Home Posts tagged "baseball strength and conditioning"

Individualization and the College Baseball Athlete

Training little kids - 9-12-year-olds - isn't that challenging. Most are hypermobile and weak, so the foundational programs can larger look the same. Keep things fun and maintain their attention, and good things happen. This population can do amazingly with one program on the dry erase board.

In the 13-15-year-old group, things can get a little tougher because some kids have hit a huge growth, spurt, and others look more like the "gumby" 11-year-old. Most kids do fine with twice a week strength and conditioning work.

At ages 16-18, the training frequency ramps up. By junior and senior years, we see kids who are at the facility 4-6 times per week in some capacity. If they've been consistent over the years, there should be a great strength foundation, so they can start to do some cool stuff with force-velocity profiling, prioritizing different aspects of speed and rotational development, etc. I wrote an entire article about this previously: Strength in the Teenage Years: An Overlooked Long-Term Athletic Development Competitive Advantage.

The previous three paragraphs shouldn't seem revolutionary to anyone, but what's often overlooked are the challenges that come on the college front in the years that follow. The 17-18 year-olds that report to a college campus are not a homogenous group. Some have no strength and conditioning experience, and others have a ton. A college strength coach who's on his/her own with 30+ athletes of all training and chronological ages has a tall task if individualization is the goal, especially if they have to all train in narrow scheduling windows (e.g., right after practice).

As a result, you'll often see players who thrive in the first year or two on campus. They put on 15 pounds, get a ton stronger, and start throwing harder. Then, in years 3-4, they actually regress. What initially worked great (often heavy, bilateral loading) shifts to diminishing and even negative returns, leaving athletes banged up and with a loss of range of motion. It's not a knock on college strength and conditioning coaches; it's actually more of an acknowledgement that they're put in a really hard situation with too many athletes with many different needs all in the same limited time windows.

My own research has shown that in pro ball across all levels, MLB organizations range from roughly 11 athletes per strength and conditioning coach to ~27 athletes per coach. In other words, the least staffed MLB organization still has a better ratio than the most well staffed college setup, and the somewhat "staggered" daily pro schedule is more accommodating to individualization with varied training times.

In the private sector (at least at Cressey Sports Performance), our athlete-to-coach ratios are even smaller, so we are able to chase a significant degree of individualization based on the results of evaluations across multiple departments.

There's a ton of flexibility on scheduling and adjusting training times on the fly. And, perhaps most importantly, it can take place across departments, with communication among strength and conditioning coaches, pitching coaches, hitting coaches, analysts, physical therapists, and massage therapists. When communication is streamlined, individualization success skyrockets.

I think this is one reason why you have seen more and more pitchers step away from playing summer baseball to chase development. During the school year, they get an education, high level competition, and dedicated skill development work while sacrificing a bit on the strength and conditioning side of things, as well as overall continuity (you don't necessarily know when you're going to pitch). With a summer of training, you get a high level of strength and conditioning individualization, continuity (predictable plans), and dedicated skill work (e.g., pitch design) while sacrificing on the competition and education sides of things (although I'd argue that it's a different kind of education).

Unfortunately, outside of very select opportunities, summer ball doesn't really give you a high level of anything: strength and conditioning, skill development, nutrition, travel dynamics, continuity, education, or even competition. Rather, you get a bit of each, and there may be some that fall well short of expectations.

If you want to develop more than the rest, you need to prioritize certain adaptations. Maybe that's gaining 20 pounds, developing an outlier pitch, adding 4mph, or building overall work capacity. If you chase five rabbits at once, they all get away.

This is one reason why we rolled out our 10-week college summer pitching development programs at our Florida and Massachusetts facilities. We saw a need to help college arms structure their summers in individualized ways that were more conducive to development - and the results have been outstanding, with participants averaging 4+ mph fastball velocity gains in both locations. You can learn more about how we attack development in these programs at the following links:

Florida: The CSP Pro Experience

Massachusetts: CSP Collegiate Elite Baseball Development

 

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4 Training Considerations for Catchers

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach Dan Rosen.

In a recent episode on the Elite Baseball Development Podcast, Eric spoke with Coach Jerry Weinstein about his lengthy coaching career and the lessons he has learned throughout that time. On top of being a successful coach at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic level, Jerry is also well-known for his work that he has done with catchers. In the podcast, he discussed the importance of catchers being defensive minded, having the ability to get themselves into and out of positions behind the plate, and more. In today’s article, I aim to address these qualities and others that can help catchers become more successful.

Training Consideration #1: Healthy Feet

Foot health can be its own blog, but I specifically want to cover big toe extensibility and maintaining the ability to both pronate and supinate the foot.

Having an adequate amount of big toe dorsiflexion (roughly 60-70 degrees) is important for a number of reasons including plantar fascia health, Achilles tendon health, the ability to complete a gait cycle (a step). Without this mobility, compensations may arise up the chain. Before every pitch, catchers give their signals in a stance that requires them to access their big toe extensibility. In a nine inning game, one team will throw roughly 150 pitches; multiply that across a whole season and you have a catcher who has spent a considerable amount of time in big toe dorsiflexion. Without an adequate amount, what can end up happening is catchers may roll onto the other four toes for support, causing the big toe not to do its job in this stance. Ways in which we can train big toe ROM include isolating the toe itself through toe CARs/toe yoga, performing spring ankle sets while ensuring the big toe is the main weight bearing toe, spending time in the gym barefoot, and becoming more mindful of what our big toe is doing in exercises that would typically force it into extension such as in hops, pogos, and in exercises that utilize staggered or split stance positions. Dr. James Spencer also outlined a few good exercises in a previous article here: Big Toe, Big Problems.

Although catchers are not walking much while they catch, they do move throughout phases of gait. The signal stance we just discussed would mirror the late phase of gait, as the toes are the last point of contact with the ground. The later phase of gait is associated with propulsion, which will be important for catchers as they come out of their stance to move their body weight toward a base for a throw. After the pitch calling stance comes the primary stance. Traditionally this would look like the picture below.

Some catchers, however, find dropping one knee down is a more comfortable and more efficient way to receive the pitch.

In the first picture, we can see heavy pronation and eversion (feet rolling inwards) of both feet. Catchers often have to shift or sway their bodyweight from one foot to the other in their stance, which is why access to pronation will be important. It is worth noting, however, that the athlete needs the ability to access supination to create a more rigid foundation for force production. If the athlete is constantly in pronation (as the catcher is in the first picture), he'll be stuck in "deceleration mode." In the second picture, we see the left foot that is more biased towards supination.

One strategy I like to employ in this regard is to bias the various phases of gait with different exercises in a training program.. For example, you can adjust a split-squat to train each of them. Elevate the front foot to bias early supination, keep the shin over the mid-foot throughout the movement to bias pronation, or elevate the back foot and/or float the front heel to emphasize the re-supination in the later phase of gait.

Where you place the weight loading implement can also have an impact on which phase is being biased on the working foot; contralateral (opposite side) holds emphasize pronation and ipsilateral (same side) holds emphasize more supination. Determine what the athlete needs and then position/load them accordingly.

Training Consideration #2 – Hip Mobility

It’s important to assess hip range of motion in all three planes to determine where an athlete may be limited. Hip flexion range-of-motion is particularly important, as a catcher certainly spends a lot of time in a position of deep hip flexion. If this motion is lacking, a catcher may find compensatory motion at a joint above (the lumbar spine) or below (the knee).

Knee health is another important consideration for catchers, as they spend just as much time in deep knee flexion as they do in toe dorsiflexion and hip flexion. With respect to knee health, it’s my belief that adequate leg strength, proper foot mechanics, and access to a sufficient amount of usable hip mobility will put the knee in a better position to be durable throughout the year (provided there are no contact or traumatic injuries).

To be an effective catcher, one must have sufficient hip mobility to “explore” in a small window. Some catchers will rely on more internal rotation strategies, while others will rely on more external rotation strategies to maneuver behind the plate. Therefore, it’s important for a strength and conditioning coach and athlete to discuss what specific limitations arise when the catcher is attempting to play their position.

It is also worth noting that with the amount of time catchers spend in a squat or in awkward positions, bony adaptations of the head of the femur (ball) or acetabular rim (socket) may develop, leading to a loss of hip ROM. Accessible hip mobility will help catchers to play their position effectively by allowing them to work in the frontal plane so as to shift their weight in attempt to receive or block a ball. One movement that trains this quality is the Half-Kneeling Adductor Dip.

It will also be important to have the ability to internally rotate one hip while the other hip externally rotates. We can see this occurring in both pictures above. This ability can be trained using both the always-popular seated 90/90 ER/IR hip switches as well as a new favorite of mind, the Cable Assisted Lateral Cross Connect.

Lastly, catchers should have the ability to come out of the hips in their stance through hip extension. One medicine ball movement in particular that we like to use on this front is the split-stance stand-up stomp:

Training Consideration #3 – Acceleration

Acceleration is the ability to gain speed as fast as possible, and athletes need it to overcome a static position (as in catching). Catchers naturally adopt a lower center of mass due to the stances they find themselves in. Having the ability to accelerate will support them in the ability to get out of their stance and get their body weight moving either towards the base they are throwing to or to field a ball.

Training acceleration for this population can be done similarly to that of other athletes. This will include things like med ball throws, sled pushes, chain sprints, jumps for distance, and lifts that emphasize horizontal force production. To make acceleration training slightly more specific for catchers, provide them with the ability to rotate their body as they accelerate or start their sprints in positions that require them to overcome a lower center of mass; examples would be half-kneeling and push-up positions.

Training Consideration #4 – Arm Care

While the intensity of every throw does not match that of a pitcher, catchers do rack up a substantial throw total throughout a season. Reps are reps. Catchers need just as much focus on their arm care training as pitchers do. One thing to note with catcher throwing mechanics is that the arm action is typically shorter, and they may not be able to use as much of their lower half due to the lack of momentum they have going forward when making throws. This is closely related to the quick transition time they need to have with their hands. Because of this shorter deceleration path (and, in turn, less assistance from the lower half), it stands to reason that catchers will need to have extra strength in the upper extremity decelerators than you'd expect.

Footwork is also important to consider when thinking about arm care. If a catcher cannot properly switch their feet and get momentum going towards their target in an efficient manner, it will require the shoulder and elbow to work harder to get layback, align the release point with the target, and gain velocity on the throw.

Conclusion

There is a lot that goes into being a great catcher, but as with any athlete, availability is the best ability. Keeping catchers healthy is the name of the game for long-term success at this position. Foot health, hip mobility, acceleration, and arm care are four training considerations that – combined with constant communication between the catcher and coach – can help the athlete feel good and perform well throughout the year and a career. I highly recommend you go listen to the episode of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Eric and Coach Weinstein if you haven’t already:

 

About the Author

Dan Rosen serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Dan graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Kinesiology. He then completed his internship with CSP-MA in the Spring of 2021. Dan also completed an internship with Elon University Sports Performance and a graduate fellowship at Merrimack College, where he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science. As a graduate fellow, Dan served as the strength and conditioning coach for the Baseball, Field Hockey, and Swim teams while assisting with Football and Men’s Ice Hockey. After graduate school, Dan served as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Collegiate Summer Baseball League. He is also Precision Nutrition certified.

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Exercise of the week: Rear Foot Elevated 1-arm Low Cable Row

This week's exercise of the week features a new spin on an old favorite of ours. By elevating the rear foot, you can get more weight shift into the front hip on split-stance low cable rows.

In both pitchers and hitters athletes, we're constantly seeking better ways to teach front hip pull-back - and this is an awesome exercise for feeling the involved musculature. If you want to see this in action, check out the 29-30 second mark in this video of Zach Greinke:

I was surprised at how heavy we've been able to go on this exercise, as I expected a big drop off in resistance utilized because of the balancing component that's involved. In athletes with some single-leg proficiency, though, the rear-foot elevated 1-arm low cable row is an awesome progression.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach at the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games

I've never coached a high school baseball game - or any game, for that matter. I have, however, worked alongside some tremendous high school coaches - from my time with Team USA, to our five staff members who've coached, to various close friends. And, I've watched more high school baseball games than I can possibly count (my fourth date with my wife was a high school state championship game in 2007). So, I feel reasonably qualified to comment on this topic - and I've run this theory by several accomplished coaches who have all agreed.

I'm of the belief that high school baseball games are rarely won; rather, they are lost. Usually, the mistakes far exceed the outstanding play, and the team who makes fewer mistakes invariably ends up on top. As Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders has said, "you have to win the free base war."

With that said, bear with me as I outline five things that virtually guarantee you wins in high school baseball.

1. Have a catcher who can receive/block.

There is nothing more painful to watch than a CATCHer who can't CATCH or block. It derails an entire game because you immediately take away a pitcher's confidence (impacting #5 from below) and have him worried about the running game all the time. The good news is that receiving and blocking is highly trainable - and in a relatively short amount of time - with good instruction as long as you have a player who isn't afraid to put in the work and roll around in the dirt. And, elite arm speed isn't necessary behind the plate at the high school level. This quality is highly trainable.

2. Make the throws and catches you're expected to make - and don't throw the ball around.

You don't need to have Andrelton Simmons' range or arm to be a good high school defender; you just need to be intelligent enough to not make big mistakes in overestimating your abilities. I'm a huge believer that paying strict attention to good, aggressive catchplay during the warm-up period pays big dividends in this regard. Most high school kids just shoot the breeze during inattentive catchplay, and most coaches rush the long toss period because they're anxious to get to other stuff during practice. This quality is highly trainable.

3. Have strong kids that can hit the ball hard.

This is where I'm going to nerd out a bit.  If you hit the baseball hard, you will get on base more often. It's follows logically, but with the increased focus on exit velocity in MLB in recent years, we can more easily quantify it. Take a look at the huge, linear relationship between exit velocity and batting average (not to mention the concurrent increase in HR percentage):

This shouldn't surprise you: a greater exit velocity will always enable balls to find more holes and gaps, and put more pressure on the defense to induce more errors (especially in high school baseball, where many young athletes are still legitimately afraid of the ball). I can guarantee you that the averages probably go up an additional 150-200 points in the high school game because defenders don't have as much range, parks are smaller, infields aren't as smooth, and a host of other factors. How realistic is it for high school hitters to attain these exit velocities? I asked my buddy Bobby Tewksbary, and he sent this along to me:

"High school exit velocities vary greatly depending on many factors like weight, strength, speed and skill. Using HitTrax, we see high school freshmen who are still prepubescent and struggle to break 70 mph. On the upper end, we recently had a high school junior hit a ball 108 mph. This is on par with - or higher than - our pro clients. Most varsity players are in the upper 80s to low 90s. Anything above 100 mph is usually reserved for D1 caliber players. As an example, we recently had a senior D1 commit (on HitTrax) hit a ball 106.4 mph and 481 feet."

Obviously, this doesn't take into account that you actually have to face live pitching, but if you're a high school hitter consistently hitting the ball 90mph+ in games, you can bet that you'll be hitting at a .400 clip.

As a frame of reference, the best Cressey Sports Performance "attendance" from a single team was the 2011 Lincoln-Sudbury (L-S) Regional High School baseball team that won the Massachusetts state championship. Of the 25 kids on the roster, 24 trained at CSP - and they hit .361 on the season. They scored 61 runs in six games in the playoffs. Strong players who prioritize strength and conditioning - especially in-season - hit balls hard and win a lot of games. This quality is highly trainable.

4. Run the bases aggressively/intelligently.

This is the single biggest window of adaptation and untapped competitive advantage in a high school population because a) very few coaches understand how to teach it, b) even fewer prioritize it, and c) 99% of players have easy adjustments they can make to set-up, sprint mechanics, and strategy that differentiate them quickly. With the number of walks, dropped third strikes, errors, passed balls, wild pitches, and balks we see in high school baseball, having a relatively fast, intelligent athlete on the bases is a game changer. The best athletes run wild on mediocre defenses. As a frame of reference, that same L-S team I highlighted above actually stole 81 bases in 28 games (seven innings each); that basically works out to a stolen base almost every other inning. This quality is highly trainable.

5. Have strike throwers on the mound.

Velocity is awesome and it's great to train it. The problem is that a lot of hard throwing high school arms have no idea how to harness it to command the baseball. I've seen a lot of 86-88mph arms get yanked in the second inning after seven walks while getting outpitched by a 70-poo mph arm that throws strikes. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, though: velocity is really useful (especially at the next level), but in high school, it doesn't impact outcomes nearly as much because other teams rarely have hitters that accomplish #4 from above (hitting the ball hard). In other words, you see far more games lost by crappy teams than you do games won singlehandedly by elite arms. The L-S team from earlier took 127 walks in 196 innings while only striking out 110 times. Meanwhile, their pitching staff (which included two D1 arms, including future Vanderbilt closer and 4th round draft pick Adam Ravenelle) punched out 254 guys while walking 110. If you put up a 2.5: 1 K:BB ratio in high school baseball, you're going to win a lot more games than you lose. This quality is highly trainable, although not quite as much as some of the others from above.

Bringing It Together

Go to most high school practices, and you'll see a lot of time wasted. You'll see a lot of guys standing around in the outfield shagging BP. You'll watch the mind-numbing slow jog around the field during the warm-up, or some underwhelming static stretching in a circle. You'll want some pre-throwing drills - wrist flicks and half-kneeling work - that can probably be skipped. It may be excessive time spent on every obscure situational defense scenario with lots of guys standing around. In other words, there is a lot of time that can be "repurposed."

How do you use this time better?

1. Work with your catchers. Don't just beat them like rented mules; challenge them and teach them.

2. Teach baserunning and sprint mechanics, and run the bases hard.

3. Prioritize and coach the heck out of catch play. Don't rush long toss.

4. Emphasize strength and conditioning year-round, and don't let it fall off inseason.

5. Give pitchers consistent developmental challenges. Actually schedule bullpens and have an expectation for what is to be worked on and achieved in each one.

You win games focusing on big rocks, not majoring in the minutia where there aren't large windows of growth possible.

*A special thanks to Coach Kirk Fredericks for not only pulling all these statistics together for me, but for teaching me a lot of these things over the years. Kirk went 269-68 with three state titles in 14 years as a head coach at L-S and is one of the best coaches I've seen at any level. I'm lucky to have him as a resource.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/2/18

I hope you're having a great week. We brought our daughters to Disney for the first time, so it was a quiet content creation week for me. Luckily, I've got some good stuff from around the 'Net for you:

Neck Pain and Headaches - This guest post from Dr. Michael Infantino on Tony Gentilcore's blog was outstanding; it included some solid background information and good strategies to employ.

Baseball Players Historically Have Shown Great Strength - This was an interesting look at the history of strength in the game of baseball from Tim Kurkjian at ESPN.com. I think it overlooks the fact that wrist and hand strength doesn't really matter if it isn't supported by hip strength, but it's still a good read and message about the direction the game has taken.

EC on the Robertson Training Systems Podcast - I'm joining Mike Robertson on his podcast this upcoming week, and it reminded me to reincarnate my last appearance on the show - which was February 2016. Give this a listen and it'll prime you for our discussion of what's changed over the past two years.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/25/17

I hope you all had a great weekend. My kids are officially old enough that we can actually fill an entire weekend with friends' birthday parties, so that's what we did. Before I get to the recommended reading and listening for the week, I wanted to give you a quick heads-up that we'll be doing a baseball development workshop at our Jupiter, FL facility on October 19. It's only $20 to attend, and all proceeds will benefit charity. You can learn more at the following link:

The Building a Better Baseball Athlete Workshop

Certified Speed and Agility Specialist Course - Lee Taft is a go-to guy when it comes to speed and agility education, and this awesome certification demonstrates why. It was filmed at Cressey Sports Performance and was mandatory viewing for our entire staff. It's on sale for $100 off this week, so I wanted to give you a heads-up.

The Ideal Business Show with Andy McCloy - This Pat Rigsby podcast with Andy McCloy was outstanding. If you're interested in the business side of fitness, definitely give it a listen.

5 Things That Might Surprise You About Our Baseball Strength and Conditioning Programs - With the professional baseball offseason at hand, it seemed like a good time to reincarnate this from the archives.

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A Letter to This Year’s MLB Draft Picks

It’s been over ten years since we first had a Cressey Sports Performance athlete selected in the Major League Baseball. Each year, the number grows – especially since the addition of a FL facility to complement our original MA operation. Over the past four years, exactly 100 athletes have been selected, so the early part of June is always an exciting time around both facilities.

This decade of draft picks has been accompanied by countless hours each off-season interacting with the professional players we train. They range from 1st rounders to 50th rounders. They come from all over the US and abroad. There are both high school and college draft picks – and to all 30 MLB organizations. Several races and ethnicities are represented in the CSP Family, and they come from all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of these athletes trained with us as early as middle school, too.

The point is that I’ve seen the draft – and the professional careers that follow – from a variety of angles. In the process, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. If you are fortunate enough have your named called in the next few days – or you know someone who is – consider these ten suggestions.

1. Don’t stop learning.

Signing to play professional baseball serves as either the temporary or permanent halt to formal education. Either high school has ended and you head to the working world, or you’re drafted as you leave college. In many cases, players return to start or finish a college degree at some point. This does not mean, however, that your education has ended – and I’m not just talking about learning about the game of baseball.

Learning is a skill that needs to be refined just like hitting, throwing, and taking ground balls. It’s very easy to detrain the “academic” portion of your mind, and that’s a terrible thing in the 18-22 year-old age range, when your brain is still developing. Don’t get to age 30 and realize that you’ve forgotten how to learn; be a student for life. Read books, listen to audiobooks, watch Ted Talks, attend seminars, take college courses, and ask questions of the smart, experienced players and coaches you meet. Don’t let baseball make you dumb.

As a start, I would recommend Decisive by psychologists Chip and Dan Heath. It’s an invaluable read that will teach you about the decision-making process – especially if you’re on the fence about whether or not to sign. I’ve given it to many of our high school draft picks over the years.

2. Remember that your money is your money.

Last week, in a text message with an agent, he commented to me, “A signing bonus is about so much more than performance.” In other words, teams don’t just pay you for what you’ve done; they pay you because they’re betting on your future. Effectively, they’re investing in you. That money is intended to put you in the best position possible to help them down the road.

That money should be used to make sure you don’t need to have an offseason job. It should cover travel, training, massage therapy, equipment, or whatever else you need to be the best baseball player you can be.

What shouldn’t it go to? The second cousin who wants you to invest in his real estate idea. Or the entourage that thinks you should always pick up the tab for dinner because you’re a “bonus baby.” This leads us to…

3. Invest in yourself and appreciable assets.

I’ll be blunt: that expensive car you want will depreciate 10-20% the second you drive it off the lot. It won’t be a tax deduction, and it sure as heck won’t make you any better at baseball. The same goes for jewelry, boats, tattoos, and a host of other luxuries. Additionally, if you consider a 7% historical rate of return of the stock market, that money would likely double every ten years in the stock market if you were to invest it. So, that $80,000 car at age 20 really was worth $1.28 million at age 60. There's a big opportunity cost to your decision. 

On the other hand, investing in your training, equipment, and education will be tax deductible. The same goes for investing in your retirement.

I always love hearing about players and their agents and financial advisors preparing budgets not only because it creates a sense of fiscal responsibility, but also because I know small hinges swing big doors. If you take a calculated approach to your finances, you’re also far more likely to take a calculated approach to preparing for training and games.

Stop investing in “stuff” and prioritize experiences. Recognize the difference between a “want” and a “need” before it’s too late.

4. Figure out your team.

It’s remarkable how many people come out of the woodwork and want something from you the second you’re drafted. Sure, it probably doesn’t happen to the 39th rounder, but you can bet that there are a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of the 18-year-old kid who became a millionaire overnight. Think long and hard about the people – parents, siblings, coaches, agents, friends, sports medicine professionals – you trust and how they each help you in unique ways. Once you’ve got your team in place, think long and hard any time you bring someone into that circle of trust. Too many cooks in the kitchen can quickly ruin the finished product if they aren’t agreeing on the recipe.

5. Be a better person next week, month, and year than you are today.

It takes hard work to become a draft pick. It takes even harder work to get to the big leagues and make a career out of it. Your work ethic should actually improve when you get to the next level as you’re challenged by better competition and you recognize how hard it is. Sadly, money can change that pursuit of excellence for a lot of players, as that paycheck comes with a lot of distractions. Aim to treat people even better and work even harder than you did before your occupation and bank account changed, especially because there will be more eyes watching you. Think back to the aforementioned team; which one of them will you count on to set you straight when you start straying from the habits that have made you successful in the first place? Tell them now that you expect that honesty from them.

6. Communicate with your families and significant other about what is ahead.

Several years ago, I had a great conversation with the wife of a retired MLB player. They were still happily married well after his career ended. I asked her what she thought the key was to marriages that lasted when it’s well established that a shockingly high percentage of professional baseball marriages end in divorce.

She told me that the secret – in her mind – was for the wife/girlfriend to either have “her own thing” or be “100% invested.” In other words, she had to be able to keep herself busy with her own education, occupation, or charity work. If she didn’t do that, she needed to be 100% invested in the baseball life by helping the player with everything from cooking healthy foods to managing a crazy travel lifestyle (this particular wife had actually learned massage therapy to help). What always failed was the wife or girlfriend who spent the majority of her life harassing the player about how he was at the park too early or late, or complaining that she was bored. I know it sounds harsh, but I’ve seen it over and over again – and I’m really just relating her words, not mine.

I think a big issue is that most players honestly have no idea how hard the professional baseball lifestyle is until they experience it. And, if players don’t understand it, how are players’ families and significant others supposed to understand what to expect and how to act?

Just imagine: you’re 18 years old and just told your girlfriend of four months that you love her because you’ve spent every single minute of the month of June with her. She’s in for a very rude awakening when the only time you can call her is at 2am in the middle a nine-hour bus ride in the Midwest League. And, chances are that you’d rather sleep than talk on the phone, anyway.

I’ll end this point with a story. This offseason, one of our most well-known MLB clients and I got on the topic of vacations. I was surprised to learn that he’s never been to Europe, as he could afford any vacation he’d like. His logic was straightforward: too much missed training time, and too much travel. He’ll get to it when he retires. What are you going to say when a two-week family vacation comes smack dab in the middle of your offseason training program? It’s better to have these conversations now than later.

7. Be an awesome teammate, and learn conflict prevention and resolution strategies.

In professional baseball, you’ll have teammates from all over the world. They’ll speak multiple languages and have all sorts of different tendencies. You’ll hate some of their music and find some of them to be terribly obnoxious. You’ll probably hate your manager, pitching, or hitting coach at some point, too. In many cases, all these frustrations will be magnified by a 14-game losing streak or the fact that everyone is sleep deprived after brutal travel circumstances. Maybe you’ll even be pissed off that your second baseman booted a ground ball behind you. If you pick fights with everyone, though, you’ll have a very short career unless your on-field performance is incredible. Nobody wants to play with or employ a jerk.

Steve Cishek is a long-term CSP athlete and close friend of mine. He’s played for three teams since his MLB debut seven years ago. Everywhere he goes, he creates raving fans because he’s such an awesome teammate and unconditionally positive person. Be like Steve; try to find the good in people instead of chasing down conflict.

To that end, a book I’d recommend on this front would be Legacy. There are some tremendous lessons on leadership and being an awesome teammate. Just read some of the replies to this Instagram post, if you don't believe me.

 

A little reading material for our collegiate baseball development program guys. #leadership #legacy #cspfamily

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

8. Be an advocate for yourself.

I know a 100mph+ arm who received close to $1 million in the draft a few years ago. Before he’d even thrown a professional pitch, a minor league pitching coach was trying to overhaul his delivery. He was 6-6 and more of an East-West delivery; they wanted to stand him up tall and bring his arm over the top. Those are massive changes – and it effectively ruined his first three years in pro ball. The results were subpar, and things spiraled out of control because he had 7-8 different pitching coaches all giving him different cues. This happened in part because he was a nice guy who never wanted to be perceived as uncoachable – so he got pulled in many different directions and wound up pleasing nobody, especially himself.

He finally walked in to the minor league pitching coordinator’s office, slammed the door behind him, and demanded to be left alone. He’s been a completely different pitcher ever since.

There will surely be coaches who can help you a ton, and others who will make your life much more challenging. It’s your job to nurture relationships with them so that you can have dialogue about what has and hasn’t worked for you, and how you can work together to get to where you want to be. The best coaches I know never tell players what to do; they facilitate discovery by the player and regularly solicit feedback. And, the best developmental organizations are very meticulous about making sure that clear and consistent messages and cues are related by the entire coaching staff. If you are hearing mixed messages from different people, speak up and get clarification; you will always be your own best coach.

9. Control what you can control.

If you’re a 27th round pick, it’s going to be harder to get to the big leagues than if you were a 1st round pick – even if you have identical numbers to that first rounder. It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. Moreover, regardless of when you’re drafted or how much you’re paid, you probably won’t get promoted as soon as you deserve it. A lot of politics outside your control govern those decisions.

The sooner you recognize that the only things you control are your actions and your attitude, the better. Some accountants get frustrated with their bosses, and some nurses don’t get the promotions they deserve – so you certainly aren’t alone.

10. Develop your coping mechanisms.

If you’re getting drafted, there’s a strong chance that you were one of the best players – if not the best – in the history of your town. Now you’re competing against a bunch of guys who were also the best players in their towns – and you’re adding the best international players. And, you’re going from all the hoopla of the draft directly into the obscurity of minor league baseball. Make no mistake about it: there will be fewer people at your Gulf Coast League back field games than you had at your high school games.

Moreover, it’s only a matter of time until you get your butt handed to you on the field. It might be a golden sombrero as a hitter or giving up seven runs in the first inning as a starting pitcher – but it will happen. And, as Mike Tyson has said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

What’s your plan? How do you cope with failure and make sure that it doesn’t impact your next performance?

I know some guys who read the Bible to “reset.” I know others who play video games. Some call their fathers or high school coaches. Some watch video and take notes on what they learned. Some keep journals. I even know some players that said it was easier to handle the “lows” when they came home to their kids, as opposed to when they didn’t have children.

The game will humble you quickly and test you with physical and psychological challenges that you’ve never considered. I can’t speak to what playing 200 games in 230 days is like, but I can tell you that every player I've met finds it exhausting. I can’t tell you what throwing 200 innings is like, but I’ve trained plenty of guys who’ve given me perspective on just how hard you have to work to be able to do it year-in and year-out. You don’t have to learn all those lessons immediately upon your arrival in pro ball, but the sooner you can start making good decisions, the higher your likelihood of success will be. Good luck!

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A Sneak Peek Inside Corey Kluber’s Off-Season Training at Cressey Sports Performance

Earlier this week, a crew from MLB.com visited Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts for a feature on former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber's offseason training.

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Today, the article ran at MLB.com; check it out:

Indians Corey Kluber Training Hard for 2017

Some of the topics covered included:

  • Weighted ball training
  • How we've modified Corey's off-season after his big workload in the 2016 regular season and post-season
  • Transitioning from "rested" to "ready" each off-season
  • "Money-maker" exercises

Again, you can check it out HERE.

Have a great weekend!

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Cressey Sports Performance Lower Extremity Elite Baseball Mentorship – August 21-23, 2016

We're excited to announce our next Elite Baseball Mentorship offering: a lower-extremity course that will take place on August 21-23, 2016 at our Hudson, MA facility.

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The Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships provide an educational opportunity to become a trusted resource to this dramatically underserved athletic population. Through a combination of classroom presentations, practical demonstrations, case studies, video analysis, and observation of training, you’ll learn about our integrated system for performance enhancement and injury prevention and rehabilitation in baseball athletes. Cressey Sports Performance has become a trusted resource for over 100 professional players from all over the country each off-season, and this is your opportunity to experience “why” first-hand at our state-of-the-art facility.

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Course Description:

The Lower Extremity Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship complements our upper extremity course by introducing attendees to the most common injuries and movement impairments encountered by baseball players in a sport that combines violent extension, rotation, change-of-direction, acceleration, and top speed sprinting. Core control and lower extremity function considerations will be applied to the throwing and hitting motions.

Course Agenda:

Sunday

Morning Session: Lecture

8:30-9:00AM – Registration and Introduction (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Movement Impairments of the Lower Extremity and Core (Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:00AM – Common Injuries and their Mechanisms (Eric Cressey)
11:00-11:15AM – Break
11:15AM-12:15PM – Common Mistakes in Training and Rehabilitating the Core and Lower-Extremity (Eric Schoenberg)
12:15-1:00PM – Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session: Lecture and Video Analysis

1:00-2:00PM – Understanding and Managing Asymmetry in Rotational Sport Athletes (Eric Cressey)
2:00-3:15PM – Video Evaluation of Throwers: Lower-Extremity Considerations for Push-off and Foot-Plant (Matt Blake)
3:15-3:30PM – Break
3:30-4:45PM – (Matt Blake) – Video Evaluation of Hitters: Lower-Extremity Demands and Sequencing
4:45-5:30PM – Case Studies and Q&A

5:30PM Reception (Dinner Provided)

Monday

Morning Session: Practical

8:00AM-10:00AM – Lower-Extremity Physical Assessment: Static and Dynamic (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:30AM – Lower-Extremity Prehabilitation/Rehabilitation Exercises (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-6PM*

Tuesday

Morning Session: Practical

8:00AM-9:30AM – Training Power Outside the Sagittal Plane (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
9:30-11:00AM – Individualizing Driveline to the Pitcher (Matt Blake)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-6PM*

* The afternoon observation sessions on Monday and Tuesday will allow attendees to see in real-time the day-to-day operation of the comprehensive baseball training programs unique to Cressey Sports Performance. This observation of live training on the CSP floor with our professional, college, and high school baseball players will allow you to experience firsthand our approaches to:

• Programming
• Proper coaching cues for optimal results
• Soft tissue techniques
• Activation and mobility drills
• Strength/power development
• Medicine ball work
• Multi-directional stability
• Metabolic conditioning
• Sprint/agility programs
• Base stealing technique

In addition, you will experience:

• Live throwing sessions
• Biomechanical video analysis using the Right View Pro system
• Movement evaluation
• Live evaluations of attendees with Eric Schoenberg

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

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Cost:

$999

No sign-ups will be accepted on the day of the event.

Continuing Education Credits:

2.0 NSCA CEUs (20 contact hours)

Registration Information:

Click here to register using our 100% secure server.

Notes:

• No prerequisites required.
• Participants will receive a manual of notes from the event’s presentations.
• Space is extremely limited
• We are keeping the size of this seminar small so that we can make it a far more productive educational experience.
•This event will not be videotaped.

For details about travel, accommodations, and other logistics, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

We hope to see you there!
  

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What is a “Big League Body?”

You might be surprised to know that I'm an "outsider" to baseball. I played up through 8th grade, but was actually a much better tennis player. Since they were both spring sports, the decision to go the tennis route was effectively made for me even though I loved baseball as both a player and fan.

Years later, in my first three years of strength and conditioning during graduate school at the University of Connecticut, I actually spent most of my time working with basketball and soccer players. I still loved baseball, but hadn't really been exposed to it "from the inside."

It just so happened that when I went to the private sector after graduate school, some of my first clients were high school baseball players. They had some good results and my phone started ringing off the hook. Now, almost ten years later, Cressey Sports Performance has facilities in both FL and MA, and we work with players from all 30 Major League Baseball organizations. 

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I'd argue that if I had been an "insider" from the get-go, we never would have been able to differentiate ourselves so quickly. Why? As an outsider, I had to do a lot of listening and observing. I had to ask a lot of questions. And, I was fortunate to NOT be married to personal biases of what baseball training programs should look like.

Distance running for pitchers didn't make sense to me. It was absurd to hear that players shouldn't lift because it'd make them "bulky and inflexible." The list goes on and on - but the point remains the same: good baseball strength and conditioning mandates logical thinking, not just reliance on tradition and personal biases. 

This doesn't just apply to baseball insiders' perspectives on what players should look like, though. Rather, it also must apply to how strength and conditioning coaches - baseball outsiders like me - view what players should look like. And, my decade in baseball strength and conditioning has taught me that you have to emotionally separate yourself from what an athlete "should" look like, especially when dealing with pitchers.

While you might think that every athlete - regardless of sport - needs to be 7% body fat with a 500+ pound squat and 18-inch biceps, you have to throw that perception out the window when you're dealing with baseball players (and many other athletes, for that matter). The truth is that big leaguers come in all shapes and sizes.

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I've seen pitchers with 16-inch vertical jumps who throw 95mph. I've seen guys at 25% body fat win Gold Gloves and hit over .300 in the big leagues. I'm not saying that you should just "allow" your athletes to be unathletic, but rather that you need to recognize the following:

Players are often successful because of traits and not just athleticism. 

Maybe a hitter has tremendous sports vision. Maybe a pitcher was blessed with freaky congenital laxity (joint hypermobility) to contort his body into crazy positions to create better deception and get on top of hitters faster. Maybe a pitcher has really long fingers that enable him to throw a great change-up or splitter. 

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The point is that natural selection definitely plays a big role in success, and it's your job to make sure your training doesn't interfere. Bartolo Colon has pitched in parts of 21 years in the big leagues and won 213 games, and he's making $12.5 million this year. He throws more than 85% fastballs and walk less than one batter per nine innings. 

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He is also clinically obese and probably has about 50-60 pounds of body fat to lose. Conventional wisdom says that shedding that excess body weight would make him a better athlete, but as I wrote with respect to CC Sabathia, that's a very slippery slope. That extra body weight may help him with absolute power development, and he may also be so accustomed to that larger frame after all these years that his mechanics might negatively impacted if you took a lot of weight off him, especially in a short amount of time. I've actually seen this quite a bit over the years in athletes who have come our way to sort out their struggles: try to get a guy too lean, and you'll deliver a six-pack - and a poop arm to go with it. For Colon, fastball command (and velocity) is clearly more of a priority than flab (or lack thereof).

I'm not telling you that you should let your guys get fat. I'm not telling you that you shouldn't train them for strength. I'm not telling you that we should just assume that the freaks will make it and hard work won't take a non-freak to the big leagues. I'm just telling you that you need to take a step back and consider exactly what makes an athlete a) successful and b) durable. 

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Guys aren't getting hurt because they only deadlift 450 and not 500 pounds. And, they aren't stuck in Triple A instead of living the big league dream because they're 10% body fat and not 9%. There are such things as strong enough, lean enough, and flexible enough. If they don't meet the minimum standards and they aren't at the level at which they hope to compete, you need to improve these qualities. If they don't meet these minimum standards, but they're already competing at the highest level, then you have to be very careful about how you tinker with things. Subtle changes are the name of the game, and extremes should be avoided. And, you should look for easy gains first.

Improving a pitcher's cuff strength is a lot quicker and easier than adding 100 pounds to his deadlift. Adding 10 degrees of hip internal rotation or thoracic rotation can make a hitter feel far more confident at the plate. Getting 10 minutes of soft tissue work on a gritty shoulder or elbow can be absolutely game-changing for a pitcher who has thrown through chronic pain.

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These aren't the sexy training exercises or boast-worthy gains that make for YouTube videos that go viral, but they're the ones that can take athletes to the next level - or keep them at the highest level. I'll take a good serratus anterior over a good six-pack, even if it makes for lame Instagram content. I'll take great end-range rotator cuff strength over big arms, even if it won't make the ladies go wild.

Our athletes are still going to lift heavy weights, sprint, throw med balls, do plyos and agility drills - but it's all part of a larger plan where we appreciate them as individuals with unique needs. If you try to fit baseball players into a physical mould that you've built in your mind, you'll waste training time as you study for the wrong test. And, more importantly, you'll miss out on key performance benefits and opportunities to keep them healthy.

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