Archive for category Talent Code

The silver bullet of weight loss

Want to get someones attention fast? Tell them you have a sure-fire way to lose weight. And not just lose weight….lose weight fast. If you claim to have “the silver bullet” everyone is looking for to lose weight, you’ll be sure to get some attention. Just for fun, I googled “lose weight fast”. It returned over 80 million results. Then I googled “blood sugar and insulin”. It returned only 11 million! That certainly doesn’t surprise me. The “why” of weight loss isn’t nearly as exciting as the “hope” of weight loss. Maybe there’s a silver bullet out there that can help me circumvent all of the diet and exercise that I know I should be doing. Sorry. It always comes back to the “why”.

For those actually interested in the “why” of weight loss, here’s my cliff notes. INSULIN is the key. It’s both your friend and your enemy. INSULIN is released into the bloodstream by your pancreas when your blood sugar rises to escort the sugar in your blood to your cells to be used for energy. But here’s the “catch”. If you have excess sugar (glucose) in your cells, its converted into fat. So the key to true weight loss is managing how much sugar you have in your blood. Because, without any sugar for INSULIN to escort, there is nothing to be converted to fat. Make sense? Ever wonder why type 1 diabetics are so skinny? Because their bodies don’t produce INSULIN naturally by themselves. In other words, there’s no fat converter. So, what role does fat in the diet play in getting fat? Very little. Fat does not increase your blood sugar nearly as quickly as starchy carbohydrates and sugary foods.



Back to baseball. In a similar manner, I googled “hit for more power” and it returned a whopping 645,000,000 results. Holy crap. Do you think people are looking for a silver bullet? Then I googled “creating ground forces to improve angular velocity” and it returned a measly 1,000,000 results. BUT LOOK WHO’S TOP DOG! Nice.

The lesson learned. There’s more selling power in “hope”. There’s more HITTING POWER in “why”!

Feel free to visit our new website GREENLIGHTHITTING.COM for more information about understanding the “why”.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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Green Light Hitting – Defined

When you’re close to something, you take things for granted. And if you find yourself teaching on a subject you’re intimately familiar with, it’s easy to assume that your audience knows what you know. Even the basics. With that said, I’d like to take a page or two and define Green Light Hitting. Again. Because it’s that important for the developing hitter.

Just like mathematics, Green Light Hitting is a system that builds on itself. Just like you wouldn’t teach Calculus to a student who hasn’t had Algebra, you don’t teach a Level 5 hitter Level 7 skills. They just aren’t ready. Here are the Green Light Hitting levels defined.

Levels 1-2: Hitters must anticipate. They anticipate hitting a moving target. They need to unlock their mind, so to speak. In order to do this, they must show a willingness to hit and an understanding of “tracking” the ball and anticipating its end location.

Levels 3-4: Hitters try to rotate primarily about their wrists. This produces a weak, off plane swing. Instruction is designed to “freeze” the wrist action and to “free” the hip joints. We want the bat on plane through the use of bigger muscles. Engage the hips. However, since the wrists are functioning, it is very beneficial to train the wrists how to move correctly. The wrists should move from radial deviation to ulnar deviation rather than from flexion to extension.

Levels 5-6: Not only do we want the hips engaged but now we want them engaged on two planes. We want them rotating through the transverse plane but we also want them “tilting” through the sagittal plane. This is where we say “STAY OVER THE PLATE!” We are really focusing on the hips allowing us to be on plane. Special attention is still paid to the wrists moving efficiently from radial deviation to ulnar deviation.

Levels 7-8: This is where we “free” the front shoulder joint for rotation. We work on pre-stretching the scapula so it can pull the lead arm into the ball. Hip action along two planes is still very prevalent with our training. Level 7 and 8 hitters can begin using the wrist joint to add an extra whip to the end of the bat. These hitters should have the bat cocked in the direction of the pitcher. This is a pre-stretch of sorts for the hands to launch correctly into the ball. It is useless to recognize this aspect of hitter training until the hips are unlocked.

Level 9-10: Our focus for these hitters is making the front shoulder joint two-dimensional. Instead of simply pulling the bat to the ball it must now also change planes as the ball begins to change planes. The front shoulder joint, powered by the scapula, pinches as the ball moves in. We are adjusting our barrel from out to in with multi-planar hip action and multi-planar shoulder joint action.

Levels 11-13: With the introduction of the curveball, we focus on the hip-joint delaying rotation or moving through the 3rd plane, the frontal plane. The hip-joint now maintains three degrees of freedom while the shoulder joint maintains two. The wrists joints must maintain their hinge(radial deviation) in order to prevent the bat from accelerating too quickly. The wrist joint is definitely a focal point to assist with adjustment and improving bat speed.

Levels 14-15: Level 14 and 15 are designed to give our developing hitter practice in applying all three joints in action. Can we crate force with our hip action and then adjust properly over both the sagittal plane and the frontal plane? Does our shoulder joint engage in two planes? Are we using the wrist joint to create a longer arc into the ball, staying leveraged as the other joints move?

Level 16: These high level hitters have properly engaged their hips and shoulder joints over time. They have incredible “angular velocity”. They have the ability to move on plane and to adjust on plane. As the pitcher begins to command the zone with unpredictable pitches, the high level hitter must adjust late in the hitting window. From the degree of freedom standpoint, emphasis is now placed on the hands and wrist joints. The wrist joint is the last arc in the swing. It is why big league coaches focus primarily on “freezing” the hip joints and shoulder joints. You will see very high level players practice drills that have absolutely zero application to lower level players. Essentially, Level 16 players are trying to prevent themselves from “pulling off the ball.”

Lots of information to digest for sure. And, I can assure you, that we don’t use this kind of terminology when working with developing hitters. We don’t want “paralysis by analysis”. The goal is to “implicitly” teach them. In other words, use repetition in the form of drills to produce the desired results without them thinking too much. Plus, it’s more fun that way.

Green Light Hitting has its own dedicated website now. Visit http://www.GreenLightHitting.com to see our new website. You can preview the book and ask questions in our online forum.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

 

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A Physics Lesson – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog talked about the importance of creating GROUND REACTION FORCES when hitting. If we want to increase our angular velocity and ultimately our bat speed, it begins with our legs and feet. We must create ground reaction forces to start the “momentum train”. But, any inquisitive sort should ask,  “How do we transfer the force the ground supplies into our hips, shoulders, and hands?” We can’t just start stomping into the ground and become a better hitter, can we?

In order to use the force the ground provides, you have to be able to “accept the force” with a firm front side. Interestingly enough, Eric Cressey wrote about this very principle in his September 20th blog. You can read it here.

This principle, with respect to rotational objects, is called the CONSERVATION OF ANGULAR MOMENTUM. Simply put, once a hitter creates momentum with his lower body (yesterday’s blog) , he can neither add to it nor subtract from it. The momentum is “conserved”. It’s all about momentum transfer now. No more momentum creation. Creation happened yesterday. Today we transfer.

Momentum is a vector quantity. In other words, it has a directional component to it. If we hit (or pitch) off of a weak or collapsed front side, we risk a “momentum leak”. Some of the momentum we created with a nice strong step will be lost in the wrong direction if our front leg isn’t able to “accept” it. Make sense? See the two images below. They will give you a better understanding of what I’m referring to. I have a lesson with this boy on Saturday. We’ll get him straightened out!

“Leaking” Momentum

Accepting the force the ground provides.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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The Problem of Pain

A common refrain among non-believers is “I can’t believe in a God that would allow all this evil.” In making that statement, many don’t differentiate between goodness and kindness. What they really want is a kind God. Not a loving God. A loving God may actually allow things that at first glance, don’t seem so kind.

C.S Lewis addresses this very issue in his book The Problem of Pain.

What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like, “What does it matter so long as they are contented?” We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven — a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all”.

When I read that quote, I was reminded about a recent training session I had with a 10 yr old. I love this boy and want the best for him. He loves baseball and wants to truly be great. But…he needs to learn how to work. Because without an intrinsic work ethic, all the talent in the world will do him no good. Needless to say, 30 minutes into our session, he wasn’t feeling the love. The power sled and the lateral hops stole any warm and fuzzies he had previously felt. The med ball slams completely sealed the deal. He hated me. Truth be told, I enjoyed watching him struggle. I knew he needed this.

A couple days later I received the call from dad. “Believe it or not, he loved it. He wants to do it again. When are you available?” Insert hallelujah sound here!!!

He wanted a kind coach. He got a loving coach.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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Youth Weight Training – Debunking old myths

Every time I think the old myth that children shouldn’t begin weight training activities has been put to bed, another parent asks the same old question, “Isn’t it bad for their growth plates?”

Here we go again. If you’re on the fence about whether or not your child (as young as 7 years old!) should begin a weight training program, here’s a list of nice blogs or articles for you to reveiw:

NY Times Article

Eric Cressey Article

Livestrong Article

The bottom line is that research has shown that as long as a child can follow instructions, they can benefit from strength training. My friend, Dr. Bob Gorinski, likes to use the terms relative risk and risk/benefit ratio when discussing youth strength training.  Here’s a direct quote from Bob’s blog.

Relative risk is more important than risk.

You are far more likely to be seriously injured driving to the gym or athletic field than you are while exercising. Parents worry about their teenager injuring growth plates while lifting weights, when those injuries are far more likely incurred during a soccer game or bike ride.

All that sitting we do while in class or at work is risky behavior when it comes to neck and back health. I laugh when experts with chronic forward head posture, thoracic kyphosis, and reduced lumbar lordosis vilify some specific exercise.

To say that the risk of an exercise outweighs the benefits for a certain person or population is one thing. But I don’t want a blanket opinion on dead lifts from someone who can barely reach the ground without contorting their spine or almost falling over.

Likewise, every activity has a risk to benefit ratio. For example, the risk of injury from walking three miles on a treadmill is less than running 10 miles or sprinting down hill. Wimpy thera-band movements carry little risk but also little benefit outside of a rehabilitation setting. Those elliptical trainers have less risk than plyometric jump training. Resistance training on machines is usually less risky than trying to move free weights.

The down side to safety is that most of us with life in our bones are not content with safety. We want to improve, compete, and push ourselves. Longer runs, faster sprints, higher jumps, and heavier weights (all relative) offer real mental and physical benefits that their less risky counterparts can’t touch.

Sorry all you “I just want to stay healthy” people, I’m just not buying it.

While doing a seated hamstring curl is fine, dead lifts will cause the entire posterior chain (scapula, back, hip, and leg muscles) to perform enormous feats of controlled mobility. Your weak points are exposed and you can work on what matters. Nobody ever said you have to load a tank on the bar and yank it like a power lifter.

Risk:benefit ratio is definitely a sliding scale. A pitching prodigy shouldn’t risk his throwing shoulder with heavy overhead barbell presses. But a similar football player who wants to add some lean muscle mass may benefit greatly from that same exercise. A middle aged man without health insurance may want to skip weekend flag football games, even if he trains for it. He might focus on running 5K faster and with less knee pain rather than bumping up to 10k.

Any good story involves risk. While we can’t afford to ignore safety, we also can’t afford to write boring stories. We should remember that everything under the sun has some degrees of risk, and consider the risk:benefit ratio. While activities that involve high risk and little skill are plain stupid, we should seek to be calculated and willing to live with the benefits and risks rather than minimize risk at all expense.

If you’ve been in our facility, you’ve no doubt seen the sign that reads GET FASTER…GET STRONGER. It does not say GET FASTER…GET STRONGER (if you’re over the age of 13). We’ve added a lot of new equipment. We’ve expanded the training room. A GoWags membership will give you everything you need to become a better baseball player. Your baseball season may be over, but Full Reps lasts all year long.

Bret Wagner

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What does deliberate practice sound like?

Here is an excerpt straight from Wikipedia about deliberate practice:

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, has been a pioneer in researching deliberate practice and what it means. According to Ericsson:

“People believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults.” “We agree that expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance and even that expert performers have characteristics and abilities that are qualitatively different from or at least outside the range of those of normal adults. However, we deny that these differences are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”[3]

One of Ericsson’s core findings is that how expert one becomes at a skill has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback. Another important feature of deliberate practice lies in continually practicing a skill at more challenging levels with the intention of mastering it.[4] Deliberate practice is also discussed in the books, “Talent is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin[5], and “The Talent Code,” by Daniel Coyle,[6]among others.

Good Stuff. In other words, don’t do what you know you can do well. Identify your weaknesses and work on them. Work hard. Fail. Fail again. Expert skill development happens when you practice with a purpose. Flow is the opiate of the mediocre. Let me say that again. Flow is the opiate of the mediocre. This isn’t anything new to regular readers of the blog. You’ve read references to Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code countless times.

One thing we haven’t addressed is WHAT DOES DELIBERATE PRACTICE SOUND LIKE? As coaches and parents, we want to make sure we are constantly challenging our players so they are getting better. It’s easy to assume that what previously constituted deliberate practice still constitutes deliberate practice. Not so. Players progress and so should our practice (FYI….That’s exactly what our Green Light Hitting system is founded upon. Identify what Level hitter you are and work on your weaknesses).

Every once in a while when you’re working with players, you have an “aha” moment. A moment when you realize something that should have been obvious but for some reason eluded you. I’d like to thank my “nephew” Reese for providing just that moment last night. Reese is a wonderful boy. A talker for sure. He loves to talk. About anything. I told Reese that his first round of BP would be strictly “meatballs”. Essentially mindless rips as a warmup. Guess what? He talked right through his first round. Swing….chirp. Swing….chirp. Swing….chirp. When Reese got in for his second round I told him that I would be mixing in some changeups. This is what we call “impulse flexibility” in GLH parlance. Do you have the ability to delay that critical impulse? Swing…crickets. Swing….crickets. Swing…crickets. What? No comments from Reese? This is awesome. He’s focused. He’s concentrating. He’s getting better.

Deliberate Practice is silent. Your mind doesn’t have the ability to focus on anything else because it needs to focus on the task at hand. Or fail.

Good stuff Reese. Thanks buddy!

Uncle Bret

Full Reps!

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Balance…Is it a good thing?

Kyle and I love competition. It brings out the best in everybody. Either raise your game or lose. It doesn’t get any better than that. When we found out there was another baseball training center coming to Lancaster in the near future, we were ecstatic. Another competitor to raise the bar.

I want to share a web posting on Carmen Fusco’s website. Carmen is a very knowledgeable and respected instructor in the area. However, we disagree on this item.  I’ve highlighted the item in question.

Carmen’s site:

What separates good hitters from productive hitters?  When comparing the attributes of good hitters, there are a number of common features found in their approach and swing.  First, good hitters share a number of intangible traits.  They have a noticeable presence in the box that exudes rhythm and confidence.  Good hitters also know their limitations and have a very good understanding of what they can and cannot do at the plate.  In addition to these traits, good hitters share five common physical traits.
First, all good hitters have balance throughout the swing.  This sense of balance allows the hitter to hit a variety of pitch speeds and locations.  More importantly, it allows the hitter to have a repeatable swing.  Repeatability is a common trait found in all areas of the game among good players.  Good pitchers are able to repeat their delivery, good infielders look the same on every ground ball, and good hitters have a repeatable swing aided by balance throughout the approach and swing.

In theory, this is really good advice. However, young kids interpret this to mean that they should stay balanced THE ENTIRE TIME. This has the potential to rob kids of plate coverage and critical core strength because they are trying to maintain “balance.” Kyle explains in this YouTube video.

Watch this video of Albert Pujols hitting a game winning home run against the Cubs. Yes…He was balanced throughout the swing but watch where his momentum takes him after the swing. You need to be careful when teaching young hitters about balance. Sometimes the information is misinterpreted.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

 

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