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Tag Archives: strength


    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?


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  • Exercises with the Short Length Large Diameter Rope

    As many of you know, we like to constantly add new products to our lineup in order to bring as many unique exercises to our customers' attention as we possibly can. Often, at this time of year, I post blogs about a new piece of equipment we recently started carrying and explain some exercises that can be performed with it. The product I am going to talk about today is not really new, but we recently realized the true benefits that can be obtained from using it. This product, the Short Length Large Diameter Rope, has many different uses and can functionally train several different muscle groups. In order to best show what types of exercises you can perform with it, I am going to let video clips of the product being used do most of the talking in this blog.

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  • Accepting Force and Creating Force

    I was recently on Eric Cressey’s blog and while reading a post of his entitled “11 Random Thoughts on Baseball Strength and Conditioning,” I really liked one of his “thoughts” and wanted to elaborate on it and adopt it as one of my blog posts. Eric discusses the concept of “accepting force” in the effort to increase pitching/throwing velocity. What does this mean? Eric is talking about the ability to harness the applied force that your body is already capable of producing and thereby channeling it through the ball. For example, many pitchers are weak functionally, such as through the core, hips, and lower half (such as in the glutes).

    Due to this weakness, the pitcher loses the energy/force that he has created during his delivery and is thereby losing velocity.  The most common example that I have seen (and Eric discusses as well) is the pitcher that collapses on his landing leg because he lacks the strength to stay firm on it. This collapsing, often called leaking, is seen when the pitcher’s knee continues to move forward (toward the plate) while the pitcher is delivering the ball. This is not, of course, done intentionally, but instead occurs because the pitcher lacks the glute, quad, and/or hamstring strength to support the weight and momentum of the body and therefore has to give as opposed to remain firm. This doesn’t provide for a firm anchor in order to rotate the body over and therefore energy is being lost through the lower half that could have traveled up the body and through the arm to the ball.

    Here are two slow motion videos of hard throwers Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Verlander’s landing leg actually goes from slightly bent to straight, the opposite of leaking (which increases the force he is able to produce coming over it from his upper body), while Hernandez’s leg remains firm.

    Eric makes a great point about “accepting force” in that a pitcher who has “leakage” issues already has more velocity inside his body that he is not realizing. Despite not utilizing all the force the pitcher is already capable of creating, coaches and players alike are all too often worried about creating more force by means of weighted balls, long toss, and the like. Of course, generating more force is always desirable, but it can be in vein if a player works so hard to create more force only for it to leak out through a collapsing landing leg. I think the point Eric is trying to make is that what such a player needs to do is focus not solely on creating new/more force, but also in harnessing the force that is already within him more effectively.

    Coach Ron Wolforth at the Texas Baseball Ranch often talks about the concept of “massive, simultaneous action.” Not too long ago I read a newsletter by Jill Wolforth discussing this concept and how they embrace it at the Texas Baseball Ranch. This philosophy can be summarized succinctly:

    The power to rapid growth is in (1) doing a massive number of things and (2) doing them simultaneously.

    The point of this approach is to get away from doing things in a sequential, step by step process – which is how we are generally taught to do things from a very early age. Applying this concept to this blog topic, an athlete should not JUST try to increase the force he is able to generate during his motion, nor should an athlete JUST try to harness the force already within him by improving the strength and stability of his lower half/glutes/core. Instead, the most effective way to increase velocity in the quickest amount of time is to target BOTH. Improve your functional weaknesses in order to better harness or accept the force your body is already capable of generating, while at the same time work on increasing your ability to generate more force. The combination of the two will lead to exponential gains and improvement.

    This approach is how a player can make large gains in a short amount of time. Wondering how you can improve the strength of you lower half? Check out this previous blog. Want to know some ways to increase your arm speed/generate more force? Check out this previous blog.

    Until next time,

    Brian Oates

  • Gymnastic Rings: A Great Functional Workout

    Now that I am no longer playing ball I probably spend too much time in the weight room working on my “beach muscles.” After several months of lifting weights and doing very little functional strength work I decided to switch up my routine and focus on some body weight exercises. I pulled out my pair of Gymnastic Rings that I have used extensively in the past but hadn’t used in some time in order to focus on the most basic lifts. With the rings I generally do 3-5 sets of pull-ups, dips, reverse rows, pushups, and chest flys. These 5 exercises kicked my butt enough that I decided to dedicate a blog to them.

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  • Ab Crunches: A Waste of time for Baseball Athletes

    Today I went to a local gym to workout and like always found great amusement in watching many of the lifts I saw individuals performing. The most interesting thing I witnessed was a trainer at this gym working out with a young athlete, probably high school age, whom I overheard saying that he was a baseball player. At this point I became interested in observing the types of lifts the trainer had him perform and apparently I began watching during the core exercise phase of this athletes’ workoutAb Crunch.

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  • Strength Training: Trap Bar Deadlift

    On several occasions I talked about improving flexibility, mobility, and stability in athletes. While I believe these are the most important areas for athletes to concentrate on in order to stay healthy and improve performance there is another aspect of training that I have not talked about much—power.

    Power is important to athletes in all sports but the reason I haven’t really addressed it much to this point is because it is the one area of training that seems to be targeted by ALL coaches. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in a weight room forced to do mindless repetitions with as much weight as I could possibly move. Because of this, most athletes need to concentrate on other aspects of training.

    Athletes in different sports need to train specifically for the movements and demands of their sport. Offensive linemen, for example, need to have a great deal of linear upper body strength and therefore an activity such as a bench press is great for training that. Other athletes do not need that type of strength and therefore the bench press offers limited benefits for a rotational game such as baseball.

    The biggest problem with most strength programs for sports is that they are not tailored to that sport. The root of the problem stems from the fact that many coaches are football coaches and coach baseball and other sports on the side. While not every lift or exercise in the weight room is beneficial to all athletes there are certain exercises that can be utilized that universally benefits athletes.

    One such exercise is the deadlift. The deadlift is great because it is an explosive movement that targets the lower half. Specifically it targets the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. These are large muscle groups that control a great majority of movements that an athlete makes. One reason the deadlift is such a great exercise is because it requires the athlete to generate strength and power in a lowered position before he springs upward with the weight.

    Here is what Eric Cressey, renowned strength coach and owner of Cressey Performance, had to say about the benefits of the deadlift: “…the deadlift is the single, most effective movement for training the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, adductor magnus, and lumbar erectors). The posterior chain is of paramount importance to high-level performance…The glutes and hamstrings are all fast-twitch fibers with a lot of strength, speed, and size potential—potential you’ll never realize without deadlift variations.”

    Athletes are frequently in a lowered, crouched position and are required to explode up into the air. Think of a shortstop jumping for a line drive, a receiver leaping for a pass, and even to some degree a pitcher as he is generating his pelvic load and then explodes toward home plate.

    Here is a video of Eric Cressey himself demonstrating a deadlift.

    Deadlifts are an explosive exercise that an athlete can use to target his fast twitch muscles.  One of my biggest problems with a lot of weight room training is that it is not explosive and doesn’t help athletes become quicker and more athletic. But after watching Eric perform deadlifts it is apparent that the exercise is a fast and explosive motion. It targets the same muscles used when running, jumping, and other activities that require the athlete to go from still to full speed.

    Many of you may have noticed that the bar Eric used was not a normal straight bar but instead is open in the middle for the athlete to stand in. This product is called the Olympic Trap Bar. It is superior to a straight bar because it creates more room for the knees to pass through while recruiting the legs and glutes and helps to protect the back. It is much easier to keep good form while standing in the middle of the Trap Bar as opposed to using a straight bar. I highly encourage you all to try and implement using the Trap Bar into your workouts.

    As with all exercises, especially weight room exercises, it is important that the athlete use proper form. Proper form consists in part of keeping the shoulders back, abs tight, and back straight. But before you perform deadlift exercises it is important to discuss proper form with a strength coach or somebody knowledgeable in weight training.

    Until next time,

    Brian Oates

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