Tall Plank Shoulder Taps for Core Torsion Control

Assessing anti-rotation pillar strength is important prior to loading the spine with torsional activity. From a tall plank position, you can assess torsional control by observing this test/exercise. Beyond observation, this technique can be used a conditioning exercise to improve anti-rotational pillar strength and stability.

Execution. Start in a tall plank position with feet shoulder-width apart and hands on the floor under the shoulders. Set the core, slowly lift the right hand and tap the left shoulder. Pause for 1-2 seconds, return the right hand to the starting position and repeat the pattern lifting the left hand and tapping the right shoulder. To correct faulty movement and improve control, start with slow, controlled, alternating taps for 5-10 reps. Stop when fatigue or loss of control sets in. 


Front Plank with Hip Extension

It is always preferable to include exercises that activate the gluteus maximus and medius in training programs. Research has shown that poor hip activation/control leads to frontal plane knee collapse and may lead to excessive strain on the knee.

In a previous posting, I discussed the side plank with hip abduction as an excellent choice for the gluteus medius based on EMG activation. This article will discuss the front plank with hip extension based on muscle activation findings by Boren, et. al. (1).

Boren and his team of researchers used surface EMGs to determine the extent to which various rehab exercises activated the gluteus medius and maximus muscles. Their data showed that the top two exercises for activation of the gluteus medius and maximus as indicated by percentage of maximal voluntary muscle contraction (MVIC) were 1) front plank with hip extension; 2) gluteal squeeze; 3) side plank with dominant leg; 4) side plane with non-dominant leg and 5) single leg squat. The front plank with hip extension was the number one exercise by far, eliciting a 106% MVIC. The gluteal squeeze was a distant second with an 80% MVIC.

Execution: Begin in prone plank position with the trunk, hips, and knees in neutral alignment. Next, lift the left leg off of the ground, flex the knee of the left leg, and extend the hip past neutral hip alignment by bringing the heel toward the ceiling. Hold for one second at the top and then return to parallel for one second. This is one rep. Perform 5-10 times reps and then repeat on the right leg.


2Application: This exercise is designed to strengthen the gluteus maximus in hip extension which, in turn, will improve dynamic hip stability, reduce unwanted strain on the knee and help increase core stability and strength.

Regression: Those who struggle with form and endurance when performing this exercise can elicit moderate muscle activity (60% MVIC) by performing this exercise from a quadruped until they can advance to the front plank with hip extension.

1. Boren K, Conrey C, Le Coguic J, et al. Electromyographic Analysis of Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Maximus During Rehabilitation Exercises. International J Sports Phys Ther. 2011; 6: 206-223.
Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is director of B Fit Training Systems and supervisor for EXOS Athletes’ Performance at Raleigh Orthopedic (AP Ral) in Raleigh, NC.



Sledgehammer Training for Baseball – The Overhead Swing

Hitting an oversized tire with a sledgehammer is an inexpensive, but extremely effective, closed kinetic chain exercise that allows you to increase strength and power in the muscles of the hips, legs, trunk, shoulders, arms and hands.  And, because you do it from a standing position, it has a positive transfer to the act of hitting a baseball. There are two basic movements or swings when working with a sledgehammer and tire, the overhead swing and the diagonal chop. We will discuss the overhead swing in this posting and the diagonal chop will follow in a future posting.

Buying a sledgehammer. You need two pieces of equipment, a sledgehammer and a used, oversized truck or tractor tire. Don’t go overboard when buying a hammer. A good one can be usually be purchased for about $2 a pound in most hardware stores. Home Depot, for example, carries a brand (Ludell) that guarantees its handles for life. Bigger is not better when purchasing a hammer. The primary goals when working with a sledgehammer is to increase strength, speed and power. The heavier the hammer, the slower the swing; and slow swings produce less force and power. Start with a 6-8 pound maul and gradually progress up to a 10-pound hammer. Because you are using the hammer as a strength/power tool, you need to work at a high speed and intensity throughout the drill. If the sledge is too heavy, you will have difficulty completing the drill with perfect technique, your swings will become slower and the training effect will be minimized.

Finding a tire. Two things to remember when getting a tire; “bigger is better” and “if it’s free, it’s for me.” Most tire dealers have old tires and would rather give them away than to pay disposal service to haul them off. Find a dealer that supplies large tires for trucks and tractors. Car tires are too thin and lie so close to the ground that they can cause you to over-flex at the hip and produce undue stress on the low back.

Swinging the sledge. Keep it simple. Hitting a baseball is hard enough; don’t add another elaborate swinging technique to your training program. Stick to the basic movements. Use one that will allow you to cut lose while maintaining proper form. Start with the two-handed overhead swing. Stand in front of and approximately 2-3 feet away from the tire with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Grip the hammer with both hands near the bottom of the shaft. Set the abs, flex the knees and ankles, bring the sledge directly over the head in a controlled manner and then slam it down as explosively as possible, control the bounce and slowly return to the starting position under control. This is one rep. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps. Stop when you can’t maintain proper form.

2211Alternate hand position, i.e., which hand is on top and bottom each set to improve coordination and ensure balanced development. Start with three sets of five reps withone hand on top and 3×5 with the other hand on top. Rest 90-120 seconds between sets. Your goal is to be explosive on every rep, so take more rest as needed. Gradually progress to 3×10.  Increase the weight of the hammer when you can do 3×10 with perfect form. Do overhead swings twice per week during the off-season and pre-season with at least two days rest between workouts as a supplementary, explosive, total body training tool for the muscles of the core, hips, legs, arms, shoulders and hands.


Napoleon Pichardo, CSCS, RSCC is the Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Texas Rangers. Eric McMahon, M.Ed., CSCS, RSCC, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Frisco Roughriders, Texas Rangers.



Side Plank with Hip Abduction

We know that improving hip strength and stability are important parts of most corrective exercise and general training programs. With limited time for training sessions, it’s important to know which exercises produce the highest muscle recruitment. We know, for example, that: 1) performing side planks with hip abduction will strengthen the gluteus medius; and 2) improving hip abductor strength will prevent valgus collapse at the knee, (more…)

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.