4 Keys to Staying Healthy During the Baseball Season

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on my 4 Keys to Staying Healthy During the Baseball Season is now available.

4 Keys to Staying Healthy During the Baseball Season

4 Keys to Staying Healthy During Baseball SeasonThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on 4 Keys to Staying Healthy During the Baseball Season.  In this webinar I’ll discuss:

  • How and why injuries happen in baseball
  • What you should watch out for in regard to loss of mobility
  • My criteria you should achieve before picking up a ball everyday
  • The #1 thing I see youth players do wrong that causes injuries
  • How to maximize performance by minimizing overuse

To access this webinar:

Enhance Performance During the Baseball Season by Reducing Overuse

I’ve talked over and over again that overuse is the number one reason why we have so many high school and youth baseball injuries.  It’s likely the most significant factor while also being the easiest to address.  People grasp the concept that overuse can lead to injury, but overuse is also the number one reason why performance is decreased over the course of a baseball season.

But it’s all about temptation, right?  Let’s use a different example.  Eating that donut right now probably isn’t going to kill me today (I guess I could choke on it…), but creating a bad habit, like eating a lot of donuts, will have an impact on my longevity and quality of life.  My short term actions will decrease my long term results.

Taking it back to summer baseball, it’s tempting to play in multiple leagues or to sign up for every showcase and tournament you can find.  You want to get the most exposure that you can, right?  Realize that your short term actions will decrease your long term results.

 

Understanding the Stress of a Baseball Season

I like to think that you start every baseball season at 100% capacity, and slowly drip down over the course of the season.  This is normal.  There is this magical line of injury, let’s say at 80% capacity.  You can play at 81% but you can’t play at 79%.  This is a concept I have developed over the years because I see this ALL the time. I’m not sure why, but I do feel there is this magical line.

Here is what that magical line looks like.  The blue line is your magical line that I don’t want you to dip below over the course of the season.  The red line is your capacity.

Youth baseball overuse

 

Once you dip below that magical line of 80%, it’s really hard to get back up.  You end up struggling to stay above water all season.  You play on the weekend, empty the tank, and then we struggle to get you back over the line all week.  This is by far the worst way to get through a season.

baseball overuse

Some people spend every season like this and I wonder if they ever truly reach their potential. People that I tend to see that do wiggle back and forth over this line tend to be doing 1 of 2 things:

  1. Way too much in general
  2. Trying to make big gains during the season

What I mean by the second point is that you spent all winter working hard to get stronger, improve your mechanics, and enhance your velocity.  But, you continue to push your physiological limits with your training in season when you should be scaling back the training and scaling up the skill competition.  This leads to overuse, even though your actual innings may be down.

I’d rather you be at 100% capacity at 80% of showcases, rather than at 80% capacity at 100% of showcases.  Plus, 80% of you isn’t going to impress a scout or coach.  The higher your red line, the higher your performance.

 

Enhance Performance During the Baseball Season by Reducing Overuse

My job is to slow down that drip.  I want to make the red line slowly drip over the course of the season.

baseball inseason injury

I do this by helping you maintain your mobility, strength, stability, and endurance.  Notice I said “maintain” and not “gain.”  You can also help slow this drip down with proper inseason programs.  Paying attention to your recovery, sleep, and nutrition also play a part.

Your job is to raise your capacity as much as possible.  You want to make that blue line go down as much as possible.

baseball performance

 

How do you do this?  It’s building your base in the offseason through a comprehensive performance training program that focuses on strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, mobility, and arm care.  If it’s midseason for you and you are struggling, keep this in mind next offseason!

I work with a lot of young athletes during the season.  It is VERY obvious to me inseason which player put the effort in during the offseason to prepare.  Their durability is noticeably improved.Overuse is specific to each individual.  You can slow down your drip and raise your capacity with the right programs.  This is why your innings may be far less than someone else on your team but you are always hurt and they stay injury free.

 

Learn More About How I Manage Baseball Players Inseason

If you want to learn more about how I manage players during the baseball season, this month’s Inner Circle webinar will discuss my 4 keys to staying health during the baseball season.  The webinar is Thursday June 25th at 8:00 PM EST, but will be recorded for Inner Circle members.

 

 

Scalene Hypertrophy

I recently evaluated yet another Major League baseball player with the “yips,” or what I like to call thoracic outlet syndrome.  I really don’t believe in the yips at all and feel that thoracic outlet syndrome is almost always to blame.  Telling a professional athlete it’s all in their head or some mysterious mechanical flaw is just insulting.

One of the major reasons that thoracic outlet syndrome occurs in baseball pitchers is from hypertrophy of the scalene muscles (and sternocleidomastoid).  Throwing a baseball causes many adaptations to the body, including this increase in scalene size.

Here is a video of the athlete inhaling with his head turned to each side.  Notice the significantly larger scalene and sternocleidomastoid on his right side.

scalene hypertrophy

I wish I had a magic trick to help in this situation.  I will perform manual therapy on the scalene muscles, surround musculature, 1st rib, and thoracic cage, however, it’s hard to combat the hypertrophy associated with throwing.

Understanding what to look for is the first step, though.  Scalene hypertrophy is a subtle finding to detect on examination.

 

 

How to Prepare for and Perform a Throwing Program

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on my How to Prepare for and Perform a Throwing Program is now available.

 

How to Prepare for and Perform a Throwing Program

How to Prepare for and Perform a Throwing Program

 

This month’s Inner Circle details the specific steps I take to prepare the body before throwing, followed by the steps I take to start performing a throwing program.  Far to often I see amateurs not really understand how to prepare and perform a throwing program.  They simple pick up a ball and start throwing.  This approach isn’t the most advantageous considering how dynamic and stressful the act 0f throwing is on the body.  By following these six steps, you’ll be putting yourself in a much better chance of success to reduce injury and get more out of your throwing session that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Prepare Before You Throw – Part 2: Prepare Your Throwing

As I said in part 1 of this 2-part article on How to Prepare Before Your Throwing Program, one common theme that I often hear when players describe how they got hurt was that they did not properly warm up and prepare themselves to throw.

To prepare before your throwing program, you really need to do two things: 1) Prepare your body and 2) Prepare your throwing.  If you haven’t yet, please go back and read part 1 of this article to learn how to prepare your body:

 

How to Prepare Before Your Throwing Program – Part 2: Prepare Your Throwing

Now that your body is ready to roll and start your throwing program, I want to shift gears and talk about how to use your throwing program to prepare to throw.  I think it is really import to “prepare to throw, not throw to prepare.”

What I mean by that is that you need to make sure you are properly warmed up, even within your throwing program, before you can start your throwing “work.”  You shouldn’t just jump on the mound, or throw at full intensity, or quickly progress to long tossing.  That is throwing to prepare, and as I stated in part 1 of this article, I don’t want aggressive throwing to be the first things your body feels.

To prepare to throw, you need to prepare your body (again, in part 1) and then prepare your throwing program.  There is a BIG difference between your “warm-up” throwing and your “work” throwing.

Would you ever just throw your max weight on the bar and start squatting or deadlifting without doing warm up sets?  Never, right?  In strength and conditioning we usually incorporate a gradual increase in load with the weight of an exercise before getting to the weight we want to use to train.  You have warm-up sets and then work sets.  As an example, if you are supposed to perform 5 sets of 5 reps of deadlifts at 285 lbs, if you first set is 185, second set 205, and third set 225, those don’t count as your 5×5 work sets.

The same goes with throwing.

 

Prepare to Throw Step 4 – Ease Into Throwing

I’ve played catch with 100’s of professional baseball pitchers.  I honestly only remember one that would start throwing 90 MPH at my knees by the third or forth throw (and he’s been injured his entire career).  Big leaguers get it and gradually get loose.  You’d actually be surprised at how easy they actually play catch initially as they warm up.

On the flip side, one of the more common tweaks I make to my younger athletes is to ease into throwing.  Not a week goes by without someone gunning a ball at my ankles on the 3rd throw (I love you GD…).

This is extremely stressful on the body.  Remember throwing itself is stressful.  You have to gradually apply that stress to get the tissue used to the force.

Not all throwing has to be designed to gain arm strength or velocity.  Some throwing should be more similar to just riding a bike with your arm to get blood flow and gradually apply stress to the elasticity of the tissue.

 

Prepare to Throw Step 5 – Let The Distance Dictate the Intensity

The next step to prepare to throw builds on step 4.  Now that you’ve played light catch to get loose, it’s time to start walking back and increasing the distance.

Distance in your long toss program is a variable we use to adjust your intensity.  Realistically there isn’t much difference between throwing with full intensity at 150 feet or 200 feet.  Full intensity is pretty much full intensity.

Again, resist the urge to start throwing on a line at new distances.  Rather, I tell my athletes to “let the distance dictate the intensity,” meaning throw the ball with a bit of an arc to firmly hit your partner in the chest on the descent.

If the ball would sail past your partner another 100 feet if they missed your throw, you are throwing too hard for the stretch out phase of throwing.

baseball long toss arc

 

There will be time to throw on a line, that is next step…

 

Prepare to Throw Step 6 – Get Your Work In

OK, you’ve made it!  You prepared your body.  You’re mobile.  You activated your muscles.  You did a dynamic warm up.  You eased into throwing and long toss.  Congrats!  Now you can “throw.”

Just to reiterate, there is a difference between “warm-up” throwing and “work” throwing.  Step 6 is now incorporating your “work” throwing, whatever that may be for you that day.

It could be long toss, weighted balls, bullpen work, even throwing in a game.  That is your “work” throwing and you are now ready for it.

 

By going through the proper steps to prepare to throw you’ll find that you actually get better work in and throw better, plus you’ll be much more resilient to injuries.  These are some of the key steps I outline to all of my athletes and what we follow in the big leagues.

 

Want to Learn More?

I have an entire Inner Circle webinar dedicated to detailing these 6 steps to prepare for and perform a throwing program.

 

I also have a free 45-minute video on How Baseball Players Can Safely Enhance Performance While Reducing Injuries.  Enter your name and email below and I will send you access to the video as well as a handout of the above arm care warm-up exercises that you can take to the field:

How to Prepare Before You Throw – Part 1: Prepare Your Body

Working with so many injured pitchers over my career, one common theme that I often hear when players describe how they got hurt was that they did not properly warm up and prepare themselves to throw.  I’m not sure if this is always the true cause of the players’ injuries, however, I hear it often enough that it has to have some significance.

throwing long toss programThis seems to make sense, though.  Throwing is very dynamic and aggressive on the body.  In fact, it is the fastest known motion that the human body performs!  If it could, your shoulder would rotate a full 360 degrees around up to 27 times in 1 second!  That is unbelievable.

I often say injury is just a simple physics equation.  Force = mass x acceleration.  The faster your body moves and the harder you throw, the more forceful it is on your body.

Because of this, you can see how just grabbing a baseball and starting to throw can be stressful on the body.  Throwing is so dynamic and forceful that you want to do your best to put yourself in a position to succeed before you start throwing.  This will help foster a long and healthy career.

To prepare before your throwing program, you really need to do two things: 1) Prepare your body and 2) Prepare your throwing.  In this two part article I will discuss both.

 

How to Prepare Before Your Throwing Program – Part 1 – Prepare Your Body

It’s funny how common sense tells us to prepare our body for common athletic activities, like running and jumping, yet people often neglect throwing.  The first three steps to prepare before your throwing program involve getting your body ready.

 

Prepare to Throw Step 1 – Get Loose

The first step in preparing your body to throw is to get loose and work on your mobility.  We’ve studied 1000’s of baseball pitchers and have found a few things when it comes to throwing a baseball:

  1. Throwing a baseball causes your muscles to tighten and you loose mobility of your shoulder and elbow
  2. Not addressing this becomes cumulative and you eventually get a little tighter and tighter over the course of a season
  3. Working to maintain your motion is effective and can prevent lose of motion

One of the phrases I use a lot with my athletes is “I want you to be you BEFORE you pick up a ball.”  What that means is, if you just threw 100 pitches yesterday in a game, I know you are tight.  If you ignore it and pick up and ball and try to throw, you are setting yourself up for trauma.  Throwing will loosen you up (before you tighten up again), but it’s a much more aggressive way to get your mobility back.

Rather, perform some self-myofascial release by using a foam roller, massage stick, and baseball ball.  Here are the ones I use the most on Amazon and because the foam roller is hollow, you can put your other tools inside and all fit nicely in your gear bag:

  • Foam roller – One of the best and hollow to put your other tools in it in your gear bag.
  • Massage stick – The best one on the market, the other more popular ones don’t compare.
  • Trigger point ball – You can use a baseball, but I also like the reaction balls.  The nubs help you get in there and hold it in position on the wall.

How to prepare before your throwing programYou should focus on the entire body with particular emphasis on your lat, back of the shoulder, rotator cuff, pec, biceps, and forearm.  You should avoid the front of your shoulder.  There really aren’t a lot of muscles there and your just smashing your rotator cuff and biceps tendons.

Hit each spot for 30-60 seconds and hold on any really tender spots for 10 seconds.

Notice how I intentionally didn’t say to “stretch” your arm or perform a “sleeper stretch” (here is why you shouldn’t perform the sleeper stretch).  Most baseball pitchers are too loose to stretch effectively and they end up torquing themselves too much and making things worse.  There is a difference between muscles and joints, it’s possible to have tight muscles and loose joints.

There is one shoulder stretch that is effective on the muscles and not too aggressive on the joint, the cross body stretch I call the Genie Stretch.  This can be enhanced even more by using a trigger point ball in the posterior shoulder muscles.  You can and should stretch your forearm, you can’t really hurt yourself here.

 

Prepare to Throw Step 2 – Warm-Up Your Muscles

Now that you have worked on restoring mobility back to your baseline BEFORE you throw, it is time to get your muscles ready to throw.  In the strength and conditioning world, we refer to this as “activating” the muscles.

You want to hit all the muscles and movement patterns that are need to accelerate and decelerate your arm.  These essentially include the scapula and rotator cuff muscles.  By turning on these muscles, the body will be better prepared for the upcoming activities and throwing.

Shoulder activation throwing programThe simplest way to do this is with resistance tubing.  We use a combination of tools at Champion, but tubing is quick, easy, and portable.

You do need to be careful of your volume of exercises.  These warm-ups are designed to prepare the muscle, not fatigue them, and are not a substitute for strengthening the muscles.  That is a completely different program to be performed at a different time.  We use tubing to simply activate the muscles with low volume sets and reps of 2×10

I use Theraband tubing with handles.  They are the best and far superior to the cheap bands you can buy at the local stores, which have odd resistance and can lose resistance over time.  They are even ~$15 on Amazon.  You can attach the band to a fence or post, or take turns holding with a partner.

I like the tubing with handles and want you to have to grip the tubing, rather that velcro strap them around your wrist.  Grip the tubing helps warm up your grip and forearm muscles and also has a reflexive stimulus to your rotator cuff to engage.

Here is a link to Amazon.com to purchase the Theraband Exercise Tubing I use in the video at the end of this article.  I recommend the green band for Little League age, the blue band for middle school and early high school age, and the black band for the older or experienced pitcher:

 

Prepare to Throw Step 3 – Getting Moving

The third step to prepare to throw now involves dynamic movements.  You can see that we are building on a logical progression here: restore mobility, activate the muscles, and perform dynamic mobility exercises for movement prep.

Throwing is a very dynamic activity, obviously, that needs elasticity of the muscles.  Stretching and mobility work alone will not turn on the elastic components of your muscles.  Similar to my comments above on stretching, I don’t want a baseball being the first elastic stimulus your body faces.  I want to slowly work up to that so it is less traumatic and aggressive of a jump in stress on the tissue.

We want to dynamically move the joints and have the muscles produce quick contractions,.  This helps prepare the muscle for  by improving mobility and activation.

At Champion, our athletes have a whole portion of their program dedicated to these three steps and assuring that the entire body is prepared to throw, however, I demonstrate a simple arm version of this in the video below.  Perform this and you’ll be head and shoulders above most other athletes.

For pitchers, we use movement prep exercises that mobilize and activate the muscles groups needed to throw, like the chest, posterior shoulder, and rotator cuff.  It doesn’t take a lot of repetitions to prepare the body.

 

My Warmup Program Before Throwing

Perform this 3-minute arm warm up program prior to starting your throwing program for the day.  This is our bare minimum program that we teach our athletes that are new to the concepts of preparing their body before throwing.  As you can see, you don’t need dozens of exercises or many sets and reps, even just performing this quick warm-up will put you in a more advantageous position to throw than most other athletes.

It is quick and easy and can be performed on the field before practice.  Look out into the bullpen next time you are at a MLB game and you’ll see many players performing this during the game.

I’ve adjusted the order of how I prepare the body a little bit since the filming of this video, so it is a little out of order per the above information, but serves as a great example of a quick and easy 3-minute warm up to be performed after your self-myofascial release and before throwing.

 

In part 2, I will discuss the next three steps involved in preparing to throw and how I actually start off my throwing programs.

 

Want to Learn More?

 

I also have a free 45-minute video on How Baseball Players Can Safely Enhance Performance While Reducing Injuries.  Enter your name and email below and I will send you access to the video as well as a handout of the above arm care warm-up exercises that you can take to the field:

5 Things We Can All Learn from Derek Jeter

5 Things We Can All Learn From Derek JeterGrowing up in Boston as a Red Sox fan, I never thought I’d be writing an article about Derek Jeter (we all know that Nomah is bettah than Jettah…).  I think that working in Major League Baseball for so many years and having the opportunity to work with players from every Major League team has made me a bigger fan of the game in general.  (Photo Credit)

Perhaps I’ve lost some of the magic, but I’m just as much of a Yankees fan as I am a fan of the Red Sox and a fan of every other MLB team. 

I’m a fan of an excellent performance.  I’m a fan watching young players blossom.  I’m a fan of watching the game played the right way.  I’m a fan of the players I work with and help become better.  I’m a fan of the game, so I’m a fan of Derek Jeter.

5 Things We Can All Learn from Derek Jeter

As Jeter says his farewell to baseball, it made me think about what we can all learn from his amazing career.  Here are 5 things about Derek Jeter that stand out to me.

Discipline

There is a big difference between willpower and discipline.  Chris Brogan speaks about this well in his latest book The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.  People often ask me how I have the time or willpower to contribute to my website, make more programs, own a physical therapy and performance center, and still somehow have a life and family.

As Chris says, it has nothing to do with willpower, it’s all discipline.  Chris says:

“Willpower is when you want to do something different and force yourself to do what you believe is the better choice.”  Discipline is actually working hard to REPEAT the task that you know will make you better.

Do you think Jeter took a lot of days off from batting practice?  Do you think Jeter had donuts for breakfast every morning?  You think Jeter showed up late to the park and was unprepared for the game?

Nope.

I get it, there are a lot of conflicting interests in this world.  Discipline is crafting your long term vision of what you want out of your life and then making decisions based on this vision.

Consistency

Honestly, what good is discipline with out consistency?  I would say the two things that impressed me most about Jeter’s career were his discipline and his consistency.

Take a look at Jeter’s career stats over at Baseball-Reference.com.

Notice a trend here?  There are really no significant dips and jumps in his performance.  Sure there are some years that are better than others, but that is one heck of a consistent career.

To illustrate this, lets compare his rookie year of 1996 to 2012:

  • 1996 – 157 games, .314 batting average, 104 runs, 10 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 14 steals
  • 2012 – 159 games, .316 batting average, 99 runs, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs, and 9 steals

Pretty impressive to be that consistent over 20 years and 2700 games. 

Consistency breads dependability and trust.  We are developing a systemized approach to our model of integrated physical therapy, fitness, and sports performance at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance.  Why?  So we can build a reliable service to our clients with repeatable and predictable results.

Want to get ahead in life?  Focus on consistency.

Lead By Example (Positively)

There are many different kinds of leaders in this world.  There are the loud and vocal leaders, the motivators, the “pump up the crowd” kind of people.  The ones that want the attention and lead to gain the spotlight.  The manic-depressive crowd.

There are also the quite and consistent leaders that lead by example.

Leading isn’t necessarily a good thing, there are many examples of “negative” leaders.  People that are captivating and engaging and actually set the WRONG example!  Like it or not, these are leaders. 

But luckily there are also the “positive” leaders.  The leaders that set the example, that push others just by being so disciplined and consistent. 

In the long run, I’ll take the type of leaders like Jeter, the positive leaders that consistently lead by example.  To me, this is as much educating and motivating, as it is leading.  This is what young professionals need to learn.

And don’t forget, this applies to anyone.  You can lead others in any direction, meaning you do not have to be in a position of authority to be a leader.  John Maxwell has an excellent book on this call The 360 Degree Leader

Don’t Rock the Boat

One of the most interesting things about Jeter to me is how neutral he has stayed on everything throughout his career.  While I’m sure he had plenty of opinions, it’s usually not in anyone’s best interest to blurt them out every night on SportsCenter.

Many of the “guru’s” on the internet should really take this one to heart.  Unfortunately controversy sells.  However, realize we are all probably going to change our opinions and adjust our thought process based on past experiences and knowledge gained.

Don’t be that person that is so definitive in their thought process AND doesn’t mind telling the world about it!  Have an open mind and try to avoid rocking the boat, it always comes back to haunt you!

When you are so vocal about something, you start to focus on defending your stance instead of keeping an open mind.

Treat Everyone the Right Way

One of the sentiments within baseball is that Jeter is a “good guy.”  I’ve had the opportunity to meet Jeter several times.  I’ve seen him walk into the training room of an All-Star game just to introduce himself and say hello to the staff.  Not everyone does that, in fact most don’t.

Baseball has a funny way of changing people.  The players have everything in the world given to them and are treated as rock stars at all times.  Imagine arriving at a hotel at 4:00 AM and having a line of people asking for your autograph as you get off the bus!  It’s hard to stay grounded.

Treating people the right way is the corner stone of any relationship.  You are not a better human or person in this world because you can hit a fastball, or because you have accumulated $275 million dollars over your baseball career.  These may be extreme examples, but it applies to us all.

 

As we move on today as the first official day in the last 20 years that Derek Jeter is not a professional baseball player, keep these 5 principles in mind.  Yankee fan or not, there are plenty of things we can all learn from Jeter’s amazing career.

The Keys to Tommy John Rehabilitation

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on the Keys to Tommy John Rehabilitation is now available.

The Keys to Tommy John Rehabilitation

Keys to Tommy John RehabilitationThis month’s Inner Circle webinar was on The Keys to Tommy John Rehabilitation.  in this presentation, I overview what I feel are the most important concepts to understand when rehabbing from UCL reconstruction surgery, or Tommy John Surgery.  If you follow these key principles, the rehabilitation process will go smoothly and you can maximize your chances of returning to full competition.  These principles are the perfect complement to the rehabilitation protocol following Tommy John surgery, giving you more details on the most important concepts.

To access the webinar, please be sure you are logged in and are a member 0f the Inner Circle program.