Home Posts tagged "Baseball Workout"

Exercise of the Week: Supported Elbow CARs

The benefits of controlled articular rotations (CARs) are now well known in the strength and conditioning and rehabilitation realms, thanks to Functional Range Conditioning teachings. One way in which we've evolved this approach is by taking a closer look at the position at which we perform our elbow CARs. Historically, they've been performed with the arms at the sides, like this:

However, I think there's a lot more benefit to be gained by performing them with the upper arms supported at 90 degrees of flexion, particularly in an overhead athlete population.

Here's why:

1. With more shoulder flexion, we are able to lengthen the long head of the triceps over both joints it crosses (elbow and shoulder). In the seated position, the long head of the triceps is actually shortened as a shoulder extensor.

2. In throwing athletes, you'll commonly observe Bennett's lesions, areas of increased calcification along the posterior glenoid rim. For most athletes, they're incidental findings in asymptomatic shoulders, but in some cases, they can get too big and cause rotator cuff pathology (I relate it to a speed bump that the cuff has to go over). While the true cause of Bennett's lesions has been debated in the sports medicine world, many are of the belief that it results from traction stress from the long head of the triceps (LHOT) tendon. The tendon attaches on the supraglenoid tubercle (which is on the inferior aspect of the glenoid) and extends up to the labrum and joint capsule. LHOT also eccentrically prevents excessive elbow flexion during the cocking phase of throwing (think of it being heavily lengthened in a shorter catcher-like arm action).

So, whether you believe it's related to Bennett's lesions or not, there's a strong anatomical basis for us to say that the long head of the triceps is an extremely important - but heavily underappreciated - muscle for overhead athletes. I've seen a lot of throwers over the years who've benefited tremendously from manual therapy on the triceps - and this mobility drill is a useful proactive initiative that'll help the cause as well.

3. At positions of 90 degrees of shoulder flexion or more, we get greater serratus anterior recruitment to drive the rotational component of scapular upward rotation - but also a reduction in latissimus dorsi tone that can restrict it. This is particularly important in athletic populations that tend to carry a lot of extensor tone and live in scapular depression and/or downward rotation. It also gives these folks a break from competing against gravity, so it can actually reduce protective tension of the upper traps.

4. Building on this last point, serratus anterior also works to preserve the convex-concave relationship between the scapula and rib cage, which is particularly important to address in the aforementioned athletes who may have acquired flat (extended) thoracic spines over years of extension/rotation. These athletes crave reaching, rounding, and rotating.

You can add this to a warm-up, use it as a filler, or plug it into a cooldown. Take your time with each rep, and be sure to drive not only full elbow flexion/extension, but also pronation/supination of the forearm.

If you're looking to learn a bit more about long head of the triceps, I'd encourage you to check out my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions course, as I delve into it quite a bit as part of my upper extremity functional anatomy module.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Proteus Rotational Training and Assessment

We're excited to welcome Sam Miller and Will Waterman from Proteus Motion to the latest Elite Baseball Development Podcast. Proteus is changing the game with how we can both assess and train rotational sports athletes. In this podcast, we discuss the origins of this innovative technology and highlight how it can be utilized to individualize strength and conditioning interventions in this population.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you’ll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today – 10 FREE travel packs – with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I’d encourage you to give it a shot, too – especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

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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Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Should Pitchers Bench Press?

I'm flying solo for this week's podcast, as I wanted to tackle a controversial topic in the world of baseball strength and conditioning: pitching and the bench press. Before we get to it, though, a special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

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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The Best of 2018: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2018" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. When Pitching Goes Poorly: 5 Strategies for Righting the Ship - Pitchers can struggle for many reasons beyond just mechanics. Here are five factors to take into account.

2. Is It Really Biceps "Tendonitis? - One of my biggest pet peeves is when all anterior shoulder pain is given a "blanket diagnosis" of biceps tendonitis. With that in mind, this webinar excerpt from my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource delves into the topic in greater detail.

3. How to Apply the Joint-by-Joint Approach to the Elbow - In this video blog, I discuss how we can apply the concept of regional interdependence to the elbow, particularly in the context of pitching injuries.

4. How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games - I've haven't coached a high school baseball game in my life. I know a lot about adaptation to training in youth athletes, though, and that puts me in a unique position to comment on how to win high school baseball games.

5. Why Injuries are Highest Early in the Baseball Season (Video) - Major League Baseball Injuries are highest during Spring Training and early in the regular season. Surely, some of this has to do with the fact that some players had lingering issues from the previous season that never went away - but it definitely goes further than this.

We've got one last "Best of 2018" list running tomorrow, so stay tuned for the closer!

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Checks and Balances in the Shoulder of the Throwing Athlete

For today's guest post, I've collaborated with physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, one of my co-presenters at the Elite Baseball Mentorship. Enjoy! -EC

The #1 reason why a player or team does not succeed in baseball is injury. Today, there is a surplus of information, but at the same time a lack of basic understanding of how to keep a baseball player healthy. When in doubt, you can never go wrong by understanding and relying upon anatomy and quality human movement.

One key principle to understand in this regard is that there is a tremendous system of checks and balances working at the shoulder girdle to make sure that we control both the big movements (osteokinematics) and subtle joint movements (arthrokinematics) in a small window for health and performance. If we look to anatomy, we can appreciate a very important concept by looking at the attachment points for the deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and pectoralist major: your three biggest prime movers in the upper extremity. You'll notice that all three attach on the shaft of the humerus, not the humeral head. Take a look at their attachment sites on this anatomical chart, and then compare them to where the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, subscapularis, teres major, and teres minor) attach further up on the humeral head.

Source: http://howtorelief.com/humerus-anatomy-bony-landmarks-muscle-attachment/

You can appreciate that all these big muscles attach on the anterior (front) aspect of the humerus, which means that they have powerful pulls into internal rotation that have to be counteracted by fewer, smaller muscles that attach on the posterior (back) aspect of the shoulder.

Here are three specific implications of these anatomical observations that relate to how you manage your throwing athletes:

1. The Deltoid is strong/active enough!

The deltoid works in conjunction with the supraspinatus to form a “force couple.”

Source: www.MikeReinold.com

If the strength, recruitment, or timing of the deltoid is greater than the supraspinatus, then the result will be superior migration of the humeral head in the glenoid. This results in superior humeral head stress (chondral defect), undersurface rotator cuff tear, labral pathology, among other structural injuries to the glenohumeral joint.

Tip: Be sure that athletes feel rotator cuff strengthening exercises in the cuff and not the deltoid or biceps.

2. The lat is strong/active enough!

The lat (as it acts on the scapula) is opposed by the serratus anterior, lower trapezius, and upper trapezius to control scapular rotation. Increased relative stiffness of the lat results in excessive scapular depression and downward rotation at rest.

Additionally, if you have decreased activation or muscle performance of the scapular upward rotators and elevators with overhead motion, the outcome will be inferior migration of the glenoid on the humeral head.

This results in superior humeral head stress (chondral defect), undersurface rotator cuff tear, labral pathology, among other structural injuries to the glenohumeral joint.

Tip: Be sure that the athlete’s programs have a good balance of overhead reaching tasks done with proper mechanics and timing of the glenohumeral and scapulothoracic joints.

3. The pecs are strong/active enough!

Pectoralis major's impact on the anterior glenohumeral joint is opposed by the rotator cuff to prevent anterior humeral glide. Effectively, the pec and lats want to pull the ball forward on the socket as the arm goes through gross movements, and the rotator cuff works hard to prevent this gliding at the joint level.

Dominance of pec major over the rotator cuff muscles (namely subscapularis) will play a role in an athlete presenting with anterior humeral glide. We often hear the athlete report “tightness” in the front of the shoulder and their first option is to "stretch it."

This can lead to anterior shoulder pain and potential structural pathology including anterior joint laxity, biceps tendon pathology, and labral pathology – all common injuries in throwing athletes.

Tip: Rather than trying to decrease the “tightness” in the front of the shoulder by aggressively stretching—instead, focus on improving static alignment, proprioceptive awareness, and recruitment of the cuff. If you couple this with some self-massage work, this approach will yield far more favorable results.

In closing, the shoulder joint is happiest when alignment is optimal. Injury will occur if preferred alignment is altered. Examples of altered alignment at rest or with movement are the humeral head is riding too high in the socket, the socket is riding too low on the humeral head, or the humerus is gliding too far forward. The resultant stress to the active or passive restraints of the shoulder leads to injury and loss of playing time. Do yourself (and the players that you work with) a favor and master the basics to help improve success on the field.

Looking to learn more about our unique approach to assessing and managing throwing athletes? Check out the upcoming Elite Baseball Mentorship Upper Extremity Course on January 14-16, 2018. For more information, click here.  The early-bird registration discount ends tonight at midnight.

About the Co-Author

Eric Schoenberg (@PTMomentum) is a physical therapist and strength coach located in Milford, MA where he is co-owner of Momentum Physical Therapy. Eric is addicted to baseball and plays a part in the Elite Baseball Mentorship Seminars at Cressey Sports Performance. He can be reached at eric@momentumpt.com.
 

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6 Key Factors for Developing Pitchers

When you ask most people what makes an elite pitcher, you’ll usually get responses like “velocity,” “stuff,” and “durability.” And, certainly, none of these answers are incorrect. However, they all focus on outcomes.

When you dig a bit deeper, though, you’ll realize that these successful outcomes were likely heavily driven by a collection of processes. If you rely solely on what the radar gun says or how many runs one gives up as success measures, you don’t really learn much about development. Conversely, if you dig deeper with respect to the characteristics of an aspiring pitcher’s approach to development, you can quickly recognize where some of the limiting factors may be. Here are six characteristics of any successful pitching development approach:

1. Openmindedness

Very simply, the athlete has to be willing to try new approaches to further his development. What gets you from 80mph to 88mph will rarely be what takes you to 95mph. Openmindedness precedes buy-in, and you’ll never make progress if you aren’t fully bought in. Brandon Kintzler had a significant velocity drop from 2014 to 2015 - and that loss in velocity contributed to him spending most of 2015 in AAA instead of the big leagues. Fortunately, those struggles led him to being openminded - even at age 31 - to trying out Cressey Sports Performance programming, and he regained his previous velocity and then some. And, before 2016 was over, he was a big league closer.

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2. Prioritization

Good assessments identify the largest windows for improvement/adaptation, and excellent programs are structured to attack these growth areas. All too often, athletes simply want to do what they enjoy doing as opposed to what they really need to be doing. Of course, this relates back to the aforementioned “buy-in” described. Another MLB closer, Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson, saw an even bigger velocity jump after his first off-season (2013-14) with CSP.

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A big chunk of that had to do with a greater focus on soft tissue work and mobility training to get that fresh, quick arm feeling back. Sam loves to lift and would tend to overdo it in that regard, so he actually improved by doing less volume. Effectively, he had to prioritize removing excessive fatigue - and implementing strategies to bounce back faster.

[bctt tweet="You can't take a fitness solution to a fatigue problem and expect positive results."]

3. Attention to Detail

Inattentive throwing, mindless stretching, and half hazard lifting techniques all come to mind here. It drives me bonkers to see athletes “give up” reps, and my experience has been that this is the most readily apparent thing you notice when you see high school athletes training alongside professional athletes. When it comes to throwing, athletes need to learn to throw with both intent and direction. Corey Kluber is among the best I've ever seen in this regard; whether it's in lifting or throwing, he never gives up a rep with wasted, distracted effort - and it's no surprise that he's become such a consistent high-level performer in the big leagues over the past four seasons.

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4. Diligence

A great program can be rendered relatively useless if it’s executed with mediocre efforts. The truth is that while many athletes Tweet about hard they work, the truth is that very few of them actually putting in the time, effort, and consistency needed to even come close to their potential. Another Cy Young award winner and CSP athlete, Max Scherzer, takes the cake on this one. Max is always looking for ways to make individual exercises and training sessions harder by adding competition.  He'll have other athletes jump in to chase him during sprint and agility drills, and he'll regularly reflect back on previous week numbers to verify that progress is always headed in the right direction.

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5. Continuity

I think this is one of the biggest struggles with developing arms in the college environment. The nature of the academic and athletic calendars – in combination with NCAA regulations – makes it very challenging to have continuity in pitchers’ throwing programs. As a result, there is a lot of ramping up and shutting down throughout the year. Athletes don’t get the consistency needed to optimally develop, and they don’t get the rest needed to optimally recharge. When you chase two rabbits, both get away.

6. Environment

The right training environment makes a good athlete great, and an average athlete good. It’s why we’ve gone to such great lengths to foster a “family” environment at both Cressey Sports Performance facilities. We want athletes to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, thereby increasing accountability to something more than just a workout sheet.

cspfamily-300x56

Interestingly, as you look at these six factors, points 1-4 are intrinsic (specific to the athlete), whereas points 5-6 are extrinsic (specific to the environment/circumstances). Points 5-6 have a massive impact on points 1-4, though.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath note that while you will almost never effect quick change a person, you can always work to change the situation that governs how a person acts - and do so relatively transiently.

With that in mind, changing the situation by heavily emphasizing continuity and environment are outstanding avenues to enhancing the previous four factors. First, you’re more openminded if you see training partners getting great results with training approaches you haven’t tried before. Second, you also learn to prioritize when you look around and athletes are outperforming you in certain areas. Third, you pay more attention to detail when you’re surrounded by other athletes working toward the same goal. Fourth, your diligence is enhanced when there is a competitive environment that challenges you to be better each day. And, all these improvements are magnified further when continuity is in place; they happen consistently enough for positive habits to develop.

An appreciation for how these six factors are related is why we structure our Collegiate Elite Baseball Development summer program the way we did. The program is 10 weeks in length to ensure optimal continuity. It's for pitchers who are not playing summer baseball.

Each athlete begins with a thorough initial movement assessment that sets the stage for individualized strength and conditioning programming - which corresponds to six days a week of training.

There are individualized throwing progressions designed following initial assessment, and ongoing throwing training - weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis) as part of the group.

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All the athletes receive weekly manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist, and nutritional guidance throughout the program.

Last, but not least, we incorporate a weekly educational component (a presentation from our staff or FaceTime/Skype session with one of our pro athletes) to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training.

The best part is that it takes place in a motivating environment where athletes can push each other to be the best they can be. By optimizing the situation, you can help change the person.

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Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com.

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3 More Reasons We Don’t Have Our Baseball Players Bench Press

Today's guest article comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. Tony is also one of the contributors to the new Cressey Sports Performance Innovations resource, which is on sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. Enjoy! -EC 

I wouldn’t break the Internet if I told you that we don’t use the barbell bench press to train baseball players at Cressey Sports Performance.

As a powerlifter, I love the bench press. It’s a solid choice for general fitness folks, too. But by now, it’s widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting really strong on the bench press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. And if you dig a little deeper, there’s some more specific reasoning why the bench press doesn’t show up in most programs at CSP.

1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations to Throwing

When you throw a baseball for a living, it’s likely that a handful of things will happen, including:

• Increased glenohumeral external rotation
• Decreased glenohumeral internal rotation
• Decreased elbow extension

So basically, you get a shoulder that’s loose in the front and tight in the back, along with an elbow that doesn’t straighten all the way. But what happens at the torso and lower body?

• Decreased scapular upward rotation
• Decreased soft tissue quality (lats, rotator cuff, pec major and minor, among others)
• Abnormal spinal curvature (i.e. lumber and/or thoracic hyperextension)
• Decreased hip rotation (most often loss of hip internal rotation)

lowleftshoulder

Now we have scaps and hips that don’t move well, gritty tissue surrounding the shoulder, and a spine that’s stuck in extension. This paints a grim picture and it’s not as bad as it sounds, but what does bench pressing do to help this situation?

The answer? Nothing. In fact, it feeds into many of these dysfunctions.

Coach someone into a proper bench press setup and what do you get? Global spinal extension, scapular retraction and depression, humeral motion WITHOUT scap motion, and heavy loads placed on the pecs, delts, lats and triceps. The stresses are eerily similar to throwing, albeit at slower speeds and heavier loads.

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We spend a lot of time each offseason trying to restore movement quality in our baseball players, which means staying away from many of these gross extension patterns and exercises that lock the scaps in place. You can’t justify strength gains at the expense of movement quality. As Gray Cook says, don’t build strength on top of dysfunction.

2. It’s Not Speed- or Plane-Specific

In order for a movement to transfer to sport, it needs to have some degree of specificity. We have to look at the plane in which the movement occurs (sagittal, frontal or transverse) and where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.

Granted, simply getting stronger has direct transfer to sport without being specific. Otherwise, strength coaches wouldn’t have jobs. However, research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific and that traditional sagittal plane power exercises (jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches, etc.) have limited transfer to throwing a baseball. We've seen plenty of pitchers with sub-20-inch verticals and 90-mile-per-hour fastballs to back this up. Research from Lehman et al. (2012) backed this up as well.

Rather, frontal and transverse plane movements like Heidens and med ball throws work better. So building a fast, crisp bench press might make a football player incredibly powerful, but it won’t transfer much to baseball.

Also, bench pressing is simply too slow to have much transfer. If you look at the force-velocity curve (also known as the strength-speed continuum), throwing a baseball is all the way at the velocity end. It’s a light load moved incredibly fast. Benching is on the other end: a heavy load moved slowly.

High-load, low-speed lifting might benefit some athletes who have spent their entire training career on the pure velocity end (i.e. the travel team athlete who plays all year and never lifts weights), but we can still “fill in” this gap with push-ups and dumbbell bench pressing. And while we can train our athletes to develop force quickly and move heavy weights with ballistic intent, it’s too far removed from baseball to have much of an impact, especially for athletes who are already pretty strong.

3. It’s Not Very Self-Limiting

In my experience as a lifter and coach, I’d wager that most of the poor decisions in the gym occur on or near the bench press. People are much more likely to overestimate their strength capabilities while benching than they are squatting, deadlifting or lunging. If health and performance are our two top priorities, we need to pick exercises that don’t unleash our athletes’ inner meathead.

An incorrectly performed bench press can put an athlete in some lousy positions. Elbows flared, body squirming with hundreds of pounds hovering over their throat; that’s the LAST place I want my athletes. Sure, any heavy exercise can be risky, but a missed rep on a push-up or landmine press has less potential for disaster. Even the dumbbell bench press requires a light enough load to get into the starting position, making it a more self-limiting choice.

If you coach multiple athletes at once, you won’t see every rep of every set. As hard as you might try, it’s impossible to see everything in a high school or college weight room. That said, picking exercises that are self-limiting while still effective makes for a safer training environment. For our athletes at CSP, that means more push-ups and landmine presses than barbell bench variations.

Conclusion

The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.

If you DO bench press and use it with your athletes, you won’t want to miss our newest product: Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. It’s a collection of 11 webinars from the staff members at CSP with tons of great fitness and business content, including my presentation, “10 Things I’ve Learned About the Bench Press.”

CSP Innovations is on sale for $50 off until Sunday at midnight, so click here to grab your copy now!

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Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Baseball Development

We had a great staff in-service on strength and conditioning programming yesterday, and it really got the wheels turning in my brain. The end result was this video, which is especially timely, given that many professional baseball players are about to begin their off-season training.

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5 Steps to Becoming a Baseball Specialist

Today's guest post comes from physical therapist, Eric Schoenberg. Eric is an integral part of the Elite Baseball Mentorships team. 

EBM-Cressey

A thought came to mind as I was considering how we can work towards reducing the incidence of injury in baseball: we need more specialists.

If we use the field of medicine as a model, the Total Knee Replacement has pretty much been mastered. Of course, there is room for improvement, but over the past 25 years, this surgery has become a massive success. The biggest reason for this is a progression of specialization:

MD > Orthopedist > Orthopedic Surgeon > Knee Specialist > Total Knee Replacement (TKR) Specialist

If you need a knee replacement, you don’t go to your primary care physician. Instead, you schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon that specializes in TKR. So, if you are a baseball player, why does it make sense to work with a “general” strength coach or physical therapist?
[bctt tweet="Every profession matures into a state of “super-specialization” as it develops."]

Strength coaches and physical therapists have a great opportunity ahead of us to move our professions forward in this manner.

The current entry point for a strength coach is minimal. Most commonly, entry into the field falls somewhere between a fitness certification and a 4-year degree. In some cases, you will see dual degrees, Master’s degrees, and the occasional PhD.

However, there is no direct path available to niche into a “baseball specialist.” Instead, we have private sector, college, and even some professional strength coaches that may have seen baseball players by chance, but have no more experience with them than any other sport. It’s not a criticism of them, though; there simply isn’t an established “curriculum” they can pursue. As a result, in most cases, highly “specialized” baseball players are being managed by “general” strength coaches.

I have to believe that this is as much of a contributing factor as any to the high incidence of injury in the baseball world. By the time these athletes make it far enough in their careers to have access to “baseball specialists,” they are often too damaged for even the experts to manage.

Here are five tips to establish yourself as a trusted resource in the baseball community:

1. Watch baseball.

Don’t just watch it for entertainment value. Study the movements. Use slow motion and rewind on your TV. Watch video online and gain a better understanding of the actions and positions unique to the sport. Once you think you have it figured out, you are only just scratching the surface. Keep studying! Start to recognize why faulty mechanics can lead to improper distribution of stress and ultimately injury. By doing this, you can pair this knowledge with your individual assessment of the athlete to create a more optimal training program.

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2. Spend time on a field.

Baseball players are unique in their habits and tendencies. Gain a “feel” for the game. Understand the culture of the game. Learn how to identify with and communicate with athletes that are much younger than you. Understand that most of their time on the field is spent standing around and waiting. Educate your players on how to optimize this time to prepare mentally, hydrate, properly warm up, etc. It is not enough to say you used to play baseball 20 years ago; nobody cares. My credibility and effectiveness in managing baseball players increased 10x once I started spending time at the field as part of a team. Create an angle to quickly establish trust and common ground with the athlete and watch your results dramatically improve.

3. Understand the unique physical characteristics and demands of baseball players.

Baseball players have physical characteristics that differ from other sports. Educate yourself for the benefit of your athletes. Learn about humeral retroversion, gross extension patterns, laxity, valgus stress, dynamic stability, rotator cuff timing, etc. Work towards understanding the importance of stability of the landing leg, proper hip hinge pattern, and the importance of tri-planar single leg balance. Don’t “stretch” a guy that is already too loose. Instead, give him some stability and watch his pain go away. The baseball player’s anatomy is a long way from “neutral.” Do your best to bring them closer to the middle and not further away. For example, your ability to recognize that a baseball player should not be cued to pull their shoulder blades “down and back” because their shoulder blades are ALREADY down and back may save dozens of careers.

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4. Master functional anatomy and human movement.

Understand the critical role of the scapula. Train the rotator cuff in the throwing position through the entire range of motion (especially end-range external rotation). Learn how the kinetic chain applies specifically to baseball. Hitting and throwing are highly coordinated, precisely timed, multidirectional movements. Don’t train your athletes with single joint exercises that only occur in the sagittal plane. Learn about hip/trunk separation to maximize power and explosiveness. Be able to educate the athlete on what it means to have a labral tear or understand the specifics of an ulnar nerve transposition. If you can’t explain these pathologies, then how can you minimize risk when working with these athletes? Take pride in your job on this front.

5. Be willing to respectfully challenge the “institution of baseball.”

CSP coach Tony Bonvechio wrote a blog post a while back where he warned about the dangers of the phrase “this is how I’ve always done it.” I find myself observing on a daily basis that regardless of level – little league, high school, college, pro ball – at least 80% of the player’s warm up routine is exactly the same. How can that be? We have progressed as a profession; however, kids on baseball fields across the world are all doing the same useless warm-up routine.

An example of progress is Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. He softened the traditional stance of getting to the ballpark at 1pm for a 7pm game. Instead, they have created a culture that emphasizes more sleep, nutrition, and recovery and his players love him for it.

If we want different results, we have to continue to move towards a different approach. The efforts of strength coaches and physical therapists to move towards becoming baseball specialists will go a long way in helping to reach this goal.

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The Best of 2015: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2015" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. Common Arm Care Mistakes - Installment 6 - In this article, I talk about how important it is to select arm care exercises that truly appreciate the functional demands placed on the shoulder and elbow during throwing.

2. Changing Baseball Culture: A Call to Action - Physical therapist Eric Schoenberg makes a call to action to step away from four baseball traditions so that we can more easily prevent baseball injuries.

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3. What is a "Big League Body?" - Big leaguers come in all shapes and sizes. Your baseball strength and conditioning programs need to appreciate that.

4. 6 Physical Attributes of Elite Hitters - Here are six physical characteristics that elite hitters seem to share.

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5. Projecting the Development of High School Pitchers -  Cressey Sports Performance Pitching Coordinator Matt Blake shows what a difference a year can make in projecting high school pitchers for college baseball success.

If you're interested in learning more about how we assess, program for, and train baseball players, I'd encourage you to check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next course will take place January 17-19, 2016 at our Hudson, MA facility. You can learn more HERE.

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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