Home Posts tagged "Hip Mobility"

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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5 Non-Traditional Exercises for Catchers

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Director of Performance, Tim Geromini. Tim takes the lead with our catchers at CSP-FL, so I'm excited that you'll get a chance to take a glimpse into the expertise he brings to the table each day. Enjoy! -EC

With spring training right around the corner, most of the media attention is on the pitchers coming in to camp, but what about the guys catching them? The demands of catching a full season are unique and with that in mind, here are 5 non-traditional exercises we use with our catchers at Cressey Sports Performance.

1. Catcher Pop-up to Shotput

Although nothing can truly simulate working on technique like being in pads and actually being on the field, you’ll see a number of things in this exercise that look similar to what a catcher might do in a game situation. We start by getting into the catcher’s stance with a runner on base and have them close their eyes. I will then roll or place the ball to a random spot, forcing them to react when I clap my hands and they open their eyes. From there, the goal is to get to the ball as fast as possible and in a position to throw the ball as hard as possible into the wall. The reason we have them close their eyes and find the ball is to work on reaction time and identifying a loose ball. In game situations, a catcher doesn’t always know where the ball is after the initial block. One of the main benefits of the exercises is working on hip mobility and being strong getting from the crouch position to an upright throwing position. We usually program this for 3 sets with 3 reps per side with a 6-8 pound med ball.

2. 1-leg Kettlebell Switches

A lot of focus for catchers is centered around hip mobility, as it should be. However, losing sight of ankle stability is a mistake. Enter the 1-leg Kettleell Switches. In order to execute the exercise properly and get the most out of it, I recommend being in just socks or barefoot. The kettlebell doesn’t have to be heavy at all for this to be effective; most of the time, I start athletes with 10 pounds.

As you can see, the first movement is a hip hinge with a slight knee bend. From there, we cue the client to “grab the ground” with their feet and make sure the toes stay down. Go as wide with your arms as you can while maintaining balance, and switch the kettlebell from side to side. Your goal is to keep your foot from deviating into pronation/supination and your hips to stay level. From the side view, you want to make sure the athlete maintains a neutral spine. You may notice that if your client has a flatter foot, this can be more challenging to stay away from the foot pronating in. Likewise, if your client has a high arch, it can be challenging to maintain the big toe staying down.

We usually program this as part of a warm-up or paired with an explosive lower body exercise. We'll do 3 sets of 8 reps per side.

3. High Tension Ankle Mobilization

A Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) inspired exercise, the high tension ankle mobilization is working on taking your ankle through end-ranges of dorsiflexion with control of that range. It is important to go through this exercise slowly, as rushing through it generally doesn’t lead to as much tension or control of your range.

Start by getting into a good half-kneeling position, making sure not to sit your hips into abduction or adduction. From there, imagine pushing your foot through the floor and slowly take your knee as far over your middle toes as you can without your heel coming off the ground or the ankle pronating in. Then, slowly lift your heel off the ground maintaining your knee staying out in front of your toes as much as possible. Once you go as far as you can then slowly return while driving your foot through the floor. Now that you are back to the original starting position with your knee over your toe pause, the lift your toes towards your shin and start to lift the front of your foot off the ground, still pushing your heel through the ground. Once you can’t go back anymore, slowly return to the starting position.

Because this exercise requires a lot of tension and effort, we usually program this for 2-3 reps. You can put this in a warm-up or pair it with an ankle stability exercise such as the 1-leg kettlebell switch. If you deem the client has sufficient ankle mobility, this exercise isn’t always necessary and the focus can be more on stability.

4. Seated 90-90 Hip Switches w/Hip Extension

Another drill of FRC origin, seated 90/90 hip switches are a great hip mobility exercise, but often are not performed correctly if they are rushed. What do we get out of this exercise? Hip internal rotation, external rotation, flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction...all while maintaining a neutral spine. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Before prescribing this exercise, make sure to check your client’s hip range of motion and medical history first. If your client has femoroacetabular impingement or some other pain in their hip, this may not be the best fit for them.

The key coaching cues are to keep your hips as far separated as possible during the exercise and maintain a neutral spine. If you notice your lumbar or thoracic spine flexes, then use your hands on the ground as support. We usually program this exercise for 3 reps per side.

5. Deep Squat Anti-Rotation Press

There are many variations of the anti-rotation press (better known as the “Pallof Press”), but this version gets as specific to catching as any of them. Make sure the cable or band is set up at sternum height. When you press out, make sure your hips and feet stay neutral (don’t rotate toward one side). From the side view, you want to make sure the spine is neutral. You can hold this for breaths, time, or reps.

Wrap-up

These are just a small piece of the puzzle that is training catchers, but hopefully it gets your mind working to innovate and individualize for these athletes!

About the Author

Tim Geromini is the Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter (@timgeromini24).

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Pitching Mechanics: What to Make of an Open Landing Position

After my recent presentation at Pitchapalooza in Nashville, I received the following question from a college coach who was in attendance:

Q: "My question revolves around pitchers landing with an open foot position. From your experience and from a biomechanical standpoint what have you seen regarding this landing/stride position in regards to why it occurs and how you have gone about correcting it? And, how have you seen it impact knee and back health. My experience has been that there is either some underlying knee or back history, or something is about to occur. In the recruiting process, I've spoken with several coaches and scouts who won’t consider someone who has this issue (open foot strike) regardless of velocity, due to concerns over long term health."

A: This answer can go in a lot of directions, so I decided to film a video:

In terms of a real-world example, take a look at Cressey Sports Performance athlete and Astros pitcher, Josh James. Josh has a slightly more retroverted hips presentation, and you can see that he lands a bit open. This is his normal alignment and he controls his body well, so it works for him (to the tune of consistent 100mph+ velocity).

More often that not, though, the pitchers who are winding up in this open foot position are getting there because of mechanical faults or physical limitations.

[bctt tweet="It's imperative to have a thorough assessment process for pitchers; you never want to try to take a mechanical fix to a movement problem."]

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The Best of 2018: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2018" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year.

1. Supine Banded Shoulder Flexion on Roller - I love this exercise for building thoracic spine mobility, shoulder flexion, and scapular posterior tilt.

2. Split-Stance Hip Abduction End-Range Lift-off - CSP coach Frank Duffy contributed this awesome hip mobility challenge as part of a guest post this year.

3. Landmine Lateral Lunges - This is an exercise I thought up on the fly while working with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and we liked it so much that it's become a mainstay in his offseason programming.


4. Rhomboids Functional Anatomy - this webinar is an excerpt from my popular new resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

5. Knee-to-Knee Rollover Medicine Ball Stomp - this new medicine ball drill was a power training exercise thought up by my CSP-FL business partner, Shane Rye. The knee-to-knee approach encourages the athlete to stay in the back hip longer.

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2018!

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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

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

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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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance Hip Abduction End-Range Lift-off

Today, I wanted to introduce you to a mobility exercise we're utilizing a lot these days at Cressey Sports Performance. Here's a great demonstration from Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy :


Speaking of Cressey Sports Performance, as part of my spring sale, I'm putting Cressey Sports Performance Innovations on sale for 40% off through Tuesday at midnight. This resource features webinars on a variety of topics that will help coaches and fitness enthusiasts improve their training, programming, and coaching. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. You can add it to your cart HERE.

About the Author

Frank Duffy is the Coordinator of Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance-Massachusetts. He is a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) and Kinstretch Instructor. You can contact him via email at frankduffyfitness@gmail.com, check out his website, and follow him on Instagram.

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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.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Exercise of the Week: TRX Deep Squat Prying

We're long overdue for a new installment of my "Exercise of the Week" series, so here's a look at one of my favorite warm-up/cool-down drills. With TRX Deep Squat Prying, you get a great lat inhibition exercise that has the added benefit of training some hip and ankle mobility, plus core stability. In other words, it delivers some fantastic bang for your training buck. Check it out! 

Speaking of TRX, I've teamed up with them and Stack Media for an awesome contest. One winner will be chosen at random to receive:

  • A trip to Florida for two (flight + 2 nights in hotel) for a training session with me at Cressey Sports Performance
  • TRX Training Products (Suspension Trainer, Rip Trainer, Medicine Ball) and TRX Apparel
  • A $100 Amazon Gift Card

Ready? Enter HERE!

Winner must be must be 18+. US residents only. Giveaway ends 11/13. Rules: http://woobox.com/offers/rules/kqgdu6

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/11/17

I hope that everyone had a good weekend - and that our readers who are all safe in light of Hurricane Irma. Here's a little recommended reading/listening to kick off your week. Before I get to it, though, I should give a friendly reminder that each month, Cressey Sports Performance staff and I upload webinars, in-services, exercise demonstrations, and articles to Elite Training Mentorship. This is a super affordable and thorough continuing education resource that is updated regularly, and I'd encourage you to check it out HERE.

Why "Just Stretch Your Hamstrings" is Bad Advice - This article is a few weeks old, but I'd forgotten to add it to our weekly collection when I first came across it in mid-August. As always, Doug Kechijian hit several nails on the head.

Hip CARs in the Push-up Position - This is a great video Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy posted recently. It's an excellent example of the interaction between hip mobility and core stability.

7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane - I reincarnated this old article from my archives yesterday, as I think it's a collection of important progressions for rotational sport athletes as they kick off the offseason.

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5 Reasons to Use “Fillers” in Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

One of the first things some individuals notice when they come to observe at Cressey Sports Performance is that we often pair “big bang” strength and power movements with lower intensity drills. This is also a common programming theme many of those who have completed my High Performance Handbook program have noticed.

As an example, we might pair a prone trap raise with a deadlift…

…or a hip mobility drill with a bench press.

We call these low-intensity inclusions “fillers.” Truthfully, though, I’m not sure that this name does them justice, as “filler” seems to imply a lack of importance. In reality, I think these drills have a profound impact on improving each client/athlete’s session. Here are five reasons why.

1. Fillers slow advanced athletes down on power and strength work.

Optimal training for strength and power mandates that athletes take ample time between sets to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have a tendency to rush through this type of work because it doesn't create the same kind of acute fatigue that you'd get from a set of higher-rep work. Muscular fatigue is a lot easier to perceive than neural fatigue. In other words, you'll want to rest more after a set of six squats than you would after a set of six heidens, even if you were attempting to put maximal force into the ground on each rep with both.

By pairing the strength or power exercise with something a little more mellow, we “force” athletes to take adequate rest and get quality work in on subsequent sets of the “meat and potatoes.”

2. Fillers provide extra opportunities to work on basic movement competencies and corrective exercises.

If something is important, do it every day. For some people, this might be hip mobility work. For others, it might be some rotator cuff work. You might as well do it when you’d otherwise be standing around resting.

3. Fillers improve training economy – and may even allow you to shorten the warm-ups a bit.

This point is best illustrated with an example. Let’s say that I would normally do an 8-10 exercise dynamic flexibility warm-up before my lifting-specific work. Then, I’m warming up to a 600-pound deadlift like this:

135x8
225x5
315x3
405x3
455x1
495x1
545x1
585x1
600x1

On that warm-up progression, I have eight “between-set” breaks to get in a little extra work. Sure, I’m loading on plates, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bang out a few quick reps of ankle mobility or scapular control work. This can be pretty clutch – especially once I’m at the heavier warm-up sets that require a bit more rest – as it can actually allow me to shorten my earlier general warm-up period a bit.

When it comes to training economy, everyone wants to talk about exercise selection (picking multi-joint exercises) and finding ways to increase training density (more volume in a given amount of time). However, don’t forget that movement quality work is still “work.”

4. Fillers help to prevent “backups” in the training facility.

This is a double-edged sword. If you’re doing some hip mobility work between sets in a busy commercial gym, if you aren’t careful, it probably will increase your likelihood of someone stealing your squat rack.

However, in the collegiate, professional, and private sectors, incorporating fillers can be invaluable in preventing log jams where many athletes are trying to use the same piece of equipment at the same time. If you’ve got three athletes sharing the same trap bar, fillers can help things flow a bit smoother – particularly because it keeps less-than-attentive athletes from screwing around between sets.

5. Fillers may give deconditioned clients active recovery between sets to make the most of their time with you.

For some clients, the warm-up is the workout. In other words, they may be so deconditioned that even a set of the Spiderman with hip lift and overhead reach will get their heart rate up. If you paired this mobility drill with an inverted row, it might be a perfect fit for their fitness level. Conversely, if you paired that inverted row with a Bulgarian split squat, it might crush them. In this case, the filler is hardly a filler!

Fillers might have a connotation of “unimportant,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Try incorporating them in your programs to get higher quality work, improve training economy, and bring up weak links.

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