Home Posts tagged "Baseball Workout" (Page 2)

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/8/15

It's not just any Monday, as today kicks off the 2015 MLB Draft, which is always a big event in the Cressey Sports Performance world. To that end, I thought I'd use this installment to highlight a few old posts I've made on the subject. There are some good lessons on perseverance and long-term athletic development in these articles.

6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development - This was my 2014 post-draft feature, where I discuss key characteristics of successful players.

draft_15_logo.0

MLB Draft Thoughts: Talking vs. Doing - This was the 2013 post-draft feature, which highlights that actions speak louder than words.

Draft Q&A with Eric Cressey: Part 1 and Part 2 - This two-part article was actually an interview of me for Baseball America prior to last year's MLB Draft. I think it delves into a lot of important topics for up-and-coming players as well as coaches and parents.

Enjoy the draft!

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!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/11/15

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers who read this blog; I hope you all had a great day yesterday! As a belated gift, here are some recommended resources for the week:

A Doctor's View of CrossFit - I thought this was an excellent interview at T-Nation with Dr. Stuart McGill, arguably the world's premier spine specialist. He definitely covered some points that haven't been mentioned previously in the Crossfit debate, and you'll find quite a few one-liners you'll want to commit to memory. One that stood out to me: "Olympic lifting must find the lifter. Not the other way around given the special anatomical gifts needed to lift with efficiency and injury resiliency."

An Interview with Eric Cressey, by Jason Glass - Jason and I talked shop a few weeks ago, and you can listen to the podcast online now. We covered a lot of topics, the foremost of which was training rotational sport athletes.

Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing - I had a great conversation with a seminar attendee this weekend about this very topic, so I thought I'd bring this great guest post from Jeff Albert (minor league hitting coordinator for the Houston Astros) back to the forefront.

hips

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

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/23/15

Happy Monday, folks! Here are some good strength and conditioning articles to kick off your week:

Hip Extension and Rotational in the Baseball Swing - Here's a "reincarnation" from the archives, courtesy of Houston Astros Minor League Hitting Coordinator, Jeff Albert. It seems only fitting, giving that spring training is underway!

The 5 Best Ways to Get Stronger - I couldn't agree more with all of the points Mike Robertson made here. There are some excellent strategies here for intermediate lifters.

Mike-Robertson-Deadlift

 

I Don't Even Want to Be Here - This was a great post from Kevin Neeld on the importance of positivity in coaching youth athletes, and always praising effort over outcomes.

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

Name
Email
Read more

New Cressey Sports Performance – Florida Facility Featured on WPBF 25 News

The Elite Baseball Development program at our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility was a local news feature the other day. Check it out HERE.

ec25

For more information on the new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance, check out www.CresseySportsPerformance.com.

"I have used Cressey Sports Performance for my last five off-seasons. CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in a position to remain healthy throughout a long season. Even when I can’t be there to work with them in person, I am still able to benefit from CSP’s resources at my home through the distance-based programs.”

-Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2014 American League Cy Young Winner
 

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!

Name
Email
Read more

5 Great Analogies for Training Baseball Players

In their outstanding book, Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath emphasize that a new idea will always be more readily accepted if it is incorporated into an individual’s existing schema. In an example I've used before here at EricCressey.com, if I give you the letters TICDGFASOH and then ask you to list all the letters I included to me 20 minutes later without writing them down, most of you won’t be able to accomplish the task correctly.

made_to_stick_heath1

However, if I reordered those letters as CATDOGFISH, you’d accomplish the task easily. You know the words DOG, CAT, and FISH – so it would fit into your existing schema. I work to apply this same logic to how I educate my baseball players. With that in mind, here are five analogies I like to use as part of the long-term baseball development process.

1. Arm care is just like making bank deposits and withdrawals.

To me, every action you make with your arm either takes you closer to or further away from arm health.  Every time you do your arm care drills, get in a strength training session, do some soft tissue work, or get your arm stretched out (when appropriate), you're making a deposit in your bank account. Each time you make a throw - especially off a mound - you're making a withdrawal. If withdrawals exceed deposits over the course of a year, you're likely going to go bankrupt (get injured).

2. Bad scapular positioning or scapulohumeral rhythm is like starting behind the starting line - or you're backpedaling when the starting gun fires.

I've discussed the importance of scapular positioning and scapulohumeral rhythmic for throwers in the past - especially in our new resource, Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body. Here's a video to bring you up to speed:

In this video, I talk about "ball and socket congruency." In other words, the ball can't ride up, and the socket can't stay too low. I like to refer to neutral scapular resting position as the starting line. If you sit in too much downward rotation, you're effectively setting up behind the starting line. In the photo below, the black line is where the medial border of his scapula should be at rest, and the red line is where it actually is.

ScapularDownwardRotation

Other folks may actually start in the correct position, but begin what should be upward rotation with an aberrant movement - such as a "yank" toward the midline (rhomboid dominance) or into scapular depression (lat dominance). These are the exact opposites of what you want to occur - which is upward rotation, or running toward the finish line.

3. Doing arm care drills with a faulty core recruitment pattern is like shooting a cannon from a canoe.

I always talk about how the spine and rib cage "deliver" the shoulder blade. You can do all the arm care drills in the world, but if you don't know how to keep a stable core in place, you'll never really put your shoulder girdle (or elbow, for that matter) in an ideal position to throw - and you certainly won't effectively transfer force from your lower body. Here's what a lot of athletes look like with their overhead reaching pattern:

Instead of getting good shoulder flexion and scapular upward rotation, they just go into lumbar (lower back) extension. When you see an aberrant movement pattern like this, you realize that it's no surprise that some of the same underlying movement inefficiencies can contribute to upper extremity, core, and lower extremity injuries alike. It's really just a matter of where an athlete breaks down first.

4. Committing to a college really early is like proposing to the first girl you ever date - and then letting her "shop around" for other dudes while you stay faithful.

This observation has less to do with the actual training process, but more to do with long-term management of an athlete. Why in the world does a freshman in high school need to be verbally committing to a college - especially when he can't sign on the dotted line to officially commit until his senior year? If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that we always look back on what we did 2-3 years earlier and laugh, as we realize how misdirected we were. I do it at age 33, and you can just imagine how much faster an impressionable teenage athlete can acquire new views on the world.

It's fine to take your time and see what's out there - and any coach that pressures a freshman or sophomore to commit so young is probably not a person for whom you'd like to play. And, 99% of the time, that offer is still going to be on the table 6-18 months down the road in spite of the false deadlines they throw on you.

Finally, as an "in the know" friend reminded me the other day, don't forget that even if you verbally commit to a school, they're still out there trying to "date" other athletes. If they can find someone who they think is a better prospect than you are, they'll drop you like yesterday's newspaper. The ethical coaches don't do this, but it is nonetheless still a sad part of college sports. With that in mind, it's okay to go on "dates" with different schools and take your time in finding the one that's right for you.

Side note: if you're looking to be a more informed consumer with respect to the college recruiting process, give this a read: 25 Questions to Ask During the College Recruiting Process.

5. Stretching a loose shoulder is like picking a scab; it feels good for a bit, but only makes things uglier over the long haul.

There are a lot of hypermobile (lose-jointed) pitchers out there. It's often a big part of what makes them successful, but it comes at a cost: increased injury risk, if they don't stay on top of their stability training.

 elbow10365821_744096285641478_6191697364410130329_n

What they often lose sight of, though, is the fact that it's just as important to avoid creating instability as it is to train for stability. In other words, continually stretching a hypermobile joint is likely even worse than just leaving out your strength work. The former reduces passive stability, whereas the latter just doesn't improve active stability.

The problem is that a lot of loose-jointed players feel "tight" - and it's usually because they lay down trigger points to make up for their lack of stability. The stretching feels good in the short term, but the trigger point comes back stronger and stronger each time - until you're eventually dealing with a torn anterior (shoulder) capsule or ulnar collateral ligament. Eventually, reducing the passive stability leads to a pathology - just like picking that scab eventually leads to an infection or scar.

Want to learn more about whether or not you're hypermobile? Check out my article, Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 1.

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!

Name
Email
Read more

6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development

This past week was the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, and we watched the three days excitedly, as 18 Cressey Sports Performance athletes were selected - including six of the top 100 picks. Among these 18 picks, there were actually several kids who spent their entire high school careers training with us, and one even started with us in middle school. With these guys in mind, I got to thinking a lot about factors I believe helped them to be successful over the long haul. Here are a few that came to mind:

1. They were all multi-sport athletes for at least part of high school.

There's a common misconception that professional athletes have been destined to be professional athletes from the time that they were six years old, so that should be all they should do. It's simply not the case. Time and time again, when I ask our pro guys what sports they played growing up, they share that they did everything. In this group of draft picks, we had basketball captains, great golfers, a D1-caliber football quarterback, a potential NHL draft pick, a long snapper, and one that even started out as a better tennis player, then switched over to baseball. The point? You have to be a good athlete before you can be a good baseball player.

Where does strength and conditioning fit in?  Well, to some degree, I see it as another sport that guys can play even after they specialize. Among other things, it affords them the variety they lose in their daily movement patterns.

2. They were "likable" guys and could roll with different social circles.

This might sound weird, but I think the ability to make friends easily is important for long-term athletic success.  If you're someone who can't get along easily with others, you'll always be distracted in a team environment, and never able to put full focus on training. Unless they're unbelievably skilled, the guys who say and do the wrong things invariably wind up weeding themselves out.

As a funny example, check out this video of Adam Ravenelle and Tyler Beede. They first met and became friends in 2008 at Cressey Sports Performance. They were from different towns, but actually both wound up committing to Vanderbilt in 2010.

Both were drafted out of high school, but chose to honor their commitments to Vanderbilt - where they were roommates. And, look who was sitting next to Ty as his name was called in the first round of the draft last week:

 

Adam was drafted in the 4th round a day later, and I know Ty was his biggest fan.  Both these guys made friends easily, and it allowed them to benefit more from the environments they were in. They could bounce ideas off of big leaguers who trained at the facility, find throwing and lifting partners to push them. Perhaps most importantly, their likable demeanors made it possible to treat CSP as an "escape" for a few hours when other parts of their lives were distracting or chaotic. When you're a self-centered ego-maniac jerk, you can never escape. With few exceptions, you have to be a good person before you can be a good baseball player.

3. They wanted to be part of something bigger.

One of our 18 players came from a troubled family life about which few people know, and it was a huge step for him to fill us in on the struggles with which he'd dealt. As a sophomore in high school, he did his initial evaluation with Brian St. Pierre (our first employee). About a year later, Brian moved to Maine to go back to school, and the athlete opened up to me about how bummed out he was about it because Brian was one of the few who "knew his story." In short, the coaches at CSP had become more of an extended family than just a bunch of coaches.

Since then, he's been one our biggest advocates, referring several teammates from high school, summer, and college ball to train at Cressey Sports Performance. Much like he's always been a great teammate on the baseball field, he's been a valued part of the CSP Family. You have to be a good teammate before you can be a good baseball player.

cspfamily

4. They never put the carriage in front of the horse.

Looking back on the initial evaluation day for each of these athletes, I can honestly say that not a single one of them ever told me that professional baseball was their goal. As an interesting story, I'll never forget the day I evaluated Forrest Wall, the 35th overall pick this year by the Rockies. It was literally weeks before I had any idea that Forrest was a very established prospect - and I only found out that was the case when someone else "in the know" encouraged me to look him up in more detail. Here was a family that had every reason to brag about how talented their son was, and they went out of their way to avoid it, staying incredible humble the entire time.

Wall

Had they told him and everyone around him how great he was all along, would have ended up with the same outstanding character and work ethic that he has today? And, would he have been drafted the other night? It's impossible to say, but what I can tell you that my experience has been that there is generally an inverse relationship between how much a parent brags about his kid, and how hard that kid works.

Looking at our 18 guys, I can honestly say that on their first day at CSP, some didn't even comment that they wanted to play college baseball (even though it was obvious they did). Rather, they all talked about wanting to be bigger, stronger, healthier, or something to that effect. They wanted to find the means to their ends - but not talk about the ends. You've got to be patient, humble, and process-driven before you can be a good baseball player.

5. They all were very consistent.

This is something I really noticed in hindsight.  This collection of guys were always good about getting their training in not only during the off-season, but during the in-season period as well.  It's always frustrating when guys put in great work in the off-season, only to put it on cruise control during the season, which inevitably leads to them coming back lighter and weaker at the end of the long season; it's just one step forward, and one step back.  For these guys, they were at least maintaining - but more often than not, improving during the season.  Slow and steady improvements with no hiccups is the name of the game. With such a long competitive season and challenging calendar, you've got to make taking care of your body an "all the time" job to be a good baseball player.

6. They came from strong developmental programs.

While there are a lot of tremendous coaches involved with these 18 players, I want to highlight the one with which I'm the most familiar: Sudbury, MA. In Adam Ravenelle (4th round), Carl Anderson (19th round), and Billy Bereszniewicz (30th round), Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School had three players drafted - all after successful Division 1 Baseball careers. While there may be a few other high schools schools in the country who can boast this, I doubt they're in northern states, where the talent may be thinned out from lacrosse or hockey.

It starts with good feeder programs at the youth levels; Sudbury Little League does a good job of emphasizing development over winning and showcasing talent, and kids don't show up to high school overused or injured. In high school, these three played for Kirk Fredericks, one of the best coaches I've seen at any level of baseball. He hammers home fundamentals, respects the game, and establishing a culture of winning (13 of the last 14 league titles, with three state championships worked in). Perhaps most importantly, the accountability he emphasizes prepares kids for college ball - or whatever the next step in their journey is. At the end of his freshman year of college, one of them actually said to me, "I never really appreciated how good Coach Fredericks was until I got to college and felt more prepared than everyone around me." That's what good coaches do; make it about the team by patiently cultivating habits in impressionable young minds over the long haul.

rav292042_2235797529777_1671300_n

These three also played for the New England Ruffnecks, one of the premier baseball organizations in the country, and certainly the Northeast. Again, the emphasis is development and playing challenging teams to get kids out of their comfort zones. They aren't just trying to rack up an impressive win-loss record or accumulate trophies. And, the trains always run on time, so players know what is expected of them.

It all comes down to clear and consistent messages. Everyone these guys played for expected quality effort from them every time out, and these coaches all modeled positive behavior. You can't expect kids to develop when coaches show up late, smoke butts in the parking lot, cheat on their wives, and completely disrespect the game.  It's about habits more than it is outcomes, so you have to make sure the right person is teaching those habits. You have to be around good people with good skill sets before you can be a good baseball player.

Wrap-up

What you might have noticed is that all of these key qualities related to habits and not outcomes.  It's not just about being able to deadlift 400 pounds or long toss 300 feet; it's about having the traits that allow for consistent, high-quality effort in the right environments to make the most of the coaching you have at your fingertips, and the natural abilities with which you've been blessed. If you take care of the habits, the outcomes tend to take care of themselves.

Congratulations to not only the 18 CSP draft picks, but also the many other players reading this post who've had this great experience as well. You've surely done a lot of these things right along the way, too.

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!

Name
Email
Read more

The 5 Most Common Errors Athletes Make With Yoga

Today's guest post comes from yoga expert, Dana Santas. Dana has built up an impressive client roster of professional athletes and teams, and it's no surprise, given how educated she is in applying yoga the right way. Enjoy! -EC

DanaSantas-211x300

Yoga is a popular topic in the sports world these days. Undeniably, yoga can offer some amazing benefits for athletes. However, those benefits can only be realized when it’s taught correctly and adapted specifically with the goal of increasing sports performance. Otherwise, at best, yoga can be marginally helpful in sports, and, at worst, can actually be dangerous.

These are the five biggest mistakes I see athletes, coaches and trainers making with yoga:

1. Viewing Yoga as a Harmless “Stretch Class”

The most prevalent misconception about yoga that I encounter is that it’s best used for “stretching.” In my opinion, yoga applied for sheer flexibility has no place in sports. Flexibility without stability is nothing more than a recipe for injury. If you only use yoga to “stretch out” athletes without understanding and addressing the cause of the tension, you’re only applying yoga for temporary relief and can actually do more damage than good. A perfect example is the typical complaint: “I need to stretch my hamstrings because I can’t touch my toes.” When the hamstring tension is caused by an anterior pelvic tilt pulling the hamstrings into a lengthened yet inhibited position, attempting to stretch the hamstrings without correcting the pelvic tilt will only lead to tearing the hamstrings.

APT-250x300

Most tension in athletes is caused by dysfunction or compensatory movement patterns. Fix the pattern and you release the tension--without unnecessary static stretching (like in the hamstrings example above).That’s why I never call what I do “increasing flexibility.” Is it a byproduct? Certainly. But I focus on using yoga for mobility, which--to me--means increasing stable, functional range of motion.

2. Not Understanding the Differences (and Dangers) of Yoga Styles

Saying “I do yoga” is like saying “I drive a car.” Really, what kind? There’s a big difference between a Hyundai and a Ferrari. When it comes to yoga, the variety of styles goes on and on...Hatha vs. Ashtanga vs. Bikram vs. Yin vs. Power vs. Blah Blah (everyone is making up their own version); I even have my own style! Athletes, coaches and trainers have to take the time to educate themselves about the techniques and rationales of the different styles before jumping into a class.

Personally, I believe some styles should be entirely contraindicated for athletes. I realize I’m going to piss off all the hot-yoga disciples by saying this, but one such style is Bikram, where the heat is turned up to an obnoxious 105 degrees. Yes, I know this is popular with athletes because they love to sweat. Great--push yourself properly in 75 degrees to sweat (or go to the sauna), but steer clear of a yoga style that teaches its instructors to shout commands like “lock your knees” while you slip and slide in sweat over the course of 90 minutes. Of the 26 poses used in Bikram, there are two I don’t think most athletes should attempt because of stress on the knees (Reclined Hero) and cervical spine (Rabbit). Another style that I’m not crazy about – Yin yoga – is widely marketed to athletes. The deep, static stretches of Yin are intended to stretch out the connective tissue--including ligaments. I don’t agree with encouraging athletes to stretch out areas that provide joint stability.

PirateCityYogaTraining-275x300

3. Not Vetting The Yoga Instructor

Most people don’t realize that yoga instruction is almost entirely unregulated. As such, there's no law requiring any specific certification to teach yoga. So, anyone can buy a certification online. Consequently, there isn’t a requirement for any anatomy training at all. In fact, even the current gold standard of certification through Yoga Alliance only includes a limited number of anatomy hours, which can be entirely comprised of energy anatomy (chakras, nadis, etc.) rather than muscle and joint function.

Despite this, yoga teachers are encouraged to manually adjust their students in postures. If you’re asking yourself how anyone without anatomy and biomechanics training can properly adjust someone into alignment in complicated yoga poses, you’re contemplating a very valid question. What happens when ill-advised instructors adjust students in classes? Well, injuries aren’t uncommon. One of my MLB clients suffered a cervical spine injury when an instructor in a gym placed a strap around his neck and did “traction” to help him “rest comfortably” while supine at the end of class. Yikes!

Danateam-triangle-300x278

4. Trying to Become a Yogi

Simply learning to do a particular style of yoga as a form of cross training is like a baseball player playing basketball in the off-season. He may benefit from the cardiovascular exercise and even improve his agility, but nothing he does playing basketball is specific to him becoming a better baseball player. And, it could even put him at a greater risk of injury as he feeds into existing dysfunctional patterns within the movements of the new sport. The same logic applies to athletes learning to be yogis.

Consider this: a MLB player came to me as a new client after practicing yoga the two previous off-seasons. His movement across the transverse plane was poor and his right SI joint was jammed due to pelvic rotation left to right. He knew how to do yoga sun salutations (albeit while employing myriad compensatory movement patterns), but he lacked the ability to shift appropriately into his left hip and tap into core power and hip mobility for powerful, fluid rotation. He was a left-handed DH, not a yogi, and should’ve approached his yoga practice as such. Consequently, I designed a custom yoga practice for him that focused on establishing the ability to properly shift into his left hip while increasing fluid movement of his pelvis and hips supported by integrated core strength. That’s the kind of yoga he needed!

Another point I have to make about athletes not striving to become yogis is regarding learning advanced inversions and arm balances. Yes, standing on your head looks really cool, but, can easily cause disc herniations when done incorrectly. And arm balances are awe-inspiring, but offer no benefit to athletes (especially throwing athletes) that outweigh the risks. When pressed by clients to teach these poses, I ask them: “Are you an athlete who wants to reach the top of your game or would you rather join Cirque du Soleil?”

DrewDana

5. Wasting Hours in Yoga Classes

The standard format for a yoga class is a 60- to 90-minute class. With grueling training and game schedules, athletes have limited time to get the best possible training and have any semblance of a life outside of their sport, so every second counts. In my opinion, spending an hour-plus in a generic yoga class is not time well spent.

When taught athlete- and sport-specifically, yoga can be applied in a variety of ways that require little time commitment (i.e., a yoga mobility warm-up can be done before a workout or game, restorative yoga and/or deeper stretches can be done after games and/or on off days, yoga moves used as corrective exercise or functional training can be added into workouts in between sets of complementary moves). My clients’ in-season programs never include anything more than 20 minutes at a time and are also broken down into individual movements intended for integration into other parts of their strength and conditioning programs.

The bottom line is that all of these mistakes and potential dangers can be avoided by practicing due diligence. When athletes are smart about why and how they add yoga to their training, they can use it tap into another level of function, awareness and control that will help them move, breathe and focus in ways that directly translate to enhanced sports performance and decreased injury.

About the Author

Dana Santas is creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga-based mobility and sports-training style designed specifically to help athletes move, breathe and focus in ways that enhance performance and decrease injury. Nicknamed the “Mobility Maker,” she's currently the team yoga trainer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Phillies, as well as sports mobility consultant to more than half a dozen other teams and hundreds of MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL and MLS pros. You can learn more about her and get information about her upcoming workshop in Waltham, MA at www.RadiusYoga.com.

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!

Name
Email
Read more

Advice From a Former College Baseball Player: What If?

Today's guest post comes from current Cressey Performance intern, and former D1 college baseball player, James Cerbie. -EC

What if?

It’s the age-old question that has haunted athletes and competitive people for ages.

What if I had done this? What if I had done that? What if I hadn’t been stupid and done <fill in the blank>?

Unfortunately, these questions will never have answers. It’s impossible to go back and revisit what could have been. Rather, we’re left to look at the now, learn from our “what if” moments, and share our new understanding with another generation. That is where I now find myself.

I’m in the middle of my internship here at Cressey Performance, and to say I’m greeted with the “what if” question on a daily basis would be an understatement. Everyday I get a glance at how we train and prepare athletes, and get to reflect on how I was trained and prepared.

cerbie

And just to bring you up to speed, I’m speaking to the training and preparation of baseball athletes. I’m currently 24 years old and spent approximately 19 of those years playing baseball. It was my greatest passion growing up and I devoted countless hours to my craft. My hard work eventually paid off as I got to play Division 1 baseball at a great school (go Davidson). But, nevertheless, it’s impossible to wonder what could have been if I had known what I know now.

Here are 6 things I really wish I would have known, or done more of during my baseball career, courtesy of my experience here at Cressey Performance.

1. Get assessed.

I’ve always been a good athlete. That’s not to toot my own horn because I have my parents to thank for that more than anything; it just is what it is.

Because I was always a good athlete, however, I believe certain aspects of my training got overlooked. Number one on that list being an assessment.

Not once, throughout my entire athletic career, did I ever get assessed.

If I got injured or came up short on a certain task it was just chalked up to being an athlete:

“James…these things just happen. You’re a good athlete and getting injured is just a part of what you do.”

Oh really? A stress fracture in my back, multiple hip flexor strains, a pulled quad and a host of other injuries just happen for the sake of happening? Sorry, but that answer always frustrated me. What I really heard was:

“James…you keep getting injured but I really don’t know why.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that getting injured is a part of sports. Here’s the difference though: there are fluke injuries that pop up on the rare occasion, and then there’s being “chronically” injured which entails always being nagged by one thing or another.

Throughout my collegiate baseball career, I fell in the “chronically” injured category and would constantly be met with suggestions like:

“Oh, your hamstrings are tight. Just stretch those bad boys a couple times a day and that’ll help.”

“Oh, your hips are tight. Just stretch that and things should start feeling better.”

For those of you who haven’t tried the “stretch it because it’s tight” routine, let me save you the time and effort: it doesn’t work. There’s far more to it than that.

I don’t want to start sounding like a repetitive drumbeat, so let’s get to the point: you need to be assessed. It’s the number one most important thing you can do; it’ll help you stay healthy and take your performance to the next level.

I’ll use myself as example.

The first time I met Eric was about a year after I stopped playing baseball. Having heard great things about him, I visited Cressey Performance for a one-time consultation. Here’s an excerpt from the email Eric sent me, highlighting my “problems.”

“1. Your sit in significant scapular downward rotation, and your humeral head dives forward whenever you extend or externally rotate. These are super common in overhead throwing athletes, and you just took them a step further by also becoming an overhead pressing athlete! You simply don't get enough upward rotation when your arms elevate - and that's a big thing we'll address with these warm-ups.

2. Getting upward rotation and good overhead motion is also heavily dependent on building up anterior core stability. You're extremely lordotic and heavily overuse your lats to not only pull the spine into extension, but also take the scapula into depression/downward rotation. When lats are this overactive, your lower traps don't want to do their job. So, core stability closely relates to shoulder mobility and stability (not to mention breathing patterns and a host of other things). You could also see how your anterior weight bearing negatively affected your squat pattern, and why that counterbalance made so much of a difference.”

He actually talks about some of these issues in this video:

In short, here were my issues:

- I was incredibly extended with an obnoxious amount of anterior pelvic tilt
- I had crazy overactive, short and stiff lats
- Lower trap strength equivalent to that of a 7-year-old girl
- A 6 pack that meant nothing because my core was actually really weak

Cue epiphany.

I finally had answers to my seemingly endless list of injuries throughout college. Almost all of them could be tied back in one way or another to the list above and here’s the frustrating part: nobody had ever looked at these things before or had ever written me an individualized program to address them.

I was merely given generic “athletic” development programs that fed into and compounded my dysfunction.

Moral of the story? Get assessed.

2. Movement comes first.

I always equated problems with strength. I thought strength could solve any deficiencies I had and approached my training likewise. Looking back, I now realize how dumb that was.

More times than not, especially as you get older and advance from level to level, it has far less to do with strength and far more to do with how well you move. Like Gray Cook says, “Don’t layer fitness on top of dysfunction.”

Well, I layered a whole bunch of fitness on top of dysfunction.

This happened because one, I was never assessed, and two, I was incredibly stubborn. The thought of taking a step back to work on movement quality irked me like no other.

“I can squat over 400 lbs. Why am I going to go do goblet squats with an 80 lb dumbbell?”

This was foolish, and something the coaching staff at CP does an excellent job of handling. Because Cressey Performance puts every client through an assessment, they know what a client needs to work on and how to do so properly. Many times, this means taking a small step backward (from the client’s point of view) in order to take an enormous step forward.

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n

Unfortunately, most athletes are like I was. They want to always push the envelope and the thought of taking a step back is almost insulting.

Dear athletes: Please change this attitude.

I can’t harp on the importance of movement before strength enough. Do what you need to do to make sure you move well before you worry about building up strength. Your body and your career will thank you as you stay healthy and reach the highest levels of performance.

3. Focus on the little things.

It’s often the little things that get overlooked the most. These are things like prone trap raises, breathing patterns, soft tissue work and your posture outside the gym. They aren’t sexy and are, to be quite honest, boring.

It’s these boring and non-sexy items, however, that make a big difference.

Putting your full attention into the tiny details of arm care, how you breathe, how you stand, and how you often you foam roll will make the difference between being good and being exceptional.

Luckily, the athletes at CP have a staff that understands this and harps on it daily.

4. Do more single-leg work.

There were few things I hated doing more than lunges, single leg RDLs, split squats, step-ups…really any single-leg exercises. I hated them because I sucked at them.

Tell me to do something on two legs and I crushed it. Put me on one leg (especially my right) and I turned into Bambi on ice.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but it definitely wasn’t my forte.

Instead of forcing myself to conquer this deficiency, I merely found ways to implement as much bilateral work as possible. Seeing as the vast majority of baseball, and pretty much all sports for that matter, are played on one leg, this wasn’t the smartest decision. I would have been far better off doing like we do at CP and hammering single-leg work.

Not just doing lightweight, high rep sets though, but getting truly strong on one leg:

Ultimately, I believe a lot of the success CP baseball players have is because they are forced to get strong on one leg, while most people take my approach and only get strong on two.

Side note: that’s not to say CP athletes don’t get strong on two legs, because they do.

5. Get outside the sagittal plane.

Oh…the beloved sagittal plane.

BodyPlanes

 

Visit most weight rooms and you’ll see people living in the sagittal plane:

Squatting…sagittal plane
Deadlifting…sagittal plane
Box jump…sagittal plane

And the list could easily go on. Most sports (and life for that matter), do not comply with this North-South straight-line orientation; they are lived in multiple planes of motion.

Just think through the complexity and mechanics of throwing a baseball. All the things that need to take place to ensure a ball is thrown at the correct velocity, with the right spin and the right trajectory to bring about the desired result. It’s pretty amazing stuff when you consider the minute details.

Here’s another cool little tidbit of info: power development is plane specific. Just because you can generate power in one plane doesn’t mean you’ll do so well in others.

cish62115_10150356086959953_2125131643_n

Yup…you guessed it. I missed the boat on this one also.

At CP, however, they get outside the sagittal plane, and do so often. First on this list is medicine ball throws.

They use a lot of different medicine ball throwing routines to help their athletes develop power in the transverse and frontal plane. A great example of such an exercise is the rotational med ball scoop toss:

Second, they implement exercises like the 1-arm kettlebell lateral lunge and heiden:


Lastly, they use off-set loading on exercises; this provides a rotational component to the movement because the body has to resist rotating towards one side vs. the other. A good example of such a movement would be a 1-arm 1-leg kettlebell RDL:

Although this barely scratches the surface when it comes to exercises used by Cressey Performance and the importance of training outside the sagittal plane, I hope it has given you a good frame of reference.

6. More doesn’t equal better.

There’s a time to push it and a time to back off. Being an in-season athlete is not one of the “push” times. Many coaches, however, forget this and continue pushing their athletes as if nothing has changed.

If you read Eric’s blog often (which I hope you do) you’ll know he says, “You can’t add something without taking something else away.” I really wish that quote could be plastered on the walls of weight rooms around the country.

When the volume of swings, throws and sprints picks up because you’ve started the season, then you have to start taking something away.

Having been lucky enough to spend the past few months at CP, I’ve gotten to witness this first hand. As pitchers begin entering their competitive season (when they’re obviously throwing more often), you see a change in the program to reflect the increased volume outside the weight room.

Medicine ball throws are scaled back, if not eliminated completely. Lifts move towards a two-day per week full body structure, and extra movement days are limited.

As an athlete, it’s easy to forget how everything you do adds up. Every swing, every throw, every sprint and every lift leaves traces in your nervous system. And, although you may be awesome, your body can only handle so much. I understand the desire to get in and work hard, but you have to remember that a lot of times, less is more.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to things I wish I would have done differently. As opposed to dwelling on that, however, I’d rather write and share my experiences with coaches and athletes so they can avoid making the mistakes I did. Feel free to post questions or discuss your own experiences in the comments section below.

About the Author

James Cerbie is a cecerbie1rtified strength and conditioning specialist and USA weightlifting sports performance coach who is Precision Nutrition Level 1 and Crossfit Level 1 certified. He has been blessed to work with athletes from the middle school to professional level, including powerlifters, Olympic lifters and Crossfit athletes. Cerbie gets no greater enjoyment than seeing people improve, succeed and achieve their goals. He’s the owner of Rebel Performance and currently works as a strength and conditioning intern at Cressey Performance. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/3/14

Happy March, everyone.  I just got back from a weekend in Nashville to watch the Vanderbilt/Stanford baseball series, so I'm playing a bit of catch-up as I get back to the office.  Vanderbilt swept the series, and our Cressey Performance guys actually picked up wins in the Friday and Sunday games.  Here they (Tyler Beede and Adam Ravenelle) are with their vertically challenged strength coach.

1891350_700671351977_323672517_o

Luckily, I've got some great content from you nonetheless:

Interview with Eric Cressey - Mike Robertson just posted this interview with me.  We talk about several things, but the foremost one is my work with baseball players, and what makes this a unique population.

CP Client Spotlight: Meet Kat! - This is a great feature we ran on one of our adult clients, Kat Mansfield.  She talks about the progress she's made, what Cressey Performance means to her, and how it integrates with her regular yoga practice and instruction. This is something we'll be doing more and more moving forward, as a lot of people don't realize how many clients we train from other walks of life besides just baseball! We see them in bootcamp, semi-private, and personal training formats.

Course Notes: Explain Pain - Zac Cupples wrote up a fantastic review of a David Butler seminar he attended. There are several "one-liners" in here that will resound with you over and over again.

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

Name
Email
Read more

College Baseball: Is Summer Ball Worth It?

The words "baseball" and "summer" have traditionally been virtually synonymous.  While the phrase "The Boys of Summer" initially referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers, it's now a term that is applied to all baseball players.  If you play baseball, you do so in the summer; that's just how it's always been.

487890_613822991787_1196741028_n

However, as you may have noticed, the game has changed dramatically since the Brooklyn Dodgers took the field.  Arm injury rates are sky-high at all levels of baseball. Average fastball velocities are at all-time high, too. Pitchers don't just throw fastball/curveball/change-up anymore; we're also seeing cutters, sliders, and splitters now.  And, perhaps most significantly, baseball players are specializing in this one sport alone earlier and earlier - meaning they're showing up to college with more accumulated wear and tear on their bodies, even if that wear and tear is only a blip on a MRI or x-ray, as opposed to actual symptoms.

These factors all build to the question: is it time for a paradigm shift with respect to the baseball calendar?

Both professional and high school baseball players align well with respect to high school ball, as neither of them play fall baseball. The minor league season runs March-September, with the big league season extended by a few weeks on both ends.  The high school season generally begins in February/March (with warm weather high school teams starting in January) and wraps up in August. The college season, however, is an incredible challenge.  Why?  I think this email I received last year from a well respected college pitching coach sums it up their unique scheduling challenges extremely well.

College training schedules and NCAA limitations make it very hard to develop kids properly:

-We have roughly 6 weeks of fall practice – team building, evaluation, some scrimmage

-After that, we have roughly 6-7 more weeks of training time before Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are limited to 2 hours of skill instruction per week: hardly enough time to make good adjustments.

-A 4-week break for Christmas – usually training takes a back seat to holidays, travel, and general laziness.

-We have a 2-week period once school starts to get back into the flow, followed by a 4 week period of practice before 1st game. Biggest goal here is to build a pitch count/base.

-We play 4-5 games per week from February to hopefully June

-Summer ball, for those who need it: this is where it would be great to take time off, get back into the weight room, skill building. BUT, it costs money for summer school AND the NCAA does not allow us to work with our players (skill-wise) during summer school. Plus, we are usually out working hard on recruiting.

Essentially, I am saying that the rules and demands of HS, college, and pro ball are all quite different, yet coaches at each level strive to develop their players. It’s hard to know, based on the unique qualities of each level, what is right and wrong [in terms of time off from throwing].

If it is complete shutdown, then let’s use a hypothetical situation. If I have a pitcher for 4 years and give him 3 months off from throwing per year, I have lost 1 full year of developing his pitching. That seems like a lot of time off…

Here, we realize the challenges that college pitching coaches and their pitchers face:

When does a college pitcher get time off? 

The fall is a crucial developmental period for all pitchers, but particularly for incoming freshmen.  Most of these freshmen pitchers are coming off "career" highs in innings from their senior years (and subsequent summer ball, in many cases).  This is one of many reasons that you see so many schools encouraging freshmen to arrive early; it's not just so that they can take summer courses, but also so that they can't get overused in summer leagues.  With the premier prospects who are drafted, there used to be incentive to pitch in the summer to "raise their price tag," but with Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement moving the signing deadline up to approximately July 15 (from August 15) and players signing much more quickly as a result, there really isn't much benefit to playing summer ball, if you're an incoming freshman stud. 

This is a particularly important decision to make, as many freshmen struggle during fall ball.  I've had lengthy conversations with two of the best college pitching coaches in the country about how they absolutely expect all their freshmen pitchers to see significant velocity drops during the fall.  They're adjusting to the increased throwing workload, as well as life on a new campus and a more rigorous academic challenge.  Effectively, they take a step back in order to take two steps forward when the winter/spring rolls around.  It's important that freshmen show up to campus expecting this drop-off, so it helps to show up fresh rather than dragging before the challenges begin.

rad

What about the summers between freshman/sophomore, sophomore/junior, and junior/senior years, though?  I think it goes without saying that there are a number of factors that must be considered:

1. How many innings did a pitcher throw during the spring?

Tyler Beede has been a Cressey Sports Performance athlete since his early high school years, and one of the many reasons he was a first-round draft pick our of high school in 2011 was the fact that he'd never thrown more than 80 innings in a year.  He didn't sign, but instead went to Vanderbilt. In his first season there, Tyler threw 71.2 innings - but he also put in a lot of work in the fall season to prepare for that season.  He long tossed, threw bullpens, and worked on a curveball at a time of year when he would have normally been playing football or just training. This was "necessary volume" that helped him develop as a pitcher, but it also dictated that some innings probably ought to be subtracted off the tail end of his competitive year, so he opted not to play at the Cape.

Instead, he put in a great summer of training at CSP, gaining 18 pounds of good weight and lots of usable strength. He started his fall throwing program in mid-August and had a great velocity jump during fall ball. He went on to be a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award in 2013, dropping his ERA by over two runs as compared to the previous year. There are a ton of factors that contributed to these improvements - fantastic pitching coaches, unique throwing programs, an additional year of experience in the SEC, adjustments to living on campus, etc - but the work he put in during the summer of 2012 was definitely a big contributing factor.

beede

Had Tyler sat on the bench for most of the spring season of 2012, though, he would have been a great fit for summer ball, as the spring season would have effectively constituted "time off."  Everyone is different.

2. What is the development potential at the summer ball option?

This is the big white elephant in the room that no college coaches will ever talk about publicly.  While there are some outstanding opportunities to improve at summer baseball options, there are also a lot of places that are just a field and a bunch of players and coaches.  In other words, players sometimes don't exactly thrive. One prominent pitching coach told me last spring, "Summer ball is getting less and less developmental every year. We're sending guys out for it less and less."

Think about it: you have a combination of new coaches, new (host) families, new geographic regions, new teammates, and long bus rides.  There are rarely athletic trainers on hand for games, and only a select few teams carry strength and conditioning coaches. Even still, players may want to execute their strength and conditioning programs, but have no gym access in a remote geographic region where they don't have their own transportation.  Roughly half of their meals will be pre-game PB&J sandwiches and post-game pizza while on the bus. In short, I'd argue that it's a lot easier for things to go wrong than it is for them to go right.

What's actually somewhat comical is that most college coaches will tell recruits who are drafted that they'll develop better in a college program than they would in minor league baseball if they decide to sign. Yet, that previous paragraph essentially describes minor league baseball to a T, and players are sent in that direction all the time!

IMG_7810

Long story short, if you're going to ship off to play in a league and location unfamiliar to you, you and your coach better do your homework. All that said, please don't take the preceding paragraphs as a gross stereotype; there are a lot of fantastic summer ball coaches and experiences out there.  You just have to find them and make sure they're in the right system and matched up to the right kids if you're going to call it a great developmental option.

3. What is a player's risk tolerance?

Mark Appel was selected eighth overall in the 2012 draft, but opted to return to Stanford for his senior season.  While he'd played summer ball after his freshman and sophomore seasons, Appel opted not to after his junior year. Why not? His risk tolerance changed.  He only threw 69 innings as a freshman in 2010 and needed to pitch in the summer that followed to continue to improve. In 2011, he got more innings, but also needed to demonstrate he could be effective against the best college hitters in the country that summer to improve his draft stock.  Once you've already been a top 10 overall pick and the NCBWA National Pitcher of the Year, though, there isn't much more to prove in the college game, so summer ball would pose an unnecessary risk. It worked out well, as Mark went on to be the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Obviously, this is a unique case, as very few throwers will reach this level of success.  However, it is a great perspective from which we can appreciate it's not always appropriate to just "ride the horse that got you here." Baseball development is an exception.  Summer ball might be a great option for a pitcher with a clean injury history, but not someone with a partial ulnar collateral ligament injury in his recent history. A lot of smart baseball people believe you only have a certain number of pitches in your arm, so you should use them wisely.

4. What are a player's long-term aspirations with baseball: experience or outcome?

Not everyone is going to be a Mark Appel or Tyler Beede.  In other words, college baseball may be the end of organized, non-beer-league baseball for a lot of pitchers.  In these cases, summer ball is about having fun and enjoying the game before you run out of time to do so. I'm all for it for these individuals. One has to decide whether it's about experience (having fun playing summer ball) or outcome (becoming a better player).  These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, though.

5. Does a player need to pitch or throw?

Some pitchers need in-game pitching experience to develop, while others simply need to build up arm speed.  There is a big difference.  The former dictates the summer ball is likely a necessity, while the latter can be accomplished via a number of different means.  Building arm speed might be a function of long toss, weighted balls, or just taking time off from throwing to build up strength, power, and mobility.

6. Does a player have adequate size and strength?

Taking the summer off from baseball is becoming an increasingly population option for players who are undersized or weak, but more polished on the baseball skill side of things.  If you're bigger and stronger, you can withstand a longer season. If you're not, you need to work to address your biggest window of adaptation.  More and more coaches seem to be moving in this direction in recent years, as we have dozens of players who move for the summer just to train at one of our Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and the numbers grow considerably each year.

seamans_nebj_201501_p0006_lowres

7. What's a player's mental state at the end of the college season?

It might surprise some of you to hear that regardless of talent level, most college and professional players are essentially sick of baseball by the time the last few weeks of the season roll around (assuming they aren't in a playoff scenario). You never want a player to burn out on baseball, so college players need to ask themselves whether they'd rather be on buses in the middle of nowhere in mid-July with their arms dragging, or at home with their families and friends, training and possibly even pursuing an internship. What seems like a great idea in May often winds up being a miserable reality two months later. It all depends on the player and his frame of reference.

Increasing Your Options

In their book, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Heath discuss how we often make bad decisions because we try to turn each one we encounter into "this OR that."  Instead, they argue, we should be trying to determine how to have "this AND that." I think this same logic can be applied to summer baseball.

decisive--jacket

Coaches and players can dramatically improve the likelihood of a summer ball experience being productive by making players are placed on teams where they can thrive.  There needs to be good coaching and access to gyms to keep training during the summer season. And, they need to monitor innings and pitch counts, and educate players on staying out of trouble and on task.  Showing up in the fall unprepared is not an option.  And, just as importantly, it may mean these players need to start a bit more slowly with fall ball after taking the month of August off from throwing.

Players can also play a portion of the season, or opt to find a league where they might only pitch 3-4 innings once a week.  The rest of the week can be planned around training to prepare for the fall season.  This is a very popular option among those players who have moved to train at Cressey Sports Performance during the summer, as both our facilities are located near multiple summer baseball leagues in which pitchers can get innings. The days are free for training, and all the games are at night; it's a great developmental set-up.

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n

Players might also opt to simply take the summer off altogether, giving themselves two months off from late May or early June (depending on post-season play) through the middle of August.  They'd then start a throwing program to be ready for the start of fall ball, effectively making their "throwing year" September-May/June.  The summer months would effectively be an off-season devoted to strength and conditioning that would prepare them for the 8-10 months of throwing that would follow.  This option affords two significant, but often overlooked benefits:

a. The overwhelming majority of throwing would be done with the college pitching coach, so players wouldn't be as likely to learn bad habits in the summer while on their own.

b. The most intensive strength and conditioning work would take place when a pitcher isn't throwing.  This would ensure that mobility, rotator cuff strength, and scapular control would improve as fast as possible.  Improving in these three regards is generally always going to be at odds with throwing.

This final option seems to have some statistical backing, too.  Of the college first round draft picks (including supplemental rounds) from 2010-2012, only 68% (50/73) played summer ball (typically Cape Cod League or Team USA) in the previous summer.*  And, I suspect that we may have even had some players who would have been first rounders, but slipped in the draft after an injury that may have been exacerbated during summer ball. Conversely, I'm sure there are guys (particularly hitters) who helped their draft stocks by playing summer ball the year before they were draft eligible, as well as ones who benefited greatly from playing in previous years.  There is no one right way to approach the decision, and deciding to play likely affords greater benefits to hitters than pitchers.

We really don't know the answers, but these numbers certainly lead us to wondering if we've been asking the right questions. The big one is clearly, "If you're already throwing from September through June, is there really much to gain from continuing to throw in July and August?"  When I hear it phrased that way, the answer is a big fat "NO," but I also realize that not all throwing during that September-June window is created equal.

Wrap-up

Managing the college pitcher is one of the more challenging responsibilities in the baseball world, as the competitive season is a series of hills and valleys in the life of a student athlete.  Additionally, there are numerous NCAA regulations and traditions to keep in mind.  As examples, Cape Cod League Baseball might be the single-best example of what baseball really should be like, and many players have always dreamed of playing for Team USA in the summertime.  So, we have decisions that must be made on not just physiological factors, but also emotional ones as well. 

The truth is that I've seen players make dramatic improvements via each of these three proposed avenues, and I've seen them select these courses of actions based on a number of factors, from burnout, to injuries, to family issues, to academic endeavors. 

This article proposed some answers, but more importantly, I hope it introduced some questions that need to be asked to arrive at the right answers for each player.

*A big thanks to CSP intern Rob Sutton for helping to pull together these numbers for me

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a 47-minute Presentation on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Throwing Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3 4 6
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series