Home 2018 February

7 Ways to Maintain Strength During Baseball Season

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

With the off-season winding down, many players are wondering how to maintain the strength they put on during the off-season. Here are seven simple but effective ways to maintain strength during the baseball season.

1. Maintain Body Weight.

Here at CSP, we spend all off-season putting 10, 15, and sometimes 20 pounds on athletes to help increase their ability to produce force. Sports are won by those who exhibit greater Rates of Force Development (RFD), and, the limiting factor for many youth athletes is the ability to produce gross amounts of force. A larger person has a better chance of producing force. If your mass is decreasing throughout a season, maintaining the same levels of force production will be difficult.

Make sure to consistently weigh yourself during the season. If you tend to be a guy who struggles to keep weight on, make sure to bring food with you to the field and stay properly hydrated. Sneaking in extra calories pre- and post-practice, in addition to occasionally having something to eat mid-game, could go a long way in maintaining body weight. Be sure to read EC’s article, 8 Tips for Not Wasting Away During Summer Baseball, too, if you haven’t already.

2. Consolidate Stressors.

This is a fancy way of saying to make your harder days focused on building yourself up and letting your easy days be focused on recovery. If you’re at the field six days a week, a seventh day of rest might be exactly what you need, instead of hitting the gym on day seven. Try and sneak in weight room sessions on the same days that you have extensive on-field work. All stress is stress. For example, a position player who is on his feet for 2+ hours a day six days in a row probably needs the seventh day to rest and would get a much greater benefit from stacking lifting weights on top of a few of the harder days during the week. Know that if you’re not taking care of your recovery modalities (through sleep, nutrition, lifestyle), your body’s ability to absorb and adapt to stress will be diminished.

3. Appreciate Micro-Sessions.

While a majority of off-season lifts will take 60-90 minutes, this doesn’t mean that in-season lifts need to as well. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hitting 3-4 20-40 minute sessions throughout the week. This ensures that the quality of work will be higher; in fact, the quantity of work for four 30-minute sessions might also be greater than just trying to blow it out on the gym the one day you have a dedicated 90 minutes. A typical 30-minute session could be as follows:

A1) Deadlift or Squat, 3x3
A2) Arm Care, 3 sets
A3) Core, 3 sets
B1) Single-Leg Exercise, 3 sets
B2) Upper-Body Push, 3 sets
B3) Upper-Body Pull, 3 sets

By switching to a tri-set format and making the session full-body, you can sneak in extra work and still finish the above session in under 40 minutes. In fact, even getting in two sets of all of the above multiple times a week will probably have greater carryover than going several days between sessions just so you can wait to get in the typical 18-24 set range that we hit during a mid-offseason session.

4. Understand the Difference Between Soreness and Progress.

Not all strength training sessions need to be tough or need to make you sore to create progress. In fact, if you’re constantly sore during the season, you’ll be limited in your ability to output the highest levels of power that you can achieve. Simple ways to avoid soreness from in-season lifts include not including brand-new exercises – the novelty of a new exercise will create more soreness than one you’ve recently done - and avoiding high amounts of eccentric stress. For example, a Bulgarian split-squat is a great exercise, but a step-up might be a better in-season choice because it provides far less eccentric stress.

Not all lifts need to be heavy grinders, either; in fact, maximal strength is the training quality that will have the longest carryover in terms of the amount of times you need to hit it just to maintain it. Issurin’s Residual Training Qualities chart claims that Max Strength will stick around for periods up to 30 +/- 5 days, which means you could theoretically hit Max Strength qualities 1-2x/month and maintain them. A simple action item to scale this would be to take your main lift and hit it within different zones on the force-velocity curve in different weeks: In week 1, go heavy (near absolute strength), in week 2, work on strength-speed, in week 3, work on speed-strength, and just rotate it. The weight room shouldn’t beat up your ability to play the sport during the season.

5. Don’t Waste Valuable Energy on Needless Extra Reps.

To add on the point I outlined in #2, your body doesn’t know the difference between fatigue created on the field and fatigue created in the weight room. If you’re a position player, know that the extra 100 swings you decided to take after practice are going to hinder your body’s ability to adapt to stress you want to add to it in the weight room. When it comes to extra on-field work, pick and choose your battles. We know that fatigue is the enemy of motor learning, so if you are sacrificing quality of on-field technique work because you feel like you need extra reps, you might be just getting worse at your sport. Keep the quality of all swings, throws, and fielding reps high and near the speed of sport if you want them to have carryover. If only the amount of reps that you NEED to take are applied, then you’ll have much more time and energy to get some strength work in.

6. Choose the Right Conditioning Modalities.

We know that baseball is an alactic-aerobic sport. The average work:rest ratio amongst pitchers is close to 1:20 (delivery takes less than 2 seconds, average MLB time in-between pitches last season was 23.8 seconds). The average work:rest ratio for position players is generally far greater given the lack of action they’ll take part in compared to the pitcher. If you’re training for baseball by applying long-distance running, you’re essentially training to be less efficient at the time demands the sport requires. This topic is covered widely in previous articles (here and here) on this site, but it is still amazingly prevalent within the baseball community. To layer on top of the points I made above, you’ve sapped the adaptive capacity of the individual for something that has nothing to do with getting better at the sport. In short, keep your speed work fast and keep your rest time focused on recovery.

7. Maintain Needed Mobility.

While this one may not directly relate to strength as much as a few of the others, it’s important to understand that if you are losing mobility you need to perform your sport at a high level, you now have to choose between spending time gaining that mobility back or maintaining strength. Force, power, RFD, speed, and all the other physiological qualities for which we train are only as good as your ability to use them on field. Simple strategies such as having a daily mobility routine as part of pre- and post-practice can save valuable time that you can use towards increasing the physiological qualities that I mentioned above in the weight room. Five minutes before and after every on-field session can save valuable time later in the season when overuse-related mobility concerns start to arise, not to mention, they’ll keep you healthy and on the field throughout the season.

Wrap-up

On March 4, 2018, Christian Wonders and I (John) will be delivering a one-day seminar, “In-Season Training Strategies for Baseball.” This event, which will take place at our Hudson, MA location, is a great chance for baseball coaches to learn about the training process and how communication between a strength coach and a sport coach can help take performance to the next level. Both Christian and John have experience working as on-field baseball coaches and as strength coaches, and they’ve used their ability to speak a common language with great success. It’s also a valuable event for strength and conditioning professionals to learn more about integrating performance training and skill development. For more information, click HERE.

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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Denver, CO Seminar Announcement: June 24, 2018

I just wanted to give you a heads-up on one-day seminar with me in Denver, CO on Sunday, June 24, 2018.

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 (Lab)
12:30PM-1:30PM – Lunch
1:30PM-3:30PM – Upper Extremity Mobility/Activation/Strength Drills (Lab)
3:30PM-3:45PM – Break
3:45PM-4:45PM – Upper Extremity Strength and Conditioning Programming: What Really Is Appropriate? (Lecture)
4:45PM-5:00PM – Q&A to Wrap Up

Location

Landow Performance
7094 S Revere Pkwy
Centennial, CO 80112

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 Regular Rate

Click here to register using our 100% secure server!

Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction - particularly during the hands-on workshop portion - so be sure to register early, as previous offerings of this evan have sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Questions? Please email ec@ericcressey.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/21/18

Here's a little strength and conditioning reading to get you over hump day:

John Kiely on the Past, Present, and Future of Periodization - I really enjoyed this podcast from Mike Robertson and John Kiely. It's an excellent resource on the program design front.

It Needs to Be Said: Throwing Doesn't Build "Arm Strength" - Your throwing program may build arm speed and arm endurance, but it's not building arm strength. Give this article from my archives a read to learn more.

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The Issue With Most Powerlifting-Specific Programs

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, Jamie Smith.

All athletes are humans that express biomotor qualities in their sport of choice. Think strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, balance and flexibility. Their ability to express these biomotor qualities – combined with their actual task-specific skills – is what makes them the athletes they are. However, before people are athletes, they are humans: humans expressing these physical qualities; humans that require strength, conditioning, and movement variability to consistently and successfully perform their sport. When a human hires a strength and conditioning coach, it is assumed that the strength coach will oversee the human’s program, guide the human, and keep the human safe throughout their “career” as they progress and get better at expressing their physical qualities in their sport of choice.

For example, when a young baseball player hires a baseball specific strength and conditioning coach, the devised program will encompass aspects of core stabilization drills to strengthen the core for the sport’s rotational demands. The program has lower and upper body strength work to increase the potential power output for throwing and hitting. There are PREhabilitaiton exercises (such as rotator cuff strengthening drills) to support throwing loads. The program reflects the demands of the sport and includes exercises to prevent “baseball specific injuries.”

Powerlifting appears to be in a grey area of strength and conditioning, though. Powerlifting is a very specific sport that really only requires one biomotor quality: strength. Secondary to this, the sport is completed entirely inside the gym, so a lot of powerlifting coaches only look at the gym as the sport itself, strength training, rather than seeing the gym as a potential avenue to prevent “powerlifting specific injuries.” On the other hand, a strength coach from any other sport will look at the gym as a place for the athlete to improve their athletes’ physical qualities AND prevent injuries.

This is where a majority of powerlifting programs miss the mark in terms of “sports performance.” If you have followed Eric Cressey’s blog for any number of years, you would have read a vast number of articles referencing the issues that arise for athletes when their training and sport is purely "extension based.” From head-to-toe, the list of body dysfunctions that arise from training and “sports performance” that drive purely extension based movements is almost endless.

When we break down the powerlifting programs more generally that place sole focus on the big three and their variations, we begin to see how this extension focused training becomes an issue.

The squat drives extension through the thoracic spine and – for those who don’t understand correct bracing strategies – quite often the lumbar spine, too. Lat tension is achieved by pulling on the bar, helping create trunk stability. And, activation of every extension based muscle is needed to stand up with the weight every single rep.

The bench press requires global spinal extension in order to create an arch, reduce range of motion and stabilize the scapula. Lat activation is necessary to support and stabilize the thoracic spine and scapula further. Retraction and depression of the scapula aids in glenohumeral stability.

The deadlift, obviously, demands extension of the entire system with significant loads.

Powerlifting is an extension-based sport, and when you couple it with the extreme loads that the body is under, a lot of the same extension-based issues from other sports begin to arise.

So what can be done to improve powerlifting programs in order to reduce the risk of injury? Try these six strategies.

1. Restore some flexion back into the system.

For us at Melbourne Strength Culture, the PRI Breathing Drill - 90/90 Hip Lift - is our first port of call. This allows the body to regain some much needed flexion through the hips and thoracic spine. This also couples as a great teaching and motor control drill to improve intra-abdominal pressure. Do this DAILY!

2. Increase anterior core strength and endurance.

Planks, dead bugs, ab wheel roll-outs and all their variations are a great place to start. Do these DAILY!

3. Incorporating ‘reaching’ drills in your warm ups.

Back to wall shoulder flexion, forearm wall slides, foam roller wall slides. Get some much need protraction, upward rotation, thoracic flexion, serratus anterior and lower trap activation to improve your scapular stability. Do these DAILY!

4. Utilize loaded reaching exercises.

Incorporate loaded push-ups, landmine press variations, and overhead pressing variations - both unilateral and bilateral – to get the scapula moving.

5. Drive some thoracic rotation by incorporating unilateral rowing exercises.

Half-kneeling 1-arm cable rows with reaches are tremendously effective. The spine, the rib cage and scapula function better synergistically when movement variability is included in a program. Restore some flexion and rotation capacity in the thoracic spine and allow the scapula to have a convex interface to support it.

A strength and conditioning program should highlight and strengthen the biomotor skills needed to excel in the sport AND prevent the injuries that arise from overexposure to the stressors of a given sport, so why is powerlifting any different?

About the Author

 Jamie Smith is owner and head coach at Melbourne Strength Culture. You can find Jamie on Instagram and YouTube.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/14/18

Here's a Valentine's Day edition of recommended reading, just because I love my readers so much!

7 Gym Gadgets That Actually Work - I chimed in on this T-Nation compilation that includes some good ideas from coaches from a variety of disciplines in the strength and conditioning field.

Health Hips, Strong Hips - This whopper of a blog post from Dean Somerset includes a ton of great videos. Set aside twenty minutes and go through it; you'll pick up some good stuff.

6 Key Factors for Developing Pitchers - I published this article about a year ago and it was one of my most popular baseball articles of all time. It's worth a read.

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Video: Why Injuries are Highest Early in the Baseball Season

I recently posted on Instagram in reference to how Major League Baseball Injuries are highest during spring training and early in the regular season. Surely, some of this has to do with the fact that some players had lingering issues from the previous season that never went away - but it definitely goes further than this. Check out today's video to learn more:

I'll be back with some more new baseball content later in the week.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/5/18

It's a rough Monday morning for Patriots fans, but the show must go on! Here's some recommended reading/listening for you while I cry in my coffee.

The Culture Code - This new release from Dan Coyle is absolutely outstanding. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it and really enjoying every page. Whether you work in team sports, own your own business, or just want to make your work environment better, there's something for you. Get it.

EC on The Ready State Podcast with Kelly and Juliet Starrett - I hopped on Kelly and Juliet Starrett's podcast to discuss training kids, and it was one of my favorite podcasts that I've ever done. We covered some really important stuff, so I'd encourage you to have a listen.

Dan John on How to Dominate the Weights for a Lifetime - I've never listened to a Dan John interview that I didn't enjoy. The streak is still intact after this podcast with Mike Robertson.

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