Sunday, January 29, 2017

Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Journal

For the second issue in a row I was offered the opportunity to write an article for the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society.

My latest article is all about the importance of strength and conditioning for the modern baseball athlete. You can read the full article by clicking the link below.

Why Strength and Conditioning is Essential for the Modern American Baseball Player

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gift ideas for baseball athletes

  If you are looking for last minute gift ideas for your young baseball or softball athletes here are a few moderate to low cost training tools that provide awesome value!

Functional Training Bands
These fit  easily into an equipment bag and can be attached to a fence or post. Great option for core/shoulder stability strength.

I would go with the extra light (purple) or light (magenta) versions. In this case you're using these bands to help develop movement control and not maximum strength. Ideal for teenage athletes.

This week on Instagram I will be sharing videos of my favorite exercises using these bands.

Medicine Balls

Outstanding tool for developing rotational power required for hitting, throwing, pitching and even running the bases (turn and go!). I suggest 4 pounds for middle school athletes and 6 pounds for high school athletes. You don't want to go to heavy here. The emphasis is on efficiency and speed of execution. If the ball is to big/heavy it tends to lead to compensation and poor mechanics.

These are ideal for throwing in to brick walls or up against the fence. Check my Instagram out the 2nd week of January for exercises using med balls. Why January? This is when you'll want to start incorporating these into your offseason training program.

Mini Bands

These are small but pack a powerful training punch. They easily fit into your baseball bag. These bands can be an outstanding tool for conditioning the hips. Hip rotation is an often overlooked quality when it comes to conditioning for baseball. You can use mini bands to help prepare your hips for the rotational demands of playing baseball. I  would go with all 4 resistance options (Light-X Heavy).

I will be posting mini band hip conditioning exercises on Instagram the 3rd week of January. I will give you a few pointers on how to effectively use mini bands.

I just checked and the mini bands and the functional training bands are on sale this week. Just follow the link.

If you haven't started thinking about your off season conditioning plan now would be a good time to start. The three training tools that I listed here are all easy to implement options that will help you perform better on the field and help ensure your durable enough to stay there!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Is Cross-Fit a good workout for Baseball players?

  Baseball is as competitive as ever and young athletes are always looking for an edge on their competition. One of the ways they seek to do this is with off field strength and conditioning.

This can be a powerful addition to a baseball athlete’s sport performance plan. That said the type of off-field training you choose is very important.

If you choose what’s “trending” in the fitness industry you are not optimizing the potential off-field training has to improve your on-field performance.

For example I frequently get asked what I think about Cross-Fit for young athletes and baseball players.

First, I respect the culture that Cross-Fit creates for it’s members. They do a great job of creating camaraderie and an environment that motivates folks (who might otherwise despise exercise) and encourages them to test their limits. From a programming perspective for the most part they focus on full body movements and not isolationism like bodybuilding, so that’s a plus.

However, there are several things that concern me when applying Cross-Fit type programming to developing young athletes and more specifically baseball players.

Most young athletes lack foundational strength.

Kids that can barely hold themselves up in a basic push-up or lunge are being tasked with highly technical lifts and explosive movements.  Young athletes with poor posture, limited joint mobility/core stability are being subjected to high volume (lots of sets and reps) training programs that overload their already weak and under conditioned bodies.

Just like with throwing or hitting, it’s important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.

The movements place a lot of stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders. For that reason alone it’s not a good fit.

And it’s not just the stuff that is included in these workouts that can be problematic it’s the stuff they are leaving out.

A rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address the small hinges that swing big doors. Qualities like thoracic spine mobility, hip mobility, rotator cuff strength and function, anti-rotation core strength and opposite side rotation are essential for enhancing on-field performance and more importantly ensuring the athletes can play consistently and not sitting out due to nagging injuries.

I would go so far as to say programs like Cross-Fit are not workouts at all. They are practices. They make you better at Cross-Fit. It’s a competition!

Just like baseball is a competition and you use batting/fielding/pitching practice to improve your skills so that you can improve your on-field performance.

I’m all in favor of athletes trying different sport/competitions but for competitive baseball players Cross-Fit type workouts just aren’t a good fit.

Instead of enhancing performance most popular fitness trends will push athletes closer to the brink of injury, while reinforcing poor movement quality and joint mechanics especially in the case of one-side dominant, single sport, rotational athletes (baseball, tennis, quarterback).

I see baseball players being exposed to programs that are inappropriate due to lack of specificity (Cross-Fit, Football programs). Or training modalities that actually hinder athleticism (body-building, long slow distance running) or workouts that amount to little more than a glorified warm-up routine that doesn’t meet the complete needs of what should be explosive/powerful athletes (band programs).

The answer is finding a conditioning program that meets the unique needs of the modern baseball athlete. They don’t need to be pampered but they also should not be hammered. A training program, should boost athletic performance and not teach a kid merely how to survive a workout…

I developed my program Forever Fit over 15 years ago to meet then needs of all developing young athletes. To give them what they are missing out on due to lack of free play.

In the last 5 years I have been working hard on developing Baseball Fit because this generation of baseball athlete needs what it provides. Modern baseball athletes need something that counteracts the unique demands of their sport while also providing them with the crucial athletic growth they need to realize their full potential on the field of play and in the game of life.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reign of Errors: Why Birthdate Is So Influential In Baseball

  Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers described the relative age effect in sports; athletes born in the month(s) immediately following the age-cutoff date are disproportionately overrepresented in the sport.

For example, data kept from 1950-2005* shows that most American Major League Baseball players were born in the month of August (503). Further, every month after August of a particular birth year until July 31 of the following year,  (313) there was a steady decline in the likelihood that an American child would become a major leaguer.

What is so magical about August? For more than 55 years (beginning in 1950 when organized Little League baseball got its start), July 31 had been the age-cutoff date used by virtually all non-school affiliated baseball leagues in the U.S.

The Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) database contains birth information about all major and upper-level minor league players active since 2002. According to the data, 18.6 major league players were born per day in August, compared to just 12.5 players per day in July. The BIS data also shows a 26.6% spike in August while July comes in at 15.4% below average.

The result:

In almost every American youth league, the oldest players had been the ones born in August, and the youngest were those with July birthdays.

For example, someone born on July 31, 2000, would almost certainly have been the youngest player on his youth team in 2011, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds league, and of average age in 2012, his second year in the same league. Someone born on Aug. 1, 1999, by contrast, would have been of average age in 2011, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds division, and would almost certainly be the oldest player in the league in 2012.

Twelve full months of development makes a huge difference for an 11- or 12-year-old. The player who is 12 months older will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than his younger counterpart, not to mention more experienced. And those bigger, better players are the ones given opportunities for further advancement. Other players, who are just as skilled for their age, are less likely to be given those same opportunities simply because of when they were born. Bryce Harper would've been a star no matter his birth month, but a player like Dustin Pedroia (8/17/83) who has less natural aptitude for the sport, might have gotten a small leg up over similarly skilled players because he's an August baby. It's clear by the numbers that this small advantage can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

In 2006, USA Baseball changed the domestic age determination date to April 30 of the current year. The age of a baseball player as of April 30 is that player's "league age" for the season.

According to USA Baseball:

The primary reason to change the domestic determination age is so most players on a team will spend the majority of the regular season at the same chronological age as their league age. Currently, more than 95 percent of all local Little League programs start their seasons before May 1.

 Most youth baseball organization members under the jurisdiction of USA Baseball have adopted the April 30 age determination date.

With the new rule it will take a while to shake out how this affects rosters at the Major League level but I think we should definitely be aware of the historical data. Those who fail to acknowledge history could lose out on a significant pool of talent if we don’t think this thing through a little more critically.

For example, does moving the cutoff date from July 31 to April 30 really matter? It doesn’t’ appear that this will actually fix anything over the long-term. All that will likely happen is that kids born in the month of May will now have a big advantage. After all, players born immediately after the age determination date have been shown to have a decided advantage over players born in the months just before it because they are more physically mature and able to dominate their competition at the youth level.

Allan Simpson in the February 2005 edition of Baseball America wrote-

Research has shown that a majority of players on youth league all-star teams of all age groups are born in the four months immediately after July 31. That advantage carried forward to the major league level, as more 2004 big leaguers were born in August (123) than any other month, and the fewest were born in July (89).

If we chose to we could acknowledge that cutoff dates matter. We could set up different tracks of development, one for the early developers and one for the potential late bloomers. Keep those late bloomers involved during their developmental years and continue to provide them with quality coaching and instruction.  The results should be significant.   In 2 or 3 years, you would have a much larger talent pool to choose from.

According to Bill James online:

If organized baseball could manage to develop these overlooked ballplayers as well as it develops August-born (now May) talent, there would be 25% more MLB-caliber players. The league could expand to 7 or 8 additional markets without a drop in quality, leading to more revenues for the league, owners, players, and individual cities.

The solution won’t be easy but even a small group of committed individuals can make a big difference. By placing an emphasis on athlete development rather than arbitrarily rewarding those with the happy fortune of being born in August… or now May we can start to create the necessary social proof that will be vital for getting the attention of the entire baseball community.

The organization that decides and acts to serve in the best interest of their young athletes will undoubtedly become an Outlier, an organization with humble intentions that will become the beacon for others to follow.

*In 2006, the age cutoff date moved from July 31 to April 30.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Happened To Those Little League Heroes?

  A team from Endwell, New York recently won the Little League World Series. And it got me thinking how many kids that have played in the Little League World Series have gone on to play Major League Baseball?

Here's an eye-opening statistic for many parents and coaches...

In the 69 years of the Little League World Series, a total of 45 players have made both the Little League World Series and MLB, including 13 current players who first made their names on the fields of Williamsport, Pa. How can this be?

Aren't we watching the greatest 11 and 12-year-old players, in the world?

What is happening to these players between the ages of 12 and 18?

Here's what happens...

We're really not seeing the most talented 11 and 12-year-old players in the game.  What we really see is the most physically developed 11 and 12-year-old players in the game.

When we see a 5'10”, 170lbs. 12 year old, that is a player that is just bigger and stronger than other kids his age.

NOT more talented.

Here's where it goes wrong...

Other kids his age start to develop physically.  4 years later that physical development levels out and often the physically dominant player has relied on that physical dominance and has neglected the skills of the game and have not developed the essential work ethic.

I get emails all the time from Dads of players who are just realizing this and they are now scrambling to play catch up.

Sometimes it's too late.

So, if you're not one of those early developers, hang in there, work hard, things tend to balance out.  If you get cut don’t give up. 12 years old is far to early to retire from the sport if you truly love it.

If you are one of those early developers, stop relying on that to succeed. Start layering this early advantage with the skills of the game.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Baseball Off-Season (Part 2)

How to get the most out of your baseball offseason

  In part 1 of this 2-part article on how to get the most out of your baseball offseason I offered the first two of my four recommendations.

Taking time off from baseball skills work should be priority number one closely followed by mastering behaviors that are well within your control (sleep, hydration, nutrition, and academics). For a more thorough vetting of these topics please check out part 1.

Without further adieu here are my final 2 recommendations for getting the most out of your baseball offseason.

Get a check-up/Get a clean up

The offseason is the perfect time to clear up any lingering issues that may have plagued you during the season.

Did your hips or hamstrings stiffen up?
Did you shoulder feel weak?
Do you feel flat and fatigued or run down?
Are you hurt? Do you have any aches or pains?

Now is the time to get those things taken care of! And the best thing you can do is to meet with a qualified professional and get yourself assessed.

I assess all of my athletes prior to starting an offseason program.  I look at joint range of motion, movement quality, tissue quality and posture. I also do a mind-set check. I ask the athlete to reevaluate their goals and ask them how they felt the season went and what they would like to improve.  If you don’t know where you are (assessment) and you aren’t sure where you want to go (reevaluate) it’s very tough to develop a strategy because there’s no direction.

After the assessment and reevaluation process we will develop the initial program that restores and rebuilds the athlete using exercises that are targeted toward improving flexibility, body control and awareness.  Basically we are giving them back what they most likely have lost after the long season.

Studies of pro baseball players reveal:
  • They lose shoulder internal rotation (this is what happens on the follow through)
  • They gain shoulder external rotation (this is the lay-back, cocking position, a case where more is not always better)
  • They lose elbow extension (the ability to straighten your arm)
  • They lose shoulder and scapular strength
  • You will lose overall body strength and power
  • Your posture and alignment will change

Take the time to restore, regenerate, and rebalance (the 3 R’s) your body and mind before you…

Build and maximize your athletic qualities

This is the fun stuff right? After you take care of the 3 R’s it’s time to hit the weight room and the training floor to improve your endurance, strength, speed and power.

In calendar form assuming you stop-playing ball after September and have try-outs in early March your offseason should look likes this:


October- No baseball skill work. Get to work on cleaning up your nutrition, sleep, and hydration habits. Also hit the books hard while you one less obligation. Attach these things as if they are part of your baseball preparation because they are. 

October/November- get assessed and get cleaned up! Your body and mind took a lot of abuse this past season you need to take time to restore, regenerate, and rebalance your baseball/athletic portfolio.

November/December- Work on your movement efficiency. This is the stuff you learned from your assessment. Move well before you move heavy stuff or run fast.

December/January- Develop your work capacity/Endurance and your foundational strength with an emphasis on optimal lifting technique.

January/February-The training will skew more toward general speed and power development.

February/March- it’s almost go time so now we turn our attention toward more specific speed and power development.

If you follow this sequence of events and do this right you have the formula to have an outstanding in-season performance. And you’ll have made huge strides toward meeting your goals on the field of play and in the game of life.

If you’d like to learn more about our formula I’d love to share it with you. Complete Baseball Performance was developed with the end user in mind; young athletes that want to maximize their potential in the sport that they love. Click here to learn how we will help you maximize your potential as a baseball player.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Baseball Off-season

How to get the most out of your baseball off-season

  It’s been a long summer of baseball and it is time to start thinking about your offseason!

In an ideal world you would play another sport. This would be a great opportunity to give your body (and mind) a break from the baseball specific patterns that you’ve locked in for the past 6 months.

The athletic diversity you acquire from playing different sports will enhance your athleticism and durability both of which will help you maximize your baseball specific potential.

On the other end of the spectrum are the athletes that play fall ball and continue unimpeded with hitting and pitching lessons throughout the off-season. Definitely not the routes you want to be on if you plan on playing the sport at a high level (HS Varsity, Select Travel, College).

And then there is the middle ground that really gets you nowhere and that’s just “chillin” until try-outs come around in March.

Offseason training programs can provide a golden opportunity that many players do not take advantage of at the start of the offseason.  Think of it as setting the foundation to prepare your body to get the most out of your offseason training.

Here are the first 2 of my 4 recommendations to get the most out of the start of your baseball offseason training.

Take Time Off From Skill Work

One of the most important aspects to the start of the baseball offseason is to take a step back and get away from baseball.  While this may seem counterintuitive, I do believe it is critical to your long-term success.

Between traveling teams, tournaments, showcases, and grinding away at practice, the summer is almost as busy as the pro players!  I actually joke with some of my high school baseball athletes that they can’t wait to go back to school to take a vacation from their summer baseball travel schedule!

But there are important physical benefits of taking time off as well.  Throwing a baseball is hard on your body and creates cumulative stress.  Furthermore, several studies have been published showing that the more your pitch, the greater your chances of injury:

Pitching for greater than 8 months out of the year results in 5x as many injuries (Olsen AJSM 06)

Pitching greater than 100 innings in one year results in 3x as many injuries (Fleisig AJSM 2011)

Pitching in showcases and travel leagues significantly correlated to increased injuries (Register-Mahlick JAT 12, Olsen AJSM 06)

I have found that my younger athletes that play a sport like soccer in the fall tend to look better to me over time.  Sure, that is purely anecdotal.  But specializing in a very unilateral sport may actually limit some of your athletic potential, especially when you are in the certain age ranges where athletic development occurs.  Everything is baseball tends to be to one side.  Righties always rotate to the left when throwing and swinging, heck everyone even runs to the left around the bases!

Not only are these movements occurring at a high frequency to the same side over and over they also happen insanely fast!

Biomechanical analysis of a baseball swing reveals maximum pelvis rotational velocities of up to 714 degrees per second (Welch JOSPT 1995)

There is plenty of time to get ready for next spring.  Take some time off in the fall and let your body heal up.  You aren’t going to forget how to hit, pitch or lose your release point or feel.  You’ll come back stronger next season.

Focus on Small Hinges That Swing Big Doors

You were likely on the road all summer living out of a mini-van or cheap hotels all the while slamming quick but empty sources of nutrition like candy bars, Gatorade and Subway/McDonald’s.

It’s time to let replenish your body with plenty of the essentials:

Carry a water bottle with you at all times and start and finish the day with a full glass.

High quality sleep
Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Shut off the technology 30 minutes before bed and keep your room cool and super dark.

The focus here is on eating real food as often as possible. Stuff in a box or a pouch is not real food! Start every meal with something that is an animal (chicken, beef, pork) or comes from an animal (eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt). Then eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables with every meal. Add whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes especially if you are trying to add muscle mass. Snack on things like nuts, fruit, and beef jerky. Use protein bars and powders only when you don’t have any other options. They are better than fast/snack food but real food provides the building blocks to strong/athletic bodies!

Take advantage of the time with no/light baseball activity by hitting the books as hard as you hit or throw the baseball. D1 college baseball has only 12.6 scholarships to offer. Full rides are rare but you can always find academic dollars to help make up the difference. More importantly baseball may help you get into a school you may not otherwise be able to attend. Learn how to study now so if you do get a “special” opportunity to attend a great university you’re prepared to handle the academic rigors.

The top two recommendations (take time of from baseball and take care of the basics) are well within your control and you can start right now! This won’t be easy but consider it part of the mind-set training you will absolutely need to achieve success on the field of play and in the game of life.

 I will get the rest of my off-season recommendations to you later this week. Until then do the simple things savagely well!