Monday, July 23, 2012

It's All Just Protection

Today I want to generate conversation on thoracic spine mobility and its role in the movement patterns of the lower half. Previously I wrote about “whipping the hip”. While learning to “whip the hip” with proper sequencing and quality movement pattern, one may find themselves reaching a plateau or developing symptoms such as LBP(low back pain), hip pain. Michael Boyle and Gray Cook talk about their development of the “Joint-by-Joint Approach”. Looking at our body as a series or segments stacked on top of one another. Lack of thoracic mobility is as common as lack of hip mobility. Slouching posture, hunchback, problems rotating your torso, … Youʼve seen it. The thoracic spine is the area about which we know the least. Many performance/medical professionals recommend increasing thoracic mobility, though few have exercises designed specifically for it. The approach seems to be We know you need it, but weʼre not sure how to get it. Over the next few years, we will see an increase in exercises designed to increase thoracic mobility. Gray Cook also writes.....Ribs, vertebrae and lots of muscle and fascia crisscrossing the front and back of the thorax cause thoracic stiffness. We donʼt inherently have a lot of mobility there, but we need all we can get. However, stiffness isnʼt just something we need to get rid of. Stiffness is there for a reason. Biological mechanisms that move very well in childhood will develop stiffness following an injury or following repetitive bad mechanics over time. If the body doesnʼt stabilize correctly,it will figure out another way to get stability: itʼs called stiffness. If you find tight hamstrings or a tight T-spine and you just hit the foam roller, you may change mobility, but you will see the stiffness return the following day. Mobility efforts without reinstalling stability somewhere else simply donʼt last. Those hamstrings were tight for a reason. That T-spine is stiff for a reason. If you donʼt also backfill some of that new motion with reflex muscular integrity and motor control, youʼre going to have a problem. Usually we see tight hamstrings on people who donʼt extend their hips well. They donʼt use their glutes well, and so the poor hamstrings get double-time. The hamstrings get too much use, and they fatigue—a fatigued muscle and a tight muscle look very much the same. Itʼs all just protection. Really, I donʼt know that I can say this any clearer than what Gray Cook has/is saying. Rodger Fleming, ATC, LMT Body Awareness Therapeutic Massage

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Just Do It!" ... With a Purpose

As a clinician and a coach, I am constantly looking for new and more effective ways to improve my athlete's health and performance. It can be extremely easy to get bogged down and lost in the many treatment options and training techniques that exist and continue to appear. All too often, I see programs and treatment plans that are either haphazardly put together or loaded with multiple activities for the same end. There does not seem to be a plan or purpose. I can be just as guilty about losing sight of the method to my madness. To keep focused on the task at hand, I ask myself a couple questions when developing overall general training plans and putting together the more specific daily activities: (1)What is my overall goal? (2) What are the need to do activities? In the treatment and care of injuries, athletic trainers and physical therapists use therapeutic modalities each with a specific reason for its use. Is there still an acute inflammatory reaction? Is there swelling? Are there soft tissue restrictions? Is there weakness? What is the underlying cause of the condition the athlete is in? Answering these questions will help outline the plan to answer the focus questions: "What is my overall goal?" "What are the need to do activities?"; and guide you to a purposeful treatment plan. The same is true with the performance training of athletes. "What is my overall goal?" "What are the need to do activities?" These questions can be answered by knowing other more specific details. What is the developemental stage of the athletes you're working with? What are the sport-specific demands (movement patterns, metabolic needs, strength requirements, etc)? What is the training cycle (in-season, off-season, etc)? Don't just do it. Do it with a purpose! David Yeager, ATC, CSCS Co-Founder

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why are injuries still increasing?

This blog post is a statment, but also a question at the same time. As we are moving forward in developing young baseball players why with all the knowlege and control we put in the game do we continue to have increases in injuries at younger ages? I have been coaching a team for a few weeks and have been impressed with the restrictons placed on pitchers, the amount of pitches allowed as well as total innings pitched per day but also per tournament. With these regulations many leagues have tried to help young players, but we continue to see a rise in injuries in young players. WHY? Ok so here in the statement, no amount of regulation will decrease injuries if the players are not prepared to play, players are weeker and getting weeker every year. We continue to place so much importance on competation that we forget to prepare the players to play and by doing so continue to increase the injury rate. Please let me know how you feel!!!!!! Brian Niswender Co-Founder

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Your Baseball Coach In It For You? Or For Themselves?

This article comes from a member of's Network of Academies and Teams, The Baseball Zone. Be sure to check out this and many other informative posts from Canada's leading baseball training academy.

Is Your Baseball Coach In It For You? Or For Themselves?

Over the years I have seen and played for a lot of different coaches spanning various sports. Most of us have. And they can be categorized in many different ways – a yeller versus a quiet, thoughtful approach; more technical versus motivational; organized versus “winging it”; and so on. I submit to the readers now a new category – coaches that work for you versus working for themselves.

What I mean by this category is the following – does the coach ramble on and on with no apparent organization to their sermon, or do they come across as having a clear and concise goal for that particular session? The human mind – as powerful as it is – has a very difficult time being consciously aware of more than one new concept at a time. So is the coach focusing their efforts on a singular, EFFECTIVE goal or are they taking every opportunity to just spew information, whether germane to the overall intentions or not, just to show how knowledgeable they are to the masses? Is it truly about you? Or them?

In my opinion, the greatest coach who has ever lived (at least in North American contemporary times) is the college basketball legend John Wooden (did you know his favourite sport was baseball?). Coach Wooden called himself an average game coach but a great practice coach. Why? Well no matter how many championships he won (10 NCAA titles by the way) he maintained the humility and discipline to prepare for every practice. He even kept the practice plans for every single one he ever conducted until the day he died. He never thought he was too good to prepare. He had a clear and concise goal or goals for every practice and every drill, whether they were individual or team based. Certainly after 10 or 5 or even 2 or 1 National Championships he could have easily just cruised a bit and gone on without a plan wowing them every day with his knowledge and what he had accomplished in the past, right? But would that be serving the players or him?

Wooden and other great, genuine coaches are not victims of what some have coined “The Me Disease” – the belief that things happen (good or bad) because of who you are, not because of what you do. With Wooden it was never about who he was. It was about the responsibility he took in his position of leading young men, and developing and maintaining the constant effort and discipline it took to provide them with what he felt they deserved. It was about what he did and he knew how easily that could slip away if he started believing it was about who he was. It was that humility and LACK of self-importance that kept him so great for so long.

So the next time you are deciding on a new coach or deciding whether or not to keep a coach, ask them – and yourself – what they are doing for you when you are not working together. Are they taking time and putting forth great effort to synthesize, prepare and implement a development plan for you? Or not? Are they planning out the next practice or groups of practices for the team or group? Or not? Are they of the mind that it is an honour for them to be working for you? Or the other way around? Is success about what they do? Or who they are? Simply put – Are they in it for you? Or are they in it for themselves?

Good luck in searching for a coach you deserve. I hope this helps.

Mike McCarthy, Co-Founder - The Baseball Zone

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Whip The Hip!

Rotational movement integrated with precise timing/sequencing
of the hip and glutei muscles will help give you the elusive power
you seek. So few people understand how to rotate at the hip and
engage the glutes with powerful contraction combined with rear
foot plantarflexion.

This lack of sequencing and movement patterning means a loss of
durability and inhibited optimum performance. Lack of ‘hip whip’
manifests itself in too much muscle recruitment from the upper
torso and the client will ‘bleed’ unproductive energy. It is a term
that represents the motion of powerful active contraction of the
glute with rotational power of the hip joint.

It’s the ‘snap’ of activation with intent of movement that counts.
No sloppy follow thru .The rear leg should have a tense activated
glute and the rear foot should be plantar flexed with minimal
weight resting on the ball of the foot. I tell my clients if I walked
behind you and hit that butt I better bounce off. No loosey

Don’t worry about the front leg glute. That will be activated
because you are standing on it with more transferred weight. Pay
attention to the rear leg. Try the rotation without active glute
contraction and then with contraction. Tell me what difference you
feel? You feel much more powerful and stable right? Take a look
at this picture below to see a representation of an end phase ‘hip
whip.’ This is a high stability, loaded movement pattern. Top of
the ‘food chain’ in the 4-stages of owning the whip you will see
listed below.

The glutes are really nice to look at I know, ( well some are) but
the important thing in performance is how they function. Can
they activate? Can they sequence? You may need to spend time
teaching clients how to disassociate the top and bottom of the
body first and then move into locking in transitional patterns.
Start with no load and then increase to resistance bands, and
finally cables.

If you can master the power of the hips and glute you will
unleash the secret weapon of performance. All things being
considered you must own the ‘hip whip’ by progressing thru 4

1. Insure adequate mobility is on board in the hips. Particularly in
extension and internal rotation. Look for asymmetries.

2. Fascial snags and glutei trigger points must be released and
addressed because they will cause soft tissue extensibility
dysfunction and loss of mobility.

3. Glutes must be activated in relationship to the calves and
iliacus Glutes are often inhibited and weak in relationship to
facilitated calves and iliacus. Release the iliacus by manual
pressure and foam roll the calves, followed immediately by supine
hip bridges to activate the glutes. Be careful of doing the wrong
thing to the psoas. It is often tight and weak, indicating a need
for stretching then immediate strengthening. Simply stretching a
tight and weak muscle is asking for TROUBLE!

4. Movement patterning and motor control. Gaining stability of
the hips in static position, then proceeded by dynamic, and finally
loaded high threshold movement so you can lock in the new
mobility with neural control.

Precision of movement. Quality over quantity. Better is better,
more is not better. These are your guiding principles of power.
Now go have fun whipping your hip!

Rodger Fleming, ATC, LMT
Body Awareness Therapeutic Massage
Macon, Georgia

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Exertional Rhabdomyolosis

The safety of athletes is always a priority. At January’s NSCA Coaches Conference, there was a session on Exertional Rhabdomyolysis which I thought was very informative. I wanted to share some of the points, made by physician Jeffery Anderson of UCONN, to ensure that athletes and coaches understand the different types of muscle pain and recognize the signs, symptoms, and risks of “Rhabdo” if it occurs.

What is Exertional Rhabdomyolysis?

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of a muscle cell due to the repetitive stress of exercise. The breakdown of a cell results in the release of the cell’s contents into the bloodstream. When this happens in large enough quantity, or in major muscle groups, like the quadriceps, the result can become life threatening. This breakdown is not the same as the “micro-tears” of protein filaments inside muscle cells after normal strength training, thought to stimulate strength gains. Click Here to learn the difference between micro-tears and muscle tears.

Symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis include extreme joint and muscle pain and swelling, beyond that of DOMS, the soreness occurring 48-72 hours after unaccustomed exercise. Also, cola colored urine is an indicator of intracellular myoglobin being excreted from the body.

The major health risks of rhabdomyolysis include kidney failure, from the clogging effect that myoglobin has on the renal tubules, and cardiac arrhythmia due to hyperkalemia (an excess of potassium in the blood). The risks rhabdomyolysis are exacerbated by dehydration, due to the decreased blood flow to the kidneys.

Lets Make A Case Of “Rhabdo”

Dr. Anderson presented this section (below), and I thought it was a great way of showing what training variables and risk factors are of importance to avoid rhabdomyolysis:

 Start with:
o A reconditioned athlete, or
o An athlete coming off of a break, or
o A conditioned athlete performing a new exercise

 Add in a high volume of:
o Running (or marching in the Military)
o Resistance Training (especially eccentric exercise)

 Add in the following risk factors:
o Heat
o Dehydration
o Recent illness (flu, mono, etc.)
o Metabolic disease (diabetes or thyroid disease)
o Genetic muscle energy storage disease
o Autoimmune or inflammatory disease
o Alcohol or Drugs (statins or amphetamines)
o Sickle Cell Trait (not to be confused with sickle cell anemia)

 Mix these items together and you have a high risk for creating exertional rhabdomyolysis.

An Example

In 2011, a significant case of exertional rhabdomyolysis occurred with the University of Iowa Football Team. Thirteen players were hospitalized to be treated for the disorder after a workout including 100 squats (10 sets of 10 repetitions) at 50% 1RM, followed by a series of sled pushes. The squats were reportedly performed within a period of 17 minutes. The NSCA has since suggested that this workload was above and beyond the safe volume recommendations set forth by organization for athletes. For more examples of exertional rhabdomyolysis, Click Here.

Keep Your Athletes Safe

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of exertional rhabdomyolysis to prevent injury, hospitalization, or even death! Pay attention to volume and periodization in training programs with your athletes.

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is 100% Preventable

Eric McMahon, MEd, RSCC
Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach
Texas Rangers

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Steroids? You Better Think Twice

School is tough, no matter how you dice it. There is peer pressure at school, parental pressure at home, and social pressure every time you go out. If you’re a young athlete, the pressure to perform at a high level can be even more intense.

The pressure may be crushing, and some teens look to escape through drugs – and not just the usual drugs. Steroids are included in the list of drugs banned by the United States government. Taking steroids is not only illegal, but they will likely leave you in a worse state than many of the other drugs you may try.

The appeal of taking steroids is high; the increase in muscle mass and improvements on the field are strong draws. But, the fallout is huge and the side effects are immense. Whether taken by needle or as oral supplements, steroids shut off the parts of your brain that tell your body to produce hormones. This means that boys could begin to grow breasts, start balding, or even lose the ability to have children.

Even when you put aside the nasty side effects away for a moment, the drawbacks are still bad. Imagine you have an opportunity to play baseball in college. That drug test is going to show that you have used steroids. Your career will end before it begins.

While you may see an increase in muscle mass and endurance, you, and everyone else will see the negative side effects as you break out with a serious and unavoidable case of acne. You may also see testicular shrinkage. Girls are not immune to side effects either and can develop deepened voices.

Even small amounts can start destroying your organs right away. You’ll notice higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels. You may think you can lengthen your career with steroids, but your heart and liver simply don’t work that way. Long term effects will develop even if the steroid use is short term. These include liver failure, heart attacks, stunted growth and the conversion of muscle into fat. Not to mention the paranoia, anxiety and depression that ultimately took the life of local baseball player Taylor Hooton.

Your dreams of making it to the Major Leagues can be crushed by a decision you make as a teenager. There are many stories about the negative effects of steroids. Don’t take our word for it, do some research of your own about the dangers of steroids. Your findings will haunt you. You have the talent, don’t squander it! If you’re struggling with steroids, or just want more information, ask the Taylor Hooton Foundation. They’re dedicated to steroid awareness and ensuring you have a safe and healthy baseball career.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation