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.

Recovery Routine

What can I be doing to aid in my recovery?

Recovery is as critical to performance as training itself. The idea of training is to provide the body with a stimulus or stressor. As the coach, the greatest training program is to provide an optimal amount of stress to the human system; meaning it is enough stimulus to push a strength/speed/power adaptation, however, it is not a stressor that is too large for the athlete to adequately recover from.

As a former athlete, and currently as an avid weightlifter, here are 3 tips I have found to aid in my own recovery:

    1. Sleep. Sleep is by far the most important thing to aid in my recovery. Find a routine. As an athlete, you crave structure whether you know it or not. I challenge all the readers to ONE thing and see if it improves sleep quality. Associate the bed with only sleep, that means only get into bed when you are ready to sleep. If you read, watch TV, do homework, find somewhere else to do it. This is trick that a psychology professor from my undergrad taught me and it has gone a long way. FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
    1. Nutrition. I am not a nutritionist, but here is what I found works for me. When I eat the same thing each night before bed it primes my body for my routine. It also is what I have found works FOR ME, to aid in my recovery. Since my freshman year of college, each night I have a whey protein shake in about 10oz of water, and a bunch of spoons of peanut butter. Again, FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
  1. My pre-bed Mobility total 10 minutes (all found in the athletes warehouse youtube library): 1 minute of couch stretch each side, 1 min of pigeon stretch each side, 2 minutes of frog stretch, 1 minute of t-spine foam roll, 1 min of QL foam roll, 1 minute of scorpion stretch. For the last time, FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

There are my three tips. Give it a go! As always, stay strong.

-Jack G.

WHY AM I SORE?

Why am I so sore after my workout?  What is soreness? 

Soreness means that you exposed your muscle to something it wasn’t familiar with. Essentially, we have to break your muscle down in order to build it up. Our team of coaches has thoughtfully and systematically planned out a way to do this with each athlete. Still, it is important to communicate your soreness levels with your coach.

Why is my soreness getting worse?

You’re experiencing something called, ‘DOMS’ known as ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.’ This typically happens when a muscle is stressed eccentrically or while it is lengthened. (Think: As you descend to the bottom of the squat or as you lower yourself in a push up).  With this type of training, the discomfort you feel from soreness may not occur until 24-48 hours after the workout is completed. In fact, sometimes the soreness begins to get worse after that 24-hour mark. You may be thinking, why are we doing this to you? Eccentric strength will lead to a greater increase in muscle mass and integrity of the muscle. And it’s not just your muscle that benefits too; your connective tissue that surrounds your joints will be strengthened by stressing your body eccentrically. Whenever you’re experiencing soreness and wondering why you’re putting your body through this, just remember that these are the types of movements that are going to protect you from injury and lead to greater overall strength and athletic gains in the future. 

Should I expect to feel this sore after each workout?

If you are experiencing extreme soreness after each workout that means the body is not adapting to the stimulus. There can be several reasons for lack of adaptation but our most comment culprit we see is infrequency in training (ie. One training session every two weeks or missing three weeks at a time). Trust us, we get how busy a young athlete can be with the various sports games and practices. However, it is important that if you begin training, you make a commitment to consistency. If consistency is not the issue and extreme soreness is still being experienced then there should be a further conversation with our coach about how you are feeling. From there, we can work out a plan to adjust so that your body can better adapt to the stress from training.

What about in-season? I don’t want to be sore or tired for my games.

Completely understandable! We don’t want your body sore for the games either. The off-season is when eccentric training will play the highest role in the workout program. Once the program advances, concentric effort and power become our main focus. Once an athlete is in their main season, we won’t be involving much eccentric strength work in order to avoid that particular muscle damage that causes soreness.

What do I do if I’m experiencing soreness?

The best thing to do with soreness, and I know it may seem counter-intuitive, is to get moving. Do not sit around all day. Go walk your dog, take a light jog, swim, bike, or jump rope. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just do something to get blood flow to your muscles. This increase in blood flow throughout your body will circulate nutrients to your muscles and help speed up the repair process. More times than not, after breaking a sweat and doing something active, your muscles will be less sore than they were before. 

-Cassie Reilly-Boccia

Why Are We Still Showcasing?

WHY ARE WE STILL SHOWCASING?

Over the past decade, I have had the opportunity to train some really incredible talents, mediocre talents, and athletes who have a love for a sport but just don’t quite express the talent necessary to play beyond the high school level in that sport.  The problem I see with this scenario is not the disparity in talent [because frankly that just makes me a better coach] it is the fact that all three of these athlete types are partaking in the same recruiting process.  On the surface, it is easy to see how this happens as the high-level talented athletes are likely getting recruited by the showcase company [as we need to remember these services are for-profit companies] to come to the event so they can draw the scouts [and will likely go for free]. The less talented athletes’ simply think the best course of action is to follow in the strides of the more talented, in an effort to achieve the same results.   Unfortunately, the wallets of the less talented athletes’ are where the profit lies for the showcase company, as they will likely pay full-boat for the event, and get about as much exposure as if they were playing in their backyard.

We need to flip the recruiting process on its head, but before we do so we need to provide a little disclaimer first!  If you have recruitable attributes, an above average arm [85+], speed [<4.8 – 40y], size [>6’3”], or above average power output [which means you probably have one of these other attributes, as well] than by all means the recruiting process is for you, showcase away!  If you do not…STOP GOING TO SHOWCASES! Parents the greatest lesson we can provide our young athletes is to ask them to be honest about their talents and make conscious decisions about either working on them or maximizing their current talent level.  Trying to protect them by insulating them from honesty only sets them up for inevitable let- downs and likely less intrinsically driven effort toward improvement.

If you are an athlete who does not possess these higher level attributes than you should be the one doing the recruiting, not the other way around.  Almost every college now offers a ‘skills development camp’, also known as a recruiting camp. These are great opportunities for the athletes who may be ‘smart players’, ‘gamers’, ‘students of the game’, to showcase their underlying attributes that may never get exposed in a round of batting practice or 5 ground balls taken at shortstop.  This creates a dynamic where the athlete can choose the colleges he wants exposure to and showcase more than just physical attributes [game knowledge, coachability, character, etc.].  The truest test for each athlete when deciding on a school is to have them ask themselves, ‘would I still want to be at this school if I wasn’t able to play my sport?’  If the athlete can answer this question with a yes then your recruiting process was a success…remember one way or another your paying for it!

-Nick Serio

5 Tips for Dealing with Adversity

5 Tips for Dealing with Adversity:

Here are our 5 tips for dealing with adversity we utilize with our current athletes:
1. Fake it until you make it – I always heard great athletes say they were confident all of the time. I had a hard time relating to this feeling because I was struggling so much at the plate. How could I be confident if I was striking out? I finally realized that I couldn’t always control my feelings but I could always control the way I acted towards adversity.  ACE – “Acting changes everything.” Therefore, I made a commitment to act confidently even when I didn’t feel like it, even when the adversity was overwhelming. I would ask myself, “How would the best hitter in the state of NY look like walking to the plate right now?” I’d try to act like that and then all of a sudden my feelings and internal environment began to change for the better, and the adversity seemed to wash away. I may have still been striking out but my perception of failure and success began to shift.
2. FEARLESS – I had this written in red expo marker on my mirror. Its meaning is similar to the idea of acting confidently. I asked myself how I would swing the bat if I knew I couldn’t miss? How’d I’d play on defense if I knew every ball was coming to me and I’d never make an error? I’d play with the absence of fear and then adversity would seize to exist. A feeling of invisibility that you see Bryce Harper play with when he swings the bat. I began to realize that I was able to possess this fearless attitude during practices but in games, it would shift and my nerves would take over as the
 rose. It suddenly hit me one day that the task at hand DOES not change from practices to games. What changes? Our fear of failure. For example: If asked to walk a plank that is on the ground, it would feel very simple and easy to hop on the plank and walk across. If that plank was instead suspended 500 feet in the air, we’d tremor and probably refuse to walk the plank. But what has changed? Our task is the same, the plank is not smaller, in order to accomplish the task it is still one foot in front of the other. The only thing that has changed is our fear of failing (ie. failing with the bases loaded and the game on the line hurts more than failing in the batting cage during batting practice).
3. Preparation breeds confidence: Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. Thus, making sure practice is of high quality and mentally taxing will lead to a better overall approach to hitting during stressful game situations. If practice is harder than games then all of a sudden the games seem easy and we gain confidence from that. For example: Practicing situational hitting, moving around in the box to practice faster/slower pitch speeds, visualizing striking out and then succeeding the next at-bat, practicing hitting off of a tee on the field and then running around the bases as if you just hit a double/triple/homerun – although some of it sounds like overkill, it is setting the brain and body up for victory. It is practicing that invisibility in the mind and helping condition our thoughts for success. Also, no one ever said they regretted working too hard. I found my confidence from my work ethic by hitting extra and training in order to improve. This way, when I finally got into the game, I was assured that I did everything in my power in order to be successful.
4. WIN – What’s Important Now. I used to have a rubber band on my wrist with the letters W.I.N. and it representing the phrase “What’s Important Now.” Whenever I felt my mind drift to the past or the future (ie. Thinking about my last strikeout or worrying about my next at-bat) I would lightly snap my rubber band and remind myself, “What’s important now? Stay in the present.” Our mind is capable of ‘time travel’ (thinking of the future and past) but our body is stuck in the present. In order to be successful, we must be in sync. Being that our body is stuck in the present, it is imperative to keep our mind there too.
5. Support System – Lastly, no matter what I tried to do mentally or physically, it wouldn’t have meant anything had I not had an unbelievable support system. Anyone from my parents, hitting coach, high school & travel ball coaches, teammates, friends, and family members. They ALL were there to support me regardless of how well I did. It almost seemed like they believed in me before I even believed in myself. Regardless of my failures they never lost faith in me and my ability. It is because of all of them that I am successful in anything that I do.
The keyword is 5 tips for dealing with adversity and 5 tips for dealing with adversity is the keyword, so we must keep talking about 5 tips for dealing with adversity in a way that will cause Google to see the words 5 tips for dealing with adversity and mitigate much of the 5 tips for dealing with adversity we face trying to get this keyword 5 tips for dealing with adversity seen. 5 tips for dealing with adversity is all about 5 tips for dealing with adversity that will illuminate 5 tips for dealing with adversity

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!

All about the Box Squat with Coach Gladstone

Recently we sat down with Coach Jack Gladstone to talk about the box squat. This movement has become a part of the foundation for training our athletes and we wanted to share the knowledge to the what, how, and why of this movement. Without further ado, enjoy learning all about the box squat:

How is the box squat different from a traditional squat? 

We use the box squat as both a learning tool and a strength tool. By using the box, especially with youth athletes, we are giving them a physical reference point to cue their hips to. By doing this, we reinforce a squat mechanic that is now primarily loading the hips and hamstrings. Many young athletes come to us either a) not having squatted before, or b) have reinforced a quad dominant squat with previous training. This can be seen by an individual who squats with a forward shin angle, failing to target the glute and hamstring properly.

How would you start someone who is starting to learn the box squat? How would you know when it was time to progress someone to the next level of a box squat?

We start box squatting with an athlete the second they are prepared to complete a simple bodyweight squat. Usually, we do this for the simple reason that it takes the thought of depth out of the equation and allows the athlete to focus on shin/knee and torso positioning. When beginning with an athlete, we teach them to squat to the box, touch the box, and then immediately stand back up. As an athlete progresses to understanding torso positioning and gains more strength through their hips, we tend to widen out their stance and have them perform a true pause on the box before standing.

What are the benefits of utilizing the box squat?

The box squat is beneficial because it requires the athlete to squat in a more hip and hamstring dominant position. By sitting back onto the box, pausing, then coming back up we are hitting multiple different goals at once. As said before, on the eccentric phase of the lift, the athlete loads their hips and hamstrings back onto the box. Having the athlete sit and pause on the box, it forces the athlete to again utilize the hamstring to stand up off the box. This pause will lead to greater movement proficiency, stabilization of the spine, and will reduce stress on the knee. It is important to note that this is not a movement to train the stretch-shortening cycle, but instead a foundational prerequisite to other explosive actions.

Why have you liked using it with your athletes? Is there a scenario where you would opt out of using the box squat?

I have continued to talk about hip, glute, and hamstring strength while performing the box squat. The reason why this is so important to young athletes because of the incredible amount of quad dominant individuals we see coming to Athletes Warehouse. As coaches, we try to immediately build up hamstring and glute strength to prevent very common quad dominant knee injuries during sport such as ACL Tears, Patellar Tendonitis, or Meniscus tears. Secondly, in our gym, we have seen a strong correlation with athletes who have built up glute and hamstring strength through box squatting report faster 40 yard dash times, 20 yard dash times, broad and vertical jump scores. All of these values have lead to an increase in sports performance while simultaneously protecting the body from injury 

When would you use the front/back / vs. safety bar? In this video you cued the safety bar – what exactly were you saying?

With a new athlete, we perform the box squat first with bodyweight, then progressing to a goblet squat (single dumbbell or kettlebell in the front rack position). From there, we generally prefer to progress the newer athlete into a barbell front squat position, however we leave a fair amount of wiggle room to progressing the athlete to the position they feel most comfortable in. Training in the video you see two athletes who are fairly advanced in our system. We utilize the safety bar during the session in order to challenge these two athletes through different stimuli. In short, the safety bar provides a different stimulus to a traditional barbell because of its design to load the athlete down the center of the body.

Take Home:

It’s important to think that this is not the end all be all of how we teach the squat. However, it is a tool that we use to progress an athlete who may have muscular imbalances or movement deficiencies. While it’s a great rehabilitation and learning tool it is also a great variation to progress a well-trained athlete to develop greater power production.

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.

A Letter of Thanks…

by Cassie Reilly-Boccia

So many of us ask each other what we’re thankful for around this time of year. As I sit and reflect upon all I have to be grateful for, I can’t help but find my mind circling back to our family of athletes at AW. With this being on my mind, I felt compelled to write a thank you note to our community who has meant so much to us over these last few years. So, without further ado…

Dear AW family,

Thank you for taking a chance on a warehouse in the middle of Pleasantville. Thank you for being willing to learn about the importance of strength and conditioning opposed to just accepting the previously established norms of training young athletes. There is a paralyzing amount of information on the internet that can lead to confusion beyond measure as to what the right thing to do in training is. Don’t for a second think that we don’t understand the enormity of you entrusting us with your dreams. It has become the greatest reward to watch you succeed in all that you do. Your success is our success and as Randy Pausch once said, “Sometimes, the, ‘Enabling the dreams of others’ thing is even more fun.” (If you haven’t read his book, The Last Lecture yet, I highly recommend it.) As each coach is a former collegiate athlete, we all couldn’t agree more and we would have never had a chance to experience this awesome feeling had you not handed over part of your dream to us when you first walked in the door.

Thank you for your appreciation. You have no idea how much a handshake at the end of a session or a simple, ‘Thanks for everything, coach’ means to us. Strength and conditioning is hard. Instead of resenting what is prescribed by your coach, you instead see the value and intent behind each exercise. Putting your body through physical discomfort in the short term in order to achieve a dream far off in the long term is the ultimate definition of delayed gratification. Seeing how you all appreciate and embrace ‘the suck’ of a workout during these fall and winter months shows a great deal of emotion and psychological maturity. Traits that will undoubtedly serve you well in all of your future endeavors.

Lastly, thank you for giving the effort you do on a daily basis. Your continuous fight when the weight gets heavy, push when your breath becomes short, and passion to achieve a level of greatness higher than the one you are currently at inspires us as coaches each and every day. It is because of your tenacity and grit that we are driven to work harder ourselves and aspire to become better coaches, mentors, teachers, athletes, and people. It is because of you that we go to sleep thinking about the program that will best suit you the next day. It is because of you that we wake up in the morning fired up at the opportunity to work with you. Lastly, it is because of you that we possess the most vital trait to leading a happy and fulfilled life: purpose. Thank you for giving us our purpose, defining our why, and making this the best ‘job’ any of us could have ever asked for. From our family to yours, we hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

What I learned at AW that helped me train on my own…

by Alessandra Ahlmen

I started training at Athlete’s Warehouse (AW) when it first opened in June 2014. Over three years later, I am still learning something new every time I have a session. Like most learning cycles, there came a time to put all of this knowledge to the test. For me, that test was moving to Sweden to play for Älta IF, a division 1 team in Stockholm. Upon arrival, I faced the challenge of training on my own without the guidance from a coach of motivation from my peers. Luckily, Coach Cassie was able to give me a training program to follow every day. However, having just a program of exercises is not enough, I had to learn to be my own coach and how to train on my own. I would not have been able to take this step had it not been for everything I learned at AW and training with Alpha*.

*Alpha is a group of driven female athletes that were grouped into a strength and conditioning program over the summer.

There are four main lessons that I took from training at AW that have made me a more self-motivated and aware athlete today. 

1. Challenging yourself

At Alpha, I was always challenged: someone I was working out with always ran a faster sprint, lifted a heavier weight, or had a more explosive first step. Everyone was striving to be the best at whatever we were doing regardless of sport, position, or talent level. On my own, I have to constantly monitor and remember to challenge myself: trying for a heavier weight, demanding a better sprint, or pushing to be more powerful than my last rep even when I begin to fatigue. Alpha’s competitive environment helped me hone a focused and driven edge that I can now use to challenge myself in all aspects of my life.

2. Rest

AW coaches and athletes (specifically Marina Kern) taught me to take short breaks—to push my limits and body in order to truly find out what I was capable of achieving. Marina probably wouldn’t even take any breaks if a coach didn’t make her. Now in Sweden, I have to be extra aware that I continue to do that even when I am by myself because there is not anyone here telling me to get a move on. It is really easy to slack off and take an extra minute, but AW helped me realize that a champion is made up of the minutes they trained, not the ones they rested.

3. Ego

I am sure most athletes at AW have had a coach preach their motto “leave your ego at the door” at them. Upon arrival, there’s a giant sign with the saying “Starve the Ego”– this theme at AW is hard to miss.

Being told to remove a plate, or lower a box jump is not fun to hear, and as a matter of fact, is sometimes annoying. However, as far as lessons go, this is an important one. Ego does not improve your 40 time or increase your max back squat, a smart approach to training does. On my own, I have to make the decisions to change something if my form is slipping. At times like that, I need to take a step back, ignore my ego, and remind myself that it is more important to do something properly rather than doing something with a big weight. It’s not about how much weight you move but how you move the weight!

4. Form

Speaking of quality technique, at AW, I always had a coach eyeing my every movement and making sure my form was no less than perfect. I learned each technique like the back of my hand before I added weight. I learned what “right” felt like. Having the coach’s corrections and tips during lifting was important because it taught me to identify technical mistakes as they were happening and correct them.

I am happy I learned all of this awareness because in Sweden I don’t have the luxury of someone keeping an eye on my form at all times. I know what it feels like to be doing something right and how to fix it if something feels wrong.

AW also taught me to take critiques and suggestions about my form openly; which has proved to be only a big help when alone. For example, just last Thursday I was doing hex-bar deadlifts, and one of the workers at the gym walked by and told me I wasn’t locking my back enough. Thanks to AW I had the proper growth mindset that let me take this in while also having the competence to put their advice to use.

Athletes should make it their mission to learn something new every time they train at AW. It’s actually pretty easy to do this even without trying. All of the coaches are full of knowledge and are just waiting to teach and help their athletes grow (I should know, I’ve asked more than my fair share of questions). I have yet to hear an answer or explanation that was not clearly backed up by extensive background knowledge and experience. Athlete’s Warehouse is like the world’s greatest library for fitness and biomechanics, and everyone should take advantage of it. I can’t wait to be back training and learning this December.

Being able to train on my own is great because it gives me the ability of being able to train on my own. If I don’t have a coach, being able to train on my own allows me to train on my own when I don’t have a coach.

From Athlete to Coach

This article is about Jack Gladstone’s experience in his transition from an athlete to a coach at AW, and how he was watched the culture of Athletes Warehouse grow and evolve.

A letter from a coach to current Athletes Warehouse athletes

by Coach Jack Gladstone

Before there was a physical presence of a building that we all know as Athletes Warehouse, the culture of Athletes Warehouse had been forming since 2012. A bunch of high school and college athletes training out of a barn in the middle of the summer (might I add with no A/C). Our equipment was limited to some barbells, kettlebells, and pull up bars. However, regardless of the conditions this group was wholeheartedly devoted to the training program under one of our coaches and owners, Nick Serio.

As an Athlete, training in the barn was tremendously important to my collegiate athletic career. As I look back, I’m unsure if I would have made it through four years of varsity lacrosse without it. I was becoming faster, stronger, more powerful, and more confident as an athlete. From the start of the summer of 2013 to the winter of 2015 my strength and power numbers skyrocketed. On paper, I was a completely different athlete. Every time I showed up to school after training for numerous weeks in that barn with Nick, I had the confidence that I was faster and stronger than the previous semester. Looking back at pre-training pictures from my freshman year, I hysterically laugh at the image I see. To sum up the image in short, I just looked like a kid that could use a cheeseburger. Since beginning my athletic transformation, I have achieved things that I would never have accomplished under my own programming.

As my college career ended, and I began coaching at Athletes Warehouse, I realized the most important thing that being one of the first Athletes Warehouse athletes had taught me. Sure I had learned how to squat, clean, and sprint at an elite level, which is all incredibly important, but above all else, I learned how to BE and ACT like an Athlete. I learned what it truly meant to be an athlete. These are the things that are important, beyond what your Pro-Agility time is. Without acting like an athlete, you’ll never even make it to the starting line. So here is my list of things I learned from athletes warehouse on how to BE an athlete.

  1. Be a good person. No matter how good you are at your sport, at the end of your career if you didn’t take time to strive to be a good person you’re going to look back and no one is going to be standing there with you.
  1. Put the right things in your body. If you’re one of our athletes here and you are still unsure of what, when, and how much to eat before and after your training session, please go see Tim.
  1. Wherever you may be training or practicing, never give your coach half an effort. With the attitude that the Athletes Warehouse coaches put forth to me and every other athlete that comes through the door, the athlete should supersede that.
  1. Do not be afraid to identify and attack a weakness. It does not matter whether it is attacking physical weaknesses but also lifestyle and habitual weaknesses.
  1. To the the College and High school kids, be a good athlete, be an even better student. Just like all those coaches who put in time and effort over the years to develop your skills on the field, think about how many teachers invested years in developing you into the well-educated individual you are today.
  1. When you’re having a bad day, whether it be on the field, in the classroom, or in the weight room, make it only your bad day. Understand the impact that your attitude can have on others.
  1. Lastly, understand your “WHY”! Take the time to think about why you are playing the game. In my honest opinion, most athletes that I coach here originally do not come here with a “why”. I believe when a coach helps an athlete to understand their “why”, they unlock a whole new motivated machine. An athlete who is performing exercises without a purpose is just working out. An athlete who is exercising with a purpose is training. An athlete must understand this in order to put forth an effort and approach to each training day that is going to continually progress them to a higher level in the sport or skill that they are trying to enhance.

To all the AW Athletes out there, this is my message to you. As a former AW Athlete, turned AW Coach, I hope to see more of the same in the future. As someone who has been an Athlete and Coach here, I can wholeheartedly say that this program develops young athletes in a different way. I am so envious of the early exposure that our younger athletes have to our program because I am incredibly grateful for what AW provided me. The future of the AW athlete is extraordinary. I am honored to be a part of the process and I am humbled by the incredible athletes that I coach on an everyday basis.

The Culture of Athletes Warehouse is Cool. The Culture of athletes warehouse is awesome. The culture of Athletes warehouse, which some refer to as the culture of athletes warehouse, is world renowned for being the culture of athletes warehouse.

12 Strength Exercises Your SPRINTER Should Be Doing

This article provides twelve exercises to improve sprinting speed in athletes, as well as other information regarding how to sprint faster.

by Matt June

Stiff Leg Deadlift

This exercise is very specific to sprinting as we are eccentrically loading the hamstrings/glutes and quickly driving up through hip extension.  Beginners to this exercise start lighter and progress this movement.  Use a tempo on the way down (3-4 seconds) and drive up fast by extending the hip to meet the bar at the top. 

Wide Stance Box Squat

Setting a box just below parallel (an inch or two), complete this exercise with a wider stance than you normally squat from.  Be sure to sit back to the box and have your knees slightly behind your toes.  By doing so we are now squatting properly and using our glutes and hamstrings to drive out of the bottom.  This exercise is tremendous for teaching how to squat properly but you are now working on two major muscle groups vital to sprint performance.  Use this exercise as a staple and keep your reps between 2-4, staying between 70-80% of your 1 RM.

90 degree Front Squat

We want to load this between 75-85% of 1 Rep Max and the focus is moving the weight fast out of the bottom position.  We’re calling this “90 degrees” only to imply that we are not getting to the very bottom of our squat.  Unlike the Wide Stance Box Squat, our focus here is the leg extensors (quadriceps) and the concentric action of the squat.  At the same time, we are using the stretch-shortening cycle to quickly reverse eccentric to concentric action (same as in a sprint).  Bar speed is more important than weight on the bar for this exercise.

Hip Thruster

We use this exercise specifically for hip extension and we can achieve both power and strength with this movement.  Specific to sprinting this is an exercise that will improve the acceleration phase of our sprint (where the majority of athletes will spend the most time in their sport)

DB Walking Lunge

Specific for sprinting, this exercise is great because of multiple things going on at once.  One we have a single leg exercise, we are moving in the horizontal direction, we have to decelerate on the way down, accelerate as we come up and drive forward to the next step.  By using dumbbells we now have a stability aspect, not allowing our torso to move side to side. 

Single Leg DB Calf Raise

One of the most forgot about exercises for sprinters / all athletes.  This industry dwells on the hamstring and quad for knee health yet we always forget whats underneath the knee…the calf.  This is just one example of a calf exercise you can easily do with little equipment.  Plain and simple you need to train the calf, every other day. 

Heavy KB Swings

Heavy, challenge yourself with weight for this exercise (when our form and technique is perfect and ready to use heavier loads).  Very similar to the Hip Thruster, except this exercise is now standing and we can work on horizontal power.  Again, we are working on decelerating load and accelerating load (Sprinting). 

Heavy 1 Arm KB Walks

A simple exercise that can easily be done incorrectly.  We are doing this for anti-rotation purposes.  In sprinting our torso must avoid rotation as we are trying to move in the horizontal direction.  With this exercise, we can work on just that and can be down as a superset with another big exercise from this list. 

Heavy Sled Towing

If you are going to take away any exercise from this list, take this exercise.  Start lighter and progress the weight, dragging for sets of about 50-80 yards.  When you are towing make sure you have a slight lean of the torso (acceleration/start phase) and you are making contact with the ground behind your hip.  This exercise is phenomenal for acceleration and really should be done with all athletes.

Weighted Sled Block Starts

This exercise is more specific to sprinters coming out of blocks but it can still be done with athletes struggling to stay horizontal in their first few steps of a sprint.  The load does not need to be too heavy, we need to be able to fire out of the blocks and drive the sled about 5-10 yards (no further).  This exercise is concerned with our initial first step and staying aggressive for our 2nd,3rd,4th,5th…etc.  Do this exercise as a warm-up or superset with a barbell exercise from the list. 

Plyoball Hamstring Curl

Plyoball or machine we need to be doing leg curls.  Focus on the eccentric portion (about 3-5 seconds to return to the starting position).  The reason we like the plyoball is because now you have a stability aspect and you have to control your whole body while completing the leg curl.  Superset this exercise with the squat or use right before the squat. 

Reverse Hyper

The all mighty exercise for everyone, not just athletes.  We get therapeutic and strength sides of the same exercise.  Therapeutic – we are getting spinal traction or decompression (relieving pressure of the spine), this is the eccentric component.  The Concentric component of this exercise works the entire posterior chain at the same time.  We have hamstring, glute and back extension all at once.  This is not only an exercise that can help you become faster, this exercise is just as important for injury prevention. 

I want to know how to sprint faster. You want to know how to sprint faster. We all want to know how to sprint faster. I was curious as to how to sprint faster, can you teach me how to sprint faster?