Archive for November, 2012

This summer, my sister pulled some strings and had Charles throw out the first pitch at the Augusta Greenjackets game, a local Single A baseball team. Needless to say, Charles was very excited when he heard the news. We didn’t realize for about a day or so that he didn’t really understand what was meant by throwing out the first pitch. For those of you who don’t follow baseball, throwing out the first pitch is kind of ceremonial thing done in baseball where someone, usually a hometown sports figure or celebrity, throws the ball to the catcher before the game starts. He was talking about it non stop and mentioned something about striking someone out. My dad and I were confused before we realized he thought that throwing out the first pitch meant he was actually going to face a hitter.

We had to explain to him that there would be no hitter and he would just simply be throwing the pitch to the catcher, in which he responded, “Ahhhh man”.

Charles’ First Pitch

Apologies for having to risk pulling something to view the video. It’s my sister’s fault.

You could pawn this off as just a case of a child being naive, but I believe it’s a kid having extreme confidence in his abilities. I lean towards the latter because of the way Charles acts and the fact he is used to playing against grown men (My dad and I. Yes, I know neither of us are professional hitters, but to him we are and I certainly don’t discourage this idea.)

The reason of why Charles believes he can compete and succeed against professional baseball players at age 5 really is NOT important. What is important is that he truly believes he has the ability to play at that level, and he isn’t scared of the idea at all.

I am shocked with how kids doubt themselves these days. You would think that the overprotective parents that baby their children would produce a kid that is confident from mommy and daddy telling him he’s the world’s greatest when he’s terrible. Instead, it has produced kids that do not believe they can get the job done. How is a coach supposed to expect an athlete to produce when they don’t expect it themselves?

Also, many times the athlete won’t succeed simple because they don’t have the confidence that they will out perform their opponent. I can speak from experience on this. When I struggled pitching in college, I started feeling like every pitch I threw had to be perfect to perform the way I thought I should. This caused me to pitch “tight” and my performance only got worse. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I felt great physically and was very confident and pitched the best I ever have in my life.

Whatever sport you play, take a lesson from Charles and truly believe you are the best person on the field or court. You will never be able to reach a level that you do not see as obtainable for yourself.

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Resting Your Arm

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Baseball
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As winter is approaching and temperatures finally start to dip here in the south, it is important to remember (or learn) that it is not bad to take some time totally off from baseball. No matter your age or skill level, this should be included in your yearly training schedule. When I say off, I don’t mean zero physical activity, but I would suggest not picking up a bat or ball for a little while.

With throwing, the general agreement is 6-8 weeks (in succession) is an appropriate and necessary time to take off. That doesn’t mean no bullpens or long toss for 6-8 weeks, that means no throwing at all. Like don’t touch a baseball. I would also suggest staying away from specific shoulder work (bands, light dumbbells, rotator cuff exercises). This will give the shoulder and elbow time to recover from the repetitive stress placed on it during the previous 10 months of use. Start back with very basic, light exercises and increase volume and intensity like you would with any training program. You can also put more emphasis on your strength program and include exercises like explosive med ball throws a that are more taxing and shouldn’t be implemented while you are throwing on a regular basis.

I do not believe as much time off is needed for hitting. Somewhere between 2-4 weeks would be more appropriate. I would also suggest taking swings from your non dominant side whether you switch hit or not (unless you have back or hip problems in which case you probably shouldn’t be swinging at all). This will help even out muscle imbalances built up from the thousands of swings you take during the season from one side. Most kids also enjoy the challenge and it’s something different.

Besides the physiological benefits from the time off, I always felt like it recharged me mentally. After any break, the “daily grind” feeling was gone and I was ready to get after it. My focused improved and I was much more driven.

This concept holds true with any sport. Year round teams can lead to burn out for a younger kid and the risk of injury increases greatly. College and professional athletes will tell you they have to have some kind of break and get away from it all. Take some time off. It will be much more beneficial to you in the long run.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted: November 22, 2012 in General Health
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I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy one of the few days you can eat anything and everything and sit around and watch football. Make sure you finish your meal by 4 so you can watch RGIII show up Romo and the Cowboys. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the Stover family!

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and start a lower body workout comprised of only single leg exercises. Here’s what I came up with:

Monday

Front Squat Reverse Lunge               3×8

Step Downs                                    3×10

SL RDL w/ barbell                             3×8

Lateral Lunge Shuffle w/ Sandbell        3×8

3-Way RDL                                      3x3x3

Thursday

SL Deadlift                                       4×5

FWD Lunge to deficit w/ DB               3×8

SL 1 arm DB RDL                               3×8

Goblet Lateral Lunge                          3×6

RDL to Row                                      3×6

 

 

 

I mulled over exercise selection for awhile and came up with this set because they were either exercises I had never done before (SL Deadlift), exercises I hate because they are hard but awesome ( Front Squat Reverse Lunge, Goblet Lateral Lunge), or were a good integration movement to end a workout (RDL to Row, Lateral Lunge Shuffle, 3 Way RDL). As always, there are many different exercises and rep/set schemes you could use. This just so happened to be what I was feeling at the time and wanted more volume since I hadn’t done that for lower body in awhile.

A few things I’ve noticed while doing this workout:

I was sore for 3 days after the first time I did Monday’s workout (which I didn’t even finish) so Thursday’s workout was low intensity.

This is the hardest workout I have done since I finished playing baseball. I have desperately wanted to quit mid workout each day. Take it slow and build up instead of jumping right into what your ego is telling you to do.

SL Deadlifts are awesome and really hard. I started off with less than 1/3 of my deadlift max and was very challenged by it. I also felt it was much more challenging to keep proper form since I am doing twice as many reps as I usually do with deadlift. It is also much easier to let your scapulas protract, deactivating your lats and causing the back to round.

It is important to keep your weight on the ball of your foot. This will activate your glute and put you in a more stable position. The tendency will be to let the foot roll out or supinate.

The 3 way RDLs and RDL to Row are for integration and movement so resistance is a secondary concern. Concentrate on form on any exercise like this. Using more weight defeats the purpose.

Because of the spike of arm injuries over the past 2 decades, arm care has been a focus of many overhead athletes. There are many different programs that aim to properly train the rotator cuff and other smaller muscles involved in an overhead movement. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on pitching as the overhead movement.

While rotator cuff and other isolated arm care work is important, it should be viewed as auxiliary work when we think about preventing arm injuries. In Anatomy Trains 2nd Edition, Thomas Myers illustrates how the fascial system connects our whole body. One of the main points he tries to convey is how one area of a fascial line can affect the entire line, not just the immediate area around the effected area. One statement Meyers made really stuck out to me when discussing the functional lines:

 “While remedial work on these muscles or their antagonists may be helpful, long-term relief depends on reinforcing the strength and precise timing of the Back Functional Line  (BFL) in throwing, rather than asking the small muscles of the shoulder joint to bear the entire burden.”

 Note: The Back Functional Line is the fascial system that runs from the distal attachment of the latissimus dorsi through the sacrolumbar junction to connect with the lower fibers of the gluteus maximus on the opposite side.

Hopefully by now you know I am a huge proponent of training the entire body together as much as possible. There is certainly merit to isolation work, but the body needs to be taught how to work together. This idea is emphasized throughout Anatomy Trains, especially in the above quote. While there are many other applications to this idea, let’s concentrate on back during a pitch.

This goes beyond pull ups, DB rows, reverse flys, and keeping the golden 2:1 pull:push ratio. While those exercises are important, they are isolated strengthening exercises. They don’t do much for the timing of the BFL. We want to try and get the entire back to work on decelerating the arm and body.

So how is this accomplished?

The simplest way to do this is hold on to the ball, preferably a weighted ball. The thought behind this is if your body can slow down say a 2 lb ball, it can certainly slow down itself after it releases a 5 oz object. Also, your body will not let your arm accelerate any faster than your deceleration muscles can slow it down. If you want to increase velocity, start by improving your deceleration muscles (infraspinatus, teres minor, biceps), along with the integrating the rest of the musculature of the back.

Drill: Start in the “early cocking” position where the arm is going to start accelerating forwards, and the lead shoulder is still pointing at the target, front in the position it would be in if you just landed.

Take your arm through your normal  throwing motion at a slow speed. Finish like you would normally finish a pitch, except keep your back foot down. Keeping the back foot down places more of the deceleration on the back. Once you finish your follow through, rewind the motion taking your arm back through the exact path it traveled when going forward. Return to starting position and repeat. I usually start with just a baseball and 2 sets of 6 and work up to using a 21 oz ball and 3 sets of 10 depending on the athlete.

It all goes back to the idea of training the body as 1 unit. There are several other drills that teach us how to utilize a larger section of the body or the entire body during a specific sports movement. I will cover some of the other exercises I use at another time. It is also important to note that mechanics play a major role in the precise timing involved in a skill like pitching. Your back can be really strong and it won’t help at all if your mechanics suck. Try out this exercise and let me know what you think.

Single Leg vs Double Leg is a much debated topic in the strength and conditioning world. I see it as the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg” of our field. If you ask 10 different “experts” you may have 5 on one side, 5 on the other, and all can see the reasoning behind either choice. It’s very similar to political debates (sarcasm).

This summer, myself and another intern were having a conversation with Bob Alejo on just this topic. Bob believes in a ground-based approach i.e. working from the floor up on both feet (deadlifts, squats, pulls from the floor). Obviously you can lift more weight on both legs opposed to one, which leads to a greater power output. Training an athlete is, after all, about making them more powerful. He also explained to us he thought it was better to start with the bilateral lifts, even if it was leg press, to build a base level of strength before moving to unilateral exercises. He followed this by saying he could see the argument it is more advantageous to start on one leg and progress to two, and includes single leg work in all of his programs. When he asked me and the other intern our opinion, I landed on the side of unilateral and the other intern voted in favor of bilateral training.

Bob is friends with Mike Boyle, who believes single leg training is superior to bilateral training. Mike Robertson has a DVD called Single Leg Solution, and writes an article HERE about the benefits of bilateral training.

UTTER MADNESS!

I assure you none of these guys are trying to be politicians and appease both sides. Unlike politicians, your success in this field is based directly on the results you actually get, not the results you say you will get. Each of the men listed have become well known and worked with athletes of the highest level because they get results.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you on the best way to go, I’ll throw in my two cents.

As I stated previously, I tend to favor unilateral exercises.

Here’s why:

It can fix many asymmetries. Your dominate leg can compensate for your weaker leg during bilateral exercises. These minor weaknesses become much more obvious when the weaker leg is forced to function on its own.

One leg is less stable than two. I know that just blew your mind, but this causes the stabilizers to be recruited more during the exercise to keep us from not falling over. The best way to increase stability, which is important in any sport, is to strength the stabilizers. As a broad generalization, I believe it is easier for people to train their prime movers (bigger muscles), so to keep necessary balance in the body, the stabilizers must be trained equally.

You run/walk/live on one leg. I’ve stressed training in a way that imitates the movements of your sport, and every sport requires running (or skating for you Canadians).

They are safer. I would feel much more comfortable telling an athlete who I have never seen lift before to do a lunge over a squat or deadlift. Bilateral exercises are usually more technical and can be difficult for a younger athlete who does not have the body control an older, more experienced athlete would.

Conclusion

Am I slightly biased because I am a baseball guy and it’s easy to see the carryover to a pitcher? I don’t believe this is the case. I would recommend it to older adults and younger kids that are just trying to improve their health. Don’t get me wrong, I believe bilateral exercises definitely have their place in any workout. I will go into detail about the benefits of double leg training at another time. From what I’ve read and experienced, unilateral training can be overlooked and undervalued. What lower body training methods have you found to be most successful? What unilateral exercises are staples of your program?

Recovery for Pitchers

Posted: November 2, 2012 in General Health
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I spent last weekend in Houston at Dynamic Sports Training hanging out with Lee Fiocchi. Lee was nice enough to have me down and take some time to impart some knowledge on me. Needless to say, I learned a lot. He also brought up a few basic points that I hadn’t thought of in awhile. Two of these points came up when we were discussing recovery for pitchers. After reading “Condtioning” for Pitchersyou know that lactic acid levels have returned to normal during an outing so flushing the lactic acid from the muscles is not necessary after an outing. It is beneficial to increase blood flow to the muscles that were damaged with micro fractures so more oxygen is delivered to the area which will increase recovery rate. While this helps, I think the two points Lee reminded me of are much more important and definitely less strenuous.

1. Proper nutrition/Hydration- As many times as I remember coaches telling me to make sure I ran after I pitched, I don’t ever remember a coach telling to eat afterwards. We stress refueling our bodies after any kind of weight training, but not after an extremely taxing activity like pitching. That doesn’t make sense to me. Follow the same nutritional guidelines listed in the post workout part of the Nutrition section. The protein consumption could be slightly less, but it is still important as your body will need some source of protein to break down to help repair the muscles. Make sure you are drinking the proper amounts after a game as it is hard to properly replace the water during the game. It is suggested that you consume 16 oz of water for every pound you lose during exercise. Pitchers can lose between 5-10 pounds in a start during the summer, so what would mean 80-160 oz of water to return your body to an optimal level. Also, our body is able to break down nutrients more efficiently if we are properly hydrated. Eating and drinking will help maintain or increase your body weight, as well. Most athletes struggle with maintaining weight during season, and for pitchers this can result in a decrease in velocity.

2. Sleep- Sleep is the best time for our bodies to recover both mentally and physically. For any athlete during any time of the year, adequate sleep is important. Obviously this is amplified in season. So going out the night after you pitch or after a game is not ideal because you are pushing back your recovery time severely.

Try these two tips out and see if you notice a difference over the next few days after you pitch. Thanks again to Lee for the hospitality. Check out his website and blog for more information on how he does things at Dynamic Sports Training.