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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Digging in on Diagnostic Imaging

After a little podcast hiatus, I'm back with a solo episode. In this podcast, I discuss some common incidental findings on diagnostic imaging - MRI, x-ray, CT scans - in baseball players. These are very important considerations both for player advocacy purposes, and also for us appreciating how to keep the next generation of players healthy.

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!

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Big League Pitchers, Big League Variability

After a question from a father about his son's inconsistent pitching velocity, I thought a case study might be the best way to attack the answer. With Zack Wheeler consistently performing at a high-level this post-season, he seemed like the perfect pitcher to examine in the context of this question:

Believe it or not, I wrote a more detailed article about this six years ago, so be sure to check it out, if you missed it back then: Are Pitching Mechanics Really That Repeatable?

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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Cressey Sports Performance – Florida Job Posting: Pitching Coach (10/18/23)

With the growth of our Palm Beach Gardens, FL facility, Cressey Sports Performance - Florida is looking to add another pitching coach to our team this fall.

This position will be involved with working with clients ranging from middle schoolers all the way up to major leaguers.

Responsibilities for this position include:

  • Pitching coaching in both semi-private and private formats
  • Overseeing pitching consultations, including video breakdown and data analysis
  • Writing throwing programs
  • Participating in staff and intern educational in-services
  • Assisting with the setup and analysis of pitching biomechanics assessments
  • Working as part of a staff in youth baseball camps and community outreach

Qualification Requirements:

  • Experience working with baseball populations
  • Willingness and ability to collaborate with sports medicine professionals and strength and conditioning coaches
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Proficiency in written communication and with Microsoft Office
  • Familiarity with social media platforms
  • Experience working with pitching-related technology (Rapsodo, Trackman, Edgertronic cameras)
  • Familiarity with modern analytics
  • Desire to work as part of a team

This is a full-time position with benefits, and it's a great opportunity to be part of a rapidly growing, innovative department of our operation.

Applicants can submit resumes and cover letters as a single PDF document to CareersatCSP@gmail.com. The deadline for applications is November 1, 2023.

Cressey Sports Performance is an equal opportunity employer. Applicants will be considered regardless of race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or any other status protected under local, state, or federal laws.

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So You Can’t Squat?

The squat has been hailed as “the king” of all strength training exercises – and rightfully so; it’s a compound exercise that activates a ton of muscle mass and improves lower body strength and athleticism arguably better than any other exercise. The only problem?

A lot of people have horrendous squat patterns.

Seriously, some people put a bar across their upper back and immediately start to look like the brutally unathletic kid who always got picked last during the recess football draft during elementary school. No matter how much he liked football, it didn’t matter because his body was fighting him the entire way.

Now, there are a lot of different reasons your squat pattern might be out of whack. It could be a mobility problem, a stability problem, or just a technical flaw. Regardless, you don’t just want to plow through things; you need to earn the right to squat under load. With that said, I want to use today’s article to discuss a five options for replacing squatting in your program without losing out on the ability to really crush your lower body. With The High Performance Handbook on sale, it seemed like a good time to highlight how any effective strength and conditioning program is versatile enough to be modified for different goals and movement patterns.

Option 1: Simply elevate the heels.

I used to be down on squatting with a heel lift, but the truth is that it's a pretty fool-proof way to quickly reposition the center of mass and help folks get depth. A 5- or 10-pound plate works fine, but I really prefer using a firmer slantboard/wedge whenever possible, as it's a sturdy, uniform construction.

Option 2: Use box squat variations.

The great thing about the box squat is that it’s more about sitting back than it is sitting down. As a result, you can get the benefits of axial loading – the bar on your upper back (back squat) or the front of your shoulders (front squat) – without the same hip and ankle mobility requirements.

You’ll build up more of your posterior chain – glutes, hamstrings, and adductor magnus – with the box squat, but that’s certainly not a bad thing for most lifters!

Just be mindful about not getting ultra wide with your stance and arching your lower back aggressively through the entire set. That might be good for powerlifters looking to shorten their ROM, but it's not ideal for long-term health.

Option 3: Try axial-loaded single-leg exercises.

Squatting heavy is definitely hard. However, doing really heavy single-leg work can be even more brutal on your lower body because you have to do twice as many sets (left and right). Here’s one of my favorites:

As an added bonus, single-leg work tends to be more spine friendly, for those of you with cranky lower backs.

Option 4: Deadlift more frequently.

If squats are king, the deadlifts have to at least be the heir to the throne, as there are a lot of people who’d insist that lifters actually get more out of heavy deadlifts. And, while they’ll build you up differently than squat variations do, at the end of the day, as long as you’re including a wide variety of exercises in your strength training program, the difference between one squat vs. deadlift session per week will be negligible.

Option 5. Try high-rep goblet squats.

In many cases, giving someone a counterbalance out in front can help them to correctly groove a squat pattern. With that in mind, high-rep goblet squats can be a great finisher to a lower body training session. Try doing two sets of 30 reps, or one set of 50:

You can also do 1-arm KB front squats, where you just hold the KB in the rack position. Doing a set of 10/side can be incredibly fatiguing.

Option 6. Try pistol squat variations.

The biggest concern with poor squat form with a bar on your back is that you’ll go unto lumbar flexion (rounded lower back) under load. With pistol squat variations, you won’t be using much (if any) external loading, so you don’t need to worry about going into a little bit of lower back rounding. If you’re looking for the best replacement for deeper squatting, I think the best bet is the band-assisted pistol squat in the rack, where you use a band as an accommodating resistance. The higher up on the band you hold, the easier the exercise will be.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that the best programs are the ones that are customized to your unique issues – one of which may be an inability to squat. And, just because you can’t squat doesn’t mean that you can’t still get after it in the gym.

If you’re looking for a strength and conditioning program that includes self-assessments so that you can identify your unique needs, I’d encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook. For more information, click here.

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Hand Size, Anatomy, and Tissue Extensibility

Here is my hand (at 5-8) compared to the hand of a pitcher who is 6-8. Meanwhile, the baseball is the same size for both of us.

To manipulate the baseball, he has to close his hands more.

Meanwhile, me holding a baseball keeps me a bit closer to the anatomical position.

Now, consider that many of the muscles that work to close the hands (flexors) actually attach on the medial epicondyle via the common flexor tendon.

Therefore, a lot of extra tone further up the chain can come from longer term density changes at the hand. We usually talk about working proximal to distal, but in this case, the distal (hand) can impact the proximal (elbow) heavily.

Doing more targeted manual therapy, range of motion, and strength work at the wrist/hand has been a big difference maker for us. And, in many cases, it helps to make more of your proximal changes "stick" a bit better. You're most likely going to find the biggest areas of "density" along the thumb, and then along the pinky side of the hand.

Try digging in on the soft tissue structures of the hand in throwers; you might be surprised at what you find.

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Our Favorite 3D Strap Drills – Installment 2

I'm back with the second installment of our series on our favorite 3D Strap exercises at Cressey Sports Performance. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 from Ethan Dyer. Here are four more CSP "regulars:"

1. 3D Strap Assisted Coil from Low Setting - this an awesome "feel" drill for athletes who need to grasp how to leverage the transverse plane (hip rotation) during lower extremity contributions to rotational power.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0Nd0DKi_0RM

2. 3D Strap Lateral Lunge w/Rotation to Slantboard - this variation builds on the previous option, as you get more range of motion and speed of movement into the coil.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2sOD9vJbWOE

3. Split-Stance 3D Strap Hip Airplanes - this is an excellent drill for making mobility stick after traditional ground based drills and positional breathing.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/OJzVgfK9WkY

4. Adductor Stretch with Offset 3D Strap Assisted Extension-Rotation - here's a great combination hip and thoracic mobility drill. Normally, it's super advanced, but the strap assistance helps athletes to tap into more of their ROM by minimizing how much they have to compete against gravity.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/VtLr1_gQdXA

As you can see, these 3D straps add a ton of options to your training bag of tricks. I'd strongly encourage you to check them out at www.WhatsThatStrap.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY at checkout for free shipping on your order.

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Grip Strength for Baseball Hitters

Today's guest post comes from Scottsdale-based physical therapist Dan Swinscoe. He's been a great resource (and friend) to me over the years, and this post will show you yet another reason why that's the case. Enjoy! - EC

Sometimes finding what you’re looking for can be as close as the hand in front of your face. If performance enhancement for baseball is what you’re looking for, keep staring at that hand – because the strength of that hand is what we’re talking about today.

Two reasons, one for each hand, to consider that hands are important to your performance. First, they are the only body part that interacts with the bat and the ball. Secondly, our brains have more surface area dedicated to just the hands than any other body part except the lips.

With those two facts in mind, it seems reasonable to consider them as important to baseball performance. Also, research is suggestive of grip strength being correlated to both throwing velocity and bat speed. So, there’s actually three reasons for you.

If we think of you first as a person before a player, there are other benefits that matter off the field, too. Studies show people with greater grip strength have less cardiovascular and other types of chronic disease. In fact, it is now being referred to as an “indispensable biomarker for older adults” and directly correlated to longevity. The stronger the grip, it seems, the healthier you are.

Knowing that grip strength is important for our general well-being and for our performance within the sport, it makes sense to ensure grip strength gets some attention with our training. But how? What’s the best way to improve grip strength as a baseball player? Is the grip work that naturally comes with lifting weights enough? Does it matter if I’m a pitcher or a position player?

Many popular exercises to improve grip strength for baseball include things that isolate the hands: squeezing spring-loaded grippers, squeezing putty, or opening and closing the hand in a bucket full of rice. These exercises will make the hands tired, but that’s all. Because they train the hand in isolation – disconnected from the rest of the body – they’re limited in how much benefit they can provide for on field performance.

No body part works alone. In baseball, we often say “strong arm” when referring to a throw. In really, it’s the whole body that made the throw happen. If it was only the arm, you’d throw just as far sitting down as you do standing up, and we all know that isn’t true.

When swinging the bat, energy comes from the ground up. It is transferred from our legs through the core, to our arms, and finally to the bat. Any break or “leak” of energy along that kinetic chain ultimately limits the ability to transfer power to the ball from the bat. We want to be strong throughout that entire chain. Renowned biomechanics researcher Dr. Stuart McGill refers to this as “grip athleticism.”

Other exercises used for training baseball players like deadlifts, farmer carries, and kettlebell swings are much better. With these, your grip is an extension of the arm into the body and legs, instead of isolating it and training it alone. This is what you want. But even these great exercises also have limitations as they relate to baseball.

The limitation with these resides in the direction of the resistance. In these exercises the force you’re resisting tries to open the grasp along the line of the fingers, and the athlete tries to close the grasp along that same line. If you’re a pitcher, this is just fine. However, for a hitter, this is incomplete because when swinging a bat, there’s also force across the palm perpendicular to the finger line. When batting, my hands not only have to keep my fingers closed, but they must also resist the force perpendicular to my fingers that can open the hand and prevent me from delivering force through the barrel. The force will be directed one way for the top hand and the opposite way for the bottom hand.

It’s good to remember that as much as the batter hits the ball with the bat, the ball also hits the batter with the bat. This is Newton’s third law. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Thus, there is a torque across the palm in a “thumb-pinky” orientation that needs to be addressed in our training but most conventional grip exercises miss it.

Squaring up a round ball with a round bat is hard enough. We don’t want a lack of grip strength to be the reason for weak contact and decreased performance.

Position players really need exercises that challenge grip in this direction, too. The exercises mentioned above don’t account for that. Below are sample exercises I like to challenge this alternate angle of grip as needed for batting.

1. Jet Wings - Named after the pointy tip at the end of a jets wing, the idea here is to maintain your plank as you walk while your arm is out to your side. You work to keep the club bell horizontal despite gravity wanting to twist it. I use sets of 10-30 seconds.

https://youtube.com/shorts/xizkIFmRU20?feature=embed

2. Club Bell Halos -This is another standing plank. Keep your body and head still while you circle the club bell around your head, both clockwise and counterclockwise. I typically use sets of five in each direction. You can vary the stance also to add complexity to the challenge.

https://youtube.com/shorts/TImPeCWQJpU?feature=embed

3. Kettlebell Horn Curls - This is so much harder than it looks. I love the challenge to the hand, forearm and elbow. I program this like regular curls. They’re just harder.

https://youtube.com/shorts/g8D0UZfIaH0?feature=embed

4. Single Arm Hangs - The key to this drill is to let go with one hand slowly, then try to hang on while your body rotates each way. Once the natural rotation stops, the rep is over. This is another one that is much harder than it looks. Sets are usually 1-5 reps. Make sure you do this after swings, deadlifts, etc., as it really cooks the grip.

https://youtube.com/shorts/ST8GQ2rxRZg?feature=embed

5. Club Bell Chops – Use the top or bottom hand. The idea is that you resist the twist that comes with the chopping motion as we mimic bringing the bat toward the ball. We usually do sets of 5-10. If someone can do 10 reps cleanly, it’s time for a heavier club.

https://youtube.com/shorts/a2kbULzIQyw?feature=embed

I have yet to work with a player trying these exercises for the first time who didn’t immediately “feel” the benefit and want to do them more. I think they’ll be a nice addition to your training if you aren’t already using them.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist and strength coach in Scottsdale, AZ with over 30 years experience helping athletes move, feel and play better. His clinic is Train2Win Rehab and Performance. (www.T2WClinic.com). His online resources can also be found at www.FixYourFunction.com.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Shirts: Reincarnating a Classic

We decided to do another run of our most popular Cressey Sports Performance shirt of all time: our black home plate design. However, this time around, we decided to also make this facility favorite available in grey, too:

All shirts are $24.99 plus shipping. Just click on the bolded hyperlinks below to add them to your cart.

Black: XXL, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small

Grey: XXL, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small

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Our Favorite 3D Strap Drills – Installment 1

We use the 3D Strap a ton with our athletes, so I encouraged Cressey Sports Performance - MA coach Ethan Dyer to record a few of his favorite drills to share with a larger audience. Here they are (and I'll be chiming in with a second installment of this article myself very soon).

Also, if you haven't started using the 3D Strap with your athletes, I'd strongly encourage you to do so; they add a ton of options to your training bag of tricks. Definitely check them out at www.WhatsThatStrap.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY at checkout for free shipping on your order.

Enjoy! -EC


1. 3D Strap Lateral Sled Drag: One of the most notable benefits of the 3D Strap for baseball and softball athletes is that it doesn’t require any gripping. This means we can load up activities like reverse and lateral sled drags without having to worry about the neural and local fatigue associated with frying our grip and forearms, particularly in-season.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/rN3eWdUqnNs

2. 3D Strap Lateral Rotation: This is a piece of equipment that allows for significant tactile and sensory feedback while executing certain drills, like this lateral rotation. The helical, compressive forces and leading effect that the strap provides is unique and gives us plenty of ‘feel’ based options for our rotational athletes.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/zPc3c-3emb8

3. 3D Strap-Assisted Bowler Squat: The 3D Strap provides a ton of value for loaded single leg activities like this bowler squat. In addition to the previously mentioned ‘feel’ based input we get, we’re able to add significant loading to exercises where we might be looking for resisted or assisted range of motion.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/hXWuLpEPCS0

4. Split-Stance 3D Strap-Resisted Row w/Alternate Arm Reach: Even in post-surgical contexts, we can drive rotation through the upper body without needing to do any gripping. This may be less significant loading than an actual cable row, but if we’re looking to restore / maintain range of motion at the ribcage post-surgery, this kind of activity can be an excellent choice.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/v9Iq6CfAmPE

5. 3D Strap-Resisted Heiden with Stick: The strap isn’t a band, meaning it’s non-elastic. Because of this we can get more out of activities like resisted jumps for certain athletes. When we yank on the strap the force is applied over a very small amount of time, which should bias getting into and out of the cut with greater velocity. This cannot be done to the same extent with a band, making the 3D Strap a useful tool while programming for change of direction or return to run progressions.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/zNCIR4VxFEU

As you can see, this is an awesome piece of equipment that can really yield a variety of training benefits. We'll be back soon with more of our favorites, but in the meantime, you can check it out at www.WhatsThatStrap.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY at checkout for free shipping.

About the Author

Ethan Dyer serves as a Strength & Conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. He started as a client at CSP and eventually went on to intern at CSP-MA. Following another internship at Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, Ethan joined the CSP-MA team. He was a pitcher at the College of the Holy Cross before transferring to Endicott College to complete his undergraduate work with a major in Exercise Science and minor in Psychology. A Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Ethan has been a volunteer with both the Miracle League and Special Olympics, and has a passion for working with young athletes to help them fall in love with training while avoiding injury. You can follow him on Instagram at @Ethan___Dyer.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Trevor Rosenthal

We welcome free agent MLB pitcher Trevor Rosenthal to the latest podcast. We talk about transitioning from shortstop to pitching, and then from starting to relieving. He discusses why some pitchers thrive with being challenged at young ages while others struggle, and highlights some key components of his pre-game preparation. We also touch on lessons learned from Tommy John and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgeries, as well as key competencies of the best coaches he's had.

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.

 

You can follow Trevor on Twitter at @TrevRosenthal.

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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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series