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4 Factors that Make or Break a Baseball Strength and Conditioning Program

Written on January 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm, by Eric Cressey

At Cressey Performance, we’re getting to the time of the year when things gradually start to slow down for us.  For many business owners, this is a source of frustration, as they worry about paying the bills when things get quieter.  I, on the other hand, view it as a source of excitement, as it signifies that the beginning of baseball season is at hand, and our athletes will have an opportunity to put all their off-season hard work into action on the baseball field.

You’d be surprised, however, at how many collegiate and professional players get genuinely worried about how they’ll be managed once they get back to school or their organizations.  In the private sector, we can individually manage guys with their unique needs in mind, but in collegiate and professional, because of the larger volume of athletes (and fewer coaches per athlete), limited training time, and additional competing demands (i.e., practicing and playing games), player development can be quickly stunted.  Believe it or not, 2012 was the first year that Major League Baseball mandated that every minor league affiliate have a strength coach on staff; many teams didn’t have anyone (in-person, at least) watching over their highly-touted prospects during critical minor league development periods.

That said, though, there are some colleges and professional organizations who are doing a solid job of managing guys – and I wanted to use today’s post to highlight four areas in which they’re getting the job done effectively.

1. Synergy – As I outlined in Weight Training Programs: You Can’t Just Keep Adding, we have a limited recovery capacity, so if you’re going to add something to a program, you have to take something away.  Unfortunately, this “give and take” gets overlooked in some team settings.  As an example, a strength and conditioning coach, athletic trainer, and pitching coach might all prescribe different rotator cuff exercises for their players without knowing that an overlap is taking place. Or, a strength coach might prescribe a challenging lower body lift, then have a pitching coach send his players to run poles – only to have the head coach tack a very taxing practice on top of an already hefty workload.  If you’re always adding, but never taking away, it’s only a matter of time until athletes break down.  As such, communication among coaches, medical and strength and conditioning staffs, and players is absolutely essential for optimal synergy.

2. Individualization – I’m constantly amazed at how – even at the highest levels – players aren’t managed on a case-by-case basis.  That is, of course, until they get hurt and need unique rehabilitation prescriptions.  Just imagine how much less rehabilitation would be needed if players were simply managed more individually on a proactive basis so that injuries didn’t occur nearly as often.  Additionally, we’d be much more likely to see late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents become MLB superstars if they were managed differently than already-talented players who are just coddled on their way to the big leagues. I think you’d see more stories like Tim Collins’.

I also see this as a huge competitive advantage for college coaches on the recruiting side of things.  Not everyone can boast beautiful weather, an amazing baseball complex, a pristine academic reputation, and beautiful girls everywhere when recruiting prospects, but being able to guarantee an individualized approach to development goes a long way in making up the difference.

3. Specificity – You’d be amazed at how many folks in the baseball world have absolutely no knowledge of exercise physiology or the unique demands of baseball – but are still prescribing strength and conditioning programs for baseball players.  Some of what I have seen is so atrocious that the players would have been better off doing absolutely nothing.  I’ve seen programs with 10+ mile runs, kipping pull-ups to failure, 1-rep max bench presses, and high rep clean and presses.  I seriously can’t make this stuff up.

The most common justification for this type of garbage is that coaches want to build mental toughness.  Well, I’m here to tell you that there are much better ways of doing that, as your mental toughness won’t mean much when your pitchers are having surgeries or throwing 74mph and well on their way to those surgeries.

When we discuss throwing a baseball, we are talking about the single fastest motion in all of sports. General training is absolutely valuable, but if you don’t have the specific nature of that throwing motion – and the adaptations it creates – in mind when we implement that general training, you’re asking for problems.

4. Effort – The best program on the planet won’t do any good if it isn’t executed with loads of effort and attention to detail.  If you have issues like players skipping warm-ups, athletic trainers refusing to do manual therapy, and coaches showing up late to practice, whatever is written on the paper doesn’t matter at all.

At the end of the day, these four factors are just a few of many that will ultimately determine how effective a baseball strength and conditioning program is.  Unfortunately, many of these factors are outside of a player’s control, so what do you do?

Very simply, control what you can control.

Educate yourself so that you can be your own best coach.  Optimize your nutrition and get plenty of sleep. Write down what has and hasn’t worked for you so that you can refer back to it down the road and avoid making the same mistakes twice.

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The Skinny on Sodium Intake: Is Salt Bad for You?

Written on January 26, 2012 at 7:22 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post on sodium intake comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Jordan Syatt.

Sodium intake is a highly controversial topic within the fitness industry, mainstream media, and even the medical community.  Very simply, everyone wants to know: “Is salt bad for you?” Nobody seems to have a clear-cut answer.

While many are quick to demonize the tasty mineral, I’ve long wondered if the evils associated with salt are the result of poorly constructed and misinterpreted research or actual cause for concern.

In an attempt to settle the debate once and for all, I began to dig up all the research I could find pertaining to sodium intake, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and general health.

To make things as simple as possible, I’ve outlined my findings below. I think the results may surprise you!

Sodium Intake: What Does the Research Say?

First and foremost, high-blood pressure is perhaps the most prevalent risk factor associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Bearing in mind that CVD is currently the world’s leading cause of death, any information we can find to aid in reducing the risk of CVD is of the utmost importance.

Therefore, considering it is well established that diets excessively high in sodium may result in increased blood pressure (BP), it should come as no surprise that doctors and health professionals alike strongly encourage maintaining a low-sodium diet in the long-term.  Epidemiological research suggests high-salt diets may not only affect blood pressure (BP) and thereby cardiovascular disease (CVD), but could also “increase the risk of stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy and renal disease.”

Perhaps worst of all, great sodium consumption tends to cause water retention, thus giving leaner individuals a noticeably “softer” appearance. In other words, their abs won’t appear to be as cut-up.

What the hell, salt!?!?

Based on the information provided above, it would appear as though high-salt diets are the primary cause of illness, death, and guys making excuses for why they don’t look as lean as they should.

We should probably cut it out of our diet, right?

Not so fast.

While high BP is certainly a major risk factor of cardiovascular disease, recent research has clearly shown the ratio of sodium intake to potassium intake within the diet has a much greater effect on BP than sodium (or potassium) alone.

Other studies have confirmed this finding and even the USDA recommends individuals place an emphasis on increasing potassium-rich foods and/or lowering sodium intake in order to lower BP.

While excessive sodium consumption can have a negative impact on BP (thus increasing one’s risk of various diseases), simply increasing the amount of potassium consumed on a daily basis holds the same benefits as lowering salt intake.  As low-sodium diets are rather difficult to maintain in the long-term, placing an emphasis on potassium-rich foods may help individuals keep BP in check without causing undue stress notably in social situations.

In addition to the ratio of salt to potassium within the diet, other factors such as age, gender, genetics, activity level, and body fat are tremendously significant in determining ones risk of high BP, CVD, and other related illnesses. Not surprisingly, exercise and weight loss significantly reduce the risk of CVD. As such, rather than solely focus on reducing salt intake, beginning an appropriate training routine and maintaining a healthy body weight would most likely be the ideal first step in preventing CVD.

Finally, one need only look at the extremely high amounts of sodium in processed foods to understand why greater sodium consumption is associated with high BP and CVD. I’d venture to guess that those individuals who base their diets largely on processed foods are not only consuming too much salt, but are also not eating enough potassium, neglecting to exercise, failing to get an adequate amount of sleep, not maintaining an appropriate body weight, nor living a healthy lifestyle in general.

Taking the above into consideration, is it really the heavy sodium consumption causing high BP and CVD? Or, could it possibly be the overall sedentary lifestyle, overconsumption of processed foods, being overweight, etc?

I bet it’s the latter.

If otherwise healthy individuals are eating a diet largely consisting of whole/unprocessed foods, consuming adequate potassium, regularly exercising, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight, they can probably stop worrying over the minutia and feel free to add a dash, or two, of the ever-so-tasty mineral.

My General Recommendations:

Individuals should maintain a diet largely consisting of whole/unprocessed foods and make a concerted effort to acquire enough potassium on a daily basis. Examples include, but are not limited to, baked potatoes, cooked spinach, bananas, oranges, and cooked beans. For a detailed list of potassium-rich foods, click HERE. Additionally, I encourage individuals to follow an appropriate strength and conditioning program designed specifically for their individual needs.

Note: those who already have high blood pressure, first and foremost, you must consult with your primary care physician and follow his/her directions, as various anti-hypertensive medications can interact differently with food and exercise.  Plus, you want to find out why you are hypertensive in the first place in order to individualize your treatment approach.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

About the Author

Jordan Syatt is a strength training and nutritional consultant out of Boston Massachusetts. He is Westside Barbell Certified, currently interning at Cressey Performance, and studies Health Behavior Science at the University of Delaware. In addition to actively competing in various Powerlifting Federations, Jordan works with a diverse population of clientele, focusing on fat loss, mass gain, and athletic performance.  Jordan is the owner and operator of www.syattfitness.com. Feel free to contact him directly at: jsyattfitness@gmail.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/24/12

Written on January 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

How Much Strength Do Our Athletes Need? – I thought this was an outstanding piece from Rob Panariello at Bret Contreras’ blog.  It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot over the past few years, and Rob does an excellent job of discussing how the answer is likely different for every athlete.

Paula Deen’s an Idiot – On the surface, this blog post from Dean Somerset seems to be a rant on this outrageous example of hypocrisy with respect to Deen’s announcement that she had Type 2 Diabetes.  While that would have been spot-on, Dean kicked it up a notch when he busted out some great statistics to show that her “it was my genetics” argument was bogus.  Wildly entertaining; well done, Dean.

What a Puppy Can Teach You About Resistance Training Progress – I came across this article while I was searching for another one in my archives. I wrote it shortly after we got our dog (who is now about 1.5 years old), but the message still resounds.

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Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don’t Have to Gag to Eat Healthy

Written on January 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm, by Eric Cressey

One of the coolest parts of my job is that I get a lot of free stuff sent my way to review.  My staff and I go through everything that crosses my desk, but to be very candid, the overwhelming majority of it just isn’t impressive…at all.  As such, it can also be one of the most frustrating parts of my job.

Fortunately, though, there are exceptions to this trend; I also get some outstanding stuff sent my way, and that’s the stuff that I share in this blog for the benefit of my readers.  One such example was Metabolic Cooking from Dave Ruel.  This is a healthy cookbook that absolutely blew me (and my wife, Anna, the ultimate judge) away.  If you’re interested, you can read my review of it here.  While this blog was posted almost a year ago, I still get emails from people thanking me for recommending it.  And, Anna and I utilize these recipes all the time.

More specific to today’s post, though, is that Dave just put it’s “sister product,” Anabolic Cooking, on sale for $40 off (more than half off) for this week only.

This e-book has over 200 recipes from a variety of categories: breakfast, chicken/poultry, beef/pork, seafood, salads/soups/sides, snacks/bars, and desserts.  It comes in an easy-to-navigate format, and all the recipes utilize ingredients that you can buy conveniently at any grocery store. And, of course, because it’s all about creating health food options, the nutrition information is presented for each recipe.

What excites me above all else, though, is it has a meatloaf recipe!

 

With Dave’s permission, I’ve reprinted the healthy meatloaf recipe below. I’ve already made it dozens of times, and it’s fantastic.

Dave’s Famous Turkey Meatloaf

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients
• 2 lbs ground turkey
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 diced onion
• 1 tsp garlic (optional)
• 1⁄3 cup dried tomatoes
• 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
• 1 whole egg
• 1⁄2 cup parsley
• 1⁄4 cup low fat parmesan
• 1⁄4 cup skim milk
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tsp oregano

Directions

1. Cook the onion with olive oil separately
2. Mix everything together in a big bowl, add the cooked onions
3. Put the mix in a big baking pan
4. Bake at 375-400°F for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
393 Calories
46g Protein
14g Carbohydrate
17g Fat

For 200 healthy recipes along these lines, I’d encourage you to check out Anabolic Cooking while it’s on sale at this great price.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll use it a ton.

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Upcoming Strength and Conditioning Seminars…in Your Area?

Written on January 20, 2012 at 8:04 am, by Eric Cressey

I just wanted to use today’s blog post to let you know about some upcoming strength and conditioning speaking engagements I’ll be doing.  If you’re like me, you always want to get these planned well in advance.

  • February 19, 2012: Fitness on the Field Baseball Clinic – Santa Cruz, CA. Email joey@paradigmsport.com for details.
  • March 30-31, 2012: International Youth Conditioning Association Summit – Louisville, KY. Click here for more information.
  • April 14, 2012: NSCA Maine State Clinic – Saco, ME.  Details TBA.
  • May 18-19, 2012: JP Fitness Summit – Kansas City, MO.  Click here for more information.
  • June 29 – July 1, 2012: Perform Better Functional Training Summit – Chicago, IL. Click here for more information.

I hope to meet some of you there!


Strength Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling 1-arm Landmine Press

Written on January 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm, by Eric Cressey

We’ve been utilizing the half-kneeling 1-arm landline press more and more with clients at Cressey Performance over the past few months, as it is a strength exercise that affords a number of full-body benefits.

First, with the trailing leg positioned appropriately, it’s a static hip flexor stretch that is even more effective because the athlete is cued to activate the same-side glutes and brace the core, so you’re effectively increasing stiffness at an adjacent joint to help “solidify” the newly acquired range of motion into hip extension.  As I’ve written previously, increasing stiffness can be a good thing.

Second, the core stability benefits occur in a number of contexts.  Because the load forces the athlete to resist extension, it serves as a great anterior core stability exercise.  And, because it’s loaded asymmetrically, it serves as a great lateral and rotary core stability exercise.

Third, I like all asymmetrical-loaded upper-body strength exercises because they train thoracic mobility and dynamic stability of the scapula, which you simply don’t get on the same level with push-up variations and bilateral upper body exercises (although those categories do provide unique benefits in their own right).

Fourth, because of the thicker handle at the end of the barbell, you’re getting a different grip and forearm stimulus.

Key Coaching Cues:

1. Set up so that there is a subtle (but not aggressive) stretch on the trailing leg hip flexors.  Activate the glutes on that side as well.
2. Brace the core tightly to resist extension and rotation.
3. Press straight out, not across your body.
4. Don’t allow the elbow to “migrate” past the body too much. Instead, pre-tension the scapular stabilizers to make sure that the shoulder is not anteriorly tilted as the humerus (upper arm) extends back to neutral on the eccentric.
5. Keep the chin tucked so that the cervical spine is in neutral.
6. Load with weights smaller than 25, as the 45-pound plates tend to get in the way.

This is a great exercise for loading the upper body without really beating up on the joints.  I particularly like it with some of my throwers who have gotten stronger in the upper body, as it’s a good alternative to having baseball guys throwing really heavy dumbbells around, particularly as they are getting more aggressive with their throwing programs.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/16/12

Written on January 16, 2012 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s are a few recommended strength and conditioning resources to kick your week off on the right foot:

The 2012 Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar Series – I’m extremely honored to be one of the interviewees featured in this free 10-week program.  The other nine are Shirley Sahrmann, Cal Dietz, Charlie Weingroff, Pavel Tsatsouline, Patrick Ward, Kyle Kiesel, Greg Rose, Mike Reinold, and Craig Liebenson.  This is an outstanding resource that I’d strongly encourage those of you in the health and human performance fields to review; it begins Tuesday night, 1/17.

Break Up Those Hips – This was an excellent article from Adam Vogel that did a thorough job of outlining some of the potential factors that can limit squat depth.

Box Squat vs. Squat-TO-Box – This was a video my business partner, Tony Gentilcore, filmed during our staff in-service last week.  He discusses a few different approaches to squatting and when to use each.

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Sit in on my Cressey Performance Staff In-Service for Free

Written on January 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m psyched to announce that today, we begin the “pre-launch” phase of a project – Elite Training Mentorship – that has me very excited.

I’m collaborating with Mike Robertson, Dave Schmitz, BJ Gaddour, and Pat Rigsby to create a virtual mentorship program for trainers and coaches.  We’ll be filming staff in-services on various topics, going over sample programs, providing coaching tutorials, and doing Q&A.  All of us come from different backgrounds and bring unique specialties to the table, so it’s excited to think about what we’ll be creating with this online resource.

We don’t officially launch the program for a few weeks, but in the meantime, as a little sample of what’s to come, I want to encourage you to check out a recent staff in-service I delivered at Cressey Performance on the topic of lower-extremity assessment.  You can get access to it HERE.

I’m confident that this collaboration will become a resource that really helps to advance the industry, and we’ll be using the next few days to highlight some of the expertise that will help it do just that.  So, stay tuned – but for now, don’t miss out on a chance to check out this lower-extremity assessment video at no charge.

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Baseball Strength and Conditioning Programs: How Much Rotator Cuff Work is Too Much? – Part 2

Written on January 10, 2012 at 9:34 pm, by Eric Cressey

In part 1 of this feature, I talked about how many throwers actually overuse the rotator cuff because they don’t appreciate that throwing in itself is a tremendously stressful challenge to the shoulder.  I also made the point that cuff timing is more often the problem than cuff strength, so many folks are really training the rotator cuff incorrectly with thousands of reps of band exercises.  Let’s examine that in a bit more depth.

First, I should preface this piece by saying that I think there are definitely places for utilizing bands to strengthen the rotator cuff in a baseball training context.  They obviously provide outstanding convenience for on-field work and travel circumstances, as well as scenarios where players may not have qualified professionals at hand to help with manual resistance work and rhythmic stabilizations. Some cuff work is better than no cuff work!  Additionally, many players swear by bands during the warm-up phase to help with getting blood flow to the shoulder complex with a bit of activation at the same time.

However, there are two primary issues with relying exclusively on bands:

1. In an external rotation variation, the resistance is actually greatest at the point (near maximal external rotation) where the athlete is weakest.  In other words, the band doesn’t ideally accommodate the strength curve.  This is a huge concern for me, as one of the biggest things I notice in athletes is that when training in a position of somewhat significant external rotation, they can’t “pick up” the resistance quickly enough. More on this later.

2. Most people simply overlook eccentric control.  This is something that is coachable, no doubt, but most people do band exercises for so many reps per set that the athlete can quickly lose focus and resort back to bad habits.

As you can imagine, these are shortcomings that also exist – albeit to a slightly lesser extent – with cable and dumbbell/plate external rotation rotator cuff strength exercises:

So, how do we overcome these shortcomings while helping to address rotator cuff timing?  You have two great options.

1. Rhythmic Stabilizations

The true role of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the humeral head (ball) in the glenoid fossa (socket).  And, during throwing, it does a ton of work, as the humerus goes through extreme ranges of motion in all three planes.  Rhythmic stabilization drills are a great way to train the cuff to fire quicker, and they’re particularly valuable because you can train them at various points in the range of motion, modifying the challenge depending on how stable an individual is in a given position.  Plus, this is an outstanding way of monitoring cuff function over the course of weeks and months with athletes you see regularly; regular improvements are easily perceived.

You’ll notice that I don’t crank him back to extreme external rotation in this video; rather, we stop short of it and just assume that we’ll get some carryover in stability a bit further (as per previous research on carryover of isometric exercise).

The sky is really the limit in terms of how you train this one; we have about a dozen variations that we use on a daily basis.  A few quick guidelines:

a. The more congenital or acquired laxity an athlete has, the less aggressive you’ll want to be with your perturbations. When someone is less proficient, gently destabilizer, and apply the prturbations closer to the shoulder.  When someone is more stable, perturbate a bit more firmly, and apply it further down the arm.

b. I sometimes start those with significant laxity with closed chain exercises so that they can draw some stability from the floor or wall.

c. Make sure that the scapula is positioned appropriately; it certainly shouldn’t be protracted, but don’t crank it into excessive retraction, either.  Just keep it from winging off the rib cage.

d. I like 2x/week rhythmic stabilizations during off-season training.  We typically integrate it between sets on lower-body strength training days.

2. Manual Resistance External Rotations

These drills are “where it’s at.”  On one hand, they are the best strength-building exercise for the cuff because they train it in its most function context: eccentric control.  However, more specific to today’s point, they are great for improving cuff recruitment at the most vulnerable point in the throwing motion: lay-back.

When we do a drill like this, I encourage the athlete to “pick it up early.”  In other words, I won’t apply downward pressure (eccentric overload) until they apply some external rotation force into my hand). 

Some quick guidelines for manual resistance external rotations:

a. Emphasize eccentric overload, but make sure you aren’t pushing all the way down, as most people will go into scapular anterior tilt as they are more internally rotated.  Pushing someone all the way down puts the shoulder in a pretty vulnerable position, as scapular stability is lost and the subacromial space is closed down.

b. Given that you have to apply the force further down the arm, make sure that the athlete isn’t cheating by just utilizing the wrist extensors.

c. In the manual resistance external rotations at 90 degrees in the scapular plane, your other hand should “cup” the elbow to make sure that the rotation is taking place at the shoulder (as opposed to horizontal adduction/abduction).

d. I like to utilize manual resistance external rotations twice a week during the off-season, usually toward the end of upper body strength training sessions.  We’ll use less manual resistance work in this regard, though, when guys start to ramp up their throwing, as it tends to create a bit more soreness.

This wraps up our look at a different perspective on how to attack rotator cuff exercises with timing – and not just strength – in consideration.  For more information, I’d encourage you to check out Optimal Shoulder Performance: From Rehabilitation to High Performance.

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

Written on January 9, 2012 at 8:15 am, by Eric Cressey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s fighting against distraction forces at ball release.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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