Home Posts tagged "Pitching Velocity"

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: March 2020 Q&A with Eric Cressey

For this week's podcast, in lieu of a guest, I'm going to do a Q&A on a collection of baseball training questions that were submitted by listeners.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Marc Pro. Head to www.MarcPro.com and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive 10% off on your order.

Show Outline

  • How bullpen arms can arrange their lifting schedule to optimize their performance and feel prepared for each outing
  • How hitters can mitigate the stressors placed on the lead shoulder of their swing
  • What recent history and research says about bicep tenodesis and recovery and what baseball players should be aware of when considering this procedure
  • What high school coaches can do to best prepare their pitchers for week one of spring season

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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!

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“Coil” in the Pitching Delivery: Friend or Foe?

I came across this awesome still-frame of Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin on the Nationals instagram the other day. This positioning at the top of his leg lift offers an important reminder of how the transverse plane can be your biggest ally or enemy in the pitching delivery.

As you can see, Corbin has some "coil" to his leg lift, which creates more internal rotation on the trailing hip right as he starts to progress into his hip load (hinge/flexion). This pre-tensioning allows him to store a little extra elastic energy as he heads down the mound toward front foot plant. It also can provide a bit more deception to make the hitter's job more challenging. And, perhaps most importantly, it sets up more of a "sweeping" slider, similar to what we see with pitchers like Chris Sale and Steve Cishek. All good, right?

Well, the challenge is that being this rotational can also give some athletes problems. It's a slightly more high maintenance delivery because you have to take all that transverse (rotational) motion and convert it into a more linear motion at ball release so that you are getting through the baseball, not just around it. And, if you can't stop this rotation at the hips, it gets transferred up to the spine. This is where optimizing strength, mobility, and timing of the lead hip is essential: it's a torque converter (rotational to linear).

Understanding this should make you realize that just coaching knee extension on the front leg isn't a useful strategy; it ignores the hip. And, just calling it lead leg blocking is insufficient, as "blocking" doesn't appreciate the rotational component that the lead hip can take on. That's why we talk a lot about "front hip pull-back" and select exercises that challenge it to accept forces in all three planes of motion.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Believing in the Basics with Kyle Driscoll

We're excited to welcome Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts strength and conditioning coach and associated pitching coordinator Kyle Driscoll 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

  • How the CSP staff onboarded and assessed each college athlete for the Elite College Development Program
  • What specific strategies Kyle used to assess the pitchers in the program, including subjective evaluations and the use of technology like Rapsodo and high-speed camera
  • Why evaluating each pitcher’s routine is key component of an initial assessment
  • How understanding exactly where a pitcher is on day one allowed Kyle to structure realistic, obtainable goals for each player to achieve over the 10 week program
  • What the most surprising lessons Kyle took away from initial evaluations of the college summer program were
  • What goes into matching up throwing partners
  • What Kyle’s approach was for designing each athlete’s throwing program and why he made sure to teach them how to effectively program for themselves following their experience at CSP
  • How the synergy of CSP works to consolidate stress in the college summer program and how Kyle specifically programs throwing alongside the strength and conditioning component
  • What specific positions Kyle looks for pitchers to hit in their throwing delivery – and how they can reinforce these positions in the weight room
  • Why Kyle emphasizes certain positions early in the delivery so quality movement is persevered as the throwing motion becomes faster down the chain
  • What specific pitch design and velocity changes individuals made over the summer
  • What the most influential takeaways for the pitchers that attended the Elite College Development Program and how these takeaways stretch far beyond mechanical adjustments

You can follow Kyle on Twitter at @kdrisc35  and on Instagram at @bigdriskk.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF certified 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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Why the Overhead Angle Matters in the Pitching Delivery

The overhead view in a pitching delivery can enable you to see certain things that can’t be appreciated from other perspectives. Foremost among these is the ability to differentiate between thoracic rotation (upper back motion) and horizontal abduction (shoulder motion).

In this image taken just prior to stride foot contact, Gerrit Cole's pelvis has already rotated counterclockwise toward the plate while his torso is still rotating clockwise. This is the hip-shoulder separation throwers seek for generating big time velocity.

However, when a thrower lacks thoracic rotation - or gives up thoracic rotation too early (usually by chasing arm speed too early in the delivery) - he’ll often resort to creating excessive horizontal abduction (arm back) to find the pre-stretch he wants to generate the velocity he covets. This is not only an ineffective velocity strategy, but it also can increase anterior shoulder and medial elbow stress - all while leading to arm side misses, accidental cutters, and backup breaking balls.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard of a few pitchers being advised to work to increase the horizontal abduction in their deliveries. I don’t think you can make this recommendation without the overhead view, and even then, it’s likely taking a distal (arm) solution to a proximal (trunk and timing) problem.

I covered hip-shoulder separation in the pitching delivery in great detail in a free presentation I gave away earlier this year when we launched our podcast. You can still get it by subscribing below:

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When Pitching Goes Poorly: 5 Strategies for Righting the Ship

Pitchers can struggle for a number of different reasons, whether it's command, velocity, "stuff," or actual pain/soreness. Historically, when players run into these tough patches, they've been conditioned to look to their mechanics first - and often unnecessary modifications are made on this front before looking deeper into the situation. With that in mind, I thought I'd use today's post as a quick look at some of the other "big picture" considerations.

1. Health

Very simply, if you hurt, it will alter movement patterns. It will change the way that you prepare and, in turn, execute pitches.

When it comes to optimizing pitching performance, the challenging thing (and this will sound crazy) about pain is that it can be covered up. Anti-inflammatories/pain killers can make symptoms and allow throwers to get away with bad patterns over an extended period of time.

2. Movement Quality

There are also instances where an athlete may have a significantly out-of-whack movement pattern, but without any symptoms. The goal with these individuals is obviously to optimize movement quality to get improvements without having to touch mechanics - and before pain kicks in.

3. Fatigue

Fatigue both acutely (within a game) and chronically (over the course of a season) can markedly impact a pitcher's consistency. It's a topic that also warrants much deeper digging, too, as it can be impacted by nutrition, initial work capacity, sleep quality, environmental conditions, and a host of other factors. We know that fatigue impacts not only mechanics, but also the motor learning we're trying to achieve in our preparation work.

4. Extrinsic Factors

Some guys pitch (and feel) terribly in cold weather. For others, really hot, humid days are the problem.

Pitching on a poorly maintained mound can minimize the effectiveness of even the most elite pitchers.

Throwing to an inferior catcher - or in front of a bad umpire - can have a dramatically negative impact on pitchers' success.

Only some of these factors can be modified, but the important thing is being able to recognize them so that you don't automatically assume that the struggles are coming from a different category from this list.

5. Feel

This is likely the most subjective and hard-to-describe issue. Some days, guys just don't have "feel" for a particular pitch on a given day, week, or month. At the younger levels, it is usually secondary to one of the first four factors I've outlined. At the more advanced levels, though, you almost have to chalk it up to a bit of random variation. Even the best pitchers on the planet have some considerable variation in their spin rates and extension numbers from pitch-to-pitch (as I outlined in a previous blog, Are Pitching Mechanics Really That Repeatable?)

I think this "feel" discussion reminds us that we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water just because a guy struggles in one outing. When someone is struggling on the mound, look for trends and ask a lot of questions.

Wrap-up

These factors don't exist in isolation. For example, sometimes a physical issue (e.g., shoulder pain) can become a mechanical issue (e.g., lower arm slot). Moreover, thoracic outlet syndrome would qualify as a condition that spans the health, movement quality, feel, and fatigue realms.

There is a time and place for mechanical corrections, but before you go down that path, check these factors out first. We apply this sequential approach to development with all of our pitchers, aiming to identify "big rocks" early on that will deliver the most profound performance improvements.

This comprehensive approach to developing pitchers will be utilized heavily in our Elite Collegiate Baseball Development Summer Program. For more information, click here.

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2018 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program

Registration is now open for the 2018 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program. This event takes place at our Hudson, MA facility, and runs from 6/4/18 through 8/11/18.

During last year's offering, we had pitchers move to Massachusetts from eleven different states (plus Australia!). 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 Kinstretch (mobility) class, followed by 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 Motus sleeves in these bullpens as well.

All the athletes will receive manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist weekly, and nutritional guidance throughout the program. Also to help with recovery, athletes have access to Fatigue Science Readibands (to help monitor sleep quality and quantity), 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 Alan Jaeger, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, and Oliver Drake.

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.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/30/17

I hope you all had a great weekend and are enjoying these World Series games. You can't beat playoff baseball!

Here are some recommended resources for the week:

10 Daily Habits of Healthy Lifters - I contributed a few paragraphs for this compilation at T-Nation, and the end result included several excellent recommendations.

Bored and Brilliant - I had the long car ride from Massachusetts to Florida last week, and this is one of the audiobooks I covered to pass the time. Manoush Zomorodi took an outstanding look at how technology impacts our lives in negative ways. While it wasn't written from a strength and conditioning perspective, I could totally see how to apply its lessons to the fitness realm.

Should You Squat Tall Athletes? - Mike Robertson did a great job tackling this tall subject. Sorry, bad pun.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

Back in 2005, physical therapist John Pallof (@pallofpt) introduced me to an exercise he called the "belly press." It was an anti-rotation drill done with a cable or band in order to challenge rotary stability. 👍 It quickly became a mainstay in the programming at @cresseysportsperformance, and somehow became known as the "Pallof Press." We incorporated the traditional version (demonstrated here), as well as a host of other variations, including half-kneeling, tall kneeling, wide-stance, and split-stance. 👊 That same year, I signed my first book deal. And, as I wrote "Maximum Strength," including the Pallof Press was a no-brainer, as we used it every day in our programs. 👇 This picture was taken on September 16, 2007 for the exercise demonstration chapter. Look how much hair I had. 😲 The story could end here, but sadly, it doesn't. Not surprisingly, the Pallof Press caught on. In fact, if you Google "Pallof Press" today, you'll get 51,200 search results. 👊 Unfortunately, if you search for "Paloff Press," you'll also get 14,800 hits. 🤔 And "Palloff Press?" 18,100. 😕 And "Palof Press?" 5,310. ☹️ Just look at some of the well-known media outlets included in these hit counts, and you'll be embarrassed for them. 😠 This week, one of our college athletes sent me a copy of his program that included a "Pal Off Press." Thinking that there is no way anybody could possibly be this clueless, I Googled it. Sure enough, 512 hits (and 607 if you hyphenate it to "Pal-Off"). I've had enough. 😡 I learned this great exercise from John. And, if you're using it under that name, you learned it (directly or indirectly) from me. So - both as a favor to me and a measure of respect to him - how about you please spell his last name correctly? 🙏 (Sorry, John; thanks for your decade of patience.) #Pallof #NotPalof #NotPaloff #NotPalloff

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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6 Key Factors for Developing Pitchers

When you ask most people what makes an elite pitcher, you’ll usually get responses like “velocity,” “stuff,” and “durability.” And, certainly, none of these answers are incorrect. However, they all focus on outcomes.

When you dig a bit deeper, though, you’ll realize that these successful outcomes were likely heavily driven by a collection of processes. If you rely solely on what the radar gun says or how many runs one gives up as success measures, you don’t really learn much about development. Conversely, if you dig deeper with respect to the characteristics of an aspiring pitcher’s approach to development, you can quickly recognize where some of the limiting factors may be. Here are six characteristics of any successful pitching development approach:

1. Openmindedness

Very simply, the athlete has to be willing to try new approaches to further his development. What gets you from 80mph to 88mph will rarely be what takes you to 95mph. Openmindedness precedes buy-in, and you’ll never make progress if you aren’t fully bought in. Brandon Kintzler had a significant velocity drop from 2014 to 2015 - and that loss in velocity contributed to him spending most of 2015 in AAA instead of the big leagues. Fortunately, those struggles led him to being openminded - even at age 31 - to trying out Cressey Sports Performance programming, and he regained his previous velocity and then some. And, before 2016 was over, he was a big league closer.

Kintzler2

2. Prioritization

Good assessments identify the largest windows for improvement/adaptation, and excellent programs are structured to attack these growth areas. All too often, athletes simply want to do what they enjoy doing as opposed to what they really need to be doing. Of course, this relates back to the aforementioned “buy-in” described. Another MLB closer, Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson, saw an even bigger velocity jump after his first off-season (2013-14) with CSP.

samdysonvelo

A big chunk of that had to do with a greater focus on soft tissue work and mobility training to get that fresh, quick arm feeling back. Sam loves to lift and would tend to overdo it in that regard, so he actually improved by doing less volume. Effectively, he had to prioritize removing excessive fatigue - and implementing strategies to bounce back faster.

[bctt tweet="You can't take a fitness solution to a fatigue problem and expect positive results."]

3. Attention to Detail

Inattentive throwing, mindless stretching, and half hazard lifting techniques all come to mind here. It drives me bonkers to see athletes “give up” reps, and my experience has been that this is the most readily apparent thing you notice when you see high school athletes training alongside professional athletes. When it comes to throwing, athletes need to learn to throw with both intent and direction. Corey Kluber is among the best I've ever seen in this regard; whether it's in lifting or throwing, he never gives up a rep with wasted, distracted effort - and it's no surprise that he's become such a consistent high-level performer in the big leagues over the past four seasons.

eckluber

4. Diligence

A great program can be rendered relatively useless if it’s executed with mediocre efforts. The truth is that while many athletes Tweet about hard they work, the truth is that very few of them actually putting in the time, effort, and consistency needed to even come close to their potential. Another Cy Young award winner and CSP athlete, Max Scherzer, takes the cake on this one. Max is always looking for ways to make individual exercises and training sessions harder by adding competition.  He'll have other athletes jump in to chase him during sprint and agility drills, and he'll regularly reflect back on previous week numbers to verify that progress is always headed in the right direction.

scherzer

5. Continuity

I think this is one of the biggest struggles with developing arms in the college environment. The nature of the academic and athletic calendars – in combination with NCAA regulations – makes it very challenging to have continuity in pitchers’ throwing programs. As a result, there is a lot of ramping up and shutting down throughout the year. Athletes don’t get the consistency needed to optimally develop, and they don’t get the rest needed to optimally recharge. When you chase two rabbits, both get away.

6. Environment

The right training environment makes a good athlete great, and an average athlete good. It’s why we’ve gone to such great lengths to foster a “family” environment at both Cressey Sports Performance facilities. We want athletes to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, thereby increasing accountability to something more than just a workout sheet.

cspfamily-300x56

Interestingly, as you look at these six factors, points 1-4 are intrinsic (specific to the athlete), whereas points 5-6 are extrinsic (specific to the environment/circumstances). Points 5-6 have a massive impact on points 1-4, though.

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath note that while you will almost never effect quick change a person, you can always work to change the situation that governs how a person acts - and do so relatively transiently.

With that in mind, changing the situation by heavily emphasizing continuity and environment are outstanding avenues to enhancing the previous four factors. First, you’re more openminded if you see training partners getting great results with training approaches you haven’t tried before. Second, you also learn to prioritize when you look around and athletes are outperforming you in certain areas. Third, you pay more attention to detail when you’re surrounded by other athletes working toward the same goal. Fourth, your diligence is enhanced when there is a competitive environment that challenges you to be better each day. And, all these improvements are magnified further when continuity is in place; they happen consistently enough for positive habits to develop.

An appreciation for how these six factors are related is why we structure our Collegiate Elite Baseball Development summer program the way we did. The program is 10 weeks in length to ensure optimal continuity. It's for pitchers who are not playing summer baseball.

Each athlete begins with a thorough initial movement assessment that sets the stage for individualized strength and conditioning programming - which corresponds to six days a week of training.

There are individualized throwing progressions designed following initial assessment, and ongoing throwing training - weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis) as part of the group.

thumb_DSC05232_1024 

All the athletes receive weekly manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist, and nutritional guidance throughout the program.

Last, but not least, we incorporate a weekly educational component (a presentation from our staff or FaceTime/Skype session with one of our pro athletes) to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training.

The best part is that it takes 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.

C5tZFH-XEAAa41J.jpg-large

Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com.

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The Best of 2016: 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 2016" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. Preventing Baseball Injuries: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This was my first post of 2016, and it turned out to be one of my most impactful. A cool follow-up note on this: one of the suggestions I had to reduce pitching injuries was to push the high school season back in warm weather states, and here in Florida, they actually moved it back two weeks for 2017. I doubt my writing had anything to do with it, but it's nice to see things moving in a positive direction. 

2. Should Lat Strains Even Be Happening?

The lat strain is becoming far more prevalent in higher levels of baseball as pitchers throw with more and more velocity. In this lengthy article, I discuss mechanisms of injury, diagnostic challenges, prevention strategies, and longer-term prognoses.

Latissimus_dorsi

3. 6 Saturday Shoulder Strategies

I wrote this as a "brain dump" in about 30 minutes on a Saturday morning, and it turned out to be a hit with the baseball audience.

4. Looking Closer at Pitching Injuries: An Interview with Jeff Passan

I interviewed Jeff Passan around the time of the launch of his popular book, The Arm, and we covered in more specific detail some of the areas he touched on in the book.

y648

5. Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Baseball Development

This was actually a video blog more than an article, but it was still very popular - but didn't quite crack the top 5 videos of the year because it's more baseball specific.

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The Best of 2013: Baseball Articles

This section is a new addition to the "Best of EricCressey.com" series.  Check out the top 5 baseball articles from the past year:

1. The Truth About CC Sabathia's Weight - I couldn't seem to stop typing this response to a New York Times piece on Sabathia's weight, and the result was a 3,700 word thesis!

CC_Sabathia_2009

2. 7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane - These movements are beneficial for anyone, but particularly for baseball players.

3. Regaining Scapular Control: Always Good Intentions, Often Bad Technique - Here's a detailed video on how to train the prone 1-arm trap raise.

4. Improving Thoracic Mobility in Throwers - Check out these great thoracic spine mobility drills we use with our throwers.

5. 21 Reasons You're Not Tim Collins - This was a fun piece to write; I'm glad my readers have a good sense of humor!

I'll be back tomorrow with the last installment of our "Best of 2013" series.

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