Archive for the ‘Position’ Category


Throwing to Warmup

June 28, 2011

A problem I see often is athletes who dismiss the importance of a proper warm-up and none other come to mind more than pitchers.  All too often pitchers throw to warmup instead of warmup to throw.  This is still a huge problem in my eyes at all levels of play. 

Too often I see young athletes do no warmup prior to competition and begin their throwing program to warmup for their bullpen work that will precede their game. 

For years with the Angels as well as at the collegiate level I watched starting pitchers do maybe 5 min of static stretching and a couple of jogs back and forth and then start throwing a baseball at 60 feet.   What was even more annoying was on days they didn’t start they warmed up with the rest of the team which usually included a thorough dynamic warmup.   It has never made any sense to me that on the days they didn’t play the were more warmed up than the days they actually performed their sport. 

I’ve even seen pitchers warm up more for their running program on their “off days” at the professional level.  When I would bring this point up to coaches they would always answer with “They’re on their own.  They know what they need.  It’s whatever they usually do.”   The problem becomes that many of these kids come from not really having a structured program at the high school level.  So they just do what they did prior to games in H.S. 

Our starting pitchers at TCU have a specific warmup prior to their start centered around their movements and needs as an athlete.   It begins with a general body warmup but progresses to increasing movement and mobility throughout the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder as these areas become highly important in the throwing athlete. 

We start out around the hips creating movement on the front side to the back side.  From there we will move into our thoracic spine progression.  Towards the end of our warmup we move up the kinetic chain to the glenohumeral joint and create warmth and mobility here.  Our kids are sweating heavily by the time our 12 minute session is completed. 

When I first began implementing this warmup with our staff it wasn’t uncommon to see our starting pitchers velocity up by 2-4 mph. 

The problem was that they previously weren’t preparing their body for movement, and explosive movement at that.   Even though they had thrown for 20 minutes their bodies weren’t really that prepared.


Training the Rotator Cuff to Failure

June 15, 2011

I found a couple of interesting studies done on the effect of fatigue on shoulder proprioception.  The rotator cuff has essentially two functions: to stabilize and depress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa.  The following studies show how fatigue can create dysfunction in the shoulder. 

Effects of Muscle Fatigue on and the Relationship of Arm Dominance to Shoulder Proprioception

The first study displays how the proprioceptive ability of the shoulder decreases with muscular fatigue.  This should really come as no surprise to most coaches out there.  The authors state that muscular endurance without overly fatigue should be the priority in training. 
Rotator Cuff Fatigue and Glenohumeral Kinematics in Participants Without Shoulder Dysfunction

In the second study the authors demonstrated that fatigue in the rotator cuff caused superior head migration.  In other words the ability of the rotator cuff to depress the humerus was compromised.  Allowing the humerus to move upwards decreases the sub-acromial space which isn’t a good thing.   This space was decreased by up to 40% which is hugely significant. 

The most interesting thing in this study is the authors had subjects perform one set of prone T’s with the thumbs up to failure.  Failure was noted after the subject couldn’t raise the weight past 45 deg. and at least 40% decrease in strength was noted.  Overall, the average degree of fatigue was indicated by a 54% reduction in prone horizontal abduction.  The average weight used for the protocol was 3.94 kg and the average time to fatigue was 84 seconds. 

The second study should open eyes as after one set of 90 seconds, the cuff can be fatigued enough to create sub-acromial impingement.  Now think of all the athletes with shoulder problems that get blasted with 40 sets of RTC exercises everyday in an effort to strengthen their shoulder. 

The problems are not only in a single workout but can carry over to outside of the weight room.  If the cuff is constantly fatigued stability fades and we don’t want to lose its strength and stability when a pitcher is throwing 94 mph off the mound in the 7th inning.

The problems with training the cuff to failure is that you create instability, which is something we’re trying to eliminate.  Allowing the head of the humerus to move in a joint that is already having dysfunction may eliminate all the positives that are created with actually training the RTC.


Youth Pitching Injuries

March 9, 2011

A very interesting study was recently published by Dr. Glenn Fleisig in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.  The study followed 481 youth baseball pitchers ages 9-14 for a ten year duration. 

Risk of Serious Injury for Young Baseball Pitchers
A 10-Year Prospective Study

What the study found was that the athletes that pitched more than 100 innings per year were 3.5 times more likely to sustain a serious injury.  Those who play catcher on top of pitching are at an even greater risk by doubling, and tripling injury rates.  During the 10-year span 5% of the athletes had to quit baseball due to serious injury or surgery. 

The study also looked at the curveball which has always been referenced in young pitchers and injuries.  The study could not determine whether curveballs were a factor in injuries. 

One of the reasons that people believe that the curveball produces more injuries is actually due to the fact that youth pitchers with a curve ball pitch more innings because they ……….  possess a curve ball, and many youth baseball players struggle to hit curve balls.  So if you’re hard to hit, you’re going to get more innings.  It isn’t the curve ball but the number of innings / pitches / games that really produces that damage. 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to abide to limiting the number of innings thrown when kids play baseball year round now.  They are on a summer team, school team, 2 different select teams throughout the year, etc.  Going by the wayside are kids that play 3 or 4 sports throughout the year.  If athletes want to make teams they have to play year round to keep up which is terribly destructive to their overall development. 

“It is a tough balancing act for adults to give their young athletes as much opportunity as possible to develop skills and strength without exposing them to increased risk of overuse injury. Based on this study, we recommend that pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year. Some pitchers need to be limited even more, as no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued,” said Fleisig.

I recently met a college aged athlete who did nothing but pitch from the age of 7.  This athlete had the worst imbalances I have ever seen at any level.  When you look up imbalances due to pitching in the dictionary, his picture should be by it.  He had every one I can think of.  Extreme amounts of humeral retroversion, extremely limited internal rotation, unbelievable scapular dysfunction, shortened lats, limited elbow extension, and the list goes on and on.  This is what happens when kids aren’t allowed to develop as an athlete and only do one thing over and over during the prime of their developmental stage.


Pallof Press

February 26, 2011

Quickly becoming one of my new favorite movements is the Cable Pallof Press.  We have used these with bands for years prior to having cable machines in our weight room, so there are other options for those of you who are without cables. 

The movement trains anti-rotation of the the trunk.  Creating strength through anti-rotational exercises also produces strength in rotational exercises, so we use them interchangeably.  Not only do our athletes feel this in their trunk but this is one of the best exercises for activating the adductors in the hips as well.  The movement incorporates everything from the chest to the knees. 

Those who have been reading this blog for a while understand this follows in my opinions on training the core as an entire unit.  I preach strength and stability of the torso/core all the time.  We don’t do situps, crunches, russian twists, leg raises, etc…..  This is one of our main rotational strength exercises for the current 3 week block of training our in-season baseball athletes.


2011 NCAA Baseball Season

February 18, 2011

Well tonight marks the start of the Horned Frogs 2011 Baseball season.  I’m excited for not only tonights matchup  vs. the Jayhawks but for the weekend series to see what this years team will be made of.

TCU Baseball 2011: Quiet Confidence from Red Productions on Vimeo.

This is the intro video for this season.  I haven’t watched it yet but heard its a great production and if it doesn’t get you fired up a little bit you might want to check your pulse. 

It’s been a busy Spring so far and it won’t slow down much.  With the travel coming up for the team I should be able to get in a little bit more posting.  Until then, GO FROGS!!!


Pull-ups, or Chin-ups

February 10, 2011

I read this article a while back in the NSCA Journal and forgot about it until I saw a post by Mike Reinold earlier this week. 

Surface Electromyographic Activation Patterns and Elbow Joint Motion During a Pull-Up, Chin-Up, or Perfect-Pullup™ Rotational Exercise

If you haven’t read the article its pretty evident that it compares muscle activation during the three variations of a pull-up.  The chart below details activation of external oblique, erector spinae, pec major, lower trap, infraspinatus, bicep, and lat.
The lats are all highly active in all three variations which is no surprise but  one of the most interesting points is that the pull-up actually has the highest activation within the lower trapezius, 56% for the pullup vs. 45% for the chin-up.  The lower trap was also the first muscle active within the exercises as the scapula is in an upwardly rotated position at the bottom position. 

I have talked at length about how important the lower trap is in athletes for proper shoulder function, especially overhead athletes.   The lower trap is an often overlooked muscle that will shut down during times of shoulder trouble much like its partner the serratus anterior.  Anything we can do to get more out of the lower trap is good.  Conversely, the chin-up has the highest activation within the biceps as well as pectoralis major, but the lowest in the lower trap. 


Something I would like to see is the activation of the pec minor, and lower during the pull-up and chin-up with retraction and depression vs. rounding over at the top, as well as the differences with the neutral grip pull-up. 

All too often I see athletes that round over at the top of any pull-up / chin-up movement.  They end up doing the chin poke at the top with their back rounded over like the hunchback of N0tre Dame.  Essentially this is the upper crossed syndrome position and I am in full belief that you are eliminating the positive benefits of pull-ups for the scaps and reinforcing the negative ones that already persist in many athletes.   

Mike Reinold, trainer for the Boston Red Sox, mentions that the pull-up may be a better option for a baseball player due to the fact that the lower trap is more active and the bicep and chest is less active vs. the chin-up. 

I agree with Mike in that the pull-up may present be a better option because of activation.  At the same time my concern is that when we look at the externally rotated position of the pull-up, this is a position of vulnerability when it comes to SLAP tears.  High bicep activity in an externally rotated position can be a recipe for disaster.  This is how orthopaedic surgeons generally diagnose SLAP lesions. 

Just food for thought.


Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2010

It’s been another busy busy week and posts have been few and far between so I apologize for that.  I’m in the process of moving, which I hate possibly more than anything else.  Earlier in the week I had a post to get out but my internet was down so it hasn’t come to fruition yet. 

Our baseball off-season is quickly coming to an end.  We have essentially 2 weeks left in our training.  We will take a partial deload coming back from the Thanksgiving holiday and finish the final week with a little bit of testing / training.   I’ll have some thoughts on testing on in the next day or two but until then I wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.


How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach

November 12, 2010

A friend of mine, Jim Kielbaso, posted a great article at his website www.UltimateStrengthAndConditioning.comThe article touches on being a strength coach at various levels as well as how to get into the field of strength and conditioning.  It’s extremely informative and insightful especially for those younger coaches who are in the process of making career choices, or still trying to break into the field of strength and conditioning. 

How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach

Another week of training is behind us for the baseball program.  This was Week 12 of the Fall Off-Season.  We only have 4 weeks left in the semester and really only 3 weeks left to train.  Time goes way too fast.  The players don’t realize how small of an opportunity they have between seasons to really get better. 

This week was our highest volume of speed work to date as well as intensity on our Main Effort movements. 

The video below gives a little of our training for the previous week.  It has a little of everything including some of our speed work, med-ball throws, and one of our team challenges. 


Hope everyone has a good weekend and GO FROGS!!!


Activation Circuit

November 9, 2010

Ya, it’s been a while since my last post.  Life has been super busy lately.  Between fall ball officially ending and our true off-season training for baseball starting up, attending the ALDS, and World Series, as well as a few articles that you’ll see in the coming months, October was busy.  So with that behind me I can hopefully get back to it. 

This is a short video of an activation / recovery circuit that we did today.  This circuit had 4 exercises that were performed 3 times through with no rest.   We also perform some form of rotator cuff / scapula training that I didn’t include in the video as a part of this circuit. 

Our first exercise of the video is our Marching Man on a Stability Ball (Feet on Box) w/ WT.  This is 100% for torso stability.  We don’t utilize crunches, situps, Russian twists, etc.   All of our core work is in the form of stabilizing the lumbar spine.  This is how the body functions in sport.   Something stabilizes while other joints around it are mobilized, or moving.  The torso should be trained to aid in stability and transfer power to the linkages.  If you are in question about any of my philosophy on the spine, then look to any of Dr. McGills works. 

The second movement on the video is the Scap Pushup on the P.P.  w/ Feet Elevated.  In a study by Lear and Gross it was determined that the feet elevated pushup plus (scap pushup) produced much higher activation levels in the serratus anterior than with the feet on the ground. 

An electromyographical analysis of the scapular stabilizing synergists during a push-up progression.

Some form of glute activation is the final movement.  Today, this was the Outside Leg Raise w/ Resistance.  In a study presented a year ago in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy the side lying abduction is far and away the best exercise, by over 20%, for stimulating the glute medius.

Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises

This small circuit usually takes right at 12 minutes to complete and goes a long way to developing some of the often over looked areas in an athlete.


Humeral Retroversion – Part V

October 7, 2010

Our shoulder series continues with Part V today with a little bit about humeral retroversion in the overhead athlete.  If you missed the previous sections you can find them below. 

Shoulder Mobility and the Fist to Fist PART I

Shoulder Series and the Sleeper – Part II

External Impingement – PART III

Internal Impingement of the Shoulder – PART IV

Throwing athletes almost always present themselves with some degree of humeral retroversion.  This is the loss of internal rotation with gains in external rotation in the glenohumeral joint.  There are several different theories as to how exactly this occurs.  Some believe it is soft tissue adaptations, other believe that it develops as changes to the bony anatomy when youth athletes are involved in throwing sports.   The consensus as of late seems that humeral retroversion is more strongly related to adaptive changes in proximal humeral anatomy than to changes in the soft tissues.

Virtually every throwing athlete that you come across will have excessive external rotation on the dominant side with a decreased internal rotation.  When compared with the non-dominant arm we hope to see total rotation equal.  The difference obviously being the throwing arm arc of rotation shifts posteriorly.   

Looking at one of our pitchers numbers from this past year can give us some information. 

External: 142 deg.
Internal: 47 deg.
Total Rotation: 189

External 129 deg.
Internal 61 deg.
Total Rotation: 190

When we look at these numbers we want his total rotation to be equal bi-laterally.  We already know that his right arm ER will shift further back and along with that shift he will lose IR.  Regardless, our goal is to equalize total rotation.  In this example we see that total rotation is virtually equal, which is a good thing.  Theses numbers are a great example of what happens in the throwing athletes shoulder and show what part humeral retroversion plays in these athletes.  In Part VI of this series we are going to begin looking at a case study. 

Humeral Retroversion and Its Relationship to Glenohumeral Rotation in the Shoulder of College Baseball Players

At any rate these adaptive changes usually happen when children are heavily involved in throwing sports at a young age.  It becomes even more significant with athletes who are “overthrown” so to speak.  I’m referring to the superstar 12-year-old that pitches year round on 3 different select teams, a little league team, showcase camps, etc.  This excessive external rotation happens when the growth plates of children are still open and will adapt to the inherent stresses of throwing a fastball.

Osseous adaptation and range of motion at the glenohumeral joint in professional baseball pitchers.

Humeral retroversion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s actually what allows pitchers to pitch really.  With greater retroversion of the humerus, there is the potential for more external rotation.  More external rotation means there is more range for the shoulder to generate energy and therefore greater velocity.  I’ve seen a few different studies that show a correlation between pitchers velocity and degree of external rotation. 

When you watch people who can’t throw, or “throw like a girl,” it’s likely due to the fact that, they never developed that motor pattern as a youngster, or more likely that they didn’t develop the humeral retroversion to allow them to lay their arm back into external rotation.  They essentially are blocked at the 90 degree mark of glenohumeral external rotation when in the cocking phase of a throw. 

Take a look at a comparison of our former and current presidents and you will definitely notice a difference.  President Bush played baseball as a kid.  President Obama has admitted to never really having played the game. 

Mike Reinold, Head ATC for the Boston Red-Sox, has talked about being able to see the degree of humeral retroversion in a pitcher.  When supine in a cross arm relaxed position you will notice the throwing arm has greater external rotation than the non-throwing arm.  Mike mentions using this method to actually measure the amount of humeral retroversion an athlete has. 

Throwing arm sits in externally rotated position due to retroversion

Non-throwing arm doesn't

 Retroversion of the Humerus in the Throwing Shoulder of College Baseball Pitchers

The previous study sums up humeral retroversion quite nicely. 

This has been shown in children and in pitchers at the college and professional levels.  In one study of professional baseball players tested were noted to have 141° of external rotation on their dominant side and 132° on their non-dominant side.  Maximum external rotation at the shoulder during pitching has been reported to be as much as 160° to 178°.  Some investigators have postulated that this high level of external rotation is due to changes in the glenohumeral capsule and musculature caused by pitching.  Others have attributed the increased external rotation to overuse. Such overuse has been postulated as resulting in a contracture of the posterior shoulder capsule and stretching of the anterior shoulder capsule, leading to a tendency toward anterior glenohumeral subluxation.  Some have described these changes in the soft tissues about the glenohumeral joint as “relative laxity.”  Essentially, these changes represent an attempt by the shoulder to attain a balance between the flexibility needed to allow for greater external rotation and the stability needed to counter the anterior shear forces across the joint during the process of pitching.


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