Home Posts tagged "throwing program"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/21/18

Here's a little strength and conditioning reading to get you over hump day:

John Kiely on the Past, Present, and Future of Periodization - I really enjoyed this podcast from Mike Robertson and John Kiely. It's an excellent resource on the program design front.

It Needs to Be Said: Throwing Doesn't Build "Arm Strength" - Your throwing program may build arm speed and arm endurance, but it's not building arm strength. Give this article from my archives a read to learn more.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Expanding the “Safe” Exercise Repertoire

In his outstanding new book, Back Mechanic, spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill speaks frequently to how he works with patients to “expand pain-free abilities” over the course of time. This begins with practicing good “spine hygiene” throughout daily activities while avoiding any positions or movements that provoke symptoms.

Back-Mechanic

As a patient gets some asymptomatic time under his/her belt, new movements and exercises are gradually introduced. Over time, the individual’s pain-free movement repertoire can be integrated into a comprehensive exercise program. Effectively, it’s a way to test the waters without simply jumping into the deep end. This is an especially important process for patients who have lived with chronic back pain and need to break the cycle to relearn what it actually is like to feel good. As Dr. McGill writes,

“The approach that has produced the best results for us over the years has been to teach the patient pain-free movement. This is based on the ‘gate theory’ of pain. Finding simple movements that do not cause pain floods the proprioceptive system with joint and muscle sensor signals, leaving little room for pain signals to get through the neural ‘gates.’ These pain-free movements are repeated to encode the pattern in the brain. Slowly, the patient’s ability repertoire of pain free movement increases until they are able to move well, and for longer periods. They successfully replaced the pain inducing patterns wired into their brains with pain-free patterns.”

As I read through Dr. McGill’s work, I couldn’t help but think about how it can be adapted to other realms of the rehabilitation and fitness communities. As an example, speaking to my main realm of interest – training baseball players – we have to consider how this applies to return-to-throwing programs in the baseball rehabilitation world. Truth be told, this approach traditionally has not been applied well in most rehabilitation scenarios in overhead throwing athletes because they have just about the most specific kind of mechanical pain there is. In other words, the elbow or shoulder only bothers them in this position, and usually at higher velocities:

layback

Most of the significant upper extremity throwing injuries you see don’t involve much pain at rest. Rather, the arm only hurts during the act of throwing. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), nothing in our daily lives really simulates the stress of throwing. As such, for a thrower, expanding pain-free abilities really have just traditionally meant:

throwingprogression

You’d actually be surprised to find that there often aren’t any progressions that “link” one phase of this progression to the next. In the “not throwing” phase, we often see a lot of generic arm care exercises, but little attention to speed of movement, integrating the lower half and core, and incorporating training positions specific to an athlete’s arm slot. Unfortunately, just laying on a table and doing some exercises with a 5-pound dumbbell won’t necessarily prepare you to throw the ball on a line at 120-feet.

For this reason, we always seek out physical therapists who treat the athlete “globally” and appreciate the incremental stress of various phases of throwing. The name of the game is to incorporate several “test the water” steps between each of these three categories. We do the exact same things as players ramp up their off-season throwing programs. As physical therapist Charlie Weingroff has astutely observed in the past, “Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training.”

How do we bridge the gap between not throwing and flat-ground throwing as much as possible? For starters, rotator cuff exercises need to take place near 90 degrees of abduction to reflect the amount of scapular upward rotation and shoulder elevation that takes place during throwing. Moreover, it’s important to work closer to true end-range of external rotation in testing strength that “matters” during the lay-back phase of throwing. And, we need to test how they do with the external-to-internal rotation transition.

To this point, in my career, I’ve seen a lot of throwers who have passed physical exams of cuff strength in the adducted (arm at the side) position, but failed miserably in the “arm slot” positions that matter. Picking the right progressions really matters.

Additionally, more aggressive rotational medicine ball drills can help to teach force production, transfer, and acceptance in a manner specific to the throwing motion.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the only thing that can truly reflect the stress of throwing is actually throwing. And this is also why there have to be incremental steps from flat-ground work to mound work (where external rotation range-of-motion is considerably higher).

Fortunately for most rehab specialists and the fitness professionals who pick up where they leave off, most return-to-action scenarios aren’t as complex as getting a MLB pitcher back on the mound. A general fitness client with a classic external impingement shoulder presentation might just need to test the waters in a progression along these lines:

(Feet-Elevated) Push-up Isometric Holds > (Feet-Elevated) Body Weight Push-up > Stability Ball Push-up > Weighted Push-up > Neutral Grip DB Floor Press > Neutral Grip Decline DB Press > Pronated Grip Decline DB Press > Barbell Board Press (gradual lowering) > Barbell Floor Press > Neutral Grip DB Bench Press > Low Incline DB Press > Close-Grip Bench Press > Bench Press > Bottoms-up KB Military Press > Barbell Incline Press > Barbell Overhead Pressing

Different people might start at different places on this continuum, and some folks might not need to progress all the way along. The point is that there needs to be a rhyme and reason to whatever continuum you create for expanding individuals’ pain-free abilities.

A lot of folks have a pretty good understanding of “progression.” This, to me, refers to how we sequentially teach movements and make training more challenging. Unfortunately, not nearly as many professionals understand “pain-free progression” under the unique circumstances surrounding injury.

This is one of many reasons why I think understanding post-rehab training is so important for the modern fitness professional. It’s a tremendous competitive advantage for differentiating oneself in the “training marketplace.” Moreover, on a purely ethical level, having a solid understanding of various injuries and their implications helps a coach deliver a safe training experience.

With all this in mind, I'd really encourage my readers to check out Dean Somerset's resource, Post-Rehab Essentials. It's a fantastic product that also happens to be on sale for $50 off through Sunday at midnight. You can learn more HERE.

PRE-header-final

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Aggressive Throwing Programs: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, James Cerbie. In this post, James builds on a point I'd made a few weeks ago in an installment of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance. Enjoy! -EC

Everyone wants to throw gas.

If you throw 80mph, you want to throw 85mph. If you throw 85,mph you want to throw 90mph. If you throw 90, you want to throw 95mph…and so on and so forth.

For a pitcher, it’s the ultimate attention grabber. The radar gun doesn’t lie, and lighting one up is the quickest way to turn heads.

Assuming you have any semblance of control, throwing hard helps you get a college scholarship, helps you get drafted, and helps you toward the big leagues.

Sorry, but they aren’t handing out many signing bonuses for an 85mph fastball.

Think of it like the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine—everyone is looking for that 4.3 speed because it’s a game changer.

Due to the high premium baseball places on velocity, and the paychecks that can come along with it, weighted ball programs have gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the past several years. Not only that, they can deliver great results. By playing with the force velocity curve, you can see some pretty impressive jumps in velocity over a relatively short period of time.

Eric has written about weighted ball programs in the past, and I’ll just refer you here if you want to read more on the subject.

Unfortunately, a lot of high school and college athletes are jumping into aggressive weighted ball programs without asking the right questions—they end up chasing short-term gains as opposed to setting themselves up for long-term success.

Building a Pyramid

If I asked you to build a pyramid, how would you do it?

Would you start with the base of the pyramid, also known as your foundation, and gradually work your way up? Slowly adding on a layer at a time until you arrive at the top?


 

Or, would you skimp on the base and spend the majority of your time building the top of the pyramid?

I’m no expert in building pyramids, but I think we can all agree that the first example wins out: a pyramid without a base may get up in the beginning, but it’ll lose out over the long haul.

General vs. Specific Training

The above example illustrates the difference between general and specific training.

The base of pyramid represents general fitness qualities, while the top of the pyramid represents specific fitness qualities (specific in relation to your sport of choice):

For example, a deadlift represents a general fitness quality for a baseball player because we’re developing strength and stability in the sagittal plane while working on the ability to “hip hinge.” None of those qualities are necessarily specific to throwing a baseball, but they lay the foundation for higher-level performance.

A weighted ball program, on the other hand, is about as specific as you can get: you’re performing the exact skill from your sport and doing so with heavier and lighter implements.

This is why so much effort goes into the assessment process before an athlete starts a training program. It gives us a good feel for where they are on the pyramid:

  • How’s their baseline movement capacity?
  • Are they lacking scapular upward rotation?

  • Can they get their hands overhead without driving into extension?
  • Are they strong and stable in the sagittal plane?
  • Can they get “in” and “out” of both hips sufficiently?
  • Do they have appropriate amounts of “core” control?
  • Do they have the capacity to control movement in multiple planes of motion?
  • Can they stand on one leg?
  • Do they have symmetrical total shoulder motion and shoulder flexion?

These represent only a few of the questions we want answers to, but they are all important because it tells us what an athlete is prepared to do at this moment in time, and what they need to work on to progress further up the pyramid.

What can happen in the world of performance training, however, is the inverted pyramid:


This is what it looks like when people rush straight for the weighted ball program. They skip over the all-important base of pyramid and go straight to the top because that’s what’s sexy. Although this structure will produce results in the short run, it doesn’t bode well for long-term success.

General Expresses Specific

If you walk away from this article remembering one thing, please let it be this: your general fitness qualities (the base of your pyramid) puts you in a position to express your sport specific skill.

In other words, they put you in a position to be successful—they give you the ability to get your body in the best position to throw a baseball.

For a baseball player, building up those qualities usually happens off the baseball field. It’s the free play you engaged in and the multiple sports you enjoyed growing up. And, it’s what you do in the weight room. It means doing deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, prone trap raises, and a host of other exercises because it builds your body up towards the ultimate goal: throwing a baseball to best of your ability.

If you skip over that stage and rush straight towards the top of the pyramid, then you’re not only setting yourself up for injury, you’re also leaving gobs of untapped performance on the table.

Tying it All Together

It’s incredibly tempting to jump into the latest and greatest program on the market that’s boasting to add 8mph to your fastball in two months. Before jumping into that program, you have to ask yourself if you’re physically prepared to do so.

Aggressive throwing programs are not bad. In fact, they are one of the more exciting developments in baseball over the past several years. But, it’s vital to remember where they fall with regards to development.

If you’ve put in the time and built yourself a solid foundation, then by all means get on a well-managed weighted ball program. If you haven’t put in the time building yourself a foundation, then start there and work your way up. Your performance and arm will thank you down the road.

About the Author

James Cerbie (@JamesCerbie) is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Precision Nutrition, USA Weightlifting, and Crossfit, and is the owner ofRebel Performance. He has worked with athletes at all levels, and currently coaches in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can also find him on him on Facebook.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 2

In our first installment of this series on arm care, I discussed scapular positioning.  In this second installment, I'll cover another big mistake I commonly see throwers make:

Doing a ton of rotator cuff exercises before throwing.

Pre-throwing warm-up approaches constitute a great example of extremes. On one hand, you have the guys who crush an energy drink and do a few arm circles and then go right to throwing - and they're obviously not doing enough.  On the other hand, you have some guys who go through 30 different exercises for the cuff and scapular stabilizers. - and before you know it, it's an hour later and they're exhausted, yet still haven't picked up a ball.  As always, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

We have many examples available across multiple sporting disciplines that show the impact of fatigue on performance and injury risk. At the other end of the spectrum, not warming up sufficiently can be equally problematic. As such, it's about finding the sweet spot for every pitcher.

I generally try to "lump" each of our throwers into one of three categories: tight, loose, or middle-of-the-road.

The tight guys need to go out of their way to extend their warm-ups so that their body temperature is higher before they pick up a ball.  These are the guys who commonly don't hit their best velocity numbers until after the third inning or so.  The goal of the warm-up is primarily to get length (potentially even with some manual stretching, if indicated) - and follow it up by doing a bit of activation work to establish some good stiffness in the right places (anterior core, posterior rotator cuff, scapular upward rotators).  To me, this group requires the longest warm-up, but even still, it's 20 minutes, tops.

The loose guys are the ones who have considerable joint laxity (hypermobility). 

As a result, we really don't need to establish any new range-of-motion; we need to enhance stability in the ROM they already have.  Loose guys are always the most likely to get thrown under the bus with bad arm care programs.  Stretch them, and you'll make them worse or injured.  Do too much cuff or scapular stabilizer work before they throw, and they'll fall off early in terms of velocity and health. With this group, we don't do much ground-based mobility work; we prefer to get them standing up and moving around.  They'll work in movements like prone external rotation to "groove" true external rotation, and get some rhythmic stabilizations, too.

Again, we're talking about 15 minutes at most.

The middle-of-the-road guys are, as you might imagine, a combination of the previous two groups.  They don't need quite as much mobility work as the tight guys, nor do they need quite as much stability work as the loose guys. It's more of a balancing act, but we're still not exceeding 15-20 minutes.

If you're looking for a general guideline on what our guys might do, here's a brief synopsis:

A. foam rolling - 5 minutes
B. mobility drills - 8-10 minutes
C. scapular control drills (wall slide variations, prone trap raises, etc.) - 2 minutes
D. rotator cuff activation drills (prone external rotation, rhythmic stabilizations, and maybe 1-2 sets of band exercises) - 2 minutes
E. easy movement training and sprint build-ups (5 minutes)

As you can see, at most, this takes 24 minutes.  And, this number comes down because not everyone does every exercise.

Exchanging quantity for quality in the warm-up has been one of the most important modifications we've made in the past with injured or underperforming throwers we've seen.  The benefits are due to both the addition of valuable exercises, but more significantly, taking away an excessive amount of unproductive work that's just piling fatigue on top of the rotator cuff before throwing.

With all this in mind, if you're "that guy" who takes forever to warm up, it's probably time to cut back.  As former CSP pitching coordinator Matt Blake joked, "If you need a post-workout shake after your warm-up, you're doing it all wrong."  Start thinking about ways to make the pre-throwing period more efficient - and then get your volume in at a later point in time.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/27/13

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

Food is Not Fuel - This was a fantastic post from the crew at Precision Nutrition.  In it, they demonstrate that quality nutrition is about a lot more than just calories or energy.

Throwing Programs: Not One-Size-Fits-All - With a lot of our pro baseball guys starting up with throwing in mid-to-late November, it seemed like a good time to reincarnate this post from the archives.  I talk about a lot of the considerations that go into writing up a throwing program.

5 Hacks for Half-Kneeling - Mike Robertson does a good job of discussing the benefits of half-kneeling exercises, and provides coaching cues and examples you can use.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/29/12

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

Thrive on Throwing - This is an outstanding DVD set from Alan Jaeger that thoroughly teaches the science and practice of long tossing.  Alan has generously offered to provide my readers with a 25% off discount (which applies to his other products as well).  I highly recommend this throwing resource, as long toss sometimes gets a bad rap in large part due to the fact that many players and coaches implement it incorrectly.

Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program - While we're on the topic of long toss, I thought I'd bring this old article back from the archives, especially since a lot of our professional baseball clients started throwing this week.

5 Holiday Diet Tips that Don't Suck - This is a quick read from Nate Miyaki over at T-Nation, but it packs some good information and strategies for you to employ this holiday season.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

8 Ways to Make Practice More Productive for College Baseball Pitchers

Today's guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Landon Wahl.

By its very nature, the life of a pitcher avails itself to many hours of pondering the game. Fresh out of my senior year of pitching at the collegiate level and having time to reflect upon my experience, overall I can say it was the best time of my life. However, there were many times during practice where I felt like I should have stayed home because nothing was accomplished. I would often stand in the outfield gaps behind the position players wondering: “how is this making me a better pitcher?”

After 2-3 hours of batting practice, our coach would have us bring it in and that was the end of practice. Summary: a 3-hour practice that consisted of a 10-minute warm-up, 5-10 minutes of throwing, and 2 hours and 40 minutes of standing around listening to my teammate tell me how sure he was that all of his teachers were trying to fail him (go to class, buddy). Some practices involved the pitchers more than others, but for the most part, practice time could have been used much more efficiently. Below are some ways practice time can be used to make pitchers more involved at practice as well as some things to avoid!

1. Set aside time in practice to have a proper warm up.

Too often, players come to practice and will disregard the warm-up or perhaps not warm up at all! Players grab a ball and start throwing with no physical or mental preparation. Every program is different in regard to warm ups. As a coach, make sure that regardless of what style warm-up you prefer, that you stick to it! At Cressey Performance, all athletes go through a foam rolling series as well as a dynamic warm-up before even touching a baseball, medicine ball, or weight. If you are a coach looking for inspiration, watch the video below and have your guys do it for a warm up. It almost goes without saying that it will help your guys feel and move better as well as prevent future injuries.

2. Make sure throwing - especially the long toss component - isn’t rushed.

Some programs are pretty good about this, but others aren’t. It is understandable that as a coach you have a lot to cram into a 2-3 hour practice and you want your guys to get as many swings in as possible, too. Think of long toss as a pitcher’s BP. It is important to let your pitchers get their arm speed up to help improve performance and stay healthy throughout the season. Try not to rush through the throwing to get to batting practice; it will help everyone be more prepared for your big weekend conference series.

3. Stop making pitchers stand around during batting practice.

First of all, I understand that sometimes pitchers are needed to help shag fly balls and make sure that the hitters get their work in, but this doesn’t have to be ALL the time! Sure, it’s nice to talk with fellow teammates and occasionally track down a fly ball, but overall there is little to no value to preparing your pitchers. Instead of having the pitchers stand around during the early parts of the week at batting practice, send them to the weight room for resistance training, athletic training room for manual therapy or stretching, or elsewhere on the field to do movement training or plyos.

4. Set aside time in practice to work on pick-offs, 1st/3rd defensive plays, PFP, live situations, and bunt defenses.

Too often, basic pitching defense gets brushed aside on the daily practice schedule. All of these essential parts of the game could take a full week just to cover, not master. For incoming freshman, these situations may not have been covered very thoroughly or even at all in high school! Have the coaching staff split up and cover these situations often; they may arise at any time during your important conference series! For your players to have confidence in the plays and skills that they will develop in practice is crucial, and will directly relate to confidence on the mound during in-game situations. This is also a good time to break away from the monotony of an extended batting practice session and get the pitchers involved.

5. Don’t enforce “punishment” running.

As a coach, it is understandable that players can upset you in many ways: poor play, off-field offenses, or on-field offenses. Nothing as a player is worse than hearing, “on the line,” not just because the punishment is usually miserable to complete, but also because nothing productive is being accomplished!

Consuming alcohol at the collegiate level is what unfortunately gets lots of guys into trouble. Having to participate in “punishment runs” was an absolute nightmare, usually because I was always running for someone else's screw-up. And, it didn’t matter how many times we were punished; guys would still go out to the bars later that night, not having learned a thing. It brings team moral down and creates problems between teammates. Believe me, there were some guys with whom I was not happy.

Some of the most successful teams win games because they're close-knit groups, not because they have the most talent! A prime example was my high school baseball team during my senior year of 2008. One could debate whether we were the most talented team in comparison to teams in the past, but we made it all the way to the state championship game. This was due to the fact that we did absolutely everything together as a team, and never had situations that compromised our positive team dynamic.

Punishment runs not only wreck your players physically, but also destroy them mentally. Sometimes discipline is in order, but try and find another way to do it! There is only one thing you need. Bench the player until behavior improves. Negative reinforcement such as running only deals with issues temporarily. Benching a player might cause some player-coach tension, but that’s part of being a coach. Make the best decision for the whole team and ensure that every player represents your college or university in a proper manner.

6. Don’t make pitchers catch bullpens.

This is just my personal opinion. I understand that some programs do this and others don’t. Hopefully, I can provide insight for just one coach, at any level. Coming from a previous program who endorsed this, I saw firsthand how it can really end up injuring a pitcher. I’ll relate a personal account...

One afternoon during freshman year at practice, I walked up to the field and my coach informed me that I would be catching every single pitcher, and then I would get to throw my bullpen. Unfortunately, I had never caught an inning in my entire life. Still, I suited up. The first few fastballs went well. The first curveball, however, didn't.  It bounce in front of me by about two feet and you can probably guess what happened next.

The whole team thought it was funny (and in hindsight, it was), but at the time, it was not. In the months after that experience, I was afraid of the ball, shying away whenever it got close to the mitt. This not only was physically taxing on me, but the pitchers couldn’t get in a rhythm and their bullpens suffered as a result. There is something to be said for having a catcher who sticks your pitches, moves back and forth across the plate, gives feedback on your pitches, and encourages you because they are confident; this was not happening with me. After I caught all of the bullpens, I began to throw mine. You can also be sure that another fellow freshman caught me; the practice was a total waste, for everyone.

7. Talk to each player one-on-one.

Every coach could do this more often. I know that after a game in which I performed well (or not so well), it was nice to have my coach tell me things I could improve upon while highlighted things I executed correctly. This is also important for players who are not regular starters, or kids who have never played an inning. It is essential to provide hope for these players; at any time they can be a cornerstone in the lineup! Too often, good baseball players don’t receive the proper mental reinforcement. It sounds cliché and simple, but even telling a player “good job” can carry them a long way. It is also important to have meetings with players outside of practice and listen to their thoughts and concerns, both academically and athletically.

8. Have fun.

Having fun is what the game is all about. Winning is fun. Having fun at practice is fun, too! Create competitions between the players. Let pitchers take batting practice. Create incentive for your players to be excited and ready to go when practice time rolls around! Most of all, be supportive of every player. Playing college ball and going to class is quite a workload. There is nothing better in the world that blowing off some steam and forgetting about school responsibilities by playing some baseball.


 Questions or comments?  Please post them below.  Also, Landon Wahl can be reached at landonwahl@yahoo.com.

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

14 Reasons Pitching Velocity Decreases Over the Course of a Season

In the first half of this two-part installment on why pitching velocity changes during the course of a season, I outlined 9 Reasons Pitching Velocity Increases Over the Course of a Season.  As you'll appreciate after reading today's post, there are actually a lot more ways by which pitching velocity can decrease over the course of a season. Let's examine them individually:

1. Body weight reductions 

This is far and away the most prominent reason pitchers lose velocity as a season goes on.  In fact, it's so big a problem that I devoted an entire blog to it: The #1 Cause of Inconsistent Pitching Velocity.

2. Strength loss

As I discussed in my first book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, strength is an important foundation for power.  And, taking it a step further, power is certainly an important part of pitching.  As the season goes on, many guys just don't get in the quality weight room work they need to maintain strength, and power on the mound tails off.

3. Injury

It goes without saying that if you're hurt, you won't throw as hard. This isn't just a shoulder or elbow thing, either; sprained ankles, sore hips, tight lower backs, oblique strains, and stiff necks can all wreak havoc on velocity. If something is bothering you, get it fixed before it causes you to develop bad habits.

4. Loss of mobility

When people hear the word "mobility," they typically just of tissue length.  However, mobility is simply one's ability to get into a desired position or posture.  In other words, it's a complex interaction of not just actual tissue length, but also strength/stability, tissue quality, and kinesthetic awareness.  If you don't continue working on mobility drills, static stretching (when appropriate), foam rolling, and your strength training program, one of the components of this equation can suffer.  

Obviously, as I wrote previously What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, stride length is the best example of this phenomenon.  However, what happens at the shoulder is another great example, too.  One who loses thoracic mobility or scapular stability may stiffen up at the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint; it's possible to gain range of motion without even stretching at the "stiff" joint!

600px-Corey_Kluber_on_June_27,_2013

5. Excessive workload

This is the time of year when a lot of guys start hitting all-time highs for innings in a season.  And, with the games getting more important at the end of the high school and college seasons, pitch counts often rise when the innings really matter.  It's very simple:

Fatigue masks fitness.

If you're dragging and the velocity is down, a short-term reduction in throwing volume is often the quickest path to getting velocity back - particularly in pitchers who are throwing more innings than ever before.  Throwing an easy flat-ground instead of a bullpen between starts is one way to stay fresh, or you may opt to alternating higher pitch counts with shorter outings.  If I hear about one of our high school pitchers who has an exceptionally high pitch count (105+), I usually tell him to make sure the next one is in the ballpark of 80 pitches.  At that age, arms always seem to be dragging if kids go over 100 pitches in back-to-back outings.

6. Cumulative effect of bad throwing programs

This is best illustrated by a "hypothetical" example that actually happens far too often.

a. Pitcher makes great velocity gains in an off-season with comprehensive throwing program that includes long toss.

b. Pitcher goes in-season and encounters pitching coach that doesn't believe in long toss as part of a throwing program.

c. Pitcher has a velocity loss.

This scenario doesn't just happen because a specific modality (long toss) is removed, but also because of the effect it has on a pitching routine.  This, for me, is why it's so important to have conversations with pitchers on what throwing programs they've done in the past.  What's worked?  What hasn't? It's all about tinkering, and rarely about overhauling.

7. Cumulative effect of distance running

This 2008 study might be the greatest research that has ever been performed on baseball players - mostly because it reaffirmed my awesomeness by proving me right: Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players.

These researchers divided a collegiate pitching staff into two groups of eight pitchers over the course of a season, and each group did everything identically – except the running portion of their strength and conditioning programs. Three days per week, the “sprint” group did 10-30 sprints of 15-60m with 10-60s rest between bouts. The endurance group performed moderate-to-high intensity jogging or cycling 3-4 days per week for anywhere from 20-60 minutes.

Over the course of the season, the endurance group’s peak power output dropped by an average of 39.5 watts while the sprinting group increased by an average of 210.6 watts.  You still want to distance run?

Of course, there are still the tired old arguments of "it flushes out my arm" (much better ways to do that), it clears my head (go see a psychologist), "it keeps my weight down" (eat less crap, and do more lifting and sprinting), and "it helps me bounce back better between starts" (then why are so many players in MLB living on anti-inflammatories?).  The system is broke, but instead of fixing it based on logic, many coaches continue to change the oil on a car with no wheels.

Epic-Fail-Guy-300x250

8. Insufficient warm-ups

While there are definitely some outstanding opportunities out there to develop in the summer, the truth is that summer baseball is notorious for sloppy organization.  Guys are allowed to show up ten minutes before game time, do a few arm circles, and then go right to it.  If you're walking directly from your car to the mound, don't expect your velocity to be too good in the first few innings.

9. Cumulative effect of altered sleep patterns

Early in my training career, I realized that missing sleep the night before a training session really didn't have any effect on my next training session.  However, if I had consecutive nights of little to no sleep, it crushed me.  I know of a lot of people who are the same way.

Now, imagine an entire season of red-eye flights, 3AM bus departures, and going to bed at 1am every night.  Beyond just the sleep deprivation component, you have the dramatic change in circadian rhythms that takes place.  Just head over to Pubmed and look at the hundreds of studies examining the health impact of working night shifts (shift work disorder); you'll see preliminary research linking it to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a host of other issues. I firmly believe it's one of many reasons injuries in baseball are on the rise - and certainly one potential culprit when velocity declines as a season progress. 

10. Pitching off a crappy mound

Many players wind up pitching off terrible mounds during summer ball, and when the mound isn't groomed nicely, you get into "oh crap, I don't want to get hurt" mode with your landing leg. If you aren't comfortable landing, you shorten your stride, or reach for a "safe" part of the mound, messing with your mechanics in the process. Additionally, velocity is going to be lower when the mound height isn't as elevated; it's just how gravity works.

11. Mechanical tinkering for the bad

In part 1, I noted that mechanics changes in the summertime can be a source of velocity improvements.  They can also, however, be a reason for guys losing velocity.  Not all changes are new changes, and it's important to be careful about overhauling things on the advice of each new coach you encounter. Repetition is important, and it's hard to get it if you're always tinkering with something.

12. Dehydration

Dehydration can have a dramatically negative effect on strength and power.  Most athletes are chronically dehydrated at rest, and certainly during pitching outings in the summer heat.  Hydration status is an important thing to monitor if you want to throw gas.

13. Throwing to a new catcher

Being comfortable with the guy who is catching your pitches is a big part of success on the mound.  When the catcher is constantly changing, there is more hesitation - especially if his pitch-calling tendencies are different from those of your previous catcher.  If you're constantly shaking him off, it'll mess with your pace on the mound and slow you down.

14. More erratic throwing schedule

One of the biggest adjustments a pitcher will ever have to make is switching from starting to relieving or vice versa.  While going to the bullpen can often lead to an increase in velocity, it can make other guys erratic with their delivery, as they've learned to rely on the pre-game period to get everything "synced up."

Meanwhile, thanks to an increased pitch count, guys who go from the bullpen to the starting rotation sometimes see a drop in velocity.  As examples, just compare John Smoltz or Daniel Bard out of the bullpen to what they have done in the starting rotation.

The only thing tougher than making that switch is to constantly bounce back and forth between the two, as it really hurts your between-outings preparation.  How you prepare to throw seven innings is considerably different than what you do if you're just going to go out and throw 10-15 pitches.

These are only 14 reasons velocity may dip, and their are surely many more.  Maybe your girlfriend cheated on you with the bat boy and you got distracted, or you decided to just throw knuckleballs.  The point is that - as if the case with many things in life - it's a lot easier to screw up (lose velocity) than it is to thrive (gain velocity). Plan accordingly!


 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

115 Ways to Improve Pitching Velocity

Everyone wants to improve pitching velocity, but unfortunately, the answer to the question of "how" is different for everyone.  To that end, I pulled together a quick list of 101 strategies you can use to improve pitching velocity.  They aren't the same for everyone, but chances are that at least a few of these will help you.  I'd encourage you to print this off and highlight the areas in which you think you can improve.

1. Optimize mechanics (this could be 100 more ways in itself; I will leave it alone for now).

2. Gain weight (if skinny).

3. Lose weight (if fat).

4. Get taller (shorter throwers can’t create as much separation, and are further away from homeplate)

5. Get shorter (taller throwers have more energy leaks).

6. Long toss.

7. Throw weighted baseballs.

8. Throw underweighted balls.

9. Improve thoracic spine mobility.

10. Improve scapular stability.

11. Improve glenohumeral joint stability (rotator cuff strength and timing).

12. Improve glenohumeral joint range of motion.

13. Regain lost elbow extension.

14. Improve hip abduction mobility.

15. Improve hip rotation mobility.

16. Improve hip extension mobility.

17. Improve ankle mobility.

18. Activate the deep neck flexors.

19. Extend your pre-game warm-up.

20. Shorten your pre-game warm-up.

21. Increase lower body strength.

22. Increase lower body power.

23. Train power outside the sagittal plane (more medicine ball throws and plyos in the frontal/transverse plane).

24. Speed up your tempo.

25. Slow down your tempo.

26. Get angrier.

27. Get calmer.

28. Get more aggressive with your leg kick.

29. Get less aggressive with your leg kick.

29. Don’t grip the ball as firm.

30. Throw a 4-seam instead of a 2-seam.

31. Get through the ball instead of around it.

32. Improve balancing proficiency.

33. Throw out all your participation trophies.

34. Do more unilateral upper body training.


 

35. Recover better (shout-out to my buddy Lee Fiocchi’s Accelerated Arm Recovery DVD set on this front; it’s good stuff).

36. Throw in warmer weather.

37. Wear warmer clothing under your jersey.

38. Change footwear (guys usually throw harder in cleats).

39. Throw less.

40. Throw more.

41. Pitch less.

42. Pitch more.

43. Politely ask your mom to stop yelling, “Super job, kiddo!” after every pitch you throw.

44. Do strength exercises outside the sagittal plane.

45. Take all the money you were going to blow on fall/winter showcases and instead devote it to books, DVDs, training, food, and charitable donations.  If there is anything left over, blow it on lottery tickets and sketchy real estate ventures, both of which have a higher return-on-investment than showcases in the fall and winter.

46. Switch from a turf mound indoors to a dirt/clay mound outdoors.

47. Get a batter in the box.

48. Get more sleep.

49. Sleep more hours before midnight.

50. Stop distance running.

51. Improve glute activation so that you can fully extend your hip in your delivery.

52. Stop thinking that the exact workout a big league pitcher uses is exactly what you need to do.

53. Subcategory of #52: Remove the phrase "But Tim Lincecum does it" from your vocabulary. You aren't Tim Lincecum, and you probably never will be.  Heck, Tim Lincecum isn't Tim Lincecum anymore, either. You can learn from his delivery, but 99.9999% of people who try to copy his delivery fail miserably.

54. Read more.  This applies to personal development in a general sense, and baseball is certainly no exception.  The guys who have the longest, most successful careers are usually the ones who dedicate themselves to learning about their craft.

55. Stay away from alcohol.  It kills tissue quality, negatively affects protein synthesis, messes with sleep quality, and screws with hormonal status.

56. Incorporate more single-leg landings with your plyos; you land on one leg when you throw, don't you?

57. Be a good teammate.  If you aren't a tool, they'll be more likely to help you when you get into a funk with your mechanics or need someone to light a fire under your butt.

58. Respect the game.  Pitchers who don't respect the game invariably end up getting plunked the first time they wind up going up to bat.  Getting hit by a lot of pitches isn't going to help your velocity.

59. Train the glutes in all three planes (read more HERE).

60. Remember your roots and always be loyal.  You never know when you'll need to go back to ask your little league, middle school, high school, or AAU coach for advice to help you right the ship.

61. Get focal manual therapy like Active Release.

62. Get diffuse manual therapy like instrument-assisted modalities or general massage.

63. Make sweet love to a foam roller.

64. Throw a jacket on between innings to keep your body temperature up.

65. Pitch from the wind-up.

66. Drink magical velocity-increasing snake oil (just making sure you were still reading and paying attention).

67. Pick a better walkout song.

68. Get on a steeper mound (expect this to also increase arm stress).

69. Train hip mobility and core stability simultaneously.

70. Get around successful people in the pitching world and learn from them.  Find a way to chat with someone who has accomplished something you want to accomplish.  If you hang around schleps who complain about their genes and have never thrown above 75mph, though, expect to be a schlep who throws 75mph, too.

71. Pick the right parents (sorry, genes do play a role).

72. Recognize and get rid of pain.

73. Throw strikes (more balls = higher pitch count = lower average velocity)

74. Get 8-12 weeks off completely from throwing per year.  Read more about why HERE and HERE.

75. Be candid with yourself about how hard you’re really working (most guys talk about working hard when they should actually be working hard).

76. Take the stupid sticker off your hat.

77. Stop thinking so much.

78. Think more.

79. Stop stretching your throwing shoulder into external rotation (read more on that HERE).

80. Get in a better training environment.

81. Surround yourself with unconditionally positive and supportive people.

82. Talk to a different pitching coach to get a new perspective.

83. Stop talking to so many pitching coaches because too many cooks are spoiling the broth.

84. Lengthen your stride (learn more HERE, HERE, and HERE).

85. Shorten your stride.

86. Get your ego crushed when you realize that no matter how strong you think you are, there is a girl somewhere warming up with your max. And, my wife might even be able to do more pull-ups than you!

87. Stop trying to learn a cutter, knuckle-curve, slider, and “invisiball” when you can’t even throw a four-seam where you want it to go.

88. Play multiple sports (excluding cross-country).

89. Stay healthy when other pitchers are getting hurt.

90. Stop pitching for five different teams in the same season.

91. Pre-game routine: dynamic warm-up, sprinting progressions, long toss, pull-down throws, flat-ground, bullpen. Post-game routine: make out with prom queen after complete game shutout.

92. Do rhythmic stabilizations before you throw (if you’re a congenitally lax/”loose” guy) to "wake up" the rotator cuff.

93. Hydrate sufficiently.

94. Quit worrying about the damn radar guns.

95. Wear a posture jacket/shirt.

96. Drink coffee or green tea (you get antioxidants and a decent caffeine content without all the garbage in energy drinks).

97. Get in front of a big crowd.

98. Find a better catcher.

99. Throw more to and get comfortable with the same catcher.

100. Tinker with your pre-throwing nutrition to ensure consistent energy levels.

101. Tinker with your during game nutrition to sustain your energy better.

102. Tinker with your post-game nutrition to recover better.

103. Improve core stability (more specifically, anti-extension and anti-rotation core stability).

104. Breath better (less shoulder shrug and more diaphragm).

105. Train the rotator cuff less.

106. Change the day on which you throw your bullpen.

107. For relievers, stay loose and warm throughout the game (read more about that HERE). Staying entertained is also important, as CP athlete Joe Van Meter demonstrates.

108. Here and there, between starts, skip your bullpen and throw a flat-ground instead to give your arm a chance to bounce back.

109. Consider creatine (the most researched strength and power supplement in history, yet surprisingly few people in baseball use it)

110. Work faster (the fielders behind you will love you).

111. Work slower (recover better between pitches and self-correct).

112. Stop ignoring your low right shoulder and adducted right hip.

113. Pick a college program where you’ll have an opportunity to play right away and get innings.

114. Move from a 5-day rotation to a 7-day rotation.

115. Decide to wake up in the morning and piss excellence!

These are really just the tip of the iceberg, so by all means, feel free to share your own strategies and ask questions in the comments section below.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!

Name
Email
Read more

Rocket Science Alert: Strength Training for Pitchers STILL Improves Throwing Velocity

With an old post, Strength Training for Pitchers, I *thought* I had put to rest the silly idea that strength training doesn't help with improving throwing velocity.  Unfortunately, some pitching gurus are still insisting that weight training is the devil when it comes to pitching velocity.

To that end, I thought I'd use today's brief post to highlight some newly published research from (among others) the bright folks at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI).  This research showed that strength training doesn't just improve throwing velocity, but also that ANY type of strength training does!

Researchers looked at the effects of three different six-week strength training programs on velocity in 14-17 year-old baseball players, and found that all three programs led to significant improvements (1.2-2.0%) in throwing velocity over controls.  

And, as is usually the case in the research, the programs were less than comprehensive.  Just imagine if you borrowed the best bits and pieces from several programs and put them together in a comprehensive program that lasted an entire career, rather than just six weeks! 

So, the next time you hear a pitching coach say that strength training for pitchers doesn't work, please rock a "face palm" and then inform him that even crappy strength training works in most scenarios (especially high school athletes). 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series