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”.

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.

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts – 17-years-old

 

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts

Baseball hitting case study: Cole Watts Fight Position comparision

Cole’s dad Matt contacted me about setting up two in-person 45-minute lessons with a break between.  They were coming from the Bay Area, which is about a 2.5 hours drive from me.  Cole  had been getting instruction from a Mike Epstein certified instructor, and they both have been following my video blog.

According to dad, Cole’s results were hitting the ball hard into the ground, and at-best, a low level line drive.  In Cole’s baseball hitting case study, we’ll analyze:

  • Challenges faced,
  • Differences achieved after two sessions, and
  • How we trained

 

 Challenges Faced…

First, Cole is tall, 6 foot, 3 inches, and growing.  Being so tall, a hitter like him will be facing a “pitch plane” dilemma.  CLICK HERE to watch video analysis comparing 6’3″ Adam Jones to 6’2″ Victor Martinez, and how to fix Jones’s above average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.

When I hear a player is taller and having trouble driving the ball consistently, I look at how efficient they’re getting the barrel level on a downward pitch plane.  Are they:

  1. Making an aggressive move towards the pitcher (Un-weighting Principal)?
  2. Getting shorter (or lower) in the Fight Position (using Gravitational Forces)?
  3. Staying short through impact and finish (Adam Jones’s problem)?  And, are they
  4. Loading the spring correctly?

 

Differences Achieved AFTER Two Sessions

After our baseball hitting sessions, here’s where Cole made some changes:

  1. Gaining stride distance – committing body weight to front leg,
  2. Getting lower into Fight Position – flexing front knee more at landing,
  3. Body lag – opening lower half at Fight Position & blocking his shoulders.

Benefits…#1 will give Cole more bat speed and allow his head to stay still during the Final Turn.  #2 will empower Gravitational Forces to amplify Cole’s pelvic turn.  #3 will naturally spring load his body (body lag) to transfer more energy into the baseball.  The one thing we weren’t able to fix – in our short time together – was staying shorter through his impact and finish.

 

How We Trained…

How we train is just as important as what we’re training…if not more!  At the end of our baseball hitting sessions, our 5-swing rounds consisted of training one mechanical variable with three mechanical constants.  Defined…

  • Mechanical Variable – if we’re working “showing the numbers”, then on odd swings 1, 3, and 5 we show the numbers.  On swings 2 & 4 we don’t.
  • Mechanical Constant – if we’re working on “showing the numbers”, then this is done on ALL 5 swings.

I call each mechanical piece, a layer.  We start simple with one layer, which by itself becomes a variable.  As we add another layer, then the old one becomes a constant, while the one added is the next variable.  This is called interleaving.  Only one variable layer at a time.  The rest will be constants.  Here were his layers, using the fine Art of Variance:

  • Stretching his stride out beyond his “gamer” front marker,
  • Landing shorter with committed body-weight,
  • “Flashlight” on middle front thigh, open towards the pitcher,
  • Showing (or “blocking”) his numbers longer.

We sandwich the wrong mechanic with the right one, so the brain can note the difference.  If Cole wanted repeatable power, then hitting “tall” on the pitch plane wouldn’t work.  He made so much progress in a short amount of time.  Keep working hard kid!

How-To Make Changes & Get Results Faster Coaching Baseball

 

Coaching Baseball: Nick M. Grandslam

One of my hitters Nick M. hitting a Grand-Slam, photo courtesy: Mom

This article will highlight one of the scientific principles of successful learning, according to Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.  FYI, this will work for coaching softball as well.

In my research, I’ve uncovered THREE ingredients to coaching baseball:

  1. Study and apply scientifically proven human movement rules,
  2. Use sticky coaching strategies proven through empirical research, and
  3. Provide necessary feedback mechanisms to stay on track.

We’ll be attacking one of today’s major dilemmas in youth hitting – how do I take my players’ refined “batting practice” swings into the game?  The problem is in how we train young hitters.  We’ll talk about:

  • The myth of “massed practice” to long-term learning,
  • The fine art of variance as a teaching tool, and
  • How-to INFUSE variance into hitting practices.

 

The Myth of “Massed Practice” to Long-Term Learning

What is “massed practice”?  It’s when we work on one thing, say hitting to the opposite field – for an entire practice.  For example, in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick, he talks about an experiment the Cal Poly University baseball team ran.  They split the hitters up into two practice groups.  Group One did massed practice by hitting 15 fastballs, then 15 curve-balls, then 15 change-ups.  Group Two practiced hitting each pitch at random.  At the end of the experiment, Group One did better in the short run, while Group Two did better in the long run.

Why?

Because Group Two practiced how they’d play, and played how they’d practiced.  We may gain immediate gratification from coaching baseball using massed practice, but we fall short in the long run, because hitting pitches in a game is so varied.  We need to practice, what Peter C. Brown calls, variance when coaching baseball.  It’s more frustrating this way, but the results are worth it.

 

The Fine Art of Variance

Coaching Baseball Liam hitting

One of my hitters Liam W., photo courtesy: Mom

I know this might sound like a no-brainer.  But it’s NOT.  I’ve fallen victim to massed practice too!  We’re taught to strengthen weaknesses.  If a hitter has a hard time hitting to the opposite field, then dedicate a whole practice to opposite field hitting.  The outcomes in batting practice are immediate, but as the empirical research says, the results are fleeting.

Another study mentioned in the book, split up a class of grade-schoolers into two groups.  Group A practiced throwing beanbags into a bucket three feet away.  Group B practiced throwing beanbags into two buckets, one 2-feet and another 4-feet away, and with NO 3-foot bucket.  At the end, they were all tested throwing beanbags into a 3-foot bucket.  Any guess who did better?  Group B.

Why?

Their brain had more points of reference to pull from.  “Throw a little farther than two, but less than four.”  Whereas Group A had only one option.

 

How-To INFUSE Variance Into Hitting Practice

There are so many ways to do this, so I’ll only mention the few that have worked for my hitters.  Here’s what coaching baseball using the variance hitting strategy looks like:

  1. Un-Weighting Part-1 – fix stride foot at Fight Position (watch video above for demonstration)
  2. Un-Weighting Part-2 – un-anchor back foot during Final Turn (watch video above for demonstration)
  3. Varied Pitches Off Batting Tee – after every swing move the tee either up or down, and/or pull side or opposite side setup (watch video above for demonstration).  Rarely place ball over middle of the plate.  As beanbag study suggests, if hitter can hit inside and outside pitch correctly, then they’ll be prepared to hit the pitch down the middle.
  4. Timing The Pitch – Every five swings or so move the L-Screen forward or backward to simulate a change in fast-to-slow pitching and vice-versa.  I find that after footwork, timing is the next most difficult concept to master.

We’re failing as coaches because we aren’t mixing it up enough.  Practice how you play, and you’ll play like you practice.  Myself and the Hitting Performance Lab community would love to hear your thoughts on coaching baseball or softball using variance.  Any other ideas?  Please post below…

In the Final PART 3 How To Run Faster: Agility Training Video Series,

How To Run Faster: Agility Training…I bring you on a nickel tour of what I use to hammer speed and agility training into my baseball athletes. In a Step-By-Step breakdown of speed mechanics, here’s some of what Jim Kielbaso and the IYCA covers in the Course:

  • Arm Action
  • Lower Body Mechanics
  • Backpedaling — breaking out of a backpedal, changing directions into a backpedal
  • Shuffling and Lateral Quickness
  • Crossover Running
  • And much more…

The Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course contains the exact same techniques Jim Kielbaso was brought in to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team before their National Championship season in 2012.

Just as efficient hitting mechanics can overcome bigger more athletic body types, sprint mechanics can do the same.  Sure speed can be genetic, but it can also be taught and refined.  Jim does a great job in this field.  CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

In The PART-1 How To Run Faster Video, You’ll Learn:

 

  • How Jim Kielbaso* teaches acceleration mechanics,
  • Coaching cues, and
  • How you can do this yourself.

How To Run Faster Video Secrets*Jim Kielbaso was brought on to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team speed training and agility training before their National Championship season in 2012.

I’ve received quite a few emails about how to run faster…I’m not a “speed expert”, but I look to those who are and Jim Kielbaso’s Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course is it.  Mechanics is everything, and Jim backs all his stuff with REAL science.

 

Have you ever wondered what it is that separates the fastest, most agile athletes from all the rest?

While there are literally thousands of how-to run faster programs out there designed to get athletes bigger, stronger, and more powerful, very few of them are able to teach you how to lay a solid speed training and agility training foundation from which they can build upon.

With the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course, you finally have a tool that will help develop the fundamental movement skills your athletes need in order to develop them into the quickest and most agile athletes they can be!

CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

Check out PART 2 on how-to run faster: speed training & agility training as we look at one of the best drills for practicing what Jim talked about in this video…