I received a question the other day regarding an athlete and his need to perform either more strength work or more explosive work when it pertained to his pitching mechanics and how fast he threw. His main concern came with which area would best improve his velocity. I briefly touched on his question on twitter, but I wanted to expand upon it and fully explain not only what qualities are involved in ballistic movements (I will explain what makes a movement ballistic briefly), but how you can train these qualities and combine them to improve the overall output of your ballistic movement (whatever it may be). Essentially, force (strength), velocity and speed-strength (power) are the three main characteristics that are present in ballistic movements, and you can train all of them in the weight room!
What is a Ballistic Movement?
First and foremost, I want to give everyone a full understanding of a ballistic movement. The following are some characteristics unique to ballistic movements.
Essentially, consider a ballistic movement one in which the muscles fire and contract at rapid and forceful rates to produce a movement that only lasts seconds. You can see ballistic movements in almost all sports.
Now that you know what ballistic movements involve, let us discuss the three components that are involved in producing/building them.
Producing Force (Strength)
The base of all movements involves force production rooted in strength. Simply put, how much energy can you apply into a stable surface or movement? Think of force as your horsepower (I will get to this with a car analogy in a bit). As we know, force is officially determined as a product of mass and acceleration. However, in this sense we are simply going to think of force as overall strength. Think of a squat. The more force you can place into the ground (stable surface) the more weight you can lift.
To think of velocity, I will use a basic example. The force-velocity profile of an athlete involves how much of their power output is a result of strength or simply the reactiveness of their ligaments and tendons and how rapid they move (stretch shortening cycle). If you applied this thought to a vertical jump, a force dependent athlete would achieve most of their vertical jump height via strength, or how much energy they could apply into the ground. A velocity dependent athlete would achieve a great deal of their jump height due to the reactiveness of their tendons and ligaments and how fast they could load and unload. This is a characteristic dependent upon speed with no resistance.
The way I like to think about power is that it is a measure of speed x strength. Basically, how fast can you display your strength? You are able to place a great deal of energy into the ground on a sprint, for example, but are you able to display that force over and over again as fast as possible without sacrificing the strength portion? Your tendons and ligaments are able to load and fire rapidly, but can they uphold those same qualities when a great deal of strength is involved to produce a tremendous amount of energy (force)? This phenomenon is known as rate of force development. Usain Bolt is able to exert upwards of six times his bodyweight into the ground with any given stride. However, if that was the only quality involved in elite speed there would be a long list of power lifters with crazy squats giving him a literal run for his money. What also makes him blazing fast is not only his form (leg stiffness, vertical stiffness etc.), but that he can maintain that force exerting ability while rapidly re-producing it over and over. Think of it this way: he can place a great deal of energy into the ground with each stride, but he is also very adept at repeating that same cycle at an extremely fast rate.
The Car Analogy
To basically tie this all together, I want to give an example involving a car. You have seen it before. A car with 600 horsepower cannot go 0-60 mph as fast as a car that only has 400 horsepower. One may have more raw force producing ability, but the other is better at displaying less force faster and thus is faster overall. Consider all of the qualities we have gone over above in this manner:
How Can You Train These Qualities?
This part will be the most cut and dry and plain and simple portion of this article. You now have a good understanding of each of the qualities that come together to produce power movements, but need to know how you can work at improving them in a general capacity (weight room/strength and speed training) setting.
Now that you understand these qualities and how you can improve them, it is fairly easy to see that you need an even balance of proficiency in all of these in order to improve your overall output in ballistic movements. Now, go get to work!
The following is an interview I recently did with a college exercise science student and I think it can be extremely helpful to share my experiences thus far in starting my own training business, along with some strategies I have utilized to get to this point today. In addition, you can get a look at how I plan on going from here and continuing to build and travel on this journey! Thank you as always and I hope you enjoy!
What made you start your own gym right away without working under someone first?
First and foremost, I would have to say that my business education inspired me to have my own gym/business from the start. I come from a family that was built around entrepreneurship (My Father owned an auto body shop business), and spent my time in college at two high level business schools that further cultivated my desire to be an entrepreneur. Basically, in addition to my passion for training I also had/have a passion for business and entrepreneurship, and that fueled my desire to start my own business. Combine those two components and you get a 22 year old who started their own business!
How do you market yourself to the public?
Instagram and Twitter are my biggest online marketing platforms, but I have also had great success with “word of mouth,” advertisement from clients and athletes who have seen great results. I also aimed to strategically align myself with sports organizations and businesses with great followings and brands, and performing will for them has yielding me great exposure and helped me build my own brand. For example, my first break in this business involved landing the strength coach job for the Jersey Hitmen. I received the job after being recommended by my childhood Physical Therapist (who I also partnered with to begin my business). In a nutshell, I would say I realized that it is tremendously hard to build yourself in this industry on your own. If you can align with people to work with you can expose yourself to great opportunities. From there, just blast out tons of good, quality content. You would be surprised how it can take off!
How do you manage being a business owner and a coach at the same time?
This is extremely hard! One of my mentors Joe DeFranco has said it the best. He calls the phenomenon of focusing more on “business,” than your actual trade as the entrepreneurial seizure. I have found that developing systems is key. For example, I know that I am responsible for putting programming together weekly for all my private clients as well as the teams I work with. I developed my own skeleton template that has streamlined weekly programming. In addition, I am sure not to try and do EVERYTHING. My accountant and my parents help me with the financial filing and all of that, but I still stay involved with everything (it is my business after all). Day to day I have to worry about everything from programs, billing, scheduling, marketing etc., oh and don’t forget the actual training! My best advice? Be organized and have a plan you stick to!
What was the most difficult obstacle you overcame while starting your business?
I think avoiding pressures from the outside in terms of being “crazy,” for dedicating all my time to this. Another big hurdle for me in the beginning came with being insecure when I told people what I did for a living when it had yet to really amount to anything. It’s easy to be proud of what you do when it’s big and recognized. However, be proud from the beginning. The same people who doubted your vision (even if they never said it) will be the same people telling you how great of a job you did.
I would also have to say overcoming my age. I started this just before by 22nd birthday, and even now at 24 it is sometimes hard to be taken seriously because of how young I am. Show people why they should take you seriously!
What would you say is your least favorite thing about this career?
I enjoy everything about what I do, and I mean that. I actually enjoy the stress, the work, the nonstop nature of owning a business and being a coach. I need it to keep me going and give me purpose. With that being said, though, I would say my least favorite part of it is missing key events with my family and/or friends. Sometimes the hours prevent you from being involved in certain things in your personal life, or even when you’re there you can find yourself still being focused on work. It is a 24/7 commitment!
What does a typical day look like from start to finish?
A typical day involves a potential morning client or team. I will try to use the time I have between my mornings and afternoons to do any programming I may need to, catch up on social media posts or even write articles. From there I will usually have teams or clients throughout the remainder of the afternoon and straight through the evening. After all, when dealing with high school and college kids this is a prime time for them to train (after school). I fit my own training in whenever I can!
What do you look for in employees?
The biggest key is initiative. If I am looking to have you work with me I already know that your beliefs and philosophies at least are in the same stratosphere as the ones I align with. At that point, I want you to have your own thoughts! Be your own person and have your own style. We may believe in the same principles of training, but we may never program the same and that is okay! Create your own social media, put content out and market yourself to be the best coach YOU can. You’re a part of my business, but you are not a robot or an employee who regurgitates what I do! That has never been and will never be my mission!
What takes up most of your time?
The actual training itself most definitely! The work on the floor with my clients is the bulk of my time! As it should be when you are trying to build the best training business and become the best coach. Repetition is the key to both of those aspects.
What advice would you give to achieve your level of success?
Firstly, have a plan. When I started I knew that the way in which I wanted to differentiate myself involved explaining EVERYTHING. Way too many of the popular trainers in this industry get by with either flashy and fancy exercise videos that lack substance. This would be my core competency. Give full insight on why I did what I did and while setting myself apart I would also gain business!
After you have your plan (whatever it may be), be relentless!
Before I even had a single client I created a blog and wrote two articles per-week. Let people know what you do, why you do it and most importantly why they should listen to you and care! It is easy to work hard for a week, month or few months. When you can stack consistently good weeks and months together that turn into years you have success. I have done nothing but pour my life into this for four years now. I have written over 50 articles, posted over 500 times on Instagram (each with lengthy explanations), and built up a solid blog and twitter following. Sticking with it when no one cares about what you have to say or who you are is the hardest. Work through that point and it will take off. I promise you (as long as you have good things to say!)
I hope reading this was helpful to someone out there trying to reach their dreams. Even if it is in some small way.
This is an article I have wanted to write for a long time, and it is about time that this topic is addressed. A misunderstanding of “sport specific,” training and the relationship between sport and strength and conditioning is one of the biggest issues in this field today. So, here I am. Finally I have reached my breaking point regarding foolish and “cool,” videos of athletes performing activities in the weight room that should be reserved for their respective fields of play (court, ice, field etc.). How do we address this issue? It is quite simple. We must first understand what sport specific training is, give some clear examples of why trying to simulate sport in the weight room can be ineffective as well as detrimental and tackle the principle of dynamic correspondence (sounds confusing but bear with me) and how it can help program effectively for athletes.
What is Sport Specific Training?
The biggest problem with the misconception regarding sport specific training is that often, athletes and trainers do not know what it actually means. Let us say it once, and say it loudly. SPORT SPECIFIC ACTIVITY IS ACTIVITY THAT IS ACTUALLY PERFORMED BY THE ATHLETE WHILE PLAYING THEIR SPORT ON THEIR RESPECTIVE FIELD (or ice, shout out to my hockey guys). Running around and practicing your soccer skills with a weighted vest, attaching a band to your hockey stick or baseball bat, and a myriad of other ridiculous activities in the weight room do not count as sport specific and they for sure do not help you. If anything, they provide a detriment to your motor skills and muscle memory regarding these particular movements. However, I will give some more insight on that in a bit.
How Bringing Sport Activities Into Your Strength and Conditioning Can Hurt You
I briefly alluded to this above, but there are several key reasons why bringing your sport activities into the weight room can hurt your performance when you are actually playing your sport. I like to use one golden rule when it comes to this. I reserve all activities related to a glove, stick, ball (excluding medicine balls of course) or bat to the sporting coach. This is a great way to ensure your athlete is being “taught,” a skill by someone who has no earthly idea of anything relating to that skill. If you are a person who enjoys lists and they make things easy to understand then here is a list of reasons why bringing sport into the weight room can be a detriment:
- Movements can be performed incorrectly without supervision from an educated coach. (For example: I do not coach hockey and thus cannot teach someone to shoot a puck).
- Applying unusual resistance to an activity that requires intense skill can disrupt motor patterns (our nervous systems way of developing a skill) and cause a regression in ability with that skill.
- Direct resistance to a shot, throw, sprint with a ball or swing can limit the required ranges of motion often necessary for such activities.
Want a final summary on what is listed above? Doing these listed things will HURT your performance when you actually do return to your sport.
The Principle of Dynamic Correspondence
Now at this point you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “well thanks Gerry, but if everything you just said is the WRONG way of doing things, how do we do it the correct way?” Luckily, both of us have Russian super scientist and OG of strength and performance training Yuri Verkhoshansky to help us out. I am an avid follower of Yuri and his findings from half a century ago (that still hold up) regarding everything from strength training, jump training and beyond. Yuri developed an easy list of checkpoints to use that can help align your training with your sport. Basically, the more checkpoints you can satisfy, the better and more effective your training is in terms of improving your ability with your sport. The principles are as follows (I will add some examples):
- Amplitude and direction of movement
o Which planes of motion are involved in your sport? Frontal (lateral), transverse (rotational), sagittal (crossing the midline of your body)? A baseball and hockey player should most definitely train their rotational power with medicine ball throw variations that develop ability to clear the hips, spine etc. A basketball player would definitely want to work on their vertical power producing ability since jumping is supreme to their sport! These are just a few examples!
- Region of Force Production
o I alluded to this briefly above, but while a basketball player surely needs to improve their vertical force production, horizontal and linear force is more important to a hockey player. Both athletes need both, but one more than the other. Vertical power is a great base of lower-half explosiveness and speed, but as a hockey player becomes more advanced they may need to focus strictly on their force production straight ahead (linear/horizontal force production). Think about it? When would a hockey player exclusively put force into the vertical plane (jump)? It would either be a mixture of horizontal and vertical or horizontal.
- Dynamic (Speed) of The Effort
o Essentially, is your training adequately matching the speed of your sport activities? For example, are you an athlete exclusively performing heavy lifts and not moving your squats and deadlifts for speed? You can imagine this may not prove to be as effective as you desire your training to be.
- Rate and Time of Maximum Force Production
o In your sport, how long are your bouts of maximum force production? A swing or throw in baseball may last one second, while a football lineman can engage in a block for up to five to seven seconds. Adjust your training accordingly. It would make sense for that same football player to push a heavy sled for thirty seconds. They never display their max force for that long!
- Muscles Contracted
o Which muscles are important to your success? A skater depends on their quadriceps tremendously, so a hockey player may benefit more from front squats versus back squats. That same back squat could tremendously benefit a baseball player, as it would help strengthen/mobilize their upper back, wrists and shoulders. All of which are important to rotational athletes.
Now that you have an understanding of sports specificity at the core, know how it can hurt you and have a blueprint for maximizing the carryover of your training you can ensure that you are training the correct way. Remember, sport specificity itself is reserved for your practice and game activity. Otherwise, you can be diminishing your skills you spend so much time developing. Instead, try matching the intensity, duration and areas of movement you are expected to perform and aim at increasing your strength, power and speed in those areas. You will be a far better athlete!
For more on the principle of dynamic correspondence and Yuri Verkhoshansky visit: www.verkhoshansky.com
In the past I have talked briefly about how the planes of motion are involved in swinging and throwing, but this time was spent mostly on building rotational power. I have realized that the knowledge of the roles each plane has in rotational movements such as swinging and throwing is invaluable. We all train for elite rotational ability, and why not? The ability to rotate powerfully, efficiently and effectively is key to a pitcher or hitters success. This can also go far beyond baseball (I am looking at my hockey athletes). I am not going to get into specific detail/mechanics on the timing of rotation, how much you should rotate etc. (I will leave that to pitching, hitting and hockey specific coaches), but I will aim to help coaches, players and strength coaches alike understand each plane and show them how to build strength and power in those planes. Ultimately, this comes down to an understanding and willingness to program exercises and movements in the frontal, sagittal, and anterior/posterior. Once we do this, we can unleash the proficiency we have gained in these planes as one fluid transverse (rotational) movement and then add means to make these rotational movements more powerful!
The Frontal Plane
The frontal plane, sometimes known as the coronal, involves lateral movements. Essentially, the frontal plane encompasses lateral movements that do not cross the midline of the body. For example, when the left leg moves directly to the left or the right leg directly to the right. You can already begin to realize the importance of this plane when it comes to swinging or throwing. If you are striding towards the pitcher when you swing or driving towards home plate you are moving in the frontal plane.
[See Photo 1A. At Bottom]
[See Photo 1B. At Bottom]
With the pictures above, you can see how the frontal plane is utilized in both swinging and throwing. When a pitcher takes his lead leg towards home plate in his delivery or a hitter strides, the frontal plane is involved. In terms of my favorite ways to build strength and power in this plane, here are two exercise variations.
The Sagittal Plane
The sagittal plane involves movements, which cross the midline of your body. Think of the sagittal plane in terms of the lead leg crossing the midline (imaginary line down the naval and spine splitting the body into halves) upon loading and then crossing back over during the transition towards the plate/pitcher (when swinging). The adductors (towards midline) and abductors (away from midline) are huge here!
[See Photo 2A. At Bottom]
As you can see in the photo above, the lead leg crosses the midline (adductors in use) as the pitcher approaches his balance point, and then crosses back over (abductors in use) as he works towards the plate. In addition, you will see the adductor of the back leg work (see photo of Aroldis Chapman below) due to the body working towards home plate and placing emphasis of the rear leg adductor towards the body’s midline.
[See Photo 2B. At Bottom]
Both the abductors and adductors are in heavy use here. In terms of exercises, I love crossover step-ups and lateral crossover sled drags here! You can implement lesser loads and faster steps for the sled drags to work power in this plane!
The Importance of Anterior Core Strength
If you are reading this I would only assume that you know the importance of unilateral exercises working anteriorly (in front of you) and posteriorly (behind you). This can include lunges, split squats etc. Bottom line, if you do not already incorporate unilateral exercises in your programs you must!! After all the photos you have seen already it should be pretty obvious that unilateral (single leg) strength is imperative for rotational movements! With that being said, I want to discuss anti-rotational core strength, and core strength anteriorly (in front of you). Essentially, anti-rotational core strength makes for more tight and powerful rotation. Think of your hips as an axis, and anterior core strength is the axis perpendicular to your hips. I am going to quote a previous article I have written that details this:
“After the body frontally loads, rotation takes place. Newton’s third law also applies here. Torque is the initial movement required to produce rotation. The greater the force perpendicular to the axis upon which something rotates, the greater the torque needed to produce rotation. Essentially, if a pitcher rotates into their initial frontal load, their hip is the axis point upon which they are rotating. Core strength anteriorly (in front of the body) is what resists this rotation and will require more torque be placed to cause rotation. As we now know thanks to Newton’s third law, higher forces placed into torque will produce higher forces back into rotation. “
[See Photo 2B. At Bottom]
To keep it simple: The stronger your body is in terms of resisting rotation the more power it will have to display to cause rotation. What is the lesson here? Program as many anti-rotational exercises into your training as you do rotational work!
One Fluid Transverse (Rotational) Movement
Now that we have built up frontal and sagittal strength and power and developed a strong and stable core we can rotate effectively. Effective rotation not only involves power in rotation itself, but mobility in the thoracic spine (mid-back), shoulders and hips. So, above all else do not neglect your mobility work in all ranges of motion.
With that being said, we build rotational power by simply rotating! It’s not very complicated. You get better at rotating by rotating often in your training. My philosophy is simple. Build a foundation of frontal and sagittal strength and power and pair them with a strong anterior core. Once that is done we rotate as powerfully and rapidly as possible.
This is the last step! We can now add weight shifts and perform full movements. In addition, we can add counter movements (hops or jumps prior to throws) to help build more power prior to throws. The main goal here is to add movements that force the athlete to move their weight across all involved planes. For example, a rocking action prior to a throw forces the athlete to shift their weight and transfer it through the frontal plane as they perform their throw.
Now that you see all the planes involved in rotational movements you can better understand how to develop your own programming for your training. Build a solid base in these planes of motion and then place them together for powerful rotational ability!
Why and How Strength Training Is Benefitial To Velocity and Power Gains in Baseball and Can Improve your Running Speed
I honestly never thought I would need to write an article about this, but it still seems that the benefits of strength training and pitching/hitting and running are still not universally understood. So, here I go. Here is a breakdown of why strength training is important. To fully understand this, you must understand what occurs during rotational movements, fully grasp the planes of motion involved with rotational movements, and lastly, know why improved ground force application improves running speed.
What Occurs During Rotational Movements?
Rotational movements are frontal before they become transverse
The frontal plane is the plane involving lateral (side to side) movements. While throwing or swinging are identified as transverse (rotational) movements, they also involve a frontal component before any rotation takes place. As a result, I like to break down these movements in two phases: the frontal movement portion and the transverse (rotational) component. Basically, any lateral loading in a throw or a swing takes place in the frontal plane, and this makes ability to place force into the frontal plane very crucial.
When it comes to loading weight laterally, there are some simple physics involved. As Newton’s Third Law of motion states: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Basically, any force we apply into a load or lateral movement reproduces an equivalent force in the opposing frontal direction. Think of it this way. A pitcher comes into his windup (placing force frontally into the ground on his back leg). This force exerts back in the opposite frontal direction towards the catcher (for a pitcher) or towards the ball/pitcher (for a hitter). Applying common sense would tell us that the stronger a baseball player’s lower half is (specifically in exerting force into the ground), the better they would be in using their lower half to generate power for swinging and throwing. Cue the deadlifts and lunges/split squats. Oh, and do not be afraid to throw in side lunges and other frontally loaded strength movements!!
Breakdown of Tangent Force and how it contributes to torque creation/rotational power
After the body frontally loads, rotation takes place. Newton’s third law also applies here. Torque is the initial movement required to produce rotation. The greater the force perpendicular to the axis upon which something rotates, the greater the torque needed to produce rotation. Essentially, if a pitcher rotates into their initial frontal load, their hip is the axis point upon which they are rotating. Core strength anteriorly (in front of the body) is what resists this rotation and will require more torque be placed to cause rotation. As we now know thanks to Newton’s third law, higher forces placed into torque will produce higher forces back into rotation.
Re-direction of ground forces up the kinetic chain once lead leg plants
After rotation begins and energy has been frontally loaded and begins to transfer in the opposing direction, the lead leg needs to be firm and strong to absorb ground forces and direct them back up the kinetic chain to finish off with a powerful and explosive rotation! Eccentric training (the negative or lowering portion of an exercise) can help improve the ability to absorb forces and re-direct them back up the legs and into the torso for an explosive rotational movement. If we take a look at Newton’s First Law, we can understand this even better. Newton’s First Law states: “an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Essentially, think of the lead leg like a seatbelt in a car. If you crash your car and are not wearing a seatbelt, you will continue to move in the direction the car was heading and fly through your windshield. The seat belt is the force that stops your forward motion. Similarly, the lead leg acts as the seatbelt in a rotational movement and helps harness power moving towards the target before re-directing it back up the chain to finish off a strong and explosive rotation!
Improving Ground Force Application and Rate of Force Development (RFD) To Improve Running Speed
Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. Coincidentally enough, he also exerts almost 6x his bodyweight into the ground with every stride he takes. What does this tell us? It shows us that improving the amount of force you place into the ground with either a squat or deadlift will most likely make you faster. Being able to place a higher multiple of your bodyweight into the ground will allow you to become faster. This tells us that a 6.8 60-yard dash runner can become a 6.4 runner. It is not just genetics. Take one of my athletes for example. This athlete ran a 6.7 (with a deadlift of 365 pounds). He now runs a 6.4 and deadlifts 515 pounds. Coincidence? I think not.
In addition to ground force application, the rate at which you can produce this force (moving stride to stride), can be improved via power specific training (dynamic squats/deadlifts, sled sprinting, jump training etc.).
Not much to conclude with here besides the following sentiment. Strength training can and will help you throw harder, hit the ball harder and further and run faster. It is pure science.
In-season training is one of the most misunderstood aspects of athlete development. Usually there are two sides of the coin when it comes to the mishandling of how to go about continuing progress during the season. The first group of athletes and coaches simply stop training all together or are afraid to continue any type of intense training. The other group of athletes and coaches never take their foot off the gas and end up wearing themselves down, which ultimately can stunt development and progress, hurt in-game performance or even lead to injury. Proper in-season training can go a long way in furthering development that was achieved during the off-season and preserving gains made over the course of the prior six months of training. It can also help prevent injuries and improve on-field performance! When it comes to in-season training you can vastly improve the effectiveness of your programming by understanding submaximal maintenance training and flexibility with your programming, the use of concentric only exercises and using high repetitions to promote much needed recovery!
Submaximal Training and Programming Flexibility
Before you begin to understand submaximal training you must first grasp the basic fundamentals of programming flexibility. Essentially, you need to have a good feel for your body and be mindful of your in-season schedule in order to adapt your program to fit your needs. For example, you may find that weather may change your game schedule during a baseball season. You must have options of varying intensities in your programming so that you can properly adjust. If you are feeling good and have an easier week of games (for any reason), you can increase the intensity of your training so that you can still make some gains and further your development. Remember, just because you are in-season does not mean you cannot further improve on attributes you gained in the off-season.
With that being said, here is a quick breakdown of a method you can use to approach your loads and intensities while you are aiming to maintain, and then how you can have some flexibility in light of opportunities to up the intensity to off-season levels. I normally keep my athletes in the 70-90/95% range of their one rep max (1RM), while they are in-season. Essentially, the only time they will work towards 90/95% of their off-season 1RM is if they are only performing one-repetition sets. I feel that the 70-85% range coupled with anywhere from 2-5 repetitions is a perfect place to maintain (and even gain) strength.
Once you have this is mind it is easy to see how you can be flexible in adjusting your volume and load percentages. For example, let’s take a high school baseball player who is performing two “in-season,” training day’s per-week. This athlete’s primary lower body movement is the squat, and he maxed out at 265 pounds at the end of the off-season. Let’s create a sample situation where the general program called for three repetition sets of 80% of his 1RM, but he had an easy week due to miscellaneous cancellations and scheduling complications. An adjustment to that set program would look as follows:
You can see how easy it is to adjust your intensity to take advantage of lighter weeks you may get throughout the season! Take advantage of these opportunities and adjust!
Making The Most of a Prowler Sled (Concentric only exercises)
I will keep this short and sweet (I promise I will try). Muscle fibers predominantly tear during eccentric portions of a range of motion. That is, the lowering of the weight where you are controlling a load or resistance is what promotes muscle fiber tears and hypertrophy. With that in mind, concentric (part of the range of motion where you are moving into extension like the pressing in a bench press or upward movement in a squat) only movements are a great way to preserve strength, but limit eccentric stresses that can cause soreness. This is key when we are in the thick of a season and we do not want to place extra stresses on our muscles. In addition, concentric only movements help us maintain much of the strength we built in the off-season.
In light of this, the prowler sled is your best friend. Almost all activities done with a sled do not incorporate an eccentric load on the body. Sled pushes work your legs, but only through extension, sled rows do the same and just about any other variation can be thought of in order to preserve strength and limit muscular soreness.
Using High Repetitions to Promote Recovery
Lastly, I will generally make one of my suggested two-day in-season training days repetition based. Higher repetition sets at lower intensities (think of a 15 rep set with a weight you could do for 30 reps) are great to promote blood flow and recovery for an in-season athlete who may very well need this. A great way to treat recovery based repetition lifts is to perform them in a 65-75% intensity (window for aerobic recovery). In addition you can also treat the higher repetition based lifts with the same mentality as your heavier day. IT IS OK to push it just a bit if you are feeling great and have a lighter schedule that week.
Go ahead and use these tools to ensure that your in-season training is effective and even result yielding as tool to send you into the next off-season with a head start on your competition!
Over the past couple of months I have made great use of yielding isometrics in my programming for my athletes. In doing so, I have developed some great strategies (in my opinion) on how to utilize these particular movements as accessories in your programming that can help pack on some much desired muscle (along with some strength)! Here is a quick and easy to understand breakdown of yielding isometrics along with some practical ways to implement them in your programming.
What are Yielding Isometrics?
So already in this article I have mentioned that yielding isometrics are a great tool to use to build muscle mass. With that being said, this gives us a great clue as to what is occurring during yielding isometrics that helps build muscle mass. As many of us know, a major component involved in the creation of muscle mass is the tearing of muscle fibers (myofibril hypertrophy). During myofibril hypertrophy contractile proteins also increase so you will also see some strength gains as well! This differs from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (the result of high repetition bodybuilding style sets) in which non-contractile fluid, sarcoplasm, increases in volume. This is the “pump,” effect many bodybuilders refer to and is also the reason you can be massive and not have strength relative to your size!
Now, what sounds more appealing to an athlete? Functional muscle mass that correlates to strength gains or “show,” muscle that does not actually provide much of a performance benefit? Assuming that you want functional muscle mass, Yielding Isometrics are for you. Essentially, yielding isometrics involve resisting forces that are trying to pull you back through the range of motion you are performing. For example, the banded terminal knee extension exercise being performed here. The athlete moves through the full range of motion and then attempts to hold that position as the band is trying to pull him back through. Basically, you are resisting eccentric forces (remember that eccentrics cause muscle fiber tearing), and thus working myofibril hypertrophy.
How to Implement Yielding Isometrics
Before I delve into specifics on how you can pair these with certain exercises in your programming, here is one basic principal I like to use with yielding isometrics. I stick to general principles of hypertrophy and aim to keep time under tension (total amount of time a muscle is contracted during a set) to 30-50 seconds. You can begin with 30 seconds and gradually work your way up to 50 as you progress through your program.
My two favorite ways to implement Yielding isometrics in my programming thus far are as a second exercise in a superset that targets the same muscle groups as the first exercise or as the second exercise in a superset to accompany a concentric only movement.
Now that you understand yielding isometrics you can utilize them and maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your programming!
Give them a try and notice immediate gains in muscle mass as well as strength!
Last week my colleague Dr. Anthony Falco discussed how you could see a physical therapist without having to see a doctor first. Doing so can save you a significant amount of money in your process to heal your ailments. With that being said, I want to take the time this week to touch on the importance of a strong symbiotic relationship between your physical therapist and strength trainer. A strong relationship between your physical therapist and strength trainer can not only help limit the severity of a training related injury, but can also lessen the length of time for recovery and also help correct injuries or performance inhibited by movement dysfunction.
Limiting The Severity of an Injury
One of the most common issues I have seen in the strength and conditioning field is related to lingering injuries that are never properly addressed. One of the main benefits I have seen come from sharing clients with my affiliates at Performance Physical Therapy is limiting not only the severity of an injury, but also being more efficient in recovery time. In most cases, a strength coach could further aggravate a healing ailment because they are not sure of what’s causing it. For example, a rotational athlete (such as a baseball player) could be dealing with a hip injury being caused by a misalignment of the pelvis that often comes from rotational movements such as throwing and hitting. If this athlete is either not seeing a physical therapist or that therapist isn’t in contact with their strength coach a significant furthering of that injury can occur. Instead of having a physical therapist diagnose and correct the hip alignment issue, time could be spent stretching what feels like a “tight,” hip flexor which will further exacerbate the injury. Working alongside a physical therapist cannot only limit the severity of an injury, but also decrease the amount of time spent recovering from a particular injury.
Limiting Injury/Maximizing Performance Via Correcting Movement Dysfunction
Another benefit I have seen from working alongside a physical therapist lies in preventing injuries before they occur or even improving sports performance via correcting movement issues. One of the biggest responsibilities of a strength coach relates to improving the movements of athletes and general clients. Sharing clients with a physical therapist can help with correcting movement issues related to particular muscular dysfunction and also help with exercises and modalities used to fix these issues.
Are your strength coach/trainer and physical therapist on the same page? Do they work together to ensure your health or nagging injuries are treated in the best way possible? If not, work with the team of Performance Physical Therapy and Challenger Strength and see how our concerted effort can best help your health and performance.
In New Jersey you have direct access to your physical therapist. This means that a physician referral or prescription is not required to see your physical therapist. If you have back pain after shoveling the driveway or a stiff neck from sleeping on a different mattress while traveling, you can come in to see your physical therapist without having to go see your doctor. In addition to painful conditions if you want to improve your balance, improve your range of motion and strength, or start a new exercise program your physical therapist can help with that too!
Being able to come see your physical therapist directly has multiple benefits. The first benefit is decreased time to starting care for your condition. Often with painful conditions the sooner you get into physical therapy the easier it is to resolve the symptoms and eliminate the pain. When symptoms become chronic it can take longer for all forms of treatment to help decrease those symptoms. Second, by seeing your physical therapist first you can choose conservative, non-pharmacologic care as the first treatment for your condition. The opioid crisis is real and all medications carry some risk of side-effects. Physical therapy is an extremely safe option to treat pain. Third, if a physical therapist thinks you need further evaluation is required, we have great relationships with the best doctors in the area and can connect you with the right physician for your problem-generally without a long wait!. Finally seeing your physical therapist directly can save you time and money. By getting PT first you can avoid having to schedule a visit and wait at the doctor’s office, pay a doctor’s co-pay or deductible just for the doctor to send you to your physical therapy anyway.
Physical therapists are experts in the neurological and musculoskeletal systems. We are trained to screen patients that are appropriate for physical therapy treatment and how to identify patterns of signs and symptoms that warrant further medical attention.
Will my insurance cover my care without a referral from my doctor?
Every insurance company is different. Many major plans will pay for physical therapy without a referral. When scheduling your first visit at our offices we will take your insurance information and verify your benefits to determine what your responsibility is and if your insurance company will require a referral or prescription from your doctor.
The direct access physical therapy law in New Jersey:
The direct access law in New Jersey states that patients can see their physical therapist without a referral. It also states that at 30 days from the start of care, the patients doctor should be updated regarding the plan of care, or if the patient is not making reasonable progress that the patient be referred back to their doctor. The law also states that during the initial evaluation if the physical therapist feels that patient is not appropriate for physical therapy treatment or further testing is required (x-ray, MRI, or blood work as examples) the physical therapist will refer to patient to the appropriate healthcare provider.
Dr. Anthony Falco
Last week, Dr. Anthony Falco discussed the role of the meniscus in the knee and when you should consider getting surgery to repair a meniscus tear. This week, I will discuss some things you should implement into your training program following knee surgery and how you can further progress after you have completed working with your physical therapist following surgery. Following any knee surgery it is imperative to build back adequate muscle mass in the quadriceps, re-establish proper landing mechanics and force absorption of ground forces during high power activities and solidify sprinting mechanics.
Eccentric focused exercises are your best friends
After knee surgery it is common to experience atrophy (diminished muscle mass) of the quadriceps of the repaired leg. While your physical therapist more than likely focused on building back lost mass, it is imperative to continue this focus once you have moved on to strength and speed training.
While I have no problem with seated leg extensions early on in the rehabilitation process, I believe other alternatives should be utilized in strength training protocol. Essentially, seated leg extensions limit activity of the hamstring while the quadriceps is contracting. This never really happens in sports. So, I prefer the terminal knee extension (TKE), as a quadriceps building exercise that allows the hamstring to work in addition to the quadriceps. Basically, anchor a band and place it around your knee. Slightly flex your knee forward before pulling it back into extension and contracting your quadriceps. While many other quadriceps dominant movements can be performed to build muscle mass (lunges, split squats etc.), here are my general hypertrophy guidelines to follow:
Absorbing forces, re-conditioning tendons and ligaments and sprinting technique
While building mass back in the quadriceps you should also focus on re-introducing your tendons and ligaments to power movements such as jumping and sprinting. It is important not to jump right in to high intensity jumps and sprints as your body may not be ready to handle the demand places on the knee and surrounding areas.
Extensive plyometrics are lower intensity jumps that are essentially “hypertrophy for jumping.” Meaning, they rid of use of the stretch shortening cycle (reactive stretch reflex of the ligaments and tendons involved in maximum intensity jumping and sprinting). We accomplish this by implementing pauses or performing short rhythmic jumps. The main goal is to re-condition the tendons and ligaments and prepare them to handle higher intensities. Also, it teaches them how to behave again so performance is maximized later on. During these exercises the focus should be on sound and clean landing mechanics. Here is what you should look for:
Low Intensity Sprinting Start Types
Lastly, it is extremely important to reaffirm good sprinting technique while not exposing an athlete to sprinting variations that produce too much power. That is, low start types (push-up, mountain climber, etc.) or start types that involve excess power building via medicine ball throws.
Overall, it is important to progress through movements with a plan once an athlete has moved through a full rehabilitation program and can begin training!
The meniscus is a structure in our knee joint that provides smooth joint motion, shock absorption, joint stability, and nutrition to our knee joint. Each knee has a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus. Together the medial and lateral menisci also enhance stability of the knee joint. They sit on top of our tibia (shin bone) and create a concave surface for the end of the femur to fit into, think of a golf ball on top of a tee - the menisci are like to lip of the tee that keep the ball in place.
As you can see below (link to image at bottom of article) the medial meniscus is larger and half circle shape and the lateral meniscus is smaller and more circular. The medial meniscus is more firmly attached to the surface of the tibia by ligaments compared to the lateral meniscus. The decreased mobility of the medial meniscus makes it more susceptible to injury.
Both menisci receive blood flow to the outer edges however further towards the center of the knee joint the blood flow becomes poor. This is an important point as any meniscal injury on the outer edge with good blood flow is more likely to heal than an injury on the inner edge with poor blood flow. The portion of the meniscus that does not receive good blood flow receives its nutrition through the lubricating fluid in the joint called synovial fluid. Movement and exercise are essential to deliver nutrition to the menisci.
There are also nerve endings that run to each meniscus. Some of these nerve endings provide sensation and others are mechanoreceptors that tell out brain how much pressure is on our knee and what position our knee is in.
Meniscal tears are a common injury. They can be traumatic - like twisting a knee during a sport. They can also be non-traumatic or degenerative meaning that over time the meniscus starts to get worn out. Clinical examination including a detailed history and physical exam by a physician or physical therapist can be very accurate at identifying a meniscus problem. Sometimes an MRI may be done to visualize a tear and identify the size, type, and location of the tear.
When a diagnosis of a meniscus tear is made there are options for treatment. Two common options are arthroscopic surgery or conservative management. Over the past 20 years the use of arthroscopic surgery to treat meniscal tears has expanded significantly. Specifically in the case of adults with degenerative (non-traumatic tears) the rates of surgery have gone through the roof. Unfortunately many studies have identified little to no advantage to this type of surgery for treating these types of meniscus tears. Conservative management, including exercise, is much less expensive and invasive and has no negative side effects has been shown to be better or equally as effective as surgery in some studies!
Here at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning we specialize in treating pain, identifying problem areas to address, and designing an individualized treatment plan to address those problem areas. In the case of a meniscus tear, strength, flexibility, balance, joint mobility, and function are all thoroughly assessed. A combination of mobility exercises, strengthening exercises, and manual therapy can be customized to treat a meniscus tear effectively and efficiently.
If you are having knee pain or have been diagnosed with a meniscus tear, give us a call! Don’t rush out and have an arthroscopic meniscectomy if you have not seen us first. Based on the latest science conservative management with manual therapy and exercise should be the first line treatment for meniscal tears and surgery should be the last resort.
Next week Coach Gerry will discuss his approach to starting a strength training program with a client who has been discharged from physical therapy following a knee injury or surgery.
Dr. Anthony Falco
Fox AJ, Bedi A, Rodeo SA. The basic science of human knee menisci: structure,
composition, and function. Sports Health. 2012 Jul;4(4):340-51.
Muheim LLS, Senn O, Früh M, Reich O, Rosemann T, Neuner-Jehle SM.
Inappropriate use of arthroscopic meniscal surgery in degenerative knee disease.
Acta Orthop. 2017 Oct;88(5):550-555.
Azam M, Shenoy R. The Role of Arthroscopic Partial Meniscectomy in the
Management of Degenerative Meniscus Tears: A Review of the Recent Literature.
Open Orthop J. 2016 Dec 30;10:797-804.
Kise NJ, Risberg MA, Stensrud S, Ranstam J, Engebretsen L, Roos EM. Exercise
therapy versus arthroscopic partial meniscectomy for degenerative meniscal tear
in middle aged patients: randomised controlled trial with two year follow-up.
BMJ. 2016 Jul 20;354:i3740. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i3740. PubMed PMID: 27440192
Swart NM, van Oudenaarde K, Reijnierse M, Nelissen RG, Verhaar JA,
Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Luijsterburg PA. Effectiveness of exercise therapy for
meniscal lesions in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sci Med
Sport. 2016 Dec;19(12):990-998. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2016.04.003. Epub 2016 Apr
20. Review. PubMed PMID: 27129638.
Knee Image: http://www.vangsnessmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/proc_img_meniscal01.jpg
Last week, Dr. Anthony Falco discussed the basics of heart rate training and how to properly calculate your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate. Once you determine these numbers you can properly utilize heart rate monitors to enhance your training. In athletes, this can be tremendously useful, as it will allow them to better determine if their aerobic training is focused on recovery, maintenance, or aerobic improvement. For the sake of this article, we will be focusing on aerobic improvement. To improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity you must understand the percentage of maximum heart rate needed to reach the improvement threshold and also how to use exercises which best work towards achieving that same goal.
Proper Heart Rate Percentage For Aerobic Improvement
In the past I discussed using the aerobic capacity system to help aide in recovery for athletes. For recovery, it is best to work in a 60-75% range of the athlete’s max heart rate. However, the range for aerobic improvement goes as high as 85-90% of the max heart rate. Basically, apply Dr. Falco’s formula for your maximum heart to these percentages and you can find the best threshold for an athlete to work in to improve aerobic capacity. For example:
How To Construct A Proper Movement Pattern Aerobic Program
As I previously mentioned, the movement patterns are great to use for aerobic improvement for a number of reasons. In addition to helping improve an athlete’s working capacity, you can also use this as extra time to drill home proper form with the main movements. However, it is extremely important to note that an athlete must show proficiency in these movements prior to using them, as it is never ideal to learn a new skill or movement in a fatigued state. For example, an athlete who cannot perform a proper bodyweight squat should not be allowed to use this movement in an aerobic circuit as they will be susceptible to not only injury, but can further program their nervous system to perform the movement incorrectly.
The most important thing to remember here is that you can find success with a multitude of different methods. Once you have determined your proper heart rate the main goal is simply stay in that zone and maximize your aerobic capacity. Movement pattern circuits are simply a great alternative to use because they can further solidify the proper form and technique of the most important qualities and movements for an athlete.
The start of a new year is often a time when people will start a new fitness or health goal. One important factor that aids in meeting goals is having a way to measure progress. Heart rate can be a simple metric to help measure progress of a fitness program and can serve as an indicator of cardiovascular health.
Tracking heart rate can be as simple as finding your pulse in your neck (carotid artery) or wrist (the radial artery) and using a stopwatch. Count the number of beats for one full minute or count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 for an estimate. The old fashioned way works great but today fitness trackers, fitbits, heart rate monitors, even apps on our phones can help measure our heart rate.
Here are 3 ways that heart rate can be utilized to keep you on track for your fitness goals:
1 - Measure heart rate recovery 1, 2
-Heart rate recovery is defined as how long it takes your heart rate to return to baseline following a bout of exercise. This is a measure of how well your nervous system regulates your heart.
-Perform a baseline workout - walk for 20 minutes, run 2 miles, take a spin class. Pick something that can be repeated after a few months of training.
-Following exercise rest quietly for 1 minute and then take your heart rate and take it again each minute until it returns to your resting heart rate.
-At one minute heart rate should decrease by 12 beats per minute or greater.
2 - Calculate your target training zone.
Here is a link with a calculator for target heart rate:
As an example:
A 40 year old with a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute wants to train between 70 and 80% of his max heart rate.
220-40 = 180 (max HR)
180 (max HR) - 70 (resting HR)= 110
110 x .7 = 77 + 70 = 147
110 x .8 = 88 + 70 = 158
Target training zone using = 147 to 158 beats per minute.
This calculation is based on age and resting heart rate to determine an appropriate training zone to improve aerobic capacity. This method known as the “Karvonen Formula” is a simple estimate that is correlated to VO2 max which is considered the gold standard measurement of aerobic capacity.
The American Heart Association makes recommendations for amount of exercise. For moderate intensity 50-70% of max heart rate and vigorous intensity 70-85%. Keep track of the amount of time you spend exercising in the target zone!
If you have any previous heart conditions or issues consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program. If you have questions or want to learn more about how to start a new exercise program we can help with that too! If we can help you conquer any barriers that prevent you from reaching your fitness and health goals come see us!
Check in next week and Gerry from Challenger Strength will share is insight on how he helps his athletes and clients improve their cardiovascular fitness.
1 - Cole CR, Blackstone EH, Pashkow FJ, Snader CE, Lauer MS. Heart-rate recovery
immediately after exercise as a predictor of mortality. N Engl J Med. 1999 Oct
2 - Jolly MA, Brennan DM, Cho L. Impact of exercise on heart rate recovery.
Circulation. 2011 Oct 4;124(14):1520-6. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.005009.
Epub 2011 Sep 26.
Dr. Anthony Falco
In his last article Dr. Anthony Falco discussed the opioid epidemic and how widespread it has become. This week, I intend to discuss how training itself can provide benefits that help deal with pain, and I will also breakdown use of maintenance training for athletes who either are in-season or need to recover after a long and grueling season. This can be done via extensive plyometrics, aerobic capacity work and maintenance load percentages with main movements (squats, deadlifts and bench presses).
To start, endorphins are produced by the central nervous system in response to pain or stress. That is, physical activity such as running, strength training or sports can provide endorphin release. Contrary to opioids, however, endorphins brought on naturally by the body do not create addiction or dependence. So, instead of turning to pain medication physical activity such as strength training or running can reduce pain while also riding of addictive substances that can damage the body and ultimately lead to death.
With that being said, there are some easy strategies for athletes to utilize in order to limit stresses on their body while training, but also achieve some much needed endorphin release to deal with the pains of their seasons and physical activity and the stresses of everyday life.
Extensive plyometrics are less intense and stressful plyometric exercises that are often used to perfect jumping mechanics, while also adjusting the body while it learns to properly use tendons and ligaments. Not only are these a good way to teach young athletes landing mechanics and proper use of the body while jumping, but also they can be implemented during hypertrophy cycles for athletes recovering early in the off-season or even during their respective season. Extensive plyometrics are often performed with more repetitions than their intensive counterparts, so you may find yourself performing sets of 6-8 box jumps that are significantly lower than your max jump height, but allow you to pause at the bottom of your jump and land smoothly.
Aerobic Capacity Training For Recovery
As I covered in past articles, (http://www.challengerstrength.com/blog/using-the-aerobic-energy-system-to-promote-recovery) the aerobic energy system can be used to stimulate recovery if done in certain thresholds. This would entail performing aerobic conditioning while remaining within 60-75% of your max heart rate (220-age). Using aerobic conditioning can be vital in promoting recovery and endorphin release.
Using Maintenance Loads To Reduce Physical Stress
While maintenance loads are commonly perceived as just that, “maintenance,” true gains can still be made while reducing stress. For example, I have seen athletes achieve 5-10 pound gains in their one rep max (1RM), after a 6-week maintenance cycle never exceeding 85% of their previous 1RM. For maintenance lifts I would normally stay within 70-85% of your 1RM while keeping volume similar to your strength aimed sets.
References and Useful Links
The opioid epidemic has received a lot of attention over this past year, and for good reason. In 2016, there were 1,901 deaths in New Jersey due to opioid overdose (See an interesting article and interactive map here).1 In New Jersey there have been nearly 6,000 deaths due to opioid overdose since 2004 and the rate of opioid overdose in New Jersey is 3x higher than the national average.2 The federal government declared opioids a public health emergency and in 2017 the state of New Jersey started the “Facing Addiction Task Force to help combat the problem in our state.3
Opioid medications can be prescribed for pain after a surgery, a traumatic injury, or any severe pain. Any time opioids are prescribed there should be a clearly defined plan on how long to use the medication and how to transition from using it. Unfortunately, opioids have often been over prescribed with no clear plan to discontinue use. There is little to no research that supports the use of long term opioid pain medication for musculoskeletal pain.4,5 Pain medication can help treat the symptom of pain but it does not get at the root cause of why you are having that pain in the first place. So, if you are currently dealing with a painful condition or on an opioid pain medication what should you do? Go see your physical therapist!
Your physical therapist can be your best teammate when dealing with a painful condition and to help you avoid the use of opioid pain medication. Especially with chronic pain, education is an extremely important component of treatment. Our nervous system works like an alarm system and under normal circumstances things that are painful need to meet a certain threshold to cause pain (see the dotted line “firing level below”). When the nervous system becomes “extra sensitive”, which is what happens with chronic pain, activites that normally would not be painful can now easily reach the pain threshold (“firing level” in the image below).
As an example - someone who has had back pain for years and has a nervous system that is in an “extra-sensitive” state, basic things like bending forward to tie their shoes can be painful. Understanding how pain works and working with a physical therapist who can help you better understand your specific situation is the best first step in treating pain.
At Performance Physical Therapy and Sports Conditioning we treat people who are in pain every single day. Unlike opioid pain medication there are no harmful side effects to physical therapy! We utilize multiple approaches to control pain including pain science education, manual therapy, and most importantly, exercise. With every patient that we treat our goal is to empower the patient with the confidence, knowledge, and ability to manage their own body. Check back next week when Coach Gerry of Challenger Strength discusses how he keeps his clients and athletes in top shape despite pain, bumps and bruises.
References and Useful Links:
2 - http://www.njtvonline.org/addiction/
3 - http://reachnj.gov/
4 - Ballantyne JC. Avoiding Opioid Analgesics for Treatment of Chronic Low Back
Pain. JAMA. 2016 Jun 14;315(22):2459-60.
5 - Chou R, Fanciullo GJ, Fine PG, Adler JA, Ballantyne JC, Davies P, Donovan MI,
Fishbain DA, Foley KM, Fudin J, Gilson AM, Kelter A, Mauskop A, O'Connor PG,
Passik SD, Pasternak GW, Portenoy RK, Rich BA, Roberts RG, Todd KH, Miaskowski C;
American Pain Society-American Academy of Pain Medicine Opioids Guidelines Panel.
Clinical guidelines for the use of chronic opioid therapy in chronic noncancer
pain. J Pain. 2009 Feb;10(2):113-30.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Falco discussed how you can decipher the differences between pain and soreness, and when it may be appropriate to see a physician. This week I want to give some strategies that can be used in order to deal with muscle soreness and promote recovery after high intensity bouts of physical activity. Essentially, you now know you do not need to see a physician, so what is next? Once I give you a full breakdown of what makes cardio recovery focused I will give some methods you can use in your own programming.
The Different Energy Systems of The Body
Essentially, there are three main energy systems:
For the sake of this discussion we are going to focus on the aerobic (oxidative) energy system as a means of promoting recovery. While the aerobic energy system is utilized to promote recovery between bouts of anaerobic (alactic) activity, we are going to focus on its role in recovery and assistance in dealing with soreness/fatigue. With this being said, it is essential to perform training in a range of 60-75% of your max heart rate (220-age). This range will ensure you are aiming to stimulate the recovery process.
How To Perform Aerobic Recovery Training
As I mentioned, it is imperative to ensure that you are performing lower intensity bouts that have longer durations when trying to recover. This can be done in a multitude of ways.
The important thing to remember when utilizing the aerobic energy system for recovery is to be cognizant of the intensities. Recovery can only occur if the work being performed is done in a 60-75% window of intensity.
Whether you are starting on a new exercise program or if you are someone who exercises regularly, it is important to understand the difference between soreness and pain. Similarly, athletes who are competing need to know when their muscles are sore due to the exertion of their sport or when they are dealing with pain that needs further attention.
When exercising, we put our body under physical stress. This physical stress breaks down our muscles and tissues. By adapting and recovering from this breakdown we get stronger and are then able to take on more physical stress. For example, if I regularly walk a mile in 15 minutes 3 times per week, over time it will get easier for me to complete the mile in 15 minutes. After a few weeks of adaptation and recovery from this amount of exercise I may then be able to walk a mile in 13 minutes. If I continue to challenge myself I can continue to improve by walking a mile in a shorter period of time. This holds true for aerobic exercise (walking, biking, running, etc) and strengthening exercises (lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, etc)
The process of muscle breakdown due to the stress of exercise is what makes us sore after a workout. After a workout that includes squats and lunges our legs and hips may be sore for a few days. This is a normal part of exercise and we call this soreness DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This soreness in the muscles is a sign that we have stressed our body and will generally subside in a few days or with a light recovery workout (something less stressful).
Pain is different. Pain can occur in the muscles or the joints and may not subside after a few days like DOMS will. Pain generally will not feel better with a recovery workout like a light jog or bike ride. If the feeling of pain does not subside with rest within about a week it is then a good idea to call your physical therapist or medical provider. Often when pain is addressed early it is easier to get back to the activities you enjoy without pain more quickly.
Below is a table that can serve as a quick reference to better understand the difference between soreness and pain.
Soreness vs Pain
Type of Discomfort
Soreness: Tender when touching muscles, tired or burning feeling while exercising, minimal dull, tight and achy feeling at rest
Pain: Ache, sharp pain at rest or when exercising. Pain with movement.
Soreness: During exercise or 24-72 hours after activity (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
Pain: During exercise or within 24 hours of activity
Soreness: 2-3 days (can be longer)
Pain: May linger if not addressed
Pain: Muscles or Joints
Soreness: Stretching, following movement
Pain: Ice, rest
Soreness: Sitting still
Pain: Continued activity
Soreness: Resume offending activity once soreness subsides
Pain: Consult with medical professional if pain is extreme or lasts >1-2 weeks
Source: adapted from http://www.moveforwardpt.com/resources/detail/soreness-vs-pain-whats-difference
Not sure if you are dealing with muscle soreness or pain? Or do you have questions about beginning or how to progress your physical activity/exercise program? Our physical therapists can help you by recovering from any aches or pains you may be experiencing and helping design a plan to return to your desired activities. Check out our website or give us a call to schedule an appointment and get back to the activities you enjoy pain free. Our 15 Corporate Drive and 2025 Hamburg Turnpike locations in Wayne are open Monday through Friday.
Next week Gerry DeFilippo will outline some of his favorite strategies to address DOMS when he is working with his clients and athletes.
Dr. Anthony Falco
Baseball Players and thoracic Rotation: Three Exercise Progression To Build Ultimate Rotational Power!
Last week Dr. Anthony Falco broke down the biomechanics involved in both swinging and throwing in baseball and the role these movements play in the development of a misaligned pelvis and hip injuries. This week, I will break down the importance of rotational power related to both movements along with a three exercise progression to not only develop better and more efficient rotational ability, but proficiency in weight transfer and additional power development.
The Role of The Core and Thoracic Spine
As Dr. Falco stated last week:
“The core is essential for generating and transferring force during the powerful and asymmetrical movements that take place in baseball. For the purpose of this discussion we are going to define the core as: the abdominals, the erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine), the pelvic floor, and the hips (the glutes, groin muscles, and hip flexor muscles). “
“When throwing a pitch, the core muscles maintain stability of the low back and hips allowing force generated through the legs to be transferred through the core to shoulder complex and ultimately to the ball. This transfer of force takes place in less than 0.2 seconds! The core is essential to maintaining proper mechanics through all phases of delivering a pitch. Any imbalances in flexibility, strength, or coordination at that high rate of speed can lead to decreased performance and injury.”
With that being said, we must also acknowledge the role of the thoracic spine in conjunction with the core. After force is transferred from the lower half to the upper half and shoulders via the core, the thoracic spine (mid back), must be able to rotate and the hips able to clear in order to square the body to both the target when throwing or the ball when swinging. Lack of rotational power can severely limit velocity potential and swinging power. That is, an extremely strong base at the legs or shoulder may not see full potential utilized if a player cannot rotate at a similar rate.
The Planes of Motion Involved In a Swing or Throw
Many people would state that a pitching delivery or swing is performed in the transverse plane (plane which involved rotation). While that is correct, I like to break down these movements in two phases because there are movements that take place prior to the rotation that occurs. As a result, I like to explain each motion as a frontal plane movement followed by a rotation (transverse plane).
Three Exercise Progression To Develop Rotational Power
The following exercises progress from simple thoracic rotational focus to then include both frontal and transverse movements with a weight transfer, and lastly a more advanced progression that builds excess power prior to the movement.
Interested in recovering from a rotationally related injury or developing more rotational power? Stop by one of our two locations in Wayne, give us a call at 973.368.4907 or email us at staff@performancePTSC.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow us on social media to see how we can help you!
1 - Seroyer ST, Nho SJ, Bach BR, Bush-Joseph CA, Nicholson GP, Romeo AA. The
kinetic chain in overhand pitching: its potential role for performance
enhancement and injury prevention. Sports Health. 2010 Mar;2(2):135-46.
2 - Coleman SH, Mayer SW, Tyson JJ, Pollack KM, Curriero FC. The Epidemiology of
Hip and Groin Injuries in Professional Baseball Players. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead
NJ). 2016 Mar-Apr;45(3):168-75.
Like many sports, baseball puts asymmetrical loads on the body. In all aspects of baseball (pitching, fielding, batting, base running) the rules of the game and right or left hand dominance influence how the body takes on the physical stress of the sport.
The core is essential for generating and transferring force during the powerful and asymmetrical movements that take place in baseball. For the purpose of this discussion we are going to define the core as: the abdominals, the erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine), the pelvic floor, and the hips (the glutes, groin muscles, and hip flexor muscles).
When throwing a pitch, the core muscles maintain stability of the the low back and hips allowing force generated through the legs to be transferred through the core to shoulder complex and ultimately to the ball. This transfer of force takes place in less than 0.2 seconds!1 The core is essential to maintaining proper mechanics through all phases of delivering a pitch. Any imbalances in flexibility, strength, or coordination at that high rate of speed can lead to decreased performance and injury.
If we focus specifically at the hips as a key point connecting the powerful leg muscles to the core we find a potential area for injury and dysfunction in the pitching athlete. Up to 5% of all injuries in minor and major leaguers are due to hip problems.2 Although difficult to estimate, it could be hypothesized that other injuries to the shoulder or elbow might be avoided if function is maximized at the hip and core. Let’s forget about the steroid era in baseball for a moment and recall the crazy workouts of Roger Clemens. Sure, he focused on strengthening his arm and rotator cuff, but the main focus of his off-season training was strengthening his hips and core.
When a hip injury in a baseball athlete does occur, physical therapy is generally the best way to treat it. The treatment of hip injuries in pitchers begins with a detailed assessment and evaluation. This includes looking at spine and hip range of motion, flexibility, soft tissue quality, strength, endurance and pitching mechanics. Treatment for these types of injuries is highly individualized depending on the specific presentation of each athlete. The four main elements we focus on when treating hip pain in a pitcher include: manual therapy, hip mobility, core stability and pitching mechanics. Let’s break each of these down:
1 - Manual therapy - This includes mobilization, manipulation, or muscle energy techniques to the hip and/or low back and pelvis complex to restore normal mobility, decrease pain, and improve muscle performance. Manual treatment can also include instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization and soft tissue techniques to relax spastic muscles, improve soft tissue mobility, and restore muscle flexibility.
2 - Hip Mobility - These are drills and exercises to restore full range of motion and flexibility to the hips. Some examples include adductor stretching, hip flexor stretching, and deep lunges for an active stretch to the hip flexors.
3 - Core Stability - These exercises are used to maintain integrity of the low back and pelvis complex and can include double and single leg bridges, glute activation drills, lunges, planks, crawling, ab roll outs, and single leg balance and stability exercises.
4 - Pitching Mechanics - Breaking down the pitching delivery step by step and practicing proper mechanics that build on the range of motion, mobility, and stability gained in the first three elements through a focused rehabilitation program.
Recently at Performance Physical Therapy we had a patient who is a left handed pitcher with hip pain. He presented with complaints of a right hip pain that bothered him the most during his stride to deliver the ball to the plate. His history revealed no trauma or recollection of injury-just an onset of pain with throwing. On examination, serious hip pathology was ruled out through a detailed history and an in-depth orthopedic exam. There was significant tenderness to the touch over the hip flexor muscle and its attachment to the front of the hip bone, pain with stretch to the hip flexor muscle, and pain that was reproduced with contraction of the hip flexor. We also identified limited flexibility of the groin and hamstring muscle groups and weakness of the hip, glute and core. To treat this patient we utilized manual therapy targeting the low back and pelvis, hip joint and hip flexor muscles, hip mobility exercises, core stability work, and a review of his pitching mechanics.
With only a few sessions of physical therapy and some activity modification, our patient did not miss a single day of baseball practice or strength training with Challenger Strength and made a full return to pitching in less than 2 weeks. Early identification of the injury and a smart selection of treatment techniques was the key to such a quick recovery.
Be on the lookout for a post from Gerry DeFilippo at Challenger Strength next week demonstrating some great ways to further develop core, rotational strength and power that helps prevent hip injuries and improve performance!
Interested in what what we do and how we achieve our results? Stop by one of our two locations in Wayne, give us a call at 973.368.4907, email us at staff@performancePTSC.com or follow us on social media to see how we can help you!
Dr. Anthony Falco
1 - Seroyer ST, Nho SJ, Bach BR, Bush-Joseph CA, Nicholson GP, Romeo AA. The
kinetic chain in overhand pitching: its potential role for performance
enhancement and injury prevention. Sports Health. 2010 Mar;2(2):135-46.
2 - Coleman SH, Mayer SW, Tyson JJ, Pollack KM, Curriero FC. The Epidemiology of
Hip and Groin Injuries in Professional Baseball Players. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead
NJ). 2016 Mar-Apr;45(3):168-75.
Long distance running and long duration high intensity cardio have long been a staple in team-sport training and preparation. I am talking since before the days where Rocky Balboa through on on his grey sweat suit and ran up those historic stairs in Philadelphia. Like anything, times change and so must the way we prepare and train athletes. I am writing this mostly because I am concerned and because it is time to make a statement. I have seen too many injuries to the lower extremities of young athletes who are also left tired and abused from improper conditioning. So here is my final stand. I am going to make this quite simple. I will break down the different energy systems of the body, discuss which are used prevalently in sports and then finish up with my favorite ways to train team-sport athletes when it comes to conditioning.
The Energy Systems of The Human Body
As Humans we arrange activity into three basic categories of energy, which are alactic (anaerobic), lactic and aerobic. Here is a breakdown of each of them and when they are used.
Systems Most Commonly Used In Team Sports
Essentially all major team sports are performed in the alactic (anerobic) and aerobic energy systems. That is, rarely does a team sport athlete exert themselves at maximum intensity for longer than 15 seconds (intense and short sprints, jumps, force production or shots) . If they are continuously active it will be at lower intensities (think basketball players jogging around in a half-court set, soccer/hockey players passing a ball/puck amongst teammates etc.). That is, a team sport athlete will rarely ever perform their sport in a lactic state (higher intensities for continuous durations). So, you can begin to see why it would be pointless to train in this manner.
The Wrong Way To Train Team Sport Athletes (Along With My Alternatives)
I’ll keep the first part of this brief. In a nutshell, it is wrong to train athletes at higher intensities for long periods of time. This can include multiple mile runs, long sprints etc. Now, here are my favorite ways to train the alactic/anaerobic and aerobic systems. Note that a combination of both in a program is most effective.
As you can see it is quite simple to understand why the conditioning practices that are still seen today are wrong and detrimental to athletes. It is imperative that we assess the sports being trained for so that we best understand the structure and needs that go along with it in terms of anaerobic and aerobic training.
In the past I have talked about some general tips to use in order to grow a strong and big upper back. (http://www.challengerstrength.com/blog/tips-and-five-best-exercises-to-build-a-big-and-strong-upper-back). I have also given you some of my favorite exercises for the upper back and how to develop it. This got me to thinking and I realized that not many coaches and athletes know how much of an importance should be placed on the role of the upper back when programming pressing movements for baseball players. Many people neglect the involvement of the scapulae (shoulder blades) in their pressing variations, and fail to see how much they can develop this aspect of their body if they simply focused on a few key details. This would provide a multitude of benefits for athletes as their upper back plays a huge role in their health and performance. For baseball players and rotational athletes (hockey, lacrosse, golf etc.) the upper back plays a huge roll in not only their swing or shot, but it can also limit shoulder injuries if trained effectively. A strong upper back can help improve posture and limit the internal rotation of the shoulder (internal rotation can lead to labrum injuries due to the compression and force constantly placed on the acromioclavicular (AC) joint). So, not only can we contribute to an aesthetically pleasing upper back by making some adjustments in our pressing, but we can also limit injury and contribute to increases in performance for baseball players. Here is a quick breakdown of external rotation, how to promote use of the scapulae for presses with baseball players and my favorite exercise variations to do so!
In my opinion the best analogy to use to explain external rotation of the shoulders would be to have someone imagine that their arms are outstretched and fully extended with their hands on a wall. On that wall is a big sheet of paper, and your goal is to tear the paper down the middle without moving your hands. How exactly do we do that? Well, think as if you are trying to “screw” your hands into the wall, only without moving your hands outwards. External rotation is created when we drive our right hand clockwise and our left hand counterclockwise. If we do this without actually moving our hands then we create torque, and that imaginary paper is now torn! The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, meaning that the humeral head rotates about inside the cup like socket of the shoulder blade. When we create proper torque the humeral rotates outward, hence “external rotation.”
Now I know you are all saying “Great Gerry please explain how this applies to my training.” Well, basically many of us perform presses without external rotation, which not only leaves us susceptible to injury, but also does not allow us to develop the upper back and shoulder blades to the best of their ability. This has been said many times before, yet I still see baseball players utilizing presses that do not let the upper back work freely and independently of a bench. This is due to a number of factors, which include hand and grip positioning and the side effects of performing presses on a bench. Basically, when our back is on a bench the bench itself does not allow for full scapula activation and retraction, which can limit external rotation and use of the upper back. Experienced lifters know how to properly activate the upper back and can get around this, but many others struggle. Lastly, bilateral movements (presses with two hands) can negate the need to isolate each individual shoulder blade due to the fact that using both hands does not require as much stabilization as unilateral movements. With that being said, here are a few variations that make use of these fundamental principles.
Dumbbell Piston Press
As I mentioned above, unilateral presses allow the shoulder blades to work independently of each other. In addition, they require more external rotation to be created in order to stabilize fully. If I have a baseball player perform a bench press it will be with dumbbells due to the fact that they require more focused stabilization of the scapulae then barbell presses, and allow for a neutral grip to prevent stress on the shoulders. However, an even better way to guarantee shoulder blade activation and external rotation is to perform dumbbell presses in a piston like manner. That is, perform each press individually (one side at a time) so that the athlete has to pay attention to activating the upper back and externally rotating at the shoulder in order to properly stabilize the weight. I will also utilize these presses at lower weights for dynamic/speed repetitions as well for power development.
The barbell push-up not only is a great tool to use in order to teach the art of pressing, but also it eliminates the use of the bench (as I mentioned), which can teach an athlete how to cue and activate the upper back while letting the upper back work independently. Since we are performing presses without the support of the bench we can fully retract the shoulder blades with each repetition and learn how to activate the upper back. This is a simple movement for advanced athletes, so I will usually implement slower movements, isometric holds and even increase the load (with chains) in order to progress the movement and make it more challenging. Any type of push-up variation is great to use for baseball players.
Cable or Band Presses
Similarly to push-up variations, cable and/or band presses allow the athlete to perform pushes that allow the scapulae to work independently of one another. They also help place less stress on the shoulders.
Bottoms-Up Kettle Bell Presses
This last variation is the most advanced and ties in all the principles I have previously mentioned. Firstly, holding the kettle bells in a bottoms-up position makes external rotation a necessity, and is why I love this variation. If you do not properly externally rotate it is almost impossible to stabilize the kettle bell. In addition, we are once again removing the bench from the equation and requiring true activation of the upper back and retraction (pinching) of the shoulder blades. Lastly, if you really want to advance this variation and take it to the next level you can perform the presses unilaterally (one hand at a time), and tie in the same principles you would be when performing the dumbbell bench press in a piston manner!
As I become more involved with strength and speed training with baseball players it is increasingly obvious that the 60-yard dash is a bad metric to use to test “true baseball speed.” I put true baseball speed in quotes because once we step back and evaluate the sport we will realize the unique aspects of the sport that define what good speed truly is. That’s the thing here. Each sport has different components that help us find ways to effectively train speed in the most efficient manner possible. So, in order to attack this topic effectively I will first break down the two phases of a sprint (acceleration and top speed), the nature of the 60-yard dash, sports specific speed to baseball (that is, what actually happens in a game) and lastly my suggestion for a better test for linear baseball speed.
The Two Phases of A Sprint
Let’s cut to the chase here. Essentially, a linear sprint is made up of two phases.
The Nature of The 60-Yard Dash
Now that we understand the phases of the sprint we can begin to discuss what is present during the 60-yard dash. Essentially, only twenty-five percent of the 60-yard dash is spent on acceleration (15 out of 60 yards). This means that 75% (45 of 60 yards) is spent in the top speed phase. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
Baseball Sport Specific Speed
This is the part of the article where I dissect the involvement of linear speed in the game of baseball. For ease of understanding here I will break this down in three phases: home to first after contact, base running and lastly defensively (particularly in outfielders).
My Suggestion For A New Test For Baseball Speed
As you can guess, my suggestion for the test of linear baseball speed would be the 20-yard dash. In my opinion the 20-yard is more effective due to the fact that more of baseball is spent in acceleration than top speed. Gauging a baseball player’s speed with a test that is mostly spent in top speed when they mostly play the sport in acceleration is inaccurate.
In the next installment of our supplemental and accessory exercise series I give some insight into my favorite posterior chain activating accessory exercises that can contribute into improvements with the hinge movement pattern.
Main Areas Involved In The Hinge/Deadlift
The posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, external rotators etc.) is the main mover of the hinge movement pattern. Thus, it is important to implement accessory exercises into your program that target these muscles. While supplemental exercises for the hinge almost always include the movement itself, the accessory exercises do not have to. Thus, I included the straight leg deadlift (or RDL) in my favorite supplemental exercises, but none of my accessories will be performed with the same pattern or in the same plane of motion as an actual deadlift.
There are a couple reasons why I love hip thrusts. First and foremost they are great because they can be done with multiple types of equipment and as a result can be a staple in any program. Bands, dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls and plates can all be used to perform hip thrusts. The second reason I love them is because they allow you to get a great feel for finishing your hinge. Essentially, cuing a squeezing of the glutes at the top of a hip thrust not only provides hypertrophic benefits, but also can teach athletes and lifters to drive their hinge all the way through with their glutes instead of hyperextending at their lumber spine.
Glute Hamstring Raises
I enjoy glute hamstring raises because they are essentially fool proof in terms of requiring posterior chain activation. Basically, in order to be able to do them you need to fully contract your hamstrings and glutes. Other accessory exercises may require a mastery of the movement in order to fully engage the posterior chain, but glute hamstring raises do not. Furthermore, glute hamstring raises also can be utilized to rid of lumbar hyperextension throughout the completion of a hinge.
In the next phase of our accessory and supplemental exercise series I will dive into accessory exercises for each movement and what muscle groups are responsible for each of the fundamental movement patterns. In terms of your programming, you will now be learning about the next piece following our fundamental movement and the supplemental exercise you have just completed.
Main Areas Involved In The Bench Press
Aside from the chest, there three areas that play a pivotal role in the bench press and your ability to target these areas effectively can help you build your bench and all pushing movements. Essentially, you should target your triceps (main muscle used during the latter 1/3 of the range of motion in a bench press), upper back (crucial for stabilizing and drive off the bench during a press) and shoulders. The following are some of my favorite exercises to build each of these areas.
Always remember that our goal with accessory exercises is to build muscle mass that will directly translate into building strength with our main movement patterns. The bigger a muscle is the more potential it has to be strong!
In my opinion, the lunge is one of the most misunderstood movement patterns in terms of programming regression based exercises that will help a client or athlete develop the necessary strength to complete the movement. As a result, we often see lunges performed in a painfully awkward manner that is not only bad for the person performing it, but also bad for the reputation of the trainer responsible. However, once you break down the lunge and understand the needed components to perform them with good form, it is pretty easy to master this last movement pattern in our supplemental and accessory exercise series.
Key Components of The Lunge
To start, there are two main components to performing a lunge, and much like any of the other movement patterns you must be able to have complete control and strength throughout the entire range of motion. So, in my opinion, the first component is to improve your general leg strength and mobility outside of the range of motion before you move into the two exercises I recommend. Also, it is imperative to improve core strength (think stabilization and not doing 1,000 crunches). Exercises such as farmer’s walks, planks, suitcase carries etc. are great for developing core strength, which will support your extremities while they are in motion.
Two Best Exercises To Perfect The Lunge
Now as I have mentioned in previous articles, focusing on eccentrics and isometrics are imperative to building strength in a particular range of motion. I will not beat a dead horse here, so check out my last article on the pulling movement pattern to get a breakdown on how to utilize isometrics and eccentrics. With that being said, the rear leg elevated squat (also known as the Bulgarian split squat) and a split squat are the best regression exercises to build the lunge because they eliminate the extra movement and simply focus on the concentric and eccentric portions of the lunge. Think of it this way. These movements remove the step involved in a lunge and as a result are a great regression to the movement itself. Once control is gained with these two exercises you can begin to move towards the lunge.
This completes the supplemental exercise portion of our supplemental and accessory exercise series. Be on the lookout next week as we move towards accessory exercises to improve each of the fundamental movement patterns.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.