Bronson Arroyo blows up balloons to stay healthy

Bronson Arroyo blows up balloons to stay healthy

Miguel Montero shook his head, and not just because the Arizona Diamondbacks catcher was still trying to clear the cobwebs of that trip to Australia.

No, he was considering the idea that the club’s new right-handed workhorse, pitcher Bronson Arroyo, is 37 years old, beginning his 15th major league season and never once has landed on the disabled list.


“It’s hard to believe, really,” Montero said. “Everybody has their little stays on the DL. I don’t know how he does it.”

The answer for the free-spirited Arroyo: any way possible.

But it looked for all the world just a few weeks ago that Arroyo’s remarkable streak of durability could end when he experienced back stiffness and pain in his lower back and was scratched from a spring-training start.

Arroyo said Tuesday he received an epidural injection and, after a final spring-training start, he expects to be ready when the Diamondbacks restart their regular season.

“I threw three innings in a simulated game on the 19th and threw a bullpen,” he said. “Through that, I was still not perfect. But the last four days, I’ve been feeling perfect. I threw (Monday) and felt as good as I’ve ever felt, so I just want to get one more outing and get built up a little bit.”

He expects to pitch Saturday against the Cubs and anticipates throwing 85-90 pitches.

That is terrific news for the Diamondbacks, especially in the wake of the not-so-terrific news that staff ace Patrick Corbin, as anticipated, underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday in Florida.

That Corbin is only 24 years old and lost for the season just underscores how fortunate Arroyo has been during his career — knock on maple or ash.

Arroyo’s dependability and his history of stabilizing pitching staffs by eating up 199 or more innings in nine straight seasons are reasons the Diamondbacks signed him to a reported two-year, $23.5 million contract.

It also clearly has become a point of pride for Arroyo.

“There’s never been a time in my baseball career I didn’t think I was going to get out there on Day 5,” he said. “There maybe is going to come a time when I can’t. If it would have been the regular season, how my back was three weeks ago, I wasn’t going to get out there no matter what.

“But I’ve been fortunate to find a way to get out there. Usually you know your body enough to know that even when things are wrong, you’ve got enough to find a way to get out there. Right now, I’m totally good.”

Arroyo said the epidural was the third he has had since 2008 to resolve disk irritation in his lower lumbar spine.

“I didn’t know what it was for a long time,” he said. “Around 2008, I figured out what it was from a (magnetic resonance imaging test) when I was signing a contract. … They went and checked it. I had an epidural in 2008, one in 2011 and this year, so I’ve had three of them total. It’s worked every time.”

He said it has taken a little longer on each occasion for the shot to work.

“The body kind of adjusts to them,” he said. “But if need be, these guys here are really open minded, which is nice. So if I feel something and it gets a little irritated throughout the year, they can hit me with another one.

“A lot of times, it’s like pulling teeth with teams to get somebody to do something like that for you. It’s why guys are so fearful of going into the training room. They think they’re going to get shut down immediately.

“Some organizations, they pull two Advil from their pocket and say that’s all you can have. To me, that’s not reality, man. We’re playing 162 games. Guys are going to get beat up. You try to find ways to make guys comfortable on the field. It’s nice to have a medical staff here that’s open. Some of the stuff I’ve seen here, I’ve never seen before.”

That includes, evidently, blowing up balloons in the morning, reducing rather than increasing flexibility in some muscles, and using special glasses with lenses that distort vision to determine how it affects movement.

“They call it PRI (for Posture Restoration Institute),” Arroyo said. “So in the morning, a lot of guys are blowing up balloons, doing these breathing exercises basically.”

The idea, he said, is to utilize the diaphragm more in breathing, which strengthens it and provides support for the back. Hence, the balloons.

“Also through the years, I’ve always had really flexible hamstrings,” Arroyo said. “That’s how my leg gets so high. You always think of flexibility as an advantage. You never think of it as a disadvantage.

“I think I’ve figured out I’m so hyperflexible in my hamstrings and so tight in my hips, it’s actually a strain on my back because my hamstrings aren’t holding my pelvis where it should be so my front is always pulling me forward and tipping me. I’m trying to get my hamstrings to be a little more snug and loosen up the front side.”

Arroyo knows how crazy it sounds, especially to a lot of organizations that aren’t willing to try anything new.

“If Derek Jeter walked into this locker room, bro, he’d think he was on Mars,” Arroyo cracked.

Montero admitted he’s been blowing up the balloons, too. So, does it work?

“I don’t know,” he mused. “Who knows? But if it keeps me off the DL like (Arroyo), I’ll blow up as many as they want. They can throw a party with ’em if they want to.”

Young writes for the Arizona Republic


Do you need respiratory muscle strengthening?

Do you need respiratory muscle strengthening?

When you exercise or play a sport, your breathing adjusts automatically to the effort that you are expending. This is generally taken for granted by most individuals since this occurs naturally. Because of this most people including athletes, do not feel the need for any supplementary training to improve their breathing.

Fortunately, this kind of thinking does not take place when considering the need for additional strength, speed or explosive training. We know that only playing the game will show minimal improvement in these physical qualities. In addition, many studies and practical experience has shown that additional supplementary training benefits an athlete greatly in his performance on the field.

However, in recent years it has been found that doing supplementary training to improve breathing can also improve performance on the field. Early studies and practical experience has proven that strengthening the respiratory muscles improves performance significantly. Understand that the first sign of fatigue is not in the cardiovascular system; it is in the respiratory system!

More attention has been focused on breathing in recent years as witnessed by another study that appeared in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. It gave even more proof that the respiratory muscles play a major role in running. By strengthening the respiratory muscles it was possible to improve running performance significantly.

For example, runners can run much further when the respiratory muscles are not fatigued.  Note that the main expiratory muscles involved here are the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis.  The main inspiratory muscle is the diaphragm.

It appears that in running and in other sports, when you “ run out of air” it is not so much your inability to take in more air as it is your ability to get rid of the air in your lungs.  The longer the air stays in the lungs the more saturated it becomes with CO2 and you’re no longer capable of supplying the body with good oxygen.

To prevent this from happening you should exercise the respiratory muscles the same as you do the leg muscles that are involved in running.  One of the best ways to do this is to use a respiratory resistance breathing device such as the Sports Breather.  It allows you to both inhale and exhale against resistance to strengthen the muscles involved in inhalation as well as exhalation.

The Sports Breather is a simple device that you can carry with you and use whenever you have some free time.  For example, you can do respiratory muscle strengthening while watching TV, waiting for an appointment, taking a break from reading or doing other work.  By using this device for minutes a day you can see appreciable results in a very short period of time.

Although it is used most often by long-distance runners, I have found that it can also be used very effectively with sprinters and athletes in other sports who must also run. In addition, it is used by many musicians, singers and people with respiratory problems such as asthma.

For more information see Sports  Breather

One of the powerlifters I’m using PRI on.

500 lb cambered bar squat with 310 lb of band tension onto a 12″ box

PRI update

I want to offer an update on the powerlifting PRI program as we have made a few subtle changes. We have recently separated the PRI techniques into upper body and lower body groups to match the training splits we follow. We have completely abandoned the techniques as a form of preparation and we are using them predominantly as a post workout recovery method. We are now preforming the lower body PRI techniques on our upper body lift day and we are using the upper body techniques on our lower body lift days.  Our reasoning is to reset and regain position after training has been completed and to hold onto it as long as possible. We have experimented with doing PRI first but we were unable to hold the gains throughout the session, we fell back into the previous pattern (not to mention the workout is more painful). If we are going to lose position during training, I see no reason to use PRI as a form of training preparation.

Side note: Some of the lifter claim to experience better sleep when preforming the integrated exercises before going to bed. Something to look at as we move forward.

PRI Treatment – Powerlifters

I have previously posted the test results from the PRI evaluation of the powerlifters I am working with. The treatment is going to be of the general variety as opposed to the individual kind that I would prefer. The reason for this is I am attempting to develop a program that allows me to take multiple athletes and/or teams through the PRI process. It is my desire to create a system which allows me to use the PRI techniques in mass while being quick and efficient. The barbell club is ten strong with the majority of the lifters training at the same time. My goal with the powerlifting team is to use a general approach to PRI treatment in order to address the individual needs of each lifter.

The evaluation process has demonstrated that the majority of the team has a left AIC pattern with a definite right BC pattern and some evidence of a PEC pattern. I will be using non manual techniques in the treatment program. For treatment of the left AIC we will be addressing the right gluteus maximus, left adduction, right abduction and left gluteus medius. I am going to program treatment for the right BC by going after the right low trap & right tricep, left low trap & left serratus anterior, right serratus anterior, and the right subscapularis.

We are going to use the Left AIC techniques after a lower body training session instead of before. Preliminary results have produced more discomfort when preforming the PRI techniques prior to training; I do not want the techniques to interfere with the quality of lifting sessions. I will use the same approach when training the upper body. I will post these results as well, when we get there.

We will be using the following techniques during the next two weeks:

Left AIC

  1. 90-90 hip lift with balloon
  2. Left sidelining flex lt add with concomitant Rt lower extended abduction
  3. Right side lying left IR with LT extended abduction
  4. Supine rt glute max with R FA ER
  5. Supine scissor slides

Right BC

  1. Wall short seated left reach with balloon
  2. Supine weighted punch with right arm apical expansion
  3. Seated resisted reciprocal pull downs
  4. Sidelying weighted right HG horizontal abduction with FA ER
  5. Supine resisted right HG IR
  6. Standing resisted wall reach

I have a couple concerns as I begin this:

  1. If the hip has an anterior tilt does, that make for better squatting and deadlifting?
  2. Is the tilted hip needed for single rep /max effort  lifts?
  3. Should methods be used as a training preparation tool or saved for post training recovery?

I am curious to see how this plays out.

Postural Restoration Test Results: Powerlifting

I want to take a moment to post the PRI evaluation from the powerlifters I am working with. I will post the treatment plan as soon as I finish it.

3. TRUNK ROTATION (degrees) limited
6. APICAL EXPANSION TEST (+/-) limited None
7. HG IR (degrees) limited
8. HORIZONTAL ABDUCTION (degrees) limited
10. ELEVATED AND ER RIPS (+/-) yes
3. TRUNK ROTATION (degrees) limited
6. APICAL EXPANSION TEST (+/-) slight slight
7. HG IR (degrees) limited limited
8. HORIZONTAL ABDUCTION (degrees) limited
3. TRUNK ROTATION (degrees) Limited limited
6. APICAL EXPANSION TEST (+/-) Slight None
7. HG IR (degrees) limited
8. HORIZONTAL ABDUCTION (degrees) limited
10. ELEVATED AND ER RIPS (+/-) yes

Update on the powerlifting Postural Restoration Training program

I have a couple more evaluations to do before I post the assessment and the treatment plan for the powerlifters participating in my PRI experiment.  To give you an idea of the quality of lifter that I am working with, two of the lifters are ranked in the top 10 (raw) nationally. So I am working with some accomplished lifters with years of training under their belts who have produced some big totals. Convincing these guys that despite their effort and hours of training they were still falling short of what they should be able to lift.  The looks I got when I explained how blowing up a balloon could make them a better lifters was priceless.  Guys were looking at me as if I had completely lost my mind, these are lifters that have squatted 700 pounds were now going to be blowing up little pink balloons. It only took one PRI test to show them the chains of dysfunction that ran through their bodies and get them on board.

The biggest challenge for me is designing the evaluation procedures. Because of the sagittal nature of powerlifting and the amount of dysfunction powerlifters poses, I have added to the initial evaluation. I am still looking for the PRI patterns but I want to expose all of their mobility issues as well. I will be using a couple of the screens from the FMS along with the PRI test. I will be using the following test:

  1. Overhead squat
  2. Adduction drop test
  3. Extension drop test
  4. Single leg raise
  5. Trunk rotation
  6. Hruska adduction drop test
  7. Hruska abduction lift test
  8. Apical expansion test
  9. HG IR
  10. Horizontal abduction
  11. Shoulder flexion
  12. Elevated and ER rips