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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: College Baseball Strength and Conditioning Considerations with Zach Dechant

We welcome Texas Christian University Assistant Athletic Director of Human Performance Zach Dechant to this week’s podcast. Zach oversees baseball development at TCU and has established himself as a forward-thinking educator to his interns and other strength and conditioning industry professionals. In this discussion with guest host John O'Neil, Zach shares insights on long-term development of college athletes, discusses his offseason work with alumni that have moved on to professional baseball, and outlines the key competencies he looks to develop in the coaches he mentors.

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

You can follow Zach on Twitter at @ZachDechant and on Instagram at @ZachDechant.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF-certified all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 10 FREE travel packs - with your first purchase. I use this product 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: Understanding Anterior Shoulder Pain with Dr. David Altchek

We’re excited to welcome renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery to this week’s podcast. Dr. Altchek shares some outstanding clinical insights on the diagnosis and treatment of anterior shoulder pain in overhead throwing athletes.

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 10% off 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 10% off 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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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Building a Bridge from Scouting to Player Development with Eric Yavarone

We’re excited to welcome Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Strength and Conditioning Coach and Director of Performance Scouting Eric Yavarone to this week’s podcast. Eric shares some great insights on the key competencies that helped him to contribute to a world champion organization across multiple disciplines, and discusses his work across both scouting and player development. CSP-MA Director of Performance John O'Neil takes the lead as a guest host.

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 10% off 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 10% off 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!

Name
Email
Read more

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Multifaceted Pitching Development with Matt Hinkley

We’re excited to welcome Cressey Sports Performance - Florida pitching coordinator Matt Hinkley to this week’s podcast for a discussion on a range of pitching topics, including:

  • How to connect the dots between pitching mechanics and strength and conditioning
  • How to employ high-speed cameras for pitch design
  • Why it's so important to plan the yearly competitive calendar
  • When to use subtle adjustments vs. broad overhauls
  • Why he's more of a "pitching manager" than a "pitching coach"
  • Why the mental side of pitching can never be overlooked

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.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 Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF-certified all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 10 FREE travel packs - with your first purchase. I use this product 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!

Name
Email
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Exercise of the Week: 1-leg Supine Bridge with Hamstrings Catch

 Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts coach, Josh Zall.

The 1-Leg Supine Bridge with Hamstrings Catch is an exercise we’ve been prescribing more frequently of late with a lot of our more advanced athletes at Cressey Sports Performance. A dynamic “drop-catch” offers an array of benefits for all athletes regardless of their chosen athletic endeavor.

Important Considerations:

When an athlete who is young, untrained, or generally hypermobile dives into this movement without the ability to adequately decelerate, it can be too challenging to drive a valuable adaptation. For an exercise that starts in a static position and quickly transitions into a dynamic movement that requires coordination, making sure the athlete is proficient in general hamstring strength and motor control is key.

The ability to get into and hold a single-leg bridge is the only true prerequisite for prescribing this movement in a program.

Benefits:

The exposure to a co-contraction is one of the biggest prizes of this movement. A co-contraction is a simultaneous contraction of the agonist and antagonist muscles to stabilize a joint against opposing forces, and the ability to create a co-contraction is a key for joint and connective tissue health for athletes. With hamstring strains plaguing athletes of all sports, having the ability to create a unilateral co-contraction and create concentric activity with the hamstring in a lengthened position is vital for lower limb health (think initial contact and take-off phase of a sprint; front foot strike in a pitcher’s delivery; or any side shuffles).

Something important to keep in mind is that co-contractions are not a central nervous system phenomenon, so exposing your body to situations where you need to co-contract while fatigued is important for connective tissue health. With that being said, this is an exercise that I typically program for an athlete as accessory work or in a movement (sprint/agility) day in their program - usually for 4-8 reps per set.

A simple way to regress to this movement would be to not allow for excessive knee extension on the catch. The opposite would be true when progressing this movement -- “catching” at end-range or close to end-range knee extension would increase the difficulty.

Enjoy!

About the Author

Josh Zall serves as a Strength and Conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Sport and Movement Science at Salem State University, and has internship coaching experience from both CSP-MA and Saint John's Preparatory Academy in Danvers, MA. 

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: Principles of Power Development

I'm flying solo for this week's podcast, as I take on a whopper of a topic: power development. My goal here is to take a large, seemingly complex topic and break it down into digestible constituent parts.

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

Mentioned Articles/Resources: The Ultimate Offseason Training Manual, What I Learned in 2010, The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum, and Rotational Power Master Class

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF-certified, all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 10 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product 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!

Name
Email
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French Contrast Training and the Rotational Athlete

Today's guest post comes from current Cressey Sports Performance - Florida intern, Chris Larrauri.

Athletes often ask coaches, “How does this relate to my sport?” And, my internship at Cressey Sport Performance – Florida was no exception; athletes want to know how the work they’re doing is going to transfer to baseball performance. Some athletes are adamant that everything they do should be specific to their sport, and although I wouldn’t stick to SPP (Specific Physical Preparation) year round, I believe that it is necessary to get as specific as we can in the weight room when the time calls for it. This is where a method like French Contrast comes into play.

French Contrast training has been a hot topic in the S&C field for quite some time. Invented by a former French track and field coach, Gilles Cometti, but widely popularized by one of my mentors, Cal Dietz, the French Contrast method has shown to increase explosive strength and speed endurance. Strength may be king, but sometimes it’s necessary to stimulate the organism to create a different training effect. It’s great to produce high amounts of force, but as we know the rate at which an athlete develops that force also matters. In baseball, this impulse could be the defining factor between a 89mph and 95mph pitch, or a weak ground ball and 400-foot homerun.


Figure 1.1 – Graphic showing the difference in rate of force development and overall power output. Ben’s impulse is higher causing more total power output. Graphic is from “Triphasic Training: A Systemic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Strength Performance”

If an athlete already has a great strength foundation, then methods such as the French Contrast can take them to the next level. Now, I know what you are thinking: “How are some jumps going to increase velocity on the mound?” My response is, “Does it have to be jumps?” I love jumping for various reasons, but when it’s time to transfer skill acquisition to the field of play, jumps aren’t all that specific to the rotational proficiencies baseball requires. There is a time and place for jumps with rotational athletes, but more during the GPP (General Physical Preparation) phase. For the SPP phase, let’s break down what French Contrast training is.

The French Contrast method is simple. It’s a combination of complex and contrast training. Complex training is a heavy compound lift (around 85% 1RM) followed by a plyometric that’s close to the same motor pattern. Contrast training is a maximal or near maximal compound lift paired with a “back-off” lift around 50-60% of the initial lift or something that mimics the initial lift’s motor pattern. In both situations, the heavy lift is causing a PAP (Post Activation Potentiation) effect for the subsequent movement. French Contrast put its own spin on these two methods to create its own stimulus. The sequence of French Contrast training is as follows:

When people think of French Contrast, they typically think of the basic exercise selection in the table above, but what if we apply the principles to focus more on the transverse and frontal planes instead of sagittal? I believe this can be a game changer for the rotational athlete.

Let’s take a look at what a plyometric is so we can better understand the principles behind French Contrast training and how we can apply them in different ways. Yuri Verkhoshansky created what’s known as the “Shock Method,” and later, an American named Fred Wilt pioneered the term “plyometric,” (plyo, for short) from Verkhoshansky’s research on the method. Fred’s interpretation of a plyo is “an overload of isometric-type muscle action which invokes the stretch reflex in muscle.” This is crucial because you can get this muscle action in other ways besides just jumping. Medicine balls are a great way to replicate this action. We can replace the jumps with, say, rotational medicine ball shotputs and scoop tosses to get an adaption that is more specific to the rotational athlete.

With this premise in place we can now put our attention toward exercise selection. Below are a few examples that can be used (you'll rest 30 seconds between each exercise, but I've edited the videos to cut out the rest time) :

1. Split Squat Overcoming Iso (Maximal Effort): 7s/side
2. Rotational Med Ball Shotput (6lb): 3/side
3. Proteus Shotput (30% or 3-4RPE): 3/side
4. Accelerated Rotational Med Ball Shotput (6lb + band): 3/side

1. Landmine Lateral Lunge (85% 1RM w/070 Tempo): 1/side
2. Heiden (BW):3/side
3. Band-Resisted Heiden (BW+Band): 3/side
4. Accelerated Heiden (BW + Band): 3/side

1. 1-arm DB Bench Press w/Bridge (85% 1RM w/330 Tempo): 2/side
2. Med Ball Drop Chest Pass (6lb): x4
3. Rotational Landmine Press (30% or 3-4 RPE): 3/side
4. Accelerated Rotational Med Ball Shotput (6lb + band): 3/side

In conclusion, the principles of French Contrast can be manipulated to optimize transfer for almost any sport. That said, although this article may be covering how to adapt French Contrast training for different sports, I now understand that it may not be for every individual. So, you’ll need to assess the person in front of you to determine if it is appropriate or not. I will say that a nice discovery with using this method is that it’s not only effective, but also a lot of fun. And, if you come across an approach that safely delivers results while keeping athletes engaged, chances are that it deserves a place in your overall programming strategy.

References

Dietz, C. & Peterson, B. (2012) Triphasic Training: A Systematic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Strength Performance. By Dietz Sports Enterprise.

Verkhoshansky, Y. & Siff, M. (2009) Supertraining. Sixth Edition. Ultimate Athlete Concepts.

Verkhoshansky, Y. & Verkhoshansky, N. (2011) Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches. Verkhoshansky SSTM.
 

About the Author

Chris is a current intern at Cressey Sports Performance-Florida, where he works with baseball players at all levels ranging from professional to middle school. He assists in initial evaluations and exercise supervision. Prior experience to CSP includes time spent at the University of Minnesota under Cal Dietz; Jenks High School; Oklahoma Christian University; and as Owner of Synergy Performance. Chris graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Central Oklahoma. He is certified through the NSCA, PN-1, RPR & FRC. For more information, follow Chris on Instagram at @chris_larrauri.

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Pitching Mechanics: Is Lead Leg Blocking Enough?

Much more attention has been paid in recent years to the concept of the front hip pull-back/lead leg blocking in pitchers.

However, what gets overlooked is that there are a lot of athletes who do it well, but still struggle to consistently impart adequate force to the baseball and with the right direction. This can happen because of limitations further up the chain that interfere with transferring force to allow for clean ball release.

Foremost among these issues are adequate thoracic flexion and scapular upward rotation. These two attributes allow you to stay on the baseball longer. Imagine a car that has an extra runway to accelerate. As violent as it appears in still-frame photos, Max Scherzer is one of the best illustrations in the game for this - and it's remarkably well "synced up: 

Notice how the distance between his uniform number and belt increases early in the delivery, then decreases just prior to ball release. It isn’t this extreme for most pitchers, but it speaks to the interaction between the anterior core, thoracic spine, and scapular upward rotation. Is it any surprise that most anterior core exercises - rollouts, fallouts, flutters, inchworms, bear crawls, and stir-the-pot - are also great serratus anterior drills?

You can also challenge it in various ways with the chops aspect of your core stability program.

I also like this adjustment to a half-kneeling cable lift...which actually make it into a chop, but whatever!

It also opens up a great discussion on the role of infrasternal angle for another day (although we did delve in on it a bit with this podcast with Bill Hartman:

Have a great week!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Summer Training Strategies

We're coming out of a podcast hiatus to kick off a new season of the podcast, and the first episode back will be a collaborative effort among three Cressey Sports Performance -MA staff members: Pete Dupuis (Vice-President), John O'Neil (Director of Performance), and Jordan Kraus (Pitching Coordinator). They discuss the various options available to college pitchers in the summer, and highlight how we've attacked development in this population with our College Summer Development Program at CSP-MA.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.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 Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use this product 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: Supported Elbow CARs

The benefits of controlled articular rotations (CARs) are now well known in the strength and conditioning and rehabilitation realms, thanks to Functional Range Conditioning teachings. One way in which we've evolved this approach is by taking a closer look at the position at which we perform our elbow CARs. Historically, they've been performed with the arms at the sides, like this:

However, I think there's a lot more benefit to be gained by performing them with the upper arms supported at 90 degrees of flexion, particularly in an overhead athlete population.

Here's why:

1. With more shoulder flexion, we are able to lengthen the long head of the triceps over both joints it crosses (elbow and shoulder). In the seated position, the long head of the triceps is actually shortened as a shoulder extensor.

2. In throwing athletes, you'll commonly observe Bennett's lesions, areas of increased calcification along the posterior glenoid rim. For most athletes, they're incidental findings in asymptomatic shoulders, but in some cases, they can get too big and cause rotator cuff pathology (I relate it to a speed bump that the cuff has to go over). While the true cause of Bennett's lesions has been debated in the sports medicine world, many are of the belief that it results from traction stress from the long head of the triceps (LHOT) tendon. The tendon attaches on the supraglenoid tubercle (which is on the inferior aspect of the glenoid) and extends up to the labrum and joint capsule. LHOT also eccentrically prevents excessive elbow flexion during the cocking phase of throwing (think of it being heavily lengthened in a shorter catcher-like arm action).

So, whether you believe it's related to Bennett's lesions or not, there's a strong anatomical basis for us to say that the long head of the triceps is an extremely important - but heavily underappreciated - muscle for overhead athletes. I've seen a lot of throwers over the years who've benefited tremendously from manual therapy on the triceps - and this mobility drill is a useful proactive initiative that'll help the cause as well.

3. At positions of 90 degrees of shoulder flexion or more, we get greater serratus anterior recruitment to drive the rotational component of scapular upward rotation - but also a reduction in latissimus dorsi tone that can restrict it. This is particularly important in athletic populations that tend to carry a lot of extensor tone and live in scapular depression and/or downward rotation. It also gives these folks a break from competing against gravity, so it can actually reduce protective tension of the upper traps.

4. Building on this last point, serratus anterior also works to preserve the convex-concave relationship between the scapula and rib cage, which is particularly important to address in the aforementioned athletes who may have acquired flat (extended) thoracic spines over years of extension/rotation. These athletes crave reaching, rounding, and rotating.

You can add this to a warm-up, use it as a filler, or plug it into a cooldown. Take your time with each rep, and be sure to drive not only full elbow flexion/extension, but also pronation/supination of the forearm.

If you're looking to learn a bit more about long head of the triceps, I'd encourage you to check out my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions course, as I delve into it quite a bit as part of my upper extremity functional anatomy module.

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