The Foundation of Strength with Mobility
My name is Joseph Camp and I played baseball for 17 years, from the age of six until I finished my college baseball career at 23. I began lifting weights somewhat casually when I was about 15. I remember I would search the internet for workouts that were specific for baseball players and come across a program that promised to increase my pitching velocity or hitting power, so I, being a 15 year old who wasn’t exactly at the peak of his critical thinking ability, would purchase said program and then get to work. The workouts themselves involved many exercises that I had already seen from athletes of other sports, but they were more isolated and included much more single arm tricep extensions, lateral and front raises to isolate the shoulders, and crunches until my back broke (it never did, gratefully). For my entire high school career, this was much of the extent of my weight lifting/strength and conditioning experience, other than the times I would do a program designed by the football coach who did not have any certifications in strength and conditioning. I performed back squats, leg presses, military presses, and bench presses with the very minimal of instruction on how to perform the actual exercises- the goal was to simply get the weight from point A to point B. Looking back, I was fortunate that I did not get injured in the weight room.
Moving onto college, things became much different as can be expected. I attended New Mexico Military Institute for two years of junior college, and during that time I went through programs designed by a strength and conditioning coach who was very much ahead of his time in regards to the things he had us do. That was the first time I ever heard of soft tissue work and medicine ball throws, and the man designed very thorough programs for every sports team on campus including the high school sports teams (the school included grades 9-12 along with freshman and sophomore in college), so he was extremely busy. He had us doing Olympic lifts such as hang cleans and power cleans, split jerks, and push presses, and then some stuff that is usually included for baseball players, exercises such as front and lateral raises, lunges, rotator cuff rotations with light weights, and still some back squatting and bench pressing. He did his best to properly teach us how to properly perform Olympic lifts, but that is an extremely difficult, maybe impossible task when you need to teach an Olympic lift to 30 different baseball athletes with different demands and different prior experiences. I got a little stronger, but not by a significant amount during my two years of going through those programs, and to make matters worse, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder during a set of bench press. This set me back severely during the rest of my time at NMMI and would lead to other complications with my throwing arm since I was a left handed pitcher. After my time at NMMI was done, I did not have a significant amount of actual playing time built up because I was either injured or rehabbing from complications due to the original shoulder injury. Despite that fact, I was recruited by a pitching coach who had worked with me when I was about 16 years old, teaching me various pitching mechanic techniques and drills. He was a coach at a division 1 school called Alcorn State University in Mississippi, an historically black college that I had never heard of, but it was an opportunity to further my college baseball career and education so I did not hesitate to accept!
I spent the majority of my first year at Alcorn State rehabbing from my shoulder injury, and in regards to the strength and conditioning training, it wasn’t up to par compared to what I had gone through while at NMMI, but it was better than nothing and the strength coach certainly got us in shape. I am not sure if he had any certifications, but he put us through the typical exercises and warm ups. We did ladder drills, static stretching, and some dynamic warm-ups, and then moved onto some basic exercises. Our days were always either upper body or lower body, and there was never any combination or division between pushing exercises and pulling exercises. We had competitions where we tried to back squat 135 pounds as many times as possible, or tried to max out our back squat with a bench underneath us so that we could sit on it, or as most of us did, just bounce off of it so that we got an extra boost. Again, similar to our situation at NMMI, it is a very difficult task to properly instruct 30 baseball athletes on every exercise, but it should be absolutely necessary and demanded for the sake of our health first, and performance second. Luckily, after my college baseball career was over, I would eventually find out about such a place where the level of instruction, knowledge, and care I didn’t know I needed would be provided to me.
If you are still reading this, then I am happy and grateful that you were willing to time travel with me into the past that was my baseball career, but there is something else that I want you to know about me. I want you to know that from the time I was a freshman in high school, the only thing I thought about for the majority of my waking hours was pitching in the MLB. It was my dream, and I did everything I knew and thought that I needed to do in order to accomplish that dream. But spoiler alert: I do not pitch in the MLB and never have pitched in the MLB. I did not throw hard enough, and if anyone ever says that MLB scouts don’t ONLY care about how hard you throw, then they do not know what they are talking about or they are lying. With that being said, I believe that if I had experienced the training that I have gone through this past year during high school and college, I would have had more POTENTIAL to be a much better pitcher. I am not saying that I would be pitching in the MLB today if that had been the case, but I am saying that my chances would have improved. That is how much I believe in what I am about to tell you.
During the one year that I have trained at Athlete Ready, I have seen more improvement in my strength, mobility, body control, balance, energy capacity, power, and speed than I experienced in my entire time training during my college career. I began training at Athlete Ready back in July of 2016 with coach Estevan Lucero. I knew him back when we went to NMMI together but he played football so I did not have many dealings with him. But I followed him on facebook and saw his posts about Athlete Ready and it peaked my interest. I had been out of college level athletic training for a couple of years by then and had just been lifting weights here and there, but that was getting boring and I never stuck to anything for more than a couple of months. But when I saw the things that Estevan posted, things like exercises that he had his athletes performing, it clicked in my mind that I had been missing this kind of training and that it would stimulate my body and mind in ways that I had never before experienced. So I contacted Estevan and got a tour of the Athlete Ready gym, and I signed up for a three month contract at three sessions per week soon after. I still remember the first day of training- it was challenging and my body was spent. It was like this for the first few weeks but that was because I was rusty and needed to get my body and mind back into the routine of this kind of training. But I was learning so much because Estevan was teaching me things that I had never heard before, things like how my body was supposed to move through certain ranges of motion, and how to perform exercises that I had been performing incorrectly my entire life! It was eye opening. And then a couple of months into the training, I started to really see significant results in my improved and increased strength. My deadlift numbers soared. My mobility vastly improved. My body had the energy to do more because I finally understood how to properly use my body for different exercises. But the main thing that coach Estevan and all of the coaches at Athlete Ready stress to me and all of the athletes that train at AR is this: the foundation of proper movement patterns. Whether the exercise is a goblet squat, single leg squat, deadlift, pull-up, half-kneeling overhead press, bench press, or kettle bell swing, there is a right way for our bodies to move through that particular exercise, and there are a million wrong ways that it can move through the exercise. But for me, once I was taught how my body properly and efficiently moves through a particular exercise, the foundation was set to see big improvements in strength, and from strength came all of the other measurables. But it always comes back to performing an exercise through its proper movement pattern because from there you will begin to see improvements in range of motion and then you can build strength onto that. After all, what is the benefit of back squatting 315 pounds if the body is not moving how it is designed to move? But when the body is moving the way it is designed to move, then we can load it and challenge it and it will be more prepared and capable, and much less prone to injury. Through everything that the coaches at Athlete Ready teach, injury prevention is at the core because the most important thing for an athlete is availability.