Home Posts tagged "Baseball Workout" (Page 6)

Baseball and Strength

Free Teleseminar Series at SportsRehabExpert.com I just wanted to give you all a heads-up on a great audio series - Sports Rehab to Sports Performance - that Joe Heiler has pulled together.  I'll was interviewed on Friday, and Joe's also chatted will Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, Kyle Kiesel, Stuart McGill, Phil Plisky, Brett Jones, and Charlie Weingroff.   The entire interview series is COMPLETELY FREE and begins airing later tomorrow night.  You can get more information HERE. Also, don't forget that the third annual Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning Winter Seminar is fast approaching.  For more information, click here. Snowy Sunday Sentiments Yesterday, in an email exchange I was having with some guys who are really "in the know" in the world of baseball pitching, one of them commented that pitchers need to start thinking more along the lines of training like Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In other words, less external loading, more pure-body weight drills, and a big focus on reactive ability (plyometrics drills, for the lay population). I'll be the first to recognize Polamalu's accomplishments on the field - including an interception return for a touchdown yesterday.  And, I admit that I don't know much about his training philosophy aside from what I have seen in 3-4 minute YouTube and NFL clips.  So, I guess you could say that my point of contention is with what some folks take from viewing these clips, as was the case with this email exchange.  So, I'll be very clear that I'm not criticizing the Sportslab philosophy; I'd love to buy these guys lunch and pick their brains, in fact. However, I've got two cents to add - or maybe even three our four cents, depending on how poorly the American dollar is doing nowadays.  I'm writing this on a snowy day in Massachusetts and I've got a little bit of extra time on my hands (a rarity during the baseball off-season for me). I think that it is wrong to assume that weight training is unnecessary and plyometrics are sufficient for injury prevention and performance enhancement in pitchers.  This is a common belief held among a large body of pitching coaches that I feel really needs to be addressed. The fundamental problem I see is that a system that relies extensively on training elastic qualities.  Or, in the terminology I like to use, it teaches an athlete to be more "spring," making better use of elastic energy from the tendons.  This works best in an athlete who is largely static, or has a solid base of muscular strength. Who would be a static athlete?  Well, one example would be an athlete who gained a lot of strength in the previous four years...say, Troy Polamalu.  He was a first-round draft pick out of USC, known for a good program under strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle.  They've packed lots of muscle and strength on loads of high school guys over the years, no doubt.  Polamalu may not realize it, but those four years of USC training probably set him up for the positive results he's seeing in this program - especially when you compare him to a good chunk of the NFL that now uses machine-based HIT training because they're afraid of weight-room injuries. Basically, for the most part, only the freaky athletes make it to the "big dance" in football, so the S&C coach is responsibly for not hurting them.   It's not much different in the world of baseball - but we're dealing with a MORE TRAINED population in the first place. I'm sure that many of you have read Moneyball (and if you haven't, you should).  One thing that they touch on over and over again is that high school draft picks don't pan out as well as college draft picks.

moneyball

Sure, it has to do with facing better hitters and maturing another four years psychologically.  However, one factor that nobody ever touches on is that these college draft picks have another four years of strength and conditioning under their belt in most cases.  It may not be baseball-specific in many cases, but I would definitely argue that it's better than nothing.  Strength goes a long way, but physiologically and psychologically. And, that's what I want you to think about until my next newsletter comes out - when I'll get a bit more to the science of all this, and how it's been demonstrated in professional baseball. New Blog Content Random Friday Thoughts How to Make an Exercise Tougher Another CP Intern on the Road to Diesel Frozen Ankles, Ugly Squatting Until next time, train hard and have fun. EC 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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Strength Training for Pitchers

Strength Training for Pitchers

by: Eric Cressey

Recently, I received an email inquiry about the value of strength training for pitchers. The individual emailing me had come across the following quote from a pitching "authority:"

"Training will not teach you how to apply more force...only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force.

"No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program...no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you."

To say that this surprised me would be an understatement. I'll start with the positive: I agree with him that pitching is all about producing skilled movements secondary to appropriate timing of all the involved "parts." I've very lucky to work hand-in-hand with some skilled pitching coaches who really know their stuff - and trust in me to do my job to complement the coaching they provide.

With that said, however, I disagree that you can't gain (or lose) velocity based exclusively on your strength and conditioning program. On countless occasions, I've seen guys gain velocity without making any changes to their throwing programs or mechanics. I know what many of the devil's advocates in the crowd are thinking: "you're just making that up!" So, if my word isn't enough, how about we just go to the research?

From: Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC. Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):148-56.

[Note from EC: Yes, it's pathetic that this REVIEW has been out almost seven years and people who are supposedly "in the know" still haven't come across ANY of the studies to which it alludes.]

Practical Applications

Throwing velocity can be increased by resistance training. A rationale for general, special, and specific resistance training to increase throwing velocity has been presented. The following findings and recommendations relevant to strength and conditioning specialists and pitching coaches can be useful from the review of literature.

In the "further reading" section at the end of this article, I have listed ten different studies that each demonstrated a positive effect of weight training on throwing velocity. The authors in the review above also have a table that summarizes 26 studies that examined the effect of different strength protocols on throwing velocity, and 22 of the 26 showed increases over controls who just threw. In other words, throwing and strength training is better than throwing alone for improving velocity -

independent of optimization of mechanics from outside coaching.

The saddest part is that the training programs referenced in this review were nothing short of foo-foo garbage. We're talking 3x10-12 light dumbbell drills and mind-numbing, rubber tubing blasphemy. If archaic stuff works, just imagine what happens when pitchers actually train the right way - and have pitching coaches to help them out?

Oh yeah, 10 mph gains in six months happen - and D1 college coaches and pro scouts start salivating over kids who are barely old enough to drive.

With that rant aside, I'd like to embark on another one: what about the indirect gains associated with strength training? Namely, what about the fact that it keeps guys healthy?

We know that:

a) Pitchers (compared to position players) have less scapular upward rotation at 60 and 90 degrees of abduction -and upward rotation is extremely important for safe overhead activity.

b) 86% of major league pitchers have supraspinatus partial thickness tears.

c) All pitchers have some degree of labral fraying - and the labrum provides approximately 50% of the stability in the glenohumeral joint

d) There is considerable research to suggest that congenital shoulder instability is one of the traits that makes some pitchers better than others (allows for more external rotation during the cocking phase to generate velocity).

e) Most pitchers lack internal rotation range-of-motion due to posterior rotator cuff (and possibly capsular) tightness and morphological changes to bone (retroversion). Subscapularis strength is incredibly important to prevent anterior shoulder instability in this scenario.

We also know that resistance training is the basis for modern physical therapy - which I'm pretty sure is aimed at restoring inappropriate movement patterns which can cause these structural/functional defects/abnormalities from reaching threshold and becoming symptomatic. Do you think that a good resistance training program could strengthen lower traps and serratus anterior to help alleviate this upward rotation problem? Could a solid subscapularis strengthening protocol help with preventing anterior instability? Could a strong rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers allow an individual to work around a torn supraspinatus?

And, last time I checked, strength and conditioning was about more than just being the "weights coach." We do a lot of flexibility/mobility and soft tissue work - and it just so happens that such work does wonders on pec minor, levator scapulae, rhomboids, infraspinatus/teres minor, and a host of other muscles in pitchers.

I also like to tell jokes, do magic tricks, and make shadow puppets on the wall. Am I to assume that these don't play a remarkable role in my athletes' success? I beg to differ. Sure, banging out a set of 20 chin-ups because one of my athletes called me out might make me look like a stupid monkey when my elbows refuse to extend for the subsequent ten minutes, but I still think what we do plays a very important role in our athletes success; otherwise, they wouldn't keep coming back. And, for the record, my shadow puppets are great for building camaraderie and bolstering spirits among the Cressey Performance troops - even if I'm just a "weights coach" or whatever.

This only encompasses a few of the seemingly countless examples I can come up with at a moment's notice. Pitchers are an at-risk population; your number one job in working with a pitcher is to keep him healthy. And, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a guy who is healthy and super-confident over his monster legs and butt is going to throw a lot harder than a guy who is in pain and as skinny as an Olsen twin because his stubborn pitching coach said strength training doesn't work. You've got to train ass to throw gas!

Last fall, I started working with a pro ball player whose velocity was down from 94 to 88 thanks to a long season - but also because he'd had lower back issues that have prevented him from training. In other words, he counts on strength training to keep his velocity up. And, sure enough, it was a big component of getting him healthy prior to this season.

Putting it into Practice

I suspect that some of the reluctance to recognize strength training as important to pitchers is the notion that it will make pitchers too bulky and ruin pitching-specific flexibility. Likewise, there are a lot of meatheads out there who think that baseball guys can train just like other athletes. While there are a lot of similarities, it's really important to make some specific upper body modifications for the overhead throwing athlete. Contraindicated exercises in our baseball programs include:

  • Overhead lifting (not chin-ups, though)
  • Straight-bar benching
  • Upright rows
  • Front/Side raises (especially empty can - why anyone would do a provocative test as a training measure is beyond me)
  • Olympic lifts aside from high pulls
  • Back squats

The next question, obviously, is "what do you do instead?" Here's a small list:

  • Push-up variations: chain, band-resisted, blast strap
  • Multi-purpose bar benching (neutral grip benching bar)
  • DB bench pressing variations
  • Every row and chin-up you can imagine (excluding upright rows)
  • Loads of thick handle/grip training
  • Medicine ball throws
  • Specialty squat bars: giant cambered bar, safety squat bar
  • Front Squats
  • Deadlift variations

The Take-Home Message

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with strength training program for pitchers. In reality, what is wrong is the assumption that all strength training programs are useless because some are poorly designed and not suited to athletes' needs and limitations. Be leery of people who say strength training isn't important. Everyone - from endurance athletes, to grandmothers, to pitchers - needs it!

Further Reading

1. Bagonzi, J.A. The effects of graded weighted baseballs, free weight training, and simulative isometric exercise on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master's thesis, Indiana University. 1978.

2. Brose, D.E., and D.L. Hanson. Effects of overload training on velocity and accuracy of throwing. Res. Q. 38:528-533. 1967.

3. Jackson, J.B. The effects of weight training on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master's thesis, Central Michigan University,. 1994.

4. Lachowetz, T., J. Evon, and J. Pastiglione. The effects of an upper-body strength program on intercollegiate baseball throwing velocity. J. Strength Cond. Res. 12:116-119. 1998.

5. Logan, G.A., W.C. McKinney, and W. Rowe. Effect of resistance through a throwing range of motion on the velocity of a baseball. Percept. Motor Skills. 25:55-58. 1966.

6. Newton, R.U., and K.P. McEvoy. Baseball throwing velocity: A comparison of medicine ball training and weight training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 8:198-203. 1994.

7. Potteiger, J.A., H.N. Williford, D.L. Blessing, and J. Smidt. Effect of two training methods on improving baseball performance variables. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6:2-6. 1992.

8. Sullivan, J.W. The effects of three experimental training factors upon baseball throwing velocity and selected strength measures. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University,. 1970.

9. Swangard, T.M. The effect of isotonic weight training programs on the development of bat swinging, throwing, and running ability of college baseball players. Master's thesis, University of Oregon,. 1965.

10. Thompson, C.W., and E.T. Martin. Weight training and baseball throwing speed. J. Assoc. Phys. Mental Rehabil. 19:194-196. 1965.

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Newsletter #95

Inefficiency vs. Pathology

Q: I read with great interest your baseball interview at T-Nation, as I have two sons who play high school baseball. More interestingly to me, though, was this statement:

“Pathology (e.g., labral fraying) isn't as important as dysfunction; you can have a pathology, but not be symptomatic if you still move well and haven't hit "threshold" from a degenerative or traumatic standpoint.”

Is this something that can be applied to the rest of the body?

A: Great question – and the answer is a resounding “Absolutely!”

Many musculoskeletal issues are a function of cumulative trauma on a body with some degree of underlying inefficiency. People reach threshold when they do crazy stuff – or ignore inefficiencies – for long enough. Here are a few examples:

Lower Back Pain

As I touched on in a recent newsletter, we put a lot of compressive loading on our spines in the typical weight-training lifestyle – and you’d be surprised at how many people have spondylolysis (vertebral fractures) that aren’t symptomatic. But there’s more…

A 1994 study in the New England Journal of Medicine sent MRIs of 98 "healthy" backs to various doctors, and asked them to diagnose them. The doctors were not told that the patients felt fine and had no history of back pain.

80% of the MRI interpretations came back with disc herniations and bulges. In 38% of the patients, there was involvement of more than one disc.

It’s estimated that 85% of lower back pain patients don’t get a precise diagnosis.

Shoulders

You’d be amazed at how many people are walking around with labral fraying/SLAP lesions, partially torn rotator cuffs, and bone spurs. However, only a handful of people are in debilitating pain – and others just have a testy shoulder that acts up here and there. What’s the issue?

These individuals might have a fundamental defect in place, but they’ve likely improved scapular stability, rotator cuff strength/endurance, thoracic spine range-of-motion, soft tissue quality, cervical spine function, breathing patterns, mobility of the opposite hip/ankle, and a host of other contributing factors – to the point that their issues don’t become symptomatic.

Elbows

They do a lot of Tommy John surgeries and ulnar nerve transpositions for elbow issues that can often be resolved with improving internal rotation range-of-motion at the shoulder, or cleaning up soft tissue restrictions on flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, pronator teres, etc.

According to Dr. Glenn Fleisig, during the throwing motion, at maximal external rotation during the cocking phase, there is roughly 64 Nm of varus torque at the elbow in elite pitchers. This is equivalent to having a 40-pound weight pulling the hand down.

The other day, I emailed back and forth with my good friend, physical therapist John Pallof about elbows in throwing athletes, and he said the following:

“Over the long term, bone changes just like any other connective tissue according to the stresses that are placed on it.  Most every pitcher I see has some structural and/or alignment abnormality – it’s just a question of whether it becomes symptomatic.  Many have significant valgus deformities.  Just disgusting forces put on a joint over and over and over again.”

Makes you wonder who is really "healthy," doesn't it? Carpal Tunnel

I can’t tell you how many carpal tunnel surgeries can be avoided when people get soft tissue work done on scalenes, pec minor, coracobrachialis, and several other upper extremity adhesion sites – or adjustments at the cervical spine – but I can tell you it’s a lot.

Knee Pain

Many ACL tears go completely undiagnosed; people never become symptomatic.

I know several people who have ruptured PCLs from car crashes or contact injuries – but they work around them.

Some athletes have big chunks of the menisci taken out, but they can function at 100% while other athletes are in worlds of pain with their entire menisci in place.

Many knee issues resolve when you clear up adhesions in glute medius, popliteus, rectus femoris, ITB/TFL, psoas, and the calves/peroneals; improve ankle and hip mobility; and get the glutes firing.

I’m of the belief that all stress on our systems is shared by the active restraints and passive restraints. Active restraints include muscles and tendons – the dynamic models of our bodies. Passive restraints include labrums, menisci, ligaments, and bone; some of them can get a bit stronger (particularly bone), but on the whole, they aren’t as dynamic as muscles and tendons.

Now, if the stress is shared between active and passive restraints, wouldn’t it make sense that strong and mobile active restraints would protect ligaments, menisci, and labrums? The conventional medical model – whether it’s because of watered-down physical therapy due to stingy insurance companies or just a desire to do more surgeries – fixes the passive restraints first. In some cases, this is good. In other cases, it does a disservice to the dynamic ability of the body to protect itself with adaptation.

I’m also of the belief that there are only a handful of exercises that are genuinely bad; upright rows, leg presses, and leg extensions are a few examples. The rest are just exercises that are bad for certain people – or exercises that are bad when performed with incorrect technique.

With these latter two issues in mind, find the inefficiency, fix it, and you'd be surprised at how well your body works when it moves efficiently.

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