As with every client who steps through the door at Cressey Performance, each pro player coming back from the season undergoes a thorough evaluation through which an individualized program- from warmups and stretching, to agility, medicine ball exercises and the lifting program- is created. The evaluation consists of a thorough mobility and movement screening through which areas of concern become quite evident. Joint mobility is measured and movement patterns- overhead squats, walking overhead lunges, among others- are assessed.
No matter how hard one works to counteract the progressive damage which occurs during the season, each player has their own issues after the grind of the season. In fact, many guys show up for the first time looking something like this.
Thankfully, having been through 3 1/2 professional seasons and 3 off-seasons at Cressey Performance, I’m much less of a train-wreck than when I walked through the door in 2008 having since added about 30 pounds of additional lean muscle with increased mobility. Though still it’s important that I keep an eye on these areas because as with any high intensity repetative exercise, especially a throwing motion with upwards of 35 Nm of force acting on the elbow, the excessive stresses during throwing and decelerating the throwing motion will cause all kinds of tightness and tissue quality issues that manifest itself throughout the whole body in various ways. Left unchecked, you’re likely to find yourself in the training room or worse- the operating room.
On my first visit in 2008, amongst other smaller mobility inefficiencies, my biggest issues were hip flexor tightness causing “lower crossed syndrome” and a continual battle with maintaining proper range motion in my throwing shoulder.
My main areas of concern
1. “Lower Crossed Syndrome”– Very common area of concern considering the amount of time most people spend sitting, or in my case in the past- squatting in the crouched catchers position. What often occurs is that excessive time spent in the shortened hip flexors position causes chronic tightness, and in turn it pulls at the abdominals, both lengthening and weakening the abdominals. Tight hip flexors, combined with weak abdominals end up pulling the pelvis into anterior alignment, which lengthens and weakens the gluteus maximus and causing lower back tightness. All this in combination prevents individuals from being able to get full hip extension and glute/hamstring activation, which is necessary for maximum efficiency in training and many athletic movements- including hitting and throwing.
2. Arm range of motion– As I mentioned earlier, the stresses placed on the arm during the throwing motion are tremendous. In fact, some research in cadavers shows that when the ulnar collateral ligament is placed under stresses mimicking that of throwing, they rupture. When evaluating range of motion in the shoulder, the main focus should be on total range of motion. While the internal and external rotation may be different on each arm, they should end up having a similar total arc. In my case, during my initial assessment my total arc for my throwing arm was less than that of my non throwing arm, and my internal rotation especially was borderline limited. I am prescribed a series of table stretches as well as extra stretches to work on range of motion. Additionally, there are now a number of breathing exercises which can have an immediate impact on shoulder range of motion.
There are a whole host of other issues which are commonly seen in athletes and non-athletes alike. For a more in depth article on these issues, I’d encourage you to check out “Fixing the Flaws: A Look at the 10 Most Common Biomechanical Weak Links in Athletes” a classic from Eric Cressey in 2008.
Overall, the evaluation process signifies the beginning of the offseason and it’s a process which is often unfortunately overlooked. When I train, I want to train hard and smart- in a way in which I know I will not only get strong, but improve my mobility and stay healthy longterm. After all, what is sports training worth if you can’t stay healthy enough to perform in your sport? This includes proper warm up, proper lifting form, and nutrition- all of which I hope to further discuss and demonstrate in depth throughout my off-season.
On deck: The Warm-Up
Check out this video for a further idea of what my training at Cressey Performance is about: