Home Posts tagged "Aerobic Exercise"

The Best of 2015: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2015 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. 12 Questions to Ask Before Including an Exercise in Your Training Program - I drafted up this article to outline all the things that go through my brain as I'm writing up a strength and conditioning program.

2. 10 Important Notes on Assessments - I'm a big believer in the importance of assessments in the fitness industry, but it's really important to make sure that these assessments are performed correctly - and matched to the population in question. Here are ten thoughts on the subject.

serratuswallslide

3. How to Build an Aerobic Base with Mobility Circuits - I just posted this article a few weeks ago, and it already received enough traffic to outpace popular posts that were posted much earlier in the year. Suffice to say that folks were excited about the fact that you can improve movement quality while improving conditioning. 

4. Is One-on-One Personal Training Dead? - In spite of the direction of the fitness industry with respect to semi-private training, I'm still a big fan of one-on-one training - and I think every fitness professional should be proficient with it.

semiprivate

5. 5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer - Here's a must-read for the up-and-coming fitness professionals in the crowd.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2015" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits (Another Nail in the Coffin of Distance Running for Pitchers)

If you've read EricCressey.com for any length of time, you're surely aware that I'm not a fan of distance running for pitchers. I've published multiple articles (here, here, here, and here) outlining my rationale for the why, but these articles have largely been based on theory, anecdotal experience, and the research of others. Today, I wanted to share with you a bit of data we collected at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida not too long ago.

CSP-florida-021

First, though, I should make a few important notes that "frame" our training recommendations and

1. Athletes absolutely must have a well-developed aerobic system in order to recover both acutely (during the training session or competition/games) and chronically (between training sessions and competitions/games). It's relatively easy to improve if approached correctly, and can yield outstanding benefits on a number of physiological fronts.

2. As long as the intensity is kept low enough during aerobic training initiatives, it won't compromise strength and power development. I wrote about this all the way back in 2003 with Cardio Confusion, but many industry notables like Alex Viada, Joel Jamieson, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman Eric Oetter, Pat Davidson, Charlie Weingroff have done a far better job describing the mechanisms of action in the 12 years since that article was published. Speaking generally, most folks put the "safe zone" intensity for aerobic development without strength/power compromise at approximately 60-70% of max heart rate (Zone 2, for the endurance savvy folks out there).

3. It might be a large amplitude movement (great ranges-of-motion achieved), but baseball is a low movement variability sport. Pitchers are the most heavily affected; they do the exact same thing for anywhere from 6-9 months out of the year (or up to 12, if they're making bad decisions by playing 12 months out of the year). Distance running to me does not offer significant enough movement variability to be a useful training option for developing the aerobic system.

4. The absolute best time to develop the aerobic system is early in the off-season. For the professional baseball player, this is Sep-Oct for minor leaguers, and Oct-Nov for major leaguers. This is one more strike against distance running; after a long season of being on their feet in cleats, the last thing players need is a higher-impact aerobic approach.

With these four points in mind, two years ago, I started integrating aerobic work in the form of mobility circuits with our pro guys in the early off-season. The goals were very simple: improve movement quality and build a better aerobic foundation to optimize recovery – but do so without interfering with strength gains, body weight/composition improvements, and the early off-season recharge mode.

The results were awesome to the naked eye – but it wasn’t until this week that I really decided that we ought to quantify it. Lucky for me, one CSP athlete – Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Jake Johansen – was up for the challenge and rocked a heart rate monitor for his entire mobility circuit. A big thanks goes out to Jake for helping me with this. Now, let’s get to the actual numbers and program.

Jake is 24 years old, and his resting heart rate upon rising was 56 beats per minute (bpm). If we use the Karvonen Formula for maximum HR (takes into account age and resting HR) and apply our 60-70% for zone 2, we want him living in the 140-154bpm range for the duration of his session. As you can see from the chart below – which features HR readings at the end of every set during his session – he pretty much hovered in this zone the entire time. The only time he was a bit above it was during an “extended” warm-up where I added in some low-level plyo drills just to avoid completely detraining sprint work (he’d already had a few weeks off from baseball before starting up his off-season).

MobilityCircuitsHR

When all was said and done, Jake averaged 145bpm for the 38 minutes between the end of his warm-up and the completion of the session.

Graph1

He bumped up a little bit high in a few spots, but that’s easily remedied by adding in a slightly longer break between sets – or even just rearranging the pairings.

Graph2

To that last point, I should also note that this approach only works if an athlete is cognizant of not taking too long between sets. If he chats with his buddies and heart rate dips too much between "bouts," you're basically doing a lame interval session instead of something truly continuous. Jake did 44 sets of low-intensity work in 38 minutes. You can't get that much work in if you're taking time to tell a training partner about the cute thing your puppy did, or pondering your fantasy football roster.

Think about the implications of this....

What do you think this kind of approach could do for the foundation of movement quality for a typical high school, college, or professional pitching staff?

Don't you think it might make them more athletic, and even more capable of making mechanical changes easier?

Don't you think they'd be less injury-resistant performing an individualized mobility circuit instead of one-size-fits-all distance running?

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they'd feel better after an 11-hour bus ride?

Don't you think they'd bounce back more quickly between outings?

Designing a low-intensity mobility circuit like this is not difficult. I have a ton of examples on my YouTube page and in products like Assess and Correct and The High Performance Handbook. Stuff like this works great:

What is difficult for some coaches, though, is admitting that distance running to "build up your legs" is like changing the tires on a car with no engine, or studying for the wrong test. Just because "that's how it's always been done" doesn't mean that's how it has to stay.

Give some of these a try in the early off-season - and even during the season in place of "flush runs." They'll be a big hit with your athletes both in terms of performance and health. 

And, for those of your looking for another Z2 training option, look no further.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

15 Lessons on Physical Preparation – Installment 2

Today, Tim Geromini and I present the second half of our "notes" on Mike Robertson's new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101. In case you miss it, be sure to check out Installment 1. Here are eight more key takeaways:

8. Coach the heck out of the set-up.

It's very difficult to properly perform an exercise if you don't set up in the best position possible. If you watch Mike during the hands-on portion of this seminar, he is constantly adjusting the demonstrator until they are in the exact position he prefers. Often, your clients have the strength and mobility to perform exercises correctly, but are not in the best position to do so. It may only be a small tweak here or there, but subtle adjustments can make a huge difference. If it adds one minute on to your session, it's a minute worth paying for.

Eric Cressey Shoulder_OS___0

9. Remember that clients are where they are right now.

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching can be to hold clients back when they really want to do more. I always prefer the clients who want to challenge themselves over the ones you have to convince to train harder. However, emphasizing quality over quantity isn’t always easy. Make sure you let the client know we are looking for quality reps.

10. You can have a template, but treat everybody as an individual.

Mike’s R7 approach is a template, but all clients are treated individually. Too often in the strength and conditioning industry we see cookie cutter programs that are a "one size fits all" approach. For instance, those with flat thoracic spines and an extended low back are treated the same as someone with significant kyphosis and flat lumbar spine. A template serves as an organized structure for which individuals can improve. Sure, everybody who trains at IFAST will have the R7 template as part of their program, but the exercises are tailored to each individual.

11. Be an efficient coach.

When you are working with a client, you should a) name the exercise, b) describe why they’re doing it, c) demonstrate the lift, and d) coach the lift. These can all be accomplished in under 20 seconds and makes all the difference. When a client knows why they are doing an exercise, they now have ownership of it. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time in the future if the client knows the name of each exercise so they don’t have to keep asking you.

Mike-Robertson-300x287

12. Coaching angles matter.

If you master the sagittal plane, the frontal and transverse planes are easier to coach. Make sure you coach from 90-degree angles; there is a lot you can miss if you aren’t in the best position to coach. The "90-degree rule" also tells us that there are times when two coaches (one front/back and one left/right) can get the coaching job done faster than just one.

13. Think of yourself as a doctor of exercise.

When you’re a qualified expert, people come to you because you’re the best. Now, this also takes into consideration the work you are willing to put in to improve your assessment and programming process. However, you should understand we are not just writing down numbers on a sheet of paper and hoping it'll work. You put in the time to learn the client’s movement patterns and compensations.

14. Remember that aerobic work has its place.

Cardiovascular health and parasympathetic dominance are important goals in any training (and recovery) program. People are far too sympathetic dominant, essentially in today’s upbeat world, where there is no "off" switch. Mike cites the equation of "Anaerobic threshold – resting heart rate = aerobic window." In other words (and quite obviously), the higher your resting heart rate, the greater your opportunity for improvements. In recent years, though, everyone seemed to want to just push the left side of the equation (anaerobic threshold) with loads of interval training.

Pedometer-Watch-e1285302031702-186x300

If you can widen the aerobic window, you’ve done a lot of good things for the client even beyond just cardiovascular health. High intensity anaerobic exercise is built from a low intensity aerobic foundation, so get your "easy" gains first. Over the long haul, when you are more resistant to fatigue, you can handle more volume and recover easier.

15. Make sure clients can keep the pelvis square as they load the hips.

The biggest benefit to split-stance and single-leg work is turning the right things on and turning the wrong things off. Most people look like wounded animals when performing single-leg work, but those who perform single-leg and split-stance exercises correctly are generally improving hip mobility and strength - and most importantly, doing so without compensation.

As a friendly reminder, Physical Preparation 101 is now on sale, and it's an excellent resource for your training library. You can learn more HERE.

Square-Banner_31
 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Conditioning for Powerlifters (and Anyone Who Just Wants to Get Strong)

Today's guest post is an interview orchestrated by Jen Sinkler, the creator of the expansive new conditioning resource, Lift Weights Faster 2.0. Enjoy! -EC

JenHeadshot

Full disclosure: I didn’t actually expect to actually like powerlifting. I just wanted to experience it once, and to distract a training buddy who’s always trying to get the rest of us to enter triathlons. (No. Hey, look, something shiny and heavy!) Nonetheless, last August, I entered my first powerlifting meet, and to my surprise, I did like it. Very much. I liked it enough to enter a meet every two months for the past six months, bringing me to a total of four meets by February.

I followed lifting plans from fellow Movement Minneapolis coach Jennifer Blake, and during another training cycle I got coaching from big ole squatter Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems. Partly because I was so new to the specificity of powerlifting training and partly because my plans (which I adapted daily based on biofeedback) were on point, I saw dramatic improvement from meet to meet, regularly adding 25-35 pounds to my squat in the two months between competitions. It won’t always be like this, of course, but it sure is satisfying while it lasts. Also satisfying: I took home best overall female lifter in three of my four meets, and the trophies tend be exceedingly pointy and dangerous.

Pl-Sword

What I didn’t do a tremendous amount of in those first four months of my powerlifting-specific training was conditioning. I could say I was worried about my gains, I suppose, but it’s more accurate to say I just needed to wrap my training sessions up in the interest of time, so conditioning was what got axed. Until late December, that is, when I started finalizing the pieces of my conditioning manual, Lift Weights Faster 2. That put me in the mood to play with lighter weights: to do more kettlebell and barbell circuits, to do sprint workouts and calisthenics. So…that’s what I did. And I’m pleased to say that not a gain was lost (and in fact, I continued to see improvements in all three lifts).

That’s because, when wielded well, conditioning is extremely useful for powerlifters. I’ve tapped two experts in the field to explain how and why you can incorporate it into your maximum-strength plan.

Intros to the Experts

julia1Julia Ladewski, CSCS, is a powerlifter and physique competitor who spent eight years as a Division I strength and conditioning coach and five in a private sports-performance facility. Julia now trains clients both online and at her husband's private training and powerlifting facility, The Region Barbell Club. She is a highly competitive and elite-level powerlifter, totaling 1102 at 132 pounds and 1085 at 123 pounds. She has been a member of Team EliteFTS since 2005, and regularly speaks at a number of conferences..

AlexVAlex Viada, CSCS, has over 12 years of experience coaching athletes, specializing in training powerlifters, triathletes, and military athletes. A graduate of Duke University (biochemistry) and a MS(c) in physiology, Alex spent eight years in clinical research and health-care consulting before transitioning to coaching full-time. His company, Complete Human Performance, has worked with nationally ranked and national-record-holding powerlifters and strongman competitors, Kona-qualifying triathletes, Boston qualifiers, and bodybuilders. He has attained (and maintained) an elite powerlifting total in the 220-pound class while competing in numerous endurance events -even ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons.

Sinkler: Is handling conditioning for powerlifters tricky? It seems a little like serving two masters — one that cares only about max strength, and one that cares more strength endurance.

Ladewski: Serving two masters is always difficult, but conditioning can be done year-round. Like any other sport that has in-seasons and off-seasons, you’ll vary your conditioning depending on where you are in your training and the importance of that conditioning to your goals.

Pounding some conditioning the day before a heavy squat session can definitely affect your training. But with careful planning, you can be well-conditioned, stay in your weight class, lose body fat, and still perform at a high level.

Viada: Handling conditioning for powerlifters is very tricky. Powerlifters fall on the extreme end of the pure strength spectrum, obviously. They view limit strength as the competition, or sport proficiency (and correctly so), with a far lesser emphasis on strength-endurance. Any sort of endurance or conditioning programming for them needs to be carefully introduced and needs to clearly show the lifter that the endurance training interferes minimally and has tangible benefits.

If there is one thing I would like to dispel, however, it’s the thought that endurance is a separate, unattainable dimension of athleticism for strength athletes. It’s just another dimension of athleticism that can exist together with strength. One doesn’t need to look much further than the NFL or Rugby League to see remarkably strong individuals with far-better-than-average conditioning. Athleticism needs to be viewed on a spectrum, not as a series of yes-or-no options.

Sinkler: Why is conditioning for powerlifters important? What purpose(s) does it serve?

Ladewski: Years ago, it was kind of a big joke for powerlifters to just get bigger and bigger to lift big weights. While there is some truth behind that, it's shifted a bit towards being strong, leaner and healthier. Aside from the health benefits that even the general population receives from conditioning (heart health, better bloodwork, and so on), powerlifters are finding that having a level of conditioning is beneficial for their training, as well.

julia2

To be strong, one needs to be able to do a lot of work. More work requires a level of conditioning. If I do two sets of pushups and I'm completely spent and ready to call it a day, then my training — even for strength — will suffer. Of course there’s also the benefits of staying closer to your weight class, having less overall body fat, and having fewer achy joints.

Viada: Conditioning is important not only for general health, but is also important to sport itself. So why would a powerlifter look to improve aerobic conditioning? Can it help sport performance? The answer is (provided that deleterious effects can be minimized) an absolute yes.

Though powerlifting competition is a pure ATP/CP sport, recovery even over the course of a workout taps into aerobic systems heavily (for substrate replenishment and recovery between higher volume sets).

Improved aerobic capacity can lead towards greater overall work capacity and training volume, as well as faster recovery between sets.

Improvement in muscle glycogen stores and increased mitochondrial density would also greatly improve training quality (by allowing higher workout volume), and though event-day sport performance will not be directly impacted, more (and longer) quality training sessions are a major benefit.

Is aerobic training necessary for the powerlifter? No. But all else being equal, these positive effects are decidedly worthwhile for the majority of lifters, and I’m of the opinion that a lifter with superior aerobic capacity will have more productive training sessions than one who is absolutely exhausted after walking to the monolift.

Sinkler: Very well said. What kinds of conditioning activities do you program for your powerlifting clients? How do you include said activities without detracting from their powerlifting performance?

Ladewski: For powerlifting, I like to do a variety of things. Much of it depends on the individual, but sled dragging (upper and lower body work), prowler pushes and interval circuits work well. Bodyweight, high-rep band work, even kettlebell stuff works really well. Planning it around their regular strength work is important. as well. Don't underestimate walking, either. Brisk walking is great for powerlifters.

Viada: For strength athletes, I will often prescribe fast-paced rucking with moderate loads at low to moderate intensities, steady-state cycling or Airdyne, rowing, and aqua jogging (swimming tends to be a poor choice, as strength athletes often sink like rocks, and the additional shoulder mobility that swimming requires and develops can hurt strength and stability in pressing movements).

I also program circuit training for them, but there’s a tendency among powerlifters to go too high intensity on it. Lots of powerlifters load up too much weight and miss the benefit. So, I steer them away from circuit until they learn how to go low intensity. Once they learn to use less weight, it goes back in.

Sinkler: That makes sense. You mentioned that people often miss out on the benefit of circuit training. Talk a little more about that. And, how can circuit training, in particular, be used to develop greater work capacity?

Viada: This is actually a huge pain point for me in training athletes. We train a huge number of military athletes, fighters, obstacle-course racing competitors, CrossFit athletes, and the like, and we heavily utilize circuit training, though we’re often loathe to call it that. Circuit training, if properly implemented, has tremendous value in developing specific work capacity in certain movements, training individuals to perform while fatigued, building and developing “pacing” ability, and yes, even eliciting several positive cardiovascular adaptations.

That said, for athletes, circuit training should be specific — durations should be selected that are comparable to the demands of their sport, modalities and exercises should closely track movements and muscle groups the athletes need to develop strength-endurance in, and overall the emphasis should be on movement quality, not simply throwing a hodgepodge of different exercises at them.

For the general population, there’s greater flexibility, but I always come back to one point: there’s sometimes the sense that I dislike circuit training, but nothing could be further from the truth. The issue is that many individuals do not like using appropriately submaximal weights. If a load is so heavy that it interrupts the flow of a circuit, changes pacing, forces the use of the Valsava maneuver (or otherwise occludes bloodflow), the point is being missed entirely.

Alex-Viada-Running

During resistance training or HIIT, a combination of muscle occlusion and the Valsava maneuver actually increases blood pressure but occludes venous return; in other words, since everything is tensed during every repetition or short interval, no blood is flowing during muscular contraction, and less is flowing into the heart. When an individual is running or biking, this isn’t the case, venous return is actually increased. In essence, with weight training, though the heart rate is increasing, it’s not necessarily pumping more blood. With cardiovascular training, it is. This is why going too heavy on circuits can provide less of an aerobic benefit.

Whatever weight you want to pick, use less. If done properly, a circuit or complex intended to develop overall (general) work capacity should start taxing the heart and lungs around the same time as the muscles. Ego is the enemy here; people use 75 to 80 percent of their maximum loads when they should be using 25 to 30 percent!

The body itself is a load — moving a weight in a complex is no different than moving the body in a run, the difference is only when individuals decide that if they’re not groaning under the weight, they’re not working their muscles. If individuals can reign in that tendency, circuits can be extremely useful for conditioning, developing both general and specific work capacity, and otherwise building both strength and endurance in general populations.

Sinkler: That’s really useful, actionable advice, thank you. Generally speaking, how often do you include conditioning for your powerlifting clients? How long do these sessions last, and on what days do you do them?

Ladewski: During meet prep, I keep it to about two sessions a week. If there's not a meet on the horizon, I'll prescribe three to four days. Personally, I like short, intense sessions. Timewise, it works for busy schedules. Plus, I like using athletic movements, moving fast and pushing hard.

Circuit training is actually a great way for powerlifters to work in conditioning. It works really well after the main strength moves. If you take some of your accessory work and circuit that together at the end, you can get some really good conditioning work and not feel like you have to add in another session or detract from your heavy lifting.

A good, 30- to 45-minutes walk in the sun is also excellent for recovery, de-stressing, and conditioning.

Viada: It’s important to consolidate stressors as much as possible, and to approach strength and endurance as a single entity. One term used lately that I enjoy — and Chad Wesley Smith writes frequently on this concept — is “consolidation of stressors.” That term really represents the cornerstone of this method — high-intensity, low-volume work and high-volume, low-intensity work each requires its own sort of recovery, but most critically, an individual can train one extreme while recovering from another.

“Recovery” is systemic to an extent, but it is also structurally specific — a long, low-intensity bike ride taxes the athlete in very different ways than a heavy squat session, but fast sprint intervals may present similar challenges to the body as that same squat session. In the former case, it would make sense to place those two workouts at opposite ends of the training week, but in the latter case, it would make sense to do them most likely in the same session.

Any high-intensity work should be done concurrently with high-intensity strength training, and the majority of the low-intensity, high-volume work should be done after any sort of volume workouts. Important to remember: Sport practice takes priority. The lifter should only use remaining work capacity to work on conditioning.

Frequency does not have to be significant — two or three 20- to 30-minute sessions is often enough for the majority of pure powerlifters with whom I’ve worked. This is already enough to see some benefits without detracting from sport focus, and with rotating modalities, the workouts should flow seamlessly. Examples include 20 to 30 minutes of row intervals after deadlift work, steady-state cycling after volume squatting, or easy rucking on the first of two days off would be enough conditioning volume.

Sinkler: What other factors do you consider?

PL-sumo

Ladewski: When starting conditioning, the main factor is the person's current conditioning level and how much they can handle at the moment. And what their current goals are: are they in meet prep? Off-season? Do they have body fat to lose? And also, what do they enjoy doing? If they hate running, I probably won't include a lot of running. If they aren't well-versed in kettlebells, then I probably won't include much of that kind of training until they learn it better. I want to find things that are challenging for them but that they also enjoy doing.

Sinkler: Anything else you want to say on the topic of conditioning for powerlifters?

Ladewski: When powerlifters hear the word conditioning, they automatically think "cardio,” and worry about long, boring, workouts, having to run, about losing muscle. But conditioning doesn't have to be like that.

Conditioning is typically what powerlifters would call general physical preparedness, or GPP. It amounts to preparing the body to handle more work as training gets more intense.

Start with some off-season conditioning and build up. Then maintain a level of conditioning during your meet prep, as well, and your body will thank you.

Looking for Circuit-Training Ideas?

If you’re looking to amp up your GPP in productive ways, I’ve put together a mammoth 180-workout pick-and-choose library called Lift Weights Faster 2. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of nearly 270 exercises (from classic moves to more unusual ones), a video library that includes coaching on 30 of the more technical lifts, 10 challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I’ve combined my training and athletic experience with my long background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.

Every workout is organized by the equipment you have available and how much time you’ve got, with options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes. And, to sweeten the deal, it's on sale at a great introductory discount through this Friday at midnight.

For more info, click HERE.

LWF2 Bundle


Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis. Jen talks fitness, food, happy life and general health topics at her website, www.jensinkler.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/20/14

It's a big week for us at Cressey Sports Performance, as we're in the home stretch and about to get into our new training facility in Jupiter, FL. If you want to follow along, I'll be posting some progress pics on my Instagram account. While I won't have much time to pull together new content this week, I can definitely tell you the following articles will be well worth your time!

Widening the Aerobic Window - Mike Robertson has published some excellent stuff on energy systems development in the past, and this article does a great job of building on them.

The Six Characteristics of a Good Dynamic Warm-up - I reincarnated this old post on Twitter yesterday, and it was a big hit. So, I thought I'd remind the EricCressey.com readers, too.

Layout 1

How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are - I always love reading research on social phenomenons and how people behave. This Wall Street Journal article highlights some entertaining stuff in this realm.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Should Pitchers Distance Run? What the Research Says.

Today's guest blog comes from current CP intern, Rob Rabena.  Rob recently completed his master's thesis research on the effects of interval training versus steady state aerobic training on pitching performance in Division 2 pitchers.  He's in a great position to fill us in on the latest research with respect to the distance running for pitchers argument.

“Ok, guys, go run some poles.”

A baseball coach often voices this phrase during the season to keep his pitchers in shape. Utilizing distance running to enhance aerobic performance among pitchers has always been the norm, but do the risks outweigh the rewards? There is strong evidence in the scientific literature to support that coaches should rethink utilizing distance running with their pitchers.

Jogging Might Not be the Answer

The current practice utilized for conditioning is for pitchers is to go for a long run the day after a game to “flush” the sore arm of lactic acid, or minimize muscle soreness to recover faster for the next game. These theories are not supported by the current literature and the physiology of the sport.

In the current research study examining the physiology of pitching, Potteiger et al. (1992) found no significant difference between pre-pitching and post-pitching blood lactate levels of six college baseball players after throwing a 7-inning simulated game. Even though during an inning there is a slight lactate production of 5.3-5.8 mM, (which is not high, considering resting lactate is 1.0mM), it does not cause a buildup of lactic acid in the arm of a pitcher after a game. As a comparative example, a high lactate response would occur from squatting for multiple reps at about 70% 1RM; this might produce a lactate level of about 8-10mM (Reynolds et al., 1997). Furthermore, jogging to flush the arm of lactic acid after a start is unnecessary and not supported by the literature, especially since we learned all the way back in 2004 that lactate was not the cause of muscular fatigue ; even the New York Times reported on this in 2007! A lot of coaches simply haven't caught wind yet - in spite of the fact that exercise physiology textbooks have been rewritten to include this new information.

Should Pitchers Distance Run?

When a person jogs at a pace where he/she is able to hold a conversation (at or below ventilatory and lactate threshold), the goal is to improve V02 and to enhance aerobic performance. For pitchers, this practice is utilized to enhance and maintain endurance during games, as well as to maintain body composition throughout the season
In the research study conducted by Potteiger et al. (1992), the researchers found that mean V02 only reached 20 ml. kg.min during the simulated game, and returned to 4.9 ml.kg.min between innings (resting is 3.5 ml.kg.min). The V02s of endurance athletes are approximately greater than or equal to 60 ml.kg.min. Based off this study, V02 does not seem to be a limiting factor for pitchers who want to pitch deep into games. Since a high V02 does not make a great pitcher, why are we training like an endurance athlete, when pitching relies predominately on the anaerobic system? While jogging may help you with body composition and endurance, it’s not going to help you throw more innings in a game. Our emphasis should be on building strength and speed, which are more anaerobic qualities.

Endurance Running or Sprints?

Still not convinced that sprint or anaerobic training is right for your pitching staff? Okay, coach, here are a few more studies comparing sprint training to aerobic training and their effects on pitching performance.

One study examined dance aerobic training (yes, dance training) to sprint training in baseball pitchers and found a significant improvement (p<0.05) in the pitching velocity and anaerobic power measures of the sprint groups (Potteiger et al., 1992).

In a similar study that compared sprint training and long, slow distance running in-season, Rhea et al. (2008) found a significant increase in lower body power for the sprint group, and a drop in power for the distance group. Do we want our pitchers dropping in lower body power? I don’t think so!  Would you like to see their power production increase? Absolutely!

My Research

My Master’s thesis, “The Effects of Interval Training on Pitching Performance of NCAA Division II pitchers”, examined the in-season steady state exercise and interval training on pitching performance. Prior to collecting data, I hypothesized that I was going to find a significant difference in pitching velocity, WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched), 30m sprint time, fatigue index and muscle soreness.

The results of my thesis study found no significant difference (p>0.05) in any of the hypotheses. However, there was a very strong trend (p=.071) for the distance training group presenting with more soreness based off a 0-10 scale. The distance group did not drop in velocity, get slower, or decrease pitching performance like the previous studies suggested. When examining the results of my thesis study with the current literature, I continue to question if there is an appropriate place and time to implement distance running for pitchers within a training cycle, and if so, when would it be most efficient to do so?

Now What Do We Do?

Most of the research available supports that assertion that pitchers should stop distance running or not make it a focal point of their baseball strength and conditioning program. Distance running trains the aerobic energy system, where pitching is purely anaerobic in nature. I’m not totally bashing distance running because it does have its benefits for certain populations, just not for the performance goals of pitchers.

Now that we know what we shouldn’t be coaching, what should pitchers be doing for conditioning instead of running poles during practices? There are few things to consider when designing sports specific conditioning for pitchers:

● What should the rest periods be between sprints?
● What distances should pitchers sprint?
● How many days a week should pitchers actually condition, and does this fit into the overall training program?

The time between pitches is 15-20 sec (Szymanski, 2009), or longer for guys who are known for working slow on the mound. This can really help coaches when implementing interval sprints. Based off research and my time spent at Cressey Performance, anything 40 yards and under for 4-8 sprints, 2-3x a week is recommended. This, of course, depends on time of year (in-season vs. off-season). At the end of a workout, if the equipment is available, a lateral sled drag, farmers’ walks, or sledge hammer hits are always a plus to increase the anaerobic energy systems, which for a pitcher are most important.

Training pitchers out of the sagittal plane is another key consideration often overlooked with training baseball players; for this reason, using rotational medicine ball exercises is extremely valuable. Check out this study by Szymanski et al, (2007), which compared a medicine ball and resistance training group to resistance training only. Researchers found an increase torso rotational strength for the medicine ball group.

This explains why med balls are a great option for baseball players to not only develop rotational power, but also to blow off some steam. With that in mind, during a movement/conditioning day for pitchers, exercises like band-resisted heidens and lateral skips should be incorporated, along with the more traditional straight sprints mentioned above.

Conclusion

Based off the literature, long distance running should not be implemented for pitchers. When it comes down to it, a well-developed training program that incorporates strength, movement and conditioning is the most efficient way to enhance the way your athlete moves and plays on the field.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave comments below, as this is the start of a process and something that coaches need to further consider and discuss to improve the efficiency of the conditioning programs for pitchers.

About the Author

Rob Rabena M.S., C.S.C.S, is a strength and conditioning coach who is currently interning at Cressey Performance. Rob recently earned his M.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Strength and Conditioning. Prior to his graduate work, Rob obtained his B.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Health Promotion from Cabrini College in 2011. Although Rob has a particular interest and experience with coaching collegiate athletes, he also enjoys working with clientele of diverse backgrounds and dictates his coaching practice to making his clients feel great, both physically and mentally, while placing a strong emphasis on the specific goals of the client. Feel free to contact Rob Rabena directly via email at robrabena@gmail.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!

Name
Email

References

1. Fox EL. Sports Physiology (2nd ed). New York, NY: CBS College Publishing, 1984

2. Potteiger, J., Blessing, D., & Wilson, G. D. (1992). The Physiological Responses to a Single Game of Baseball Pitching. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research , 6, 11-18.

3. Potteiger, J., Williford, H., Blessing, D., & Smidt, J. (1992). The Efect of Two Training Methods on Improving Baseball Performance Variables. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research , 2-6.

4. Reynolds, T., Frye, P., & Sforzo, G. (1997). Resistance Training and Blood Lactate Response to Resistance Exercise in Women. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 77-81.

5. Rhea, M., Oliverson, J., Marshall, G., Peterson, M., Kenn, J., & Ayllon, F. (2008). Noncompatibilty of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 230-234.

6. Szymanski, D. J. (2009). Physiology of Baseball Pitching Dictates Specific Exercise Insensity for Conditioning. Journal of Strength and Conditioning , 31, 41-47.

7. Szymanski, J., Szymanski, J., Bradford, J., Schade, R., & Pascoe, D. (2007). Effect of Twelve Weeks of Medicine Ball Training on High School Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 894-901.

8.Torre, J., & Ryan, N. (1977). Pitching and Hitting. NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Read more

Exclusive Interview with Mike Roussell

An EricCressey.com Exclusive Interview with Mike Roussell – and a Special Offer! A while back, Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Roussell introduced a new product together. Both these guys are really bright (and good friends of mine), but to be honest, this summer at Cressey Performance was crazy and I never got around to checking it out - until last week. Frankly, I'm pretty annoyed with myself for waiting this long, as Warp Speed Fat Loss blew me away. I emailed the guys right away about an interview for this newsletter, as I think this product would be right up a lot of our readers' alley. Mike agreed - and also decided to throw a special offer our readers' way. So, without further ado, Mike Roussell... EC: There are about 6 million fat loss products out on the market right now. What sets Warp Speed Fat Loss apart from the rest of them? MR: Warp Speed Fat Loss is different from a lot of the other fat loss stuff out there today (even stuff that Alwyn and I have previously made) for a few major reasons. The most important one that Alwyn and I focused on while building and tweaking this program is that we wanted the diet and exercise to work together in a synergistic fashion and not as two separate components. So, the Warp Speed Fat Loss diet is specifically set up to work with the Warp Speed training program; calorie manipulation and carbohydrate cycling, for instance, are both “in tune” with the program. EC: I noticed that right away. A lot of people overlook synergy in training and nutrition, just focusing on one or the other at a single time. You really took the guesswork out of this, didn’t you? MR: Yes, and that’s the second big difference with Warp Speed Fat Loss. We tell you EXACTLY what to do. There is no wiggle room. I think a lot of times people don’t give specific instructions because they don’t have 100% confidence that their system works. We have tested and tweaked this enough to know that it works. So, in the program we tell you exactly what to eat every single day and exactly what to do for training. It is black and white. Follow this exactly and lose a bunch of weight FAST. It is pretty cool. EC: You make some bold claims about how quickly people can drop body fat with a program like this – but the results thus far seem very promising. Can you please fill our readers in on them a bit? MR: You are correct. We do make bold claims, but we didn’t make them up. People went on our program and started losing 15-20lbs in 28 days. So we decided to start saying “Hey – do this and lose 15-28lbs in 28 days.” Your readers will be familiar with Bill Hartman and Mike Robertson; they both used the program (actually, I don’t believe they used Alwyn’s training, but they used the diet). Bill lost 17lbs in just over 3 weeks; he wanted to lose 10lbs. Mike lost 12lbs in 2 weeks (I emailed him back and called him a liar – but it turned out to be true). EC: Yeah, I figured Robertson would be reluctant to skip his step aerobics class on Alwyn’s recommendation. He loves those 1980s leg warmers. Those guys are in-tune with the industry and know what it takes to succeed from years of watching clients get lean. What about others who don’t do this for a living? MR: One of the best email’s I’ve gotten is from Paula Gawlas in Scottsdale, AZ. She said, “Your program rocks! I've exceeded my goals! I am so happy because whereas before every morning I would have to search for some pair of ‘elastic’ somethings to wear, now I know I can wear anything in my closet! (And there's a lot in my closet, so I can go weeks without doing laundry now!). I work out at an LA Fitness here in Scottsdale and a girl was watching me work out and she questioned me about my program. Thought it was some sort of national challenge! I told her about you guys--I kind of hate saying "fat loss" at this point because I don't have any more fat to lose, but I just love the total body workouts! So thank you, thank you! EC: Rave review, indeed. What blew me away the most was the amount of time you put in to the meal plans. When all is said and done, you’ve got about 350 pages of meal plans; that’s insane! Why so many, and what makes these meal plans different? MR: Yes you are right; it is INSANE. The reason why there are so many meals plans is because I wanted everyone to have a meal plan that fit their body. So, I created meal plans for bodyweights ranging from 115lbs to 240lbs in five-pound increments. This way the program will automatically be tailored to the person the second they download it. Initially we didn’t have meal plans lower than 125lbs but people asked for them so I put them together. On a side note, this is really a gem for trainers, as you have so many meal options to use with your clients. EC: Let’s talk training. What tricks does Alwyn have up his sleeve? How much synergy is there between the diet and training components? Would an athlete be able to use your dietary recommendations with his current training model and still get appreciable results? MR: For best results, you need to do the diet and training together. As I mentioned, though, Bill and Mike modified AC’s training program and it still went really well. The training program that Alwyn put together is really awesome. It is different from anything else that he has released. There are no barbell complexes in the program at all. Instead, he uses Metabolic circuits, some heavy weight, low-rep stuff, and a mixture of interval and steady state cardio. EC: What about athletes? Is this suitable for them? MR: We’ve gotten the question about athletes using the program before. In an ideal scenario, an athlete would not use the program until he/she has 28 days to fully dedicate to it. 28 days isn’t very long – especially when you consider most transformation contests are 84 days. EC: Awesome stuff. You’ve got a special deal on this e-book for our readers today, right? Please fill them in. MR: Yeah. So the price of Warp Speed Fat Loss has recently increased to $97 but since you are as big of a Patriots fan as I am, Alwyn and I will knock $20 off the price for your readers. Here’s the special link for that discount:http://www.warpspeedfatloss.com/ec_deal.php This link will be good until – Monday September 22nd EC: Thanks for taking the time, Mike. Here’s that link again, folks:http://www.warpspeedfatloss.com/ec_deal.php New Blog Content Random Friday Thoughts An Epic Battle Feedback on Maximum Strength Have a great week! EC
Read more

Alwyn Cosgrove: Mobility Training

This week, we've got Part 2 of the Alwyn Cosgrove fat loss interview along with a few quick announcements. Just a quick note, first: I had my first article published at Active.com just recently.  Check it out: Must-Have Weight Room Movements for Cyclists: Part 1 EricCressey.com Exclusive Interview with Alwyn Cosgrove: Part 2 Last week, Alwyn tossed out a ton of great information with respect to fat loss programming, but he's not done yet!  Without further ado, let's get to it... EC: As a mobility geek, I was intrigued when I heard you mention that you felt that corrective exercise - especially in the form of mobility and activation work - had merits with respect to utilizing compound movements to create a metabolic disturbance.  Could you elaborate? AC: If you think about the fiber recruitment potential, the answer is pretty obvious.  Even if you're using compound movements to create that metabolic disturbance, if your muscles were not activated like they should be, you still are not creating as big as a disturbance as you could. For example, squats and deadlifts will give you more bang for your buck if your glutes are active than if they aren't.  Many of the movements from your Magnificent Mobility DVD - supine bridges and birddogs, for example, with respect to the glutes - are great pairings for more of these compound lifts if you're looking to create more of a metabolic disturbances.  In the upper body, you might pair chin-ups with scap pushups, or bench presses with scapular wall slides.

And, to add on the above points, you can ignore the value of that mobility and activation work when it comes to preventing injury.  Many times, form will start to break down with some of the longer time-under-tension prescriptions in more metabolically demanding resistance training protocols.  When you get things firing the way they should, you immediately make these complexes and circuits safer.

EC: Great points.  Now, you bust my chops for being a guy that reads the research on a regular basis, but we both know that you’re as much of a “research bloodhound” as I am.  As such, I know that you’ve got some ideas on the “next big thing” when it comes to fat loss.  Where do you feel the industry will be going along these lines in the years to come?  Here’s your chance to make a bold prediction, you cocky bastard. AC: Ok – you’re putting me on the spot here. If you don’t drink water – what happens? Your body immediately tries to maintain homeostasis by retaining water – doing the opposite. Does weight training build muscle? No. It destroys muscle and the body adapts by growing new muscle. The body adapts by homeostasis – trying to regain balance by doing the opposite. If we look at aerobic training – and look at fat oxidation – we can see that fat oxidation increases at 63% V02 max. We burn fat during the activity.  How does that EXACT SAME BODY respond? Hmmmm... What cavemen survived the famine in the winters? The cavemen that stored bodyfat efficiently. We have evolved into a race of fat storing machines. We are aerobic all day. If aerobic training worked – then we wouldn’t need to work harder would we? When we work harder we see a trend – we lose fat – but is it because we are moving towards anaerobics? My prediction is that as we understand more and more about the science of losing fat (which in reality we haven’t really studied in any depth) I think we’ll find that  excessive aerobic training may retard fat loss in some way. I’ve been saying for years that I don’t think it helps much. And the studies support that. I’m now starting to feel that it may hurt. How many more studies have to come out that show NO effect of aerobic training to a fat loss program before we’ll recognize it? DISCLAIMER – I work with endurance athletes. I work with fighters. I am recovering from an autologous stem cell transplant and high dose chemotherapy. I think aerobic training is extremely helpful. But not as a fat loss tool. EC: Excellent stuff as always, Alwyn.  Thanks for taking the time. I can't say enough great things the fat loss resources Alwyn has pulled together; I would strongly encourage you all to check them out: Afterburn. All the Best, EC
Read more

Alwyn Cosgrove: Fat Loss

EC: Let’s face it, Alwyn: everyone on this newsletter list knows who you are, so we won’t waste time with me asking about your background or favorite color.  Let’s get to the meat and potatoes – or lack thereof – with respect to fat loss. You’ve become an authority on getting people lean fast – and continued success along these lines has led to the release of several fat loss products (in the form of the Afterburn) that have gotten thousands of people leaner and healthier. Conversely, we all know that there are a lot of trainers out there who aren’t getting the job done in this regard; you’ve even noted that less than 0.5% of personal trainers are financially independent, an indirect sign of them not satisfying a booming fat loss market.  Where, in your mind, are they failing? AC: It’s essentially a complete misunderstanding of how fat loss even occurs. Ask a trainer how to burn fat and they’ll reply with “aerobics”. They have been brainwashed to think that aerobic exercise = fat loss. It doesn’t. It simply means that your energy needs are being met by the aerobic energy system. Currently in the early part of the 21st century we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic. In the United States alone approximately one-third of the adult population is estimated to be obese. People are finally turning to the fitness industry for help. However, despite fat loss, body composition and physique transformation being the number one goal of most people who enter into the gym, this type of exercise programming is actually a new concept; to be honest, it just wasn’t needed in the past. People were leaner. People moved more. The purpose of an exercise program twenty years ago was to enhance your already active lifestyle. Now, in an almost completely automated time-crunched society, we have had to create exercise programs specifically to induce fat loss - and we weren’t ready. Despite the overwhelming amount of research on aerobic training and exercise for health – none of it had the goal of fat loss. In fact, the very thought of training solely to produce a loss of fat was an alien concept just a few years ago. So, the fitness industry has failed. We recognized the need to create fat loss programs. We just didn’t know where to start. We originally designed fat loss programs by copying what endurance athletes were doing, and hoping that somehow the training program of a marathon runner would work for fat loss for an obese lady, even when we cut it down to 20 minutes, three times per week. But fat loss was never the goal of an endurance athlete; it was a side effect. Then the fitness industry turned to bodybuilding for ideas. This was the height of the Body-For-Life physique transformation contests. And we failed again. To take the programs of drug using full-time professional genetic freak bodybuilders and use them to model fat loss programs for the general population was nonsensical. But we tried. And the supplement companies jumped right on board, to try to convince us that taking Brand Rx-o-plex would provide the same benefits as the drugs that bodybuilders were using. We failed again. But we were getting closer. Fat loss, at least was a goal for bodybuilders, but the low levels of body fat percentage a contest bodybuilder achieved was largely a result of their increased muscle mass and therefore their metabolism. However it would be naïve of us to ignore the impact that steroid use has had on bodybuilding physiques. There is very little information a drug-free trainee training three to four times per week can take from the program of a drug-using professional bodybuilder and apply that effectively to his own efforts. It is my belief that before we start to program fat loss, we have to understand exactly how it occurs. Then, we design a program based on those principles and not on tradition, junk science, or outdated beliefs. The biggest mistake that trainers have made, Eric, is that - despite advances in the methods of training - the fitness industry has yet to truly provide a complete fat loss solution. We have regurgitated programs for other goals, recommended the wrong diets and ineffective exercises plans, all the while never questioning where this information originated. If you look at the research, you’ll be struggling to come up with much research that shows aerobic training to be effective, and NONE that shows it to be more effective than intervals or resistance training.

It’s time to think about fat loss as a separate goal in itself – instead of a side effect of other training.

EC: That's a great new paradigm that you've obviously applied with great success, but what about gender specificity?  For instance, you’ve spoken in some detail about the different psychological approach you have to take with males and females with fat loss approaches; can you elaborate a bit for our readers? AC: There are differences, of course, but in general, males will respond to comparison to “norms” or to other males – e.g., "good for a male is x% body fat and you are at Y," "The average client loses X per week," etc. Males are driven to be the alpha male. They respond well to comparisons. That will destroy females. DESTROY them. I only ever compare females to their goals and their progress. And it’s always positive. I don’t mean that you need to “baby” them – you can train them hard – but you have to keep positive reinforcement at the forefront. Overall, females want to train hard and not feel intimidated. They want to look great, but almost as a contradiction – they don’t want to stand out in the gym. We joke that most females show up to train the first time in an oversized sweatshirt and baggy pants. It’s like they are hiding. Males – just want to be one of the boys – with the underlying desire to be number one. Once you master that – and more importantly understand it - you're a master coach.

EC: Those are fantastic points - and it even carries over to elite sport.  Having worked with national championship squads in both men's and women's basketball, I can say without hesitation that you're right on the money.  Female athletes are all about getting the job done; it's one of the reasons that they tend to race through programs (and we actually need to make a point of slowing them down a bit).  Male athletes, on the other hand, won't hesitate to drag their heels a bit if it means they can talk some smack to a buddy between sets in order to get each other fired up.  But let's move on...

“Metabolic disturbance” is a term you’ve thrown around for quite some time; what do you mean, and how do you integrate it in your programming? AC: The goal of a serious fat loss program is to optimize energy expenditure. In other words – it’s STILL about calories-in vs. calories-out in the big picture. So we are trying to burn as many calories as possible. This occurs in two ways: directly and indirectly. Direct energy expenditure is obvious; that’s the calories you burn running on the treadmill, for instance. Perform X amount of exercise to burn X amount of calories. Indirect energy expenditure, on the other hand, isn’t quite as obvious – but for simplicity’s sake – it’s governed by your lean muscle mass and is commonly referred to as “resting metabolism” and includes EPOC – the recovery of metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels. The important thing to consider is that your indirect expenditure is the bigger contributor overall – getting the “metabolism up” is the key. For example – aerobic training can burn a lot of calories – but it doesn’t really create much in the way of EPOC or raising your metabolism outside of the exercise session. Resistance training and interval training may not burn many more calories while you are doing it – but they both create that metabolic disturbance that burns more calories the “other 23 hours” of the day. Every study that ever compares interval training to steady state training shows an enhanced effect in terms of fat loss with the higher intensity group – even when they actually burn less calories during the session.  It’s that powerful a tool. EC: This is awesome stuff, Alwyn - and all stuff that has been verified repeatedly in our facility, too.  Let's give our readers a few days to ponder - and hopefully start to implement - these ideas.  We'll be back with Part Two of this interview next week.  In the meantime, for more information on Alwyn's innovative, no-bull fat loss strategies, check out:

Afterburn

All the Best,

EC

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