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In the summer edition of Stack, a magazine “for the athlete by the athlete,” Dawn Weatherwax-Fall wrote a great article about baseball nutrition.  Dawn is an RD, CSSD, LD, ATL, CSCS, and she is a former Cincinnati Reds nutrition consultant.

She writes about hydration and the importance of starting your day with 10 to 32 ounces of fluid and continuously drink throughout the day.  (For more information on hydration, see the hydration post to this blog.)

She also says to “Limit Freebies.  Freebies are foods you should consume in moderation because they’re usually high in sugar and unhealthy fat (ie saturated/trans).  Limit these to once a day:  candy, soda, fried foods and other sweets.  The body cannot use such foods to build muscle, burn fat and creat sustainable energy.”

Dawn includes a sample meal plan which includes post-recovery breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, evening meal, evening snack, and supplementation.  To see the full article click here.

Nutrition should be a very important part of every athlete’s regimen.  You spend countless hours practicing the fundamentals of the game, working out, and preparing your body physically.  It’s equally as important to prepare your body internally with proper nutrition.  If you expect your body to perform at peak levels, then you need to provide it optimal choices of food and hydration.

For more information on proper nutrition, request a copy of the booklet Fueling Your Performance.

Now that we have established how vital spinal rotation is in baseball, here are some essential moves that should be a key component to an athlete’s work out regimen. For this core routine you will need a medicine ball, stability ball, Bosu, and set of medium weights. The medicine ball, hand weights and stability ball need to be appropriate size and weight according to the athletes height and strength. 

The first exercise is a lunge with medicine ball rotation. Standing with your core contracted and medicine ball in hand arms bent holding the ball at your chest step forward with your right foot placing yourself in a deep lunge. This movement should be slow and controlled, if you can not control the movement as well shorten the length of the lunge or depth. As you complete your lunge rotate your torso taking the ball over your right leg, the med ball should be parallel to your right hip. Return the ball straight forward and then back to standing position. As you lunge down and back upwards it is very important to keep all your weight in the heel of your foot. Transferring the weight from your heel to your toes works different muscles be sure to focus and push off with the heel in your lunge. Continue exercise on the left leg, doing equal sets on both left and right sides. 

The Second core exercise is a Bosu wood chops. It is a great exercise for balance and coordination along with core strength. Take a bosu round side up and kneel on top of it shoulder width apart in the center and find your balance. Then grab a hand weigh appropriate size for the athlete’s strength and hold it vertically in both hands over the right shoulder. Contract the core BEFORE you move the weight diagonally from the right shoulder across to the left knee in an axe swinging motion. As the weight is pulled down and core is contracted, the rib cage is drawn in and down towards the hip bones. Return the weight back up the right shoulder, do one set on the right before continuing on the left side. It is so imperative that you contract your core and draw in your rib cage on both pieces of the movement with your arms, if your core is not contracted you are not doing the exercise correctly, simply going through the motions will not serve the same purpose- a very common misconception in core training! 

The next exercise is the Russian twist on the ball; you will need the stability ball and a hand weight. Sitting on the stability ball walk your feet out so your body lowers down onto the ball. Stop once your shoulders have reached the ball, your body should be in a bridge on the stability ball keeping your pelvis up with the glutes contracted. Maintain a straight line from your knees up to your head. Hold one hand weight horizontally arms straight in front of your body taking the weight and rotating on the ball out to the right shoulder. Rotate the weight back to the center and then follow through over to the left shoulder. Draw the rib cage in and contract the core the entire time, again just rotating the weight over the right and left shoulder will not fully work the core, it is important to focus on contracting your core and keeping your pelvis drawn up through out the exercise. Keeping the pelvis up and body straight helps contract the core because you are supporting your spine. Repeat the motion counting one full movement from the right side rotation over to the left side and back forward as one rep.

The last exercise is a standing medicine ball wall tap. Stand about two feet from a wall, facing outward (back to the wall) holding a medicine ball in both hands arms extended forward in front of you. Contract the core and rotate your torso with the arms continually straight extending the ball back so it touches the wall. Bring the ball back to center and then continue over to the left side tapping the ball on the ball once again. One entire rotation from right to left wall, ball tapped on both sides counts as one set. Maintain straight arms through out the exercise, if you aren’t able the size med ball you chose is either to heavy for the exercise or your core is not staying contracted. Adjusting the weight of the ball and focusing on core contraction will perfect the exercise. 

In any core routine if you do not continually contract your core muscles the exercises you are doing will not do what they were designed to do, you need to focus on the muscles you are working and hold the correct posture for maximal results.

The core is your foundation.  It is the base upon which the other muscles are built.  The muscles of the core consist of the abdominal muscles, hip flexors, lower spinal muscles and glutes (gluteus maximus and minimus).  A weak core affects most motions done in baseball.  Working on your core will improve your game and make your workout safer for the rest of your muscles. 

One of the best programs for core exercises involves the exercise ball.  Exercise balls are the large blow-up balls you can buy at most fitness, sporting goods, or department stores (like Target or Wal-Mart).  They usually come with DVDs that contain instructions for a good core workout routine.  Pilates is also a good way to work the core muscles.  Abdominal crunches and pushups are alternatives that also work. 

By adding core strengthening to your exercise routine, you will improve the ability to throw, catch, run, and bat.  Furthermore, your back and abdominal muscles will feel better when you need to really push your abilities.  News reports have described an increase in injuries in high-caliber athletes over the last few years.  By adding core work along with gentle stretching and strengthening complementary muscles, one can correct the imbalances in the body, improve function, and reduce the risk of serious sport-career ending injuries.

Everything begins at our core, especially for any athlete. Many people believe the main goal and foundation of a strong core is the ultimate six pack, sound familiar? The most common misconception of core strength is concentrating only on your abdominal muscles. The entire core consists of abdominals, back, and gluteus muscles. For optimal core strength it is important to maintain a balance between these three muscle groups.

 A key component in core strength that doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention it should is the psoas and iliopsoas muscles.  These muscles lay deep beneath the external core muscles of the abdomen and back, originating along the lumbar vertebrae, and iliac fossa of the pelvis. The psoas muscle group flexes and externally rotates the hip joint, also assisting with the rotation and flexion of the lumbar spine. As our bodies anticipate action or movement, the brain drives communication to our core muscles to stabilize the spine. An athletes weakened core will inhibit these vital movements; decreasing range of motion within lumbar rotation and hip flexion hindering training abilities and dexterity.

The primary functional movement for baseball is spinal rotation; with out core strength the proper stabilization and rotation of the spine can not be conducted. All of the power forced through the limbs of a baseball player is accomplished from the core muscles. The additional strength that is built within the core muscles will increase the athlete’s action potential producing a more superior power to be propelled through out the movement created.

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In performing successful treatments to a sprain/strain it is important to properly define the difference between the two. 

A Sprain is an injury to ligaments that is caused by being stretched beyond their normal capacity and possibly torn. A muscular/tendon tear caused in the same manner is referred to as a strain. Ligaments are tough, fibrous tissues that connect bone to bone across the joints. Tendons connect muscular tissue to bone. 

After an acute injury to a muscle or ligament the first stage of treatment is to prevent further injury to the involved area.  A well known approach is R.I.C.E.  This acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.  Treatment protocols can now be instituted carefully.  The objectives of treatment are to relieve pain and spasm, promote proper healing, prevent further swelling, reduce scar tissue formation, and regain strength, flexibility, coordination of tissue. Once all of these characteristics are met it is vital to have a progression to return to activity and safeguards in place to reduce the chance of reinjury. 

There are three different stages of injury. They are mild, moderate and severe.  Many of the minor injuries are not evaluated by a qualified professional.  One may think these injuries heal and are no longer an issue.  These types of injuries may lead to future and more severe injuries.  Even minor injuries to tendons and ligaments need to be properly rehabilitated.  

A comprehensive treatment approach to sprain/strain injuries usually promotes a faster healing response.  Incorporating chiropractic, rehabilitation stretches and exercises, advanced soft tissue techniques and proper diet and supplements are a common approach.

In sports such as tennis and other racquet sports, you can hit the ball to direct it to a particular spot or area. But can you also do this in baseball? If we take the comments made by many hitting coaches seriously, the answer would be yes. 

However, according to Tony Gwynn, one of the best hitters in recent times, this may not be possible. According to him, “You just see the ball, hit the ball. If it’s in the zone you put a good swing on it and see what happens.” This implies that you have no control over where the ball goes.  I am inclined to agree with Tony although on the highest levels it should be possible to direct the ball where you want. When I say highest levels I mean players who have outstanding abilities to make highly accurate contact with the ball. There are very few such players in MLB. 

In contrast to what Gwynn says, coaches continually preach to the players to hit level, grounders, line drives, or to hit down and so on. Do such recommendations aid a player in making good contact or is it a further distraction? I’m tempted to go with the latter result. It would be  interesting to take a poll of professional and minor-league ballplayers to determine if they think of where they want to hit the ball prior to a pitch coming or during the pitch delivery. I would not be surprised if the answer was something like “just concentrating to see the ball and to make contact”. This is analogous to what Gwynn stated above. 

But since MLB is not into the science of the game I doubt if we’ll ever see studies of this nature done — at least in the near future. But yet it is studies like this that can make a world of difference in improving the player’s ability to make good contact and have more hits, including home runs. 

For more information on what it takes to develop a high-level player see Build a Better Athlete

Author: Dr. Michael Yessis – from XL Athlete