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High Performance Training, Personal Trainer, Online Sports Training | Performance & Health
Updated: 18 hours 51 min ago

Baseball Athleticism: It’s Probably Not What You Think It Is

Sun, 03/17/2019 - 11:03

A few weeks ago, I was in Ft. Myers to deliver an in-service for the Minnesota Twins sports medicine staff, and one of the strength and conditioning interns asked me a question:

“I’m new to baseball. If there was one important reminder you’d give to someone in my position with respect to working with baseball players, what would it be?”

My response:

“You have to emotionally separate yourself from your perception of what makes athletes successful. Often, baseball players are successful because of traits and characteristics as much as they are actual athleticism.”

Think about it…

We’ve seen position players who are phenomenal athletes who didn’t make it to the big leagues because they couldn’t hit breaking balls.

We know of absolutely electric arms who never panned out at higher levels of pro ball because they didn’t have effective secondary offerings to complement their fastballs.

We’ve watched underwhelming physiques hit mammoth homeruns, and we’ve watched bad bodies on the mound dominate hitters because they’ve mastered a knuckleball.

Do you think these absurdly long fingers might be able to learn an elite changeup faster than ones that are, say, six inches shorter?

And, do you think this insanely long middle finger might impact how well he can throw a slider?

Don’t you think this freaky hypermobility might be advantageous for this pitcher to contort his body in all sorts of directions to create deception and get way down the mound?

Hitters with 20/10 vision are going to stand a better chance of making it to the big leagues than those with 20/40.

I’m not saying you should encourage baseball players to be sloppy fat or weak, or to encourage them to avoid stretching or lifting. I’m just telling you that you need to appreciate that every athlete is successful for different reasons. Some of these traits will impact how you train that player, and others won’t matter much at all. Either way, appreciate that baseball players rarely look, run, or jump like chiseled NFL wide receivers. And, more importantly, figure out how to heavily leverage and protect the exact characteristics that make them great.

If you’re interested in learning about how your own unique structural and functional characteristics – and how they relate to your on-field performance and training preparations – I’d strongly encourage you to consider a visit to a Cressey Sports Performance facility to get a thorough evaluation to determine where your deficiencies exist. When you put a video evaluation of pitching/hitting alongside a thorough movement screen, it can be a very powerful combination to unlock hidden potential. For both amateur and professional players, we offer both short-term consultations and a more extensive Elite Baseball Development Summer Collegiate Program.

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!

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Exercise of the Week: Heiden with Medicine Ball

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 17:46

Here is a good frontal plane power development exercise that Cressey Sports Performance – FL co-founder Shane Rye introduced recently. Because we aren’t very creative, we just call it a Heiden with Med Ball.

Important coaching cues:

1. The medicine ball (usually 6-10lbs) is held (but NOT bear-hugged) as a counterbalance that helps an athlete load back into the hips on the eccentric component. As such, this is an awesome drill for rotational athletes who tend to drift into the knee instead of loading back into the hip. This side angle should help you to appreciate it better:

2. You’ll notice that the arms still move side to side in conjunction with the lower body pushoff. If the arms aren’t moving, it’s a sign that you are holding the ball too rigidly. You should actually be able to see hip-shoulder separation.

3. Make sure that you are wearing sneakers that provide good lateral support.

4. We’ll usually program 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps, and perform these after a warm-up, but before more aggressive sprint and agility work.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/4/19

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 04:49

I’m working on getting back on an every Monday schedule with this recommended reading feature. Here goes!

8 Training Tips for the New Dad – My wife is scheduled for a C-section this Friday as we make the Cressey crew a party of five. It seemed like a good time to bring this article I wrote back in 2016 (two years after our twin daughters were born) to the forefront again.

Dr. Stu McGill on the Strongfirst Podcast – Interviews with Stu never disappoint, and this is a great example.

Assessments: Can Your Clients Actually Do What You Want Them To Do? – This was an excellent post from my long-time friend, Tony Gentilcore.

Top Tweet of the Week

Continuing to train power with aging clients is incredibly important. It’s also, however, a quick way to injure people if you don’t use the right methods to do so. Embrace options like med ball throws, hill sprints, KB swings, etc. as joint-friendly ways to get the job done.

— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) March 3, 2019

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*LANDMINE PRESS PROGRESSIONS*

Why Fitness Industry Hiring is Different Than What You Think It Is

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:34

In the past, I’ve written a few times about how when we want to expand our staff at Cressey Sports Performance, we only hire from our internship program. In hiring, the goal is to get someone who is both competent for the job AND a good fit for your culture. We can teach that competency in an internship, but just as importantly, an internship give us 3-5 months to evaluate whether an individual is the right fit from a personality standpoint. We actively involve our current staff in hiring to make sure that they’re the ones helping to shape this culture. I can’t recall exactly, but I believe I initially heard the competency/fit discussion in a book from Richard Branson and his hiring practices at Virgin.

This is an important lesson for all businesses, but I’d argue that the fitness industry is unique in that the pendulum swings much more in the direction of “fit.” Why? My theory is that it’s because the barrier to entry in this industry is so low that very few candidates show a level of competency so overwhelming that they’re “must-hires.”

Just last week, my theory was put to the test when a large company reached out to me on a reference check on one of our former interns who’d applied for a job. Here was the email I received:

Hi Eric,

I was given your information from <name removed> regarding a professional reference. Would you be able to answer the following questions, in a timely manner?

How long have you know him or her?

What is him or her work ethic?

What management style is conducive to their success?

What is one strength and one opportunity for improvement?

Strength:
Improvement:

Eligible for rehire?

Thank you!

You see where I’m going with this? Not a single one of those questions was specific to this candidate’s competency for the position? She didn’t ask me whether he had memorized the Krebs Cycle or could differentiate between linear and conjugate periodization.

It’s crazy, but competency is actually either a) assumed or b) viewed in a way that the organization thinks they can teach a candidate everything they need to know to be successful…as long as they’re a good fit.

What does this mean for up-and-coming fitness and strength and conditioning professionals? Let your resume speak to your competencies, but utilize interviews and your references to show just how awesome you are from a fit standpoint. And, if you’re looking for a job at a particular location, get in front of your potential employer in person before applying. That might mean doing a facility visit to observe, dropping off your resume in person, or actually doing a lengthier internship at that location.

Our hiring processes are one of the subjects Cressey Sports Performance co-founder Pete Dupuis and I cover in great detail in our Business Building Mentorship. Our next offering is April 7 at our Jupiter, FL location. For more information, click here

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5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 13:56

Today’s guest post comes from Seattle-based physical therapist, Dan Swinscoe. Enjoy! -EC

Kettlebells have come a long way since they were used as weights on scales in the open air markets of eastern Europe about two hundred years ago. For exercise purposes, they’ve been called everything from an ancient Russian tool against weakness to a cannonball with a handle. One thing is for sure, though: since Pavel Tsatsouline introduced them to the US about 20 years ago, they have become staples in most gyms and rehab centers, including my own.

Physical therapist Gray Cook once said, “Dumbbells will make you strong, but kettlebells will make you efficient.” It’s the shape that makes them great. Because of the offset handle, when gravity acts upon the bell, you are forced to control it in two planes of motion, not just one (as with a barbell or dumbbell). It’s for this reason that they are one of my favorite tools to rehabilitate and train baseball players.

Which exercises will be the best for you depends on your individual needs – which are determined by a good assessment. However, my list below should have you pretty well covered – even if many good exercises didn’t make the list. In particular, I’m leaving out the single arm and double arm swing on purpose because they are so well known. I think they are awesome and I recommend them, but with this article I am hoping to bring some lesser known but invaluable kettlebell exercises to light. The KB snatch is also a great and popular exercise, but I don’t teach it to my pitchers.

Based on research from OnBase University, no matter how they throw or what pitch they’re throwing, pitchers have to do five things well to be successful. They need to 1) control their upright posture, 2) stride 85% of their height, 3) interact with the ground, 4) control their core, and 5) control their arm. Not every pitch is perfect and no pitcher is perfect, but the more we improve those five things, the better the performance and the more protected they are against injury.

Because injuries to pitchers are more common than to position players, I am biasing my list to what pitchers need most. Here are my top five kettlebell exercises to help the pitcher.

1. Pivot Lunge/Pivot Clean.

This is a great drill for training leg strength and control over momentum (as needed for pitching). We speak in terms of the lead leg, but we have athletes go both directions. Master the skill with the pivot lunge before progressing to the pivot clean. Once the athlete knows how to do both, we usually program it so that they combine them in one set. As an example, for a set of 10, the first five reps are pivot lunges and the next five reps are pivot cleans – and then switch sides. This is a unique advantage to the kettlebell. Lunges are okay with a dumbbell, but once you begin cleaning, the KB is distinctly better.

Trains: stride, upright posture, ground interaction, core control, arm control):

2. Turkish Get-up with Screwdriver

This exercise has a lot going on. To help simplify things, we first teach them separately. When we isolate the screwdriver, we teach it first supine (face up), then progress to side-lying, and then into the side plank position. Each version is slightly more challenging than the previous one because each version adds another body segment to have to control. The TGU and the screwdriver each have value on their own. We will combine them once the fundamentals are mastered and the athlete has demonstrated the ability to handle the complexity of this challenge. More than anything else, this exercise trains the player to improve rotator cuff control of the ball on the socket. However, it also demands scapular control and challenges the cross body patterning connecting that shoulder to the opposite hip via the core. Oblique abdominals and serratus anterior are huge with this drill. Once the movement is mastered, the load can be progressively increased so strength can be gained.

Trains: upright posture, stride, interaction with ground, core control, arm control)

3. Offset Kettlebell Front Squat

With this exercise, we get a nice challenge to scapular stability on the side holding the kettlebell, especially as the bell gets heavy. However, the real benefit of this squat version is how we also get contralateral stability challenges in the frontal plane for both the core and hips (in addition to the usual sagittal plane challenges with other squats). I especially like this style of squat because the challenge is very high with weight that seems small compared to barbell squat variations. This way, I get high muscle stress with low joint stress. For this reason, it’s my #1 squat choice for players when training in season.

Trains: upright posture, interaction with ground, core control, arm control


 

4. Dynamic Rows

This exercise has the athlete in a hinge position, which challenges the posterior chain. However, while maintaining that hinge, rotation of the torso is accelerated and decelerated bilaterally. The dynamic nature is an additional challenge from standard rowing exercises. It also forces the rotator cuff and scapula stabilizers to work and work quickly.

Trains: upright posture, core control, arm control

5. Open Half-Kneeling Hip Mobility

Improving stride length is something a lot of pitchers need to do. Improving this mobility so that it sticks can sometimes be a challenge. I think the reason this drill works so well is because of the load of the kettlebell. The weight of the bell assist the player into “depth,” and because he’s doing this actively, the weight seems to give the nervous system more to feel. The gains seem to stick. Players also seem to universally like how it feels to them. Any exercise that is liked gets done more often. This one feels good.

Trains: upright posture, stride

I hope you find these kettlebell exercises useful. If this is your first exposure to kettlebell training I would recommend you seek professional coaching when you are able. Keep in mind some of these exercises take time to master. But like other investments they are worth the payout in the end.

A special thanks to Cardinals pitcher Ian Oxnevad (@ioxnevad) and University of Washington commit Cole Fontenelle (@cole.fontanelle) for their modeling services.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist in Issaquah, WA. He practices at Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy and teaches his own class, Kettlebells for Clinicians. You can follow him on Instagram (@danswinscoe) and email him at baseballrehab@gmail.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/25/19

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 06:39

I hope you had a great weekend. Here’s a little strength and conditioning content from around the ‘Net to get your week started on the right foot:

Mastering the Basics MUST Precede Embracing a Specific Methodology – John O’Neil is our Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance – MA, and with that role, oversees our internship program. In this article, he discusses a trend he’s observed in up-and-coming coaches. This is one of the most important articles I’ve read this year.

15 Static Stretching Mistakes – This is one of my most popular articles of all-time, and I wanted to reincarnate it from the archives in light of a conversation I had the other day.

The Top 19 Nutrition Myths of 2019 – The crew at Examine.com never disappoints, and this article is no exception.

Top Tweet of the Week

Late offseason plyo progression gem: Hurdle Hop to Heiden onto Box. Great demo from @MattSolter.

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Exercise of the Week: Landmine Squat to 1-arm Press

Sat, 02/23/2019 - 09:37

Anyone who’s followed this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a big fan of landmine presses for a number of reasons:

1. As a “free scapula” pressing exercise, they’re an effective way to train scapular upward rotation.

2. They’re much more shoulder friendly than overhead presses.

3. They provide a great core stability challenge.

4. You can implement a lot of variety in terms of stance (tall/half-kneeling, standing, split-stance, rotational, etc) and lower body contributions. This week’s feature is a great highlight in this regard:

This drill fits well as a first exercise on a full body day and pairs well with horizontal or vertical pulling. I really like it late in the offseason when we’re trying to keep sessions a bit shorter and get extra bang for our training buck. I’d do sets of 3-5 reps per side.

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5 Strategies to Avoid Overthinking Strength and Conditioning Programs

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 07:55

I frequently run Q&A sessions on my Instagram stories, and sometimes, I’ll get an inquiry that warrants a detailed response that goes beyond a 15-second time limit of the small amount of text I can squeeze into a respond. This question is one such example:

The more I learn, the more stressful I find programming for athletes. Any tips for this?

First off, I should acknowledge that this is an incredibly common problems for not only new trainers, but experienced coaches as well. The curse of knowledge is a very real thing that can lead to a lot of frustrated tapping on the keyboard as you write up programs for clients that really don’t require things all that advanced. Here are a five strategies I’ve found to help:

1. Identify the biggest rocks and circle them.

After I write up all my notes on an evaluation, I go back and circle 2-3 things that I view as the highest priority items. Maybe it’s very limited cervical range of motion, or brutal single-leg strength. If it’s a resting heart rate in the 80bpm range, maybe we need to hammer aerobic capacity. Regardless, I find that when you definitively identify and highlight the highest priority items, it makes it easy to get the ball rolling on the program and build some momentum in the “don’t sit in silence and overthink things” direction.

2. Think quality movement first.

When joints move efficiently (work from “neutral”), it impacts a host of other systems. You take longer to shift from aerobic to anaerobic energy systems strategies. The length-tension relationship is optimized to enhance strength and power. The lymphatic system works more efficiently to optimize recovery. Effectively, moving efficiently has a “trickle down effect.”

These downstream benefits are why we take so much pride in our warm-ups. They shouldn’t just get your body temperature up, but rather, they should also work to reduce bad stiffness and improve good stiffness. For instance, with a back to wall shoulder flexion drill, we’re reducing bad stiffness in the lats, scapular downward rotators, and lumbar extensors. Meanwhile, we’re establishing good stiffness in the anterior core, deep neck flexors, and scapular upward rotators.

3. Acknowledge that you very well may never use some of the tools in your toolbox.

If you’re working with post-pregnancy women who are just looking to lose their baby weight, don’t expect to use French Contrast Training. And, if senior citizens are your niche, your extensive knowledge of plyometric progressions probably isn’t going to have much of an impact (sorry, bad pun).

If you hire a contractor to fix something at your house, he rolls in with his toolbox, but isn’t emotionally attached to the idea of using a chainsaw, hammer, screwdriver, or any other specific tool. Rather, he matches the right tool to the job in question, even if it means all the other tools are unused that day. You have to be willing to recognize that a ton of the things you’ve learned over the years may, in fact, be completely useless for you.

4. “Batch” your programs.

Believe it or not, I have an easier time writing a program for a professional baseball player with years of training experience with us than I do writing a program for an untrained female. The reason is very simple: I write a lot more programs for baseball players, so it’s familiar and I have a lot of related cases from which I can draw perspective (“X athlete is similar to Y athlete, so I can build on the success I had with that athlete instead of reinventing the wheel”). For this reason, try to write multiple programs for similar demographics in the same sitting instead of breaking them out to different programming sessions. As a general rule of thumb, I never sit down to write a program unless I’m doing at least 3-4 programs in that sitting.

5. Build on the previous program.

Most of the time, when I write a program, I’m writing it right over the top of the previous month’s programs, as doing so allows me to contemplate progressions and regressions quickly and easily. Never, ever start by staring at a blank programming template!

Wrap-up

In closing, remember that program design is only as complex as you make it. When in doubt, simplify!

This post delved into programming strategies, but the truth is that our programming is just one aspect of the systems that make our two Cressey Sports Performance facilities what they are. In our upcoming Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship, CSP co-founder Pete Dupuis and I will pull back the curtain on these systems to help other gym owners improve their systems. Our next offering will be April 7 at our Jupiter, FL location. For more information, click here.

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Exercise of the Week: Glute-Ham Raise with Banded Reach

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:26

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of training the posterior chain and also working on getting serratus anterior firing to improve scapular upward rotation. So, you can imagine how excited I am to present to you an exercise of the week video that hits both. Thanks to Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard for the demo: 

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Glute-ham raises with banded reach are a great way to train scapular upward rotation while working the posterior chain. Serratus anterior works like an “anti-lat,” so this setup keeps athletes honest: they can’t cheat the concentric by moving through lumbar (low back) extension instead of hip extension. #Mets pitcher @nsyndergaard with the stellar demo.

CSP Summer Training Strategies for College Baseball Players

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:51

I recently received an email from someone asking if I could delve into how we approach summer training with our college baseball players. It’s a pretty loaded question, as we have to consider a number of factors in making the recommendation:

Is it a position player or a pitcher?

Is the highest priority getting bigger, stronger, and faster? Or is it getting as much game experience as possible?

Is it a pitcher who needs to make a mechanical adjustment or learn a new pitch? A hitter who needs to rework his swing?

Does the player have an injury history?

What are the player’s plans after college? Is professional baseball a goal and/or legitimate possibility?

What are the player’s geographic and fiscal constraints?

To attempt to remedy this, we’ve got a few options we employ with respect to college baseball guys and training with Cressey Sports Performance. Whether you plan to train with us or not, it should help you work through some options for your short- and long-term development.

Option 1: The Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program at Cressey Sports Performance – Massachusetts

This will be the third summer in which we run this all-encompassing program at our Hudson, MA location. It’s a perfect fit for pitchers who need to develop a new pitch and/or improve their physiques and athleticism. It’s a 10-week program where players have a predictable schedule conducive to development. The guys train six days per week with a combination of throwing and strength and conditioning work, and we utilize considerable technology (Rapsodo, high-speed cameras) and incorporate classroom education sessions covering everything from nutrition, to sports psychology, to pitch design, to game preparation. We’ve routinely had athletes gain over 20 pounds and add 6-8mph over the course of ten weeks as part of this program. For more information, click here or email cspmass@gmail.com.

Option 2: The Collegiate League of the Palm Beaches (CLPB) or other nearby league –

The CLPB was co-founded by Cressey Sports Performance – Florida co-founder Brian Kaplan (“Kap”) when he saw a large gap in the college summer baseball market. All too often, players who really needed game experience would have to go to the middle of nowhere to get at-bats or innings, and those experiences would come on an unpredictable schedule and with lengthy road trips for away games. They’d often be miles from a good gym or even a solid restaurant, and host family situations were often not all that favorable.

To overcome these challenges, Kap and his team established a league in Palm Beach County, Florida, where teams had predictable schedules of 3x/week games. Most of the players train at CSP-FL 3x/week, have access to manual therapy, and receive nutritional direction. Plus, the host family and food options nearby are outstanding. It’s ideal for the athlete who wants to develop physically while still getting at-bats and/or innings on the mound – as well as some exposure in the process. And, it’s a good fit for players who feel like they’re a year away from being ready to play on the Cape. This league has seen plenty of players from SEC and ACC schools, and also has included some rising college freshmen. To learn more, check out www.clpalmbeaches.com.

I should not that we have also regularly trained athletes participating in several leagues – the Futures League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Park League, Yawkey League, and Cranberry League, and Central England Baseball Association – located in the greater Boston area. Effectively, we meet you “where you’re at.” You can email cspmass@gmail.com for more information on that.

Option 3: One-Time Consultations at CSP-MA or CSP-FL

We also see many players who come to one of our facilities for 2-3 day stints to get assessed and receive distance-based programs that they can utilize while playing in various college leagues in other parts of the country. This is particularly common for players in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Most of the teams are a 60-120 minute drive from CSP-MA, so players will come up in the morning or on an off-day. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of big name eventual draft picks who have taken advantage of this proximity. Travis Shaw (Brewers) and Walker Buehler (Dodgers) are a few CSP Cape League visit alums, as examples.

As I noted, we also see a lot of one-time consultations in May and June at both our facilities for players before they head off to summer ball. Our goal with one-time consultations is to teach you as much as possible about your body in a short amount of time – and get you set up with safe, effective program you can execute from afar.

For FL, please email cspflorida@gmail.com, and for MA, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

Option 4: Just train.

Sometimes, a player’s workload during the season is high enough that the best move is simply to shut down baseball for the summer and instead focus on building the body. To that end, we often have athletes move to FL or MA just to train. On the pitching side, I think that any pitcher who tops 100 innings on the mound in the spring season ought to nix summer ball and instead use the summer to get the body right. And, of course, injured athletes may use the summer to get healthy and prepare for the fall.

For FL, please email cspflorida@gmail.com, and for MA, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

Of course, every situation is unique, so if you have questions about your specific case, feel free to email us and we’ll work through the decision with you.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/7/19

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 07:29

Here's some recommended reading/listening from around the strength and conditioning world to keep your week going:

The Speed Podcast with John O'Neil - The crew at TC Boost interviewed CSP-MA Director of Performance, John O'Neil, who spoke to some of our training methodologies at CSP.

Becoming an Industry Leader with Pete Dupuis - Michael Keeler interviewed my business partner, Pete Dupuis, on the business of fitness, and there was some great material for all of the fitness business owners out there.

6 Random Thoughts on Programming for and Coaching Young Athletes - This was a hefty brain dump from Mike Robertson, and it included quite a few good pearls of wisdom.

Top Tweet of the Week

Some MLB organizations still do distance-running conditioning tests in spring training. Sure, any professional athlete should be able to run two miles in a reasonable amount of time. Still, it's a complete waste of a training day at a time of year when injuries are the highest. pic.twitter.com/epug7jnMCa

— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) February 3, 2019

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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If you're looking for a quick and easy way to expand your rowing exercise selection, definitely try the standing 1-arm cable row with offset kettlebell hold. Holding a kettlebell in the racked position on the non-working arm not only adds a core control element, but also facilitates thoracic (upper back) rotation away from the rowing arm. We know that left thoracic rotation works hand-in-hand with right serratus anterior recruitment (and vice versa), so this is an awesome progression we like to use with our throwing athletes. You could progress this particular version by adding a bit more upper back rotation to the left on the eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep. Try it out! #cspfamily

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on Feb 5, 2019 at 9:47am PST

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Exercise of the Week: Standing 1-arm Cable Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 11:53

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to expand your rowing exercise selection, definitely try the standing 1-arm cable row with offset kettlebell hold.

Holding a kettlebell in the racked position on the non-working arm not only adds a core control element, but also facilitates thoracic (upper back) rotation away from the rowing arm. We know that left thoracic rotation works hand-in-hand with right serratus anterior recruitment (and vice versa), so this is an awesome progression we like to use with our throwing athletes. You could progress this particular version by adding a bit more upper back rotation to the left on the eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep.

Also, just a friendly reminder that tonight is the end of the $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook. The discount is automatically applied at checkout; you can learn more at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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5 Non-Traditional Exercises for Catchers

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 05:53

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Director of Performance, Tim Geromini. Tim takes the lead with our catchers at CSP-FL, so I'm excited that you'll get a chance to take a glimpse into the expertise he brings to the table each day. Enjoy! -EC

With spring training right around the corner, most of the media attention is on the pitchers coming in to camp, but what about the guys catching them? The demands of catching a full season are unique and with that in mind, here are 5 non-traditional exercises we use with our catchers at Cressey Sports Performance.

1. Catcher Pop-up to Shotput

Although nothing can truly simulate working on technique like being in pads and actually being on the field, you’ll see a number of things in this exercise that look similar to what a catcher might do in a game situation. We start by getting into the catcher’s stance with a runner on base and have them close their eyes. I will then roll or place the ball to a random spot, forcing them to react when I clap my hands and they open their eyes. From there, the goal is to get to the ball as fast as possible and in a position to throw the ball as hard as possible into the wall. The reason we have them close their eyes and find the ball is to work on reaction time and identifying a loose ball. In game situations, a catcher doesn’t always know where the ball is after the initial block. One of the main benefits of the exercises is working on hip mobility and being strong getting from the crouch position to an upright throwing position. We usually program this for 3 sets with 3 reps per side with a 6-8 pound med ball.

2. 1-leg Kettlebell Switches

A lot of focus for catchers is centered around hip mobility, as it should be. However, losing sight of ankle stability is a mistake. Enter the 1-leg Kettleell Switches. In order to execute the exercise properly and get the most out of it, I recommend being in just socks or barefoot. The kettlebell doesn’t have to be heavy at all for this to be effective; most of the time, I start athletes with 10 pounds.

As you can see, the first movement is a hip hinge with a slight knee bend. From there, we cue the client to “grab the ground” with their feet and make sure the toes stay down. Go as wide with your arms as you can while maintaining balance, and switch the kettlebell from side to side. Your goal is to keep your foot from deviating into pronation/supination and your hips to stay level. From the side view, you want to make sure the athlete maintains a neutral spine. You may notice that if your client has a flatter foot, this can be more challenging to stay away from the foot pronating in. Likewise, if your client has a high arch, it can be challenging to maintain the big toe staying down.

We usually program this as part of a warm-up or paired with an explosive lower body exercise. We'll do 3 sets of 8 reps per side.

3. High Tension Ankle Mobilization

A Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) inspired exercise, the high tension ankle mobilization is working on taking your ankle through end-ranges of dorsiflexion with control of that range. It is important to go through this exercise slowly, as rushing through it generally doesn’t lead to as much tension or control of your range.

Start by getting into a good half-kneeling position, making sure not to sit your hips into abduction or adduction. From there, imagine pushing your foot through the floor and slowly take your knee as far over your middle toes as you can without your heel coming off the ground or the ankle pronating in. Then, slowly lift your heel off the ground maintaining your knee staying out in front of your toes as much as possible. Once you go as far as you can then slowly return while driving your foot through the floor. Now that you are back to the original starting position with your knee over your toe pause, the lift your toes towards your shin and start to lift the front of your foot off the ground, still pushing your heel through the ground. Once you can’t go back anymore, slowly return to the starting position.

Because this exercise requires a lot of tension and effort, we usually program this for 2-3 reps. You can put this in a warm-up or pair it with an ankle stability exercise such as the 1-leg kettlebell switch. If you deem the client has sufficient ankle mobility, this exercise isn’t always necessary and the focus can be more on stability.

4. Seated 90-90 Hip Switches w/Hip Extension

Another drill of FRC origin, seated 90/90 hip switches are a great hip mobility exercise, but often are not performed correctly if they are rushed. What do we get out of this exercise? Hip internal rotation, external rotation, flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction...all while maintaining a neutral spine. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Before prescribing this exercise, make sure to check your client’s hip range of motion and medical history first. If your client has femoroacetabular impingement or some other pain in their hip, this may not be the best fit for them.

The key coaching cues are to keep your hips as far separated as possible during the exercise and maintain a neutral spine. If you notice your lumbar or thoracic spine flexes, then use your hands on the ground as support. We usually program this exercise for 3 reps per side.

5. Deep Squat Anti-Rotation Press

There are many variations of the anti-rotation press (better known as the “Pallof Press”), but this version gets as specific to catching as any of them. Make sure the cable or band is set up at sternum height. When you press out, make sure your hips and feet stay neutral (don’t rotate toward one side). From the side view, you want to make sure the spine is neutral. You can hold this for breaths, time, or reps.

Wrap-up

These are just a small piece of the puzzle that is training catchers, but hopefully it gets your mind working to innovate and individualize for these athletes!

About the Author

Tim Geromini is the Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter (@timgeromini24).

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/31/19

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 04:51

I didn't get around to publishing this weekly feature last week, so I've got a bit of content stockpiled. Here was the best of the bunch:

Ace in the Hole: Corey Kluber at Cressey - New England Baseball Journal just ran this cover feature and article about Corey Kluber's training at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts in their February edition.

Pete Dupuis on Niche Domination in the Fitness Industry - Don't miss this excellent Robertson Training Systems podcast with my business partner, Pete Dupuis.

7 Ways to Maintain Strength During Baseball Season - With baseball season rapidly approaching, it seemed like a good idea to reincarnate this guest article from CSP-MA Director of Performance, John O'Neil.

Top Tweet of the Week

This yr, for complex training, we are doing more heavy axial loaded single-leg work before unilateral plyos. Here’s anterior-loaded split squats from pins for 3/side, rest 30s, then heidens for 3/side. Do 4-5 rounds of this pairing as 1st exercise on lower body day. @RyanFelt26 pic.twitter.com/lh9ZEDl6ln

— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) January 21, 2019

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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585x5 went well last week, so it was on to 600x5 this week. PRs aside, though, it was actually a pretty good example of how off the predicted max charts really are.

Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship: June 23-25, 2019

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 13:32

We're excited to announce our next Elite Baseball Mentorship offering: an upper-extremity course that will take place on June 23-25, 2019 at our Hudson, MA facility.

2013.01.26 - CP (139)

The Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships provide an educational opportunity to become a trusted resource to this dramatically underserved athletic population. Through a combination of classroom presentations, practical demonstrations, case studies, video analysis, and observation of training, you’ll learn about our integrated system for performance enhancement and injury prevention and rehabilitation in baseball athletes. Cressey Sports Performance has become a trusted resource for over 100 professional players from all over the country each off-season, and this is your opportunity to experience “why” first-hand at our state-of-the-art facility.

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Course Description:

This Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship has a heavy upper extremity assessment and corrective exercise focus while familiarizing participants with the unique demands of the throwing motion. You’ll be introduced to the most common injuries faced by throwers, learn about the movement impairments and mechanical issues that contribute to these issues, and receive programming strategies, exercise recommendations, and the coaching cues to meet these challenges. 

Course Agenda

Sunday

Morning Session: Lecture

8:30-9:00AM – Registration and Introduction (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Understanding the Status Quo: Why the Current System is Broken (Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:00AM – Common Injuries and their Mechanisms (Eric Schoenberg)
11:00-11:15AM – Break
11:15AM-12:15PM – Flawed Perceptions on “Specific” Pitching Assessments and Training Modalities (Eric Cressey)
12:15-1:00PM – Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session: Lecture and Practical

1:00-3:00PM – Physical Assessment of Pitchers: Static and Dynamic (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
3:00-3:15PM – Break
3:15-5:15PM – Prehabilitation/Rehabilitation Exercises for the Thrower (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
5:15-5:30PM – Case Studies and Q&A

5:30PM Reception (Dinner Provided)

Monday

Morning Session: Lecture and Video Analysis

8:00-9:00AM – Strength Training Considerations for the Throwing Athlete (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Key Positions in the Pitching Delivery: Understanding How Physical Maturity and Athletic Ability Govern Mechanics (Christian Wonders)
10:00-10:15AM – Break
10:15-11:30AM – Video Evaluation of Pitchers: Relationship of Mechanical Dysfunction to Injury Risk and Performance (Christian Wonders)

11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-5PM*

Tuesday

Morning Session: Practical

8:00-9:00AM – Preparing for the Throwing Session: Optimal Warm-up Protocols for Different Arms (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
9:00-11:00AM – Individualizing Drill Work to the Pitcher and Live Bullpens from CSP Pitchers (Christian Wonders)
11:00-11:30AM – Closing Thoughts and Q&A (Eric Cressey, Eric Schoenberg, and Christian Wonders)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-5PM*

* The afternoon observation sessions on Monday and Tuesday will allow attendees to see in real-time the day-to-day operation of the comprehensive baseball training programs unique to Cressey Sports Performance. This observation of live training on the CSP floor with our professional, college, and high school baseball players will allow you to experience firsthand our approaches to:

• Programming
• Proper coaching cues for optimal results
• Soft tissue techniques
• Activation and mobility drills
• Strength/power development
• Medicine ball work
• Multi-directional stability
• Metabolic conditioning
• Sprint/agility programs
• Base stealing technique

In addition, you will experience:

• Live throwing sessions
• Biomechanical video analysis
• Movement evaluation
• Live evaluations of attendees with Eric Schoenberg

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

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Cost:

$899.99 early-bird (through May 23), $999.99 regular rate (after May 23)

No sign-ups will be accepted on the day of the event.

Continuing Education Credits:

2.0 NSCA CEUs (20 contact hours)

Registration Information:

Click here to register using our 100% secure server.

Notes:

• No prerequisites required.
• Participants will receive a manual of notes from the event’s presentations.
• Space is extremely limited
• We are keeping the size of this seminar small so that we can make it a far more productive educational experience.
•This event will not be videotaped.

For details about travel, accommodations, and other logistics, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

We hope to see you there!
  

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 32

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 14:19

In light of the busy baseball offseason, I'm long overdue for an update to this series. So, here goes!

1. Have a long-term plan, but not necessarily a long-term program.

The other day, an observational visitor to CSP-FL asked me if I had a big, overarching goal for all our professional baseball players. My response was simple: "Minor league guys need to get through five 4-week programs, and big leaguers need to get through four."

The MLB regular season always ends on a Sunday, so the math is actually easy to do. We know most MLB guys report around February 14, which gives us 19.5 weeks for the offseason. That 3.5 week "buffer" accounts for some time off, some vacation, a few days over the holidays, and travel to Spring Training. We "give" a little bit on guys who played well into the postseason in the previous year.

Over this 16 weeks of training, we transition from active recovery, improving mobility and building work capacity, to building strength and power, to transitioning into more specific skill development. It's all something we've become comfortable handling as long as we can get in those four program blocks. However, while we have a long-term plan, we don't write all the programs up in advance. Why? Very simply, what you put on paper for a January program when you write it three months in advance almost always needs to be modified prior to the time when it's actually being executed. Even the best players on the planet who've established really good offseason routines have to call audibles on the fly as various things come up throughout the offseason.

Have a general framework in place, but don't be so rigidly adherent to it that you can't pivot on the fly over the course of several months. It'll save you time and make your programming more effective if you write the specific components of your offseason progressions when the time is at hand.

2. Good coaching always comes back to relative stiffness.

Give this video of a back-to-wall shoulder flexion a watch:

Now, think about what's happening from a stiffness standpoint. When the arms go overhead, we're asking good stiffness of the anterior core (rectus abdominus, external obliques), glutes, and scapular upward rotators (upper trap, lower trap, and serratus anterior) to overpower bad stiffness of the lumbar extensors, lats, and scapular downward rotators (levator scapulae, pec minor, and rhomboids).

This good vs. bad stiffness interaction is taking place in every single movement we prescribe and coach. If we don't appreciate functional anatomy and understand how to tone down the bad and tone up the good, we simply can't be efficient coaches.

If you're looking to learn more about relative stiffness, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement.

3. Be careful with predicted max charts.

Last week, I hit a personal record (PR) with five reps at 600lbs on my conventional deadlift.

PRs asid, though, it was actually a pretty good example of how off the predicted max charts really are.

After this set, I plugged 600 pounds and 5 reps into four separate predicted max calculators I found on the internet. The projections for my 1RM were anywhere from 675 pounds all the way up to 705 pounds. That 675 might be a possibility, but taking that to a 705 might very well be two years worth of specialized deadlift training.

Predicted max calculators have their place, but don't think for a second that they're perfectly accurate. And, they're even less accurate with a) more experienced lifters and b) lifters with a heavy fast twitch profile.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/19/19

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 03:00

I hope you've had a great week. To kick off the weekend, here's a little recommended reading and listening from around the strength and conditioning world.

9 Ways to Survive Off Days - This audio blog from Mike Robertson shares some good strategies for making the most of non-training days.

3 Reasons Team Training Might be a Threat to Your Business - This might be my favorite blog post that my business partner, Pete Dupuis, has ever written.

Cleaning Up Thoracic Rotation - Dean Somerset offers some great insights on optimizing thoracic spine mobility training.

Top Tweet of the Week

A mistake you’ll see in stiff-leg deadlift technique is slamming the knees into hyperextension on the lowering portion. This limits hip hinging and instead put stress on passive restraints of the knee. The kneecap shouldn’t be behind the heel; it’s a stiff (not straight) leg DL. pic.twitter.com/rWnhVxt2tt

— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) January 16, 2019

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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585x5 is a PR, but more impressively, I threw up in my mouth a little bit on the 4th rep and you can’t really tell. #cspfamily #deadlift

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on Jan 13, 2019 at 8:22am PST

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2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 12:28

Registration is now open for the 2019 Cressey Sports Performance Collegiate Elite Baseball Development Program. This event takes place at our Hudson, MA facility, and runs from 6/3/19 through 8/10/19.

During last year's offering, we had pitchers move to Massachusetts from sixteen different states. This summer, we anticipate another awesome collection of motivated athletes who'll push each other to get better in conjunction with the same training opportunities and expertise we provide to our professional athletes.

This program is a good fit for pitchers who need to prioritize development over just getting innings or exposure. In other words, it's a suitable replacement for those who still need to throw, but also need to gain 20 pounds, learn a new pitch, sort out old aches and pains, or improve their mobility.

Each athlete will begin with a thorough initial movement and pitching assessment that will set the stage for individualized strength and conditioning and throwing programs, respectively. These programs correspond to six days a week of training. Generally, four of the six training days per week are double sessions, with throwing in the morning and strength and conditioning in the afternoons. A typical training week would look like the following:

Monday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Tuesday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Wednesday: Late AM throwing and movement training (at field)
Thursday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Friday: AM throwing, PM Strength and Conditioning
Saturday: Optional AM Mobility Work and Recovery Session, AM Throwing and movement training
Sunday: Off

In our throwing programs, we integrate weighted ball work, long toss, and bullpens (including video analysis). We'll integrate Rapsodo in these bullpens as well.

All the athletes will receive manual therapy with our licensed massage therapist, and nutritional guidance throughout the program. Also to help with recovery, athletes have access to MarcPro, and Normatec.

Last, but not least, we'll incorporate a regular educational components to educate the athletes on the "why" behind their training. Last year, this consisted of not only staff presentations, but also conference calls with Major League players and established coaches from around the country.

The best part is that it'll take place in a motivating environment where athletes can push each other to be the best they can be. By optimizing the situation, you can help change the person.

Interested in learning more? Email cspmass@gmail.com - but don't delay, as spaces are limited; this offering sold out last year, and we'll be capping the group size.

In the coming weeks, we'll be highlighting some case studies from last year's group that should give you a better feel for how the programs work.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/14/19

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 08:10

Let's kick off the week with some good recommended reading and listening!

Chidi Enyia on Building Explosive Speed, Strength and Power with Potentiation - There's some really good stuff in this podcast with Chidi Enyia and Mike Robertson.

Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? - This was a lengthy feature at Outside Magazine that I found intriguing.

Never Lose a Customer Again - This is a great read for anyone who has clients/customers, but I found it particularly interesting because it spoke quite a bit to retention in the fitness industry, with shoutouts to the Starrets (San Francisco Crossfit) and Jon Goodman (the Personal Trainer Development Center).

Top Tweet of the Week

A @jaegersports quote on long toss that’s invaluable: "Impress me on the way in, not on the way out." Here's @max_scherzer at ~210 feet with @trevor_gott yesterday. Get your mind and body right in the warmup, then let it eat on the pulldown throws on the way back in. #cspfamily pic.twitter.com/3o5rWCwMew

— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) January 12, 2019

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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I’m a big fan of single-leg work, and one of my favorite offseason progressions on this front is to do split squats from a dead-stop on the pins. It works great with an anterior-loaded (front squat) set-up or on the safety squat bar. It also pairs well with split-squat cycle jumps in a complex training pairing. Great demos from @breezy_b_25 (Mets) and @foshizzle7 (Blue Jays).

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