Home Posts tagged "Distance Running"

Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Should Pitchers Distance Run?

I'm flying solo for this week's podcast, as I wanted to tackle a controversial topic in the world of baseball development: distance running. Before we get to it, though, a special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Show Outline

  • Why “traditionalism” is so rooted in baseball, leading to distance running becoming commonplace
  • How athletic performance is a multifactorial equation and coaches should avoid pinpointing success to one specific methodology and being married to the n=1 training approach
  • Why skill coaches need to appreciate the dynamic nature of exercise science and understand that what we know about training athletes is remarkably different from decades prior
  • How the athletes playing baseball have grown to be bigger and heavier over the decades and what the implications are for using outdated training practices with this new breed of baseball players
  • How physiological adaptations are incredibly specific
  • Why coaches need to better understand the energy system demands of baseball and employ methodologies that build an aerobic base rather than thrash their athletes and end up training the players anaerobically
  • Why clearing lactic acid is a poor excuse for using distance running and what the real reasons are for feeling fresh after long distance, low intensity running
  • Why building an aerobic base is necessary for athletic performance and vital for acute and chronic recovery
  • How training an aerobic base requires a much lower intensity than most athletes and coaches think
  • Why using a low amplitude, low variability movement, like distance running, is insufficient for training a high amplitude, low variability movement, like pitching
  • How coaches can implement more practical methods, such as mobility circuits, to drive adaptations, preserve strength and power qualities, and optimize recovery
  • When the ideal time is to target the aerobic system – and how these benefits can best be preserved throughout a season

Mentioned Resources: Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits

Sponsor Reminder

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/19/18

It's been pretty quiet here on the blog of late, as we've been really crazy with the CSP Fall Seminar, our Business Building Mentorship, loads of pro baseball guys starting up their offseason, and us moving the family down to Florida for the offseason. While there hasn't been a lot of time for new content, I do have some good recommendations from around the 'Net for you:

CSP Fall Seminar Live Tweet Stream - Andrew Lysy (one of our coaches at CSP-MA) live Tweeting bits and pieces of the presentations from this past weekend, and there are some great nuggets in there. You can follow along with them at https://twitter.com/hashtag/CSPFS2018?src=hash

How to Build an Aerobic Base with Mobility Circuits - I wrote this blog three years ago, and it seemed like a good time to reincarnate it, as this is the time of year when we're incorporating these strategies with a lot of our MLB guys as they get back in action in the weight room.

EC on the Robby Row Show - If you're interested in baseball development, check out this podcast I did with Robby Rowland.

3 Loading Types You've Likely Never Heard Of - This was an awesome guest post from Chris Merritt for Mike Robertson's website.

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The Best of 2015: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2015 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. 12 Questions to Ask Before Including an Exercise in Your Training Program - I drafted up this article to outline all the things that go through my brain as I'm writing up a strength and conditioning program.

2. 10 Important Notes on Assessments - I'm a big believer in the importance of assessments in the fitness industry, but it's really important to make sure that these assessments are performed correctly - and matched to the population in question. Here are ten thoughts on the subject.

serratuswallslide

3. How to Build an Aerobic Base with Mobility Circuits - I just posted this article a few weeks ago, and it already received enough traffic to outpace popular posts that were posted much earlier in the year. Suffice to say that folks were excited about the fact that you can improve movement quality while improving conditioning. 

4. Is One-on-One Personal Training Dead? - In spite of the direction of the fitness industry with respect to semi-private training, I'm still a big fan of one-on-one training - and I think every fitness professional should be proficient with it.

semiprivate

5. 5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer - Here's a must-read for the up-and-coming fitness professionals in the crowd.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2015" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits (Another Nail in the Coffin of Distance Running for Pitchers)

If you've read EricCressey.com for any length of time, you're surely aware that I'm not a fan of distance running for pitchers. I've published multiple articles (here, here, here, and here) outlining my rationale for the why, but these articles have largely been based on theory, anecdotal experience, and the research of others. Today, I wanted to share with you a bit of data we collected at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida not too long ago.

CSP-florida-021

First, though, I should make a few important notes that "frame" our training recommendations and

1. Athletes absolutely must have a well-developed aerobic system in order to recover both acutely (during the training session or competition/games) and chronically (between training sessions and competitions/games). It's relatively easy to improve if approached correctly, and can yield outstanding benefits on a number of physiological fronts.

2. As long as the intensity is kept low enough during aerobic training initiatives, it won't compromise strength and power development. I wrote about this all the way back in 2003 with Cardio Confusion, but many industry notables like Alex Viada, Joel Jamieson, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman Eric Oetter, Pat Davidson, Charlie Weingroff have done a far better job describing the mechanisms of action in the 12 years since that article was published. Speaking generally, most folks put the "safe zone" intensity for aerobic development without strength/power compromise at approximately 60-70% of max heart rate (Zone 2, for the endurance savvy folks out there).

3. It might be a large amplitude movement (great ranges-of-motion achieved), but baseball is a low movement variability sport. Pitchers are the most heavily affected; they do the exact same thing for anywhere from 6-9 months out of the year (or up to 12, if they're making bad decisions by playing 12 months out of the year). Distance running to me does not offer significant enough movement variability to be a useful training option for developing the aerobic system.

4. The absolute best time to develop the aerobic system is early in the off-season. For the professional baseball player, this is Sep-Oct for minor leaguers, and Oct-Nov for major leaguers. This is one more strike against distance running; after a long season of being on their feet in cleats, the last thing players need is a higher-impact aerobic approach.

With these four points in mind, two years ago, I started integrating aerobic work in the form of mobility circuits with our pro guys in the early off-season. The goals were very simple: improve movement quality and build a better aerobic foundation to optimize recovery – but do so without interfering with strength gains, body weight/composition improvements, and the early off-season recharge mode.

The results were awesome to the naked eye – but it wasn’t until this week that I really decided that we ought to quantify it. Lucky for me, one CSP athlete – Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Jake Johansen – was up for the challenge and rocked a heart rate monitor for his entire mobility circuit. A big thanks goes out to Jake for helping me with this. Now, let’s get to the actual numbers and program.

Jake is 24 years old, and his resting heart rate upon rising was 56 beats per minute (bpm). If we use the Karvonen Formula for maximum HR (takes into account age and resting HR) and apply our 60-70% for zone 2, we want him living in the 140-154bpm range for the duration of his session. As you can see from the chart below – which features HR readings at the end of every set during his session – he pretty much hovered in this zone the entire time. The only time he was a bit above it was during an “extended” warm-up where I added in some low-level plyo drills just to avoid completely detraining sprint work (he’d already had a few weeks off from baseball before starting up his off-season).

MobilityCircuitsHR

When all was said and done, Jake averaged 145bpm for the 38 minutes between the end of his warm-up and the completion of the session.

Graph1

He bumped up a little bit high in a few spots, but that’s easily remedied by adding in a slightly longer break between sets – or even just rearranging the pairings.

Graph2

To that last point, I should also note that this approach only works if an athlete is cognizant of not taking too long between sets. If he chats with his buddies and heart rate dips too much between "bouts," you're basically doing a lame interval session instead of something truly continuous. Jake did 44 sets of low-intensity work in 38 minutes. You can't get that much work in if you're taking time to tell a training partner about the cute thing your puppy did, or pondering your fantasy football roster.

Think about the implications of this....

What do you think this kind of approach could do for the foundation of movement quality for a typical high school, college, or professional pitching staff?

Don't you think it might make them more athletic, and even more capable of making mechanical changes easier?

Don't you think they'd be less injury-resistant performing an individualized mobility circuit instead of one-size-fits-all distance running?

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they'd feel better after an 11-hour bus ride?

Don't you think they'd bounce back more quickly between outings?

Designing a low-intensity mobility circuit like this is not difficult. I have a ton of examples on my YouTube page and in products like Assess and Correct and The High Performance Handbook. Stuff like this works great:

What is difficult for some coaches, though, is admitting that distance running to "build up your legs" is like changing the tires on a car with no engine, or studying for the wrong test. Just because "that's how it's always been done" doesn't mean that's how it has to stay.

Give some of these a try in the early off-season - and even during the season in place of "flush runs." They'll be a big hit with your athletes both in terms of performance and health. 

And, for those of your looking for another Z2 training option, look no further.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/11/14

First off, Happy Veterans Day - and a big thank you to all those out there who have served our country and protected our freedom.

Second, here are some recommended reads for the holiday:

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I have a webinar entitled, "8 Things I've Learned About Core Training," along with two new exercise demonstration videos and an article.

core

Mike Roncarati Interview - Mike Robertson interviewed Golden State Warriors Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Roncarati, DPT, who happens to be a former Cressey Sports Performance intern. Roncarati brings some awesome thoughts to light on assessment, rehabilitation, monitoring, and managing a busy NBA calendar. He's is a super bright guy and this is "must-read" material if you're an aspiring strength and conditioning coach (or desire to work in professional sports in any capacity).

5 Resistance Training Myths in the Running World - This article is over seven years old now, but it warranted "reincarnation" in light of a conversation I had the other day with a friend who is an avid endurance athlete/distance runner.

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Should Pitchers Distance Run? What the Research Says.

Today's guest blog comes from current CP intern, Rob Rabena.  Rob recently completed his master's thesis research on the effects of interval training versus steady state aerobic training on pitching performance in Division 2 pitchers.  He's in a great position to fill us in on the latest research with respect to the distance running for pitchers argument.

“Ok, guys, go run some poles.”

A baseball coach often voices this phrase during the season to keep his pitchers in shape. Utilizing distance running to enhance aerobic performance among pitchers has always been the norm, but do the risks outweigh the rewards? There is strong evidence in the scientific literature to support that coaches should rethink utilizing distance running with their pitchers.

Jogging Might Not be the Answer

The current practice utilized for conditioning is for pitchers is to go for a long run the day after a game to “flush” the sore arm of lactic acid, or minimize muscle soreness to recover faster for the next game. These theories are not supported by the current literature and the physiology of the sport.

In the current research study examining the physiology of pitching, Potteiger et al. (1992) found no significant difference between pre-pitching and post-pitching blood lactate levels of six college baseball players after throwing a 7-inning simulated game. Even though during an inning there is a slight lactate production of 5.3-5.8 mM, (which is not high, considering resting lactate is 1.0mM), it does not cause a buildup of lactic acid in the arm of a pitcher after a game. As a comparative example, a high lactate response would occur from squatting for multiple reps at about 70% 1RM; this might produce a lactate level of about 8-10mM (Reynolds et al., 1997). Furthermore, jogging to flush the arm of lactic acid after a start is unnecessary and not supported by the literature, especially since we learned all the way back in 2004 that lactate was not the cause of muscular fatigue ; even the New York Times reported on this in 2007! A lot of coaches simply haven't caught wind yet - in spite of the fact that exercise physiology textbooks have been rewritten to include this new information.

Should Pitchers Distance Run?

When a person jogs at a pace where he/she is able to hold a conversation (at or below ventilatory and lactate threshold), the goal is to improve V02 and to enhance aerobic performance. For pitchers, this practice is utilized to enhance and maintain endurance during games, as well as to maintain body composition throughout the season
In the research study conducted by Potteiger et al. (1992), the researchers found that mean V02 only reached 20 ml. kg.min during the simulated game, and returned to 4.9 ml.kg.min between innings (resting is 3.5 ml.kg.min). The V02s of endurance athletes are approximately greater than or equal to 60 ml.kg.min. Based off this study, V02 does not seem to be a limiting factor for pitchers who want to pitch deep into games. Since a high V02 does not make a great pitcher, why are we training like an endurance athlete, when pitching relies predominately on the anaerobic system? While jogging may help you with body composition and endurance, it’s not going to help you throw more innings in a game. Our emphasis should be on building strength and speed, which are more anaerobic qualities.

Endurance Running or Sprints?

Still not convinced that sprint or anaerobic training is right for your pitching staff? Okay, coach, here are a few more studies comparing sprint training to aerobic training and their effects on pitching performance.

One study examined dance aerobic training (yes, dance training) to sprint training in baseball pitchers and found a significant improvement (p<0.05) in the pitching velocity and anaerobic power measures of the sprint groups (Potteiger et al., 1992).

In a similar study that compared sprint training and long, slow distance running in-season, Rhea et al. (2008) found a significant increase in lower body power for the sprint group, and a drop in power for the distance group. Do we want our pitchers dropping in lower body power? I don’t think so!  Would you like to see their power production increase? Absolutely!

My Research

My Master’s thesis, “The Effects of Interval Training on Pitching Performance of NCAA Division II pitchers”, examined the in-season steady state exercise and interval training on pitching performance. Prior to collecting data, I hypothesized that I was going to find a significant difference in pitching velocity, WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched), 30m sprint time, fatigue index and muscle soreness.

The results of my thesis study found no significant difference (p>0.05) in any of the hypotheses. However, there was a very strong trend (p=.071) for the distance training group presenting with more soreness based off a 0-10 scale. The distance group did not drop in velocity, get slower, or decrease pitching performance like the previous studies suggested. When examining the results of my thesis study with the current literature, I continue to question if there is an appropriate place and time to implement distance running for pitchers within a training cycle, and if so, when would it be most efficient to do so?

Now What Do We Do?

Most of the research available supports that assertion that pitchers should stop distance running or not make it a focal point of their baseball strength and conditioning program. Distance running trains the aerobic energy system, where pitching is purely anaerobic in nature. I’m not totally bashing distance running because it does have its benefits for certain populations, just not for the performance goals of pitchers.

Now that we know what we shouldn’t be coaching, what should pitchers be doing for conditioning instead of running poles during practices? There are few things to consider when designing sports specific conditioning for pitchers:

● What should the rest periods be between sprints?
● What distances should pitchers sprint?
● How many days a week should pitchers actually condition, and does this fit into the overall training program?

The time between pitches is 15-20 sec (Szymanski, 2009), or longer for guys who are known for working slow on the mound. This can really help coaches when implementing interval sprints. Based off research and my time spent at Cressey Performance, anything 40 yards and under for 4-8 sprints, 2-3x a week is recommended. This, of course, depends on time of year (in-season vs. off-season). At the end of a workout, if the equipment is available, a lateral sled drag, farmers’ walks, or sledge hammer hits are always a plus to increase the anaerobic energy systems, which for a pitcher are most important.

Training pitchers out of the sagittal plane is another key consideration often overlooked with training baseball players; for this reason, using rotational medicine ball exercises is extremely valuable. Check out this study by Szymanski et al, (2007), which compared a medicine ball and resistance training group to resistance training only. Researchers found an increase torso rotational strength for the medicine ball group.

This explains why med balls are a great option for baseball players to not only develop rotational power, but also to blow off some steam. With that in mind, during a movement/conditioning day for pitchers, exercises like band-resisted heidens and lateral skips should be incorporated, along with the more traditional straight sprints mentioned above.

Conclusion

Based off the literature, long distance running should not be implemented for pitchers. When it comes down to it, a well-developed training program that incorporates strength, movement and conditioning is the most efficient way to enhance the way your athlete moves and plays on the field.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave comments below, as this is the start of a process and something that coaches need to further consider and discuss to improve the efficiency of the conditioning programs for pitchers.

About the Author

Rob Rabena M.S., C.S.C.S, is a strength and conditioning coach who is currently interning at Cressey Performance. Rob recently earned his M.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Strength and Conditioning. Prior to his graduate work, Rob obtained his B.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Health Promotion from Cabrini College in 2011. Although Rob has a particular interest and experience with coaching collegiate athletes, he also enjoys working with clientele of diverse backgrounds and dictates his coaching practice to making his clients feel great, both physically and mentally, while placing a strong emphasis on the specific goals of the client. Feel free to contact Rob Rabena directly via email at robrabena@gmail.com.

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References

1. Fox EL. Sports Physiology (2nd ed). New York, NY: CBS College Publishing, 1984

2. Potteiger, J., Blessing, D., & Wilson, G. D. (1992). The Physiological Responses to a Single Game of Baseball Pitching. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research , 6, 11-18.

3. Potteiger, J., Williford, H., Blessing, D., & Smidt, J. (1992). The Efect of Two Training Methods on Improving Baseball Performance Variables. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research , 2-6.

4. Reynolds, T., Frye, P., & Sforzo, G. (1997). Resistance Training and Blood Lactate Response to Resistance Exercise in Women. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 77-81.

5. Rhea, M., Oliverson, J., Marshall, G., Peterson, M., Kenn, J., & Ayllon, F. (2008). Noncompatibilty of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 230-234.

6. Szymanski, D. J. (2009). Physiology of Baseball Pitching Dictates Specific Exercise Insensity for Conditioning. Journal of Strength and Conditioning , 31, 41-47.

7. Szymanski, J., Szymanski, J., Bradford, J., Schade, R., & Pascoe, D. (2007). Effect of Twelve Weeks of Medicine Ball Training on High School Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 894-901.

8.Torre, J., & Ryan, N. (1977). Pitching and Hitting. NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.

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14 Reasons Pitching Velocity Decreases Over the Course of a Season

In the first half of this two-part installment on why pitching velocity changes during the course of a season, I outlined 9 Reasons Pitching Velocity Increases Over the Course of a Season.  As you'll appreciate after reading today's post, there are actually a lot more ways by which pitching velocity can decrease over the course of a season. Let's examine them individually:

1. Body weight reductions 

This is far and away the most prominent reason pitchers lose velocity as a season goes on.  In fact, it's so big a problem that I devoted an entire blog to it: The #1 Cause of Inconsistent Pitching Velocity.

2. Strength loss

As I discussed in my first book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, strength is an important foundation for power.  And, taking it a step further, power is certainly an important part of pitching.  As the season goes on, many guys just don't get in the quality weight room work they need to maintain strength, and power on the mound tails off.

3. Injury

It goes without saying that if you're hurt, you won't throw as hard. This isn't just a shoulder or elbow thing, either; sprained ankles, sore hips, tight lower backs, oblique strains, and stiff necks can all wreak havoc on velocity. If something is bothering you, get it fixed before it causes you to develop bad habits.

4. Loss of mobility

When people hear the word "mobility," they typically just of tissue length.  However, mobility is simply one's ability to get into a desired position or posture.  In other words, it's a complex interaction of not just actual tissue length, but also strength/stability, tissue quality, and kinesthetic awareness.  If you don't continue working on mobility drills, static stretching (when appropriate), foam rolling, and your strength training program, one of the components of this equation can suffer.  

Obviously, as I wrote previously What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, stride length is the best example of this phenomenon.  However, what happens at the shoulder is another great example, too.  One who loses thoracic mobility or scapular stability may stiffen up at the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint; it's possible to gain range of motion without even stretching at the "stiff" joint!

600px-Corey_Kluber_on_June_27,_2013

5. Excessive workload

This is the time of year when a lot of guys start hitting all-time highs for innings in a season.  And, with the games getting more important at the end of the high school and college seasons, pitch counts often rise when the innings really matter.  It's very simple:

Fatigue masks fitness.

If you're dragging and the velocity is down, a short-term reduction in throwing volume is often the quickest path to getting velocity back - particularly in pitchers who are throwing more innings than ever before.  Throwing an easy flat-ground instead of a bullpen between starts is one way to stay fresh, or you may opt to alternating higher pitch counts with shorter outings.  If I hear about one of our high school pitchers who has an exceptionally high pitch count (105+), I usually tell him to make sure the next one is in the ballpark of 80 pitches.  At that age, arms always seem to be dragging if kids go over 100 pitches in back-to-back outings.

6. Cumulative effect of bad throwing programs

This is best illustrated by a "hypothetical" example that actually happens far too often.

a. Pitcher makes great velocity gains in an off-season with comprehensive throwing program that includes long toss.

b. Pitcher goes in-season and encounters pitching coach that doesn't believe in long toss as part of a throwing program.

c. Pitcher has a velocity loss.

This scenario doesn't just happen because a specific modality (long toss) is removed, but also because of the effect it has on a pitching routine.  This, for me, is why it's so important to have conversations with pitchers on what throwing programs they've done in the past.  What's worked?  What hasn't? It's all about tinkering, and rarely about overhauling.

7. Cumulative effect of distance running

This 2008 study might be the greatest research that has ever been performed on baseball players - mostly because it reaffirmed my awesomeness by proving me right: Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players.

These researchers divided a collegiate pitching staff into two groups of eight pitchers over the course of a season, and each group did everything identically – except the running portion of their strength and conditioning programs. Three days per week, the “sprint” group did 10-30 sprints of 15-60m with 10-60s rest between bouts. The endurance group performed moderate-to-high intensity jogging or cycling 3-4 days per week for anywhere from 20-60 minutes.

Over the course of the season, the endurance group’s peak power output dropped by an average of 39.5 watts while the sprinting group increased by an average of 210.6 watts.  You still want to distance run?

Of course, there are still the tired old arguments of "it flushes out my arm" (much better ways to do that), it clears my head (go see a psychologist), "it keeps my weight down" (eat less crap, and do more lifting and sprinting), and "it helps me bounce back better between starts" (then why are so many players in MLB living on anti-inflammatories?).  The system is broke, but instead of fixing it based on logic, many coaches continue to change the oil on a car with no wheels.

Epic-Fail-Guy-300x250

8. Insufficient warm-ups

While there are definitely some outstanding opportunities out there to develop in the summer, the truth is that summer baseball is notorious for sloppy organization.  Guys are allowed to show up ten minutes before game time, do a few arm circles, and then go right to it.  If you're walking directly from your car to the mound, don't expect your velocity to be too good in the first few innings.

9. Cumulative effect of altered sleep patterns

Early in my training career, I realized that missing sleep the night before a training session really didn't have any effect on my next training session.  However, if I had consecutive nights of little to no sleep, it crushed me.  I know of a lot of people who are the same way.

Now, imagine an entire season of red-eye flights, 3AM bus departures, and going to bed at 1am every night.  Beyond just the sleep deprivation component, you have the dramatic change in circadian rhythms that takes place.  Just head over to Pubmed and look at the hundreds of studies examining the health impact of working night shifts (shift work disorder); you'll see preliminary research linking it to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a host of other issues. I firmly believe it's one of many reasons injuries in baseball are on the rise - and certainly one potential culprit when velocity declines as a season progress. 

10. Pitching off a crappy mound

Many players wind up pitching off terrible mounds during summer ball, and when the mound isn't groomed nicely, you get into "oh crap, I don't want to get hurt" mode with your landing leg. If you aren't comfortable landing, you shorten your stride, or reach for a "safe" part of the mound, messing with your mechanics in the process. Additionally, velocity is going to be lower when the mound height isn't as elevated; it's just how gravity works.

11. Mechanical tinkering for the bad

In part 1, I noted that mechanics changes in the summertime can be a source of velocity improvements.  They can also, however, be a reason for guys losing velocity.  Not all changes are new changes, and it's important to be careful about overhauling things on the advice of each new coach you encounter. Repetition is important, and it's hard to get it if you're always tinkering with something.

12. Dehydration

Dehydration can have a dramatically negative effect on strength and power.  Most athletes are chronically dehydrated at rest, and certainly during pitching outings in the summer heat.  Hydration status is an important thing to monitor if you want to throw gas.

13. Throwing to a new catcher

Being comfortable with the guy who is catching your pitches is a big part of success on the mound.  When the catcher is constantly changing, there is more hesitation - especially if his pitch-calling tendencies are different from those of your previous catcher.  If you're constantly shaking him off, it'll mess with your pace on the mound and slow you down.

14. More erratic throwing schedule

One of the biggest adjustments a pitcher will ever have to make is switching from starting to relieving or vice versa.  While going to the bullpen can often lead to an increase in velocity, it can make other guys erratic with their delivery, as they've learned to rely on the pre-game period to get everything "synced up."

Meanwhile, thanks to an increased pitch count, guys who go from the bullpen to the starting rotation sometimes see a drop in velocity.  As examples, just compare John Smoltz or Daniel Bard out of the bullpen to what they have done in the starting rotation.

The only thing tougher than making that switch is to constantly bounce back and forth between the two, as it really hurts your between-outings preparation.  How you prepare to throw seven innings is considerably different than what you do if you're just going to go out and throw 10-15 pitches.

These are only 14 reasons velocity may dip, and their are surely many more.  Maybe your girlfriend cheated on you with the bat boy and you got distracted, or you decided to just throw knuckleballs.  The point is that - as if the case with many things in life - it's a lot easier to screw up (lose velocity) than it is to thrive (gain velocity). Plan accordingly!


 

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5 Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 3

Here are this week's random tips to get you headed in the right direction with your workout routine and nutrition program, with assistance from Cressey Performance strength and conditioning coach Greg Robins.

1. Take a preventative approach.

Often times nagging pain, injuries, and adverse health effects are an issue of negligence. It is is important as a coach, athlete, or weekend warrior to take a preventative approach to keeping your body healthy. There is no shortage of information on how to deal with various joint pain, or why its important to do "this" to prevent "that". At Cressey Performance, we take a preventive approach to keep our athletes on the field, but the ball doesn't stop there.

A common example is resistance training among older women to prevent bone degeneration. A recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that younger women, in their mid twenties, who participated in a 12-week resistance training program showed significant increases in the hormones responsible for new bone growth. This isn't revolutionary, but the take home point is to promote heavy lifting long before signs of degeneration begin to present themselves.

Similarly, anterior knee pain is a hot topic with active individuals. This pain can be debilitating, especially as an athlete or someone with a more active job / lifestyle. Another recent study conducted at The University of Cincinnati found that an intervention with four daily close chained kinetic exercises among military recruits (undergoing rigorous training) greatly reduced incidents of knee pain when compared to a control group who did not. Military personnel underwent daily physical training for 3-4 hours per day, including endurance marching, military field exercises, running, weapons and foot drill, and strength and conditioning. If as little as four exercises were able to help these individuals, imagine what they can do for you.

2. Eat more fish - and preferably ones that did cool stuff like this while they were still alive.

3. Wear a pedometer for a day.

If you talk to a lot of people "in the know," non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) is an often overlooked factor contributing to fat loss success (or failure). Some people just move all the time, whether it's because of their occupation (e.g., manual laborer) or the simple fact that they are constantly fidgeting. It might surprise you, but this NEPA can really help get you lean - or keep you there.

One quick and easy way to get a feeling of where you stand on this front is to simply wear a pedometer for a day.  I did this about two years ago and discovered that I actually walk about four miles in eight hours of coaching at Cressey Performance.  That's a lot of calories burned!

Just like writing down everything you eat can force you to consider what you're putting in your mouth, wearing a pedometer can motivate you to take some extra steps each day.  Give it a shot; you may be surprised at how many or few steps you take each day.

4. Count your blessings.

Being happy, and finding fulfillment in your life and training, can be as easy as remembering all that you already have. Stop stressing about what you don't have, and focus on the many things you do have. Take five minutes and write down everything you are grateful for. Every morning start your day by reading through your list, and add to it as you see fit. Doing so will give you a positive start to each day. Try it out!

5. Be more specific with your "conditioning."

The term conditioning is grossly misunderstood. The lack of understanding, in consideration of the demands of an individual within their chosen sports or activities, has led to many asinine training protocols developed by misinformed coaches and general people alike. An elite powerlifter may not be able to run a six-minute mile, but they are perfectly conditioned for their sport. Likewise, a baseball pitcher has no business doing extensive distance running when they a play a sport that involves covering as little as 100ft of total ground per outing (if that). More appropriately, they need to develop the energy systems conducive to producing explosive movements repetitively for the amount of time they spend on the mound. This will differ within the position as well: Starters, long relievers, closers, etc.

Using resources such as "time motion analysis" is a great place to investigate the actual demands placed on an athlete in a given sport. You can access A LOT of these through a basic google search. As a team sport coach, take a critical look at what you assign as "conditioning" work to your athletes during practice. In this day and age, many kids are participating in strength and conditioning programs outside of their practice and game schedules. Assuming that they are receiving intelligent programming, you do not want to interfere with their training by having them do additional work that is detrimental to their progress. Solutions: stop the ridiculous amounts of distance running and "suicides," and instead form a relationship with their strength and conditioning coach.

For you weekend warriors: Your approach to conditioning will be as specific as your main goal. Many general fitness people are kind of across the board on what they are trying to accomplish. With that in mind, try to keep a similar stimulus in your conditioning work to what the rest of your training for that day is. For example, place sprint work with adequate rest on heavy lifting days, place more aerobic work on off days, and include a day of high intense intervals with shorter rest later in the week after training.

Co-Author Greg Robins is strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Check out his website, www.GregTrainer.com, for more great content.

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Stuff You Should Read: 10/26/10

Here are some recommended reads from the archives for today: An Easy Way to Rotate Strength Exercises - One of the biggest frustrations of training in a commercial or home gym is that there just aren't enough opportunities to create variety and fluctuations to the resistance training stimulus.  This post highlights one simple way to double your exercise index. A Carrot, an Egg, and a Bag of Ground Coffee - This one is more of a "meeting life's challenges" post as it applies to the fitness industry. Five Resistance Training Myths in the Running World - If this doesn't interest you, I'm sure it'll at least interest a dozen of your friends who are running addicts!  Please spread the good word - whether it's via Facebook, Twitter, or carrier pigeon. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Swimming for Pitchers?

Last week, I had three separate pitchers ask me what I thought about swimming between starts.  My answer was pretty straightforward: I am not a fan at all.

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There are several reasons for my contention with this as a useful modality. Like pitchers, swimmers have some of the most dysfunctional shoulders in the entire sporting world; they have glaring scapular instability, big internal rotation deficits, and insufficient dynamic stability. Sound familiar?  These are the exact same things we work to address too keep our pitchers healthy. For me, cross-training is about getting athletes out of pattern overload - not finding a similar means of reinforcing imbalances.  Telling a pitcher to go swim is like encouraging a distance runner with a bum Achilles tendon to go jump rope instead.  It's an epic fail waiting to happen.

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When it really comes down to it, I’d rather have guys actually throwing if they are going to develop imbalances.  Pattern overload might as well give you improved motor control and technical precision if it's going to increase your susceptibility to injury! Speaking of specificity, the energy systems demands of swimming (longer distances, usually) don't reflect what we see in pitching (short bursts of intense exertion).  So, the arguments are in many ways similar to my contention with distance running for pitchers. And, more anecdotally, while incredible athletes in the pool, most of the swimmers I have encountered have been far less than athletic on solid ground, presumably because the majority of their training takes place in the water, where stability demands are markedly different.  I'd much rather see supplemental baseball training take place with closed-chain motion on solid ground - just like it does in pitching.

Finally, I'd like to see pitchers lift more - because they simply don't do enough of it during the season.  With limited time between outings, it's important to get in the most important stuff first - and I just don't see swimming as "important" when compared to flexibility training, soft tissue work, the throwing program, and strength training.

I'm sticking to my guns here.  I'd much rather see pitchers doing what I outlined HERE between starts, as it keeps them strong, gets them moving in ways that don't further ingrain imbalances, and avoids conflicting with the metabolic demands on pitching. 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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