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Required Reading for Parents of Young Athletes

Written on March 30, 2007 at 8:10 pm, by Eric Cressey

Thought you all might be interested in a local publication I just had:
http://www.townonline.com/parentsandkids/columnists/x2088648457

Have a great weekend,

EC



7 Simple Analogies

Written on March 29, 2007 at 1:39 pm, by Eric Cressey

To that end, I’ve found that one way to get my point across both in person and in my writing is to use analogies. Here are a few that I find myself using all the time — and ones that you can use to rationalize your recommendations with the lay folks that you encounter.

Continued Reading…


Bench Pressing with the Feet Up?

Written on March 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm, by Eric Cressey

Q: I recently was in attendance at your lecture/hands on session at the Learn-by-Doing seminar in Atlanta, GA. I signed up for your newsletter and have been following your blog ever since- it’s great! I have a question for you and would love to hear your thoughts.

I was recently asked by a Physical Therapist about form on a bench press after watching one of my clients training. She wanted to know why I wouldn’t put a clients feet up while performing the exercise. She has a theory that when everyone does a bench press (any prone horizontal push for that matter) they should do it with their feet up (as in on the bench)- to take stress off of the lower back. The client I was working with at the time (goal fat loss by his reunion this summer!) was performing dumbbell close-grip bench press with his feet planted on the floor.

Thoughts?

A: Thanks for your email and the kind words.

Most back problems you’ll encounter are extension-based (a tendency toward an excessively lordotic posture, generally secondary to tight hip flexors and weak glutes/external obliques/rectus abdominus). As I recall, Sahrmann has noted that extension and extension-rotation syndromes account for 80% of back issues.

In SOME people with these problems, flat benching pressing with the feet on the floor can pose a problem. In these same people, sleeping on the back ends up being uncomfortable – one reason why I feel it’s valuable to place a pillow under the knees when sleeping in this position. Flatten the lumbar spine out a bit and you ease the extension stress. Unfortunately, benching pressing is a lot different than sleeping!

Benching with the feet up on the bench is, in my opinion, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. When we flatten out the lumbar spine, we also flatten out the thoracic spine. It goes without saying that the loss of thoracic extension is closely related to scapular winging (abduction). And, if you’ve read stuff from myself, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman (who made Inside-Out, a fantastic DVD and a manual along these lines), you’ll notice a resounding theme: the shoulders are at the mercy of the scapulae and thoracic spine.* To that end, I don’t feel that benching with the feet up is the best option.

Rather than just criticize without an alternative solution, though, I’ll throw a few out there that I’ve used with great success:

1. Incline Press – Throw in a bit of hip and knee flexion, and you reduce the need for an arch – unless you’ve got a client who uses the “ceiling-humper” style of cheating! Additionally, incline benches tend to be a bit easier in terms of set-up on individuals with back pain.

2. Bent-Knee Floor Presses – On the surface, this sounds like exactly what you get with a bench press with the feet elevated, but in fact, you’re protecting the shoulders by avoiding the bottom position of the movement. We can get away with sacrificing a little bit of scapular stability when we stay away from the more “at-risk” zones.

Some might recommend stability ball dumbbell bench presses, but I think it would be a bit inappropriate right now. I use unstable surfaces very sparingly in training (and almost exclusively in the upper body), but this exercise has some merit in certain cases. Research from Behm et al. demonstrated that muscular activation is maintained with unstable surface training, even if total force production is lower. Essentially, muscles do more work to stabilize a joint than they do to generate torque in the desired direction of movement. In other words, you can get a solid training effect with less external resistance. So, it can be a great thing with bouncing back from shoulder injuries, or just tossing in a lower intensity deload week. Unfortunately, stability balls markedly increase spine load – not something we want to do with those with back pain.  For more information, check out The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

cressey-flat-salespage

To get back to the feet on the floor versus the bench debate, I think the “on the bench” crowd really overlooks the fact that the bench press is actually a pretty good FULL-body exercise. When performed properly, there is a ton of leg drive and momentum transfer from the lower body, through the thoracolumbar fascia, to the lats and rest of the upper body with the help of solid diaphragmatic (belly) breathing techniques. We aren’t just training pecs, you know?

For more tips on sparing the shoulders and proper upper-body lifting techniques, check out the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover



Back on Track

Written on March 29, 2007 at 12:32 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m back in the US after a great trip to the UK. A huge thanks go out to Dave Fleming and Nick Grantham for all their hard work in organizing the weekend event and to playing such great hosts to me over the course of my visit. Likewise, I want to extend my thanks to Scott White and Daniele Selmi for pulling together an outstanding seminar in Oxford, showing me around town, and all the hospitality. And, above all, I want to thank everyone who came out to the seminars. As I mentioned on more than one occasion during my visit, I’m really humbled by the fact that people across the world actually care about what I have to say! With that said, I really appreciate your continued support and hope that you enjoyed the seminar as much as I enjoyed interacting with you. I look forward to visiting again soon!

These blogs are supposed to be about content, so I’ll come right out and say that I was an idiot for not packing any Greens Plus for the trip. I’ve got a lot of veggies to eat in the next week to try to catch up!

Keep an eye out for some pictures and more thoughts on the trip as soon as I’m caught up on work and sleep.



Power What!?

Written on March 20, 2007 at 11:28 am, by Eric Cressey

As many of you know, I’m headed out to the UK on Thursday to speak at three seminars in six days – and see some of the sights and work with some great athletes while I’m out there. With that said, it goes without saying that the beginning of this week is pretty busy. I’m working out the plan for my in-person athletes and clients, online consulting clients, and making sure all the pieces are in place for my online stuff to run smoothly in my absence. So, as you can imagine, I am very busy and very focused right now. That is, I was focused until I saw a sign last night that nearly made me drive off the road:

Power Yoga

Here’s an oxymoron that ranks right up there with Jumbo Shrimp and Deafening Silence.

I’ll give a gold star to anyone who can tell me how an activity where you stay in one place for an hour, move slowly and rhythmically, and try to relax can possibly be powerful.

Call me a physics geek – or just a cynical bastard – but I’m not buying it either way.

(For those who missed it, check out Yoga This and Pilates That

Eric Cressey



Ten Weeks to Summer: What’s your plan?

Written on March 19, 2007 at 1:57 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m not sure if you all are aware of it, but it’s just under ten weeks until Memorial Day – the unofficial start to summer and the time at which everyone starts panicking about how they’ll look at the beach. With that in mind, I was brainstorming the other day about what motivates people to get things done (in this case, get lean).

In the weight-training world, I’ve always been motivated the most by competition and quantifiable goals. This is one reason why I’ve done so much better from a physique standpoint as a powerlifter than I ever did as someone who “worked out.” Let’s face it: there is a huge difference between training and working out.

And, if there is one thing that is the closest thing to a universal motivator, it’s money. People do stupid human tricks, enter reality TV shows, and spend hundreds of dollars each year on lottery tickets in hopes of padding their wallets. Likewise, lots of people will go to great lengths to avoid being separated from their money, even (sometimes) in the case of worthwhile investments.

To that end, an “ideal” fat loss motivator (in my mind) would integrate these three factors: competition (with oneself or another), quantifiable goals, and money…so here’s what came to mind.

Find a friend, and have him/her take your 7-site skinfold readings: pectoral, abdominal, thigh, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, and axilla. Add these seven readings up and write the number down (I don’t really care what your body fat percentage is).

Next, make out a check for $500 (or any amount) and put it “aside” (whether that’s in a glass jar on your counter, or even with a deposit to an interest-accumulating account) for the duration of your fat loss phase. That money could potentially go anywhere: your friend, a charity, you name it. The point is that it’s no longer yours; you have to work to earn it back.

Set a fat loss goal in millimeters you’re going to lose off your 7-site skinfold total. If you hit it, the money is yours once again. If not, it goes to your buddy or, better yet, charity. In the latter case, you’ll help out a good cause and get a tax write-off – even if you are still a tubby failure!

The next step would be taking steps to ensure success – namely, forming a plan. For the dietary component, you can’t beat Precision Nutrition from Dr. John Berardi. For training options, I have been very impressed with Afterburn from Alwyn Cosgrove and Turbulence Training from Craig Ballantyne.

So what are you waiting for? Shouldn’t you be writing a check that your butt CAN cash?

Eric Cressey



Is This Gatorade!?

Written on March 16, 2007 at 7:19 pm, by Jon Boyle

Day in and day out, athletes are exposed to an onslaught of advertisements, most promising what they all want: increased performance. Something as simple as Gatorade has become the king of marketing and endorsements, the Gatorade Sports Institute is one of the leading researchers in athlete hydration. It is a wonder that such a praised product can also be so unpredictable. The product Gatorade is sound, as well as the science behind it; the problem is not the product, but the company.

Undoubtedly, Gatorade is one of the most researched products purchased by athletes (millions of them). Recently, many other companies have released similar products to compete with Gatorade, but the need to establish revenue has led to short changed products. After all, when Gatorade controls the market, the theory is to create a cheaper product to steal back the market. Companies like Powerade and All Sport, develop a product “exactly-like” Gatorade but cheaper.

To many athletes they appear the same, many just dismiss Powerade for being a bad product because it legitimately does not digest as well as Gatorade. This isn’t just a “gut feeling”, science supports this, as the main ingredient in Powerade is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Now, the actual debate of Fructose as a glycogen replenisher is a whole topic by itself, but all would agree, in the athletic environment, Dextrose / Glucose is superior. In fact, in the Fluid Replacement Position Statement released by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, and headed by esteemed hydration researcher and guru Doug Casa, ATC, PhD., the researchers suggest that athletes limit fructose. The statement goes on to recommend that no more than 2-3% of the solution be comprised of fructose.

This provides a bit more insight as to why many athletes have a better experience (barring endorsement temptations) with powdered Gatorade. The story doesn’t end there. Many athletes, for the sake of time and money, will train on Gatorade powder as it is far cheaper. These same athletes will often experience problems in competition where preparing your own Gatorade is nearly impossible. The majority, if not all, endurance events have moved from made-from-concentrate Gatorade to ready-to-drink Gatorade, or similar sports drink. This creates many problems, as Gatorade itself has fallen to a similar fate as Powerade: Ready-to-drink Gatorade now has a main ingredient of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

If there is one thing to learn in the supplement industry, it is to avoid ready-made drinks. Ready-to-drink protein supplements, and now ready-to-drink sports drinks are far inferior to even their same-brand concentrate counterparts. Gatorade powder, lists the main ingredients as Sucrose and Dextrose, very different from a syrup concoction of fructose. While many will note that Sucrose is in fact a disaccharide sugar of glucose and fructose, it still is not the primary ingredient. It is more important that the proper sugars are available to prevent the body from having to rely entirely on fructose.

From my own digestion issues, I have learned to train and race on the same powdered Gatorade. There is absolutely no indication that the quality of ready-to-drink products will improve, simply because most companies will not trade out profits to improve a product many do not know needs improvement.

Train Smart,
Jon Boyle


Leg Curls are for Wankers

Written on March 14, 2007 at 11:08 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I just read your article on leg extensions, and I’m wondering if leg curls are bad, too. I’m rehabbing a mild hamstring pull, and I’m wondering if light-weight leg curls are okay.

A: I’m not a fan of leg curls at all. Your hamstrings will never work in isolation like that; they’ll always be co-contracting with the glutes, adductor magnus, and smaller hip extensors. When you do a leg curl, you really just encourage an overactive muscle to tighten up even more than it already has.

In our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set, Mike Robertson and I go into great detail on how when you see a muscle strain, you should always look for a dysfunctional synergist. Think about the functions of the gluteus maximus: hip extension, abduction, and lateral rotation.

If it shuts down, you can get hamstrings or adductor magnus strains (synergists in hip extension), piriformis issues (synergist in lateral rotation), tensor fascia latae (TFL) strains (synergist in hip abduction) or even quadratus lumborum tightness/strains (hip-hiking/lateral flexion to compensate for lack of hip abduction). You also might get lower back tightness or lumbar erector strains from lumbar hyperextension to compensate for a lack of hip extension range of motion (secondary to glute weakness not being able to finish hip extension). Finally, you might experience hip joint capsule irritation anteriorly because your glutes aren’t providing enough posterior pull to counteract the tendency of the hamstrings to allow the femoral head to glide forward during hip extension.

Yes, I know I’m a longwinded geek, but I do have a point. That is, always look for inefficiencies and dysfunction; don’t be lazy and just stop at pathology. Several pathologies can result from a single inefficiency/dysfunction/syndrome. If you understand how to identify and correct these inefficiencies, you can use comparable protocols to fix a lot of problems.

They say that one of the best ways to win people over is to take their pain away. If you’re a trainer or therapist whose income depends on getting people healthy, you NEED to know this stuff.

Oh, and as for your hamstrings issue, get the glutes firing with various activation exercises and stick to hip extension movements such as pull-throughs, deadlifts, forward sled dragging, box squats, and back extensions to get co-contraction of the glutes. It goes without saying that I would also include plenty of single-leg exercises. If you want to start training knee flexion, when the time is right, incorporate some glute-ham raises.

www.BuildingTheEfficientAthlete.com


Monday Q&A with Eric

Written on March 13, 2007 at 1:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual was fantastic; I just have one question about one of the jumping tests you utilize. In your opinion, should the heels touch the ground lightly during a bounce drop jump? I’ve heard “yes’ and I’ve heard “no” from several coaches and I’m trying to form my own opinion on the subject once and for all.

A: I think it’s a must. Very few athletes have the eccentric strength to land completely on the balls of the feet. You’re also putting a lot of undue stress on the Achilles and patellar tendons and limiting your ability to cushion with the hip extensors. By eliminating that cushion (preactivation), you’ll increase the amortization phase, therefore killing the very elastic response you’re trying to train.

A lot of people will argue that it’s counterintuitive in light of the sprinting motion, but I don’t see that argument as holding water. Vertical displacement is centimeters in sprinting, but meters in bounce drop jumps, so you’re comparing apples and oranges in terms of ground reaction forces. I use different short-response tactics for using just the balls of the feet.

www.UltimateOffSeason.com


Paying Homage to the Greatest…

Written on March 10, 2007 at 12:46 pm, by Eric Cressey

Basketball had Michael Jordan.
Hockey had Wayne Gretzky.
Martial Arts had Bruce Lee.

Their abilities transcended mere stardom and redefined their sports.

It’s about time all bloggers recognize that we’re all just humble villagers next to Bill Simmons – AKA Sports Guy.

Eric Cressey


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