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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 2

Written on August 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today marks the second installment of a series that looks at the coaching cues we use to optimize training technique at Cressey Performance.  Here are three more cues we find ourselves using with our athletes all the time.

1. Move the shoulder blade on the rib cage, not the arm on the shoulder blade.

In many cases, as an athlete does a rowing exercise, he’ll flare the rib cage up (lumbar hyperextension/arching of the lower back) and then pull the humerus into extension past the body.  In the process, the scapula (shoulder blade) won’t go where it’s supposed to go; it either won’t move, or it’ll slip into anterior tilt.  In both cases, this creates anterior instability at the shoulder girdle.  And, a quick search for “row” on YouTube yields hundreds of videos of horrible technique.

We’re especially cognizant of coaching rowing variations perfectly because anterior shoulder stability is so important for baseball players because of their increased external rotation (which also creates more anterior instability).  Our goal is to make sure that the elbow is about even with the body in the retracted position, as this will ensure that the ball-on-socket congruency is in place.

2. Pick it up early.

I’m a big fan of manual resistance external rotations at 90 degrees of abduction in the scapular plane. They are the best strength-building exercise for the cuff because they train eccentric control and do so at shoulder level, affording the most carryover to real-world performance in throwers. However, they are also 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.  This not only builds stability in the most important part of the range of motion, but also ensures that I won’t push before an athlete is ready and potentially do more harm than good.

3. Work through the heel.

Watch any complete beginner attempt a lunge, split-squat, or step-up variation, and you’ll usually see a short stride with the front knee way out in front of the toes (assuming adequate ankle mobility).  This happens, in part, because they lack sufficient strength at the hip (gluteus maximus, predominantly) to control the hip flexion, internal rotation, and adduction that’s occurring.  The weight shifts forward so that the quads can take on the deceleration load.

To that end, it’s almost always better to cue athletes to “work through the heel,” as it keeps the weight back so that the posterior chain can decelerate on the way down, or propel for the way back up.  You’ll know you hit the nail on the head when you’ve got a vertical shin.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/28/12

Written on August 29, 2012 at 8:31 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Concurrent Training: Strength and Aerobic Training at the Same Time: I thought this was an excellent post from Patrick Ward.  If you’ve enjoyed the distance running for pitchers features here at EricCressey.com, you’ll “geek out” with this one.

Mighty Cholesterol – Brady Cooper did a great job of discussing what cholesterol levels really mean for your health.  This is the kind of article you can send to people who just don’t “get it.”

Does a Normal Elbow Really Exist? – This is an old post of mine that somehow got lost in the archives, but it’s well worth a read, particularly if you deal with throwing athletes.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Increase Strength, Be More Awesome: Live Q&A #4

Written on August 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

It’s time for another live Q&A here at EricCressey.com!  To get your questions answered, just post your inquiry in the comments section and I’ll approve it and then reply.  

My only rule is that your question must be limited to five sentences or less.  I’ll answer the first 25 that are posted, so please don’t bother posting questions if you come to this post days, weeks, or months after it was originally posted.

With that said, head on down to the comments section below and ask away! 

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 16

Written on August 27, 2012 at 11:06 am, by Eric Cressey

Here are this week’s strength and conditioning and nutrition tips to make you just a little more awesome, compliments of CP coach Greg Robins.

1. Spread – don’t sit – when squatting.

2. Read the entire food label.

Reading food labels is an important step in selecting quality products to include in your diet. It may seem rudimentary, but I often find that people neglect to take into account the nutrition facts as a whole. Rather, they fall victim to the flashy marketing on the front cover, or go immediately to checking the macronutirent breakdown (protein, fat, carbohydrate). By doing so, they select foods that seem like better choices than they are, and discard many solid choices they believe to be “unhealthy.” So, how should we read the labels?

First, make sure you look to see how large a single serving is. Many foods will advertise an appealing amount of calories or other benefit per serving. However, a single serving will be much smaller than perceived by looking at the product as a whole. Interestingly enough, even products as small as a 16oz beverage or single nutrition bar will show a food label that is representative of a single serving, not the total amount within the package or bottle. Don’t skip the first line; make sure you know how big a serving is, and how many servings you are buying in all.

Next is the most popular part of the label: the middle portion. Here you will find information on calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Additionally, you will see information on sodium content, as well as how many grams of fat come from different fatty acid profiles, and how many grams of carbohydrates come from sugar and fiber. These are obviously important considerations, but not to be viewed outside the context of the product as a whole. Remember to view these within the parameters of a single serving, and then within the parameters of the package as a whole. For example, many canned products will provide an entire day’s worth of sodium.

Moving down the label, vitamins and minerals are featured next. This is important for everyone, and a good gauge of how nutrient dense a product is. You should be trying to fill your diet with as nutrient dense foods as possible, and the bigger numbers you see here, the more sure you can be that what you are taking in is filling your requirements for a healthy diet.

Last, but surely not least, is the ingredients list. I, for one, move my eyes directly to this paragraph when investigating a new product. Often, a product will check out fairly well until you get to this section. I often joke that the more blurbs on the front telling me what’s not in a food, the skeptical I am of what actually is in the food! More times than not, there are loads of ingredients I can barely pronounce, and a paragraph long enough to warrant a comfortable chair and barista to make it feel like a more appropriate setting for the day’s reading. Limit ingredients to five or less, and take note of the order in which they are featured. When sugar is the second ingredient after water, you can be pretty sure that you’re about to consume just that.

3. Remember that booze continues to be a poor post-training nutrition strategy.

Many people sabotage their gym efforts by consuming far too much alcohol. In fact, it’s probably more prevalent than we think even in the most dedicated gym-goers. After all, many people who consider themselves avid exercise enthusiasts are also those who frequent bars and clubs to show off their hard work in the gym. Consider this study, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, that found alcohol ingested post-training by rugby players had a detrimental effect on both peak power outputs and recovery. It’s not something you didn’t already assume, but nonetheless, it’s a reminder that alcohol and peak performance don’t mix. If you are an athlete over the age of 21, reflect on what is important to you. Be a professional, and do the things that separate the average from the elite. This includes taking into account your recovery, something alcohol certainly will not expedite. For the rest of us, if you are going to embody a healthy lifestyle, do it to the fullest and be aware of your alcohol consumption. For further reasoning, consider these additional ways alcohol negatively impacts your training and health: it contains empty calories, raises estrogen (beer, mostly), dehydrates you, taxes your liver, ruins your sleep, diminishes muscle recovery functions, I could go on. Bottom line, if your training is important to you, you will limit alcohol consumption.

4. Get into a routine for continued success.

Spontaneity is not a bad quality to possess. I once dated a girl who actually commented that she liked me because I was spontaneous. I laughed, because in reality, I’m a creature of habit. I am purposefully habitual because being so keeps me focused, consistent, and successful. You don’t need to organize your entire life into a routine; that would be boring, and girls/boys will never like you for your spontaneity. You should, however, form routines for activities that need to take place regularly and set you up for continued success in the long term. I have routine for cooking my meals, writing, continuing education, sleeping, hygiene, and training. I approach my food prep the same way every week by allotting certain days for grocery shopping, and certain times for cooking. I have a nice routine for clearing my head to write, and another for reading books and articles to keep me up to date on happenings in the industry. Likewise, I have a routine that helps me get to bed, as well as stay clean and groomed. Lastly, I approach my training in a very similar fashion every week so that I don’t overlook my pre-training nutrition and checklist of cues before each lift.

5. Consider training capabilities – not just specific movements – for increased performance.

Specificity in training for sports performance is a complicated subject. It’s complex in of itself, and also because there are so many schools of thought on how to maximize the requested outcome. It is important that we breakdown movements past what they look like in relation to the sport of question, and more to the desired improvement of certain capabilities (strength, energy system demands, etc.). A recent study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that counter movement jump ability (think: depth jumps, reactive heidens) had a positive correlation to the improvement of elite basketball player’s repeated sprint ability (RSA). While training explosive strength via jumping doesn’t seem to have any surface linkage to sprint ability, the concept makes perfect sense. In order to repeat high output sprint efforts during the game of basketball a player needs to have adequate strength and an ability to call upon that strength quickly. This in turn requires an efficient management of their energy in relation to the demand. While training these characteristics with actual sprint work will increase their RSA, so will using other means that elicit similar and nearly identical demands / outputs. These would include jump variations, resistance training, and various other special strength exercises. Don’t assume that in order to increase one skill you must train it specifically (at least not all the time). Additional training of other movements, that utilize similar properties, will also increase other like skills. A steady combination, and intelligent organization, of both the specific and the general will gamer the best result.

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Cressey Performance Facility Tour

Written on August 25, 2012 at 7:13 am, by Eric Cressey

I thought you all might be interested in a tour of the new facility, which opens up today.  A special thanks goes out to all the CP staff members and clients who helped out with the big move.

For those interested, we’ll be hosting the first annual Cressey Performance Fall Seminar here at the facility on October 28th.  Click here for more information

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Register Now for the 1st Annual Cressey Performance Fall Seminar

Written on August 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m psyched to announce that on Sunday, October 28th, we’ll be hosting our first annual fall seminar at Cressey Performance.  This event will showcase both the brand new Cressey Performance, as well as the great staff I’m fortunate to have as part of my team, and our outstanding sponsor, New Balance.  We want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.

Here are the presentation topics:

Understanding and Managing Congenital Laxity – Presented by Eric Cressey

In this era of semi-private training, boot camps, and group exercise, it’s not uncommon for coaches and trainers to try to train all athletes and clients the same. This can quickly lead to injury in a population with significant congenital laxity. In this presentation, Eric will teach you how to assess for laxity and safely train with it to improve how people feel and move.

The Food Freakshow: What Will You Be Eating in the 21st Century? – Presented by Brian St. Pierre

Burgers grown from dinosaur DNA? Tomatoes carrying a delicious basil lemon gene? Red meat with the fatty acid profile of an avocado? Science is starting to change the way we look at food. And in the coming years our food will be very, very different. Want to know what you’ll be eating? What your kids will be eating? What your grandkids will be eating? Let Brian untangle the mystery. In this talk he’ll discuss what’s on the horizon for those of us who like to eat, and like to eat healthy. Join him for a fascinating exploration of the future of food – and for useable, practical strategies you can put into action immediately.

Deep Squats: Are They Worth It? – Presented by Tony Gentilcore

In this presentation, Tony will highlight research on the squat under various conditions and discuss population-specific considerations one must take into account when programming squat variations. He’ll discuss improving the squat pattern, as well as exercise recommendations for those who should avoid squatting altogether in their programs.

“Out with the Old:” A new model for preventing injury and improving performance in the throwing athlete – Presented by Eric Schoenberg

The system is broken! Injury rates at all levels of baseball are alarming. Despite improvements in research, technology, and sports medicine principles, the numbers continue to rise. Each year, teams work tirelessly and spend millions to recruit, draft, and sign the best talent from all over the world. However, only a small percentage of that money is invested to keep these athletes healthy and allow them to showcase their talent on the field. This presentation will help to debunk some common myths, identify disturbing problems, and provide solutions to help keep athletes on the field and out of the training room.

How “Strong” Does An Athlete Need To Be? – Presented by Greg Robins

In this presentation, Greg will discuss how various strength qualities contribute to an athlete’s power potential. Each sport requires a slightly different blend of these strength qualities to provide for high-level performance. Learn which qualities athletes need to improve and how to get the job done.

Current Trends in Manual and Manipulative Therapy – Presented by Nathaniel Tiplady

Nate will present a review of Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, Fascial Manipulation, and joint manipulation. He’ll cover what we know, what we don’t know, and present his thoughts and experiences on the best methods to get people pain-free.

Program Design Considerations for the Young Athlete – Presented by Chris Howard

In this presentation, Chris will discuss important considerations one must take into account when designing and implementing programs for young athletes. Topics to be covered are exercise selection and progression, creation of a fun training environment, and the role of the strength coach in educating young athletes. He will stress the fact that young athletes can be trained similarly to adults, but that there are distinctions that need to be made.

Location:

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

Cost:

Regular – $129 regular, $149 day of the event
Student (must present current student ID at door) – $99 regular, $129 day of the event

Date/Time:

Sunday, October 28, 2012
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5:30PM

Continuing Education:

NSCA CEU pending (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and each seminar we’ve hosted in the past has sold out in less than two weeks, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cresseyperformance@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!
 


Should Pitchers Distance Run? What the Research Says.

Written on August 22, 2012 at 9:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest blog comes from current CP intern, Rob Rabena.  Rob recently completed his master’s thesis research on the effects of interval training versus steady state aerobic training on pitching performance in Division 2 pitchers.  He’s in a great position to fill us in on the latest research with respect to the distance running for pitchers argument.

“Ok, guys, go run some poles.”

A baseball coach often voices this phrase during the season to keep his pitchers in shape. Utilizing distance running to enhance aerobic performance among pitchers has always been the norm, but do the risks outweigh the rewards? There is strong evidence in the scientific literature to support that coaches should rethink utilizing distance running with their pitchers.

Jogging Might Not be the Answer

The current practice utilized for conditioning is for pitchers is to go for a long run the day after a game to “flush” the sore arm of lactic acid, or minimize muscle soreness to recover faster for the next game. These theories are not supported by the current literature and the physiology of the sport.

In the current research study examining the physiology of pitching, Potteiger et al. (1992) found no significant difference between pre-pitching and post-pitching blood lactate levels of six college baseball players after throwing a 7-inning simulated game. Even though during an inning there is a slight lactate production of 5.3-5.8 mM, (which is not high, considering resting lactate is 1.0mM), it does not cause a buildup of lactic acid in the arm of a pitcher after a game. As a comparative example, a high lactate response would occur from squatting for multiple reps at about 70% 1RM; this might produce a lactate level of about 8-10mM (Reynolds et al., 1997). Furthermore, jogging to flush the arm of lactic acid after a start is unnecessary and not supported by the literature, especially since we learned all the way back in 2004 that lactate was not the cause of muscular fatigue ; even the New York Times reported on this in 2007! A lot of coaches simply haven’t caught wind yet – in spite of the fact that exercise physiology textbooks have been rewritten to include this new information.

Should Pitchers Distance Run?

When a person jogs at a pace where he/she is able to hold a conversation (at or below ventilatory and lactate threshold), the goal is to improve V02 and to enhance aerobic performance. For pitchers, this practice is utilized to enhance and maintain endurance during games, as well as to maintain body composition throughout the season
In the research study conducted by Potteiger et al. (1992), the researchers found that mean V02 only reached 20 ml. kg.min during the simulated game, and returned to 4.9 ml.kg.min between innings (resting is 3.5 ml.kg.min). The V02s of endurance athletes are approximately greater than or equal to 60 ml.kg.min. Based off this study, V02 does not seem to be a limiting factor for pitchers who want to pitch deep into games. Since a high V02 does not make a great pitcher, why are we training like an endurance athlete, when pitching relies predominately on the anaerobic system? While jogging may help you with body composition and endurance, it’s not going to help you throw more innings in a game. Our emphasis should be on building strength and speed, which are more anaerobic qualities.

Endurance Running or Sprints?

Still not convinced that sprint or anaerobic training is right for your pitching staff? Okay, coach, here are a few more studies comparing sprint training to aerobic training and their effects on pitching performance.

One study examined dance aerobic training (yes, dance training) to sprint training in baseball pitchers and found a significant improvement (p<0.05) in the pitching velocity and anaerobic power measures of the sprint groups (Potteiger et al., 1992).

In a similar study that compared sprint training and long, slow distance running in-season, Rhea et al. (2008) found a significant increase in lower body power for the sprint group, and a drop in power for the distance group. Do we want our pitchers dropping in lower body power? I don’t think so!  Would you like to see their power production increase? Absolutely!

My Research

My Master’s thesis, “The Effects of Interval Training on Pitching Performance of NCAA Division II pitchers”, examined the in-season steady state exercise and interval training on pitching performance. Prior to collecting data, I hypothesized that I was going to find a significant difference in pitching velocity, WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched), 30m sprint time, fatigue index and muscle soreness.

The results of my thesis study found no significant difference (p>0.05) in any of the hypotheses. However, there was a very strong trend (p=.071) for the distance training group presenting with more soreness based off a 0-10 scale. The distance group did not drop in velocity, get slower, or decrease pitching performance like the previous studies suggested. When examining the results of my thesis study with the current literature, I continue to question if there is an appropriate place and time to implement distance running for pitchers within a training cycle, and if so, when would it be most efficient to do so?

Now What Do We Do?

Most of the research available supports that assertion that pitchers should stop distance running or not make it a focal point of their baseball strength and conditioning program. Distance running trains the aerobic energy system, where pitching is purely anaerobic in nature. I’m not totally bashing distance running because it does have its benefits for certain populations, just not for the performance goals of pitchers.

Now that we know what we shouldn’t be coaching, what should pitchers be doing for conditioning instead of running poles during practices? There are few things to consider when designing sports specific conditioning for pitchers:

● What should the rest periods be between sprints?
● What distances should pitchers sprint?
● How many days a week should pitchers actually condition, and does this fit into the overall training program?

The time between pitches is 15-20 sec (Szymanski, 2009), or longer for guys who are known for working slow on the mound. This can really help coaches when implementing interval sprints. Based off research and my time spent at Cressey Performance, anything 40 yards and under for 4-8 sprints, 2-3x a week is recommended. This, of course, depends on time of year (in-season vs. off-season). At the end of a workout, if the equipment is available, a lateral sled drag, farmers’ walks, or sledge hammer hits are always a plus to increase the anaerobic energy systems, which for a pitcher are most important.

Training pitchers out of the sagittal plane is another key consideration often overlooked with training baseball players; for this reason, using rotational medicine ball exercises is extremely valuable. Check out this study by Szymanski et al, (2007), which compared a medicine ball and resistance training group to resistance training only. Researchers found an increase torso rotational strength for the medicine ball group.

This explains why med balls are a great option for baseball players to not only develop rotational power, but also to blow off some steam. With that in mind, during a movement/conditioning day for pitchers, exercises like band-resisted heidens and lateral skips should be incorporated, along with the more traditional straight sprints mentioned above.

Conclusion

Based off the literature, long distance running should not be implemented for pitchers. When it comes down to it, a well-developed training program that incorporates strength, movement and conditioning is the most efficient way to enhance the way your athlete moves and plays on the field.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave comments below, as this is the start of a process and something that coaches need to further consider and discuss to improve the efficiency of the conditioning programs for pitchers.

About the Author

Rob Rabena M.S., C.S.C.S, is a strength and conditioning coach who is currently interning at Cressey Performance. Rob recently earned his M.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Strength and Conditioning. Prior to his graduate work, Rob obtained his B.S. in Exercise Science with a focus in Health Promotion from Cabrini College in 2011. Although Rob has a particular interest and experience with coaching collegiate athletes, he also enjoys working with clientele of diverse backgrounds and dictates his coaching practice to making his clients feel great, both physically and mentally, while placing a strong emphasis on the specific goals of the client. Feel free to contact Rob Rabena directly via email at robrabena@gmail.com.

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References

1. Fox EL. Sports Physiology (2nd ed). New York, NY: CBS College Publishing, 1984

2. Potteiger, J., Blessing, D., & Wilson, G. D. (1992). The Physiological Responses to a Single Game of Baseball Pitching. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research , 6, 11-18.

3. Potteiger, J., Williford, H., Blessing, D., & Smidt, J. (1992). The Efect of Two Training Methods on Improving Baseball Performance Variables. Journal of Applied Sports Science Research , 2-6.

4. Reynolds, T., Frye, P., & Sforzo, G. (1997). Resistance Training and Blood Lactate Response to Resistance Exercise in Women. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 77-81.

5. Rhea, M., Oliverson, J., Marshall, G., Peterson, M., Kenn, J., & Ayllon, F. (2008). Noncompatibilty of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 230-234.

6. Szymanski, D. J. (2009). Physiology of Baseball Pitching Dictates Specific Exercise Insensity for Conditioning. Journal of Strength and Conditioning , 31, 41-47.

7. Szymanski, J., Szymanski, J., Bradford, J., Schade, R., & Pascoe, D. (2007). Effect of Twelve Weeks of Medicine Ball Training on High School Baseball Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 894-901.

8.Torre, J., & Ryan, N. (1977). Pitching and Hitting. NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 15

Written on August 20, 2012 at 5:14 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of random tips to make you a little more awesome with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, with contributions from Greg Robins.

1. Outsource your cooking innovation.

One of the reasons folks “cheat” on their diets is that they don’t do a good job of incorporating variety in their healthy food choices.  Unless you are one of the 1% of the population who has outstanding willpower, eating the same thing over and over again is a recipe for feeling deprived – and that can only lead to some less-than-quality time with Ben and Jerry.

If you’re someone who isn’t all that creative in the kitchen, consider allocating some funds to a cookbook that features healthy recipes.  One of my favorites, Anabolic Cooking, is actually on sale for 52% off ($40 off) this week only. 

2. Make roasted chicken breast with spinach and walnut stuffing.

Speaking of the cookbook; here’s a great recipe from it.

Ingredients:

- 4 large fresh chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (average 8oz per breast)
– 4 cups fresh spinach
– 2 tbsp of garlic
– 1/4 cup walnuts crushed
– Salt
– Fresh ground black pepper
– Olive oil (not extra virgin)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butterfly chicken breasts (cut along side and lay out flat leaving attached at one end like a book) and lay out flat on cutting board. You can pound it slightly to flatten a bit if you want.
2. Rub both sides with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Lightly wilt spinach in non-stick pan, or if using frozen just thaw.
4. Spread roasted garlic paste onto one half on inside of chicken breasts.
5. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.
6. Place spinach on top of walnuts.
7. Fold top over and place on a rack fitted inside a sheet pan or roasting pan.
8. Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes on 400. Then reduce heat to 325 and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until inside stuffing reaches 145 degrees.
9. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information (four servings)

Calories: 407
Protein: 55g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 19g

*A special thanks goes out to Anabolic Cooking author Dave Ruel for allowing me to reprint this recipe.

3. Consider using concentric-only exercises for “off-day” training.

The most stressful, and therefore demanding part of an exercise is actually the eccentric, or lowering phase. This is where the majority of muscle damage occurs, and the part that will elicit the most muscular soreness. If you’re like me, you enjoy doing some kind of physical activity on a daily basis. Some people scoff at the idea of never taking a rest, but in reality, moving is good for you, and it can be done daily. If done incorrectly, it can interfere with recovery and lead to overtraining. If done correctly, it can keep you focused and actually speed up your recovery.

While there are multiple ways to go about off day exercise correctly, one option is to use mostly eccentric-free exercise choices. As examples, think of sled pushing, dragging, and towing. Additionally you can attach handles or a suspension trainer to your sled and do rows, presses, and pull-throughs. Another option is medicine ball exercises, which can be organized into complexes and circuits, or KB and sledgehammer swings, which all have minimal eccentric stress. These modalities will get blood flow to the appropriate areas and give you a training effect that won’t leave you sore, or stimulated to an extent that mandates serious recovery time.

4. Keep track of more than your one-rep max.

The ultimate rookie mistake in strength training is going for a one-rep max too often. You rarely need to train at the 100% intensity in order to get stronger. The issue is that most people only have that number as a benchmark in their minds. Therefore, the only way they know to measure progress is to constantly test that number over. This has two major flaws.

First, they train at that intensity too often, and all too often miss repetitions, essentially training above 100%. This teaches their body to miss reps, and leaves them neurally fried and unable to perform. Second, they get impatient with their training because they don’t realize new personal records throughout the training cycle. The consequence is that their impatience leads to unscheduled, and too frequent, attempts at new one-rep personal records, bringing us back to point number one. “What gets measured, gets managed,”so make a point of keeping track of repetition maxes. Testing your 3- and 5-rep maxes, for example, are also perfectly good ways to measure progress. Actually, they are better numbers to monitor as training those intensities is more repeatable.

5. Make your home a “safe house.”

No, I am not talking about replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors, although that is certainly important. What I am referring to has to do with nutrition. Your home should be a place where you are unable to make poor nutritional choices. Discipline is a function of decision making, or making choices. Many people relate great discipline to an ability to say “yes” or “no” in response to a question – even if it comes from one’s own mind (“Should I devour that box of donuts?”).

The truth is most of us might not be disciplined enough to make great choices at the drop of a hat, but you can be disciplined enough to prepare yourself for those moments that test you. Instead of keeping unhealthy foods in your house, have the discipline to throw away excess desserts after a party, and not keep certain foods in your fridge or cabinets. You can set yourself up for success, or you can tempt yourself by continually trying to prove you have the incredible discipline to only eat these foods in moderation. You will find that when you limit the consumption of more “relaxed” foods to “outside venues,” you will be eating them with other people, and therefore are more likely to eat less of them, enjoy them more, and have them less often; these are all good things! 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/19/12

Written on August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Elite Training Mentorship – The August update at Elite Training Mentorship included some great content from all four contributors.  My in-services were “Shoulder Impingement: Internal vs. External” and “Preventing and Training Around Flexion-Intolerant Low Back Pain.”  I also had an article and two exercise demonstrations featured.  If you haven’t checked out ETM, definitely do so!

Do Eggs Cause Heart Disease? – In the past week, the “Eggs Are Worse than Cigarettes” shenanigans have gotten out of control.  Fortunately, Adam Bornstein (with contributions from Dr. Chris Mohr, Alan Aragon, and Mike Roussell) gets to the bottom of some very flawed research and reporting that is misleading the public.

6 Mistakes I Made – So You Don’t Have To – I loved this post from Jim Wendler, as I’ve made all these mistakes myself! I wish he’d have published it in 1999!

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Body Weight, Throwing Velocity, and Pitching Injuries: Interesting Parallels

Written on August 17, 2012 at 7:43 am, by Eric Cressey

This morning, my good friend (and fellow baseball aficionado) Lou Schuler posted the link to an article that compared mortality rates in football players and baseball players. If you’d like to check it out, you can do so HERE.

One thing the article showed that I found very interesting was the rapid physical development of the average MLB player.  In 1960, the average player was 72.6 inches and 186 pounds, which is actually surprisingly comparable to what one might expect of the prototype male model for a magazine (I’d call this a weighted average of the skinny Abercrombie types and the more athletically-built Men’s Health guys).  In 2010, however, those numbers had shifted to 73.7 inches and 208.9 pounds.  For those curious about what it looks like in a jersey, this was right about the height/weight of CP athlete and Orioles utility man Ryan Flaherty when he got to spring training this year:

Height had increased relatively linearly over the course of the 40 years, presumably as teams scouted and selected taller players and the game increased in popularity, drawing better athletes to the sport. Weight, on the other hand, made a rapid surge (+18.5 pounds) in the fifteen years between 1995 and 2010 (and +20.9 pounds between 1990 and 2010).  You’d expect a small increase alongside average height improvements, but this jump can only be explained by the increased emphasis on strength and conditioning (which was obviously aided by the steroid era for quite some time).

I don’t think the results of this study are all that awe-inspiring – that is, until you look at them alongside some other numbers in baseball over the past decade.  As Jayson Stark discussed in his outstanding article, The Age of the Pitcher and How We Got Here, pitchers have dominated more and more over the past ten years. Check out these 2000 vs. 2011 changes Stark highlighted in his article:

Runs Scored: 24,971 vs. 20,808
Home runs: 5,693 vs. 4,552
 
Then, between 2006 and 2011:

Average ERA: 4.53 vs. 3.94
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings: 6.6 vs. 7.1

Perhaps most telling is the fact that between 2007 and 2011, the number of MLB pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 95mph or higher increased from 11 to 35.  When velocities are jumping like that, it’s hard to say that the improved pitching performances are just due to the fact that guys are introducing better secondary pitches (most notably cutters), or that hitters are falling off because they’re off the sauce.  Pitchers are getting more dominant.

I understand Stark’s point that hitting has declined considerably in recent years as strikeout totals have piled up and batting averages have plummeted. However, I’m not really interested in debating whether offense is falling off because pitchers are getting better or because hitters are getting worse, because it’s obviously a combination of the two.  However, what I think is a hugely valuable takeaway from this is that increased body weight is once again associated with increased pitching velocity.

Can you throw hard without being heavy?  Absolutely; many guys do it.  Would many of these already-elite slighter-framed MLB pitchers benefit from increases in body weight?  In many cases, yes – assuming the changes in body weight are gradual, accompanied by strength/power gains, and properly integrated with their existing mechanics.  While a gain of ten pounds seems like a huge deal to most pitchers, the truth is that it’s actually a trivial amount of muscle mass over an entire body.  Have a look at this picture of 5lbs of muscle vs. 5lbs of fat that’s floated around the internet for a while now:

Now, imagine spreading two of the red masses on the right over the course of an entire body; you would barely notice they’re there, especially on the average MLB player, who is almost 6-2.  I guarantee you that if you hide one of those in each glute, you’re going to see some big velocity gains, regardless of who you are.

Of course, every action has a reaction.  While you’ll be more successful if you throw harder, you’ll also be more predisposed to arm injuries. It should come as no surprise that the number of Tommy John surgeries has gone sky-high as more and more guys have blown up radar guns (and scales). Run fast and you’re more likely to pull a hamstring.  Drive your car fast and you’re more likely to crash.

Lots of people are quick to hop on board the “all injuries are due to bad mechanics” bandwagon, but the truth is that a lot of injuries are due in large part to the fact that a lot of guys are throwing really, really hard nowadays.  And, taking it a step further, they were usually throwing pretty hard at a young age – and on five different teams, in front of 150 radar guns at each game, with absurd pitch counts, while jumping from showcase to showcase, while playing year-round without a quality baseball strength and conditioning program and arm care routine in place. The truth is that all injuries are multi-factorial, and we have to control what we can control with an athlete, especially when we first interact with that player after years of mismanagement.

 

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