Dr. Nick Serio on Special Strength Training For Pitchers

Last week Dr. Nick Serio dropped some knowledge bombs on Joel Smith’s, “Just Fly Performance Podcast.” (https://www.just-fly-sports.com/podcast-183-nick-serio/

In this podcast, Coach Nick goes into detail on how he has developed special strength training methods for rotational athletes, especially for the baseball pitcher. This podcast was PACKED with information. It is necessary for all athletes, parents, and coaches in the baseball community to listen to this. Nick shares his most informed methods in training the baseball athlete and specifically the pitcher. Today I attempt to break down the mass of information stated in this 52 minute podcast. Here were my major takeaways.

With the alarmingly high increase in baseball/pitching related injuries, especially at the youth and high school level, there are a number of factors at play.

  • The recruiting and showcase format is not advantageous to the athletes recovery.
  • The pitcher’s performance is becoming highly predicated on velocity, and therefore many are striving to achieve high velocity with very high risk training methods.
  • While a degree of specialization is necessary to develop the required skill sets to pitch at a high level, there must be a necessary time away from throwing. This time off of throwing should include special exercises related to baseball (more details on this further on). 

As professionals in any field that works with athletes, we must do a better job of illuminating new research to the athlete and parent.

  • Many old school methods no longer have a place in sports.
  • Far too often our population of athletes and parents will never see necessary research and methods in a way that is digestible to them. 
  • The more informed our population is, the more equipped they will be to make good decisions in sport.

“Specialization” has become a villainous term. 

  • While time away from baseball is important, the athlete can gain tremendous strides in their performance by focusing on specialized strength training.
  • With more access to strength and conditioning at the high school level, it is not necessary for athletes to search for “cross-training” of benefits by playing multiple sports. Strength and conditioning should become a season in the athletes yearly sport participation.
  • By implementing special strength training methods during the off-season, and simultaneously giving throwers a 4 month window away from throwing, it has been proven that we can increase performance and decrease the rate of throwing related injuries. 

Pitch count is irrelevant.

  • The baseball community must take into account multiple factors beyond pitch count when monitoring a pitcher’s throwing volume. This includes the amount of pitches during high pressure situations, as well as physical preparedness of the athlete. In short, just as we would not prescribe the same weight to all athletes in the gym, all athletes should not be prescribed to the same pitch count when throwing.
  • A more accurate test to monitor fatigue of the pitcher would be grip strength. Due to the necessary force absorption capacity of the forearm and hand flexor group, monitoring this fatigue directly may be a better method to predicting overuse.

As coaches, we can give athletes a very accurate depiction of where their progress is solely by evaluating certain foundational movements.

  • SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE when working with youth athletes.
  • The Overhead squat will tell us a tremendous amount of about everything from ankle mobility, to hip rotation capacity, to thoracic spine function, as well as arguably the most important for this population, how their shoulder functions in an applicable way under load and challenged position.
  • The Bear Crawl exposes cross-body coordination, as well as challenging the midline strength of the athlete. This movement has become crucial in return to sport from labral surgery, as it allows the athlete a controlled, yet dynamic way to load the shoulder joint.
  • The Reverse Lunge has become one of the greatest transfer strength exercises to throwing. Those who are able to increase their reverse lunge strength almost always are going to throw a baseball more effectively.
  • Finally, those that throw a baseball well also tend to sprint and run very well. 

We need to emphasize the importance of athlete screening and implementation of corrective exercises.

  • Our evaluation process begins with the belief that not all postural based dysfunction leads to movement based dysfunction.
  • Contrary to the old school belief that baseball players should not go overhead, we are constantly striving to improve the scapular and shoulder function through movements that get the athlete into the overhead position. (One of Nick’s favorites is the Landmine Press)

During the 4 month window away from throwing, throwers will partake in a very specialized medicine ball strength program that allows the athlete to improve sequencing of the actual action of throwing a baseball. (All of which can be found on the Athletes Warehouse movement library:

  • Through a progression of phases, we allow the athlete to be incredibly aggressive in their throwing actions.
  • While the drills may mirror the action of throwing, the athlete is able to disassociate from throwing a ball while still working on sequencing and power production.

There must be a massive focus on the front/blocking leg in rotational sports

  • Across the board, when looking at high velocity throwers, there is a common theme of a stiff front side after the front leg hits the ground.
  • In order for the thrower to do this, they must require a large amount of strength on the front leg. We will often take athletes through drills like single leg drop jumps to increase their eccentric capacity.
  • Forcing an athlete to land on an elevated surface on during medicine ball throws, we can force the athlete to generate force sooner, which in turn will allow them to create a stiffer front side.

If you are a baseball athlete in the New York City or Westchester area and you are not training under Coach Nick, you are doing yourself a massive injustice. He has maximized the potential of so many baseball players in this area. From the most elite recruits, to those just trying to make a high school team, this program has proven to succeed with athletes time and time again. Drop the ego, and hand over the reigns to Dr. Nick. 

STRENGTH FOR THE AREA BETWEEN THE EARS

Before we start, I want to encourage every single one of you to keep reading. Even when it seems like this is just “another one of those articles” or it seems like it just doesn’t pertain to you. This topic is one that we must continue to talk about even when it is hard or doesn’t feel like it applies to us.

In the past six months, the mental health initiative throughout the athletic community, and pretty much the human community, has exploded. There is a mix of compassion and empathy as well as misunderstandings and negative attitudes. With this being said, the athletic community finds themselves in a polar divide as strong as the current state of political affairs. Many find themselves in the ideal of being the strong individual who only needs to rely on themselves or the “expressing how they feel is weakness.” This mindset has developed by generational transference through the athletic community. Passed down from mentor to mentee and the persona we place amongst athletes that they are indeed that – an athlete. They are the best of the best, the strongest of the strong, the greatest creation of human evolution. Survival of the fittest with the elite athlete being comprised of every human’s ideal form. Yet, at the end of the day, we forget one simple fact – they are human, just like me and you. We, as a human society misconstrued emotional strength for physical strength. Emotional strength is not the ability to handle everything on our own but instead the ability to understand what we can and cannot do by ourselves and the courage to ask for help when we cannot.

Me, Personally

I want to pause here for a little anecdotal information. In my 22 years of life, I have found myself living most of it from the area in which I felt I did not need another individuals help, in anything. I felt that being strong meant keeping everything locked up and handling it myself, or in some cases, lock it up and throw away the key. When I got to college, this internal process of mine was exacerbated, even though the personal stressors were piling up between the school, softball and social aspects of my life. It was suggested by a coach and two close friends that I seek out our Behavioral Health Coordinator, Dr. Lee Dorpfeld, for a chat. I remember thinking, “HA, that will never happen. I don’t need a psychologist.” For the next two and a half years, he and I played, what he calls, a game of cat and mouse. I would come in one day and then disappear from his office for four to six months. I would see him around our athletic facility and we would always chat or have a conversation but I avoided his portion of the facility with the same determination as a softball player attempting to avoid a slump. (You can see where this is heading.) Now, I am probably one of the slowest shortstops to ever have played Division I softball. It was joked that if you wanted to make me run fast, just put Dr. Lee at the opposite place you wanted me to run. You see, I fell into the misconception that we all have – the “ist” phenomena. Psychologist, dermatologist, orthodontist, therapist, etc. We often feel that professions ending in “ist” are all related to fixing someone.

It wasn’t until I sustained the first of my two major injuries that I started going to talk to Dr. Lee on a more “consistent” basis (I place the quotations because it wasn’t really that consistent but it was more often than four to six months). I began to realize how much less stressed I was because I had someone to talk through my stressors, uncomforts, and fears relating to my injury process. Slowly and surely that started to transition into topics regarding graduate school and relationships with others. My natural tendencies to “lock up” into self-protection mode slowly began to dissipate. I was starting to have real relationships and great friendships with people who mean a lot to me. My ability on the field finally came to full fruition as well. I was able to remain focused and locked in. Simply put, I felt lighter in everything I tried to do. No, sadly I did not get physically faster by releasing these personal loads but I was mentally faster. Understand this, I didn’t have to be “fixed” or wasn’t diagnosed with a condition as everyone fears. But, I found a safe place to be vulnerable and release myself from unnecessary stress.

Start By Changing Your Definition

You see, the ability to open up and discuss what is on your mind, whether good or bad, is “strength.” It is the understanding that we all need that person to talk to. Often, we lock athletes into this bubble that places them on a pedestal above the standards of the normal human. In actuality, their competitive profession places them in an area of high stress and personal demands. We need to re-educate the athletic community, starting with the youth athlete all the way to the professional, that asking for help or admitting your stressed isn’t weakness, it IS strength.

I’d like to emphasize another point – this doesn’t have to happen with a psychologist. It can be a friend, a coach or teammate, a mentor – anyone who you feel comfortable expressing yourself too. If you are fearful of the “ist” phenomena then I encourage you to find someone in your circle. It can be powerful to hear that someone feels the same as you, that you are not alone, as we most often are not. I look to another personal example that occurred with one of my closest friends.

Honestly, it happens quite frequently between the two of us so I cannot remember the context of the first one specifically but it went as most of them do. I was feeling quite overwhelmed with something softball wise and I blurted out during dinner, “can I ask you something?” She responded with “oh boy,” as she’s come to associate that question with something of grand context. I stated my point, as normally is not a question but a statement, to which she responded, “Cass, I feel the exact same way and I haven’t told anyone either.” It was a moment of mutual appreciation and understanding, as we both finally felt legitimized in our thinking. Now, I am not saying that this is always going to happen. Sometimes, you are going to open up and someone won’t feel the same way or understand it. That does not mean you hunker down and lock up – as with anything like athletics, there is going to be “failure.” But I want to reframe this thought as well; opening up and having someone not understand or feel the same isn’t a failure – it is just the process of human connection. Not one person is going to have the same sequence of events in their life as you but they will have general experiences similar to you; it is in this that the bond is created. We might not have the same exact feelings, but they will be close and possible to relate to – that is where you must find the comfort.

Why Athletes Warehouse

Athletes Warehouse is a prime example of changing this part of the athletic culture. We strive to challenge our athletes from a physical and mental perspective. We often incorporate mental skills training into most of our classes and large groups as we deem it as important as the physical skill set we can provide. We thrive on relatability – as all of our staff consists of former collegiate athletes which is effective as I find there is a slight difference in the natural tendencies of an athlete. We strive to create a safe environment for our athletes to challenge themselves and test their limits. We encourage open communication and discussion amongst staff and through the coach-athlete relationship.

I encourage any athlete, coach, or head of an organization reading this to let this message sink in. We are all human, so why don’t we allow athletes to act like it? Change doesn’t occur overnight. It takes one person impacting another and then another and this cycling continuing over and over to perpetuate change.

Let’s start now,

Cassidy

WHY THE CLEAN SHOULD BE APART OF EVERY CATCHERS PROGRAM

When it comes to the sport of softball, quick, explosive moments followed by a period of physical relaxation has come to define its physical exertion. Some positions, such as the pitcher and catcher, require it to happen more frequently than others. The frequent movements a catcher makes requiring explosive power provides performance coaches with the reasoning for incorporating the clean into their workout programs. Below is a video of just some of the similar movements between the clean and throw down for a catcher.

What Does the Clean Provide for an Athlete

“The hang power clean exercise has been found to produce high bar velocities, high ground reaction forces, and high power outputs.” (1)

  1. It teaches the importance of the kinematic sequence  
    1. In order for an athlete to effectively complete a clean, there is a series of movements that must happen in a specific order. The kinematic sequence allows the athlete to transfer power throughout their body necessary for completing a powerful movement. Triple extension is an imperative sequence in the sport of softball – it is the concurrent extension of the hip, knee, and ankle that produces power up the kinetic chain (2). For the clean, this power travels from the feet all the way to the upper limbs which are responsible for flipping the bar to the catch position.
  1. Force application into the ground  
    1. In order to generate the power for the kinematic sequence, the athlete completing these movements must first pound into the floor. The equation for force is mass multiplied by acceleration. In order to initiate the clean, we are started from a neutral position and accelerating as fast as we can. This speed multiplied by our own mass is equivalent to the force we put into the ground. This force then transfers up our physical chain which allows the upward pull sequence to involve less upper body work and allows the arms to only have to “get under” the bar.
  1. Explosive Power  
    1. Olympic lifts, such as the clean, require high amounts of muscle fiber recruitment in order to provide the explosiveness necessary to complete the sequence. This translates to speed and power development. The ability to quickly recruit motor fibers of several muscle groups is necessary for the reactive aspect of softball and other sports.
  1. Rapid Concentric to Eccentric and Eccentric to Concentric Muscle Action  
    1. The first movement of the clean forces triple extension – mentioned above – that is a concentric movement. From there, we are forced into an eccentric load on the squat portion of the clean and back to a concentric movement on the extension of the clean. This rapid amortization phase in the clean correlates to the power output of an athlete. The faster you can go through this cycle, the more powerful you are.
  1. Feeling like a Boss Afterwards  
    1. There is no better feeling than hitting a clean that seems daunting. After this movement, athletes tend to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as it is not an easy movement to perform. Drop the bar like you drop the mic.

How this Translates to Catching

Numerous aspects of the clean translate to the catching position. First off, the catcher is performing an enormous amount of eccentric and concentric movements – think of the number of times they go into and out of a squat. As for the catchers throw down, triple extension is paramount to throwing out of a squat. Being able to effectively go through this kinematic sequence is important to ball velocity on the throw down. Effective use of the legs in the squat position transfers power up the kinematic chain which, in turn, increases velocity. Tthis begins with the force application into the ground and travels up through the midline, to the shoulder, ending in the fingertips. Similar to the clean, there are very few feelings like throwing out a runner. You get to sit there and feel like a boss for just a split second. The confidence in the weight room can translate onto the field.

It is important to note that, as a strength performance coach, we cannot give an athlete a movement just because we know it works. If the athlete is not strong enough, or ready to understand the movement, it can be more harmful than beneficial. There are certain segments of the clean – the deadlift, jump shrug, and high pull – that can be used to start the athlete on the process of performing the clean. But when the athlete is ready for it, the clean can be an extremely beneficial movement for the athlete.

Cassidy

References

Rucci, J. A., & Tomporowski, P. D. (2010). Three Types of Kinematic Feedback and the Execution of the Hang Power Clean. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(3), 771-778. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181cbab96

Ayers, C. (2016, June 221). Basic Biomechanics: The Foundation–Triple Extension. Retrieved from: http://www.byanymeansbball.com/blog/basic-biomechanics-the-foundation-triple-extension

  1. (2017, July 6). How Olympic Lifts Translate to Athletic Performance. Retrieved from http://blog.bridgeathletic.com/how-olympic-lifts-translate-to-athletic-performance

HOW TO BE A GREAT PINCH HITTER

April 10th, 2011. Sunday, mid-day.

LSU Senior Brittany Mack is on the mound.  Not only is her drop-ball nasty, but she throws three different speeds and they all look the same out of the hand.  I was a freshman that year and had heard something about the LSU curse. For some reason in the last 8-10 years, Alabama softball could not win a game on the road in Baton Rouge.  However this year, I remember thinking that this team was different. We were ranked number one going into the series and LSU had a rough start to the season.

Rewind to Friday night, and I finally understood as we watched a walk-off homerun for LSU sail over the right-center field fence…in the bottom of the 14th inning (that’s seven extra innings for those who don’t know.) What a heartbreaker.

The next night.  Deja Vu. SAME GIRL.  10th inning. Walk-off homerun.  

Maybe we can’t win here?

Sunday rolls around and I take a mini batting practice. I don’t really do my normal hitting routine because I haven’t seen a live at-bat in over 5 weeks since I broke my finger. I wouldn’t be hitting this game.

Once the game began, it didn’t take long for us to realize, like the previous two games of the series, this too was going to be another pitcher’s duel.  Brittany Mack had her good stuff that day and our team just wasn’t scoring, let alone getting on base. Murph, our head coach, is getting upset, rightfully.

Midway through the game, I hear my coach say, “Ryan, you ready? You’re in.”

Um no.  Wait, what?

“Yes,” I hear myself say as a scramble to find my batting gloves.  

My heart is racing.  Why am I in? Am I even cleared to hit?  Should I hit away or slap? What has she even been throwing our lefties?

Strike one.  

Ohhh now I understand what they mean when they say her ball bites.  

Strike two.

Oh boy.  Breathe. Just put it in play.  

Strike three.
—-

Let’s just say I became a pretty good pinch hitter throughout my college career, but I had to learn the hard way, and it took more embarrassing instances than I’d like to remember.  

Here are my 7 Tips to becoming a great pinch hitter:

  1. Get Over It
    This was going to be the last tip, but honestly, if you don’t take care of this first, then you won’t be able to do the rest. Look, pinch-hitting is hard.  You get one chance to see the pitcher.  You can sit there and complain that it’s not fair and everyone else gets more opportunities, or you can take advantage of, as Eminem’s famous song calls it, your “one shot.”  You get a chance to be the spark plug, the hero, or the Debbie Downer who is already beat before she steps up to the plate. You choose. 
  2. Prepare Long Before Game Day
    If you notice that you’re struggling on a certain pitch, then work on it! Not just during practice, but before and/or after your practice time. My junior and senior years I had a few opportunities to lead off the 6th or 7th inning to just get us going.  There were other opportunities where I would come in just to advance a runner. I was a great pinch bunter, which makes me laugh, but it was such an important role! Better yet, everyone on my team made me feel that way. How cool is it that I got to come in, put a bunt down, move the runner, trot down to first, get out and get swarmed with a million helmet hits and pats on the back?  It was the easiest job in the country!But what made it so easy was that I would ask our former All-American Pitching coach, Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro to pitch to me before or after practice at least twice a week.  I would laugh in the box and say “C’mon give me that famous drop ball,” and she would! And I would fail and miss and foul it off, but EVERY pitch I bunted was just another pitch added to my memory bank.  I didn’t try to be perfect in practice. I wanted practice to be harder than the game.    
  3. Warm-Up Like You Are Going to Start
    I noticed my freshman year that I concentrated a lot more on the days I knew I was starting.  I didn’t talk as much in warm-ups. I easily took an extra 20-30 warm-up swings. I even tried to look better on those days making sure my hair was perfect. HAH! Once I got a little older, I really took more pride in my preparation not because I had to, but because it was the right thing to do. Call it superstition, but I really thought the game would know if I cheated my warm- up. And as they always say, you’re one injury away from starting every game and you can’t get that warm-up and all of the previous warm-ups back.  Prepare like you’re going to start.
  4. Take Notes While on the Bench
    I was a great student, so I don’t expect everyone to do this, but I can promise you this is a lot easier than school! Most college teams chart their own hitters.  This helps for scouting reports or future games if you see the same team in playoffs. For instance, if we played Tennessee twice in the regular season and then saw them again in the World Series, it helped so much to pull up your hitting chart and see how they pitched you, in order to have a plan for the next game.I am a lefty and we used to have at least four lefties in the line-up at all times.  The more lefties the better for me because I would chart every hitter we had. By doing this, I was able to pick up patterns a pitcher may have had. For example:  Did the pitcher have a tendency to start all lefties off with a screwball? Was her change up was her “go-to?” What did she typically throw with two strikes? It was like getting the answers to the test before I had to take it!   If you’re in high school and your team doesn’t chart pitches, then bring a notebook and start writing pitch patterns! You never know what you can figure out for yourself AND your teammates.
  5. Visualize
    This was a tough concept to me at first and I can see how tough it can be to buy into.  Now as a coach, I’ve started to use it a lot with my lessons. Let’s keep this very simple so it’s practical! If I notice that all lefties are getting an outside pitch, then I’m going to take the following steps:  First, I’ll watch the pitcher perform a pitch, really studying her motion. Then I will close my eyes for a second and picture myself in the box and her on the mound. As if in slow-motion, I will visualize that outside pitch hitting my bat, and then watching it go right up the middle for a single.  Then, I will open my eyes and watch the next pitch. Without getting too much into the science of this, and I encourage you to look into this if you’re skeptical, your brain can’t really tell the difference between something your body has actually done and something you have visualized your body doing.Now I’m not saying, skip all your reps at practice and take 300 imaginary swings – haha- but I am saying that in games, really work to put yourself in that box picturing the exact pitcher! It used to help me if a pitcher had a great rise ball. I would actually picture myself in the box tracking a high pitch and laying off of it.  Then once I actually got in the game, my previous visualization would help me see it down!
  6. Be Ready Before Coach Calls Your Name
    My freshman year we faced  Stanford in Super Regionals. We were up 6-0 or so in the 4th inning, and to be honest,  I wasn’t really thinking I would come in that game. I decided to go to the bathroom in the dugout when I heard a knock on the bathroom door.“Um, Ryan, you’re hitting.”   I vividly remember zipping my pants up, sprinting out the door, grabbing the bat with no batting gloves, walking to the plate while simultaneously scrambling to tuck my shirt in.  Everything we preach about routine and slowing things down and taking a deep breath went right out the window. My hands were shaking, heart racing, and I swung at the first pitch.  I hit a tiny dribbler and ended up beating it out. Everyone was so excited, and it happened so fast, I didn’t know what just happened. Another lesson learned. From then on, around the 5th inning, I always had a hunch that I would get to hit soon.  So, in order to be overly prepared, I would casually walk to my bag and grab my batting gloves and stick them into my back pocket.  I would also make sure a helmet was nearby. Additionally, I have always had a coach’s brain.  I knew the girls in the lineup who were 0-2 and didn’t look like they were having a good day.  I also knew which players had a shorter leash when it came to performing at the plate. I would pay attention when they were coming up and I would stand at the top of the dugout.  I WANTED to hit. And Coach Murphy would always look over and see me there, ready to go, eager to make an impact and get my job done. If he was ever looking for a pinch hitter, it was a no-brainer. As a coach now, I want the girl at the plate who wants to be up.  It’s so hard to look in the dugout and see girls pouting that they aren’t playing, or girls having a great time but so unfocused. Challenge yourself to be the player focused and ready to go no matter the circumstances.
  7. Be Aggressive and Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
    I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Pitchers are told to go right after pinch hitters, so get excited! The scary part is, more than likely your first pitch is the best one you’re gonna see! It’s a gamble because if you get out, then your whole at-bat that you’ve been preparing for is over in five seconds. However, if that pitch is right down the middle, you may be getting that winning RBI! Remember, if you’ve prepared properly, taking notes, visualizing, and getting yourself ready to hit, it’ll feel like you’ve already had 4 at-bats! You’re ready for this!And finally, you can do everything right and the odds of getting you out are still higher than you getting on-base! Welcome to softball.  But why play the game if you’re afraid to fail?   Don’t underestimate what a long at-bat that ends in a strikeout does for your team.  Don’t underestimate what a hard line drive caught by a diving center fielder does to start a rally! Even getting out can get your team going. Take pinch-hitting as a challenge, and even a compliment that your coach thinks YOU can get the job done.  I’m not sure if any of you watched the MLB World Series this year, but Boston had two HUGE pinch-hit home runs in games they eventually went on to win.  Everyone falls in love with the story, so start preparing to be the main role. WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO GO BACK!

As always, telling it like it is,


Ryan

SIX EXERCISES YOUR CATCHER NEEDS TO BE DOING

Catching is painful; from the bruises to the ever constant joint pain, it stays with you long after you catch your last pitch. It is a brutal position that is physically taxing on the body. So, before I continue with this article, I want to make a point – HAVE YOUR CATCHERS WEAR KNEE SAVERS. They do just that – save your knees. It is not weak, it is smart. Conceptually, most individuals and researchers will say that you should be strong enough to sit in that position. Research takes anecdotal perspectives in a given situation and not the whole experience. Instead, I challenge you to think about it from this perspective. One game is on average two hours. Split in half and estimate one hour is spent on defense. Now, multiply that by five to six games (at a minimum) a weekend for 32 weeks. That’s 160 hours of sitting in a squat position!! Now, multiply that by countless practices and training sessions and the hours pile up on the individual’s knees. When interpreting the studies conducted on this topic, researchers are just considering the one game, not all of the excess hours put into the craft. But here is the catch. Regardless of whether you utilize knee savers or not, catchers still tend to have hip, knee and lower back discomfort. So, how do we address this issue?

3 Stretching Activities Your Catcher Needs to Do

  1. Hip CARs (controlled articular rotations) – 
  1. Known as an FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) exercise, hip CARs challenge the athlete to go through the full range of motion at the hip joint. In concurrence with the “use it or lose it” mentality, when we do not challenge ourselves to go into certain ranges of motion, our body’s ability to get there deteriorates. Flexibility at the hip joint is imperative to a catcher’s physical health. As the range of motion breaks down, the body will adjust to an inferior position. Catchers tend to rotate their hips internally which places excess stress on the knees and lower back.
  1. Directions – Bring knee as high up as it can go. Open “the door” of the hip without rotating at the torso. Then rotate the foot at the knee joint (internal rotation). From this position, work the knee back with hip into extension. Reverse the process with as much control and precision as possible.

90/90 Switches – 

    1. Here we are focusing on opening up the hip joint and working on the internal and external rotational ability of the joint. Being able to control and move through this range of motion is imperative to full body health of a catcher. We are working postural awareness in conjunction with hip mobility. Another function of a healthy hip: taking pressure off of the lower back.  
      1. Directions – Driving the open leg down into the ground, try to lift the closed leg into the air. Drive both legs in the opposite direction and eventually switch.
  1. Talus Slide Lunge Stretch 
  1. Dorsiflexion is the ability to flex the foot in the upward direction thus allowing the shin angle to decrease to a more acute angle while squatting. Ankle mobility is extremely important in catchers. Often, they are stuck in an elevated position, similar to a calf raise, for a majority of their time catching. It is important to provide flexibility and the opposite range of motion to avoid extreme stiffness which can lead to injuries up the chain. If a catcher does not possess the adequate dorsiflexion needed to achieve the most effective position it is important to note that this will not inhibit the athlete from sitting in a squat but instead will cause the athlete to compensate into ineffective positions in order to get into that position.   
    1. Directions – While maintaining contact between the heel and the ground, go into a lunge position. Drive the shin forward while still maintaining heel contact with the ground. Work to avoid shifting hips and instead keep torso and hips in line while driving forward.

3 Strength Exercises Your Catcher Needs to Do

  1. Internal/External Hip Lift Offs 
  1. Mobility is one aspect of injury prevention, strength is the other. Being able to get through the full range of motion can be just as dangerous if you do not have the strength to stabilize the joint. These isometric holds at the hip joint provide strength to the hip abductors and adductors which are responsible for holding the ball and socket of the hip joint in place.  
    1. Directions – In the 90/90 position, lift the front knee and foot off of the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Next, lift the back knee and foot off of the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. If actively achieving these positions is not possible, work to find a passive range of motion as well.
  1. Deadbug Variations 
  1. Core strength is important for every aspect of athletic movement. In catchers, it provides stabilization to the pelvis in a squatting position. The deadbug forces the athlete to contract their midline, activating erector muscles of their back into the ground, while either holding the position or going through small, controlled movements. The key here is to push your lower back into the ground while maintaining the ability to breathe. Being able to contract the core and breathe is important for athletes of all sports and positions as it ensures the muscles surrounding the diaphragm are responsible for breathing and not the muscles that are supposed to be stabilizing the spine.  
    1. Directions – While pushing hands  into the wall, drive the lower back into the ground while maintaining the 90-degree angle at the hips and knees. Drive one foot out, leading with the heel, work to breath while simultaneously maintaining ground contact with the lower back.
  1. Supermans 
  1. When constantly being positioned in lower back flexion, think about a catcher’s squat with a rounded back. In order to combat this, we need to strengthen the catcher’s back in the opposite end range – extension. Supermans provide posterior chain activation in the gluteal, hamstring, and spinal levator muscles along the posterior chain. Whether it is in the contracted hold or constant movement range, this exercise provides stabilization to the area catchers tend to be underactive in.  
    1. Directions – Driving the belly button into the floor – lift your arms, using your lower trap muscle structure, and your legs by flexing your glute and hamstrings. Hold for 3 seconds and then relax.

While there are far more exercises your catchers should be doing, these are ones they can do on their own at home. These should be done at least three times a week for both the stretches and the strength exercises. Before performing any catching activity, the stretches should be done. Providing flexibility and mobility to a position that generally results in extreme stiffness is imperative to preventing injury. But, as stated before, mobility should only be given with the intention of providing strength to stabilize the mobility. Finding the optimal balance between strength and mobility is the first step to preventing injury in any athlete.

10 Tips for the Next Generation of Softball Players

  1. Practice bunting every time you practice hitting. Some of the biggest situations you’ll find yourself in will call for you to get the bunt down. There’s no worse feeling than not being able to pull through for your team in that moment. 
  1. Learn how to run the bases. Be aggressive, but know when it’s smart to take a risk and when it’s more logical to play it safe. Consider the outs, inning, score, and where your team is at in their line up. Even when you’re not on the bases, think about what you would be doing if you were in the situation. 
  1. Practice being uncomfortable. The game moves very quickly in college and there are a few times where you can sit back and watch things play out. Practice being nervous for at-bats. Practice making throws when the game is on the line. Practice in the rain. Practice when you’re sore and out of breath. If you can make practice more difficult than the game, you’ll be that much more comfortable in a live setting. 
  1. Invest in your teammates. This holds true regardless of the level at which you are playing. You are lucky to be surrounded by others your age who share the same passion you do for this sport. Get to know them off the field. One of the most valuable things this sport has blessed me with is the opportunity to know some pretty unbelievable girls.  I personally think this sport would eat each and every one of us alive if we were forced to play it as an individual rather than with a team. Make seeing your teammates the best part of your day. 
  1. Learn how to recover from failure. This game beats you up both physically and mentally on a daily basis. Coming to college has taught me that there will be an abundance of both good and bad days. Learn from the bad ones, and know that the good ones are just around the corner. 
  1. With that being said, don’t make the bad days worse than they have to be. It’s easy to write off a practice if you’re not feeling 100%. Challenge yourself to stay motivated and put in your full effort. You don’t wake up for every game day feeling great, learn how to be successful even when things don’t feel right. 
  1. Learn to love lifts and conditioning. Learn to love putting work in before the sun comes up. If you choose to drag your feet about this part of improvement, it’ll make for some very groggy, dreaded, painfully slow workouts. There’s something cool about working hard while the rest of the world is sleeping. Relish that, and don’t hit snooze. 
  1. Pick up your teammates’ bats every opportunity you get. You’re all in this together, so set the tone that you’re going to be the most selfless version of yourself every time you all come together. There’s never an inappropriate time to give a high-five. Acknowledge the small stuff, and don’t be timid to give compliments.
  1. Find your own perfect level of confidence. This is something that I think about often in college. While you never want to be overconfident, in order to make it to the highest level of this sport, you need to believe in yourself before others do. There will be people who tell you that you’re not good enough. There will be teammates who make you feel small. There will be times during which you tell yourself you’re not good enough. Let the confident voice prevail, even when you’re not totally sold.
  1. Take time to reflect on how far you’ve come. Look at where you started, and look at where you want to be. It’s a lot harder to work toward a goal if you can’t remind yourself of the goals you’ve already accomplished in your past. Trust the process. Try not to get caught up in comparisons. Use statistics wisely.

Does ‘that time of the month’ really put a female athlete at risk for tearing her ACL?

Quite the title, huh?

If you have any involvement in the sports science world, you are well aware that females have a higher incidence of ACL tears than males. In fact, women are 3-6 times at a greater risk for tearing their ACL than men. For years, researchers, coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, and professionals alike have been trying to answer the question, “Why?” Perhaps it is the naturally wider hip angle of a female that creates the infamous ‘Q’ angle putting extra pressure on the knee joint. Or maybe it’s the hamstring to quad ratio, perhaps females present with more muscle imbalances and compensations than males. Still, it wouldn’t fully explain the borderline epidemic that has occurred in the world of ACL injuries. Additionally, if tearing the ACL was due to structural factors then theoretically, us as professionals should be able to predict the incidence of injury with fairly accurate results. Yet, we’re missing something. We still see phenomenal female athletes tear their ACL. Athletes that have done all the right things in training, presented with zero knee valgus, have high resistance to fatigue, work tirelessly on midline strength, landing mechanics, proprioceptors, etc. So, what is it then? I’m not sure we’ll ever truly be able to explain the answer to this in black and white, however, there is some very interesting research that has recently presented itself as promising leads on female ACL tears.

As a college athlete at the University of Alabama, I was surrounded by tremendous athletes on a daily basis. Looking back on my time there, the level of professionalism amongst everyone involved in the athletic department was truly remarkable. I remember one athletic trainer saying she was convinced a female on her period had everything to do with when they tore their ACL. So much so, that she had the wild thought of sitting athletes while they were on their period. “WHAT?!” I blurted out. If anyone told me that once a month (that’s 20-25% of my year) I would have to sit out from athletics on the off chance I’d tear my ACL I’d be picketed in the streets at the ridiculousness of the thought. However, with every crazy thought, there is some merit to it. If this athletic trainer who had been working at the university for over 25 years saw 90% of her athletes tear their ACL during that time of the month then maybe she was on to something. Before we ask the question of what we should do during that time of the month, let’s first explore the why behind how the menstrual cycle impacts a female’s chances of tearing her ACL.

The Impact of Hormones

When a female’s body goes through its menstrual phases, there are various hormones that get released at different times. These hormones are designed to prepare the body in case the female gets pregnant. Thanks to our extremely intelligent body, some of these hormones are designed to increase joint laxity so that the hip region can expand in order to carry a baby. These hormones don’t just increase joint laxity at the hips, they increase laxity throughout the entire body (including the knee). Researchers have found that ACL injury has been 2.7 times higher in women whose knee laxity values were more than one standard deviation from the mean. Thus, it would make sense that hormones that increase knee joint laxity would, therefore, put the female at a greater risk for knee injury. These hormones can not only increase joint laxity but also make an impact on muscle sequencing, muscle contraction, and muscle stiffness. Alterations to any of these will also increase the risk for an ACL injury. Some studies went even further into evaluating hormone concentration levels and found that females with 6.0 pg/mL of relaxin (a hormone that causes the cervix to dilate) were putting females four times more likely at risk for an ACL tear. Now, here is the interesting part; What about females taking oral contraceptives? As a refresher, oral contraceptives are used to ‘tame the cycle’ and their purpose is to suppress the release of certain hormones while you are on the pill so that you won’t get pregnant. Ready for the mind-blowing part? One study found that females taking oral contraceptives were 20% less likely to tear their ACL.  

Do we buy it?

After reading this information I was equal parts intrigued and equal parts questioning everything I was reading. The data and facts seemed to make so much sense! This is what the athletic trainer I had talked to in Alabama was talking about! However, there are still some major flaws in the research that need to get investigated. For starters, how was ‘joint laxity’ of the knee actually being tested for most of these studies? Researchers were using the Lachman’s test. The Lachman’s test involves a practitioner manually testing for laxity. Some issues that may arise with this test are 1. Laxity is subjectively measured by the practitioner, 2. The temperature of the individual or the environment could make an impact on the perceived laxity of the joint. When determining which part of the menstrual cycle an individual was at, some studies would simply base their conclusion off of a questionnaire as to, “When was the last time you had your period.” Although it is possible to accurately measure if someone is in the follicular, ovulatory, or luteal phase based on when they get their period, it is also possible that someone has inconsistencies in their cycle and will get their period at the ‘wrong time’ in terms of the appropriate time of the cycle. Based on these estimates is when researchers would determine what hormones were present the most during that time. However, some females don’t even ovulate causing the release of fewer hormones, others have inconsistencies that keep certain hormone levels extremely high. Regardless of these inconsistencies, future research should aim to test hormone levels based on urine, saliva, or blood work. Lastly, one of the biggest issues with the statement pertaining to oral contraceptives is that the types of oral contraceptives vary greatly. In fact, some oral contraceptives contain the hormone, estradiol which is said to be at its highest concentration when the incidence of ACL injuries are also highest. Other oral contraceptives instead only contain progesterone which some researchers claim to have the least impact on joint laxity. Future research should work on completing a study comparing the different types of oral contraceptives and their impact on ACL injuries.

Back to the first question, what do you do about playing time during that time of the month?

The answer here is simple. There is nothing we can do, yet. In the future, I see our collective understanding of this injury growing ten-fold. With it, the understanding of regulating hormones will be within our grasp and we will have a better idea of when an athlete is at greater risk of injury. That is what the professional in me says. The former athlete within me says that there is no way I will ever sit on the sidelines just because I have my period. Just like an athlete who has a knee deviation due to genetic structure, I will strengthen my imbalances tirelessly in order to mitigate my risk of injury. As a female, and as an athlete I understood every day I walked on the field that I was putting myself at risk for injury. I willingly accepted this risk and felt confident in my body because I prepared myself in the best way I could for battle. ACL risk will always be out there but with continued research, we can work to grasp a better comprehensive understanding of how to prevent this catastrophic injury from occurring.

WANT TO THROW HARDER?

The following article will discuss our belief as to how an individual can learn how to:

1. GET HEALTHY:

  • As the game of baseball has evolved a major point of emphasis for all pitching coaches has been how to increase velocity. Yet, as professionals, we should never focus on throwing harder if the athlete presents with pain or maladaptive movements.
  • Regardless of how familiar the coach is with the athlete, the first step towards any productive program should be a thorough movement assessment. This assessment must have the central focus of being investigatory and preparatory for the athletes future training applications.
  • Assess for:
    • Current injury state
    • Proper movement patterns (especially for shoulders, hips and ankles)
    • For adequate force production and force absorption capabilities
      •  i.e. strength & stability
    • Pitching mechanics (video)

2. ENGRAIN MECHANICS:  (through the use of medicine ball drills)

  • Through the lens of empirical research, the coaching staff at AW is currently evaluating how the utilization of specific medicine ball drills can improve mechanics and throwing velocity. 
  • The goal of this research is to suggest that a pitcher may not have to endure stressful off-season throwing programs to improve both mechanics and throwing velocity.

3. JUMP > 200 TIMES A WEEK:

  • The angular separation between the throwing shoulder and drive leg hip has been touted as providing up to 80% of the energy demand needed for effectively throwing a baseball.  Research has found that in order to increase this angular separation and aid in its energy transfer the pitcher must produce a significant amount of ground force through the drive leg and the landing leg at different points throughout the pitching sequence.
  • Jumping, especially unilateral in the horizontal and transverse planes, has very similar applicational elements to the actions exhibited in a pitch.  We have found that once we can get our athletes to the point of jumping over 200x a week their power outputs (tested on a Keiser machine) has drastically improved…so has velocity!

4. LIFT HEAVY THINGS OFTEN:

  • Force production is at the core of athletic performance!  Strength and conditioning principles are now well received by any serious athlete and/or coach and should be appropriately applied.

5. HANG FROM A BAR:

  • Often scapula kinematics, serratus anterior, lat and the all elusive lower trap strength are brought into the conversation when discussing the proper strength and functionality of a pitcher’s throwing arm.  When discussing how to enhance/strengthen these areas many of the exercises that come with the greatest applicable impact happen up on a pull-up bar.
      • Chin/pull-up variations (eccentric, weighted, etc.)
      • Kipping motion (no pull-up, knees-to-elbow)
      • Front lever variations
    • Inverted row variations

6. BECOME MORE ATHLETIC

    • For far too long it has been established that pitchers didn’t need to be athletes; they just needed to know how to throw the ball.  Thankfully this antiquated mindset is dying and dying fast as we see the emergence of physical specimens in our highest level of play.
  • An athletes ability to generate force is either compounded or limited by their ability to effectively transfer this force/energy.  Pitching is about kinematic sequencing, the accuracy of neuro-firing, and the resulting power output.  Being a better athlete (i.e. performing movements like change of direction, power cleans, bounds, etc.) will only aid in the quality and quantity of improvement in a pitcher.

7. NEVER RUN LONG DISTANCE

    • Long distance running is counterproductive to any athlete interested in improving power production, which as we learned earlier is a primary concern of every pitcher.
    • The energy demands, muscular requirements and power capacity of long-distance runners only replicate long distance runners, not most other athletes.  Just because the game is long does not mean the athlete needs mindless aerobic endurance to be able to withstand the duration.  The athlete needs to be able to produce an incredible amount of force approximately 100 – 120 times over the course of the game with short duration breaks in between each bought.  With approximately 12 seconds of rest between each pitch and no more than 2 seconds of work time that’s a 1:6 work to rest ratio with about 4 full minutes of work time.
  • Sprint & sprint often!

Pitching Performance Seminar Recap

This article is a review of a seminar in Boston, MA regarding improving pitching performance and injury prevention in pitchers.

A Review by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

What’s up AW geniuses. Recently Coach Brandon and I hopped in the car and drove up to Boston, MA to learn more about baseball pitching. If you know anything about Brandon or myself you’d know that neither of us played baseball. At least I have been involved in the realm having played softball my entire life (still, the art of overhand pitching is quite foreign to me). Brandon, on the other hand, has been invested in football – a far distance away on the spectrum of baseball pitching. With that being said, Brandon and I as strength and conditioning coaches have a responsibility to our athlete’s movements and needs. Many of our male athletes this fall are baseball pitchers, in particular those associated with the Male ALPHA pitching program that spans six months throughout the year. It is thus imperative that our entire staff become entrenched in the fundamental needs of our athletes in their sport and position. Not for just the interest of teaching them, but also so that we can support Coach Nick’s pitching program with an educated ‘think tank’ on these topics. After becoming aware of this pitching performance seminar with professionals such as Mike Reinold, Brent Porciau, and Lance Wheeler, it was a no-brainer to take the day to improve ourselves as movement specialists. The purpose of this article is to recap what we learned at the seminar, specifically Mike Reinold’s talk, in order to shed light on the new research being presented within the world of baseball pitching as well as continue to educate our community of professionals, athletes, and parents on the WHY behind what we do what we do at Athletes Warehouse. So, without further ado, enjoy the following recap:

Mike Reinold

Talk Title: Setting the Foundation

About the speaker:

    • Was a prodigy of Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, AL (insert link of Andrews clinic)
    • Won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox as their athletic trainer
  • Now works as a PT @ [Insert place of employment]

Key points on the rise of injury in the sport of baseball:

    • Since ’05-’08 the incidence of injury in baseball pitchers has increased 37%
  • There has been a 10x increase in youth injury rate
    • 193% increase in UCL injuries in New York from ’02-’11

So, why is this happening? There is more research going on about training, we all know not to ‘specialize’ in order to avoid an overuse injury yet we are seeing injuries go through the roof. What about velocity? In the last 10-15 years, the average velocity of an MLB fastball has increased from 85mph to 93mph. So, the question remains, are we in the velocity era of baseball pitching or the injury era of baseball pitching?

Reinold’s Facts about Baseball pitching injury:

  • Injuries correlate to 1 thing and 1 thing only: Overuse
      • By pitching <100 innings in a season, you can decrease your chance of injury by 3x
      • By pitching <80 pitches an outing, you can decrease your chance of injury by 4x
    • By pitching less than 8 months out of the year, you can decrease your injury rate by 5x

Important delineation: Is playing catch the same thing as pitching? NO. Overuse injuries are a combination of quantity and intensity. By having a catch with a friend every day, despite the quantity being high, the intensity is fairly low. Thus, having a catch will be exponentially less stressful than pitching with intent each day.

Creating a plan to solve the problem: A baseball pitcher has four aspects that contribute to their success: (1) Age & Maturity, (2) Arm Care, (3) Strength and Conditioning, (4) Mechanics

When taking into account all four of these aspects to managing a healthy and effective baseball pitcher, we can then begin to translate this model to other sports. Key takeaways: Always keep in mind the athlete’s physical maturity as well as psychological maturity, chronological age does not tell the entire story. You can be the strongest athlete in the world but if you lack the proper arm care you will only be generating tremendous force on a system that can’t handle or support the impact. Strength and conditioning is a necessity when it comes to developing any skilled athlete. With this industry, it is important to seek out individuals who are able to take a scientific based and professional approach to safely and effectively managing the youth athlete. Finally, mechanics which are governed by the world of physics, dictate the overarching principles that we teach for each pitcher to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.

Pitching performance is really important for pitchers. Pitching performance is cool. Pitching performance will improve your pitching performance while on the mound. Pitching performance can be improved by a variety of exercises that will improve your pitching performance. This guy talks a lot about pitching performance.

12 Exercises Your Baseball Pitcher Should Be Doing

Over the past few years, we have been lucky enough to work with some very talented baseball athletes (more exclusively, pitchers) and decided that we would share 12 exercises for pitchers that we feel have attributed too much of their progression with us.  The main focus of these 12 exercises is to challenge the athlete is all three planes of movement while closely looking at their shoulder and spinal stability.  Check out the videos and explanations of each exercise below and look out for future articles diving deeper into our affinity with each of these movements.

Exercise: THORACIC GET UP:

Set Up: Kettlebell, Dumbbell

Purpose: Strengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously requiring extensive squat musculature activation of the lower body. 

Execution: Drive the kettlebell straight up overhead. Ensure that the kettlebell, wrist, elbow, and shoulder are in a direct line with one another and that the shoulder is in external rotation. This external rotation should remain intact throughout the entire movement and will be aided by the lower trapezius stabilizing the inferior spine of the scapula. Begin the movement by looking up at the kettlebell and descending into a squat position while reaching the palm of your free hand to the floor. Lower body squat mechanics should remain normal. The end of the movement should have a straight line down through both arms to the floor.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed with a 3-second tempo countdown, 3-second tempo count hold, and a 3-second tempo count up. Use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as a guide for rep count and weight load.

Exercise: TRANSVERSE LANDMINE PRESS

Set Up: Landmine

PurposeStrengthen and improve stability and mobility throughout the shoulder, thoracic spine, and hips while simultaneously stressing hip internal rotation and external rotation demands similar to that of a pitching motion. 

ExecutionWith the left knee up and the right knee down, start with the barbell in the right hand. The shoulders of the athlete should be square to the front foot with the barbell rested in front of the right shoulder. The athlete should drive through their right knee and left foot in order to stabilize the body and press across their midline to their peak reach capacity. At the end of the movement, the athlete’s ear and bicep should be in-line.

Coaching Cue: The exercise should be performed at a steady and powerful rate up while being conscious to not over-reach the shoulder. Rotation and elbow extension should finish simultaneously. The eccentric portion should be performed at a slower and controlled tempo. 

Exercise: LOW POWER STEP UP

Set Up: DBs, Box (box height should be below knee) 

Purpose: Improve the power drive (knee and hip extension) on the front side leg. 

Execution: Begin with the front side leg on top of the box. Lift the foot on the box and then rapidly drive down into the box simultaneously extending the hip and knee. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise should be performed with powerful intent during each repetition. It should be performed on the front side leg only. 

Exercise: LATERAL SLED DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with rope/handle attachment

Purpose: Teach the athlete how to create and generate lateral power similar to that experienced during a pitching motion. The movement should be performed off of the drive leg in the direction that the athlete pitches from.

Execution: Begin the exercise with the handle in pitching arm hand. While stabilizing the shoulder, the athlete will then drive their back drive leg into a crossover motion across their front leg. This motion should be repeated rapidly with powerful intent off of the drive leg on each repetition. 

Coaching Cue: The athlete should work to achieve triple extension on their drive leg during each repetition while keeping their hips and shoulders squared.  

Exercise: SLED LEG DRIVE

Set Up: Sled with significant load

Purpose: Create massive extension through the front side leg and improve ground reaction force (GRF) with front side foot. 

Execution: The goal of each repetition is to decrease the time it takes for the athlete to achieve ground-foot contact and extend the hip and knee. The athlete should have their chest forward on the sled with an overloaded sled so that the only thing propelling the sled forward is the rapid leg extension. 

Coaching Cue: Each repetition should be aimed at a decreased time to knee extension.   

Exercise: BENT OVER HEXBAR ROW

Set Up: A hexbar inserted into a landmine with plate

Purpose: Lower trap activation while maintaining a more conducive elbow angle. This exercise will also activate the rhomboid, mid-trapezius and internal stabilizers needed to hold this position. 

Execution: The athlete should be centered in the middle of the hexbar so that the weight is evenly distributed around the athlete. This varies from a traditional bent over row as the weight is not solely located in the front. This even distribution will prevent excessive rounding of the back and will be easier to maintain a proper posture position. Additionally, this exercise varies even further from a t-bar row as the positioning of the plate and the angle of the hexbar prevent the athlete from over pulling and over-activating the upper trapezius muscle.     

Coaching Cue: This movement should be performed with a controlled tempo concentrically with a three-second eccentric tempo. Pausing at the end of the concentric phase prior to beginning the eccentric phase will be beneficial for reinforcing proper activation and positioning. 

Exercise: DB SOTTS PRESS

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: This exercise will put a great deal of stress on the internal stabilizers during shoulder flexion. It will demand and elicit one of the greatest needs for mobility and strength of the upper and lower body.  Lower trapezius activation will be necessary in order to stabilize the inferior spine of the scapula and prevent it from ‘winging’ during shoulder flexion. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells on their shoulders and descends to the bottom position of their squat. While still activating midline and internal stabilizers of the hip region, the athlete will then press the DB’s overhead. The overhead press should be achieved without significant changes to the squat position. 

Coaching Cue: This is a clearly incredibly difficult movement and should only be performed by an individual who is well-established and competent in the weight room (not just a great pitcher). The wrist, elbow, and shoulder should be directly inline with the bicep finishing next to the ear. The athlete should maintain proper spinal posture and midline activation throughout the entire range of motion of the press. A three-second tempo can be applied to the concentric, amortization, and eccentric phase of the movement. 

Exercise: DB POWER CLEAN

Set Up: DB’s

Purpose: Teaching triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. Demanding eccentric strength capabilities when catching the weight and teaching the athlete how to manipulate their lower body in order to generate power through their upper body. 

Execution: The athlete starts with two dumbbells at their side in a power hang position. While simultaneously and rapidly extending their hip, knee, and ankles they will thrust their weight upward in a straight line. Once the weight has reached the pinnacle of its height the athlete will then drop underneath the load and catch the DB’s on their shoulders in the same power position that they originally launched the weight from. 

Coaching Cue: It is important to pick an appropriate load that will tax the athlete enough to need to achieve triple extension. The athlete should avoid pulling the weight upward with their arms and instead launch the weight with their lower half. Additionally, the athlete should be catching the weight in a strong position and not being overmatched by the momentum of the load when landing. 

Exercise: SL ECCENTRIC HIP THRUSTER

Set Up: Barbell, bench

Purpose: Develop unilateral eccentric strength of lower half posterior chain musculature. Activation of the glute and hamstring. 

Execution: The athlete should find a comfortable position for their back on the bench with the barbell evenly distributed across their waist. The athlete will then raise the bar to full hip extension with two legs and eccentrically decelerate the weight using one leg. 

Coaching Cue: This action should be performed as a negative with a 3-5 second tempo downward. 

Exercise: HEXBAR DEADLIFT

Set Up: Hexbar

Purpose: Develop ground reaction force in the vertical direction. Develop strength through musculature of the posterior chain. 

Execution: This is a play on the traditional deadlift however the weight is now more evenly distributed around the athlete opposed to in front of the athlete. This will be more conducive for posture awareness while pulling heavy off of the floor. Additionally, for a throwing athlete who experiences difficulty with posterior shoulder activation, having the handles at the side of the athlete during this movement will allow for a better upper back and shoulder position throughout the entirety of the lift. 

Coaching Cue: This lift can be performed with a powerful and rapid rate during the concentric action and a controlled 3-5 second tempo during the eccentric phase. 

Exercise: KNEELING ANTI-ROTATION PULLDOWN

Set Up: Band attached at an overhead angle 

Purpose: Train the athlete to resist torque in order to generate torque. Teaching the athlete how to brace their midline and achieve separation between their upper and lower body.  This movement will require activation and stabilization of the front leg glute while also demanding stabilization of the hip internal and external rotators. 

Execution: With the right knee up, left knee down, the athlete will have two hands fastened around a band over their left shoulder. With straight arms and a braced midline, the athlete will then pull the band down toward the right knee, pause, and then return to their original position. The hips should remain square and the right knee should remain stable through the entirety of the exercise. 

Coaching Cue: This exercise can be performed two ways. It can be performed with a tempo pull down with a hold at end range of motion with a tempo deceleration on the way back or it can be completed as a negative with a coach pulling the athlete through the concentric phase and then completing a negative during the eccentric phase. 

exercises for pitchers is exciting because exercises for pitchers can help with throwing and staying healthy. Exercises for throwing are to keep the shoulder strong and healthy through these exercises for pitchers that are shown above. Exercises for pitchers can be lots of different types of exercises for pitchers. We really stress exercises for pitchers. when pitching you can get hurt but doing exercises for pitchers you may not. i personally like exercises for pitchers because exercises for pitchers are also fun. fun is good when doing exercises for pitchers.

‘To Do’ vs. ‘To Be’ in the New Year

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

Happy New Year AW Geniuses!

As the 2014 year comes to a close, I wanted to talk briefly about resolutions and setting goals being that this is the common theme during this time of year.

There are plenty of articles out there that explain, “10 Best Ways to Pick Your New Year Resolution”, “How to stick to your 2015 goals”, etc.

Regardless of what you plan to do, I challenge each of you to always have a ‘To Be’ goal vs. a ‘To Do’ goal.

The difference?

A ‘To Do’ sounds like a list of things you have to check off. Once you check off the list, the item that was once a burden on your list is now a thing of the past and off of your mind.

However, a ‘To Be’ goal is what will illicit true change in a person and lead to a more successful mindset.

It is important to understand and note that any achievement worth working towards is going to take a lot of time and an enormous amount of effort. I have been a part of many teams in the past and the number one thing that separated the successful teams from the rest was the team’s ability to ‘make payments’ in the present in order to afford a future goal.

For example: An athlete who is working toward making his or her varsity team in the spring must understand that in order to do this it does not take just a superior attitude and effort at the tryout. They understand that this level of effort and attitude must be present during every aspect of their life leading up to the tryout. At the beginning of workouts in the fall, this athlete might find it difficult to drag themselves to a workout or make good decisions come meal time. Although, after just a little bit of the athlete continuously working on being the best they can possibly be at all aspects of their life, they will all of a sudden recognize these ‘burdens’ or ‘chores’ turn from a ‘I have to go work out today’ to ‘I get to go work out today.’ Still, the athlete pushes their body past the point of comfort, listens to what their body needs (adequate sleep, water, and food) and before they know it the ‘get to’ turns into a ‘want to’.

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a team with this type attitude at Athletes Warehouse. Our staff does not view our duties in order for this company to run as a ‘job’ or ‘burden’ but instead as an enormous opportunity. Each and every one of us relish in the opportunity to coach athletes and pour our passion and knowledge from past experience into the facility and the athletes that come through our doors on a daily basis.

We promise to constantly challenge ourselves TO BE prepared, passionate, and diligent in every aspect of our lives. We will hold ourselves accountable to these standards as we welcome in the New Year and hope to continue helping others in our lives do the same.

Happy New Year to you all and we hope to see you soon!

Female Strong!

PURPOSE: To explain the importance of strength training for a youth FEMALE athlete and debunk myths that still exist about women getting ‘bulky’ if they lift weights.

POINTS OF EMPHASIS:

Strength training can and will prevent injury for female athletes.

How the perception of the female athletes is seen both in society and within themselves.

How a good coach can create confidence and a sense of empowerment.

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

Hello Research Geniuses!

What an eventful winter season we have had so far at Athletes Warehouse. Various athletes from different age groups, sports, and locations have flooded through the doors in an attempt to better themselves for their upcoming seasons. Having been an athlete my entire life, it has been especially gratifying to see the number of girls that train with us on a daily basis. It seems that in society today, the general consensus has been that the weight room is not a place for females and historically has been dominated by males. Except for recently. For various reasons (Crossfit, “Strong is the new sexy” campaign, female sports being televised more and more, etc.) it is more common to see women training and working out to be strong opposed to dieting to be ‘skinny.’

Now, in the strength and conditioning industry, the topic of ‘Will women get bulky if they lift?’ has been exhausted. However, I feel that this topic has not been effectively translated to our youth just yet. As our company slogan states, we are constantly pursuing new ways to redefine the youth training industry. Our goal is to continuously educated our athletes and our community as to why we do the things we do.  

The Importance of Strength Training for Females

There are several physiological reasons why a young female should strength train. Female athletes who regularly participate in sport and physical activity (specifically load bearing exercises) can show an increase in bone mineral density. This increase in density will likely lead to a reduced risk of bone fractures in sport or later in life (1). Another positive benefit associated with resistance training is the enhancement of ligament strength and load capabilities. With such an abundant amount of youth females suffering ACL injuries, this alone might be the most impactful benefit (2). In addition to the development of ligamentous strength, researchers have found that the poor development of a female athletes hips and hamstrings can lead to increased occurrences of valgus knee actions (3,4). Many researchers have pointed to valgus knee action as the more prominent mechanism which can lead to ACL tears.

What is surprising to most people is that this increase in strength is not necessarily due to muscular strength but neuromuscular strength.

Instead of the body building more muscle, the central nervous system will recruit muscle fibers at a more accurate and likely faster rate, thus increasing efficiency and overall strength.  A female athlete will decrease her risk of injury just by increasing her movement pattern competency and learning the proper way in which her body should be positioned when jumping, landing, cutting, accelerating, decelerating, etc (5).

Aside from the physiological benefits of strength training, females possess a huge advantage by gaining a psychological prowess.

Being a strong female athlete will EMPOWER you as a person.

In lieu of the Always, ‘Like a Girl’ campaign being aired during the super bowl, I’ve attached the commercial. There is so much to learn from this one ad about anyone who is in a position to influence a young female athlete. As a coach, teacher, mentor, etc, never forget that you could be THE NUMBER ONE biggest influence in that youth’s life. This is not a burden but however an extraordinary privilege and responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. It is something that we at AW take tremendous pride in.

Can I not lift as much weight? I don’t want to get bulky…

*Insert cliche comment about if I had a dollar for every time I got asked this* There are a number of reason why many people believe lifting weights will make a female appear ‘bulky.’ One of which is the comparison to guys or the ultra jacked females they may see in magazines and on television competing in body building or strong woman competitions. Among of the many hormonal differences between males and females, testosterone is one of the greater limiting factors preventing women from developing large muscle mass.  One of the biggest difference between males and females is testosterone. Males possess 15-20 times the amount of testosterone than females do.

Therefore, due to the lack of testosterone, when women strength train with resistance training they will increase their STRENGTH not their SIZE.

Proof this comes from various studies. One study in particular looked at 24 different women over a 20 week heavy resistance training program. Twice a week these women trained lower body exercises and saw significant increases in lean muscle mass and significant decreases in body fat percentage. With these changes, the females saw zero change in thigh girth (6). Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, so people who can simultaneously lose five pounds of fat and gain five pounds of muscle will weigh the exact same but will look, perform, and feel significantly different.

Having a higher muscle mass percentage will actually boost your metabolism at rest. So, although you might not burn as many calories in your lifting session as you maybe would a cardio session, you will continue to burn calories throughout the rest of your day after your strength training workout. Any time females begin to see muscles on their body it is usually due to a decrease in body fat rather than an increase in muscle size.

Understand that weight gain does not necessarily mean muscle growth. At Athletes Warehouse, our primary client is the youth athlete. Most of these athletes are in the middle of puberty and are not fully developed in their maturation levels. Due to this, many athletes both male and female will see increases in overall growth: height, weight, and strength due to natural developmental causes and not solely due to strength training done at our facility. It is also pertinent for our athletes to understand that their daily diet is most likely a bigger factor in an increase or decrease in weight than lifting alone.

So, remember girls, lifting heavy weights will not make you huge and bulky. Lifting heavy weights will make you strong, decrease your risk of injury, empower you as an athlete, and overall help make you a more confident, reassured and powerful woman!

Nichols, D.L., Sanborn, C.F., Essery, E.V. “Bone density and young athletic women.”  (2007). Sports Medicine. Volume 37, Issue 11, pp 1001-1014

Zatsiorky, V., Kraemer, W. (2006). ‘Science and Practice of Strength Training – 2nd Edition.’

Hollman, J. H., J. M. Hohl, J. L. Kraft, J. D. Strauss, and K. J. Traver. 2013. “Modulation of Frontal-Plane Knee Kinematics by Hip-Extensor Strength and Gluteus Maximus Recruitment during a Jump-Landing Task in Healthy Women.” Journal of Sport Rehabilitation 22 (3): 184-190.

Wild, C. Y., J. R. Steele, and B. J. Munro. 2013. “Insufficient Hamstring Strength Compromises Landing Technique in Adolescent Girls.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 45 (3): 497- 505.

Parsons, J.L. “Assessing and modifying neuromuscular risk factors for anterior cruciate ligament injury in female athletes.” (2014). Thesis. University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Staron, R.S., Malicky, E.S., Leonardi, M.J., Falkel, F.C., Hagerman, F.C., & Dudley, G.A. 1990. “Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women.’ European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 

being a female athlete is exciting.As a female athlete you can do female athlete stuff that only you can do.