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New Cressey Sports Performance – Florida Facility Featured on WPBF 25 News

Written on December 17, 2014 at 7:53 am, by Eric Cressey

The Elite Baseball Development program at our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility was a local news feature the other day. Check it out HERE.

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For more information on the new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance, check out www.CresseySportsPerformance.com.

"I have used Cressey Sports Performance for my last five off-seasons. CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in a position to remain healthy throughout a long season. Even when I can’t be there to work with them in person, I am still able to benefit from CSP’s resources at my home through the distance-based programs.”

-Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2014 American League Cy Young Winner
 

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Advice From a Former College Baseball Player: What If?

Written on April 7, 2014 at 7:17 am, by Eric Cressey

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

What if?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Get assessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll use myself as example.

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

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

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

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

In short, here were my issues:

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

Cue epiphany.

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

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

Moral of the story? Get assessed.

2. Movement comes first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear athletes: Please change this attitude.

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

3. Focus on the little things.

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

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

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

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

4. Do more single-leg work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Get outside the sagittal plane.

Oh…the beloved sagittal plane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

6. More doesn’t equal better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

About the Author

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

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Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 4

Written on January 30, 2014 at 7:32 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for another installment of "Common Arm Care" mistakes, and in this go-round, I'm going to be talking about volume management.  This mistake can be summed up in one sentence:

If you keep adding things without taking something else away, you'll eventually wind up with overuse problems.

Effective, there is a "give and take" that is involved with the training of any throwing athlete.  The more throwing these athletes do, the less supplemental training they can incorporate. This can occur in a number of different contexts.

First, on the throwing side, you'll often see pitchers who are always seeking out the latest, greatist throwing programs.  However, they don't "program hop;" they just keep adding.  Before you know it, they're making 300 throws in every session – and throwing seven days a week – because they have to get in their long toss, weighted balls, underweight balls, mound work, and towel drills.  If you told them that practicing their nunchuck skills would help, they'd add that in, too.

Second, you have to be cognizant of the rest of your strength and power training volume.  When your pitch count goes up, you need to pare back on your upper body lifting volume; banging out a bunch of chin-ups isn't going to feel so hot after a 60-pitch outing.  Additionally, your medicine ball work volume needs to go down as the throwing volume goes up.

To give you some frame of reference for this, here's a little excerpt from Marlins closer Steve Cishek's off-season medicine ball programs.  Keep in mind that the total throws equals left-handed throws, plus right-handed throws, plus overhead throws.

October: break from rotation, no aggressive medicine ball or overhead work
November: 156 total throws
December (started throwing mid-December): 138 total throws
January (ramped up throwing): 66 total throws

Once spring training rolls around and he's throwing even more, he'll have even less.  A minor leaguer whose season wraps up a month earlier would actually be able to get an additional month of aggressive medicine ball work in.

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Third, pitchers often forget that throwing itself is a huge challenge to the rotator cuff.  So, if your throwing volume goes up as the season approaches, you should be doing less arm care work than you would have done in the off-season.  You can get away with this reduction in arm care work because you've already put in a great off-season to build things up.  Of course, if you throw year-round, then you're already behind the 8-ball when the season starts.

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2013 MLB Draft Thoughts: Talking vs. Doing

Written on June 10, 2013 at 8:38 am, by Eric Cressey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7 Ways to Get Strong Outside of the Sagittal Plane

Written on February 4, 2013 at 6:10 am, by Eric Cressey

We all know that folks don’t tend to do well in terms of health, movement quality, or performance when they spend their entire lives in the sagittal plane.  They aren’t as well prepared for life’s surprises (e.g., slipping on the ice) or life’s challenges (beer league softball fly balls to the gap).  They often lack adductor length and have poor hip rotation, and compensate with injurious movement compensation strategies at the knee and lower back.  This knowledge gave rise to a central tenet of the functional training era: multi-planar training.

Unfortunately, it’s just just as simple as telling folks to train in all three planes, as there is a progression one must go through to stay healthy while reaping the benefits of these new exercises.  I thought I’d outline my start-to-finish progression strategy.

1. Single-leg Exercises

To the naked eye, lunges, split squats, and step-ups are sagittal plane exercises.  However, what you have to appreciate is that while you’re training in the sagittal plane, you’re actually doing a lot of stabilization in the frontal and transverse planes.  It’s important that you master these drills in the sagittal plane before you start experimenting with strength work in the frontal and transverse planes. 

Progressions from basic dumbbell-at-the-side movements would be to raise the center of mass by using barbells or holding weights overhead. You could also wrap a band around the lower thigh and pull the knee into adduction and internal rotation to increase the challenge in the frontal and transverse planes.

2. Alternating Lateral Lunge with Overhead Reach

At the most basic level, you can work unloaded lateral lunge variations into your warm-up. They might be in place, or alternating. As soon as folks can handle them, though, I like to progress to including an overhead reach in order to challenge anterior core stability and raise the center of mass up away from the base of support a bit.  This also gives folks a chance to work on their shoulder mobility and scapulohumeral rhythm.

For more variety on the warm-up front, check out the Assess and Correct DVD set; there are over 75 drills in there to take your mobility to a new level.

3. Plate-Loaded Slideboard Lateral Lunge

I like this as a starter progression because the plate out in front serves as a great counterbalance to allow folks to work on their hip hinge. Plus, there isn’t a big deceleration challenge on the leg that’s going through the most abduction range of motion; rather, the load is predominantly on the fixed leg, which is resisting excessive adduction (knee in).

Worthy of note: I never load this beyond 10 pounds, as folks tend to become kyphotic if the counterbalance is too heavy.  You’re better off loading with #3…

3. Dumbbell or Kettlebell Goblet Slideboard Lateral Lunge

By keeping the weight closer to the axis of rotation (hips) and minimizing the load the arms have to take on, we can load this up a bit without unfavorable compensations.

4. 1-arm Kettlebell Slideboard Lateral Lunges

This exercise builds on our previous example by adding an element of rotary stability.  You’d hold it in the rack position (or go bottoms-up, if you want variety and an increased stability challenge at the shoulder girdle). I’ve tried this with the KB held on both sides, and it’s a trivial difference in terms of the challenge created – so you can just use rotate them for variety.

5. Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Goblet Lateral Lunge

You can load this sucker up pretty well once you’re good at it. Just be cognizant of not getting too rounded over at the upper back.

 

6. In-Place Lateral Lunge with Band Overload

This is variation that we’ve just started implementing. The band increases eccentric overload in the frontal (and, to a lesser degree, transverse) plane, effectively pulling you “into” the hip.  You have to fight against excessive adduction and internal rotation, and then “get out” of the hip against resistance.  This is something every athlete encounters, whether it’s in rotational power development or basic change-of-direction work.

As an added bonus, using a band actually provides an accommodating resistance scenario.  Assuming the partner stays in the same position throughout the drill, the tension on the band is lightest when you’re the weakest, and it’s more challenging where you’re stronger.

7. Side Sled Drags

Side sled drags are a great option for integrating some work outside the sagittal plane for folks who either a) aren’t coordinated enough for lateral lunge variations or b) have some knee or hip issues that don’t handle deceleration stress well.  As you can see, the exercise is pretty much purely concentric.  We’ll usually use it as a third exercise on a lower body strength training day – and as you can see, it can offer some metabolic conditioning benefits as well.

Keep in mind that these are just strength development progressions; we use a different collection of exercises for training power in comparable positions.  In our more advanced athletes, these drills will take place toward the end of a lower body training session – after we’ve already trained for strength in the sagittal plane, where we can load folks up better.  That said, if an individual is new to lateral lunge variations, you may want to introduce them early on in the strength training session when they’re fresh.

Have some fun with these exercise variations; I think you’ll find them to be challenging in ways you haven’t previously experienced.  And, the soreness you’ll experience will be all the proof you need!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/14/12

Written on December 14, 2012 at 8:10 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Invincible Immunity – This is an article I wrote all the way back in 2002.  While it’s over a decade old now, the information is still valuable, especially with cold and flu season upon us!

Player Interview: Steve Cishek of the Miami Marlins – Current CP intern Jay Kolster interviews long-time CP client and Marlins closer Steve Cishek on everything from pre/post-game routines, to strength and conditioning, to advice for up-and-coming players.  This is excellent stuff.

7 Tips for Dominating Seminars – This was an awesome post from Mike Robertson that everyone in the fitness industry should read prior to attending seminars. It’ll help you guarantee that you’ll get the most of these learning experiences.

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11 Random Thoughts on Baseball Strength and Conditioning

Written on September 20, 2012 at 8:05 am, by Eric Cressey

With the off-season at hand, I thought I’d type up some random thoughts that have come up in conversations with professional, college, and high school players over the past few weeks as they’ve wrapped up their seasons and transitioned to off-season mode.

1. Arm care drills don’t really provide arm care when you do the exercises incorrectly. When you do eight exercises for three sets of 15 reps each every single day, but you do all the exercises incorrectly, you’re really just turning yourself into 360 reps worth of suck.

2. Piggybacking on #1, if you think you need 360 reps of arm care exercises per day, you really need to educate yourself on how the arm actually works. Also, when you eventually realize that you probably don’t even need ¼ of that volume to keep your arm healthy, you should definitely pick up a new hobby with all that newly discovered free time. Maybe you’ll even wind up kissing a girl for the first time.

3. In the battle to increase pitching velocity, all anyone seems to talk about is how to increase arm speed, which is a function of how much force can be produced and how quickly it can be applied.  So, we focus heavily on long toss, weighted ball programs, and mound work to try to produce more force.  The inherent problem with this strategy is that it ignores the importance of accepting force.  I’ll give you an example.

Imagine two people side-by-side holding slingshots, each of which has the same thickness rubber band.  They both pull the band back with the right hand and hold the other end with the left. One guy has a limp left hand and his left forearm “gives” as he pulls the band back, and the other guy keeps the left side firm.  They both shoot the rock; which one goes farther?  Obviously, it’s the one with the firm front side; that stiffness enables the arm to accept force.

This is a common problem with many young pitchers who haven’t built a foundation of strength, as well as advanced pitchers whose velocity dips over the course of a season, usually when they lose body weight. If your lower-body strength and power diminishes, you’ll collapse on that front side and leak energy.  And, you’ll commonly miss up and arm side. 

Basically, you need to be strong eccentrically into hip flexion, adduction, and internal rotation – which is why the glutes are so important for pitching (check out this post from a while back for more information on the functional anatomy side of things).  Think of pitching with a weak landing leg as throwing like a guy with a slight hamstrings strain; in order to protect yourself, you flop instead of planting.

4. Has an accomplished marathoner every thrown 95mph? Actually, has an accomplished marathoner ever done anything athletic other than running?

5. We definitely need to get John Clayton to cover MLB instead of the NFL.

Baseball hasn’t seen this kind of talent in a non-player since this Fenway Park security guard put the Terry Tate on this deserving schmuck:

6. It amazes me how many baseball players don’t take care of their eyes. They are your livelihood, people! Yearly check-ups are a good start, but if you’ve heard some of the stories I’ve heard about how terrible guys are with taking care of their contact lenses, you’d be astounded. Example: I once had an athlete come in with terribly red eyes, so I sent him to see my wife, Anna, who is (conveniently) an optometrist. He informed her that he’d been putting his contacts in the same solution at night for two weeks. That’s like reusing the same bath water for 14 days – except the eyes are worse because they’re more prone to infection.

7. Why do professional teams spend anywhere from $484,000 to $30,000,000 per year on a single player, yet try to save money by letting clubbies feed all their minor leaguers pizza, fried chicken, PB&J, and salami sandwiches on white bread?

8. This kid has a full scholarship to train at Cressey Performance whenever he opts to pursue it.

See what I just did there? It wasn’t baseball-related at all, but I just tied it in.

9. Strength and conditioning has “changed the game” with respect to early sports specialization as it relates to baseball development. Kids can get away with specializing earlier if they’re involved in a well-rounded strength and conditioning program because these programs afford as much and, sometimes, more variety than playing a traditional sport. This approach to development does, however, depend heavily on the self-restraint of players, parents, and coaches to get kids 2-3 months per year without a ball in their hands. And, they need to seek out opportunities to play pick-up basketball, ultimate Frisbee, and other random games.

10. If you’re already taking 150 ground balls per day during the season, do you really need to do extra agility work? This is like a NASCAR champ hitting up the go-karts on the way home from the race track.

11. The other day, I read a review in the International Journal of Athletic Training that focused on the different biomechanics and pathology of various pitching styles.  The authors (Truedson et al) made a strong case for modifications to training programs – particularly with respect to core stability – based on trunk tilt angles at ball release.  Overhand and three-quarters guys tilt away from the throwing arm, sidearm guys stand upright, and submarine guys tilt toward the throwing arm. Folks have long discussed the concept of posture from a mechanics standpoint, but I haven’t seen anyone who has utilized this information to modify an intended training outcome from a strength and conditioning standpoint.  Obviously, you could easily make the case that submarine pitchers need more rotary and lateral core stability than all other pitchers.

Lateral core stability exercises teach you how to resist lateral flexion; in other words, your goal is to avoid tipping over. These drills may start with basic side bridging drills and progress all the way up through more advanced TRX drills and 1-arm carrying variations. Rotary core stability exercises educate folks on how to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine. Examples include drills like landmines, lifts, and chops.

Sidearm pitchers are much more upright with the torso, so they likely need more anterior core than rotary/lateral core stability.  Of course, you’re still going to train all three.

Anterior core stability exercises teach the body to resist excessive lumbar spine extension, and encompass a variety of drills, starting with dead bug, curl-up, and prone bridging activities. In prepared individuals, they progress all the way up through more advanced exercises like reverse crunches, stability ball rollouts, and TRX flutters and fallouts.

Finally, the overhand and 3/4 guys – which are obviously the largest segment – likely just need an equal dose of the three approaches.

For more thoughts on core stability training for health and performance, I’d encourage you to check out our Functional Stability Training DVD set.

That concludes this little glimpse into my mind as we enter the off-season.  I’ll probably wind up doing this again every 4-6 weeks as I have discussions on various topics with our pro guys as they return.

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Five Years of Cressey Performance: Success Isn’t Just Measured in Revenue

Written on July 13, 2012 at 7:58 am, by Eric Cressey

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the day my business partners and I founded Cressey Performance.  In that time, we’ve gone through two expansions, and we’re now in the process of a third one, which will effectively double the size of our space to over 15,000 square feet.

It’s been somewhat of a tradition for me to write something about Cressey Performance on EricCressey.com every July 13 in honor of the occasion.  To that end, in light of the fact that I know I have a ton of current or aspiring facility owners reader this site, I thought I’d use today’s post to outline one of the most important considerations I want our entire staff to understand.

Success isn’t just measured in revenue.

Most business owners look to at a net income total at the end of each month to determine if they’re successful.  While this certainly governs whether or not they’ll be able to keep the lights on at the facility and feed their families, it doesn’t speak to the far-reaching implications that a successful business has.

In the case of a fitness business, how many chronic diseases have thousands of exercise programs helped prevent?  How many bum shoulders have become asymptomatic so that a father can throw 400 pitches at his son’s team’s batting practice?  How many kids have gained confidence that’s gone far beyond the weight room, impacting school performance and social interaction?  How many shoulder and elbow surgeries have been avoided by proactive strength and conditioning program initiatives?  How many young athletes have spent 10-12 hours a week at Cressey Performance surrounded by professional and college athlete role models when they could have been out getting into trouble with the wrong crowd?  How many families have collectively started eating healthier because a young athlete came home from CP with some healthy food options for them to try?  How many young athletes have been inspired to pursue fitness as a career?  How many people have learned to stand up for their beliefs in vigorously defending their answers to the Tim Collins Question of the Day?

It excites me to see our former interns doing absolutely fantastic things.  Many have gone on to master’s degrees and doctorates in physical therapy, and two are in medical school.  Some have started their own training facilities, and others have gone on to college strength and conditioning positions. Kevin Neeld is working with the U.S. Women’s National Hockey team and loads of high-level hockey players.  Brian St. Pierre and Jay Bonn are having a huge impact on a number of lives through their work with Dr. John Berardi and Precision Nutrition. Brad Schnitzer can drink a bottle of water really fast, too.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I’m very proud of all these interns and what they’ve accomplished.

Taking it a step further, I’m always psyched to see guys like Tim Collins (Royals), Steve Cishek (Marlins), Kevin Youkilis (White Sox), and Bryan LaHair (Cubs) doing as much stuff as possible in terms of charity work.  

And, I’m even more psyched when I see our minor league guys wanting to follow their lead, and that’s why getting involved with charity initiatives is an important part of our off-season pro baseball training crew. These little gestures of kindness mean a lot to people, and they mean even more when you’re on the biggest stage and have a rare opportunity to impact thousands of people with your words and actions. My hope is that the Cressey Performance experience has helped to not give our younger guys the the awareness to appreciate these opportunities to help others, but instill in them the humility to properly make use of them.

Additionally, in our case, Hudson, MA isn’t a tourism hub by any means (although we do have an Applebees, for what it’s worth).  Yet, CP brings anywhere from 80 to 120 clients per day to Hudson from all over Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. They spend money on food (including at our building’s cafeteria), gas, and any of a number of other things while they’re in town. Additionally, we have a lot of clients and interns who travel from all over the U.S. and abroad to train with us, and they support local hotels and rental properties. Finally, in Tony’s case, he single-handedly keeps a local auto body shop in business with all the repairs on his car; in fact, I think their owners would vote for him if he ran for mayor because of all the “economic stimulus” he’s provided them. At least these kids got some exercise and entertainment pushing his car to the mechanic.

All these considerations in mind, recognize that you don’t go into business solely to make money.  When you’re six feet under and looking up at the grass, nobody remembers you for your net income in August of 2010,  but rather the impact you had on the world before you left it.  And, on a related and interesting note, looking at ways to overdeliver and add value to someone’s experience is often the best way to make a business more profitable.  As my friend Pat Rigsby would say, pursue “value addition” opportunities, not “value extraction” ones.

To all our clients who have supported us for the past five years, thank you very much.  Our entire staff is deeply appreciative of your continued support.

Speaking of Pat, he, Mike Robertson, and I collaborated on a product called the Fitness Business Blueprint last year.  It discusses all the mistakes we made when opening our fitness businesses, as well as the common mistakes Pat sees in the businesses for which he consults.  Mike and I complement Pat’s business teachings with training-specific information like assessment and program design.  Taken all together, it’s a great product for someone looking to start their own fitness business, or improve upon the one they already have.  In honor of CP’s fifth birthday, we’ve put it on sale for $100 off for this weekend only (sale ends Sunday, July 15 at midnight).  You can pick up your copy at the special sales page HERE.

 

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115 Ways to Improve Pitching Velocity

Written on May 11, 2012 at 9:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Everyone wants to improve pitching velocity, but unfortunately, the answer to the question of "how" is different for everyone.  To that end, I pulled together a quick list of 101 strategies you can use to improve pitching velocity.  They aren't the same for everyone, but chances are that at least a few of these will help you.  I'd encourage you to print this off and highlight the areas in which you think you can improve.

1. Optimize mechanics (this could be 100 more ways in itself; I will leave it alone for now).

2. Gain weight (if skinny).

3. Lose weight (if fat).

4. Get taller (shorter throwers can’t create as much separation, and are further away from homeplate)

5. Get shorter (taller throwers have more energy leaks).

6. Long toss.

7. Throw weighted baseballs.

8. Throw underweighted balls.

9. Improve thoracic spine mobility.

10. Improve scapular stability.

11. Improve glenohumeral joint stability (rotator cuff strength and timing).

12. Improve glenohumeral joint range of motion.

13. Regain lost elbow extension.

14. Improve hip abduction mobility.

15. Improve hip rotation mobility.

16. Improve hip extension mobility.

17. Improve ankle mobility.

18. Activate the deep neck flexors.

19. Extend your pre-game warm-up.

20. Shorten your pre-game warm-up.

21. Increase lower body strength.

22. Increase lower body power.

23. Train power outside the sagittal plane (more medicine ball throws and plyos in the frontal/transverse plane).

24. Speed up your tempo.

25. Slow down your tempo.

26. Get angrier.

27. Get calmer.

28. Get more aggressive with your leg kick.

29. Get less aggressive with your leg kick.

29. Don’t grip the ball as firm.

30. Throw a 4-seam instead of a 2-seam.

31. Get through the ball instead of around it.

32. Improve balancing proficiency.

33. Throw out all your participation trophies.

34. Do more unilateral upper body training.


 

35. Recover better (shout-out to my buddy Lee Fiocchi’s Accelerated Arm Recovery DVD set on this front; it’s good stuff).

36. Throw in warmer weather.

37. Wear warmer clothing under your jersey.

38. Change footwear (guys usually throw harder in cleats).

39. Throw less.

40. Throw more.

41. Pitch less.

42. Pitch more.

43. Politely ask your mom to stop yelling, “Super job, kiddo!” after every pitch you throw.

44. Do strength exercises outside the sagittal plane.

45. Take all the money you were going to blow on fall/winter showcases and instead devote it to books, DVDs, training, food, and charitable donations.  If there is anything left over, blow it on lottery tickets and sketchy real estate ventures, both of which have a higher return-on-investment than showcases in the fall and winter.

46. Switch from a turf mound indoors to a dirt/clay mound outdoors.

47. Get a batter in the box.

48. Get more sleep.

49. Sleep more hours before midnight.

50. Stop distance running.

51. Improve glute activation so that you can fully extend your hip in your delivery.

52. Stop thinking that the exact workout a big league pitcher uses is exactly what you need to do.

53. Subcategory of #52: Remove the phrase "But Tim Lincecum does it" from your vocabulary. You aren't Tim Lincecum, and you probably never will be.  Heck, Tim Lincecum isn't Tim Lincecum anymore, either. You can learn from his delivery, but 99.9999% of people who try to copy his delivery fail miserably.

54. Read more.  This applies to personal development in a general sense, and baseball is certainly no exception.  The guys who have the longest, most successful careers are usually the ones who dedicate themselves to learning about their craft.

55. Stay away from alcohol.  It kills tissue quality, negatively affects protein synthesis, messes with sleep quality, and screws with hormonal status.

56. Incorporate more single-leg landings with your plyos; you land on one leg when you throw, don't you?

57. Be a good teammate.  If you aren't a tool, they'll be more likely to help you when you get into a funk with your mechanics or need someone to light a fire under your butt.

58. Respect the game.  Pitchers who don't respect the game invariably end up getting plunked the first time they wind up going up to bat.  Getting hit by a lot of pitches isn't going to help your velocity.

59. Train the glutes in all three planes (read more HERE).

60. Remember your roots and always be loyal.  You never know when you'll need to go back to ask your little league, middle school, high school, or AAU coach for advice to help you right the ship.

61. Get focal manual therapy like Active Release.

62. Get diffuse manual therapy like instrument-assisted modalities or general massage.

63. Make sweet love to a foam roller.

64. Throw a jacket on between innings to keep your body temperature up.

65. Pitch from the wind-up.

66. Drink magical velocity-increasing snake oil (just making sure you were still reading and paying attention).

67. Pick a better walkout song.

68. Get on a steeper mound (expect this to also increase arm stress).

69. Train hip mobility and core stability simultaneously.

70. Get around successful people in the pitching world and learn from them.  Find a way to chat with someone who has accomplished something you want to accomplish.  If you hang around schleps who complain about their genes and have never thrown above 75mph, though, expect to be a schlep who throws 75mph, too.

71. Pick the right parents (sorry, genes do play a role).

72. Recognize and get rid of pain.

73. Throw strikes (more balls = higher pitch count = lower average velocity)

74. Get 8-12 weeks off completely from throwing per year.  Read more about why HERE and HERE.

75. Be candid with yourself about how hard you’re really working (most guys talk about working hard when they should actually be working hard).

76. Take the stupid sticker off your hat.

77. Stop thinking so much.

78. Think more.

79. Stop stretching your throwing shoulder into external rotation (read more on that HERE).

80. Get in a better training environment.

81. Surround yourself with unconditionally positive and supportive people.

82. Talk to a different pitching coach to get a new perspective.

83. Stop talking to so many pitching coaches because too many cooks are spoiling the broth.

84. Lengthen your stride (learn more HERE, HERE, and HERE).

85. Shorten your stride.

86. Get your ego crushed when you realize that no matter how strong you think you are, there is a girl somewhere warming up with your max. And, my wife might even be able to do more pull-ups than you!

87. Stop trying to learn a cutter, knuckle-curve, slider, and “invisiball” when you can’t even throw a four-seam where you want it to go.

88. Play multiple sports (excluding cross-country).

89. Stay healthy when other pitchers are getting hurt.

90. Stop pitching for five different teams in the same season.

91. Pre-game routine: dynamic warm-up, sprinting progressions, long toss, pull-down throws, flat-ground, bullpen. Post-game routine: make out with prom queen after complete game shutout.

92. Do rhythmic stabilizations before you throw (if you’re a congenitally lax/”loose” guy) to "wake up" the rotator cuff.

93. Hydrate sufficiently.

94. Quit worrying about the damn radar guns.

95. Wear a posture jacket/shirt.

96. Drink coffee or green tea (you get antioxidants and a decent caffeine content without all the garbage in energy drinks).

97. Get in front of a big crowd.

98. Find a better catcher.

99. Throw more to and get comfortable with the same catcher.

100. Tinker with your pre-throwing nutrition to ensure consistent energy levels.

101. Tinker with your during game nutrition to sustain your energy better.

102. Tinker with your post-game nutrition to recover better.

103. Improve core stability (more specifically, anti-extension and anti-rotation core stability).

104. Breath better (less shoulder shrug and more diaphragm).

105. Train the rotator cuff less.

106. Change the day on which you throw your bullpen.

107. For relievers, stay loose and warm throughout the game (read more about that HERE). Staying entertained is also important, as CP athlete Joe Van Meter demonstrates.

108. Here and there, between starts, skip your bullpen and throw a flat-ground instead to give your arm a chance to bounce back.

109. Consider creatine (the most researched strength and power supplement in history, yet surprisingly few people in baseball use it)

110. Work faster (the fielders behind you will love you).

111. Work slower (recover better between pitches and self-correct).

112. Stop ignoring your low right shoulder and adducted right hip.

113. Pick a college program where you’ll have an opportunity to play right away and get innings.

114. Move from a 5-day rotation to a 7-day rotation.

115. Decide to wake up in the morning and piss excellence!

These are really just the tip of the iceberg, so by all means, feel free to share your own strategies and ask questions in the comments section below.

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Exercise of the Week: Figure 8 Rotational Medicine Ball Shotput

Written on March 5, 2012 at 6:46 am, by Eric Cressey

With spring training upon us, I thought I’d draw this week’s exercise of the week from a recent video shoot I did with Stack.com and New Balance Baseball at Cressey Performance with two of our big leaguers, Tim Collins (Royals) and Steve Cishek (Marlins) .  In this video, Tim demonstrates the Figure 8 Rotational Medicine Ball Shotput while I do the voice-over.

Most of my comments serve as a general overview with respect to how we approach medicine ball workouts in general, but there are a few key points/observations I should make with respect to the Figure 8 drill in particular.

1. Notice (especially at the 1:20 mark) how Tim works to keep his head back prior to aggressively rotating through the hips and “launching” the ball.  This piggybacks on something I discussed in my recent posts on increasing pitching velocity by improving stride length; if the head comes forward, you’ll leak energy early, as opposed to storing it and snapping through with aggressive hip rotation later on.  Notice Tim on the mound; his head (and, in turn, the majority of his body weight) remains back well into his delivery.

This drill helps to teach guys how to control and time their weight shift.

2. A while back, Matt Blake wrote up a good piece on how we utilize the Figure 8 drill with pitchers; you can check it out HERE.

3. Some folks will make the mistake of going too heavy on this drill.  The med ball shouldn’t weigh any more than ten pounds – and we usually stay in the eight-pound range.  Making the med ball too heavy won’t just interfere with generating the ideal power; it will also lead to athletes creating too much tension in the upper traps and levator scapulae to resist the downward pull of gravity.  This gives us too much tension in the neck and upper back, and interferes with the good “scap load” and long deceleration arc we’re trying to create.

I hope you like it!

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