Kyle Boddy, writing for The Hardball Times, is quickly becoming my favorite writer on that site. His new article on training programs for players really riled me up, maybe for the first time since last winter when the Astros tried to start making inroads again in Latin America.
This, though, is just inexcusable. I'm not claiming to be an expert on weight lifting. I'll also admit, unsurprisingly, that I wasn't a very good athlete when I played in high school. I didn't really get on the field much, but I stuck with it through my senior year. The one thing I was somewhat good at? Lifting weights and, more specifically, the free squat.
That's why it boggles my mind that Gene Coleman, who's been the Astros strength coach for as long as I can remember, could sit there in that video and say they like the machine better than free weights for the squat because it reduces chance of injury.
As Boddy points out in that article, there is a stark difference between the two exercises. With free weights on your back, you have to stabilize yourself on the way down and have a better chance of exploding upwards. With the machine, you lose all that. The controlled path makes it different. You're not stabilizing the weights because the machine is sort of doing that for you. You can explode upwards, but only in a controlled way. In short, you're minimizing the athletic gains from the workout.
And Coleman was okay with this!
Do you think this would have flown if Jeff Bagwell were still working out? I don't imagine someone who was as into weightlifting as Bags would use machines. Heck, even Coleman himself knows the results of this switch. Watch that video. He admits that the switch to the machine was done because it was safer. See, there are some players on the team who don't speak English so well and it's hard to explain to them how to do a proper squat.
Um, except it's weightlifting! Show them! They can understand when you yell, "Up" that they've hit parallel and can explode upwards. They don't have to know what "Up" means. To top it off, this is at the major league level. These aren't minor leaguers who just signed out of the Dominican. These are guys who've been in the U.S. for countless years. If they can't understand you, get someone in the weight room who they can talk to.
I wonder if this has anything to do with Kaz Matsui's delicate injury from a few years back. Was he really hurt doing free squats? It fits the "doesn't speak English" profile and might explain why the switch to a machine happened. It's still not acceptable, though.
The Astros are in a prime position right now to embrace innovation. Some of the things that Boddy talks about are fascinating, because they're simple. They make sense. Why shouldn't the Astros be embracing new ways to train as an organization? I know we've got a couple people more qualified than me to talk about exercise science around here. I'd be very interested to hear what you think about all this. Should I be upset?