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Tag Archives: arm action

  • The Top 4 Ways Pitchers Become Disconnected - By Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    “Overhand throwing is an unnatural movement.”

    That’s what “they” say.
    Who says that?
    You know, the ubiquitous yet ever-elusive “they” who reign supreme as the self-appointed authority on just about everything.

    Well… not surprisingly, “they” are wrong again.

    According to a June 2013 report published in the journal Nature, throwing has been “natural” since our Homo Erectus ancestors began chucking rocks and sticks at large prey about 1.9 million years ago.

    Humans are born to throw.It’s in our DNA. And when left to our own devices, most throwers learn to do so without the need for any coaching or guidance. Yet, despite the natural nature (that’s redundant and repetitive) of throwing, injury rates continue to climb and although most players desire to throw at a high level, many never achieve it.

    How can this be?

    As I reflect on this question, I am guided toward yet another stroke of brilliance from Coach Ron Wolforth of The Texas Baseball Ranch. Sometime around 2015, Coach Wolforth presented a list of 11 of the most common “disconnections” that limit a player’s ability to throw hard, demonstrate elite level command, developed high caliber secondary stuff and/or recover on schedule. At the risk of sounding like a slobbering lap dog, I am frequently impressed by Ron’s ability to see through complex problems and pare them down to comprehensible, manageable categories. Hyper-individualization of training plans across multiple dimensions is the hallmark and the desired endpoint of the TBR/FBR consortium but without categorization there can be no systemized path to customization.

    Categorize, then customize.
    That’s the formula and in my opinion it’s brilliant.

    Throwing at a superior level is about being “connected”. When a delivery is connected all the body parts are acting in timing and synergy with one another. Every part is playing its proper role and performing in concert with all the other body parts and those parts are operating around a stable spine.
    Disconnections are defined as instances when a body part acts independently, away from the natural synergy of the rest of the body or apart from a stable spine. Disconnections add stress to connective tissue that can result in injury, premature fatigue and/or difficulty with recovery. Disconnections can also limit an athlete’s ability to summate the forces in the kinetic chain, thereby limiting the ability to achieve optimal velocity. And finally, disconnections can lead to early unraveling of the movement pattern, resulting in command issues and substandard secondary stuff
    Being connected is natural. Disconnections are unnatural.

    So, why do some throwing athletes become disconnected?

    In my experience there are 4 reasons a throwing athlete develops disconnections (and these are listed in order from the most common to the least common).

    • Their disconnections are taught. Through the years, I’ve studied throwing more than most and I’ve screwed some things up along the way. Frankly, many of the concepts I espoused as a young coach probably did more harm than good. There are about 1000 kids I should find and offer my apologies. I taught what I knew… and I was wrong. Like me, there are many well-meaning coaches who unfortunately possess incomplete or in correct information. I’ve never met a coach who intentionally made a player worse, or chose to put him at risk for injury. Nonetheless, many of the standard teaching points in traditional pitching instruction are simply wrong and they encourage disconnections. “Get your elbow up”. “Point the ball to second base.” “Tall and fall.” “Push off the rubber.” All of these well intentioned commands can lead to disconnections that add stress to connective tissue, rob a pitcher of velocity and negatively impact command and secondary stuff. Yes, indeed… many times disconnections are taught.
    • They are desperately seeking energy in the wrong places. When inefficiencies present themselves, they tend to disrupt the kinetic chain such that a player attempting to maximize production subconsciously searches for motor patterns that might be counterproductive or might even put him at risk for injury. This is most commonly demonstrated in the disconnection that is the highly debated inverted W. Defined as any time the throwing athlete moves one or both elbows into extreme abduction with internal rotation of the shoulder. Typically, athletes who demonstrate this disconnection also exhibit poor lower half efficiency. Lacking support from the ground, they look to their upper bodies to produce the energy needed to approach elite level throwing. In my experience, many times if you can improve the lower half movement pattern, this upper half problem goes away.
    • They have mobility or stability constraints that force them to adopt a particular movement pattern. I say this quite often. Mobility and stability constraints are intimately interwoven. Often one will spawn the other. For example, if you have tight quads or you have poor ankle mobility, you’ll probably have a hard time getting into a glute load. Your mobility restrictions will force you to shift your weight toward the ball of your foot and you’ll become quad dominant. This will project the direction of your load toward the on deck circle on your arm side. From this point, unless you have crazy hip internal rotation mobility and motor control, you’ll either land across your body and throw hook shots toward home plate (significantly stressing your connective tissue in the process), or you’ll disconnect with a lead leg opening early, premature torso rotation, leaning hard to the glove side with your posture, you’ll push or leap with your back leg, instead of rotating, in a move that will cause you to release the ball with your back foot in the air – effectively eliminating any further contribution from your lower half. Mobility and/or stability constraint are often major contributors to disconnection and they’re frequently ignored. If you hope to change a pitchers biomechanical patter, you must assess for contributory physical constraints concurrently with a high-speed video analysis.
    • Their body randomly selects an inefficient pathway as they are learning their movement pattern. One of the fundamental principles in motor learning is known as Bernstein Principle #1 and it states, “The body will organize itself in accordance to the overall goal of the activity.” If given a clear goal, the body will find a way to accomplish the task. Note, however that we said the body will find “a way.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it will always choose the safest or the most efficient way. That’s where master teaching/coaching can play the most significant role in player development. As players begin to self-organize new movements we can use motor learning strategies to maximize efficiency and safety, increase the rate of learning for the student and improve transfer to game performance.

    As a master teacher or coach, it is our responsibility to design and execute training protocols that take advantage of all the available motor learning science principle to suppress, improve or eliminate disconnections. And, it seems to me that it would be a whole lot easier to catch them before they became a problem. Get your athlete connected first. Then add energy. That is the Ranch formula and so far it’s going pretty well… and getting better all the time.

    If you’re a throwing athlete who needs to get connected, here’s how you can connect with us, here are 3 links to get you there:

    • Come spend a week or two with us at our incredible Complete Game Winter Training Program. Stay anywhere from 1-6 weeks and train up to 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. Get connected and ramped up for the best season of your life. Click Here to learn more.
    • Schedule a Precision Strike, One-day, One-on-One evaluation and training session. We’ll spend up to 5 hours in a one-on-one experience assessing you for inefficiencies and physical constrain. Then we’ll take that information and design a custom-made training plan that will leave no stone unturned and you’ll leave not only with a world-class comprehensive training plan but you’ll also be offered a process to stay connected with us so we can help you continue your improvement. Click Here to learn more or call us a 866-787-4533 (866-STRIKE3) to schedule an appointment.
    • Come to a weekend Elite Performance Boot Camp. In what can only be considered 2 days of amazing, we’ll conduct a full court press assessment, teach you all the drills and exercises necessary to correct your inefficiencies. You’ll learn about our leading edge motor learning approach and we’ll teach you all you need to know about strength and conditioning, tissue preparation and recovery. You’ll leave with a plan that will make the complex subject of elite thrower training simple and easy to implement.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®.

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • Bowlvalanche! Should Strasburg “Simplify” His Mechanics? by Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    Bowlvalanche… That’s what I call it.

    It’s a term I coined a long time ago.

    Any time 3 or more of anything falls, I call it a “that thing” valanche.

    This is an Avalanche…

    This is a Ballvalanche…

    A Toothpickvalanche

    And this thing…

    This accident waiting to happen…

    If you attempt to add to or take away from this chaotic cluster nut, the slightest perturbation of the equilibrium could begin a cascade of events resulting in a bona fide bowlvalanche.

    How do you avoid this catastrophe? To paraphrase hall of fame pitching coach, Elmer Fudd, “Vewy carefully.”

    Take away what you must.

    Add what you need.

    But be very cautious in doing so.

    It’s like that when you work with pitchers too.

    Imagine this Tupperware Jenga display represents the complexity and individuality of the throwing motion (and its probably not far off). One can easily visualize its precarious nature. When attempting to make mechanical adjustments, if you add too much or add it too quickly you could get a bowlvalanche. On the other hand if you take the opposite approach and start minimizing movement, taking things away… one wrong move and… you guessed it… bowlvalanche!!

    When you’re adding or subtracting from a pitcher’s mechanics, to have to tread very lightly. It’s the message Coach Ron Wolforth gave me a few weeks ago when he referred our shared client, Justin Verlander.

    “Do what you need to do, but leave as little fingerprints as possible.”

    My intent is not to disparage anyone, and by no means do I ever claim to have it all figured out. Every pitching coach I know truly has a heart for helping his players improve, but often our knowledge is incomplete.  In our attempts to help, we do more harm than good. Sometimes we add too much, putting a disruptive personal stamp on the athlete, forcing movement patterns that inhibit the pitcher’s ability. What often follows is a cascade of disconnections and kinesthetic confusion that leads to an erosion of performance that can progress to pain or injury.

    Sometimes we fall into the archaic 1980s approach of reductionism. We try to “minimize movement to maximize efficiency”.This represents a deep lack of understanding about injury and performance.  It’s a failed model. For over 30 years pitching coaches at very high levels have taken a “less is more” approach while attempting to produce “a repeatable delivery”. We continually misunderstand the difference between simplification and efficiency. We “simplify” the pitcher’s mechanics to the point of robbing him of athleticism and more importantly, his adjustability.

    The hardest thrower we’ve ever developed (99.7mph on our mound and 98 in a nationally televised Division 1 game) was

    drafted in the 12th round by a MLB club. Over the next 12 months, they “coached him” down to 85 mph, then released him. Well done!

    A recent AP article suggested that injury-plagued pitcher, Stephen Strasburg might ditch the windup and pitch only from the stretch this season. “I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but just trying to simplify things as much as I can and be able to repeat my mechanics.”

    And here we go again. In pursuit of this elusive “repeatable delivery” the pitcher’s movement is pared down to it’s simplest form. The athlete loses athleticism and explosiveness, but more importantly he loses his adjustability.

    So what does it mean to have an adjustable delivery?

    To explain this we must address the fundamental flaw in reductionist thinking – that a repeatable delivery is even possible. Listen closely…

    The repeatable delivery is a unicorn!

    It does not exist.

    You cannot repeat your mechanics.

    Every pitch will present a unique set of subtle, yet important deviations or errors. Instead of repeatable mechanics, what we need to pursue is world-class, in-flight adjustability that gives the athlete pre-organized solutions to self-correct when his delivery begins to veer off course.

    Dr. Nikolai Bernstein proved it with his famous Blacksmith experiment back in the 1920s. He
    took some of Russia’s greatest blacksmiths, tagged them with lights at strategic places on their bodies (the first biomarkers) and used serial photography and rudimentary motion pictures to observe them performing the singular task of driving a nail into a log with one swing. What he found was revolutionary to the motor learning industry, yet many coaches still don’t get it. When he compared the movement patterns of these high level hammer swingers across all subjects, Bernstein noted that they all demonstrated slightly different swings. They all achieved the goal every time, but no two subjects displayed the same pattern. But, more importantly no single blacksmith was able to repeat the same movement pattern on any of his trials. The results were always the same – the nail was pounded into the log — but the path to get there was different every time. It created a problem in motor learning science known as “the degrees of freedom problem”. Top down, centrally controlled models frequently used to explain movement patterns do not account for the variability present in all human movement.

    Instead of seeking repeatable mechanics what we’re really looking for are repeatable results.

    Many times when you eliminate complexity, you remove the margins for adjustability.

    If an athlete can’t make real time adjustments to his movement, he has no means to self-correct and he is left to the mercy of his connective tissue restraints (e.g. UCLs and labrums). Training subconsciously with variable stimulus (weighted balls, varied surfaces, multi-dimensional drills, and modulating goals) while permitting creativity allows for self-organization of patterns with built-in adjustability. When the athlete’s arm begins to stray off course he already has a pre-formatted solution to the error and his body automatically rights itself and returns to a mote efficient, powerful, accurate, and durable pattern.

    As a matter of principle, I avoid making injury predictions. But in my humble opinion, Stephen Strasburg should not try to “simplify his mechanics.” Instead he should develop an efficient throwing pattern that minimizes his disconnections while maximizing his adjustability. Otherwise, he may be looking at another trip to the DL and ultimately a catastrophic…  bowlvalanche.

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

     

    P.S We’ve recently announce the dates for our Elite Performers Bootcamps for the rest of 2017… CLICK HERE!

    P.P.S. Learn all about our incredible 2017 Ultimate Summer Training Program RIGHT HERE.

  • Athletes' Performance Pyramid

    Having on-the-field success is the ultimate goal for all athletes. But how is that achieved? The vast majority of people focus on (1) sport specific training and/or (2) athletic abilities, such as strength and speed. Yet, there are more factors that contribute to success than just those two. We all know people with tremendous physical abilities that never achieve success on the field. I think the following graphic is a great example of the building block components that make up a successful athletic performance.

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  • Throwing Weighted Dogs Can Increase Velocity! Wait… What? - by Randy Sullivan

    Seems the rage these days is about these new weighted ball things and how they increase velocity.

    Funny…

    When we started using weighted balls as part of our process in 2009, in my community you
    would have thought I was Jack the Ripper! Naysayers unfairly blasted me privately, and publicly to the point that I finally gave in and stopped using them for a few months.

    I soon came to the realization that critics will be critics and accepting their slings and arrows is simply the price I must pay for the privilege of working with all the fine young men in my care.

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  • Warning: Connection Ball Vandals Could End Your Baseball Career - by Randy Sullivan

    We get banged on a lot on the internet about our TAP connection balls. If you aren’t familiar with the connection ball, it’s pretty simple. It’s a yellow inflatable ball that has a little texture to
    the skin. verlanderconnectionWe use it as a tool to create feel and feed the mistake on a few different arm action inefficiencies. We blend it into a series of drills designed to elicit more efficient, powerful, and durable movement patterns.

    How did we start using them?

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  • How to Implement Khaos Training in Your Program By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES

    By now you know that unpredictable training is the missing link in the majority of performance training programs, and you know some of the tools that can help you train using this potent method which will result in a greater transfer to on the field performance. If you have not read the first and second part in this series of blogs about “Khaos Training,” I recommend you start with those first ("Khaos" Training Old But Becoming New Again, and "Khaotic Equipment" - Unpredictable Training Equipment, Part Two). For those that have read these blogs, it has probably left a question in your mind: “How can I implement this into my programs?”  These are the questions that I will answer in this post.

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  • I Don't Know Why Your Arm Hurts! by Randy Sullivan

    Good Afternoon,

    My name is Randy Sullivan.

    I am a physical therapist and a baseball coach.

    They call me “The Arm Pain Assassin.”

    I am one of the best arm pain specialists on the planet and if you ask me why your arm hurts I will tell you…

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  • 3 Questions About Weighted Ball Training - By Randy Sullivan

    Not a day goes by that I don’t get a flurry of questions about the “latest rage”… weighted baseballs (ironic that the “latest rage” began nearly 30 years ago).

    With process development and advocacy from a cadre of progressive thinking instructors and coaches, and support from several high level programs, a  a throwing modality once considered radical is rapidly becoming mainstream.

    Last winter the Tampa Bay Rays approached me for advice on implementing an off-season weighted ball velocity enhancement program.

    I was intrigued.

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  • Efficiency in Athletic Movement

    All athletes, regardless of their sport, ultimately seek to become a more athletic version of their current self. They want to be able to run faster, jump higher, throw it harder, and hit it further. One of the most important factors that will help athletes achieve this is to become more efficient with their movements. Efficiency is critical because in order to become a superior athlete, there can’t be any wasted movements. Every single movement that an athlete makes during any activity should be contributing directly to helping that athlete achieve the intended goal of the movement. Efficiency in an athlete’s mechanics has two great nemeses—time and tension. These two factors, if allowed to creep into an athlete’s movements, will prevent an athlete from being as mechanically sound as he could be, and will result in decreased performance levels. Let me address time and tension separately.

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  • Teaching a "Good" Arm Action

    One of the most commonly discussed topics in pitching is a pitcher's arm action. Is a long or short arm action better? Isn't a smooth arm action best? Does a pitcher with a fluid arm action have a better chance to stay healthy? Doesn't that guy’s arm action seem jerky? Should you break from the glove with the ball or the elbow? How much "scap load" should a pitcher have and how does he get into that position? Should the ball be facing 2nd base during the "cocked" phase of the arm action? How do you keep pitchers from having an inverted "W" during delivery? Etc, etc., etc.

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