Posts

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!

 

Changes in Pitching Mechanics Over the Course of a Game

 

One of the keys to pitching effectively is the ability to reproduce consistent mechanics and maintain your release point while on the mound.

In the past, we have found that baseball pitchers tend to become more upright as the game goes on.  Essentially, the lead knee and trunk are more upright from what would likely be fatigue of the legs.  It’s no wonder that baseball pitchers tend to leave pitches up in the zone as they become tired.

To date, we haven’t looked at this in youth pitchers, however a recent report out of AJSM sought to quantify any potential biomechanical changes in pitches aged 14-16 at the end of game.  The authors noted similar findings.  Your glove side landing leg tends to become tired and more upright, however, the authors also noted a decrease in pitching velocity and in the amount of rear leg drive and power.

In order to best develop baseball pitchers, we need to understand what happens to the body as they pitch.  Based on this information, high school age baseball pitchers should include a proper strength and conditioning program designed to maintain leg strength and power development during the course of a game.

 


Changes in Lower Extremity Kinematics and Temporal Parameters of Adolescent Baseball Pitchers During an Extended Pitching Bout

BACKGROUND: Few studies have investigated detailed 3-dimensional lower extremity kinematics during baseball pitching in adolescent athletes during extended play. Changes in these parameters may affect performance outcomes.

PURPOSE: To investigate whether adolescent baseball pitchers experience changes in lower extremity kinematics and event timing during a simulated game-length pitching bout.

STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive laboratory study.

METHODS: Twelve male adolescent pitchers (aged 14-16 years) threw 6 sets of 15 fastball pitches from an artificial pitching mound to a target at regulation distance. Joint angles and angular velocities at the hip, knee, and ankle of both legs were collected throughout the phases of the pitching cycle as well as stride length, pelvis orientation, pitch duration, timing of foot contact and ball release, ball speed, and pitching accuracy. Paired t tests ( P < .05) were used to compare the dependent variables between the last 5 pitches of the second (baseline) and sixth (final) sets.

RESULTS: During the stride phase, decreased maximum angular excursions for hip extension (baseline: 14.7° ± 9.8°; final: 11.6° ± 10.3°; P < .05) and ankle plantar flexion (baseline: 30.2° ± 14.5°; final: 24.2° ± 15.3°; P < .05) as well as maximum angular velocity for knee extension (baseline: 144.9 ± 63.3 deg·s-1; final: 121.7 ± 62.0 deg·s-1; P < .05) were observed between sets in the trailing leg. At foot contact, pitchers had decreased hip flexion (baseline: 69.5° ± 10.1°; final: 66.5° ± 11.8°; P < .05) and increased hip abduction (baseline: 20.7° ± 8.9°; final: 25.4° ± 6.0°; P < .05) in the leading leg in the final set. Compared with the baseline set, ball speed significantly decreased in the final set (29.5 ± 2.5 m·s-1 vs 28.3 ± 2.5 m·s-1, respectively; P < .05).

CONCLUSION: Kinematic changes and decreased ball speeds observed in the final set suggest that adolescent pitchers are unable to maintain lower extremity kinematics and performance as a result of extended play.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The results from this study may warrant further investigation into how altered lower extremity kinematics may affect trunk and upper extremity function, performance, and risk of injuries during pitching in adolescent athletes, particularly during actual game play.

 

Source: Am J Sports Med. 2017 Apr;45(5):1179-1186. doi: 10.1177/0363546516687289. Epub 2017 Feb 3.

7 Steps to Have a Long Baseball Career

Most of us are here because of our shared love for one thing: baseball. Throughout our careers, we all grow to appreciate the little things: the smell of freshly cut grass, the pop of the catcher’s mitt, and taking in the view from the dugout, eager to put life’s troubles aside for the next few hours.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t get to experience these things forever.

So why do we end up parting ways with the game we love? The end of the road usually comes down to one of three things: injury, burnout, or you weren’t good enough to compete at the next level.

 

7 Steps to Have a Long Baseball Career

To help those who’ve had to prematurely walk away from doing what they love most, this article will go over how you can put building blocks in place from when you were playing on your local Little League team all the way through the professional level to ensure your longevity in the game.

 

Little League Building Blocks 

Play Other Sports

Little League and youth baseball are incredible for teaching children the rules of the game. More importantly, it gives kids an opportunity to develop a passion for baseball and associate feelings of joy, fun, and happiness with the diamond.

At the same time, it’s crucial that kids also participate in a variety of other sports.

Early specialization is real, and high-strung parents have no problem locking their child into one sport so they have a shot at a college scholarship. Kids need both physical and mental variability, and exposing them to multiple sports will satisfy both of those needs.

Step one for longevity on the diamond: Play more than just baseball during your Little League years.

Practice Gross Motor Skills, Coordination, and Agility

Prepubescent athletes don’t need to be partaking in a full fledge strength and conditioning program.

Firstly, they don’t have the hormones needed to reap the benefits of heavy resistance training, and secondly, they probably don’t need rigid constraints placed on how they should move.

But, early childhood is a critical period for an athlete to develop good motor skills, coordination, and agility. Because of a child’s plasticity and sensitivity to advancing their motor development, these years are a great time for them to practice moving their bodies in a variety of ways to help integrate visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information.

This will help give them a stronger base to work from later on in their athletic career.

 

High School Building Blocks

Get a Movement Assessment

These are the years when an athlete is constantly trying to adjust to their growing body, is probably playing in more games per year, and may be starting to lift weights.

For all those reasons, it’s now time to start making movement assessments a must.

Because of one’s athletic history, body type, and anatomy movement, compensations may start to rear their ugly head. Finding a quality physical therapist and strength coach who can identify where you move well/poorly and develop a plan to help you mitigate injuries is invaluable.

A well-done assessment will not only show you what you’re good and not good at, it will also direct how you train, warm-up, and even what throwing program is best for you. Get assessments early, often, and make it habit throughout your career.

Begin a Structured Strength & Conditioning Program 

When an athlete reaches puberty they have the hormonal capabilities to increase their muscle mass, strength, and power, and participating in a strength and conditioning program will help accomplish all three. Piggybacking off of the last building block, baseball is a unique sport; the repetitiveness of throwing and hitting, and the demands those two actions place on the body, mean that any old football or bodybuilding program won’t suffice for maximizing your performance and keeping you healthy. Find someone who knows the body and knows baseball, then begin making an individualized strength and conditioning program part of your routine.

 

College Building Blocks

Master Time Management

If you’ve made it to the collegiate level you’ve shown that your skills are above and beyond those possessed by the majority of your peers.

Your lack of skills or physicality often isn’t what breaks you at this level; it’s the pressures of having to manage multiple aspects of your life that will hurt your performance.

In high school, you go to school from 8-2, practice and play, go home and eat mom’s cooking, and repeat. You now have to go to multiple classes, study, cook, do your laundry, pay for things yourself, and, on top of that, practice and play.

If you want to be successful at this level and prolong your career, you must develop good organizational skills, learn to make lists, and manage your time.

Become a Creature of Habit

Each ensuing year after high school will become more stressful. You’ll have more responsibilities and the pressure to perform well will continuously increase as you get closer to competing at the next level.

Creating routines and good habits are critical to help minimize stress and set yourself up for success. Creating routines for how you go about your studies, practice, nutrition, training, and mental preparation will allow you to block out unnecessary stress and keep you focused on reaching your goals on the field.

 

Professional Building Blocks

Learn to Love Recovery

By the time you’ve reached the professional level your body will have accumulated a lot of games played or innings thrown–and you’ll want to have many more in your future.

With that said, prioritizing recovery will greatly enhance your chance at having a successful career.

Fitting so many games into such few months means you must learn what your body needs to help your muscles and nervous system recover to the best of their ability every day. Below is a list of common recovery modalities that can be of great help while enduring long seasons:

  • Manual Therapy
  • Mobility Training
  • Improving Quality/Quantity of Sleep
  • Meeting with a Registered Dietician/Nutritionist
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption
  • Self-Myofascial Release
  • Active Recovery Training
  • Cryotherapy
  • Contrast Therapy
  • Sauna
  • Meditation

 

In Summary

Appreciate that being able to have longevity in any sport is a gift – but a gift you can exercise control over.

Respect your body as much as you respect the game and you’ll find you won’t have to prematurely walk away from doing what you love.

If you’re a parent reading this, how can you set your kid(s) up for success? If you’re a coach, how can you get the most out of your high school athletes? And if you’re a college or professional player, how badly do you want to get to the next level and how much are you willing to sacrifice to get there?

Put the right building blocks in place and the game will be good to you.

 

 

3 Important Exercises Baseball Players Should Perform Inseason

Baseball season is right around the corner and hopefully our athletes have participated in an offseason strength and conditioning program. Achieving optimal weight, improving movement patterns and getting as strong as possible are prized during this time.

But now that the season has arrived, what should you implement into baseball players’ fitness programs to maximize performance?

 

3 Important Exercises Baseball Players Should Perform Inseason

Players will begin to hit, throw and sprint with significantly more intensity and volume as the season kicks off. When players try to match this volume in their fitness program it is often detrimental to success.

At our facility, we aim to provide players with lower body exercises that limit soreness, maintain power and help players recover before their next practice session or game. Remember that the minimal effective dose of exercise is always the goal.

Here are three exercises that can be included in the same training session to maximize in-season performance.

 

Elevated Trap Bar Speed Deadlift

The deadlift is arguably the king of all lower body lifts and a staple in our athletes’ programs.

Some players struggle with maintaining good posture from the start of the lift, especially those who are taller or struggle with loading the hips. This variation uses 45 pound plates or 2 inch blocks under the loaded bar to ensure the start position is perfect.

Move the weight as fast as possible with great form to maximally recruit the glutes and create force into the ground. Normally we like to see the athlete slowly lower the weight to encourage muscle growth, but this variation only focuses on speed from the ground up. Slowly lowering the weight will encourage muscle soreness, and this is the last thing a young athlete needs while trying to perform optimally!

Long Stride Sled Push

We use multiple variations of the sled push for getting kids strong, and this version encourages good hip movement with minimal stress on the low back.

You will notice how the athlete below really flexes the hip towards the trunk prior to pressing the foot back into the ground. Direct training of the hip flexor muscles is often ignored, and this exercise is a great way to sneak in some extra hip flexion work. The added benefit of this is the ability to really load up weight to maintain leg strength without waking up sore the next day.

Single Leg Box Squat with Counterweight

Standing on one leg creates a significant demand for core and hip stability, especially when loaded with weight. The box is there to ensure the athlete is using the hips to sit back and control the motion. The weight does not need to be heavy here, with only 5-10 pounds in each hand to provide some weight in front of the athlete.

This exercise is usually programmed towards the end of a training session to train good body control, even with fatigue after a tough session. If this variety is too difficult, have the player use the non-working leg to apply a little force into the ground to make the move easier.

 

Players work all offseason to maximize strength gains, put on quality mass and develop power to deliver during game situations. In-season training is often an afterthought, but remember that movement quality and maintaining strength are vital to success for baseball players. Try incorporating these exercises into fitness programming during the season to help players dominate games and recover faster.