How To Make Knees Great Again!

Jean Claude Van Damme doing mid split in movie Lion Heart (I think). Splits are a great antidote to a fragile knee.  Photo courtesy: eljueves.es

Fragile.

What a “dumb” joint.

I heard one of my 8th grade hitters, who took a break from lessons to play football, busted his knee requiring surgery, and would be out for 6-8 weeks.

Another one of my 7th grade hitters busted his knee playing soccer, requiring minor surgery.

And yet another hitter of mine, a Junior in High School, tweaked his knee playing basketball at school, and will be undergoing an X-Ray (which will probably turn up negative), followed by an MRI to be safe.

And btw, all these hitters are smart young men, who have performed above and beyond for their age in the batter’s box.  I frequently tell my hitters, you’re no good to your team sitting on the “shelf”, so take care of your body.

So, what’s the answer?

Now, we can’t pull out ye ol’ pocket crystal ball, reveal an injury before it happens, and avoid it.  But…we…can…prevent them!  We’ll get into what we can do in a moment…but first,

Studies show today’s young athletes are sitting 80% of their day.  Athletes are specializing in one sport earlier and earlier in life.  If you read my recent post on 4 Tips On How To Train Springy Fascia, then you’ll remember the first rule of Fight Club is…ahem…training fascia is, to vary training vectors (i.e. be varied in different movement planes of motion)Healthy fascia HATES moving in the same way over and over again – like a 2yo, it gets bored easily!

On top of all that, observe the following reality about young female athletes from a New England Baptist Hospital post titled, “Why Do Female Athletes Suffer More ACL Injuries Than Males?”:

“High school female athletes in the United States suffer 20,000-80,000 ACL injuries per year. The issue isn’t only that female athletes are prone to these potentially season-ending injuries: the National Institutes of Health reports that female athletes are two to eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts.”

For young female athletes, factors that contribute to this increased risk are the differences in sports undertaken and in gender anatomy and structure (duh!).  The truth is, a wider lumbo-pelvic-hip complex puts the knees in a structurally compromised position.

For all athletes, the knee is considered a “dumb” joint, oftentimes stuck, or rendered unstable, between two immobile joints – the hip and ankle.  When the “bookends” are tight, stiff, and immobile, then the knee becomes unstable or “fragile”.

So, what can we do to prevent injury, minimize damage, or treat a knee injury?  I wanted to share a list of credible FREE resources parents and coaches can use to reference for knee speed bumps…

  1.  Overcome Knee Pain: Exercises and Solutions for Crunchy Knees (Gold Medal Body Fitness)
  2. Speedy Recovery? Ice Bath Benefits Not What They Seem (Hitting Performance Lab)
  3. 5 Simple Solutions For Anterior Knee Pain (Breaking Muscle)
  4. How To Do The Splits: Proven Hip and Leg Stretches for Splits (Gold Medal Body Fitness)
  5. Are You Weak In The Knees? (Breaking Muscle)
  6. Dr. Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD is one of my favorite resources for troubleshooting injuries.  Click Here for a YouTube link to view the videos he’s done on dealing with knees.
  7. Identifying the What and Why of Valgus Collapse: Part 1: Identifying the What of Valgus Collapse (FunctionalMovement.com)
  8. CLICK HERE for a YouTube video of Charlie Weingroff demonstrating how to fix knee valgus using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT).
  9. The Do’s and Don’ts of Training Squats (CharlesPoliquin.com)
  10. Building Your Arsenal: 5 Exercises for Bulletproof Knees (GymnasticBodies.com)
  11. How to build Super Knees (Forum Topic at GymnasticBodies.com)
  12. Have a favorite training website with an overwhelming amount of info on it?  Here’s a trick to filter information for what you’re looking for…go to Google, type the following into search engine: “site:<<insert actual website w/out www. here>> + keyword…for example “site:gymnasticbodies.com knees”
  13. PAY-FOR Local in-a-town-near-you Programs: Yoga and Pilates
  14. PAY-FOR Online Program #1: https://gmb.io/ff/#choose (I have no affiliation with this program)
  15. PAY-FOR Online Program #2: https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/gb-courses/stretch-series/#titleBar

If your athletes move better, then they’ll perform better.  The knee is considered a “dumb” joint, so make knees SMART (aka “antifragile”) again!

The Sooner You Know How To Train Springy Fascia The Better

I frequently get questions on how to train springy fascia. The following 4 tips from Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains, will help shed light on how to do just that. The following videos are NO MORE THAN 2-mins long each. Enjoy!

 

Tip #1: Varying Vectors

  • Includes tendons, ligaments, and fascial fabric of the body…not the same as training muscles and nerves.
  • Vary the vectors – difference between working on gym machines v. Rope systems, throwing things, etc.
  • Machines are good for rehabbing muscles, but don’t prepare you for life’s movement challenges.

How does this apply to hitters?

Tom Myers Anatomy Trains: Image of Fascia Stretching

How to train springy fascia. Image is of fascia stretching. Photo courtesy: Tom Myers Anatomy Trains YouTube

Functional training in the weight room is great for this. Squatting, lunging, hip hinging, twisting, rolling, crawling, single leg hopping, single arm pressing, horizontal pushing, vertical pushing, horizontal pulling, vertical pulling.

Training on different planes: Sagittal, Frontal, and Transverse. Some of the best environments for varying training vectors are Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Dance, Rock Climbing, Yoga, Pilates, and playing on the playground bars.

A quick tip for training this when hitting would be to do the reverse strike zone drill, where the hitter has to swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and take anything in the zone.

Also, CLICK HERE for a great how to train springy fascia YouTube resource of exercises from David Weck at the WeckMethod using the Rotational Movement Club (RMT).

 

Tip #2: Lengthening (Stretch)

  • If trying to lengthen fascia, then to be safe, lengthen slowly. Slow sustained stretching like you’d find in Yoga, this avoids damaging the fascia.
  • Fascia isn’t well vasculated, meaning blood doesn’t move to and through fascia very well, so repair of fascial tears takes a lot of time to heal. Muscles regenerate after 90-days, but ligaments can take over 200-days!!
  • If you want to stretch the fascia, then think Yoga or Tai Chi speeds. NOT athletic speeds.

How does this apply to hitters?

Studies show today’s athletes are sitting 80% of their day, so again, Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Dance, and Rock Climbing are great counter-balancers to this reality. Long slow stretching in the mid-split, front split, and stretching associated with handstand work are great for young athletes spending a lot of time with their seat on a seat, and spilling their brain out on mobile devices developing “text neck”.

 

Tip #3: Hydration

  • Most important that fascia gets hydrated…did you know your Achilles tendon is 63% water?
  • Hydrating fascia IS NOT necessarily about how many bottles of water you drink.
  • The question is, does water get to specific bottlenecked areas of fascial fabric in the body, such as the Achilles tendon. Hydration matters – where the water you drink gets to.
  • “Squeezing the sponge” – big muscular effort helps this, Fascial rolling using a Self-Myofascial Release tool (SMR), self or professional massage, Rolfing.

How does this apply to hitters?

A couple things…

  1. Young athletes MUST drink water, how much? According to world renowned strength and conditioning Coach Charles Poliquin, take half their body-weight, add 30%, and drink that in ounces. A 100-lb player for example, 100-lbs/2 = 50 X 30% = 15 + the halved 50 = 65-ounces of water throughout the day (that’s about FIVE 12-ounce bottles of water).
  2. Remember, what matters is WHERE the water you drink gets to. The best speedy recovery principle to “squeeze the sponge”? Click for this post, “Speedy Recovery? Ice Bath Benefits Not What They Seem”, and
  3. CLICK HERE for a SMR foam rolling routine video I did a few years back.

 

Tip #4: Elasticity (Bounce)

  • Stretch-shortening cycle – we stretch out the muscle to get it to contract (shorten). Fascia works the same way.
  • We can encourage and cultivate elasticity in fascia. Elasticity is a property of youthful tissue. If baby falls down stairs, they bounce. Grandma falls down stairs, she doesn’t bounce.
  • Ballistic stretching. Rhythmic motions such as running, jogging, jumping rope, etc…cultivate “bounce” within a 0.8 to 1.2 second stretch-shortening cycle.  This is the opposite of Yoga and Tai Chi speeds.

How does this apply to hitters?

If you want the fascia to perform, then we have to do rhythmically bouncy movements where the stretch-shortening cycle lasts between 0.8 to 1.2 seconds. Running, jump rope, jogging, skipping, single leg hopping, etc.

I’m beginning to sharpen my thoughts on this as it pertains to the Catapult Loading System. I used to teach the hitter had an option to start in the CLS position, in the stance like Hunter Pence, then hold and maintain until stride landing. But now I’m reconditioning my hitters to do a later CLS move (during the forward momentum phase), and to bounce from that into the turn. Miggy, Trout, Khris Davis are great examples of this. As a matter of fact, most elite hitters you see using the CLS, time the move with a bounce into the turn.

What’s funny is, this post has been “bouncing” around in my head the past week (pun intended), and speak of the devil, my good golfing friend Lee Comeaux recently text me a new-to-me resource for training springy fascia. It’s called the Rotex Motion (YouTube channel). Some cool stuff there!

Breathing Technique For Hitting A Baseball: Why Hitters Shouldn’t Breath Like “Normal”

 

Before we get to the breathing technique for hitting a baseball (same for softball), consider this…

Breathing is one of the most commonly dysfunctional movement patterns today.  In other words, nowadays “normal” breathing IS dysfunctional!

Breathing Technique For Hitting A Baseball

Photo courtesy: MobilityWOD.com YouTube video

Why?  Here are a few reasons off the top of my head – you could probably think of others:

  • High levels of stress hormone cortisol throughout the day because of constant bombardment of mind numbing hamster-constantly-on-the-wheel technology (phones, video games, etc.),
  • Overuse training – doubling training efforts without doubling recovery efforts (dangerously over scheduled youth athletes), and
  • Injuries to certain areas of the body, playing a one-sided dominant sport (i.e. baseball and softball), and imbalanced training (without proper flushing of waste by the lymphatic system), can build a shorter breathing pattern, which can cause a constant drip-drip-drip of the fight or flight response throughout the day.

One of my hitter’s dad asked me what physical training I recommend outside of a busy baseball and football schedule, and I said either Yoga or Pilates.  I HIGHLY disagree with most hitting coaches putting ORGASMIC emphasis on explosive, Olympic, Cross-fit, or whatever else type of performance training out there.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for physical training geared for performance, but corrective maintenance training SHOULD precede performance – if we want healthy moving athletes.  If you put fresh 80,000 mile tires on a Lamborghini with a misaligned front end, then you’ll be lucky to get half the miles out of the tires!  Also, the tires won’t be your only problem.

Let’s connect what an effective breathing technique for hitting a baseball means to hitters…

World renowned strength and conditioning coach Brett Jones says this about “anatomical” versus “biomechanical” breathing in a post titled, “How Your Breathing Relates to Your Movement”:

“Anatomical breathing match refers to the natural matching of the inhalation and exhalation with extension and flexion of the spine/body. Extension facilitates inhalation and flexion facilitates exhalation. As the body gets compressed (flexion) exhalation dissipates the pressure and extension assists in opening the thoracic area to assist in inhalation. In addition, anatomical breathing can be used in stretching where the exhale is used to enhance the relaxation into a stretch.

Whereas, in the biomechanical breathing match we flip those actions. Inhaling to increase the intra-abdominal pressure during flexion and exhaling to improve muscular action and stability during extension. Biomechanical breathing match is key to being able to handle loads through the body during performance. During a dead-lift, kettle-bell swing or a kettle-bell military press the biomechanical breathing match allows us to amp up our strength and stability.”

The video above demonstrates this biomechanical breathing technique for hitting a baseball.  I’ve had quite a few of you ask about this, so here you go!  The description says the above YouTube video is about…

“Identifying and correcting low back extension loading issues through the correct sequence of breathing. If we can get our athletes to breath better across all movements and under load, performance will improve.”

Dr. Mark Cheng, one of my many favorite strength and conditioning coaches, says:

“When you truly own a movement pattern, strain isn’t part of the picture.”

There are a couple other resources I’d be estupido not to mention that plays right into improving breathing technique for hitting a baseball:

The above video is only 3-min and 41-secs, so there won’t be any breathing technique for hitting a baseball notes.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the REPLY section below this post…

Move better, perform better.  Enjoy!

Ice Bath Benefits? Biggest LIE To A Speedy Recovery…

 

In short, when it comes to a speedy recovery, ice IS NOT nice.  And we’re not talking “immigration” here.  Those cold little cube things you grind up and put in your Margaritas, yeah, that “ice”!

Contrary to what most think, ice causes a back-flow of waste in the lymphatic system (waste management), and actually STOPS recovery.  That’s right!  Ice stops recovery.  How so?  I know, I know, ice numbs the area and makes it feel better…temporarily.  Just like Ibuprofen, but guess what?  That’s even worse!!  They’re examples of ineffective band-aids, not a definitive solution to the problem area.

Speedy Recovery? Ice Bath Benefits NOT What They Seem

MobilityWOD.com’s Dr. Kelly Starrett (on the right), interview MarcPro.com’s Gary Reinl about how “ice” is not nice.

If you’re looking for a speedy recovery, then listen up…

…we MUST look beyond supposed ice bath benefits because the key to a speedy recovery is muscle stimulation.

Gary Reinl (guy in the above video on the left) is being interviewed by San Francisco Crossfit Sports PT Dr. Kelly Starrett.  For those Growth Mindset coaches out there, check out their fantastic books:

Gary and his simple solution (not cheap by the way) to a speedy recovery jumped on my radar after I watched the above video quite a few years ago.  We’ve all been drilled to use ice to help reduce inflammation.  Even conditioning us to follow the R.I.C.E. method to recovery, whereas 75% of the equation is irrelevant, slows healing, and even STOPS it (hint: the “R”, “I”, & “E” letters in the acronym).  The video above gets more into this.

Gary Reinl is to a faster recovery like David Weck is to improving systemic strength and power concentrating on Tensional Balance and Rotational Power.

But get this, “inflammation” IS part of a speedy recovery.  According to Gary Reinl, there are three phases to healing:

  1. Inflammation,
  2. Repair, and
  3. Remodel…

And here’s the quote of the century…

“There can be inflammation without healing, but there CANNOT be healing without inflammation.”

Let that sink in for a moment…researching ice bath benefits isn’t the answer.  So stop it!  I ear marked some notes for you from the video above.  Enjoy!

  • At about 2:00-min mark, Gary Reinl introduces himself, consultant/teacher to all Professional and other Elite Athletes of Marc Pro, “garbage out, groceries in”
  • At about 3:40-min mark, is icing not good? Depends on what you’re using it for, you want less inflammation – why do you want less?  You’re better at regulating the body’s own natural inflammation response?  Swelling goes away by circulation and lymphatic system (set of one-way bags), it’s the muscle contraction/movement that squeezes waste out.
  • At about 5:30-min mark, isn’t immobilization good for an injured area?  What if injured site is too painful to move? Use muscle simulator to get muscles moving outside the pain site, batter hit by pitch example, the “highway back out”
  • At about 7:30-min mark, does compression work?  Yes, but it’s not the best method.  Manual stimulation? Yes, but it’s not the best most effective method.
  • At about 8:15-min mark, what about the R.I.C.E. method? RICE is not nice! Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  Resting is NOT pushing waste out because muscles aren’t contracting. Ice makes you numb.  What’s your goal.  Ice causes back-flow of waste.  It stops recovery. Ibuprofen is worse because it prevents the signal to push out the waste.  There can be inflammation without healing, but there cannot be healing without inflammation.
  • At about 14:00-min mark, 3 phases to healing: Inflammatory Response, Repair, and Remodel. Prevent inflammatory response, then prevent the other two phases.  Compression (low level), okay but not better than activating muscles surrounding injured area.  Pain to take IB’s is a “blockage” of their waste management system.
  • At about 25:55-min mark, Dr. Kelly Starrett says the only place ice belongs is in your Margarita sitting in the hot tub 😛

DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate to both the Marc Pro and Marc Pro Plus.  However, before becoming an affiliate, I promoted both to a countless number of clients – for years – when I was doing corrective fitness full time.  They do carry a hefty price, but the benefits to a speedy recovery are well worth the investment.  Also worth noting, each model has an affordable monthly payment plan…AND if you use my coupon code at the MarcPro.com website checkout: mpjoey5 (code stands for Marc Pro Joey 5% off)…you’ll get 5% OFF

Speedy Recovery? Get Access To The Marc Pro Now

Okay, so here’s a video of how the Marc Pro muscle simulator works

 

The Marc Pro uses the body’s natural healing process.  Lymphatic pump system.  Clearing congestion.  Remember to use my speedy recovery coupon code: mpjoey5 at the MarcPro.com website checkout to get 5% OFF your Marc Pro model…

Here are some testimonial videos of some well known Marc Pro users…

Kevin Rand of the Detroit Tigers

 

David Leadbetter – How to Perfect your Golf Swing for Increased Power & Rotation

 

Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians

 

Dan Straily of the Miami Marlins

 

The Marc Pro uses the body’s natural healing process.  Lymphatic pump system.  Clearing congestion.  Remember to use my speedy recovery coupon code: mpjoey5 at the MarcPro.com website checkout to get 5% OFF your Marc Pro model…

One question I know I’ll get from coaches is, “Who is the Marc Pro for?”

And it’s a great question.  Here’s who this speedy recovery product is best suited:

  • Hitting/Pitching academy owners,
  • Hitting/pitching instructors,
  • High School coaches and players,
  • College coaches and players,
  • Pro level coaches and players, and of course…
  • Sports Physical Therapists, Chiro’s, Massage Therapists, Rolfers, Fitness Trainers, etc.

If you have any other questions, comments, or criticisms about the Marc Pro, then please leave them below.  I’ll do my best to answer, but if it’s above my pay grade, then I’ll have Gary Reinl chime in

ASK THE EXPERTS: Jeremy Frisch, Taylor Gardner, & Matt Nokes Cover The Shocking Mistakes Killing Your Swing 

Let’s start this party off with Mr.,

Jeremy Frisch – Owner of Achieve Performance

Jeremy Frisch is owner of Achieve Performance training in Clinton Massachusetts and former assistant strength and conditioning coach at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts. Jeremy’s focus is on long-term athlete development where he works with children as young a 5 years of age up through college level athletes.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“What is an effective way to strengthen a swing, say mechanics are good but need more body strength for speed?”

Believe it or not, improving strength in the young athlete is easier than one might think. Young athletes need nothing more than their own body-weight or medicine ball to get stronger. When I train an young athlete’s I am looking at doing 4 exercises.

  1. Total body exercise
  2. Upper Body exercise
  3. Torso exercise
  4. Lower body exercise
Total body Exercise

In my opinion the bear crawl is one of the best all around total body exercises a young athlete can do. The bear crawl improves coordination, trains stability of the core and shoulder girdle and strengthens the lower body all at the same time. The bear crawl can be done in multiple directions, distances and speeds. Because of the difficulty of the exercise young athletes often fatigue quickly therefore very short distances should be used like 10-15 yards at a slow pace.

Upper body exercise

My go to exercise for training the upper body is so simple that many coaches don’t believe me. The exercise is simple: the bar hang. Hang from a chin-up bar or monkey bars with the arms straight for as long as possible. Develops unbelievable strength from the grip through the shoulder and core, not to mention develops mental toughness because the kids can always dig a little deeper and hold on for a few more seconds. Climbing and hanging is a long lost art in children’s lives. Maybe if kids were a bit stronger and more agile in the upper bodies these days we would see less elbow and shoulder injuries.

Torso Exercise

The medicine ball is a fantastic tool for developing rotation power needed to throw and swing a bat. A medicine ball and a brick wall makes a perfect combination to develop a powerful swing. The athlete stands sideways in a stance similar to their batting stance rotate the ball back and using a motion similar to a swing, throw the ball off the wall as hard as possible. Aim for both sides 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions

Lower Body Exercise

One of the best and most affordable ways to develop great leg strength and as a bonus speed , running form and all around conditioning are hill sprints. Look to find a steep hill 15-25 yards long and sprint up full speed. The key with hill sprints is to make sure the athlete has the appropriate rest between sets. Too many coaches use hill sprints as a torture device to punish their athletes. All that does is make them tired slow and miserable. Baseball is a game of speed and power and hill sprints can develop that speed and power in the lower body. Each sprint should be followed with a slow walk down the hill followed by at least a minute to 1:30 rest. Look to get 10-15 full speed reps with good rest per workout 2 x per week.

You can see more of what Jeremy is doing at the following places:

 

Taylor Gardner – Co-Founder of The Backspin Batting Tee

Taylor Gardner is an Edison Award Winning Inventor of the Back-Spin Tee, who currently has the biggest social media following of any batting product in the world. With the help of his brother, former professional player and coach, he was able to break into the Major League Hitting World by bringing simple physics to the minds of many players and coaches. Now working across the world, Taylor is expanding his product line and instruction to bust the game’s biggest myths.

He’ll answer the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics, what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

Of all the hitting mechanics that I have had the privilege of learning and teaching, there are two that stand out the most.

  1. The element of the stride in relation to getting on time and its importance into the weight shift, and
  2. The mechanism of lining the shoulders on path with the incoming pitch.
The Stride

The stride portion of the swing has seen many variations and is a highly talked about subject. I see a lot of hitters performing their style of a stride, but few seem to understand how to simplify the stride mechanism without destroying other vital parts of the swing. The stride itself is a combination of a step, and a weight shift…That’s what makes it a stride. If you simply reach your front foot forward with no regard for weight shift, it is a step, and practically adding another movement to the swing making your swing take longer than necessary.

I see a lot of young hitters believe that they are late on a ball because they reach their foot out, then weight shift, then attempt to align to the ball, and then swing. Yes, after doing all those movements, they are late…BUT…it’s because they started too soon!

During the stride a hitter can weight shift, and align their bodies to the pitch (yes, even getting into an advantageous position of lag) all in sync. Once the hitter lands all they must do is swing from there. It cuts the timeline down tremendously. Hitters can track the ball deeper than they ever had before and still take a powerful swing without sacrificing their rhythm or connected movements.

Think of how a quarterback throws a pass, or for the matter- a pitcher throwing a ball. They do a lot of great movements during their stride phase, so that when they land, they can simply “throw”. We like to call it “Land-throw timing” or “Land-swing timing” for the hitters.

Lining the Shoulders

Lining the shoulders on the ball is the second mechanism I see that a lot of hitters could benefit from learning more about. Yes, you can begin to get your shoulders lined up to the pitch during your stride phase, but to be more in depth, even if your stride doesn’t put you on perfect timing with the pitch (and most hitters are slightly early even on their best hits), you still must get your shoulders lined up to the pitch to stay on path for contact.

The barrel of the bat will be parallel to the shoulder plane at contact when done correctly. HOWEVER, this is where I see players and coaches trying to get on plane TOO SOON! If you drop your barrel on what seems to be on path early in the swing (Sounds like a good thing right?), but are unable to complete your weight shift/stride, or even track the ball long enough to decide where to swing, you will leave a huge hole in your swing that pitchers can pitch around.

I take some blame for this whole “Launch Angle” Revolution. My product was the first to talk about the importance of launch angles, and since, we have seen many people take our Trademark – “On Path, Bottom Half” to the extremes. You want to be on path with the pitch coming in, hitting the bottom half of the ball ON TIME. On time isn’t just hitting ball to center field, it also stands for

  • Shifting your weight on time,
  • Lining your shoulders on time, and
  • Releasing the energy into the bat on time.

Not early, and certainly not late. I understand hitting a baseball or softball is the single hardest thing to do in sports, however if you do not continue to understand the simple timing elements that lead to an appropriate swing, we will accidentally continue to make hitting a ball even harder than it already is.

You can stay up to date on what Taylor and the Backspin Tee are doing at the following places:

 

Matt Nokes – Founder of One Hitting Solution

Matt Nokes coaching “Around The Zone” Soft Toss

Matt Nokes is a 10-year MLB Veteran, playing for the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.  In that time he was a Silver Slugger Award Winner and All-Star Catcher.  Since then he’s been working hard helping hitters as the founder of his company ONE HITTING SOLUTION.  

For over 20 years as a hitting coach he’s been researching and finding out what transforms hitters 99 out of 100 times, he’s developed 12 simple natural hitting Rules, Action Steps, Do’s NOT Don’ts, that he calls the 12 Touchstones because they’re the rehearsals that bring to the surface only the relevant “In The Zone Feelings”.

No more random adjustments 50 times a day fiddling with your mechanics. This program is a 6-week transformational reset suppressing all the clutter, myths and half truths you’ve learned over the years from coaches, parents and now YouTube.

The bottom line is these 12 Touchstones solve 99 out of 100 problems before they ever come up.  You become intentional and take action in the form of rehearsals that weave a triple braided chord of:

  1. Brutally efficient.
  2. Laser focused hitting mindset with the true MLB Plan as the proper context and perspective.
  3. Timing – the 3rd and final chord wrapped tight around the other 2 skill sets.

The glue holding all 3 together to execute your only mandate: Never Miss Your Pitch.  Click Here:   But first watch this short powerful video to give you an idea for what’s in store for you and you’ll be given the opportunity to schedule a FREE Strategy Call with Matt Nokes.

In this post, Matt Nokes answers the following question I often get from my readers…

“Of all the issues you cover on hitting mechanics what 2 do you consider to be the most compelling for most hitters?”

On the most primitive level, if you’re going to express timing with one physical mechanical expression it would be transferring into the ball on time. You can’t separate your weight shift from your swing [that’s called quitting], so it’s critical if you want to develop properly you need to learn to coordinate your stride and transfer.

The 1st way I’d practice getting your weight into the ball is by learning the basic movement of the “step to swing”. You can use a tee without a ball for a point to aim at but it’s good to begin rehearsing the movement without the distraction of whether you hit the ball hard or not.  Hitting the ball at this point is irrelevant.

You want to learn the movement first and then begin adding variables.  If you decide to NOT use a tee, make sure you visualize where the ball would be and don’t let your eyes wander.  You body follows your head but your head follows your eyes and if your eyes are wandering then you’re in trouble, and will most likely wobble in your rotation.

The 2nd way is adding the performance variable using a tee with the “Tall and Fall” drill:

 

The 3rd way would be to add a measure of timing. Once you’ve coordinated your stride and transfer then any soft toss drill will add a some more variables for timing but it’ll be easy enough for your automatic mind to handle without much trouble:

  1. Swinging across your face. Crossing your face is a swing rehearsal cue that ensures you don’t pull your head.  The alternative is to chase your face, and if you do that you’ll be pulling off the ball without much success. Swinging across your face may be the most powerful way to stay on the ball, direct your energy into a fine point and keep the ball fair on the inside pitch.
  2. What are your favorite drills to hit off speed pitches?
My best advice on hitting the curve-ball…Don’t miss the fastball

That sounds like a joke, but it’s not. The best hitters are always ready for the fastball don’t miss it.  Frank Robinson [Hall of Fame] changed the course of my career by teaching me the MLB Plan and a big part of it was never missing the fastball. Frank went on to say “you show me a good curve-ball hitter and I’ll show you a guy with a slow bat.

Ok now that we have that mindset on the books, let’s talk about hitting the off speed pitch.  First you need to practice good timing but without going too deep into timing philosophy there’s a few good ideas and rules to follow along with some solid methods for practicing…

Slow pitch in the batting cages.

A great place to start for hitting off speed pitches is also one of the most convenient places to start and that’s in an automatic batting cage [in the slowest cage].

Most young hitters have trouble hitting in the slow cages because they’ve never been taught to deal with all the timing variables and they’re often discouraged when they have trouble, but they give up before they learn how to let the ball travel.  It’s a mindset and a good way to think of a slow pitch is how you’d hit in slow pitch soft ball.

Trust me…Timing is a skillset that is easily taught but it’s counterintuitive because it’s not a popular topic in the mainstream hitting community.  It’s more popular to say timing can NOT be taught…but that’s a myth.

Seeing the ball up is another cue for hitting the off speed and helps you visualize the trajectory of a potential off speed pitch, so you can still look fastball but won’t freeze on the strike curve-ball. One of the first obstacles to overcome is understanding what causes hitters to vapor lock or freeze on the curve ball.

The higher release point of a “strike curveball” often freezes hitters  because it appears to look like a fastball thrown so high that the hitter immediately quits on it right as it’s released from the pitcher.

Now when a hitter is looking for a normal fastball between the waste and knees and gets a curveball in the dirt, they don’t automatically freeze on a ball in the dirt because it initially looks like a fastball. By the time you recognize it’s a curveball its usually too late and you’re feeling “I can still hit this”.

If you see the ball up you’re able to look for your fastball [you can always adjust down on a fastball] but by looking up the only curveball that’ll look good is the hanging strike curve-ball that usually makes you freeze early in the count.

 

Finally, there’s the technique I call one of the “Touchstones” called “Buying time”

Buying time involves going out and getting the ball by getting deeper into your legs, which gives the ball more time to travel into your hitting bubble within your reach.

Every 7/1000th of a second the ball travels a foot, so if you’re off 21/1000th of a second the ball is traveling 3 feet.  So buying time by falling deeper into your legs before you hit, gives the ball a little time to get closer, and your lower center of gravity allows you to access your farthest reach without leaking if you execute the “Touchstone” correctly.

Either way, you often have to go out and get the ball farther out front without interrupting the flow of your land swing timing.

You can see more of what Matt Nokes is doing at the following places:

But before I let you go…

The Biggest Lie In Teaching Hitters How To Run Faster & Move Better

 

David Weck: "Head Over Foot" Technique, Side Bending, & Pulsers

David Weck demonstrating the “Head Over Foot” technique, side bending, and Pulsers. Photo courtesy: WeckMethod on YouTube

The purpose of this post:

  1. How to make hitters faster, and
  2. How to apply David Weck’s “Head Over Foot” technique and “Pulsers” to hitters?

Most sprint coaches will teach athletes to get faster by using a “braced core” (instead of a Coiling Core), and “hip to lip” arm action.  This is DEAD WRONG, and one of the biggest lies in teaching athletes to run faster and move better.  These coaches aren’t understanding the basics of human locomotion.  Consider the following…

 

How to Make Hitters Faster

Here are a few notes from the video above:

  • To balance on one foot most effectively, we need head over “ground” foot.  Try balancing on one foot bending spine and head far outside or inside ground foot.  You can probably balance, but not as effectively as head over foot.  Under the body’s “plum line”.
  • We want the forces transferring cleanly throughout body.  When you don’t land balanced (head over foot), compensation is the end result.  Back pain has been linked to head not being over foot.
  • Side bending is key to rotational power, and is what most coaches DO NOT understand or choose to ignore.  Imagine throwing without a side bend.

Watch this Facebook video from David Weck looking at how the runner moves “head over foot”, and side bends while stealing second (You can also CLICK HERE to see an interview I did with David Weck here)…

Which brings me to how to train this.  CLICK HERE for a Facebook video post where David Weck explains the how of his sprint “Pulsers”.  And CLICK HERE to get the “Pulsers” at David’s website (I don’t get a commission on this, by the way).

 

How to Apply David Weck’s “Head Over Foot” Technique or “Pulsers” to Hitting

Do you consider yourself a think-outside-of-the-box type of person?  Please sound off in the Comments below, on how you can apply this technique or Pulsers with your hitters (thanks in advance!!)

Want To Move Better? Simple Adjustments To Move Like Today’s Best Hitters

Tai Chi Combat's Master Wong: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

Watch Tai Chi Combat’s Master Wong in point #4 below: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility. Photo courtesy: Master Wong, from his YouTube video Tai Chi for Beginners.

What Smokin’ Joe Frazier, China’s Tai Chi, the Headspace meditation app, and Ted Williams have in common will become clear moving through this post, I promise.

But first, here’s the glue that connects all these seemingly random things

I recently stumbled onto a post titled, “Want to Move Better? Use These 5 Simple Adjustments to Start Moving Freely” by Ryan Hurst, who’s co-founder of GMB Fitness (Gold Medal Bodies). They focus on Gymnastic type movements.

The first time I read through it, I thought, well this could help hitters…

The second time I read through it, I thought, dang, this could REALLY help hitters

And then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times, in my head I screamed, “DUDE!!”

Which is WHY I’m bringing it’s information to the attention of my coaches.

Here’s what I have for you…

  • Some quick notes from each of the five main points of the Ryan Hurst GMB Fitness post above,
  • Supporting videos that help put the ideas into “hitting” terms, and
  • A few resources I think are becoming more popular in helping hitters control their breathing (VERY IMPORTANT as you’ll soon see).

ENJOY!

 

1. Slow It Down for Instant Awareness

  • Being mindful is really the key to better movement.
  • Pay attention to how your hips are moving, your weight distribution, your eye gaze, and your breath.
  • Slow down your movement and you’ll be able to pay better attention to the details.

I’m not sure on the name, but I once heard boxer Joe Frazier used to practice a super slow motion punch that would last 20-minutes!  Talk about slowing it down for instant awareness.

Here are swings from different angles to practice specific movements in slow motion…

2. Use Your Hips for Instant Power

  • Hips are your body’s center of mass.
  • The better you can initiate motion from this point, the more efficient your movements will be, as you’ll move with less wasted action.
  • With any stepping motion, rather than your feet propelling you forward, you want your hips to lead.

Yes, I agree with Ted Williams when he said the “Hips Lead the Way”.  But even before the pelvis begins to turn for a hitter, the front hip MUST lead the way during the stride.

Watch this short 1-min Justin Turner slow motion swing video I put together for you, and key in on how his front hip initiates his pre-turn movement in the stride…

3. Use Visual Aim for Instant Control

  • Head is hardwired to follow your eyes, and the body is hardwired to follow your head. Basically, the body will follow the eyes.
  • If your eyes are not gazing in the right place, you won’t be able to control your body properly.
  • If you want to move better, think of it this way: your eyes should always be pointed where you want your spine to be.

This is WHY hitters who “pull their heads”, go chin to chest, back ear to back shoulder, or nose to sky at impact is not good.

My good friend Matt Nokes at Hitting Solutions calls this “swinging across your face”…this cue will help correct pulling the head.  The best hitters “keep their head in the fire”, as Nokes says.  Control the head, and hitter controls the direction and “squaring-up” of impact.

Watch this head movement modeling video of a few top MLB hitters…

4. Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

  • The correct transfer of your weight is the beginning of a smooth and controlled motion.
  • While side stepping (or lunging) to your right, notice that you shifted your weight to the left a split second before you went to the right? It’s a natural loading response that you do without even thinking about it.
  • With any movement, if your body’s natural weight transfer mechanisms are not working properly, it will hurt your balance.

This is natural weight transfer behavior coaches!! If any hitting coach tells a right handed hitter to NOT shift their weight towards their right leg before striding to the left, then RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Watch the following three-in-a-half minute video from Master Wong, founder of Tai Chi Combat (over 1.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel!!), performing a beginner’s Tai Chi movement.  Notice the split second weight shift one way, in order to go the other way…

5. Breathe for Instant Poise and Calm

  • Difference between holding the breath and bracing during movement…for skill-based movements holding your breath isn’t going to help.
  • Breath holding and hyperventilation are signs of anxiety, but in that wonderful body-mind connection loop, it can also create anxiety.
  • Poor breathing creates feelings of anxiety, anxiety, creates tension, and unmediated tension causes poor movement. Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.

This is “bigly”!  The leading resources for this are the following guided meditation apps:

  • Headspace (I’ve been using this one for the best 3 years), and
  • Calm

I can’t speak for the Calm app, but Headspace is not Eastern “woo-woo”.  It focuses on controlling the breath, being aware of the breath, and the use of visualization practice.

These are second-to-none resources for reducing rapid breathing during competition or any other signs of anxiety.

I think this quote bares repeating because it’s VERY important for hitters:

“Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.”

Little Known Way To Optimize Bat & Ball Exit Speeds By Rotating “Under Load” (not what you think)

In today’s video, you’ll learn how to fix your flat feet

…(insert record scratch sound effect)…

“Wait a cotton pickin’ minute, so you’re showing me a video on how to correct ‘flat feet’?!  How is this suppose to help my hitters?”

…Someone somewhere might be saying 😉

The above video will be a game changer for the progress of your hitters.  It may even improve bat and ball exit speeds over time.  It may even fix some of the hitting faults you’re having a challenge correcting right now.  The content in the above video will improve both the rotational effectiveness and efficiency of your hitters.

Strength & Conditioning Coach Naudi Aguilar understands and applies Thomas Myers’s springy fascia principles in Anatomy Trains, and that’s WHY I follow him.  I highly recommend you CLICK HERE and “Subscribe” to his YouTube channel FunctionalPatterns and look into the courses on his website.  He already has  183,942 YouTube subscribers!

Oscar Pistorious Blade Runner

Oscar Pistorious (the Blade Runner) won 3 Gold Medals in the 2008 Olympics. Photo courtesy: DailyMail.co.uk

He’s a locomotion expert, and by the way – he talks really fast!  Here are a couple notes I took while watching the above video:

  1. Naudi talks about how the body doesn’t need lower leg to sprint at the highest level. Don’t believe me, CLICK HERE to watch this video of South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious who won 3 Gold Medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (about 0:45 minute mark).
  2. Relationship between pecs, lats, and glutes – anterior and posterior oblique slings, highly neglected part of training and carries a bigger influence on efficient movement (about 1:45 minute mark).
  3. Leg and knee should land as close to neutral as possible when running or walking with effective rotation.  If deviation occurs, then most likely there’s a deficiency in either the anterior and/or posterior oblique slings (about 3:05 mark).
  4. The idea of rotating “under load”. Using feedback mechanism – the resistance band – to “feed the mistake”.  Click to get WODFitters Pull Up Assist Bands on Amazon. (about the 4:45 mark).
  5. Practice functional movement patterns, walking, running, or hitting while using the feedback bands (about 8:30 mark).

 

In Application…

About point #1 above, as most of you know, I’ve been promoting a spine driven swing for the past 4+ years.  If you read Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine and Thomas Myers’s Anatomy Trains, then you’ll discover that the legs aren’t necessary for locomotion, they’re an enhancement.  CLICK HERE for a post on this titled, “The Swing Does Not Start From The Ground And Move Up?”

About points #2 & #3 above, some experts call this the “Serape Effect”, “Power Slings”, or Thomas Myers labels these a combination of Spiral, Functional, and Lateral fascia lines.  Hitters, both young men and women, will have a deficiency here. Since a majority of hitters DO NOT take the same amount of swings and throws from the opposite side, there will be an imbalance created that MUST be addressed.  Diversifying in other sports does help, but most likely, there MUST be correction.

About point #4 above, Naudi Aguilar uses a band that’s much longer than the one I use at home, so you may not need to wind it around the mid-section as much as he does in the above video.  For me (I’m a right handed hitter/thrower), to correct dysfunction in rotational locomotion, I wrap my band over my left shoulder, then around my middle back, and then loop the end around my left leg.  You’d do the reverse to enhance rotation for a lefty.  I put this on at least 5 days per week, and wear it for about an hour while doing my morning routine.  I’ve found the tightness in my right foot, Achilles, and inside part of my right knee almost vanished within 3-4 weeks of doing this.

Also, CLICK HERE to learn where I talk a little more about “feeding the mistake” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training, or RNT to correct ‘stepping in the bucket’.

About point #5 above, Naudi mentions rotating “under load”.  Coaches, I’d advise having hitters experiment using the feedback bands while hitting, and recommend they wear it at home too, as a recovery tool.

These bands are a great way to counter-balance the imbalanced movements baseball and softball inherently promote.  If your hitters move better, they’re perform better.  Swinging smarter by moving better.

If You Don’t Pre-Hab or Rehab Your Ankles Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

 

Ankle Mobility: Freo or Slant Board
I sought out to do a 4-week case study – on myself – to see what the Freo Board could do for the chronic tightness on the inside of my right knee.

This was caused by playing 17 years of an unbalanced one-sided sport, baseball…along with a bad ankle sprain my Freshman year in college, and jamming my right leg into the hip climbing a wall going back on fly ball during a game against Fullerton my Sophomore year.

Also dumb knuckle-headed-ness like running a marathon in 2008, and doing high repetition Cross-fit WOD’s post marathon were straws that FINALLY broke the camel’s back (or in my case my knee).

I had been using a Foam RollTrigger Point, and stretching strategies in the past, and would feel better that day, but the tightness would return the next day.

And I’m happy to report that after one week of using the Freo Board, I haven’t had to Foam Roll or Trigger Point my TFL or IT Bands, or stretch out my hamstrings and calves in the last 3 weeks!

Some benefits I’ve felt:

  • Little to no tension on the inside of my right knee,
  • Better stability when changing direction,
  • More hamstring flexibility when bending over and picking things up,
  • Less calf tightness, and
  • Lighter on my feet.

Overall benefits of using a Freo or Slant Board…

  • Build better ankle mobility,
  • Secure better knee stability,
  • Make hip mobility better,
  • Overall better balance,
  • Great pre-rehabilitation for ankle, knee, and hip, and
  • Superb ankle, knee, or hip rehabilitation post injury.

Benefits for hitters…

  • Better dynamic balance on off-speed and breaking balls,
  • Will move better, therefore will perform better,
  • Boost in running speed and agility, and
  • More effective in dealing with and transferring Gravitational Forces.

Training Protocol

  • At least 4-5 days per week,
  • 5-10 minutes per day,
  • Do the “cross” foot positions on Days-1-3-5, and
  • Do the “X” foot positions on Days-2-4
  • Progressions: move the non-balancing leg in front, to the side, and behind the athlete

Resources mentioned in the above video

  • Yoga Mat,
  • Slant Board,
  • Freo Board (what I’m using in the video), and
  • GymBoss – Interval timer which I suggest setting at 20-secs work time, and 5-secs foot position switch time.

Look, whether you’re trying to reduce your risk for injury, currently rehabbing a recent injury, or the injury was a decade ago, the Freo Board will help…A LOT.

Please keep me updated on the progress of your hitters by using the Freo or Slant Board by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below…

David Weck & the WeckMethod are Turning Rotational Power Training on its Head

 

David Weck: WeckMethod RMT Club

You asked for it!

I had quite a few of my readers ask me about the WeckMethod of training by David Weck.  Btw, David is the inventor of the Bosu Ball, for those that train athletes for a living.  And the readers who kept bringing up his training referred to his new product the RMT Club (CLICK HERE to get it on Amazon), which you’ll learn more about in the above interview.

If you’ve never heard about the WeckMethod of training, and want to know what sets it apart, please CLICK HERE to view the following 35-min video.

If you’re short on time, then here’s a brief introduction to the WeckMethod of training from David Weck:

“What I do is more fundamental foundational work than specific hitting instruction.  My focus is improving systemic strength and power concentrating on Tensional Balance and Rotational Power – as well as non-dominant side training to provide a stronger foundation for sport specific skill.”

I feel like he’s onto something that most trainers ARE NOT. And it’s because he understands the foundation of locomotion.  He has a fantastic understanding of the human movement “rules”.

In my research, I fell into the following David Weck Carpool Tunnel fix video that helped get rid of the pinching in my right wrist, at the bottom of a push-up position, in about a week (I haven’t been good lately with my gymnastics wrist stretches 🙁:

Another great article I ran into in my research – and posted to social media – was an interview that Chris Holder did at BreakingMuscle.com with David Weck titled, “The Key To Speed Is In Your Spine”  There are great nuggets in there along with a few training videos.  It’s definitely worth your time.

The main video above is a Skype interview I did with David Weck that’s about 45-minutes.  A lot of great information in there that translates to hitters and HOW TO train power.  What follows are some of those talking points…

The Show Notes

  • How would you explain to a complete stranger what it is that you do? (1-min, 22-seconds)
  • DW explains Tensional Balance – relationship between suspension and transmission throughout your body, requires perfect alignment of skeleton, muscles, and connective tissue (1-min, 48-secs)
  •  When tensional balance & rotational power are dialed in, you can express more speed, control, power, etc. with LESS wear and tear on the body (3-mins, 10-secs)
  • Where did DW’s passionate curiosity into this realm of training come from? (4-mins, 20-secs)
  • DW discovered slow motion analysis while playing D3 college football – you cannot understand human movement with that slow frame by frame motion analysis, the eye in the sky does not lie…clock doesn’t lie…measuring tape doesn’t lie (6-mins, 0-secs)
  • Unmatched degree of intensity to enhancing human locomotion because of Bosu Ball success…was able to devote entire focus to seeking and finding answers. (7-mins, 23-secs)
  • Deep appreciate that locomotion is the key, developing straight ahead speed, is the key to developing the greatest rotational power (9-mins, 0-secs)
  • Human movement industry is about to be flipped on its head because of this breakthrough understand of “core” strength…the “Bracing Core” (weight room and picking up heavy objects) versus the “Coiling Core” (engaging in lateral movement – side bending and head over foot) (9-mins, 40-secs)
  • Real versus Feel coaching, “My athletes are doing something that I’m not coaching them to do”, high level athletes have an innate sense of speed and power, but coaches are trying to coach it out of them, elite athletes (like Olympic Gold Medal winning sprinter Michael Johnson) saying to do the exact opposite of what they’re doing on film!  Experts are teaching on a faulty foundation (11-mins, 40-secs)
  • DW is meeting with Marlon Byrd on getting specific with the WeckMethod exercises (14-mins, 7-secs)
  • Quick movement experiment…stand up right now and going through a throwing motion WITHOUT any side bending…how did that feel? Without side bend you’ll destroy your spine. You can train side bend. Locomotion is your foundation. (17-mins, 50-secs)
  • DW responds to the reader comment, “Is it logical to say that average kids can perform at a tier-1 level?” In context, the reader comment was to the claim that my 100-lb hitters consistently driving the ball 300-feet are standouts athletically.  Also, what makes a kid athletic? (20-mins, 10-secs)
  • DW explains how to train ipsilaterally (right shoulder-right hip) to get the “Serape Effect” or I like to call the “Springy X Pattern” (right shoulder-left hip) optimized for performance. Tighten the coil, time the sequence, and keep center of gravity to be neutral. Take clunky and make them fluid. (22-mins, 20-secs)
  • DW discusses the curse of moving the center of gravity during rotation.  Learning the axis of rotation, front/back, and side. Central control. Create a late rotate, like a whip. (25-mins, 0-secs)
  • The evolution of the spine, side bending is crucial to an S-shaped spine curve. (27-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW responds to the question, “Does sprinting, throwing, hitting start from the ground up?  Why or why not”. CLICK HERE for the HPL link I referred to in the video (33-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW talks about harmonizing the muscles with the connective tissue.  Least muscular contraction compared to the connective tissue. Muscles that are bound up, cannot relax.  Transmission of force, power equals speed.  Muscle acts like a circuit breaker. (34-mins, 0-secs)
  • DW discusses having tensional integrity between the muscles on the inside, and fascia on the outside. How integrity and connected the fascia is to muscles.  Bonds never lost body-weight transmission when he bulked up.  Strong is great, but not at a sacrifice of speed.  (37-mins, 0-secs)
  • We discuss Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains, “finger flick” test to demonstrate the power of connective tissue over muscle contraction (38-mins, 44-secs)
  • DW responds to the question, “If you were going to prescribe 2 of your top RMT Club exercises to a baseball or softball player, what would they be?” Coiling Head Over Foot movement. Pulse of power. (39-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW top gifted books: Thomas Myers book Anatomy Trains, Jim Piersall book Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story (44-mins, 0-secs)

Recommended Top RMT Club Exercise for Baseball or Softball Players

CLICK HERE for a link to his blog to supplement this video.

Where can you find more about David Weck and the WeckMethod?

Please let me know if you want me to do a Part-2 interview with David Weck, and what questions you have for him about this presentation by REPLYING in the comments below…
Swing Experiment using the RMT Club coming soon 😉