Grit Gym Podcast Interview - (Video)

Recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk shop with Grit Gym owner and operator Adam Rees.

What did we talk about? 

  • Similarities and differences between male and female strength training 
  • Why adults should use med ball training more frequently 
  • Learn a little more about me and how I ended up working at Cressey Sports Performance 
 

Softball: 4 Simple Solutions to Help Improve Tight Lats

Main Takeaway: Strength coaches should assess before assuming that every athlete that walks through their door has the ability to work overhead safely. Learn how to detect and manage those athletes who have tight lats. 

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As a whole, college strength coaches have migrated away from performing individualized assessments. In result, coaches tend to miss contraindications that wind up hurting players due to poor exercise selection for specific individuals. 

It's no secret that a vast majority of college strength coaches use the Olympic lifts and overhead work to help build strength and power. However, there are times when some overhead athletes such as softball players don't have the adequate active nor passive shoulder flexion to perform work overhead. In my mind you need to EARN the right to work overhead. A lack of shoulder flexion combined with overhead work will almost always result in compensation patterns that end up injuring lower backs, shoulders and chewing up medial elbows overtime.  

How to Detect Lat Stiffness? 

To detect lat stiffness use these 2 simple tests. 

Test 1: Standing Shoulder Flexion (active) 

Good standing shoulder flexion: They can get full shoulder flexion without compensation and with good scapulohumeral rhythm. 

Poor standing shoulder flexion: The individual lacks full shoulder flexion with or without compensating


Test 2: Supine Shoulder Flexion (passive) 

Good supine shoulder flexion: The individual is able to get both of their arms down to the assessment table without compensating. 

Poor supine shoulder flexion: The individual is unable to get both of their arms down to the table. 

Check out this quick video to see if your athlete has tight lats. 
 

 

 

How can I manage tight lats? 

Action Step 1: Manual Therapy on the Latissimus dors and Teres Major

Seeing an experienced manual therapist at least (1-2x/week) and performing soft tissue work on yourself every day could be the difference maker in gaining full shoulder flexion back. 

When would I choose this option?  
Use this option if both test 1 and test 2 are poor 

Action Step 2: Breath and Stretch

A simple way to lengthen the lat is by adding more warm-up drills that place the lat on stretch. Here are some drills to consider. 

When would I choose this option? 
Choose this option if test 2 is poor. 


Action Step 3: Create good anterior core stiffness

By stiffness, I mean the ability to move your limbs (arms and legs) around a braced core. Performing simple anterior and rotary core drills such as these ones below will improve core control and give you more time away from being in a gross extension pattern. 

Note** have no clue what a extension based pattern looks like? Click this awesome article Tony Gentilcore wrote about it to learn more.

When would I choose this option?  
Use this option if test 1 is poor. Actually, use these drills EVERY DAY with your athletes. As a strength coach, you can't go wrong with having a rock solid core. 


Action Step 4: Improve Scapular Upward Rotation

Tight lats could be a long-term result of an athlete locking their shoulder blades down and back while training. This gross habit is not ideal for softball players because it limits shoulder flexion (like a lot). Pitchers specifically NEED to work on exercises that promote the scapula moving along the rib cage such as these ones below. 


When would I choose this option? 

If you're working with an overhead athlete you should always be programming movements that get the shoulder blade and humerus to work as a team. 

Check Those Lats! 

As a strength coach, taking the time to perform a short assessment (<10mins) on your athlete can help you as a coach make more informed exercise selections that will keep your players stronger and healthier. 
 

Bench Press Do’s and Don’ts for Athletes

Today's guest post comes from the co-owner of The Strength House and former Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. Tony is THE guy when it comes to anything bench pressing related and today you'll see why. Enjoy! - Mama Nance

The barbell bench press may be the most popular exercise in most gyms, but it gets a bad rap among many strength and conditioning coaches. They say it’s not “functional” and has no carryover to sports. I respectfully disagree for the most part, and believe that the bench press can help many athletes get stronger, faster and more powerful.

Nancy wrote an awesome article last week about why softball players should avoid the bench press and I agree with it 100 percent. Throwing athletes like baseball and softball players should stick with non-barbell bench press variations. But it got me thinking about which athletes SHOULD bench press and what mistakes they make while performing the exercise.

For athletes who play sports like football, hockey, rugby, basketball, etc., here are some do’s and don’ts to make sure you get the most out of the bench press.

Do: Bench Like a Powerlifter

Don’t: Bench Like a Bodybuilder

Ever hear the old cliché, “There’s no right or wrong way to do it”? In this case, there’s definitely a right and wrong way to bench press if athletic performance is the goal. Athletes should adopt a powerlifting-style bench press, which means:

  •  Upper back arched
  •  Shoulder blades retracted and pulled down and back
  • Elbows tucked tight to the sides
  • Legs in a position to contribute to the lift
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This is how powerlifters bench in order to move maximal weight, but it’s also the safest position for the shoulders because it keeps the “ball” in the “socket” to limit strain on the pecs and biceps tendons. Plus, this turns the bench into a full-body lift, which has more carryover to sport-specific situations such as blocking or pushing away an opponent while standing or running.

Some coaching cues that I love for learning how to bench like this:

  • Put your shoulder blades in your back pockets
  • Squeeze the bar like you’re trying to melt it in your hands
  • How would you try to push a broken-down car? Elbows in or elbows out?

The typical bodybuilding bench press (elbows flared, no leg drive) puts more strain on the shoulders and doesn’t do much to enhance any sport-specific situation.

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Notice how far away the elbows are from my sides in this picture. Could I block a blitzing linebacker in this position? Could I throw a good chest pass this way? The answer is clear and I’m much better off benching like a powerlifter if I want to train for strength that carries over to the field.

Do: Focus on bar speed

Don’t: Grind all the time

 Speed kills when it comes to sports. Very few things happen slowly on the field, and if you don’t want to get left in the dust, you’d better learn to move the bar quickly in the weight room.

Don’t make the mistake of doing too many “grinder” sets where the bar moves slowly. Bar speed slows down either because the weight is too heavy (i.e. going for a 1-rep max) or the muscles are too fatigued (i.e. doing “burnout” sets).

That said, most of your sets should be done with a weight that you can move quickly and a low enough number of reps that the last rep looks just like the first rep. Some good rules to follow:

  • Use 50-80 percent of your 1RM
  • Do sets of 2-5 reps
  • Keep rest periods long enough that you’re fully recovered
  • Always move the bar as fast as possible

That last point is crucial. Imagine trying to throw the bar through the ceiling every time you press it. Slow and controlled reps won’t get you anywhere when an opponent is trying to knock you on your butt.

Beginner athletes show practice this with “straight weight” (just the bar and plates), but as athletes get stronger, they can add chains or bands to the bar to help learn to move the bar quickly. Usually, bench press reps are harder as you first press off the chest and get easier toward lockout, but bands and chains reverse this because they de-load at the bottom and get heavier at the top. This teaches athletes to accelerate through the entire movement.

 
 

 

Do: Pick the right variation for your sport/body

Don’t: Rely on the barbell all the time

As mentioned, barbell benching isn’t the best choice for throwing athletes. And even athletes who can benefit from the barbell (football, rugby, etc.) should mix in other pressing exercises from time to time to stay balanced and prevent overuse injuries. Finally, some body types and injury histories just don’t match up with the barbell bench press.

Here are some quick tips for picking the right pressing exercises for your sport and body type:

Tip 1. Pick the right bar

The type of bar you use will determine the stress on your shoulders. A straight barbell places the most stress, while a neutral grip bar (palms facing each other) is less stressful, and dumbbells are even more shoulder-friendly.

Tip 2. Pick the right angle

 You don’t always have to press on a regular flat bench. Adjusting the angle, whether it’s incline, decline or a floor press, can make for a better fit for some athletes. For example, the floor press limits the range of motion, making it easier on the shoulders while still keeping most of the strength-building benefits.

 
 

 

Tip 3. Mix in “reaching” presses

 The barbell bench press locks your shoulder blades in place, which is great for getting really strong. But shoulder blades are meant to move, especially when throwing or rotating. Make sure to include plenty of pressing movements that let the shoulder blades “reach”, such as push-ups and landmine presses.

 
 

 

Tip 4. If it hurts, don’t do it

 If you perform an exercise with perfect technique and it hurts or doesn’t feel right, skip it and do a different exercise. No single movement is so important for any sport that you MUST do it no matter what.

Hot Off the Press

 For more bench press tips like this, check out my new book, Bench Like A Beast. It includes a 10-week training program and over 70 in-depth exercise tutorials. Pick up your copy at benchlikeabeast.com.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio is the co-owner of The Strength House in Worcester, MA. Previously, he served as a coach at Cressey Sports Performance and a personal trainer in Providence, RI. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in exercise science at Adelphi University. You can read more from at Bonvecstrength.com

 

 

 

3 Reasons Why Softball Players Should Avoid the Bench Press

Main Takeaway: There are other solid alternatives to help increase upper body strength that are safer on the anterior shoulder and more user-friendly for novice lifters than the bench press.

 Unfortunately, in many (not all) college weight rooms the bench press is a regular tool strength and conditioning coaches use to help increase upper body strength in softball players. 

Why is the bench press a poor choice? 

Issue 1: The bench press is not suited for a novice lifter but rather a selection more appropriate for intermediate and advanced lifters (2-3 years of training experience). 

Due to the fact that many college freshmen get their first experience strength training EVER at team lifts is a fact that all coaches need to consider before implementing the bench press into their programs. 

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Issue 2: Novice bench pressers tend to use zero upper back arch to help stabilize the shoulder joint or if they do arch it's from the lumbar spine and not the thoracic (upper back).  

Bench pressing with poor technique over a long period of time can cause nagging anterior shoulder and low back pain, two overuse injuries some softball players tend to accumulate over the course of the season. So why risk it when there are safer alternatives? 

Issue 3: Many young women have not EARNED the right to use the bench press simply because they are not strong enough to do more than 5-8 easy reps with just the bar. 

With that being said, the majority of athletes are better off mastering various dumbell and push-up variations to help gain strength and increase confidence. 

Note** My rule of thumb is to make sure my female athletes can crush a 35-40lb dumbell bench press for sets of heavy doubles or triples and crush 10 solid push-ups before tossing them on the rack. 

Why the Dumbell Bench Press is a better variation to help novice lifters get stronger
 

Reason 1: Theres no barrier to entry

With the bench press, you NEED to be able to press 45 pounds no ands ifs or buts about it. With the dumbell bench press its more efficient to meet the athlete where their current strength levels are and build from there. 

Reason 2: Grooves technique and helps build context for the bench press 

The dumbell bench press or floor press requires a solid upper back arch, full body tension and control to perform correctly. Check out this video to get a quick tutorial on why I coach the floor press this way. 

 
 

Reason 3: Builds proprioception

Have you ever handed a new lifter a dumbell and asked them to perform a floor press? 

If you have, you understand that newer lifters lack a true sense of where the body is in space. For their first few times its not uncommon to see their arms flying all over the place. 

Note** Use tempos ( 3 seconds lowering, 1-second pause, 1-second up) to help them learn how to create tension, start and end in the same spot. 

Reason 4: Dumbells allow the wrist and elbow to rotate if needed

With some athletes, they have hypermobile ulnar nerves and when they do various pulling or pressing variations it can aggravate the ulnar nerve when it slides over the medial aspect of the elbow. 

The dumbell bench press gives the individual a wider range of hand positions and degrees of freedom to travel. This freedom allows athletes to find a hand position that best works for them. Verses the bench press athletes are locked in with a pronated grip which does not suit all lifters and their individual anatomy. 
 

Be Safe, Not Sorry 

The barbell bench press is a great tool to help increase upper body strength for experienced lifters who have earned the right to use it. For novice lifters start implementing dumbell bench press variations. These variations are safer on the anterior shoulder and easier for novice lifters to learn. 
 


 

 

Fastpitch Friday Ep.39 5 Simple Tools to Help Build Stronger Forearms

Well developed forearms are a statement of strength and power. In softball, whether pitching, hitting or throwing for distance the muscles of the forearm and the hand should not be overlooked. 

These tiny but powerful muscles can help stabilize the elbow joint, protect the ulnar collateral ligament, and help improve bat speed through the zone. Here are 5 simple tools to help build stronger forearms.

1. Seated PVC Pipe Supination and Pronation

 
 

 

2. Hex Carries

 
 

 

3. Plate Pinches

 
 

 

4. Finger Extensions with Rubber Bands

 
 

 

5. KB or DB Farmers Carries
 

 
 

 

How often should direct forearm work be implemented? 

The majority of young females with about a year of training experience can start benefitting from 2-4x a week of direct forearm training. 

DJ Sanders - Lousiana Home run leader 2017 

DJ Sanders - Lousiana Home run leader 2017 

How should I implement forearm work in my current training? 

Implement forearm work at the end of your training session. These accessory drills should be separate from your main lifts (squat, deadlift, push, pull variations). Here are some options to consider! 

Option 1: You can work against time. 
4 sets of 25 second  DB Hex Holds @ 15lbs 

Option 2: You can work against distance? 

4-5 sets of Plate Pinch Carries for 20yds @10lbs 

Option 3: You can work for time under tension

3 sets of 12/side PVC Pipe Supination and Pronation 

Stay on Top of Soft Tissue Work

Each day before you go to lift take at least 2-3 minutes to roll out your forearms and triceps with a stick to help enhance tissue quality.

Get a Grip

The benefit to training the muscles of the forearm are two-fold. Forearm training not only keeps the lower arm and elbow healthy but can enhance ones skills both at the plate and on the diamond.