Baseball

Coaching the Forearm Wallslide

A deceptively simple exercise, the forearm wallslide delivers a huge ROI:

Overtraining Part 2: Correct and Avoid It

In the last post, we went over some symptoms of overtraining. If you found yourself nodding along in agreement, then today’s post is certainly for you. If not, well, it’s still beneficial to read this to ensure you don’t end up nodding in agreement in the future.

To clarify, overtraining is, loosely, defined as an accumulation of stress (both training and non-training) that leads to decreases in performance as well as mental and physical symptoms that can take months to recover from. Read that last bit again: M.O.N.T.H.S. Just because you took a couple days off does NOT mean your body is ready to go again. The time it takes to recover from and return to normal performance will depend on how far into the realm of overtraining you’ve managed to push yourself.

Let's delve into recovery strategies. Of the many symptoms that can appear, chronic inflammation is a biggie. Whether that’s inflammation of the joints, ligaments, tendons, or muscles, it doesn’t matter; too much inflammation compromises their ability to function. (A little inflammation is ok as it jumpstarts the recovery process.) Just as you created a training plan, so to must you create a recovery plan for healing after overtraining.

Step 1: Seek to reduce inflammation.

How?

- Adequate sleep is imperative! As in, go to bed BEFORE 11 or 12 PM teenagers-that-must-awaken-at-6AM-for-school. (Subtleness is not my strong suit.) Conveniently for us, our bodies restores themselves during the night. They release anabolic hormones (building hormones) such as growth hormone (clever name) and sleep helps reduce the amount of catabolic (breaking down) hormones such as cortisol. Since increased levels of coritsol are part of the overtrained symptom list, it would be a good thing to get those levels under control!

- Eat whole foods. Particularly load up on vegetables (such as kale) and fruits (like berries) that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Apparently Gold Milk has those, too and, according to Jarrett, helps him sleep. Bonus! Lean protein sources like fatty fish, chicken breast, and leaner beef (grass-fed if you can get it) will not only help provide the much-needed protein for muscle rebuilding but also will supply  healthy fats that also help reduce inflammation.

- Drink lots of water. Water helps the body flush toxins and damaged tissues/cells out and keeps the body’s systems running smoothly. Water also lubricates your joints, which if they’re beat up already, the extra hydration will help them feel better and repair more quickly. A good goal is half your body weight in ounces of water guzzled.

Step 2: Take a week off

You’re muscles are not going shrivel up, lose your skill/speed, nor will your body swell up with fat. Take 5-7 days and rejuvenate. Go for a couple walks, do mobility circuits, play a pick-up basketball game… do something that’s NOT your normal training routine and just let your body rest. Remember, the further you wade into the murky waters of overtraining, the longer it will take to slog your way out.

Step 3: Learn from your mistakes.

While you’re taking your break, examine what pushed you over the edge. Was it too high of a volume and/or intensity? Was it too many days without rest? Was your mileage too high? Are there external factors you’re missing? Were you were stressed out at work/school, not sleeping enough, or maybe you weren’t eating enough or the right foods to support your activity. I’ve learned that I need 2 days of rest per week, any less than that and my performance tanks.

Step 4: Recalculate and execute.

When you’re ready to come back, don’t be a ninny and do exactly what you were doing that got you into this mess in the first place. Hopefully, you learned from your mistake(s) and gained the wisdom to make the necessary changes to avoid overtraining in the first place. Here, let’s learn from my mistake:

I overtrained; and I mean, I really overtrained. I had all the symptoms (mental and physical) for months and months. I was a walking ball of inflammation, every joint hurt, I was exhausted mentally and physically (and, decided to make up for my exhaustion by pushing myself even harder.) I ignored all the warning signs. This intentional stupidity led to my now permanent injuries (torn labrums in both hips, one collapsed disc in my spine, and two bulging discs). The body is pretty resilient, but it can only take so much. I ended up taking four months off, completely, from any activity beyond long walks. (That was terrible by the way. I hated every minute but knew it was necessary.) When I did come back, I had to ease into it. Very. Very. Slowly. Even then, I think I pushed it a bit too much. It took me almost 2 years to return to my normal physical and mental state. (Well, outside of the permanent injuries. Those I just work around now.) Learn from my mistake.

So how can we avoid overtraining? Here are simple strategies:

1. Eat enough and the right foods to support your activities.

2. Take rest days. Listen to your body. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to scale back your workout, do so.

3. Keep workouts on the shorter side. Avoid marathon weight lifting sessions (trust me). Keep it to 1-1.5 hours. Max. Sprint sessions shouldn’t exceed 15-20 minutes.

4. Sleep. High quality sleep should be a priority in your life. If it isn’t, you need to change that.

5. Stay on top of your SMR and mobility work. I wrote about SMR here and here.

6. Train towards specific goals. You can’t be a marathon runner and a power lifter. Pick one to three goals (that don’t conflict with each other) and train towards them. You can’t do everything at once.

Armed with the knowledge of overtraining prevention, rest, recover, and continue in greatness!

Off-Season Training: Overhead Athletes

kiss
kiss

Last week, we laid out some general guidelines for athletes heading into their off-seasons. You should read it, if you haven't already. Today, we'll delve into some specifics for overhead athletes (i.e. baseball, softball, javelin, shot put, swimmers (though it seems as if they never have an off-season), etc.). Shoulders are rather complicated and annoyingly fickle joints that can develop irritation easily which is why proper attention MUST be paid to shoulder mechanics and care during the off-season. There is nothing "natural" about throwing a heavy object (or a light one really, really fast) and shoulders can get all kinds of whacky over a long, repetitive season. I'm going to keep it sweet and simple.

1. Restore lost mobility and improve stability

- Hips: they get locked up, especially on athletes that travel a lot during the season (helloooo long bus rides). Restoring mobility will go a long way in preventing hip impingements, angry knees, and allow for freer movements in general. Locked up hips will prevent safe, powerful throws and batting, thus, now is the time, Padawans, to regain what was lost!

- Lats: Usually tighten up on the throwing side and create a lovely posture that flares the rib cage and makes breathing not-so-efficient. Loosen up these bad boys!

- Breathing patterns: Those need to be re-trained (or trained for the first time), too. Breathing affects EVERYTHING. Learning proper breathing mechanics will do a lot to restore mobility (T-spine, shoulder, and hips), increase stability (lower back and abdominal cavity), and create a more efficient athlete (more oxygen with less energy expended to get it). I've written about it before HERE.

- Pecs and biceps: These guys are gunky and fibrotic and nasty. Self-myofacial release is good, finding a good manual therapist would be even better, to help knead that junk out! One caveat: make sure that as you release these two bad boys, you also add stability back into the shoulder. This means activating lower and mid-traps and the rotator cuff muscles to retrain them to work well again. Why? Most likely, the pecs and biceps are doing a LOT of stabilization of the shoulder (which they shouldn't be doing so much) so if you take that away through releasing them, one of two things will happen: 1) injury will occur since there's nothing holding stuff in place, 2) no injury, but the pec and/or bicep will tighten right back up again as your body's way of producing stability. So, mobilize then stabilize!

2. Improve scapula movement and stability

Along the lines of restoring mobility everywhere, the scapula need particular attention in overhead athletes as they are responsible for pain-free, overhead movements. Below is a handy-dandy chart for understanding scapula movements:

shoulder-scapular-motions
shoulder-scapular-motions

Now, over the course of the season, an overhead athlete will often get stuck in downward rotation therefore at in the early off-season (and throughout really) we want to focus on upward rotation of the scapula. Exercises like forearm wallslides are fantastic for this.

Eric Cressey notes that the scapula stabilizers often fatigue more quickly than the rotator cuff muscles. This means the scapula doesn't glide how it should on the rib cage, which leads to a mechanical disadvantage for the rotator cuff muscles, which leads to impingements/pain/unstable shoulders.

We need a freely gliding scapula to get overhead pain-free.
We need a freely gliding scapula to get overhead pain-free.

As we increase the upward rotation exercises, we want to limit exercises that will pull the athlete back into downward rotation, i.e. holding heavy dumbbells at their sides, farmer walks with the weight at sides, even deadlifts.(whoa now, I'm not saying don't deadlift, but limit the volume on the heavy pulls for a few weeks, and like I said in the last post, training speed work will limit the amount of load yanking down on those blades.) Instead, athletes can lunge or farmer carry in the goblet position (aka, one bell at their chest). 

There is more to be said, but let us move on, shall we?

3. Limit med ball work

At SAPT, we back off on aggressive med ball throwing variations for the first couple weeks post season as the athletes have been aggressively rotating all season. Instead, we'll sub in some drills that challenge the vestibular such as single-leg overhead medicine ball taps to the wall. (I don't have a video, sorry.)

Or, stability drills such as this:

If we do give them some low-intensity throws, we'll have them perform one less set on their throwing side than on the non-throwing side.

4. Limit reactive work

We don't usually program a lot of sprint work or jumps the first few weeks. If we do program jumps, we'll mitigate the deceleration component by adding band resistance:

5. Keep intensity on the lower end

As mentioned in the last post, instead of piling on weight, we enjoy utilizing isometric holds, slow negatives, and varying tempos to reap the most benefit from the least amount of weight. We also maintain lower volumes over all with total program.

There you have it! Tips to maximize the off-season and lay a strong, stable foundation for the following season!