Home Posts tagged "Hitting Coach"

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Brad Miller

We're excited to welcome Philadelphia Phillies utility player Brad Miller to this week's podcast. 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 Brad chose to attend Clemson University out of high school even though he was drafted by the Texas Rangers
  • What key competencies Brad lacked coming out of high school that made collegiate baseball the appropriate decision for his career
  • How high level collegiate baseball compares to the ranks of professional baseball
  • How Brad transitioned into affiliated baseball so smoothly out of college
  • What memorable moments and insightful lessons Brad recalls from playing in the big leagues for seven different organizations
  • How Brad became the valued utility player he is today after being drafted as a shortstop out of Clemson
  • How the athleticism needed at shortstop impacts a player’s ability to move into a utility role
  • How the perspective of a utility player has transformed in recent years in Major League Baseball and what opportunities this type of role offers a player, coach, and organization
  • What the hardest position was for Brad to learn as he moved into a utility role
  • How Brad was able to learn the ins and outs of being an outfielder as a ballplayer who grew up playing in the infield
  • How Brad prepares in-season to be ready to play any defensive position on any given day
  • What injuries Brad played through during the 2018 season that eventually led to him needing core muscle surgery and a hip labral surgery in order to come back for healthy for 2019
  • How asking for advice from former teammates and players who have gone through similar injuries proved to be influential in Brad’s rehab
  • What lessons Brad would give to any athlete who is about to have hip surgery
  • Why Brad chose to adjust his weight post-surgery to ease the pain on his joints and improve the longevity of his career
  • What players Brad likes to watch and learn from both defensively and offensively

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Developing a Hitting Approach with Will Middlebrooks

We're excited to welcome retired MLB player and current Cressey Sports Performance - Florida hitting coordinator Will Middlebrooks to the podcast. A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Lumberlend. Head to www.Lumberlend.com and and check out some of the awesome black Friday deals they're offering as you customize a bat mug today to check some holiday shopping off your list for the baseball fan in your life. 

Show Outline

  • How Will’s early athletic career as a multi-sport athlete in Texas impacted his athletic development and set the stage for future athletic success
  • How Will managed to thrive immediately at the big league level
  • Why the hot streaks of young professional hitters are often short lived and what players can do to find consistent, long-term success
  • What pitchers Will excelled against and struggled against as a hitter
  • Will’s unforgettable moment with Mariana Rivera
  • Why a hard slider is so difficult to hit
  • What the opposing team’s scouting report was on Will
  • What cues and coaching tips proved to be influential in Will’s hitting development
  • How asking questions, learning from veteran teammates, and being open and observant proved to be the most impactful tools for Will’s development as a hitter
  • What it was like playing alongside some of the great hitters, like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and what lessons he learned from these iconic players
  • How David Ortiz was one of the most prepared hitters day in and day out and how this understanding of himself and his competition translated to in-game results
  • How the Boston Red Sox were able to turn around from a less than stellar 2012 season and emerge World Series Champs in 2013
  • How Will learned to handle the pressure of high stake, October baseball and play fearlessly
  • How adjusting a hitter’s approach can smooth out mechanical flaws in their swing
  • Why hitters need to have the self awareness and conviction to stick to their strengths and play to their game plan in competition
  • How Will takes a realistic mental approach to hitting and sets the goal for his hitters to be completely locked in for 80% of their ABs
  • Why young players should stop selling out for exit velocities, launch angles, and throwing velocities that impress at showcases but don’t play out in competition
  • What a hitter’s log is, and how players can implement this strategy to develop their approach and better understand their skills at the plate
  • What hitters Will likes to watch and why
  • Where Will sees the future of hitting headed

You can follow Will on Instagram at @csp_hitting and on Twitter at @middlebrooks.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Lumberlend Co. If you're looking for a unique gift for a baseball fan in your life, you'll definitely want to check this out: they've hollowed out the bat barrel and created a cool drinking mug. You can customize these with colors, names, logos, and photographs. They're also an officially licensed MLBPA product, so you can get your favorite teams and players incorporated into the designs. I've used these as gifts with great feedback, so I'm confident you'd experience the same. Just head to Lumberlend.com as you design yours today - and take advantage of their great Black Friday sales.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The New Breed of Hitting Coaches with Jeff Albert

We're excited to welcome St. Louis Cardinals Major League Hitting Coach Jeff Albert to this week's podcast.  Jeff's one of the most innovative coaches in the game, and this interview features lessons for players, coaches, and parents alike. I should note that we had some audio difficulties on this call, but did our best to clean it up so that the great information wasn't wasted. Thanks for your patience and understanding in advance on that front!

In lieu of a sponsor this week, I wanted to give you a quick heads-up that my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions, is on sale through Sunday at midnight for $40 off. Just enter coupon code OFFSEASON19 to get the discount at www.SturdyShoulders.com. Now, on to the podcast!

Show Outline

  • How Jeff’s motivation to be the best player he could be and determination to answer the question "why" propelled him into a career of coaching
  • How Jeff’s graduate research put his foot in the door in professional baseball despite minimal professional playing experience
  • Where young coaches are falling short on making the most of their early coaching career and what these individuals should be doing to be able to capitalize on opportunities in pro sports
  • Where Jeff recommends young coaches look for more information on quality movement
  • What industries outside of baseball have been most influential on Jeff’s coaching career
  • What professionals outside of the world of professional baseball don't understand about the changing environment of the industry
  • What traits Jeff looks for when hiring new coaches
  • How Jeff approaches development in the hitting lifespan of a ball player
  • What the biggest limitations Jeff sees in youth and high school hitters are
  • How learning to optimize a hitter’s movement with as few words as possible has revolutionized the way Jeff coaches hitting
  • How establishing solid positions and learning to have a good swing path lay the foundation for future swings in young hitters
  • How the fundamentals of a swing do not change as a hitter matures, but clarifying a hitter’s approach, transforming one of their weaknesses, or building around one of their strength aids in taking them to the next level
  • Why being exposed to failure is important for developing great baseball players
  • Where Jeff sees baseball trending in the coming years and how hitters will be combating the transformations in the world of pitching

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @JeffMAlbert and on Instagram at @JeffAlbert28. And, you can learn more about this November's SlugFest clinic at which we'll both be speaking at www.SlugFestConference.com.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Exercise of the week: Rear Foot Elevated 1-arm Low Cable Row

This week's exercise of the week features a new spin on an old favorite of ours. By elevating the rear foot, you can get more weight shift into the front hip on split-stance low cable rows.

In both pitchers and hitters athletes, we're constantly seeking better ways to teach front hip pull-back - and this is an awesome exercise for feeling the involved musculature. If you want to see this in action, check out the 29-30 second mark in this video of Zach Greinke:

I was surprised at how heavy we've been able to go on this exercise, as I expected a big drop off in resistance utilized because of the balancing component that's involved. In athletes with some single-leg proficiency, though, the rear-foot elevated 1-arm low cable row is an awesome progression.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach at the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The Evolution of Hitting with Bobby Tewksbary

We're excited to welcome a well-respected and accomplished hitting coach, Bobby Tewksbary, to the podcast for Episode #15 for an in-depth discussion on the evolution of hitting. A special thanks goes out to this show's sponsor, VersaPulley. It's an awesome option for challenging deceleration in multiple planes of motion, and has been an excellent addition to our training at Cressey Sports Performance. They've got a great 10% off offer going for our podcast listeners through June 30 at http://www.VersaPulley.com/Cressey10.

Show Outline

  • How Bobby’s experience as a hitter inspired him to become a knowledgeable coach
  • What the old school mindset surrounding hitting was and why ballplayers used to be reluctant to discuss their swing
  • What concepts of hitting are constant and true regardless of the individual
  • How new trends towards the utilization of technology and data are impacting the next generation of batters
  • How the collection of data offers measurable and diagnostic feedback to help manage the swing, identify what athletes need, and conceptualize information to allow hitters to make meaningful changes
  • How the game of baseball is more openminded than ever and how the private sector is taking advantage of this revolution in baseball
  • What qualities players should look for in their hitting coaches and what common mistakes young hitting coaches should avoid
  • Why hitters need to be exposed to failure at a young age to avoid developing an ego-centric, highlight-focused mindset
  • How executing a swing and learning how to hit are very different things – and why this distinction is vital for hitters
  • Why having confidence in the batter’s box is superior to any mechanical factor in a hitter’s swing
  • How Bobby expects hitting to change in the years ahead
  • How Bobby is working to improve his ability to impact hitters with a new project

You can follow Bobby on Instagram at @TewksHitting and Twitter at @TewksHitting - or visit his website at www.TewksHitting.com.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by VersaPulley. The VersaPulley offers flywheel training and one benefit of training with a flywheel is inertia. The faster the flywheel is moving, the more the user must decelerate the inertia that is created - and we know training deceleration is a huge piece of preventing athletic injuries and enhancing performance. While there are a few flywheel training options on the market, the VersaPulley is the only one that that allows you to train at any point along the force/velocity curve, and in multiple planes of movement. If you want to train at any speed, any load, and any direction, the VersaPulley has got you covered. They've set up a great discount of 10% for our listeners; you can learn more at http://www.VersaPulley.com/Cressey10.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Elite Baseball Development Podcast with AJ Pollock

We're excited to welcome Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock to the podcast for Episode #12. A special thanks goes out to this show's sponsor, Versaclimber. It's my absolute favorite conditioning option, and they've got a great 10% off offer going for our podcast listeners at http://www.Versaclimber.com/Cressey.

Show Outline

  • How AJ’s experience as a multi-sport athlete growing up in Connecticut allowed him to enjoy being a kid and develop into a well-rounded athlete
  • How AJ went from an unnoticed player his junior year of high school to a star on the Connecticut baseball scene by the end his senior season
  • What the college recruiting process was like for AJ as a standout hitter from the Northeast
  • How AJ remained a successful hitter as he seamlessly transitioned from high school baseball to Division 1 competition at Notre Dame
  • How the game of baseball has changed since AJ was drafted a decade ago
  • How AJ has been able to utilize the influx of data in baseball to shorten the learning curve in his game and make meaningful adjustments to his hitting approach
  • How AJ balances trusting his instincts and sticking to what works for him with the data revolution in baseball
  • Why self-awareness, attention to detail, and continuous refinement have allowed AJ to remain consistent over the course of his career regardless of the level of competition
  • What AJ’s typical batting practice routine is to prepare for a game
  • How AJ has become one of most consistent defensive outfielders in the MLB
  • How AJ has learned to manage his emotions daily and how he trains mentally to remain positive through the ups and downs of the game of baseball

You can follow AJ on Instagram at @AJPollock_.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Versaclimber. In addition to being a phenomenal option for training all across the energy systems continuum, the Versaclimber exposes individuals to important fundamental movement patterns: scapular upward rotation, hip extension, and a synced-up crawling pattern. It's also non-impact, and can therefore be used with a wider variety of clients than other conditioning modalities. They've set up a great discount of 10% for our listeners; you can learn more at http://www.Versaclimber.com/Cressey.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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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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In Defense of the Hip Thrust

I've been a fan of barbell hip thrust and supine bridges for approximately seven years now. I'd encourage you to give my What I Learned in 2012 article a read, as it describes how our usage of these drills came about (and does so in an entertaining manner) following a meeting I had with Bret Contreras in 2009. Suffice it to say that initially, I was not a fan of these drills, but in-the-trenches experimentation eventually brought me around.

Recently, there has been some controversy over the utility of hip thrusts, as some newer research publications (here and here) have demonstrated that hip thrust training does not improve sprinting speed. Bret Contreras, the man who popularized the hip thrust, has written a detailed response to these publications. For the record, I think he's handled the situation admirably, and I commend him for all his work adding to the body of knowledge so that we can all have these discussions in hopes of fine-tuning our strength training programs.

That said, not surprisingly, these research findings have created an opportunity for hip thrust critics to say "I told you so" - and several articles have emerged to highlight its lack of efficacy on this front. That said, I found Doug Kechijian's article, 'Science' and the Barbell Hip Thrust, to be the best of the articles that have recently emerged. Doug doesn't utilize the hip thrust, but used this current situation as a means of discussing how we view exercise selection on the whole. I'd strongly encourage you to give it a read.

While I must admit that I wasn't particularly surprised at the lack of carryover to sprinting performance, I don't think it's time to throw the baby out with the bath water just yet. Why? As I've often said:

[bctt tweet="Want to put an exercise in a program? You must be able to quickly and easily justify its inclusion."]

In this case, I still have plenty of justifications for including hip thrusts and supine bridges in our programs. I don't think they're ever a perfect replacement for a squat or deadlift, but I do see a role for them in special circumstances, and as assistance exercises. In today's post, I'll outline why I still find these drills to have great utility.

1. Zero Back Pain

Yes, you read that right. In close to a decade of using these drills with clients, athletes, and our coaching staff, I've never seen anyone injured during a hip thrust or supine bridge. For how many other exercises can you say that? Certainly squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, or even single-leg work. In hindsight, it's shocking that a drill that looks like it could be harmful (and this was my initial reluctance to include it) actually has such an excellent record on the safety front. Obviously, we're matching it to the individual and coaching technique, but this is still an impressive observation.

Moreover, I've sold more than 8,000 copies of my flagship product, The High Performance Handbook. It includes barbell supine bridges in phase 2, and barbell hip thrusts in phase 3. This is 8,000+ people who've performed these exercises without my supervision, and I've never had a single email from anyone about an injury. Conversely, I've answered a ton of emails over the years from customers who need modifications because squatting and/or deadlifting aren't drills they can perform pain-free. I think this is remarkably telling; hip thrusts have stood the test of time in terms of safety concerns.

Finally, I've actually seen quite a few individuals who couldn't squat or deadlift pain-free actually perform barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges with zero pain over the course of years. They've bolstered a training effect that otherwise would have been markedly attenuated.

2. Hip thrusts allow us to train the posterior chain without deadlifts in a population that may not do well with scapular depression and downward rotation.

One thing we know about throwing a baseball is that it makes you very lat dominant and tends to drive scapular downward rotation.

As I discuss in this video, scapular upward rotation is incredibly important for throwers.

Sometimes, we'll see athletes who sit in so much scapular depression or downward rotation that we choose to avoid lat dominant exercises and heavy carries/holds in their programs. So, drills like deadlifts, farmer's walks, KB swings, and dumbbell lunges are out of the mix. When you lose deadlifts from a program, you realize that you've lost a big bang exercise for training the posterior chain. Barbell hip thrusts have been a huge help to us in this regard, as they give us a bilateral option for training the posterior chain. Otherwise, it'd be just safety squat bar (SSB) squats and single-leg work, the goblet set-up, belt squats, and glute-ham raise (GHR) variations. And, a lot of people don't have a SSB, belt squat, or GHR!

Interestingly, I can actually think of several instances over the years where we dropped deadlifting from a pitcher's program - and replaced it with hip thrusts - and his shoulder pain went away. I don't think improvements like this happen in isolation, but I have no doubt that it contributed to the reduction in symptoms.

3. Hip thrusts prioritize terminal hip extension, which is actually far more important to baseball success.

I want you to watch these videos of the hips during the baseball swing (and while you're at it, check out Jeff Albert's great guest post for me: Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing).

What I'm hoping you noticed is that while hip extension is incredibly important (for both the front and back legs), there is very little of it occurring in terms of actual range of motion. The same can be said of the pitching delivery; very rarely would a pitching come close to being a 90 degrees of hip flexion on the back hip.

Tim Collins early in his career was the most extreme hip flexion I've seen, and he's not even all the way down to 90 degrees:

In other words, hips thrusts and supine bridges reflect the shorter range of hip flexion/extension motion we see in hitting and pitching than they do for a higher amplitude movement like sprinting.


Source: Darren Wilkinson

To be clear, I'm not saying that squats and deadlifts don't train this range (especially when accommodating resistances like bands and chains are utilized); I'm just saying that hip thrusts and supine bridges train it exclusively and may provide some extra carryover.

4. Hip thrusts allow us to train the lower body without a grip challenge.

Load of gripping can also be an issue during the baseball season. Guys obviously get plenty of it from their upper body work, but when you add in the stress of throwing on the flexor tendons, more work on lower body days can push some pitchers over the edge in terms of forearm symptoms. This can also be an issue during post-operative elbow scenarios, as some surgeons can "beat up" the flexor tendon a bit more during Tommy John surgeries. With these athletes, we'll often plug hip thrusts in to replace deadlifts for 4-8 week spans.

5. Hip thrusts help to maintain a training effect in post-operative elbow and shoulder situations.

Building on my last point, we utilize barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges a lot with our post-op clients. If we are talking about a Tommy John surgery, you aren't using a safety squat bar until two months post-op, or deadlifting until closer to five months (and even then, the loading has to be severely restricted). Conversely, provided they have someone to load plates for them, these athletes can hip thrust as early as 4-6 weeks (assuming we aren't dealing with a lower extremity graft site), and loading appreciably by weeks 8-10. That's a huge deal.

Shoulder surgeries are a bit slower to come around, but you're definitely able to hip thrust well before you use the safety squat bar or integrate deadlifts. In short, if you want bilateral loading in a post-operative situation, hip thrusts below right up there in the discussion with glute-ham raises - and serve as a good complement to sled dragging with a belt/harness and various single-leg drills.

6. Hip thrusts don't create much delayed onset muscle soreness.

It's hard to really overload the eccentric (lowering) component of a hip thrust - and this may be one reason why it doesn't carry over to sprinting as much as a squat would. However, this non-soreness-inducing quality can actually be of benefit, as we often want to avoid it with in-season athletes or those trying to achieve a higher volume of work in their training programs. This is actually a perk of several deadlift variations, too.

7. Hip thrusts are a safe way to get in higher-rep sets.

In the quest to put on some muscle, high-rep squatting and deadlifting often wind up getting pretty ugly by the end of the sets unless they're regressed in some fashion (e.g., goblet squats). And, on a personal note, any time that I deadlift for more than eight reps, I get a massive headache that lasts about three days. I've found that higher rep barbell supine bridge (moreso than hip thrusts) are a good option for sets of 12-15 at the end of a session to kick in some extra volume safely. It's pretty darn hard to screw this up, you know?

Thoughts on Loading

On several occasions, I've heard folks criticize barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges because even seemingly untrained individuals can use so much weight. It's a valid assertion - but only to a point.

My experience has been that many individuals moving big weights are really short-changing themselves on the last 5-10 degrees of hip extension. They're either stopping short or getting lumbar extension (moving through the lower back). Often, when you fine-tune the technique and make them hold for a count at the top, they'll have to reduce the weight significantly. As a rule of thumb, though, I view the risk:benefit ratio with hip thrusts as being comparable to that of deadlifts in an athletic population; going heavier than 495 pounds probably isn't worth the risk or time involved. You're better off changing the tempo (longer pauses at the top) or switching to a different (and possibly more technically advanced) exercise that doesn't "come naturally" to the lifter. In short, find a different window of adaptation instead of just trying to move big weights through a short range-of-motion.

As an interesting aside to this, my deadlifts are actually significantly stronger than my hip thrusts. It's likely a function of "getting what you train," but I think it's an interesting argument against the idea that even weak people can automatically move big weights.

Last, but not least, remember that relatively untrained people can often push a lot of weight on sleds on turf, and rack pulls are usually substantially heavier than one's deadlift. Does that make them useless, too?

Closing Thoughts

New research is always warranted in any field, but particularly in strength and conditioning, a dynamic industry that has changed remarkably over the past few decades. In many cases, it takes a lot of time and experimentation to understand just how something fits (or doesn't fit) in our training approaches. Personally, I always come back to the "justifying the inclusion of a lift" question I noted earlier in this article. My experience has been that barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges have stood the test of time in this regard - and done so safely. I view them much more as an assistance exercise, as opposed to something that would ever replace squats or deadlifts. However, in the special circumstances I've outlined above, I think they will continue to fill in nicely.

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The Best of 2015: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2015" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. Common Arm Care Mistakes - Installment 6 - In this article, I talk about how important it is to select arm care exercises that truly appreciate the functional demands placed on the shoulder and elbow during throwing.

2. Changing Baseball Culture: A Call to Action - Physical therapist Eric Schoenberg makes a call to action to step away from four baseball traditions so that we can more easily prevent baseball injuries.

manual_therapy_page-300x206-2 

3. What is a "Big League Body?" - Big leaguers come in all shapes and sizes. Your baseball strength and conditioning programs need to appreciate that.

4. 6 Physical Attributes of Elite Hitters - Here are six physical characteristics that elite hitters seem to share.

hiprotation-300x170

5. Projecting the Development of High School Pitchers -  Cressey Sports Performance Pitching Coordinator Matt Blake shows what a difference a year can make in projecting high school pitchers for college baseball success.

If you're interested in learning more about how we assess, program for, and train baseball players, I'd encourage you to check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next course will take place January 17-19, 2016 at our Hudson, MA facility. You can learn more HERE.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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6 Physical Attributes of Elite Hitters

After reading Bobby Tewksbary's great resource, Elite Swing Mechanics, I've been thinking about the characteristics of elite hitters. Just as Bobby breaks down swing mechanics to identify growth areas, I'm always looking to find physical limitations that might interfere with an athlete's ability to best "acquire" the swing mechanics guys like Bobby are seeking. Here are six physical attributes I've noticed in most elite hitters.

1. Sufficient Hip Mobility

You don't have to look any further than the rise in hip injuries over the past decade to recognize just how aggressive the hip rotation is during the baseball swing. In particular, it's essential for hitters to have sufficient hip internal rotation and extension. Unfortunately, these ranges of motion are usually the first to go in the dysfunctional lumbopelvic (hip/lower back) postural presentations we see. As the pelvis dumps forward into anterior tilt, it blocks off internal rotation - and the athlete will preferentially extend through the lower back instead of the hip.

APT-250x300

This leads to not only limited hip function, but also an increased risk of injury. The athlete may develop bony overgrowth (femoroacetabular impingement; read more here) on the head of the femur or the hip socket, a torn labrum, a sports hernia, or a number of other hip issues. There may also be extension-based lower back pain, including stress fractures and disc injuries. This loss in hip motion is generally related to point #2...

2. Sufficient Core Control

Many of the hip mobility restrictions we see in these athletes aren't just because muscles are actually short, or bony blocks have developed to restrict range of motion. Rather, they may be in place because the athlete's core control is so out-of-whack that alignment issues actually limit range of motion. Imagine driving a car that's out of alignment; turning to one side will ultimately wind up being more difficult. The good news about this scenario is that it's often possible to get quick changes in an athlete's hip mobility just by modifying posture, incorporating positional breathing, and doing a bit of activation work. I've seen athletes gain more than 30 degrees of hip internal rotation in a matter of 30 seconds without manual therapy or stretching, so adding some core control in the right places can definitely be a powerful thing.

Remember, the research clearly demonstrates that the core works to transfer - not develop - force during the baseball swing. Its job is to take the force developed in the lower extremity and make sure that it is delivered to the upper extremity and, ultimately, the bat. This function should be reflected in the exercise selection we use, as we gravitate toward rotational medicine ball variations and chops/lifts rather than sit-ups, crunches, and side bends.

3. Sufficient Thoracic (Upper Back) Mobility

One of the key points Bobby made in his article earlier this week was that Pujols - like all elite hitters - gets his hips moving forward while his hands are still held back and up (and actually moving further back and up). To do this, you need three things. We've covered the first two: hip mobility and core stability. However, you also need sufficient mobility through your upper back to allow this "separation" to occur. Even if the hip and core components are ideal, if the upper back isn't sufficiently mobile, the hands can't stay back to allow a) force transfer without "energy leaks" and b) the right timing for this transfer. As Bobby also noted, if the hands can't stay back long enough, the hitter has less time to see and react/adjust to the pitch that's thrown. In short, a physical limitation can quickly become a mechanical issue. I should note that while thoracic rotation (transverse plane) is predominantly what we're seeking, you can't have sufficient rotation if you're stuck in a rounded upper back posture (flexion/sagittal plane). If you look like this, you'll need to get your extension back to help unlock the rotation you seek.

RoundBackFS-300x225

4. The Ability to Hip Hinge

This point really goes hand-in-hand with #1 from above, but I think it's important to distinguish the hip hinge (hip flexion with a neutral spine) as pre-loading, whereas the extension and internal rotation that takes place is actually unloading. In other words, the former stores the elastic energy we need, while the latter releases it over a sufficient range of motion. Candidly, I'm shocked at how many young athletes have lost the ability to hip hinge correctly. You'll see it quite a bit in more advanced hitters as well, and they're usually the higher-level guys who have hip and lower back problems. If you can't effectively pre- load your hips, you'll have to go elsewhere to get your power - or you just won't create it. A detailed review of what a good hip hinge is and how to train for it could be (and is) a full-day seminar. Basically, this is as much a stability limitation and patterning problem as it is an actual flexibility deficit. Put these three components together, and you have your "mobility" potential.

Without getting too sidetracked, here's a quick rule with respect to the hip hinge: players need to be able to touch their toes without a huge knee bend (greater than 30 degrees) or hyperextension of the knees.

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Sure, we need to consider how much posterior hip shift there is, whether they can reverse the lumbar curve, and whether they return from the toe touch with predominantly hip or lower back motion, but I think the quick screening rule from above is a good place to start.

5. Lower Body Strength/Power

You don't have to be an elite powerlifter or Olympic lifter to hit home runs. However, you do need enough strength and - just as importantly - the ability to display that force quickly. On the strength side, I seriously doubt you'll find many hitters in the big leagues who aren't capable of deadlifting at least 1.5 times their body weight, and if you do find some, they're probably guys who have been around for quite some time and gotten much more efficient with their patterning to use every bit of force they have in the tank. Or, they're just carrying too much body fat. On the power side, it's not good enough to just be a weight room rockstar. It's also important to be able to take that strength and apply it quickly in more sport-specific contexts with drills like rotational medicine ball throws, sprinting, jumping and, of course, hitting and throwing. Once you've got the foundation of strength, your power training can really take off - and that includes your swing mechanics. Until you're able to put more force into the ground, it's going to be difficult to generate more bat speed unless you have glaring deficiencies in your swing mechanics that can be cleaned up.

hiprotation

6. Great Sports Vision

You can't hit what you can't see - and elite hitters almost always have elite vision. Some of this is outside your control, but I always encourage all our baseball guys to get thorough yearly eye exams. I'm a bit biased because my wife is an optometrist, but I've seen players for whom vision corrections with contact lenses and glasses has been a complete game-changer.

Wrap-up

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of physical attributes of high-level hitters, but it's a good start. Building on this point, as examples, you'll notice I didn't say "tremendous forearm strength" or "a huge bench press." Some guys might have these "proficiencies," but that doesn't mean they're absolutely essential for high-level hitting. Many hitters might develop appreciable forearm strength from the act of hitting over many years, but that doesn't mean they had to specifically train it to make that advancement. And, on the bench press front, there may be guys who've trained the bench press heavily, but never recognized that it might not have had much of an impact on their hitting performance. This is why we have to look at the big picture and see what ALL elite hitters are doing to be successful.

If you're looking to learn more about the technical aspects of hitting that go hand-in-hand with these points, be sure to check out Bobby's Elite Swing Mechanics e-book. I highly recommend it - especially at such a great price. 

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