Practice and Training are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.
Every baseball team and player practices, but not all of them train.
Let me explain what I mean…
Practice is what we universally call anything that involves throwing, hitting, throwing a bullpen, taking ground balls and fly balls, etc.
Practice is defined as, “Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it”.
Most practices are just designed to engrain or imprint a player’s current level of skill, so they can just perform that skill more routinely.
The issue is that this is often the only development a player receives. There is little or no portion of their time dedicated to training.
Training is defined as, “The act, process, or method of one that seeks to improve skill, knowledge, or experience in a certain area”.
Training would be things like working to increase bat speed, throwing velocity, running speed, fielding range, etc.
Practice is applying what you learned. Training is learning how to improve something or do something new.
Practice is about getting enough reps in so you can perform your skill instinctively. Training is about being able to perform that skill better than you could before.
Practice is about successfully performing a skill over and over. Training is about pushing until you fail.
Practice is often about looking good. Training often looks ugly.
Practice is often about being efficient. Training is about improvement.
Practice is often the same old routine. Training is about change and adaptation.
Understand that top-level players train, they don’t practice.
So please don’t mistake practice for training, but make sure every rep of every drill or exercise is working towards improving.
Until Next Time… Keep Getting After It!
At The Texas Baseball Ranch®, we can help you determine the specific areas you need to focus on in you’re training.
We have three dates remaining in our 2018 Summer Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp schedule.
Learn more about these exciting, information packed 3-Day events at
If you’d like to spend more time with us this summer, check out our Extended Stay Summer Intensive Program.
It’s typical …
and it’s highly ineffective.
According to Bosch, one of the world’s most preeminent experts in skill acquisition and motor learning science, “The body shows remarkably little interest in what the coach has to say.”
That’s because when learning and refining movement skills, a couple of truths exist.
First, you cannot repeat a movement. Every repetition will result in a subtle deviation from the previous trial. “Repeatable mechanics” are a unicorn! Instead of being a guy who “repeats” his mechanics, you should strive to be a world class, in-flight adjuster to the deviations you make. And those adjustments have to occur subconsciously — without thought. You see, when we measure the amount of time it takes for a neurologic impulse to travel from the brain to the muscles and back up to the brain again, it becomes clear that there isn’t enough time for any adjustment in the pattern to occur by way of conscious thought.
Our players are required to perform skills that don’t allow time for thinking. Therefore, we can no longer continue to coach them with methods that demand conscious thought all the time.
“On your next pitch, I want you to focus on …”
“Ok, on this one, you need to think about …”
“When you get right here in the motion, you need to concentrate on …”
Listen to us!! Can we please stop? There’s no time for thinking, or focusing, or concentrating!!
Trying to enter a motor learning domain via a cognitive input is a futile endeavor. If words, verbal cues, and cognitive thoughts are the primary means of coaching, they can interfere with learning and erode performance.
When you were a baby, and you learned to walk, we couldn’t use verbal cues to teach (thank goodness). Instead, we used one of the six different motor learning techniques we use at The Florida Baseball Ranch® to elicit the necessary movement pattern. we created a safe environment and gave you a goal — “Come to mommy (or daddy)”. Then we let your infinitely intelligent body self-organize until you accomplished that goal.
We get banged on a lot about self-organization. Critics call it “FIO (figure-it-out) coaching” and when they do, it shows a gross misunderstanding of skill acquisition and motor learning science. Self-organization is far more complex than traditional explicit, verbal cue-laden coaching. It requires a lot more creativity and thought than “TWT coaching.”
Here’s an infographic showing some the various ways we can influence a movement pattern without using verbal cues.
Choosing and executing the right technique, on the right athlete, at the just the right time, and under just the right conditions — that is the art of master teaching.
This is what I’ll be speaking on at The Florida Baseball Ranch®/Dutch Baseball Skill Acquisition Summit on Sep 8-9. I’ll be joined by several of the leading skill acquisition scientists and the most progressive thinking coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers in the business. The scientists will lay out the theory and the coaches will show you exactly how you can implement it into your practices.
It will be the first time ever that skill acquisition science will be applied specifically to baseball on such a grand scale.
We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®
Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch®
First we must ‘know what to do.’ Many of us simply don’t know the many possible steps to becoming a more athletic, explosive and durable pitching athlete. We flounder around dabbling in long toss, long distance running, weight lifting, hiring a personal pitching coach, throwing our weekly bull pens, trying to tweak our mechanics…hoping beyond hope that when we wake up one morning in February…we will have gained 7 mph and are now a stud and heading to DI or the draft board.
Unfortunately, for the vast, vast majority of pitchers, said program isn’t the final click in the combination lock which is constraining all that untapped potential they were searching for. The conventional paradigm is just more of the same.
As we say EVERY DAY at the Ranch,
“If you do what everybody else does, you’re going to get what everybody else gets…which isn’t much.”
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always have gotten…and how’s that working out for you?”
Although that makes perfect sense to 95% of the population, still there is the seductive thought that you could still be one of the rare ones who is exempt from such maxims.
My comment to my son or daughter when they appear to be seduced down that slippery path of hoping to be exempt from the rules the rest of us have to follow: Even if you are one of the lucky ones and are truly blessed and gifted…you know in your heart, true success is long term. It’s sustained and built over time. It’s not a one shot thing. Look at people who win the lottery – 84% of those winning the lottery will be back to their original state in 10 years. They never learned or developed the discipline it takes to keep winning. So even with their gifts or incredible blessings…they simply couldn’t sustain it. On the other hand…work your way incrementally to becoming a millionaire…they can take your millions away…and in time…you’ll make your millions back. Maybe no better case may be made for ‘knowing what to do…and then actually doing what you know’.
Then we must ‘Do what we know.’ The ultimate success of students here at the Ranch inevitably comes down to how well and how often they do what they know.
Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes true power only when the knowledge is followed by action.
That’s why I always seem to return to the ‘burning desire’ component. For most of the young men I run across…they are interested in getting better…they hope they get better…they’d really like to get better. But it is not a burning desire for them. And in that case, no theory, no information nor any technique will be the ultimate answer.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
If you have that burning desire, The Texas Baseball Ranch® is the place for you! We’ve got a couple different options for you this summer.
Come for 3 days or stay for several weeks…
Our 2018 Summer Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp dates have been set.
Learn more about these exciting, information packed 3-Day events at
If you’d like to spend more time with us this summer, check out our Extended Stay Summer Intensive Program.
Hey guys! I wanted to start a series of blogs digging a little deeper into the human anatomy. Do not freak out though! I will make it easy for anyone to understand and be able to get something out of it.
First I want to tell you real quickly why I am doing this. Here lately the numbers of studies on baseball and sports have dramatically increased, and while I have no problem with studies, I just am not sure if all of these are really helping you get better. I wanted to present things from an anatomical or body perspective. We have a good grasp on the muscles in the body and how they work. This hasn’t really changed much in the last few years if not longer. I wanted to present something to you that would be simple enough that you can implement today to improve your performance! Do not get me wrong, the body is not simple by any means, but there are some ways to start and advance from there.
Now let’s talk about the Gluteus Medius. It can be found lateral aspect of the upper buttock. It is responsible for abduction and medial rotation of the hip. Hip rotation is critical in creating power in rotational athletes and also serves as a way to stabilize during other activities or sports.
Here are a few examples on how coaches train this with their athletes:
Exercise Band Activation: Band just above the knee. Knees are forced outward in order to gain tension in the gluteus medius. Wes Johnson presented this at the ABCA where he stated he tried to implement this with as many drills as he could like wall ball series, squats, hip bridges, clams, and etc…
Donley Hip Spin: This is different than most products because it actually places the tension on hip and not the waist. It also works unilaterally so the athlete is not able to compensate.
Pummel Ball Throws: This incorporates and integrates the full body while still keeping the primary focus on hip rotation. The ball tosses are commonly referred to by Eric Cressey, Lee Fiocci, and others as a great way work on full body rotation and power transfer. The pummel ball is ideal for this as it was made to be slammed into walls or the ground and is very durable.
These are just a few exercises that can be used to activate and strengthen the Gluteus Medius. It may be important to stretch or work on tissue quality in this area as well. This is why you should consult with your instructor or therapist to make sure you are getting the right balance of strengthening, stretching, and tissue maintenance.
Hopefully this gave you an insight to a powerful muscle utilized in rotational activities, and showed you how some of the greatest strength conditioning coaches train this in a holistic approach. As I stated before, one muscle is not everything, but it provides and good basis to start with and advance further. Make sure to tune in for the next video for another look into the anatomy of the human body.
Remember to be unique And
The competitive baseball universe is very akin in many ways to our Western Culture at large, trends and fads are always in motion. As we all know from life experience, trends and fads simply come and go. In 2018, ‘weighted balls’ and velocity enhancement programs are decidedly in vogue. Even as I travel around the world to places like Italy, The Netherlands and Australia, I see weighted ball programs coupled with their promises of fantastic jumps in velocity. If you are a relative newcomer to the world of competitive baseball, you may not be aware that this was certainly not always the case.
In 1993, I started my first instructional academy in Langley British Columbia, Canada. For nearly the next 10 years, the utilization of weighted balls was decidedly not mainstream. Although a couple of very unique places were utilizing over-weighted implements, the baseball universe at large was decidedly against the use of anything other than a regulation baseball for throwing. The process of throwing balls weighing more and/or less than a regulation baseball was almost universally thought of as risky, perilous, crazy, fraught with danger and an exponential increase in the risk of injury.
Today, 2018, weighted ball velocity enhancement programs are commonplace on the internet, at high schools, colleges and in instructional academies across the country. Today it seems everybody has a velocity enhancement process. That represents a significant change in the training culture in just 25 years. That’s great news, right?
The answer, yes and no. We’ve obviously come a long way in reducing our irrational fear of a simple tool. That’s a good thing.
On the flip side, hardly a week goes by that we don’t get an email or a phone call at the Texas Baseball Ranch® saying something along the lines of, “Our son has never had arm trouble before and this last offseason/month/week etc. his trainer/coach put him on this new weighted ball program… and now he is hurt/out and needs surgery. We heard you are the ‘supposed’ weighted ball/arm health people… why is this happening? Is this common? What do you suggest going forward?”
Randy Sullivan at the Florida Baseball Ranch also gets regular questions along these same lines. As we also know, typically, for every call or email you receive there are many, many more who have similar issues but are not calling or are calling someone else. Suffice to say, with all the new velocity enhancement programs out there today, arm injuries are on the increase and weighted balls are, in our opinion, often getting an unfair bad rap.
From Randy Sullivan- Florida Baseball Ranch,
“We field 3-5 calls per week from parents of players ranging in age from 12-24 who most often have tried a mail ordered, one-size-fits-all weighted ball program and are now experiencing arm pain. It’s sad really, for many it was their first attempt at improving their ability to throw and they often regret trying the cheapest, simplest route. One-size-fits-all anything often becomes a dangerous shortcut.”
Let me start by giving you a short history of the Ranch’s utilization of weighted balls and possibly assist people in understanding the role that a well-designed weighted ball program can play on arm health, durability and performance.
Weighted Balls Are Simply a Tool. They are NOT a Panacea or a Quick Fix for Anything. They Can Be Beneficial, or They Can Be Utilized Inappropriately and Have Deleterious Effects.
The Ranch History of Our Utilization of Weighted Balls
In 2002, inspired by the work and research on weighted bats by Dr. Coop DeRenne, we began in earnest using underload and overload principles in the training of our throwers. In other words, we began utilizing weighted balls. We started with 3 weights: a one-pound ball (16 oz),1/2-pound ball (8 oz) and an underload ball (4 oz). The balls we used were called ‘D-Balls’. They were a hollow yellow rubber ball and filled with a type of black graphite with a black cork stopper. I’m not even sure if they even make them anymore. The balls simply were not very functional for the punishment we were placing them through.
Eventually, Mr. Robert Oates of Oates Specialties began to work with us to customize the balls to withstand the rigor in which we took them through. That evolution and innovation between Oates Specialties and the Ranch remain constant even today.
It is important to point out that the baseball universe even in 2002 was much different than the one of today. In 2002 we were seen, of course, initially as heretics, crazy and dangerous in using weighted balls in any matter, shape or form. We were regularly excoriated publicly on websites, message boards and blog posts for our ‘reckless’ behavior and ‘placing the athletes in our care at unnecessary risk just to gain a few miles per hour’.
In hindsight, all this scrutiny was actually a blessing. Every day when we went to work we had no doubt that the world was watching, just waiting to pounce on our ‘dangerous’ and ‘ineffective’ training methods.
Several times I actually had rather influential baseball people get me in private and say, “Ron, just between you and me… off the record… how many TJ’s did you have at the Ranch?” Apparently, many people thought it impossible that we could do both… arm health/durability AND performance enhancement.The baseball universe at that time simply believed it impossible to thread the needle between those two outcomes.
Ah Ha #1. Prehab vs. Rehab
The first thing we did was make weighted balls initially the cornerstone of our Arm Care Program. We didn’t race to velocity enhancement initially because quite frankly we didn’t know what we were going to find, so we started slowly with arm care.
By that time (2002) I had attended for several years in a row the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference in Birmingham Alabama. The impetus of the conferences was not performance enhancement; however, I found the symposiums to be exceptional on the topic of rehabilitation. Strangely enough, in the area of ‘rehab’ there appeared to be widespread acceptance on the use of weighted poly balls and rebounders.
It occurred to me…THIS is exactly where we are going to begin with weighted implements. Weighted balls would be utilized first as a prehab/arm car process allowing our athlete’s soft tissue to first become accustomed to the stimulus/load and then… after a period of assessment… see where we go after that.
Ah Ha #2. The Reformation-The Engineer and Pushing the Performance Envelope.
In 2003, we invited a man by the name of Paul Nyman to speak at our Coaches Boot Camp. He was an engineer with a track background but a love of baseball. He gave two presentations that fundamentally and forever changed the way we trained at our facility. For several years we had been in search of a training process that rejected the conventional paradigms and antiquated, ineffective training methods. In Paul Nyman we found exactly that.
Paul Nyman gave us a new paradigm and a new perspective. We referred to our personal iteration of Nyman’s dynamic systems paradigms as “The Athletic Pitcher Program”. Even publicly, I have long described Nyman’s work as essentially the ‘Reformation’ in baseball training. Today, Nyman remains the single greatest outside influence upon the Ranch and its fundamental training processes in our history.
In 2003, Nyman proposed the unthinkable. He offered a structured, incremental weighted ball throwing program coupled with radar as objective feedback. To Nyman and his engineering/ track background, it was basic common sense. To the baseball elite, it was heresy.
Ah Ha #3. Deceleration Is as Important as Acceleration
Dr. Mike Marshall won the National League Cy Young Award in 1974 and set a Major League record for most appearances by a relief pitcher in 1974, appearing in a mind-blowing 106 games. He is the holder of two Major League records, both of which he set in the 1974 season: most appearances (games pitched) in a season (106), and most consecutive team games with a relief appearance (13). In his record-setting 1974 season, he pitched 208.3 innings, all of which came in relief appearances.
Those statistics alone should force any logical trainer/coach/athlete to sit up and take notice and to ask questions. Dr. Marshall endorses a very unique movement pattern that in many ways is the antithesis of the current orthodoxy. Many people simply could not grasp his nonconventional approach and/or Dr. Marshall’s often bombastic and acerbic manner.
We brought Dr. Mike Marshall in as a keynote presenter to our annual Coaches Symposium and just as advertised, he challenged the status quo and turned the preverbal instructional apple cart upside down, taking no prisoners with regard to his absolute disdain for contemporary methods of pitcher development. In our opinion, Dr. Marshall made a very compelling argument giving evidence that not only were the current standard training processes ineffective, in fact, they were complicit in the influx of injuries and surgical interventions.
While Dr. Marshall had very, very few complimentary things to say about our training or our approach, we in turn learned a great deal from him regarding the critical importance of systematically preparing soft tissue for the rigors of pitching in competition, as well as the often-overlooked nature of the efficiency of an athlete’s pattern of deceleration.
Dr. Marshall was the first person we ever heard articulate the connection between deceleration and acceleration, “The body and arm will only accelerate itself as efficiently as it can decelerate itself.”
So, from Dr. Marshal we took two very critical pieces to our current training protocols:
#1) That our process of preparing our athlete’s soft tissue for throwing needed to be far more robust than our previous methods.
#2) That the efficiency of our athlete’s patterns of deceleration not only matters with regards to health, durability and recovery but also are influential with regards to velocity enhancement.
In other words, if my soft tissue isn’t sufficiently prepared for the push or my pattern of dissipating energy and slowing down my arm is inefficient, a velocity enhancement program almost certainly needs to be postponed until those areas are adequately addressed, or injury will all too often be the result. At the very least, any efforts at velocity enhancements will be constrained or hampered if these areas are deficient.
Unfortunately, this description of inadequate preparation of soft tissue and/or inefficient patterns of deceleration is far more common than most people think. It’s yet another reason young men get injured while embarking on a velocity building program. In our opinion, weighted balls too often serve as a diversion to the root contributors of injury. Ah-Ha #3 is a classic case in point.
Ah Ha #4. Start with the Pain and Hyper-Personalize
Fresh off the presentations of Paul Nyman and Mike Marshall, we began to experiment with weighted balls as a velocity enhancement process. However, we did so with two crucially important caveats:
A. The athlete currently does not have arm/shoulder/elbow issues
B. The athlete had a minimum of 6 weeks throwing weighted balls in our arm care process
If the athlete passed out of that basic 2 step criteria, they were eligible for our initial velocity enhancement process. We referred to this process as “Starting with the Pain”.
As an important side note, every single session would end with an arm health self-re-assessment. In other words, when each athlete would finish a session, we would immediately check with them on the status of their arm. If they rated their discomfort as a 4 or higher, they would automatically be withheld from the next scheduled session until their arm health returns to normal. If, at any time during the session, their arm discomfort rises above a 4 on a 0-10 scale or anything feels odd or strange, they were to immediately suspend their training session.
This basic process remains standard operating procedure almost 15 years later.
First- always prepare the soft tissue for 4-6 weeks prior to our initial push.
Second- closely monitor every athlete’s arm health each session and adjust their processes based on the individual.
Third- never hesitate in delaying or suspending the process if the arm is not responding well. Learn to train your pitchers to be intimate with their arm and understand that some days it is simply time to shut it down and decide to fight another day. In other words, if you’re ‘not feeling it’today, many times the right call is to suspend your push for today and come at it again later in the week or the next week. Injury will certainly place a REAL delay in your development. It is never a good idea to push to the point you become injured.
Ah Ha #5. Mechanical Efficiency (Connection) Matters… A lot
In 2005, I watched a sports medicine TV program about an orthopedic doctor who specializes in treating world class elite long-distance running athletes. His comments regarding injuries in this very specific population of athletes really resonated with me.
He basically said that most doctors treat the injuries to elite long-distance runners from a faulty paradigm. This was the gist of his comments:
Of course, world-class distance runners have incredibly high workloads, that’s the very reason why they are world class, so if your instinct is to treat the injury primarily or exclusively by the simple reduction of their workload, you will be of little practical use to your athletes. They run, that’s what they do. They run a great deal and that’s why they are elite.
Instead, he urged the doctors to look deeper and closer, and not be so plastic in their perspective. Elite long-distance runners are far from normal. Therefore, he concluded a conventional approach to injury reduction for the general population will not typically be beneficial to the elite long-distance runner.
If, he argued, the elite runner has an inefficiency in his running form or their shoes do not fully support their feet, under any considerable workloads of course injury is eventually going to often be the result. Therefore, he proposed, in many cases, the workload was only a symptom or an ancillary contributor to injury and not the cause itself.
For example, if a runner actually ran on the side of his/her feet, would managing his/her workload be a sufficient solution? The obvious answer is absolutely not. Reducing his/ her workload may delay the final breakdown but would do NOTHING toward a solution. The only solution would be to improve the efficiency in which he runs.
That made absolutely perfect sense to me. Applying this orthopod’s logic to throwing athletes, it became obvious to us at the Ranch that mechanical efficiency also really matters when it came to deciding who was approved to take part in our velocity enhancement programs. Over the past 12 years, we have identified 12 primary movement pattern disconnections that have the potential to add stress to soft tissue.
So, when we initially assess athletes and find a significant level of one or more of the 12 disconnections, coupled with arm pain or difficulty recovering from throwing sessions, that indicates to us that we must first reduce the disconnection, reduce the discomfort of the arm and increase their ability to recover and bounce back before we throw them into a velocity enhancement program.
To us at the Ranch, this simply is common sense. If I have some arm discomfort on a regular basis currently and NOW I’m going to really ramp up the stress, load, and intensity, why should I be surprised when injury or shut down is the result?
Bottom line: In our opinion, this is one of the most common reasons so many young arms are injured from weighted ball programs and velocity enhancement programs. They are already on the edge of injury right now. The weighted ball just simply was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Ah Ha #6. Holism- Everything Matters. The Continual Search for the Simplicity on the Far Side of Complexity
Many players and their parents desperately want development and performance enhancement to be simple. They want their coaches or instructors/trainers to explain the incredible complexity of human performance with catchy phases, teaching cues and/or one-size-fits-all recipes to success.
In the privacy of quiet reflection, most of us would realize this type of process is simply fool’s gold.
Need velocity? Just get on the internet and obtain a good weighted ball program.
Need arm health? Just get on YouTube and watch a good arm care process.
Need command? Throw more frequent bullpens.
Need better secondary stuff? Ask your instructor/coach for a new grip. Maybe find out how Clayton Kershaw holds it.
In our estimation, these suggestions are not bad in and of themselves, they are simply endemic of a much bigger problem. Most people routinely underestimate the complexity and difficulty of consistently performing well at highest levels of competition. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we have run head first into that reality, again and again, ourselves over the past 15 years.
In 2010 to give our team at the Texas Baseball Ranch® a foundation to understand and deal with that complexity, I created a chart to guide us. It has since been edited and slightly improved upon, but the foundation remains unchanged in 8 years and is a fixture in our core philosophy.
This chart was my effort to remind myself and my staff to continually recognize and appreciate the complexity of high performance, to refrain from the constant lure of trying to explain the unexplainable to a client and yet create a sensible foundation from which we could make valid and sound decisions and judgments.
The 6 Primary Contributors to Substandard Performance
What is keeping you from having a healthy, durable, electric arm?
Why is this chart so important? What does it have to do with the efficacy of a weighted ball program? Simple…
For example, the belief at the Ranch consortium is:
If the athlete’s physical structure, alignment, strength, balance, mobility/flexibility or stability is considerably limited, constrained, compromised or deficient, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.
If the athlete’s mechanical efficiency is questionable or marginal and has manifested abject pain or difficulties in recovery, then a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.
If the athlete hasn’t built a minimum of a 6-week foundation of preparation for their soft tissue, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.
We have taken our share of criticism from some corners of the baseball universe that we overly hype pain and for our ‘overzealous need’ for multiple assessments before engaging on a velocity program. We truly don’t mind the criticism. Everyone should be free to come to their own conclusions. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the criticism cogent.
As I alluded to previously, we have been attempting to tread the needle between arm health/durability and performance for the past 16 years. In that time, we have found some really good news that we wish everybody in the baseball universe would understand and take advantage of, and that good news is this…
The Really Good News
#1. We have found that if we can simply assist each athlete in reducing or eliminating any regular discomfort of his elbow or shoulder and/or significantly improve his ability to recover/bounce back, that athlete will in fact nearly always (85% of the time) experience a slight but notable uptick of 1-3 mph in velocity in 4 weeks of his improvement in his arm health and durability.
This should only make sense. If the athlete’s arm feels better…he will naturally ‘step on the accelerator’.If his arm is more durable, he can throw more often and for longer stretches of time. Do those behaviors appear to support enhanced velocity? The answer is without question… yes!
#2. We have found that as the athlete improves his mechanical efficiency and builds his throwing foundation, any weighted ball program we place him under in the future will be far more effective.
The fact many people often forget is that ALL balls are ‘weighted’. Every ball ever created has weight. The common vernacular of ‘weighted balls’ infers that the balls they are utilizing are typically heavier than the 5 ¼ounce regulation baseballs. Coop DeRenne used the terms ‘overload’ and ‘underload’ to help further clarify his process. We of course are shaped by the works of DeRenne and Nyman and use similar language.
I do believe it is a rather foolish and antiquated position to take that a 5 ¼ounce ball is somehow a ‘safe’ weight but 3 ounces or 7 ounces are dangerous.
We suggest viewing the weight and size of the balls in your training as a specific type of stimulus, and just like dosage/time/frequency in medicine matters, so does the specific stimulus in training. Sometimes the individual is ready for and indeed should have ‘more’. Other times, ‘more’ would be dangerous.
It will take customization, communication, testing, assessment and constant monitoring to maximizes it’s affects and minimize its risks. One thing is for certain, the one-size-fits-all processes that I see firsthand out there now does none of those. They are simple, but they are often far from benign.
We have indeed come a long way from the 1990’s in terms of our perspective on weighted balls. That’s a great thing. However, in my opinion, until and unless we can move past the desire to obtain a universal, monolithic, catchall weighted ball throwing program, we as a baseball universe will keep running head first into the unintended consequences of inappropriate and misapplied training, with injury and surgical intervention as the much too frequent outcomes.
But of course, it’s not weighted balls that are the problem. The problem is how they are utilized. As my late father was frequent to remind me when I complained about my equipment, “It’s rarely the bow that’s the problem…it’s the skill of the Indian warrior using it that matters.”
A Steven Covey quote that I think is the perfect way to end our discussion of weighted ball training,
“If there is no gardener, there is no garden.”
Our advice at the Ranch Consortium, when it comes to weighted balls and velocity enhancement programs, become the gardener. It’s the difference maker.
As baseball fans and a company whose primary focus is assisting baseball programs, players, and coaches, we love the Spring! One of our favorite parts of the spring is Spring Training. As we have done for several years now, Oates Specialties traveled to both the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League to visit the numerous organizations utilizing Oates Specialties’ equipment. We enjoyed our time with the Indians, Rangers, Nationals, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, Marlins, and Rays, to name a few. In addition, we saw countless major and minor league ballplayers with Oates Specialties’ equipment, including the phenom from Japan, Shohei Ohtani. It is always very humbling to see so many talented athletes choosing Oates Specialties’ equipment to assist them in their career.
But outside of spending time with our friends in professional baseball, I couldn’t help but notice how much different baseball is today—in terms of training—than when Oates Specialties was founded in 2003. In 2003, the baseball world was not familiar with the terms “arm care” or “dynamic warm-up”, and weighted balls were hardly being utilized. I remember my first American Baseball Coaches Association conference in 2004 where we were showing off the few products we had at that time, including tubing and weighted balls, and people looked at us like we were crazy. In fact, the first several ABCA conventions we had to do non-stop demos so that coaches could understood how to use our products. In the first 5 years of Oates Specialties’ existence our job was essentially to educate coaches on how to train their athletes differently. We continue to enjoy this role, but are thankful that there are so many great sources of information available to the baseball community today (follow us on social media to receive some of this great information, in addition to our website). Our primary focus has always been to assist baseball players in becoming as athletic as possible while also providing unique equipment that could enable players to train in baseball specific movement patterns, and to provide equipment specifically designed for the throwing athlete to help ensure a healthy arm.
In the early years, so many people questioned us, scoffed at us, or even outright insulted us for thinking outside the box. We often heard the line, “Well that’s not how I was taught to play/train for baseball.” Thankfully, over time, the baseball world caught on to the training revolution. Now there are incredible training facilities throughout the country who teach players how to improve their athleticism in addition to the sport specific skills needed for baseball.
Unsurprisingly, the very last people who catch on to a paradigm shift such as this are those at the professional level. This is in large part because they don’t have to, as they have the best talent in the world and do not have to focus on development nearly as much. Yet, as the lower levels of baseball changed, it slowly trickled up to the professional ranks. The Cleveland Indians and Trevor Bauer is a great example. Trevor grew up training with Oates Specialties’ products—the Shoulder Tube, TAP Extreme Duty Weighted Balls, and Wrist Weights to be specific—and continued using this equipment on his path to the Major Leagues. When he arrived in the Major Leagues, teams, coaches, and staff noticed and decided to educate themselves on the programs and thought process he utilized. Much of the Cleveland Indians’ staff and front office traveled to the Texas Baseball Ranch to learn Trevor’s training program. The Indians ultimately hired Eric Binder as its Director of Player Development. Eric trained with Oates Specialties’ equipment during his playing career, and has now implemented Oates Specialties’ equipment throughout the Indians’ organization. Below is a picture of Oates Specialties’ weighted balls lined up for use at the Indians’ Major League Spring Training camp.
The Indians are not alone in this regard, we saw Oates Specialties’ products at all of our stops during Spring Training, and saw professional athletes using numerous types of equipment from Oates Specialties. It is clear that there is a new training landscape—one that Oates Specialties has been privileged to be a part of and looks forward to continue playing a role in.
If there is anything we can do to help with your baseball training, don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to add you to the list of players, coaches, or teams that have used our products in furthering their baseball goals.
Until next time,
Have you ever been told to get your lifting in? How about go get your conditioning in? If you’re like me, I would say the majority of you watching have heard this many times before. Some of you may even saying that you have heard things differently like get your arm care or your recovery in. Warm-ups, cool downs… the list goes on. The main problem with these approaches is most of the time, they are predetermined, one size fits all, or both.
I recently attended the Texas Baseball Ranch Coaches Bootcamp, While I was there I listened to some of the brightest minds in the world revealing their training methods. Each coach had their own very unique approach to how they assessed, planned, and programmed their athletes workouts. However, I noticed one common theme amongst them all. “Khaos” Each coach or trainer had a version of planned “Khaos” in their training regimens. Some used water based implements. Some used variations of targets and weighted balls. Lastly some of them used reactive type drills to keep the athlete guessing what direction to move next.
This type of training is used to create an adaptive learning environment. It forces the athlete to adjust on every drill, every throw, and every movement keeping them constantly on their toes.
When will you as an athlete ever play in a controlled environment where the surface is perfect, and every pitch you make is exactly on target? Never. If you are a coach listening, when did you have a game that played out exactly how you’d planned? Never. So why train in a pristine predetermined environment? I am not saying you should never go to the weight room or hit off a tee, but I am simply asking you have you ever changed your training environment to promote “Khaos” or unpredictability?
Randy Sullivan of the Florida Baseball Ranch recently released his book “Savage Training transferring gains from the gym to the game”. In this book, he establishes a rating system for the specificity of training as it relates to baseball. Part of the rating system is removing muscle slack naturally through unstable, undetermined, or Khaotic movements utilizing variable training implements. I will leave it there as Randy does a great job explaining this in further detail in his book, and I highly recommend it to those of you watching this.
In closing, you must get out of the mindset to just get your lifting, or conditioning in. Do not settle for just performing arm care or recovery routines. Learn to create an adaptive, evolving, and Khaotic environment that will better prepare you for what you really need. To play better on the field, and not just look better at the beach.
Remember to be unique and #BeELITE
Do not let bad weather stand in your way! Overcome this with the Baseball Training Sock. Watch the video below to find out how.
In 2003, Paul Nyman coined a definition that has become a centerpiece for us here at the Texas Baseball Ranch® for the past 14 years.
Nyman refers to it as the Bernstein Principle: the body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity. It is derived from the works of the father of biomechanics, Nikolai Bernstein, a Soviet Neurophysiologist.
14 years later it remains unassailable. Bernstein has actually become a verb of sorts at the Ranch. To Bernstein something at the Texas Baseball Ranch® implies we have a very clear goal, and we are acting in full accordance with that goal and not letting anything interfere with our efforts to achieve it. While the ultimate goal of this specific exercise certainly can and often will change or evolve, our commitment to our current stated goal at this moment must be unwavering. Distraction, diversion or interference must be kept to a minimum if we wish to grow and develop ahead of the rate of our competitive peer group.
I find so many athletes and their parents confused, conflicted and/or bewildered regarding their personal development. They lack clarity and without clarity you are hard pressed to find conviction. And without conviction... one cannot find consistent, exceptional performance at the higher levels of competition.
But I personally believe the Bernstein Principle has merit way beyond the sports arena.
On a regular basis, I believe one should have a built in personal dialogue loop that in almost every important endeavor undertaken... frequently asks 5 basic questions.
#1. What's the specific goal here? (Perhaps even... what is the ULTIMATE goal here?)
#2. Why is THIS goal so important to me?
#3. What are the specific obstacles in my way to achieving THIS goal?
#4. What are the dangers along this path to the achievement of THIS goal?
#5. Who or what resources do I need assistance from to achieve THIS goal?
Debating whether to try to develop a slider instead of a curveball? Ask the 5 questions!
Debating whether or not to take part in a velocity enhancement program? Ask the 5 questions!
Deciding on the specific strength/stability or mobility/ flexibility program and process to use. Ask the 5 questions!
Debating whether or not to transfer schools? Ask the 5 questions!
Debating whether or not to ask a girl out on a date? Ask the 5 questions!
Most athletes simply can't answer those questions clarity, self-actualization and self-awareness are too often lacking in their day to day world.
So they get distracted. They drift off course. They get confused. They get angry. They get frustrated. They get disheartened and disillusioned.
As famous mountain climber Alison Levine shared in a TED talk regarding the lessons she learned from climbing Mount Everest:
"Fear is absolutely' OK... it's normal. It is complacency that will kill you."
In my opinion, it is the same with skill development.
Here's to you developing the habitual inner dialogue of a high performer. Practice utilizing the 5 questions as often as you can in your daily life. I promise you that your productivity will increase.
Until next time,
Stay Curious & Keep Fighting the Good Fight
Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest product news and exclusive special offers!