For the past couple of months, Steve Hammond has been training with me at BCSC. It’s been a great experience, as Steve has trained with some amazing trainers, including Brett Fischer at Fischer Sports and Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore at Cressey Performance (CP).
This was a blessing in disguise for several reasons. First, Steve has picked up some excellent exercise variations and methods from his past trainers – and I quickly added these to my arsenal. Second, I didn’t have to work much with Steve’s form, as his previous trainers ingrained excellent mechanics into his patterning. And third, it just shows that he’s serious about his training!
When I first started training Steve, we sat down and talked at length about his past training experiences and his body. We made a list of all the exercises he loves to perform and feels work best for his him. We talked about various acute training variables and decided to tinker with exercise selection, volume, and frequency. I created a template for Steve that would maximize his power and strength while preventing soreness and interference with mobility. It allowed him to train the movement patterns more frequently while still allowing for ideal recovery.
I believe our program contained the optimal blend of SMR, mobility and activation drills, plyos, medball, general strength, specific strength, ART, and PNF stretching to allow Steve to maximize his power where it counts.
Time will tell if our training increased his pitching speed. The hardest part about training a pitcher in the off-season when he’s not throwing is that you can’t be positive that what you’re doing is translating to increased pitching speed. Sure, I can increase his squat, deadlift, broad jump, medball power, shoulder mobility, etc., but one can never be certain that these improvements will lead to the adaptations you’re seeking. You simply try to elevate all the qualities in a strategic fashion and give the player the raw materials to assemble everything together and increase their performance.
I guess we’ll know for sure pretty soon, as Steve just started throwing again and he feels great. I hope that Steve can throw 95 mph this year, which would be a dream come true. In college Steve threw 93 mph, but over the years he lost mobility and strength and his fastball decreased to 88 mph. In a single off-season at Cressey Performance, Steve was able to boost his velocity back to his previous best of 93 mph. The 5 mph gain in fastball speed in such a short time-frame at CP is absolutely remarkable! I’ll keep you posted about whether or not the work we did together led to maximum throwing velocity increases.
I believe that many coaches are too linear in thinking and too dogmatic. I was having Steve full squat, front squat, and box squat, and he was getting very strong with great form, but once we got up to 365ish he would feel it in his back the next day. This was despite the fact that his form looked great. I did not want him to feel sore during our training as I wanted high-quality output during his explosive work and I didn’t want anything negatively impacting mobility. So we switched to lever squats and this did the trick – it allowed him to train the movement pattern and get strong, pain-free. No matter what your plan is, you need to be willing to stray from the plan and possibly abandon your ideals in order to get the job done.
Steve is strongest when he deadlifts sumo style, and his back starts feeling it when he goes heavy on conventional deads. His trap bar dead was too quad dominant, and I wanted to increase his hamstring strength, so pulling with the bar sumo style was the best option. What I really like about Steve’s sumo style is that it’s not too wide. I like the “narrow Sumo deadlift” for athletes – just wide enough to allow them to get their arms in between their legs. We did rack pulls too from time to time.
Hip Thrust and Barbell Glute Bridge
Steve’s an absolute freak at these! His glute strength is phenomenal and we’ve put forth a lot of effort to make sure he harnesses this strength into his power/speed work.
45 Degree Back Extension and Glute Ham Raise
These lifts helped strengthen Steve’s hammies which I felt were lacking in strength. I’m big on structural balance for injury prevention purposes in the gym.
Reverse Dumbbell Deficit Lunges
Each week we were sure to include some single leg work consisting of lunges, step ups, Bulgarian split squats, and/or single leg hip thrusts. Single leg work is critical for balance, but too much single leg work can overwork the adductor magnus in certain individuals, so you don’t want to go overboard on volume. Steve is one of those individuals – if I had him do 4 sets of heavy lunges he’d probably be too sore to do anything involving the lower body justice for around four to five days.
Single Arm Dumbbell Bench and Alternating Dumbbell Incline Press
We always pressed with dumbbells for the extra ROM in order to prevent any adaptive shortening or decreases in mobility. Even though Steve is a thrower, we did include some neutral grip dumbbell military presses each week – but we were very strict and we emphasized the lockout for stability. We did lots of push up variations too – usually with extended ROM.
One Arm Lever Rows, Chest Supported Rows, and Chin Ups
The lever rows are a lot harder than they look! Steve used 100 lbs and the bar weighs 45, so that makes 145 lbs. This is a great grip exercise too. Although the neck and head are in a strange position with the chest supported rows, this doesn’t overly-concern me, as it’s an amazing back exercise that really hammers the scapula retractors. We didn’t always go heavy on chin ups, often we’d do just bodyweight or only work up to a 45 lb plate. We also did lots of inverted rows, single arm cable rows, band seated rows, and face pulls.
I’ve always been big on the weighted plank with my male athletes, as it’s a great core exercise. We also did plenty of side planks, Pallof presses, cable chops and lifts, landmines, and other core work.
There are so many “little exercises” that we did over the course of the month, which really help in terms of balance. Scapula and rotator cuff movements, hip stability movements, specialized core exercises, weighted stretching exercises, not to mention all kinds of mobility drills, plyos, agility work, short sprints, ballistics, and explosive lifts. Probably the most creative aspect of our routine was the plyometric drills we developed. I also served as Steve’s massage therapist and PNF stretcher. We tried to cover all of our bases, and I hope that it pans out.
Steve feels great and is excited to start throwing hard again. Here’s the video:
Just for making it through this blog, I’ll reward you with a picture of my client Katie Coles!