Home Posts tagged "Dan Swinscoe"

Sandbag Training for Baseball Players

Today's guest post comes from Seattle-based physical therapist Dan Swinscoe. He's been a great resource (and friend) to me over the years, and this post will show you yet another reason why that's the case.

When I found out Dan was writing up this article, I asked the good folks at Ultimate Sandbag Training if they'd be up for doing a sale for my readers - and they kindly obliged. From now through next Sunday at midnight, you can get 10% off on both sandbag products and their educational resources. Just head HERE and enter the coupon code cressey10.

Enjoy! - EC

Power: it's one of the most highly coveted qualities in all of athletics. Be powerful and you can be dominant. In baseball, it’s fastball velocity for pitchers or exit velocity and HRs for the hitters. The powerful guys are the most feared and usually the highest paid.

How do you get powerful? First, you have to be strong. Strength is a prerequisite to power. You can be strong without being powerful, but cannot be powerful without being strong. So, if we’re talking rotational strength we need to strengthen our ability to move or resist movement in a rotational manner. But what tool do you use for developing these qualities? Dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, body weight and cables/bands are all viable options. However, a lesser known option that is often superior to the others is what I want to talk about today. It’s The Ultimate Sandbag (USB).

Keep in mind the actual weight of the sandbags you’ll see in these exercises is relatively low when compared to using iron. However, the WORK you have to do to move and control them is sky high. Even when working with college and pro guys, I haven’t needed more than a 60-pound bag to challenge them effectively. I’ve blended this tool in with all the others and I encourage you to do the same. Keep reading and you’ll appreciate why that’s the case.

Here are three of my favorite ways to use the USB for rotational strength. In all three videos, the athlete would be cued to “crush” the handles to irradiate tension higher in the chain (see Sherrington’s law) and to try and “tear the bag.” By trying to tear the handles apart you create tension in the lats, thus better connecting them into the glutes. (see serape effect)

Chop and Lift: The chop and lift patterns have been around for decades. Coming from the rehab world, it’s a movement where you diagonally pull down or lift up. This movement pattern takes advantage of the natural anatomic alignment of our tissues referred to as the serape effect.

In the first video, we begin on the ground in a single leg bridge position, challenging rotational strength by preventing the rotation that gravity is trying to impart. It is especially difficult when chopping down towards the unsupported side. Notice both elbows stay straight the whole time. Once the elbows bend, you lose the lat and start using triceps. We want the lat connection.

It can also be advanced to an upright posture. The next video advances the exercise into ½ kneeling and a static split stance referred to as “hover.” This can be modified further by the width of the stance. Need more challenge? Stand on a line. Remember to breathe.

MAX Lunge: The name refers to using multiple axes. It used to be called a rotational lunge. You can see why. The challenge from this drill is that the player has to lunge and maintain posture and lower extremity alignment in all three planes despite the momentum of the bag trying to knock him over. I also love the strong eccentric nature of this exercise. The biggest challenge is to decelerate with control. This mimics the challenge a pitcher has coming down the mound; an unstable front leg is bad news for a pitcher. This is an outstanding way to train that need for front leg stability with additional challenge to the core more proximally. The first example uses the “suitcase” handle, while the second one uses the standard “clean” handles. Finally, the third example increases the challenge by elevating the center of gravity using a “front load” position of the USB. When in front loaded position, the “tear the bag apart” cue is executed with the forearms. They all feel different.

Hinging with Rotation: Deadlifts and good mornings are staples in many strength training programs, and rightfully so: the hinge is a motion that must be trained. But in sports and life, we typically move one leg at a time and in all three planes of motion. It’s tough to do that with a barbell. To me, the USB is the best way to make single leg rotational hinges feel challenging in a way that is also safe for the athlete. Athletes need to be able to train hard without feeling like they’re doing a circus trick.

In the rotational deadlift example below, the player should crush the handles and think of tearing the bag apart before even moving. He crosses the back leg behind the front leg to feel tension in the lateral hip rotators, then becomes stable before moving. The next move is performed by pushing forcefully into the ground and mimicking a step. He’ll then reset the start position and repeat. No one has to ask what muscles are being used; you feel it right away. But, more importantly, you are doing it in a way that you can expect to carryover to the field of play.

The second example is a good morning. It’s the same single-leg rotational hinge movement, but with the USB in a front load position. The movement is the same, but the challenge is different because of the elevated position of the USB. Again, tearing the bag apart is performed with forearms.

Now that we’ve got some ways to get rotational strength, let’s layer on the rotational power. Power refers to your ability to rapidly express the strength that you have. In baseball, medicine ball work is probably the most popular training stimulus to develop rotational power, and it’s awesome (and Eric’s YouTube and Instagram pages have plenty of options to review on this front). In my opinion, the USB is right there with it as a great tool to create this sport-specific skill.

Below are some of my favorite rotational power drills for baseball players.

Clean from Half-Kneeling: It emphasizes the concentric portion of lower body power transferring the load from the side of the body to the middle. As you can see, it can be progressed to single leg for additional stability challenge. The beginning position of the bag with the cue to tear it apart provides a strong connection between the glute of one side and the lat of the other…just like with running, hitting and throwing.

Inside-Out Clean: the bag starts “inside” the base of support and centered on the body; the athlete then creates rotational power so the catch happens on the side of the body. This skill – which is almost all concentric – is mastered before the “outside in” clean, where there is also a strong eccentric component. In other words, you work on creating power and then controlling power.

The MAX Lunge Static to Dynamic:  I described the MAX lunge using a forward step earlier in our rotational strength section. However, if you step backward, speed it up, and try to ballistically drive your foot into the ground as the bag goes from side to side, you have an absolutely intense challenge to create and control power in all three planes. I think of this as having all the benefits of a kettlebell swing, but with less risk of injury and more carryover to baseball because it’s one leg at a time and incorporates all three planes of motion. The player who has apprehension towards the KB swing will appreciate this alternative. And, the more you do it, the more it will grow on you. The reps are low because the demand is high, so I usually have players do 3-5 per side. If the reps go up, the effort goes down, which means we aren’t training power effectively.

These are a few of the many ways you can utilize The Ultimate Sandbag in your training for strength and power. It’s been a lot of fun for me to learn about them and use them with my clients/patients and in my own training. I hope you enjoy learning how to use them, too; the results will speak for themselves.

Note from EC: Don't forget about the great discount in place on sandbags and the associated educational resources at Ultimate Sandbag Training through next Sunday at midnight. You can get 10% off by heading HERE and enter the coupon code cressey10.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist in Issaquah, WA. He owns Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy and teaches his own class, Kettlebells for Clinicians. You can follow him on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram (@danswinscoe) or email him at baseballrehab@gmail.com. 

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The Best of 2019: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2019, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…

1. The Biggest Mistake in Program Design - Kevin Neeld, Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, reminds us to make sure that our programs evolve as our knowledge and experience in the field accumulate.

2. 5 Non-Traditional Exercises for Catchers - CSP-Florida Director of Performance Tim Geromini works with all our catchers in Florida, and he's devised some creative ways to help them feel, move, and play better. This article includes a few of them.

3. 10 Reasons We Use Wall Slides - Wall slide variations are a mainstay in all of our upper body training and rehabilitation programs. Eric Schoenberg, who serves as the physical therapist at our Palm Beach Gardens, FL location, shares why that's the case.

4. 5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players - Dan Swinscoe is a great physical therapist in the Seattle area, and in this article, he shares some of the KB variations he likes to use with his baseball players.

5. Exercise of the Week: Side Bridge with Top Leg March - CSP-Massachusetts coach Cole Russo shared this great lateral core stability progression. We're using it a lot this offseason.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2019.

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5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players

Today's guest post comes from Seattle-based physical therapist, Dan Swinscoe. Enjoy! -EC

Kettlebells have come a long way since they were used as weights on scales in the open air markets of eastern Europe about two hundred years ago. For exercise purposes, they’ve been called everything from an ancient Russian tool against weakness to a cannonball with a handle. One thing is for sure, though: since Pavel Tsatsouline introduced them to the US about 20 years ago, they have become staples in most gyms and rehab centers, including my own.

Physical therapist Gray Cook once said, “Dumbbells will make you strong, but kettlebells will make you efficient.” It’s the shape that makes them great. Because of the offset handle, when gravity acts upon the bell, you are forced to control it in two planes of motion, not just one (as with a barbell or dumbbell). It’s for this reason that they are one of my favorite tools to rehabilitate and train baseball players.

Which exercises will be the best for you depends on your individual needs – which are determined by a good assessment. However, my list below should have you pretty well covered – even if many good exercises didn’t make the list. In particular, I’m leaving out the single arm and double arm swing on purpose because they are so well known. I think they are awesome and I recommend them, but with this article I am hoping to bring some lesser known but invaluable kettlebell exercises to light. The KB snatch is also a great and popular exercise, but I don’t teach it to my pitchers.

Based on research from OnBase University, no matter how they throw or what pitch they’re throwing, pitchers have to do five things well to be successful. They need to 1) control their upright posture, 2) stride 85% of their height, 3) interact with the ground, 4) control their core, and 5) control their arm. Not every pitch is perfect and no pitcher is perfect, but the more we improve those five things, the better the performance and the more protected they are against injury.

Because injuries to pitchers are more common than to position players, I am biasing my list to what pitchers need most. Here are my top five kettlebell exercises to help the pitcher.

1. Pivot Lunge/Pivot Clean.

This is a great drill for training leg strength and control over momentum (as needed for pitching). We speak in terms of the lead leg, but we have athletes go both directions. Master the skill with the pivot lunge before progressing to the pivot clean. Once the athlete knows how to do both, we usually program it so that they combine them in one set. As an example, for a set of 10, the first five reps are pivot lunges and the next five reps are pivot cleans – and then switch sides. This is a unique advantage to the kettlebell. Lunges are okay with a dumbbell, but once you begin cleaning, the KB is distinctly better.

Trains: stride, upright posture, ground interaction, core control, arm control):

2. Turkish Get-up with Screwdriver

This exercise has a lot going on. To help simplify things, we first teach them separately. When we isolate the screwdriver, we teach it first supine (face up), then progress to side-lying, and then into the side plank position. Each version is slightly more challenging than the previous one because each version adds another body segment to have to control. The TGU and the screwdriver each have value on their own. We will combine them once the fundamentals are mastered and the athlete has demonstrated the ability to handle the complexity of this challenge. More than anything else, this exercise trains the player to improve rotator cuff control of the ball on the socket. However, it also demands scapular control and challenges the cross body patterning connecting that shoulder to the opposite hip via the core. Oblique abdominals and serratus anterior are huge with this drill. Once the movement is mastered, the load can be progressively increased so strength can be gained.

Trains: upright posture, stride, interaction with ground, core control, arm control)

3. Offset Kettlebell Front Squat

With this exercise, we get a nice challenge to scapular stability on the side holding the kettlebell, especially as the bell gets heavy. However, the real benefit of this squat version is how we also get contralateral stability challenges in the frontal plane for both the core and hips (in addition to the usual sagittal plane challenges with other squats). I especially like this style of squat because the challenge is very high with weight that seems small compared to barbell squat variations. This way, I get high muscle stress with low joint stress. For this reason, it’s my #1 squat choice for players when training in season.

Trains: upright posture, interaction with ground, core control, arm control


 

4. Dynamic Rows

This exercise has the athlete in a hinge position, which challenges the posterior chain. However, while maintaining that hinge, rotation of the torso is accelerated and decelerated bilaterally. The dynamic nature is an additional challenge from standard rowing exercises. It also forces the rotator cuff and scapula stabilizers to work and work quickly.

Trains: upright posture, core control, arm control

5. Open Half-Kneeling Hip Mobility

Improving stride length is something a lot of pitchers need to do. Improving this mobility so that it sticks can sometimes be a challenge. I think the reason this drill works so well is because of the load of the kettlebell. The weight of the bell assist the player into “depth,” and because he’s doing this actively, the weight seems to give the nervous system more to feel. The gains seem to stick. Players also seem to universally like how it feels to them. Any exercise that is liked gets done more often. This one feels good.

Trains: upright posture, stride

I hope you find these kettlebell exercises useful. If this is your first exposure to kettlebell training I would recommend you seek professional coaching when you are able. Keep in mind some of these exercises take time to master. But like other investments they are worth the payout in the end.

A special thanks to Cardinals pitcher Ian Oxnevad (@ioxnevad) and University of Washington commit Cole Fontenelle (@cole.fontanelle) for their modeling services.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist in Issaquah, WA. He practices at Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy and teaches his own class, Kettlebells for Clinicians. You can follow him on Instagram (@danswinscoe) and email him at baseballrehab@gmail.com.

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