Home Posts tagged "Strength and Conditioning" (Page 2)

How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games

I've never coached a high school baseball game - or any game, for that matter. I have, however, worked alongside some tremendous high school coaches - from my time with Team USA, to our five staff members who've coached, to various close friends. And, I've watched more high school baseball games than I can possibly count (my fourth date with my wife was a high school state championship game in 2007). So, I feel reasonably qualified to comment on this topic - and I've run this theory by several accomplished coaches who have all agreed.

I'm of the belief that high school baseball games are rarely won; rather, they are lost. Usually, the mistakes far exceed the outstanding play, and the team who makes fewer mistakes invariably ends up on top. As Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders has said, "you have to win the free base war."

With that said, bear with me as I outline five things that virtually guarantee you wins in high school baseball.

1. Have a catcher who can receive/block.

There is nothing more painful to watch than a CATCHer who can't CATCH or block. It derails an entire game because you immediately take away a pitcher's confidence (impacting #5 from below) and have him worried about the running game all the time. The good news is that receiving and blocking is highly trainable - and in a relatively short amount of time - with good instruction as long as you have a player who isn't afraid to put in the work and roll around in the dirt. And, elite arm speed isn't necessary behind the plate at the high school level. This quality is highly trainable.

2. Make the throws and catches you're expected to make - and don't throw the ball around.

You don't need to have Andrelton Simmons' range or arm to be a good high school defender; you just need to be intelligent enough to not make big mistakes in overestimating your abilities. I'm a huge believer that paying strict attention to good, aggressive catchplay during the warm-up period pays big dividends in this regard. Most high school kids just shoot the breeze during inattentive catchplay, and most coaches rush the long toss period because they're anxious to get to other stuff during practice. This quality is highly trainable.

3. Have strong kids that can hit the ball hard.

This is where I'm going to nerd out a bit.  If you hit the baseball hard, you will get on base more often. It's follows logically, but with the increased focus on exit velocity in MLB in recent years, we can more easily quantify it. Take a look at the huge, linear relationship between exit velocity and batting average (not to mention the concurrent increase in HR percentage):

This shouldn't surprise you: a greater exit velocity will always enable balls to find more holes and gaps, and put more pressure on the defense to induce more errors (especially in high school baseball, where many young athletes are still legitimately afraid of the ball). I can guarantee you that the averages probably go up an additional 150-200 points in the high school game because defenders don't have as much range, parks are smaller, infields aren't as smooth, and a host of other factors. How realistic is it for high school hitters to attain these exit velocities? I asked my buddy Bobby Tewksbary, and he sent this along to me:

"High school exit velocities vary greatly depending on many factors like weight, strength, speed and skill. Using HitTrax, we see high school freshmen who are still prepubescent and struggle to break 70 mph. On the upper end, we recently had a high school junior hit a ball 108 mph. This is on par with - or higher than - our pro clients. Most varsity players are in the upper 80s to low 90s. Anything above 100 mph is usually reserved for D1 caliber players. As an example, we recently had a senior D1 commit (on HitTrax) hit a ball 106.4 mph and 481 feet."

Obviously, this doesn't take into account that you actually have to face live pitching, but if you're a high school hitter consistently hitting the ball 90mph+ in games, you can bet that you'll be hitting at a .400 clip.

As a frame of reference, the best Cressey Sports Performance "attendance" from a single team was the 2011 Lincoln-Sudbury (L-S) Regional High School baseball team that won the Massachusetts state championship. Of the 25 kids on the roster, 24 trained at CSP - and they hit .361 on the season. They scored 61 runs in six games in the playoffs. Strong players who prioritize strength and conditioning - especially in-season - hit balls hard and win a lot of games. This quality is highly trainable.

4. Run the bases aggressively/intelligently.

This is the single biggest window of adaptation and untapped competitive advantage in a high school population because a) very few coaches understand how to teach it, b) even fewer prioritize it, and c) 99% of players have easy adjustments they can make to set-up, sprint mechanics, and strategy that differentiate them quickly. With the number of walks, dropped third strikes, errors, passed balls, wild pitches, and balks we see in high school baseball, having a relatively fast, intelligent athlete on the bases is a game changer. The best athletes run wild on mediocre defenses. As a frame of reference, that same L-S team I highlighted above actually stole 81 bases in 28 games (seven innings each); that basically works out to a stolen base almost every other inning. This quality is highly trainable.

5. Have strike throwers on the mound.

Velocity is awesome and it's great to train it. The problem is that a lot of hard throwing high school arms have no idea how to harness it to command the baseball. I've seen a lot of 86-88mph arms get yanked in the second inning after seven walks while getting outpitched by a 70-poo mph arm that throws strikes. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, though: velocity is really useful (especially at the next level), but in high school, it doesn't impact outcomes nearly as much because other teams rarely have hitters that accomplish #4 from above (hitting the ball hard). In other words, you see far more games lost by crappy teams than you do games won singlehandedly by elite arms. The L-S team from earlier took 127 walks in 196 innings while only striking out 110 times. Meanwhile, their pitching staff (which included two D1 arms, including future Vanderbilt closer and 4th round draft pick Adam Ravenelle) punched out 254 guys while walking 110. If you put up a 2.5: 1 K:BB ratio in high school baseball, you're going to win a lot more games than you lose. This quality is highly trainable, although not quite as much as some of the others from above.

Bringing It Together

Go to most high school practices, and you'll see a lot of time wasted. You'll see a lot of guys standing around in the outfield shagging BP. You'll watch the mind-numbing slow jog around the field during the warm-up, or some underwhelming static stretching in a circle. You'll want some pre-throwing drills - wrist flicks and half-kneeling work - that can probably be skipped. It may be excessive time spent on every obscure situational defense scenario with lots of guys standing around. In other words, there is a lot of time that can be "repurposed."

How do you use this time better?

1. Work with your catchers. Don't just beat them like rented mules; challenge them and teach them.

2. Teach baserunning and sprint mechanics, and run the bases hard.

3. Prioritize and coach the heck out of catch play. Don't rush long toss.

4. Emphasize strength and conditioning year-round, and don't let it fall off inseason.

5. Give pitchers consistent developmental challenges. Actually schedule bullpens and have an expectation for what is to be worked on and achieved in each one.

You win games focusing on big rocks, not majoring in the minutia where there aren't large windows of growth possible.

*A special thanks to Coach Kirk Fredericks for not only pulling all these statistics together for me, but for teaching me a lot of these things over the years. Kirk went 269-68 with three state titles in 14 years as a head coach at L-S and is one of the best coaches I've seen at any level. I'm lucky to have him as a resource.

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The Study EVERY Trainer and Coach Should Read and Understand

There are very few absolutes in the world of health and human performance. The answer to just about every question that's asked is "maybe." Even in the debate between anecdotal observations and exclusively evidence-based practice, there are gray areas that can sometimes be heavily debated. 

There is one study, however, that I think every trainer, coach, rehabilitation specialist, and fitness enthusiast should read and understand. My long-time friend Dr. Stu McGill - arguably the world's premier spine authority - is one of the lead authors as well:

Frost DM, Beach TA, Callaghan JP, McGill SM. Exercise-Based Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention for Firefighters: Contrasting the Fitness- and Movement-Related Adaptations to Two Training Methodologies. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Sep;29(9):2441-59.

I know what you're thinking: "What can I learn from how firefighters train? My sport, life, and occupational demands are entirely different."

To understand why this study matters so much to you and how you train, we need to look at the methods of it.

Basically, the researchers took 52 firefighters and plugged them into one of three groups:

1. a movement-guided fitness (MOV) group that received both programming and coaching on how to move correctly

2. a conventional fitness (FIT) group that only received programming, but not coaching

3. a control (CON) group that didn't do any exercise intervention

Before and after the 12-week training (or no training, in the control group) intervention, all the firefighters went through a series of fitness test and laboratory screens. They looked at things like body composition, aerobic capacity, grip strength, muscular endurance (max push-ups, planks for time), lower body power (vertical jump), and flexibility (sit-and-reach test).

Of particular importance was the fact that the pre- and post-tests included "five whole-body tasks" that were NOT included in any part of the training intervention. These challenges were a box deadlift, squat (body weight), lunge, split-stance 1-arm cable press, and split-stance 1-arm cable row. The goal was to evaluate how well the training actually transferred to creating more efficient, high-quality movements in whatever chaos life (or, more specifically, firefighting) threw at them. On these tasks, researchers looked at spine and knee motion with reflective markers to scrutinize movement quality under various conditions of low and speed of movement. The researchers noted (bolded section is from me for emphasis):

FIT and MOV groups exhibited significant improvements in all aspects of fitness; however, only MOV exhibited improvements in spine and frontal plane knee motion control when performing each transfer task. FIT exhibited less controlled spine and frontal plane knee motions while squatting, lunging, pushing, and pulling. More MOV participants (43%) exhibited only positive posttraining changes (i.e., improved control), in comparison with FIT (30%) and CON (23%). Fewer negative posttraining changes were also noted (19, 25, and 36% for MOV, FIT, and CON).

So what the heck does this mean for you? Quality training matters.

Those in the high-quality coaching group moved significantly better on average and had substantially fewer negative outcomes. In the training without coaching group, the average "upside" was lower - and there were more incidences of negative adaptation.

This is a study that proves that coaching a quality single-leg RDL will carry over to our pitchers controlling themselves safely into landing.

It shows that the "true" hip extension we train in the gym will also be there when our athletes run and jump.

It shows that the lateral lunge we coach helps our athletes to change direction safely on the lacrosse field.

It demonstrates that deadlift hip hinge technique we coach so hard in the gym reduces my likelihood of hurting my back when I pick up a squirming toddler.

It means that the 90/90 rotator cuff strength and timing position we meticulous coach and train protects our guys when they lay the arm back during the external rotation phase of throwing.

It also shows that quality strength and conditioning outcomes are about so much more than just a program or even a good training environment; they're about hammering home loads of consistently high quality reps to markedly increase the likelihood of favorable movement quality adaptations - while protecting against the downside.

This study also demonstrates why ready-to-print rotator cuff programs often fail shoulder pain patients. That one-size-fits-all approach - combined with inattentive coaching - often keeps patients on a painful path, when a little bit of technique and programming adjustments could be a game changer. And, it shows why some otherwise healthy people can wind up injured when they do the exact same program as the friend who had no problems at all with it. We see it all the time in individuals who come our way for one-time consultations; just a little coaching or program tinkering makes a huge difference in keeping them asymptomatic and enjoying their training.

The pride you take in your coaching - and the pride individuals take in their training technique - matters. Don't ever forget it!

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 30

I haven't written up a new installment in this series since last June, so it seemed like a good time to do so. With the professional baseball season underway, I've got plenty of stuff rattling around my brain.

1. The MFR Stick is an absolute game changer.

In the past, we used "The Stick" for self-myofascial-release of the forearms, triceps, and biceps.

It works pretty well, but we've broken a number of them over the years when certain meatheads got a bit overzealous with their soft tissue approaches, and it exploded. Additionally, guys always seem to want to take dry swings with it, and the beads would invariably come flying off and wind up all over the facility.

Luckily, Perform Better came through in the clutch this offseason with the release of the MFR Stick.

Athletes have raved about how much better it is, from the greater feedback provided by the steel, to the reduced "give." And, it's far more durable. This is a must-have for any gym, in my opinion. Pick one up here.

2. Not surprisingly, music selection matters - but with a few key considerations.

It's hard to overlook the beneficial effects of music on exercise performance, whether considering your own anecdotal experience, watching Michael Phelps throw on his headphones before a big race, or actually reading the research. If you actually dig a little deeper, a few important "asterisks" emerge:

a. The benefits tend to be more significant in shorter, more anaerobic tasks, as opposed to lengthier aerobic endeavors (study).

b. Music is more impactful if it is self-selected (study).

c. Males tend to be more impacted by musical selection than females are (study).

d. Motivational music can lead to greater risk taking (study).

The take-home messages are that:

a) if you're a male powerlifter looking to make some really aggressive lifting decisions, you should select your music accordingly.

b) if you're a female cardio enthusiast going out for a leisurely jog, why are you reading this blog? music probably doesn't matter all that much.

c) everyone will continue to disagree over the musical selection at every gym for the rest of time.

3. The most successful coaches and rehabilitation specialists I know understand how to find the commonalities across various disciplines.

The Postural Restoration Institute and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization approaches both utilize flexion-bias movements to restore normal function.

Both Muscle Activation Techniques and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment emphasize the importance of differentiating between passive and active range-of-motion, and understanding how to enhance motor control in the “gap” between the two.

Various pitching coaches may disagree on the utility of weighted balls or extreme long toss, but everyone agrees on the importance of quality catch-play.

My point here is that the best professionals have good filters to not only weed out the garbage, but to identify the best components of every discipline they encounter. And, they have the foresight to make sure that they don’t get married to a single school of thought, as doing so prevents you from identifying these important unifying themes.

Have a great week!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/5/18

I've been off the grid a bit, as I just made the long drive back to Massachusetts from Florida. That said, it did give me time to check out a few good audiobooks to bolster this week's recommended reading!

Thinking in Bets - I've always been fascinated by the decision-making process as it relates from everything from business strategy to how we acquire habits for training and nutrition. Accomplished poker player Annie Duke did a great job exploring the concepts of uncertainty and probability in this new book.

Chris Chase on the Trainable Exercise Menu - This is an awesome guest post from Atlanta Hawks Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Chase for Mike Robertson's site. I loved this concept when he initially introduced it on Mike's podcast, and he expands on the concept here.

Top 10 Ways to Build Mental Toughness - T-Nation interviewed several contributors (including me) for this roundtable, and there's some good stuff in there.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

You won’t find a picture that’ll teach you more about how what you do in your strength and conditioning program impacts pitching performance. @srshrek31 has one of the more aggressive down-the-mound deliveries in baseball, which has equated to a perceived velocity that’s been about 1.8mph greater than his actual velocity over the course of his career. 👇 In this position, imagine an aggressive single-leg RDL that drives the front leg back toward the rubber. Effectively, this blocking effect is like riding a bike into the curb. It’s the trigger that tells the arm to go. Here, you see that it’s synced up: as soon as that hip starts to extend, the arm releases the elastic energy that’s built up from lay-back (pre-stretching the lat) into a powerful internal rotation. 💪 You need strength in single-leg stance to accept that force, store elastic energy, and powerfully exert it into the ground to firm up and create the catapult effect. You need hip mobility on the front to do it as you flex, adduct, and internally rotate. And, this doesn’t even take into account the force production and mobility from the back hip that’s set up this position. 😮 Further up, the core has to be stable to transfer force. The upper back has to be mobile to allow for sufficient hip-shoulder separation to occur. The scapula has to be positioned snugly to the rib cage for adequate force transfer. The rotator cuff has to be strong and timed up to center the humeral head (ball) on the glenoid fossa (socket) while competing against the bigger pec and lat musculature. 🔥 Pitching puts you in extreme positions – and it does so over and over again over the course of a career – with very little variation. Prepare accordingly. #cspfamily #Repost @cubs with @get_repost ・・・ Big #OpeningDay performance from the ‘pen! #EverybodyIn

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/26/18

Here's a little recommended strength and conditioning reading to kick off your week!

My 5 Least Favorite Coaching Cues - As always, here's some great stuff from Mike Robertson. Sadly, I used to make all these mistakes myself!

20 Random Things I've Learned from Being a Pro Level Strength Coach - I thought this was an awesome look into professional sports from former Lakers strength and conditioning coach Sean Light.

New Training Program for Syndergaard - Here's a MLB.com feature for which I was interviewed. We discussed changes to Noah Syndergaard's offseason program.

Top Tweet of the Week

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/18/18

I hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day. I'm in the middle of a busy few weeks of on-and-off travel, so here's some recommended reading to hold you over until I've got a chance to film some new content:

Ninety Percent Mental - I just started this sports psychology book from my good friend, Bob Tewksbury. A former MLB All-Star, Bob has gone on to work as a sports psychology consultant for multiple MLB organizations and has tons of great wisdom to share. I'm excited to work my way through it.

"Cressey University" Gave Twins Inside Track on Revamped Roster - Twins beat writer Mike Berardino interviewed me last week for this feature on all the Cressey Sports Performance athletes in the Minnesota organization.

Gym Owner Musings - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, always has some great thoughts on the business side of fitness, and this is another excellent example.

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Exercise of the Week: Landmine Lateral Lunges

Here's an exercise we came up with this offseason in the middle of a training session with NL Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer of the Nationals - and it quickly became a "keeper" for his programs moving forward.

Max has gotten pretty strong with lateral lunges, and the kettlebell/dumbbell goblet set-up doesn't work all that well once you're past an appreciable amount of weight. Likewise, holding the weight between the legs drives a more kyphotic (rounded shoulders) posture and can limit range-of-motion. Enter the landmine lateral lunge, a great option for getting strong outside the sagittal plane.

A few quick tips:

1. Sit back into the hip without the toes lifting up.

2. Keep the head/neck in neutral.

3. Make sure you're wearing shoes with good lateral support so that you aren't rolling over the sides.

Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/2/18

I hope you're having a great week. We brought our daughters to Disney for the first time, so it was a quiet content creation week for me. Luckily, I've got some good stuff from around the 'Net for you:

Neck Pain and Headaches - This guest post from Dr. Michael Infantino on Tony Gentilcore's blog was outstanding; it included some solid background information and good strategies to employ.

Baseball Players Historically Have Shown Great Strength - This was an interesting look at the history of strength in the game of baseball from Tim Kurkjian at ESPN.com. I think it overlooks the fact that wrist and hand strength doesn't really matter if it isn't supported by hip strength, but it's still a good read and message about the direction the game has taken.

EC on the Robertson Training Systems Podcast - I'm joining Mike Robertson on his podcast this upcoming week, and it reminded me to reincarnate my last appearance on the show - which was February 2016. Give this a listen and it'll prime you for our discussion of what's changed over the past two years.

Top Tweet of the Week -

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/2/18

Happy New Year! Thanks for your support of EricCressey.com in 2017. I've got some great things in store for 2018. Let's kick it off with some content from around the 'net.

David Joyce on The Physical Preparation Podcast - David Joyce delivers a wide variety of great content - from sports science to culture building - in this podcast with Mike Robertson.

Often Overlooked Elements to Success in Personal Training - Dean Somerset presents some excellent recommendations for the up-and-coming personal trainer.

The Success is in the Struggle - The good folks at the Personal Trainer Development Center selected this article from me as one of their top 20 articles of 2017. I figured that made it worth of "reincarnation."

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days. Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes. 👇 Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games. 🤔 Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip. Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes. 🤔 You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic. 💪 If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow. #sportsmedicine #sportsperformance #strengthandconditioning #cspfamily #powerlifting #benchpress

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The Best of 2017: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2017 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. Less Sickness for Better Results - The most important training goal should always be consistency, and getting sick is a big roadblock to that consistent training effect.

2. 5 Reasons to Use "Fillers" in Your Training Programs - "Fillers" are an awesome way for getting in more quality work in your training sessions. This article details the "why" and "how" of their incorporation in strength and conditioning programs.

3. Making Sense of Exercise Contraindications - If we just looked at MRIs, we could find a reason to contraindicate just about every exercise for just about every person. We need to dig a lot deeper to figure out which exercises are right for each person, though.

4. Simplified Shoulder Solutions - Don't making keeping shoulders any more complex than it needs to be. This article discusses how to "dumb things down" on this front.

5. 10 More Important Notes on Assessments - This one just went up recently, but got a lot of love in the short time it's been available. I guess folks can never get enough on quality assessments.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2017" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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