Home 2019 March

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 33

It's time for this month's installment of my random thoughts on sports performance training. In light of my ongoing sale on my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource, I thought I'd focus this edition on the shoulder.

1. If you want a healthy shoulder, getting tobacco products out of your life is a good place to start.

The research is pretty clear: smoking is a bad idea (and an independent risk factor) if you're looking to stay healthy from a musculoskeletal standpoint, or have a good outcome in rehabilitation (whether conservative or post-surgical) . Here's an excerpt from a recent study with an excellent review of the literature:

"Cigarette smoking adversely affects a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and procedures, including spinal fusion, fracture healing, surgical wound healing, tendon injury and knee ligament reconstruction. More recently, smoking has been suggested to negatively impact rotator cuff tear pathogenesis and healing. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a potent vasoconstrictor that can reduce the blood supply to the already relatively avascular rotator cuff insertion. Furthermore, carbon monoxide in smoke reduces the oxygen tension levels available for cellular metabolism. The combination of these toxins may lead to the development of attritional rotator cuff tears with a decreased capacity for healing."

Many times, we're looking for the best exercise, rehabilitation protocol, soft tissue treatment, or volume amounts - but we really ought to be looking at lifestyle factors.

With a large baseball readership on this site, the logical next question: are these harmful effects also noted with smokeless tobacco (i.e., dip/chew)? The research is somewhat sparse, as it's harder to study a younger, active population than a bunch of middle-aged post-operative rotator cuff patients. However, it's hard to believe that the aforementioned carbon monoxide implications would cause 100% of the issues and that the nicotine would serve as just an innocent bystander. So if you're looking to check every box in your quest to stay healthy, it's not a bad idea to lay off the dip.

And, if healthy tendons aren't enough to convince you, do yourself a favor and read this article by Curt Schilling.

2. The 1-arm, 1-leg landmine press isn't a mainstay in your training programs, but can be a perfect fit in a few circumstances.

This looks like kind of a wussy exercise, but I actually really like it in two circumstances.

a. It's awesome in a post-surgery period when you can't load like crazy, but still want folks to be challenged in their upper extremity progressions. The single-leg support creates a more unstable environment, which means that antagonist activity is higher and there is more work going to joint stability than actual movement. In other words, it makes pressing safer.

b. Once we get to the inseason period, it allows us to check two boxes with a single exercise: single-leg balance and upper body strength (plus serratus activation/scapular upward rotation).

3. Posterior pelvic tilt increases lower trap activation.

I've written about it a lot in the past: core positioning has an incredibly important impact on shoulder function. Check out this study on how reducing anterior pelvic tilt increases lower trapezius activation during arm elevation and the return from the overhead position.

In my experience working with extension-rotation athletes (particularly baseball players), one of the biggest risk factors for shoulder injury is when the lower trapezius can't keep up with the latissimus dorsi. Just consider the attachment points of the lat in the picture below; as you can imagine, if you posteriorly tilt the pelvis, the lat is inhibited, making it easier for lower trap to get to work.

The lower trapezius is very important for providing posterior tilt (slight tipping back) of the scapula and assisting in upward rotation. These two functions are key for a pitcher to get the scapula in the correct position during the lay-back phase of throwing.

By contrast, the lat has more of a "gross" depression effect on the scapula; it pulls it down, but doesn't contribute to posterior tilting or upward rotation. This might help with an adult rotator cuff pain patient who has an aggressive scapular elevation (shrug) substitution pattern, but it's actually problematic for a thrower who is trying to get his scapula up and around the rib cage to make sure that the ball-on-socket congruency is "flush" when it really matters: the maximal external rotation position.

As such, you can say that the lat and lower trap "compete" for control of the scapula - and the lat has a big advantage because of its cross-sectional area and multiple attachment points. It's also much easier to train and strengthen - even if it's by accident. Upper body work in faulty core positioning (in this case, too much anterior pelvic tilt and the accompanying lumbar extension) shifts the balance to the lats.

We'll often hear throwers cued "down and back" during arm care drills. The intention - improving posterior tilt via lower trap activation - is admirable, but the outcome usually isn't what's desired. Unless athletes are actually put in a position of posterior tilt where they can actually feel the lower traps working, they don't get it. Instead, they pull further down into scapular depression, which feeds the lat-dominant strategy. This is why we teach almost all our throwers to differentiate between depression and posterior tilt early on in their training at Cressey Sports Performance.

If you're looking to learn more about how I assess, program, and coach at the shoulder, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. Learn more at www.SturdyShoulders.com.

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Opening Day Sale!

It's Opening Day, which is basically my favorite "holiday" of the year. I'm a huge baseball fan, and it means there is plenty of awesome Major League Baseball action to watch, including 39 Cressey Sports Performance athletes on MLB rosters to kick off the season.

To celebrate, I've put my resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions, on sale for 30% off through Sunday at midnight. This has been one of my most popular resources of all time, so don't miss out on this great chance to pick it up at an excellent discount. Just head to www.SturdyShoulders.com and enter the coupon code BASEBALL at checkout to get the discount.


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St. Louis Seminar Announcement: June 2, 2019

I just wanted to give you a heads-up on one-day seminar with me in St. Louis on Sunday, June 2, 2019.

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.


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


Output Performance
1429 Strassner Dr.
St Louis, MO 63144

Continuing Education Credits

This event is approved for 0.7 CEUs through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Cost: $199.99

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: 3/27/19

I hope you're having a great week. Here's a little recommended reading and listening to get you through your Wednesday!

7 Tips for Training Around Lower Back Pain - Mike Robertson outlines some great suggestions for anyone (which is most people) who has struggled with lower back pain at some point or another.

Eccentric Hamstrings Loading for Strength, Hypertrophy, and Injury Prevention - This was a pretty thorough article from Dean Somerset that includes plenty of videos of exercise options to take care of those hammies.

Atomic Habits - I just finished up this audiobook by James Clear. If you've read "The Power of Habit," this is a good follow-up that builds on its concepts. I particularly like the "Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery" equation.

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Most of the Instagram posts you see that celebrate entrepreneurship are of the following: 1️⃣Entrepreneur posing in front of a fancy car that was rented for a photo shoot. 2️⃣Entrepreneur sitting in a coffee shop, dressed in business casual, sipping a latte, while working on a laptop. 3️⃣Entrepreneur taking a selfie in an exotic location, with the caption reminding you that you, too, can have great autonomy and work from anywhere if you just follow the tips he/she outlines. You know what? It's not really like that for 99% of entrepreneurs, 99% of the time. With that in mind, this photo of my wife on Friday should serve as a nice reflection of the "other side" of entrepreneurship: the problem with self-employment is that your boss is an a**hole. 😂 In addition to having her own optometry practice, @annacressey also helps out at @cresseysportsperformance - FL with scheduling and billing. On Friday, we were scheduled for a 12:30pm C-section with our third child, but a few emergency C-sections had to take place before we could have our baby, so we got pushed back about 3.5 hours. Luckily, the hospital had great WiFi, so we got some work done. Here she is - uncomfortably pregnant, IV in, and 17 hours with no food or water - ordering some contacts lenses, doing her month-end financials, and scheduling me evaluations. 🤷🏻‍♂️ So, the next time a 23-year-old lifestyle entrepreneur tells you that he's got all the secrets to help you live the life you want, just remember that there's probably a badass mother of three who can share a whole lot more entrepreneurship reality wisdom with you. . . . #cspfamily #entrepreneur #entrepreneurlife #entrepreneurship

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Vertical Shin and the Pitching Delivery

I came across this picture of Cressey Sports Performance athlete Corey Kluber on the Cleveland Indians Instagram feed the other day, and it reminded me to write this blog that I've had on my mind for quite some time.

It's not an exactly perfect measure, but a vertical shin on the push-off leg during the pitching delivery is a pretty good indicator of pitchers having good direction to the plate.

When the knee drifts forward over the toes, it's a pretty good sign that hip loading isn't optimal in the sagittal plane (hip flexion). Rather, the pitcher is "dumping" into the quad on the support leg. Additionally, unless you have really good ankle mobility (into dorsiflexion) it's hard to preserve a large base of support (i.e., the entire foot) through which you can apply force to the ground. The more the knee drifts forward, the more likely the heel is to come up off the ground.

Corey is a great example of a vertical shin, and it's particularly impressive because he has quite a bit of extra "coil" in his leg lift, which can often make pitchers spin out of the hip and get rotational early. His ability to load back into hip flexion and apply force into the ground improves his direction to the plate and, in turn, his consistency and command (only 34 walks in 215 innings last year).

Some great pitchers - Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta, for instance - will sacrifice good direction to the plate in order to optimize deception and/or stuff. In spite of the fact that they don't preserve heel contact along the rubber quite as long, they still preserve stability long enough into the delivery to make it work. You'll also notice these pitchers use their glove sides and "aggressive" stiffness into the front leg to bring them back on line. It's a higher maintenance delivery, but it can still be nasty. And, chances are that the success will be more related to the stuff than pristine command.

My feeling is that with young pitchers, we want to coach to improve direction. They don't have a body of work to support the legitimacy of putting themselves into bad positions. This is where good footwork and intent during catch play is so imperative; it's where they hammer home direction and learn to load into the hip instead of drifting into the knee. Long-time Cressey Sports Performance athlete Tim Collins might be the best I've ever seen in this regard, and this is one reason why he's pitched in the mid-90s at a height of 5-7 throughout his pro career.

In more advanced pitchers, you have to ask whether they've a) had success and b) stayed healthy. If the answer to both these questions is "yes," then my feeling is that you leave the direction alone and instead focus on taking care of optimizing their physical preparation.

As example, a pitcher with a less vertical shin and more closed off delivery will need more hip internal rotation, thoracic rotation, and scapular upward rotation to get to consistently throw to the glove side. And if they can't do these things well, they'll often rip off accidental cutters to the glove side, have balls run back over the plate, or just sail fastballs up and armside.

Last, but not least, my business partner (and CSP pitching coordinator) Brian Kaplan made a really good point recently: pitch "tunneling" is generally going to be significantly better for pitchers who have better direction. It makes sense, as less moving parts equates to more consistent vertical and horizontal release points, and a more direct delivery to the plate likely makes it harder for hitters to gauge depth (even if they are likely sacrificing some deception). If there is one thing our Major League hitters have told me about facing Kluber, it's that everything looks exactly the same until the split-second.


So, long story short, you can't separate direction from pitch design and physical preparation; they all work together. And if you're looking for a good measure of direction, vertical shin (or something close to it) is a pretty good place to start.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach pitchers - both in terms of strength and conditioning and mechanics - - you won't want to miss our Elite Baseball Mentorship Upper Extremity course. Our next offering will take place at our Hudson, MA location on June 23-25. You can learn more HERE.

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Free Presentation: Hip Shoulder Separation in Rotational Athletes: Making Sense of the Thoracic Spine

We're really proud of what we've created with the CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast. And, we're confident you will really like it, too - so we'd love it if you'd subscribe to the opt-in box below so that we can notify you each time a new episode goes live. To sweeten the deal, to start, everyone will receive free access to my 35-minute presentation, Hip Shoulder Separation in Rotational Athletes: Making Sense of the Thoracic Spine. I delivered this presentation to a packed house at the popular Pitchapalooza seminar, and it's yours free when you opt in.

Only email address is required; you'll be emailed the access link right away (be sure to check your junk mail folder): 

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Baseball Athleticism: It’s Probably Not What You Think It Is

A while back, I delivered an inservice for a MLB sports medicine staff, and one of the strength and conditioning interns asked me a question:

"I'm new to baseball. If there was one important reminder you'd give to someone in my position with respect to working with baseball players, what would it be?"

My response:

"You have to emotionally separate yourself from your perception of what makes athletes successful. Often, baseball players are successful because of traits and characteristics as much as they are actual athleticism."

Think about it...

We've seen position players who are phenomenal athletes who didn't make it to the big leagues because they couldn't hit breaking balls.

We know of absolutely electric arms who never panned out at higher levels of pro ball because they didn't have effective secondary offerings to complement their fastballs.

We've watched underwhelming physiques hit mammoth homeruns, and we've watched bad bodies on the mound dominate hitters because they've mastered a knuckleball.

Do you think these absurdly long fingers might be able to learn an elite changeup faster than ones that are, say, six inches shorter?

And, do you think this insanely long middle finger might impact how well he can throw a slider?

Don't you think this freaky hypermobility might be advantageous for this pitcher to contort his body in all sorts of directions to create deception and get way down the mound?

Hitters with 20/10 vision are going to stand a better chance of making it to the big leagues than those with 20/40.

I'm not saying you should encourage baseball players to be sloppy fat or weak, or to encourage them to avoid stretching or lifting. I'm just telling you that you need to appreciate that every athlete is successful for different reasons. Some of these traits will impact how you train that player, and others won't matter much at all. Either way, appreciate that baseball players rarely look, run, or jump like chiseled NFL wide receivers. And, more importantly, figure out how to heavily leverage and protect the exact characteristics that make them great.

If you're interested in learning about how your own unique structural and functional characteristics - and how they relate to your on-field performance and training preparations - I'd strongly encourage you to consider a visit to a Cressey Sports Performance facility to get a thorough evaluation to determine where your deficiencies exist. When you put a video evaluation of pitching/hitting alongside a thorough movement screen, it can be a very powerful combination to unlock hidden potential. For both amateur and professional players, we offer both short-term consultations and the more extensive Elite Baseball Development Summer Collegiate Program (MA) and Pro Experience (FL).

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Exercise of the Week: Heiden with Medicine Ball

Here is a good frontal plane power development exercise that Cressey Sports Performance - FL co-founder Shane Rye introduced recently. Because we aren’t very creative, we just call it a Heiden with Med Ball.

Important coaching cues:

1. The medicine ball (usually 6-10lbs) is held (but NOT bear-hugged) as a counterbalance that helps an athlete load back into the hips on the eccentric component. As such, this is an awesome drill for rotational athletes who tend to drift into the knee instead of loading back into the hip. This side angle should help you to appreciate it better:

2. You’ll notice that the arms still move side to side in conjunction with the lower body pushoff. If the arms aren’t moving, it’s a sign that you are holding the ball too rigidly. You should actually be able to see hip-shoulder separation.

3. Make sure that you are wearing sneakers that provide good lateral support.

4. We’ll usually program 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps, and perform these after a warm-up, but before more aggressive sprint and agility work.

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The 4 Most Common Barbell Hip Thrust Technique Mistakes

As I've written previously (see In Defense of the Hip Thrust), I'm a fan of barbell hip thrusts (and supine bridges). Like most exercises, though, there are some common technique pitfalls. This week, on my Instagram, I featured the four most common mistakes I see in this regard. Check them out: 

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This is my second installment of this week's series on coaching cues for the barbell hip thrust. Today, we'll focus on weight distribution through the foot. 👇 Often, you'll see individuals go up to the balls of the feet and toes when they're at the top position. This can occur because the individual has either set up with the feet too far away from the hips, or because a quad-dominant individual is actually trying to extend the knees to lift the weight. 🤔 In the former instance, the quick fix is to move the heels a bit closer to the body in the starting position so that the knees end up at a 90-degree angle at the top position (hip extension w/knee flexion). In the latter instance, it can help to a) tell the athlete to go barefoot (more heel contact = more posterior chain recruitment) or b) imagine grabbing the floor as if you're trying to pick up a basketball with your arch. 👍 Thanks to @nickcioffi_14 for the demo and @pete_dupuis for the design work. #cspfamily #hipthrust #glutebridge

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This is my third installment of this week's series on coaching cues for the barbell hip thrust. Today, we'll cover head/neck posture. 👇 Often, you'll see individuals go into a forward head posture at the top position. As a result, they wind up jacking up their neck when they're trying to train the lower body. This can occur because the individual has tried to preserve the line of sight from the starting position even though the torso angle has changed due to the hip extension further down. 👎 A quick "make a double chin" cue usually cleans it up, especially with athletes who've built up a lot of context for neutral neck posture with other exercises. If it doesn't, however, I like to just put the palm of my hand an inch in front of their face on warm-ups as an external focus cue; if they make contact with it, they're slipping into forward head posture. 👍 Thanks to @nickcioffi_14 for the demo and @pete_dupuis for the formatting. #cspfamily #hipthrust #glutebridge

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This is my fourth and final installment of this week's series on coaching cues for the barbell hip thrust. Today, we'll look at hip/spine positioning at the finish position. 👇 Often, you'll see individuals substitute extension of the lumbar spine (lower back) for hip extension, especially at the top position. The gluteus maximus is a terminal hip extensor, which means that those last 10 degrees of hip extension are crucial. It's very easy to load up a lot of weight and come up short on this exercise - or just find bad motion through the wrong place (spine). 👎 The correct finish position has a straight line from the knees to the top of the head, with the glutes activated in the top position. When done correctly, this exercise should lead to zero lower back discomfort (or soreness the next day). 👍 Thanks to @nickcioffi_14 for the demo and @pete_dupuis for the formatting. #cspfamily #hipthrust #glutebridge

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/4/19

I'm working on getting back on an every Monday schedule with this recommended reading feature. Here goes!

8 Training Tips for the New Dad - My wife is scheduled for a C-section this Friday as we make the Cressey crew a party of five. It seemed like a good time to bring this article I wrote back in 2016 (two years after our twin daughters were born) to the forefront again.

Dr. Stu McGill on the Strongfirst Podcast - Interviews with Stu never disappoint, and this is a great example.

Assessments: Can Your Clients Actually Do What You Want Them To Do? - This was an excellent post from my long-time friend, Tony Gentilcore.

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*LANDMINE PRESS PROGRESSIONS* 👇 If you’ve followed my work for any length of time, you know all too well that I’m a huge fan of landmine press variations as shoulder friendly upper body pushing options. Here’s how we progress them (be sure to swipe left for a demonstration of each one): 💪 1️⃣Standing Landmine Press – I like this option first for most athletes because the standing position provides for a more horizontal line of pressing, which allows folks to get away with a bit less scapular upward rotation. It can also be helpful in untrained clients who don’t have the strength to press the bar “strictly” from the upper body yet. They can use a bit of lower body contribution (similar to a push press) to get the weight moving. 2️⃣Half-Kneeling Landmine Press – It’s a slightly narrower base of support than in the standing position, and requires more scapular upward rotation to get the job done. And, you can’t use any body English to get the bar moving; it has to be strict. 3️⃣Split-Stance Landmine Press – This builds on the standing landmine press, but with a narrower base of support. And, it’s more challenging stabilization-wise than the half-kneeling landmine press because there are fewer points of contact with the floor, and the center of mass is further up away from the base of support. 4️⃣Low to High Rotational Landmine Press – This is an opportunity to get more athletic with the motion and really focus on transferring force from the lower body to the upper body. 5️⃣Squat to Landmine Press – This one challenges whole-body mobility and an athlete’s ability to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body. 6️⃣Reverse Lunge to 1-arm Landmine Press – There are a few moving parts to this, but most athletes who have solid single-leg strength, good core control, and a grasp on the basic landmine press variations will do well on it. There are other options (e.g., tall kneeling, seated) on the landmine press that we’ll occasionally use, but these six constitute ~95% of all the landmine presses you’ll find in @cresseysportsperformance programs. What other variations do you like? Thanks to @nickcioffi_14 for great demos! #cspfamily

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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
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