This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on gaining power faster through nutrition:

Zach contacted me over email one day,

…and said he increased his throwing speed by 10-mph,

Eventually topping out at 95-mph using nutrition and hard work.

(enter brakes screeching sound effect)…

I said to Zach, “Hold on, so it wasn’t mechanics?  It wasn’t PED use?  It was nutrition?!”

It wasn’t a total shocker to me,

Because I’m not new to the power of nutrition

I’ve spent a decade in the fitness training world.

And I know how powerful an athlete’s nutrition can be to recovery, muscle building, etc.

So I told him to send over what he was selling because I was curious about his process.

In the following 3-Part series, Zach is going to outline his journey of self-discovery.  The best part is, he used proven science to get there!

And please note, just because this worked for him pitching, doesn’t mean it won’t work for increasing bat and ball exit speeds.

I just want to warn you though, some of what Zach talks about can get a little technical, so take your time and read over the material a couple times, till you can synthesize it.

Rest assured, it’ll be worth the extra work.

Enter Zach Calhoon…

The Sports Nutrition Studies That Started My Journey To 95 MPH

The Moment Everything Changed…

I will never forget this moment. I looked up from a book I was reading and had this thought “Everything will change from this day forward…”

On a bus, on my way to the next 3 game series. We stopped at a parking lot for lunch. I snuck away to the bookstore and grabbed a couple books on nutrition and sports science. This day started my journey towards what I call the “secret” to success – research.

In high school, I was an average pitcher throwing 84 MPH. I was over 6 feet tall, but besides that, I wasn’t that good.

I always knew, deep down inside, I could be great one day. I knew that I could throw 90 MPH and be a pitching stud. But I didn’t know how to get there (Or that eventually, I would throw 95 MPH).

So I worked. And worked hard. Which led to some success and I eventually got a small scholarship to a division 1 school in San Antonio – The University of Texas at San Antonio.

But I still threw about 85 MPH. So how did my fastball increase by 10 mph all the way to 95 MPH?

The Sports Nutrition Studies That Started My Journey To 95 MPH

Question: If I told you that I could triple your muscle gain with one tip, would you believe me?

Probably not.

I’m going to show you multiple published controlled studies that show the timing of protein increasing protein synthesis by 3 times.

Heavy research has been done regarding your bodies reaction to when you put nutrients into your body. Check out some of these studies about amino acid uptake and protein synthesis:

“Multiple studies confirm that the supplementing amino acids immediately following a workout, greatly benefits the athlete. Okamure and associates found that immediately following a workout (the Anabolic Stage) that protein synthesis increased 25% and amino acid uptake doubled when a carbohydrate/protein supplement was administered. Biolo and colleagues tested resistance training athlete’s response to post workout supplementation. They saw an amino acid uptake and protein synthesis 3-4 times greater in tested subjects supplementing immediately after exercise.

The critical timing of protein is best represented in a study conducted by Levenhagen and colleagues at Vanderbilt University. This study looked at the effect on protein synthesis comparing protein/carbohydrate supplementation immediately following exercise or protein/carbohydrate supplementation waiting 3 hours after exercise. He tested 10 subjects. 5 male and 5 female. Each subject was tested after 60 minutes of exercise. The subjects given a protein/carbohydrate supplement immediately following exercise experience protein synthesis 3 times greater than the subjects who waited 3 hours. The immediate group saw a considerable net protein gain. While the 3 hour delayed subjects actually saw a net protein loss.

See the above chart for a visual

 

Test Yourself

Research studies are compelling. But they are crowded with jargon and limited to certain controls. I use research studies to start the process of thinking critically about my assumptions. Then I test those assumptions on my own. I measure the output and see how I feel.

In this case, I had an ignorant assumption that timing of my nutrients did not matter. I read about this research and immediately tested, and kept testing (you should too). I went from an average 86 to 87 MPH fastball my sophomore year of college to 95 MPH in 8 months. I never changed my training, just my nutrient intake at the right times.

Faster Results Matter

Mike Trout Robbing a Home-Run

Mike Trout robbing a homer. Photo courtesy: NJ.com

You just learned that timing your protein can lead to faster recovery and better results. So what does that mean for you? Well if you are reading this, there is a good chance you are a hitter. You want to increase your average, and drop bombs.

Check out the photo on the right of Trout robbing a home run. He looks cool here. But if you are the hitter who just hit that ball, this has to make you extremely angry. All the work you put in, and just a few more feet would be a big league home-run.

Do Not Rely On Luck

I want you to have success. I am about to share with you knowledge all revolving around nutrition’s ability to make you 10% to 20% more powerful.  Even if I only increase your power by 5 %.  That small increase in power will send the baseball out of the park and keep Mike Trout empty handed. And that’s a great thing. Champions are made one inch at a time.

What’s Next?

In the next few post we are going to talk about a variety of nutrition shortcuts to power. Whey protein, dextrose corn sugar, glucose, insulin, anabolic windows and many other things. All of which helped me become an elite athlete. I truly believe you can be a great baseball player. But you have to put in the work. That means maximizing every aspect of your training. Especially nutrition.

 

Baseball Is Behind

In the past few years, most elite athlete knowledge has been limited to the big boys in the MLB. Now some of the greatest research is making its way to college, high school and little league athletes. But it is taking time. Lets grow the knowledge of baseball players everywhere, and lets get better in less time.

Stay tuned, there is a lot to come.

-Zach

P.S.: I wrote a a free course called “5 Nutrition Shortcuts To A 90+ MPH Fastball” grab your own copy —> click here

P.P.S.: Thanks for reading. Share this with a friend.

References:

Biolo, G., Tipton, K.D., Klein, S., et al., “An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein,” American Journal of Physiology, 273:E122-E119, 1997
Levenhagen, D.K., Carr, C., Carlson, M.G., et al., “Post exercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34:828-837, 2002.
Levenhagen, D.K., Gresham, J.D., Carlson, M.G., et al., “Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis,” American Journal of Physiology, 280:E982-E993, 2001.
Okamura, K., Doi, T., Hamada, K., et al., “Effect of amino acid and glucose administration during post-exercise recovery on protein kinetics in dogs,” American Journal of Physiology, 272:E1023-E1030, 1997.
Conditioning Little Leaguers Warmup

Photo courtesy: Science.HowStuffWorks.com

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers:

How many of you do a dynamic warm-up with your players to start practice?

If you do not, then Dr. Stanley Beekman’s post is timely.

In the following post, the Doc will give you an active full body warm up routine you can use with your young athletes.

I even have my private instruction hitters do a RAMP warm-up routine before we start hitting.  RAMP stands for:

  • Range-of-motion – increase flexibility like Dr. Stanley will talk about in his post below,
  • Activation – activating certain muscles that tend to turn off because excessive sitting during the day, and
  • Movement Preparation – certain exercises that mimic specific hitting positions or movements.

This is promoted heavily in my Youth Fitness Specialist certification through the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA).

If you’re not including a dynamic warm-up, then you’re cutting your young athletes short.

Enter Dr. Stanley…

——

This is the second of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball little leaguers. In this post we’ll go over:

  • What is flexibility?
  • 4 reasons we want flexibility,
  • 7 causes of “inflexibility”,
  • Why warm up? And,
  • A sample warm up program to encourage flexibility

 

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility is defined as the ability to bend without breaking. In sports we mean ease and range of movement.

 

4 Reasons WHY We Want Flexibility?

  1. Injury prevention: For example Achilles tendonitis is caused by tight calf muscles.
  2. Better technique: Example – limitation of internal rotation of the hip joint will prevent the batter from staying closed.
  3. More Speed: Larger range of motion will allow more time to accelerate a body part.
  4. Less restriction of movement means more speed with less effort.

 

7 Causes of “Inflexibility”?

  1. Cold muscles
  2. The need to stabilize joint dysfunctions
  3. Injuries or dysfunction of muscles-agonists or antagonists, ligaments, and fascia
  4. Emotional stress
  5. Avoidance of  pain (prior or current)
  6. Shortened muscles
  7. Improper position of adjacent joints

 

Why Warm Up?

  • Muscles are like sponges. When they are dry they are stiff and will tear if moved. When they are dipped in water they become flexible
  • Joint movement pumps synovial (joint) fluid through the cartilage and prepares it for activity

 

A Sample Warm Up Program to Encourage Flexibility

So, what is the best way to warm up the body before performing intense exercise?

I have had a few kids on my son’s team work out with him. These are the warm up exercises we do. There are many other great warm up exercises, but the key here is to get the blood flowing to all the muscles and the heart and lungs working.

Sometimes there is an overlap between warming up and ballistic stretching (which we will talk about in the next installment).

We start slowly and then build up. If you have any favorite warm up exercises, let us know in the comments section below…

1. Running with high knees 15 yards

2. Running kicking the butt 15 yards

3. Lunge walks 10 yards

4. Side lunge walks 10 yards

5. Head rotation 10x each way 

6. Arm circles forwards 10x

7. Arm circles backwards 10x

8. Huggers 10x

9. Indian clubs for shoulders, elbows and wrists 10x (Stay with 1 lb clubs)
Indian Clubs on Amazon

10. Bulgarian bag thoracic warm up 10x each way.

11. Trunk twist 10x each way

12. Hip Circles 10x each way

13. Knee Circles 10x each way 

14. Karaoke 15 yds left lead and 20 yds right lead

15. Free Squats 10x

16. Bear Crawls 15yds

17. Crab Walks 15yds

18. Burpees with Hindu push up and jump 10x

Next time we will talk about stretching…

 

In this post I am going to talk about:

  • The importance of traction when going fast,
  • A possible energy leak related to the baseball cleats, and
  • I want to hear from you…

 

The Importance of Traction When Going Fast

When a car goes around a turn, traction is required to prevent sliding.  In the following video, watch how the tire blew out, and the wheels without the tire couldn’t provide adequate traction.

 

A Possible Energy Leak Related to the Baseball Cleats

Watch the slow motion YouTube video of Albert Pujols’s swing, in the BIG video at the top of this post…

Look at the lead heel between 9 and 10 seconds. The heel slides forward about an inch, while the forefoot is stationary.

To his credit, Albert Pujols does get his lead foot stabilized just before contact.

Albert Pujols is one of the best hitters of our generation, and even with the initial sliding of his heel, he hits a home run.

Note from Joey Myers – I read an interesting quote from Dr. Gray Cook, the co-founder of the Functional Muscle Screen (or FMS), and he said that, “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.”  If the foot, especially the landing foot, loses contact with the ground during the turn, then the smaller hitter will have energy transfer issues.  A good solid foundation with the front foot is key.

 

I Want to Hear from You…

What would have happened on a softer surface?

Should we be considering cleats of different lengths for different batter’s boxes?

How does Pujols produce his linear speed in such a short distance?

Give me your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

The Sooner You Use These Baseball Exercises the Better

 

Baseball Exercises: How To Build A Stable Swing

Compare Austin’s right shoulder position…these pics are 3-frames apart, same swing.

I was working on a feedback session with one of my online lessons Austin, from SoCal, the other day…

And I realized that yes, most of the time, fixes are swing specific, but other times…

It can be suggesting a corrective exercise to help stabilize the core better during the swing.  In this post, I’m going to walk you through:

  • The late torso “tip”, and then
  • How to correct it with two simple baseball exercises…

 

The Late Torso “Tip”

Watch the quick analysis video above…

Basically it’s a late tipping of the torso towards the plate, at the waist.  This can cause the head to lay parallel to the ground obstructing vision.  Sometimes, the back shoulder and ear get closer to together (like Derek Jeter), which breaks, what Dr. Kelly Starrett calls, spinal integrity, and will bleed force at impact.

This can be caused by a dysfunctional Quadratus Lumborum (or QL).  And, according to Thomas Myers of Anatomy Trains, an imbalanced Lateral Fascial Line.

 

How To Correct it with Two Simple Baseball Exercises

Here are the two exercises to help with lateral core stabilization during the Final Turn:

  1. Side Plank (specific) – or CLICK HERE to view a side plank laying on the forearm (if you have wrist issues).
  2. One-Sided Farmer’s Walk (integrated).

Here’s what the acute variables look like (for both baseball exercises)…

  • Week-ONE: 2 sets X 45 secs ea. side,
  • Week-TWO: 2 sets X 60 secs each side,
  • Week-THREE: 3 sets X 45 secs ea. side, and
  • Week-FOUR: 3 sets X 60 secs ea side.

Do these baseball exercises horizontally.  In other words, do a set of side planks (both sides), followed by a set of one-sided farmer’s walks (both sides).  Rest 60-seconds, then move onto set #2.

Jose Bautista Balanced Body in Motion

Did you know…Jose Bautista does Yoga in the off-season? He’s a great example of a balanced body in motion. Photo courtesy: www3.Pictures.Zimbio.com

This is the third part in three part Why Your Balance Fails (Not What You Think) series about balance.

I’ll be discussing a not so well known way to improve balance, posture, and technique.  I’ll be talking about:

  • Tim’s story,
  • Tim’s problem,
  • How-to fix Tim’s problem, and
  • How does this relate to hitting…

 

Tim’s Story

Tim was the strongest kid on his small college football team. He was 22 years old, 6′ 2 and 200 pounds of solid muscle.  He wanted to improve his power clean, so he came to the gym to see what he could learn.

At the time I was 48 years old and weighed 165 pounds. I watched as he power cleaned and advised him that he could keep his back tighter.  As we lifted and as the weights got heavier, I noticed his confidence grew.

When we were at 90kg (198 pounds) and he was ready to lift, he gave me a look that said, I am going to beat you!  When we got to 105 kg, he missed the lift, as the weight was too far in front to rack. I went up to 107.5 kg and told him that was all for me today.

The harder he tried, the worse the more in front the bar ended up. He started growling before the lift, and that didn’t work. He finally gave up.

 

Tim’s Problem

Tim’s problem was that he didn’t maintain his fine balance and  let his weight drift back on the heels during the lift. Even though this is a stronger position, (as in a dead lift), it is not an athletic position.

Keep in mind that as long as Tim’s weight is somewhere over the foot (gross balance) he will not fall over. Fine balance is the ability to position the weight at an an exact point over the foot.

 

How to Fix Tim’s Problem

A lot of coaching cues used for Jim’s problem are:

  • “Finish the pull”,
  • “Pull the bar closer to the ankle”, and
  • “Make sure the elbows move straight up”.

The best coaching cues have a greater positive impact and don’t result in other issues.  In this case, the best way to fix Tim’s problem was to have him feel for the weight on his feet.

In the power clean it is best to feel that the weight is just behind the ball of the foot.  When this is felt, the weight can only go straight up.

 

How does this relate to hitting?

In hitting, the best way to stride forward is to be balanced and to push off the entire foot. If you are on the ball of the foot, the Achilles tendon will absorb some of the force of the stride.

However if the weight is too far back onto the heel,  you will stride angled away from the plate and the heel will not come off the ground to allow rotation.

The most athletic way to start the stride is with the heel lightly touching the ground. Body weight will be just behind the ball of the foot. In this starting position, it allows for the best push, but also enables you to get on the ball of the foot.

My beautiful picture

 

(Joey Myers comment: when we look at efficient v. inefficient movement mechanics, I don’t like striding and landing on the toe, pausing, then swinging because we don’t take advantage of Gravitational Forces to turn the pelvis for us naturally.  And like Dr. Stanley says, landing toe first (without the pause), the Achilles Tendon will absorb – instead of exploit – some of those forces as well.  Practice the following experiment Dr. Stanley prescribes below and ingrain it to second nature.)  

 

Experiment

Practice your stride feeling for the weight on your foot. Try it at various places and see where you feel the most efficient and straightest stride:

  • Weight on your toes, so the heel is off the ground
  • Ball of the foot
  • Just behind the ball of the foot
  • Middle of the arch
  • At the Heel

After you find the best way for you to push off repeat this frequently to ingrain this pattern. Keep in mind that with any technique change, with enough proper repetitions, the change will become habit and you will not have to think about it.

CLICK HERE for a BONUS Part-4 post to this series titled: What Do Pyramids, Dancers, and Mike Trout Teach Us About Hitting For Power.

In case you missed Parts 1 & 2, here they are:

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers:

This will be the start of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers.

In this post we’ll go over:

  • The six properties of muscles,
  • The properties of muscles that can be developed for baseball,
  • The wrong conditioning, and
  • Is there an order to develop the muscles?

Conditioning for baseball (and softball) is relatively new. At the end of the baseball season in 1982, in the Cleveland Indians training room, I had a discussion with Phil Seghi, the general manager. The training room consisted of a table for massage, a full body whirlpool and an ice maker.

Dr. Stanley:  “The baseball players should be put on a strength and flexibility program“.

Phil Seghi: “Lou Boudreau never lifted a weight in his life“.

 

The 6 Properties of Muscles

1. Strength – tension developed by muscles. It requires the brain to send a signal to contract a higher percentage of muscle fibers.

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

2. Speed – the ability to develop tension quickly.

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

3. Endurance – the ability to contract muscles for a long period of time. This involves slow twitch fibers. In baseball, we should be thinking of increasing the ability to “do work” instead of endurance.

4. Flexibility – the ability to relax a muscle

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

5. Spring – the ability to  store and release energy. This occurs in the connective tissue around the muscle, the fascia, and/or the tendons.

6. Coordination – the ability to contract muscles and relax muscles in a pattern that allows for the efficient movement.

Leonidas Sabanis photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Leonidas Sabanis Olympic Snatch photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Muscles can be trained for these properties individually and  in some combination (ie. Speed-strength, Endurance-strength, Speed-endurance).

The Properties of Muscles that can be Developed for Baseball

All of the properties can be developed by specific exercises with the exception of reception of Nerve impulses.

However, as part of strength development, we need to enhance the transmission of nerve impulses by the brain.

The Wrong Conditioning

When my son was eight, I took him to a “natural” body building competition, thinking if nothing else, it might inspire him. He noticed that when the competitors walked on the stage there was something strange. He said:

Dad, they walk like robots, is there something wrong with them?”

Do either  of these look like they can play baseball?

Photo courtesy of 7arb.net

Abel Kirui photo courtesy of takethemagicstep.com

Both of the above are well conditioned, but they are not conditioned for baseball.

The body builder is conditioned for endurance-strength, and the marathoner is conditioned for endurance.

Is There an Order for these Characteristics to be Developed?

Flexibility is the first property that needs to be developed. If a muscle is tight, it is difficult to get into proper positions to develop strength.

Next time we will discuss the latest science on Flexibility.

[Note from Joey: this is a timely post by Dr. Stanley.  He mentioned that conditioning for baseball players is fairly new.  Yes, we’ve come a long way since the Doc had his run in with Cleveland Indians GM Phil Seghi in 1982.  BUT, the sport has NOT done a good job in the area of corrective exercise.  Consider how bad Tommy John surgeries have gotten.  Think of the stretching that is done in Yoga, as a critical form of corrective exercise.  And how many guys are engaging in this practice on their own.  One guy in particular? Jose Bautista.]

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to what coaches need to know about flexibility training for Little Leaguers…

This is the second part to the “Why Your Balance Fails (Not What You Think)”  three part series about balance. I’ll be discussing a fairly common reason for balance issues around the ankle. In the

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

following post, we’ll go over:

  • Billy’s story,
  • What can be the long term results of an ankle sprain,
  • How do we check for and train for lack of balance, and
  • How does this affect hitting…

 

Billy’s Story

Billy was a high school runner and during a training run he twisted his ankle. He didn’t seek treatment, but he did stay off his ankle and iced it. A few weeks later he tried running again and noticed that his ankle felt weak and unstable.

I examined him and found out that he had an unstable ankle.

 

What is the Long-Term Results of an Ankle Sprain?

Most people have sprained their ankle. It is the most common injury in the human body. Most cases seem to heal uneventfully. However, some nerve fibers will become injured resulting in a less effective sensor, resulting in instability.

The medical term for this is Articular Deafferentiation which means:  The joint does not send a signal to the brain as to its position.

It has been thought that the instability is due to stretched ligaments, but recent studies have shown that the muscle reaction time is slower in functionally unstable ankles.

 

6-Steps on How to Check for This…

Watch the video below for a demonstration:

  1. Stand in a doorway
  2. Place the hands in the door jamb so that if you fall you can catch yourself
  3. Stand on one foot
  4. Move your hands a few inches from the door jamb
  5. Close your eyes
  6. Have someone time how long you can maintain your balance without having to touch the door jamb.

What is Normal?

Normal for non athletes is 10 seconds. You should be better than normal.  You should be able to maintain your balance for 30 seconds or more.

How do we improve it?

Practice standing in the doorway with your eyes closed for 3 minutes every day. There should be steady and consistent improvement.  To further improve on the doorway balance exercise, you can do one of two things (watch the next two videos for a demonstration):

  1. Try getting up on the ball of the foot and then lowering yourself maintaining balance.

 

OR:

2. Raising the knee and lowering it.

How Does this Affect Hitting?

When the hitter steps forward with the front foot, there is no weight on the front foot when it is off the ground, it is all on the back foot.  Since the  body weight is in front of the back foot, and supported on the back foot, the body moves forwards.  If there is wobble of the ankle, the body wobbles and the ball  appears to have movement.  At the end of linear movement, body weight is shifted to the front foot.

When the weight is evenly distributed on both feet, it should mark the end of linear motion and the start of rotational motion.  During hip rotation, the majority of weight is shifted onto the front foot and the front leg straightens.  If the front ankle is unstable at this important time of the swing,  there may be a slight wobble.

Remember that only ¼” of a difference is required to change a home run to a long fly ball.

(Joey Myers Comment: I love this simple exercise.  These are good for EVERY athlete.  I sprain my own ankle during Fall Ball my Freshman year in college.  And shockingly, none of this was prescribed to me then…at the Division One college level!!!  I’m currently doing this exercise myself after reading the article…thanks Doc!  This is what I call a small detail that nets BIG results.)

CLICK HERE for Part-3 to the Why Balance Fails Series titled “Crucial Way To Land On The Foot”.

 

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a la Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes caveman swinging. This tightens the head, neck, and shoulder muscles, which pulls the head off the ball. Photo courtesy of Metro.us

Batting practice and training seems to be met with a caveman’s mentality…Me see ball.  Me swing bat hard.  Me crush ball far.  I can always tell when a young hitter is swinging too hard by the following:

  1. Pulling the head,
  2. A clenched jaw, and/or
  3. NO balance upon the follow through.

One great Big League example of caveman swinging is Yoenis Cespedes of the Boston Red Sox.  In this video, we’re going to talk about how to correct swinging harder:

  • Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition relating to improper batting practice,
  • Cadence is key, and
  • Proprioception and swinging blind…

 

Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition Relating to Improper Batting Practice

Watch this simple demonstration on Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) from a Physical Therapist (start at the 0:38 mark):

Consider this:

  1. Imagine bicep curling a 25-pound dumbbell…bicep contracts while brain tells muscle on opposite side (tricep) to contract less,
  2. Now think about holding the same 25-pound dumbbell in mid-curl, arm is at a 90-degree angle, and forearm is parallel to the ground…
Reciprocal Inhibition

The quad (green) contracting more, while the hamstring (red) contracts less in this stretch. Photo courtesy: BandhayYoga.com

What’s happening there on #2 above?

It’s called an isometric muscle contraction, and is when both the bicep and tricep are contracting equally on both sides.

Your brain is smart.  One of it’s many jobs is to manage tension around a joint (i.e. the elbow).  To protect it.  When you have bicep tendinitis, the length-tension relationship is upset.  What happens is, the brain tells a muscle to tighten protecting a particular joint, until length-tension balance is restored…

How do you fix this?

According to the Physical Therapist in the above video link, you strengthen the muscles opposite the tight area.  The brain can then contract the tight area less and restoring the length-tension relationship around the joint.  And this ADDS more efficiency to dynamic movement…

Otherwise, this would be like driving your car with the parking brake on!

During batting practice (or in games), when we swing too hard, we’re driving the car with the parking brake on.  It seems counter-intuitive to what we normally would think.  But bio-mechanically speaking, this would be like the #2 scenario of the bicep -mid-curl above.  We see the head pull out and jaw tighten because the brain is protecting the joints in the neck (C-Spine) and jaw from overload.  And this can cause the hitter NOT be balanced in the follow through.

Cadence is Key

Did you know there’s a specific cadence, or tempo, to repetitive human movement?  According to the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer, consider these two popular long distance movements:

  • Running – count how many times the right arm swings forward per minute.  It should be between 85-90 times.  Whether uphill or downhill.
  • Cycling – count each time the right knee floats up per minute while pedaling.  Should be 85-90 times.  Top cyclists change gears uphill or downhill to keep within these guidelines.

Faster than that, and tempo gets disrupted…parking brake gets applied.  Batting practice is no different when it comes to a specific tempo.  I once read someone say in a hitting forum that you have to swing as hard as you possibly can…wait for it…under COMPLETE control…

 

 Proprioception & Swinging Blind

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a al Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes swinging blind photo courtesy: MLB.com 😛

I know that’s a big scary word, but experiencing it is easy…stand on one foot, now shut your eyes.  You’ve just experienced Proprioception.

The best fix for swinging too hard is…drum roll please….

Swinging with your eyes closed.  Remember what I wrote about a hitter swings as hard as possible…under COMPLETE control?

This is how to practice taking the parking brake off during batting practice and games.

Also, remember the symptoms of swinging too hard I mentioned at the beginning of this video post…?  Here are the fixes:

  • Pulling the head – the chin should be somewhere slightly out front of impact,
  • A clenched jaw – get the hitter to keep a small gap between their molars as they’re swinging, AND
  • NO balance upon the follow through – have the hitter practice swinging as hard as they can with their eyes closed, while keeping balance.  If they fall over, then they’re swinging too hard.

The latter one, please DO NOT have them do this around any sharp or breakable objects that might hurt them :-/  You see, Yoenis Cespedes can win two All-Star home-run derbies in a row because he knows what pitch is coming, at what speed, and what location (for the most part).  He can get away from pulling his head.  In a game?  It’s a different

 

BONUS Material

Want to help put the batting practice parking brake on vacation?  Here are my two favorite corrective exercises that a majority of my new hitters have a problem with:

  1. Passive Leg Lower (hip mobility) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…do once daily.  Will increase running stride length, which indirectly can help them run faster.
  2. Ankle Circles (ankle mobility) – do three circles clockwise AND counterclockwise at each ankle position…do at least 2-3 times per day everyday.  Can get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

This is the first in a four-part series about balance, I’ll be discussing a not so common reason for lack of core balance.  In the following post, we’ll go over:

  • Jimmy’s case study,
  • Why your balance fails,
  • The Balanced Solution, and
  • So what does this have to do with baseball…

 

Jimmy’s Case Study

Jimmy (not his real name) came in with his dad to be evaluated for toeing in when he walks. Jimmy is 12 years old and 6 foot tall and weighs close to 200 pounds! Here’s how my conversation went with his dad…

  • Dr. Stanley: “Does he play football?”
  • Dad: “Yes he does”.
  • Dr. Stanley: “What position?”
  • Dad: “Offensive tackle”.
  • Dr. Stanley: “How does he do?”
  • Dad: “He’s great in run blocking, but the Defensive end gets around him easily in pass protection”.

I examined Jimmy and found that both of his thigh bones rotated inwards close to 90 degrees, but they only rotated outwards about 20 degrees instead of the same in both directions. I also noted that his feet flattened. This uneven rotation is called internal femoral position.

There are several reasons why people toe in (pigeon toes). It can be due to a “C” shaped foot (Metatarsus Adductus), a twisted shin bone (internal tibial torsion), or a twist in the thigh bone or hip joint (internal femoral position). Children that toe in tend to be clumsy and “trip over their feet”.

MAV

 

Why Your Balance Fails

Internal femoral position  was noted by Margaret Fitzhugh in the early 1900’s to be associated with a “W” sitting position (a kneeling position where the legs spread out and the butt touches the ground), and she felt internal femoral position was caused by it.

Sitting

About 30 years ago, I noticed that the children with internal femoral position had a history of falling forwards or backwards when they started to walk, whereas normal children would stick out their butt and land on their soft diaper.

This inability to land on their butt led me to ask a simple question-“How long did your child sit before he/she crawled?”. I found out that the vast majority did not sit at all. (The sitting occurs at about six months and should last for 2 weeks before the child starts to crawl).

Children that crawl and miss the sitting position, kneel instead of sitting. In kneeling, the balance is developed around the knee. In sitting, balance is developed around the core.

As a result, when a child that kneels, starts to walk and gets imbalanced, the reflex is to bend the knees. This results in the falling forward or backwards. Children that sit, develop balance around the hips and can either flex or extend their hips and when they start to walk and become imbalanced, this hip balance point allows them to land on their diaper.

 

The Balanced Solution

It turns out that the treatment for this balance issue is easily resolved in a short time. Jimmy was instructed to “Chair dance” for 10 minutes a day  and his football playing improved remarkably.

His toe in was treated with a combination of gait plates, exercises, and roller skating. This took longer, but he was eventually able to walk with his feet straight ahead.

 

So what does this have to do with baseball?

It turns out that the “W” sitting position in children is associated with less postural control and stability. Internal femoral position is associated with running like Daffy Duck, with the feet going out to the side. In baseball a hitter needs to be able to stand in a good stable hitting position. If a hitter wobbles, then the ball appears to move, making it more difficult to hit.

Joey Myers Comments: CLICK HERE to check out this article by Physical Therapist and co-founder of the Functional Muscle Screen (FMS) Gray Cook, on this article titled “Early Perspectives on Functional Movement”.

CLICK HERE for Part-2, where I’ll be discussing Ankle balance (frontal plane) and how to improve it…

Derek Jeter: Exercises Proven To Increase Batted Ball Distance

 

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Danilo Collins, 16yo, from FL

I was recently introduced to Danilo Collins (pronounced Duh-nee-lo).  A 16-year-old baseball player in Florida.  Over email, he sent impact and follow through pictures (and video) of his swing, saying:

“Hey Joey, I have had this exact problem ever since I started filming my swing. During my final turn, at or near contact I find that my upper body tenses up. My shoulders shrug up, my face tenses up and tilts awkwardly, and my back arches in a weird, unnatural way.”

In this video blog, I want to address Danilo’s swing concerns using Derek Jeter as a model.  We’ll answer these three questions:

  • What does an efficient impact & follow through position look like?
  • What can impact & follow through tell us about movement dysfunction?
  • What exercises can a hitter do to correct this?

If we can get a hitter moving better, they’ll perform better.  Movement dysfunction puts performance on the back burner.  Let’s see how Derek Jeter’s swing compares…

 

What Does an Efficient Impact & Follow Through Position Look Like?

Last week, I posted this to my Facebook fan-page using Danilo and Derek Jeter’s impact pictures, and received great feedback:

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/571869122942886/” width=”400″/]

Here’s the jist of the Facebook feedback, in comparing Danilo to Derek Jeter:

  1. Batting tee is set too far back for true point of contact,
  2. Detachment of front arm from rib cage – no extension, and
  3. Too much focus on turning faster.  By extending front arm at contact, then back arm after contact Danilo will increase his inertial force (CLICK HERE to see another blog post on this).

Those great Facebook comments aside, I want to focus on something else that most don’t

 

What Can Impact & Follow Through Tell Us About Movement Dysfunction?

I feel fixing movement dysfunction is just as important as efficient swing mechanics.  Without correction, the body loses the ability to move efficiently.  This dramatically decreases batted ball distance.  Here’s what to key in on at impact and follow through using Derek Jeter as a reference point:

  1. Maintaining strict alignment of head and spine (core stability), AND
  2. Staying low on the pitch plane using back leg (core stability & glute activation).

If we compare Danilo to Derek Jeter, we can see a huge difference in the back leg angle, and how well the head, rib cage, and pelvis stack on top of each other.

 

What Exercises Can a Hitter Do to Correct This?

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Derek Jeter photo courtesy: ChrisOLeary.com

I mentioned Core Stability & Glute Activation.  I want you to do something for me:

  • Stand up with your feet under your shoulders,
  • Squeeze your butt cheeks together as hard as you can (notice your pelvis change position?), and
  • Now, tighten your abs as hard as you can like you’re doing a standing crunch (did this bring your rib-cage down?)

Danilo is arching his back and extending his back leg, resulting in his lower back taking on sheer forces.  In the middle, taking a vacation, are his glutes.  To look like Derek Jeter in the Impact and Follow Through photo to the right, Danilo will have to do these TWO corrective exercises 1-2 times daily:

  1. Super Plank (core stability) – week one: 1 set X 45 secs hold, week two: 1 set X 60 secs hold, week three: 2 sets X 45 secs hold, and week four: 2 sets X 60 secs hold.
  2. Single Leg Floor Bridge (glue activation) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg.

The reps and time can change for younger hitters.  Be sure to let the hips down slowly (4-secs) for each repetition for #2.  After 4-weeks on #1, turn up the heat by doing a Super Plank-Pushup.  Make sure to practice the same rules from the Super Plank.  The key is NO rotation of the pelvis.  You should be able to set a drink of water on the back of the pelvis when doing the movement, without spilling.

FINAL NOTE on Derek Jeter’s swing: we want head-spine alignment, but with a slight angle up and back over the catcher for more repeatable power.  Derek Jeter is more vertical like Tony Gwynn.