Home Posts tagged "Baseball Training" (Page 3)

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/9/18

I hope you've had a good week. To kick off your weekend on the right foot, I've got some good reading from around the strength and conditioning world.

First, though, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I'll be speaking at Pitchapalooza near Nashville in early December as part of an awesome lineup. You can learn more HERE.

Maximum Strength Training for Tennis: Why You Should Do It - Matt Kuzdub authored a great guest post for EricCressey.com a few months ago, and this was another recent post of his in the tennis world. Much it it could be applied to other sports as well.

Your Glutes Probably Aren't to Blame for Sore Knees, but They Could Still Be Stronger - Here's a solid dose of reality with some actionable strategies from Dean Somerset.

5 Great Analogies for Training Baseball Players - A big part of getting results is clearing communicating with athletes, and analogies are an invaluable way of doing so. This article outlines some of my favorites for working with a baseball population.

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Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 6

It's been quite some time since I published an update to this series, but some recent professional baseball initial offseason evaluations have had me thinking more and more about how important it is to take a look at lateral flexion.

In the picture above, I'd say that the athlete is limited in lateral flexion bilaterally, but moreso to the left than right. You'll also notice how much more the right hip shifts out (adducts) as he side bends to the left; he's substituting hip fallout for true lateral flexion from the spine. The most likely culprit in this situation is quadratus lumborum on the opposite side (right QL limits left lateral flexion).

As you can see from the picture below, the triangle shaped QL connects the base of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis and spine.

Stretching out the QL isn't particularly challenging; I like the lean away lateral line stretch (held for five full exhales). This is a stretch that can be biased to target the lat, QL, or hip abductors.

That said, the bigger issue is understanding why a QL gets tight in the first place. As Shirley Sahrmann has written, whenever you see an overactive muscle, look for an underactive synergist. In this case, the right glutes (all of them) are likely culprits. If the gluteus maximus isn't helping with extending the hip, the QL will kick on to help substitute lumbar extension. And, if the gluteus medius and minimus aren't doing their job as abductors of the hip, the QL will kick in to "help out" in the frontal plane. This double whammy has been termed a Left AIC pattern by the good folks at the Postural Restoration Institute, and they've outlined many drills to not only address the apical expansion (which creates length through the QL), but also bring the pelvis back to neutral.

Taking this a step further, typically, those with very overactive QLs will also present with limited thoracic rotation (in light of the QL attachment on the inferior aspect of the ribs), so you'd be wise to follow up this stretch with some thoracic mobility work. The athlete in the example at the top of this article had the most limited thoracic rotation (both active and passive) that I've seen in any pitcher this offseason.

That said, here's a good rule of thumb:

If you have a flat thoracic spine athlete with limited thoracic rotation, look at pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and quadratus lumborum. If horizontal abduction (pec) and shoulder flexion (lat) both check out well, go right for QL tissue extensibility (as measured by lateral flexion). It will be absolute game changer - particularly in rotational sport athletes.

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

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Making Movement Better: Duct Tape or WD-40?

It's often been said that anything can be fixed with duct tape and WD-40. And, as a guy with extremely limited handyman skills, I really like this flowchart.


Source: http://laughingateverydaylife.com/2016/07/duct-tape-vs-wd40/

While this might seem like a dramatic oversimplification with respect the human body, I think there are actually some noteworthy parallels. To prove this, let's take a look at a study my buddy, Mike Reinold, co-authored back in 2008. While they looked at range of motion changes in professional pitchers after an outing, the findings of the study that I always keep coming back to have more to do with the absolute range of motion numbers in the data set (moreso than the changes). Take a look:

Looking at the mean shoulder total motion pre-throwing, MLB pitchers averaged about 191 degrees. However, when you look at the standard deviation of 14.6 degrees, you'll see that there were guys down around 175 degrees (very hypomobile or "tight"), and others up around 206 degrees (very hypermobile or "loose").

Speaking very generally, the tight guys need more WD-40 (range of motion work), and the loose guys need more duct tape (stability training). Now, here's what you make your mark as a coach: identify the exceptions to this rule.

For example, when you have an otherwise "tight" guy who comes back from a long season in with a significant range of motion increase at a joint, it could mean that he's developed instability (e.g., blown out a ligament). Or, maybe you see an otherwise "loose" guy who has lost a considerable amount of range of motion, it could mean that he's really hanging out in a bad pattern, developing musculotendinous shortness/stiffness that "overpowers" his ligamentous laxity. Or, he might be really out of alignment, or have developed a bony block.

Identifying outliers - exceptions to the rules - is a crucial part of evaluation success and subsequent programming. As I've often said, don't just focus on average.

Speaking of lessons to be learned in managing overhead throwing athletes, this will actually be a topic I expand upon at the upcoming fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts. We've got a great lineup, and the early bird registration deadline is this Fridya, September 21. You can learn more HERE.

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Crossfit and Confirmation Bias

Last month, I published a blog about the importance of building strength in the teenage years. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

The gist was that strength is foundational to many other athletic qualities: power, stability, endurance, and even mobility. In short, building strength in untrained lifters is low-hanging fruit that can have a massive impact on other domains. However, if you train many of the qualities higher up on this pyramid early in a training career, you don't see very profound changes to athleticism. It's why the kid who just does agility ladders doesn't get much more agile, and the cross-country runner can't go faster just by running slow.

As is always the case with my new articles, I sent it out to my newsletter list - and there are always a dozen or so people who'll reply to the article. One, in particular, stood out for me:

"This reads as an incredible endorsement of multimodal training like Crossfit! Which highlights the very different skills in the article! Thanks for sharing!"

This is an incredibly well-intentioned person, but unfortunately, he could not be any more incorrect. And, it's a nice illustration of the confirmation bias we often encounter in the training world.

This gentleman really loves Crossfit, and that's fine. He can train a bunch of different qualities and have a lot of fun. That does not mean, however, that concurrent training of all these qualities is a way to optimize long-term athletic development in teenagers (or any age of athletes).  His confirmation bias leads him to believe that what he enjoys (and likely what has worked for him) will be good for every scenario he encounters.

Sure, you can build a lot of these qualities simultaneously, especially in untrained individuals. However, you are not going to develop a 95mph fastball or run a 10-second 100m dash if you're consistently rowing 1000m, doing sets of 15 power cleans, or rocking kipping pull-ups like they're going out of style. And, you're going to have a much harder time staying healthy as you embark on these goals, as each sport has unique energy systems requirements and position-specific demands. How often do you see aggressive hip-shoulder separation, appreciable single-leg work, and end-range shoulder external rotation in the typical Crossfit program?

Again, if you want to do these things, by all means, go for it and have fun - but don't confuse them with a plan that's optimized for athletes. Random programming might keep training novel, but it delivers random results - and athletic success is much more the result of targeted efforts to meticulously address the growth windows one can identify. In short, you can't take general solutions to specific problems.

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If You Could Only Pick One…

Each time I run a Q&A, I get questions along the lines of:

If you could only pick one hip mobility assessment, what would it be?

If you could only pick one exercise to build pitching velocity, what would it be?

If you could only pick one shoulder exercise to fix my shoulder pain, what would it be?

You know what's awesome? With respect to all of these questions - and many more - I've NEVER in my entire career had to choose just one.

There may be no such thing as a stupid question, but there are stupid lines of thinking - and this reductionist approach to solving health and human performance problems is a big issue in our industry. In my experience, we see far more chronic issues develop because individuals fail to see the synergy among many factors, as opposed to their inability to hone in on the most important one. I'll give you an example.

Earlier this year, we saw a pitcher with a cranky ulnar nerve. He'd had mixed results with anti-inflammatory medications.

As it turns out, he had a subluxating ulnar nerve, which would predispose him to this issue during a motion like pitching that involves repeated flexion/extension, especially when combined with valgus stress (which stretches the nerve).

He did some extensive manual therapy with my business partner, massage therapist Shane Rye, who treated everything from his neck down to his forearm. This alone gave him a ton of relief - and he even commented that he felt a lot better with respect to some shoulder and neck issues he'd had previously.

In his movement screen, we'd noticed a lot of glaring scapular control issues. At rest, he sat in considerable anterior tilt and depression. Upon initiation of overhead reaching, he pulled into retraction instead of initiating smooth upward rotation. Most of his "external rotation" was actually scapular retraction and lumbar extension. In short, he was getting a lot of motion in the wrong places during several upper extremity assessments - and when we went to watch his arm care exercises, they were reaffirming all these faulty patterns. As an example, he was pulling down with the lat on horizontal abduction work, going into forward head posture on a lot of lifts, and banging out push-ups that looked a lot like this. 

Morever, the exercise selection in his strength and conditioning programs were contributing to these aberrant patterns. His program was very lat dominant, and he wasn't doing enough work above 90 degrees of shoulder elevation to drive better patterns of upward rotation with good scapular posterior tilt. And, if that wasn't enough, he was using blood flow restricted training on his upper arm regularly in hopes of optimizing recovery. In reality, the compression was probably "snagging" his nerve even more.

We made a bunch of changes - picking lots of very easy, low-hanging fruit - and he hasn't had issues with the nerve all season. I can't tell you exactly which ONE of these interventions had the biggest impact on him staying healthy - but the good news is that it doesn't matter. Success is a function of over a dozen assessments and several interventions from multiple people.

With that mind, quit looking for a quick, easy, reductionist answer. It's not about a single assessment, exercise, or coaching cue any more than it is about a magic pill. Rather, it's about how all the pieces fit together. If you look around at the best coaches and rehabilitation specialists in the industry today, they're usually very well rounded in terms of their knowledge base, skill sets, and referral network. As a result, they can appreciating multiple disciplines and provide comprehensive care to the athletes, clients, and patients they serve.

Looking for a diversified educational experience? Be sure to check out our 7th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar. It'll take place on October 14 at our Hudson, MA location. You can learn more HERE.

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Why Rhomboids Probably Aren’t Your Best Friend

Today, I've got an excerpt from my new course, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. I discuss the functional anatomy of the rhomboids, a commonly misunderstood muscle group with big implications.

For a lot more functional anatomy insights like these - as well as a comprehensive look at shoulder assessment, programming, and coaching - be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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5 Reasons for the Increase in Lat Strains in Baseball Pitchers

There have been some noteworthy lat strains in MLB this year, and this trend isn't showing any signs of letting up. Here are a few reasons why they're occurring at such an alarming rate.

1. Better Diagnosis

Any time a diagnosis becomes more "accepted," doctors know to look for it more immediately. In 2011, Jake Peavy was the first player to actually tear the lat off the humerus and have surgery on it, but now we're actually seeing 1-2 of these each year in guys who come to Cressey Sports Performance for consultations (on top of guys who have lower grade lat strains). In the past, a lot of doctors would mistake lat strains for rotator cuff injuries or biceps tendon issues (because the lat attaches on the front of the humerus). Sometimes, lat injuries would be missed on MRIs because the attachment is far enough down the humerus that a regular shoulder MRI wouldn't cut wide enough. In short, better identification and subsequent diagnosis are always a big reason why a class of injuries "surges."

2. Harder Throwers

Lat recruitment during acceleration is substantially higher in high level throws than it is in amateur pitchers. In particular, as lot of elastic energy is put into lat during the lay-back phase of throwing while it works as an anterior stabilizer of the shoulder as it prepares to unleash that energy into powerful internal rotation and horizontal adduction.

Sprinters who run fast pull hamstrings more often. Basketball players who jump high increase their risk of Achilles ruptures. It shouldn't be a surprise that harder throwers have a higher incidence of lat strains.

3. Inappropriate Strength Training

With each passing day, weight training gets more and more "accepted" in baseball populations, and I absolutely love it. Unfortunately, that means a lot of inferior programs get implemented, and nothing is more inferior in a baseball strength and conditioning setting than programs that are way too lat dominant. If you're doing pull-ups, bench presses, heavy deadlifts, farmer's walks, walking dumbbell lunges - and then coaching all your rows and arm care exercises to be very lat dominant, you're really just exacerbating all the negative adaptations we see in throwers. If you look around your weight room and see a ton of guys with limited shoulder flexion, that should be a red flag.

4. Poorly Executed Arm Care Programs

Lats are sneaky, as they'll find a way to creep into a lot of arm care exercises. You'll see people "tug down" (extension/adduct) the humerus (upper arm) during external rotation exercises using the lat when it should be relaxing to allow the arm to externally rotate.

You'll see hands creeping toward the midline (shoulder internal rotation) during wall slide variations - when the lat should be relaxing to allow "clean" overhead motion to take place.

You'll see individuals lock the scapula down into depression during prone trap raises instead of allowing it to posterior tilt.

And, in the most commonly butchered exercise by every lat strain pitcher I've ever seen, you'll see the humerus tugged down during the prone horizontal abduction (when it should be at 90 degrees).

These examples should help to demonstrate that we've had a lot of success bringing lat strain injuries back to full function not only because of our quality manual therapy, but also because we know how to prescribe and meticulously coach the exercises that are so important for these individuals to master.

5. Weighted Balls

Weighted ball programs increase external rotation quickly (particularly in hypermobile throwers) and the lat - as one of the anterior stabilizers of the shoulder - is one structure that takes on the brunt of the load. When external rotation increases quickly and high speeds are involved, the lat at lay-back is analogous to the Achilles tendon of a basketball player that lands on a heavy dorsiflexed ankle; it just can't "give" any more. If you're a visual learner (and don't have a weak stomach), check out the 1:40 mark in this video to see what crazy eccentric stress at the end-range of a joint can do.

Now, imagine he's an untrained 14-year-old working at these speeds and you put a 100-pound weight vest on him; do you think it'll turn out well?

Weighted balls are awesome - when they're integrated at the right times, at the right loads, in the right dosages, with the right athletes who have earned the right to use them.

Closing Thoughts

If you look at these five contributing factors - and exclude the one (better diagnosis) that's actually a good thing - you'll realize that we have three that are completely in our control. Coach exercises correctly, prescribe strength and conditioning exercises appropriately, and integrate weighted baseball work the right way. If we do these three things correctly - and make sure to take care of tissue quality and length in our throwers - I firmly believe we can completely prevent lat strains, and that's been verified by our experience at Cressey Sports Performance.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance Hip Abduction End-Range Lift-off

Today, I wanted to introduce you to a mobility exercise we're utilizing a lot these days at Cressey Sports Performance. Here's a great demonstration from Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy :


Speaking of Cressey Sports Performance, as part of my spring sale, I'm putting Cressey Sports Performance Innovations on sale for 40% off through Tuesday at midnight. This resource features webinars on a variety of topics that will help coaches and fitness enthusiasts improve their training, programming, and coaching. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. You can add it to your cart HERE.

About the Author

Frank Duffy is the Coordinator of Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance-Massachusetts. He is a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) and Kinstretch Instructor. You can contact him via email at frankduffyfitness@gmail.com, check out his website, and follow him on Instagram.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/9/18

I hope you're having a great week. Stay tuned to EricCressey.com, as we started up my spring sale yesterday and will be running it for a good chunk of May. The first product featured is...

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - This presentation covers an incredibly important topic, and is now on sale for 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. This is some great continuing education material for under $9.

The Physical Preparation Podcast with John O'Neil - Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts Director of Performance John O'Neil hopped on Mike Robertson's podcast to long-term athletic development in baseball players. There are some great pearls of wisdom for anyone who works with middle and high school athletes.

Caffeine Consumption: How Much is Safe? - The crew at Examine.com pulled together some of the latest research on caffeine consumption to outline how much is considered safe for various individuals across the population.

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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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