Proper Warmups For Weight Training

Our baseball athletes undergo a rigorous offseason workout schedule that incorporates a ton of heavy weight lifting – mostly done with barbells, but we use dumbbells for single-arm exercises (rows) and pressing (bench press with the neutral grip and the occasional push press) as well. Most of the athletes that I get come into the gym ready to go wearing shorts and a cotton t-shirt and ask “What’s first, coach?” Assuming that they’ve already passed their initial assessment that all my clients undergo, we talk to them about proper warmup procedures and ask them what they typically do to get ready for lifting some serious weight.

The responses are varied and interesting. Most include basic static stretching, maybe a little bit of running or elliptical trainer work, a few minutes on the Airdyne, and in some exceptional cases, yoga poses and actual dynamic range of motion work. However, no one has come to me and discussed soft tissue quality and/or foam rolling as part of their warmup techniques!

Soft tissue quality is extremely important when maintaining and gaining flexibility/mobility and plays a huge role in “prehab” and rehab operations equally. This topic is worth studying and dedicating a few posts to later on, but for now I’ll just talk about proper warmups that we use at Driveline Baseball to get ready to move heavy weight (which are similar to the warmups we do before batting practice or throwing a bullpen).

First: Foam Rolling / Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)

To me, foam rolling is a no-brainer. Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson wrote a groundbreaking article titled “Feel Better for 10 Bucks” on T-Nation that changed the way I trained athletes (and myself). Here’s a quick excerpt from said article:

It’s also fairly well accepted that muscles need to not only be strong, but pliable as well. Regardless of whether you’re a bodybuilder, strength athlete, or ordinary weekend warrior, it’s important to have strength and optimal function through a full range of motion. While stretching will improve the length of the muscle, SMR and massage work to adjust the tone of the muscle.

I’m going to plagiarize Eric Cressey again and show you a video that he taped that discusses the foam rolling progressions he has his athletes go through. They are very similar and nearly identical to the foam rolling patterns our athletes go through:

Second: Dynamic Stretching / Mobility Work

For many athletes – and especially baseball players -  this involves pounding away at hip mobility. Stronglifts.com has a great article on this topic along with companion videos. Basic stuff like simple leg swings can make a huge difference over the long run:

We also work on ankle mobility and stabilization (a topic I wrote about last month), as this is huge in any squatting pattern. You’ll also find that soccer players and baseball athletes (both pitchers and hitters) will have deficits between their “plant” leg and their free leg. Don’t just work on one ankle – work them both to bring them up equally!

There’s also a bit of static stretching involved prior to our lifts – I know, I know. Static stretching before lifting or power-based movements has gotten a bad reputation. However, like many controversial topics, it has been vastly overblown. Static stretching of the hip flexors prior to squatting or jumping has been shown to improve performance and working the agonist/antagonist relationships (hanging from the chin-up bar prior to bench press, for example) tends to help a lot as well.

ichiro_stretch

One of our favorite static stretches - the "Ichiro" stretch

Third: Band Work

We use resistance bands quite a bit between sets and prior to lifting to get the blood flowing throughout the body and to increase mobility in important areas. We’ll often do some facepulls and general scapular mobility work, X-band walks and other glute activation work, and simple internal/external ROM work for the shoulder.

I hope that this article helps you to think about warming up for weight training – and sports in general – a little differently, and perhaps more seriously. You can pick up resistance bands or mobility/flexibility products from our respective Products pages. Give them a shot – I bet you’ll notice a big difference next time you’re in the gym!

By |February 8th, 2010|Training|2 Comments

Thomas Test – Applications in Baseball

This video is an excellent explanation of the Thomas Test as used by physical therapists around the world:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PLXyShrNDc

We will often perform this test on clients over the age of 16. While it is traditionally used to test for a fixed flexion deformity of the hip (and we do check for this), we use it with baseball players to test for a tight rectus femoris because of the single-leg dominance that occurs on the pitcher’s stride leg. (For an RHP, this is their left leg.)

Quadriceps Muscle GroupDuring the lead leg block phase of pitching, the stride leg straightens very quickly and bears all the weight of the pitcher’s body. To get to that point, the pitcher will have used his posting leg hip adductors to stride sideways and closed to the target. If this sounds like a muscle imbalance and problems waiting to happen, you’re right!

Tim Lincecum at Lead Leg Block

Tim Lincecum at Lead Leg Block

The pitching motion typically causes tight hip flexors (moreso in the posting leg) and a tight rectus femoris in the stride leg. As a general rule, tight hip flexors mean weak glutes, which can cause postural problems and lowered power output in exercises like the squat. It can also cause diminished velocity, susceptibility to injury, and general discomfort. These problems are often exacerbated by the fact that many kids and adults spend most of their day sitting down – either at a desk in class or in a chair in front of a keyboard at work!

The Thomas Test helps identify which leg has deficiencies and to what degree they exist. We teach Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) at Driveline Baseball to help people loosen their hip flexors, regain strength in their glutes, and relax the fascia in various places in the body (a lengthier post on this subject is coming later).

foam_roller_technique_01Does your baseball coach understand the usefulness of foam rolling? Does he understand the differences between the stride and posting leg actions causing muscle imbalances? Does he know how to correct for it and also integrate SMR work in a good training program? If not, check us out for a cheap initial screening and analysis at our Training page. $25 gets you a session to check for muscle imbalances and postural problems as well as a personalized workout plan and how you can add some serious velocity to your fastball and stay healthy while doing so!

By |December 14th, 2009|Training|1 Comment