Being Choosable

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Every kid who plays baseball as the dream of playing in a game, getting the walk-off hit, being mobbed by his teammates, and then having a college or professional scout come up to him offering a scholarship or professional contract. The fact of the matter is that most kids are greeted by their family, friends, and teammates after a game and never even meet a college coach or professional scout unless they are a family friend. Why is this the case? They’re just not choosable.

Most parents think that being choosable is about their son’s game stats. I’ve heard parents rattle of their son’s batting average, OPS, ERA, and like as if it’s their favorite lyric to their favorite song. Unfortunately, their son’s game statistics have nothing to do with being choosable. I’ve sat with multiple parents over the past month who knew the game stats, but when they were asked about their son’s Throwing Velocity, Ball Exit Velocity, or 60-Yard Dash time, they don’t know the answer.

Those three numbers are the most important numbers you can possibly know and develop in the game of baseball. Throwing Velocity, Ball Exit Speed, and your 60-Yard Dash time make you choosable. Focus your time, resources, and training on these three elements. Train them. Know them. Improve them. Bardo’s is here to help in the advancement and training of these measurements for your son. Play less, train more.

Join Healthy Heat and experience the best throwing program in the region.

Get into a 3D Hitting group and experience the hitting program that has put Colorado hitters on the map for more than a decade.

Ask us about our current strength and conditioning offering, and who we recommend for strength work by emailing keith@bardosdiamondsports.com.

We believe that more baseball players in the region can become choosable by choosing the right training opportunities, and we desire to be a part of your son’s baseball training. Let’s work together to make your son one who is chosen to advance is baseball career from youth to high school, from high school to college, and even from high school or college to the professional ranks!

Tunneling - Part 3

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The most critical part of all of this is bringing it together to get hitters out. Enter tunneling.  The idea of tunneling is getting two different pitches to travel down the same path as long as possible, ideally to the point where hitters have to decide to swing or not.  Having elite stuff will get hitters out at a lot of levels.  Tunneling becomes a much bigger factor as players get better and begin to have a real approach at the plate.  If a pitcher has a fastball that hitters do not routinely catch up to, pounding the strike zone and using offspeed as necessary will get most hitters out.  However, it is a good thing to begin to understand and use even at younger ages.  The most simple and  particularly at younger ages effective is tunneling a fastball and a change-up.  

Change-ups are good because they look like fastballs and fairly easy to throw with the same arm action and similar release point as fastballs.  If a pitcher can throw a good fastball to any location, throwing a change-up that beings in the same spot and ends slightly different will be highly effective.  As pitchers begin to throw more breaking balls, setting them up will usually begin with a more elevated fastball.  If a pitcher gets good 12-6 break on a breaking ball, a fastball at the letters will allow a pitcher to start their breaking ball just above the strike zone and still finish for a strike.  Just imagine the kid that can never get the ball down being told to pound the top of the zone with fastballs and throw their curveball in the zone, game changer.

This is again where knowing the spin rate and actual action of all pitches is important.  The other major factor is controlling the baseball.  It does not have to be pinpoint command, but it will be most effective if the pitches are around their intended location.  However, I believe this can still play at all levels because the goal should be to control the fastball to both sides of the plate as well as up and down.  It cannot be overstated that the first goal should be to have develop quality stuff. If hitters do not hit the ball in the strike zone, pitchers don’t need to make it more complex.

Throw your fastball where it is most effective, throw a breaking ball that looks like that fastball for as long as possible. If people chase it, throw it out of the zone more often. If they miss it in the zone, don’t try to force them to chase.

Want to find out your spin rate? Give us a call and find out how you can set up a time to get on the Rapsodo and find out how to really use your stuff!

Spin Rate, Spin Axis & Gyro Spin - Part 2

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In Part 1 we talked about spin rate and how it affects fastballs.  Part 2 will cover spin axis and tunneling fastballs and offspeed.

Spin Axis and Gyro Spin

There are few pitches thrown in baseball that are perfectly straight.  Typically guys are said to have natural “run” movement towards the arm side or “cut” movement towards the glove side.  This is because very few people have true backspin on the baseball. The angle or tilt of the baseball will alter the way that it moves.  This angle or tilt is typically referred to as the spin axis.

While fastballs can be altered by changing the axis, breaking balls are even more susceptible to change in this way.  For example a true overhand curveball would ideally be thrown perfect topspin, a 12 o’clock axis. As it reaches home plate it would work straight down (like a shadow hitting the 12 and the 6 on a clock) giving it a significant amount of vertical break and very little horizontal break.  However, if the spin axis was closer to 11:00, the pitch would still have significant vertical break, but also more horizontal break. One is not necessarily better than the other, however knowing which spin your pitch has is important. While the spin rate of a breaking pitch is important it works differently than a fastball because not all spin is equal.

There is another factor that goes along with spin axis - gyro spin.  Everyone has heard of the famous gyro ball that was said to be the secret weapon of Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Gyro spin is similar the spiral of a football.  It allows the ball to resist drag but also keeps the ball straight.  Therefore a gyro ball would spin like a football and stay straight (also known as a bad slider).  The amount of gyro spin on each pitch will factor into the overall effectiveness of the pitch. With the exception of sliders, the less gyro spin the better as this spin does not help the pitch break.  As I said earlier, not all spin is created equal. Rapsodo provides a number for the total spin minus the gyro spin on each pitch, also known as useful spin. The ball will typically break more if there is less gyro spin, or more true spin driving the break of the pitch.   

While it may be difficult to drastically improve the spin rate of a pitch in a short amount of time, the spin axis can often be changed simply by tinkering with grip and the feel at release.  Knowing the spin axis and useful spin also takes the guesswork out of improving a pitch because it will provide instant feedback of if it improved. While much of it is still trial and error, it can even be beneficial just to know what the ball is really doing, not just what the eye test tells us.  The classic, “get on top of it” is not always the answer. We often see that some guys are really just trying too hard to get a certain break. Some guys have struggled with curveballs for years that were really trying to force a slider, with an axis around 3:00 and low spin efficiency to break straight down.  Breaking balls can be much easier to duplicate if you aren’t fighting them the whole time and the overall command can improve drastically.

Ball Exit Velocity

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I started measuring exit velocity with my hitters in 2008. We started including a measurement station in all of our hitting practices in an effort to learn. Generally speaking, it was me sitting on a bucket with a radar gun and a clipboard across from a player hitting the ball off of a tee towards me. It was so early in this revolution that I had a Major League scout in the area ask me a simple question one morning during one of our workouts - “What are you doing?”

The story seems crazy now as data dominates every baseball conversation. Baseball facilities across the country either own or are familiar with brand names such as Trackman, Rapsodo, HitTrax, K Motion, and Blast Motion. The question is no longer whether or not a coach is collecting data, but it’s whether or not a coach can help a player improve his current data.

The next revolution is movement and coaching proper efficient movements. Our 3D Hitting team here at Bardo’s has created a Swing Movement Assessment that we use to guide players into individual protocols for their success. In my lessons and 3D groups, I’m using the 3D Movement drills and protocols, as well as data from HitTrax and a Blast Motion sensor. Gone are the days of just waiting for a kid to grow and get stronger. I’ve got to help him move better and improve now.

I’m sure that same scout would come up to me during a lesson or hitting group now with the same question. My laptop is open next to my phone as I crosscheck Blast Motion data from previous sessions while monitoring HitTrax data. I’m still learning, but I’ve got 10 years of understanding the data to apply. Now, thanks to the 3D Movement Assessment and the coaches here at Bardo’s Diamond Sports, I’ve got even more to share.

To join a 3D Hitting group, contact our 3D Hitting Coordinator, Conner Reynolds, at conner@bardosdiamondsports.com.

Fastball Spin Rate - Part 1

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Spin Rate Part 1 : What is it? How does it affect fastballs?

We have all seen it before, two pitchers that throw with the same velocity and get completely different results.  One seems to be able to throw everything down the middle and never get touched, while the other seems like everything is hit hard even when they get outs.  Major League Baseball has been recording 27 different metics about pitchers and their pitches thanks to the TrackMan technology that allows them to measure these metrics for every pitch of every game.

Spin rate has become a major topic of conversation around major league teams.  Some organizations are keeping pitchers around solely because of their spin rate and, as usual, some are ignoring it.  Spin rate is the measure of how fast a ball is spinning from release to the plate, measured in revolutions per minute. Spin rate plays a major role in how much or little a ball drops on it’s way to the plate.  While there is not an “ideal” spin rate, there is an average and this average plays a large roll in the type of contact a pitcher usually gets.

The “flat” fastball that people like to talk about isn’t that it comes in as straight as an arrow it is simply the average of the fastballs they have seen before.  The MLB “average” fastball is 92.87 mph at 2,262.48 rpm. The most effective fastballs are simply not average. In order to have a highly effective fastball a pitcher needs to be about 200 above or below the average.  If a pitcher threw a 92.87 mph fastball with a spin rate of 2400 rpm or greater, it would cross the plate be higher than the average fastball. This “rising” fastball, drops less than a hitter anticipates and generally results in more swings and misses as well as fly balls.  The opposite is true for a 92.87 mph that with a spin rate 2000 rpm or lower, it drops faster than normal causing hitters to hit it on the ground more often. However, in general, it’s easier to make contact with.

Pitchers at the highest level are beginning to adapt their entire game plan around their fastball spin rate.  Pitch selection and location are changing, high spin pitchers are throwing fastballs up in the zone more frequently which effects how they use their breaking ball.  Some pitchers like Gerrit Cole are using 4 seams more often than two seams and some are doing the opposite. While there are no hard truths when it comes to how to get hitters out, knowing how the baseball actually moves is having a big effect on the game.

While amatuer baseball is not as big into analytics as the professionals for many reasons including the inability to track everything, knowing a pitchers spin rate can still be beneficial. The age old adage of get the fastball down to have success or favoring ground outs over fly outs is quickly becoming outdated.  It really just confirms what the eye sees. There have always been pitchers that would regularly pump fastballs at the letters and not get hit. Much like velocity, you can tell when a guy throws hard, you can see when a ball has life. Now it can be identified earlier and pitchers can develop a plan. Also, it may help speed up the time it takes a pitcher to develop control of their arsenal.  If your best fastball is at the letters, practicing throwing it at the knees is not an effective way to spend your developmental time. It could also make it easier to use offspeed effectively since it would now be easier to set up.

In the brief time that we have been able to measure spin rate in Bardo’s using the Rapsodo we have been able to help people create their plan.  While a nine year old who is constantly changing does not need to worry about their spin rate. A rising freshman that may be ahead developmentally can really benefit from knowing that they currently don’t have numbers that say a sinker would be effective.  There are many other factors that affect how baseballs move and there will be more on that soon.

Building Alliances - High School Summer Alliance Training

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al·li·ance (/əˈlīəns/, noun)
1. a union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.
2. a relationship based on an affinity in interests, nature, or qualities.
3. a state of being joined or associated.

Having coached Division 1 baseball for 14 years and being a Colorado native, I’ve had a broad look at Colorado baseball for some time. The baseball culture has changed in Colorado since I heavily recruited this state as a Division 1 coach at Texas Tech, Kansas, Texas-Arlington and Dallas Baptist. The state has always been fertile with a population base that supports and produces fine athletes who want to further their baseball opportunities at higher levels. However, the onset of travel baseball teams and tournaments has changed the culture. Kids are playing more games and getting more opportunities to hone their game. While the volume of game play has increased, the commitment and reality of truthful development becomes a tricky conundrum. Game play is certainly an important part of development, but intentional training is of equal importance. I’ve often witnessed the sacrifice of one in leu of the other, and intentional training is often the choice left on the altar. This doesn’t need to be the case and it shouldn’t be so that every child will develop to their fullest potential.

One of our most successful programs has been our In House Youth Team Training. Our Bardo’s teams have experienced great on-field success thanks to matching excellent development and intentional training with wonderful coaching, appropriate game play opportunities, and talented young players. This past summer, we began the process of branding our In House Teams with “TCA” - Team Colorado Alliance. The idea here is that we have built an alliance with many youth teams in a relationship where we come together for mutual benefit.

Because of the success of that program, we starting to expand this idea and contextualize it to the High School level as well. We started with four different instructional clubs this past fall (Healthy Heat, 3D Hitting, Catcher’s Club, and Impact Infielders) and the results have been very encouraging. We’re seeing players improve, but, more importantly, we’re starting the process of working with the high school coaches so we can all experience the mutual benefit of development. We’re choosing to build alliances with high school coaches for the good of the baseball community and build development opportunities for players of all ages. It is our desire to help and build up the culture of baseball in Colorado through these healthy alliances.

Over the summer, we’ve created a program called High School Summer Alliance Training. It gives players the opportunity to train their arm through our Healthy Heat program and their bat through our 3D Hitting program. The program also provides a 30-minute power-building workout. The program is designed for players playing in any program to come in and train for intentional development. Playing the game is an important step in the process, but every player needs to spend time developing their arm and bat during the season. Playing the game alone can’t accomplish the goals, dreams, and expectations of developing players. We want baseball athletes to experience the freedom to play where they want, and train in a program like our High School Summer Alliance Training. Spend time on your arm and bat during the summer season, and be prepared for an incredible season of improvement.

The link to register for this program is below. There are five options open for training, and players can choose to come once or twice per week. The price comes out to less than $20 per hour for individualized training and protocols provided by both Healthy Heat and 3D Hitting. The program starts on Monday, June 4 and runs to the end of July. I want to encourage all high school players to join us this summer and develop through our High School Summer Alliance Training!

http://www.bardosdiamondsports.com/hs-summer-alliance-training.html

The Art and Science of Hitting

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I love the art and science of hitting! I always have, and because I grew up without the internet, when I became a coach I bought books. It was my belief that only the smartest people in their given field wrote those books. Most of those books were written by former famous “artists” (players) who told us how they did it. Some of the information in the numerous hitting manuals that I studied went against my own educational beliefs in the areas of motor learning, exercise physiology and sports medicine. Being a scientist made me skeptical of some of the traditional “beliefs” that have been passed down about hitting a baseball well.

Enter Robert Kemp Adair in 1987, Sterling Professor of Physics, Yale University and Physicist to the National League. His book “The Physics of Baseball” This is my “go to” when it come to hitting theory because it takes most of the “theory” out. For instance, in his chapter on hitting he speaks of the perfect full swing and the real time events involved in the process. 100 milliseconds for the eye to see the ball and send a message to the brain. 75 milliseconds for the brain to process info. 25 milliseconds to make a decision to swing. 15 milliseconds for the legs to start the swing at a 3-inch spinning ball within 1/8-inch of its center and at precisely the right millisecond! Now we are talking real science! 

With all the perpetrators of misinformation out there, we can always count on a true scientist (with letters behind his name) to help decipher WHY some guys hit and some guys miss!

Don’t be afraid to ask “why” to the guy who works with your kid!

Coach Eaton MS,CSCS

My Truth

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“No citizen has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a person to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” - Socrates (d. 399 BC)

As a Baseball Coach, former Physical Educator and Strength Coach, these words could not be more definitive in terms of my personal philosophy. Sometimes in our quest for the skill-related components of our chosen sport, we skip over the development of foundational health-related components that ultimately benefit our kids two-fold. By moving them towards and keeping them in healthy age-appropriate zones in the areas of mobility, muscular strength and endurance, cardio vascular fitness and body composition, we allow players to train at progressively higher levels of intensity and continued physical development. Current information tells us that youth fitness levels are down and youth sports-related injuries are up! I think Coach Socrates had the answer a long time ago! We cannot skip the development of foundational health-components which lead young people into expertise in the area of physical training.

Coach Steve Eaton, MS,CSCS

In Season Training

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We are a little over a month into our new in-season Healthy Heat format.  We made the decision to slightly alter our offering because we understand the time constraint that comes with playing amateur baseball.  Unlike the college and professional level, schedules are anything but predictable. The offseason was spent focusing on building volume, cleaning up inefficiencies, and training the body to move faster.  As we transitioned to our in-season format the primary focus became my go-to cliche of “maximizing the week."

High level athletes train every day.  Every day doesn’t have to be a maximum effort day, but every day they are working on their craft.  This provides more opportunities for guys to experiment and feel their way through new movements. We wanted to give this opportunity to  our throwers. It has also allowed us to give athletes full recovery days, where they primarily work on their body while using their throwing work as active recovery. 

Results have been amazing!  We have seen huge improvements in the way that guys feel, not only on training days, but also on pitching days away from us.  When throwers show up, they have to self report: when they pitched last, when they will throw next, and how they have felt on pitch days as well as on that given day.  This information has allowed us to provide them with an even more individualized plan for exactly what they need on that day.

While we do not test velocity regularly, when guys haven’t pitched in a week, and have a weekend off, we can have full push days.  The early results have been staggering. Guys are up an average of 5 MPH on a double hop and 3 MPH on their positional throw. While initially we thought it would just be maintaining the gains that guys had achieved over the offseason, we have seen that they can still make huge progress.

These early results have really fueled our fire as to why we think it is critical for guys to continue to train, as often as their schedule allows, during the season.  Even big leaguers have things that they work on in between starts, so amatuer athletes certainly do. They can continue to do arm care to maintain strength and alignment.  They are able to benefit from power building workouts that train them to move better in the specific planes of motion that baseball requires. Most importantly they are able to remove mechanical inefficiencies and remodel their new tissue that is built as a result of throwing in season so that they are able to throw at a higher intent, without pain, more often.

Consistency is key. The best pitchers on any team are good more often than not.  If a guy is lights out one game and then seemingly ineffective the next, it is not a mental issue, it is a recovery issue.  Mechanical inefficiencies, improper warm up or recovery processes, improper build up to the season, or too great of a workload are the main contributing factors.  While the only one with control of workload is ultimately the coach, the first three factors can all be addressed in season. Inefficiencies can be cleaned up with a proper throwing plan.  A bad warm-up can be fixed tomorrow by simply doing what it takes to prepare the body to throw, as well as developing a recovery routine. They can continue to build volume in season, by simply managing stress, and gradually increasing it throughout the week.  

To sum it all up, development never stops, it can’t.  And, more importantly, most guys do not need a total overhaul.  Changes can be made quickly in-season, without regression, by identifying issues and developing a plan of attack.  Our in-season plan is off to a good start and it will continue to change and adapt as players do. We want to plan for anything that could possibly come up so that athletes are able to adjust without having to think about it.  While we want them to own it, we simply want them to work hard during the week, and compete their tails off on the weekend. When they allow it to be that simple, the sky's the limit.

If you or someone you know needs to improve performance, increase their fastball velocity by 3 plus MPH, or eliminate arm pain.  Get in touch with us. Become a part of the best throwing program in Colorado. http://www.bardosdiamondsports.com/healthy-heat.html  

Arm Action

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Pitchers have been told for years that they need to be long, loose, and "whippy" with their arm. The belief is if the arm action is short and compact they'll push the ball or lose power. While pitchers do not NEED to be quick with their actions, efficiency should still be the ultimate goal.  While throwing and the arm action associated with it is something that even toddlers do, it is the most over-coached part of baseball. The long and short of it is (that may have been a pun), whatever can be timed up most often is the right “length” of an arm action.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s break the arm action down into four phases: Arm swing, Final Connection, Launch, and Deceleration. Arm swing is referring to the time from hand break until the front foot hits the ground.  Final connection refers to the position of the arm at front foot strike. Launch is essentially when the arm unwinds and releases the ball. The Deceleration phase is then from release until the arm comes to a complete stop. In every throw, each phase exists. However, the only one that we choose to directly isolate is deceleration.  Everyone from eight-year-olds to our professional clients do deceleration drills every day. It is commonly overlooked, but, in our experience, a large majority of arm pain can be eliminated by cleaning up the deceleration phase.

Each phase will be affected by the phase before it and can affect the phase after it.  While we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, we do have certain parameters for each and they are evaluated based on how they all sync together.

If you are a coach evaluating arm action, I strongly encourage you to get slow-motion video from the open side to look at arm action and even compare it to a big leaguer’s arm action. A large majority of video of pitchers is from the center-field camera, but this view is insufficient in evaluating mechanics because you can really only see side-to-side and one can lose reference of what is happening front to back.

Arm Swing

The timing of the hand break is critical. If the hands break too early, there is time for inefficient movement, and if it is too late the hand may not be up in time. To put it into words, we want the body to move away from the arm as opposed to the arm being thrown away from the body.  Often times we see athletes giving themselves too much time or really trying to reach back for extra velocity, as a result we will try to speed up the body moving toward the target to limit unnecessary arm movement. This phase is mainly a feel thing so eliminating time is highly effective because it forces the body to find it’s most efficient path. Reaching back for a little extra is a common phrase, but actually reaching away from the body just makes being on time at foot strike more difficult.  Being super short in this phase works well for some, but is not something that works for everyone. The inverted W (driving the elbows back and up) has become popular as a major contributor to Tommy John, while we now believe it is more of a timing issue we will not address this type of move unless there is shoulder or elbow pain and as long as it is not still present at front foot strike.

Final Connection

The position of the arm at foot strike is the real money-maker of a delivery. The hand needs to be “up” above the shoulder, even to or inside of 90 degrees, with the elbow just below the shoulder.  For many years people taught that the fingers need to be on top of the ball and the ball pointing to second base, however this puts the forearm in a position where it will be forced to turn off the muscles that protect the UCL to throw. Let the hand be neutral or even pointed toward the thrower. This phase is critical because it will dictate how the arm unfolds and launches. The rotation of the shoulders creates centripetal force which will drive the hand away from the body. If at foot strike the hand is already way outside of 90 degrees this launch could way too early. Adjustments to final connection can be done using a conveniently named connection ball, which creates feel for connected positions.  While in training this may look like shorting the arm action it is simply used to create feel for efficiency and provide feedback of if the athlete was connected through rotation.

Launch

As the shoulders rotate, the arm will lay back into external rotation and then begin to unfold.  This unfolding is a result of the shoulder internally rotating and the hand continuing to drive away from he body. THIS WILL ALL TAKE PLACE AS A RESULT OF WHAT THE BODY IS DOING. If this happens independently of the body, power, health, and maximum effectiveness will be greatly lessened.  Many have been taught to reach out toward the target, but this cannot happen independently. The throwing side hip and shoulder should be rotating past the glove side hip and shoulder driving the hand toward the target. Trevor Bauer recently referred to it on MLB Network as throwing a dart and I completely agree. The hand can make fine tuned adjustments right at the end, but it should not be the primary driver. While the launch phase is an easy one to diagnose and correct, a large majority of issues are a result of previous inefficiency, work backward first.

Deceleration

The ball is gone. If launch happened sequentially, the hand should be in front of the body with the throwing side rotated past the glove side. The first part of this phase is the forearm pronating (thumb down) immediately after ball release turning off the biceps. If the biceps stays active it will pull on what is above (shoulder) and below (elbow), turn it off. Many say that pronation is natural, but if a thrower only focuses on finishing with the fingers they may prevent pronation from occurring. Secondly, we want both shoulders to continue to rotate so that the throwing shoulder finishes on the target. This is not to be confused with rolling the throwing shoulder in which can look like shoulder rotation but is again one part acting independently. Lastly the arm should keep a slight bend throughout the entire phase. If the arm becomes completely extended, it will but stress on the back of the arm and bang the bones around the elbow together. If the bend happens too quickly, then the thrower is “cutting it off” at release and would be losing power. This is a delicate matter because it all happens so fast and it can be hard to tell the difference. Our general rule is if the ball goes straight and isn’t dying off at the end they are extending enough.

Arm action is a delicate thing. It is often the first thing that instructors will look to clean up because it seems to be the biggest issue. However, most of the arm action is largely dependent on what the body is doing. Since January of last year, we have made major changes to how we teach throwing. Everyone that throws a baseball in Bardo’s has received an individualized throwing protocol. In our protocol we try to identify the biggest issues limiting, velocity, health, and performance and clean them up with drills. After doing around 1,000 protocols I can say that 90% of the time, it is not the arm action. Arm actions will constantly change, as athletes move faster or slower arm action will change. As athletes grow and develop arm action will change. Many of our athletes have shortened their arm action and a month from now it may be longer. As long as targets are being hit, velocity is improving, it doesn’t hurt, and guys are going back to the dugout long or short doesn’t matter.

Pick a target, move fast, throw hard, and tell us if it hurts, the body will figure out the rest.

Human Tissue Has No Free Will

People have preconceived notions of what having “it” looks like.  People are convinced they can make decisions on an athlete's career just by looking at them, or, at most, after watching them play one game.  “He doesn’t throw hard,” “he doesn’t throw strikes,” “he can’t throw a breaking ball,” or as simple as “he’s not a pitcher.” False. All of them are skills and skills can be developed.  It may come quicker for some, but anyone can do it if they work to develop it.

Human tissue has no free will.  Nikolai Bernstein was one of the founding fathers of motor learning.  He said, “The body will organize itself in accordance with the overall goal of the activity.”  The body will respond to a stimulus, the key to developing skills is to be in an environment that forces the body to adapt.  As an athlete progresses the environment needs to continue to progress to continue to force adaptation.

When Craig Kimbrel was a freshman in college he badly broke his left foot leaving him in a cast for several months.  He learned to long toss from his knees, and, initially, he wasn’t able to throw the ball very far. Within a few weeks, he could throw it 100 yards from his knees. He adapted.  When he was back to full strength, his velocity had gone from 85 to 95. This offseason Trevor Bauer wanted to learn a slider. His curveball was already his best pitch, but he wanted more.  So, with the help of immediate feedback, from a Rapsodo unit and some high-speed cameras he developed a slider.

We use a simple saying often in Healthy Heat, “I throw hard because I throw hard.”  David Price was quoted saying something similar in an article I read once and I’ve run with it.  It doesn’t have to be rocket surgery - if you want to throw the ball harder, try to throw it harder.  As long as an athlete takes care of their body and gradually increases volume over time, they will throw harder.  We use the same principle in our power-building circuits. There are specific planes of motion that are involved in pitching: moving side to side, rotating around a vertical axis, and doing it primarily on one leg.  As athletes are able to do more reps in 10 seconds in each of these planes they are building power that they can use on the field.

The body has to respond, it doesn’t get to choose.  It just takes time. I probably had thirty at bats after my freshman year of high school...I’m a lifer P.O.  Last summer, I decided I was going to see what would happen if I hit everyday for a month. I took 100 swings everyday, even when I was out of state coaching, I swung a fungo as hard as I could 100 times...once in my hotel room.  At the end of the month, I hopped on the Hit Trax and my exit velocity was 4 mph higher. No coaching, no distractions, just one simple goal - swing harder and my body adapted.

All of this is the driving force behind everything we do at Bardo’s and, even more specifically, in Healthy Heat.  We want to create an environment that forces the body to respond. Pick a target, move fast, throw hard, tell us if it hurts.  Once an athlete is within our safety parameters mechanically, we add as much variance and energy to the system as possible. Running throws have gotten grief from some gurus in the past since you can’t crow hop off the mound, but it challenges the body.  We have seen several guys who thrower slower off a double hop than they do off the mound, because they don’t move well enough to time up a running throw. As their double hop numbers improve, their mound numbers quickly follow.

It breaks my heart when a parent asks me after a few lessons if their kid has a shot as a pitcher. “HE’S 10!” If they like to pitch, let them pitch. If they are willing to work at it, let them work at it.  Just because they aren’t the best pitcher on the team in youth baseball doesn’t they never will be. Some people may be further along, but with the right plan and hard work they can one day be a dude on the mound!

The Secret to Throwing Strikes

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I have heard many different keys to throwing strikes from players and coaches, most of which involve varying release points and arm action in some way shape and form. I don’t want you thinking about any of that when you throw. The truth is, if you look at pitchers' Trackman data across the MLB, players very rarely duplicate the same release point throughout the course of a game. A player might have the same release height and extension only once or twice a game despite throwing the same pitch to the same location numerous times a game. So it goes to reason if the most elite pitchers in the game can’t repeat their throwing mechanics pitch-to-pitch, then how could our youth pitchers possible do so? There is no such thing as a repeatable delivery.

Here in Healthy Heat we try to create feel for proper movement patterns to help keep you connected and put your body in the best possible position to maximize your body’s power safely. You are not going to exactly replicate that movement from pitch-to-pitch. As Randy Sullivan of the Florida Baseball Ranch likes to put it, "a repeatable delivery is a unicorn."

So how can you repeatedly throw strikes and command the strike zone if there is no such thing as a repeatable delivery? Here’s the secret in three easy steps: Move Fast, Throw Hard, and Always Pick a Target. It’s really that simple! Throwing accurately requires fine motor control. If you miss your release point by 1 degree that results in you missing your target by 0.96 feet! So you can’t realistically fix your control by trying to release the ball later or feeling your way through your release point. You need to create proprioception, the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself, of throwing accurately to a target and you need to do it at as close to game speed as possible. That is why we tell our players that every throw is a chance to get better or worse. Choose to get better by moving fast, throwing hard, and picking a target. Then do it again and again until you become a master of your craft.

You can speed up the process of creating proprioception by doing what we call myelinating. Myelinating is celebrating or showing emotion after we do something good. Myelin is a substance your body creates to insulate your brain’s wiring. Every action you perform your brain secretes a layer of myelin to coat the neural pathway for that action. This is basically what we call muscle memory. The more insulated a neural pathway is the more likely you are to repeat that action. Studies have shown that if you add emotion to an action your body will secrete more myelin, resulting in increased muscle memory of that action. So every time you move fast, throw hard, and hit your target show some emotion and celebrate that action! However, your body does not distinguish between positive and negative emotion. So if you do not hit your target, do not show a negative emotion or your body will remember that action more than it normally would as well.

So, get out there and move fast, throw hard, pick a target, celebrate when you hit it, and become a master of commanding the strike zone!

Sean McCourt
Director of Pitching

Come join us in Healthy Heat!
http://www.bardosdiamondsports.com/healthy-heat.html

Recovery, Part 2

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Throwing is like many other athletic movements. If a basketball player wants to get better at his jump shot, he has to get in the gym and get the ball in the air.  If you want to improve your lower body strength, you have lift.  Now, strength training is probably the most similar to throwing a baseball because you can’t max it out every day.  But you can’t just go in once a week, crush your lower body, and then shut it down for a week.  You need to take care of auxiliary lifts and make sure that you maintain mobility.  For many, the body will actually recover better if they are active in between lifting days.

Throwing is an extreme complex movement that, for some, can be very stressful.  As the tissue recovers from this stress, it becomes a jumbled mess. In order to get the tissue to align properly, it needs low intensity work that is specific to its normal movement.  To say it another way, you need to make low intensity throws.  Youth athletes typically fall into three categories: no pain - great performance, pain - great performance, pain and inconsistent performance.  We believe that all three groups could benefit from a recovery day.

Starting with the latter, athletes experiencing pain and inconsistent performance need to refine their movement patterns to lessen the stress on their arm and continue to increase arm strength. They may also have major physical contributors to arm pain that need to be taken seriously or corrected with different forms of arm care.  If there is pain, then we need to fix both movement patterns and physical constraints, because it is impossible to know which is causing pain. However, if we take care of all of it, we have a better chance at getting rid of the pain.

For the group that is having pain, but still performing well, they need to do all they can to maintain arm fitness, but also need to improve movement patterns. The Oates Training Sock is the equivalent to ⅓ of the stress of normal throwing.  We have athletes throw in constraint drills that will keep them moving efficiently while also speeding up the recovery process.  These constraint drills allow them to continue to improve their mechanics which could eliminate many recovery issues (if every pitch becomes less stressful, they will recover faster).  We can also use arm care to address specific strength or movement issues that can be contributing to their lack of recovery.

For the guys who have no pain and great performance, their need for recovery is simple. If they improved their recovery, they could be able to train at a higher level of intensity.  Our data from the offseason shows that if you are able to throw the ball hard more often, your velocity can continue to improve, even in season.  Also if they are able to throw a bullpen at closer to game-like speed, they can improve command and secondary offerings.  Again research of skill development shows that a majority of work needs to be done at 80% or above, or movement patterns could regress when they get up to game speed.  Therefore, their recovery day would be more geared to making their next training day more intense.  

We are shifting Healthy Heat to accommodate in-season work.  Youth throwers need to continue to improve their routine.  They need an arm care program that is monitored to make sure any movement issues are improving.  They also need to continue to refine mechanics so their recovery improves.  While bullpens are important, there is more work that can be done to improve efficiency.  We want to shift the focus from just pitching and continue to make high-level throwers who have the ability to dominate on the mound.  And, most importantly, we want to provide a real plan for guys to overcome arm pain.

Pregame Warm Ups, Recovery, and More

With some of you starting your season this weekend we've put together a warm up, pre-throwing routine, and recovery program that you can use with your team if you wish.

As you all know, the baseball season can be a grind and take a toll on player's bodies, a proper warm-up and recovery is crucial to preventing injuries and keeping players performing at their peak. I have attached the program at the bottom and we are posting videos on the Bardo's Baseball University website. All but the two without an asterisk next to them can be done without equipment at whatever field your at.

The two with asterisks, Rocket Wrap and the Oates Throwing Sock, are incredible tools that I would highly recommend every team purchase if not every player. I am sure most of you have seen us use the throwing sock with players at practice. It allows players to throw or do their drills literally about anywhere and it puts 1/3 of the amount of stress on their arm. It also provides instant feedback on if a player is getting to late launch as well as creates healthy deceleration patterns. The Rocket Wrap is my new go to for all of my pitchers after they throw. We now know that ice bad for players after they throw as it slows the blood flow which in turn slows their healing process. Rocket Wrap is a compression wrap which allows new blood to rush in and flush out all of the damage and repair the impaired muscles and tissue.

Both the Throwing Sock and Rocket Wrap are both extremely inexpensive, $30 for the sock and $13 for the wrap, and are two of the best tools I have found on the market. I have included the link to our Healthy Heat page below that has a link for the Throwing Sock and you can also find the Rocket Wrap on the same site as well.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

http://www.bardosdiamondsports.com/healthy-heat.html

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Recovery, Part 1

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For the last several decades, arm injuries have been steadily on the rise in baseball. The majority of them have occurred within the first month of the season. So, with the start of the baseball season upon us, I wanted to touch on some recovery methods that can help prevent some of these issues.

Proper Deceleration Patterns

One of the first things we teach our players in Healthy Heat are our Decel Drills. Peak Shoulder Internal Rotation can reach 7000° per second. That means if your arm was not attached to your body it would spin around in a circle almost 19 ½ times in 1 second. That is a tremendous amount of force that could lead to a lot of damage in your arm if it is not slowed down in a safe and effective manner. One tool that I like to use with my pitchers the day after they throw is to put them in an Oates Throwing Sock and have them throw a light flat ground. If the player has soreness that is caused by a poor deceleration pattern they will show some discomfort if that pattern is repeated. The Throwing Sock will take the majority of the stress off the players arm allowing them to make some low stress throws and navigate through the discomfort to find a more efficient movement pattern.

Increase Blood Flow

Growing up I was religious about icing after I threw. After the game you could find me strapped up with ice from my neck to my fingertips. We now know that icing will delay your healing process. Ice slows blood flow to the area and we want to get as much blood flow to the injured tissue as possible to remove the waste produced by the lymphatic system and repair the tissue. The way we do that is by dynamic movements as well as using Rocket Wrap after players throw. Rocket Wrap is a compression floss that temporarily restricts blood flow to the area for the 30 seconds that it is wrapped around the desired area which sends a signal to the brain that more blood flow is needed to that area. When the wrap is removed the area receives in increase in blood flow flushing out toxins and promoting healing to the area. 

Strength & Mobility

Maintaining a regular strength and conditioning program during the season can be difficult but is critical to staying healthy throughout the course of a long season. Players should have a regular recovery program filled with T-Spine and shoulder mobility exercises as well as exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff, shoulder and scapular stabilizers, and maintain core stability.

Creating a routine that drills/reinforces proper decel patterns, increases blood flow after you throw, and maintains strength and mobility during the season will go a long way to keeping you healthy throughout the year. Our focus in Healthy Heat is shifting as the season starts to accommodate players increasing need for recovery to keep players healthy and throwing hard with the gains that they have put on all offseason. Below I have included links to the aforementioned Oates Throwing Sock and Rocket Wrap. They are both inexpensive and two of the best tools that I have found on the market.

https://www.oatesspecialties.com/baseball-training-sock-1479
https://www.oatesspecialties.com/rocket-wrap-compression-floss

Sean McCourt
Director of Pitching

"That Will Never Work"

Former big-leaguer Chris Colabello wrote an article on the Bob Tewksbary blog called “Bigger Moves Are More Fragile.” The title grabbed me because it articulated something that I’ve thought, if not said to an even more detrimental degree. Bigger movements are more difficult to master and control so why not be simpler? I hope I didn’t sound like the “old school” coaches Colabello refers to in his article who told him over and over again:

“That’ll never work — when you get to higher levels, guys are too good, you have to keep it simple.”

The fact of the matter, whether intended or not, I probably did sound like those guys. I probably failed to give the player (or players) room to have a conversation, explain their thoughts, or even show me what they’re feeling in their swing movements. Whether it was a leg kick, hand movement, barrel tip, or whatever the player wanted to try, I was probably too quick to disengage and think like the “old school” coaches mentioned above - “You can’t hit like that at the higher levels.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this many years of coaching, it is that you can’t control or manipulate success in the game of baseball, and you certainly can’t be fearful of potential greatness.

Thankfully, some time during the summer of 2012, I started walking down this road of great swing movements. It was here that I started to engage with a player (Jason Mishler, to give credit where credit it due) and ask him about what he was learning. We watched video on baseball road trips. We battled and went back and forth on different ideas. Ultimately, I learned. I grew. I got better. Not only did I get better, I watched players get better. I watched them play with more freedom. I watched them have more fun. I watched our team break program hitting records in spite of the move to BBCOR bat. Hmmmm, something was happening.

Fast forward six years and I’m seeing guys who I work with continue to find success, and I’m seeing guys at the next levels of the game experience great success as well. Take Keenan Eaton as an example. After a couple of stints at different schools at the Division I level, Keenan is now playing at Colorado Mesa University. Keenan is a great kid, a great listener, and willing to do what coaches asked him to do (I mean, he is the son of a coach, after all). Unfortunately for Keenan, it seems like the voices he was listening to at the Division I level were like how mine used to be - attempting to control success and potentially keeping a player from greatness. Out of the gate here in the spring of 2018, Keenan was named RMAC Player of the  Week.

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Colabello finished his blog post by saying, “Don’t be scared of bigger moves but remember the bigger the moves get, the more accountable a hitter has to be for them." This is the hardest part for any coach - the player is accountable for his moves, not the coach. The coach is accountable for his job, and how his teams comes together. It’s hard to release the control of the movements to the player. But it’s what we’re called to do as coaches. We’re called to serve the player and be a guide on the journey. The sooner we realize that, the sooner our players and teams will experience astronomical success.

Healthy Heat Update - January 31, 2018

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We are very excited with the progress we are seeing in Healthy Heat and want to continue to keep you updated with has been happening and what is coming up as well as get your feedback so we can continue to build on our success. We are seeing tremendous buy in and have over 60 players currently getting after it every week, pushing each other to take their game to the next level. Arm actions are continuing to become more efficient allowing guys to throw harder and more often without pain. We have ordered a Motus sleeve that will be here soon so we can track the exact amount of stress a player is putting on their arm so we can continue to build their pain free throwing with scientific backing. We are currently seeing an average gain of almost 3 mph on a pitch and 4.3 mph on a double hop from players who have participated in Healthy Heat for at least 8 weeks. We have printed up Healthy Heat t-shirts that are for sale as well as awarded several already to players who have seen 10 mph gains in the program! 

With the season approaching we will be transitioning our sessions to better suit players playing schedule. Beginning the week of March 5th we will be transitioning Healthy Heat to 75 minute sessions. Based on feedback that we have gotten this will better suit players in-season schedule and we will tailor sessions based on players needs whether it be drill-based, pitching-based, or recovery-based.  We will get you the updated schedule for In-Season shortly.

Thank you all for being a part of Healthy Heat and we hope to keep building with you! Please let Wes or I know if you have any questions or concerns.

Why Drills?

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Drills are an integral part of the learning process.  The key to what we do at Bardo’s is that we use drills to teach athletes how to move better.  The biggest issue with how drills are perceived is that they have steps.  Many people will treat drills as extremely linear.  We want to use drills as parameters.  

At Bardo’s in both Healthy Heat and 3D Hitting, we have general parameters for what we want in a movement.  However, within those parameters there is a ton of freedom.  As we say often, we do not believe step one, step two, and so on.  We try to encourage athletes to utilize certain parts of the kinetic chain, but throughout those movements they are given the freedom to move how they want to accomplish a goal. 

Drills allow us to continue to provide variability in the environment of the athlete with their simple goal being accomplish the task as well as they can.  For hitters, we want them trying to hit a double, make the outfielders run backwards.  For pitchers, we want them hitting a target...hard.  While these may seem drastic to some and obvious to others, training is the perfect time to do that.  Controlled chaos - where we can control the situation, when the price of failure is low, and they get to move as well as they can.

The “risk” being low also has different benefits on both sides.  Hitters don’t have to suffer the disappointment of costing a team a game or not getting an RBI.  With pitchers, we can take all the steps possible to manage the physical stress they are under.  For example, we know that if we limit the amount of lower body engagement, and do this correctly we can teach the upper body to move more efficiently.  Our belief is a majority of the efficiency will still be present when the athletes begin to use their legs.

Now the biggest battle that we face with athletes of all ages is drills can get boring.  However, if we provide individualized drills and continue to adjust these drills as the athletes progress, we have seen much better results.  It can also create a sense of ownership as athletes see themselves, hitting more targets or making better contact in drills that once seemed unnatural or difficult.  The intent is the key, throw it hard, hit a double.  And don’t be afraid to fail, just make it feel more free.

Wes McGuire
Director of Healthy Heat

Owning Your OWN Swing

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“Are you moving through your swing the way you want to, or the way someone else wants you?” This is the question I’ve asked every single hitter I have come into contact with over the last three months. Every single hitter’s initial response was silence. An obvious indication that this was either the first time they had ever been asked the question or required to think on their own in terms of what they are trying to accomplish. Eventually the athlete will respond with a yes or someone else. “Someone else” is always a concern as the athlete has already admitted to not owning their own swing movements. I’ll ask the hitter who responded with a “yes” to take me through how they are trying to move. The detail will differ, but all too often they will take you through this body part getting here, this body part doing this, then trying to get there and in the end It’s all pieced together. No one can hit that way, no successful hitter tries to hit that way and it will only lead to frustration on the athlete’s end.

You can’t see body part A moving here, and body part B doing this. Own your swing by owning what you feel. It has to be personal, because when it really matters it’s going to be you versus nine other dudes. No hitting coach or hitting program, just you and your conviction. Too often we see hitter’s conflicted instead. 

Finding the right coach or program is challenging, but you are going to have to take ownership of that process too. This is your career. Do your homework on who is going to push your beliefs rather than pull. Allowing your convictions to
be your own. One that will challenge you and allow you to struggle. And one that when your swing movements change, it’s because YOU found a better way. In the end it is going to be about how YOU responded.
#movebetter
#dosomethingcool
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Training inefficiencies versus dictative swing training and understanding the kinetic chain

You can generally break hitting training in to two groups. One side defines the rules while the other tries to break them all. It’s become an understanding that one size does not fit all vs. the my way or the highway mentality. Free knowledge drop...the highway is always faster. Ultimately it comes down to dictated movements or free exploration.

I’ve heard too many coaches, who have found success at a high level, teach how they swung because it works. It’s comfortable because it is familiar, and it’s easy to spit out impressive information to get you to buy in. I’m not going to claim that this approach with training won’t work. Because it did for them, and one of six other hitters they may be working with. I️ will however, claim that those odds suck. This can also be a painfully slow approach because hitters who are in a dictative training program are often having to overhaul their swing. The biggest problem I️ have with dictative training is that the vast majority of hitting coaches and programs at every level fall into that category. And it’s been that way for a few decades. So how is the road less traveled a better way?

First we need to understand that the swing is a natural, athletic movement that occurs within our kinetic chain (a sequence of organized movements originating from our core), and needs to be trained as such. This means hitters don’t need movement over halls and concrete ideals to fix broken swings. They simply need to learn to get out of their own way.

Hitter walks in and says “Coach, something is wrong with my swing. I️ can’t hit.” Kid is struggling at the plate with his confidence and can’t seem to barrel up balls he is seeing well and on time for. Nothing is wrong with the swing as “the swing” implies how the barrel is working. How the barrel works is a response to how our bodies work throughout the kinetic chain. The kinetic chain is simply a series of organized movements originating from our core. The key word being organized. Said “swing” is a natural athletic movement and needs to be trained as such.

How do we begin that style of training?

Training by dictating the swing works well in a low pressure/comfortable situation. Like hitting in the cage. We all know there is nothing comfortable about stepping in the box with cheddar and a slide piece coming your way. Training the movement translates to in game freedom. Having the ability to adjust on the fly

What is 3D hitting?

Not the latest and greatest technology. Not a gimmick. Just an idea. 

Front foot down because of the swing not to swing

Why is 3D for you?
    -it may not

Training elite movers...not swingers
    -live ball variance
    -challenge the body control

Hitting with Intent vs swinging

You Can't Cheat the Work

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Everybody wants to throw harder.  Everybody wants to throw more strikes.  Everybody wants to play big time Division 1 baseball.  The difference is who is willing to put in the work.  

As a college athlete the first thing that we learned was simply how to do the work.  The fall velos would be down, guys would struggle simply because we were working harder than they ever had before.  But once their body adapted, numbers skyrocketed.   There is no shortcut and there shouldn’t be!  If it was easy everybody would do it.  Every high school kid could just do some work in the weight room, hit a little bit, and they’d be Division 1 caliber players.  Guys could play a little catch, throw some bullpens, and they would be 90 mph plus with a swing-and-miss breaking ball.  

In order to be a high-level player in baseball, what you need to do is simple but it isn’t easy.  You need to workout and increase your overall level of strength.  You need to also train in a way that makes you able to use that strength quickly.  You need to improve your mobility in a way that builds strength through a full range of motion so that you can reduce the risk of injury while performing better.  You need to throw efficiently and without pain so that you are able to throw often.  If you’re a hitter you need to move efficiently and train in a way that challenges your ability to make solid contact.
                               
It is simple, but the work is not easy.  It won’t be just doing one drill perfectly or just focusing on one thing, one day in the cage or in a bullpen.  The guys at the highest level work on their craft every day.  They know they just need to get better, it’s not that they aren’t good enough but they can’t just stay where they are or they will be passed.  And a sophomore in high school is in the same boat, even the best in the state needs to work to be better.  The body adapts to stresses that are place on it.  If you just train to maintain there will be regression.

Train to get stronger, you don’t need to be a 500-pound squatter to be a good baseball player, but you need to be able to execute basic movements with some resistance.  Jump often and not the same way every time, jump sideways, jump off and on to one leg.  Train for rotational power, some type of medball throw or rotational core work that happens quickly.  

Skill work needs to be done often and with great intent.  It should challenge you, there is a time and a place for low pressure work, but it needs to be done at near 100% effort from varying levels of constraint.  Overload and underload training is good for most of the population but needs to be progressed slowly and particularly on the throwing side safety parameters need to be established first.

A place like Bardo’s can be dangerous.  People think they can just show up and get better just by walking through the door.  No matter what program you do or who you work with if you just show up, go through the motions, and only try at the things you are good at, you won’t get the results you think you deserve.  But if you show up ready to learn, trust what you feel, and work on what you aren’t good at on your own, the sky's the limit.  It’s simple but it’s not easy.  

For some examples of what hard work looks like check out Healthy Heat on Instagram and Facebook.  Get after it!