Home Posts tagged "Baseball Workout" (Page 3)

21 Reasons You’re Not Tim Collins

On March 31, 2011, Cressey Performance athlete Tim Collins made his major league debut on opening day for the Kansas City Royals.  As one of the shortest players in Major League Baseball, Tim made for a great story, especially considering he was an undrafted free agent sign who never received interest from any college baseball programs, let alone Division 1 schools.  In light of this unlikely ascent to baseball's biggest stage, Tim's story was featured on Yahoo Sports, MLB.com, and Men's Health, and I also wrote up this post, which was among my most popular of all time.  By the end of the day, Tim was trending worldwide on Twitter when my business partner and I went out to dinner with Tim and his folks to celebrate his big-league debut - even though nobody in downtown Kansas City recognized him outside of his uniform.

Not surprisingly, Tim's phone was bombarded by text messages and phone calls all that afternoon and evening. However, I never could have imagined that we, too, would get bombarded with requests after Tim got to the show.  Since that date, we've received hundreds of emails (in addition to some phone calls to the office, one of whom asked to speak with Tim - in the middle of July while he was in-season) that all essentially go like this (this is copied and pasted):

"Hi, I am a 5-7 lefty pitcher that also weights 170lb but only throws 80 mph. I read the articles about Tim Collins and was wondering if you could send me the workouts that he does in the off-season with you because I'm just like him. What leg exercises/lifts did he perform. Also did he just focus on legs, core and light upper body. If I lifted upper body I get really stiff because I have a similar stature like Collins, so did he basically avoid upper body lifts or did he just perform light lifts on the upper body. Finally after I lift I have been running a mile after that to loosen up my muscle to stay flexible, is that a good or bad idea. Thanks."

Now, don't get me wrong; I think it's absolutely awesome that Tim's story has inspired guys to want to work hard to achieve their goals in spite of their stature - and we've certainly received loads of comments from folks who always put a smile on my face in this regard.  However, it frustrates (and entertains) me to think that some guys assume that they are just a program (actually, five year worth of programs) away from throwing 97mph and pitching in the big leagues.  Programs are just a bunch of words and numbers typed into Microsoft Excel and printed out; it's how they're carried out that really matters.  Additionally, there is a lot more to long-term baseball success than just following a strength and conditioning program; you also have to prepare on the baseball side of things and attain a skill set that differentiates you.  To that end, I thought I'd take this time to highlight 21 reasons you're not Tim Collins.

1. You don't have Tim's training partners.

Tim's had some of the same training partners since back in 2007, and in addition to pushing him in the gym, they've also served as a network for him to share ideas and solicit feedback.  If you just do "his programs" in a commercial gym by yourself (with obnoxious Nicky Minaj music in the background), you're not going to get the same outcome. True story: in the fall of 2009, Tim trained alongside Paul Bunyan. This experience gave him the size, strength, and courage needed to grow a beard that would become a beacon for humanity in Kansas City and beyond.

2. Your beard is not this good.

Everyone knows that beards improve the likelihood of baseball success, not to mention all-around happiness in the rest of one's life. I can't send you a strength and conditioning program that will make your facial hair grow.

3. You don't put calories in the right place like Tim does.

Tim can eat a ton of food and a LOT more of it goes to muscle than fat.  Just because you're 5-7, 150 pounds and left-handed doesn't mean you won't become a fat slob if you crush 8,000 calories a day.  Sorry.

4. You don't have Tim's awesome support network.

Tim is fortunate to have a great family, from his parents, to his sisters, to his fiance.  This is especially important for an undrafted free agent who didn't get much of a signing bonus.  His parents put a roof over his head and fed him while he worked his way through the minor leagues.

More significantly, though, people don't realize that the foundation of becoming a big leaguer doesn't come from a training program; it comes from the values that are instilled in you by those around you when you're young.  As a perfect example, Tim's father, Larry, is one of the hardest-working guys you'll ever meet.  He teaches, has a painting business, and even just accepted a prestigious award for outstanding community service in the Worcester area.  A few sheets of paper with exercises, sets, and reps written on them won't foster the kind of habits that will get you to "the show."

5. You probably don't enjoy the process like Tim does.

Tim likes training.  In fact, all of our clients knew Tim well before he made it to the big leagues, as he was always at the gym. He has been putting in eight hour days of hanging around the office (on top of his training) for five years now.  If you don't enjoy training, you probably around going to become a gym rat.  And, if you don't teach yourself to enjoy the training process, your chance of getting to your ideal destination will surely be diminished.  This was taken at 7pm on a Tuesday night, as a frame of reference:

6. You might not have Tim's luck.

Then Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi "discovered" Tim by accident when he was out to scout another player.  How many of you have GMs just "pop in" to your Legion games - and conveniently do it on a day when you strike out 12 straight guys?

7. Your name isn't Matt O'Connor.

Meet Matt O'Connor, Cressey Performance athlete and student at Emory University. He is sometimes mistaken for Tim when he's at CP.

If we were going to pick anyone to be "just like Tim Collins," it would be Matt - purely for efficiency's sake.

8. You might not have a switch you can flip on and off.

One of the things most folks don't know about many high level lifters is that they joke around all the time during training sessions.  When I was lifting at one of the best powerlifting gyms in the world, guys were always busting each other's chops between sets. However, when the time comes to move weights, they get very serious very quickly.  They know how to flip the switch on at will. 

However, they also know how to turn the switch off when they don't need it.  This is true of a lot of the most successful baseball players I've encountered; they leave work at work.  The guys who are constantly "on" and let the game consume their lives often have bad relationships with teammates and stress themselves into bad results.

I think part of what has made Tim successful - especially as a relief pitcher - is that he can turn his brain and his body on at a moment's notice, but knows how to go back to "normal Tim" when the time is right.

9. You probably don't even have a bulldog, and if you do, I guarantee you that his underbite isn't this awesome.

10. You don't have Tim's curveball.

I actually remember reading somewhere that Tim's curveball had more top-to-bottom depth than any other curveball in Major League Baseball, and I spoke to one MLB advanced scout who said he rated it as an 80.  Keep in mind that average fastball velocity is higher in Low A than it is in the big leagues.  Tim's velocity improvements might have been a big part of him advancing through the minor leagues, but he doesn't even get his first opportunity unless he has a great curveball.  And, no, I don't have his "curveball program" to send you.

11. You don't have Tim's change-up.

If Tim's curveball is what got him to the big leagues, it was his change-up that has kept him there.  Interesting fact: he threw two change-ups in the 2010 season - and both led to home runs. It took a lot of work to develop the change-up he has now.  But you just need his programs.  Riiiight.

12. You can't ride a unicycle.

I don't know of the correlation between unicycling ability and pitching success, but there has to be something there.

13. You might not respond to success like Tim has.

I often see one of two things happens when guys are successful in pro sports, and everyone comes out of the woodwork asking for something.  They either a) trust everybody or b) trust nobody.  I think Tim's done a great job of finding a happy medium.  He puts his trust in others and doesn't second guess them, but still guards his network carefully.

14. You might not be as willing to make sacrifices as he is.

This might come as a surprise, but Hudson, MA really isn't that beautiful in the winter.  Most pro guys move to Arizona, Florida, or California in the off-season, but Tim sacrifices that lifestyle to train with us and be close to the support network I mentioned earlier. Asking to just have a program (actually, 50+ programs) emailed to you means that you aren't willing to make sacrifices on that level, which leads to...

15. You wouldn't be doing your program in the same training environment.

I know a lot of pro guys who struggle to find a throwing partner in the off-season.  If that's an issue, it's a safe assumption that they don't exactly have many (if any) training partners or a good training environment in which to execute the program, either.  You don't just need the right people; you need quite a few of them, with the right equipment at your fingertips. At risk of sounding arrogant, I think we've done a great job of creating that at CP.

16. You don't have just the right amount of laxity.

Congenital laxity is a big consideration in training throwing athletes.  Some guys have naturally looser joints, while others tend to be very stiff.  The really "loose" guys need more stability training and little to not flexibility work, while the tight guys need a hearty dose of mobility drills.  Generally speaking, the best place to be (in my opinion, at least) is middle-of-the-road.  Tim falls right there, with a small tendency toward being a bit more loose, which favors his aggressive delivery.

17. You don't throw to a left-handed catcher in the off-season.

And, even if you do, your left-handed catcher probably doesn't have a mitt with his name on it. It's definitely a crucial part of the Tim Collins developmental experience.

18. You probably can't score a 21 on the Functional Movement Screen.

Many of you are probably familiar with Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen, a seven-part assessment approach used in a number of fitness and strength and conditioning settings nowadays.  A perfect score is a 21, but you don't see it very often - usually because everyone gets dominated by the rotary stability test, where a perfect score (3) is essentially a same-sided birddog. The first time I saw Tim drop to the floor and do this effortlessly, my jaw just about hit the floor.  Luckily, he can repeat it on command like it's nothing, so I snapped a video (this was the first try, with no warm-up).

He's scored a 21 on this two spring trainings in a row - and that implies that he actually moves quite well.  Most people don't need his program, as they have a lot more movement quality issues to address.

19. You ice after you throw.

Tim iced after pitching one time, and hated it; he'll never do it again.  Not everyone is the same, though; some guys swear by it.  You might be one of those guys.

20. You've never personal trained a nine-week old puppy.

21. You "muscle" everything.

One of the traits you'll see in a lot of elite athletes is that they don't get overly tense when they don't have to do so.  If you're squatting 500 pounds, you want to establish a lot more rigidity, but if you're participating in the vast majority of athletic endeavors, you want effortless, fluid movement - almost as if you aren't trying.  If you just tense up and try to muscle everything, it becomes harder to take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle.  Teaching an athlete to relax is challenging - but I never had to even address it with Tim; it was something he just "had."

There's a saying in the strength and conditioning world that "it's easier to make a fast guy strong than it is to make a strong guy fast."  I think this quote applies perfectly to Tim's development.  Not everyone has that natural reactive ability from the get-go, so different training approaches are needed for different individuals. 

Again, in closing, I should emphasize that it's great that Tim has become an inspiration to shorter pitchers to pursue their dreams.  However, as is always the case, young athletes simply following the exact training programs of professional athletes is a bad idea, as these programs may not be appropriate for their bodies or point on the athletic development continuum.  To that end, I encourage all young athletes to educate themselves on how they are unique - and find the right people and programs to pursue their dreams in accordance with those findings. And, for the record, Tim agrees!

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Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing

Today's guest blog comes to us from Jeff Albert, one of the bright minds in the world of hitting instruction. I've enjoyed Jeff's stuff for years, and I think you'll like it, too.

Hip extension is a getting a lot of attention in the fitness world these days. Eric Cressey was asking us to get our butts in gear back in ’04, ESPN recently made a Call of Booty, and we now have our very own glute guy, Bret Contreras. Kettlebell swings, hip thrusts, deadlifts, and squats are staples of exercise programs for athletes for good reason: they make the posterior chain stronger and more explosive. This, in turn, makes it easier for athletes to do things athletes are supposed to do - like run faster and jump higher.

But how is this going to help with your actual skills? What is the role of hip extension in the baseball swing?

EMG studies in both baseball (Shaffer et al 1993) and golf (Belcher et al 1995) report highest muscle activity of the primary movers of the posterior chain – the hamstrings, glutes and low back – happens during the beginning of the forward swing. The exercises listed above are often programmed because they target the same muscles. Very conveniently, those muscles are also responsible for creating rotation in the swing.

Here’s the key point: good hip rotation has an element of hip extension!

This is what it looks like from the front and side in the swing:

Check out the belt line as the hitter transitions from landing with his stride foot to making contact. This is the actual unloading of the hips during the forward swing. You should be able to see how the hips (belt line) lower into flexion (load) and then actually come up a bit as the hips extend (unload).

Unfortunately, the baseball EMG study only measured muscle activity on the back leg. The golf EMG study, however, measured both legs. An interesting point from this golf study is that in the initial forward swing (from the loaded position to horizontal lag position), activity in the quads (vastus lateralis was measured) of the lead leg was higher than the posterior side (glutes, biceps femoris, semimembranosus). This makes sense because the front side is accepting some shifting weight during this time. But, when the club is being moved from the horizontal lag position to contact, the hip extenders again become more active. Baseball instruction commonly refers to having a “firm front side”, but we haven’t talked much about how that happens. This golf EMG suggests that extension at the hip, rather than knee, is more responsible for creating this effect.

Keep this in mind if and when you are working on the lower half in your swing. Very often players can show a nice, powerful hip rotation and extension pattern in the gym (throwing medicine balls, for example), but look much different when they pick up a bat in the cage. Differences in terminology that you’ll find between the gym and the batting cage can often be a cause of this, and sometimes players just don’t make the connection between their physical conditioning and their actual swing.

If you do struggle with rotation of your lower half, give some thought to the hip extension and rotational work that you do in the weight room and pay attention to the patterns that you’re developing there. First of all, make sure your hip extension and rotation are good in the first place, and then see if you can repeat the movement pattern when swinging the bat. The whole point in creating strong, explosive hip rotation in the weight room is so you can actually use it to create more power when you finally have the bat in your hands.

Happy Hacking!

About the Author

Jeff Albert is a CSCS with a MS in Exercise Science from Louisiana Tech University. Jeff is entering his 6th season as a coach in professional baseball, now serving as a hitting instructor in the Houston Astros organization. He works with players of all ages during the off-season in Palm Beach, Florida and can be contacted through his website, SwingTraining.net, or follow him on twitter (@swingtraining).

References

1. Bechler JR, Jobe FW, Pink M, Perry J, Ruwe PA. Electromyographic analysis of the hip and knee during the golf swing. Clin J Sport Med. 1995 Jul;5(3):162-6.

2. Shaffer B, Jobe FW, Pink M, Perry J. Baseball Batting: An Electromyographic study. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1993 Jul;(292):285-93.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Get Strong: Eric Cressey’s Best Articles of 2010

Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better - This was obviously my biggest project of 2010.  I actually began writing the strength and conditioning programs and filming the exercise demonstration videos in 2009, and put all the "guinea pigs" through the four-month program beginning in February.  When they completed it as the start of the summer rolled around, I made some modifications based on their feedback and then got cracking on writing up all the tag along resources.  Finally, in September, Show and Go was ready to roll.  So, in effect, it took 10-11 months to take this product from start to finish - a lot of hard work, to say the least.  My reward has been well worth it, though, as the feedback has been awesome.  Thanks so much to everyone who has picked up a copy.

Optimal Shoulder Performance - This was a seminar that Mike Reinold and I filmed in November of 2009, and our goal was to create a resource that brought together concepts from both the shoulder rehabilitation and shoulder performance training fields to effectively bridge the gap for those looking to prevent and/or treat shoulder pain.  In the process, I learned a lot from Mike, and I think that together, we brought rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals closer to being on the same page.

Why President Obama Throws Like a Girl - A lot of people took this as a political commentary, but to be honest, it was really just me talking about the concept of retroversion as it applies to a throwing shoulder - with a little humor thrown in, of course!

Overbearing Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar - This one was remarkably easy to write because I've received a lot of emails from overbearing Dads asking about increasing throwing velocity in their kids.

What I Learned in 2009 - I wrote this article for T-Nation back at the beginning of the year, and always enjoy these yearly pieces.  In fact, I'm working on my 2010 one for them now!

What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Training Success - I wrote this less than a month out from my wedding, so you could say that I had a good frame of reference.

Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured - In case the title didn't tip you off, I'm not much of a fan of baseball showcases.

Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Training Success - Part 1 and Part 2 - These articles were featured at fitbusinessinsider.com.  I enjoy writing about not only the training side of things, but some of the things we've done well to build up our business.

Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way - This might have been the top post of the year, in my eyes. My job is very cool.

How to Attack Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry - Here's another fitness business post.

Want to Be a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach?  Start Here. - And another!

The Skinny on Strasburg's Injury - I hate to make blog content out of someone else's misfortune, but it was a good opportunity to make some points that I think are very valid to the discussion of not only Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury, but a lot of the pitching injuries we see in youth baseball.

Surely, there are many more to list, but I don't want this to run too long!  Have a safe and happy new year, and keep an eye out for the first content of 2011, which is coming very soon!

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Weight Training For Baseball: Best Videos of 2010

I made an effort to get more videos up on the site this year, as I know a lot of folks are visual learners and/or just enjoy being able to listen to a blog, as opposed to reading it.  Here are some highlights from the past year: The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum - Regardless of your sport, there are valuable take-home messages.  I just used throwing velocity in baseball pitchers as an example, as it's my frame of reference.

Should Pitchers Overhead Press? - This was an excerpt from Mike Reinold and my Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar (which became a popular DVD set for the year).

Shoulder Impingement vs. Rotator Cuff Tears - Speaking of Mike, here's a bit from the man himself from that seminar DVD set.

Thoracic and Glenohumeral Joint Mobility Drills - The folks at Men's Health tracked me down in the lobby at Perform Better in Providence and asked if I could take them through a few shoulder mobility drills we commonly use - and this was the result.

Cressey West - This kicks off the funny videos from the past year. A few pro baseball players that I program for in a distance-based format created this spoof video as a way of saying thank you.

Tank Nap - My puppy taking a nap in a provocative position.  What's more cute?

Matt Blake Draft Tracker - CP's resident court jester and pitching instructor airs his frustrations on draft day.

1RM Cable Horizontal Abduction - More from the man, the myth, the legend.

You can find a lot more videos on my YouTube page HERE and the Cressey Performance YouTube page HERE.

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Weight Training for Baseball: Featured Articles

I really enjoy writing multi-part features here at EricCressey.com because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it's like writing a book.  Here were three noteworthy features I published in 2010: Understanding Elbow Pain - Whether you were a baseball pitcher trying to prevent a Tommy John surgery or recreational weightlifter with "tennis elbow," this series had something for you. Part 1: Functional Anatomy Part 2: Pathology Part 3: Throwing Injuries Part 4: Protecting Pitchers Part 5: The Truth About Tennis Elbow Part 6: Elbow Pain in Lifters

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - This series was published more recently, and was extremely well received.  It's a combination of both quick programming tips and long-term modifications you can use to eliminate poor posture. Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 2 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 3 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 4

A New Paradigm for Performance Testing - This two-part feature was actually an interview with Bioletic founder, Dr. Rick Cohen.  In it, we discuss the importance of testing athletes for deficiencies and strategically correcting them.  We've begun to use Bioletics more and more with our athletes, and I highly recommend their thorough and forward thinking services. A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 1 A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 2 I already have a few series planned for 2011, so keep an eye out for them!  In the meantime, we have two more "Best of 2010" features in store before Friday at midnight. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Tiny Tim No More

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I am out of town visiting family, but in my absence, I thought you might be interested in checking out this article about Tim Collins and his training at Cressey Performance.  Tim was recently named Toronto Blue Jays organizational Pitcher of the Year on MLB.com. Tiny Tim No More

collins

Have a great weekend!
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Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/09

I'm a bit tied up with holiday preparation stuff on top of the regular CP goings-on, so I thought I'd use today to throw out some recommended reading for the week: Cardio Strength Training - I just got my copy of Robert dos Remedios' new book in the mail.  I was honored to have contributed to it, and it's an awesome resource with a ton of protocols and exercises that you can implement to make conditioning a lot more interesting.  For those of you looking to drop some fat in the new year, this is a must-have.

cardiost

Only One Body - This is an excellent post from Mike Boyle that really helps to put things in perspective.  Quick read; check it out! Medicine Ball Madness - This old newsletter talks a bit about how we attack medicine ball training with our baseball guys.  In 2010, I'll be presenting on this concept in a lot more detail at my Perform Better appearances.
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Weighted Baseballs: Safe and Effective, or Stupid and Dangerous?

I get asked relatively frequently whether we use weighted baseballs with our pitchers, and if so, how they are incorporated.  I figured it'd be worth a post to outline my thoughts.  To answer these questions: Do you use weighted baseballs? Yes, with some of our pitchers.  The asterisk that follows this statement is that they're only implemented with those who have built a decent foundation of strength and mastered the fundamental mechanics of throwing a regular (5oz) baseball.  So, the athletes we have that may be utilizing weighted baseballs are some of our pro guys, college guys, and more advanced high school guys.  It is NOT something I think coaches should just implement on a gross scale with unprepared 13-year-old kids.

weightedballs

But aren't weighted baseballs dangerous? The first response that comes to mind is "Who decided a baseball should be 50z?"  It's actually a very arbitrary number. Quarterbacks throw 14-16oz footballs (140z is the dry weight; balls actually become heavier as they're used more).  And, you could say that a lot of quarterbacks throw every day - and potentially even more than pitchers throw.  Yet, they have far fewer elbow and shoulder problems than pitchers - and usually far less coaching on the mechanics of throwing than pitchers.

drew-brees-5

Granted, there are differences in the way that footballs are thrown, as compared to baseballs, but you have to consider that tripling the weight of the ball would increase arm stress, right?  Wrong! If you increase the weight of the implement, you slow down the arm action.  In other words, you move further to the right on the absolute speed>>>>absolute strength continuum.  In other words, weighted baseballs comprise a medium between traditional throwing drills (bullpens, long toss, flat ground drills) and what one encounters with medicine ball work and resistance training.  If you slow down the arm action a bit, the deceleration demands drop - and it appears to be more arm-friendly. How are weighted baseballs incorporated? First, let me make two things abundantly clear: 1. You should never throw a weighted baseball off a mound (arm stress is higher when elevated) or with long-toss.  We do all our weighted ball drills into a tarp/net from about 6-8 feet away. 2. You don't play catch with weighted baseballs.  Someone will get hurt if you try.  Throw the ball, then walk to pick it up. We don't start throwing weighted baseballs until we've built guys up on their long tossing and the arm is 100% ready.  In other words, weighted ball work starts up right around the time that bullpens start.  As an example, most of our guys start throwing right after Thanksgiving, and pick up bullpens around January 10 after about 5-6 weeks of long-tossing and flat-ground drill work with the 5oz ball.  The entire throwing program for them encompasses about 14 weeks (sometimes a bit longer or shorter, depending on the individual). As an example, as I wrote previously, we used weighted balls with Oakland A's minor league prospect Shawn Haviland last off-season, and he made a nice velocity jump from 87-88 to 90-94 in a single off-season.  Looking back at Shawn's program, his first session with weighted baseballs was January 11, and his last one was February 18th - so it wasn't something he was doing year-round or in-season.

ap-shawn-haviland-action

We have, however, had scenarios where guys have used weighted baseballs to get ready for fall throwing appearances (for example, the World Wood Bat Tournament in Jupiter, FL every October).  These guys push their winter throwing programs back because they accumulated mileage on their arms in the fall (one reason I don't love fall baseball, but it's part of the game as it's played nowadays). When the time comes to implement the weighted baseball drills, they are either done as after long toss, after a bullpen, or as a stand-alone training session.  They are never done before a bullpen, which comprises complete specificity with which you don't want to interfere. All of our weighted baseball drills generally take place in the 7-11oz range.  I do, however, know some very bright minds in the field who will go heavier. We always bring the athlete back to the normal 5oz ball at the end of each set.  So, it might be three throws at 7oz, three throws at 9oz, and then three throws at 5oz, then rest.  Other coaches may build all the way up (five at 7oz, five at 9oz, and five at 11oz) and then work their way back down to 5oz at the end of the session.  Personally, I prefer to keep the learning loop short and keep the athlete cognizant of the 5oz feel with repeated sets as opposed to one big one. Matching the drill to the weight of the ball is absolutely imperative, too.  As a general rule of thumb, I do not go above 8oz for any drill that has a considerable lay-back (as pictured below) component, as the stress on the elbow is already pretty high in this position.

wagner

We can go considerably heavier with drills that are more focused on what's happening out in front of the body, though.

inman

Which weighted baseballs do you use?

We use this set from BaseballExpress.com; it includes 7-12oz balls, which is sufficient for most individuals.

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The Truth About Strength Training for Kids

A while back, I attended a seminar in Houston, and while the primary topic was how to improve pitching performance, one of my biggest takeaways was with respect to adolescent physiological development.  Long-time Phillies rehabilitation consultant Phil Donley presented some excellent data on when bones actually become skeletally mature.  The next day, another speaker made a what was, in my opinion, an uninformed comment about how kids shouldn't strength train at young ages because it would stunt their growth.

Let's start with Donley's very intriguing numbers (which have actually been available in the literature for over two decades now); we'll stick with the shoulder girdle just to keep things to-the-point.  In a baseball population, the epiphysial plate most commonly injured from throwing at the shoulder is located at the proximal humerus (Little League Shoulder); this physis (growth plate) accounts for about 80% of humeral growth, and matures by age 19 in most folks.

growthplates

We've seen a lot of kids come through our door with this issue because of throwing (internal rotation of the humerus during throwing is the fastest motion in sports) and even some traumatic falls - but I can honestly say that I've NEVER seen one from strength training.  So, anecdotal evidence for me shows that strength training for kids is far from what could be considered "dangerous" for developing bones.

youthpitcher

Now, here's where it gets more interesting: bone maturation isn't uniform across the body.  While the proximal humeral growth plate might mature at 19, the distal (down by the elbow) physis is finished between ages 10 and 16.  The proximal and distal radius plates might mature anywhere between 14 and 23.  Meanwhile, the clavicle matures at ages 22-25, and the scapula generally matures by age 22.  How many of you have ever heard of a college football being held out of weight training for all four years of his participation because all that bench pressing might stunt the growth of his clavicles and scapulae?  It just doesn't happen!  In reality, we know that the strength training benefits of increased muscle size and strength actually protect him from injury on the field.

youthbaseball

In other words, violent (throwing) and traumatic (falling) events far exceed any stress on a young athlete's bones that we could possibly apply in a strength training setting, where the environment is controlled and overload is gradually and systematically increased over time as the athlete becomes more comfortable with it.  I'd make the argument that a young athlete should start resistance training as early as his/her attention span allows for it; the emphasis, of course, would be on body weight exercises, technical improvement, and - most importantly - keeping things fun.

If you really think about it, an athlete is placing a ton of stress (4-6 times body weight in ground reaction forces, depending on who you ask) each time he/she strides during the sprinting motion.  Kids jump out of trees all the time.  They lug around insanely heavy backpacks relative to their body mass.  Performance, general health, and self-esteem benefits aside, it's only right to give them a fighting chance in trying to avoid injury.

Also, another great point Phil made (although it was on an unrelated topic, it pertains to us) was that as an adolescent athlete grows, his center of gravity moves further up from the ground.  This is a big part of the "lapse" in coordination we see in kids during their growth spurts.  A little bit of strength goes a long way with respect to maintaining the center of gravity within the base of support, and makes an athlete more comfortable "playing low" (hip and knee flexion) to bring that center of gravity closer to the base of support.

All that said, appropriate resistance training is not only safe for kids; it's also tremendously beneficial.  In a review just published by Faigenbaum and Myer, the authors concluded:

Current research indicates that resistance training can be a safe, effective and worthwhile activity for children and adolescents provided that qualified professionals supervise all training sessions and provide age-appropriate instruction on proper lifting procedures and safe training guidelines. Regular participation in a multifaceted resistance training program that begins during the preseason and includes instruction on movement biomechanics may reduce the risk of sports-related injuries in young athletes.

Dr. Avery Faigenbaum has actually published a ton of great research (including position stands for numerous organizations) on the topic of strength training for kids in recent years; you can find all of it by searching for his last name at www.pubmed.com.

In the meantime, I hope this blog can help to eliminate the gross misconception in the general population that resistance training can't be beneficial for children.  When performed correctly and made fun, it is safe and provides tremendous benefits to kids in both the pre-adolescent and adolescent stages.

For more information on the best approaches to training youth athletes, I'd encourage you to check out the International Youth Conditioning Association's High School Strength and Conditioning Certification, a resource I co-authored.

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Band Work after Pitching?

As you read this, I'm presenting at the Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp in Houston, TX.  As such, it seems fitting to devote today's blog to some pitching content. A question I get pretty often is what I think of light band work for pitchers the day after pitching.  The truth is that I'm pretty apathetic about the use of bands, but I am adamant about the inclusion of post-throwing stretching to regain lost flexibility.  Research from Reinold et al. demonstrated that pitchers lose both elbow extension and shoulder internal rotation range of motion (ROM) over the course of a competitive season, and it's no surprise, given the huge eccentric (deceleration) stress those arms encounter during the throwing motion.  Anecdotally, my experience has been that they also lose hip internal rotation and knee flexion on the front leg.  So, you don't just want to take care of shoulder range of motion; you also want to attend to hip ROM. Here's the side-lying cross-body stretch, one of my favorite self-stretches for improving shoulder internal rotation.  I tend to use it more than the sleeper stretch nowadays because it's generally a lot tougher to butcher the form.  It's important to stabilize the scapula down and back before the cross-body pull.  This should not be an aggressive stretch!  If you are gentle but consistent with it, the ROM will come around in time.

You can find more ways to both identify and address shoulder and hip rotational imbalances in Assess & Correct.

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So, flexibility is a must, but light band work may have a place as well.  There's a lot of muscular damage, and some very light bloodflow work may assist in rotator cuff recovery, as it tends to have a poor blood supply.  I go into more detail on how we train our pitchers after an outing in A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 2. For more information, check out Optimal Shoulder Performance.

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Click here to purchase the most comprehensive shoulder resource available today: Optimal Shoulder Performance - From Rehabilitation to High Performance. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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