The latest New England Baseball Journal Podcast has a strength and conditioning theme. NEBJ Podcast host Dan Guttenplan is joined by North East Baseball’s Head of Athletic Development Greg Robins.
Robins worked at Cressey Sports Performance from 2012 to 2018 before opening The Strength House in Worcester, Mass. He partnered with North East Baseball last offseason and started training high school, college and pro athletes out of the Strength Barn in Harvard, Mass.
“It’s a high-energy environment,” Robins said of the Strength Barn. “It’s a combination of keeping that balance of fun and getting down to business. We have a no B.S. environment where guys can have some growth, train hard and take it seriously. We also talk about the Barn and (The Strength House) being a third place for guys in addition to home and school.”
NEB Founder Scott Patterson reached out to Robins last offseason to gauge his interest in partnering on a second location within the NEB complex in Harvard. Robins currently has eight core professional baseball players in a training group that meets each day from 9:30 to noon. He shared how he customizes a training plan for each individual, from youth players to pros.
“The starting point is an evaluation or assessment,” Robins said. “That will be different for each person, depending on the level of baseball he’s played and his age. We’ll go through a movement screening and take them through what range of motion they’re capable of controlling. We put together what they need to work on and what exercises they should do in the gym. A lot of time, you see flexibility and mobility exercises, and those are all great. But we fine tune the exercises they do in the weight room along with medicine ball drills.”
What separates Robins’ assessments from those of other strength coaches is the completion of a performance profile for each player.
“The performance profile paints a picture as to the type of athlete from an output standpoint,” Robins said. “We do a battery of things from jumps, sprint tests and medicine ball throws for velocity. We’ll zero in and find the lowest hanging fruit. Some guys might have the strength base covered, but they need to learn to apply force quicker. We give athletes the right dose of what they need to get better.”
Like any baseball strength coach, Robins invests a significant amount of time and energy considering injury prevention in his programming. While shoulder or elbow injuries might be the most common baseball injuries, particularly for pitchers, Robins feels that developing core strength might be the most effective path to injury prevention.
“Core training is one of the things I’m more passionate and forward-thinking about,” Robins said. “It’s about stability through core exercises that keep the spine stable. There’s been a pendulum swing to keep the spine as straight as possible with planks and side bridges. That’s great for the younger crowd because they need to learn about core stability principles first. Ultimately, baseball is about moving your extremities, hips and shoulders at high speeds while keeping your core stability. Our angle to get them started is implementing things like weight plates, medicine balls or water-filled balls that add instability and chaos. They learn to move those quickly while keeping the integrity of the range of motion.”
One common misunderstanding among parents of youth baseball players is that athletes should not begin strength training until they’re done growing.
“The first thing I talk about for athletes who are about 12- to 14-years-old is maturity,” Robins said. “If they’re mature enough to take it seriously and focus on what they’re doing, I think they’re ready to get in the gym. There are no repercussions to that. The truth of the matter is that any training they’re doing is force training. No parent has an issue with their child jumping or sprinting. There’s a good amount of force going into the ground — more than they would generate in the weight room. The nervous system is more likely to change at younger ages, so we put the focus on speed training. Once you get to 14-plus, that window starts to close quickly, and it’s a matter of how well you’ve tuned the nervous system for speed.”
Listen to the entire podcast here.
Check out the full episode above, and if you’re not a subscriber you can check out our plans here.
The New England Baseball Journal Podcast is sponsored by: