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

Happy Friday! I'm a few days late with this post in light of our spring sale as well as some speaking-related travel I had this week. The good news is that the travel gave me some time to do some reading/viewing/listening and come up with some additional recommendations for you. Check them out:

Complete Youth Training - This is Mike Boyle's great new resource for those who work with young athletes. He touches on everything from the problems with early specialization to age-specific training stages. It's a good investment for parents and coaches alike. I loved how his perspective as a parent coalesced with his commentary as a strength and conditioning coach and business owner. It's on sale for $50 as an introductory discount.

The Best Team Wins - This was a recommendation from my buddy Josh Bonhotal, who's spent the past several years at the Purdue basketball strength and conditioning coach. Whether you're a coach or involved in a business in any way, this is a great book that'll teach you a lot about your interactions with athletes, fellow coaches, employees, and co-workers.

Prioritization and Success for Strength and Conditioning Success - I was reminded of this older post of mine this week when chatting with an up-and-coming strength and conditioning coach about how I've approached career development since I entered the industry.

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I think the long head of the triceps is a really overlooked structure in the development of both shoulder and elbow pain in throwers. Many people forget that it crosses the shoulder joint - and therefore effectively links the scapula to the lower arm. 🤔 In the late cocking phase of throwing, it's working eccentrically to prevent excessive elbow flexion while storing elastic energy that can be released on the subsequent elbow extension of the delivery. In other words, you can view the long head of the triceps as somewhat of a "mini-lat," as the lat serves this similar store-release function (albeit with different functions) - and they both work as shoulder extensors. 💪 It's also interesting in that it's one of the few muscles where the trigger point referral patterns can work up and down, as opposed to just down. I've seen some throwers where treating triceps has been a game changer in terms of everything from elbow, to shoulder, to neck pain. 👇 The long story short is that you have to give the triceps some love with quality self-myofascial release/manual therapy and make sure that you preserve tissue length (by stretching into shoulder flexion and elbow flexion simultaneously). Swipe right for some ideas. Thanks to @andrewmillettpt for the dry needling and manual therapy and @oneilstrength and @sooo_deep for the exercise demos. #cspfamily

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Spring Sale: Final Day!

In case you haven't already heard, I'm running my spring sale right now, with four of my products for sale at 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. The discount runs until tonight (Tuesday) at midnight. You can learn more at the following links:

Cressey Sports Performance Innovations

The Art of the Deload

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

The Truth About Unstable Surface Training

Enjoy!

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance Hip Abduction End-Range Lift-off

Today, I wanted to introduce you to a mobility exercise we're utilizing a lot these days at Cressey Sports Performance. Here's a great demonstration from Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy :


Speaking of Cressey Sports Performance, as part of my spring sale, I'm putting Cressey Sports Performance Innovations on sale for 40% off through Tuesday at midnight. This resource features webinars on a variety of topics that will help coaches and fitness enthusiasts improve their training, programming, and coaching. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. You can add it to your cart HERE.

About the Author

Frank Duffy is the Coordinator of Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance-Massachusetts. He is a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) and Kinstretch Instructor. You can contact him via email at frankduffyfitness@gmail.com, check out his website, and follow him on Instagram.

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5 Important Lessons on Balance Training

You'll hear the terms "stability" and "balance" thrown around a lot in the personal training, strength and conditioning, and rehabilitation communities, but they're often covered in very vague terms - and with hastily thrown together exercise progressions. With this week's spring sale on The Truth About Unstable Surface Training (enter coupon code SPRING for 40% off), I thought I'd cover some things you need to appreciate to be more informed in this regard.

1. Balance and stability are not the same thing.

In Basic Biomechanics, Susan Hall (2003) defined stability as "resistance to both angular and linear acceleration, or resistance to disruption of equilibrium.” Conversely, she defined balance as "the ability to control equilibrium” or “the process of maintaining the center of gravity within the body’s base of support within a given sensory environment.”

In other words, stability is  a state, and balance is a proficiency. Your level of stability is constantly changing based on environmental factors, external influences working on you, and your positioning. Balance is something you have (or lack) to varying degrees; neural factors such as muscular strength, kinesthetic awareness, coordination, and proprioception all contribute to one’s balancing proficiency.

In training, we often reduce stability (e.g., go to unilateral instead of bilateral stance) in order to train to improve our balancing proficiency.

2. Static and dynamic balance are only loosely correlated.

All the way back in 1967, Drowatzky and Zuccato observed little carryover from static to dynamic balance skills, and it was proven again decades later by Tsigilis. With that in mind, it makes sense to train a "continuum" of balance challenges ranging from static to dynamic:

3. Balance is an easy and "free" adaptation to acquire.

If you watch all of the exercises I just outlined along that static-to-dynamic continuum, none of them are particularly taxing. In other words, they can be trained every day without having to remove a lot of other stuff from your programs out of concern for exceeding recovery capacity. The best way to improve balance is to train it frequently and with small exposures, even if it's as simple as telling athletes to brush their teeth on one foot. Nobody will overtrain on balance work.

4. Balance is skill specific.

Having great balance on hockey skates doesn't mean that you'll have elite balance on a basketball or tennis court. This is why it's so important to challenge balance in a variety of ways (by manipulating stability scenarios) in training; it increases the likelihood of "overlap" to the chaos that athletic participation throws at us.

5. Unstable surface training is simply one means of modifying stability in a given situation - but that doesn't mean that it's an appropriate or safe method of training balance.

I spent two years of my life studying unstable surface training (UST) for my master's thesis, which was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2007. Suffice it to say that there are a few scenarios in which UST can be very useful, most notably the rehabilitation of functional ankle instability. Usually, however, over avenues of stability manipulation are much better ways to enhance balance.

With that in mind, if you'd like to learn more about not only unstable surface training, but all the different ways you can alter stability to enhance balance in your training programs, I'd strongly encourage you check out my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training. It's on sale for $40 off as part of our spring sale; just enter the coupon code SPRING at checkout to get the discount.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/9/18

I hope you're having a great week. Stay tuned to EricCressey.com, as we started up my spring sale yesterday and will be running it for a good chunk of May. The first product featured is...

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - This presentation covers an incredibly important topic, and is now on sale for 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. This is some great continuing education material for under $9.

The Physical Preparation Podcast with John O'Neil - Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts Director of Performance John O'Neil hopped on Mike Robertson's podcast to long-term athletic development in baseball players. There are some great pearls of wisdom for anyone who works with middle and high school athletes.

Caffeine Consumption: How Much is Safe? - The crew at Examine.com pulled together some of the latest research on caffeine consumption to outline how much is considered safe for various individuals across the population.

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How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games

I've never coached a high school baseball game - or any game, for that matter. I have, however, worked alongside some tremendous high school coaches - from my time with Team USA, to our five staff members who've coached, to various close friends. And, I've watched more high school baseball games than I can possibly count (my fourth date with my wife was a high school state championship game in 2007). So, I feel reasonably qualified to comment on this topic - and I've run this theory by several accomplished coaches who have all agreed.

I'm of the belief that high school baseball games are rarely won; rather, they are lost. Usually, the mistakes far exceed the outstanding play, and the team who makes fewer mistakes invariably ends up on top. As Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders has said, "you have to win the free base war."

With that said, bear with me as I outline five things that virtually guarantee you wins in high school baseball.

1. Have a catcher who can receive/block.

There is nothing more painful to watch than a CATCHer who can't CATCH or block. It derails an entire game because you immediately take away a pitcher's confidence (impacting #5 from below) and have him worried about the running game all the time. The good news is that receiving and blocking is highly trainable - and in a relatively short amount of time - with good instruction as long as you have a player who isn't afraid to put in the work and roll around in the dirt. And, elite arm speed isn't necessary behind the plate at the high school level. This quality is highly trainable.

2. Make the throws and catches you're expected to make - and don't throw the ball around.

You don't need to have Andrelton Simmons' range or arm to be a good high school defender; you just need to be intelligent enough to not make big mistakes in overestimating your abilities. I'm a huge believer that paying strict attention to good, aggressive catchplay during the warm-up period pays big dividends in this regard. Most high school kids just shoot the breeze during inattentive catchplay, and most coaches rush the long toss period because they're anxious to get to other stuff during practice. This quality is highly trainable.

3. Have strong kids that can hit the ball hard.

This is where I'm going to nerd out a bit.  If you hit the baseball hard, you will get on base more often. It's follows logically, but with the increased focus on exit velocity in MLB in recent years, we can more easily quantify it. Take a look at the huge, linear relationship between exit velocity and batting average (not to mention the concurrent increase in HR percentage):

This shouldn't surprise you: a greater exit velocity will always enable balls to find more holes and gaps, and put more pressure on the defense to induce more errors (especially in high school baseball, where many young athletes are still legitimately afraid of the ball). I can guarantee you that the averages probably go up an additional 150-200 points in the high school game because defenders don't have as much range, parks are smaller, infields aren't as smooth, and a host of other factors. How realistic is it for high school hitters to attain these exit velocities? I asked my buddy Bobby Tewksbary, and he sent this along to me:

"High school exit velocities vary greatly depending on many factors like weight, strength, speed and skill. Using HitTrax, we see high school freshmen who are still prepubescent and struggle to break 70 mph. On the upper end, we recently had a high school junior hit a ball 108 mph. This is on par with - or higher than - our pro clients. Most varsity players are in the upper 80s to low 90s. Anything above 100 mph is usually reserved for D1 caliber players. As an example, we recently had a senior D1 commit (on HitTrax) hit a ball 106.4 mph and 481 feet."

Obviously, this doesn't take into account that you actually have to face live pitching, but if you're a high school hitter consistently hitting the ball 90mph+ in games, you can bet that you'll be hitting at a .400 clip.

As a frame of reference, the best Cressey Sports Performance "attendance" from a single team was the 2011 Lincoln-Sudbury (L-S) Regional High School baseball team that won the Massachusetts state championship. Of the 25 kids on the roster, 24 trained at CSP - and they hit .361 on the season. They scored 61 runs in six games in the playoffs. Strong players who prioritize strength and conditioning - especially in-season - hit balls hard and win a lot of games. This quality is highly trainable.

4. Run the bases aggressively/intelligently.

This is the single biggest window of adaptation and untapped competitive advantage in a high school population because a) very few coaches understand how to teach it, b) even fewer prioritize it, and c) 99% of players have easy adjustments they can make to set-up, sprint mechanics, and strategy that differentiate them quickly. With the number of walks, dropped third strikes, errors, passed balls, wild pitches, and balks we see in high school baseball, having a relatively fast, intelligent athlete on the bases is a game changer. The best athletes run wild on mediocre defenses. As a frame of reference, that same L-S team I highlighted above actually stole 81 bases in 28 games (seven innings each); that basically works out to a stolen base almost every other inning. This quality is highly trainable.

5. Have strike throwers on the mound.

Velocity is awesome and it's great to train it. The problem is that a lot of hard throwing high school arms have no idea how to harness it to command the baseball. I've seen a lot of 86-88mph arms get yanked in the second inning after seven walks while getting outpitched by a 70-poo mph arm that throws strikes. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, though: velocity is really useful (especially at the next level), but in high school, it doesn't impact outcomes nearly as much because other teams rarely have hitters that accomplish #4 from above (hitting the ball hard). In other words, you see far more games lost by crappy teams than you do games won singlehandedly by elite arms. The L-S team from earlier took 127 walks in 196 innings while only striking out 110 times. Meanwhile, their pitching staff (which included two D1 arms, including future Vanderbilt closer and 4th round draft pick Adam Ravenelle) punched out 254 guys while walking 110. If you put up a 2.5: 1 K:BB ratio in high school baseball, you're going to win a lot more games than you lose. This quality is highly trainable, although not quite as much as some of the others from above.

Bringing It Together

Go to most high school practices, and you'll see a lot of time wasted. You'll see a lot of guys standing around in the outfield shagging BP. You'll watch the mind-numbing slow jog around the field during the warm-up, or some underwhelming static stretching in a circle. You'll want some pre-throwing drills - wrist flicks and half-kneeling work - that can probably be skipped. It may be excessive time spent on every obscure situational defense scenario with lots of guys standing around. In other words, there is a lot of time that can be "repurposed."

How do you use this time better?

1. Work with your catchers. Don't just beat them like rented mules; challenge them and teach them.

2. Teach baserunning and sprint mechanics, and run the bases hard.

3. Prioritize and coach the heck out of catch play. Don't rush long toss.

4. Emphasize strength and conditioning year-round, and don't let it fall off inseason.

5. Give pitchers consistent developmental challenges. Actually schedule bullpens and have an expectation for what is to be worked on and achieved in each one.

You win games focusing on big rocks, not majoring in the minutia where there aren't large windows of growth possible.

*A special thanks to Coach Kirk Fredericks for not only pulling all these statistics together for me, but for teaching me a lot of these things over the years. Kirk went 269-68 with three state titles in 14 years as a head coach at L-S and is one of the best coaches I've seen at any level. I'm lucky to have him as a resource.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/3/18

I hope you're having a great week. Here's some recommended reading from around the 'net to finish it off on a high note.

11 Deadlifting Tips - I contributed to this deadlift compilation for T-Nation, and it covers this big lift from a number of different perspectives.

The Biggest Change in Strength Coaching - This quick post from Dave Tate was spot-on with where I see the industry headed in future years.

Vernon Griffith on Communication, Mindset, and Lasting Impact in Youth Athletics - I love learning from coaches who understand how to get through to athletes and create long-term positive changes. This podcast is a great example.

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When we coach our overhead medicine ball stomp variations, I never want athletes to try to "deaden" the rebound by catching the ball as it comes right off the floor. This approach is shown in the video on the right, and you'll notice that I'm already in deceleration mode (in anticipation of "protecting" against the rebound) rather than powering through the entire range of motion. Contrast it to the better technique on the left, where I just "let it eat" and then "regroup" with a catch at torso height. 👇 Another downside to trying to stop the rebound closer to the floor is that it markedly increases the likelihood that you'll jam a thumb. And, where there really aren't any benefits to stopping the rebound lower down, it's really not worth the risk. #cspfamily

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