Home Posts tagged "Pro Baseball Pitcher Workout" (Page 2)

It Needs to Be Said: Throwing Doesn’t Build Arm “Strength”

Today, I'm going to tackle one of my biggest pet peeves in the baseball world: people saying that throwing builds arm "strength."  Sorry, but it doesn't. 

What I'm going to write below might seem like wordplay, but truthfully, it's a very important differentiation to make.  If young athletes believe that throwing builds arm strength, they'll quickly convince themselves that year-round throwing is safe and acceptable, when it's actually one of the worst things they can do for long-term health and development. Here's what you need to know:

1. Throwing builds arm speed - which is power.  Power is heavily reliant on muscular strength.  If you can't apply much force, you can't apply much force quickly.

2. Throwing also builds muscular endurance in the arm.  Muscular endurance, too, is heavily reliant on muscular strength. If you don't have strength you can't have strength endurance.

If you enhance muscular strength, power and endurance will generally improve.  That's been shown time and time again in the research, both in throwers and other athletic situations.  However, if you train power and endurance, strength almost never goes up.  Otherwise, we'd see loads of athletes stronger at the end of seasons than they were at the beginning. In reality, if you check rotator cuff strength and scapular stabilizer proficiency at season's end, it's generally much lower.  As physical therapist Mike Reinold describes it, managing arm strength during the season is a "controlled fall."

This underscores the importance of using the off-season (including a period with no throwing whatsoever) to improve rotator cuff strength and optimize scapular control.  Simultaneously, athletes gain passive stability at the shoulder as the acquired anterior instability (secondary to increased external rotation from throwing) reduces.

Now, we need more research to see if it's the case, but I think that one of the hidden benefits of throwing weighted baseball is that doing so essentially helps us blur the line between arm strength and speed, as I outlined in this presentation a while back:

Of course, it depends heavily on the volume, frequency, load, and type of weighted ball drills utilized, as well as the time of year at which they're utilized.  However, as I mentioned, it is somewhat of a noteworthy exception to the rule of throwing a 5oz baseball.  Weighted balls surely still take a toll on arm strength over the course of time, but that might be a "slower fall."

Regardless, when you're talking about a throwing program, feel free to say that you're building "arm speed" or "arm endurance," but let's all appreciate that you definitely aren't building "arm strength." 

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9 Reasons Pitching Velocity Increases Over the Course of a Season

We're a few months into the college and professional baseball seasons. Not every pitcher's velocity is where it needs to be just yet, and that's no surprise. In today's post, I'll cover nine reasons why pitching velocity increases over the course of a season.

1. Increased external rotation

Over the course of a season, pitchers acquire slightly more external rotation at the shoulder (roughly five degrees, for most).  Since external rotation is correlated with pitching velocity, gaining this range of motion is helpful for adding a few ticks on the radar gun as compared to early in the season. However, this added external rotation comes with a price; it is usually accompanied by increased anterior instability and, in some cases, a loss of internal rotation.  As such, you need to stabilize or stretch accordingly.

layback

2. Optimization of mechanics

Many pitchers integrate subtle or dramatic changes to their mechanics in the off-season and early in-season periods, but these changes won't "stick" until they have some innings under their belt.  June is often when those corrections start to settle in.

3. Transfer of strength to power

Some pitchers build a solid foundation of strength in the off-season, but take extra time to learn to display that force quickly (power).  In short, they're all the way toward the absolute strength end of the continuum, as described in this video:

4. More important game play

Some guys just don't get excited to pitch in games that don't mean much.  While that is an issue for another article, the point here is to realize that a greater external stimulus (more fans, playoff atmosphere, important games) equates to a greater desire to throw cheddar.  Soon, the high school and college post-seasons will be underway, so you'll start to see some of the big radar gun readings more frequently.

5. Warmer weather

Many pitchers struggle to throw hard in cold weather.  Pedro Martinez was a great example; during his time in Boston, he was undoubtedly one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, yet his Aprils never held a candle to what he did during the rest of the year (good thing his change-up was filthy, too).

800px-Pedro's_return

Source: Andrew Malone

Warmer weather makes it easier to warm up, and many guys - especially the more muscular, stiff pitchers - need to lengthen the pre-game warm-up early in the season.  If you're a guy who typically doesn't see your best velocity numbers until you've got several innings under your belt, extend your pre-game warm-up, dress in layers, and don't pick up a ball until you're sweating.

6. New desire to prove oneself

For many pitchers, summer ball is a new beginning.  This might be in the form of a Cape Cod League temp contract, or a situation where a player is transitioning from a smaller high school that doesn't face good competition on to a program that plays a challenging summer schedule.  Again, that external stimulus can make a huge difference, as it often includes better catchers, better coaching, more fans, better mounds, and more scouts behind the plate. 

7. Mechanical tinkering

Piggybacking on the previous example, some pitchers may find their mechanics thanks to help from summer coaches.  So, a change in coaching perspective can often bring out the best in guys.

8. Freedom to do one's own thing.

I know of quite a few pitchers who've thrived in the summer time simply because their pitching coaches haven't been in the way.  Usually, this means they can go back to long tossing rather than being restricted to 90-120 feet all season.  It's a great way to get arm speed back.

fstupper

9. Different pitch selection

There are quite a few college coaches who have guys throw 75% sliders in their outings - and wind up ruining plenty of elbows in the process.  Summer ball is a chance for many guys to take a step back and really work on commanding their fastballs, so it's not uncommon to see a few more mph on the radar gun.

In an upcoming post, I'll outline the reasons why pitching velocity may decrease over the course of a season. 

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Relief Pitchers: How to Warm-up

Q: I have followed Tim Collins' story on your website and was very impressed with his quick path to the big leagues. Obviously, preparation has been a huge part of success and that’s where my question lies. Like Tim, I am a relief pitcher and often wonder what pro guys and in Tim's case knowledgeable pro guys, do for a warm-up prior to throwing in the pen to get in the game. I was wondering if maybe you can shed some light on what guys at your facility do as far as a warm-up to throwing. It seems like every time I see a pro guy throw, they get up after not moving for seven innings and just throw and come in the game blowing 96mph without their arm tearing in three different spots. Is there a warm-up routine your guys do before they might come in? I appreciate any info.

A: This is actually one of the more common questions that I receive, and I'm kind of surprised at myself for never covering it in a blog post. There are a few important prerequisite considerations to take into account before I tell you what I encourage our guys to do:

1. Sadly, most guys don't do anything. That doesn't make this right; it just means that they are setting the stage for getting hurt further down the line.  Just because you throw with sloppy mechanics  or muscular weakness doesn't mean that you'll get hurt the second you pick up a ball; you get hurt from the cumulative effect over time.  So, just because a guy can go in and throw hard with a short, insufficient warm-up doesn't mean that he'll be doing that a few years from now.

2. You can't compare professional guys to lower level guys for a lot of reasons. First, professional bullpens usually have powerful heaters in place to keep guys' body temperatures up - which makes it easier to warm up when the time is right.  Additionally, most professional pitchers (whether they make use of them or not) have plenty of access to massage therapy and manual stretching from team personnel, so their "resting state" is probably more prepared than most college pitchers I see.  High school kids tend to be the most "indestructible" of the bunch, as they haven't accumulated as much wear and tear on their bodies.

That said, regardless of experience and what you have at your fingertips for massage and other amenities, warming up to come out of the bullpen can be pretty stressful for guys.  On one hand, you kick out some serious stress hormones, which can get you fired up and ready to go, but on the other hand, it's not good to be excited and ready to roll hormonally and psychologically if you aren't there physically just yet.

With that in mind, I encourage guys to do their normal pre-game warm-ups like everyone else and try to sustain that body temperature and transient mobility increase by dressing warmly and trying to move around in the bullpen as much as possible.  Then, as it gets closer and closer to the time that they may need to enter the game (I usually just tell guys to start at the end of the fourth), I have guys start doing 2-3 multi-joint dynamic flexibility drills every half-inning.  An example would be a walking spiderman with overhead reach, which is going to take you into hip abduction and extension, thoracic spine extension and rotation, glenohumeral horizontal abduction and external rotation, and elbow extension (among other movements).

By doing a few of these each half-inning, you ensure that your body temperature and mobility never drop off transiently.  Plus, you ensure that you don't lose mobility over the course of a long season, as you're working on it even if you don't wind up pitching.

As an interesting little aside to all of this, is a reliever that much different than, say, a center fielder when it comes to needing to stay warm throughout the entire game just in case?  He might do his pre-game warm-ups and then spend the next few hours alternating standing around and sitting with bursts of 100% effort with swinging, throwing, and sprinting.  Have you ever heard of a center fielder complaining that he can't get loose enough to track down a fly ball, crow hop and throw a laser to the plate, or leg out an infield single?  Of course not!  And, it's simply because he is more active than relievers even when he isn't actively participating in the game.  Every inning, he's playing catch and jogging to and from the outfield on top of making a contribution defensively or at the plate every 20-30 minutes.

So, in summary, do a thorough pre-game warm-up, do more "fidgeting" in the bullpen, and then hit 2-3 multi-joint dynamic flexibility drills (check out The High Performance Handbook for dozens of examples) every half-inning starting in the 4th.  Then, go to your specific throwing warm-up and head out to start blowing 96mph...safely.

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Weight Training Programs: You Can’t Just Keep Adding

Can I just add some sets and reps of direct arm work?

How about cardio?  Would a few 30 minutes interval training sessions work?

What if I did extra rotator cuff stuff every day?  Just a little tubing, you know?

I’m going to add two extra days of calves, abs, and forearms.  It shouldn’t be a problem, right?

These are just a few of the common questions I receive from people for whom I write strength training programs (plus all the other components of a comprehensive program).  And, it's these kind of questions that make me appreciate just how challenging it is to teach someone how to effectively write strength and conditioning programs - and why everyone gets all flustered when they first start writing training plans.

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Very simply, most people don't understand the concept of competing demands.  Everybody wants to add something to their weight training program - but not everyone is willing to take something away in order to do so.

How many elite powerlifters or Olympic lifters do you know who regularly do interval training as part of their quest to get strong?

How many elite triathletes do you know who just want to add a few sets of biceps curls along the road to improving endurance performance?

The answer is, of course, none.  And, it's because - whether they appreciated it or not - these high-level athletes were effectively managing competing demands.

In some cases, different fitness qualities compete with one another; an example would be extensive aerobic training while trying to increase strength.  You can't get strong quickly if you're doing hours of cardio each week.  Somewhat similarly, in an overhead throwing population, it's challenging to regain shoulder internal rotation and flexion range of motion (ROM) and pec minor length when an athlete is throwing - so you have to do your best to get the ROM during down-time in their training year.

In other cases, you may have multiple qualities that contribute to an overall training effect, but you can't prioritize all of them at once.  For example, my professional baseball clients need a host of different qualities to be successful, but the body has limited recovery capacity, so their training programs have to target their most readily apparent weaknesses - and do so at the right time of year.  We cut back on the medicine ball and upper body strength exercises and volume when their throwing volume increases.

And, we can't do as much lower body strength exercises when guys are doing more sprinting and change-of-direction work.  Stress is stress, so you have to apply it judiciously.

Taking this into consideration, I think that one of the best drills for someone looking to get better at writing programs is to take a full-on comprehensive weight training program with supplemental conditioning/movement training where someone is training 6x/week - and then cut it back to 3x/week.  Assume that there is a whole lot of of "other" stress in this athlete/client's life - whether it's work, illness, family issues, or just being an in-season athlete - and figure out how to scale a program back in order to make it productive and safe for that individual.

Lots of factors have to be taken into account: the volume and intensity that individual can handle, how long each session can last, and what specific factors one needs to address most.  A good example to check out would be the differences between the 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week weight training programs (and accompanying optional supplemental sessions) in The High Performance Handbook.

HPH-main

There are loads of factors you have to take into account when you write a comprehensive training plan - from the weight training program, to soft tissue work, to mobility work, to movement training, to energy systems training.  The most important consideration, though, is how they all fit together synergistically to make the program as a whole effective.

So, try the challenge I listed above and see how you do; I think you'll find that it's a lot harder to subtract than it is to add to your weight training programs.

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The #1 Cause of Inconsistent Pitching Velocity

As anyone who reads my posts regularly surely knows, I've devoted a significant portion of my life to figuring out how to make guys throw baseballs faster.  Sure, having a great change-up and a filthy curveball is nice, but let's be honest: throwing gas is what gets scouts' attention and earns you fame, fortune, chicks, scholarships, and, of course, intimidation on the mound.

However, my interest in velocity isn't just limited to how to get to "X" miles per hour; it also extends to understanding how to stay (or improve upon) "X" miles per hour over the course of a single appearance, season, or career while staying healthy and developing the rest of one's pitching arsenal.  Erratic radar gun readings are as much a problem as "insufficient" radar gun readings.

My foremost observation on this front has been that velocity is much more erratic in high level teenagers than any other population. At Cressey Sports Performance, we've had loads of high school guys top the 90mph mark over the years, so we've built up a good sample size to consider.  While some of these guys are quite consistent, I find that they tend to have more 4-6mph drop-offs here and there than any other population with which I've worked.  A guy that is 90-94 on one day might come back at 85-87 five days later - seemingly out of the blue.

However, I don't think it's just a random occurrence.  Rather, in my experience, EVERY single time it happens, it's because he has let his body weight drop - usually due to being on the road for games and not packing enough food.  We see it all the time in kids who throw great up in New England, but then head down South for tournaments.  All of a sudden, they are living out of hotels and eating out of restaurants multiple times per day - which certainly isn't going to be as conducive to maintaining body weight as "grazing" around the house and chowing down on Mom's home-cooking multiple times per day.  To make matters worse, a lot of kids lose their appetites when they get out in the heat - and not many people from across the country are prepared for the weather in Georgia or South Carolina in July.  So, insufficient caloric intake becomes completely inadequate caloric intake - and that's not exactly a recipe for throwing the baseball faster.

tiny-breakfast

Beyond just the body weight factor, though, you also have to look at the fact that the advanced teenage pitchers are generally also the best athletes - so their coaches almost always have them out in the outfield or at SS/3B when they aren't pitching.  Playing a position interferes with a solid throwing program and just doesn't give a kid a chance to rest. There are more calories burned, too!

What's interesting, though, is that kids who don't throw as hard - say, 70-82 - never have variability in their velocity readings; they are super consistent.  Why? Well, for one, they usually aren't quite good enough to get on travel teams and in competitive scenarios that would require them to have to consciously consider how to maintain their weight.  Rather, it's Mom's home-cooking all the time - so it's easier to maintain their weight.  And, they may not be talented enough to be able to play other positions when they aren't pitching.

This difference is really interesting because both populations - independent of strength and conditioning - are at ages where their bodies are changing and (presumably) getting heavier naturally as they go through puberty and gain muscle mass.  As this picture shows, however, their strength coaches are apparently getting shorter and balder at the same time!

adecbs1148779_10151511761815388_961839278_n

This rarely applies to anyone who has pitched in the professional ranks for more than a year or two.  You never see a professional pitcher go out and throw 5-7mph slower than normal unless he is hurt or coming back on very short rest.  These guys have found their "set points," and have learned over the years how to get in enough calories when on the road (out on their own means cooking for themselves, plus eating whatever their clubhouse dues gets them at the park).  Plus, they aren't playing the field.

All that said, regardless of your age, experience level, and current velocity, don't skimp on calories.  If you look at every bit of research on the pitching motion, body weight predicts pitching velocity. If you're on the road, make sure you pack some shakes, trail mix, bars, fruit, nuts, jerky, or whatever other convenience food helps you to get in the calories you need to light up the radar gun.  I love Precision Nutrition as a resource on this front.  It doesn't just help you to eat healthy foods; it helps you with strategies to make getting in enough qualities calories conveniently when you may be pinched for time or kitchen access.

precision_nutrition

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Healthy Shoulders with Terrible MRIs?

In the same grain as Monday's post on lower back pain, today, I thought I'd highlight some of the common findings in diagnostic imaging of the shoulder, as these findings are just as alarming.

Do you train loads of overhead throwing athletes (especially pitchers) like I do?  Miniaci et al. found that 79% of asymptomatic professional pitchers (28/40) had "abnormal labrum" features and noted that "magnetic resonance imaging of the shoulder in asymptomatic high performance throwing athletes reveals abnormalities that may encompass a spectrum of 'nonclinical' findings."  Yes, you can have a torn labrum and not be in pain (it depends on the kind of labral tear you have; for more information, check out Mike Reinold's great series on SLAP lesions, starting with Part 1).

slap_lesion

This isn't just limited to baseball players, either; you'll see it in handball, swimming, track and field throwers, and tennis as well.  And, it isn't just limited to the labrum.  Connor et al. found that eight of 20 (40%) dominant shoulders in asymptomatic tennis/baseball players had evidence of partial or full-thickness cuff tears on MRI. Five of the 20 also had evidence of Bennett's lesions.

The general population may be even worse, particularly as folks age. Sher et al. took MRIs of 96 asymptomatic subjects, finding rotator cuff tears in 34% of cases, and 54% of those older than 60 - so if you're dealing with older adult fitness, you have to assume they're present in more than half your clients!

rtc-tear

Also, in another Miniaci et al. study, MRIs of 30 asymptomatic shoulders under age 50 demonstrated "no completely 'normal' rotator cuffs."  People's MRIs are such train wrecks that we don't even know what "normal" is anymore!

As is the case with back pain, these issues generally only become symptomatic when you don't move well - meaning you have insufficient strength, limited flexibility, or poor tissue quality.  For more information on how to screen for and prevent these issues from reaching threshold, check out Optimal Shoulder Performance from Mike Reinold and me.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Crossfit for Baseball?

I've received a lot of emails just recently (as well as some in-person questions) asking me what I think of Crossfit for strength and conditioning programs with baseball players and, more specifically, pitchers.

Let me preface this email with a few qualifying statements.  First, the only exercise "system" with which I agree wholeheartedly is my own.  Cressey Sports Performance programming may be similar in some respects to those of everyone from Mike Boyle, to Louis Simmons, to Ron Wolforth, to the Crossfit folks - but taken as a whole, it's entirely unique to me.  In other words, I will never agree completely with anyone (just ask my wife!).

CP_monogram_ol.eps

Second, in spite of the criticism Crossfit has received from some people I really respect, I do feel that there are some things they're doing correctly.  For starters, I think that the camaraderie and enthusiasm that typifies their training groups is fantastic; anything that gets people (who might otherwise be sedentary) motivated to exercise is a plus.  Moreover, they aren't proponents of steady-state cardio for fat loss, and they tend to gravitate toward compound movements.  So, good on them for those favorable traits. Additionally, I know some outstanding coaches who run Crossfit franchises, so their excellent skill sets may be overshadowed by what less prepared coaches are doing simply because they have the same affiliation.

However, there are several issues that concern me with applying a Crossfit mentality to the baseball world:

1) The randomness of the "workout of the day" is simply not appropriate for a sport that has quite possibly the most specific sport-imposed asymmetries in the world of athletics.  I've written about these asymmetries in the past, and they can only be corrected with specific corrective training modalities.

I'm reminded of this constantly at this time of year, as we get new baseball players at all levels now that seasons are wrapping up. When a player presents with a 45-degree glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, a prominent scapular dyskinesis, terrible right thoracic rotation, a big left rib flair, a right hip that's stuck in adduction, and a complete lack of rotary stability, the last thing he needs to do is a 15-minute tri-set of cleans, kipping pull-ups, and push-ups - following by some 400m sprints. It not only undermines specificity of exercise selection, but also the entire concept of periodization.

Getting guys strong isn't hard.  Neither is getting them powerful or building better endurance.  Finding the right mix to accomplish all these initiatives while keeping them healthy is the challenge.

2) The energy systems development found in Crossfit is inconsistent with the demands of baseball.  I wrote extensively about my complete and utter distaste for distance running in the baseball world, and while Crossfit doesn't go this far, in my eyes, anything over 60yds is "excessive distance" for baseball guys.  Most of my guys sprint two times a week during the off-season, and occasionally we'll go to three with certain athletes.  Let's just say that elite sprinters aren't doing Crossfit, and the energy systems demands of baseball players aren't much different than those of elite sprinters.

3) I have huge concerns about poor exercise technique in conditions of fatigue in anyone, but these situations concern me even more in a population like baseball players that has a remarkably high injury rate as-is.  The fact that 57% of pitchers suffer some sort of shoulder injury during each season says something.  Just think of what that rate is when you factor in problems in other areas, too!  The primary goal should not be entertainment or variety (or "muscle confusion," for all the morons in pro baseball who call P90X their "hardcore" off-season program).  Rather, the goals should be a) keeping guys on the field and b) safe performance enhancement strategies (in that order).

cockingphase

As an example, all I need to do is look back on a program we used in one of our first pro pitchers back for the off-season last fall.  He had a total of 20 pull-up and 64 push-up variation reps per week (in addition to some dumbbell bench pressing and loads of horizontal pulling/scapular stability/cuff work).  This 84-rep figure might be on the low-end of a Crossfit program for a single day.  Just like with throwing, it's important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.

4) Several of the exercises in typical Crossfit programs (if there is such a thing) concern me in light of what we know about baseball players.  I'll cover this in a lot more detail in an article within the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that most have significant shoulder (if not full-body) laxity (acquired and congenital), abnormal labral features, partial thickness supraspinatus tears, poor scapular upward rotation, retroversion (gives rise to greater external rotation), and diminished rotator cuff strength in the throwing shoulder (particularly after a long season).  Most pro pitchers will have more than 190 degrees of total motion at the shoulder, whereas many of the general population folks I encounter rarely exceed 160 degrees.

totalmotion

In short, the shoulders you are training when working with baseball players (and pitchers, in particular) are not the same as the ones you see when you walk into a regular ol' gym.  Want proof? Back in 2007, on my first day working with a guy who is now a middle reliever in the big leagues, I started to teach him to front squat.  He told me that with only the bar across his shoulder girdle, he felt like his humerus was going to pop out of the socket.  Not surprisingly, he could contort his spine and wrists like a 14-year-old female gymnast.  This laxity helps make him a great pitcher, but it would destroy him in a program where even the most conservative exercises are done to the point that fatigue compromises ideal form.  And, let's be honest; if I was dumb enough to let someone with a multi-million dollar arm do this, I'd have agents and GMs and athletic trainers from a lot of major league systems coming after me with baseball bats!

5) Beyond just "acts of commission" with inappropriate exercise selection and volume, there are also "acts of omission."  For example, a rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address thoracic spine and hip mobility and anti-extension and anti-rotatoin core stability.  If you exhaust your training time and recovery capacity with other things, there may not be enough time or energy to pay attention to these important components.

All that said, I would encourage anyone who deals with baseball players to learn to borrow bits and pieces from a variety of methods available today.   Along the way, take into account the unique characteristics of the overhead throwing athlete and manage accordingly.  Simply saying "I'm a Crossfit guy"  and adhering to an approach that was never intended for a baseball population does a huge disservice to the athletes that count on you to bring them the most up-to-date, cutting-edge training practices available.

If you're interested in learning more about some of the asymmetries and training techniques I noted above, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, where both Mike Reinold and I go into some detail on assessment and corrective exercise for pitchers in this seminar (and there's also a lot more fantastic information for anyone looking to develop pitchers). You can buy it HERE, or learn more about it HERE.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

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Hip Pain In Athletes: Understanding Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome

Hip pain - particularly of the anterior (front of the hip) variety - is a very common problem in the weight training population.

In her book, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, Shirley Sahrmann discusses Femoral Anterior Glide Syndrome in excellent detail.  And, while it may seem like an obscure diagnosis, it's actually a really common inefficiency we see in a weight training population.

In order to understand this syndrome, you have to appreciate the attachment points and functions of the hamstrings and gluteus maximus.  With the hamstrings, you'll notice that they attach to the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis (with the exception of the short head of the biceps femoris, which attaches on the femur), and then run down to a point inferior to (below) the knee.  In other words, they are a two-joint muscle group.  All of the hamstrings aid in knee flexion, and all but the short head of the biceps femoris also aid in hip extension.

Conversely, the glutes attach on the pelvis and the femur; they're a one-joint muscle - and this is why they can so directly impact hip health.

You see, when the hamstrings extend the hip (imagine the hip motion that happens when one comes out of the bottom of a squat), they do so in a "gross" fashion.  In other words, the entire leg extends.  In the process, there is little control over the movement of the femoral head ("ball" in the "ball-and-socket" hip joint) - and it tends to migrate forward during hip extension, giving you a femoral anterior glide syndrome.  In the process, it can irritate the anterior joint capsule, and this irritation can give a sensation of tightness in the front of the hip.

Fortunately, the glutes can help prevent the problem.  Thanks to their point of attachment on the superior aspect of the femur (closer to the hip), they have more direct control over the femur as it extends on the hip.  As a result, they can posteriorly pull the femoral head during hip extension.  So, in an ideal world, you get effective co-contraction of the hamstrings and glutes as one extends the hip; they are a system of checks and balances on one another.  If you use the hamstrings too much in hip extension, you're just waiting to develop not only femoral anterior glide syndrome, but also hamstrings and adductor magnus (groin) strains and extension-based back pain.

As an aside, this hamstrings/glutes relationship is somewhat analogous to what you see at the shoulder with the subscapularis posteriorly pulling the humeral head as the infraspinatus and teres minor allow it to drift forward.  That's another newsletter altogether, though!

Once the femoral anterior glide issue is in place, the first course of action is to stop aggressively stretching the hip flexors.  While the issue gives a sensation of hip flexor "tightness," in reality, stretching the area only exacerbates the anterior hip pain.  A better bet is to just ditch the stretching for a few days, and instead incorporate extra glute activation work.  Eventually, though, one can reintegrate both static and dynamic hip flexor stretches.

Just as importantly, it's important to identify the causes.  We'll see this issue in runners who have no glute function, but more commonly, I'll see it in a weight training population that doesn't understand how to complete hip extension.  Here's what a hamstrings-dominant hip extension pattern would look like with squatting.

The final portion of hip extension is when the glutes are most active, so it's important to "pop the hips through" at lockout of deadlifts, squats, pull-throughs, and other exercises like these.  In the same squat example, it's really just as simple as standing tall:

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hip issues in athletes, but it's definitely something we see quite a bit. If you'd like to learn more, I'd highly recommend you check out our Functional Stability Training series, particularly the Lower Body and Optimizing Movement editions. They're on sale for 25% off through tonight (Cyber Monday) at midnight.

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