Home Posts tagged "Strength Training" (Page 2)

Thinking Concentric With Your Strength Training Programs

When it comes to strength training programs, the basics work.  They always have, and they almost always will.  However, sometimes, they don't.  The more advanced you get, the more often you'll need to shake things up to ensure continued progress.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking a deload week, changing your exercise selection, undertaking a specialization program, or bringing in a hype guy to pad your ego.

With that in mind, I thought I'd use today's post to introduce a way you can integrate some variety in your strength training programs to avoid plateaus and keep things interesting.  That strategy is to go concentric-only. Let me explain.

The eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep is what causes the most muscular damage and post-exercise soreness.  A common deloading strategy that many lifters have employed is to reduce the amount of eccentric work in a strength training program, instead utilizing concentric-only (or predominantly concentric) lifts.  These strength exercises include deadlifts (uncontrolled eccentric or dropping the weight), high pulls, step-ups, sled pushing/dragging, and Anderson squats.  Have a look at this video and let me know how much eccentric work I actually did:

Then, consider that a step-up variation under load allows a lifter to attain some of the benefits of single-leg training without all of the debilitating soreness one feels when sitting down to the toilet for the 3-4 days following walking lunges.

And, consider sled pushing.  It might make you hate life and lose your lunch, but it won't make you sore.

What folks might not consider is that this doesn't just have to be a deloading strategy; it can also be a loading strategy.  It goes without saying that if you are employing more concentric-only exercises, you can train more frequently.  So, for those of you who are considering squatting or deadliting 3x/week in a specialization block, you might consider getting more concentric-only work in so that you can still groove movement patterns and load considerably, but without the same degree of tissue-specific damage. 

Utilizing more concentric-only variations can also be very helpful with in-season athletes when you want to avoid soreness at all costs, as I wrote here.  However, it's important to note that this is not a long-term training strategy.  Rather, it should be a short-term change of pace, as eccentric control is tremendously important for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.  Experiencing eccentric stress is crucial to prevent injuries, performing at a high level, and building muscle mass. Nonetheless, start thinking about how some concentric-only work might help to take your strength training programs to the next level.

To take the guesswork out of your strength training programs, check out The High Performance Handbook

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How to Balance Pressing in Your Strength Training Program

Here's a quick video I filmed this afternoon that discusses how different pressing exercises have different impacts on how your shoulders function.  This definitely has implications not only in terms of your exercise selection, but also how you perform those exercises.

To learn more about how I assess, program, and coach with respect to the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my detailed resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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The Best of 2011: Stuff that was Fun to Write/Video

Today, I'll wrap up my "Best of 2011" series by highlighting the pieces that I enjoyed creating.  Check them out: 1. 11 Years, 11 Lessons, 100 Pounds - This T-Nation article recapped my long journey in the strength and conditioning world to get to where I am.  It was definitely one of my most popular articles of all time at T-Nation. 2. The Fitness Business Blueprint - This product was a blast to create because I think it filled a gaping hole in the market.  Until we launched it, nobody had created a fitness business product that didn't just discuss how to grow a business, but also how to improve as a trainer/coach.  I had a blast collaborating with Pat Rigsby and Mike Robertson on it.

3. What I Learned in 2010 - I enjoy writing these articles every year, because they serve as a great opportunity to revisit some of the most valuable lessons from the previous year.  And, as the saying goes, the best way to master something is to teach it to others. 4. Strength and Conditioning Program Success: The Little Things Matter - This was a fun blog to write, as I did so right around the time when several of our athletes were recognized for some awesome achievements.  It gave me a chance to reflect on why they were successful - and why many other folks aren't.  There will be some valuable takeaways for you, regardless of your athletic or fitness goals. 5. Oblique Strains in Baseball: 2011 Update - I'd written about oblique strains in the past, but they continue to be the big fat white elephant in the corner that is being ignored in the context of baseball development.  Hopefully this article got some people to start paying attention to the fact that it's just the fallout of a lot of things that are wrong with the current approaches being employed with respect to baseball strength and conditioning. 6. The IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification - I was fortunate to be a contributor on this awesome resource that will hopefully change the tide of how high school athletes are trained.  Based on the feedback we've received thus far, it's already helped tremendously in this regard.

7. Strength Training Program Success: How Dr. P did at 47 What He Couldn't Do at 20 or 30 - This blog (and accompanying video) were awesome because our entire gym got involved on this goal - and were there to see our good friend accomplish it. 8. The Everything Elbow In-Service - This was an in-service I filmed for our staff this summer to prepare them for all the elbow issues that may come through our doors.  It lasted 32 minutes, and sold far better than I would have imagined - and led to a lot of requests for us to continue filming staff in-services and making them available for sale.

9. Strength and Conditioning Programs: Think the Opposite - This has a few tips about a counterintuitive way to achieve success in training and in business. 10. Hip Pain in Athletes: The Origin of Femoroacetabular Impingement - FAI is becoming more and more common (especially in young athletes), and in this blog, I talk about some of the reasons why. That wraps up our "Best of 2011" series.  Thank you very much for your support of EricCressey.com in 2011; I'm looking forward to making 2012 even more memorable! Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Weight Training Programs: Don’t Major in the Minutia

Last night, I was on my laptop searching for an old weight training program I’d written up a while back, and I accidentally stumbled upon some written goals of mine from back in 2003.  Based on the “Created on” date in Microsoft Excel, I had written them up in the spring of my senior year of college. On one hand, I was proud of myself for – at age 22 – knowing enough to write down the goals that I wanted to achieve.  On the other hand, I have to laugh about just how out-of-whack my priorities were. You see, I’d listed loads of strength, body weight, and body fat percentage goals first and foremost.  In fact, there were 41 rows worth of performance and physique goals; hard to believe that ladies weren’t lining up to date this Type A stallion, huh?  Can you say neurotic?  I was like this guy, but with better eyesight and a decent deadlift.

That’s just self-deprecating humor, though.  What was actually really sad was how distorted my perception of reality really was, as rows 42-46 consisted of the following: 42. Resolve shoulder pain. 43. Get rid of lower back tightness. 44. Get accepted to graduate school. 45. Get a graduate assistantship in research or coaching. 46. Have 3-4 articles published. At the time, I was coming off a lower back “tweak” while deadlifting, but more problematic was my right shoulder, which hurt so much that it kept me up at night and negatively affected not only my training, but my everyday life.  It was an old tennis injury from high school that just kept getting worse and worse. Likewise, I hadn’t gotten word on whether or not I’d been accepted to graduate school, so I was up in the air on whether I needed to start looking for jobs for after graduation, or whether I’d end up moving south to enroll at the University of Connecticut. Finally, I’d just had my first article published, and there was some momentum in place on which I could build a successful writing career. In other words, I was in pain, unsure about where I’d be living in two months, potentially without a job, and all but ignoring a potentially career-changing opportunity – yet I managed to list 41 performance and physique goals more important than any of these concerns.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was clearly buried under all the bullshit I had convinced myself was important.  They made signs like this for guys like me.

Maybe it was the acceptance phone call from my future advisor at the UCONN; the experience of moving to a new area and being out on my own; interaction with a lot of highly-motivated, career-oriented people and successful athletes; the natural maturation process; or a combination of all these factors, but I got my act together that fall and figured out my priorities.  That fall, I read everything I could get my hands on to get rid of the pain in my shoulder (canceled an impending surgery) and lower back.  I put in 70 hour weeks among classes, volunteering in the varsity weight rooms and human performance lab, and personal training and bartending on the side.  I published my first article at T-Nation and in Men’s Fitness.  In short, I grew the hell up and stopped losing sleep over whether I’d remembered to take my forearm circumference measurements on the third Tuesday of the month. Some folks might think that this shift in my priorities interfered with my training progress, but in reality, the opposite was true.  In that first year of graduate school, I put over 100 pounds on both my squat and deadlift and 40 pounds on my bench press – and did so pain-free, which made training even more enjoyable.  I learned a ton about the importance of training environment as I lifted around athletes and other coaches in the varsity weight rooms, and even caught the powerlifting bug, competing for the first time in June of 2004.  I even won a few trophies absurdly large trophies that wildly overstated my accomplishments.

In short, when I stopped majoring in the minutia and clearly defined the priorities that were important to me – being pain-free, enjoying training, and seeing it as a means of becoming better in a profession that I loved – a world of opportunities opened up for me.  And, surprisingly, some of the “old” priority goals were easier to attain because I didn’t force them or put as much pressure on myself. That was almost a decade years ago, and I’ve had to make similar reevaluations of my priorities since that time, from opening a business, to proposing to my wife, to buying a house, to getting a puppy, to hiring employees, to working with charities.  There are some priorities that will always remain for me, though; strength and conditioning has to be fun, and it has to improve my quality of life, not take away from it. These are values that are reflected in the weight training programs that I write, too. To that end, how have your priorities changed over your training career?  And, how have these changes impacted your progress in the gym? Related Posts Weight Training Programs: You Can't Just Keep Adding Lifting Weights vs. Corrective Exercise in Strength Training Programs Sign-up today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Strength Training Programs and Life: Change is Imminent

Change is all around us, and if we're not recognizing that and changing with it, we'll be in a bad position in no time.

It's imminent in the business world, where previous giants Borders and Blockbuster (and a host of other companies) have declared bankruptcy because they couldn't adapt to a changing marketplace.

As the son of a teacher (and now principal), I've watched how my mother has changed education with the introduction of the International Baccalaureate program at my old high school.  This program engages students and makes them more aware of the world around them, as opposed to just having them stare at chalkboards and textbooks all the time.

The internet has changed the way shoppers shop, teachers teach, campaigners campaign, and ninjas "ninjer."

Joking aside, change is something that applies to strength training programs as well.  In addition to fluctuating training stress and rotating strength exercises, you have to be able to modify a program based on how you feel from day-to-day.  When I was younger, I would just barrel through many training sessions even if I didn't feel good - and I'm convinced that this stubbornness not only limited my progress a bit, but also led to some injuries along the way.

Nowadays, I'm older and wiser (and balder), and I listen to my body a lot more.  Plus, I'm a much better coach than I was back then, so I know how to make substitutions in strength and conditioning programs to maintain a training effect.  Pulled rectus femoris? Go to step-ups because they don't extend the hip and flex the knee simultaneously (as you'd get with a lunge). Shoulder hurts?  Try a feet-elevated push-up instead of a bench press, as elevating the feet increases serratus anterior activity and you can draw stability from the floor.

More generally, though, I'm honest with myself about where my life is right now.  I'm 31 years old - which is definitely not 21 - and not competing in powerlifting anymore (although that doesn't mean that I'm not still training hard on a daily basis).  I have a wife, a dog, a house, a travel schedule, and a ton of stuff going on professionally with training athletes, writing, consulting, and lecturing.  In short, there are a lot of competing demands.

What does this mean in the context of my strength training programs?  Well, to be straight, the "highs" aren't quite as high, and the lows are actually "lower."  Let me explain.

Take this training session, when I warmed up on trap bar deadlifts and felt pretty good, so made the decision to push the envelope a bit. I wound up pulling 700lbs.

As you can see, it came up surprisingly quickly.  In years past, I probably would have jumped to 720 for another attempt, or drop back down to 630-650 for some additional singles at a weight over 90% of that day's best lift.  I might have even done some backoff sets of 3-4 reps at 600.  Instead, I just called it there and moved on to my assistance work, as I was feeling a little banged up and wanted to make sure I still got plenty of quality work in over the course of the rest of my strength training session.  That's not to say either of these follow-up approaches would have been the wrong choice; they just weren't the right choice for me on that day.  The "high" wasn't so high.

Likewise, when it comes to deloading, I wind up cutting back on things a bit more than I did in the past.  In my e-book, The Art of the Deload, I outline ten different methods for deloading in strength and conditioning programs, and nowadays, I tend to go with the most conservative of the bunch.

Some might look at this piece as me telling people how to be soft and do less in their strength training programs.  The way I see it, I'm just encouraging folks to train hard, but intelligently, listening to their bodies along the way. Along those same lines, what modifications have you made to your strength training programs as life has gotten busier and you've gotten older? Please post your comments below!

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Strength Training Program Success: How Dr. P Did at 47 What He Couldn’t Do at 20 or 30

Last May, my buddy Dave Jack put me in touch with a local chiropractic neurologist, Dr. Peter Percuoco.  I was still somewhat new to Hudson, MA - and "Dr. P" was a resource that Dave thought would be a great addition to our corner.  In his exact words, "Wait until you start to drill down inside this guy's brain...be prepared to go there, EC!" Dr. P and I met up the following week, and sure he enough, he more than lived up to Dave's flattering description - and he's become an excellent clinical resource for us to this day. What I didn't expect to learn, that day, is that he was ready to piss some excellence by becoming a client at Cressey Performance.

Though an accomplished high school and college football quarterback back in the day, Dr. P had - like many folks in the health and human performance industry do - put everyone else's needs ahead of his own, and it had taken a toll on his body.  He was ready to change that, though - and that's exactly what he did. Over the past 10.5 months, Peter has completely changed his body.  In fact, the transformation has been so impressive that we have gotten quite a few of his patients and friends at CP simply because they've seen what it's done to not just his body, but his energy levels, athleticism, and overall quality of life.  I'd argue that Dr. P was already pissing some serious excellence when he first started at CP - but we unleashed a firehose of excellence pissing.  Literally every time I see him, I regret not taking "before" pictures when he first started up. Transformation aside, Peter confided in me about ten weeks ago that it had been a lifelong goal to bench 315.  He'd tried for years to do it while playing football, and only cracked 300 once - and that was at the age of 30 after years of consistent weight training.  Now 47, he wanted to know if I thought it was a legitimate goal - and if I could help him to get it. Now, anybody who reads EricCressey.com regularly knows that I love a project - and so we embarked on a bench press specialization after testing his one-repetition maximum at 285 back in early June.  This was Saturday (roughly eight weeks later):

A 30-pound increase in a bench press with no change in body weight in under eight weeks is a serious accomplishment - but doing it at the age of 47 makes you a freakin' rockstar in my book.

What can you learn from Dr. P's success?  A lot!  Here are the primary things that come to mind for me when I think about why he finally hit his goal:

1. He made time instead of finding time - We know that Dr. P is going to be at Cressey Performance at 12pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  He blocks it off in his schedule at work months in advance.  For a guy who has a wife and two kids, a thriving business, it would be very easy to just find time to get to the gym.  It was important to him, so he made time for it.

2. He recognized that there was always something he could do to get better - From hands-on treatment of patients, strength training, and yard work, Dr. P has somewhat of a chronic golfer's elbow condition that we've worked around on and off during his training at CP.  Many folks would simply skip the gym entirely until something like that resolved - and with a chronic condition like this, it could be months or even years to get symptomatic relief (if you do at all).  Instead, Dr. P and I collaborated on strength training programs and specific strength exercises that would allow him to maintain a training effect without exacerbating his symptoms.  There was no pity party.

3. He didn't try to ride multiple horses with one saddle - Here's a shocker: when it came time to make a run at this bench press goal, we wrote up a bench press specialization program geared toward not only increased upper body volume, but a specific attention to his weaknesses. It constantly amazes me how people will state their specific goal, but not change their training program to focus on it.  Specific results come from specific actions, not doing everything under the sun and keeping your fingers crossed.

4. He found what worked best for him - A big mistake I see in up-and-coming lifters is that they try to conform strictly to one training or learning system.  As you can tell from the video editing above, Dr. P's very technologically inclined - and he used that to his advantage by using video with his iPhone during training to tinker with his strength training technique.  Others might not like video, but they may prefer a specific hand-off person on the bench, a certain kind of music, a specific warm-up protocol, or particular strength exercises to bring up weaknesses.  One man's trash is another man's treasure, so you have to put in the time to find the strategies that help you the most.

5. He got in a great environment - During the winter, Dr. P's training time coincides with our professional baseball guys, and at this time of year, he's surrounded by a lot stud college athletes.  There's no choice but to push yourself when you're surrounded by guys who won't let each other slack.

6. He told others about his goals - Our entire staff and many of our regular clients knew about Dr. P's 315 bench press goal.  There's something to be said for making yourself accountable to a goal by telling those around you about it.  You increase the likelihood that they'll bring it up, constantly refocusing you on the task at hand - and you also have a built-in support network that will encourage you every step of the way.  A 30-pound bench press increase seems less daunting when you've got 30 people pulling for you. Plus, the immediately post-lift celebration (which unfortunately wasn't caught on camera) becomes all the more epic.

These are just a few examples specific to Dr. P's case, but there are surely many more success secrets my readers have used to accomplish lifelong goals.  Please share some more ideas in the comments section!

Congratulations, Dr. P!

Need some structure n your strength training program to help you closer to your goals? Check out Show and Go High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Training Partners: The Most Overlooked Part of an Effective Strength and Conditioning Program

Here's a good illustration of how valuable training partners can be in a strength and conditioning program. Conversation from yesterday, during four sets of 8 trap bar deadlifts: Eric (after set #2):"You want to go five plates?" (505lbs) Tony: "No, I'm staying here." ("here" was four plates plus a 25-per-side or 465lbs) Eric: "So you're saying that it won't bother you to look me in the eye for the next seven hours of this work day knowing that I outworked you at a weight you know you can lift?  That'd really bother me." Tony: "Ok."

On a related note, congratulations to Tony on the release of his first product, Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body.  He contributed two webinars to what looks to be a great collaborative product.  Show our boy some love and check it out.

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Exercise and Stress: 6 Strength Training Tips for When You’re Already Overworked

As a business owner, I can say without wavering that there are a lot of times when I admittedly get stressed out and wish there were more hours in the day to get everything I have on my plate done - and still have time left over to spend with my wife and family.

And, while I haven't managed to figure out how to add more than 24 hours to the day, I have started to find a few ways to better manage my time - and, more specifically, my strength training program.

You see, many people use exercise as a means of relieving stress - and I think that's absolutely awesome.  Unfortunately, when you already work 10 hours a day on your feet in a gym, it's hard to see things that way even when all the equipment is right at your fingertips.  To that end, the stressed-out strength training tips I note below will be applicable to folks in any occupation, not just the fitness industry.

Tip #1: Increase training frequency, but reduce training duration.

I find that when I'm busy, I can find 30 minutes here and there, but getting 60-75 minutes free at a convenient time is tougher.  One thing I'll do is simply up my training frequency to 5-6 times per week instead of just four sessions.  Rather than having sessions that include four pairings (7-8 strength exercises), I'll just have two pairings (3-4 exercises).

If you've read anything from Chad Waterbury or Joel Marion, you'll find that both of these guys are fans of strength training as frequently as possible, provided that you can recover from those sessions.  Somewhat coincidentally, sometimes the best way to utilize this frequent strength training approach is when you're already stressed and recovery is compromised!  I still get in all my "work" over the course of the week, but it's spread out a bit more so that it's convenient and less taxing.

Tip #2: Leave the gym feeling refreshed.

Also on the "less taxing" front, I think it's important to leave the gym feeling "refreshed," not exhausted.  While it might feel good when your legs are trashed at the end of a training session, you really don't know how well you're going to recover from that challenge until the days that follow.  Doing 15 sets of 9 reps might have sounded like a good stress buster at the time, but when you can't walk up the steps to work the following day and are falling asleep at your desk at 11am because you couldn't sleep with your legs cramping all night, hindsight definitely becomes 20/20.

Don't get me wrong; there's a time and a place for doing crazy stuff.  Your most stressful days aren't that time, though.

Tip #3: Train early.

This is something that I've grown to love with the baseball off-season in full swing and my day starting earlier.  Normally, I'd train alongside the rest of our staff at 10:30AM, but at that time of year, I may have athletes at 9:30AM MoTuThFr.  So, I get in at 8:15AM to get my lifting session in.  Why?

First, lifting early requires planning.  You need to go to bed early and prepare your stuff for the next day.  So, in the process, you make time instead of finding time.  That's huge at a stressful time when you're inclined to miss a session altogether.

Second, most people I know (at least the adults out there) have better energy in the morning than after a long day of work.  That said, many people take a few weeks to warm up to the idea (and feeling) of training early.  If you're going to make the switch, give it a few weeks and be consistent with it; you'll find that you get more and more comfortable with morning training with each new session.

Third, I'm a firm believer in the adage that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours of sleep after midnight.   When you train in the morning, you've got to get to bed earlier or else it simply isn't going to happen.

Get better sleep quality and just about everything else in your life will improve.

Tip #4: Outsource things to keep training fun.

I'll admit that many times, after a long day in a strength and conditioning facility, the last thing I want to do is follow my own weight training program.  I spend all day getting other people organized on that front, so a bit of chaos in my own strength training is sometimes welcomed relief.

About two months ago, believe it or not, I asked one of my pro baseball players (who was hanging out in the office at 7pm one night) to put a lower body program up on the dry erase board for me.  It turned out to be one of the better training sessions I'd had in weeks.  The same goes for any conditioning I may do; often, I'll just pull Robert Dos Remedios' book, Cardio Strength Training, off the shelf and give something a shot.

Variety may be the spice of life, but when it comes to training, that variety usually needs to come from someone else.  It might be why so many fitness professionals have really enjoyed my Show and Go program; it not only demonstrates some of my programming approaches, but also gives them a change of pace in their own training, as a recent blog post showed.

Tip #5: Use less variety.

Normally, I am all about strength exercise variety within a training session.  However, when you're pinched for time, sometimes you can just throw that out the window and it's the best decision.

Think about it: for every additional exercise in a day's session, I add a warm-up set as well as the need for equipment set-up.  If I keep my training day to 2-3 strength exercises and just increase the volume on each, I can usually do just as much (if not more) work in less time.  You get variety over the course of a training phase and career; you get a training effect within a single session.

In other words, don't be shy about doing 5 sets of 3 on deadlifts, then 4 sets of 8 on dumbbell reverse lunges from a deficit - and then calling it a day for your lower body training - especially if you're trying out the frequency recommendations I noted earlier.

Tip #6: Use deloading periods.

At the end of the day, when it really comes down to it, stress is stress.  Sometimes, when life is beating you down, adding training stress to that personal/professional stress is the worst that you can do.  As a general rule of thumb, the more training experience you have, the more likely you are to need some down time from the gym when the rest of your life gets super hectic.  If you're new to the iron game, though, chances are that some exercise will help you manage the stress much more effectively.

For more information on how to attack deloading periods, check out my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

These six strength training tips are obviously just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exercise and stress, but hopefully they'll be enough to get you headed in the right direction.  Additionally, what strategies have those of you out there implemented for training during stressful times?

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You Ain’t Got No Meat — Build Up Your “Mirror Muscles”

Feel like swallowing some bitter truth today? Okay Spunky, first strip down to your Power Rangers shorts. Now grab a compact from your girlfriend's purse and sashay over to the full-length mirror on the back of her bedroom door. Face away from the full-length mirror and use the smaller mirror on her compact to eyeball your backside — your entire backside from the top of your shoulders to several clicks south of Glutesville. Personally, I'd also use one of those cardboard boxes with a couple of pinholes in it, the kind that kids use during solar eclipses to keep from going blind, because what you see might scar you emotionally and physically. Continue Reading... - Eric Cressey
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Strength Training for Pitchers

Strength Training for Pitchers

by: Eric Cressey

Recently, I received an email inquiry about the value of strength training for pitchers. The individual emailing me had come across the following quote from a pitching "authority:"

"Training will not teach you how to apply more force...only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force.

"No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program...no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you."

To say that this surprised me would be an understatement. I'll start with the positive: I agree with him that pitching is all about producing skilled movements secondary to appropriate timing of all the involved "parts." I've very lucky to work hand-in-hand with some skilled pitching coaches who really know their stuff - and trust in me to do my job to complement the coaching they provide.

With that said, however, I disagree that you can't gain (or lose) velocity based exclusively on your strength and conditioning program. On countless occasions, I've seen guys gain velocity without making any changes to their throwing programs or mechanics. I know what many of the devil's advocates in the crowd are thinking: "you're just making that up!" So, if my word isn't enough, how about we just go to the research?

From: Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC. Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):148-56.

[Note from EC: Yes, it's pathetic that this REVIEW has been out almost seven years and people who are supposedly "in the know" still haven't come across ANY of the studies to which it alludes.]

Practical Applications

Throwing velocity can be increased by resistance training. A rationale for general, special, and specific resistance training to increase throwing velocity has been presented. The following findings and recommendations relevant to strength and conditioning specialists and pitching coaches can be useful from the review of literature.

In the "further reading" section at the end of this article, I have listed ten different studies that each demonstrated a positive effect of weight training on throwing velocity. The authors in the review above also have a table that summarizes 26 studies that examined the effect of different strength protocols on throwing velocity, and 22 of the 26 showed increases over controls who just threw. In other words, throwing and strength training is better than throwing alone for improving velocity -

independent of optimization of mechanics from outside coaching.

The saddest part is that the training programs referenced in this review were nothing short of foo-foo garbage. We're talking 3x10-12 light dumbbell drills and mind-numbing, rubber tubing blasphemy. If archaic stuff works, just imagine what happens when pitchers actually train the right way - and have pitching coaches to help them out?

Oh yeah, 10 mph gains in six months happen - and D1 college coaches and pro scouts start salivating over kids who are barely old enough to drive.

With that rant aside, I'd like to embark on another one: what about the indirect gains associated with strength training? Namely, what about the fact that it keeps guys healthy?

We know that:

a) Pitchers (compared to position players) have less scapular upward rotation at 60 and 90 degrees of abduction -and upward rotation is extremely important for safe overhead activity.

b) 86% of major league pitchers have supraspinatus partial thickness tears.

c) All pitchers have some degree of labral fraying - and the labrum provides approximately 50% of the stability in the glenohumeral joint

d) There is considerable research to suggest that congenital shoulder instability is one of the traits that makes some pitchers better than others (allows for more external rotation during the cocking phase to generate velocity).

e) Most pitchers lack internal rotation range-of-motion due to posterior rotator cuff (and possibly capsular) tightness and morphological changes to bone (retroversion). Subscapularis strength is incredibly important to prevent anterior shoulder instability in this scenario.

We also know that resistance training is the basis for modern physical therapy - which I'm pretty sure is aimed at restoring inappropriate movement patterns which can cause these structural/functional defects/abnormalities from reaching threshold and becoming symptomatic. Do you think that a good resistance training program could strengthen lower traps and serratus anterior to help alleviate this upward rotation problem? Could a solid subscapularis strengthening protocol help with preventing anterior instability? Could a strong rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers allow an individual to work around a torn supraspinatus?

And, last time I checked, strength and conditioning was about more than just being the "weights coach." We do a lot of flexibility/mobility and soft tissue work - and it just so happens that such work does wonders on pec minor, levator scapulae, rhomboids, infraspinatus/teres minor, and a host of other muscles in pitchers.

I also like to tell jokes, do magic tricks, and make shadow puppets on the wall. Am I to assume that these don't play a remarkable role in my athletes' success? I beg to differ. Sure, banging out a set of 20 chin-ups because one of my athletes called me out might make me look like a stupid monkey when my elbows refuse to extend for the subsequent ten minutes, but I still think what we do plays a very important role in our athletes success; otherwise, they wouldn't keep coming back. And, for the record, my shadow puppets are great for building camaraderie and bolstering spirits among the Cressey Performance troops - even if I'm just a "weights coach" or whatever.

This only encompasses a few of the seemingly countless examples I can come up with at a moment's notice. Pitchers are an at-risk population; your number one job in working with a pitcher is to keep him healthy. And, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a guy who is healthy and super-confident over his monster legs and butt is going to throw a lot harder than a guy who is in pain and as skinny as an Olsen twin because his stubborn pitching coach said strength training doesn't work. You've got to train ass to throw gas!

Last fall, I started working with a pro ball player whose velocity was down from 94 to 88 thanks to a long season - but also because he'd had lower back issues that have prevented him from training. In other words, he counts on strength training to keep his velocity up. And, sure enough, it was a big component of getting him healthy prior to this season.

Putting it into Practice

I suspect that some of the reluctance to recognize strength training as important to pitchers is the notion that it will make pitchers too bulky and ruin pitching-specific flexibility. Likewise, there are a lot of meatheads out there who think that baseball guys can train just like other athletes. While there are a lot of similarities, it's really important to make some specific upper body modifications for the overhead throwing athlete. Contraindicated exercises in our baseball programs include:

  • Overhead lifting (not chin-ups, though)
  • Straight-bar benching
  • Upright rows
  • Front/Side raises (especially empty can - why anyone would do a provocative test as a training measure is beyond me)
  • Olympic lifts aside from high pulls
  • Back squats

The next question, obviously, is "what do you do instead?" Here's a small list:

  • Push-up variations: chain, band-resisted, blast strap
  • Multi-purpose bar benching (neutral grip benching bar)
  • DB bench pressing variations
  • Every row and chin-up you can imagine (excluding upright rows)
  • Loads of thick handle/grip training
  • Medicine ball throws
  • Specialty squat bars: giant cambered bar, safety squat bar
  • Front Squats
  • Deadlift variations

The Take-Home Message

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with strength training program for pitchers. In reality, what is wrong is the assumption that all strength training programs are useless because some are poorly designed and not suited to athletes' needs and limitations. Be leery of people who say strength training isn't important. Everyone - from endurance athletes, to grandmothers, to pitchers - needs it!

Further Reading

1. Bagonzi, J.A. The effects of graded weighted baseballs, free weight training, and simulative isometric exercise on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master's thesis, Indiana University. 1978.

2. Brose, D.E., and D.L. Hanson. Effects of overload training on velocity and accuracy of throwing. Res. Q. 38:528-533. 1967.

3. Jackson, J.B. The effects of weight training on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master's thesis, Central Michigan University,. 1994.

4. Lachowetz, T., J. Evon, and J. Pastiglione. The effects of an upper-body strength program on intercollegiate baseball throwing velocity. J. Strength Cond. Res. 12:116-119. 1998.

5. Logan, G.A., W.C. McKinney, and W. Rowe. Effect of resistance through a throwing range of motion on the velocity of a baseball. Percept. Motor Skills. 25:55-58. 1966.

6. Newton, R.U., and K.P. McEvoy. Baseball throwing velocity: A comparison of medicine ball training and weight training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 8:198-203. 1994.

7. Potteiger, J.A., H.N. Williford, D.L. Blessing, and J. Smidt. Effect of two training methods on improving baseball performance variables. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6:2-6. 1992.

8. Sullivan, J.W. The effects of three experimental training factors upon baseball throwing velocity and selected strength measures. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University,. 1970.

9. Swangard, T.M. The effect of isotonic weight training programs on the development of bat swinging, throwing, and running ability of college baseball players. Master's thesis, University of Oregon,. 1965.

10. Thompson, C.W., and E.T. Martin. Weight training and baseball throwing speed. J. Assoc. Phys. Mental Rehabil. 19:194-196. 1965.

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