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Breaking Down a Proper and Effective Warm-Up

One of the most common questions I get is related how to properly warm up.  This includes questions on static stretching and its role in warming up prior to a training session or athletic event.

Many people are mislead when it comes to performing a sound and ideal warm-up.

In light of this, I wanted to take some time to discuss the best way to structure and progress through your warm-ups. This template is beneficial for athletes and will help maximize their performance.

As a preface to the remainder of this article I would like to give a brief outline of how a warm-up should progress. Generally, I would advise performing full body self myofascial release through foam rolling prior to the beginning of every warm-up. Foam rolling can help work out and specific problem areas throughout the body.  

From here, I usually breakdown my warm-ups as follows:

  • Static Stretching/Mobility Work For Desired Areas
  • Core Activation
  • General Activation (Hips, Shoulders, Glutes etc.)
  • Rehearsal of Movement Patterns
  • Central Nervous System Activation

Mobility

Plain and simple, mobility is the area of the warm-up where I like to either work on certain problem areas where there are mobility restrictions present, or simply target the muscles that will be used extensively during the training session.

For example, if I have a group of athletes they will each have their own static stretches that target areas they specifically need work on. Otherwise, if you were to be working the lower body, for example, you could target your hamstrings, hip flexors, external rotators, quadriceps and ankles.

The same can be said for the days where the upper body is your focus for your training.

Core Activation

The core plays an extensive role in bracing the spine while your extremities are in motion. So, activating your core is extremely important if you desire to have an effective workout.

Exercises such as planks, loaded carry variations and anti-rotations presses are great to ignite your core and prepare it to support you throughout many different ranges of motion.

proper baseball warm up - core activation

 

General Activation

Stability is the ability to maintain mobility throughout an entire range of motion. Activation exercises not only help to work on this, but they also help us progress from the static stretches we have just done to begin our warm-up.

I always tell my athletes that static stretching is okay to do prior to training or games as long as you properly activate after. So, exercises that require mobility through ranges of motion for your hips, shoulders, and glutes are a great place to start.

Rehearsal of Movement Patterns 

This is where we perform a basic movement that corresponds to the primary movement we are training that day.

Is your session centered on the bench press? Great, perform a set of pushups to rehearse a pressing variation. Getting in some barbell squats or deadlifts? Be sure to dedicate this phase to bodyweight squats or kettlebell swings.

The goal is to now use the mobility and activation we have focused on and begin to phase it into movement patterns.

Central Nervous System Activation

I have actually written a previous article on my favorite central nervous system activation exercises.  Basically, this is the last portion of our warm-up right before we begin our training or athletic event. Our goal is to engage the nervous system and have us firing on all cylinders before we begin our lift or game. A sprint, jump or throw are the most ideal.

Our warm-up flows from mobilization to activation (in both the core and mobilized muscle groups), and then movement patterns and nervous system activation. Once we mobilize and deal with any restrictions we may have, it is imperative to be able to maintain mobility throughout a range of motion (stability) and allow muscle groups to work together synergistically.

This is imperative as we begin to rehearse movement patterns that correlate to compound movements, which use multiple muscle groups.

For example, the bench press or any pressing variation calls on the upper back, scapulae and shoulders. Activation exercises such as the “Dynamic Blackburn,” which is a prone facing shoulder activation exercise, would be great to utilize multiple muscle groups simultaneously after they have been mobilized.

proper baseball warm up - Central Nervous System Activation

 

Once we have done this and then ignited our central nervous system we will place athletes in the proper position to perform optimally whether for training or an athletic game or event!

 

Pullover Variations to Improve Overhead Stability in Throwers

When working with overhead athletes, optimal positioning and function of the shoulder complex is vital for sustained performance. Whether you’re a high school outfielder or major league pitcher optimal development and function of the serratus anterior and the deep abdominals are a must for meeting the demands of an overhead sport like baseball. This brings us to the Kettlebell Pullover; this exercise is an underutilized yet effective movement that baseball players can add into their performance and rehabilitation programs.

Why should we use them?

With these exercise variations, we are achieving many things. First, the person will have to stabilize their anterior core while moving their arms in space (AKA proximal stability promoting distal mobility). This allows us to see the person’s ability to reach a full squat both passively (through hip flexion on the floor) as well as actively (reaching a full squat position).

The exercises posted below are challenging the individual to go overhead while maintaining the pelvis and rib cage over one another. This can help achieve proper scapular upward rotation, scapular posterior tilt, and protraction of the scapula.

One of the other benefits is it can be modified to fit the movement ability of each person.  As shown below these exercises follow a developmental sequence of supine to half or tall kneeling to standing.

This is a general progression of positions I may follow with a person who has limited movement experience and needs to better solidify their overhead capabilities.

Kettlebell Pullover Variations for Throwers

Progression 1: Supine

The follow supine exercise can be progressed from bilateral to unilateral, and feet on the ground transitioning to a 90/90 position without wall support.

Supine Kettlebell Pullover

 

Supine Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Supine Bottoms Up Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Progression 2: Kneeling

The following exercises progress from half kneeling or tall kneeling, can be performed bilateral or unilateral, and can go from a light band to a light Kettlebell.

Tall Kneeling Bilateral Band Pullover

 

Half Kneeling Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Progression 3: Standing

Lastly, we can progress to the standing position, with or without the squat. 

Kettlebell Goblet Squat with Heartbeat to Pullover

 

Application to Strength Training

These exercises are beneficial for the overhead athlete in both the warm up and during the workout itself. These exercises teach the client how to keep their pelvis and rib cage aligned, which will then carry over to relearning a more optimal overhead mechanical pattern.

When progressed appropriately it can also be a challenging anterior core exercise because the person has to resist excessive lumbar extension while their arms begin to move overhead.

Application to Rehabilitation

Many times patients come to us with hip and shoulder pains that can be traced back to overuse of the latissimus dorsi and underuse of the deep abdominal muscles, serratus anterior along with an anteriorly tilted pelvis. When we begin to balance out these opposing forces, we then see better outcomes in our patient population.

These exercises are a good starting point to slowly and safely reintroduce the overhead pattern in various non-threatening positions. Many times a patient is highly guarded after experiencing shoulder soreness or an injury. Putting them in these positions allows the therapist to tap into the person’s nervous system and make a positive change towards the patient relearning a more optimal overhead movement sequence.

Finally, it gives us a global view of the person we are working with. Can they do the task we want or do they need an excessive amount of extension strategies to get into the squat position or to get their arms fully overhead?

How to Program

Start with 2-4 sets of 4-6 breaths either in the warm up or as filler in between exercises is a great place to begin implementing this exercise.

  1. Reach your arms long to the ceiling throughout the motion
  2. Inhale to start the motion and exhale as you bring the Kettlebell down towards the floor
  3. Slightly bring your belt buckle towards your chin while maintaining your low back on the floor

3 Exercises Baseball Players Can Use to Gain Control of the Lats

The latissimus dorsi muscle is important in baseball players.

The lats can be a baseball player’s best friend as well as their worst enemy at times. The lats are an expansive muscle group originating in the low back and ending up at the humerus and sometimes also attaching to the scapula.

When the lats are given free reign without control from opposing musculature, gross extension patterns in player’s lumbar spines may begin to show up.

This can then lead to players letting their coaches know of nagging arm and back pain.

With the three exercises below, players can regain control of certain opposition muscles such as the serratus anterior, the internal oblique and the transversus abdominis to help restore balance.

Bear Position Step Up

The combination of bear position hold and a “step up” can be a great integrative exercise for abdominal control as well as shoulder stability and mobility.

Players need their serratus anterior properly engaged to maintain their ability to repeatedly throw gas over an entire game. This exercise helps players find their abs and serratus while gaining control over their lats. This can then allow them to demonstrate scapular control in a slightly challenging position.

This exercise can be coupled with the next two exercises to help ingrain this new position.

Cues I use: 

  • Reach your arms as long as you can throughout the whole movement.
  • Keep your belt buckle towards your chin
  • Breathe going in through your nose and out through your mouth while trying to fill the middle part of your back instead of your neck and upper chest. 

 

L-Sit Vertical Pull Progressions

This exercise can actually be a good starting point for some players because they can use the bench to take away or add more body weight as needed.

Coaches can also use this progression to help players struggling with getting a proper pull-up or to increase their pull up total. This exercise also teaches players what better lat engagement feels like.

I often use two variations, a dead stop from the floor (left video) and the full hang position (right video).

Starting from the floor helps teach players to better engage lats and drive upward with authority. You can also have someone hook their heels and exhale to make them engage their abs to help counteract too much spinal extension.

This full hang progresses the exercise because there is no rest between reps. Again get the person to engage their abdominals by hooking the bench.

Intensity can be increased via external load (weights or weight vest), increases in sets or reps, or an increase in total time through varying the tempo up/down/or at the top of the repetition.

 

Single Arm Short Seated Lat Pull-down

Lats love to keep us in an extended position, especially in overhead athletes who repetitively go overhead in their sport. This can be a common reason why players can have shoulder trouble and neck pain.

Short seated lat pull downs are based on postural restoration techniques of getting your deeper abs working to help counteract the extension of the lats and to help restore a more optimal balance between the two!

Cues I use:

  • Inhale as you bring one arm down and slightly crunch to that side while reaching long toward the ceiling with your other hand. Think of your elbow going into your front pocket, this will help you feel your abdominal wall on that side engaging.
  • Exhale fully on the way up bringing yourself back to midline and repeat on other side
  • Tuck your belt buckle to chin to help get a neutral pelvis throughout the motion.

Gain Control of Your Lats

Gaining control of the lats is vital in ensuring players can handle the rigors of a baseball season with minimal back and neck issues. Try incorporating these exercises into your programming to help players improve and recover faster but restoring balance.

Arm Care Starts with the Scaps

The two most commonly reported areas of pain in baseball players are the shoulder and elbow.

However, the area in pain may not actually be causing the pain itself.

The body is a chain and weakness in one link of that chain can cause pain in another area. This is certainly the case when it comes to arm pain. Often when pain is felt in the arm it is due to a lack of mobility elsewhere in the body. That “elsewhere” is often from the scapulothoracic joint.

In order to understand the importance of the scapulothoracic joint, which is comprised of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the rib cage, we have to appreciate the functional. The shoulder joint is made up of the head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula. The humeral head sits right on top of the glenoid cavity like a golf ball on a tee. As the shoulder joint goes through various motions, the scapula has to move with it. It does this by gliding on top of the rib cage. For every two degrees that the shoulder moves, the scapula should move one degree (2:1 ratio).

Here’s a great video showing the anatomy of this movement:

If the scapula is unable to move close to a 2:1 ratio with the shoulder, then we are going to be limited with how far we can move our arm. This limit, when trying to throw a baseball, is problematic, as the thrower will place undue pressure on the shoulder and elbow in an attempt to reach the proper range of motion.

Scapula Exercises for Baseball Pitchers

As you can see, it’s pretty important to not just focus on the arm, but also the scapula.  Below are my four favorite correctional exercises to develop scapulothoracic movement.

Side Lying Half Moon Thoracic Stretch

In addition to mobilizing the thoracic spine, the lying half moon stretch is exceptional at promoting scapulothoracic range of motion.

Have the athlete flex their top knee at 90° and sit it on top of either a medball or a foam roller. This will keep their spine aligned properly. The athlete should try to drag their fingers along the ground as they progress throughout the motion. It is important to note that athletes who lack ST mobility will not be able to get their hand all the way to the ground initially.

As the athlete moves their arm through the motion the scapula will go through all of its movement patterns.

 

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion

For baseball players it is critical that the scapula is able to elevate and upwardly rotate as the arm extends forward towards ball release. This drill is an example of how an assessment test can also be used as a corrective exercise.

Have the athlete stand with their feet 4-6 inches away from the wall and cue them to keep their back completely flat against the wall. With the amount of lumber extension we see across the population this may be very challenging for some athletes. If the athletes cannot keep their lower back flat on the wall, instruct them to bend their knees and active their core.

Forearm Wall Slides

As the athlete slides their hands up the wall they are getting more elevation and upward rotation of the scapula; but as they pull their hands off of the wall, they’re going to retract the scapula and get some slight posterior tilt as well.

Make sure that athlete engages their core and doesn’t fall into lumbar extension as they bring their hands off of the wall as this should be an exclusively scapulothoracic movement.

Prone 1-Arm Trap Raise

The last exercise in my scapulothoracic joint mobilization series is very similar to the classic Blackburn’s exercises.

I prefer to have athletes do these exercises unilaterally and on a table because when done bilaterally and on the floor we often see more spine movement than actual ST movement. This is another good exercise for developing posterior tilt of the scapula by allowing the lower trap to get involved.

The beautiful thing about all of these exercises is that they require very little to no equipment at all. This means that athletes can do these exercises in the gym, on the field, or at home.

Give these scapular exercises for baseball pitchers a try and keep that arm healthy this season!

 

Want EBP’s FREE Arm Care Program?

EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramOur mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information.  That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE.  A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.  The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.

 

 

 

Exercises For Baseball Players Installment 1: Knee-to-Knee Rotational Med Ball Shotput

Throwing and hitting can take a toll on the body.

Here is an exercise that baseball players can use to not only groove appropriate hip loading but also teaches power with the movement, without actually throwing or swinging a bat. Usage of medicine balls is the closest training tool players and coaches can adopt, to practice the sport specific movements in baseball.

I thought of this exercise because it is my favorite drill to use with the pitchers that I work with. The movement performed when a knee-to-knee is executed correctly, is what pitchers and hitters need to create in order to build optimal tension into the ground, to transfer force into the delivery or swing. Remember to stay athletic, and not to use too many cues in this exercise, so the athlete doesn’t get robotic and methodical.

Also, baseball is an explosive sport; so don’t teach your body to be slow.

 

Knee-to-Knee Rotational Med Ball Shotput