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Written on February 6, 2013 at 4:59 am, by Eric Cressey
At Cressey Performance, we manage a ton of baseball players throughout the year. In doing so, we often notice trends – both good and bad – that emerge in the things they start applying on their own. Here are three warm-up mistakes I commonly see players making before they pick up a ball to throw:
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Written on November 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm, by Eric Cressey
I’m extremely excited to announce a project that has been in the works for quite some time: Elite Baseball Mentorships at Cressey Performance. Folks have been requesting these for years, but I resisted the urge to go through with it until the time was right – and that time is now!
Working with me on these mentorships will be two awesome minds who play a big role in helping CP provide comprehensive, synergistic programs for baseball players. Matt Blake is the pitching coordinator at Cressey Performance, and Eric Schoenberg is a physical therapist who handles some of our toughest cases. The rest of the Cressey Performance staff will also be on-hand to assist with the practical portions of the event, and answer questions during the observation periods.
The first mentorship will take place January 6-8, 2013. Here are the specifics:
Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship
Sunday, January 6
Morning Session: Lecture
8:30-9:00AM – Registration and Introduction (Eric Cressey)
Afternoon Session: Lecture and Video Analysis
1:00-2:00PM – Flawed Perceptions on “Specific” Pitching Assessments and Training Modalities (Eric Cressey)
5:30PM Reception (Dinner Provided)
Monday, January 7
Morning Session: Practical
8:00AM-10:00AM – Physical Assessment of Pitchers: Static and Dynamic (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Performance – 12PM-6PM*
Tuesday, January 8
Morning Session: Practical
8:00AM-9:00AM – Preparing for the Throwing Session: Optimal Warm-up Protocols for Different Arms (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Performance – 12PM-6PM*
* 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 Performance.
Observation of live training on the CP floor with our professional, college, and high school baseball players will allow you to experience firsthand our approaches to:
In addition, you will experience:
• Live throwing sessions
$899 early-bird (before December 6), $999 regular. No sign-ups will be accepted on the day of the event.
NSCA CEU pending
Please note that 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. Additionally, this event will not be videotaped. As such, I’d encourage you to sign up as soon as possible.
Hope to see you there!
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Written on July 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm, by Eric Cressey
Quite some time ago, I met a pitching coach who made a bold statement to me:
“Most Major League pitchers have terrible mechanics.”
I don’t know if he meant that they were mechanics that could lead to injuries, or simply mechanics that would interfere with control and velocity development, but either way, I shrugged it off. Why?
Their mechanics are so terrible that they’re in the top 0.0001% of people on the planet who play their sport. And, they’re paid extremely well to be terrible, I suppose.
Kidding aside, this comment got me to thinking about something that’s been “festering” for years now, and I wanted to run it by all of you today to get your impressions on it. In other words, this post won’t be about me ranting and raving about how things should be, but rather me starting a dialogue on one potential way to get the baseball development industry to where it needs to be, as it clearly isn’t there yet (as evidenced by the fact that more pitchers are getting hurt nowadays than ever before).
The way I see it, mechanics are typically labeled as “terrible” when a pitcher has:
1. Trouble throwing strikes
2. Pitching velocity considerably below what one would expect, given that pitcher’s athleticism
3. Pain when throwing
4. Mechanical issues that theoretically will predispose him to injury,
In the first three cases, anyone can really make these observations. You don’t need to be trained in anything to watch the walk totals pile up, read a radar gun, or listen when a pitcher says, “It hurts.” Moreover, these issues are easier to coach because they are very measurable; pitchers cut down on their walks, throw harder, and stop having pain.
Issue #4 is the conundrum that has lead to thousands of pissing matches among pitching coaches. When a pitcher gets hurt, everyone becomes an armchair quarterback. The two biggest examples that come to mind are Mark Prior and Stephen Strasburg.
Prior was supposed to be one of the best of all-time before shoulder surgeries derailed his career. After the fact, everyone was quick to pin all the issues on his mechanics. What nobody has ever brought to light is that over the course of nine years, his injuries looked like the following (via Wikipedia):
1. Hamstrings strain (out for 2002 season)
By my count, that is eleven injuries – but four of them were non-arm-related. And, two of them (both early in his career) were contact injuries. Who is to say that he isn’t just a guy with a tendency toward degenerative changes on a systemic level? How do we know one of the previous injuries didn’t contribute to his arm issues later on? How do we know what he did for preventative arm care, rehabilitation, throwing, and strength and conditioning programs? We don’t have his medical records from earlier years to know if there were predisposing factors in place, either. I could go on and on.
The issue is that our sample size is one (Mark Prior) because you’ll never see this exact collection of issues in any other player again. It’s impossible to separate out all these factors because all issues are unique. And, it’s one reason why you’ll never see me sitting in the peanut gallery criticizing some teams for having injured players; we don’t have sufficient information to know exactly why a player got hurt – and chances are, the medical staff on those teams don’t even have all the information they’d like to have, either.
Strasburg has been labeled the best prospect of all-time by many, and rightfully so; his stuff is filthy and he’s had the success to back it up. Of course, the second he had Tommy John surgery, all the mechanics nazis came out of their caves and started berating the entire Washington Nationals organization for not fixing the issue (an Inverted W) proactively to try to prevent the injury. Everybody is Johnny Brassballs on the internet.
To that end, I’ll just propose the following questions:
1. Did Strasburg not do just fine with respect to issues 1-3 in my list above?
2. Would you want to be the one to screw with the best prospect of all-time and potentially ruin exactly what makes him effective?
3. Do we really know what the health of his elbow was when the Nationals drafted him?
4. Do we know what his arm care, throwing, and strength and conditioning programs were like before and after being drafted?
There are simply too many questions one can ask with any injury, and simply calling mechanics the only contributing factor does a complex issue a disservice – especially since young athletes are growing up with more and more physical dysfunction even before they have mastered their “mature” mechanics.
The Inverted W theory is incredibly sound; Chris O’Leary did a tremendous job of making his case – and we certainly work to coach throwers out of this flaw – but two undeniable facts remain. First, a lot of guys still throw with the Inverted W and don’t have significant arm issues (or any whatsoever). They may have adequate mobility and stability in the right places (more on this below) to get by, or perhaps they have just managed their pitch counts and innings appropriately to avoid reaching threshold. I suspect that you might also find that many of these throwers can make up for this “presumed fault” with a quick arm combined with a little extra congenital ligamentous laxity, or subtle tinkering with some other component of their timing.
Second, a lot of guys who don’t have an Inverted W still wind up with elbow or shoulder injuries. Good research studies bring issues like these to light, and nobody has really gotten a crew of inverted W guys and non-inverted W guys together to follow injury rates over an extended period of time while accounting for variables such as training programs, pitch counts, and pitch selection (e.g., sliders vs. curveballs). We don’t know if some of these other factors are actually more problematic than the mechanics themselves, as it’s impossible to control all these factors simultaneously in a research format.
As such, here we have my first set of questions:
Don’t you think that pitching coaches need to make a dedicated effort to understand research methods so that they can truly appreciate the multifactorial nature of injuries? And, more importantly, wouldn’t learning to read research help them to understand which mechanical issues are the true problem?
The Inverted W is certainly an issue, but there are many more to keep in mind. Just my opinion: I think the baseball industry would be much better off if pitching coaches read a lot more research.
Now, let’s move on to my second question. First, though, I want to return to the Inverted W example again. I have not met more than a few pitching coaches who can explain exactly what structures are affected by this mechanical flaw because they don’t understand what functionally is taking place at the shoulder and elbow. They don’t understand that excessive glenohumeral (shoulder) horizontal abduction, extension, and external rotation can all lead to anterior glide of the humerus, creating more anterior instability and leading to injuries to the anterior glenohumeral ligaments and labrum. Meanwhile, the biceps tendon picks up the slack as a crucial anterior stabilizer. They also don’t appreciate how these issues are exacerbated by poor rotator cuff function and faulty scapular stabilization patterns. And, they don’t appreciate that these issues are commonly present even in throwers who don’t demonstrate an Inverted W pattern.
At the elbow, they also can’t explain why, specifically, the Inverted W can lead to problems. They don’t understand that the timing issue created by the “deep” set-up leads to greater valgus stress at lay-back because the arm lags. They can’t explain why some players have medial issues (UCL injuries, ulnar nerve irritation, flexor/pronator strains, and medial epicondyle stress fractures) while other players have lateral issues (little league elbow, osteochondritis dissecans of radial capitellum) from the same mechanical flaws. They can’t explain why a slider thrown from an Inverted W position would be more harmful than a curveball.
I can explain it to you – and I can explain it to my athletes so that they understand, too. I’ve also met a lot of medical professionals who can clearly outline how and why these structures are injured, but we aren’t the ones coaching the pitchers on the mounds. The pitching coaches are the ones in those trenches.
To that end, I propose my second set of questions:
Don’t you think pitching coaches ought to make an effort to learn functional anatomy in order to understand not just what gets injured, but how those injuries occur? Wouldn’t it give them a more thorough understanding of how to manage their pitchers, from mechanical tinkering, to pitch selection, to throwing volume? And, wouldn’t it give them a more valid perspective from which to contribute to pitchers’ arm care programs in conjunction with rehabilitation professionals and strength and conditioning coaches?
The problem with just saying “his mechanics suck” is that it amounts to applying a theory to a sample size of one. That’s not good research. Additionally, this assertion is almost always taking place without a fundamental understanding of that pitcher’s functional anatomy. It amounts to coaching blind.
To reiterate, this was not a post intended to belittle anyone, but rather to bring to light two areas in which motivated pitching coaches could study extensively in order to really separate themselves from the pack. Additionally, I believe wholeheartedly in what Chris O’Leary put forth with his Inverted W writings; I just used it as one example of a mechanical flaw that must be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to managing pitchers.
With that said, I’d love to hear your opinions on these two sets of questions in the comments section below. Thanks in advance for your contributions.
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Written on June 6, 2012 at 6:44 am, by Eric Cressey
In the first half of this two-part installment on why pitching velocity changes during the course of a season, I outlined 9 Reasons Pitching Velocity Increases Over the Course of a Season. As you’ll appreciate after reading today’s post, there are actually a lot more ways by which pitching velocity can decrease over the course of a season. Let’s examine them individually:
1. Body weight reductions
This is far and away the most prominent reason pitchers lose velocity as a season goes on. In fact, it’s so big a problem that I devoted an entire blog to it: The #1 Cause of Inconsistent Pitching Velocity.
2. Strength loss
As I discussed in my first book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, strength is an important foundation for power. And, taking it a step further, power is certainly an important part of pitching. As the season goes on, many guys just don’t get in the quality weight room work they need to maintain strength, and power on the mound tails off.
It goes without saying that if you’re hurt, you won’t throw as hard. This isn’t just a shoulder or elbow thing, either; sprained ankles, sore hips, tight lower backs, oblique strains, and stiff necks can all wreak havoc on velocity. If something is bothering you, get it fixed before it causes you to develop bad habits.
4. Loss of mobility
When people hear the word “mobility,” they typically just of tissue length. However, mobility is simply one’s ability to get into a desired position or posture. In other words, it’s a complex interaction of not just actual tissue length, but also strength/stability, tissue quality, and kinesthetic awareness. If you don’t continue working on mobility drills, static stretching (when appropriate), foam rolling, and your strength training program, one of the components of this equation can suffer.
Obviously, as I wrote previously What Stride Length Means and How to Improve It: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, stride length is the best example of this phenomenon. However, what happens at the shoulder is another great example, too. One who loses thoracic mobility or scapular stability may stiffen up at the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint; it’s possible to gain range of motion without even stretching at the “stiff” joint!
5. Excessive workload
This is the time of year when a lot of guys start hitting all-time highs for innings in a season. And, with the games getting more important at the end of the high school and college seasons, pitch counts often rise when the innings really matter. It’s very simple:
Fatigue masks fitness.
If you’re dragging and the velocity is down, a short-term reduction in throwing volume is often the quickest path to getting velocity back – particularly in pitchers who are throwing more innings than ever before. Throwing an easy flat-ground instead of a bullpen between starts is one way to stay fresh, or you may opt to alternating higher pitch counts with shorter outings. If I hear about one of our high school pitchers who has an exceptionally high pitch count (105+), I usually tell him to make sure the next one is in the ballpark of 80 pitches. At that age, arms always seem to be dragging if kids go over 100 pitches in back-to-back outings.
6. Cumulative effect of bad throwing programs
This is best illustrated by a “hypothetical” example that actually happens far too often.
a. Pitcher makes great velocity gains in an off-season with comprehensive throwing program that includes long toss.
b. Pitcher goes in-season and encounters pitching coach that doesn’t believe in long toss as part of a throwing program.
c. Pitcher has a velocity loss.
This scenario doesn’t just happen because a specific modality (long toss) is removed, but also because of the effect it has on a pitching routine. This, for me, is why it’s so important to have conversions with pitchers on what throwing programs they’ve done in the past. What’s worked? What hasn’t? It’s all about tinkering, and rarely about overhauling.
7. Cumulative effect of distance running
This 2008 study might be the greatest research that has ever been performed on baseball players – mostly because it reaffirmed my awesomeness by proving me right: Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players.
These researchers divided a collegiate pitching staff into two groups of eight pitchers over the course of a season, and each group did everything identically – except the running portion of their strength and conditioning programs. Three days per week, the “sprint” group did 10-30 sprints of 15-60m with 10-60s rest between bouts. The endurance group performed moderate-to-high intensity jogging or cycling 3-4 days per week for anywhere from 20-60 minutes.
Over the course of the season, the endurance group’s peak power output dropped by an average of 39.5 watts while the sprinting group increased by an average of 210.6 watts. You still want to distance run?
Of course, there are still the tired old arguments of “it flushes out my arm” (much better ways to do that), it clears my head (go see a psychologist), “it keeps my weight down” (eat less crap, and do more lifting and sprinting), and “it helps me bounce back better between starts” (then why are so many players in MLB living on anti-inflammatories?). The system is broke, but instead of fixing it based on logic, many pitching coaches continue to change the oil on a car with no wheels.
8. Insufficient warm-ups
While there are definitely some outstanding opportunities out there to develop in the summer, the truth is that summer baseball is notorious for sloppy organization. Guys are allowed to show up ten minutes before game time, do a few arm circles, and then go right to it. If you’re walking directly from your car to the mound, don’t expect your velocity to be too good in the first few innings.
9. Cumulative effect of altered sleep patterns
Early in my training career, I realized that missing sleep the night before a training session really didn’t have any effect on my next training session. However, if I had consecutive nights of little to no sleep, it crushed me. I know of a lot of people who are the same way.
Now, imagine an entire season of red-eye flights, 3AM bus departures, and going to bed at 1am every night. Beyond just the sleep deprivation component, you have the dramatic change in circadian rhythms that takes place. Just head over to Pubmed and look at the hundreds of studies examining the health impact of working night shifts (shift work disorder); you’ll see preliminary research linking it to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a host of other issues. I firmly believe it’s one of many reasons injuries in baseball are on the rise – and certainly one potential culprit when velocity declines as a season progress.
10. Pitching off a crappy mound
Many players wind up pitching off terrible mounds during summer ball, and when the mound isn’t groomed nicely, you get into “oh crap, I don’t want to get hurt” mode with your landing leg. If you aren’t comfortable landing, you shorten your stride, or reach for a “safe” part of the mound, messing with your mechanics in the process. Additionally, velocity is going to be lower when the mound height isn’t as elevated; it’s just how gravity works.
11. Mechanical tinkering for the bad
In part 1, I noted that mechanics changes in the summertime can be a source of velocity improvements. They can also, however, be a reason for guys losing velocity. Not all changes are new changes, and it’s important to be careful about overhauling things on the advice of each new coach you encounter. Repetition is important, and it’s hard to get it if you’re always tinkering with something.
Dehydration can have a dramatically negative effect on strength and power. Most athletes are chronically dehydrated at rest, and certainly during pitching outings in the summer heat. Hydration status is an important thing to monitor if you want to throw gas.
13. Throwing to a new catcher
Being comfortable with the guy who is catching your pitches is a big part of success on the mound. When the catcher is constantly changing, there is more hesitation – especially if his pitch-calling tendencies are different from those of your previous catcher. If you’re constantly shaking him off, it’ll mess with your pace on the mound and slow you down. If he does cool stuff like this for you, though, you’ll probably throw 130mph.
14. More erratic throwing schedule
One of the biggest adjustments a pitcher will ever have to make is switching from starting to relieving or vice versa. While going to the bullpen can often lead to an increase in velocity, it can make other guys erratic with their delivery, as they’ve learned to rely on the pre-game period to get everything “synced up.”
Meanwhile, thanks to an increased pitch count, guys who go from the bullpen to the starting rotation sometimes see a drop in velocity. As examples, just compare John Smoltz or Daniel Bard out of the bullpen to what they have done in the starting rotation.
The only thing tougher than making that switch is to constantly bounce back and forth between the two, as it really hurts your between-outings preparation. How you prepare to throw seven innings is considerably different than what you do if you’re just going to go out and throw 10-15 pitches.
These are only 14 reasons velocity may dip, and their are surely many more. Maybe your girlfriend cheated on you with the bat boy and you got distracted, or you decided to just throw knuckleballs. The point is that – as if the case with many things in life – it’s a lot easier to screw up (lose velocity) than it is to thrive (gain velocity). Plan accordingly!
Written on June 4, 2012 at 7:06 am, by Eric Cressey
As we enter June, we hit the time of year when young pitchers are transitioning from school baseball to summer baseball, but this isn’t the only change that’s occurring. June is usually the time of year when pitching velocity tends to go up or down – and often quite significantly. To that end, I wanted to use a two-part series to outline the reasons why this occurs in both the positive and negative directions. In today’s installment, I’ll cover nine reasons why pitching velocity increases over the course of a season.
1. Increased external rotation
Over the course of a season, pitchers acquire slightly more external rotation at the shoulder (roughly five degrees, for most). Since external rotation is correlated with pitching velocity, gaining this range of motion is helpful for adding a few ticks on the radar gun as compared to early in the season. However, this added external rotation comes with a price; it is usually accompanied by increased anterior instability and, in some cases, a loss of internal rotation. As such, you need to stabilize or stretch accordingly.
2. Optimization of mechanics
Many pitchers integrate subtle or dramatic changes to their mechanics in the off-season and early in-season periods, but these changes won’t “stick” until they have some innings under their belt. June is often when those corrections start to settle in.
3. Transfer of strength to power
Some pitchers build a solid foundation of strength in the off-season, but take extra time to learn to display that force quickly (power). In short, they’re all the way toward the absolute strength end of the continuum, as described in this video:
4. More important game play
Some guys just don’t get excited to pitch in games that don’t mean much. While that is an issue for another article, the point here is to realize that a greater external stimulus (more fans, playoff atmosphere, important games) equates to a greater desire to throw cheddar. Right now, the high school and college post-seasons are underway, so you’re seeing some of the big radar gun readings more frequently.
5. Warmer weather
Many pitchers struggle to throw hard in cold weather. Pedro Martinez was a great example; during his time in Boston, he was undoubtedly one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, yet his Aprils never held a candle to what he did during the rest of the year (good thing his change-up was filthy, too).
Warmer weather makes it easier to warm up, and many guys – especially the more muscular, stiff pitchers – need to lengthen the pre-game warm-up early in the season. If you’re a guy who typically doesn’t see your best velocity numbers until you’ve got several innings under your belt, extend your pre-game warm-up, dress in layers, and don’t pick up a ball until you’re sweating.
6. New desire to prove oneself
For many pitchers, summer ball is a new beginning. This might be in the form of a Cape Cod League temp contract, or a situation where a player is transitioning from a smaller high school that doesn’t face good competition on to a program that plays a challenging summer schedule. Again, that external stimulus can make a huge difference, as it often includes better catchers, better coaching, more fans, better mounds, and more scouts behind the plate.
7. Mechanical tinkering
Piggybacking on the previous example, some pitchers may find their mechanics thanks to help from summer coaches. So, a change in coaching perspective can often bring out the best in guys.
8. Freedom to do one’s own thing.
I know of quite a few pitchers who’ve thrived in the summer time simply because their pitching coaches haven’t been in the way. Usually, this means they can go back to long tossing rather than being restricted to 90-120 feet all season. It’s a great way to get arm speed back.
9. Different pitch selection
There are quite a few college coaches who have guys throw 75% sliders in their outings – and wind up ruining plenty of elbows in the process. Summer ball is a chance for many guys to take a step back and really work on commanding their fastballs, so it’s not uncommon to see a few more mph on the radar gun.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll outline the reasons why pitching velocity may decrease over the course of a season.
Written on April 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm, by Eric Cressey
Q: I read your series, A New Model for Training Between Starts, and love the ideas you introduced. Since eliminating distance running between outings, I’ve noticed a big difference in how I feel and how I pitch. I did have one question about the weekly rotations you outlined in Part 2. What happens if I have an extra day between starts due to erratic scheduling or just a rain out?
A: This is a great question – and one I have received several times – so I’m glad I’m finally getting around to answering it here on the blog!
I usually look for guys to do a “bridge” training session. Basically, these sessions are all about leaving the gym feeling refreshed; you work, but not so hard that you’re exhausted.
In the typical in-season baseball strength and conditioning program we use with professional pitchers on a five-day rotation, here’s how we’d schedule it:
Day 0: pitch
However, if the next outing isn’t until Day 6, we will integrate one of two options:
The first option would be to simply split the Day 3 training session into two shorter sessions: one upper, one lower. These sessions might only be 10-12 sets in all. Then, Day 5 would be the low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits.
The second option would be to keep the strength training component as-is, but perform some medicine ball circuits on Day 4, then use Day 5 for the low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits.
Both options keep you training hard without interfering with the subsequent pitching outing. Particularly in professional baseball, there are more days off early in the season, so it’s important to be able to roll with the punches like this.
At the college and high school levels, the 7-day rotation is usually implemented. If a pitcher starts on Day 0, I like to see him strength training on Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5, with Day 5 being a lower-intensity lift (Days 2 and 4 are movement training, and Day 6 is low-intensity dynamic flexibility). If there is an extra day on the end, we simply treat our Day 5 lift like we did the Day 3 option in the 5-day template from above; it can either be split into upper and lower body sessions, or we can do it as-is, and add medicine ball circuits on Day 6, taking Day 7 for dynamic flexibility before starting again on Day 8.
That said, as in my experience, guys rarely get that extra day in high school and college; they’re more likely to have their starts pushed up. In this case, we just drop the Day 5 lift.
Getting training sessions in between starts is incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean that one must be rigid in the scheduling of these sessions. In fact, one must be very flexible in tinkering with that scheduling on a week-to-week basis to make sure that guys are getting in their lifts, but not at the expense of their performance on the mound. Hopefully this blog provided some strategies you can employ when weather or scheduling throws you a curveball!
Written on February 1, 2012 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey
Anyone who has ever broken or burned a finger will tell you that you just don’t appreciate how much you use your hands until you don’t have access to one for a bit. Obviously, you partially lose your ability to do things – but what many folks might not appreciate is that you also lose some of your ability to sense things, as the hands contain a tremendously amount of sensory receptors relative to the rest of the body. In fact, the tiny folds in our skin on the fingertips that comprise the fingertip are there because they increase the surface area of the hands – which allows us to get more sensory receptors where we need them. Cool stuff, huh?
Why then, do we not give the hands any love when it comes to soft tissue work? We’ll foam roll our hip flexors, lats, and other large muscle groups (which are certainly valuable), but we’ll ignore one of the most sensory-rich parts of our body – and one that is constantly active (and overused, in some cases) throughout the day. We grip, type, and flip people the bird – but we never really pay attention to soft tissue quality in this region…until today, that is.
If you look at the structure of the hand, you’ll see that it has a large fascial, the palmar aponeurosis (we’ll call it the palmar fascia to keep things simple). This structure has an intimate relationship with the muscles/tendons and ligaments of the hand, and serves as a link between the forearm and fingers.
Based on the size alone, you can see that it has plantar-fascia-caliber importance even if it isn’t weight bearing. You see, of the five muscles that attach via the common flexor tendon on the medial epicondyle at the elbow, four cross the wrist joint and palmar fascia on the way to the hand, where they work to flex and abduct or adduct the wrist, and flex the fingers.
Loads of people have tendinopathies going on up on the medial elbow (Golfer’s Elbow), but they only work on this spot (called a zone of convergence). Meanwhile, the soft tissue quality might be just as bad further down at the wrist and hand, adding tension on an already over-burdended common flexor tendon. Think about it this way: if you had a pulled hamstring up by your glutes, would you only work to improve tissue quality at that spot, or would you work all the way down to the posterior knee to make sure that you’d improved some of the poor tissue quality further down as well?
Below, massage therapist and Cressey Performance coach Chris Howard talks you through two different ways to work out the kinks in the palmar fascia and surrounding regions, but keep in mind that it’ll always be more effective to have a qualified manual therapist do the job – and that’s certainly someone you should see if you have any symptoms whatsoever.
We’ve found that quite a few of our pitchers comment on how the ball seems to come out of their hand easier after this work. Usually, they’re the guys who have the most stiffness along the forearm, particularly into wrist extension and supination.
Give it a shot at your desk at work and see how it feels.
Note: Chris’ video here is a sample of what comes in his Innovative Soft Tissue Strategies contribution to Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.
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Written on September 19, 2011 at 6:20 pm, by Eric Cressey
We’ve got over 100 professional baseball players scheduled to be at Cressey Performance for their off-season training, so it goes without saying that I’ve been doing a lot of evaluations over the past two weeks – and writing the individualized strength and conditioning programs in accordance with those assessment results. To that end, I thought I’d use a two-part series to highlight the top 10 “general” things I find myself addressing with guys coming in after the long season.
1. Planning the off-season schedule – Each player is 100% unique in this regard. As examples, a guy who threw 50 innings would be able to start a throwing program sooner this off-season than a guy who racked up 150 innings. Some guys goes to instructional league in Florida or Arizona, and others play winter ball. Guys headed to minor league spring training report later than those headed to big league spring training. In short, everyone has different timetables with which to work, so it’s important to get an appreciation for it well in advance for the sake of long-term planning.
2.Discussing role/status within the organization – This priority aligns with #1. You manage a first-round draft pick who may be a guaranteed big leaguer if he stays healthy somewhat differently than you’d manage someone who was drafted in the 48th round and paid a $1,000 signing bonus. The former has the world on a silver platter for him, whereas the latter really needs to improve with dramatic improvements in order to stick around in pro ball. In this situation, you have to be willing to get a bit more aggressive with the programming of the “underdog.” I wrote about this two years ago in a feature on CP athlete and Oakland A’s prospect Shawn Haviland.
3. Mastering the sagittal plane – When the season ends, it seems like a lot of strength and conditioning coaches are super anxious to start up loads of aggressive medicine ball drills and change of direction work. I’m a firm believer that guys need to master the sagittal plane before they head out and spend a lot of time in the frontal plane – especially when it comes after a long season of aggressive rotational activity. In some guys, we omit medicine ball work altogether for the first month of the off-season while we work to enhance anti-rotation and anti-extension core stability. You’d be amazed at how many athletes can’t do a decent prone bridge, rollout, or reverse crunch on their first day back because their anterior pelvic tilt is so excessive that their anterior core strength is virtually absent.
Other athletes need to spend a lot of time simply working on single-leg exercises. While these exercises are performed in the sagittal plane, the athletes are still stabilizing in the frontal and transverse planes. The “sexy” work in these planes comes in subsequent months.
Of course, some athletes do a great job of taking care of themselves during the season and come back with complete control in the sagittal plane. As long as they aren’t too banged up, we’ll certainly get them right back in to medicine ball exercises.
4. Regaining rotator cuff strength – It’s a huge struggle to improve cuff strength when an athlete is constantly throwing – especially when we’re talking about a pitcher who is racking up 100+ pitches – and the eccentric stress that accompanies them – every fifth day. Since most professional pitchers get about 10-16 weeks off from throwing each fall, those 2-4 months become absolutely crucial for regaining cuff strength at an optimal rate. It’s one reason why it drives me absolutely bonkers when a guy takes a full month off after the season ends.
I discussed our general approach to improving rotator cuff function in Clearing Up the Rotator Cuff Controversy. Of course, all this work is accompanied by loads of work on thoracic mobility, scapular stabilization, breathing exercises, and soft tissue work.
5. Normalizing diet and, in turn, vitamin/mineral status – There are a ton of guys who want to stick with healthy food options during the season. Unfortunately, that can be very challenging on a minor league salary, less-than-stellar clubhouse food, and extensive travel. All our professional players complete three-day diet records at the start of the off-season, and when reviewing those, we tinker with food selection, meal frequency, and supplementation.
If a guy is overweight, we don’t try to take 30 pounds off him in two weeks; rather, we focus on improving food quality and allow the increased training volume to take care of the rest. Most guys will undergo a pretty dramatic body composition shift in the first 6-8 weeks of the off-season, anyway, so there is no need to get “aggressive” with caloric reductions at this point when they should be all about regeneration and feeling good.
Of course, if they’re skinny, we’ll get them crushing more food right away!
These are just the first of many key areas of focus for early in the off-season. Check back soon for Part 2!
Written on December 31, 2010 at 4:46 am, by Eric Cressey
Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better – This was obviously my biggest project of 2010. I actually began writing the strength and conditioning programs and filming the exercise demonstration videos in 2009, and put all the “guinea pigs” through the four-month program beginning in February. When they completed it as the start of the summer rolled around, I made some modifications based on their feedback and then got cracking on writing up all the tag along resources. Finally, in September, Show and Go was ready to roll. So, in effect, it took 10-11 months to take this product from start to finish – a lot of hard work, to say the least. My reward has been well worth it, though, as the feedback has been awesome. Thanks so much to everyone who has picked up a copy.
Optimal Shoulder Performance – This was a seminar that Mike Reinold and I filmed in November of 2009, and our goal was to create a resource that brought together concepts from both the shoulder rehabilitation and shoulder performance training fields to effectively bridge the gap for those looking to prevent and/or treat shoulder pain. In the process, I learned a lot from Mike, and I think that together, we brought rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals closer to being on the same page.
Why President Obama Throws Like a Girl – A lot of people took this as a political commentary, but to be honest, it was really just me talking about the concept of retroversion as it applies to a throwing shoulder – with a little humor thrown in, of course!
Overbearing Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar – This one was remarkably easy to write because I’ve received a lot of emails from overbearing Dads asking about increasing throwing velocity in their kids.
What I Learned in 2009 – I wrote this article for T-Nation back at the beginning of the year, and always enjoy these yearly pieces. In fact, I’m working on my 2010 one for them now!
What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Training Success – I wrote this less than a month out from my wedding, so you could say that I had a good frame of reference.
Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured – In case the title didn’t tip you off, I’m not much of a fan of baseball showcases.
Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Training Success – Part 1 and Part 2 - These articles were featured at fitbusinessinsider.com. I enjoy writing about not only the training side of things, but some of the things we’ve done well to build up our business.
Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way – This might have been the top post of the year, in my eyes. My job is very cool.
How to Attack Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry – Here’s another fitness business post.
Want to Be a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach? Start Here. – And another!
The Skinny on Strasburg’s Injury – I hate to make blog content out of someone else’s misfortune, but it was a good opportunity to make some points that I think are very valid to the discussion of not only Stephen Strasburg’s elbow injury, but a lot of the pitching injuries we see in youth baseball.
Surely, there are many more to list, but I don’t want this to run too long! Have a safe and happy new year, and keep an eye out for the first content of 2011, which is coming very soon!
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Written on December 30, 2010 at 4:55 am, by Eric Cressey
I made an effort to get more videos up on the site this year, as I know a lot of folks are visual learners and/or just enjoy being able to listen to a blog, as opposed to reading it. Here are some highlights from the past year:
The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum – Regardless of your sport, there are valuable take-home messages. I just used throwing velocity in baseball pitchers as an example, as it’s my frame of reference.
Should Pitchers Overhead Press? - This was an excerpt from Mike Reinold and my Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar (which became a popular DVD set for the year).
Shoulder Impingement vs. Rotator Cuff Tears – Speaking of Mike, here’s a bit from the man himself from that seminar DVD set.
Thoracic and Glenohumeral Joint Mobility Drills – The folks at Men’s Health tracked me down in the lobby at Perform Better in Providence and asked if I could take them through a few shoulder mobility drills we commonly use – and this was the result.
Cressey West – This kicks off the funny videos from the past year. A few pro baseball players that I program for in a distance-based format created this spoof video as a way of saying thank you.
Tank Nap – My puppy taking a nap in a provocative position. What’s more cute?
Matt Blake Draft Tracker – CP’s resident court jester and pitching instructor airs his frustrations on draft day.
1RM Cable Horizontal Abduction – More from the man, the myth, the legend.
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