ELIMINATING HIP DYSFUNCTION IN BASEBALL ATHLETES
How we are Attacking an Alarming Trend of Dysfunctional Hip Joints in Intermediate to Elite Baseball Athletes
Today I want to discuss an overwhelmingly consistent dysfunction we’ve found amongst our baseball and softball population, and I should note – it is extremely prominent in Pitchers.
Before continuing, I’d like to point out that our ability to consistently find and eradicate bio-mechanical breakdown in our athletes like this one, is due almost solely to our use of the Max Effort method that exists within the Conjugate System.
This is because when taking maximal load on “complex” barbell movements, like the classical lifts and special variations of those lifts, we’re able to figure out where the athletes system is failing…
This is because generally good athletes are great compensators – meaning, their bodies are excellent at developing ways around weaknesses and dysfunctions; basically they get REALLY GOOD at making movement pattern options that make up for the stuff they are REALLY BAD at.
Once we’ve found the point of this weakness / breakdown – we’re able to shut down the athlete, record the best achieved “maximum” production of strength in that specific range of motion, and then move directly into single joint work and specialized exercises to begin eradicating the weakest joint’s and joint angles of the athlete.
But forcing the body into situations that will display these weaknesses and dysfunctions is just one piece of the puzzle…
BRIDGING THE GAP
Onward: For us, the next step is developing some type of Specialized movement that will place emphasis on developing the weak joint or muscle group we’ve seen or uncovered in a structured setting;
The harder part here is doing so in a way that it will still carry over to the mound or the plate or the field;
I say this because the body is extremely sensitive when it comes to processing data creating movement options for the demands that we ask it to complete – For instance, we can develop articular (rotational) capabilities in the hip when standing straight up on one leg, while using a wall for balance…
But if we sit the athlete down and ask him to then complete the same essential action, the movement options the athlete now has access to have drastically changed.
For example: in the above scenario he had a structure like a wall to use for balance, which took much of the stabilizing demand off of the supporting hip the hip of the leg he was standing on), this creates a more relaxed and less demanding environment for his trunk and pelvic structure to function under; So he then gains the ability to focus on the rotational demand of that hip.
Basically less inhibitory demands…
OR DID HE?
In reality – he’ll now have the ability to compensate for this weak hip and surrounding structure by rotating his whole pelvis and even use his lumbar to make up for the lack of motion in his actual hip joint.
You can see in the video above where he begins to actually rotate his entire low back, pelvis and femur almost in unison to execute one articulation of the left side hip.
But when we sit him down on the bench, with nothing to stabilize the upper half of his body, the angle of the femoral head inside of the hip socket drastically changes, more stress is placed on the hamstrings in the seated position as now they are elongated at the pelvic attachment, and much of the potential articular (rotational) capabilities have been cut off from the athlete Because we’ve completely eliminated the ability to compensate with the lumbar spine and the rest of the pelvis.
So whats this mean, and how is sitting down actually making things more specific or enabling us to get positive changes in the athletes hip that will carry over to pitching?
LESS COMPLEX = MORE SPECIFIC
You see when we take an athlete like Scotty (the athlete shown in the video) and we use Exercises or movements that we think look like or mimic the movements that happen in sport we give his body infinite movement options.
Because sport actions use hundreds of combinations of muscles and joints and positions, we are broadly attacking the entire body, and allowing him the ability to use all of the joints available to compensate for this horrible hip joint he’s developed.
But the further away we get from “sport specific” and the closer we get to isolating only the joint in focus, the more “specific” we are actually getting to his performance on field.
Yes, you read the correctly, by isolating joints or muscle groups of dysfunction, we require the body to place all emphasis on making change to the kinematic function (joint function) of that Joint and no others.
The other joints are getting work from the general or broad movements and training; they don’t NEED any more attention than they are already getting. In our system, much like in a therapeutic setting, we drill down to a microscopic like level and force the body to find movement options and create capacity at this junction, muscle group, dysfunction or this joint.
By doing so, as the athlete now develops the capacity and strength to articulate and move this joint without ailment or dysfunction, the joint will perform better during the athletic display. Basically, this gives the body the ability to use the hip joint at it’s full capacity, put less stress on the compensating joints, and generate and transfer power through a newly optimized and adequately functioning hip joint.
THAT is how you eliminate a kinetic leak.
THE LEAD HIP OF PITCHERS & POSITION PLAYERS
Above is a video of a thrower in our Velocity Development Program (MASS=GAS) that had developed a MASSIVELY dysfunctional lead hip and we were originally alerted to its presence by the onset of locked hamstrings, pelvic tilt and occasional sciatic like symptoms.
We also saw this display itself during max effort attempts, and during specific jump variations where the left hip would literally be “dead” during movement demands; and often after a period of non-exercise (between outings or elongated periods of time outside of the gym for travel tournaments) he’d complain of increased tightness and pain.
Though it looks like a simple issue that would have displayed itself immediately, it was a much more involved process and the video simply visually documents how much range of motion the athlete was missing.
At a later point I’ll post an update to this article and include a video of the Same movement showcasing the athletes increased articular abilities. He’s a very promising student and has already added 5+ MPH to his throwing velocity, and after finally reaching this “light-bulb” moment – we’re now able to attack this dysfunction in the manner discussed above.
Scotty has since increased his velocity by an additional 8mph, and made massive progress with regards to the function of his left hip.
Next lets Outline the example Process of Diagnosis to Prescription to Prognosis for this issue of Lead hip dysfunction using the Conjugate System of Strength & Performance employed at STRONGEIGHT
THE DYSFUNCTION & DIAGNOSIS
Over the course of the last six months during intensive work with over 100 baseball players we’ve seen an array of commonalities in bio-mechanical dysfunction of the pelvic / femoral function arise. Of these one of the more Common dysfunctions exists in the lead hip of throwers and hitters, and presents in both hips of catchers.
Both Internal and external rotation capabilities are severely limited, and abduction capabilities are nearly non existent when the femur is sagittal to the body as seen in the inability to descend correctly to the bar in a sumo deadlift or to the box in a box squat.
Lack of lateral force can be observed in lateral jump and transverse movements with the hips when affected leg is used as the driving leg in such movements.
It has also been found that a lack of joint space exists through FRC assessment using blocking positions and implements that force the athlete to eliminate compensating movement patterns. Glute and Hamstring Activation in micro-level assessments like those aforementioned is none-existent or minimal at best, and the athlete does not possess the ability to extend the torso in relation to the femurs or the femurs in relation to the torso without compensation of the abs & lumbar spine region
THE SYMPTOMS & DEFICIENCIES
- Low back pain,
- Lack of mobility and articular abilities in the hip and thigh,
- Anterior pelvic tilt,
- Tight hamstrings locked in an elongated position,
- and overall lack of power transfer in the throw and swing.
Other subtle bio-mechanical symptoms surface when taking a squat as the foot on the lead leg/hip side of the body tends to be from 1-3 inches behind the back side foot regardless of load, walkout and bar position on the squatters back.
There are a host of exercises and systems of mitigation that have proven effective in the short term and long term both for performance and the elimination of bio-mechanical dysfunction, and pain; These are:
- The Reverse Hyper, provides decompression for the Lumbar Spine, rotates the sacrum and allows spinal fluid to flow more freely as well as restoring the space between vertebrae eliminating pinched nerves
- Isometric strengthening of the Adductor and Abductor systems for lateral control and balance of the thigh
- The above combine with CARs or Controlled Articulated Rotation exercises allows the athlete to express full joint capacity and function, which provides the athlete with the ability to incrementally develop not only range of motion but active control in the newly acquired ranges of motion.
- Working in the belt squat with multiple walks and steps in varying directions and angles builds incredible hip tracking, and controlled ranges (this can also be combine with CARs exercises with light loads around the hips for traction)
- Developing Strength in the Hamstring through closed and open chain movements like the Inverse Curl and Seated Band Curls allows the biceps-femoris the ability to function properly as an extensor of the hips developing a state of balanced tension with the iliopsoas and quads
- External Progressive Angular Isometric Exercises in where the athlete will open the femur out to an extended range and meet an immovable load causing a maximal isometric contraction at the end range. This causes neural response to motor units that are basically dormant in the range of motion that the athlete can no longer achieve and very quickly gives the athlete what is known as ACTIVE range or functionality in the newly achieved level of mobility.
We have concluded that this is a combination of multiple dysfunctions: a hip impingement causing very minimal articular abilities, suspected to arise from the jamming that happens in the front femur-pelvis connection when the athlete launches his lead leg out in-front of him and creates the braking mechanism towards the bottom of the mound to transfer power up and over the back through the arm down the mound.