Absolutely. I am currently a coach at IFAST and have been there for about a year and a half. Prior to that I was a director at a YMCA and ran an athletic development program there.
I love sports and I’m passionate about helping our young ones so blending the two was an ideal career choice. I spend most of the time outside the gym working on continued ed or watching sports, stand-up comedy and reruns of The Office.
I didn’t know you liked the Office?!?! I’ll have to tell you about how Jess and I crushed four seasons in six weeks a while back. But I digress…
How did you originally get into the world of strength and conditioning/physical preparation?
I got my start with Lee Taft. I was working a basketball camp his daughters attended and happened to be helping his youngest daughter. We got to talking, he asked if I would be interested in working with athletes and here I am.
I remember working third shift at a juvenile detention facility writing mock programs and studying materials he recommended or gave me when I was supposed to be doing my job…clear sign I was in the wrong job at the time.
I owe a lot to Lee. As a former athlete I think you are always finding ways to stay connected to athletics and Lee provided me with that opportunity and tools to be successful at it.
Very cool, and since you mentioned Lee, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see when people talk about speed training?
We, the industry, do too many one size fits all speed and agility programs. Also, we do too many rehearsed drills. Sports aren’t rehearsed.
Every play is unique and we have to arm our athletes with the abilities to REACT to their environment and make the play. This is my favorite topic so I’ll list a few things.
Lastly, we need to redefine what speed and agility really is. It’s gait. It’s receiving a load and producing a force. That sounds like strength training too.
So for me, speed and agility start in the weight room with solid movement patterns and control of those patterns. Then build more dynamic work on top of that foundation.
Let’s take that a step further, and start to apply it to baseball (since that is this week’s theme).
Baseball is a perfect example of reactive speed. You have no idea what is going to happen from play to play. You can try to shift and spot pitches to get a better prediction of each play but you still don’t know until the ball comes off the bat…or the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand if you are a base runner.
Furthermore, each position differs in what they need to be able to do. A centerfielder and third baseman need different movement skills. Some need all out speed and others need to be quick to a spot a short distance from them.
I love the term “reactive speed,” and I think that’s a common theme with many high-level coaches these days.
But if a kid comes to you and simply wants to steal more bags, where would you start with his programming?
As an industry we need to be careful about speed training with kids. We try to see how hard we can make it for our athletes instead of spending that time trying to make it appropriate for our athletes.
You can give almost any stimulus to a kid and get a response. But we need the appropriate stimulus for that response. Depending on the age, maybe they just need to learn skipping variations, play games like tag and push stuff.
Med ball throws work really well, too, and here’s one of my favorite moves in that regard:
As they mature, strength training can be incorporated to improve relative strength which will improve the athlete’s ability to produce force and produce it faster. From a coaching stand point I always find myself cueing arm action and lean in acceleration. Your arms and legs are connected in gait and if you drive your arms faster and longer then your legs will do the same. So there’s an easy starting point to increase speed.
Acceleration is huge, especially in sports. People love to talk top-end, but acceleration is where it’s at.
Let’s shift gears and talk about the long-term development of baseball players, because I know that’s something you’re passionate about.
I have found training baseball players to be little bit of an art. Not every player throws the same way. They might use a pec or lat to internally rotate the humerus when maybe we don’t want those to do that action.
How a player throws is simply an adaptation in response to the need to throw harder. So if an established pitcher is 23 and throwing 97mph without pain then I may not change much at that time because taking something away or making him throw a different way may drop his velocity.
On the flip side, if the player is young then I most definitely will strive for optimal mechanics and build strength/power on top of that. I would also give them activities in the frontal plane like hula hooping, side lunging, lateral sled drags, etc. to make sure they develop good frontal plane mechanics…mainly at the feet because you need to evert the loaded leg on a throw if you want to use the glute max for power.
To sum it up, kids need to play and do a variety of activities in all planes to foster good movement and as the player ages we begin to add strength and narrow our focus (scapular work, etc.).
Excellent. And you practice what you preach here, because you’ve trained Trey Ball (#7 overall pick in the 2013 draft) for several years now.
How has his training evolved since you’ve been working with him?
Trey is an incredibly gifted athlete. He had power from day one…fast twitch to the bone.
However, he was 6’5 and 170lbs when we started together. We originally started together for combine prep as a junior in high school. There was an initial concern from him, his parents and coaches about lifting weights. So I introduced it slowly.
It actually gave us time to get his patterns down. Each year his off season training evolves a little and more lifting is introduced. Also, as I improve as a coach we get more focused on the finer details like can he get into his hips properly or does he have the ability to flex his trunk so he can come over the top of the ball as he pitches.
He’s added some size and a lot of strength in the last few years and his performance has steadily improved with that. He’s a great kid with an exciting future in front of him.
That’s awesome, and it’s been cool to see Trey grow the past two off-seasons.
Along those same lines, you have quite a few young baseballers you train at IFAST now as well. What are some common issues you see with young baseball players?
There is research out there showing younger baseball players don’t disassociate well and therefore don’t produce much trunk rotation. This puts more stress on the young players shoulder/arm because it now has to make up for the force disassociating would give.
It is a skill developed as they develop. I don’t want to jump on the bashing year round baseball train but I see tons of young baseball players that can’t skip, stand on one leg, or do a proper push up or bodyweight squat.
I see 3 pillars in athletics that need developed:
- Sport skill,
- Physical development, and
- Mental development.
The more physically literate our young baseball players are the better their baseball specific training will be.
It’s like showing up to the construction site with silverware. You might have tools but they aren’t ideal or the ones you need.
So taking time to develop yourself physically outside of baseball will have a huge impact on your improvement in the game.
I love that analogy!
Let’s talk movement in general, because we’ve had some great discussions in that realm. Through the upper body, what are some of the big issues you see with baseball players, and how is this affecting their performance?
I used to think pure shoulder flexion was the key to throwing. After being with baseball players and studying the body mechanics of the game, I think trunk rotation might be the key.
The ability to load thru the core with disassociation of the trunk and hips will put less stress on the shoulder. With most athletes being stuck in an extended posture, the ability to rotate through the trunk is compromised.
A loss of internal rotation at the shoulder can be a big problem as well. If you don’t have the necessary internal rotation to throw then your elbow will make up for it. I think this is where a lot of our elbow injuries are coming from. I see thrower after thrower come in with a lack of shoulder IR and we aim to address that immediately.
Exactly. And you can’t talk shoulder health in the baseball world without discussing the Throwers 10.
I know that you and young Lance created your own version of this – could you tell everyone a little bit about that?
We are extremely proud of our New Throwers 10. As our industry progresses and evolves, we learn more and more about the body.
Lance and I took this knowledge and formed a program driven by what a baseball player biomechanically needs to do.
We reach to get abs and serratus going as well as learn to flex.
We alternate in and out of the hips for good loading and unloading.
Every exercise is designed to give the athlete the ability to do what the sport calls for.
With the exercises we have found internal rotation at the shoulder to improve, scapular stability improve, trunk rotation improve and loading/unloading at the hips improve. Here is a link to it if you’d like to see it:
Perfect – now let’s work our way down the chain. We hear about back problems and oblique strains all the time, but what mechanically is going on to drive this?
I don’t want to give extension a bad name because athletes need it. They need it to be powerful.
The problem is when we get stuck there, we lose frontal and transverse plane abilities.
If I can’t get rotation at my hips guess where I rotate from? The back.
If I’m extended and my ribs are up, that puts the obliques on stretch. They lose leverage to be effective in that long position.
So now you go play a sport that requires aggressive rotation and the abs are in a weak position to work and you have to use your back because you can’t use your hips.
Try exhaling for 5 seconds. Feel your ribs go down. Your abs should engage. That is the ideal posture to be in when playing a sport that requires rotation and frontal plane movement.
Your obliques are now in a strong position and can be more effective thus saving your back and reducing or preventing strains. Getting those ribs down with your obliques also pulls the pelvis in a better position and can give you optimal motion at the hips.
Geeky talk like this is why we’re friends!
Ty, it’s always great chatting but I have one more question I’d like to ask. What is one mistake you’ve made along the way, and how have you learned from that mistakes going forward?
The mistake I most commonly made was giving athletes exercises they weren’t prepared to do because I was in a rush to get the result.
This just ended in frustration all the way around because the athlete wouldn’t progress like we wanted and they occasionally would get pain.
Now, I am more disciplined in my approach and am sure to prepare all my clients with what they need to be successful. Take the time to clean things up in the beginning and you won’t have to take steps back as you go and you’ll have more success in the long run…and therefore happier clients.
Awesome man, thanks again for taking the time. Now I know you’re social media averse, but if someone wanted to get in touch with you how could they do that?
Haha I am trying to hold out on the social media stuff despite the pressure.
I always welcome emails so feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I love talking training and helping if I can so please shoot me an email if you have something.
Thanks again Ty – I really appreciate it!