Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Listen to your body

by Dr Tommy John III, DC
Sigh…if I had a nickel for every time somebody thought they "functionally rehabbed" an injury successfully only to realize the horrific truth that they did nothing more than cover up the root cause of the original injury in the first place. You can only paint over a crack in the foundation so many times before the entire house comes falling down.
So this story goes a little deeper than me ranting about the truth and cause of all soft tissue injuries in all populations not just athletes. When I moved to Atlanta I actually had the opportunity to meet Kris Medlen 20 days post his first Tommy John Surgery. He was observing a training session I was performing with one of his friends who was having awful, herniated disc issues. I sat with Kris and talked with him about why his injury happened in the first place, the cause of all soft tissue injury and what they have in common, urged him to try to schedule time with me even if it was 1 time a month to add some things he could do to make his rehab more effective. The trick when talking to someone in this state is not to speak so boldly about how that system of surgery and rehab is flawed because if he chooses to go another route you want him to think that what he is doing is actually effective on the causal level. So I danced delicately about what he is gonna go through over the next year, what the Braves staff will have him do, and really indirectly spoke about why he would need to do a tad more or avoid certain things if he wants to come back from this and throw for however long he wishes. Needless to say after the 30 minute conversation that's the last I saw of Kris. Until now.
Since I don't have TV and don't care really about most major sports(Except Chicago Bears Football:)) including baseball I hadn't heard the news. Then someone texted me and I quickly reminisced this story in my mind. And to be quite honest it aggravated me. Not because Kris didn't take me up on my offer. But that he rested solely and blindly on this one thing he said that will stick with me forever…"I mean, it's the Braves man. I'm gonna follow the plan they set up for me. This surgery is pretty common." Don't have to tell me how common it is. It's even being over prescribed by docs who want children to have it even if there is no tear…not going to go into that true story. Do you think it stops with Tommy John Surgery? Do you really think they aren't removing gallbladders, breasts, kidneys etc. that have really nothing wrong with them? Please don't be naive. And maybe I shouldn't have stifled my professional opinion knowing I might upset this person undergoing such a tough and grueling rehab process. The Braves may have wished I spoke up and stood in the face of technology, doctors and tradition. I can promise you there's no opportunity I will back down from when it comes to this subject area. It's getting out of hand.
Who pitched the longest post Tommy John Surgery? Tommy John JR…13 seasons and never missed a start bc of a recurring injury to the elbow.
What rehab/PT protocol was in place for him to follow? There wasn't one. The doctors and trainers were following him and his body as to what to do and how to proceed. Doctors following and listening to the patient!
What was the take home message of advice given to him by Dr. Jobe knowing there was no protocol in place and there was no telling what to expect? "Listen to your body"-Frank Jobe.
Did anyone try to alter his mechanics to make his pitching motion more efficient thinking that was one of the causes that contributed to his injury? NOPE.
It is my position that we are getting too smart for our own bodies. We are not looking deeper. We do not honor the perfect system for adaptation that is inborn within each one of us. And as technology gets more advanced we get further and further away from this fact…the Innate Intelligence inside our bodies is the most advanced, integrative, and unmatched force on the planet. Either listen to it and help it or get the f$@# out of its way.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Don't be fooled with other throwing programs...

by Tommy John III
Don't Be Fooled:

And yet another way to learn to throw to not hurt your arm and throw faster is upon us. A researched based, which is a loose term considering research can prove whatever you want, new training regimen where you throw a weighted ball and don't let go has now hit the webs of baseball enthusiasts. Based on the "fact" that tennis players don't suffer the same arm injuries as pitchers obviously because they don't let go of the racket. Guys and girls this is all just another item that needs to go in the trunk of bad ideas on how to prevent arm injuries and throw faster.

The cause of ALL injury is the body's inability to absorb force. Force is absorbed by muscle. Period. Muscles may not do their job if they 1. aren't strong enough 2. aren't getting the proper signal from the spinal cord because of interference 3. have a negative charge laid in their cells preventing them from turning on at the right time. So if you are worried about preventing injuries then prepare your body more appropriately…your whole body. This is one of the only countries where kids are given a ball first to learn their sport before learning how to jump, climb, crawl, sprint, roll, spin, twist etc. And the US is leading the charge in 1. youth arm injuries and 2. not rehabbing back properly from the injury. And if you think about it once youths in this country go to hard ball games the ball used in Major League sized. In all other sports the equipment is smaller for youths until they are strong enough to handle it…football, basketball, tennis, and soccer to name a few. Strasburg throws the same weighted ball as your 9 year old.

And clowns like the gentlemen coming up with more ways to make money in the preventing arm injury business, their feat is wrapped up in this analogy: If a kid goes out in winter and gets cold, these guys try to change the weather rather than just putting a jacket on the kid. Doesn't make much sense does it?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


by Chad Bentz

I was just a young kid from Alaska that was born without a fully developed right hand.  What I later learned is that I couldn't of asked for anything more because that’s all I needed to start my long grueling road to the major leagues.

I started my sporting career as a hockey player and attempted to play baseball as well.  In a pitching machine league, the coach stuck me at pitcher and my teammates weren't the best when they would always tell me over and over that handicap kids couldn't play baseball.  After one baseball game I told my folks that I wasn't having any more fun and that I didn't want to play ball anymore and they had no problem with it.  All was well and good until we moved from Palmer, AK to Juneau, AK, which didn't have any hockey let alone an ice rink.  I was very disappointed to say the least, especially since I was the new kid in school with the screwed up hand.     

Elementary school was a rough time for me.  I had anyone and everyone judging and usually making fun of my hand, so I started putting my hand in my pocket until one day I was at our lake house in Michigan and saw a man pitching for the California Angels and he was switching his glove every time he threw and caught the ball.  My dad quickly informed me that this man pitching in the major leagues was missing his right hand.  I instantly felt an amazing feeling rush over my entire body making me feel something I don’t remember ever feeling before.  I didn't leave the TV and watched the entire outing.  That man’s name was Jim Abbott.  He changed my life in so many ways that this computer doesn't have enough memory to hold it all.  He gave me the confidence to try things and to try out for little league once again even though I had many reservations about it.  During my first season, I threw my first no-hitter, which I didn't even know what that was.  It was all done after that.

I spent my teen-age years in Michigan playing in a Connie Mack league.  I thought I was a pretty good pitcher when I was sixteen years old, until I pitched my first game in Michigan.  I got lit up pretty hard and didn't even last 2 innings.  I was extremely humbled and realized very quick that I had to start working if I wanted to get better quality hitters out.  When I went home I started hitting the weights and didn't look back.  I wanted to work and sweat more than the other guy out there who was trying to make the same goal I had.  I spent two more summers in Michigan and even had the chance to play in the Connie Mack World Series, which was a great experience.  

After my senior year of high school I was fortunate enough to get drafted by the New York Yankees in the 34th round.  I was beside myself being drafted by the yanks, but I knew it wasn't time for me to sign, so I decided to go to Long Beach State.  During that time I had to privilege to meet Jim Abbott face to face, which was a dream come true.  A lot of people have their favorite players, but Abbott is much more than that.  He gave me the courage to try and do things where as before I saw him pitch on TV, I would shy away from.  After two great seasons there I was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 7th round and decided to start the hard road of professional baseball with the destination being the major leagues.  

My first spring training was exciting.  I remember seeing all the big league guys working out or practicing in the fields we couldn't go on, but just seeing them in real life was thrilling enough.  Then I met Tommy John and he introduced himself and was very kind and welcoming, asking me how I was doing and that he heard a lot of good things about me.  I just remembered thinking to myself, “this is the guy who’s saved thousands of careers because he had the courage to undergo a experimental surgery”.  I always felt comfortable around Tommy because he’s so easy going and he has even more stories and he tells them extremely well to that you can picture what he’s talking about in your mind as he’s telling the story.  Another reason is that he had so many different nicknames for me, with “Mercedes” being my favorite, since my last name is Bentz.  Unfortunately though Tommy was the Triple A pitching coach and I was in Short Season A.  

I pitched well my first year in pro ball as a starter.  I worked my tail off in the off-season.  I was in the gym religiously no less than five days a week.  I had another decent year and again worked and sweated my tail off in the off-season.  Finally, I had a break out season in Double A and earned a spot on the 40-man roster with Montreal.  I went to my first big camp not expecting to make the club by any means.  I just took the ball when they gave it to me and tried my best to get hitters out.  Each week passed by and I still was on the major league side of spring training until the last day of camp came and I was walking into the clubhouse after pitching to a minor league team and Frank Robinson, the Manager, told me “congratulations, you’re a big leaguer now”!  It was one of the best memories I have, along with seeing Abbott on TV for the first time, meeting Abbott face to face, my daughter being born, and I guess my wedding day!

My road to the big leagues probably isn't an everyday tail, but all is took was determination, perseverance, and sweat.  I am no physical specimen to say the very least, but I worked and got better.  Anyone can make it if they want to and if you give it everything you have, you’ll be able to lay down at night and sleep with ease, not wondering the “what ifs”.  Play until someone tells you that you cant anymore.  You have your whole life to work and only one shot of making it in whatever it is you want to do or be.  Believe in yourself and work hard and more times than not good things will come, whether it’s in your life dream or something else.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pitcher's Running: Fact and Fiction

by Tommy John III

What I think I was blessed with was the ability to taste both sides of the experience. I played division I baseball as a 2nd baseman and pitched a little and then pitched professionally for 2 years. I also had the privilege of being able to train athletes/general public in regards to power improvement, velocity training, strength endurance and fat loss in a unique system of training that utilizes more of a Soviet approach to training.  The Soviet strength systems pride themselves of doing a great amount with very little leaving it up to the individual person, their central nervous systems, and their desired outcome for training to create the adaptations necessary to reach their goals. In these systems long, slow distance work is never utilized, especially not in preparing an athlete to become a very powerful machine able to throw 80-90mph fast balls 200 times over every start. 

The reason most coaches utilize distance running is to sharpen up the cardiovascular system so it can be more efficient in delivering nutrients to muscles needing to perform work...or improve conditioning. There is some benefit to running as it is work. But here's where it gets interesting. Long slow distance running raises levels of cortisol in the body which is the stress hormone. This hormone if elevated log enough can use muscle as a fuel source and fatigue your adrenals. No athlete ever wants muscle to be wasted. When you compare a marathon runner and a sprinter which body type looks more powerful? Yep, the sprinter. And pitching is power. It is an activity of short bursts of all out blinding effort lasting only fractions of a second with 20-40 seconds of recovery time between actions. So why would we want to train a power athlete like a distance runner? 

So here's my compromise: for athletes who just can't imagine a world where there would be a lack of running to prepare to violently throw a 5 oz object 60'6" 200 times a game, you can sprint. A nice conditioning day would be 10-12 40 yd sprints of all out effort w 30 sec or so rest in between. Stride lengths are wider, the lungs have to expand to force more oxygen in utilizing the primary breathing muscles...the abdominals, to perform this action, and the heart will get stronger along with increasing mitochondrial density improving energy output which goes along with certain strength training systems. 

Another alternative to running that would prepare a pitcher for his workload on game day would be plyometrics. For instance, perform 2 footed bounds 10 in a row with no pause then rest 45 sec and repeat 9-11 more times, remembering to use your arms to help propel you forward. Your legs will gain strength and power along with the erectors of your spine and muscles of the shoulder and arms as well. And...your heart will still get the workload it needs, even more so than with long slow distance running. 

I know it's a leap of faith. It was for me too. But I have not run in over 10 years, except when chased:) I am leaner and stronger now than when I was a professional athlete. Try it for 3 months or so, see how your body responds. I promise your results will speak for themselves as long as the effort is there. 

One more thing...when is it that you see pitchers get injured most not arm related? When they have to sprint off the mound to backup a bag or field a bunt. They pull up lame. I've seen it over and over when I played. And those guys getting injured were the guys who did most of the distance work. Their bodies just aren't prepared for the forces and speeds required to be a successful pitcher even after the ball is thrown. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to gain velocity

by Tommy John III
Awesome question Abe, (in response to a twitter question we were asked).  I get asked this a lot as it seems to be on a lot of pitchers' minds.  The truth is, and this is going to be the case with most discussions about things dealing with the body, there is no shortcut and no single area to focus on.  It all works together.  Just like with weight loss its not just calorie counting, it involves hormone balance, feeding times, fasting, sun exposure, sleep, stress etc.  So that being said let's get into the discussion about what lifts you can do to increase velocity.

First of all, it is hard to take advice on lifts and exercises from some giant, broad shouldered pitching coach who threw 98 when he was in high school or on a pro team because in most instances this guy did very little to acquire this ability.  He was born with it. So there is a genetic component to velocity, fast twitch muscle fiber amount is laid down at birth but this can be altered a bit through the correct training.  

Think about how aggressive and fast the movement of the actual throwing phase of pitching is...it is very aggressive, very fast, high amounts of velocity, and a tremendous amount of effort needed from the pitcher.  So...what I want you to realize is that if you wish to throw with velocity, you must train at an equal emotional level.  In my opinion that is the problem with today's athletes.  Everyone's training is always slow, gentle, delayed, and it in no way mimics the movement velocitys necessary in order to throw a 90 mph baseball.  And then they expect a different result when they compete.  What you need to realize is that training for your sport means you are teaching your body about joint position, muscle length, force absorption and velocity.  You are constantly learning, constantly bringing in information on what adjustments need to be made in order to adapt.  So we need training to become very close to the effort needed to pitch a fastball as fast as possible.  Now this comment needs to be understood more.  I'm not telling someone to go into a training system without training at all and just start moving at fastball velocitys.  But, once the movement in the lift is learned, then yes, the effort is always maximal with no negotiations.  And that is how one needs to train if one wants to get faster in any respect...pitching, running, jumping etc.

Now that HOW to train has been addressed and let me say this and let this sink in....it is always HOW you train that will create the most adaptation, not WHAT lifts you do.  And that is just fact, across cultures, disciplines, sports etc.  How will always trump what.  But let's talk a little about the what in training. In my opinion, in order to generate velocity, it is the brains job to move the hand as fast as possible.  But the hand is connected to the ground through the body.  And this is the reason there is no secret lift or lifts to increase velocity in pitching.  So let's start from the ground up.  Your feet must first be very very strong in order for anything else above them to get stronger.  I would suggest training in bare feet or in flat soled shoes like Chuck Taylors, Puma sprint shoes.  Your feet will be sore at first but keep going and the 4 layers of muscles in your feet will get stronger and  adaptation will take place.  The main area an athlete should focus on in my opinion are the glutes and hamstrings.  In over 10 years of training athletes and the general public it amazes me how weak peoples hamstrings and glutes are.  Even swinging a bat can be improved in regards to velocity of bat speed simply by strengthening the hamstrings and glutes.  Good exercises for these areas are squats, lunges, glute ham machine work, RDL's, dead lifts  and split squats.  But keep in mind what I talked about with effort.  And always use free weights when training.  Your nervous system has got to make more adjustments and corrections throughout every inch of the lift.  Avoid machines whenever you can.  Core strength is the next area on our way up from the ground to the hand.  I know everyone focuses on core and most programs are a joke.  There is too much focus on the abdominals and very little on the back.  I would say do 3 back exercises for every 1 abdominal one.  In 10 years of treating injuries in sports I have never seen an injury caused from weak abdominals.  The abdominals main job or function is to breathe.  I have not done a crunch in over 8 years and I do not have back problems, I play gold whenever i wish with power, and all I do are breathing exercises.  So this is just one example of how the core of your body is trained beyond simple abdominal exercises.   You must keep all 3 sides of your deltoid or shoulders as strong as possible.  Everyone focuses on the rotator cuff and this is an important area but it all coincides with the function of the deltoid as well.  When my father, Tommy John, was coming back from Tommy John surgery in 1974 he did 1500 shoulder moves daily, and his injury was not in his shoulder.  He also never missed a start because of arm problems after that point.  Something to think about.  Lastly, just as important your feet are to velocity, your hands are equally important.  Never ever ever wear gloves when you train.  There are over 4000 nerve endings in the palm of the hands so you want to stimulate these areas when you train.  Plus you are teaching your brain about feel, using your fingertips when you train.  And it is the tips of the fingers that you need utmost control over in order to release a baseball properly at a specific velocity.  When it comes to forearms, the weaknesses come into the extensor side of the forearm or the muscles you use to open your hand.  You must strengthen these with intense focus.  Don't worry so much about the muscles that close your hand, or your flexors.  You will work those with your daily activities.  

I hope this helps.  Find the exercises on your own and apply the methods discussed in this.  There are a ton of programs out there and they all hold great capability, but it's the HOW that separates one athlete from another.  Some things to avoid that take away from a pitcher becoming the best he/she can be: extended periods of static stretching.  Yep. It is possible to over stretch a joint which is occurring out there and there are way too many injuries out there stemming from this cause alone.  Also, cut down the amounts of distance running you do.  This activity will create a weaker athlete.  It messes with hormones needed to build muscle and truly recover, it weakens your heart and lungs.  Now, before you cut out running altogether, I didn't say to avoid sprints or jumps.  And these activities again are more relational to the speeds needed to throw a baseball at top velocity.  

Good luck to you.  Get your spine checked by a chiropractor before doing anything, always keep the prepared body at a higher level of function than the skill body, and eat foods that rot. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pitching 101

by Tommy John

I was traded from Cleveland to the White Sox during the winter of 1964-65.  My Dad told me this between classes at Indiana State Univ. 

I NEVER had a pitching coach in the years I was in the minors with Cleveland.  It just wasn't done back then.  I got to the big leagues and had Early Wynn as my pitching coach, Hall of Fame pitcher for Cleveland and the White Sox.  He was a great man but didn't teach anything about pitching or how to get batters out.  As a result, I floundered pitching in 1963 and 1964.  When I had good stuff I might win, but when I didn't there was ZERO chance to win.
I arrived in Sarasota, Fla ready to go.  I met Al Lopez the Mgr, and all of the coaches, but the one I really wanted to talk to was Ray Berres, the pitching coach.  Ray was a catcher as was Lopez in the MLB.  Ray didn't put a lot of things on me at first, but one thing he kept saying throwing "stay back, get your elbow up and throw through the ball."  We didn't have a throwing program like they do today.  You got another pitcher and played catch.  I'd hear Ray's whistle.  TJ, get your elbow up, don't rush!  I had no idea what don't rush meant.

Ray Berres
I pitched all the games I was supposed to pitch with the White Sox, but I still kept hearing Ray yell, "don't rush!  Don't rush!"  He could have been speaking Chinese to me for all the good it was doing.  One day upon leaving the clubhouse I saw Ray hitting wedges down the left field line.  He was topping them and hitting them fat.  All the things you shouldn't do in hitting a wedge.  I went over and watched and then I gave Ray my advice.  "Ray, your back swing is so fast I can 't see it.  Take the club back and set it above your shoulders."  So I showed him.  Slow back....Fast through.  I hit 2-3 shots for him.  Ray laughed and said the words that made me instantly a better pitcher.  "That's the way I want you to throw a baseball!"  The big light came on.  He spoke to me in a language I understood, golf!!  From then on I was slow back and fast through.  Kind of simple, but it also taught me that to teach or coach you have to be able to relate in verbiage that the student understands.

TJ as a Chicago White Sox player
Many fans thought that I didn't throw hard, but I threw much harder than they "saw".  I had a long, slow motion that looked like I was just tossing the ball to the plate.  In fact, the pitch was an optical illusion.  Hitters thought the same thing, but my fastball got on them before they thought it was going.  I learned from Gary Peters, another lefty that the object of pitching is to "throw the pitch harder than the hitters thinks or slower than he thinks."  Now days the pitchers just throw as hard as possible.  The real pitching is the Greg Maddox or Jamie Moyer. 
Stay in back of the ball and throw through the ball while being in balance.  That was the White Sox philosophy.  Arm up, throw from high to low.
Sounds simple and it is.  I learned this in 1965 and it is true today but just not taught.  Today they pitch to the radar gun and not to get hitters out!!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pitcher's beware!!

by Garrett Berger
I have been teaching lessons for over 10 years now and my philosophy is very simple.  Teach pitcher's their mechanics, educate them on what their body does, make them feel what they are doing so they can make an adjustment, and most importantly teach them to become their own coach.

There are a lot of guys out there that are teaching the "art of pitching" to young kids with no background of having played or being educated byt the books they read on their kindles.  Our job as pitching instructors is to teach the player what works best for his body, based upon comfortability, and most importantly to teach the player to become his own coach.  There are a lot of foxes in the pitching hen house, and they are looking to steal your nest egg.

You have to use your head and your gut when choosing a pitching instructor.  There are a lot of instructors out there that sell dreams.  They are in it for the money, and could care less about your son.  Some care about your player but lack the knowledge to get them to a higher level.  Make sure the instructor is giving you good information and giving them something to do on their own. If you feel like they are with holding information just to get you back in the door they probably are.  Make sure they are working on all aspects of pitching meaning PFP's, yes they are important just ask the 2006 Tigers Staff, pick off moves (holding runners on), and situational pitching.

Just because you take your child to a pitching instructor does not mean that he will get better nor will it mean he will be a first round pick!  There is a lot of work and accountability associated with making it to that level and going once a week to a pitching instructor is not going to cut it.  You have to put in the time to get better and most of the time its on your own or with a person that shares the same amount of passion you do for reaching your goals.  This doesn't mean you need to be over throwing, working out too much (yes there is such a thing), or going overboard.  You have to be smart listen to your body and know when you've gotten enough work in that day.

It's time to bring the accountability back to yourself.  Pitching instructors can be great resources to help you make sure you course correct and to help get you on a straight path.  YOU are the one that is in charge of your own destiny.  If YOU want to be a play at the next level act like it.  Put in the work.  Throw away the excuses.

The TJPA is here to help.  We will continue to cross the line for the sake of the player.  We want the purity of the game to start in amateur sports and maintain throughout your careers.  Treat the game with respect and it will respect you back.