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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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4 Yoga Push-up Progression Strategies

We use yoga push-ups a lot in our training programs, but one challenge with incorporating them over the long-term with more advanced athletes is that they're hard to load up. You can't use bands or chains as external resistance because they slide over the course of the set. And, weight vests really can't provide enough external resistance without getting too bulky and cumbersome. Luckily, there are a few other ways to progress the drill:

1. Slideboard Yoga Push-ups

2. 1-leg Feet-Elevated Yoga Push-ups

3. Feet-Elevated Spiderman Yoga Push-ups

4. Yoga Push-up with Opposite Arm Reach

5. Controlled Tempo

Last, but not least, you can simply slow down the tempo at which the yoga push-up variations are performed. I like adding a full exhale at the top position, too.

Speaking of upper extremity progressions, if you're looking for some more information on how we assess, coach, and program for the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

 

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Performance Programming Principles: Installment 3

It's been a while since I updated this series on program design, so I figured it'd be a good time to throw some new material at you on this front.

1. Ground-to-standing transitions are invaluable, but it's challenging to know where to put them in programming.

I'm a big fan of exercises like Turkish get-ups and kneeling overhead hold-to-stands, as they're awesome for "syncing up" the lower and upper body to teach force transfer through a stable core. Yesterday, I posted a video of one of my new favorites - half-kneeling offset kettlebell get-ups - and I got a question about how we'd incorporate this in a program.

The challenge is that these could be considered extended warm-up drills, core work, upper body work, and even lower body work (depending on what variation you're using) once the load gets heavy enough. A kettlebell windmill can even be viewed somewhat similarly.

With that said, I find myself programming these first thing in an upper body training session. My experience has been that they are a good "transition" from the medicine ball work into more conventional rows, presses, push-ups, etc. They also generally pair really well with most upper body pulling exercises, as they aren't super grip intensive (gravity helps to hold the KB in the hand).

Later in the offseason, when guys transition to three days per week strength training, we'll plug these in as part of a full-body session because...well...they're about as full-body as you can get.

2. Complex training won't ever be "perfect" when you're working on power development in the frontal and transverse planes.

We like to work in post-activation potentiation in our offseason programs around December/January. I covered this in a lengthy article, The Stage System, at T-Nation in the past, but a quick synopsis of one benefit is that when you do heavy stuff before lighter stuff, your lighter stuff feels much faster. As a result, complex training - using a heavy strength(high load, lower velocity) exercise right before a movement that's lower force, higher velocity (e.g., jumps, throws) can be helpful for eliciting greater power output.

Here's where it gets a bit challenging when dealing with rotational sport athletes. We know that power is relatively plane specific. In other words, just using sagittal plane power exercises like broad and vertical jumps won't necessarily have great carryover to power in the frontal and transverse planes. Instead, we need to do more things like Heidens (skaters) and rotational medicine ball work. Unfortunately, though, it's really hard to load people up on the first exercise in the frontal and transverse planes; you can only go so heavy with a lateral lunge.

With that in mind, we'll often use a more traditional heavy sagittal plane exercise - deadlift, squat, or axial-loaded single leg exercise - for lower reps, but then do the power exercise in the frontal/transverse plane. An example might be:

A1. Safety Squat Bar Squats: 4x3, 30s rest
A2. Heidens: 4x4/side, 120s rest

3. We use more direct forearm work with our pitchers than we have in the past.

For a long time, we really didn't use any direct forearm work with our baseball players. My feeling had always been that they got plenty of grip work in their regular strength training. Two things changed my mind on this.

First, I saw what a game-changer is it to strengthen throwers closer to end-range external rotation in the 90/90 position. In other words, rather than just expecting arm care work with the elbow at the sides to magically carry over to the positions where guys threw, we actually trained guys at those positions. Novel concept, huh?

Second, thanks to the higher quality slow-motion video we have at our fingertips these days, we can better appreciate that throwers' forearms get into considerably more supination and pronation throughout the throwing delivery than we were training in the weight room. While we were doing a lot to preserve those ranges-of-motion, we weren't doing anything to provide good strength throughout those ranges-of-motion.

With that in mind, we attack our direct forearm work in two particular ways: supination/pronation and ulnar deviation. Here are some Instagram posts that'll walk you through the why: 

Nowadays, we'll work in some of this direct forearm work 1-2x/week at the end of our upper body training sessions with our throwers.

I'll be back soon with another programming strategy brain dump. Have a great week!

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Exercise of the Week: Quadruped 1-arm Trap Raise to Swimmer Hover

I recently started implementing the quadruped 1-arm trap raise to swimmer hover with some of our baseball guys, and it’s quickly become one of my favorites.

This drill addresses several important needs in a throwing population:

1. scapular posterior tilt

2. scapular upward rotation

3. tissue extensibility of the long head of the triceps and lat

4. the quadruped (all fours) position really reaffirms the good convex-concave relationship between the scapula and rib cage

You should not feel this at all in the front or top of the shoulder. Rather, the movement should be felt in the lower traps (mid back) and serratus anterior (add a full exhale at the top of each rep to intensify that activation). Some individuals will feel a good stretch through the triceps.

To learn more about how we assess, program, and coach at the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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