique is the focus. A sample lower body day for a pitcher might be:

A1) Trap Bar Deadlift: 4x5
A2) Alternating Prone Trap Raise on Stability Ball: 3x8/side
B1) Double KB Reverse Lunges: 3x8/side
B2) Supine 90/90 External Rotation Holds: 3x(2x6)
C1) KB Goblet Lateral Lunges: 3x8/side
C2) Side Bridges: 3x5 breaths/side
D1) Split-Stance Rhythmic Stabilization, 3 positions: 3x5-5-5sec
D2) Core-Engaged Dead Bugs: 3x5/side

When we look at a day like this, we need to have knowledge of the difference between central and peripheral stress. The above day has 1 central stressor, 1-2 loadable peripheral stressors, and 5-6 exercises that are never meant to crush someone (lateral lunges are the in-between, depending on the person). Most effective training days will only have 1-3 central stressors, and the rest will be peripheral.

Think of these like main lifts vs. accessory lifts. This is not to demean the accessory lifts, as they are necessary to our programming and we will use them to assure local muscular hypertrophy, sports-specific positional stability, and general health. Exercises that affect the central nervous system will include your big bang-for-your-buck lifts like squats, deadlifts, and presses. These are the ones in the weight room that we can load up and effectively train in rep schemes of five and below.

To monitor the success of this sample day, the trap bar deadlift should be done at a high RPE (ratings of perceived exertion). This might be through a 1-10 number scale. Ask the client how many more reps they could have done and if they say 1, it was a 9. If they say 2, it was 8, and so on.

To keep this easier in a semi-private training model with many young clients drastically misinterpreting a number scale, I simply tell the person something like “this should be very hard, but never feel impossible.” If you have experience coaching, you can typically tell when someone’s technique is about to break down if they attempted another rep.

[bctt tweet="If you safely strain to just below technical failure, you chose a good weight for a main lift."]

Peripheral stressors are the exercises that you should really never come close to missing. Even if someone is extremely strong at an 8-rep reverse lunge, rep 8 shouldn’t be a grinder and rep 9 should always be possible. With clients, I like to communicate that exact idea: precision of the movement and owning the technique at a moderately challenging level will go a lot further than being sloppy and adding more weight.

This is not to say these are easy exercises, though. In fact, the peripheral stressors are often the exercises that will make you sore as they attack more localized areas and are done in rep schemes (8-12) that are more congruent with hypertrophy. The problem with not communicating the appropriate weights on these exercises is they will potentially take away from the benefits the main exercises (central stressors) will provide. Train your main exercises to a point of safely straining, and train your accessory lifts with mental intent and precision.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
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