Home Posts tagged "Core Stability Exercises"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/14/19

We're long overdue for a recommended reading/listening feature, so here goes!

Does "Feel" Matter with Core Stability Exercises? - I had a good conversation with one of our adult clients on this one just last week, and it reminded me to reincarnate this from the archives.

Ian Kadish on Athleticism, Work Capacity, and Arm Care in Baseball - This was a great podcast from Mike Robertson with my buddy, Ian Kadish. Ian did a great job in his first year as strength and conditioning coach for the Minnesota Twins in 2019.

The New Frontier in Baseball Rehab: Part 1 - This was a good podcast that serves as an excellent follow-up to my chat with Alan Jaeger a few weeks ago. Alan and Josh Heenan delve in further on the topic of rehab throwing programs on the Robby Row Show.

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“Coil” in the Pitching Delivery: Friend or Foe?

I came across this awesome still-frame of Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin on the Nationals instagram the other day. This positioning at the top of his leg lift offers an important reminder of how the transverse plane can be your biggest ally or enemy in the pitching delivery.

As you can see, Corbin has some "coil" to his leg lift, which creates more internal rotation on the trailing hip right as he starts to progress into his hip load (hinge/flexion). This pre-tensioning allows him to store a little extra elastic energy as he heads down the mound toward front foot plant. It also can provide a bit more deception to make the hitter's job more challenging. And, perhaps most importantly, it sets up more of a "sweeping" slider, similar to what we see with pitchers like Chris Sale and Steve Cishek. All good, right?

Well, the challenge is that being this rotational can also give some athletes problems. It's a slightly more high maintenance delivery because you have to take all that transverse (rotational) motion and convert it into a more linear motion at ball release so that you are getting through the baseball, not just around it. And, if you can't stop this rotation at the hips, it gets transferred up to the spine. This is where optimizing strength, mobility, and timing of the lead hip is essential: it's a torque converter (rotational to linear).

Understanding this should make you realize that just coaching knee extension on the front leg isn't a useful strategy; it ignores the hip. And, just calling it lead leg blocking is insufficient, as "blocking" doesn't appreciate the rotational component that the lead hip can take on. That's why we talk a lot about "front hip pull-back" and select exercises that challenge it to accept forces in all three planes of motion.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/19/19

I hope you had a great weekend. Before I get to the good stuff, just a friendly reminder that this Friday is the last day to get the early-bird discount on our fall seminar (9/21-9/22) at Cressey Sports Performance - MA. This 1.5 day event offers 10 CEU hours through the NSCA and features some awesome presentations. You can learn more HERE. Additionally, CSP co-founder Pete Dupuis and I have our business mentorship on Monday the 23rd, and we only have three spots remaining. Business mentorship attendees attend the fall seminar at no additional charge; you can grab one of the remaining spots HERE.

Now, on to the recommended reading and listening for the week:

The Thin Line Between Loyalty and Defection - Speaking of Pete, this is an excellent post he wrote up on last week on the business side of fitness.

Chris Chase on the Evolution of Basketball Strength and Conditioning - This is the second time Mike Robertson has had Chris Chase (Memphis Grizzlies) on his podcast, and given how excellent the first interview was, listening this time around was a no-brainer. It didn't disappoint.

Recency Bias and Long-Term Training Success - Given the volatility of the stock market in recent weeks, it seemed like a good time to reincarnate this article I wrote a few years ago. The concept of recency bias can be applied to your training programs just like it can be to investing.

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Once you’ve mastered the basics of anti-rotation core work with chops and lifts, a great progression strategy is to start adding range of motion to the system. Remember, we’re preparing folks for a multiplanar world where they’ll have to move around a stable core, not just stay motionless in the sagittal plane while resisting destabilizing torques. They need to throw, swing, asymmetrically pick things up, change directions, start lawnmowers, etc. 👇 The two best places to start are challenging the joints above and below the lumbar spine - the hips and thoracic spine - through more motion in various planes of motion. Here are a few of my favorites.👊👍 #cspfamily #corestability

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Exercise of the Week: Side Bridge with Top Leg March

This go-round of the Exercise of the Week comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts coach, Cole Russo. Before we get to it, though, just a quick heads-up that I'm running a weekend flash sale on my Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core presentation. You can get 30% off with the coupon code CORE30 at checkout; just head HERE to get more information and purchase.

Key Coaching Points

1. This could simply be a progression from the traditional side bridge, in that there is less stability and more stress on the lateral core.

2. In terms of pitching, sometimes lateral flexion of the trunk will be a compensation for abduction of the pelvis to create force and generate momentum from the stretch. Similarly, a traditional side bridge can accomplish the same thing. This is more specific to the joint actions of pitching because the lead leg moves to hip flexion (just like the top leg in the exercise). CSP pitching coordinator shared an awesome post on this a while back:

 
 
 
 
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1️⃣: A hip load mistake I see a lot with pitchers, as they start their descent down the slope of the mound. 2️⃣: Visual on pelvis-on-femur abduction. 30 degrees of P-O-F abduction is "normal" and pitchers usually couple this with lateral flexion of the spine as they try to load their back hip. A little bit of lateral flexion isn't bad, but you have to leave room in your hip socket for force production through abduction. This pic was taken from a new book I'm reading called Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System by Donald Neumann. ⚾️Video by the one and only @nancy_newell, and video bombs from Franklin J. (@frankduffyfitness) #cspfamily #csppitching #elitepitchingdevelopment #backhip #mlb #minorleaguebaseball #collegebaseball #highschoolbaseball #baseballcoach #pitching #pitchingcoach #pitchingdrills

A post shared by Christian Wonders - EPD (@csp_pitching) on

3. During the gait cycle, it is common to see what is referred to as the Trendelenburg Gait. This happens when the hip abductors are weak and the pelvis falls downward relative to the femur; usually accompanied with another compensation of lateral trunk tilt. The exercise emphasizes hip abduction, anti-lateral flexion, and hip flexion against gravitational forces that relate to the same weaknesses associated with the Trendelenburg Gait.

4. The positions of this exercise resemble the “figure-4” position that is assumed during the sprint cycle. When sprinting, it is necessary for the trunk to transfer force and stabilize the body against multiplanar forces so that the center of mass can directed linearly. Training the trunk to resist lateral flexion can help with this. Training the trunk to resist lateral flexion in biomechanically relevant joint positions can make you Usain Bolt. Core exercises eventually need to be progressed to something more dynamic. Once motor control and appropriate stability are demonstrated, progression to a quicker leg action action will make it more of a reactive stimulus for the nervous system.

5. Never underestimate the value of variety! Subtle additions like this to exercises that have already been rehearsed are a novel stimulus for the brain and can really enrich the motor learning process. The right amount of struggle is a good thing. Consistent patterns with minimal struggles and errors means there is a need for a new stimulus.

6. We'll usually program this as a 10-15 second isometric hold in the first few weeks of doing this exercise, and then progress to marching in subsequent weeks. It'll be sets of 8 per side in those who are more highly trained. This can be done as a warm-up, or used for multiple sets later in the training session.

About the Author

Cole Russo is a strength and conditioning coach at CSP-MA. You can follow him on Instagram at @SwoleThomas.

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Mid-Week Movement Miscellany

With the launch of my new podcast, I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. However, I've got plenty of thoughts rattling around in my brain, so I thought I'd pull together an article on the topic. Heck, we might even make this a regular series. Here goes...

1. On average, female athletes respond differently to eccentric stress than male athletes do.

Last year, I wrote a blog (Making Movement Better: Duct Tape or WD40?) that touched on the fact that many pitchers lose range of motion at the shoulder and elbow as adaptations to the crazy high eccentric stress experienced during pitching. I also was careful to note that not everyone loses range of motion; in fact, some athletes gain motion (become more unstable). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research in the softball pitching world shows that females don't lose range-of-motion following softball pitching even though they're still encountering noteworthy eccentric stress. Females are more likely to be hypermobile, so it makes sense that they become more unstable than they do "tight." In short, you probably aren't going to have to work as hard to gain ROM in softball pitchers; your efforts are better directed at regaining neuromuscular control with low-level stabilization exercises.

2. Reaching exercises should drive thoracic flexion and scapular upward rotation, but not necessarily pec recruitment.

On a recent Instagram Q&A, I received the question (paraphrased), "How can I get better scapular contact on the ribs during reaches without too much pec recruitment?" Here was my answer:

3. The best coaching cue for an exercise might just be to do a different exercise.

Also on that Q&A, I got an inquiry about what to do with low back pain due to excessive arching at the bottom of an ab wheel rollout. The answer was pretty simple: regress the exercise; you aren’t ready for ab wheel rollouts.

With anterior core exercises like this, it works a bit like a seesaw: the further the arms go away from the body, the harder the exercise feels (imagine moving a little kid to the end of a seesaw; his weight doesn't change, but the amount of force at the other end of the seesaw needed to offset him does simply because of his positioning). When an individual dumps into anterior pelvic tilt/lordosis (excessive arching) as the arms get further away from the body on a rollout, it's one means of shortening that distance. And, it allows the individual to hang out on the passive restraints on the posterior aspect of the spine instead of using active muscular control to create stability.

A better option would be a stir the pot, stability ball rollout (if you don't go DOWN as far, you don't go OUT as far), or even just a regular prone bridge. These regressions are easy inclusions that are tremendously helpful when dealing with less trained individuals or athletes with long limbs (and spines).

If you're looking to learn a bit more about this topic, I'd encourage you to check out my resource, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core. This seminar presentation is a thorough tutorial on how to best coach and program these invaluable exercises.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 33

It's time for this month's installment of my random thoughts on sports performance training. In light of my ongoing 30% off sale (ending Sunday at midnight) on my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource (enter coupon code BASEBALL at checkout for the discount), I thought I'd focus this edition on the shoulder.

1. If you want a healthy shoulder, getting tobacco products out of your life is a good place to start.

The research is pretty clear: smoking is a bad idea (and an independent risk factor) if you're looking to stay healthy from a musculoskeletal standpoint, or have a good outcome in rehabilitation (whether conservative or post-surgical) . Here's an excerpt from a recent study with an excellent review of the literature:

"Cigarette smoking adversely affects a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and procedures, including spinal fusion, fracture healing, surgical wound healing, tendon injury and knee ligament reconstruction. More recently, smoking has been suggested to negatively impact rotator cuff tear pathogenesis and healing. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a potent vasoconstrictor that can reduce the blood supply to the already relatively avascular rotator cuff insertion. Furthermore, carbon monoxide in smoke reduces the oxygen tension levels available for cellular metabolism. The combination of these toxins may lead to the development of attritional rotator cuff tears with a decreased capacity for healing."

Many times, we're looking for the best exercise, rehabilitation protocol, soft tissue treatment, or volume amounts - but we really ought to be looking at lifestyle factors.

With a large baseball readership on this site, the logical next question: are these harmful effects also noted with smokeless tobacco (i.e., dip/chew)? The research is somewhat sparse, as it's harder to study a younger, active population than a bunch of middle-aged post-operative rotator cuff patients. However, it's hard to believe that the aforementioned carbon monoxide implications would cause 100% of the issues and that the nicotine would serve as just an innocent bystander. So if you're looking to check every box in your quest to stay healthy, it's not a bad idea to lay off the dip.

And, if healthy tendons aren't enough to convince you, do yourself a favor and read this article by Curt Schilling.

2. The 1-arm, 1-leg landmine press isn't a mainstay in your training programs, but can be a perfect fit in a few circumstances.

This looks like kind of a wussy exercise, but I actually really like it in two circumstances.

a. It's awesome in a post-surgery period when you can't load like crazy, but still want folks to be challenged in their upper extremity progressions. The single-leg support creates a more unstable environment, which means that antagonist activity is higher and there is more work going to joint stability than actual movement. In other words, it makes pressing safer.

b. Once we get to the inseason period, it allows us to check two boxes with a single exercise: single-leg balance and upper body strength (plus serratus activation/scapular upward rotation).

3. Posterior pelvic tilt increases lower trap activation.

I've written about it a lot in the past: core positioning has an incredibly important impact on shoulder function. Check out this study on how reducing anterior pelvic tilt increases lower trapezius activation during arm elevation and the return from the overhead position.

In my experience working with extension-rotation athletes (particularly baseball players), one of the biggest risk factors for shoulder injury is when the lower trapezius can't keep up with the latissimus dorsi. Just consider the attachment points of the lat in the picture below; as you can imagine, if you posteriorly tilt the pelvis, the lat is inhibited, making it easier for lower trap to get to work.

The lower trapezius is very important for providing posterior tilt (slight tipping back) of the scapula and assisting in upward rotation. These two functions are key for a pitcher to get the scapula in the correct position during the lay-back phase of throwing.

By contrast, the lat has more of a "gross" depression effect on the scapula; it pulls it down, but doesn't contribute to posterior tilting or upward rotation. This might help with an adult rotator cuff pain patient who has an aggressive scapular elevation (shrug) substitution pattern, but it's actually problematic for a thrower who is trying to get his scapula up and around the rib cage to make sure that the ball-on-socket congruency is "flush" when it really matters: the maximal external rotation position.

As such, you can say that the lat and lower trap "compete" for control of the scapula - and the lat has a big advantage because of its cross-sectional area and multiple attachment points. It's also much easier to train and strengthen - even if it's by accident. Upper body work in faulty core positioning (in this case, too much anterior pelvic tilt and the accompanying lumbar extension) shifts the balance to the lats.

We'll often hear throwers cued "down and back" during arm care drills. The intention - improving posterior tilt via lower trap activation - is admirable, but the outcome usually isn't what's desired. Unless athletes are actually put in a position of posterior tilt where they can actually feel the lower traps working, they don't get it. Instead, they pull further down into scapular depression, which feeds the lat-dominant strategy. This is why we teach almost all our throwers to differentiate between depression and posterior tilt early on in their training at Cressey Sports Performance.

If you're looking to learn more about how I assess, program, and coach at the shoulder, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. It's on sale for 30% off through Sunday at midnight; just enter the coupon code BASEBALL at checkout to get the discount. Learn more at www.SturdyShoulders.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/18

This will be the last recommended reading/listening of the year, as we're switching over to the "Best of 2018" series in the next few days. In the meantime, check these out! And happy holidays!

59 Lessons: Working with the World's Elite Coaches, Athletes, and Special Forces - Fergus Connolly just released this new book, and I'm excitedly going through it. He's one of the sharpest minds in the sports science field, so it's sure to be a good one.

How Should We Space Training to Optimize Skill Acquisition - This was a quick, but awesome listen on Rob Gray's Perception and Action Podcast. A special thanks to CSP-MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders for sharing it with me.

Are You Doing Too Much Rotator Cuff Work Before Throwing? - This article came from my series on common arm care mistakes, and I decided to bring it back to the forefront in light of a conversation I had with an athlete about how his warm-ups shouldn't take 60 minutes.

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Exercise of the Week: Standing Low-to-High Cable Lift

Most of the anti-rotation core stability exercises out there take place in a more static environment: half-kneeling or tall-kneeling. These set-ups are awesome for teaching appropriate core positioning against destabilizing forces into extension, rotation, or lateral flexion. However, their functional carryover is limited if we aren’t finding ways to transition that movement awareness into exercises in the standing position. Enter the standing low-to-high cable lift.

Important coaching points:

1. Push the ground away from you; don’t just lean away from the weight stack.

2. Think both up (anti-extension) and out (anti-rotation).

3. Lock the rib cage to the pelvis; the motion should come from the hips and upper back, not the lower back.

4. Feel the trailing leg glute firing at the top position.

5. To prevent early deceleration, imagine throwing your hands through the ceiling.

In case you haven't heard, my big Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale is ongoing. You can get 25% off on a bunhc of my resources; just head HERE to learn more.

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What (Physically) Goes Into a Good Swing

Cressey Sports Performance athlete Chris Taylor had a big go-ahead 2-run HR last night for the Dodgers - and the second I saw this photo of his swing on Instagram, I immediately got to thinking about how great a representation it is of the demands of the swing.

 

CT3 for the lead! #LADetermined

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As a right-handed hitter, the pelvis rotates counterclockwise toward the pitcher during the swing. However, "counterclockwise" doesn't really do justice to the fact that it's actually hip movement in three planes: rotation (transverse), abduction (frontal), and extension (sagittal). Additionally, earlier in the swing, the torso actually rotates clockwise to create the separation that allow for greater storage of elastic energy and sets the stage for the barrel getting to the zone at the right time and angle - and for as long as possible. This reminds us that you can't have good swing mechanics if you don't have mobility in the hips and thoracic spine, and adequate stability in the core to prevent any energy leaks.

More specific to this photo, though, is the fact that all that motion from the trailing leg has taken place, which means all the force has been transferred forward - and something has to "accept it." We often use the analogy of riding a bike into a curb; if the curb isn't hard, the kid doesn't get launched over the handlebars. In this case, the "firm curb" is the front leg creating a blocking effect as the hip extensors and external rotators (glutes!) eccentrically control that aggressive force transfer into the lead leg. As you'll see in this photo, sometimes the tri-planar forces are so significant that guys might even roll to the lateral aspect of their shoes. And, unless they're in a great pair of New Balance cleats, they might even "swing out of their shoes" (yes, you'll sometimes see guys fold over the side of cleats that don't have good lateral stability).

Anyway, let's take this example to an untrained 15-year-old who doesn't have the strength, motor control, and mobility foundation that Chris has here. There's a good chance he's going to go to the wrong places to find a lot of this motion to generate, transfer, or accept force - and the most common spot is the lower back. You'll commonly see stress fractures and annoying tightness in this region in these kids because the lumbar spine isn't conditioned to produce force or go through significant rotational motion. Watch one of these kids go through a simple bowler squat and they usually fold up line a lawn chair.

In my experience (both in pitching and hitting), the kids most at risk are the ones who grow quickly at a young age. They have long levers that help them to generate velocity, but insufficient physical strength and range of motion to dissipate these aggressive patterns as they get to this position and beyond. They're all gas and no brakes.

Chicks can't dig the long ball if you're in a back brace because you ignored your hip and thoracic mobility and core stability. Take as much pride in your physical preparation as you do in your swing. Chris sure does!

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

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

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

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

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

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