Be safe! Bulletproof your shoulders for baseball

Its springtime and that means it’s time for Baseball and Softball. Players and coaches know that maintaining shoulder health is important for these sports, but they don’t always know what to do about it. Use these simple exercises to bulletproof your shoulders and stay in the game.

In this video, Coach Kenny Kallen shares two exercises that help improve posture and increase mobility in the thoracic spine and latissimus dorsi. Using these exercises in your warm-up will increase functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders. The ultimate result will be better-throwing mechanics and less pain.

Next, Coach Ken Vick explains why shoulder stability is so important for baseball players. He demonstrates the Band Y, T, and W exercises to be used in any warm-up or workout routine. Improve your baseball throwing mechanics by stabilizing your scapula and rotator cuff to control your follow-through. Improvements in this area translate into increased speed, functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders.

Sports Medicine Specialist Wes Rosner shows you how the 1/2 Turkish Get-Up can help baseball players strengthen and stabilize the shoulders, back, and core to help prevent injury when it comes to game time.

4 myths about Muscle pliability you need to know

Trainer performing gratin technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit recently. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term to express some of the qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

 

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “’Soft’ isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

 

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short.’”

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

 

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

How Velocity Helps Athletes Improve from Injury to Recovery

After a sports or orthopedic injury, people set a process in motion when they enter the healthcare system.  The decisions throughout that process can determine whether they recover quickly, with low risk of future re-injury, or whether they endure a slow recovery and a condition that can last for years.

The traditional therapy model might have the injured person going to 8 to 12 sessions of treatment, and then being turned loose to manage on their own.

This traditional model is often focused on treating the symptoms and reducing pain, but doesn’t address the underlying causes of that problem.

According to Velocity Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka; “When underlying problems such as restricted mobility, muscle imbalances, poor joint stability or lack of functional strength aren’t addressed the risk of re-injury and/or chronic pain often remains.”

Those underlying problems can lead many individuals to experience a frustrating cycle of pain and injury, re-entry into the healthcare system, treatment, and release.  They can go through that repeatedly without ever getting to the root of the problem.

Velocity’s therapy model is built from the experiences working with the world’s elite athletes and organizations.  In that arena, performance is the name of the game, and results matter. 

Instead of “chasing the pain” alone, Velocity looks at the big picture of the athlete as a whole.  From evaluating the person’s basic fundamental movements, mobility, stability and function each individual’s needs can be identified to create a roadmap to recovery.

A Velocity specialists works with a professional athlete to assess a movement dysfunction.

“Whether it’s an Olympian trying to win to a medal, a young athlete trying to make it to the next level, or a serious weekend warrior, they have common goals in therapy. They all want to eliminate pain and be able to perform at their highest level.  No one wants to be restricted from the sports and activities they love.”

From the initial assessments, Velocity creates an integrated treatment plan that may involve rehab specialists, massage therapists, trainers, nutrition coaches, and mindset coaches.

For many people who have experienced the traditional healthcare model, this integrated approach can be a refreshing experience.

While most people may have experienced working with a rehab therapist, or maybe even a massage therapist, few have seen a coordinated effort with athletic strengthening, movement training, nutrition and mindset.  This is a whole new dimension.

Tania provides manual therapy to a member of the US Weightlifting team in preparation for the World Championships.

Tanioka explains this perspective, “It’s the model we strive for in our Athlete-Centered approach.  That means we focus on the individual as a whole, their goals, and what they can do, instead of what they can not do.  We want them to stay as active as possible in the process of restoring function and getting back to full, pain free sport and activity.”

Velocity built the model based on the demands of elite sport.  Training, Recovery, and Rehabilitation are facilitated with Mindset and Nutrition to help athletes achieve their goals.

For elite athletes, this makes sense and they have the mindset to do everything possible to recover.  But injuries aren’t as frequent for the weekend warriors and young athletes, and they may not be exposed to a comprehensive support system.

They might not be able to find the solutions as easily, and often end up more frustrated or find progress stagnates through the traditional process.  Their risk of reinjury can also be higher because of this.

Therapy isn’t just a short series of visits.  In the Velocity model, it’s a mindset of integrating all of the elements to achieve faster recovery, and sustain high performance.   “Instead of seeing therapy as something you do to merely eliminate the symptoms, we want to help people to recognize what their body requires, and start building good habits to consistently be able to take care of their needs” says Tanioka.

Velocity delivers solutions for athletes and active individuals with a new model of rehabilitating sports and orthopedic injuries.  By integrating a full spectrum of disciplines, each person can return to full, pain-free function quickly and safely, and maintain that performance for a long time.

How To Protect Against ACL Injuries

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AL-Injuries

Although Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are not as career ending as they used to be, they are still significant enough to greatly impact an athlete’s season and future potential. Because of this, they are obviously best avoided. Although no injury is completely unavoidable, preparation prior to competition is essential to reducing the risk. 

Two primary causes for a non-impact ACL injury: inadequate deceleration and poor muscular balance. Deceleration is the ability to slow down and control force production. This is an extremely important skill for athletes to master during training. When athletes lack the ability to decelerate efficiently, they put themselves at risk for a non-impact ACL injury during rudimentary actions like changing direction fast or landing from a jump.

The following tips are essential to include in your comprehensive preventative conditioning program:

Proper Warm-Up: A proper warm up is key for preparing the body for activity.  By warming up your muscles first, you greatly reduce your risk of injury during competition of practice.

Strength Training: Strengthening of the hamstrings, quads, core and gluteus musculature can help to maintain upper and lower leg alignment, thus reducing stress and excessive rotation at the knee.

Improve Balance: Single-leg exercises and drills can help to eliminate imbalance differences between the right and left leg.

Controlled Plyometrics: Vertical jumps and plyometric exercises should be included but must be controlled, not allowing the knees to collapse together.  This inward movement (valgus collapse) of the knees is a predictor of ACL injuries. Start by using both legs and progress to single leg lateral jumps.

Injury Prevention Screening: Screenings can be a key to possibly identifying individual needs, thus further reducing the risk of injury.  Mobility (range of motion) and/or stability (strength-related motor control) asymmetries must be addressed. The Functional Movement Screen and similar objective standardized measures can be used to assess for possible impairment of proper functional movement.

Consistency is key to reap the benefits from a comprehensive preventative conditioning program. For best results, the above listed workouts and training methods should be completed at minimum three times a week.