3DPT Interviews Keith Scott, owner of Impact Training and Fitness in West Berlin, NJ about injury prevention and off season training.
3DPT: You trained the 2015 male and female SJ high school athletes of the year, so you know the hard work behind the scenes that is needed to have that kind of success in competition. What do you think are the important parts of an offseason baseball training program?
Keith Scott: Well, it’s really important to understand that properly training a baseball player is complex, and it takes a total understanding of many things. For one, I feel it’s essential to understand the basic anatomy and kinematics of throwing and hitting. To make matters more complex, a pitcher needs to be dealt with differently than a position player. Training any athlete from any sport should follow this same idea, but with baseball, it can be even more important because of the unique demands of the sport.
As with training any athlete, strength is the foundation. With a baseball player, we really work on everything. There is a lot of focus on core strengthening, as well as leg and hip. Of course, the shoulder complex is dealt with, but we really treat that differently than a lot of people have in the past (and still do in some cases.) In the past, there was a tremendous focus on single dimensional band work of the shoulder joint only. That is outdated and I feel not going to do the job! We work on the whole upper body combining stability, strength, and mobility in various areas that ensure performance enhancement as well as injury prevention. You also have to understand how the entire body gels and works together (i.e. upper, core, lower.) With baseball, there is a lot to work on and it takes time. My guys train with me most of the year and they can see the vast improvements in the gym, but more so… on the field.
In a nut shell, we do a great job at balancing strength, stability and mobility. And as I said, it can be different for pitchers and position players.
Also, with baseball players, it’s important to find a balance between doing too much outside of the gym, and what you do in the gym. There are guys throwing year round now and playing on numerous teams throughout the year. If there is no one making sure that these guys are staying healthy and not doing too much, injuries are sure to come and performance is sure to drop.
3DPT: What are your thoughts on weight training for pitchers? What do you think are the most important exercises/body areas for pitchers to work on to avoid injuries?
KS: Weight training is fine with pitchers as long as it is done correctly and you are doing the right exercises and movements. Weight training with pitchers has gotten a bad rap and continues to because so many people are doing dangerous and frankly…stupid things. This isn’t on purpose, but rather because a lot of baseball players are being trained with weights by people that have zero education, or background in training and just simply do not understand anatomy, kinesiology and biomechanics. With that said, we train our pitchers with traditional and also, non-traditional exercises. Squats, dead lifts, and lunges are always a part of our routines, for example. We just do them a little differently to ensure safety and maximum results. We train our pitchers differently than position players, and train our baseball guys much differently than we do other athletes even though they use the same foundation of exercises. We do a lot of single leg work with our guys too. One-leg squats, lunges (various forms), etc…
For the upper body, we focus on the scapular area and many of our exercises are the “pulling” type as we are looking to activate and strengthen the scap muscles. We use a lot of body weight movements to – such as pull up variations, TRX work, and yes, we do incorporate bands – just very differently than we have seen in the past. We utilize medicine balls a lot with our guys for strength, and explosive training, too.
We also avoid certain weight training exercises. You have to always weigh the cost vs. benefits before you incorporate an exercise. There are tons of ways to get to the same point. Some are safer than others.
3DPT: There has been a lot of negative press about college showcases lately. Do you think they can lead to an increase in injuries?
KS: They can and I think they do, especially with pitchers. Most of the showcases are done in the off-season when pitchers should be resting from the season, and letting their arms heal properly. There are actually studies that highlight how injured pitchers have attended 4 times more showcases than non-injured pitchers. Most pitchers that have serious shoulder or elbow injuries have thrown almost twice as many pitches throughout the year as “healthy” non-injured pitchers. This is not just an indictment on showcases, but also on playing (pitching) on teams, year-round without rest. In all of my years training athletes and baseball players, I rarely hear of any players being given scholarships from a showcase. Frankly, I believe if you are a great player, you will be noticed during the regular high school or Summer ball season. This has certainly been the case in my 20 plus years of experience dealing with baseball players.
3DPT: What do you think are the largest possible reasons for the run of elbow injuries and surgeries among baseball players?
KS: I think it has a ton to do with pitchers throwing year-round at younger ages. Most baseball guys don’t play any other sports these days…so there is no arm rest. These guys play regular season, Summer ball, Fall ball and some continue to play over the Winter. There is zero down time. A lot of guys join baseball clubs where they continue to pitch and throw year-round with pitching coaches. They are involved with so many different people throughout the year and there is no one monitoring the total amount of throwing that occurs through the entire year. This, over the years adds up and causes major wear and tear around the elbow. Add this to the lack of guys working on other parts of the body (i.e. strength training, mobility work, etc…) and in you start to see elbow problems. This often happens years later, so there is no real blame towards the constant throwing that occurred earlier in the career of these baseball players. So, the cycle just continues.
3DPT: Many athletes will work with physical therapists and personal trainers throughout their careers. What do you feel are the attributes that make a great PT or personal trainer for an athlete?
KS: I really think it boils down to having a great education and experience working with athletes. There are Physical Therapists that have never really worked with an athlete before and to be honest, athletes need to be dealt with differently than the general public. They are, in essence, a special population. There are a lot of “trainers” working with athletes these days that don’t really have experience or any kind of educational background and because of that, they are really doing a disservice to the athlete. I think you need to continue educate yourself because information changes so much each year and it’s really important to keep up with the newest research information out there. I think both the physical therapist and the trainer need to not only understand general athletics, but more so, understand the specific sports that they are dealing with at the time. Getting an athlete back on the field or helping them to excel takes an understanding of that sport and also the position that the athlete plays. Great Physical Therapists and great trainers understand this point and make it a priority to learn and surround themselves with other professionals that can help them as well.
Take the sport of baseball for example…it takes a total understanding of the sport and position (i.e. pitcher, catcher, hitting, etc…) and also an understanding of the biomechanics involved, the anatomy of human body and how it relates to the sport, and it takes an understanding of the kinematics of the sports and positions played to really help these athletes prevent injuries, recover, excel, etc…
As a strength coach, and also a certified athletic trainer, I have made it a practice to build my professional network to include great sports coaches, other trainers, physical therapists, doctors, and other professionals that can help me give the best possible training and care to the athlete!
3DPT: What do you like to do in your spare time?
KS: I love training and still love to hit the gym and challenge myself. Besides that, the number one thing I like to do is spend time with my family. I have two very young kids (boys) at home, and my wife and I try to spend as much time as possible with them as they grow. My job takes so much of my time, but I am finding a better balance between that and spending time at home, as well.
Keith Scott is owner of Impact Training and Fitness in West Berlin, NJ. He is a licensed Athletic Trainer and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Coach by the NSCA. Keith was the anatomy instructor in the University of Arizona Athletic Training program, and was the Athletic Trainer for a professional football team before starting his own training studio. Keith also regularly contributes to Men’s Health magazine.
For more information, please visit his website at www.impacttrainingnj.com, or call 856-767-2250.