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The Truth About Dodgeball and Tag

Today's guest post comes from Lee Taft, creator of the Certified Speed and Agility Coach (CSAC) offering, which is on sale for $100 off through the end of the week. I'm a big fan of this resource and would strongly encourage you to look into it if you work with athletes in any capacity. Anyway, enjoy the post! -EC

If we listen to those making the decisions to eliminate dodgeball and tag in Physical Education (unfortunately there are some PE professionals not doing their best, so it appears these games are useless or harmful) we might come to the conclusion they are correct in doing so. But, if we edit the purpose and role of these "types" of activities, we see just how WRONG they are.

1. Dodgeball should be the culmination of a well thought-out and progressed throwing, catching, and agility unit. Students from primary grades on should learn how to properly throw, hit still targets at various heights and angles, and catch a ball coming at them from different angles and speeds (in primary grades, sometimes we just want kids to be able to touch the ball as it comes near them to develop tracking and limb location).

2. We need to progress to throwing at a target in which the target is moving, AND when the student who is throwing is moving, AND when both the target and student is moving. This teaches leading and directional aiming skills. And, it teaches students to predict intersection points.

3. We need to use a type of ball that takes fear out of catching, throwing, or being hit. There is nothing wrong with getting hit by a ball. It teaches kids how to protect themselves from objects coming at them. It sharpens their reflexes/reactive abilities. It trains their feet, core, and vestibular system to quickly protect through bending, twisting, jerking away, ducking, dodging while maintaining spacial awareness and balance. These strategies are very important to acquire and develop at young ages!

4. Catching is a fundamental tracking skill that allows for advancements to sports requiring a racquet, stick, or bat. When kids learn to catch, they are creating awareness of limb length to reach length. This, in turns, allows them to make adjustments to their limb length plus an implements length (e.g., stick, bat) and an oncoming ball in order to strike or catch it.

5. Tag teaches problem solving with regards to several factors. These factors are how much speed is needed to solve a problem of tagging or not getting tagged. When their speed isn't "good enough," they now select abilities of creating angles that can "even the playing field" and solve their problem. They use fakes, and spins, and change of pace to elude - as well as tactics to avoid being faked.

6. Games that involve avoiding being struck by a ball or tagged by a classmate drive to the heart of the CNS. It requires the student to learn from their environment and problem solve. These activities are primitive in nature and TAKING THEM AWAY ERODES at these primitive skills that give us foundational movement skills, tracking skill, timing skills, targeting skills, and evasive skills. When we lose touch with these skills (or abilities) we subject these potential future athletes to being exposed on the playing fields with less athletic armor.
Stop looking at these types of activities as useless. They carry a huge primitive foundational movement and developmental package. Use them in favor of our kids.

As I mentioned, Lee's certification is actually on sale through the end of the week for $100 off the normal price. If you're looking for top notch direction in coaching movement training with your athletes, look no further. You can check it out HERE.


 

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Holiday Shopping, CSP-Style

With the holidays approaching, here are a few options for holiday gifts with CSP logos.

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CSP baseball caps can be purchased for 24.99 + S/H. These are of the Flex Fit variety, which means that they’re ultra-comfortable and one size fits all (unless you have an absolutely GIANT head or are a petite female who will wear a fitted cap, in which case, you’ll want to let us know). Click here to add one to your cart.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/9/18

I hope you've had a good week. To kick off your weekend on the right foot, I've got some good reading from around the strength and conditioning world.

First, though, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I'll be speaking at Pitchapalooza near Nashville in early December as part of an awesome lineup. You can learn more HERE.

Maximum Strength Training for Tennis: Why You Should Do It - Matt Kuzdub authored a great guest post for EricCressey.com a few months ago, and this was another recent post of his in the tennis world. Much it it could be applied to other sports as well.

Your Glutes Probably Aren't to Blame for Sore Knees, but They Could Still Be Stronger - Here's a solid dose of reality with some actionable strategies from Dean Somerset.

5 Great Analogies for Training Baseball Players - A big part of getting results is clearing communicating with athletes, and analogies are an invaluable way of doing so. This article outlines some of my favorites for working with a baseball population.

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Exercise of the Week: Bent-over T-Spine Rotation with Hip Hinge

I wanted to introduce you to a new exercise we've been playing around with lately. I created the bent-over thoracic spine rotation with hip hinge because I was looking for a way for athletes to avoid compensatory movements as we worked on thoracic spine mobility in the standing position. Essentially, you'll often see folks with limited thoracic spine mobility move East-West with the hips or laterally flex through the spine as they try to find motion in spite of their limitations. By pushing the butt back to the wall, we effectively block off compensatory hip motion (and work on a better hip hinge pattern at the same time).

Key coaching points:

1. By having the eyes follow the hand, you get some cervical rotation to help things along.

2. Make sure the upper back is moving and you aren't just "hanging out" on the front of the shoulder. This is especially true in a throwing population who may have acquired anterior shoulder laxity.

3. We'll usually do eight reps per side. This can be included as a single set during a warm-up, or for multiple sets as fillers during a training session (we'll often plug it in between medicine ball sets).

4. This is a better option for those who have active range-of-motion limitations to thoracic spine rotation, as opposed to passive limitations. In the case of the passive limitations, athletes are better off with things like side-lying windmills, where they have assistance from gravity (instead of having to compete against it).

To learn more about how we assess, program, and coach around the thoracic spine (and entire shoulder girdle), be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/3/18

I hope your weekend is off to a good start. It's been a while since I published a compilation here, so there was quite a bit to sift through. Here's a little recommended reading and listening from around the 'net.

10 Tips for Better Sleep - This solid article from the crew at Examine.com includes a lot of strategies that are easy to implement.

Kelly Starrett on Building the Mobility WOD Empire - I'm a big fan of both Kelly and Mike Robertson (who interviewed him), so this podcast was a win/win for me.

How Environment Shapes Training Success - An interaction with a client earlier this week reminded me of this post I wrote up last year.

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Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 6

It's been quite some time since I published an update to this series, but some recent professional baseball initial offseason evaluations have had me thinking more and more about how important it is to take a look at lateral flexion.

In the picture above, I'd say that the athlete is limited in lateral flexion bilaterally, but moreso to the left than right. You'll also notice how much more the right hip shifts out (adducts) as he side bends to the left; he's substituting hip fallout for true lateral flexion from the spine. The most likely culprit in this situation is quadratus lumborum on the opposite side (right QL limits left lateral flexion).

As you can see from the picture below, the triangle shaped QL connects the base of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis and spine.

Stretching out the QL isn't particularly challenging; I like the lean away lateral line stretch (held for five full exhales). This is a stretch that can be biased to target the lat, QL, or hip abductors.

That said, the bigger issue is understanding why a QL gets tight in the first place. As Shirley Sahrmann has written, whenever you see an overactive muscle, look for an underactive synergist. In this case, the right glutes (all of them) are likely culprits. If the gluteus maximus isn't helping with extending the hip, the QL will kick on to help substitute lumbar extension. And, if the gluteus medius and minimus aren't doing their job as abductors of the hip, the QL will kick in to "help out" in the frontal plane. This double whammy has been termed a Left AIC pattern by the good folks at the Postural Restoration Institute, and they've outlined many drills to not only address the apical expansion (which creates length through the QL), but also bring the pelvis back to neutral.

Taking this a step further, typically, those with very overactive QLs will also present with limited thoracic rotation (in light of the QL attachment on the inferior aspect of the ribs), so you'd be wise to follow up this stretch with some thoracic mobility work. The athlete in the example at the top of this article had the most limited thoracic rotation (both active and passive) that I've seen in any pitcher this offseason.

That said, here's a good rule of thumb:

If you have a flat thoracic spine athlete with limited thoracic rotation, look at pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and quadratus lumborum. If horizontal abduction (pec) and shoulder flexion (lat) both check out well, go right for QL tissue extensibility (as measured by lateral flexion). It will be absolute game changer - particularly in rotational sport athletes.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach at the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my new resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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3 Random Thoughts on Rotator Cuff Readiness

Both Cressey Sports Performance facilities are booming with baseball players coming back to start their offseason training, so it's the time of year when athletes are working hard to get their rotator cuff control back before they start up their offseason throwing programs. With that said, I've been thinking about some big principles on the rotator cuff readiness front.

1. In a broad sense, just above every rotator cuff exercise can be categorized in one of five ways:

a. Strength - this consists of manual resistance work and anything with cables at dumbbells; it needs to be loaded up and challenging.

b. Timing - this consists of drills like 90/90 holds and rhythmic stabilizations.

c. Endurance - this builds on what we see in Option A (some of the same exercises), but the resistance is a bit lower and it's done for higher reps or a longer time. The goal is less about strength and more about training the ability to hold the humeral head on the glenoid fossa for a lengthier period of time. I'd call it more important for a sport like swimming than for baseball or tennis athletes.

d. Irradiation - this can refer to just about any exercise, as your rotator cuff fires reflexively any time your arm moves. That said, certain exercises - bottoms-up kettlebell variations, for instance - are particularly useful for challenging this category of drills.

e. Patterning - these are just drills that take the humerus through its full range-of-motion. Of particular importance is end-range external rotation, which we train with drills like this:

2. I prefer near-daily exposures rather than exhaustive, less frequent programs.

If you look at our training programs, most of our pro guys are doing some kind of targeted training for the rotator cuff 5-6 days per week. Twice per week, we'll push more strength and irradiation work, and twice per week, we'll cover more timing drills. Just about every day, though, there will be some kind of patterning exercise so that we're reminding the cuff of what it's supposed to do.

This approach is a stark contrast to what you usually see in the baseball world, which is notorious for handing out the 2x/week arm care routines that take 45-60 minutes each. They're usually about 15 exercises for multiple sets, and leave an athlete hanging by the end of the session. I think this approach has more to do with the fact that it lines up with what's convenient for 2-3x/week physical therapy sessions than because it's truly optimal. I'm of the belief that you don't need (or want) to exhaust the cuff to get it to where it needs to be.

And, while we're at it, if the cuff is going to get abused on a daily basis with throwing, lifting, and activities of daily living, why not give it some more frequent exposure to build a little tissue resiliency?

3. Posterior deltoid shouldn't be lumped in with infraspinatus and teres minor.

Many times, the reason we have discomfort or the "wrong" feeling with drills is that athletes are paying close attention to the osteokinematics - gross movements of internal/external rotation, flexion/extension, adduction/abduction - of the joint in question, but not paying attention to the arthrokinematics of that same joint. In other words, the rolling, rocking, and gliding taking place needs to be controlled within a tight window to ensure ideal movement.

In shoulder external rotation variations, as we externally rotate the arm, the humeral head (ball) likes to glide forward on the glenoid fossa (socket). The glenohumeral ligaments (anterior shoulder capsule), rotator cuff, and biceps tendon are the only things that can hold it in the socket. In a throwing population, the capsule is usually a bit loose and the cuff is a bit weak, so the biceps tendon often has to pick up the slack - which is why some folks wind up feeling these in the front, thereby strengthening a bad pattern. There are also a bunch of nerves at the front of the shoulder that can get irritated.

Now, here's where things get a bit more complex. The infraspinatus and teres minor are both rotator cuff muscles that have attachments right on the humeral head, so they can control the arthrokinematics (posterior glide) during external rotation work. Conversely, the posterior deltoid (blue, in the image below) runs from the posterior aspect of the spine of the scapula to further down the arm on the deltoid tubercle. In other words, it completely bypasses control of the humeral head.


By Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22835985

With this in mind, the posterior deltoid actually creates a gliding forward of the humeral head as it externally rotates and horizontally abducts the arm. For this reason, you need to make sure the arm doesn't come back (horizontal abduction) as it externally rotates during your arm care drills. This video should clarify things, if you're a visual learner:

Looking for more insights like these? Be sure to check out my new resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/19/18

It's been pretty quiet here on the blog of late, as we've been really crazy with the CSP Fall Seminar, our Business Building Mentorship, loads of pro baseball guys starting up their offseason, and us moving the family down to Florida for the offseason. While there hasn't been a lot of time for new content, I do have some good recommendations from around the 'Net for you:

CSP Fall Seminar Live Tweet Stream - Andrew Lysy (one of our coaches at CSP-MA) live Tweeting bits and pieces of the presentations from this past weekend, and there are some great nuggets in there. You can follow along with them at https://twitter.com/hashtag/CSPFS2018?src=hash

How to Build an Aerobic Base with Mobility Circuits - I wrote this blog three years ago, and it seemed like a good time to reincarnate it, as this is the time of year when we're incorporating these strategies with a lot of our MLB guys as they get back in action in the weight room.

EC on the Robby Row Show - If you're interested in baseball development, check out this podcast I did with Robby Rowland.

3 Loading Types You've Likely Never Heard Of - This was an awesome guest post from Chris Merritt for Mike Robertson's website.

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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, today, I've got a webinar excerpt from my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource that delves into the topic in greater detail. Check it out:

For more information, check out www.SturdyShoulders.com.

Also, if you're looking for an in-person shoulder course that discusses these topics in greater detail, be sure to look into my November 11 course in Indianapolis. You can learn more HERE.

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Exercise of the Week: Knee to Knee Rollover Medicine Ball Stomps

If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a big fan of using medicine ball training for power development with our athletes. We have both rotational and overhead variations - and sometimes, we have drills that combine the two. Enter the knee-to-knee rollover medicine ball stomp.

Key Coaching Points:

1. Don't rush the back hip rotation; rather, sit into that hip for what seems like an uncomfortable long time. This allows hip-shoulder separation to occur.

2. Minimize lower back arching.

3. Be firm into the ground on the front leg. Some individuals will stiffen up on that front leg with more knee extension, while others will be slightly more flexed.

4. Perform 3-4 reps per side.

5. We utilize this exercise several months into the offseason after we've had a chance to optimize overhead and rotational medicine ball technique with less complex drills. Athletes have to earn this one.

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