Home Posts tagged "throwing program" (Page 2)

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). 

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Pitch Count Roundtable: Your Thoughts?

Last week, I contributed on a pitch counts roundtable for ESPN Boston. You can read it HERE.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below, as it is a certainly a heated debate that has come to the forefront in recent years with pitching injuries on the rise.

 

Related Posts

Why Pitchers Shouldn't Do Year-Round Throwing Programs: Part 1 and Part 2
Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured
7 Weeks to 7 Pounds of Lean Mass and 7 Miles Per Hour

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Baseball Strength and Conditioning Programs: How Much Rotator Cuff Work is Too Much? – Part 1

In a recent presentation in front of a bunch of baseball coaches, I made the following statement - and it turned a lot of heads:

I think most people overtrain the rotator cuff nowadays, and they do so with the wrong exercises, anyway.

To illustrate my point, I'm going to ask a question:

Q: What is the most common complication you see in guys as they rehabilitate following a Tommy John Surgery?

A: Shoulder problems - generally right around the time they get up to 120 feet.

Huh?  Shoulder pain is a post-operative complication of an elbow surgery?  What gives?

First, I should make a very obvious point: many of these guys deal with shoulder stiffness as they get back to throwing simply because they've been shut down for months.  That I completely expect - but remember that it's stiffness, and not pain.  They always throw their way out of it.

The more pressing issue is what is taking place in their rehabilitation - and more specifically, what's taking place with the synergy between their rehabilitation and throwing program. Let me explain.

Rehabilitation following a UCL reconstruction is extensive.  While different physical therapists certainly have different approaches, it will always be incredibly heavy on rotator cuff strength and timing, as well as adequate function of the scapular stabilizers.  Guys always make huge strides on this front during rehab, but why do so many have shoulder pain when they get further out with their long tossing?  The answer is very simple:

Most people don't appreciate that throwing a baseball IS rotator cuff training.

Your cuff is working tremendously hard to center the humeral head in the glenoid fossa.  It controls excessive external rotation and anterior instability during lay-back.

It's fighting against distraction forces at ball release.

And, it's controlling internal rotation and horizontal adduction during follow-through.

Simultaneously, the scapular stabilizers are working incredibly hard to appropriately position and stabilize the scapula on the rib cage in various positions so that it can provide an ideal anchor point for those rotator cuff muscles to do their job.

A post-op Tommy John thrower - and really every player going through a throwing program - has all the same demands on his arm (even if he isn't on the mound, where stress is highest).  And, as I wrote previously in a blog about why pitchers shouldn't throw year-round, every pitcher is always throwing with some degree of muscle damage at all times during the season (or a throwing program).

Keeping this in mind, think about the traditional Tommy John rehabilitation approach.  It is intensive work for the cuff and scapular stabilizers three times a week with the physical therapists - plus many of the same exercises in a home program for off-days.  They're already training these areas almost every day - and then they add in 3-6 throwing sessions a week.  Wouldn't you almost expect shoulder problems?  They are overusing it to the max!  This is a conversation I recently had with physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, and he made another great point:

Most guys - especially at higher levels - don't have rotator cuff strength issues; they have rotator cuff timing issues.

In throwing - the single-fastest motion in all of sports - you're better off having a cuff that fires at the right time than a cuff that fires strong, but late.  Very few rotator cuff exercise programs for healthy pitchers take that into account; rather, it's left to those doing rehabilitation.  Likewise, most of the programs I see altogether ignore scapular stability and leave out other ways to train the cuff that are far more functional than just using bands.

Now, apply this example back to the everyday management of pitchers during the season. Pitchers are throwing much more aggressively: game appearances, bullpens, and long toss.  They need to do some rotator cuff work, but it certainly doesn't need to be every day like so many people think.

I'll cover how much and what kind in Part 2.  In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about the evaluation and management of pitchers, check out Optimal Shoulder Performance.

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The Best of 2011: Articles

With 2011 winding down, I'll be dedicating this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com.  I'll kick it off today with my most popular articles from the past year. 1. My New Favorite Training Shoe - This post received more than 3,000 views more than #2.  Apparently, footwear is a topic about which folks were anxious to read, and I gave a detailed review of all the minimalist footwear options I've tried - and folks shared it a ton.  Additionally, based on feedback on my Twitter account, a lot of people purchased the New Balance Minimus based on my recommendation and have absolutely loved it.

2. Your Arm Hurts?  Thank Your Little League, Fall Ball, and AAU Coaches. - This post received well over 1,000 Facebook "shares" and loads of Tweets, and I'm hopeful that this is indicative of parents, coaches, and players learning about how to approach arm care and throwing programs intelligently.  I think it was also popular because it was a good blend of scientific evidence and simple, everyday logic. 3. Tim Collins: Why Everyone Should Be a Kansas City Royals Fan (at least for a day) - This was my favorite post of the year, as it was a chance to celebrate a good friend and long-time Cressey Performance athlete who is everything that is right about Major League Baseball. As a cool little aside, traffic to this article played a large part in having "Tim Collins" trending on Twitter during his MLB debut on Opening Day in March.

4. Weight Training Programs: You Can't Just Keep Adding - It sounds like many of my readers were glad to hear that I was doing some writing on managing training stress.  There is a lot of common sense in this one, but sometimes, that's what people need! 5. Strength Training Programs and Squat Technique: To Arch or Not to Arch? - Here's a very misunderstood topic in the area of strength and conditioning technique.  You'll be happy to know that I'll be addressing it in great detail in the new Functional Stability Training resource that Mike Reinold and I are releasing soon. 6. Shoulder Hurts? Start Here. - In this piece, I outlined three sure-fire strategies that just about everyone can employ regardless of their shoulder issues.

7. Healthy Food Options: Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government - One of the biggest surprises for me in 2011 was that my readers absolutely ate up (no pun intended) nutrition content, and summer Cressey Performance intern Tyler Simmons' guest blog perfect example.   He shared some great (and controversial) thoughts in this guest blog. 8. Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough? - People want results, and they want them fast.  This post touched on whether or not the deadlift could be an optimal "shortcut" for getting to where you want to be. 9. Why the Gym's Out-of-Business and the Porn Store's Thriving - This was proof that I can write about just about anything.  Don't ever expect to see a content drought here at EricCressey.com.  The timing for this was really good, as I got the idea to write it right around the time that we released The Fitness Business Blueprint.

10. Lifting Heavy Weights vs. Corrective Exercise: Finding a Balance - I can definitely see how folks found this topic so interesting, as it's a very challenging balance to strike.  In fact, it was even a very challenging piece around which to wrap my brain! This wraps up our top 10 posts of 2011, but I'll be back soon with more "Best of" highlights from 2011.  Next up, I'll list my top product reviews of the year. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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7 Reasons Baseball Pitchers Shouldn’t Do Year-Round Throwing Programs – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I outlined the first three reasons that I'm opposed to baseball pitchers using year-round throwing programs.  Here are the next four:

4. They need to get their shoulder and elbow range of motion back.

As I noted in Part 1, throwing a baseball is the single-fastest motion in sports.  With the crazy arm speeds one encounters, you have to keep in mind not only the muscles trying to accelerate the arm, but also the ones trying to slow it down.  This "braking" challenge is called eccentric stress - and I'll talk more about it in a second.

What you need to know now, though, is that when left unchecked, significant eccentric stress can lead to tissue shortening.  If you need further proof, Reinold et al. reported that immediately after a pitching outing, pitchers lose an average of 9.5° of shoulder internal rotation and 3.2° of elbow extension - and that these losses persisted at 24 hours post-throwing.

Now, imagine these acute range of motion losses being left unchecked for an entire season - or a season that simply never ends because pitchers are always throwing.  That's how elbows wind up looking like this:

(For more information, I'd encourage you to check out my Everything Elbow In-Service Video.)

Fortunately, we can prevent losses in range of motion during the season with appropriate mobility exercises, manual therapy, and breathing exercises - but the truth is that not everyone has access to these initiatives in terms of expertise, finances, or convenience.  So, while we work to educate the masses on arm care, emphasizing time off from throwing programs is also a key component of an overall strategy to reduce injury risk.

One last thing on this topic: it is a nightmare to try to improve shoulder or elbow range of motion in a pitcher during a season, as the very nature of throwing works against everything you're trying to achieve.  The off-season is "where it's at" in terms of optimizing range of motion in throwers.

5. They need to “dissipate” eccentric stress.

Okay, here's where I take #4 and geek out a bit.  I apologize in advance.

Sometimes, you have to get away from the baseball world in order to learn about the baseball world.  To that end, I need to think Mike Reinold for bringing this great 2004 study from Tomiya et al to my attention.

These researchers created eccentric stress in muscle tissue of mice using an electrical stimulation model, and monitored blood markers of muscle damage for a period of time thereafter.  What you'll see in the graph below is that myofiber disruption really peaks at three-days post-exercise, then start to return down to baseline, yet they still aren't even there at seven days post-intervention.

Source: Tomiya A, et al. Myofibers express IL-6 after eccentric exercise. Am J Sports Med. 2004 Mar;32(2):503-8.

Now, let's apply this to the world of pitching.  Every single pitcher who throws more than once every 7-10 days is surely pitching with some degree of muscle damage.  And, I can tell you that the two toughest challenges pitchers have reported to me are:

a) moving from starting to relieving

b) going from a 7-day high school or college rotation to a 5-day professional rotation

I'm firmly believe that pitchers need to throw in-season to stay strong, but I also know that we can't trump physiology.  Sure, we need to have optimal nutrition and regeneration strategies in place, as we can't just baby guys and expect them to get better.  However, make no mistake about it: high-level pitchers simply have to get good at pitching at 90% capacity (at best) if they are going to succeed.

If I already have a guy whose arm is working at a deficit for 8-9 months of throwing, the last thing I want to do is beat him up for the other three months with the same kind of volume and stress.

manual_therapy_page

6. They need to allow any undetected low-grade injuries to heal.

As I discussed in an old blog, Pitching Injuries: It's Not Just What You're Doing; It's What You've Already Done, most injuries (especially ulnar collateral ligament tears) come from the accumulation of chronic, low-level stress.  Maybe you get some calcification on your ulnar collateral ligament or a low-level rotator cuff tendinosis, and it takes a few years and hundreds of innings before something finally "goes."

Old, low-level injuries are less likely to reach threshold if you give them some downtime and work on redistributing training stress.  By strengthening the rest of your body in the off-season, you're dramatically reducing the demands on your rotator cuff with throwing.

You can't teach other joints to share the burden if the burden is never removed temporarily.

7.  They need a chance to prioritize other competing demands.

Throwing is a good 20-30 minute endeavor each time you do it - and possibly even more.  When I think about all the things that pitchers can be doing to get better in the off-season from a strength and conditioning standpoint, I have a really hard time justifying giving away that much time and recovery capability.  There are other things that need to be prioritized at this time - and year-round throwing is an especially tough pill to swallow when you know that throwing is working against many of the very qualities - rotator cuff strength, scapular stability, mobility, and tissue quality - that you're trying to establish.

Closing Thoughts

The lack of downtime from throwing is especially problematic in younger populations, as they are skeletally immature and weaker.  I’d argue that a really weak 15-year-old kid throwing 74-76 mph does far more damage to his body on each throw than a moderately strong professional player throwing 90-92 mph, especially given that the pro pitcher’s mechanics are more optimized to protect the arm.  This underscores the importance of "syncing up" mechanics, throwing programs, and the overall baseball strength and conditioning program.

Last, but certainly not least, remember that two weeks doesn't constitute "time off."  Rather, I firmly believe that pitchers need the ball completely out of their hands for at least two month per year, preferably continuously.  In other words, eight one-week breaks throughout the year is far from ideal, as it doesn't really allow for positive adaptations to occur.

If you're interested in learning more about managing the throwing shoulder, I'd encourage you to check out our DVD set, Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body.

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7 Reasons Baseball Pitchers Shouldn’t Do Year-Round Throwing Programs – Part 1

When Thanksgiving rolls around, many of our professional baseball players at Cressey Sports Performance will start up their winter throwing programs after a full 10-12 week break from throwing.  They're always a bit rusty in the first week of tossing after the layoff, but every single one of them always "figures it out" in a matter of a few weeks - and still has plenty of time to get in a solid throwing program prior to heading off to spring training.  And, because they've been working hard in the gym on their strength, mobility, and soft tissue quality, they're always better off in the end.

Still, there are those who insist that baseball pitchers don't need time off from throwing.

I couldn't disagree more.

I'm sure this will rub some folks the wrong way, but I can't say that I really care, as most of those individuals can't rationalize their perspectives outside of "guys need to work on stuff."  I, on the other hand, have seven reasons why baseball pitchers need time off from throwing:

1.  They need to lose external rotation to gain anterior stability.

Having external rotation - or "lay back" - when is important for throwing hard, and research has demonstrated that simply throwing will increase shoulder external rotation range-of-motion over the course of a season.  This does not mean, however, that it's a good idea to just have someone stretch your shoulder into external rotation, as I wrote previously: Shoulder Mobility Drills: How to Improve External Rotation (if you even need it).

You see, when you externally rotate the humerus (ball) on the glenoid (socket), the humeral head has a tendency to also translate anteriorly (forward).  In a well-functioning shoulder girdle, the rotator cuff musculature should prevent anterior instability, and it's assisted by adequate function of the scapular stabilizers, which offer the dynamic stability to reposition the scapula in the right place to "accommodate" the humeral head's positioning.  For the athletic trainers and physical therapists out there, this is really what you're testing with an apprehension/relocation test.

The apprehension comes about because of either anterior instability or actual structural pathology (SLAP tear, rotator cuff impingement, or biceps tendinosis).  The relocation component is just the clinician posteriorly directing the humeral head to create the stability that should otherwise be created by the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers.

The take-home message is that while just going on year-round throwing programs in hopes of increasing external rotation seems like a good idea on paper, it's actually a terrible idea in the context of injury prevention.  Pitchers should actually lose a few degrees of external rotation each off-season intentionally, as it affords them an opportunity to improve their stability.  This leads us to...

2. They need a chance to get their cuff strength and scapular stability up.

Baseball pitching is the single-fastest motion in all of sports, as the humerus internally rotates at velocities in excess of 7,000°/second.  So, it should come as no surprise that at the end of a season, the strength of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers is significantly reduced.  Having dealt with many of our players for up to five off-seasons now, I have a unique appreciation for how they each respond differently to not only the stress of the season, but also to arm care programs that we initiate at season's end.

It's important to remember that improving rotator cuff strength is no different in terms of adaptation than improving a bench press or squat.  Adding 10% to a guy's bench press might take three months in an intermediate population, or 12 months in a high-level lifter!  Adaptation of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers is comparable.  I need every minutes of those three months without throwing to get guys back to at least baseline, and hopefully a bit above it.

Can you imagine if some clown trying to improve his bench press went out and benched an additional 4-5 times a week on top of his regular strength and conditioning program?

His progress would be minimal, at best, and he'd be at a dramatically increased risk of injury.  Throwing during a dedicated, appropriate structured early off-season arm care program is no different.

3. They need an opportunity to do dedicated manual resistance rotator cuff exercises.

Ask anyone who has worked with throwers for any length of time, and they'll always tell you that manual resistance exercises are the single-best option for improving rotator cuff strength.  This rotator cuff exercise approach allows you to emphasis eccentric strength better than bands, cables, and dumbbells allow.  It also keeps athletes more strict, as the one providing the resistance can ensure that the athlete isn't just powering through the exercise with scapular stabilizers or lower back.

 The only downside to manual resistance rotator cuff exercises, though, is that because they generally prioritize eccentric strength, they will create more soreness.  With that in mind, we use them much more in the off-season than in the in-season, as we don't want a pitcher throwing with added soreness.  They're a great initiative in a comprehensive off-season baseball strength and conditioning program, but guys just don't seem to like them as much in-season, presumably because both throwing and manual resistance rotator cuff exercises can be too much eccentric stress when combined.  As such, we used them a lot during the September-November periods, and then hold back in this area the rest of the year.

Of course, if you throw year-round, then you can forget about getting these benefits, as the last thing you want is to be sore while you're "working on stuff" in the off-season.  That was sarcasm, in case you weren't picking up on it.

In Part 2, I'll be back with four more reasons baseball pitchers shouldn't throw year-round.

In the meantime, to learn more about the management of throwers, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body.

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Long Toss Debate Heating Up!

The question of whether or not teams will allow pitchers to long toss as part of their throwing programs between/before outings has become a hot topic that could really impact the MLB draft on June 6-8.  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports did an excellent job of outlining the entire situation in this article: Long Toss Debate Shakes up MLB Draft Additionally, I gave a quote for this article on the subject at PineTarPress.com.  Needless to say, I'm a big long toss advocate and have seen its efficacy over and over again when it comes to increasing throwing velocity. I'm glad that these issues are being brought to the forefront.  If you'd like to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of long toss, check out these three articles: Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes Long Toss: Don't Skip Steps in Your Throwing Programs Just some food for thought to kick off the week! Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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“The Physics of Pitching” Review

I just wanted to quickly mention that a book to which I contributed will be out shortly. The Physics of Pitching will be released on June 6 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Len Solesky, a local pitching instructor who works with quite a few of our athletes, co-wrote the book with James Cain. The Physics of Pitching also features contributions from orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Silverberg, physical therapist Rob Ackerly, former MLB pitcher Rusty Meacham, and some schmuck named "Cressey." My chapter is, of course, focused on strength and conditioning for baseball. This is an excellent read for parents and kids alike. It won't appeal quite as much to higher level players and coaches, but if you're looking to learn the basics of pitching and become a better teacher (or student), it'll help you to do so. I especially like the fact that the guys went to great lengths to focus on the mental side of pitching.  In all, it's 192 pages with loads of photographs and an accompanying instructional DVD...not too shabby for a resource that only costs $16.49.  Check it out HERE. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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Your Arm Hurts? Thank Your Little League, AAU, and Fall Ball Coaches.

I have a policy when it comes to my writing:

If something is going to be controversial and potentially elicit a negative response from my readers, I "sit" on the topic for 24 hours.  During that time, I weigh the decision of whether me publicly writing about something is for the better good - meaning that it'll help people in the long-term even if it makes them recognize that they've been goofing up in the short-term.

I did some thinking on that front last night (actually, for the past several nights), and decided to go through with this blog, as I feel like it's something that every single baseball player, parent, and especially coach ought to read.  So, if you're in one of those categories - or are just a baseball fan who loves the game - please spread the word on what you're about to read, whether it's with a Facebook "recommend," "Tweet," or just a friendly email with the link to this article.

If you've perused my Baseball Content page much in the past, you'll know that I don't try to hide the fact that throwing a baseball is an incredibly unnatural and flat-out dangerous motion.  It's the single-fastest motion in all of sports, and every day, physically unprepared athletes go out and essentially play with fire every single time they try to light up a radar gun - or even just play catch.

Not surprisingly, when you mix physically unprepared bodies with arguably the most dangerous sporting challenge on the planet (the folks in Pamplona, Spain might argue with me, but that's a blog for another day), athletes get hurt.  Arm injuries (like all youth sports injuries) are rising exponentially thanks to not "less athletic athletes" taking part in high-risk sports, but also this participation taking place at all-time high rates thanks to the proliferation of little league all-star teams, AAU teams, fall ball, private pitching instruction, and the baseball showcase industry.  A fantastic study by Olsen et al. in 2006 (must-read for anyone involved in baseball development) clearly demonstrated strong associations between injuries requiring surgery and pitching "more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game" as well as showcase appearances during adolescence.  The message was very clear: throw too much - especially at a young age - and you're going to wind up hurt.

Unfortunately, though, many people glaze over numbers in studies (if they ever read them), and while they may walk away with the "overuse is bad" message, they don't appreciate what true overuse really is - especially since it's age-dependent.  Fortunately, a February 2011 study from Fleisig et al. showed in no uncertain terms that, in ages 9-14, throwing more than 100 innings per year was associated with a 3.5 times higher risk of elbow or shoulder surgery - or retirement altogether.

To put this into context, I'll first ask you: do you realize how challenging it is to throw 100 innings in a little league season?  Let’s say you start baseball the first week of April (little league) and even manage to play on a summer team that runs through the end of July.  That’s a four month season: exactly what I was accustomed to growing up - at the absolute most.

If you look at the Major League Baseball leaders in innings pitched, those at the top of the list generally throw about 35 innings per month (4-5 starts each). In other words, high-performance, skeletally mature pitchers in the most elite baseball league in the world are on pace for roughly 140 innings pitched over the first four months of the year.  However, there are parents and coaches out there that actually think it's okay to send an 11-year old out there for a comparable number of innings?  It's especially troublesome when you realize that younger kids always throw more pitches per inning than their older counterparts, as they don't have good command and insist on trying to strike everyone out instead of pitching to contact here and there.

CKluber_Indns

Just think about how hard that is to do.  Major League pitchers throw on a five-day rotation, and Little league games are, at most, twice a week.  If a kid pitches once a week for four months, even if he throws complete games every time out (not something I'd advise, for the record), he'd still struggle to hit 100 innings (16 starts x 7 inning games =112 innings).  Rats!  It's actually tough to overuse kids when the season is kept in check.

So, instead, they add seasons.  Join an AAU team (or seven of them). Play fall ball so that you can rack up another seven innings every weekend.  Be sure to hit up a few college camps on Saturdays and throw as hard as you can so that your Sunday outing in 25-degree weather is extra miserable.  Make sure you see your pitching coach for bullpens as soon as fall ball ends.  Get your registration in early for that showcase that's taking place the first week in January.  Just do some band work and a couple of half-ass stretches and you'll be fine.  Riiiight....good thinking.

At risk of sounding arrogant, I'm good at what I do.  I've devoted my life to keeping baseball players healthy. They comprise 85% of our clientele at Cressey Performance, and I work with millions of dollars of arms every off-season and see players from ages 9 to 50+. I do my best to surround myself with the smartest people in strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, and skill-specific training in and outside of the game.  I managed the first subpectoral biceps tenodesis in major league history. I can talk mechanics with the best pitching coaches around, write strength and conditioning and throwing programs, manually stretch guys, you name it.  I've got two fantastic therapists in my office to do massage, ART, Graston, chiropractic adjustments, and a host of other manual therapy approaches - not to mention great physical therapists nearby who can handle all our complex cases.  You know the only things I, we, or anybody on this planet can't control?

Poor judgment by athletes and their parents and coaches.

And that - no doubt about it - is the primary reason that kids get hurt.  We can do all the strength training, mobility work, and soft tissue treatments in the world and it won't matter if they're overused - because I'm just not smart enough to have figured out how to go back in time and change history. Worried about whether they're throwing curveballs, or if their mechanics are perfect?  It won't matter if they've already accumulated too many innings.

While athletes might be playing with fire each time they throw, the pain presentation pattern is different.  You burn your hand, and you know instantly.  Pitching injuries take time to come about. Maybe you do microscopic damage to your ulnar collateral ligament each time you throw - and then come back and pitch again before it's had time to fully regenerate.  Or, maybe you ignore the shoulder internal rotation deficit and scapular dyskinesis you've got and it gets worse and worse for years - until you're finally on the surgeon's table for a labral and/or rotator cuff repair.  These issues might be managed conservatively if painful during the teenage years (or go undetected if no pain is present) - but once a kid hits age 18 or 19, it seems to automatically become "socially acceptable" to do an elbow or shoulder surgery.

Of course, this isn't just applicable to coaches in the 9-14 age group.  You see "criminal" pitch counts in the high school and collegiate ranks as well, and while they may be more physically mature than the 9-14 year-olds, that doesn't mean that they're exempt from the short- and long-term consequences.

This is why we need the best coaches at the youngest levels.  It's also why we need pitching coaches that understand "managing pitchers" as much as - if not more than - teaching pitching mechanics.  And, it's why coaches need to understand the big picture in terms of what different kids can do at different ages, at different times in the year.

It's also while parents need to be proactive with their young pitchers.  If a coach isn't going to track his innings - and a 9-year-old kid certainly can't be expected to do so - the parent needs to step up and do so.  I've met a lot of parents of kids who have been injured at ages 17-21, and most of them look back with a lot of anger toward coaches at younger levels for overusing their sons.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but foresight is what saves an arm.  Don't be afraid to step up and say something, as you aren't telling a coach how to do his job; you're protecting your kid, just as you would be locking the door at night or making sure he brushes his teeth.

In terms of planning the competitive year, I have no problem with a 9-14 year-old kid playing baseball 4-5 months of the year, as the other 7-8 months per year should be devoted to at least two other sports.  It's basically the "rule of thirds" for long-term athletic development: three sports, four months apiece.  Kids can strength-train year round.

At ages 15-16, I'm fine with kids changing things up and going to only two sports.  Baseball might occupy 7-8 months, but a big chunk of that should be focused on preparation.  So, a kid might start playing catch in November, start his high school season in March, and then play summer ball through the end of July.  August through November would be devoted to a fall sport and fall ball would be altogether omitted, as it was the only idea worse than making Rocky V.  Kids would, of course, strength-train year-round.

At ages 17 and up, it's fine with me if you want to specialize in baseball, but that doesn't mean you should play year-round.  I actually advocate kids only throw for 8-9 months of the year (at most) - which is right on par with what most professional players do.  The only thing that'd be different is that the season would be shifted up a bit in the year, as the high school season usually starts a few weeks before the professional season.  Pro guys get half of October, then all November and December off from throwing.  "Specialized" high school players get August, September, and October off (again, because fall ball is as useful as a trap door in a lifeboat).  Strength training is year-round.

You'll notice that there isn't a single penny spent on off-season baseball showcases.  That wasn't an accidental omission (read here why I don't like them).  If you insist on going to one, pick one between June and early August.

I'm convinced that the next big thing in Major League Baseball's "scouting revolution" is meticulously analyzing what players did when they were younger.  If they are going to draft kids, they want to know that they haven't been overworked for years prior to entering professional baseball.  You're already seeing this taking place in collegiate baseball based more on an assumption: pitchers from the North are getting more and more opportunities to play down South because coaches recruit them (beyond just talent) under the assumption that they've accumulated less wear and tear on their arms.

This piece might have ruffled some feathers.  Kids want to play year-round.  Parents want to make kids happy - and they enjoy watching them play.  You know what else?  Kids love chocolate, and parents want to see kids happy - but that doesn't mean that kids should get a limitless amount of chocolate to consume, right?  You put away the Easter candy this week to stress moderation and look out for their long-term well-being.

Coaches enjoy coaching and want to win - and they may take a commentary like this personally because they're the ones who sent a 9-year-old out for 120 innings one year - and now he's the one having the elbow surgery.  Or, maybe it's the college coach who let a kid throw 160 pitches in a game and killed his draft status because teams know he'll have a shoulder surgery in three years.  Admitting you're wrong is hard enough, but admitting you're wrong and learning from that mistake to help future kids is even harder - but all the more rewarding.

This post wasn't intended to make anyone feel bad, but bring to light an issue (throwing volume) that I think is the absolute most important consideration when taking care of arms.  We can do everything right in terms of physical preparation, but if you throw too much - especially at vulnerable ages - none of it matters.

Again, if you could help spread the word on this, I'd really appreciate it.  And, feel free to comment below; I'm here to help.

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In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Part 2 – High School Baseball

In case you missed Part 1 of this series on In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning, you can check it out HERE.

Today, I'll be discussing how to attack in-season training for high school baseball players.  I'll divide things up between position players (plus catchers) and pitchers.

Position Players/Catchers

With our position players and catchers, we typically opt for two full-body strength training sessions per week.  Some players, however, will opt for shorter, more frequent training sessions.  This may be the case for "gym rats" who feel better when they lift more often, or those who simply aren't getting much playing time and really want to continue developing.

These players get enough movement training just from taking ground balls and sprinting during warm-ups and practices, so there usually isn't any need to add extra movement training to their programs.

We also keep medicine ball volume down because they're already doing a lot of high volume rotation with their throwing and hitting.  They'll do their foam rolling and mobility work daily, though.

Pitchers

High school pitchers are challenging to train because most are two-way players – meaning that they play a position in the field when they aren’t pitching.  As a general rule of thumb, I encourage kids to avoid catching and playing SS/3B if they are going to pitch regularly, as the throwing volume really adds up.  If a young athlete pitches fewer than three innings per week, though, we just train him like we would a position player, but try to make sure that at least one of these training sessions comes the day after throwing.  I like this approach because it not only "consolidates" stress into a 24-hour block to allow for better recovery, but it also forces a kid to go through his mobility drills, soft tissue work, and manual stretching with us to "normalize" his range of motion after a throwing appearance.

If a pitcher throws more than three innings per week, it’s best to try to pin down one particular day of the week when he is a starter.  If he starts on Friday, he’d want to lift Saturday and Monday or Tuesday.  Moreover, if he strength trains on Monday, he’ll have the option of getting in another good brief, light session on Wednesday.  Like the position players, our pitchers take part in daily foam rolling and mobility work.

Sample Schedule for a Position Player/Catcher with games on MoWeFr

Su: off completely
Mo: Game
Tu:  Practice and Strength Training (shorter option)
We: Game
Th: Practice, but no strength training
Fr: Game
Sa: Practice, Strength Training (longer option)

I may deviate from this schedule and do a bit more (added Thursday strength training session) with a younger player who needs to develop (usually have fewer practices/games, anyway) or someone who is not getting all that much playing time.

Sample Schedule for a Pitcher with only one start per week (same as college pitchers on 7-day rotations)

Mo: Pitch
Tu:  Strength Training (lower body emphasis, core, and light upper body)
We: Movement Training
Th: Low Volume Medicine Ball Work, Strength training (upper emphasis, plus low volume lower)
Fr: Movement Training
Sa: Very light Strength Training (mostly upper and core work)
Su: off completely

If this pitcher was playing the field on non-pitching days, we’d simply drop the movement training and eliminate either the Thursday or Saturday strength training session.

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This obviously doesn’t include the throwing program component, which we find it a bit different for everyone.  I will say, though, that most of our guys tend to long toss the furthest on Wed/Thu and throw their bullpen on Fri/Sat.  They’d be playing catch on some of the other days, too, of course.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with my approaches to in-season strength and conditioning for college baseball players.

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