Rapid Rise of Brandon Finnegan

Great article by ESPN on the rise of Brandon Finnegan this summer to the big league’s and his contribution over the playoffs thus far!!!

Finny Royals

4 months ago we were working on his hip flexibility, taking care of his arm, and joking around on Saturday mornings after his starts and now he’s holding his own in the MLB Playoffs.  Great story and video here from ESPN.



Wall Angel Series

This video is on our wall angel series which might be the best scapular movement we do.  When done correctly, wall angels are one of the hardest exercises I’ve ever done.  Simply put they aren’t fun and they will make athletes sore in area’s they didn’t know exist.  We generally perform wall angels for 3-5 reps with controlled tempos as in a 5 count up and down w a pause at the top and bottom.  Or we might do a 2-3 count up and down with a 5 count pause at the top and bottom.  In either case we want control.

Quick points:
1. Make sure athletes keep their spine flat on the wall.  Don’t arch or let the rib cage flare up.
2. We want them actively driving their arms into the wall not just sliding up and down.  Even if they can’t get their arms to the wall we want them actively trying.  This alone helps to stretch out the anterior shoulder and chest into more external rotation.

1. Once we have worked for several weeks on the wall angel we can progress to include more dynamic stability using the bands.  Athletes partner up and can move the bands in any direction.  The more the better.  The athlete on the wall is forced to stabilize in any number of direction at a given moment.
2. The last progression that didn’t make it in the video is performing the dynamic stability version with the eyes closed.  Athletes now can’t react to what direction they see the band moving.  This really requires much more stabilization and kinesthetic awareness.

Scap Wall Slides for Throwing Athletes

Scap wall slides are great for the overhead athlete to activate the serratus anterior, a big time muscle for the overhead / throwing athlete. The serratus is an overlooked muscle in the grand scheme of shoulder function, but it might be on the of the most important for throwing athletes.  Right now, we’re perfomring scap wall slides as an activation warmup series prior to all our upper body work.  We usually focus on 2-3 sets of 5 reps with controlled movement and pauses at both ends.

Serratus Anterior Posts

Check out some of these previous posts for more info on the serratus and the scapular function and how to tie more serratus work into your training.

Four Components of the Warm Up

One thing that often time gets overlooked is the warmup.  The warmup for my athletes is too important to brush over.  Time is a limiting factor in most of our day at the NCAA level so we use our warmup needs to achieve 4 things in each session:

1. Movement Skills – We utilize a variety of movements throughout the warmup as a means to increasing body temperature but even more importantly as a means of creating some kinesthetic awareness.  We want athletes to understand where their body is in space and recognize what is going on as they move.  This becomes even more important the younger the athlete.  Teaching a variety of skips, shuffles, bounds, jogs, all go towards improving movement skills.  We can then combine various arm swings, circles, etc. to add some complexity to the movement.  Coach Cal Dietz and his contributors over at http://www.XLAthlete.com have put together one of the best resources on general body movement and especially for young athletes.

XL Athlete Youth Dynamic Warm Up

2. Mobility – All warm ups should be geared towards increasing the movement around the joints.  The goal of any warmup should be to prepare the joints for loading and movement.  We can take time throughout our warmup to work on areas where more motion is necessary instead of perhaps using extra time throughout the training session.  Creating mobility throughout the hips and t-spine for example are the foundations of my warm ups.

3. Activation – Our lifestyles, genetics, imbalances all lead to inhibited muscle groups that need specific stimulation.  The most common of these tends to be the glutes in many athletes.  As I’ve written about before on this blog, in Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes the glutes are just one of many muscles that can shut down.  Doing activation work in a warmup on a daily basis can go a long way in brining those areas around.  Varieties of hip raises, alternating hip raises, single leg stance work, can all be included in warm ups to turn on the glutes prior to training.  The same goes for other inhibited areas as in the lower trap, psoas, or maybe the rotator cuff.

Lower Crossed Syndrome I

Lower Crossed Syndrome II

4. Injury Prevention – Injuries come in plenty of shapes and sizes and we have to look multiple places when preventing injuries.  We may have to look at the sport, the position, male vs female, etc. to determine the best route in injury prevention.  Whatever the case many of these issues can be touched upon in the warmup as well.  A thorough warmup including the previous three pieces in itself serves as great prevention already.

Looking at the four components above may seem like a tall task to perform all in one warmup but we achieve all of this in less than 15 minutes in every one of our warm ups.  You may be asking how…. I like to pair our movement skills with #2 #3 and #4.  We may perform skips or backwards jogs for a desired distance then drop down and perform mobility work on the hips and t-spine.  As we progress through the warmup we move from mobility to more activation ie: hip raises, SL hip raises, etc. and then to injury prevention work which may include some form of rotator cuff, or maybe a strengthening movement for someone susceptible to an ACL injury.

Ultimate MMA Conditioning and Energy System Development

One of my good friends, Joel Jamieson, from my early days in strength and conditioning at the University of Washington sent me his products a few weeks back.  He is the author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning, as well as The Ultimate Guide to HRV Training.   Joel runs a website at www.8weeksout.com.  It has a lot of great information as well as a forum for those in the sport of MMA to talk programming and trade ideas. 

When you really want to know how the body’s energy systems work and interact with each other, look into Joel’s Ultimate MMA Conditioning.  It’s so much more than an MMA piece.  It covers details and principles on each of the energy systems as well programming principles to get you started.  The great thing about this book is it isn’t a “copy and paste here” program.  He outlines principles so that an athlete or coach can integrate the material into their own program.  Athletes in generally, but especially in the case of MMA training a one size fits all does not, and should not, apply. 

I firmly believe this is the single best source there is on energy system development. The single most visible weakness for interns entering our program is the ability to understand and program energy system training for athletes.  Too often the “strength” side of the “strength and conditioning” is all anybody thinks about but its the biological power of the body to produce the necessary amount force, or speed, recover, and then perform this cycle over and over again over long periods of time that is important. 

Joel gives a great overview of why the aerobic system is so vital to the ability to recover and why it actually is so important to the alactic system in the grand scheme of things.  Another great thing Joel reinforces is that training does not occur in a vacuum.  Skill development as well as the physical preparation in the form of strength and conditioning must coincide and be in harmony together.  Although this is geared towards the MMA athlete the principle remains the same for everyone.  An athlete can’t train “strength and conditioning” with one coach for 2 hours, then go train with another coach on skill work for another 2 hours when coach 1 has no clue what coach 2 is doing and vice versa.  Everything creates stress on the body and when this stress becomes too much, the body breaks, in the form of injuries, sickness, etc. 

I could create a week-long lecture on the benefits of Joel’s manual and some of the issues that it brings to light in the field of strength and conditioning.  I do believe that he’s put together a great resource and recommend it to anyone who really wants to know how the body works. 

I’ve touched on a few of these topics before and here are some related links:
Soccer and Energy Systems

Heart Rate Variability