Master the King of All Exercises

Deadlifting Secrets 101

Everything you need to know about this complex exercise.

Free Video Training

Name:
Email:* 
The High Performance Handbook

The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...


Maki Riddington: Why Nap?

Written on July 31, 2007 at 10:09 am, by Eric Cressey

The Eric Cressey Blog welcomes a guest entry by Maki Riddington:

Even though we spend a third of our lives sleeping, scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep. In animal studies it has been shown that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. In humans, those who had been deprived of just one night’s sleep were shown to have a reduction in mental exertion. In real life situations, the consequences of being sleep-deprived are grave. Some speculation has linked sleep-deprivation to certain international disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion.

Taking this into the gym can mean that the ability to concentrate and focus can become compromised which means less of an effort and intensity in the workout (9). Hopefully it’s not leg day.

Athletes who suffer from sleep-deprivation have been shown to see a decrease in cardiovascular performance (10), that is, their time to exhaustion is quicker. Sleep-deprivation in studies has been shown to occur around 30-72 hours. For an athlete who has a full course-load, studies, mid terms, and trains, sleep-deprivation can accumulate very rapidly.

Another study looked at cortisol and performance levels after staying up for an 8-hour period overnight. Performance declined and cortisol levels increased. For someone looking to pack on muscle and increase strength, this is bad news since the main focus is to minimize cortisol release since it is a catabolic hormone (11).

From a fat loss perspective, sleep deprivation can impair fat loss through a decrease in levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and increases in the hunger hormone ghrelin. According to Dr. Van Cauter a professor of medicine at the university of Chicago, “One of the first consequences of sleeplessness is appetite dysregulation.” “Essentially, the accelerator for hunger [ghrelin] is pushed and the brake for satiety [leptin] is released.” “The leptin levels are screaming ‘More food! More food!’” What this means is that the hormone leptin is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, the body will crave calories (especially in the form of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. For someone trying to diet, good luck!

Voluntarily sleeping less than 6 hours per night has been associated with an increased incidence of impaired glucose tolerance, according to a cohort analysis of the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (12) This may mean that a chronic lack of sleep can impair glucose tolerance, which can make body recomposition a difficult task. Most people have a hard enough time trying to regulate their carbohydrates and time them so that the body metabolizes them efficiently.

So, if you’re getting the required 8 hours of sleep, are you ok? Well, if this sleep is broken up, then its value decreases as the sleep cycle is interrupted. Deep sleep appears to be connected with the release of growth hormones in young adults. Many of the body’s cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repairing bodily stress (muscle damage from strength training), uninterrupted deep sleep plays an important role in recovery and regeneration of the body.

Finally, adequate sleep and a properly functioning immune system are closely related. Sleep-deprivation compromises the immune system by altering the blood levels of specialized immune cells and important proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers instruct other immune cells to go into action. As a result of being compromised, greater than normal chances of infections are likely to occur. And we all know that being sick can be a big setback both in and out of the gym.

Maki Riddington


Talking Shop: Nick Grantham Part 2

Written on July 30, 2007 at 9:04 am, by Eric Cressey

EC: Speaking of sinking ships, where are most athletes missing the boat? What common mistakes do you see all the time?

NG: Don’t get me started or we will be here all day! I will try to keep it brief and give you my top three:

1. Lack of consistency – So many people want a quick fix and want to see results yesterday. Newsflash: it takes time. I’m sure we are all familiar with the general rule of 10,000 hours of correct, progressive and adaptive training to be a successful athlete at the elite level. Okay, so some of you may argue that not everyone will be operating at an elite level, but the general rule still applies; you need to do your time before you can expect to get some payback. There are no shortcuts and one of my favorite quotes is “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Think about it!

2. Being too clever – People trying to be too clever and thinking that innovation should always mean advances in technology or the like. Sometimes, innovation can be adopting a very simple approach. I was recently listening to Vern Gambetta speak and he summed it up with this quote: “Everyone is looking for the 2% that is going to make a difference – but what about the other 98%?” All too often, we worry about the small things when we don’t even have the basics under control. You have no right to be doing the clever stuff until your have the 98% covered – and don’t forget it has to be done consistently. I think your Magnificent Mobility DVD is a great example of taking care of the 98%. Please don’t be offended, but what you deliver is a simple-to-use resource. The content is proven, it’s not fancy, it’s not clever, and you don’t need the latest piece of kit to perform the drills. It takes care of the basics – that’s what will boost performance.

3. Poor Recovery – It’s all about training and what takes place during the 1-2 hour training session. The majority of people neglect what happens during the other 22 hours! You don’t improve from training; you improve by recovering from training. This is an area that I’ve been looking at for the past 18 months and I guarantee that if you take care of the fundamental rules of recovery you will see your performances in the gym and in your sport go through the roof. I’ve recently pulled together a heap of recovery information into a single training manual and I’ve put together the “recovery pyramid” that guides you through the myriad of different recovery strategies available. For more details, check out www.recoveryregeneration.com.


Shoulder Problems: Check your Hip and Ankle

Written on July 27, 2007 at 10:19 am, by Eric Cressey

When we’re discussing functional anatomy, one thing that a ton of people overlook is the effect of fascia on how we move. Anatomy charts are always nice and neat for us, but anyone who has ever taken gross anatomy or watched a surgery will tell you that there is fascia EVERYWHERE. This connective tissue both facilitates and restricts movement, and as is the case with muscles, fascial restrictions (adhesions) can negatively affect how we perform.

A common example of this phenomenon that might surprise you involves the spiral line, a fascial “train” Thomas Myers brought to light in his fantastic book, Anatomy Trains. Essentially, the spiral line links one shoulder girdle to the opposite leg. If you have restrictions in the spiral line, both “ends” of the train will be negatively affected. This is one reason why I almost always see poor flexibility in the opposite ankle and hip in anyone who has a shoulder problem that involves tightness of some sort in the shoulder girdle.

Additionally, we know that via the “serape effect,” the latissimus dorsi works intimately with the opposite gluteus maximus during the sprinting motion. The only way that this “link” is possibly is through the thoracolumbar fascia, a dense section of connective tissue that helps to transfer force.

So what are the take-home points?

1. Don’t overlook the importance of soft-tissue work! It’s tough to stretch fascia, but modalities like foam rolling, massage, and ART can make a huge difference.

2. Injuries never occur in isolation; as the shoulder-hip-ankle connection verifies, we need to look at the body as a whole.

3. If you spot poor shoulder mobility on one side, as part of your corrective exercise approach, incorporate plenty of mobility exercises and soft-tissue work for the opposite ankle and hip.

Eric Cressey


Talking Shop: Nick Grantham

Written on July 26, 2007 at 10:32 am, by Eric Cressey

What are ten things our readers can do RIGHT NOW to become leaner, stronger, faster, and more muscular?

1. Set goals – SMART goals so that you know where the journey is going to take you and how you are going to get to your destination.

2. Keep a training diary – You need to track your progress.

3. Train consistently – Set a plan and stick to it. It’s all too easy to say, “Hey, I’ll train today.” If you don’t schedule a time to train, chances are you will get to the end of the day and you will have missed your session.

4. Recover well – You’ll understand why when you read the rest of the interview!

5. Concentrate on the 98% – I’ll explain this one later on.

6. Include conditioning work (prehab/remedial/injury prevention….call it what you like….my choice is conditioning) in your training session. Superset between the main lifts – that way the work gets done and you will be on the way to becoming “bulletproof.”

7. Replace steady-state running with high intensity intervals – Come on, do I really need to explain this one? Intervals will give you more bang for your buck than slow steady-state running.

8. Don’t get hung up on TVA recruitment – Isolating a muscle will not necessarily transfer to improved core strength during athletic movements. Train how you are going to perform; make sure you hit all of the major muscle groups (rectus abdominus, obliques, erector spinae, etc.).

9. Learn to handle your bodyweight – I’ve worked with elite gymnasts – these guys are super strong. I don’t really care what your bench is if you can’t even handle your own bodyweight with good form. Don’t neglect the basics.

10. Whole body hypertrophy programmes – I’m with Alwyn Cosgrove on this one. Why go for split routines when you can get a greater training effect from a whole body hypertrophy routine?

Nick Grantham


20 Things from Dr. McGill (2 of 4)

Written on July 25, 2007 at 10:03 am, by Eric Cressey

I’ve seen Dr. McGill in seminar before, and by my own admission, I’ve always been more of a “listen and watch” guy than a note-taker. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t hear a lot of great points that went right to my notepad. Here were some highlights along with (in some cases) my commentaries on their applicability to what we do:

6. Shear forces are far more of a concern than compressive forces; our spines actually handle compressive forces really well. You can’t buttress shear effectively in flexion, so it’s important to avoid it – especially at the most commonly injured lumbar spine segments – at all costs. The spine doesn’t buckle until 12,000-15,000N of pressure are applied in compression, but as little as 1,800-2,8000N in shear will get the job done.

7. The rectus abdominus is not about trunk flexion; it’s an anti-rotator that is responsible for transferring hoop stresses. If it was about trunk flexion, it wouldn’t have the lateral tendinous inscriptions; we’d have hamstrings there instead!

8. Don’t just train the glutes in hip extension; really pay attention to their role as external rotators. Once you’ve mastered linear movements (e.g. supine bridges), you need to get into single-leg and emphasis movements like bowler squats and lunges with reaches to various positions. These are great inclusions in the warm-up.

9. Contrary to popular belief, the vertebral bodies – and not the discs – are the shock absorbers of the spine. Amazingly, the elasticity we see is actually in the bone; blood is responsible for pressurizing the bone.

10. End-plate fractures are the most common injury with compression; they almost always are accompanied by a “pop” sound.

Eric Cressey

P.S. As an interesting aside to all of this, Dr. McGill and I actually spoke at length about the importance of hip mobility – something that obviously is closely related to all twenty of these points. If you lack mobility at the hips, you’re forced to go to the lumbar spine to get it, and that is a serious limitation to building stability. On several occasions, Dr. McGill alluded to Mike Robertson and my Magnificent Mobility DVD, so if you’re looking to protect your back, improve performance, and feel better than you ever thought possible, check it out..


Talking Shop: John Pallof

Written on July 18, 2007 at 9:34 am, by Eric Cressey

Eric Cressey:

Randomly throw some idea out there that will really make our readers say “Oh, crap, that really makes sense!”

John Pallof:

1. A muscle that often gets overlooked with shoulder impingement type problems – like the plain looking girl at the dance – the serratus anterior. It’s very important for a few reasons: helps rotate and protract the scapula/acromion up and out of the way of the humeral head, and is also important for force coupling with the rhomboids/lower and middle trapezius.

2. Many “hamstrings pulls” – especially chronic ones – are actually symptoms of a mild nerve irritation – neural tension dysfunction. Just like a brake cable on a bike, your nerves need to glide through the tissue they travel through. If they get hung up, they will become symptomatic to varying degrees. Picture a brake cable on a bicycle – the metal cable glides through the plastic casing. Your nerves need to be able to glide through the structures and tissues they travel through – as much as 7 to 10 mm in some areas!

3. A topic of contention – the elephant in the room – the psoas. While there are many theories out there, I believe the psoas acts along with the TVA/multifidus/internal oblique as a local/segmental stabilizer of the spine. Think about the origins on the anterior surface of the transverse processes of the lumbar spine. Why the hell would it attach so intricately if all it did was flex the hip? The psoas atrophies in a fashion similar to the multifidus with back pain. The multifidus and the psoas form a force couple/agonist-antagonist relationship, giving stability of one vertebrae on the other.


20 Things from Dr. McGill (1 of 4)

Written on July 16, 2007 at 10:22 am, by Eric Cressey

I’ve seen Dr. McGill in seminar before, and by my own admission, I’ve always been more of a “listen and watch” guy than a note-taker. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t hear a lot of great points that went right to my notepad. Here were some highlights along with (in some cases) my commentaries on their applicability to what we do:

1. As counterintuitive as it may seem, flexion-intolerant individuals (e.g. disc herniations) will sit in positions of flexion, and extension-intolerant patients (e.g. spondylolisthesis) will sit in positions of extension. It might give them temporary relief, but it’s really just making the problem worse in the long run. We become intolerant to certain lumbar spine postures not only because we’re in them so much (e.g., cyclist or secretary in long-term lumbar flexion), but also because we’re forced into this posture due to a lack of hip mobility or lumbar spine stability.

2. It’s absolutely comical that the American Medical Association still uses loss of spinal range of motion as the classification scheme of lower back dysfunction. There isn’t a single study out there that shows the lumbar spine range of motion is correlated with having a healthy back; in fact, the opposite is true! Those with better stability (super-stiffness, as Dr. McGill calls it) and optimal hip mobility are much better off.

3. Lower back health is highly correlated with endurance, while those with stronger and more powerful lower backs are more commonly injured. The secret is to have power at the hips – something you’ll see in world-class lifters.

4. There is really no support for bilateral stretching of the hamstrings to prevent and treat lower back pain. In most cases, the tightness people feel in their hamstrings is a neural tightness – not a purely soft-tissue phenomenon. Dr. McGill believes that the only time the hamstrings should be stretched is with an asymmetry. This is something I’ve been practicing for close to a year now with outstanding results; the tighter my hamstrings have gotten, the stronger and faster I’ve become. The secret is to build dynamic flexibility that allows us to make use of the powerful spring effect the hamstrings offer; static stretching – especially prior to movement – impairs this spring.

5. Next time you see an advanced powerlifter or Olympic lifter, check out the development of his erectors. You’ll notice that the meat is in the upper lumbar and thoracic regions – not the “true” lower back. Why? They subconsciously know to avoid motion in those segments most predisposed to injury, and the extra meat a bit higher up works to buttress the shearing stress that may come from any flexion that might occur higher up. Novice lifters, on the other hand, tend to get flexion at those segments – L5-S1, L4-L5, L3-L4, L2-L3 – at which you want to avoid flexion at all costs. Our body is great at adapting to protect itself – especially as we become better athletes and can impose that much more loading on our bodies.

Eric Cressey

P.S. As an interesting aside to all of this, Dr. McGill and I actually spoke at length about the importance of hip mobility – something that obviously is closely related to all twenty of these points. If you lack mobility at the hips, you’re forced to go to the lumbar spine to get it, and that is a serious limitation to building stability. On several occasions, Dr. McGill alluded to Mike Robertson and my Magnificent Mobility DVD, so if you’re looking to protect your back, improve performance, and feel better than you ever thought possible, check it out.


Don’t Be So Linear

Written on July 12, 2007 at 9:15 am, by Eric Cressey

Got to any gym, and you’ll see loads of people doing cardio at varying intensities, with different machines, listening to different music, and wearing different exercise sneakers. While they each appear unique, the reality is that they’re all stuck in linear movements that always have them moving forward. Take any of these people off their precious ellipticals, treadmills, and recumbent bikes, and you’ll find that they lack frontal and transverse plane stability and carry their weight anteriorly. The solution is pretty simple; get them moving in different ways!

The first step is to include some single-leg work in all exercise programming. This does NOT include unilateral leg presses and Smith machine lunges; you should actually be doing some of the stabilization work!

Second, make sure that you’re training movements that require full hip flexion (knees get above 90 degrees) and hip extension (glutes fire to complete hip extension). Sprinting meets these guidelines very easy, but cardio equipment that limits range of motion will always fall short. I’m not saying that they don’t have their place; I’m just saying that I’d rather have people outside doing sprints and multi-directional work instead.

Third, and most importantly incorporate more backwards and lateral movement in your energy systems work. Here’s an example that I used with an online consulting client of mine recently:

Dynamic Flexibility Warm-up

The following should be performed in circuit fashion with the designated rest intervals from below incorporated between each drill.

A1) High Knee Run: 20 yards
A2) Butt Kicks: 20 yards
A3) Backpedal: 20 yards
A4) Carioca: 20 yards to the right
A5) Carioca: 20 yards to the left
A6) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the right
A7) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the left
A8) Backpedal: 20 yards
A9) Scap Push-up: 15 reps
A10) Sprint: 50 yards

Week 1: 3 times through, Rest interval: 15s between drills, two minutes between sets
Week 2: 3 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets
Week 3: 4 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets
Week 4: 2 times through, Rest interval: 5s between drills, two minutes between sets

Eric Cressey

Improved Posture is Not Only Good for your Health, but also good for your Performance.


Reconsider Your Single-Leg Training Approach

Written on July 11, 2007 at 5:18 pm, by Eric Cressey

I get a lot of questions about whether single-leg exercises are quad-dominant or hip dominant and where to place them in training programs. After chatting more with Mike Boyle and considering how I’ve approached it in the past, I’ve realized that if you categorize things the way Mike does, you have a lot of “wiggle room” with your programming to fit more of it in. Mike separates his single-leg work into three categories:

1. Static Unsupported – 1-leg squats (Pistols), 1-leg SLDLs
2. Static Supported – Bulgarian Split Squats
3. Dynamic – Lunges, Step-ups

From there, you can also divide single-leg movements into decelerative (forward lunging) and accelerative (slideboard work, reverse lunges). I’ve found that accelerative movements are most effective early progressions after lower extremity injuries (less stress on the knee joint).

I think that it’s ideal for everyone to aim to get at least one of each of the three options in each week. If one needed to be sacrificed, it would be static supported. Because static unsupported aren’t generally loaded as heavily and don’t cause as much delayed onset muscle soreness, they can often be thrown in on upper body days. Here are some sample splits you might want to try:

3-day

M – Include static supported (50/50 upper/lower exercise selection)
W – Include static unsupported (only lower body exercise)
F – Include dynamic (50/50 upper/lower exercise selection)

Notice how the most stressful/DOMS-inducing option is placed prior to the longest recovery period (the weekend of rest).

4-day

M – Include static supported in lower-body training session.
W – Include static unsupported (only lower body exercise in otherwise upper body session)
F – Include dynamic in lower-body training session
Sa – Upper body workout, no single-leg work outside of warm-up and unloaded prehab work

Be sure to switch exercises and rotate decelerative/accelerative every four weeks.

Eric Cressey

See How This Fits Into Your Upcoming Season


An Appropriate Outlook on Continuing Education

Written on July 10, 2007 at 9:09 am, by Eric Cressey

I’m positive that my outlook on continuing education has played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. If you ask most trainers to spend $199 to attend a seminar, they say that it’s too expensive. However, if you asked them to put $199 into the stock market with a guarantee that it would increase their income, they’re call it a wise investment. Does anyone see where I’m going with this?

Apparently, going to training and nutrition seminars in order to become a better training isn’t a wise investment; it’s just an “expense.” Last time I checked, when all things are held equal, good trainers make more money than bad trainers. In fact, I can speak from experience as someone who specializes in corrective training; I spend a lot of time fixing the damage some other trainers have done. I get the clients’ referrals, and the “other guy” gets all the public criticisms. Are those seminars, books, DVDs, and CDs still “expenses?”

And, these same people don’t seem to think that business education for trainers is a worthwhile investment. I can say without wavering that this couldn’t be more off the mark. Before I got into the fitness industry, I thought I wanted to be an accountant – so I spent two years at Babson College, the best entrepreneurial school in the country according to Business Weekly. They taught me a lot about how great companies like Dell and GE operate – but they never talked about the fitness industry. As much as I learned about business in a general sense in those two years, I can honestly say that VERY little of it applies to what I do on a daily basis now. Our industry is entirely unique, and that’s why products from guys like Ryan Lee and Thomas Plummer are paying themselves off hundreds of times over. I’d call that an investment – not an expense.

People also need to remember that a lot of these expenses can be written off at year-end. If you’re incurring income as a result of these expenditures, they’re business expenses (although you should still view them as investments). I never lost all the accountant in me – especially since I’ve got three CPAs in my family.

Brian Tracy has said that reinvesting 3% in your continuing education is one of the most valuable career moves you can make. That’s only $1,500 for a trainer earning $50K, but it would give you any of the following (or a combination of several):

· 6-7 two day seminars

· 10-15 one day seminars

· 15 manuals

· 30 DVDs

· 40-80 books

Think about what happens with a seminar, DVD, book, manual, or any other information product. A qualified professional devotes hundreds and possibly even thousands of hours to pulling together loads of information in an organized format – and then sells it to you for a tiny fraction of the costs he incurred to gain this knowledge. You don’t have to devote nearly as much time to acquire the information, either.

Seminars in particular are a fantastic expenditure not only because of the information presented, but also because of the networking opportunities. To be honest, at this point, I look forward more to talking shop with colleagues in the audience than I do to the presentations! At the LA Strength Seminar last September, for instance, I chatted at length with:

* John Berardi
* Alwyn Cosgrove
* Dan John
* Mike Robertson
* Julia Ladewski
* Jesse Burdick
* Scot Prohaska
* Nate Green
* Carter Schoffer
* The UCLA Strength and Conditioning Crew (who graciously hooked us up with a place to train while there)

Factor in that I also presented to 65-70 seminar attendees on Saturday and Sunday, and then to another group of high school athletes and parents Monday night, and you’ll realize that I had the opportunity to interact with a ton of avid trainees. You never know what training secrets they’ll bring to the table, or how they’ll add to the frame of reference you possess as a coach. I’d also like to add that I saw Jessica Simpson at the airport – but I’m still convinced that the paparazzi were just there to see me!

Eric Cressey

Experience the Event that took 30 Trainers, Coaches, and Athletes to the Next Level


New Balance

Featured Product
Assess and Correct

YouTube Twitter Facebook