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Steve Hammond Training Highlights

By January 6, 2011January 2nd, 2016Sport Specific Training, Strength Training

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.

Lever Squats

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.

Sumo Deadlifts

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.

Weighted Plank

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.

Other Stuff

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!


  • Matt Stranberg says:

    Hi Bret good video as I would like more coaches to post more videos of their clients actually training with decent weights and form. I had one question. In regards to the reverse lunges is there a reason for the particular shin angle? Do you manipulate shin angles to recruit different musculature, elicit a different stretch/stimulus etc or is that your preferred shin angle? Thanks!

    • Bret says:

      Matt – I agree! I feel like I’m one of the only coaches putting out these vids. What do these other guys have to hide? Of course, I’ve seen Cressey, Gentilcore, Rooney, etc. put up vids but they’re the exception, not the norm. Great question about the shin angle. Yes, I do, For Steve, we do so much posterior chain work that I like for his single leg work to be very quad dominant, so very upright trunk, knee moves forward, etc. I have most of my females do lunges and Bulgarians with a long stride and even a slight trunk lean to work more glute. Great question!

      • Matt Stranberg says:

        Thanks for the reply…I guessed as much due to other coaches I know also employing similar methods…now…do you ever find utilizing this particular shin angle can increase risk of anterior knee pain or general knee pain or is a particular structural balance score a prerequisite for utilizing this particular shin angle?

        • Bret says:

          Matt – there are definitely people who don’t do well with any forward knee movement. Some folks who have bad knees should simply stick to box squats with a vertical tibia, lunges with a long stride, etc.

  • Eric Moss says:

    website is lookin good

  • paul says:

    Hey bret,
    Your interview has generated a tonne of interest, thanks once again for that! great video compilation, particularly like the creativity of the one arm row with barbell and the deficit reverse lunges, will be trying these out at my next gym sesh.

    • Bret says:

      Thanks Paul, I appreciate the interview. Yeah – I created the lever row because I only have up to 100 lb dumbbells, and with my stronger guys (and myself) I need around 140-160. I use a strap when I go heavy – really hard to hold onto all that weight! -Bret

  • Jeff Teta says:

    Once again great article, but the only problem was when I got to the end and saw the pic of your client I forgot what I just read haha! Thanks for the info!

  • Venard says:

    Hi Bret,

    Is a narrow stance sumo deadlift similar to the Ed Coan deadlift stance?

  • Fotis says:

    Bret great video and article! Although I was pretty pleased seeing your female clients(wink wink) having a male client for once is a good change of pace!Some questions if you dont mind
    Some years ago,Poliquin was asked about the distance between legs when performing lunges.He said that the greatest the distance the greatest muscle recruitment we are gonna have.Is there a reason why you had him lunges from deficit and not say really long lunges?
    Did you do anything for specific conditioning or good old sprints,bodyweight stuff and prowler/sled sprints(dont remember if you have any so sorry if you dont)
    Any kind of diet or just eating whatever feels right?

    Thanks a lot

    • Bret says:

      Fotis – increasing stride distance on lunges will increase hamstring activation and possibly glute activation but it will decrease quad activation. I like to toy around with all three – short stride, medium stride, and long stride. But since we did mostly posterior chain work with Steve (sumo deads, hip thrusts, glute bridges, 45 degree hypers, glute ham raises, single leg hip thrusts, etc.) I wanted a more upright trunk and shallower lunge for quad activation. The increased ROM with the deficit makes it a much more challenging exercise and increases quad, ham, and glute activation.

      Since Steve is a pitcher, we didn’t do that much conditioning work (rather than just trying to make our workouts last around 2-2.5 hours with all the different stuff we did). For most athletes I’d have them do sled work/Prowler, airdyne, etc., but not Steve. As for diet, Steve knows what he’s doing – has a protein shake with him for right after the workout, takes fish oil, and consumes proper amounts of calories and proportions of macronutrients.

      Thanks! -Bret

  • Thy. says:

    Hi Bret,
    Great video and info. I’ve been using lever row in my home gym for the very same reason (no heavy dumbells). But I always wondered how different it is in mechanics and muscle recruiment comapred to dumbell rows (if similar trunk angle and form is maintained) ?

  • Rich says:

    Great videos Bret.

    I don’t know if this represents a completely different blog post, but I’d be interested in hearing more about the template you put together.

  • SLS says:

    So I’ve tried most of the exercises you show or recommend, but always came up short trying to do hip thrusts for lack of a stationary bench to lean against. I finally tried hip thrusts with my back against a medium size yoga ball. I think it worked pretty well. Ever done this or could you comment on viability? Thanks for showing more of your client work!

  • allie says:

    wow, that dude is STRONG! great training, thanks for the vid too. wondering why you specify that weighted planks for your male athletes? is there a reason they’re not good for women?

  • Hey Bret,

    I’ve been doing barbell hip thrusts for a while and last month got up to 235kg for 5 reps(shoulders elevated). Was very pleased with the progress and it really showed on the track as massively improvement flat speed!!! However, not long ago I got a minor adductor strain and have since had problems with it. I read a while back in a paper, how the adductor mangus and glute max. work together yet slightly opposing each other as two “reigns” to extend the hip during sprinting. My guess now is that my adductors can not keep up with my newly acquired glute power and this is perhaps why my right one has tightened up? I have a huge season coming up with the Olympic Games this year (sprint hurdler) so obviously want to get back on track as soon as possible! Any advice on what I should do(perhaps strength my adductor M.?) would be much appreciated!


    • Bret says:

      Hi Ben,

      I know exactly which paper you’re talking about, but I have an alternative explanation.

      But first off, it would be necessary to know which adductor you strained. If it’s adductor magnus vs. adductor longus, etc.

      I believe that the adductors get worked just as thoroughly as the glutes during hip thrusts and sprinting..

      So I don’t believe there is an imbalance there.

      It may simply be due to being overworked.

      You definitely need to get back on track as soon as possible…do you have a good physical therapist that you work with?

      I’d hate to provide you with improper advice as this is of utmost importance.


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