Pitching Mechanics Don't Have to Be Complicated

Develop a Powerful Pitching Delivery with the 5 Power Moves in This Free Guide

[h3]Congenital Laxity, Dinosaur Burgers, and “Poop Arm”[/h3]
On Sunday, Oct. 28th (pre-Sandy, feels like a long time ago now), I was fortunate to attend the Cressey Performance Seminar at Eric Cressey’s training center in Hudson, MA. First off, the facility itself is awesome – no wasted space full of fancy machines or treadmills. Just hardcore training equipment and plenty of room for moving around a building power. They’ve also got two lanes for bullpens, a long turf lane for sprints and sled drags, and (maybe my favorite) a big reinforced cement-block wall for med ball throws.

The day’s presentations were definitely geared more towards the strength and conditioning crowd, but I still came away with a ton of ideas for working more effectively with my pitchers. All the guys presenting did a great job, and I drove home that night energized and ready to get working on typing up my notes for you guys.

[h4]Something about a hurricane coming this way…[/h4]

But then my focus quickly shifted to bracing up for hurricane Sandy, getting everything inside, making sure we were stocked up, etc. And like a lot of people in this neck of the woods, we lost power the next day and I was effectively out of commission for the next week (it gave me a chance to spend some extra time at home with my two little ones, though, so it wasn’t all bad). Nothing like a “Super-Storm” to put things in perspective.

But I’m happy to say I’m officially back up and running, so as promised, here are my top takeaways from the Cressey Performance Seminar. I’m going to try to keep things concise, more bullet point format. If there are any points you want me to write more about just drop me a note in the comments section below.

Also, a lot of the info in the presentations was high level technical stuff that would probably be most interesting if you’re a strength coach or work in the physical therapy world. I’m not including a lot of that here, instead just focusing on what I think would be most helpful for you as a pitcher, coach or parent.

[h3]My Top Takeaways from the Cressey Performance Seminar[/h3]

1. Stop Assuming, Start Assessing
– Correct bad movement habits – don’t let athletes get really good at moving bad.
– Identify risk factors and movement faults at a young age BEFORE and athlete becomes symptomatic
“If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.”
– As a pitching coach, this is where motion analysis comes into play. The pitching delivery is one of the fastest movements in all of sports. If you’re not using video to analyze mechanics, you’re just guessing.

2. Question what you are doing – is there a better way?
– Cressey’s presentation on pitchers and congenital laxity made me pause and think about the warmup I’ve been using with my pitchers. A lot of pitchers are already very flexible in their extremities (it’s part of what makes them successful). In these cases, over-stretching can make joints more unstable, increasing the risk of injury. Instead focus on activating the muscles and stabilizing the joint.
– Don’t over-stretch pitchers who are already loose to begin with (may leave them more prone to injury).
– “Get Long, Get Strong, Train Hard.”

3. Warm up smarter
– Don’t fatigue your rotator cuff prior to throwing. Warm up, activate the muscles, stabilize the joints. Overly long warmups with weights, bands, etc. can be counter-productive.
– Don’t overstretch guys who are loose to begin with.

4. “Poop Arm” (as opposed to “dead arm”) – Beckett, Lincecum, Zito
– A lot of pitchers go through periods of “dead arm” over the course of a season. But I’d never heard the term “poop arm” before. Essentially, it’s when your arm just stinks (low velocity, prolonged drop in velocity).
– Of course, Zito and Lincecum both stepped up and dealt this World Series, but there’s no denying their careers (and velocity) had been on a decline to that point. Cressey highlighted these guys, along with Beckett, as pitchers who have lost velocity, are past their peak strength years (late 20’s), and don’t have a strong work ethic in the weight room. Could there be a connection?
– Zito does a ton of yoga (may be overkill if he’s already loose?) and Lincecum (“the Freak”) has always been against lifting heavy weights. As for Beckett, I grew up rooting for the Yankees, so I’ll leave it to Red Sox fans to say anything about his work ethic.

5. Panda and Dinosaur burgers are right around the corner
Brian St. Pierre gave a great presentation on the future of nutrition, discussing genetically modified foods among other things. The idea that scientists are developing a way to grow animal meat in a test-tube was pretty eye-opening. All they need is the right genetic material and they could make burgers out of just about anything.
– This doesn’t have much to do with pitching, but if got me thinking about the future of pitching and how advances in science are coming into play in building the 21st century pitcher.

6. “Meet, Read, Learn” – The value of continuing education
– Nathan Triplady, gave a great presentation on Manual Therapy (ART, Chiropractics, etc.), in which he also discussed the value of continuing ed for trainers (and coaches).
– Look at people who are the best at what they do, and they invariably are people who are committed to growth and constant learning.
– Recharge, expose yourself to new perspectives, learn, grow, and connect with others.

7. Don’t get complacent – you can always get better!
– Along the lines of #7, Triplady highlighted ART’s founder, who seems more interested in acquiring new toys than furthuring the field of study – case in point, his ElliptiGo…

8. Don’t be a jack of all trades
– Focus on your area of expertise and do it well.
– Understand other fields enough to recognize issues that need to be handled by experts in that field.
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Einstein

9. Don’t be a robot – adapt to the individual needs of your athletes
– Have a program, but emphasize different qualities depending on the needs of the athlete.
– Have your own philosophy

10. Get to the primary dysfunction
– Part of his presentation on Manual Therapy, but applies to pitching just as well.
– Oftentimes any problems you’re having with command, control or velocity can be pinpointed to one primary mechanical flaw or mobility issue.
– This is true with pitching mechanics, too. One major flaw in your delivery may be causing other flaws.
– Address that issue, and the other things fall into place.

11. Use funny images and quotes whenever possible.

This has nothing to do with anything, just a theme I noticed… but if you don’t like Bill Murray I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

12. Youth sports and having your priorities straight.
– Fun comes first, then fundamentals, then sports practice and training, then competition.
– Too often, coaches and parents get this backwards.

13. When are kids old enough to start lifting?
– If a kid’s ready to play sports at 10-14 years old, he’s old enough for strength training.
– It’s recommended to start out with Bodyweight workouts first. Joe Meglio has a program designed specifically for baseball players:Bodyweight Workouts for Baseball

14. Overuse injuries: the best pitchers are at the greatest risk.
– They’re most likely to get used more by their coaches.
– By throwing harder they’re putting more stress on their joints, even if they have perfect mechanics.

15. Being under-prepared is just as bad (or worse) than overuse
– According to stats from MLB, injuries are 10x more likely to occur in April than in September. Hmm… what does this say about these players’ off-season conditioning?
– Kyle Body of DriveLine Baseball wrote a great article on this topic recently (we disagree about how much rest young pitchers should get, but he makes some very good points).

16. Show more, talk less.
– Powerful advice for coaches, trainers and parents alike.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

He had a better photo in his presentation, but I couldn’t find it.

To sum up, it was a great event and I’m glad I went. It made me question some things, and perhaps more than anything, it reinforced my belief in the importance of getting Assessed.

As a reminder, if you live in the CT/NY area, I’ll be conduction full Pitcher’s Assessments this off-season with Sacred Heart University Baseball Strength Coach Josh Heenan.

If you’re not in our neck of the woods, you can still send me a video for Motion Analysis, and I’d recommend checking out Cressey’s Assess & Correct program.