Home Posts tagged "Baseball Exercises"

Baseball Strength Training Programs: Are Dips Safe and Effective?

I received the following question from a baseball dad earlier today, so I thought I'd turn it into a quick Q&A, as I think my response will be valuable information for many players - as well as those in the general population who want to avoid shoulder problems.

Q: What's your opinion on bar dips for baseball players? My son's high school coach has a strength training program that includes bar dips and I was wondering about the safety and effectiveness of the exercises for baseball players. 

A: I'll occasionally include dips in strength training programs for general fitness clients, but I'll never put them in programs for baseball players.

You see, when you do a dip, you start in a "neutral" position of the humerus with respect to the scapula; the arm is at the side (neither flexed nor extended):

The eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise takes the lifter into humeral extension far past neutral.

This is an extremely vulnerable position for many shoulders, but particularly in overhead throwing athletes.  You see, overhead athletes like swimmers and baseball, volleyball, cricket, and tennis players will acquire something we call anterior instability from going through full shoulder external rotation over and over again.  Essentially, as one lays the arm back (external rotation = osteokinematics), there is a tendency of the humeral head to glide forward (arthrokinematics). 

If the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers aren't perfectly strong and completely on time, the only things available to prevent the humeral head from popping forward in this position are the long head of the biceps tendon and the glenohumeral ligaments at the front of the shoulder.  Over time, these ligaments can get excessively stretched out, leading to a loose anterior capsule and a biceps tendon that moves all over the place or simply becomes degenerative from overuse.  And, anyone who's ever had a cranky biceps tendon will tell you that you don't want to overuse that sucker.

As a quick digression, this is one reason why you're seeing more anterior capsule plication (capsular tightening) procedures being done, with Johan Santana probably being the most noteworthy one. The problem is that after a surgeon tightens up a capsule, it takes a considerably amount of time for it to stretch out so that a pitcher will regain his "feel" for the lay-back portion of throwing.  Additionally, anecdotally, I've seen more biceps tenodesis surgeries in the past year on throwers and non-throwers alike, which tells me that surgeons are seeing uglier biceps tendons when they get in there to do labral repairs.  These are tough rehabilitation projects without much long-term success/failure data in throwers, as they fundamentally change shoulder anatomy (whereas a traditional labral repair restores it) and call into question: "Does a pitcher need a biceps tendon?"  Mike Reinold wrote an excellent blog on this subject, if you're interested in learning more.

Bringing this back to dips, we make sure that all of our pushing and pulling exercises take place in the neutral-to-flexed arc of motion, meaning we try to keep the humerus even with or in front of the body.  This is because humeral extension past neutral (as we see with dips) has a similar effect on increasing anterior instability as throwing does.  For those who are visual learners, check out the first few minutes of this rowing technique video tutorial:

I'd argue that the negative effects of bench dips are even more excessive, as they don't allow an individual to even work from a neutral position to start, as the bench must be positioned behind the body, whereas the parallel bars can be directly at one's side.

So, to recap...

1. No dip is a good idea for an overhead throwing population. Bench dips - which are probably used more because they are more convenient for coaches out on the field - are especially awful.

2. Regular dips probably aren't a great idea for the majority of the population, especially those with bad posture, weak scapular stabilizers, poor rotator cuff function, or current or previous shoulder pain.

3. In particular, anyone with a history of acromioclavicular joint injuries or chronic pain in this area (e.g. osteolysis of the distal clavicle) should stay away from dips (and another other exercise that puts the elbow behind the body).

4. Bench dips are really awful for everyone.

Looking for a program that trains the upper body safely and effectively - and without dips? Check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market.

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Exercise of the Week: Heidens with External Rotation Stick

For this installment of exercise of the week, I have to give full credit to Cressey Sports Performance pitching coordinator, Matt Blake.  A few weeks ago, Matt and I were having a conversation about ways to expand our exercise selection with respect to developing power in the frontal and transverse planes.  We have medicine ball work and a host of variations of Heidens (also known as "skaters"), but you can never have enough.

As the conversation progressed, we got to talking about some of our young pitchers who struggle with finding the right timing to stiffen up on the front leg.  They either stomp down early because they aren't stable enough to ride the back hip out a bit longer, or they stiffen up late and "go to mush" on that front leg.  We want to train them to accept force on that front leg - and do so with the right position (a position of hip external rotation/abduction, where the athlete is decelerating internal rotation/adduction). 

So, Matt asked if it would be possible to simply open the front leg up to make this a more specific deceleration position.  So, the Heiden with External Rotation Stick was born.

One of the key coaching points on this exercise is that you want to jump a bit more "up" than "out," as compared to a traditional Heiden.  Very simply, this upward movement gives an athlete time to reposition the hip, knee, ankle, and foot correctly to accept this force.  If an athlete can't land in perfect technique (knee shouldn't cave in, and the torso shouldn't round over), he or she is jumping too far.  Simply reducing the distance of the jump is a great regression.  Find a distance that allows the athlete to land without these compensations (or coming up on the toes), and then gradually work to build this up.

This is just another option for developing power in rotational athletes, but certainly one that will add variety and challenge your athletes in new ways, so check it out!

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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EC Talks Transfer of Training for Baseball Players

Back in July, I presented at the NSCA National Conferences in Providence, RI.  My topic was "Individualizing the Management of Overhead Throwers: How to Spot What Your Throwers Need."  The NSCA films all the presentations, and this excerpt was just made available online, in case you'd be interested in checking it out. You can access this video HERE. A special thanks to the NSCA for making this available online.

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My Interview for SportsRehabExpert.com

I just wanted to give you all a quick heads-up on a free audio interview I did for the Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar Series.  We talk about my experience with the Postural Restoration Institute, power development for baseball, shoulder mobility/stability, and a new product of mine. You can access the interview HERE.

I was just one of several interviews, so I'd encourage you to check out the entire series.  I especially like the fact that you can download these interviews so that you can listen to them at a later date - or while you're on the car or train. Enjoy! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Great Feedback on Optimal Shoulder Performance

We just received this great feedback on Optimal Shoulder Performance: "I just recently finished the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD's.  Without a doubt, that was the best $100 I've spent on a home based CEU opportunity. The material was very well presented, the talks cut to the chase, and provided tons of practical ideas that I have already put into practice with my baseball and softball players. "In addition to the downloadable PowerPoint slides PDF, I took tons of notes because both of you offered up such great information. "I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a quality shoulder DVD to add to their professional library. "Thanks, guys, for a very high quality practical product!" -Kevin Collins, MS, ATC

Click here to pick up your own copy of Optimal Shoulder Performance!

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How Baseball Pitchers Should Approach the Start of the Season

Most of you will show up to tryouts and realize very quickly that they are tremendously physically demanding, in most cases, as a coach want to find out quickly who has worked hard in the off-season (hopefully, you!) and who deserves a spot on his roster (hopefully, also you!). You’ve already taken care of the performance aspect of this challenge with your hard work this past fall/winter – and now it’s time to continue that work while integrating more sprint work over these final few weeks to prepare you for what’s ahead. Continue Reading...
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