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Warrior Series – Dynamic, Multi-plane Warm-up Exercises

The following sequence of three dynamic, multi-plane warm-up exercises has several important functions when preparing to train and compete. First it will increase muscle temperature. Second, it will actively work the muscles of the hips, shoulders and thoracic spine (T-spine) through a full range of motion. Third, it will increase flexibility in the shoulders, hips and thoracic spine (T-spine) and fourth, it will help you move more efficiently. Incorporate these into your daily warm-up routine, especially before throwing a bullpen or taking early batting practice, and you should see an improvement in flexibility and efficiency of movement in the hips, shoulders and T-spine. Start with 5 reps per side of each exercise with a 6-lb MD ball and gradually build to 10 per side. (more…)

Med Ball Power Slam

The medicine ball slam is an explosive, “toe nails to finger nails”, total body exercise that helps you develop the strength, speed and power needed to efficiently develop, transfer and apply forces from the ground up. Because it is performed from a standing position, it also enhances weight shift, posture, balance and coordination. Improving the ability to transfer power from the lower body through the core is essential for powerful swings and throws. The whip-like movement of the ball as it moves from low to high mimics the loading and exploding movements used in hitting and throwing. This exercise has three movements; 1) start, 2) load and 3) explode. Each movement is described below. (more…)

Progressions for Side-Twist Medball Throws

The key when using MD balls to improve strength and power is to keep the volume low (2-3 sets of 5-6 reps) and the intensity high (max or near max effort on every throw). For best results, train for rotational strength and power at least twice and no more than three times per week with at least one days rest between workouts using progressively more movement-specific exercise postures. Each exercise should start from a tall-kneeling position and gradually progress to a (more…)

Nordic Curl Progressions

While the Nordic curl has been shown to be an effective exercise for increasing hamstring strength, it is not without its critics. Some players dislike it because it is very hard to do. Others are discouraged because they don’t have enough hamstring strength to perform both the eccentric and concentric portions of the exercise. An effective way to alleviate these concerns and ensure safe, consistent progress is to divide the exercise into three, progressive training phases.

jv1Phase I. Players lacking sufficient hamstring strength to perform both the eccentric and concentric movements in the exercise can use a TRX device to perform only eccentric contractions. The exercise starts with the player in the up position and holding the handles of a TRX device. While a partner holds his ankles, the player sets his abs and then uses his hamstrings to slowly lower his body as far as possible. The TRX allows the player to use his upper body and core strength to assist the hamstrings as he slowly lowers his body forward. Once at his lowest position, the player releases the handles one at a time and performs an explosive push-up to return to the starting position. Using the TRX allows players to gradually increase eccentric hamstring strength over a progressively larger ROM. Start with 2 sets of 4 and progress to 4×8.

Phase II. Players use the TRX handles to assist with both the eccentric and concentric portions of the exercise. The TRX allows the player to gradually increase the stress in both the eccentric and concentric portions of the exercise by applying less upper body force when lowering and returning to the starting position. Start with 2 sets of 4 and progress to 4×8

jv2Phase III. This is a true Nordic curl using both eccentric and concentric contractions. With a partner holding his ankles, the player performs an eccentric contraction to lower himself forward as far as comfortable and then performs a concentric contraction to return to the starting position. If the hamstrings fail at any point during the eccentric portion of this movement, extend the arms to catch the body and then perform an explosive push-up to return to the starting position. Start with 1 set of 4 and progress to 4×4. Coaching keys. Keep the core tight and hips extended so there is a straight line from the ear to the knee. Lean forward from the hips and eccentrically contract the hamstrings to resist the body from lowering for as long as possible. Place a foam pad under the knees and a foam roller under the ankles to reduce stress on the knees, feet and ankles.

Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS is Head Strength Coach, Texas Rangers. Napoleon Pichardo, CSCS, is the Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Texas Rangers

Kneeling Landmine Swing

The Landmine is a great tool to use for total body strength and rotational movements. While there are a number of ways to use the Landmine, one way to engage the upper body more is to perform a swing from your knees. Performing the swing from your knees forces your upper body to do the swing without the aid of the lower body. Due to the fact that the lower body is disengaged a much lighter weight should be used. In order to perform the drill in a safe, effective manner, progress through the following progressive steps.

chase1• Step 1: Position your body parallel to the bar. Kneel down so that the base of the bar is on your left side and grab the bar with both hands using an underhand grip with the top hand and overhand grip with the bottom hand.

• Step 2: Lift the bar up to thigh level. This is the “ready” position.

• Step 3: Move the bar upwards by swinging it away from your body. During the swing, rotate your upper body towards the bar without turning your hips. This will allow for greater core activation and increased range of motion.

• Step 4: Return the bar to the starting position following the same path used in the previous step (Step 3). Perform the prescribed number of reps, switch sides and repeat. Do 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps on each side.

Unlike some Landmine movements this one should be performed using a smooth, controlled tempo in both directions. Another good tip is to turn your head in the direction of the bar as it moves both up and down to allow for greater trunk rotation. Due to the nature of the movements, there will be some slight rotation in the hips, but try to minimize it as much as possible. Keep your core tight and your body upright throughout the movement.

Steve Chase, CSCS, RSCC, is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the Detroit Tigers.
Editor note: See accompanying video, Kneeling Landmine Swing on this site.

Multi-Directional Lunge and Reach Exercise for Hams, Core and More

The following exercise was recommended by Vern Gambetta. I have used it with good success, first with the Mets and currently with the Rangers. This exercise has three movement sequences that emphasize the loading and unloading of the hips and hamstrings in the sagittal, frontal and transverse plane. It can be used as both a conditioning and rehabilitation exercise.

jv1Lunge and Reach to Floor. Emphasis: Stand erect with a DB in each hand. Set the abs, step (lunge) forward on the left leg and reach forward with both hands until the DBs lightly touch the floor. Pause for 2-3 seconds and then push back to the starting position with the lead leg. Perform the assigned number of reps on the left leg and then repeat on the opposite leg. For variety and more balance and coordination, alternate right and left legs and do 10 reps on each side. Keep the abs tight throughout the exercise. As you reach to the floor the hamstrings are loaded at both the origin and insertion. This is functionally similar to the load placed on the hamstrings during running at foot contact. When you touch the floor, push off the ground explosively with the lead leg. This is similar to the load from foot contact to the push off phase. Keep the neck and head in a straight line with the trunk throughout the exercise. Benefits: Eccentric loading of the hamstrings.

jv2Lunge and Reach Overhead. Emphasis: This exercise emphasizes the loading and unloading of the hip flexors and adductors in the sagittal plane. In this exercise both the hip flexors and adductor group are lengthened. This load is necessary to effectively unload the hip creating an explosive knee drive during running. Stand erect with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended and hands overhead with palms facing forward. Set the abs and lunge forward on the left leg until the back knee almost touches the ground. Push back with the lead leg and return to the starting position. Perform the assigned number of reps on the left leg and then repeat on the opposite leg. For variety and more balance and coordination, alternate right and left legs and do 10 reps on each side. Keep the abs tight, arms extended and hands overhead from start to finish. Do not arch the back. Perform the exercise with a MD Ball, DBs or kettle bells to increase the intensity of the movement. Benefits: Eccentric loading of the hip flexor and adductor group and increased range of motion in shoulders and T-Spine.

jv3Lunge and Twist. Emphasis: This exercise emphasizes the loading and unloading of both the hip flexors, adductors and abdominals in the transverse plane. Most baseball movements occur in the transverse plane, making this exercise very appropriate. Stand erect with arms extended and hands together in front of the body at chest height. Keep the palms together, set the abs and lunge forward on the left leg until the back knee almost touches the ground. As the back knee approaches the ground, twist the trunk, arms and hands toward the lead leg. Pause for 1-2 seconds, twist back until the arms are directly in front of the body and then push back with the lead leg to return to the starting position. Perform the assigned number of reps on the left leg and then repeat on the opposite leg. For variety and more balance and coordination, alternate right and left legs and do 10 reps on each side.
Keep the abs tight, arms extended and palms together throughout the exercise. Perform the exercise with a MD Ball, DBs or kettle bells to increase the intensity of the movement. To increase range of motion, balance and coordination, bring both hands up and over the shoulder on the side of the lead leg. Benefits: Transverse training of the hip flexors, adductors, core and T-spine.

Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS
Head Strength Coach, Texas Rangers

 

Pitcher’s Barre Program for Glute Activation

During the off-season, I try different activities and think about how I might be able to use a few of these new exercises and drills with my players. Two years ago, I attended a “barre class” that used non-impact, small movement exercises to isolate individual muscle groups. One muscle group that these exercises had the most impact on was my glutes. After doing some of the exercises, I walked out of class feeling like I had just done 1,000 (more…)

Walking Lunge with Overhead Reach

In the words Yogi Berra, “you can see a lot by watching”. Over the years, I have learned a lot by talking with and watching opposing strength and conditioning coaches as they put their teams through pre- and post-game warm-ups and workouts. The following is a good, multi-plane, multi-joint, total body, warm-up exercise that is used by Dong Lien (CSCS, RSCC), strength and conditioning coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s a (more…)

The Moving Plank for Core Stability

For years, athletes and strength coaches both within and outside the sport of baseball believed that the best way to increase core strength and reduce the risk of low back injuries was to perform multiple sets and reps of exercises in which the athlete flexed and/or rotated the lumbar spine. Now, due in part, to the work of Stuart McGill, Shirley Sharman and Gray Cook, we know that the lumbar range of motion that we were trying to create with sit- (more…)

Resisted MD Ball Rotations, Chops and Lifts for Core Strength and Stability

Everyone in the game of baseball understands the importance of core strength and stability. Hitting and pitching coaches empirically know that the core is where power comes from. Scientists have shown that core strength and stability are necessary to prevent injuries, improve mobility and optimize performance (1, 2). Athletic trainers and strength coaches have used both the empirical evidence provided by position coaches and research provided by scientists as a basis for developing a number of exercise choices. While there seems to be near-universal acceptance of the importance of core strength and stability, until recently there was little consensus as to which exercise or type of exercise is most effective. Current research reveals two key points about core training. First, exercises performed from a standing position are more related to the movements required in game situations than those performed in a horizontal position and second, compound movements are more effective than isolated movements such as crunches and lateral crunches (3, 4,5).

While research indicates that compound, multi-joint movements performed in a horizontal position, such as planks with hand reach, bird dogs with resistance and mountain climbers, are effective for engaging both the deep and proximal muscles of the trunk, we prefer to use these as “level 1” or preparatory exercises for players with stability issues and use sport-specific, multi-joint exercises such as resisted MD ball rotations, chops and lifts to develop the functional core strength and stability needed to  reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.

Resisted MD Ball Rotations. Stand in a “ready” position facing a partner. Hold a MD ball at chest level with both arms fully extended and hands on each side of the ball. Set your abs and keep your arms straight and the ball still as your partner applies pressure with one hand on the ball in an attempt to make you rotate to one side. Using eccentric contractions of the muscles of the core slowly resist the rotary force applied to the ball as your body rotates in the direction of the applied force. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

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Resisted MD Chops. Start from the same position used in the previous exercise holding a MD ball at chest level with both arms fully extended and one hand on top and the other hand under the ball. Your objective in this exercise is to eccentrically resist the downward force (chopping motion) applied by your partner. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat the exercise for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat on the opposite side.

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Resisted MD Lifts. Start with both arms fully extended and the ball outside one knee. Hold the ball with one hand on top and the other hand under the ball. Your partner kneels down outside the ball and applies and upward (lifting) force to the ball. Your objective is to eccentrically resist the upward (lifting) force applied by your partner. Rest for 5-10 sec, repeat the exercise for the prescribed number of reps, and then repeat on the opposite side.

Jose Vazquez, PT, CSCS

Head Strength Coach, Texas Rangers

 Napoleon Pichardo

Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Texas Rangers

References

  1. Okada, T., et. al, Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 25: 252-261, 2011.
  2. Brophy, R., et. al. The Core and Hip in Soccer Athletes Compared by Gender. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 30: 663-667, 2009.
  3. Gottschall, j., et al. Integration Core Exercises Elicit Greater Muscle Activation Than Isolation Exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 27:590—596, 2013.
  4. Colado, J., et al. The Progression of Paraspinal Muscle Recruitment Intensity in Localized and Global Strength Training Exercise is not Based on Instability Alone. Arch  Phys and Med Rehab. 92:1875-1883, 2011..
  5. Okada, T., et. al, Relationship Between Core Stability, Functional Movement, and Performance. J Strength Cond Res.  25:252-261, 2011.