On several occasions I talked about improving flexibility, mobility, and stability in athletes. While I believe these are the most important areas for athletes to concentrate on in order to stay healthy and improve performance there is another aspect of training that I have not talked about much—power.
Power is important to athletes in all sports but the reason I haven’t really addressed it much to this point is because it is the one area of training that seems to be targeted by ALL coaches. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in a weight room forced to do mindless repetitions with as much weight as I could possibly move. Because of this, most athletes need to concentrate on other aspects of training.
Athletes in different sports need to train specifically for the movements and demands of their sport. Offensive linemen, for example, need to have a great deal of linear upper body strength and therefore an activity such as a bench press is great for training that. Other athletes do not need that type of strength and therefore the bench press offers limited benefits for a rotational game such as baseball.
The biggest problem with most strength programs for sports is that they are not tailored to that sport. The root of the problem stems from the fact that many coaches are football coaches and coach baseball and other sports on the side. While not every lift or exercise in the weight room is beneficial to all athletes there are certain exercises that can be utilized that universally benefits athletes.
One such exercise is the deadlift. The deadlift is great because it is an explosive movement that targets the lower half. Specifically it targets the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. These are large muscle groups that control a great majority of movements that an athlete makes. One reason the deadlift is such a great exercise is because it requires the athlete to generate strength and power in a lowered position before he springs upward with the weight.
Here is what Eric Cressey, renowned strength coach and owner of Cressey Performance, had to say about the benefits of the deadlift: “…the deadlift is the single, most effective movement for training the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, adductor magnus, and lumbar erectors). The posterior chain is of paramount importance to high-level performance…The glutes and hamstrings are all fast-twitch fibers with a lot of strength, speed, and size potential—potential you’ll never realize without deadlift variations.”
Athletes are frequently in a lowered, crouched position and are required to explode up into the air. Think of a shortstop jumping for a line drive, a receiver leaping for a pass, and even to some degree a pitcher as he is generating his pelvic load and then explodes toward home plate.
Here is a video of Eric Cressey himself demonstrating a deadlift.
Deadlifts are an explosive exercise that an athlete can use to target his fast twitch muscles. One of my biggest problems with a lot of weight room training is that it is not explosive and doesn’t help athletes become quicker and more athletic. But after watching Eric perform deadlifts it is apparent that the exercise is a fast and explosive motion. It targets the same muscles used when running, jumping, and other activities that require the athlete to go from still to full speed.
Many of you may have noticed that the bar Eric used was not a normal straight bar but instead is open in the middle for the athlete to stand in. This product is called the Olympic Trap Bar. It is superior to a straight bar because it creates more room for the knees to pass through while recruiting the legs and glutes and helps to protect the back. It is much easier to keep good form while standing in the middle of the Trap Bar as opposed to using a straight bar. I highly encourage you all to try and implement using the Trap Bar into your workouts.
As with all exercises, especially weight room exercises, it is important that the athlete use proper form. Proper form consists in part of keeping the shoulders back, abs tight, and back straight. But before you perform deadlift exercises it is important to discuss proper form with a strength coach or somebody knowledgeable in weight training.
I wanted to take the opportunity in this post to bring to your attention a newly added section on the Oates Specialties home page. The new tab located on the left hand side of the screen is titled “Stability and Balance.” For those of you who have read some of my previous blogs you already know how critical stability and balance is to athletes. Because of the growing emphasis placed on those types of exercises we wanted to create a section with just those products that you can pick from to help increase you or your athletes’ stability and balance.
Throughout the year, especially during the offseason, we like to find new and unique workout products to add to our product line. The newest product that we are really excited about and have just added to our list of products is called the Valslide. The Valslide has an amazingly simple design but it provides a tremendous functional body-weight workout.
I want to end my series of articles regarding stability and mobility by talking about the last link of the kinetic chain for a pitcher (or any throwing athlete). This consists of the shoulder and elbow. All of the energy that has been built up by the movements of the delivery have accumulated from the lower half up the spine through the scapula and now require tremendous mobility of the shoulder and stability in the elbow in order for a pitcher to stay healthy. This energy that is generated is beneficial in terms of velocity on the ball but can be detrimental if the athlete is not prepared for the stress that accompanies this energy.
This week I wanted to discuss a number of drills which are helpful in improving the mobility and stability of an athlete’s spine and back. As I have mentioned before, different sports place different demands on an athlete. While nearly all sports require an athlete to rely on his/her stability and mobility of the lower half, not all require as much stability and mobility in the upper half. For throwing athletes such as baseball players, the tremendous demands placed on their upper half requires superior stability and mobility in order to stay healthy and continue to perform at the best of their ability.
In my last blog I discussed the stability/mobility kinetic chain that exists within an athlete’s body. As I mentioned before, the joints in a body alternate between being inherently in need of stability or mobility, as each mobile joint needs a stable one in order to move effectively. But having this information is just the first step, as you now need to know how to improve the stability and mobility throughout your body. There are a number of ways to improve the stability and mobility throughout your body and I’m going to mention a few ways which I have utilized in the past to help improve my lower half, including some which I have recently seen athletes at the Texas Baseball Ranch include into their workouts.
Over the course of the last few years I have become more and more attuned to the importance of both stability and mobility in athletes. Being a former pitcher, I really tried to focus on the specific areas of stability and mobility which could help my performance in throwing a baseball. However, all athletes could stand to gain some stability or mobility in different joints throughout their body.
My last article focused on weighted balls and the benefits in which they can have for a throwing athlete. Since weighted balls are a type of overload training I thought that my focus this week should involve the overload principle.
As I find myself in the middle of the summer I think back to the many baseball games I played throughout past summers. Whether it was Little League All-Stars, select teams in high school, or the summers in college playing in New England, North Carolina, and Cape Cod, I spent a hefty portion of my life playing ball during the summer time. This is far from rare as the common thought in baseball is that if you are serious about the sport you will play year around. Summer ball into fall ball into the regular spring season and so on.
It has been a couple of weeks since my last post regarding forearm strength, but there were some other topics which surfaced that I felt like I needed to address first. As for forearm/grip strength, there are many ways to strengthen it and I'm going to tell you of some that I have done as well as seen others do. There are really two different types of forearm strengthen exercises: those that directly target the forearm and those that indirectly work it as the athlete performs other dynamic exercises. I'll talk first about those which indirectly work to strengthen it.
Oates Specialties is a family owned and operated business. Since starting the company in 2003 with baseball as its primary focus, Robert and Gloria Oates, along with their son Brian, have worked diligently to develop a line of quality athletic conditioning tools that is unparalleled. We hope you enjoy our product line, videos, and blog. Contact us if we can help you in any way!