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Tag Archives: arm care

  • Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? by Coach Ron Wolforth

    Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? Follow these three steps EXACTLY:

    A. Start by reducing or eliminating any regular pain, tightness or discomfort.

    • First, identify the specific location(s) of your pain
    image
    • Second, rate the current degree of that pain 1-10. A rating of one equals incredibly small discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue. A rating of a ten equals severe and dehabilitating discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue.

    Medial Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Anterior Shoulder
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Posterior Shoulder

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Lateral Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    If your pain is exclusively to the medical elbow and/or the anterior shoulder, you’ll need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your acceleration using the connection ball and connection club.

    You can clearly see the changes Justin made to his movement pattern from 2014 to presently with the Astros using the connection ball.

    20 years of experience tells us that this is ESPECIALLY true if your discomfort is rated above a 3/10. In fact, significant gains in velocity, recovery, command or sharpness to secondary pitches will be very difficult to attain with routine discomfort exceeding 3/4 out of 10.

    Therefore we have coined a phrase at the Ranch, in terms of pitching development: ‘Start with the Pain™’.

    image

    If your pain is exclusively to the lateral elbow and/or the posterior shoulder you need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your deceleration pattern using the Durathro™ Sock.

    Nolan Ryan had by far the most efficient pattern of deceleration that we have seen in all of our research into elite caliber pitching athletes. Notice the difference between Ryan’s deceleration pattern and the typical pattern! The Durathro Sock has been an amazing tool in reducing lateral elbow & posterior shoulder discomfort and in improving patterns of deceleration.

    image

    The Durathro Sock in Use

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    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in the efficiency of your movement pattern- either from an acceleration movement pattern perspective and/or a deceleration movement pattern perspective can have profound impact to 1) pain, 2) recovery and 3) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    B. Create A Structured Recovery Program to Improve and Enhance Your Ability to Bounce Back after Bouts of Training and Pitching in Games.

    • First: Develop a holistic and integrated wake-up warm-up routine that prepares the entire body for the specific demands of robust training and/or competition. The body can only recruit what is awake. An elite thrower’s soft tissue also needs to be properly primed for the intensity of throwing a baseball at full effort.
    • Second: Develop a customized arm care/ pregame/ pre-training process that readies the body and arm to organize itself for high intensity.
    • Third: Develop a personalized ramp up process that allows you to enter the game, hot, lathered, loose and ready and yet not over heated, fatigued or winded…and just as importantly not so steep that you feel rushed, hurried, frazzled or pressed.
    • Fourth: Develop an In-game routine that keeps you warm, centered and prepared in between innings regardless of temperature or length of innings.
    • Fifth: Develop a post throwing regimen that reduces swelling, inflammation and aids in the healing of micro trauma to soft tissue.

    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in your ability to recover or bounce back between outings or training sessions can have profound impact to 1) velocity; 2) command; 3) stuff and 4) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    And once those two steps have been established:

    C. Create a 6-18 Week Hyper-Personalized Performance Algorithm to Focus Your Work on Exactly What YOU Need MOST.

    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of velocity: Create a Velocity Enhancement Program and develop a more electric fastball.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of command and throwing strikes: Create a Command Enhancement Program and become a strike thrower.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of your ability to throw pitches with movement and/or having swing and miss ‘stuff: Create a Secondary Offering Enhancement Program and go to work on developing your off speed and secondary pitches (curveball, slider, cutter, change-up, splitter Etc)

    Follow these three steps and without question you will make a REAL difference in your pitching performance.

    If you would like guidance or assistance in creating and then supporting yourself through these three steps personally, that’s what the Texas Baseball Ranch® Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp is ALL about. Our Coaches work hands on with every pitcher in attendance to help them come up with a personalized plan based on assessments and a video analysis performed by me!

    Ready to Register: click here NOW

    Call our office with questions at 936-588-6762

    Email our office info@texasbaseballranch.com

    Until Next Time, Stay Curious and Keep Fighting the Good Fight.

    Coach Wolforth

  • What Is a Growth Plate Injury? What Do Our Baseball Training Programs Do To Fix Them? by Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    At our baseball training programs camps, we work with players of every age and experience level. It’s not uncommon to have a major league client on site, but it’s also not unusual to see a cool 9 year-old running around .

    Spring Training is beginning soon for major and minor league professionals, college and high school seasons are rolling and the young guys — middle schoolers and below — are launching into their rec and travel ball campaigns.
    About this time of year, as the arm pain management division of the Baseball Ranch® consortium, I field a lot of questions about growth plate injuries.

    So what are growth plate injuries, and how do they occur?

    First let me tell you what they are not… usually they are not catastrophic. So when you find that your son or daughter, or one of your players has suffered a growth plate injury there is no need to panic. Most of the time, a simple period of rest is all they need to get back on track.
    eliminating arm pain with baseball training camps
    Think of growth plates as little factories, manufacturing bone cells and depositing them on the bone to make it longer. There are several growth plates in the shoulder and the elbow. When an athlete is fully grown, these growth plates fuse and the factory shuts down. At younger ages, growth plates are highly active and vulnerable to stress.

    When exposed to abnormal stress, the body will usually break at its weakest link. In older athletes, the weak link is the connective tissue (rotator cuff, labrum, UCL). In the younger population the weak link is the growth plate.

    Not all growth plate injuries are the same. In our baseball training camps and programs, we treat growth plate injuries very differently depending on the type of injury. If you’re dealing with a growth plate injury, it’s good to understand the classifications.

    The Nature Of Different Growth Plate Injuries

    The Salter-Harris classification is a simple and easy to remember system to identify the nature and severity of a growth plate injury. It uses the name “Salter” as a pneumonic memory jogger. According to sketchymedicine.com, it goes like this:

    1. SEPARATED (the bone and the growth plate have come apart) – but it actually looks normal on x-ray (you can only tell on physical exam)
    2. Fracture ABOVE the growth plate
    3. Fracture LOWER than (below) the growth plate – fracture extends to the articular surface
    4. Fracture THROUGH the growth plate
    5. Fracture ERASING/compressing/squashing the growth plate – this is the worst kind because with disruption of the growth plate comes disruption of growth. Type “ER” injuries are usually caused by rare occurrences such as frostbite, electric shock and irradiation. They’re hard to see on x-rays but show up on MRIs.

    baseball training programs to eliminate arm pain

    Depending on the classification of the injury, treatment could range from simple rest, to casting, to surgery.

    Most of the growth plate injuries we see are of the “S” variety — the growth plate becomes separated, and manifests itself in the form of pain. This type of injury may or may not be seen on x-ray. But, if a young athlete experiences persistent pain in the shoulder or the elbow, you should be suspicious of a growth plate injury.

    The same variables that contribute to soft tissue injuries in the older athlete, also place the growth plates at risk. I discussed these factors at great length in my book, Start With The Pain: The Complete Guide To Managing Arm Pain In The Elite Throwing Athlete, but as a review, here they are again in order of significance:

    Type 1 contributors: structural/physical related (tightness, weakness, asymmetries, imbalances, etc…)
    Type 2 contributors: movement pattern related.
    Type 3 contributors: tissue preparation and recovery.
    Type 4 contributors: training related factors.
    Type 5 contributors: workload (pitch counts, innings limits).
    Type 6 contributors: nutrition, hydration, sleep, and psychological stress.

    What We Do For Growth Plate Injuries

    Coaches at our baseball training camps know that, when you have a soft tissue injury (UCL, labrum, rotor cuff) that doesn’t result in catastrophic failure, it’s very important during the rehab process that you provide controlled stress to organize the healing tissue along the line of resistance. It’s a concept known as Davis’s Law – a physiologic precept stating that all connective tissue in the human body organizes itself to resist the stresses under which it is placed. For this reason, in the case of soft tissue injuries to the throwing athlete, rest may be the worst thing you can do. If the tissue is not completely disrupted, it needs a mechanical signal to guide reorganization as it heals. This is when we recommend light throwing or throwing in the Durathro® Training Sock for players in our baseball training programs.

    What To Do While Healing

    But when it comes to growth plate injuries, tissue reorganization is not the primary goal. Protecting the growth plate and preventing the injury from progressing to a more serious situation is the order at hand. In that regard, the growth plate injury is one of the few throwing disorders for which I would indeed prescribe total rest. An acceptable amount of rest could range from 2-8 weeks depending on the nature and severity of the injury. By “rest”, we mean avoidance of throwing, not complete cessation of all training activities.

    When working with injured players in our baseball training camps, one of our mantras is, “Never let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can.” While the athlete is waiting for his growth plate aggravation to subside, he should work to eliminate any possible constraints in stability and/or mobility that might be contributing to the problem. He may also be able to work on improving lower half power and efficiency – traits that will help him attenuate stress on the arm once he’s read to resume throwing. During this time, the young athlete can also learn a quality warm-up and recovery process that will serve him well when he eventually resumes throwing activities.

    After Rest Period

    After the appropriate rest period has elapsed, it is extremely important to address all the movement pattern related variables that might have contributed to the injury. A video analysis of the throwing pattern should reveal any arm action of lower half inefficiencies that might have combined with structural, preparation, recovery, or training related factors that could have created an environment for his injury to occur. From this analysis, an individualized corrective throwing plan can be designed and executed.

    Frequency, intensity and volume of throwing should always be ramped up gradually, monitoring the athlete for any report of pain.

    If you are the parent or coach of a young thrower, awareness of the possibility of a growth plate injury could lead to early detection, intervention and avoidance of a more severe injury.

    Do you need to get an x-ray or a MRI immediately if your adolescent thrower reports pain? Probably not.

    Most growth plate injuries are relatively benign and respond well to brief rest. However, in the case of intense, intolerable pain, or if the pain persists even after a couple of weeks of rest, it may be helpful to seek out imaging to get a more clear picture of the situation and possible treatment options.

    Are you having arm pain? If you are, I’m sure you’d like to get it settled. If you don’t take care of it now, at best it could nag you throughout the rest of the year and at worst it could evolve into something more serious.

    We literally wrote the book on arm pain management. Learn more about how we eliminate arm pain. Then give us a call at 866-STRIKE3 (866-787-4533) and let us set you up with a Precision Strike One Day, One-on-One Evaluation and Training Plan.

    We’ll do a total body physical exam and a video analysis to identify any variable that might be contributing to your pain. We’ll work with you to develop a training plan tailored to your specific need and we’ll help you return to pain free throwing quickly and safely.

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

    Baseball training programs that eliminate arm pain
    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • 5 Major Changes and Upgrades at the Texas Baseball Ranch® by Ron Wolforth

    Based upon the works of Dr. Frans Bosch and Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, the Ranch training systems have significantly shifted toward the awareness of how the brain is being influenced and shaped during each training session and how our practice sessions are either developing/ optimizing or inhibiting with/ interfering with our athlete’s ability to adjust and adapt during competition. It has become painfully obvious to us that the traditional standard practice fare almost always represents a real limitation to an athlete’s ability to adjust.

    Therefore we utilize the concept of Differential Learning and Deliberate Practice in almost every single facet of our training. Our clients systematically enhance their ability to adjust, adapt and overcome…it’s baked into the training cake. It’s part of what they do every day…Practicing Adjustment.

    1). The Multi-colored Pad and Khaos balls are our newest training tools for a process we refer to as Khaos Training. By constantly changing the target and the size, weight and texture of EVERY Ball on EVERY Throw, 1) the brain is actively engaged and 2) The body learns to organize itself quickly and effectively over time.
    k-target-and-khaos-balls
    2). By staggering the distances of our Advanced Command Trainers and utilizing V Flex in our command series and charting our sessions, we have seen dramatic improvements in our athlete’s ability to adjust and engage the brain during otherwise mundane training sessions.

    command-trainer-v-flex

    3). We utilize many of the concepts of Jozef Frucek, Martin Bosy and Fighting Monkey™ and their paradigm of Earthquake Architecture.

    fighting-monkey

    4) We have expanded and improved our utilization of such tools as the Bell Club, Wrist Weights, Shoulder Tube™, Mini Bands and the Durathro™ Baseball Training Sock, *Take special notice the video screen in front of the athletes (red circle) playing slow motion and regular speed segments of elite, world class throwing athletes, focusing in on the specific movement segment the athletes are trying to reproduce*.

    throwingsockand-miniband

    5) We have modified our strength development and corrective exercises to focus on coordination, synergy, variability, malleability and strength specifically at end ranges of motion. Literally everything has at least a component of adaptability and adjustability to it.

    training-tools


    Note from Robert Oates:

    Would you like to learn more about how elite pitchers are developed and how Oates Specialties equipment is used to improve elite athletes? If yes, then I encourage you to attend the Texas Baseball Ranch Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp. For the past 13 years, this experience has been the annual highlight of my year.

    The always remarkable content offered at the event is from world class presenters, and the networking opportunity with people who live and breathe pitching always proves to be invaluable. From the program shown below, it is evident this year’s event will also be extraordinary.

    Coach Wolforth has given us the opportunity to offer you a $50.00 registration discount. Just enter the code OATES (be sure to use all capital letters) in the registration form found at www.CoachesBootCamp.com.

    This year’s Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp is slated for December 7 -10 (Friday through Sunday, with a bonus day on Thursday). Gunnar, Drayton and I will be there and hope to see you there as well!

    Robert


    The 2017 Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp

    For the first time ever the UPCBC will be held in the brand new 4700 square feet theatre and assessment center. (At the Ranch we refer to it as the BIG RED BARN). This allows us a temperature controlled theatre in an awesome facility for the lecture presentations AND immediate access to our two 3600 sq ft training barns for any break out and hands on sessions. In our opinion this property is the ultimate venue for an event of this nature.

    redbarn-at-tbr

    The Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp Agenda:

    Bonus Day: Thursday, December 7: You get insider access to all the latest methods we use with our MLB, college, and younger athletes at The Ranch.
    Boot Camp: Friday - Sunday, December 8-10: Three full days of expert sessions, Q&A, and camaraderie. Learn from your peers, make new friends, and form valuable new connections to further your career as a coach.

    Coach Wallace will talk about the efficient utilization of the Lower Half- both the back hip and glute as well as lead leg disconnections…and The Ranch process of Deliberate Practice in creating systematic gains in Command.
    Coach Kaday will discuss the Power Core 360 and how we enhance torque as well as increasing an athlete’s awareness of synergy, coordination and the summation of force.
    Coach Massey will talk about Recovery and how to dramatically improve it in your pitching athletes with some very simple steps.
    Coach Wolforth will discuss a myriad of topics- from simple ways to better engage the brain at practice for almost immediately higher levels of performance at game time; to the developing real leaders that actually make a difference inside your ball club and organization.

    And Our Guest Lecturers include:

    Jonathan Armold: Minor League Pitching Coach, Texas Rangers
    Brian Cain: World Renown Peak Performance Coach
    Jon Huizinga: Baseball Coach with a holistic training approach emphasizing fuel/nutrition.
    Jeff Krushell: Human Performance and Development Expert & Major League Baseball International Consultant
    Stephen Osterer: Doctor of Chiropractic at Totum Life Science
    Tim Nicely: President V-Flex Technology
    Martijn Nijhoff: Studied Under Frans Bosch; Talent Coach for Knbsb
    Gary Reinl: Author of "Iced - The Illusionary Treatment Option"
    Randy Sullivan: P.T and owner Florida Baseball Ranch®

    For More information or to Register: www.CoachesBootCamp.com

  • Athlete Has Elbow Pain, Calls FBR, Then Makes Team USA - by Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS

    The 2020 Vandy commit from Boca Raton, FL was a low to mid 80s lefty when I met him on September 23, 2016. He and his father made the 3-hour drive to the Florida Baseball Ranch® for a Precision Strike One Day One-On-One Evaluation and Training session. We conducted a full head-to-toe physical assessment and a video analysis of his movement pattern. We noted a few mobility issues and a slightly elevated distal humerus and crafted a customized multi-dimensional training plan. Nelson “bought in” to the process completely and diligently executed his program. After a few tweaks, a little work on his mobility, and some power building, it wasn’t long before he was touching 88 mph.

    Nelson and his Dad returned to the Ranch for a pre-season check up in December of 2016, upon which I noted that his mobility had improved significantly. His dad Ross Berkwich, a lifetime Yoga instructor, had seen to that! His video analysis showed that he was much more biomechanically efficient and essentially free from gross constraints. More importantly, he was pain free and ready to have a great year.

    He entered his high school season with high hopes and even higher expectations. Things seemed to be progressing well. Nelson was his usual dominant self on the mound. But then one cool night in April, during a routine district game a couple of weeks before the high school playoffs were to begin, Nelson’s elbow started to hurt. The next day it was worse, and even after several days of rest, he still couldn’t muster up a full effort throw without experiencing pain. The location of the pain was right over his UCL. Fearing the worst, local coaches and medical acquaintances advised him to seek a MRI.

    Instead, Nelson’s father called the Florida Baseball Ranch®.

    After discussing the young lefty’s playing and training activities over the last 4 months, his father sent me video of Nelson making a sub-maximal flat-ground throw in an unidentified hotel parking lot. It wasn’t optimal but it was the best we could do since we needed to act quickly. Nelson’s high school playoffs, summer season and a tryout with Team USA were approaching rapidly.

    When I reviewed the video, I noticed that during the past 4 months, which had consisted primarily of pitching in games, resting, and throwing bullpens, his former arm action disconnection — the elevated distal humerus — had returned. But, more importantly, he had become quad dominant in his first move, projecting him toward the first base on-deck circle. In an attempt to compensate, he opened his lead leg early but still found himself landing across his body. This prevented him from adequately rotating around his front hip, causing his deceleration pattern to become linear, which resulted in a valgus stress on the medial elbow when he reached full extension. Click here to read more about the dangers of a linear deceleration pattern. In my view, it wasn’t one thing causing his pain… it was probably a little of all of the above.

    I felt certain we could help him if we could improve his arm action and his lower half efficiency. But, how were we going to change his movement pattern during the season, especially if he couldn’t throw a baseball without pain?

    Enter the Durathro® Training Sock.


    I texted Nelson and asked him if he had his sock with him. He said he did so I told him to go back outside to the parking and make a few throws with a 7-ounce ball in the sock and let me know how it felt.
    Within 5 minutes I received his reply:
    “No Pain!”

    When I read Nelson’s text, I let out a loud, “Whoo hoo!!” followed by, “Yes!! We got this!!!”


    In our Start With The Pain system Nelson would be classified as a Level 2 intervention. This would typically involve a 25-day return to throwing program that would include sock throws, a connection ball, and a series of corrective throwing drills. As his movement pattern improved and his pain subsided, we would gradually wean him from the sock and the connection ball and then ramp up to full intent baseball throws.

    But, Nelson didn’t have 25 days. His high school playoffs were set to begin in less than 2 weeks and I knew he really wanted to be there for his team.

    Since Nelson had trained with us extensively and had demonstrated heightened body awareness for a player his age, I felt he would be able to make the necessary changes more quickly than most. I immediately went to work and wrote a 10-day return to throwing plan. He would spend the first 3 days performing 8 different corrective throwing drills in the training sock at 5 reps each (no baseball throws). Then each day he continue with his drills, shifting the ratio of sock throws to baseball throws to 4:1, 3:2, 2:3, 1:4, and 0:5. He would also taper his use of the connection ball until it was no longer needed. As always, Nelson’s pain would be our guide. He was instructed to keep the intensity of his throws below the pain threshold and to check in with me every day with a report on his progress. By the 10th day, Nelson was pain free with all his drill throws, so we decided to try the mound. He threw a 15-pitch bullpen without pain, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was ready to answer the bell.

    Nelson continued to have a fantastic year on the summer travel ball circuit. And then last week, I got a text from his dad who was elated to report that Nelson had touched 89 mph, made the final cut and been placed on the roster for 15u Team USA. At the time of the text Nelson was on a plane to Columbia with his teammates on a mission to claim the title of World Champions.

    We couldn’t be happier for Nelson and his family. This young man exemplifies the qualities of integrity, passion for the game, perseverance and the relentless pursuit of excellence we espouse. He is truly a “Ranch Guy.”

    Good luck in Columbia Nelson!

    From fearing a Tommy John injury to representing his country on the world’s biggest stage… what a ride that must have been for Nelson and his family!

    Proud of you dude!!!

    Now go bring home the Gold!!!

    Randy Sullivan, MPT,CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • How NOT Long Tossing or Throwing Weighted Balls Could Get You Hurt. -Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    Wait… What?

    And here we go again. The long toss and weighted ball police are back at it.

    I was perusing through twitter last week and saw this blast.

    “Study. Max Distance Throwing Changes Mechanics and Puts More Stress On The Arm.”

    It was accompanied by this infograph.

    First of all… that study is not news. It came out in 2011.

    But since we’re getting into it again,  I guess I can engage.

    The longstanding argument against long toss is as follows: 1)It increases joint stress in the elbow and the shoulder, and 2) throwing mechanics change with increased distance of throws.

    Both are true…

    And that is exactly why I like long toss… as a training tool.


    Ok. So lets go through this again:

    We’ll start with the “increases stress” argument.

    People in the throwing universe tend to fall into one of 2 categories. You have the “there are only so many bullets in the gun so you should save them” crowd, and then there are those who believe you can load as many bullets as you need.

    Here’s the deal. A physiologic principle known as Davis’s Law states that all connective tissue organizes itself to resist the stresses under which it is placed. Davis’s law applies to nearly ALL connective tissue — at least any tissue with a blood supply. Human tissue does not have a free will. It cannot decide not to participate. It can only respond to the stresses we put on it. Therefore, adding stress to a connective tissue will always force an adaptation that can make that tissue more resilient.

    People in the “save your bullets” camp – some of them esteemed medical professionals – seem to believe that somehow, the UCL, the labrum, and the rotator cuff are “special” tissues not subject to the laws of nature and therefore cannot be made to become more robust. I would submit that you must add stress to those tissues if you plan to be a high level thrower. If you completely avoid stress you get weak, fragile connective tissue that could be vulnerable to injury. The key is to add stress incrementally over time, gradually increasing the tissue’s ability to resist. If you add stress too rapidly, the tissue fails. If you add it too often or for too long, the body begins to lay down the strongest tissue it knows (bone) and that becomes a calcification.

    Opponents of long toss argue that increased stress on the elbow and shoulder makes it a dangerous practice. I would suggest that not “feeding the arm” with gradually increasing controlled stress as presented in Alan Jaeger’s well known long toss protocol could be even more dangerous.


    Now let’s shift gears and tackle the second point of contention… “biomechanics change with increased distance”. You’ll get no objection from me on that one either. The biomechanics of long toss clearly change with every throw… and that’sthe beauty of it.

    Let me explain.

    In every human movement, there are components that must be stable and others that may vary. The stable components are known as “attractors”. The variable components of a movement are considered “fluctuators”. Attractors can be identified by The variable components of a movement are considered “fluctuators”. Attractors can be identified by finding patterns that are commonly demonstrated by performers across all levels and experience and ability. For example, ask a baby to throw a ball and he will usually lift his arm to about 90 degrees of shoulder abduction.

    The same pattern is seen among the most elite and experienced throwers in baseball.

    Movements with significant time pressures and those that put the athlete in “at risk” positions if not stable can also be attractors.

    Three key attractors I have found in throwing are:

    1) Isometric co-contraction of the trail hip musculature at the peak of lead leg lift. 2) Isometric co-contraction of the rotator cuff and peri-scapular musculature with the humerus abducted to about 90 degrees at lead leg weight bearing foot plant. And 3) Isometric co-contraction of the quads, hamstrings, calf, and hip musculature of the lead leg at weight bearing foot plant.


    Fluxuators on the other hand are components of the movement that can vary between athletes and even between repetitions by a given athlete.

    Examples of fluctuators might include differences in stride length, depth of back knee flexion, arm slot, lead leg action, tempo, or postural tilt. An adequate number or fluxuators are necessary, but having too many could be detrimental to performance and safety.

    When movement attractors are stable, the body automatically begins to eliminates some fluxuators until only a few remain. With less options to choose from, the efficiency and effectiveness of the movement improves. However, if too many fluxuators are removed, the athlete loses adjustability. This can result in rigidity and lack or flow in his movement.

    The “Anti-Long Toss” crowd apparently fails to recognize the neurophysiologic dynamics and variability demands of human movement. They’re hooked on the “SAID” principle. That’s an acronym for “Specific Adaptation To an Imposed Demand”. It’s a concept commonly referenced in gyms and physical therapy practices and it means that the body will adapt specifically to the exact demands placed on it. In other words, you don’t learn to putt golf balls by shooting baskets and you don’t strengthen your hamstrings by doing biceps curls. The SAID principle would suggest that the pitchers should only train with 5 oz baseball mound throws at 60’6”, because that represents the exact demand required in a game.

    It seems logical until you understand the “degrees of freedom problem” as it relates to attractors and fluxuators.

    Dr. Nikolai Bernstein first presented the degrees of freedom problem with his famous “blacksmith experiment”.  In this investigation, he showed that the number of motor pattern options for performing any movement is virtually limitless and therefore rigidly repeating a movement is an impossibility.

    The “repeatable delivery” does not exist.

    Every single throw will present a unique set of subtle deviations or errors. Additionally a pitch doesn’t follow one specific pre-established motor pathway from start to finish. Instead, the neuromuscular system subconsciously adjusts that pattern’s pathway, intensity, timing and synergy throughout the throw. Instead of seeking a “repeatable delivery” we should be going after world-class, real time adjustability of movement.

    To optimize movement efficiency you need some fluxuators (but not too many). If your training involves throwing only mound pitches from 60’ 6”, you engrain the attractors so deeply that all of the necessary fluxuators are eliminated and you have no adjustability. Now, when your arm begins to drift outside the rigid boundaries you’ve created, you have no pre-rehearsed motor plan to bring it back. With no capacity for adjustment, the arm could wander into areas beyond tissue failure thresholds, and injury could occur.

    The key to safe and efficient throwing is to make sure your attractors are stable, but not too stable and to have just enough fluxuators available to allow sufficient choices for adjustment.

    That is the beauty of long toss!

    Every throw is a different distance with a different release point and a different coordinative demand. This variability allows you to practice the necessary adjustments subconsciously in a controlled environment, thereby becoming a more efficient and effective thrower.

    This is also one reason weighted ball training can be an important tool – especially the way we use it at The Baseball Ranch®. A typical weighted ball protocol in our practice would involve performing 4 different deceleration/connection drills, 5-8 feet from a target pad while sequentially progressing downward in weight from a 2-pound ball, to a 21-ounce ball, to a 14-ounce ball, to a 7-ounce ball, to a 5-ounce baseball and finally to 3-ounce underload ball. Note: in our process, when making full arm action throws, we never go above a 7 ounce ball. In a recent study, Fleisig et al, noted that “pitching with slight variations in ball mass challenges the athlete’s neuromuscular awareness and coordination… and therefore seems like a reasonable variation for training pitchers.”

    My sentiments exactly!

    So does that mean I am encouraging every throwing athlete to go out today, purchase as set of weighted balls, find a football field and start chucking? Absolutely not! But once your delivery is connected, you are free from massive physical constraints, and you’ve have had an adequate ramp up period, then long toss and weighted ball throwing may be an essential addition to your overall training program.

    The variable stimulus presented by long toss and weighted ball training could help you develop adaptable, adjustable movement patterns that add velo, improve command and decrease your risk of injury.

    So actually, despite claims to the contrary by the long toss and weighted ball Gestapo, not using long toss and weighted balls could increase the likelihood of getting hurt.

    @ me if you want.

    Let's Discuss!

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • The Side Step Is Satan? by Randy Sullivan, MPT

    OK, admittedly that subject line is a little extreme, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    It seems like every kid that comes in to see me – especially the ones who have had lots of pitching lessons – does one thing in almost EXACTLY the same way.

    And frankly, it’s driving me crazy!!

    What is it you ask?

    It’s this wasteful, cookie cutter little side step windup. Or maybe I should call it a non-step. I mean it’s kind of a step without stepping.

    Look I’m not against it totally. I mean, I see a bunch of MLB guys doing it too. But does it have to be done by EVERY SINGLE AMATEUR PITCHER WHO EVER TOOK A PITCHING LESSON?

    Many of the guys that come to see me are looking for increased velocity. Yet when I start the video rolling, nearly all of them do the same thing.

    Tiny step to the side.
    Lift the leg.
    Pause at the top.
    Put the leg down.
    Try desperately to come up with some sort of momentum to home plate.
    And chuck it up there about 78 mph.

    It’s mind numbing!

    If they’re going to let us wind up, why not take advantage and gain some momentum toward the plate?

    I’ve seen guys get 2-3 mph bumps by simply starting with a bit of a back step and increasing their tempo to get moving toward home plate with some intent.

    Remember back in the day when big leaguers would take those awesome “I’m about to ram this white thing down your throat” massive windups?

    So where did this ridiculous little robotic, cloned side step come from?

    My guess is that it’s the result of well-meaning yet uninformed pitching coaches with incomplete understanding of motor learning attempting to achieve the ubiquitous yet ever elusive unicorn known as the “repeatable delivery”.
    (How’s that for unnecessary flowery language?)

    They’re trying to simplify the delivery to make it “repeatable.”

    Newsflash!

    There is no such thing as a “repeatable delivery!”

    Nikolai Bernstein killed that theory with his famous blacksmith experiment that first introduced what motor learning scientists call the degrees of freedom problem.

    Every pitch is an individual snowflake and will result in its own set of deviations or errors. Instead of trying to become mechanical repeaters, we should be trying to create world-class in-flight adjusters to all of those deviations.

    But in attempt to achieve the unachievable, pitching coaches across the country have fallen prey to the mistaken assumption that the key to consistency is to “simplify” a pitcher’s mechanics. “There’s too many moving parts in that delivery,” they say. So they start taking things away.

    But many times, when you simplify the delivery, you suppress athleticism and you stifle adjustability.

    One of the finest pitching coaches I’ve ever seen is Flint Wallace. He coached both of my older sons at Weatherford College, a JUCO outside of Ft. Worth, TX, where he churned out D1 and MLB drafted pitchers like butter from a milk cow. Flint is now the Director of Player Development at the Texas Baseball Ranch where hyper-individualization reigns. But there is one thing Flint would never let any of his pitchers do…

    THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO STEP TO THE SIDE!

    He always demanded that every pitcher’s first move in the windup was to step behind the rubber.

    So what’s the potential problem with the side step?

    Well, aside from robbing the athlete much needed freedom and tempo, it could promote a quad dominant first move toward home plate.

    When you step 90 degrees to the side of the rubber, you move your center of mass weight distribution toward the heel of the foot. Then you reverse direction and head forward toward the arm side dugout. To stop your momentum from taking you too far forward, you have to shift your weight to the ball of the foot. Some guys are able to accomplish this and make it back to a more neutral position with their weight distributed across the entire foot. But many guys just keep on going. When you do this, the knee slides forward of the toe forcing your quads to become more dominant than your glutes and projecting you toward the on deck circle.

    Now your body knows it can’t throw the ball to the on deck circle so you have 3 choices:

    1. You can plant your lead foot across your body and throw hook shots toward home plate.
    2. You can fight your way back to the center line, a move that presents itself as some sort of disconnection – most commonly a lead leg opening early, a glove side pull, or an abrupt postural change.
    3. You can push with your quads and leap off the rubber, immediately stoping your trail hip rotation and forcing you onto your lead leg prematurely and into an early launch.

    None of these are good options.

    So here’s the deal.

    I’m not saying you have to take a back step, but let’s at least take it for a spin. Be willing to be a little different for a change.

    Step back, or maybe even at a 45-degree angle, gain some momentum and see what happens. It might be a little uncomfortable at first. And of course, if it hurts you should bag it and move on. But I’m guessing you might be surprised at the results.


    We still have some spots available for our Elite Performer’s Boot Camp July 15/16.

    Add some velo. We just had 185th 90 mph guy… you could be next.

    Solve your arm pain. We literally just wrote the book on arm pain management. It’s call Start With The Pain

    When you attend an Elite Performer’s Boot Camp, you’ll get a personalized plan to get you on track for greatness beyond your wildest imagination.

    CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE! 

    See you at The Ranch

    Randy Sullivan, MPT

    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • It seems complicated, but it's really quite simple - by Randy Sullivan

     

    There are about 5 things you need to do to change your pitching career:

    1) Start With The Pain. Even a small amount of regular pain can keep you from ascending to higher levels -- especially if that pain is in the medial elbow, anterior shoulder, or posterior shoulder. Your body's survival instinct will always trump your desire to achieve. So if you want to move up in the game, you must solve even the smallest amount of pain as the first order of business.

    2) Get Aligned and Balanced. Physical asymmetries, imbalances, tightness, weakness, or deficits in motor control will impede your performance and could put you at risk for injury. If I gave you the keys to my Meserati (I don't have a Meserati... yet) and it had 3 fully inflated tires, and one flat tire, you'd probably want to get that last tire taken care of before you tried to drive it 185 mph. Identifying and correcting physical constraints will be vital to your progress.

    3) You Have To Move Better. Movement patterns that are disconnected add extra stress to soft tissue and make it more difficult to drive the baseball in a straight line toward the plate. This could prevent you from achieving optimal velocity, command, or off-speed stuff and could ultimately derail your career. We have identified 11 common disconnections that might put you at risk for injury or keep you from perfroming well.

    4) Build A Bigger, More Powerful Motor. Once you're properly aligned and balanced, and you're moving well, it's time to drop a 6.4 -liter Hemi V8 under the hood. Developing beastmode power requires hard, smart work. It's one thing to be strong, but it's more important that you're able to produce force rapidly. Building mass alone is not the answer. You have to be able to MOVE YOUR BIG MASS!!

    5) You Have To Recover Better. If you want to be a prolific guitar player, you have to be able to practice the guitar more than most reasonable people would practice. To become a world class throwing athlete, you have to be able to throw more often and at higher intensities than the average throwing athlete can throw. If you want to ascend to higher levels of competetion, you have to be able to answer the bell and deliver the goods everytime the coach calls your number. That demands a killer recovery plan. There are steps you can take before and after a throwing episode to ensure you bounce back and re-enter the training cycle quickly to have your best stuff every time out.

     

    A couple of days ago, the The Twin Cities Frontier Press published a story proving that our processes for achieving those 5 simple steps can change a pitcher's career even at the highest level of the game.

     

     

    Click the button below to read how Minnesota Twins starting pitcher, Kyle Gibson used our methods to overcome chronic nagging arm pain that has adversely impacted his performance over the years. The changes he made this off-season have him throwing pain free and more powerfully than ever. Kyle is poised for what could be the best year of his professional career.

     

    TAKE A LOOK

     

     

    The next opportunity for you to experience the world class Ranch training process that has worked for thousands of pitchers at every level, from little league to the big leagues, will be at our combined Texas and Florida Baseball Ranch Elite Pitchers Boot Camp, March 10-12

     

    The early-bird discount has passed, so I can't offer you that, but if you register by midnight on Feb 24th, I can still give you $200 off.

    We'll even make it easy by accepting half the payment now and the other half 30 days from now. Call us at 866-787-4533 if you have any questions.

  • Ideal World vs. Real World Arm Care By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES, CPPS

    I want to provide some feedback and tips that I have learned from my time as a pitcher.  To provide a little more information about myself, I was an undersized individual with the heart and will to do whatever it took to succeed. I cannot tell you how many times I was told that I was not big enough to accomplish my dreams. But through sheer determination, I became the ace of my high school pitching staff, topped out at 92mph off the mound, and received a college scholarship from a nationally ranked junior college. I would not have had any of this success without proper arm care. I never would have thrown as hard or been able to answer the bell and take the mound each time my coach called on me without it. Proper arm care allowed me to achieve success in my baseball career.  Most people would probably agree that arm care is critical for success, but let me ask you one question. Do you have obstacles preventing you from your ideal arm care routine?

    If you answered no to this question then, like Coach Ron Wolforth often says, “you did not understand the question.”  We all face obstacles in the game of baseball, but there seems to be a lot more when it comes to things like arm care. I am convinced this is because arm care is not glorious or fancy.  After a game, everybody wants to shower and eat, and family and friends want to talk to you, just to name a few of the post-game distractions. Another obstacle is that you often need special (expensive) equipment in order to implement proper warm-up and cool down protocols. I see on Instagram the craze with cryotherapy, deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation devices, and so on. I believe each one of these devices and techniques could have a place in health and recovery. But are these expensive, time-consuming recovery techniques applicable in the REAL WORLD or only in the IDEAL WORLD? I for one believe they realistically could only be used in the IDEAL setting. Perhaps some professional facilities or a fully equipped training room would have these options at your disposal. Realistically, the majority of people do not have the space, money, or expertise to use such equipment day in and day out.

    So now what?  A typical baseball player faces many obstacles such as a lack of time and equipment, so how does one overcome these? I would like to share the way I overcame these obstacles, and how I wish I would have overcome others in the past. I believe first and foremost it is critical to realize arm care is a MUST not just something you hope or strive to do.  The next thing to combat is time. I remember times where we would be late arriving to games because of school, schedules, traffic, and other unavoidable things. So to overcome this, I would carry my glove and a weighted ball to class on game days. I felt like just holding and moving the weighted ball around would help me be loose for the game. I remember carrying my wrist weights to class, and I would perform exercises to loosen up. I would make sure that I had everything in my bag that I needed. I recommend never relying on someone else to bring something when it is this important. I would always find a quick 10 minute window to perform resistance tubing exercises. Finally, I would never pick-up a baseball without throwing weighted balls first, even if it was only a couple of throws, because it was critical for me and the health of my arm.  When I look back, I wish the Baseball Training Sock would have been around for me to use because I could have performed weighted ball throws on the bus or in class.

    All of the above occurred before the game, but after the game there are even more distractions. As I stated earlier, your teammates are ready to go eat or celebrate (if victorious) or people want to see you, which can pressure you to rush or even skip a proper cool down routine. I would do the same things I just mentioned above on the bus ride home. If we were home that day, I would perform my IDEAL cool down. I was and am a big proponent on doing what you did to warm-up to cool down as well. I do believe I would have greatly benefitted from the compression floss to enhance my recovery since I could perform it anywhere, and reap the rewards.

    Now what about equipment? I whole-heartedly believe that some equipment is needed to have a great arm care routine. The equipment that I utilized on a daily basis was resistance tubing, weighted balls, wrist weights, and exercise bands. You would never find me without this equipment. If I was still playing, I would also include the baseball training sock and the compression floss as well. If you look at the cost of these items, they are relatively inexpensive, and certainly far less expensive than some of the items I mentioned previously. One of the reasons I know how blessed I am to work for Oates Specialties LLC is because I personally used the products. They helped me in more ways than I can describe, and it did not cost my parents a fortune. That does not mean to say they did not spend a lot elsewhere, but I remember my mom and dad would let me pick one item at a time. Slowly I began to accumulate everything (including first class instruction) I needed to succeed. Fortunately, you do not need expensive tools to have a good arm care protocol. I believe you only need a few pieces of equipment and the knowledge of how to incorporate them.

    Am I saying there is not a place for the more expensive implements? Absolutely not. You can use all different types of equipment to enhance your arm care and recovery regimen. There are clearly reasons why professional teams spend a ton of money equipping their training rooms with such equipment.  I just believe they are used in an IDEAL setting, which can be attainable sometimes, but not all the time.

    In conclusion, there are numerous obstacles or hurdles that can get in the way of accomplishing your goal. To me, these obstacles were the most acute when dealing with arm care, and I just wanted to provide information on how I personally overcame them. We each have our own specific obstacles, so figure out what it is that may be preventing you from succeeding, and find a way to combat it!

    Be Unique and #BeELITE!

  • Arm Care: It's Not Sexy, But It's the Most Important

    Baseball holds a special place in our society and, because of this, there is often nostalgia associated with the game. We discuss the game's greatest players with such reverence. We talk about the game's unwritten rules, the beauty of a perfectly executed hit and run, and a knee buckling curve ball. Many of us have vivid memories connected to a certain game, team, or players. This is what makes baseball America's Pastime. But the nostalgia for the way the game was played yesteryear, has created generations of baseball people who have been unwilling to adapt--unable to see that certain things about the way baseball athletes train needed to be updated and brought to the 21st century.

    Fortunately, over the last 15 years or so, there has been a titanic shift throughout the baseball world. The baseball community has slowly, but surely, began to change its mindset with regard to training. Oates Specialties has been proud to be a part of this movement.

    Perhaps the greatest change has come with regard to the perspective of how pitchers should train and prepare to pitch. The most notable result of this paradigm shift is the proliferation of academies, coaches, and trainers who are using new training tools and movements in order to help pitchers build a bigger motor. In other words, these coaches and trainers understand that the number one way to increase velocity is to build athleticism and explosiveness in an athlete. The primary focus of this training--as applied to the throwing motion--is on the acceleration phase. This is important. We all know that a pitcher has zero shot of making it to the next level without adequate velocity. But if that pitcher can't stay healthy, it really doesn't matter how hard he throws.

    To provide an illustrative example: say you drive a Honda Accord and one day I walk up to you and give you a Ferrari. I then tell you to go as fast as possible. What I don't tell you is that the Ferrari has faulty brakes. Those brakes may or may not stop the car. Would you want to see how fast that Ferrari could go? Not if you're sane.

    The bottom line is that a Ferrari without good brakes isn't much good at all. It's a recipe for disaster. The same is true for an athlete who successfully improves the acceleration phase of his delivery without intentional and serious focus on the deceleration phase. At the end of the day, assisting an athlete in increasing his velocity isn't the most difficult task. If you help that athlete become a more explosive, athletic version of himself on the mound he will likely gain some MPHs (achieving increased velocity is more nuanced than this, but you get my point). Instead, the most difficult task is to help an athlete increase velocity AND decrease arm tenderness/soreness/pain while also improving recovery between outings. This is a very different task. Think about it: if you increase velocity you are increasing arm speed, which means your arm is having to endure a greater load and more stress placed on it. It also means your body has to bring to a stop an arm that has accelerated to a higher speed in the same amount of time/space.

    Oates Specialties prides itself in carrying the tools every throwing athlete can use to strengthen and care for the arm and improve the deceleration phase of the throwing motion. It is of such importance to us, that we have a category of products on our website entitled "Arm Care" where you will find these tools--most notably, wrist weights, the TAP Baseball Training Sock, First Responder Resistance Tubing, TAP Bell Clubs, Extreme Duty Weighted Balls, Exercise Bands, Rocket Wrap Compression Floss, and the Shoulder Tube. An athlete can, and should, train to both strengthen the arm, but also to properly learn how to decelerate through proper pronation, including how to hold this pronation for as long as possible (short answer: continue rotating over the landing leg).

    Without a healthy arm, a baseball athlete cannot take the field. And without taking the field that athlete cannot compete at his current level, much less make it to the next level. Plus, the longer it takes your arm to recover from an outing the longer it is before you can get back to training to become a better pitcher, regardless of whether the objective is to increase velocity, improve command, or sharpen your breaking ball.

    So my recommendation for each and every one of you is to take some time to assess your arm care routine. How much time do you spend improving your arm's brakes compared to the amount of time you spend on your arm's engine? My guess is that most of you are obsessed with the super charger you are busy building on your engine and haven't really thought about the status of the brake pads. Such a perspective is nothing more than short term gain with long term problems.

    Oates Specialties is here to help you with your arm care needs, so reach out to us if we can assist you in building your arm care and arm health routines.

    Until next time,

    Brian Oates

    Brian@Oatesspecialties.com

  • Ways to Improve Your Preseason Training By: Gunnar Thompson, NASM-CPT, PES, CPPS

    I want to start off by stating that I sincerely believe in hyper-personalization when it comes to athletes' training, nutrition, and recovery. While everyone has their own specific needs to improve their performance and health, it is possible to provide a general outline of what the best coaches and trainers are doing to prepare their athletes for the upcoming season. The four propositions mentioned below reflect principles I have learned from the great minds of Ron Wolforth, Randy Sullivan, Flint Wallace, Eric Cressey, Jim Smith, Joe Defranco, and Cameron Josse that should be universally utilized by all athletes.

    First, athletes should work on improving their tissue quality.  This is an immediate way to boost durability and performance. For some time, we have utilized Foam Rollers, Massage Rollers, Lacrosse Balls, and other tools to provide a Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). While there is some debate about what is actually happening when SMR is performed, it is accepted by the majority of coaches and trainers as a critical component to improving tissue quality. If you or your team do not have a foam roller, it is an inexpensive tool that will pay off immediately.

    Second, the ramp-up of workload is still something that most players and coaches miss in their preparation. I feel like this is absolutely necessary to mention as baseball season is drawing near and scrimmages/preseason games are about to be played. Randy Sullivan explains this concept well when he talks about athletes' ligaments and tendons, the places where athletes normally break down.  Randy explains that ligaments and tendons are slow to adapt to stress since the blood supply in these areas is very limited.  This is why starting small and building up is critical for athletes, and even more so for athletes who must perform overhead movements, such as throwing.  I have heard Randy recommend throwing into the Baseball Training Sock to start off a progression, as it is the least stressful way to get throws in, and it helps to develop a less stressful adaptation to build upon.

    The next thing that comes to my mind as it correlates to ramp-up is something that comes from Ron Wolforth. He believes that the MLB has it right when they start their pitchers throwing one or two innings in the first outing, and adding an inning to each appearance to create a gradual increase in workload. From these points, it easy to see why an athletes' preparation should not start with scrimmage/game number 1. It should be started well in advance and gradually built upon until the first scrimmage/game.

    Third, developing multiple warm-up routines is imperative to keep players healthy and alert for the entire season. I took this thought from Flint Wallace, who stated his athletes would have a different warm-up for every day of practice, and on game day they got to choose their warm-up. This concept also comes from the “Certified Physical Preparation Specialist” certification that was taught by Jim Smith, Joe Defranco, and Cameron Josse. During this certification, they mentioned that every athlete will show up every day with different needs.  An athlete will never be the same from day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute. As a player or coach, it is your responsibility to progress or regress the training as needed by the individual that day, hour, and minute. This may seem like an impossible task, but if there is variability in a warm-up program the athlete has the freedom to do this without even thinking about it. Therefore, athletes and coaches should create variety in their warm-ups. Ladders, hurdles, resistance tubing, weighted balls, hip mobility, and the Shoulder Tube are all great warm up options for players. This will not only keep them healthy, but they will stay alert throughout the season. Baseball is known for repetitiveness and extended length. When you combine the two you create boredom. Do everything you can do to prevent this mental struggle that boredom creates.

    Finally, recovery is the single most overlooked portion of preparation. The majority of people still believe that when the game or practice is finished, your training for the day is over.  But the elite coaches and trainers I mentioned above actually view it as the START of preparing for tomorrow! Without recovery, it is impossible to come back the following day better prepared to train or compete. There are various methods in building a recovery protocol. I have seen the tools mentioned in the “warm-up” portion also used in recovery along with others such as the Rocket Wrap Compression Floss, Electrical Stimulation, contrast baths, and diaphragmatic breathing, to name a few.  These are all great ways to increase blood flow, and to better prepare the athlete physically and mentally for the next day's work.

    As I mentioned previously, this post is not meant to tell you exactly how and what to do. That is highly dependent on each individual and their specific needs, and a proper program should never be a one size fits all. Instead, the items listed above are things I believe players and coaches should be aware of when preparing for this season and every season. Use the concepts mentioned by the coaches and trainers above and make them your own. Develop a proper preparation protocol for you or your players and it will pay dividends.

    Be unique and #BeELITE!

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