Hey guys! I wanted to start a series of blogs digging a little deeper into the human anatomy. Do not freak out though! I will make it easy for anyone to understand and be able to get something out of it.
First I want to tell you real quickly why I am doing this. Here lately the numbers of studies on baseball and sports have dramatically increased, and while I have no problem with studies, I just am not sure if all of these are really helping you get better. I wanted to present things from an anatomical or body perspective. We have a good grasp on the muscles in the body and how they work. This hasn’t really changed much in the last few years if not longer. I wanted to present something to you that would be simple enough that you can implement today to improve your performance! Do not get me wrong, the body is not simple by any means, but there are some ways to start and advance from there.
Now let’s talk about the Gluteus Medius. It can be found lateral aspect of the upper buttock. It is responsible for abduction and medial rotation of the hip. Hip rotation is critical in creating power in rotational athletes and also serves as a way to stabilize during other activities or sports.
Here are a few examples on how coaches train this with their athletes:
Exercise Band Activation: Band just above the knee. Knees are forced outward in order to gain tension in the gluteus medius. Wes Johnson presented this at the ABCA where he stated he tried to implement this with as many drills as he could like wall ball series, squats, hip bridges, clams, and etc…
Donley Hip Spin: This is different than most products because it actually places the tension on hip and not the waist. It also works unilaterally so the athlete is not able to compensate.
Pummel Ball Throws: This incorporates and integrates the full body while still keeping the primary focus on hip rotation. The ball tosses are commonly referred to by Eric Cressey, Lee Fiocci, and others as a great way work on full body rotation and power transfer. The pummel ball is ideal for this as it was made to be slammed into walls or the ground and is very durable.
These are just a few exercises that can be used to activate and strengthen the Gluteus Medius. It may be important to stretch or work on tissue quality in this area as well. This is why you should consult with your instructor or therapist to make sure you are getting the right balance of strengthening, stretching, and tissue maintenance.
Hopefully this gave you an insight to a powerful muscle utilized in rotational activities, and showed you how some of the greatest strength conditioning coaches train this in a holistic approach. As I stated before, one muscle is not everything, but it provides and good basis to start with and advance further. Make sure to tune in for the next video for another look into the anatomy of the human body.
Have you ever been told to get your lifting in? How about go get your conditioning in? If you’re like me, I would say the majority of you watching have heard this many times before. Some of you may even saying that you have heard things differently like get your arm care or your recovery in. Warm-ups, cool downs… the list goes on. The main problem with these approaches is most of the time, they are predetermined, one size fits all, or both.
I recently attended the Texas Baseball Ranch Coaches Bootcamp, While I was there I listened to some of the brightest minds in the world revealing their training methods. Each coach had their own very unique approach to how they assessed, planned, and programmed their athletes workouts. However, I noticed one common theme amongst them all. “Khaos” Each coach or trainer had a version of planned “Khaos” in their training regimens. Some used water based implements. Some used variations of targets and weighted balls. Lastly some of them used reactive type drills to keep the athlete guessing what direction to move next.
This type of training is used to create an adaptive learning environment. It forces the athlete to adjust on every drill, every throw, and every movement keeping them constantly on their toes.
When will you as an athlete ever play in a controlled environment where the surface is perfect, and every pitch you make is exactly on target? Never. If you are a coach listening, when did you have a game that played out exactly how you’d planned? Never. So why train in a pristine predetermined environment? I am not saying you should never go to the weight room or hit off a tee, but I am simply asking you have you ever changed your training environment to promote “Khaos” or unpredictability?
Randy Sullivan of the Florida Baseball Ranch recently released his book “Savage Training transferring gains from the gym to the game”. In this book, he establishes a rating system for the specificity of training as it relates to baseball. Part of the rating system is removing muscle slack naturally through unstable, undetermined, or Khaotic movements utilizing variable training implements. I will leave it there as Randy does a great job explaining this in further detail in his book, and I highly recommend it to those of you watching this.
In closing, you must get out of the mindset to just get your lifting, or conditioning in. Do not settle for just performing arm care or recovery routines. Learn to create an adaptive, evolving, and Khaotic environment that will better prepare you for what you really need. To play better on the field, and not just look better at the beach.
Remember to be unique and #BeELITE
You may be eager to venture off on your journey to college athletics, and college is one of the most exciting and influential times in your life. However, some of you are curious what is expected of you once you get there, or what you expect to happen during this time. In this video blog, I outline some things that I personally experienced as well as what I have heard from many other collegiate baseball players on obstacles in the daily life of a student athlete.
The focus of this video blog is to provide information I learned from visiting colleges as a high school player moving to the next level. I outline some important factors to think about when visiting colleges, including my experiences with coaches, and share some insight on what to look for in the coaching staff. Lastly, I give my take on things to consider in addition to athletics.
I wanted to start a series of articles that depict my experience with the recruiting process (primarily the collegiate recruiting process). I have talked with many parents and young athletes who are unfamiliar with how the system works. I sure did not know how the process worked until after the fact. Therefore, I want to use my experience and my take-away that I hope will help others through this difficult but necessary process. This post will be focused on how to get recruiters’ attention.
The first and most important thing is to know your numbers, attributes, and differentiators. If you are a pitcher, it is absolutely critical to know your velocity, percentage of strikes, percentage of strikes with the off-speed, and what is your best pitch. As a hitter, this may mean what type of hitter you are (such as power vs average), what type of pitches you hit best, and whether defense and speed are part of your game. The key is that when someone comes up to you and asks what makes you different than the thousands of other athletes you need to be able to give them an attribute that makes them remember you. I strongly believe in what coach Ron Wolforth preaches about showcases. He states that showcases might be great if you are ahead of your peer group or if you would like see how you can handle the pressure-filled atmosphere. But without knowing your numbers, how are you going to know if you are ahead of your peer group? You have to be your own analyst. It is not being arrogant, it is being prepared.
The second thing I would like to talk about is “Travel Ball”. The trend today is to play Select or Travel ball in the summer and fall in an attempt to get recognized by scouts. But there are plenty of doctors and coaches criticizing this approach as increasing the chance of injury. So what should you believe? Here is my experience. I played for a 1A high school in Texas home to roughly 200 people in the whole school. Many people think that with a school that small there won’t be any athletes that are all that good, but I don’t look at that way. In my perspective though, it is just less likely that there will be a whole team of elite players. At least this was my experience. Each team in my district had one or two players that were really good. The rest of the team was either average or below average. This meant I was not facing the best competition, so I joined a select team called the “Texas Prospects”. I will tell you that this was the best decision my parents and I ever made. I fully believe that without playing for this team, I would have never received a full scholarship to play collegiate ball. Does this mean you should join a select team? Maybe not. If you need to work on developing certain aspects of your game then you should probably look at training more than playing. But if you are not facing the highest competition in the regular season, and your “stuff” is ahead of your peers, then you should look for a solid travel team to play with (but not one that is just a “pay to play”). The “Texas Prospects” gave me an opportunity to play against the best competition, and they were not quick to pull me when I faced adversity or didn’t have my best stuff. I gave up more hits, homeruns, and runs in one season with the Texas Prospects than my whole high school career combined, but I learned so much from the experience. You must determine your “NEEDS” before deciding whether or not to join a select team.
Last, you need a coach that will do everything in his power to get you noticed. Every coach knows someone at the next level, but the question is whether he is willing to reach out to those contacts on your behalf? I know that without Coach Ron Wolforth and Coach Jeff Casey, I would not have gotten the chance to play college ball. There is something to be said for someone willing to put their reputation on the line for a 17-18 year old athlete. I strongly believe you must have that high school coach, select team coach, or pitching instructor that is willing to do this on your behalf. They can open so many doors and provide guidance that you cannot obtain anywhere else. I encourage you to talk to your high school coach about your desire to play at the next level. More than likely he will be willing to do anything he can to help. If not, seek the coach that is.
So, my advice to all of you who want to be recruited to the next level is to know exactly what you bring to the table and think strategically about where you are showcasing your attributes and against what competition. And finally, you need to identify who your “guy” will be that will promote you and fight for you to make it to the next level. Critically thinking about these factors will significantly increase your odds of making it to the next level.
In my next installment, I will discuss the things that I learned when visiting colleges I was considering, and the questions I wished I would have asked then to gain a better understanding of where my development would take me in the future if I chose to go there.
In my last blog, I discussed several things a baseball player can learn from powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters. As with anything, there are pros and cons to consider before implementing programs effectively. In this article, I will outline some of the cons with both of these training modalities as it applies to baseball players (more specifically pitchers). I do not mean to make a blanket statement that powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting is a bad form of training. Instead, I simply take into account specific considerations that affect the baseball population.
Before we get into the specifics of the two programs, let us look at the things to consider when training overhead throwing athletes. The first common issue in overhead throwing athletes is laxity in the shoulder. Laxity is a term describing looseness of connective tissue around a joint. This is important to have when throwing a baseball, as the shoulder externally and internally rotates at extreme ranges of motion and high speeds. However, laxity also means the shoulder lacks stability, which makes it harder to protect the joint under high stress. The next common issue amongst pitchers is a valgus carry in their throwing elbow. This puts extra stress on the structure of the athletes’ arms. Lastly, you will find that most pitcher’s have scapula winging. This means the base level of strength in the athlete’s upper back is not present. With this in mind, Olympic lifting requires a tremendous amount of stability when performing a lift, the precise stability that much of the baseball population does not have. Powerlifting requires a larger than normal amount of muscularity in the upper back. Most people would be surprised that the two key areas that work in the bench press is the triceps and upper back. Given the above, it would be much riskier than any resulting reward to have the athlete performing these two programs. That does not mean that all baseball athletes have these issues, or that they should never work up to this type of training, but it is certain something to consider before an athlete jumps into such a program.
Let’s also take a deeper look into the programs. There is a common misconception that Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting increases explosive power. This is not an accurate statement. If you are performing a squat, and you are doing 60% or more of your one rep max, you will not be moving at a speed that will build explosive power or plyometric power. Instead, you are building strength-speed which is not “specific” to the demands of throwing a baseball. Now take a snatch or power clean. You are still using a weight of 60% or more of one rep max, and you are building the same strength-speed. The velocity of the bar will not change as the percentage will be the same. What Olympic weightlifting does train is quick deceleration, as the athlete tries to quickly dive under the bar to catch it. Again, this is not specific to baseball pitchers, since they are accelerating at a quicker rate. Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky devised the formula to build plyometric explosiveness. This formula requires that the load be around 20% or less. This is extremely tough to do with powerlifting or weightlifting since the bar already weighs 45lbs. It would be hard to find an athlete who can snatch 225lbs which would make the bar the appropriate weight to train for explosiveness. Take one look on Instagram, and you will be hard pressed to find someone doing just the bar. I mean it is just not cool!
Lastly, these programs work in the sagittal and frontal planes. Delivering a pitch or swinging a bat works in the transverse plane. It would only make sense to train in the same plane that the competition is performed in. This does not mean that there is not a time and place for anti-rotation, anti-flexion, or anti-extension. It just means there is a better chance for carry-over to the game when performing activities as similar as possible to the activities in the game. This is why medicine ball throws, slams, and tosses are key in training rotational athletes. And this is why Oates Specialties carries several implements that when used properly increases the likelihood of power transfer.
In conclusion, implementing any type of training is a risk verses reward analysis. One must consider the adaptations that each athletic population deals with, and also the specific demands of the sport. Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting programs can sometimes add too much risk while not adding enough reward. Remember that regardless of which of these training programs you are looking at, it is geared toward strength and not explosiveness. You must ask yourself which do you need more of to be a successful baseball player?
Let me start off by saying that I will not be debating on whether or not baseball athletes should use powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting programs. Instead, in this two part series, I will identify the things that one can take away from each and apply to their own program to make them better, as well as mentioning the negative effects each one has on baseball specific activities. For the first part of my series, I will stick with the benefits each ideology can have on creating a well-rounded program.
Let’s start with powerlifting. You will not find ordinary Olympic size weight plates, dumbbells, or rigs on Oates Specialties' website because we believe in providing you with specialty items that are unique, different, and highly functional. This does not mean that we are anti-weight room. Instead, we believe people spend too much time under the barbell. Which brings me to the first thing we can learn from powerlifters: Louie Simmons, owner of Westside Barbell, trains the strongest powerlifters in the world, yet he adheres to the belief that his lifters should only be doing barbell training 20% of the time. That’s right, the strongest lifters on the planet, whose sport is lifting barbells, are only under the bar 20% of the time. This is telling, considering lifting heavy barbells isn’t required for the sport of baseball, but a lot of programs are centered around the weight room. The other 80% of the time he has his athletes performing accessory movements which focus on their weaknesses. Most people would attempt to fix weaknesses through stretching or isolated muscle building, but this often doesn't solve the problem. What if a baseball pitcher had trouble with the speed and power of their hip rotation? It is important to train weak movements as well as weak body parts.
Powerlifters also use a wide stance on squats and push their feet out like they are tearing a piece of paper from the floor so that they can increase tension in their abductors and glute medius. The glute medius is crucial for hip rotation. If you will watch a powerlifter, they do not jump from side to side. They simply use the abductors to hold tension but not provide movement. Elite baseball pitchers and hitters do very similar things. They are not creating a push off the mound, but they are instead creating tension through the entire leg so they can rotate faster. While on the subject of creating and keeping tension, think about what a powerlifter does immediately before lifting a heavy barbell. They take a big breath to fill their stomach and chest with air. This increases the intraabdominal pressure (increasing pressure around the spine in the stomach) which acts like a brace on the spine protecting it from damage. This pressure build up is critical for keeping the spine healthy during maximum effort attempts. For those of you that have read Brian Oates’ blog “ “Max Effort” Pitchers “ you already know that to throw a pitch in the mid 90’s, it takes a max effort delivery. If this bracing is important for the health of the spine during maximum effort lifts, it only makes sense that it be important during a maximum effort pitch or swing. The other benefit of bracing the core is to provide stability in a joint that is supposed to be stable, thereby unlocking mobility in the hips and thoracic spine. If you look at an elite athlete pitching or swinging a bat, the movement requires an incredible amount of mobility in their movement pattern.
Now moving on to what we can learn from weightlifting programs. The soviet, Bulgarian, and Chinese weightlifting programs change loads and exercises every workout to keep the body adapting to new stress. The Law of Accommodation states that by handling the same load and same exercises consistently, the body adapts then stops progressing. In fact it can even regress. Now what can baseball players take away from this law? That the load and exercises they perform should be ever changing. This is not a new concept. Frans Bosch, a world renowned exercise physiologist from the Netherlands who works with Olympic javelin throwers, stated as much during his speech at Ron Wolforth’s Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp a couple years ago. We adhere to this philosophy through the use of weighted balls, weighted bats, differing drills, uneven training implements like water based tools, and the use of uneven surfaces so that we can efficiently keep adding stimulus to the body so it never stops progressing. Most opponents of weighted implements do not understand this principle.
Next, the use of bands and chains is very common in powerlifting and foreign weightlifting programs. Why do they use bands and chains for added tension? It prolongs the amount of time the athlete has to accelerate. They cannot use momentum which would stop the acceleration and would actually force them to decelerate sooner. Again, in the baseball world, weighted implements, as well as tubing, can be used to extend the acceleration phase which would increase the amount of total force put out. Resistance tubing is often thought to be great for shoulder warm-ups or arm specific movements, but we develop our tubing so that they can be used through a dynamic full range of motion which includes emulating the pitching motion.
The last thing I will discuss in this post is how strength is actually gained in powerlifting and weightlifting programs. The answer is simple, concise, and easy to understand. VOLUME. Total volume is what really determines strength. Louie Simmons focuses on total volume during dynamic effort or speed-strength days. It is crucial that his athletes meet the minimum volume for that day. In the baseball community, we look at volume in a bad way. How many pitches has Johnny thrown today? This week? This Season? We seem to go back to normal when it comes to batting. How many swings did Johnny take today? It doesn't make sense to think of volume as a good thing in every movement except for pitching/throwing. I place throwing in there because coaches are even concerned how many warm-up throws, bullpen pitches, or training throws they make each day. Why is volume bad? It increases stress. Why is Volume good? It increases stress. Do you believe too much stress is bad? Of course! Do you think too little stress will prevent gains? Absolutely! We should stop looking at volume as a bad thing, and we should take a point from Louise in that we should train optimally. There is an optimum amount of volume/stress for each athlete, and each person will require a different amount because of their own unique make-up.
In concluding, you can see simple things that we can take away from a community that is not necessarily in close relation to what the game of baseball requires of its athletes. Why did I choose weightlifting and powerlifting? They are some of the oldest competitive sports in the world. Almost everything has been tried and tested, and only the successful parts are still in use today. The next time you watch these sports, do not focus on the fact that the athletes are under a bar. Instead, I challenge you to watch them as they perform their accessory work, prepare for the lift, and recover from the lift. You can see pieces that can help you in your search to become an elite baseball athlete. In the second part of this blog, I will detail a few negative aspects of these sports, and why baseball athletes should not be necessarily too eager to jump into doing the same lifts.
Early last Friday morning I was conducting a Precision Strike One-On-One Evaluation and Training Session with a 16 year-old righty complaining of severe biceps pain. He had scheduled the appointment after pitching in his first tournament travel ball season. For the sake of confidentiality, I’ll call him Wilson (that’s not his real name). In his second outing of the weekend, the pain reached a 10/10 tipping point threshold, his coach wisely shut him down and told him to call The Florida Baseball Ranch. Many coaches believe that pain in the muscle belly of the biceps is no big deal…
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!