Posts

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!

How “Loading & Exploding The Hips” Can Be VERY Dangerous To The Lower Back…

We’ll get to the above video, but first let me be clear…

I’m not saying the pelvis doesn’t play a role in the swing, because it does.  However, I feel this spot reserved in the swing’s sequence of movements is hyper-focused on by a majority of hitting gurus.  More and more research is saying extreme “hip thrust” or “loading and exploding the hips” can be VERY damaging to the lower back over time.  You’ll see why in a moment, but for now please note that in this podcast episode, former USA Men’s Gymnastics Coach Sommers says the lower back portion of the spine isn’t made for a high degrees of rotation, but the T-Spine is.

Another thing I want to clear up,

We don’t teach a 100% pure rotational mechanics here.  We teach a blend of linear-rotational.  Please CLICK HERE to read our thoughts on this.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • How the spine stacks up (quick anatomy lesson),
  • Does consistent power come from the ground? And,
  • Teaching hitters a safer more effective swing.

Let’s get started…

 

How the Spine Stacks Up

Photo courtesy: MayfieldClinic.com

Here’s a quick anatomy lesson of the spine:

  • Cervical – the vertebrae in your neck, consists of 7 vertebrae, are allowed to flex, extend, and rotate,
  • Thoracic – the vertebrae in the middle of spine including shoulders, consists of 12 vertebrae, which are also allowed to flex, extend, and rotate, and
  • Lumbar – the vertebrae in lower back, consist of 5 vertebrae, and are allowed to flex and extend ONLY.
  • Sacral & Coccyx – there are 5 fused vertebrae here, and the Coccyx is sometimes referred to as the “tail” bone.

Did you catch that about the Lumbar?  It’s important, so it bares repeating…the vertebrae in the lower back IS NOT built to rotate!  Right now, you may be thinking: “Wait a minute, how’s that?!  I’ve seen millions of swings, and the hitter’s pelvis (and lower back) are rotating!!”

According to Charlie Weingroff, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist, a trainer in New York City, and is pretty high up on the human performance food chain, says this:

“Only your thoracic spine (which consists of the 12 vertebrae in your upper and middle back) is designed to rotate significantly — about 40 degrees in each direction, according to Weingroff — when under compression. The lumbar spine (lower back) should rotate no more than about 12 degrees.”

Some movement experts (like Thomas Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains), says the lower back can rotate no more than 7-degrees.  So according to the experts, 7 to 12-degrees is a good rotational range for the Lumbar section of the spine. That’s NOTHING compared to the 40-degrees of rotation – in each direction – of the middle and upper back section of the spine (which includes shoulders).

So what’s happening then?  You see, since the lower back vertebrae are not designed to rotate, it’s the surrounding muscles that are rotating a fixed object (non-rotating Lumbar), and is why you do see rotation.   The T-Spine vertebrae are built to rotate (again, this includes the shoulders), hence is why hitting coaches should put their rotational focus there and NOT the hips, pelvis, or low back.

Is rotating back hip through the zone necessary for power? Not in the way most coaches think.  Consider this quote from Physicist, Electrical Engineer, and author of the book The Spinal Engine, Dr. Serge Gracovetsky:

“The axial rotation of the spine cannot happen unless the spine is flexed by the right amount on the correct side. Coaching an athlete to throw without a proper spinal position is an invitation to severe torsional injuries.”

Dr. Gracovetsky is referring to this “flex” as a side bend with the shoulders.  The point is, USE THE SHOULDERS to accomplish rotational power.  Warning for coaches: if you shrug this information off because of ego or pride, and continue to teach pelvis, hip, or lower back dominant twisting swings, then you’re wearing holes in the low backs of your hitters.  Be careful because the link is there, and one can be held liable.

Don’t worry, I’ll show those coaches doing this unknowingly a safer way, at the end of this post…

 

Does Consistent Power Come from the Ground?

Water Polo Throw

Water Polo throw photo courtesy: YouTube Egy image from video

You may be thinking, but consistent power comes from the ground…the pelvis is the first to interact with Gravitational Forces, and that’s why you teach “hip thrust”. I agree with Ted Williams that the ‘Hips Lead the Way’, but they don’t contribute as much to consistent power as most think.  I know this may sound earth shattering for some, so please stay with me here.

CLICK the following link to a post I did titled, “The Swing DOES NOT Start From The Ground & Move Up?”

This brings me to the water polo throw video above…

Let me ask you a question, what do you think the “fastest throw in Water Polo” is?  Doing a Google search using those keywords brings up the following statement:

The overhand shot from a Croatian senior men’s national team player is recognized as the fastest shot in the world at 60 MPH (96.5 KPH). The overhand shot is the standard throwing motion in water polo. It is the same arm motion as a pitcher uses in baseball.”

So, let’s think about this.  In water, there are little to no Gravitational Forces, and the best human floating in water, can throw a volleyball-sized ball 60-mph?  What do you think the speed would be if this person was floating in water and threw a baseball-sized ball instead?  75-mph?  80-mph? 90-mph?  Okay, so let’s say this top-of-the-food-chain water polo player throws a baseball floating in water 80-mph.  You’re telling me a top-of-the-food-chain pitcher in the Big Leagues, throwing down a mound, can only throw 20-mph more (assuming 100-mph) than someone throwing the same ball floating in water?!

I dunno, but this begs the question, does the pelvis (and lower Lumbar), OR the shoulders (and T-Spine) contribute the most to pitching velocity AND Ball Exit Speeds?

If you need to see more examples about this, then CLICK HERE for a swing experiment titled, “How Much Ball Exit Speed Does Pelvis Contribute To A High Level Swing?” 

Consider this Tweet from one of my readers…

And I added the following comment…

So what role do I think the pelvis and low back play in the swing, if not power?  Directional force.  Allows the hitter’s swing to convert Centripetal into Centrifugal Force.  In a nutshell, the hitter’s “belt buckle” must point in the direction of the batted ball.

So what’s the answer?

 

Teaching Hitters a Safer more Effective Swing

Here are some resources to get you started, outside of the ones already mentioned:

Coaches, PLEASE get educated.  Don’t let ego or pride get in the way of helping hitters swing safe.  Like Tony Robbins says,

“If you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.”

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.”