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Front Squat vs Front Squat

Squatting is a staple in any strength and conditioning program. Having everyone squat the same or use the same type of squat variation is where coaches go wrong. Each athlete has their own structural anatomy. Each person’s femur lengths are different, they all have different pelvic positions, different acetabulum depths, different torso lengths and different shoulder mobility.

In my opinion, the sport that the athlete plays should be taken into consideration when prescribing a squat variation as well. We mainly prescribe the front squat or front rack position for our baseball players. This is not because I dislike the back squat but because of common postural structures I see in baseball players as well as the risk vs reward in the overhead thrower.

The lumber spine and pelvis position of the baseball player is a huge reason why we moved away from the back squat a few years ago. Protecting the athletes back is priority number one. A lot, and I mean a lot of baseball players are in lumbar extension. Performing the back squat sets the pelvis into anterior tilt which is a position that a lot if not most baseball players live in. The front squat will allow the pelvis to sit neutral and force the athlete to keep integrity of the anterior core which will keep the spine erect and neutral. Baseball requires a tremendous amount of rotation, rotating while in extension then adding an axial load to the extended posture of the athlete will only increase the risk of injury.

Reason number two why we bailed on the back squat for baseball players is because of the shoulder and the elbow position during the rack position. Throwers require an extreme amount of external rotation to throw a ball with any kind of velocity. The head of the humerus is held into the socket of the shoulder (called your glenoid) by a ton of small, very important ligaments. These tissues and ligaments wrap around the joint to stabilize the entire shoulder. Above these ligaments sits the rotator cuff. Adding more stress to the rotator cuff is not worth the risk for an athlete that throws on a daily basis. So, holding a bar on your back will drive the shoulder into external rotation (ER) and may cause even more instability at the glenohumeral joint. We want to keep the humerus centered in the glenoid as much as possible. Excessive ER will decrease end-range stability and increase stress at the elbow causing more discomfort.

The scap is another reason why we prescribe front squats over back squats. We preach on the daily to allow the scap to work around the rib cage or the thorax. Getting into the front rack position allows for the scap to do just that. Anterior loading the bar will force the athlete to keep the rib cage down and neutral which will allow the scapula to sit neutral.

The front squat will also allow the athlete to achieve proper thoracic extension which also is vital in throwing a baseball. Without thoracic extension the thrower will not be able to get into true over head flexion. When we asses our athletes we see a good number of guys that either have flat or rounded thoracic spines. This may come from the amount everyone looks at their phones, sitting on a bus or plane, sitting in class or just not having the muscular endurance to hold proper positions in the thoracic spine. The front squat challenges the athlete to get into a solid position and hold thoracic extension in their upper back to perform the lift properly.

This by all means is not the end all be all on why not to back squat your athletes. We have had a lot of success in keeping athletes healthy after seeing a reoccurring theme in back injuries from athletes back squatting. This works for us and our clients and that is what matters most. I am not a coach to shame an exercise or look down on a coach for programming certain exercises that I don’t agree with. Everyone has their reasons to or not to program certain movements for athletes, as long as you have your “why” and can explain the “why” is what matters most.

Bridging the Gap Between Throwing and Rehab

Rehabbing a thrower is not easy. Having a great understanding of the human body is a lot different than having knowledge of what is happening during the throwing motion. The throwing motion is very complex, but in this day and age there is an ample amount of info on it. There seems to be a large gap in some of the baseball medical community and their knowledge of the throwing motion. We need to be better as a whole to create better return to throw protocols and provide better value for our players.

We first need to realize that we do not train text books, we train over hand throwers. Every time we rehab an athlete, we need to realize that this is a case by case scenario. No two athletes are the same. There is a huge need of coaches that have the understanding of the demands of throwing and the understanding of the human body. We need to have the ability to prescribe lifts to athletes that are general pre-requisites to returning to throw. The pre-requisites are in no way absolutes but knowing which lifts are needed and what muscles are recruited during the lift and what their actions are in throwing motion. On the other hand, we need to have the knowledge to regress and progress lifts during rehab. There will always be set backs through the process. If we do not have the understanding of athlete’s deficiencies and why they were injured in the first place, we will never have the ability to truly rehab a thrower. Most importantly we need to realize every athlete is different and has their own deficiencies.

General pre-requisites to returning to throw for HS and Up

5 BW chin ups (increases eccentric control at lay-back)
10 proper push-ups (demonstrates core stability, upper body strength and scapular control)
Clean Body weight squat (demonstrates core and ankle stability)
Reverse Lunge body weight (Gets you in positions needed to transfer force in the throwing pattern)
Efficient throwing patterns for the athlete

I have seen very well-respected doctors and PT’s create a generic throwing program and hand it over to an athlete. There is a difference in a UCL tear and a rotator cuff injury. There is a difference between a labrum issue and an impingement. Not all throwers mechanics are the same and neither are their injuries. So, why rehab them like they are? Some PTs and surgeons are still advising throwers not to lift until they begin throwing. This is completely backwards. For example, not knowing the importance of the athlete needing to have the ability to perform multiple chin-ups before returning to throw is inexcusable in my opinion. If you claim to call yourself a baseball rehab specialist, you need to know all of the “whys, how’s and what’s” in the rehab process.

Some “whys, how’s and what’s” in the rehab (There are obviously more)
Why are we programming this exercise?
What does the scapulohumeral rhythm look like?
Why did the athlete get injured?
How is the scap working along the thorax?
Why is the athlete moving the way he is?
What are the athlete’s overhead capabilities?
Why is there a correlation between certain lifts and throwing?
What is the athletes end-range stability like?
How do we fix these issues?
Why should we fix these issues?
What are the demands of the throwing motion?
What does the athlete need? Stability? Mobility?
Why is each athlete different?
How can we get the athlete pain free?

Bridging the gap between throwing, performance and rehab is vital to get the most of out of the athlete and allow for a proper return to the field. We as a whole need to be batter at understanding what the athlete needs and the demands of the unique sport of baseball. Collectively, we can all play a big role in the direction of baseball rehab and performance.

DOES THROWING MORE BUILD ARM STRENGTH?

How to build arm strength is an ongoing conversation. We have guys preaching that arm strength is developed by throwing more and at higher intensities. Then we have some guys saying that we cannot build strength through throwing. With so many coaches, teams and guru’s selling throwing programs to increase velocity, we need to make it clear, we cannot increase arm strength by just throwing. There is much more that goes into the process. We need to look at a few different things.

The sheer will of wanting to throw hard will increase your chances of throwing hard. While interviewing Push Performance Athlete, Ryan Burr of the Chicago White Sox, I asked him how he increased his velocity.
His response was;

“Wanting to throw hard made me throw hard. It’s the truth, I can’t tell you how many times throwing a fastball with intent has made my fastball play up even harder. Just playing catch with intent every time you play catch is what builds arm strength along with my lifting program. A lot of guys look at playing catch and lifting as a chore. That’s when I get my work in every day. That’s what I rely on to be ready every night.”

Now, for the science side of this discussion. We need to realize that there is a difference in arm conditioning, arm speed and arm strength. Most important, throwing does build endurance. But we need muscular strength to have muscular endurance. Strength is the foundation of ALL movement. Power is the byproduct of strength. Speed is a byproduct of strength. We cannot have power, speed or force transfer without strength. If the athlete is unable to supply force into the ground due to the lack of strength, they will more than likely not supply force and transfer it quickly enough to throw with velocity.

Throwing increases layback in the arm which means the athlete will rely on arm speed to get the arm back up and on time. We once again need strength to control end range and create speed. Layback is important to create a better arc of motion and create longer force tension while throwing. You also need to focus on thoracic extension, flexion, rotation, scapular control, hip shoulder separation, hip internal rotation, etc. All of these movements, joints and bones are controlled muscle contractions and it takes muscular strength to hold those positions needed to throw.

The strength speed continuum is a great example of how strength, speed, power and even endurance work. We have mentioned this in a previous post and how we program. Click the link to read.
https://mailchi.mp/c7e6c48c2ed6/building-and-executing-a-program

Once we realize that strength is king and we need to put that in front of throwing, we will see a decrease rate of injury, more efficient throwing patterns, possible spike in throwing velocity and an overall improvement in performance. Strength is king and always will be king, we just need to know how it transfers to the field.

Understanding the Lat and its Role in Baseball



The latissimus dorsi (lat)  is a very powerful muscle. It plays a very big, very important  role in throwing a baseball, it also can be a very big problem. We have seen an increase of injuries in the MLB from the past. This is due to the fact that velocities are at a higher average than they were 20 years ago, as well as athletes take training much more serious in their quest to gain velocity. 

 A little bit about the lat and its actions
 
It is large, flat and triangular in shape. A very poweful muscle and plays a big part in throwing a baseball.
 

Action of The Lat

  • Adduction of the humerus
  • Internal Rotation of the humerus
  • Arm Extension

First what we need to realize not everyone’s lat is the same as far as where it attaches. Most of the time the lat’s orgin looks like this…

  • Lower Back (Lumbar Spine) 
  • Thoracic Spine (t-7 to T-12)
  • Iliac Crest and Sacrum 
  • Inferior Ribs 3 and 4
  • Inferior Angle of the Scap

A lot of times, the lat gets confused with the teres major in throwing injuries. These two muscles are often grouped together when an injury is present due to the fact they both run closely together near the armpit to the front of the shoulder.  A lot of time, with athlete presenting anterior shoulder pain, clinicians will diagnose the athlete with biceps tendonitis when in actuality it could be a referral pain from the teres or the lat. The lats insertion is at the bicipital groove of the humerus while the teres attaches next to it.
 Having a lat altered in length can change how the posture of the body or how the body moves. 

Reasons we see lat issues in baseball

  • Overuse 
    • Throwing more causes increased external rotation which will decrease internal rotation. The lat will decrease in length while in over-head flexion. Normally if the lat is tight], pain will be present in the layback portion of the arm
  • Eccentric Tension of the throwing motion
    • Transfer of forces from ER to IR will damage the lat in even a healthy shoulder. Excessive external rotation (ER) will cause more and more injuries if the athlete is unable to control stability where needed. The average ER 110 degrees for a Healthy arm and now we often see an increase to 150 degrees in a lot of harder throwers. This forces the lat to create eccentric control of the arm going into layback, guys without end-range stability as well as adding the fact that the players of today are much more powerful than even a few years ago can cause a serious injury.
    • We see this especially in the youth population while their bones are continuing to change. Unwanted boney changes may occur with the amount force needed. 
  • Lack of Over Head Flexion
    • If the lat becomes tighter the more you throw, the less OH flexion you will see in the athlete. A short lat can drive the athlete into lumbar extension, flare the ribcage, depress the scap and clavicle, depress the hip or even cause issues with pronation and supination. 

As we will never be able to prevent injury, we can reduce the risk of injury. This starts with educating coaches, players and athletes. If we can present knowledge of proper arm care and training programs for the baseball player, we will start to make changes and decrease the amount of injuries seen in the game. 

Strength programs need to address

  • Restore tissue quality
  • create programs that address mobility or stability in separate athletes
  • Learn what time of year to program certain exercises
  •  Create more core stability
  • Create more athleticism
  • Increase Dynamic Stability

 
Learning the basic anatomy of the body as well as their physiological demands of throwing a baseball will help decrease your chance of injury. Next time you are having arm issues or feel discomfort find a professional to help you. The worse thing we can do is to continue to throw through the pain. Throwing a baseball should be relatively pain free.

DJ Edwards
 

 
 
 

What You Do Needs to Transfer to the Field

Training close to 1,000 different athletes the past 7 years, I have messed up their programming many times. I have taken many different approaches to try and ensure that what they are doing is yielding maximum results on the field and in the weight room. I have taken the “get as strong as possible approach”, I have taken the lighter weight, move fast approach. What I have found is we need something in the middle of the two. Researching post activation potentiation (PAP), Velocity Based Training (VBT), and reading about the Triphasic approach by Cal Dietz have all opened my eyes to a new way of being a true technician and strength coach.

The biggest thing I have learned is that not all the athletes need the same things, even though the physiology of the body primarily works the same in most sports. ALL athletes are rotational athletes, and the initial muscular action in sport usually starts with an intense isometric or explosive isometric contraction along with stores of elastic energy. Which is followed by the stretch reflex of the concentric muscle action. All of these factors determine how to approach programming. We need to use all of this information to enforce proper neuromuscular patterns.

Everything mentioned above needs to be taken into account when designing training programs. We cannot train at the same tempos or under the same loads and intensities year-round. Furthermore, we cannot prescribe the same exercises throughout the year. Just because the athlete throws and hits a ton does not mean they should do a ton of medicine ball rotary work. Learning when to eliminate or add movements to a program will help the athlete on the field. For example, if the athlete is increasing his throwing loads, we want to decrease his chin-ups and rotational work because both are lat dominant and rotary movements, and they may do more harm than good.

After much research, we have stuck to a solid philosophy of adapting the strength-speed continuum while limiting, eliminating and adding movements in certain phases. This has been a game changer for us. Knowing where bar speeds need to be in different phases of the year has yielded a huge transfer from weight room to the baseball diamond. If you want to throw fast or run fast you need to train fast at times vs training heavy slow all the time.

While programming, we need to think that force productions are different for bilateral vs unilateral movements. Each athlete has a dominant leg or arm. This shows in the sport of baseball. We see a lot of coaches addressing the back or drive leg in the throwing motion, although the support leg (landing leg) is the leg needed to produce greater strength and force. We should attempt to increase the rate of force production in prescribed programs. We do this by adding plyometrics, speed and strength measurables the closer we get to the season.

However, none of this matters if the athlete is not consistent. We always see a huge drop off in attendance when baseball season rolls around. If an athlete does not continue in all phases of the program the athlete will not get the desired results. Most of the time the athlete comes back in the weight room further behind from when they initially started, if they put a stop to their development. If the athlete stops training in a strength block, how are they ever going to achieve the power it takes to throw with higher velocities without working into a speed-strength phase? Injuries become more prevalent this time a year as well because the sport specific skill work is put in front of the development in the weight room. We train all year to be strong and powerful. So, in-season why would you want to stop training?

Everything matters to gain the desired results and see the hard work transfer to the field, from the programming to the consistency of the athlete.

DJ Edwards
Push Performance

What should your arm care routine look like?

Now is the time of year when we see arm issues sky rocket. This can be due to many reasons. Most of the time it is due to lack of quality strength/throwing programs during the off-season or on-ramping too fast or not at all. This will cause the arm issues we see.

I read a great quote today by Sam Rayburn that applies to the strength and conditioning profession. “Any jackass can burn down a barn but it took a great carpenter to build it.” To me this meant anyone can build a workout but it takes a true technician to build an applicable program for an athlete that works. It takes education and experience to produce quality. We have seen over and over again coaches teaching arm care that don’t even know what the rotator cuff muscles are or the kinematics of the scap.

Sooooo…. Where do we start?

We first need to realize that arm care is total body care. We want to address the entire body not just the arm. Focusing on just the shoulder may do more harm than good. If we throw with the whole body we need to address the whole body.

You learn to roll and crawl before you stand and walk. We want to start each session from the ground up and work proximal to distal. Ankle mobility affects the knees stability, knee stability affects hip mobility, hip position affects rib cage position, rib cage position affects thoracic mobility, thoracic mobility affects scap positioning, scap positioning affects shoulder function, shoulder function determines shoulder health, consistent ball release and consistent velocity.

Losing force transfer due to poor ankles and hips happens often. The force is transferred from the ground up. Most of the transfer occurs through the core. Core stability plays a big part in arm health and velocity.

Stability vs mobility – what does the athlete need?

We want address the need of each athlete. Giving an athlete mobility when they are already hyper mobile will only hurt the athlete by decreasing stability. We want to know where to give mobility and if they even need the mobility. Arm care goes much further than just doing bands and running. Prescribe properly.

Now that you have the basis of what “Arm Care” consists of, please feel free to reach out and ask questions. If you would like to schedule an assessment feel free to contact us!

Website: www.pushperformanceco.com
Email: info@pushperformanceco.com
Cell: 720-339-1127
Twitter: @pushperformco
Instagram: @pushperformco
Twitter: @dj_edwards9
Instagram: @dj_edwards9

How Do You Increase Arm Strength?

How do you build arm strength? .
Throwing is a fast powerful movement. It???s actually the fastest most dangerous move in sport. The thing is most high school and college pitchers don???t have the body frame to produce high velocity. The way to increase velocity is by building a foundation of strength that will allow the athlete to transfer a high amount of force into the throw. The force transfer starts from the floor, works its way to the trunk and finally goes to the arm, down the elbow and then to release. If there is any lack of strength in the kinetic chain, power will not transfer or will not be created.
??????force=??????Velocity .

This means that throwing more will not increase arm STRENGTH. Throwing more will increase endurance and condition a throwers arm. If throwing more made your arm stronger, then why aren???t guys getting stronger throughout a season? Why do they have more arm problems as they throw more?
Throwing more will increase the condition of your arm, increases muscular endurance, and create more efficient throwing patterns. .
Strength is the foundation of all things in sport. If you want to be powerful you need to have foundational strength and if you want to have endurance you need strength. Strength allows for muscular control and durability. There are different kinds of strength that your body needs. Absolute strength, strength speed, speed strength and last power. You can???t have any of those traits with out strength. .
Some guidelines before implementing our weighted ball programs: the athlete needs to be STRONG!

Inspired by Josh Heenan’s 90mph formula
-deadlift (2.5x???s BW)
-reverse lunges (Desired BW)
-eccentric chin up (10 second count)
-farmers carry (shows core stability and grip strength) .
Once the athlete can show they are strong we can implement the power component. Dominate the Sagittal plane first and we will add transverse planes.

The average weight of a pitcher that throws 90+ is 205lbs. Not all weight is created equal however. Lean mass is more important than fat mass. If you want to allow your body to throw as hard as it will allow you, you will need to increase your strength. .
Strength is and always will be King!

Still Using the Sleeper Stretch?

Sleeper stretch?

To do the sleeper stretch or not?? This has become one of the most controversial exercises when dealing with baseball players. Is it safe? When should I do it? Do I do it everyday? These among many other questions have become the topic of conversation especially with baseball season upon us.
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Am I am not an advocate for my athletes to perform this stretch.. in most, if not all cases, this is something I DONT have them doing. What is this stretch trying to achieve.. regaining internal rotation (IR) of the glenohumeral joint. But is it safe to do and are there other ways to achieve this without putting the athlete at risk? Absolutely!
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Why don???t I like the sleeper stretch for many of my athletes is that your stressing the shoulder more than it already is going through. Most baseball players are long tossing and throwing pens or just playing catch as it is, this is stressing the anterior part of the shoulder every time. As you???re performing the sleeper stretch you are jamming the humoral head of he arm straight forward into the joint. In other words you are loosening and already loose anterior shoulder capsule. Wouldn???t you want to protect the anterior part if your already stressing it throwing a baseball.
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What do I do instead of the sleeper stretch to avoid this problem? To regain IR of the shoulder we like to do manual therapy of the internal rotators of the shoulder and activate or strengthen the posterior part of the shoulder to avoid this anterior humoral drive if the GH joint. Also performing wall slides, prone trap raises, diffident variations of rows and strengthening of the anterior core to help keep the scap in the proper position on the rib cage to be able to upward rotate.
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Is there a time and a place for the sleeper stretch… absolutely! Most of the time we will do this when an athlete is coming back from surgery and the shoulder capsule is locked up and there???s a need to help get the joint to open up. But this is about the only time I would recommend the sleeper stretch.

Is your Performance Lacking?

Shoulder pain can be caused by many reasons in throwers. Let???s be honest, throwing a baseball is not the most healthy motion for your body. Three problems we see often that we coaches need to address when working with this population are…
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-biceps tendinitis -scapular dyskinesis
-internal impingement .
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-Bicep tendinitis is inflation of the biceps tendon due to anterior and/or superior humeral gliding. Pain may be felt in the anterior portion of the shoulder or down the long head of the bicep. .
-Abnormal movement of the Scapula is known as scapula dyskinesis. Delayed scap movement, improper positioning, or over dominant muscles can be a cause.
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-internal impingement is primarily only seen in over head athletes. Mostly seen in back of the shoulder in the lay back position. Mostly felt with pinching on the posterior-superior part of the glenoid. .
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All three issues we see can be related and more than likely occur from: -Poor posture, poor dynamic/static posture will result in insufficient movement. Joint placement dictates muscles function. Most of the time it starts with the rib cage. How does the scap sit on the rib cage? The scap can not move freely if the rib cage is altered. The scapulohumeral rhythm may be delayed. Athlete gains external rotation through their lower back vs gaining true ER in GH Joint. .
-Is there structural damage to the joint?
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-Poor tissue quality?
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-lack of mobility creating relative stiffness? .
-Poor exercise choice, programming can either fix an issue or cause an issue. If you can train to get better, you can definitely train to get worse. Yes, you can train to get worse. All movement is not good movement. All exercise prescription is not smart prescription. .
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How can we fix these issues? .
-first, get an initial assessment done by a professional
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-second, get on a program that will address your deficiencies that you may have. No athlete is the same. No shoulder is the same. .
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Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can be caused by many reasons in throwers. Let???s be honest, throwing a baseball is not the most healthy motion for your body. Three problems we see often that we coaches need to address when working with this population are…
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-biceps tendinitis
-scapular dyskinesis
-internal impingement
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-Bicep tendinitis is inflation of the biceps tendon due to anterior and/or superior humeral gliding. Pain may be felt in the anterior portion of the shoulder or down the long head of the bicep.
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-Abnormal movement of the Scapula is known as scapula dyskinesis. Delayed scap movement, improper positioning, or over dominant muscles can be a cause.
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-internal impingement is primarily only seen in over head athletes. Mostly seen in back of the shoulder in the lay back position. Mostly felt with pinching on the posterior-superior part of the glenoid.
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All three issues we see can be related and more than likely occur from:

-Poor posture, poor dynamic/static posture will result in insufficient movement. Joint placement dictates muscles function. Most of the time it starts with the rib cage. How does the scap sit on the rib cage? The scap can not move freely if the rib cage is altered. The scapulohumeral rhythm may be delayed. Athlete gains external rotation through their lower back vs gaining true ER in GH Joint.
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-Is there structural damage to the joint?
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-Poor tissue quality?
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-lack of mobility creating relative stiffness?
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-Poor exercise choice, programming can either fix an issue or cause an issue. If you can train to get better, you can definitely train to get worse. Yes, you can train to get worse. All movement is not good movement. All exercise prescription is not smart prescription.
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How can we fix these issues?
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-first, get an initial assessment done by a professional
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-second, get on a program that will address your deficiencies that you may have. No athlete is the same. No shoulder is the same.