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Does Posture Actually Matter?

You often find people who claim that static posture doesn't matter. In many cases, their argument is based on research that doesn't demonstrate a definitive relationship between posture and pain. While I've got an extensive rebuttal to this opposing viewpoint, the easiest way to answer is to say that posture alone doesn't perfectly relate to pain or performance. Rather, it's the interaction of posture with both positions and load that matters.

Take this downsloped clavicle, as an example. Someone with this posture might live a completely normal life as a track and field runner, or someone who sits in the desk all day. However, throw this posture (scapular/clavicular depression) into the overhead athlete community, and the positions and loads encountered change dramatically.

If you're familiar with the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought, it shouldn't surprise you that this presentation was part of a larger left AIC/right BC pattern in a right handed pitcher, but let's just focus on this specific location for the sake of making a point with this article.

You can't tell me that the neurovascular bundle isn't compromised between the clavicle and first rib in this scenario. Or, it could happen more distally, under the attachments on the coracoid process of the scapula.

 

There's a reason we see thoracic outlet syndrome far more in baseball players than other athletic populations.
[bctt tweet="Posture loads the gun, but positions and loads specific to an athlete's sport pull the trigger."] 

This is one reason why I went to great lengths to dig in on posture in my "How Posture Impacts Pain and Performance" webinar as part of my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource. If you want to understand movement and its role in dysfunction and pain, you'd be crazy to overlook where people start.

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Prone External Rotation Compensation Patterns

Today, I've got a quick look at a common arm care substitution pattern we see when throwers are working on end-range external rotation. In the comparison video below, on the left, as the athlete gets to about 90 degrees of external rotation, he transitions to elbow flexion rather than using his posterior cuff to create clean external rotation. In the corrected version on the right, he slows it down and is able to actively tap into more of his (significant) passive ER.

You may also see athletes flock to elbow extension instead of ER, particularly when using bands/cables in the standing position. With that said, give this lengthier video I did previously a watch if you want to really dig in on the ways this drill can go wrong - but also how to progress it once you've got the technique locked in.

For folks who really struggle to compete against gravity with this, we can stand them up and work off the edge of a rack or doorway:

If you're interested in learning more about how we evaluate, coach, and program at the shoulder, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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Individualization and the College Baseball Athlete

Training little kids - 9-12-year-olds - isn't that challenging. Most are hypermobile and weak, so the foundational programs can larger look the same. Keep things fun and maintain their attention, and good things happen. This population can do amazingly with one program on the dry erase board.

In the 13-15-year-old group, things can get a little tougher because some kids have hit a huge growth, spurt, and others look more like the "gumby" 11-year-old. Most kids do fine with twice a week strength and conditioning work.

At ages 16-18, the training frequency ramps up. By junior and senior years, we see kids who are at the facility 4-6 times per week in some capacity. If they've been consistent over the years, there should be a great strength foundation, so they can start to do some cool stuff with force-velocity profiling, prioritizing different aspects of speed and rotational development, etc. I wrote an entire article about this previously: Strength in the Teenage Years: An Overlooked Long-Term Athletic Development Competitive Advantage.

The previous three paragraphs shouldn't seem revolutionary to anyone, but what's often overlooked are the challenges that come on the college front in the years that follow. The 17-18 year-olds that report to a college campus are not a homogenous group. Some have no strength and conditioning experience, and others have a ton. A college strength coach who's on his/her own with 30+ athletes of all training and chronological ages has a tall task if individualization is the goal, especially if they have to all train in narrow scheduling windows (e.g., right after practice).

As a result, you'll often see players who thrive in the first year or two on campus. They put on 15 pounds, get a ton stronger, and start throwing harder. Then, in years 3-4, they actually regress. What initially worked great (often heavy, bilateral loading) shifts to diminishing and even negative returns, leaving athletes banged up and with a loss of range of motion. It's not a knock on college strength and conditioning coaches; it's actually more of an acknowledgement that they're put in a really hard situation with too many athletes with many different needs all in the same limited time windows.

My own research has shown that in pro ball across all levels, MLB organizations range from roughly 11 athletes per strength and conditioning coach to ~27 athletes per coach. In other words, the least staffed MLB organization still has a better ratio than the most well staffed college setup, and the somewhat "staggered" daily pro schedule is more accommodating to individualization with varied training times.

In the private sector (at least at Cressey Sports Performance), our athlete-to-coach ratios are even smaller, so we are able to chase a significant degree of individualization based on the results of evaluations across multiple departments.

There's a ton of flexibility on scheduling and adjusting training times on the fly. And, perhaps most importantly, it can take place across departments, with communication among strength and conditioning coaches, pitching coaches, hitting coaches, analysts, physical therapists, and massage therapists. When communication is streamlined, individualization success skyrockets.

I think this is one reason why you have seen more and more pitchers step away from playing summer baseball to chase development. During the school year, they get an education, high level competition, and dedicated skill development work while sacrificing a bit on the strength and conditioning side of things, as well as overall continuity (you don't necessarily know when you're going to pitch). With a summer of training, you get a high level of strength and conditioning individualization, continuity (predictable plans), and dedicated skill work (e.g., pitch design) while sacrificing on the competition and education sides of things (although I'd argue that it's a different kind of education).

Unfortunately, outside of very select opportunities, summer ball doesn't really give you a high level of anything: strength and conditioning, skill development, nutrition, travel dynamics, continuity, education, or even competition. Rather, you get a bit of each, and there may be some that fall well short of expectations.

If you want to develop more than the rest, you need to prioritize certain adaptations. Maybe that's gaining 20 pounds, developing an outlier pitch, adding 4mph, or building overall work capacity. If you chase five rabbits at once, they all get away.

This is one reason why we rolled out our 10-week college summer pitching development programs at our Florida and Massachusetts facilities. We saw a need to help college arms structure their summers in individualized ways that were more conducive to development - and the results have been outstanding, with participants averaging 4+ mph fastball velocity gains in both locations. You can learn more about how we attack development in these programs at the following links:

Florida: The CSP Pro Experience

Massachusetts: CSP Collegiate Elite Baseball Development

 

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“Designer” Pitches, Horizontal Movement, and the Pitching Injury Epidemic

Just a few weeks ago, Texas Rangers team doctor and renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Meister gave a fantastic interview about the current state of arm injuries in baseball. He made a lot of good points, but one that particularly intrigued me was his commentary on how "designer pitches" were to blame for some of the challenges we're facing in today's game. In case you missed the interview, tune in starting around the 2:00 mark to get his take.

Sure enough, if you examine Major League Baseball injured lists right now, you'll see a lot of players who recently added a lot of horizontal movement on injured lists. In particular, the sweeper (a newer designation for a slider with considerable horizontal movement) seems to at least have a loose association with increased injured risk to the naked eye. In Dr. Meister's words, "to create horizontal ball movement, you've got to grip the crap out of the baseball, and then you have to cut it. Either pronate it hard, or supinate it hard with a very, very firm grip. And it's causing this eccentric load on the muscles on the inner side of the elbow and then everywhere up the kinetic chain."

To reframe this, new movement patterns are stressors. Go do five sets of ten reps on stiff-leg deadlifts, and let me know how your hamstrings feel 36 hours later. Try to do it again - or sprint at full velocity - in the days that follow, and it's probably not going to work out well for you. Eccentric stress involves a lot of muscle damage, and that stress is magnified when you layer novelty and the stress of competition in the single fastest motion in all of sports (pitching) on top of it.

In a real-world example that might resonate a bit more, check out this NY Times article about Lance Armstrong's first marathon in 2006: In Under Three Hours, Armstrong Learns Anew About Pain and Racing. Here's a key excerpt:

Exhausted and nearly walking, Armstrong crossed the finish line in 2 hours 59 minutes 36 seconds. He was 869th, with a pace of 6:51 a mile.

“I can tell you, 20 years of pro sports, endurance sports, from triathlons to cycling, all of the Tours — even the worst days on the Tours — nothing was as hard as that, and nothing left me feeling the way I feel now, in terms of just sheer fatigue and soreness,” he said, looking spent, at a news conference.

The marathon was Armstrong’s first major athletic endeavor since retiring from cycling in 2005, and he said he had not prepared for the race as he should have.

In less than a year, arguably the most accomplished cyclist of all time had become an absolute injury risk in a different athletic endeavor: running. He was able to gut his way through it with mental fortitude and (likely) the fact that his aerobic base stuck around really well. However, localized muscular endurance and tissue resilience was what faltered first.

Do you think an 18-year-old college freshman learning a sweeper on Twitter and then throwing it in a competitive game at a 40% usage clip the next day is any different? I do - because it's actually far worse.

High velocity pitching with dozens of safeguards - pitch counts, meticulous arm care programs, manual therapy, close technological scrutinization of mechanics - is still very high risk. But the risk profile becomes astronomically higher when you can learn a new pitch/approach quickly and roll it out in games at the highest levels of competition before you've had a chance to build up sufficient tissue strength and extensibility - and skill-specific work capacity.

I've had a number of conversations with Max Scherzer over the years about how he developed his curveball. It was a year of conversations with teammates about their grips; experimenting with grips; and playing catch with it before it appeared in bullpens and, in turn, games. He adjusted his training to incorporate a bit more direct eccentric biceps work to account for the slightly different movement pattern. His usage over the years:

2012: 3%
2013: 6%
2014: 10%
2015: 8%
2016: 8%
2017: 8%
2018: 8%
2019: 9%
2020: 9%
2021: 10%
2022: 9%
2023: 13%

It was a gradual, calculated process to determine not only how his body responded, but how its inclusion impacted the rest of his pitching arsenal. To this day, he's never thrown more than 23 curveballs in a game. The process had to be gradual, in part, because there wasn't technology available to accelerated the learning curve.

In contrast, thanks to advanced modern technology (namely ball tracking devices like Trackman and Rapsodo; high-speed cameras; and increased access to biomechanical analysis), pitchers can now pick up new pitches extremely quickly.

And, teams can better evaluate just how nasty these pitches are in their pitch grading models. As a result, when a team identifies an outlier pitch, they're going to want players to roll them out much more frequently. This creates a perfect storm: pitchers throwing brand new pitches at high usage rates at the highest level of competition.

Sometimes, however, these are not big adjustments. If the mentality of the pitch is the same context as an existing pitch, but with a subtle seam adjustment, I have less concern:

"Just think of getting to the front of the baseball exactly like you have with your long-time curveball."

"Just offset the grip here and throw it exactly like your fastball."

However, if you're giving someone a brand new grip and encouraging them to "grip it and rip it" in a way that's foreign to them, that's a recipe for injury. These dramatic changes require longer timelines and more calculated approaches to preparing the affected tissues. Additionally, players may need a gradual onboarding from a usage standpoint, and increased recovery between "pitch design" bouts.

I don't think "designer pitches" involving increased horizontal movement are the devil - but I do think the way that pitch design is taking place industry-wide is flawed. As I've written before, 

[bctt tweet="You can't truly evaluate a method or device without considering its application."]

The problem is exacerbated by a number of issues (and this is not an exhaustive list, by any means):

1. Early sports specialization and high velocity pitching in adolescents is leading to a generation of broken arms entering pro ball

2. Higher velocity (which is, to me, the single biggest contributing factor)

3. An increasingly specialized game (shorter outings with higher velocity and outlier pitches taking place at high usages)

4. Grip concerns ("tack" on a slippery baseball)

5. Reduced recovery time (pitch clock concerns)

6. Shorter, more specialized offseasons (more pitchers continuing to throw when the season ends - and initiating bullpens/live BPs earlier)

It goes without saying that the modern era of pitching injuries is out of control, and we can't overlook Dr. Meister's observations that this is a serious component of the challenges we face. If you're looking to dig in a little deeper on the topic, here's a podcast - How Pitching Injuries Occur - that I recorded on the topic:

 

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Justin Su’a on Establishing Processes, Solidifying Confidence, and Failing Forward

We welcome process and development coach Justin Su'a to the podcast for a deep dive into how athletes can establish good processes, separate out bad outcomes, and build unshakable confidence. Justin brings a wealth of knowledge from his work with a variety of sports and the military, so there's something for everyone in this discussion. I found myself intrigued as a coach, business owner, father, and husband throughout the entire conversation.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of AG1 travel packets with your first order.

 

You can find Justin on Instagram at @JustinSua.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 (formerly Athletic Greens) is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Luka Hocevar on Strength and Conditioning Non-Negotiables

We welcome strength and conditioning coach Luka Hocevar to the podcast for a thorough discussion on a variety of physical preparation topics, ranging from coach development, to program design, to athlete assessment. Luka also spoke to some key factors that contribute to so much athletic success in his native country of Slovenia as well. If you're an up-and-coming coach, you'll find this to be an extremely beneficial episode. And, if you're a player, Luka's story will yield a lot of perspective on how hard you have to chase your dreams.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of AG1 travel packets with your first order.

 

You can find Luka on Instagram at @LukaHocevar and YouTube HERE.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 (formerly Athletic Greens) is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: 31 Questions to Ask During the College Recruiting/Selection Process

This week's podcast might be the most important one that I've ever done, as it outlines a list of questions that I think every baseball family should have in the back of their minds as they approach the college recruiting/selection process. At Cressey Sports Performance, we've worked with countless high school kids who've gone through this process, and we've learned a lot of the norms, seen a lot of the common mistakes, and helped a lot of folks navigate these challenging times.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Wall Press 1-arm Kettlebell Thoracic Rotations

With this week's 25% off sale on Sturdy Shoulder Solutions, I thought it would be a good time to share one of my favorite thoracic spine mobility drils. The Half-kneeling Wall Press 1-arm Kettlebell Thoracic Rotation is a great example of how the best way to train rotation is from a neutral platform.

You'll notice that the rib cage is perfectly stacked over the pelvis, and the legs and feet are perfectly in alignment so that he can rotate in a narrow hallway. Further up the chain, the push of the left hand against the wall at 90 degrees of flexion gets us some serratus anterior recruitment, and left serratus activation actually facilitates right thoracic rotation. In other words, the more he pushes into the wall with his left hand, the more he can rotate to the right.

If you're looking for more insights on how I evaluate, program, and coach at the shoulder, be sure to visit www.SturdyShoulders.com and enter coupon code MLB2024 to get 25% off during our spring sale. It wraps up this Tuesday night at midnight.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Mike Boyle on Long-Term Athletic Development, Inseason Training, and Training Your Own Kids

We welcome accomplished strength and conditioning coach, author, and presenter Michael Boyle to the podcast for an expansive discussion on strength and conditioning both specific to baseball, and universal across all sports. Mike has a wealth of experience across many sports, and also in private, college, and pro settings. He shares great insights on how his thought processes have evolved, and also some lessons learned from training his own kids.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, AG1. Head to https://www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by AG1. AG1 is your daily foundational nutrition; it has 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s foundational nutrition needs across five critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. It is the new and future way of getting a multivitamin, and a whole lot more. Head to www.DrinkAG1.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use AG1 daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast – March 2024 Q&A: Sleep Tracking, Work Capacity, and Tendinopathy Wordplay

It's time for another listener Q&A, so I cover three questions from our audience in this week's podcast:

  1. I saw your recent Instagram post about how you’re using an Oura ring and noticed what it turned up when you were sick. What are your thoughts? I’ve noticed that my sleep tracking can sometimes dome me up because it doesn’t always align with how I feel.
  2. What’s something you see as heavily overlooked in training teenage athletes?
  3. I’ve recall you writing somewhere that you felt the “tendinitis” diagnosis was overused. Can you please elaborate more?

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Marc Pro. Head to www.MarcPro.com and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive an exclusive discount on your order.

 

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Marc Pro, a cutting-edge EMS device that uses patented technology to create non-fatiguing muscle activation. Muscle activation with Marc Pro facilitates each stage of the body’s natural recovery process- similar to active recovery, but without the extra effort and muscle fatigue. Athletes can use it for as long as they need to ensure a more full and quick recovery in between training or games. With its portability and ease of use, players can use Marc Pro while traveling between games or while relaxing at home. Players and trainers from every MLB team - including over 200 pro pitchers - use Marc Pro. Put Marc Pro to the test for yourself and use promo code CRESSEY at checkout at www.MarcPro.com for an exclusive discount on your order.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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