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Baseball Pitchers: Training Between Starts Part 3

Written on January 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm, by Eric Cressey

CP in the News

Here are two great articles about Cressey Performance athlete Sahil Bloom, who recently verbally committed to the Stanford Baseball Program.  Given that this week’s newsletter focus has been baseball training, it seems only fitting to highlight a guy who has trained hard and smart to get to where he is.  Congratulations, Sahil!

Weston High pitcher buffing up his body as well as his scores

Weston’s Bloom is Stanford-bound (this is a really old picture; he’s 35 pounds heavier now!)

Enthusiastic Feedback on Maximum Strength

Yesterday, I asked some readers for some feedback on Maximum Strength, and I received dozens of emails. This one definitely stood out in my mind, as it goes to show you how versatile the program really is:

Hi Eric,

I picked up Maximum Strength primarily for the “warm up & mobility” chapter.

I’m a 48 year-old. masters sprinter. The bulk of my training is the deadlift at 85-95% 1RM, plyometrics and sprints from 25-70m at 95%+.   My biggest training limitation over the past couple years has been mobility at my hips.   Due to soreness and occasional spasms, I’ve had to reduce the intensity and volume of my deadlift and sprint workouts.  Earlier this year, I started looking at Stuart McGill’s work and exercises, with some improvement.

My progress accelerated after I picked up your book.   A few days after incorporating your warm-up drills, I noticed a significant improvement in the mobility of my hips and shoulders.   Around the time I began the drills, I was limited to a 1RM of about 365.   Because of the improved mobility, I was able to add another strength day to my training week.   After about six weeks, I’ve increased my 1RM to 405lbs (my weight is 165lbs) and I’m targeting 415-420 in 10 days.   My previous personal best was 395 when I was 178lbs.

I’m not the only one, though.  I described some of the drills to a colleague (35 year-old former collegiate WR) who had had to discontinue deadlifting due to low back and shoulder problems.   His mobility was so restricted he couldn’t raise his arms overhead, nor touch his toes.  After a few days of the drills he was touching his toes and his back hasn’t felt this good in years.  He’s sold – and he just told me he’s getting the book.

I’ve also got my daughter (college cheerleader) on your program.

Thanks Again,

Stephen Boland

Sacramento, CA

Check out Maximum Strength for yourself.
A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 3

Here, in part three of a series on why distance running is terrible for pitchers, I put the final nails in the coffin.

Reason #7: Nobody likes to babysit.

Simply put, running is babysitting. Catcher is actually the position that requires the most endurance in baseball, but we don’t run catchers extra, do we? Nope – and it’s because we have bullpens for them to catch, batting practice for them to take, and all the other responsibilities associated with handling a pitching staff and being a pseudo coach on the field.

My business partner actually was a division 1 pitcher almost ten years ago, and when I brought up this argument, he smiled and nodded, replying with, “When I was a pitcher, all we did was shag fly balls and run poles.” Meanwhile, 57% of pitchers suffer a shoulder injury during a competitive season (5) – and that doesn’t even include elbow, lower back, or lower-extremity injuries! At the major league level, pitchers are 49% of the players, but they account for 68% of the time on the disabled list league-wide (6). Running isn’t going to prevent these problems; it’s going to exacerbate them.

Strike 1.

Reason #8: Distance running ignores existing imbalances.

Baseball is an at-risk sport for a number of reasons. You’ve got an extremely long competitive season, overhead throwing, and – possibly most significantly – unilateral dominance. Switch hitters and guys who bat right and throw left (or vice versa) tend to be a bit more symmetrical, but the guys who bat and throw on the same side tend to have the most glaring issues. Many really smart dudes – most notably, Gray Cook – note that asymmetry is quite possibly the best predictor of injury. When we get pitchers after a long season, our first goals are to address range of motion deficits, particularly in:

1. lead leg hip extension (tight hip flexors)

2. lead leg hip internal rotation (tight external rotators)

3. lead leg knee flexion (tight quads)

4. Throwing arm shoulder internal rotation (tight posterior rotator cuff and capsule)

5. Scapular posterior tilt (tight pec minor and levator scapulae)

6. Throwing arm elbow extension (tight elbow flexors)

I knocked back some caffeine, splashed some water on my face, and really put my thinking cap on to see if I could come up with a rationale for how distance running addresses any of these issues. In the end, I had nothing. I came to the realization that jogging negatively affects the majority of them – and pitchers would be better off just shagging fly balls instead of splitting time between that and long runs. At least they move side-to-side when they’re chasing fly balls.

Strike 2.

Reason #9: It’s really boring!

I am a firm believer that the best coaches are the ones who engage their athletes. The best coaches I had in my athletic career were the ones who made me look forward to each training session. With that said, the only people who look forward to distance running are – you guessed it – distance runners!

Most of the ballplayers you’re coaching have always seen running as a form of punishment for doing something wrong; they hate it as much as I do (okay, maybe not that much). And, truth be told, they’d hate it even more if they realized it is limiting their development as athletes.

Strike 3. The batter’s out – and the side is retired.


I have always disliked it when people criticize the status quo, but fail to offer solutions of their own. With that in mind, the next installment of this series will outline my personal perspective on how to attack the time between pitching outings.


1. Gleeson, M. Immune systems adaptation in elite athletes. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Nov;9(6):659-65.

2. Komi, P.V. Stretch-shortening cycle. In: Strength and Power in Sport (2nd Ed.) P.V. Komi, ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. pp. 184-202.

3. Hennessy L, Kilty J. Relationship of the stretch-shortening cycle to sprint performance in trained female athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Aug;15(3):326-31.

4. McCarthy JP, Agre JC, Graf BK, Pozniak MA, Vailas AC. Compatibility of adaptive responses with combining strength and endurance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995 Mar;27(3):429-36.

5. Ouelette, H, Labis J, Bredella M, Palmer WE, Sheah K, Torriani M. Spectrum of shoulder injuries in the baseball pitcher. Skeletal Radiol. 2007 Oct 3.

6. Fleisig, GS. The Biomechanics of Baseball Pitching. Spring 2008 Southeast ACSM Conference.

Until next week,


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