Every once in a while we athletes find ourselves in a predicament. A very depressing, shameful predicament. Of course, I’m talking about the times when no where in sight can we find weights or a weight room….Sigh
I’ve even found this to be somewhat of a common occurrence in professional baseball. A fact that most people can’t seem to put their head around. I’ll often say to friends who have a more outsiders perspective of the game that not only does professional baseball view training with weights as only “somewhat” important, we as professional players are only “sometimes” allowed or “sometimes” given an opprotunity to be around or in a weight room. My friends and peers are always baffled since their view of baseball, rightly so, is a sport that should require players to train hard, eat right, and stay in shape. More on that topic in a future article..
In this post, I’m going to show you a mobility/stability/strength exercise all rolled into one that I’ve come to love for my younger athletes, who just like me, are sometimes in the absence of weights.
To give you a little background on where I first thought to share this post…
I teach a strength and conditioning class for athletes ranging from ages 9-13, most of them haven’t even seen a weight. This gives me a unique opportunity to teach them basic movement patterns that will translate well when they stumble into a gym someday.
Often, I deal with a large group of kids, about 15-25, in an open space with no equipment. It’s then my job to coach proper form on the exercises I deem appropriate, to the best of my ability, all the while keeping them interested, and getting them a solid training effect.
During an hour-long group session, I normally space it out with an extended dynamic warmup starting stationary and transitioning into variations that have them move down the length of the floor. For example knee hug to overhead lunge walk. From there, we get into some quicker pre sprint plyometric movements, then sprinting, and then the bulk of the time is spent on getting stronger. I have to keep in mind these kids are super young, so this is the most critical part of our sessions together.
A commonality amongst a young group of athletes is the fact that they are generally very unstable physically. Chances are if I ask them to take a lunge step forward, their knee will cave in or something just won’t look right. If I ask one of them to do a push-up, my bet is they have trouble moving through the whole range correctly. Same goes for the other big movements like an overhead squat pattern. Nearly all kids lack the strength or stability to move through these very basic patterns correctly.
So what is stability? As Charlie Weingroff, a world-renowned doctor of physical therapy, and strength coach puts it, “Stability is control in the presence of change”
With this “stability” trait that athlete’s need so vitally, it’s gotta be my focus to train this in the younger groups who need it so desperately.
So with that, here is that exercise you’ve been waiting to hear about.
I first use this for the part of the warm-up when we move down and back the length of the floor. It’s a movement we could do in place, but to make it more of a challenge, I like to move with it.
There are a few different variations of the inchworm, but for the most part the benefits include:
Shoulder strength and scapular mobility
Core strength and activation
Hamstring and ankle mobility
HOW TO COACH– The biggest issues I see when people are trying to execute the inchworm are….
a.) moving too fast- Tell them to slow down, pause briefly after each step, and hold that push-up position a little longer.
b.) not staying tight- Unstable clients will tend to move more side to side, constantly losing that key “control in the presence of change”. Cue them to stay tight through their core, keep that chin tucked, and squeeze their glutes as often throughout the movement as possible. These should help them clean it up.
Here are a couple of variations..
-This girl adds in a push-up for good measure…an extra strength component.
-Here is one of my strength coaches, friend, and badass in general speaking terms, Tony Gentilcore, performing an inchworm complex. This would be for a more advanced athlete.
Of course it sucks not being able to go move heavy things around the gym. But if push comes to shove, just whining about it won’t get you better. We as athletes need to be like chameleons, and thrive in any circumstance thrown at us. In a baseball season you aren’t always going to be around a gym, but it’s still your job to stay in shape, stay as healthy as possible, and be ready to roll each day or night. This exercise, the inchworm, is a great tool to add into a strength routine or a warmup if you’re at the gym or at the field, or in some random city with nothing but a 7/11 and a ballpark.