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Tag Archives: weighted ball

  • Disappointing Results from Training? : By Ron Wolforth

    For most of us, one-size-fits-all programs and programming have always been an undeniable fact of life. We had a coach, mentor, or teacher who followed a specific philosophy, recipe or process and simply hoped for the best.

     

    After all, most systems are better than no system at all, so we quietly accepted reality and moved forward.

     

    We intuitively realized that some coaches, mentors, teachers, philosophies and/or processes fit some individuals far better than others.  Many have come to grasp the fact that such a universal reality will never completely go away.  Perfect just does not exist.

     

    That is the reason many of us are unconsciously in the constant search for a better “fit” for ourselves, our children, our family, our teams and/or our organizations.

     

    But as far as physical training is concerned, technology and the evolution of thought behind training has evolved considerably in just the last 10 years.

     

    We are just now fully grasping the incredible benefits of customization and hyper-personalization of our athlete’s training protocols.  In fact, when we step back and look at it from a distance, such a process actually makes perfect sense.  Instead of forcing each unique athlete to conform to a rigid choreography and a universal cookie cutter model of training, we go through a four-step process that, at the Ranch Consortium, we refer to as Assess, Categorize, Customize, and Prioritize.

    Without getting too abstruse and deep into training methodology, here is why such a process is a gigantic leap forward.

     

    The science behind this is good.  Whenever we take a group of dynamic systems… such as a collection of baseball pitchers… and expose them to a strict process or protocol… such as a one-size-fits-all weighted ball program… the results are fairly predictable.

     

    Some flourish, most show very little change, and some get injured or go backwards.

    For a vast majority of the history of training athletes, this was simply standard operating procedure.

     

    It was great if your athlete was on the “flourish side” of the bell curve and it was unfortunate if he happened to get injured or went backwards.

     

    The authors of the particular “process” would champion and highlight their successes and for the most part ignore the failures. (By the way, that certainly included our early days at the Texas Baseball Ranch®.)

     

    If you happened to be on the wrong side of the curve, you often went in search of the next process, hoping that this next one was a better fit.

     

    This went on for years and years.  Nothing to see here, simply keep moving forward.

     

    But slowly things began to change.  Technology improved.  Thinking and understanding evolved.  Some of us in multiple disciplines and arenas of athletic training and performance enhancement rejected the status quo, consensus, conventional thinking and group think.   Thanks to works of Bernstein, Nyman and Bosch, we began to understand “Dynamic SystemsTheory” and how it relates to our athletes individually.

     

    We started down the complex road of hyper-personalization and built training processes which were led not by efficiency, but by the individual constraints of each individual athlete.

     

    In short, we wanted to assist each athlete in overcoming and/or reducing the specific constraint that was MOST limiting or interfering with his performance right now… currently… today!  At the Ranch Consortium we refer to this by its Motor Learning equivalent: A Constraint-Led Approach to Motor Skill Development.

     

    I wrote a whitepaper entitled, “The Case Against Weighted Balls?”  We made it into a short book. If you would like a copy of it, please call or email our office and we will mail you a copy for free: Please let our Office Manager, Anna Dugger, know if you are a player, parent or coach.

    Office- 936-588-6762
    AnnaDugger@TexasBaseballRanch.com

     

    Now to be clear, the title was intended to be provocative.  We in fact believe that over-weighted and underweighted balls as throwing tools are exceptional.  However, they are simply tools.  They are not a silver bullet nor a panacea, and if used incorrectly, they can in fact place athletes at greater risk of injury.

     

    The purpose of my paper was to share our 20-year relationship with the utilization of weighted balls in training so that players, parents and/or coaches would have a better understanding of how to maximize the benefits of weighted ball training while minimizing their risks.

     

    If you are interested in utilizing weighted balls as part of your process, I believe the book is quite helpful and informative.

     

    However, after reading it again for the first time in several months, I realized I omitted a very, very valuable piece of the puzzle and a critical influencer, and I wanted to correct that now.

     

    A huge component of our success has been the assessment phase.  No one single person has been more influential in that regard than Phil Donley.  Not only is Phil one of my most favorite people in the entire world and a wonderful man, he was light years ahead of his time, helping us understand what sound structural assessment entails and how to interpret the testing information.

     

    Today his influence is all over our processes. For those unfamiliar with Phil, here is a little about him:

    Phillip Donley is a retired Colonel U.S. Army Reserve. He was Chief Physical Therapist at Akron City Hospital (1958-1960), Instructor and Assistant Athletic Trainer at West Head Athletic Trainer and Professor of Physical Education at West Chester University (1965-1991). He owned a private Sports Physical Therapy Clinic in West Chester in 1981 to 1995. Since 1997, he has served as a Consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies for 10 years and the Philadelphia Eagles for 5 years. He now treats patients part-time at the West Chester office of Optimum Physical Therapy Associates. He also performs research and clinical care lectures on shoulder and full body kinetic chain topics.

     

    In closing, the primary reason so many people are often disappointed with their training is because their specific training is simply not a great fit.  It may have been a better fit a year ago or it might be a great fit 6 months from now, but right now, there are things that are far more important. It may even be a great fit for your roommate or teammate, but it isn’t for you. 

     

    Getting the wrong plan will at best minimize your gains and at worst ruin or significantly sidetrack your career.

     

    To have the BEST chance of your training having a large positive impact on your performance, you should:

     

    • Assess your current physical structure, mobility/flexibility, strength/strength balance, movements/mechanical efficiency, recovery/ability to bounce back and performance parameters (velocity, command, swing-and-miss stuff).
    • Then Categorize– from those assessments, guide each athlete to the exact area(s) and protocol(s) that they need most at this moment.
    • Then Customize– building a hyper-personalized, holistic plan for the next 8-12 weeks so that each athlete works on the specific areas they need most.
    • Then Prioritize– creating a hierarchy of our process to make certain we hit the most urgent things first.

     

    The best news in all of this is that today in 2020, there is a viable, far more effective way to train than following a mail order program on the internet.  And indeed, sometimes your very career may depend upon it.

     

    Until next time, stay curious and keep fighting the good fight.

     

    – – – – – – – – – – – –

     

    Important TBR Updates

     

    • We have only 2 remaining Elite Pitchers Bootcamps on the summer schedule after this weekend. The August 7-9 is SOLD OUT but there are still spots available in our Labor Day Camp, September 5-7. Due to current COVID-19 state mandates, we have reduced the number of attendees to 2/3’s of out normal 45 cap. For more information on these popular events, please visit www.TexasBaseballRanch.com/events. We are also loosening up our cancellation/change policy so that people can be comfortable in making plans now in the face of current and future uncertainty. **We also have an option for you to extend you bootcamp weekend and stay for an additional week(s) and participate in out “Extended Stay Summer Developmental Program”.

     

    • Would you like to train at the Ranch for a longer period of time this summer? Our “Extended Stay Summer Development Program” is the program for you. We have one session remaining this summer. It is a two week mini session, August 3-13. More information is available at www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/tbr-summer-program/.

     

    • Response to our “Ranch Remote” training option has been exciting. It’s a program for people that would still like to get access to, and ongoing instruction from, the TBR staff but prefer to avoid travel due to the virus. Click here to get more information on this NEW, hyper-personalized training option. The number of participants in this program is limited to 36 so if you’re interested, don’t dealy.

     

    • Like many of you, we have heard the news that many Junior Colleges across the country have cancelled their fall season and in some cases, the entire 2020-2021 athletic season. This obviously is both disappointing and frustrating for many young men. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we have decided to put into place a fall training program for those young men who would like to take a ‘gap’ year, focusing on a structured developmental program that will best prepare them for college baseball when it finally does return. Please email info@TexasBaseballRanch.com if you would like more information on this option.

     

    Please call (936)588-6762 or email us: info@texasbaseballranch.com
    for more details or to sign up for any of these options.
  • When It Comes to Arm Issues… By: Coach Ron Wolforth

    In the span of 30 days, we at the Texas Baseball Ranch® had conversations with two DI pitching coaches, two DII head coaches, one DIII head coach, and an NAIA pitching coach, all about the exact same phenomenon.

     

    I thought it might be a perfect time to address this issue.

     

    Here is a synopsis of what they all said:

     

    1. Their team has historically done a very good job avoiding arm issues and surgical interventions.

     

    1. The last couple of years they have seen a definite upswing in the number of their pitchers coming to campus with a weighted ball throwing program and all the requisite paraphernalia.

     

    1. These young men with the choreographed throwing programs end up getting hurt, having extended periods on the shelf, or need surgery at a rather alarming rate that far exceeds the rate of their other pitchers.

     

    1. While they certainly don’t want to micromanage or forbid their pitchers from seeking outside help, they really can’t afford to lose any of their top guys to injury, and they are seriously thinking about limiting or forbidding their pitchers from such programs.

     

    They really wanted to hear our perspective on this phenomenon.

     

    Success Leaves Clues-
    The Unsuccessful Leave Debris Scattered Across the Landscape

     

    Here is a synopsis of our discussions with these men:

     

    For starters, let’s take this completely out of the baseball realm for a moment. For the ailment of high blood pressure, an MD has dozens and dozens of different medications in his/her tool box that he/she can prescribe. What the doctor tries to do, based upon the patient’s histrionics, assessments, and tests, is prescribe a regimen including dosage, frequency, and duration that best fits their patient. They then schedule a follow up appointment and retest and reassess to see how the prescription worked, and if needed, change the medication (choose a different tool) or modify the dosage and frequency.

     

    Next let’s look at world class strength coaches such as Eric Cressey or Lee Fiocchi. Eric and Lee have dozens and dozens of different options in their strength development tool box that they can prescribe. What they do, based upon the athlete’s histrionics, assessments, and tests, is prescribe a specific strength regimen including intensity, volume, and frequency that best fits the current needs of their athlete. They then closely follow the athlete’s progress and retest and reassess to see how the prescription worked, and if needed, change their program or modify the intensity, volume, and frequency.

     

    Far too often in the medical community, some doctors get stuck or are courted by and/or financially incentivized by pharmaceuticalreps to prescribe a specific medication for a certain ailment. Thereby often giving a ‘stock solution’ to otherwise very unique individuals with similar symptoms. As we all can imagine, this rarely goes well. In the medical profession, there is a very appropriate mantra, “Diagnosis and prescription without assessment can lead to malpractice”.

     

    Likewise, in the strength development community, some trainers prescribe a ‘one size fits all’ ‘stock solution’ to strength development. In essence, they have, in their opinion, one very, very good tool and they prescribe it to every one of their athletes. Over the years I have seen first-hand the negative repercussions and unintended detrimental consequences with homogenized strength programs. This is in large part what separates Eric and Lee. They are meticulous on performing their due diligence for the benefit of their individual clients.

     

    In our opinion, we private instructors, pitching coaches, and head coaches should hold ourselves to the same high standard.

     

    The Problem Is Real and It Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon

     

    Returning now to the question surrounding the college and high school pitcher: “Should we then be surprised when an athlete shows up with a ‘stock’ weighted ball or throwing program and becomes injured or has arm issues?”  Answer:I don’t believe so. In fact, I’m personally surprised more aren’t injured. ‘One size fits all’ programing, even those that are sound, will of course often have very uneven results when applied to a universal population.

     

    By the way, I’ve learned this the hard way. In 2006 we had one regimen that we THOUGHT was extremely good. It worked very well for some, it didn’t help others at all, and some it actually took backwards. It was a very humbling lesson for us. Today, in 2019, we have literally dozens of paths an athlete can take, and we use the diagram to below as our foundation. I think it is a great guide for most people who work with groups of athletes.

    #1 First we assess to find out where the athlete is currently.

     

    #2 Then we place the athletes in the most appropriate training
    category based upon their most pressing personal needs.

     

    #3 We then customize and hyper-personalize as much of their training process as possible.

     

    #4 We prioritize their work to make certain the main thing remains the main thing.

     

    The Good News: There Are Things You Can Do…
    A Third Option

     

    Now let’s return to the main issue: Pitchers showing up on campus with a stock weighted ball throwing program.

     

    Option #1-We could simply let them do their thing and HOPE they will be ok. The problem with that approach is that if this guy is supposed to be one of our key contributors this season, can we really take the risk of him being healthy and available to us when the anecdotal evidence suggests that those guys get hurt more often. Is that fair to the rest of the guys who bust their humps every day in search of a championship?

     

    Option #2- We could put our foot down and not allow outside programs whatsoever. The problem with that approach is that it immediately creates a rift between the player and the coaches, and really places a stain on trust, rapport, and team culture. Always keep in mind that the player has consciously invested his time and money into his program, and you refusing to respect or honor his investment is a confirmation that you feel that the athlete is either incompetent, inept, or incapable of making sound training decisions on their own.

     

    Option #3- Or you could do this. Ask the player the following questions:

    • Ask the player to bring you his weekly process. (If he doesn’t have one, it’s on one sheet of paper, or on a laminated card, you know immediately it’s a stock program and what you are dealing with right away.)
    • How many days total are they throwing each week in addition to your team practice?
    • How many throws or how much time is spent on each segment outside of your team practice?
    • How many ‘push’ days a week outside of your team practice does this process call for?
    • What do they do for a wake-up, warm-up, and arm preparation outside of your team practice?
    • What do they do for post throwing and recovery outside of your team practice?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their physical structure or alignment which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their mobility/flexibility which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their strength/stability which shaped their current process?
    • Did they previously have any assessment completed with regards to their mechanical efficiency which shaped their current process?
    • Have they previously had any pain, arm issues, or difficulty in recovering?
    • Is their current workload using this system more, less, or the same as they trained in previous seasons?
    • Can they adequately explain, to your satisfaction, the specific purpose of each of their drills?

     

    Again, I learned the importance of these questions the hard way. For the last 12 years I have roamed the facilities of the Texas and Florida Baseball Ranches, continually asking players those exact questions. While our coaches and players have improved exponentially in their ability to answer those questions over the past 12 years, some players just don’t quite grasp the concepts and/or the full magnitude of their personal training process.

     

    The reason this is important is we obviously can’t assume just because an athlete ‘generally’ knows how to perform a specific drill and carries with him a laminated card and training paraphernalia, he therefore is a master at managing his own process over the course of the season. Subsequently, such a person who is clearly not intimately knowledgeable would, in our opinion, need and benefit from our continued guidance, mentorship, and support.

     

    Remember: You Lead People…
    You Manage Systems & Processes

     

    Based on how each athlete answers these questions, the answers give us great insight into how we should proceed.

     

    If indeed this is a ‘stock’ and ‘homogenized’ throwing program in which there is little or no personalization, cycling, or periodization, then we suggest you as his coach should intervene.

     

     One of the biggest weaknesses of choreographed throwing programs is a complete lack of a ramp-up for soft tissue. Soft tissue pliability, resilience, and robustness takes a gradual increase in intensity and volume over time. 

     

    • Tell him to take his prescribed throwing program and cut it in half for the first 2 weeks.
    • Tell him that if his arm is completely healthy after the first 2 weeks, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 3-4) to increase the volume to 60% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 3-4, tell him for the next 2 weeks (weeks 5-6) to increase the volume to 70% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 5-6, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 7-8) increase the volume to 80% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after weeks 7-8, for the next 2 weeks (weeks 8-9) increase the volume to 90% of the suggested throwing program workload.
    • If his arm is completely healthy after 9 weeks, he may add ONE velocity push day or one max long toss day and adopt his full program as long as you are not scrimmaging. If you are scrimmaging, pitching in competition becomes his push day. By all means long toss on a regular basis but trying to set personal all-time best distances is not recommended in our opinion during your competition phase.
    • If at any time he experiences any sort of arm discomfort, he immediately reverts back to the previous week’s volume and intensity, and refrains from any velocity push days or maximum distance long toss.

     

    Bottom Line:

     

    • The steepness of season, training/practice, and game time ramp-ups are absolutely critical towards arm health and durability. Get that wrong at your own peril.
    • There is a third option for dealing with ‘stock’, ‘one size fits all’ weighted ball throwing programs and it not only helps with the ramp-up and arm health, it also builds rapport and trust between the coaches and the player as they work together to build a healthy, more durable, more electric throwing athlete.

     

    Until next time,

    Stay curious and keep fighting the good fight.

     

    – – – – – – – – – –

     

    If you know a young man that doesn’t need more innings this summer, but instead needs to improve either his velocity, command, secondary offerings or arm health & recovery, please encourage him to join us at The Texas Baseball Ranch for our “Extended Stay Summer Development Program”.  He will leave with a hyper-personalized plan to help him with HIS specific needs.  More information is available at www.TexasBaseballRanch.com/events.

  • 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!

  • WEIGHTED BALL RESEARCH - by John LaCorte

    Introduction 

    Throwing velocity is a performance measurement used for assessing baseball players, particularly in pitchers. Pitchers are constantly seeking out ways to increase their pitching velocity, as higher velocity is looked at as a measurement of success. Research has been conducted to look at the effects of weight training, medicine ball training, ballistic training, proper mechanics, and throwing under- and overweighted baseballs on throwing velocity.

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  • Improved Weighted Ball Holds with the TAP Baseball Training Sock

    This post is dedicated to a new product in the Oates Specialties lineup: the TAP Baseball Training Sock. Before I discuss how the Training Sock can be used and its benefits, it is probably best to describe its genesis. The Training Sock was developed under the guidance of Ron Wolforth and Randy Sullivan, as part of a modified, and improved, ball hold program.

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  • Underload Training

    Now that many of you have read my article about overload training I want to focus this week on the concept of underload training. While overload training has to do with demand or resistance greater than those levels normally encountered in daily life or in competition, underload training is the opposite. Underload training involves demands or resistance lighter than those levels normally encountered.

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  • Minor League Game and Interview

    Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to visit with a former college teammate of mine and watch him pitch a couple of innings. I played ball with Evan Bronson at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas for three years before he was drafted in the 29th round of the 2009 draft by Evan Bronson Picthe Washington Nationals. After being drafted, Evan was sent to play for the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York Penn League. Evan had a phenomenal season coming out of the bullpen for the Lake Monsters as he went 3-0 with a 0.55 E.R.A. in 49.1 innings making the NY Penn League All-Star team.

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