This is the problem with sports training in America.  We have people like this claiming to be experts, stealing parents’ hard earned money, and ruining the important sports training process for young athletes.  This is unbelievable.  It makes me a little sick, but then it’s really quite amusing.  Just the first 45 seconds of this trainer talking is worth it’s weight in gold. 

Lessons for today:

1. Remember not to lift too heavy in the upper body, especially around any types of joints.   I’m a little confused as how to train my upper body without using any of my joints.  I guess I don’t want to get hurt so I’ll just skip the joint training. 

2. Also do not train any of the muscles you use for flexibility while playing baseball.  You should only train the muscles not needed for flexibility which include. . . . .? 

3. A good pullup should look like a confused lateral raise

4. The best exercise to grow the triceps are sloppy dips.  Nevermind the fact that humeral hyperextension probably shouldn’t be the 1st thing on your to do list with an overhead throwing dominant athlete.  But I guess we’ll overlook that one, because all ball players need big ass triceps.  Right?



Training the hip flexors

Today I’m sharing a link to a good article by Andrew Paul on the often overlooked hip flexors.  Andrew was an athlete and later a intern for our strength staff at Missouri State University.   He’s a very knowledgeable up and coming strength coach. 

Good pelvic stability

There is so much focus on the posterior chain these days that many people have forgotten about the hip flexors.  Often they need to be re-lengthened due to lifestyles many have these days.   Tight hip flexors can cause some major problems for the lower back. 

The pelivs and lumbar spine must remain stabile during stretches

When we stretch the hip flexors we want to keep

the shoulders stacked on top of the hips with a flat back.  We don’t want a swayback or any type of arch. When this happens it takes the tension off the hip flexors and isn’t doing the lumbar spine any favors either.  Keeping the torso rigid we want to stay tall and drive the hips forward, not down. 

Why is it important to keep the torso tight and upright instead of arching?  The psoas, one of the main flexors of the hip, origin is from the  t-12 – l-5 vertebrae.  Arching the back is a compensation pattern for the hip flexors, not to mention dangerous for the low back.   Also, when we arch the back and drive down during a hip flexor stretch we allow our pelvis to go into anterior tilt.  Letting the pelvis go into anterior tilt allows a less effective stretch. 

Not the most efficient way to stretch the hips!

Instead of creating distance between the femur and pelvis, we allow them to move together.  MORAL OF THE STORY!!!  The pelvis and lumbar spine need to be stabilized in order to get maximally stretch the hip flexors

The Biggest Loser!!!

Recently I watched a few episodes of the NBC show the Biggest Loser.  Watching it made me want to lose my lunch, and not in a good way.  I have a few issues with the show.  I understand that these contestants are overweight and need to lose fat as fast as possible and with that come high intensity total body exercises.  But why do we have to constantly watch these trainers completely throw biomechanically correct movements out the window, and in their place movements that make any intelligent coach cringe with pain.  Time after time we see awful technique when it comes to anything that involves bending over, squatting down, lunging, etc.  I recently watched one episode in which a contestant had to stop his workout because of intense low back pain.  Surely your joking!  You have back pain?!?!  I sure can’t see why!  And I guess neither can the trainers on the show.   Surely the fact that you’ve been continuously picking up a 75# barbell with your spine arched like a question mark can’t be it.   After the said contestant walked out the gym he was coerced back in because he was weak minded and he needed to overcome the pain, not only in his back but in his life.  Nope it wasn’t because of his s***ty technique, that any sane coach could see.  The show is extremely lucky that no one’s had to have a lumbar spine fusion yet.  Who knows, maybe they have and haven’t been sued.  They’re trying to create healthy lifestyle habits for these contestants but why aren’t they teaching healthy movement patterns for these individuals as well.  If you want to know more about properly training the back for stability and movement in general, read anything you can by Stuart McGill, especially Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.   Yes I have several more issues that I want to rant about but those will be for another time.

Hip Flexor Steps w/ Rotation – Thoracic Spine Mobility

Like we talked about last week, thoracic spine rotation is hugely important for athletes, and especially rotational athletes.  This weeks exercise touches on t-spine mobility once again.  In this exercise athletes start in a pushup positon with a straight line from the shoulder to the ankle.  Athletes will take a step outside of the hand and drive the hips towards the ground.   We teach them to squeeze the back glute in order to open up the frontside hip.  In the picture the athlete steps up with the left leg, drives the hips towards the ground and squeezes the backside glute (right).  Try to keep the trailing leg from bending as this reduces the ability to stretch the hip and decreases activation in the glute.  Next, we rotate the inside arm up towards the sky reaching as high as possible and pausing.  Focusing on reaching towards the sky will fire the obliques and the lats causing many beginners to cramp.  Errors to watch for are athletes falling over to one side or rotating the hips with the shoulders.  We want the lower body to stay stabilized and pure rotation to occur in the thoracic spine. 

Hip Flexor Step w/ Rotation - Start
Hip Flexor Step w/ Rotation - Start

I do this as part of our t-spine series with all our throwing athletes and as a part of our daily warmup.  We perform 5 reps per side.  

Hip Flexor Step w/ Rotation - Finish
Hip Flexor Step w/ Rotation – Finish

Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press for Baseball

Here’s a great question I received today from a high school coach.  I get questions like this a lot so I thought I’d share with all of you. 

I know that your pitchers are primarily one-position players, but if you had a pitcher that plays multiple positions for you when he wasn’t pitching, would you say it was okay for them to do the standard bar lifts like bench, or would you have them strictly DB Bench?  (Most of my pitchers are my best athletes, and they will be playing other positions in the field when they aren’t pitching.)
I really have no problems with anybody using the bar to bench press if they have no restictions, no pain, and provided that they are taught the correct technique with the movement.  Always make sure they touch the bar low on the chest, with elbows at around 45 deg.  Big problems come by elbows flared, touching the clavicles with the bar.  With that being said I think DB’s are always safer option if you had to pick one.  Athletes can work in a more natural movement pattern.  The depth they achieve can also be individualized.  Some players may not be able to go as deep as others without pain.  They also greatly increase stabilizer activation.  You really can’t go wrong with DB’s.  You could always alternate between DB and Barbell work so they’re getting the stimulus of both.  You could do 3 weeks of barbell work and 1 week of DB work, or vice versa.  This all depends upon how your program is set up.  Another thing, pushups are one of our main upper body movements with all of our players.  They’re great not only for shoulder stability, torso strength, and upper body strength but awesome for scap stabilization if done correctly.  Don’t limit yourself in thinking your athletes have to do some form of bench press.  Pushups should really be a primary focus for younger athletes in my opinion.  Just remember that too much pressing, whether barbell or DB, can cause shoulder issues down the road and make sure to even it up with lots of scap and pulling work. 

The Fast Get Faster – Speed Training

I’m posting our speed training for today.  Pitchers and position players both took part.  As we progress throughout the off-season and into the pre-season we will diverge into our specific speed development.  Everyone will have an assigned speed session based on their position and movement skills.  Total volume today was 270 yards with full recoveries in between.  This was a medium volume day for us, but it’s the highest volume day we have done in the last couple of weeks due to the rain and fall ball. 

Warmup -16 min
Athletic Position – 3 min

RI-Rest Interval
wb-Walk Balk
1. 20 yd Blind Starts x 3 RI: (60sec + wb)
Alternating Positions

2. 30 yd Blind Starts x 3 RI: (90sec + wb)
Rabbit Catch Up Drill

3. 40 yd Blind Starts x 3 RI: (120sec +wb)
Championship Round

Individualized Training for Recovery

I think that one of the most important areas of sports training that is being overlooked is how the athlete body feels.  The athlete’s body is always right.  You as a coach may think you know what’s going in inside, but in reality it’s always your best guesstimate.  Knowing how your athlete’s body is responding to the training, practices, school work, etc is a tough challenge, and it’s toughest during a long season of competitions.  No two people are the same.  Hence, no two people respond to training the same.  This especially becomes tough during the in-season stage of athletics.  We know that most football training programs have different programs for red-shirted players vs. senior starters, but what about a sport like baseball where often times no one is red-shirted and everyone has a chance to play on a given day. 

Throughout the in-season our baseball players utilize a system of ranking how their body feels that day, their nutrition, and sleep the night before.  They do this every day so we can see changes throughout the season in their ability to adapt to all the stimuli that are present.  When we have a long stretch of away games, players will always be fatigued and unable to recover fully before their next training session.  Should the player that has played in 45+ innings  that week and flown 1,000 miles across the country be on the same program that our backup centerfielder who hasn’t played in a month.  Obviously not.  By ranking their recovery, players are allowed to custom tailor their workout to how they feel and how their body is adapting to the loads.  If a player feels terrible and has marked low numbers, they have the freedom to choose an alternate exercise in a de-load fashion, or choose an alternative set and / or rep scheme.   A player may have 5 listed sets of an exercise, but the last 2-3 are optional.  If a kid isn’t feeling it, then he can opt of of the last sets, and continue on his workout.  Everything in the in-season training can be adjusted based on how our athlete feels.550859365_uMfcw-M

Getting to this stage in the training requires lots of communication and trust between the sport or strength coach, and the athlete.  All of our athletes know the importance of recovery, and restoration in their overall program.  This system would be difficult to implement if our players didn’t understand their training, and what and how to achieve enhanced performance.

Now obviously there are problems with this system as anything.   Coaches will always have those few athletes who will opt out of every optional set of training all the time.  Or put down false numbers so they don’t have to do the whole workout.  This can and does happen but knowing your athletes inside and out, as well as open lines of communication can help to curtail these instances.