Home Posts tagged "Tim Collins"

Vertical Shin and the Pitching Delivery

I came across this picture of Cressey Sports Performance athlete Corey Kluber on the Cleveland Indians Instagram feed the other day, and it reminded me to write this blog that I've had on my mind for quite some time.

It's not an exactly perfect measure, but a vertical shin on the push-off leg during the pitching delivery is a pretty good indicator of pitchers having good direction to the plate.

When the knee drifts forward over the toes, it's a pretty good sign that hip loading isn't optimal in the sagittal plane (hip flexion). Rather, the pitcher is "dumping" into the quad on the support leg. Additionally, unless you have really good ankle mobility (into dorsiflexion) it's hard to preserve a large base of support (i.e., the entire foot) through which you can apply force to the ground. The more the knee drifts forward, the more likely the heel is to come up off the ground.

Corey is a great example of a vertical shin, and it's particularly impressive because he has quite a bit of extra "coil" in his leg lift, which can often make pitchers spin out of the hip and get rotational early. His ability to load back into hip flexion and apply force into the ground improves his direction to the plate and, in turn, his consistency and command (only 34 walks in 215 innings last year).

Some great pitchers - Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta, for instance - will sacrifice good direction to the plate in order to optimize deception and/or stuff. In spite of the fact that they don't preserve heel contact along the rubber quite as long, they still preserve stability long enough into the delivery to make it work. You'll also notice these pitchers use their glove sides and "aggressive" stiffness into the front leg to bring them back on line. It's a higher maintenance delivery, but it can still be nasty. And, chances are that the success will be more related to the stuff than pristine command.

My feeling is that with young pitchers, we want to coach to improve direction. They don't have a body of work to support the legitimacy of putting themselves into bad positions. This is where good footwork and intent during catch play is so imperative; it's where they hammer home direction and learn to load into the hip instead of drifting into the knee. Long-time Cressey Sports Performance athlete Tim Collins might be the best I've ever seen in this regard, and this is one reason why he's pitched in the mid-90s at a height of 5-7 throughout his pro career.

In more advanced pitchers, you have to ask whether they've a) had success and b) stayed healthy. If the answer to both these questions is "yes," then my feeling is that you leave the direction alone and instead focus on taking care of optimizing their physical preparation.

As example, a pitcher with a less vertical shin and more closed off delivery will need more hip internal rotation, thoracic rotation, and scapular upward rotation to get to consistently throw to the glove side. And if they can't do these things well, they'll often rip off accidental cutters to the glove side, have balls run back over the plate, or just sail fastballs up and armside.

Last, but not least, my business partner (and CSP pitching coordinator) Brian Kaplan made a really good point recently: pitch "tunneling" is generally going to be significantly better for pitchers who have better direction. It makes sense, as less moving parts equates to more consistent vertical and horizontal release points, and a more direct delivery to the plate likely makes it harder for hitters to gauge depth (even if they are likely sacrificing some deception). If there is one thing our Major League hitters have told me about facing Kluber, it's that everything looks exactly the same until the split-second.

 


So, long story short, you can't separate direction from pitch design and physical preparation; they all work together. And if you're looking for a good measure of direction, vertical shin (or something close to it) is a pretty good place to start.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach pitchers - both in terms of strength and conditioning and mechanics - - you won't want to miss our Elite Baseball Mentorship Upper Extremity course. Our next offering will take place at our Hudson, MA location on June 23-25. You can learn more HERE.

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: 3/18/18

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 13

It's time for another installment of my series on coaching cues we utilize at Cressey Sports Performance on a daily basis. Today, I'll feature some of my favorite medicine ball coaching cues:

1. "Keep the head behind the belly button a bit longer."

Creating good "separation" is absolutely essential for producing power in rotational sports. This separation occurs when the pelvis rotates toward the target as the torso continues to rotate (or at least stay back) in the opposite direction. In the example of a right-handed pitcher, the pelvis rotates counter-clockwise toward the plate while the torso is still rotating clockwise toward second base. This separation stores elastic energy - but can also predispose athletes to injuries (as I wrote in 2008) if the motion doesn't come from the right places. 

med ball

In this regard, one of the biggest mistakes we see is the athlete "leaking" forward at the torso. This is a bad habit to get into in terms of power production (loss of separation), injury risk (can make a pitcher's arm "late" and subject the elbow and shoulder to undue stress), and effectiveness (hitters can't stay back to adjust on pitches, pitchers make struggle with "catching up" to find a consistent release point, etc.). 

My feeling is that the head goes where the torso tells it to go, so trying to keep the head back a bit longer will force the torso to stay back long enough for the athlete to get sufficient hip rotation to create the ideal stretch. 

2. "Make your front leg and back legs work like a slingshot."

Throwing a medicine ball - whether it's an overhead or rotational variation - is all about putting good force into the ground on the back leg and then accepting it on the front leg. In the analogy of a slingshot, if the back leg doesn't create enough eccentric preloading and subsequent force production, it's like not pulling back hard/far enough on the elastic portion of the slingshot. Athletes usually "get" this really quickly.

What they often fail to recognize is that the front foot has to stiffen up to accept force and - particularly in the case of overhead variations - help to create an effective downhill plane. One of the things I watch for on the front foot is whether athletes "spin out" of their shoes; you'll actually see some guys roll right over the sides of the sneakers if they don't stiffen up enough on the front leg to accept all the force that's being delivered. This is just like having a "limp" front arm when using a slingshot.

In over ten years of coaching these drills, CSP athletes and Royals pitcher Tim Collins is probably the absolute best example of effective "slingshot" force transfer on medicine ball work. He's got excellent reactive ability and absolute strength/power to create force, but is equally proficient at knowing how to stiffen up at the right time on his front side. I firmly believer that this proficiency plays a big role in his ability to create a great downhill plane and throw one of the best curveballs in baseball even though he's only 5-7. 

3. "Take your hand to the wall."

This is a cue I blatantly stole from my business partner, Brian Kaplan, who is the best coach I've ever seen when it comes to cleaning up medicine ball technique - and also creating context for our pitchers and hitters so that the drills carry over to what they do on the field.

One of the common issues we see with athletes with scoop toss variations is that they use too much wrist and get around the ball. You'll see the spin on the ball, and it won't sound as firm when it hits the wall. Effectively, what's happening is that the athlete is cutting off hip rotation and using the wrist redirecting the ball to the intended target. This causes the athlete to be around the ball instead of through it - so it's analogous to throwing a bad cutter with a baseball. By encouraging the athlete to take the hand to the wall, the ideal direction of force production is preserved, and we train hip and thoracic rotation more than just compensations at the wrist and hand.

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

Name
Email
Read more

Advice From a Former College Baseball Player: What If?

Today's guest post comes from current Cressey Performance intern, and former D1 college baseball player, James Cerbie. -EC

What if?

It’s the age-old question that has haunted athletes and competitive people for ages.

What if I had done this? What if I had done that? What if I hadn’t been stupid and done <fill in the blank>?

Unfortunately, these questions will never have answers. It’s impossible to go back and revisit what could have been. Rather, we’re left to look at the now, learn from our “what if” moments, and share our new understanding with another generation. That is where I now find myself.

I’m in the middle of my internship here at Cressey Performance, and to say I’m greeted with the “what if” question on a daily basis would be an understatement. Everyday I get a glance at how we train and prepare athletes, and get to reflect on how I was trained and prepared.

cerbie

And just to bring you up to speed, I’m speaking to the training and preparation of baseball athletes. I’m currently 24 years old and spent approximately 19 of those years playing baseball. It was my greatest passion growing up and I devoted countless hours to my craft. My hard work eventually paid off as I got to play Division 1 baseball at a great school (go Davidson). But, nevertheless, it’s impossible to wonder what could have been if I had known what I know now.

Here are 6 things I really wish I would have known, or done more of during my baseball career, courtesy of my experience here at Cressey Performance.

1. Get assessed.

I’ve always been a good athlete. That’s not to toot my own horn because I have my parents to thank for that more than anything; it just is what it is.

Because I was always a good athlete, however, I believe certain aspects of my training got overlooked. Number one on that list being an assessment.

Not once, throughout my entire athletic career, did I ever get assessed.

If I got injured or came up short on a certain task it was just chalked up to being an athlete:

“James…these things just happen. You’re a good athlete and getting injured is just a part of what you do.”

Oh really? A stress fracture in my back, multiple hip flexor strains, a pulled quad and a host of other injuries just happen for the sake of happening? Sorry, but that answer always frustrated me. What I really heard was:

“James…you keep getting injured but I really don’t know why.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that getting injured is a part of sports. Here’s the difference though: there are fluke injuries that pop up on the rare occasion, and then there’s being “chronically” injured which entails always being nagged by one thing or another.

Throughout my collegiate baseball career, I fell in the “chronically” injured category and would constantly be met with suggestions like:

“Oh, your hamstrings are tight. Just stretch those bad boys a couple times a day and that’ll help.”

“Oh, your hips are tight. Just stretch that and things should start feeling better.”

For those of you who haven’t tried the “stretch it because it’s tight” routine, let me save you the time and effort: it doesn’t work. There’s far more to it than that.

I don’t want to start sounding like a repetitive drumbeat, so let’s get to the point: you need to be assessed. It’s the number one most important thing you can do; it’ll help you stay healthy and take your performance to the next level.

I’ll use myself as example.

The first time I met Eric was about a year after I stopped playing baseball. Having heard great things about him, I visited Cressey Performance for a one-time consultation. Here’s an excerpt from the email Eric sent me, highlighting my “problems.”

“1. Your sit in significant scapular downward rotation, and your humeral head dives forward whenever you extend or externally rotate. These are super common in overhead throwing athletes, and you just took them a step further by also becoming an overhead pressing athlete! You simply don't get enough upward rotation when your arms elevate - and that's a big thing we'll address with these warm-ups.

2. Getting upward rotation and good overhead motion is also heavily dependent on building up anterior core stability. You're extremely lordotic and heavily overuse your lats to not only pull the spine into extension, but also take the scapula into depression/downward rotation. When lats are this overactive, your lower traps don't want to do their job. So, core stability closely relates to shoulder mobility and stability (not to mention breathing patterns and a host of other things). You could also see how your anterior weight bearing negatively affected your squat pattern, and why that counterbalance made so much of a difference.”

He actually talks about some of these issues in this video:

In short, here were my issues:

- I was incredibly extended with an obnoxious amount of anterior pelvic tilt
- I had crazy overactive, short and stiff lats
- Lower trap strength equivalent to that of a 7-year-old girl
- A 6 pack that meant nothing because my core was actually really weak

Cue epiphany.

I finally had answers to my seemingly endless list of injuries throughout college. Almost all of them could be tied back in one way or another to the list above and here’s the frustrating part: nobody had ever looked at these things before or had ever written me an individualized program to address them.

I was merely given generic “athletic” development programs that fed into and compounded my dysfunction.

Moral of the story? Get assessed.

2. Movement comes first.

I always equated problems with strength. I thought strength could solve any deficiencies I had and approached my training likewise. Looking back, I now realize how dumb that was.

More times than not, especially as you get older and advance from level to level, it has far less to do with strength and far more to do with how well you move. Like Gray Cook says, “Don’t layer fitness on top of dysfunction.”

Well, I layered a whole bunch of fitness on top of dysfunction.

This happened because one, I was never assessed, and two, I was incredibly stubborn. The thought of taking a step back to work on movement quality irked me like no other.

“I can squat over 400 lbs. Why am I going to go do goblet squats with an 80 lb dumbbell?”

This was foolish, and something the coaching staff at CP does an excellent job of handling. Because Cressey Performance puts every client through an assessment, they know what a client needs to work on and how to do so properly. Many times, this means taking a small step backward (from the client’s point of view) in order to take an enormous step forward.

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n

Unfortunately, most athletes are like I was. They want to always push the envelope and the thought of taking a step back is almost insulting.

Dear athletes: Please change this attitude.

I can’t harp on the importance of movement before strength enough. Do what you need to do to make sure you move well before you worry about building up strength. Your body and your career will thank you as you stay healthy and reach the highest levels of performance.

3. Focus on the little things.

It’s often the little things that get overlooked the most. These are things like prone trap raises, breathing patterns, soft tissue work and your posture outside the gym. They aren’t sexy and are, to be quite honest, boring.

It’s these boring and non-sexy items, however, that make a big difference.

Putting your full attention into the tiny details of arm care, how you breathe, how you stand, and how you often you foam roll will make the difference between being good and being exceptional.

Luckily, the athletes at CP have a staff that understands this and harps on it daily.

4. Do more single-leg work.

There were few things I hated doing more than lunges, single leg RDLs, split squats, step-ups…really any single-leg exercises. I hated them because I sucked at them.

Tell me to do something on two legs and I crushed it. Put me on one leg (especially my right) and I turned into Bambi on ice.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but it definitely wasn’t my forte.

Instead of forcing myself to conquer this deficiency, I merely found ways to implement as much bilateral work as possible. Seeing as the vast majority of baseball, and pretty much all sports for that matter, are played on one leg, this wasn’t the smartest decision. I would have been far better off doing like we do at CP and hammering single-leg work.

Not just doing lightweight, high rep sets though, but getting truly strong on one leg:

Ultimately, I believe a lot of the success CP baseball players have is because they are forced to get strong on one leg, while most people take my approach and only get strong on two.

Side note: that’s not to say CP athletes don’t get strong on two legs, because they do.

5. Get outside the sagittal plane.

Oh…the beloved sagittal plane.

BodyPlanes

 

Visit most weight rooms and you’ll see people living in the sagittal plane:

Squatting…sagittal plane
Deadlifting…sagittal plane
Box jump…sagittal plane

And the list could easily go on. Most sports (and life for that matter), do not comply with this North-South straight-line orientation; they are lived in multiple planes of motion.

Just think through the complexity and mechanics of throwing a baseball. All the things that need to take place to ensure a ball is thrown at the correct velocity, with the right spin and the right trajectory to bring about the desired result. It’s pretty amazing stuff when you consider the minute details.

Here’s another cool little tidbit of info: power development is plane specific. Just because you can generate power in one plane doesn’t mean you’ll do so well in others.

cish62115_10150356086959953_2125131643_n

Yup…you guessed it. I missed the boat on this one also.

At CP, however, they get outside the sagittal plane, and do so often. First on this list is medicine ball throws.

They use a lot of different medicine ball throwing routines to help their athletes develop power in the transverse and frontal plane. A great example of such an exercise is the rotational med ball scoop toss:

Second, they implement exercises like the 1-arm kettlebell lateral lunge and heiden:


Lastly, they use off-set loading on exercises; this provides a rotational component to the movement because the body has to resist rotating towards one side vs. the other. A good example of such a movement would be a 1-arm 1-leg kettlebell RDL:

Although this barely scratches the surface when it comes to exercises used by Cressey Performance and the importance of training outside the sagittal plane, I hope it has given you a good frame of reference.

6. More doesn’t equal better.

There’s a time to push it and a time to back off. Being an in-season athlete is not one of the “push” times. Many coaches, however, forget this and continue pushing their athletes as if nothing has changed.

If you read Eric’s blog often (which I hope you do) you’ll know he says, “You can’t add something without taking something else away.” I really wish that quote could be plastered on the walls of weight rooms around the country.

When the volume of swings, throws and sprints picks up because you’ve started the season, then you have to start taking something away.

Having been lucky enough to spend the past few months at CP, I’ve gotten to witness this first hand. As pitchers begin entering their competitive season (when they’re obviously throwing more often), you see a change in the program to reflect the increased volume outside the weight room.

Medicine ball throws are scaled back, if not eliminated completely. Lifts move towards a two-day per week full body structure, and extra movement days are limited.

As an athlete, it’s easy to forget how everything you do adds up. Every swing, every throw, every sprint and every lift leaves traces in your nervous system. And, although you may be awesome, your body can only handle so much. I understand the desire to get in and work hard, but you have to remember that a lot of times, less is more.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to things I wish I would have done differently. As opposed to dwelling on that, however, I’d rather write and share my experiences with coaches and athletes so they can avoid making the mistakes I did. Feel free to post questions or discuss your own experiences in the comments section below.

About the Author

James Cerbie is a cecerbie1rtified strength and conditioning specialist and USA weightlifting sports performance coach who is Precision Nutrition Level 1 and Crossfit Level 1 certified. He has been blessed to work with athletes from the middle school to professional level, including powerlifters, Olympic lifters and Crossfit athletes. Cerbie gets no greater enjoyment than seeing people improve, succeed and achieve their goals. He’s the owner of Rebel Performance and currently works as a strength and conditioning intern at Cressey Performance. You can follow him on Twitter and 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

Pitching Performance: Understanding Trunk Position at Foot Strike – Part 3

Today marks the third installment of this series on trunk position at foot strike during the pitching delivery.  In case you missed them, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.  In those installments, we outlined the problem of early and excessive lumbar (lower back) extension, and how to address it with drill work.  In today's final installment, we'll introduce some drills we like to use with our athletes to teach them about proper positioning and build stability within those positions.

At the end of the day, there are a few things that can contribute to a pitcher drifting into excessive extension from the time he begins his leg kick all the way through when his front foot strike.  Obviously, the foremost concern is what cues the athlete has been given that may be leading him in this direction.  Once those have been cleaned up, though, we have to look to see how physically prepared an individual is to get to the right positions. I think the first question you have to ask in this case is, "Where does the posture start?"  If an athlete looks like this at rest, he's going to at least look like this dynamically - and this heavily extended posture is going to be much more exaggerated.

APT

With that in mind, step 1 is to educate athletes on what acceptable resting posture is.  In this case, we need the athlete to learn to bring the pelvis and rib cage closer together, most notably through some posterior pelvic tilt.  Once that has been established, here are some of my favorite warm-up drills for athletes with this heavily extended posture. You'll notice that exhaling fully and learning to get the ribs to come down are key components of these drills.

In addition to these low-level core stability exercises, we'll progress to some balance drills, especially in the early off-season.  Effectively, we're teaching athletes to resist extension and rotation in single-leg stance.  Yes, it's static balance training, but I firmly believe these drills have carryover to bigger and better things at higher speeds. And, you're certainly not going to overtrain on them, so you've got nothing to lose.

With all these exercises out of the way, it takes a lot more high level core stability for this posture to carry over to the high level throw.  You need to improve both anterior core control (your ability to resist excessive extension/arching) and rotary stability (your ability to resist excessive rotation at the lower back).  I've outlined loads of options on these front, but here are two to get the ball rolling for those who aren't up to speed on my writings just yet:

And, remember that the different types of core stability never work in isolation - especially during the basebal throw.  Check out this video for more details:

The core stability you build must, however, be accompanied by a strong lower half.  Candidly, I don't think having a huge squat is necessary.  Athletes seem to get much better carryover from deadlift variations, in my experience - likely due to the fact that the deadlift does such a tremendous job of teaching good hip hinging.  We see so many athletes who drift (LHPs toward 1st base, and RHPs toward 3rd base) early in the leg kick and subsequent movement toward home plate in part because they can't hip hinge at all.  Once you've gotten that hip hinge back (in part with the toe touch video from above), you have to strength train in that pattern to get it to stick.  For the most detailed deadlift technique video tutorial out there, check out my free one here.

Additionally, single-leg strength is insanely important, and there are lots of ways to attack it. 

I think it's equally important to be able to build and maintain strength outside the sagittal plane, especially when it comes to carrying that good hip hinge over to movements when a pitcher is starting to "ride his hip" down the mound.  With that said, definitely check out an article I wrote previously, 7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane.

Once you've established hip and shoulder mobility, core stability, and lower half strength, you can really start to make the most of your medicine ball training.  As you can see, I think Tim Collins is a great example from which young throwers can learn a lot, as he has built up a lot of these qualities to make the most of a smaller frame in order to consistently throw in the mid 90s.  That said, I couldn't ask for a better demonstrator for our medicine ball drills for a few reasons.

First, he always throws the ball with intent; there are no half-speed reps. If you want to develop power, you have to try to be powerful in each throw during training.  Second, his direction is outstanding.  You never see him drift forward as he builds energy to apply with aggressive hip rotation. Third, he's got a great hip shift, which is necessary to get the most out of his posterior chain.

As a follow-up to that video, CP coach Greg Robins has a great tutorial here to teach you how to get "in and out" of your hip on rotational medicine ball exercises:

As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to an athletes being in excessive extension - but also allowing that extension to carry over to their pitching mechanics to the point that trunk position will be out of whack at foot strike.  Additionally, these exercises should demonstrate to you that athletes who land in a very extended position - but still have success and don't want to change things - will need to take special precautions in terms of physical preparation to make sure that their bodies don't break down over time with this delivery style.

This wraps up our series on understanding trunk position at foot strike during the pitching delivery; we appreciate you following along for all three articles!I If you'd like to learn more about how we manage throwers, be sure to register for one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships.  The next one will take place December 8-10.

 

 

footer_logo-3

 

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

2013 MLB Draft Thoughts: Talking vs. Doing

Late Saturday afternoon, the 2013 MLB Draft wrapped up, with a record 15 Cressey Sports Performance athletes having been taken over the three days.  It's always a great time of year, as being drafted is a dream come true for just about anyone who has ever picked up a baseball.  While I'm proud of all 15 guys, there was one guy in particular whose story is particularly valuable for up-and-coming baseball players to read.  Kevin Brown was drafted in the 22nd round by the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, and you can learn a lot from him - but need to hear his story first.

This was the first time I ever saw Kevin play baseball.

No, Kevin wasn't among those celebrating.  He was the unfortunate sophomore who struck out looking while down a run in the ninth inning with men on base to end the Massachusetts Division 1 State Championship game.  I was there to see a bunch of other guys I trained from the other team, including the pitcher, who was the Massachusetts State Player of the Year in 2007.  They celebrated right in front of him.

Two weeks later, Kevin started training at Cressey Sports Performance - right alongside most of the guys from the winning team.  It was somewhat of an awkward moment, to say the least (particularly when Kevin recognized the other team's catcher in the middle of a set of push-ups).  Our entire staff quickly realized that this kid meant business, though.  Whether it was the way he was "wired" or just that he was extra motivated from the tough loss and the way that it ended, Kevin quickly became a "facility favorite" for his outstanding work ethic.  He was a kid who would always show up on time with a smile on his face, and then he'd flip a switch and get after it.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that even as a 16 year-old, Kevin would have run through a wall for me if I'd asked him to do so.

The next year, as a junior, he led the state in home runs.  Still, he didn't get many looks on the college recruiting front.  Even some of the bigger name schools in New England alone said that they didn't think he was good enough to play for them.  Fortunately, Bryant University - which had just made the move up to Division 1 from the D2 ranks - saw something in him and offered him a scholarship.  A few weeks after he accepted it, he went to play down South for the first time.  In a fall ball tournament, he went 8-14 against some of the best high school prospects in the country at the World Wood Bat event in Jupiter, FL.  Quite a few college coaches came out of the woodwork to ask, "Who is this kid?"  Uh, he was the kid you either ignored or overlooked.

brownbryant

At Bryant, Kevin went on to be named Northeast Conference Freshman of the year, and was one of only 15 freshman All-Americans in the country. He started all 56 games and hit .355.  He was one of the better hitters in the New England Collegiate Baseball League the following summer, and eventually went on to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League.  This year, Kevin hit .367 with a .498 on-base percentage.  In the process, he set a bunch of hitting records at Bryant, and this year, he reached base safely in 16-straight at-bats, falling just two short of the NCAA record. The team advanced to their first ever NCAA Regional and won a game in the process. In addition to being named Bryant's Male Athlete of the Year, "Brownie" was awarded the Omar Shareef Spirit Award, which is voted on by student-athletes themselves. In short, Kevin was tremendously successful - and he did it the right way, earning the respect of coaches and teammates/peers.

I also should note that in a game this year against a college that refused to recruit him, Kevin went 3-3 with a 3B, HR, 2BB, 4RBI, a SB, and 2 runs scored. I guess they didn't see what we did.

As an interesting aside, we had another player, Carl Anderson, commit to play baseball at Bryant two years after Kevin did.  When he left for school, I told Carl to just follow Brownie around and do everything he did.  They trained together at CSP and in the cages all winter. Carl went on to hit .341 with a .405 OBP and stole 20 bases this year. I guess he picked a good training partner.

kevin_brown

If you walked in to Cressey Sports Performance, you'd never find a person who could say a bad thing about Kevin. They'd rave about his work ethic and unconditionally positive and polite demeanor.  And, they'd tell you that Kevin was a "do-er" and not a "talker."

I see far too many kids that worry about what others think of them.  They'll post on Twitter about how they're in "beast mode." And, they'll make sure that all their baseball "eyewash" - flat brims, upside-down sunglasses, silly bracelets, necklaces, and arm sleeves - are all in place before they walk in to the gym...only to take them off to train.  And, they'll check their cell phone for text messages between sets. Then, they'll complain when people don't recognize their "talent."  It's like they expect things to be handed to them on a silver platter. They'll insist that they have to attend a big-name Division 1 school when they really ought to be picking a school where they can actually play and develop.  They'd rather "talk" than "do."

Meanwhile, there is a very small minority of players out there who are busting their butts, appreciating that they need to work to earn what comes their way. They're the Kevin Browns of the world who have experienced failures, been overlooked, and flown under the radar.  They don't want to draw attention to themselves because they are too modest and, frankly, they don't want any distractions.  It's a lot easier to run through the wall if there isn't anything in the way.  They absolutely love the game, so the hours of training feel a lot more like "fun" than "work," as they enjoy the process as much as they covet the destination. In fact, just listen to what Kevin's Dad had to say at the 5:23 mark of our Elite Baseball Development video.

They're guys like Steve Cishek and Tim Collins, who've made it to the big leagues and played for Team USA when nobody even thought they could play D1 college baseball.

CresseyCishekCollins

And, guys like this are why you can be sure that I just became a little more of a Chicago Cubs fan - and you probably ought to be a little more of one, too.  And, it's why you should think long and hard about whether you're more of a "talker" or a "doer." You might just realize that you aren't working quite as hard as you could be.

Congratulations, Kevin, and bust of luck...not that you need it.

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

Understanding Stride Foot Alignment: Subtle Changes Yield Big Results for Tim Collins

In today's guest video blog, Cressey Performance Pitching Coordinator Matt Blake talks about stride foot alignment and its effect on the pitching delivery.  Matt is an important contributor on the Elite Baseball Mentorships team, and in this post, he breaks down how Kansas City Royals pitcher Tim Collins' stride foot alignment changed over the course of the past few years as he dramatically improved his K:BB ratio in the big leagues.

Click here to learn more about Elite Baseball Mentorships; we'd love to have you at one of our future events.

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

EliteBaseballMentorships.com: Taking Baseball Preparation to the Next Level

As many of you know, my colleagues Matt Blake, Eric Schoenberg, and I introduced our Elite Baseball Mentorships program back in the fall, and the first phase 1 event in early January was a big success.  Attendees included strength and conditioning coaches, baseball coaches, physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, and chiropractors - and the feedback was fantastic.

With that in mind, today, I'm excited to announce the debut of our mentorships website, www.EliteBaseballMentorships.com

On this page, you'll be able to find information on the agendas and dates for upcoming courses, see testimonials from previous attendees, and register to take part in the fun.  Our next two events will be June 23-25 (Phase 1) and August 18-20 (Phase 2). 

As a participant, you'll attend lectures, review case studies, observe training, and interact with hundreds of high school, college, and professional baseball players. We feel strongly that these events provide the premier baseball education experience in the industry, and we'd love an opportunity to show you why.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be featuring some guest blogs from CP pitching coordinator Matt Blake and physical therapist Eric Schoenberg to complement my own writing so that you can get a feel for how this provides a unique, multi-disciplinary educational opportunity.  In the meantime, be sure to check out www.EliteBaseballMentorships.com to learn more and sign up, as we expect these to sell out quickly.

All the Best,

Eric Cressey

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

21 Reasons You’re Not Tim Collins

On March 31, 2011, Cressey Performance athlete Tim Collins made his major league debut on opening day for the Kansas City Royals.  As one of the shortest players in Major League Baseball, Tim made for a great story, especially considering he was an undrafted free agent sign who never received interest from any college baseball programs, let alone Division 1 schools.  In light of this unlikely ascent to baseball's biggest stage, Tim's story was featured on Yahoo Sports, MLB.com, and Men's Health, and I also wrote up this post, which was among my most popular of all time.  By the end of the day, Tim was trending worldwide on Twitter when my business partner and I went out to dinner with Tim and his folks to celebrate his big-league debut - even though nobody in downtown Kansas City recognized him outside of his uniform.

Not surprisingly, Tim's phone was bombarded by text messages and phone calls all that afternoon and evening. However, I never could have imagined that we, too, would get bombarded with requests after Tim got to the show.  Since that date, we've received hundreds of emails (in addition to some phone calls to the office, one of whom asked to speak with Tim - in the middle of July while he was in-season) that all essentially go like this (this is copied and pasted):

"Hi, I am a 5-7 lefty pitcher that also weights 170lb but only throws 80 mph. I read the articles about Tim Collins and was wondering if you could send me the workouts that he does in the off-season with you because I'm just like him. What leg exercises/lifts did he perform. Also did he just focus on legs, core and light upper body. If I lifted upper body I get really stiff because I have a similar stature like Collins, so did he basically avoid upper body lifts or did he just perform light lifts on the upper body. Finally after I lift I have been running a mile after that to loosen up my muscle to stay flexible, is that a good or bad idea. Thanks."

Now, don't get me wrong; I think it's absolutely awesome that Tim's story has inspired guys to want to work hard to achieve their goals in spite of their stature - and we've certainly received loads of comments from folks who always put a smile on my face in this regard.  However, it frustrates (and entertains) me to think that some guys assume that they are just a program (actually, five year worth of programs) away from throwing 97mph and pitching in the big leagues.  Programs are just a bunch of words and numbers typed into Microsoft Excel and printed out; it's how they're carried out that really matters.  Additionally, there is a lot more to long-term baseball success than just following a strength and conditioning program; you also have to prepare on the baseball side of things and attain a skill set that differentiates you.  To that end, I thought I'd take this time to highlight 21 reasons you're not Tim Collins.

1. You don't have Tim's training partners.

Tim's had some of the same training partners since back in 2007, and in addition to pushing him in the gym, they've also served as a network for him to share ideas and solicit feedback.  If you just do "his programs" in a commercial gym by yourself (with obnoxious Nicky Minaj music in the background), you're not going to get the same outcome. True story: in the fall of 2009, Tim trained alongside Paul Bunyan. This experience gave him the size, strength, and courage needed to grow a beard that would become a beacon for humanity in Kansas City and beyond.

2. Your beard is not this good.

Everyone knows that beards improve the likelihood of baseball success, not to mention all-around happiness in the rest of one's life. I can't send you a strength and conditioning program that will make your facial hair grow.

3. You don't put calories in the right place like Tim does.

Tim can eat a ton of food and a LOT more of it goes to muscle than fat.  Just because you're 5-7, 150 pounds and left-handed doesn't mean you won't become a fat slob if you crush 8,000 calories a day.  Sorry.

4. You don't have Tim's awesome support network.

Tim is fortunate to have a great family, from his parents, to his sisters, to his fiance.  This is especially important for an undrafted free agent who didn't get much of a signing bonus.  His parents put a roof over his head and fed him while he worked his way through the minor leagues.

More significantly, though, people don't realize that the foundation of becoming a big leaguer doesn't come from a training program; it comes from the values that are instilled in you by those around you when you're young.  As a perfect example, Tim's father, Larry, is one of the hardest-working guys you'll ever meet.  He teaches, has a painting business, and even just accepted a prestigious award for outstanding community service in the Worcester area.  A few sheets of paper with exercises, sets, and reps written on them won't foster the kind of habits that will get you to "the show."

5. You probably don't enjoy the process like Tim does.

Tim likes training.  In fact, all of our clients knew Tim well before he made it to the big leagues, as he was always at the gym. He has been putting in eight hour days of hanging around the office (on top of his training) for five years now.  If you don't enjoy training, you probably around going to become a gym rat.  And, if you don't teach yourself to enjoy the training process, your chance of getting to your ideal destination will surely be diminished.  This was taken at 7pm on a Tuesday night, as a frame of reference:

6. You might not have Tim's luck.

Then Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi "discovered" Tim by accident when he was out to scout another player.  How many of you have GMs just "pop in" to your Legion games - and conveniently do it on a day when you strike out 12 straight guys?

7. Your name isn't Matt O'Connor.

Meet Matt O'Connor, Cressey Performance athlete and student at Emory University. He is sometimes mistaken for Tim when he's at CP.

If we were going to pick anyone to be "just like Tim Collins," it would be Matt - purely for efficiency's sake.

8. You might not have a switch you can flip on and off.

One of the things most folks don't know about many high level lifters is that they joke around all the time during training sessions.  When I was lifting at one of the best powerlifting gyms in the world, guys were always busting each other's chops between sets. However, when the time comes to move weights, they get very serious very quickly.  They know how to flip the switch on at will. 

However, they also know how to turn the switch off when they don't need it.  This is true of a lot of the most successful baseball players I've encountered; they leave work at work.  The guys who are constantly "on" and let the game consume their lives often have bad relationships with teammates and stress themselves into bad results.

I think part of what has made Tim successful - especially as a relief pitcher - is that he can turn his brain and his body on at a moment's notice, but knows how to go back to "normal Tim" when the time is right.

9. You probably don't even have a bulldog, and if you do, I guarantee you that his underbite isn't this awesome.

10. You don't have Tim's curveball.

I actually remember reading somewhere that Tim's curveball had more top-to-bottom depth than any other curveball in Major League Baseball, and I spoke to one MLB advanced scout who said he rated it as an 80.  Keep in mind that average fastball velocity is higher in Low A than it is in the big leagues.  Tim's velocity improvements might have been a big part of him advancing through the minor leagues, but he doesn't even get his first opportunity unless he has a great curveball.  And, no, I don't have his "curveball program" to send you.

11. You don't have Tim's change-up.

If Tim's curveball is what got him to the big leagues, it was his change-up that has kept him there.  Interesting fact: he threw two change-ups in the 2010 season - and both led to home runs. It took a lot of work to develop the change-up he has now.  But you just need his programs.  Riiiight.

12. You can't ride a unicycle.

I don't know of the correlation between unicycling ability and pitching success, but there has to be something there.

13. You might not respond to success like Tim has.

I often see one of two things happens when guys are successful in pro sports, and everyone comes out of the woodwork asking for something.  They either a) trust everybody or b) trust nobody.  I think Tim's done a great job of finding a happy medium.  He puts his trust in others and doesn't second guess them, but still guards his network carefully.

14. You might not be as willing to make sacrifices as he is.

This might come as a surprise, but Hudson, MA really isn't that beautiful in the winter.  Most pro guys move to Arizona, Florida, or California in the off-season, but Tim sacrifices that lifestyle to train with us and be close to the support network I mentioned earlier. Asking to just have a program (actually, 50+ programs) emailed to you means that you aren't willing to make sacrifices on that level, which leads to...

15. You wouldn't be doing your program in the same training environment.

I know a lot of pro guys who struggle to find a throwing partner in the off-season.  If that's an issue, it's a safe assumption that they don't exactly have many (if any) training partners or a good training environment in which to execute the program, either.  You don't just need the right people; you need quite a few of them, with the right equipment at your fingertips. At risk of sounding arrogant, I think we've done a great job of creating that at CP.

16. You don't have just the right amount of laxity.

Congenital laxity is a big consideration in training throwing athletes.  Some guys have naturally looser joints, while others tend to be very stiff.  The really "loose" guys need more stability training and little to not flexibility work, while the tight guys need a hearty dose of mobility drills.  Generally speaking, the best place to be (in my opinion, at least) is middle-of-the-road.  Tim falls right there, with a small tendency toward being a bit more loose, which favors his aggressive delivery.

17. You don't throw to a left-handed catcher in the off-season.

And, even if you do, your left-handed catcher probably doesn't have a mitt with his name on it. It's definitely a crucial part of the Tim Collins developmental experience.

18. You probably can't score a 21 on the Functional Movement Screen.

Many of you are probably familiar with Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen, a seven-part assessment approach used in a number of fitness and strength and conditioning settings nowadays.  A perfect score is a 21, but you don't see it very often - usually because everyone gets dominated by the rotary stability test, where a perfect score (3) is essentially a same-sided birddog. The first time I saw Tim drop to the floor and do this effortlessly, my jaw just about hit the floor.  Luckily, he can repeat it on command like it's nothing, so I snapped a video (this was the first try, with no warm-up).

He's scored a 21 on this two spring trainings in a row - and that implies that he actually moves quite well.  Most people don't need his program, as they have a lot more movement quality issues to address.

19. You ice after you throw.

Tim iced after pitching one time, and hated it; he'll never do it again.  Not everyone is the same, though; some guys swear by it.  You might be one of those guys.

20. You've never personal trained a nine-week old puppy.

21. You "muscle" everything.

One of the traits you'll see in a lot of elite athletes is that they don't get overly tense when they don't have to do so.  If you're squatting 500 pounds, you want to establish a lot more rigidity, but if you're participating in the vast majority of athletic endeavors, you want effortless, fluid movement - almost as if you aren't trying.  If you just tense up and try to muscle everything, it becomes harder to take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle.  Teaching an athlete to relax is challenging - but I never had to even address it with Tim; it was something he just "had."

There's a saying in the strength and conditioning world that "it's easier to make a fast guy strong than it is to make a strong guy fast."  I think this quote applies perfectly to Tim's development.  Not everyone has that natural reactive ability from the get-go, so different training approaches are needed for different individuals. 

Again, in closing, I should emphasize that it's great that Tim has become an inspiration to shorter pitchers to pursue their dreams.  However, as is always the case, young athletes simply following the exact training programs of professional athletes is a bad idea, as these programs may not be appropriate for their bodies or point on the athletic development continuum.  To that end, I encourage all young athletes to educate themselves on how they are unique - and find the right people and programs to pursue their dreams in accordance with those findings. And, for the record, Tim agrees!

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

Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing

Today's guest blog comes to us from Jeff Albert, one of the bright minds in the world of hitting instruction. I've enjoyed Jeff's stuff for years, and I think you'll like it, too.

Hip extension is a getting a lot of attention in the fitness world these days. Eric Cressey was asking us to get our butts in gear back in ’04, ESPN recently made a Call of Booty, and we now have our very own glute guy, Bret Contreras. Kettlebell swings, hip thrusts, deadlifts, and squats are staples of exercise programs for athletes for good reason: they make the posterior chain stronger and more explosive. This, in turn, makes it easier for athletes to do things athletes are supposed to do - like run faster and jump higher.

But how is this going to help with your actual skills? What is the role of hip extension in the baseball swing?

EMG studies in both baseball (Shaffer et al 1993) and golf (Belcher et al 1995) report highest muscle activity of the primary movers of the posterior chain – the hamstrings, glutes and low back – happens during the beginning of the forward swing. The exercises listed above are often programmed because they target the same muscles. Very conveniently, those muscles are also responsible for creating rotation in the swing.

Here’s the key point: good hip rotation has an element of hip extension!

This is what it looks like from the front and side in the swing:

Check out the belt line as the hitter transitions from landing with his stride foot to making contact. This is the actual unloading of the hips during the forward swing. You should be able to see how the hips (belt line) lower into flexion (load) and then actually come up a bit as the hips extend (unload).

Unfortunately, the baseball EMG study only measured muscle activity on the back leg. The golf EMG study, however, measured both legs. An interesting point from this golf study is that in the initial forward swing (from the loaded position to horizontal lag position), activity in the quads (vastus lateralis was measured) of the lead leg was higher than the posterior side (glutes, biceps femoris, semimembranosus). This makes sense because the front side is accepting some shifting weight during this time. But, when the club is being moved from the horizontal lag position to contact, the hip extenders again become more active. Baseball instruction commonly refers to having a “firm front side”, but we haven’t talked much about how that happens. This golf EMG suggests that extension at the hip, rather than knee, is more responsible for creating this effect.

Keep this in mind if and when you are working on the lower half in your swing. Very often players can show a nice, powerful hip rotation and extension pattern in the gym (throwing medicine balls, for example), but look much different when they pick up a bat in the cage. Differences in terminology that you’ll find between the gym and the batting cage can often be a cause of this, and sometimes players just don’t make the connection between their physical conditioning and their actual swing.

If you do struggle with rotation of your lower half, give some thought to the hip extension and rotational work that you do in the weight room and pay attention to the patterns that you’re developing there. First of all, make sure your hip extension and rotation are good in the first place, and then see if you can repeat the movement pattern when swinging the bat. The whole point in creating strong, explosive hip rotation in the weight room is so you can actually use it to create more power when you finally have the bat in your hands.

Happy Hacking!

About the Author

Jeff Albert is a CSCS with a MS in Exercise Science from Louisiana Tech University. Jeff is entering his 6th season as a coach in professional baseball, now serving as a hitting instructor in the Houston Astros organization. He works with players of all ages during the off-season in Palm Beach, Florida and can be contacted through his website, SwingTraining.net, or follow him on twitter (@swingtraining).

References

1. Bechler JR, Jobe FW, Pink M, Perry J, Ruwe PA. Electromyographic analysis of the hip and knee during the golf swing. Clin J Sport Med. 1995 Jul;5(3):162-6.

2. Shaffer B, Jobe FW, Pink M, Perry J. Baseball Batting: An Electromyographic study. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1993 Jul;(292):285-93.

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
Page 1 2 3 8
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series