Home Posts tagged "pitching training"

2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program

Registration is now open for the 2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program. This event takes place at our Hudson, MA facility, and runs from 6/3/19 through 8/10/19.

During last year's offering, we had pitchers move to Massachusetts from sixteen different states. This summer, we anticipate another awesome collection of motivated athletes who'll push each other to get better in conjunction with the same training opportunities and expertise we provide to our professional athletes.

This program is a good fit for pitchers who need to prioritize development over just getting innings or exposure. In other words, it's a suitable replacement for those who still need to throw, but also need to gain 20 pounds, learn a new pitch, sort out old aches and pains, or improve their mobility.

Each athlete will begin with a thorough initial movement and pitching assessment that will set the stage for individualized strength and conditioning and throwing programs, respectively. These programs correspond to six days a week of training. Generally, four of the six training days per week are double sessions, with throwing in the morning and strength and conditioning in the afternoons. A typical training week would look like the following:

Monday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Tuesday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Wednesday: Late AM throwing and movement training (at field)
Thursday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Friday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Saturday: Optional AM Mobility Work and Recovery Session, AM Throwing and movement training
Sunday: Off

In our throwing programs, we integrate weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis). We'll integrate Rapsodo and high-speed camera work in these bullpens as well.

All the athletes will receive manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist, and nutritional guidance throughout the program. Also to help with recovery, athletes have access to MarcPro, and Normatec.

Last, but not least, we'll incorporate a regular educational components to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training. Last year, this consisted of not only staff presentations, but also conference calls with Major League players and established coaches from around the country.

The best part is that it'll take place in a motivating environment where athletes can push each other to be the best they can be. By optimizing the situation, you can help change the person.

Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com - but don't delay, as spaces are limited; this offering sold out last year, and we'll be capping the group size.

In the coming weeks, we'll be highlighting some case studies from last year's group that should give you a better feel for how the programs work.

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Developing Baseball Power: What the Latest Research Says

Back in my What I Learned in 2010 feature, I made the following observation:

Babe Ruth hit a ton of homeruns in spite of being a seemingly out-of-shape fat guy. I've seen more than dozen pitchers throw well above 90 mph without even being able to vertical jump 23 inches.

What gives? Well, these athletes are just incredibly efficient – and powerful – in the transverse and frontal planes. Would being an elite sprinter make one a successful hitter or pitcher? Of course not, yet most strength and conditioning coaches train their rotational sport athletes as if they were trying to elevate them to elite status in a sagittal-plane dominant sport. They assume that general exercises like squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts will simply carry over once an athlete starts throwing or hitting.

And, to some degree, they do carry over because of the involved structures and systemic training effect, but I think that there's a way to tighten up the learning loop.

People think I'm crazy when I say that we don't Olympic lift our baseball players. We also don't do much vertical jumping. At the end of the day, jumping high doesn't really matter that much. Rotating fast and moving laterally quickly does, though, so we focus our power-oriented work on rotational medicine ball drills and lots of laterally-directed jumping/landing, and supplement it with lifting and sprinting.

I reiterated these thoughts a few weeks ago with my post, Why Baseball Players Shouldn't Olympic Lift.  This kicked off some heated debates, so I thought I'd contact Graeme Lehman for an interview on the topic.  As a brief background, back in 2010 - just a few months after I had the aforementioned article published - Graeme informed me that he was actually in the process of researching this very topic for his master's thesis.  Today, we're fortunate to have him here to discuss his findings and their practical applications.

EC: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Graeme. Can you start off by telling me a bit about both your baseball and educational backgrounds?

GL: First of all, thank you for asking me to do this interview; it is an honor to be a guest on your site, which I have used as an educational resource for years.

Baseball has always been my sport of choice despite growing up in Edmonton, Alberta during the 80s with the best hockey team ever assembled playing in my back yard (five Stanley Cups in seven years). I was fortunate enough to secure a scholarship to play baseball in North Dakota, but the school I attended didn’t have a kinesiology program, so I chose the major that I thought would afford me the best chance of getting a job, a degree in business administration. Ironically, and perhaps fatefully, my business degree got me a job as the manager of a small personal training studio. One day a trainer didn’t show up and I was thrown into the fire.

This first experience in a strength coach setting fueled a new found desire to educate myself about the world of exercise science. I read everything I could get my hands on including all of the articles that guys like you, Mike Robertson, Chad Waterbury, Mike Boyle wrote for T-Nation. I was hooked, and in 2006, I became a CSCS, and just one year later I was enrolled in a graduate school at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Dr. David Behm’s Kinesiology program.

Since my collegiate days in ND, I have been both a baseball coach and strength coach for various individuals and teams including two years as the S&C for the UBC Thunderbirds. I have also continued playing in various men’s leagues in order to test out my own theories and keep chasing the dream hoping to become the next Jim Morris.

In case you’re trying to follow along with the various places I lived, they were:

1- Edmonton, Alberta (cold)
2- Jamestown, North Dakota (cold & windy)
3- St. John’s, Newfoundland (cold, windy and wet)
4- Vancouver, British Columbia (wet)

Living in these less than ideal climates has really made me excited about the work you do and the results you get in snowy Hudson, Massachusetts.

EC: How did you wind up deciding to pursue this research study, and what was the hypothesis that you were testing?

GL: My initial reasoning was quite simple: I wanted to help baseball players throw harder. As a strength coach, I thought that improving lower body power would be one of the best ways to achieve this goal. This led me to question: “what kind of lower body power can be improved in order to have a better chance of carrying over from the weight room to the baseball diamond?”

In the past, scores from traditional tests like vertical jump, broad jump and 60-yard dash times have not had any significant correlation to throwing velocity (Spaniol 1997). This made some sense because I have known some guys that I wouldn’t call “athletic” but could still throw gas. Mechanics obviously play a huge roll, but there is some research that stress’ the importance of lower body power in creating throwing velocity.

MacWilllams et al. (1998) showed that higher levels of force production by the back leg in the direction towards the plate led to higher wrist/ball velocity. While Matsuo et al. (2001) showed that what happens to a pitchers front knee between the time the front foot hits the ground and the time the ball is released is the key differentiator between “low” and “high” velocity throwing groups. Those that had the ability to extend their knee rather than going into further flexion threw harder.

So, it’s pretty easy to see that each leg is performing independent actions in a number of planes which don’t carry over to traditional bi-lateral sagittal. Thus, the principal of specificity was not taken into account and I know from your research, Eric, that you hate it when this principal is ignored.

It became obvious that we should be including tests which look at independent leg action, different planes of motion along with different kinds of strength (concentric, isometric, isometric).

EC: What kind of subjects did you have participating in the study, and what challenges did you face in dealing with them?

GL: My subjects were all male college level baseball players from two different teams. In total, I had 42 subjects who were approximately 19.8 years old and 183.3 cm tall and weighed 83.1 kg.

The biggest challenge was to create a list of tests which covered a wide spectrum of lower body power qualities to complement traditional running and jumping tests, which I also included. Each test also had to be easily reproduced by any strength or baseball coach in order to make this information user-friendly.

EC: Please describe your methods and the results you attained.

GL: We split up the athletes into left and right handed subjects and we measured throwing velocity was in two ways:

(1) Stationary throwing - similar to a pitcher throwing from the stretch.
(2) Shuffle approach - similar to a third basemen making a strong throw across the diamond.

This gave us four different groups. The throwing velocities from each group were correlated against the results of each lower body power test along with height and weight, looking for any significance. While there were was some correlation to body weight and med ball throws in one or two of the groups, only one test batted 1.000: the lateral to medial jump. This was the only test that was performed in the frontal plane.

Here is what this test looks likes. Stand on one leg then jump towards your midline in the frontal plane. Land with both feet together at the same time and take the measurement from the closest body part (lateral edge of the inside foot) to the starting line.

Since the lateral to medial jump score of the same side leg to the throwing arm (right leg for righties) went 4 for 4 in showing a positive correlation in each group, we made the conclusion that power is plane specific.

This was one of these “duh” moments because it makes obvious sense. If I can have more energy going towards my target, I have a better chance to transferring more energy up the kinetic chain to my throwing arm. If the rules didn’t stop me I would crow hop every time I pitched (like a Trevor Bauer warm-up) pitch trying to get as much as energy as I can going towards my target.

The pitching coach in me wants to warn against the young pitcher reading this and going out and trying jump towards the plate in order to boost their fastball. While it is important to initiate energy towards your target you need to be strong enough to capture and transfer that energy towards. If you aren’t strong enough on the front side you will exhibit what we in the business call an energy leak, just like the “low throwing velocity group from Matsuo’s study.

[Note from EC: for more reading on this front, check out my series, Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]

EC: Okay, these are all well and good, but let’s talk practical applications. What can coaches take away from your research to immediately make their baseball strength and conditioning programs better?

GL: I think this helps us make smarter decisions in what we need to add/emphasize in our programs, and what we can subtract/deemphasize. Basically, we need to add more exercises that will improve frontal plane power and subtract some of the exercises that don’t. For example, hang cleans and drop jumps might help increase vertical jumping ability, but if goal is to throw 90mph these might not be the best use of our limited amount of time and energy.

The hard part about training the frontal plane is that your options are limited by traditional weight training. We need to think outside of the box like Bret Contreras did with his hip thrust in trying to improve running speed. Exercises that I would say to add or emphasis would be band resisted lateral jumps and lateral sled dragging since they are both performed in the frontal plane.

On the flip side, if we spend time working on creating more energy, we also have to think about how we can absorb it and ultimately transfer it to the baseball. This makes me think that single-leg training is very important, so we need to emphasize qualities like concentric strength for the back leg and eccentric strength for the lead leg.

EC: How about future research? What do we need to study next in order to build on these findings to continue to improve our understanding of long-term management of overhead throwing athletes, particularly pitchers?

GL: The next step would be to create a long-term study where a group of experienced baseball players train for 4-8 weeks. One group would include some frontal plane movements and the other wouldn’t. Test both pre and post throwing velocity and you’ve got another study. I wish I had the resources to do this, but I also don’t feel very ethical having some young baseball players not using these any frontal plane movements.

I think that these results also point to the fact that throwing a baseball is a full body movement. If we can get our pitchers throwing more like athletes and harness the power created by the lower body, we can eliminate some stress from the throwing arm keeping more baseball players in the game.

EC: Thank you very much for your great insights. Where can my readers find more from you?

GL: Thank you again for having me. I have a blog where I translate some of the geeky exercise science research related to baseball into Layman’s terms (cheesy use of my last name but it works). My goal there is to cover the gaps between the research lab, weight room and baseball field so that more players and coaches can benefit from all the information that is available.

You can also find me at Inside Performance, which is an awesome indoor baseball training facility in North Vancouver (possibly the rainiest place in the world) where I work as a S&C coach.

References

MacWilliams, B, Choi, T, Perezous, M, Chao, E, and McFarland, E. Characteristic ground reaction forces in baseball pitches. Am J Sports Med 26: 66-71, 1998.

Matsuo, T, Escamilla, R, Fleisig, G, Barrentine, S, and Andrews, J. Comparison of kinematic and temporal parameters between different pitch velocity groups. J Appl Biomech 17: 1-13, 2001.

Spaniol, FJ. Predicting throwing velocity in college baseball players. J Strength Cond Res 11: 286, 1997.

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Should Pitching Coaches Understand Research Methods and Functional Anatomy?

Quite some time ago, I met a pitching coach who made a bold statement to me:

"Most Major League pitchers have terrible mechanics."

I don't know if he meant that they were mechanics that could lead to injuries, or simply mechanics that would interfere with control and velocity development, but either way, I shrugged it off.  Why?

Their mechanics are so terrible that they're in the top 0.0001% of people on the planet who play their sport.  And, they're paid extremely well to be terrible, I suppose.

Kidding aside, this comment got me to thinking about something that's been "festering" for years now, and I wanted to run it by all of you today to get your impressions on it.  In other words, this post won't be about me ranting and raving about how things should be, but rather me starting a dialogue on one potential way to get the baseball development industry to where it needs to be, as it clearly isn't there yet (as evidenced by the fact that more pitchers are getting hurt nowadays than ever before).

The way I see it, mechanics are typically labeled as "terrible" when a pitcher has:

1. Trouble throwing strikes

2. Pitching velocity considerably below what one would expect, given that pitcher's athleticism

3. Pain when throwing

4. Mechanical issues that theoretically will predispose him to injury 

In the first three cases, anyone can really make these observations.  You don't need to be trained in anything to watch the walk totals pile up, read a radar gun, or listen when a pitcher says, "It hurts."  Moreover, these issues are easier to coach because they are very measurable; pitchers cut down on their walks, throw harder, and stop having pain.

Issue #4 is the conundrum that has lead to thousands of pissing matches among pitching coaches.  When a pitcher gets hurt, everyone becomes an armchair quarterback.  The two biggest examples that come to mind are Mark Prior and Stephen Strasburg.

Prior was supposed to be one of the best of all-time before shoulder surgeries derailed his career.  After the fact, everyone was quick to pin all the issues on his mechanics.  What nobody has ever brought to light is that over the course of nine years, his injuries looked like the following (via Wikipedia):

1. Hamstrings strain (out for 2002 season)
2. Shoulder injury (on-field collision - missed three starts in 2003)
3. Achilles injury (missed two months in 2004)
4. Elbow strain (missed 15 days in 2004)
5. Elbow injury (missed one month in 2005 after being hit by line drive)
6. Rotator cuff strain (missed three months in 2006)
7. Oblique strain (missed two starts in 2006)
8. Rotator cuff strain (ended 2006 season on disabled list)
9. Shoulder surgery (missed entire 2007 season, and first half of 2008)
10. Shoulder capsule tear (out for season after May 2008)
11. Groin injury (missed last two months of 2011 season)

By my count, that is eleven injuries - but four of them were non-arm-related.  And, two of them (both early in his career) were contact injuries.  Who is to say that he isn't just a guy with a tendency toward degenerative changes on a systemic level?  How do we know one of the previous injuries didn't contribute to his arm issues later on?  How do we know what he did for preventative arm care, rehabilitation, throwing, and strength and conditioning programs? We don't have his medical records from earlier years to know if there were predisposing factors in place, either.  I could go on and on.

The issue is that our sample size is one (Mark Prior) because you'll never see this exact collection of issues in any other player again.  It's impossible to separate out all these factors because all issues are unique.  And, it's one reason why you'll never see me sitting in the peanut gallery criticizing some teams for having injured players; we don't have sufficient information to know exactly why a player got hurt - and chances are, the medical staff on those teams don't even have all the information they'd like to have, either.

Strasburg has been labeled the best prospect of all-time by many, and rightfully so; his stuff is filthy and he's had the success to back it up.  Of course, the second he had Tommy John surgery, all the mechanics nazis came out of their caves and started berating the entire Washington Nationals organization for not fixing the issue (an Inverted W) proactively to try to prevent the injury.  Everybody is Johnny Brassballs on the internet.

To that end, I'll just propose the following questions:

1. Did Strasburg not do just fine with respect to issues 1-3 in my list above?

2. Would you want to be the one to screw with the best prospect of all-time and potentially ruin exactly what makes him effective?

3. Do we really know what the health of his elbow was when the Nationals drafted him?

4. Do we know what his arm care, throwing, and strength and conditioning programs were like before and after being drafted?

There are simply too many questions one can ask with any injury, and simply calling mechanics the only contributing factor does a complex issue a disservice - especially since young athletes are growing up with more and more physical dysfunction even before they have mastered their "mature" mechanics.

The Inverted W theory is incredibly sound; Chris O'Leary did a tremendous job of making his case - and we certainly work to coach throwers out of this flaw - but two undeniable facts remain.  First, a lot of guys still throw with the Inverted W and don't have significant arm issues (or any whatsoever).  They may have adequate mobility and stability in the right places (more on this below) to get by, or perhaps they have just managed their pitch counts and innings appropriately to avoid reaching threshold.  I suspect that you might also find that many of these throwers can make up for this "presumed fault" with a quick arm combined with a little extra congenital ligamentous laxity, or subtle tinkering with some other component of their timing.

Second, a lot of guys who don't have an Inverted W still wind up with elbow or shoulder injuries. Good research studies bring issues like these to light, and nobody has really gotten a crew of inverted W guys and non-inverted W guys together to follow injury rates over an extended period of time while accounting for variables such as training programs, pitch counts, and pitch selection (e.g., sliders vs. curveballs). We don't know if some of these other factors are actually more problematic than the mechanics themselves, as it's impossible to control all these factors simultaneously in a research format.

As such, here we have my first set of questions:

Don't you think that pitching coaches need to make a dedicated effort to understand research methods so that they can truly appreciate the multifactorial nature of injuries?  And, more importantly, wouldn't learning to read research help them to understand which mechanical issues are the true problem?  

The Inverted W is certainly an issue, but there are many more to keep in mind. Just my opinion: I think the baseball industry would be much better off if pitching coaches read a lot more research.

Now, let's move on to my second question.  First, though, I want to return to the Inverted W example again. I have not met more than a few pitching coaches who can explain exactly what structures are affected by this mechanical flaw because they don't understand what functionally is taking place at the shoulder and elbow.  They don't understand that excessive glenohumeral (shoulder) horizontal abduction, extension, and external rotation can all lead to anterior glide of the humerus, creating more anterior instability and leading to injuries to the anterior glenohumeral ligaments and labrum.  Meanwhile, the biceps tendon picks up the slack as a crucial anterior stabilizer.  They also don't appreciate how these issues are exacerbated by poor rotator cuff function and faulty scapular stabilization patterns.  And, they don't appreciate that these issues are commonly present even in throwers who don't demonstrate an Inverted W pattern.

At the elbow, they also can't explain why, specifically, the Inverted W can lead to problems. They don't understand that the timing issue created by the "deep" set-up leads to greater valgus stress at lay-back because the arm lags.  They can't explain why some players have medial issues (UCL injuries, ulnar nerve irritation, flexor/pronator strains, and medial epicondyle stress fractures) while other players have lateral issues (little league elbow, osteochondritis dissecans of radial capitellum) from the same mechanical flaws.  They can't explain why a slider thrown from an Inverted W position would be more harmful than a curveball.

I can explain it to you - and I can explain it to my athletes so that they understand, too. I've also met a lot of medical professionals who can clearly outline how and why these structures are injured, but we aren't the ones coaching the pitchers on the mounds.  The pitching coaches are the ones in those trenches.

To that end, I propose my second set of questions:

Don't you think pitching coaches ought to make an effort to learn functional anatomy in order to understand not just what gets injured, but how those injuries occur?  Wouldn't it give them a more thorough understanding of how to manage their pitchers, from mechanical tinkering, to pitch selection, to throwing volume?  And, wouldn't it give them a more valid perspective from which to contribute to pitchers' arm care programs in conjunction with rehabilitation professionals and strength and conditioning coaches? 

The problem with just saying "his mechanics suck" is that it amounts to applying a theory to a sample size of one.  That's not good research.  Additionally, this assertion is almost always taking place without a fundamental understanding of that pitcher's functional anatomy.  It amounts to coaching blind.

To reiterate, this was not a post intended to belittle anyone, but rather to bring to light two areas in which motivated pitching coaches could study extensively in order to really separate themselves from the pack.  Additionally, I believe wholeheartedly in what Chris O'Leary put forth with his Inverted W writings; I just used it as one example of a mechanical flaw that must be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to managing pitchers.

With that said, I'd love to hear your opinions on these two sets of questions in the comments section below. Thanks in advance for your contributions.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/20/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Increasing Dorsiflexion: Cuboid Mobilization - With yesterday's post on ankle mobility, I thought I'd highlight another great "complementary" perspective on the topic from Bill Hartman.

Managing Structural and Functional Asymmetries in Ice Hockey: Part 1 and Part 2 - I've talked a lot about how much becoming familiar with the Postural Restoration Institute philosophy has helped me in the way I manage baseball players.  In these two blog posts, Kevin Neeld talks about how they've helped him with hockey - from assessment to corrective exercise.

The Age of the Pitcher and How We Got Here - This might be the single-best article I've ever read at ESPN.com.  Jayson Stark did an awesome job of reviewing all the factors that may have contributed to why pitchers are thriving and hitters are struggling compared to previous years - and it's a trend that has lasted 12 years.  I'll definitely echo the sentiment about pitchers being better than ever, particularly with respect to the number of power arms coming out of the high school ranks.  Years ago, throwing 92mph out of high school made you an extremely noteworthy prospect; now, it just makes you another guy that *might* get drafted - even as a lefty!

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Increasing Pitching Velocity: What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It – Part 1

Ask almost any pitcher, and he'd tell you that he'd love to increase his stride length on the mound in hopes of increasing pitching velocity.  And, this is certainly an association that has been verified by both anecdotal and research evidence for years.  Look back to the best pitchers of former generations, and they figured this out even without the benefit of radar guns.

On the anecdotal side of things, hitters often comment on how pitches "get on them faster" with a guy who strides further down the mound.  This is a no brainer: a pitcher who releases the ball closer to the plate has a competitive advantage.  That's perceived pitching velocity.  However, what about actual velocity - meaning what the radar gun says? The truth is that it's somewhat tricky to prove specifically that a longer stride directly equates to better actual velocity, as it really depends on how the pitcher gets to that point.  You see, a pitcher can effectively delay his weight shift to create better "separation;" in fact, keeping the head behind the hips longer correlates highly with pitching velocity.  This separation is the name of the game - and he'd throw harder.

Or, that same pitcher could simply jump out - letting his body weight leak forward prematurely - and completely rob himself of separation and, in turn, velocity.  So, that's the first asterisk to keep in mind: it's not just where you stride, but also how you stride there. Additionally, in that second scenario, this modification may cause a pitcher to shift his weight forward excessively and wind up landing too much on his toes.  While the point on the foot at which the weight should be centered is certainly a point of debate among pitching coaches, it's safe to say that they all agree that you shouldn't be tip-toeing down the mound! Lastly, even if the weight shift is delayed perfectly, a pitcher still has to time up the rest of his delivery - when the ball comes out of the glove, how high the leg kick is, etc - to match up with it in "slightly" new mechanics.  These adjustments can take time, so the velocity improvements with a long stride may not come right away because other factors are influenced. Of course, keep in mind that not every hard thrower has a huge stride.  Justin Verlander doesn't get too far down the mound, but he's still done okay for himself!  Verlander seems to make up the difference with a ridiculously quick arm, great downward plane at ball release, and outstanding hip rotation power.  There's no sense screwing with someone who is a reigning Cy Young and MVP - and has two career no-hitters under his belt.  However, YOU have to find what works best for YOU.

So, without even getting to my list, you can say that mechanical proficiency is the #1 factor that influences whether a long stride will improve your pitching velocity.  Dial in what needs to be dialed in, and it could work wonders for you - if your body is prepared.

To that end, in part 2 of this series, I'll outline five physical factors that will help you improve your stride length and increase pitching velocity.

Interested in learning more about the throwing shoulder? Check out Optimal Shoulder Performance: From Rehabilitation to High Performance!

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Pitching Injuries: It’s Not Just What You’re Doing; It’s What You’ve Already Done

A while back, this article on pitching injuries became the single-most popular piece in EricCressey.com history:

Your Arm hurts?  Thank Your Little League, Fall Ball, and AAU Coaches

In that feature, I made the following statement:

We can do all the strength training, mobility work, and soft tissue treatments in the world and it won’t matter if they’re overused – because I’m just not smart enough to have figured out how to go back in time and change history. Worried about whether they’re throwing curveballs, or if their mechanics are perfect?  It won’t matter if they’ve already accumulated too many innings.

While athletes might be playing with fire each time they throw, the pain presentation pattern is different.  You burn your hand, and you know instantly.  Pitching injuries take time to come about. Maybe you do microscopic damage to your ulnar collateral ligament each time you throw – and then come back and pitch again before it’s had time to fully regenerate.  Or, maybe you ignore the shoulder internal rotation deficit and scapular dyskinesis you’ve got and it gets worse and worse for years – until you’re finally on the surgeon’s table for a labral and/or rotator cuff repair.  These issues might be managed conservatively if painful during the teenage years (or go undetected if no pain is present) – but once a kid hits age 18 or 19, it seems to automatically become “socially acceptable” to do an elbow or shoulder surgery.

Sure enough, just yesterday, reader Paul Vajdic sent me this article from the Shreveport Times. The author interviews world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews about the crazy increase in the number of Tommy John surgeries he'd performed over the past decade.

A comment he made really jumped out at me, in light of my point from above:

""I had a kid come in, a 15-year-old from Boca Raton, (Fla.), who tore his ligament completely in two,' Andrews said. 'The interesting thing is when I X-rayed his elbow with good magnification, he has a little calcification right where the ligament attaches to the bone. We're seeing more of that now. He actually got hurt with a minor pull of the ligament when he was 10, 11, 12 years of age. That little calcification gets bigger and, initially, it won't look like anything but a sore elbow. As that matures, it becomes more prominent. It turns into an English pea-size bone piece and pulls part of the ligament off when they're young.'"

In other words, it takes repeated bouts of microtrauma over the course of many years to bring an athlete to threshold - even if they have little to no symptoms along the way.  Injury prevention starts at the youngest ages; otherwise, you're just playing from behind the 8-ball when you start training high school and college players.

In addition to walking away with the perspective that young kids need to be strictly managed with their pitch counts, I hope this makes you appreciate the value of strength and conditioning programs at young ages, too.  For more information, check out my post, The Truth About Strength Training for Kids.

We can't prevent them all, but I do think that initiatives like the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification in conjunction with pitch count implementation and coaching education are a step in the right direction.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Get Strong: Eric Cressey’s Best Articles of 2010

Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better - This was obviously my biggest project of 2010.  I actually began writing the strength and conditioning programs and filming the exercise demonstration videos in 2009, and put all the "guinea pigs" through the four-month program beginning in February.  When they completed it as the start of the summer rolled around, I made some modifications based on their feedback and then got cracking on writing up all the tag along resources.  Finally, in September, Show and Go was ready to roll.  So, in effect, it took 10-11 months to take this product from start to finish - a lot of hard work, to say the least.  My reward has been well worth it, though, as the feedback has been awesome.  Thanks so much to everyone who has picked up a copy.

Optimal Shoulder Performance - This was a seminar that Mike Reinold and I filmed in November of 2009, and our goal was to create a resource that brought together concepts from both the shoulder rehabilitation and shoulder performance training fields to effectively bridge the gap for those looking to prevent and/or treat shoulder pain.  In the process, I learned a lot from Mike, and I think that together, we brought rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals closer to being on the same page.

Why President Obama Throws Like a Girl - A lot of people took this as a political commentary, but to be honest, it was really just me talking about the concept of retroversion as it applies to a throwing shoulder - with a little humor thrown in, of course!

Overbearing Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar - This one was remarkably easy to write because I've received a lot of emails from overbearing Dads asking about increasing throwing velocity in their kids.

What I Learned in 2009 - I wrote this article for T-Nation back at the beginning of the year, and always enjoy these yearly pieces.  In fact, I'm working on my 2010 one for them now!

What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Training Success - I wrote this less than a month out from my wedding, so you could say that I had a good frame of reference.

Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured - In case the title didn't tip you off, I'm not much of a fan of baseball showcases.

Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Training Success - Part 1 and Part 2 - These articles were featured at fitbusinessinsider.com.  I enjoy writing about not only the training side of things, but some of the things we've done well to build up our business.

Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way - This might have been the top post of the year, in my eyes. My job is very cool.

How to Attack Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry - Here's another fitness business post.

Want to Be a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach?  Start Here. - And another!

The Skinny on Strasburg's Injury - I hate to make blog content out of someone else's misfortune, but it was a good opportunity to make some points that I think are very valid to the discussion of not only Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury, but a lot of the pitching injuries we see in youth baseball.

Surely, there are many more to list, but I don't want this to run too long!  Have a safe and happy new year, and keep an eye out for the first content of 2011, which is coming very soon!

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Weight Training For Baseball: Best Videos of 2010

I made an effort to get more videos up on the site this year, as I know a lot of folks are visual learners and/or just enjoy being able to listen to a blog, as opposed to reading it.  Here are some highlights from the past year: The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum - Regardless of your sport, there are valuable take-home messages.  I just used throwing velocity in baseball pitchers as an example, as it's my frame of reference.

Should Pitchers Overhead Press? - This was an excerpt from Mike Reinold and my Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar (which became a popular DVD set for the year).

Shoulder Impingement vs. Rotator Cuff Tears - Speaking of Mike, here's a bit from the man himself from that seminar DVD set.

Thoracic and Glenohumeral Joint Mobility Drills - The folks at Men's Health tracked me down in the lobby at Perform Better in Providence and asked if I could take them through a few shoulder mobility drills we commonly use - and this was the result.

Cressey West - This kicks off the funny videos from the past year. A few pro baseball players that I program for in a distance-based format created this spoof video as a way of saying thank you.

Tank Nap - My puppy taking a nap in a provocative position.  What's more cute?

Matt Blake Draft Tracker - CP's resident court jester and pitching instructor airs his frustrations on draft day.

1RM Cable Horizontal Abduction - More from the man, the myth, the legend.

You can find a lot more videos on my YouTube page HERE and the Cressey Performance YouTube page HERE.

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Weight Training for Baseball: Featured Articles

I really enjoy writing multi-part features here at EricCressey.com because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it's like writing a book.  Here were three noteworthy features I published in 2010: Understanding Elbow Pain - Whether you were a baseball pitcher trying to prevent a Tommy John surgery or recreational weightlifter with "tennis elbow," this series had something for you. Part 1: Functional Anatomy Part 2: Pathology Part 3: Throwing Injuries Part 4: Protecting Pitchers Part 5: The Truth About Tennis Elbow Part 6: Elbow Pain in Lifters

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - This series was published more recently, and was extremely well received.  It's a combination of both quick programming tips and long-term modifications you can use to eliminate poor posture. Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 2 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 3 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 4

A New Paradigm for Performance Testing - This two-part feature was actually an interview with Bioletic founder, Dr. Rick Cohen.  In it, we discuss the importance of testing athletes for deficiencies and strategically correcting them.  We've begun to use Bioletics more and more with our athletes, and I highly recommend their thorough and forward thinking services. A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 1 A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 2 I already have a few series planned for 2011, so keep an eye out for them!  In the meantime, we have two more "Best of 2010" features in store before Friday at midnight. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

In part 1, I made the case for long toss as an effective addition to a throwing program.  Today, we answer the question, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?”  Let’s look at the top four reasons why someone may not be approaching long toss optimally.

1. They structure it incorrectly.

By far, the biggest mistake I see from pitchers when they’re long tossing is that they don’t utilize compression/pull-down throws at the end of the session.  These throws teach the pitcher to get on top of the ball and bring the release point down to where it should be with pitching – but they do all this with the increased arm speed you get from long tossing.  Effectively, you use compression throws to transition from your longest throwing distance to a flat ground session (this is a practice you’ll see from a LOT of MLB starting pitchers in pre-game warm-ups before they ever step foot on a mound).

Typically, our guys use a compression throw every 45-60 feet on the way back in (it almost amounts to a brisk walk back in).  So, if a pitcher went out to 300 feet with his long toss, he’d take compression throws at about 250, 200, 150, 100, and 60 feet.  I joke with guys that the last throw at 60 feet should pretty much scare the crap out of their throwing partners.  If you've seen Trevor Bauer crow-hopping downthe mound for his last warm-up pitch prior to every inning, you know what I mean.  Not surprisingly, Bauer is an Alan Jaeger/Ron Wolforth long toss disciple.  Here’s what Baseball America had to say about it: “[Bauer] starts behind the rubber, runs over the mound and throws as hard as he can to the plate, from about 54 feet. I've heard reports that those throws have registered 100 mph…”

Some guys – particularly those with a history of control issues and the guys who are trying to tinker with their mechanics – are wise to go into a brief flat-ground (or regular) bullpen right after these compression throws.  It’s a good chance to transfer the arm speed and athleticism of long toss into a little more of a sport-specific action.  I’ve also seen quite a few pitchers who have improved their change-ups considerably by long tossing for part of the session with their change-up grip, and then integrating it into one of these post-long-toss flat ground or bullpen sessions.  It helps with keeping the arm speed up in pitchers who tend to slow down the arm for change-ups.

2. They become good throwers and not good pitchers.

I’ll be straightforward with this one.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but pitch at 80-82mph, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and use that general motor potential to your advantage.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but have a 1:6 strikeout:walk ratio and have pitches hitting the backstop, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and actually throw strikes.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but are getting shelled because you just throw a very straight 93mph and don’t have any secondary pitches, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and learn some other pitches.  The average fastball velocity is higher in low-A than it is in the big leagues, you know…

3. They think long toss covers all their needs.

There are a ton of different factors that contribute to pitching success and longevity.  Once you can throw a ball a long way, there is a tendency to think that you’ve done what you need to be successful, but in reality, there are a lot more things to address to prepare your body and long toss is still pretty specific, in the grand scheme of things.  As is often the case, the greatest benefits are usually derived from doing the things that you don’t do particularly well (yet).  Bartolo Colon, for instance, might be able to long toss 330 feet, but he might have a heart attack on the light jog to the outfield to partake in that long tossing session.

4. They don’t long toss on a straight line.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you should throw on a straight line.  If the guy 250 feet away is 20-feet to the left of “center,” you’re teaching yourself to either stay closed or fly open with your delivery.  Stand on the foul line or line yourself up between foul poles, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to “get aligned.”

As you probably appreciate now, while long toss is usually a tremendously valuable inclusion in most throwing programs, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone – and that’s why each unique case must be considered individually.

Don't forget that long toss guru Alan Jaeger has put his popular Thrive on Throwing DVD on sale for 25% off for my readers for a limited time only.  Click here to learn more.

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