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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 32

In light of the busy baseball offseason, I'm long overdue for an update to this series. So, here goes!

1. Have a long-term plan, but not necessarily a long-term program.

The other day, an observational visitor to CSP-FL asked me if I had a big, overarching goal for all our professional baseball players. My response was simple: "Minor league guys need to get through five 4-week programs, and big leaguers need to get through four."

The MLB regular season always ends on a Sunday, so the math is actually easy to do. We know most MLB guys report around February 14, which gives us 19.5 weeks for the offseason. That 3.5 week "buffer" accounts for some time off, some vacation, a few days over the holidays, and travel to Spring Training. We "give" a little bit on guys who played well into the postseason in the previous year.

Over this 16 weeks of training, we transition from active recovery, improving mobility and building work capacity, to building strength and power, to transitioning into more specific skill development. It's all something we've become comfortable handling as long as we can get in those four program blocks. However, while we have a long-term plan, we don't write all the programs up in advance. Why? Very simply, what you put on paper for a January program when you write it three months in advance almost always needs to be modified prior to the time when it's actually being executed. Even the best players on the planet who've established really good offseason routines have to call audibles on the fly as various things come up throughout the offseason.

Have a general framework in place, but don't be so rigidly adherent to it that you can't pivot on the fly over the course of several months. It'll save you time and make your programming more effective if you write the specific components of your offseason progressions when the time is at hand.

2. Good coaching always comes back to relative stiffness.

Give this video of a back-to-wall shoulder flexion a watch:

Now, think about what's happening from a stiffness standpoint. When the arms go overhead, we're asking good stiffness of the anterior core (rectus abdominus, external obliques), glutes, and scapular upward rotators (upper trap, lower trap, and serratus anterior) to overpower bad stiffness of the lumbar extensors, lats, and scapular downward rotators (levator scapulae, pec minor, and rhomboids).

This good vs. bad stiffness interaction is taking place in every single movement we prescribe and coach. If we don't appreciate functional anatomy and understand how to tone down the bad and tone up the good, we simply can't be efficient coaches.

If you're looking to learn more about relative stiffness, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement.

3. Be careful with predicted max charts.

Last week, I hit a personal record (PR) with five reps at 600lbs on my conventional deadlift.

PRs asid, though, it was actually a pretty good example of how off the predicted max charts really are.

After this set, I plugged 600 pounds and 5 reps into four separate predicted max calculators I found on the internet. The projections for my 1RM were anywhere from 675 pounds all the way up to 705 pounds. That 675 might be a possibility, but taking that to a 705 might very well be two years worth of specialized deadlift training.

Predicted max calculators have their place, but don't think for a second that they're perfectly accurate. And, they're even less accurate with a) more experienced lifters and b) lifters with a heavy fast twitch profile.

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2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program

Registration is now open for the 2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program. This event takes place at our Hudson, MA facility, and runs from 6/3/19 through 8/10/19.

During last year's offering, we had pitchers move to Massachusetts from sixteen different states. This summer, we anticipate another awesome collection of motivated athletes who'll push each other to get better in conjunction with the same training opportunities and expertise we provide to our professional athletes.

This program is a good fit for pitchers who need to prioritize development over just getting innings or exposure. In other words, it's a suitable replacement for those who still need to throw, but also need to gain 20 pounds, learn a new pitch, sort out old aches and pains, or improve their mobility.

Each athlete will begin with a thorough initial movement and pitching assessment that will set the stage for individualized strength and conditioning and throwing programs, respectively. These programs correspond to six days a week of training. Generally, four of the six training days per week are double sessions, with throwing in the morning and strength and conditioning in the afternoons. A typical training week would look like the following:

Monday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Tuesday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Wednesday: Late AM throwing and movement training (at field)
Thursday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Friday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Saturday: Optional AM Mobility Work and Recovery Session, AM Throwing and movement training
Sunday: Off

In our throwing programs, we integrate weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis). We'll integrate Rapsodo in these bullpens as well.

All the athletes will receive manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist, and nutritional guidance throughout the program. Also to help with recovery, athletes have access to MarcPro, and Normatec.

Last, but not least, we'll incorporate a regular educational components to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training. Last year, this consisted of not only staff presentations, but also conference calls with Major League players and established coaches from around the country.

The best part is that it'll take place in a motivating environment where athletes can push each other to be the best they can be. By optimizing the situation, you can help change the person.

Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com - but don't delay, as spaces are limited; this offering sold out last year, and we'll be capping the group size.

In the coming weeks, we'll be highlighting some case studies from last year's group that should give you a better feel for how the programs work.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/14/19

Let's kick off the week with some good recommended reading and listening!

Chidi Enyia on Building Explosive Speed, Strength and Power with Potentiation - There's some really good stuff in this podcast with Chidi Enyia and Mike Robertson.

Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? - This was a lengthy feature at Outside Magazine that I found intriguing.

Never Lose a Customer Again - This is a great read for anyone who has clients/customers, but I found it particularly interesting because it spoke quite a bit to retention in the fitness industry, with shoutouts to the Starrets (San Francisco Crossfit) and Jon Goodman (the Personal Trainer Development Center).

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Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Cable Lift w/Flexion-Rotation Hold

The half-kneeling cable lift w/flexion-rotation hold is a new variation on an old drill, and we've been implementing it quite a bit with guys of late. It's a creation of CSP-FL co-founder and pitching coordinator Brian Kaplan.

Like all cable chops and lifts, we're training anti-rotation core stability. However, in this variation of the cable lift, the athlete drives thoracic (upper back) rotation and flexion, two crucial pieces of getting to an ideal ball release position during throwing, or completing a swing during hitting.

Simultaneously, the athlete should be actively pulling into the front hip (adduction and internal rotation) to simulate the same front hip force acceptance you get during the pitching delivery and hitting motion.

Of course, there are many functional performance benefits that extend far beyond the baseball world. This drill will benefit anyone who competes in extension-rotation sports, not to mention your casual weekend golfer. In short, it trains core stability and thoracic mobility, so it has almost universal application.

We'll usually program this for 6-8 reps per side. On each rep, we have a 2-3 second hold at the lockout position with a full exhale. You should really feel the core turn on - and in some cases, you'll even see athletes get a little cramp in the abs.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/4/19

Here's your first recommended reading/listening compilation of 2019!

Complete Youth Training - This resource was my top product review of 2018, so I reached out to Mike Boyle (the creator) to see if he'd be up for running a quick promo sale for my readers, and he kindly agreed. Through tonight at midnight, you can get $50 off on the resource. No coupon code is needed; just head HERE.

Mark Fisher on Unicorns, Ninjas, and Business Success - Mark Fisher is an awesome guy and very intelligent business resource in the fitness industry. This interview for Mike Robertson's podcast is an outstanding listen for anyone who works in our field.

Why You Should Be Planning for 2020, not 2019 - I really enjoyed this article from Benjamin Hardy. In particular, this line resonated with me: "Don’t just plant a tree, plant an orchard."

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Pitching Mechanics: What to Make of an Open Landing Position

After my recent presentation at Pitchapalooza in Nashville, I received the following question from a college coach who was in attendance:

Q: "My question revolves around pitchers landing with an open foot position. From your experience and from a biomechanical standpoint what have you seen regarding this landing/stride position in regards to why it occurs and how you have gone about correcting it? And, how have you seen it impact knee and back health. My experience has been that there is either some underlying knee or back history, or something is about to occur. In the recruiting process, I've spoken with several coaches and scouts who won’t consider someone who has this issue (open foot strike) regardless of velocity, due to concerns over long term health."

A: This answer can go in a lot of directions, so I decided to film a video:

In terms of a real-world example, take a look at Cressey Sports Performance athlete and Astros pitcher, Josh James. Josh has a slightly more retroverted hips presentation, and you can see that he lands a bit open. This is his normal alignment and he controls his body well, so it works for him (to the tune of consistent 100mph+ velocity).

More often that not, though, the pitchers who are winding up in this open foot position are getting there because of mechanical faults or physical limitations.

[bctt tweet="It's imperative to have a thorough assessment process for pitchers; you never want to try to take a mechanical fix to a movement problem."]

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The Best of 2018: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2018" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. When Pitching Goes Poorly: 5 Strategies for Righting the Ship - Pitchers can struggle for many reasons beyond just mechanics. Here are five factors to take into account.

2. Is It Really Biceps "Tendonitis? - One of my biggest pet peeves is when all anterior shoulder pain is given a "blanket diagnosis" of biceps tendonitis. With that in mind, this webinar excerpt from my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource delves into the topic in greater detail.

3. How to Apply the Joint-by-Joint Approach to the Elbow - In this video blog, I discuss how we can apply the concept of regional interdependence to the elbow, particularly in the context of pitching injuries.

4. How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games - I've haven't coached a high school baseball game in my life. I know a lot about adaptation to training in youth athletes, though, and that puts me in a unique position to comment on how to win high school baseball games.

5. Why Injuries are Highest Early in the Baseball Season (Video) - 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.

We've got one last "Best of 2018" list running tomorrow, so stay tuned for the closer!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/18

This will be the last recommended reading/listening of the year, as we're switching over to the "Best of 2018" series in the next few days. In the meantime, check these out! And happy holidays!

59 Lessons: Working with the World's Elite Coaches, Athletes, and Special Forces - Fergus Connolly just released this new book, and I'm excitedly going through it. He's one of the sharpest minds in the sports science field, so it's sure to be a good one.

How Should We Space Training to Optimize Skill Acquisition - This was a quick, but awesome listen on Rob Gray's Perception and Action Podcast. A special thanks to CSP-MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders for sharing it with me.

Are You Doing Too Much Rotator Cuff Work Before Throwing? - This article came from my series on common arm care mistakes, and I decided to bring it back to the forefront in light of a conversation I had with an athlete about how his warm-ups shouldn't take 60 minutes.

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We’re using more Kettlebell Windmills. Here’s why.

We've started using kettlebell windmills a lot more with our athletes this year. I think they slide in nicely (similar to Turkish Get-ups) as a first exercise on upper body days, even if they are more of a full-body exercise.

Generally speaking, I think we underappreciate how solid motion (or resistance to it) in the frontal plane really matters for folks from all walks of life. If you haven't read it already, check out my recent blog, Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 6, where I discuss the importance of assessing lateral flexion.

To me, the kettlebell windmill is the perfect exercise for teaching athletes how to groove proper core positioning as they load into the hip in multiple planes of motion. My most common cue to athletes with this exercise is, "Load into the hip hinge; don't just side bend."

As you'll see in this picture below, it's possible to get the motion in the wrong places. This would qualify as a side bend - and you can easily appreciate that not all motion is good motion.

We'll perform this exercise both "regular" and with a bottoms-up approach. I think it's best positioned early in the training session for 2-8 reps per set. Make sure athletes have adequate hip mobility and entry-level core control before jumping right to it. I actually like it as a subtle regression from Turkish Get-ups, especially in uncoordinated individuals and those who may lack a bit of shoulder mobility.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/17/18

I hope you had a great weekend. We're getting back on an every Monday schedule with this recommended reading. Before I get to it, just a quick reminder that I just announced a new date for my one-day shoulder course. It'll be taking place near Dallas, TX on January 27. You can learn more HERE.

How Rib Cage Positioning Impacts the Pitching Delivery - CSP-MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders wrote this up last year, and in light of a recent conversation on pitching mechanics, I wanted to bring it back to the forefront.

Fergus Connolly on Winning and Success at Every Level - Fergus is one of the most insightful guys in the sports science world, and this podcast with Mike Robertson is a great example.

The 7 Keys to Longevity with Dr. Jonny Bowden - Jason Ferruggia interviewed Dr. Bowden on his up-to-date thoughts on a variety of topics: nutrition, sleep, stress, and several other factors.

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Here is an awesome cadaver photo to demonstrate just how little wiggle room there is when dealing with the shoulder. The glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint is maintained in such a small window that it’s possible to say that impingement is a physiological norm. These challenges are even more extreme in the case of structural adaptations and pathology. In other words, we can’t leave any stones unturned in our quest for shoulder health, particularly when one’s sport demands involve high forces and extreme ranges of motion. Anatomy never lies. #cspfamily #Repost @chicagosportsdoc with @get_repost ・・・ Rotator cuff anatomy - A tear into one of these tendons is a common cause of pain and disability among adults. Each year, almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctors because of a rotator cuff problem.

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