The First Game-Changer

People always speak of game changers as the athlete who performs outstanding while under pressure, or the athlete who has physical or mental attributes to rise above everyone on the playing field.

Yesterday was the third and last day of the Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship. You can find the first two parts below. After an 8-hour drive yesterday evening and a full day of work, I'm a bit on the crushed side. But I wanted to reflect on the day before life rolls too far ahead.

In the morning we reviewed what a *targeted* warm-up and training may look like for a pitcher in- and out-of-season. Once again, every athlete is unique in how they function and the demands placed on them physically and psychologically. But there are definitely a few common patterns.

In the context of their system, it makes complete sense to think that MANY athletes are wasting their time at best with their warm-up.  And there is a good possibly they are making things worse. For example, pitchers with known hypermobility (some degree of looseness at select joints) should be shooting to achieve a sense of proprioceptive control and joint stability, and NOT stretching their joints to end range. On the other hand, a generally tight athlete should be doing dynamic movements to end range and even performing static holds (longer duration) on select joints.

This lecture reminded me to finish a writing that I started, Stretching Doesn't Fix Everything, that will list a few good reasons why you do not want to stretch everything that feels tight.

Whatever the pattern, each athlete is given a specific series of warm-up activities, based on their assessment, that serve as both pre-hab and preparation for the more demanding activities to come, be it intense weight training, practicing, or playing. Contrast this with "take a lap and stretch" where, in the words of Cressey himself, "Athletes mostly shoot the breeze and sit around grab-assing." This is a completely accurate description, in my experience.

It's ironic that Eric, David, and I got to talk a bit personally while he was warming up for his workout. I was recovering before some Farmer Walks and Cressey was foam rolling as we talked, so I refrained from titling this post Grab-Assin with Cressey.

Later that morning we watched pitching instructor Matt Blake give some constructive feedback to a few pitching prospects. These pitchers were doing a lot right, but Matt made a few recommendations and suggestions that seemed to be new and relevant to the athletes. Of the three pitchers that I watched closely, all of them were hoping to be drafted soon, had underwent at least one shoulder or elbow surgery, and were throwing damn hard but struggling for one reason or the other. This is the typical June client at Cressey Performance. And it's why Cressey is so adamant about being *specific* with big-picture programming, appropriate warm ups, exercise selection, and exercise execution down to every rep.

"The shoulder blade is slightly downwardly rotated so we're not going to do rows or farmer walks at all and instead we're going to do some wall slides that begin with the scapula in a neutral position and making a broad sweet to recruit the serratus anterior to assist with upward rotation and elevation at end range."

Cressey is careful with his assessments and precise with his programming and obsessive with his attention to form. Cressey's knowledge base and verbage is part and parcel to my world as a physical therapist. But out of the context of a world class sports performance gym, one could easily say he is absurd with how seriously he takes the concept of exercise and form.

Cressey speaks as if the next rotator cuff exercise
will solve world hunger.

The attention to detail, the precision program design and training and convincingly speaking as if something as small as a posteriorly directed force over the anterior shoulder during rotator cuff activation is a critically monumental thing in this world...

It's working. In more than one way, it's working extremely well.

Maybe the first Game Changer truly is the person who identifies and attacks the smallest dysfunction movement in a young man with extraordinary potential. Maybe that upper trap activation pattern truly is the first link in a long chain of season- and even life-changing performances.

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