Young athletes often believe that the more they do, the better off they’ll be. Maybe it’s Hollywood selling this dream, or maybe it was their high school coach who preached this mantra day-in, day-out. Whatever the reason behind it, it’s always hard to slow athletes down when they’re chasing a dream; that is until they realize you have a valid reason.
This year, I had a pitcher who came from a big university with an exceptional strength and conditioning program. Generally, athletes from prominent strength programs have Movement Signatures with relatively high LOAD and EXPLODE values. Because LOAD represents the athlete’s ability to generate force through the anterior musculature, and their high value here is usually a direct result of lots of squats and plyometrics in their training program. Plyometrics are a reactive exercise and don’t often utilize long ground-contact time. This is where the posterior chain (DRIVE) is often neglected. This pitcher was no different, and his injury history had never allowed him to make it through a full season for over three years.
When I started working with him, he had a near perfect “U” scan, which is what we prefer a pitcher to have. After about 6 weeks and lot of extra training and conditioning on his own, his scan showed up in worse shape (76-54-49, see Signature to the right). The excessive workload combined with a hectic travel schedule produced some lost hip mobility and his body was beginning to tighten up - even his lower back. Looking at his scan, the tightening in his lower back made sense because instead of using his glutes and hamstrings to get into extension, he was using his lower back to brace and decelerate. After further analysis, I sat him down and we decided to make some changes.
Key Changes: *Added soft tissue work with the PVC pipe to allow tense muscles to relax *Limited conditioning *Only used exercises that statistically work for desired effect
In order to make the necessary changes in his program he had to first be educated on why. Again, remember this is a guy who had a ton of success at the collegiate level. Why should he change things now? Athletes with low DRIVE are most at risk for lower body musculotendinous injuries, and he had experienced a groin issue two years prior. In order to prevent that injury from reoccurring, the prescription had to change.
I put him on a steady dose of Split Squats paired with mobility work. I had him doing sets of 5, 3, or 1, depending on the week. Usually this exercise brings on excessive soreness, but because the volume was fairly low he did not experience an issue in-season. This “wave” programming allowed him to alternate between both neural and volume de-loads, allowing him to stay fresh. I also limited his conditioning to short sprints and agilities each week. Within 5 weeks, we saw his scan improve to 70-50-55 (see Signature left). His legs started to feel better, his lower back pain had gone away, and he had completely bought in to what we were trying to accomplish.
By limiting the amount of variables in his extra training, we were able to see exactly what worked for him in improving his overall health and performance. Objective readings on Sparta Signatures are invaluable tools, especially in-season, so players can modify their programs. In a season with 140+ games, it is vital to limit extra work and stick with what has been statistically proven.
Brian Buck is a former St. Louis Cardinal draft pick, now going on his fourth year as a Physical Performance Coach. Brian was born and raised in Portland, OR and now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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