If your baseball trainer made you play the games of Simon and Whac-A-Mole simultaneously, while throwing tennis balls and HECOstix at you also, there’s a good chance you’d be a participant in a unique training program created by R3VAMP. But this program has also been shown to aid TBI patients in their recovery. Think you can handle it?
R3VAMP Training Can Improve Athlete Focus, Reaction Time, and Agility
R3VAMP Elite Training co-founder, Mike Hicks, joined the Logan Air Dodgers of the Boston Men’s Baseball League after one of their Friday night practices at the A’s Baseball Center in Woburn, Mass. to demonstrate how his program works. The drill was unlike anything I’ve seen before, with blinking colored lights, thrown objects, and all sorts of distractions.
Amateur baseball player, Jack Lepiarz of the Dodgers, volunteered to demonstrate. From 2018 to 2019, Lepiarz bumped his batting average from .167 to .300, while dropping his strikeout ratio by 45%. This is a guy who is serious about his training.
The R3 exercises progressed 30-seconds at a time, and each round got progressively harder.
- In Round One, Jack just had to bang on blinking red lights on seven BlazePod blinkers. Easy.
- In Round Two, a blue light was introduced, and Jack had to hit the red and blue lights with his proper left or right hand based on the light color.
- In Round Three, Hicks began tossing three-pronged HECOstix at Jack, where he had to catch the stick with the appropriate color handle, while also dealing with thrown tennis balls, while also still banging the properly colored lights.
- By Round Four, Jack had to do the whole drill while balanced on an upside-down wobbly half yoga ball. Tired yet?
Jack never made it to Round Five, but said with heavy breaths between rounds: “It’ll get your heart rate up and make you sweat. The other thing is it sort of just teaches you to get out of your own head and just act.”
Hicks explained that his program can help players stay hyper-focused, see out of their peripheral, and improve their reaction times. What does this mean for a ball player?
- A pitcher will better be able to see a base runner off first base without looking over, without perhaps balking, and without taking their eye off the batter.
- An infielder may have quicker reflexes and reaction time to get to a quickly hit ball to their left or right.
- A batter may be less distracted by base runners while more quickly adjusting to unexpected pitches.
Hick’s added: “Not only does it help baseball players with their reaction time in their eyes and their hands and the things that require them to be optimal in their sport, but it helps them with processing. As baseball players, it’s really important that processing is clean and clear and that we can take on a lot at once in high-stress situations, such as in a tight game.”
Drills with a Major League Impact on Performance
Nobody knows the high stress of baseball more than a professional relief pitcher entering with the game on the line. Hicks personally trained Hyannis, Mass. native, Alex Powers, the 2019 AAA Minor League Reliever of the Year for the Cincinnati Reds. Powers spent 2019 pitching for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (1.23 ERA in 17 games) and Triple-A Louisville Bats (1.98 ERA in 23 games).
Hicks proudly informed that “Alex is an absolutely stud of a ballplayer. He’s somebody that we did quite a bit of work with related to breath work. Related to his balance. And then really driving home what worked for him.” Plus, “Alex is a soft focus pitcher. So he’ll come set, he’ll lose his target, he’ll find it, he’ll lose it, then he’ll find it and go. So we built drills around that idea of soft focus that enhanced his ability to be good at that. In addition, we trained his peripherals so the sides of his eyes are prepared for any simulated situation.”
Alex Powers spoke highly of the R3VAMP program as well.
“To compete at the highest level you need to be strong and explosive. There comes a certain point though where you hit that physical wall and now you need to find other ways to sharpen your tools. One of the most overlooked ways to get better is training your mind and increasing cognitive development. The drills and expertise you get working with the R3VAMP team is a sure-fire way to improve regardless of your sport or goals.”
Beyond Sports: Body and Mind Drills Can Help TBI Patients on Their Road to Recovery
Beyond blinking lights and novel drills, R3VAMP uses meditation, cognitive development, mental conditioning, recovery and nutrition techniques to help athletes with their sustained excellence. But what may be more impressive is the program’s ability to help individuals recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) to regain their cognitive skills and agility.
Erica is an R3VAMP clients who deals with neuromuscular and movement complications on the right side of her body due to a brain injury she suffered in a car accident roughly 20 years ago. The cognitive and physical work she has put in yielded her positive results.
Data from the app tied to the BlazePod blinking lights in the drills demonstrate that her movement and neurological processing is improving dramatically.
Hicks details the data supporting Erica’s success.
“We keep a few R3 specific drills consistent to create a sample size and a baseline so we can measure improvements each time we have a weekly session. Our ‘Red Light Diamond Drill’ is meant to improve and create new neurological connections. Erica shaved her reaction time from 1.15 seconds to 0.50 seconds and increased her hit count on the lights from 25 hits in 30 seconds to 62 hits – in just two months. It was also noticeable that her balance and overall movement improved, and this helped her performance at work.”
Hicks explained that the ‘Reaction Light Math Drill’ forces drill participants to train their working memory, processing abilities, reaction time and focus.
“We love using this drill with Erica because it forces her not to favor any particular body parts in an effort to create seamless physical and neurological connections with both hands and both feet, all while multi-processing and requiring focus through cognitive overload. Our drills force efficiency in movement and memory/strategy to use the appropriately colored cone at each light.”
Remember: Your Working Memory is a Game-Changer
R3VAMP focuses on training working memory, the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.
“Working memory is correlated to our ability to make adjustments in the moment, as ball players. The larger our working memory bank is, the easier it is to make adjustments when we need them most. Processing and decision making are crucial to success in performance, so we use specific training modalities to focus on those concepts,” Hicks told us.
Hicks’ partner and the other R3VAMP co-founder, Dave Giarrusso, added that he believes it’s the unique nature of their program that provides clients a unique edge. “We really focus on the entire person. It’s about the body, the mind and the spirit and how to optimize those three things into one elite person. What’s awesome is that we are able to train clients in every facet of life and all sports, not just baseball. When you combine psychology techniques with physical training, brain training and needs based routine management, you see people’s potentials begin to skyrocket.”
Whether you or your team need help with your game or mind, R3VAMP Elite Training can be found within the A’s Baseball Center located at 31 Draper St, Woburn, MA 01801, or at one of their other partner facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.