Category Archives: Baseball

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.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs/2014/story/_/id/11661038/kc-royals-reliever-brandon-finnegan-rapid-rise

 

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.

Progressions:
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.

Throwing to Warmup

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.