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Written on December 30, 2008 at 9:22 am, by Kevin Larrabee
Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks
with the Ultimate Weight Training Program!
“Eric Cressey’s cutting-edge four-phase program, featuring constant progression, variation, and inspiring goals, keeps you focused on increasing strength along with muscle mass, helping you achieve the fittest, most energetic, and best-looking body you’ve ever had – with fewer hours at the gym.”
Results speak much louder than words, though; featured below are testimonials from the initial group of nine “guinea pigs” for the program:
“One of my problems in designing workouts for myself was choosing the protocols. Strength, muscle growth, endurance, frequency, reps, sets, exercises, etc…there are just too many factors to balance, especially on top of a busy schedule. Too much of one thing usually resulted in an aching injury, or joint pain for a few days. Overtraining was common for me.
“I have to say that the best part about Cressey’s training system, in my opinion, is the balanced approach. I do not leave a workout feeling like I have pushed a muscle group beyond its ability to recover. And I like hitting upper and lower body twice a week. Training the ancillary muscles has kept me from having any aches or pains since starting the program. My shoulder has not hurt for months. My knees feel great. I feel like the exercises selected, the volume of work, and the mobility warm-ups are doing their job: keeping me healthy, in great shape, and in the gym.
“On the Maximum Strength program, I have actually improved all of my test numbers, my posture and joint health, and I feel stronger and healthier – all in spite of the fact that I’ve been busier at my job than ever before. I also feel that I look better than I have for many years. I was very happy with my results!”
Chris Paul – Danbury, Connecticut
Added five pounds of body weight, increased broad jump by six inches, box squat by 80 pounds, bench press by 30 pounds, deadlift by 50 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 10 pounds.
“The Maximum Strength program took me to the next level of performance with my lifting. After using a variety of programs focusing on fat-loss and hypertrophy and having limited results from them it was great to see such solid increases in strength and physique changes from the program. In addition, the program focus on dynamic flexibility and foam rolling has resulted in an injury free training cycle and major flexibility and posture improvements. I would highly recommend this program and book to anyone wanting to make real progress with strength, performance and body composition.”
Dan Hibbert – Calgary, Alberta
Increased body weight by 14 pounds, broad jump by seven inches, box squat by 80 pounds, bench press by 30 pounds, deadlift by 70 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 27.5 pounds.
“Bumps, bruises, dedication and commitment have lead to amazing gains in both strength and mobility. The Maximum Strength program is for anyone who has a desire to be better in their physical conditioning tomorrow than they are today. It is well written program that provides a variety of exercises and training parameters that keep you interested in going to the gym. Each month of the 4-month regime was a new break through and, in many cases, plateau-busting gains. Four months of your time is an easy investment to make in a program of this caliber.”
Gabe Wilson – Houston, TX
Gained 12 pounds, added 55 pounds to his box squat, 35 pounds to his bench press, 30 pounds to his deadlift, and 27 pounds to his 3-rep max chin-up.
About Maximum Strength:
-Co-authored by veteran fitness journalist, Matt Fitzgerald, who is renowned for his humorous writing style and ability to relate complex training strategies in simple terms
-4 progressive four-week phases designed to make you feel stronger and more athletic than ever before
-Each phase is complete with mobility warm-ups to keep you healthy and prepare you to train safely and effectively
-Recommendations for supplemental cardiovascular training based on YOUR body type
-Nutritional guidelines to follow to optimize performance
-A chapter on important considerations on how to plan your own future training
-Tips on mental preparation for training
-Over 200 illustrations to accompany in-depth exercise descriptions
-Foreword by world-renowned nutrition expert, Dr. John Berardi
“I’ve lifted for a long time now – but I have never trained until now. I was lifting like a bodybuilder to be an athlete and while it helped at first, it hurt in the long run. If I had this program when I was younger I think I would have been much better off. The mix of mobility and soft tissue work has helped me with all my old injuries and the periodization has helped me stay stronger for longer than ever before. The Maximum Strength program helped teach me a lot about how to train for a long-term goal and it will help me even more in the future.”
Ryan Gleason – Derby, Connecticut
Lost seven pounds and 4% body fat, increased broad jump by seven inches, box squat by 90 pounds, deadlift by 60 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 15 pounds.
“I was sick of messing about in the gym, changing programs every week to some different one I saw online, I was stuck on the same weights on the same lifts for ages. Eric’s program helped me focus on building strength, which has always been my main aim. I still play a lot of recreational rugby and I’m 100% certain that I’m stronger and better at it thanks to the program. Eric’s program covers all the bases: strength, conditioning, and mobility. I was extremely impressed.”
David O’Neill – Cork, Ireland
Gained five pounds of body weight while dropping body fat percentage, and increased broad jump by six inches, box squat by 55 pounds, bench press by 22 pounds, deadlift by 33 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 11 pounds.
Sal Alosi – Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, New York Jets
“Maximum Strength is a guide for those who truly want to make meaningful changes to their bodies. Eric Cressey has created a program that will challenge any individual to push themselves to levels they have never been before. In the years that I have known Eric, his goal to help people achieve maximum performance and get the most out of their bodies has never wavered.”
Michael Irr – Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Charlotte Bobcats
“Maximum Strength is a must-read for any person that is serious about changing their body. The easy-to-follow, detailed program is sure to deliver fantastic results!”
Shawn Windle – Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Indiana Pacers
“To say that I was very pleased with the results of this program would be an understatement. The active recovery and stress management approaches always had me ready to go for the next training session, when in years past I was constantly feeling run-down and less enthusiastic about training. The mobility work really helped me improve my form. This program encompasses so much that is needed for proper training, yet manages to focus it all together to yield the best results I have ever experienced. Now, at the end of the program, I’m much leaner and the strongest I’ve ever been.”
Jeremy Lisenby – Rowlett, TX
Lost 2.5 inches off his waist, and added 6 inches to his broad jump, 30 pounds to his box squat, 15 pounds to his bench press, 40 pounds to his deadlift, and 12 pounds to his 3-rep max chin-up.
“Not only did I improve my strength on all major lifts, I also lost a significant amount of body fat and became much leaner in the process. My body composition progress became evident to me when I had to have my business suit pants taken in by a tailor (usually, the opposite occurs). Needless to say, I was pleased.
“One of the most significant changes I noticed throughout this program was my increase in mobility. When I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel as stiff and creaky as I had in the past. I also didn’t take as long to get properly warmed-up before a workout. Overall, I just felt stronger and more focused.
“Finally, I would say that even during the tough days, and weeks, one of the motivators was that I knew the program was written by Eric. I’ve read his articles and witnessed the results he can get for his clients. Throughout the entire program, I felt confident that what I was doing was not only safe, but effective.”
Jake Chatterton – Onslow, Iowa
Lost 11 pounds while increasing broad jump by 19 inches, box squat by 50 pounds, deadlift by 15 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 10 pounds. Anytime you can drop significant amounts of body fat while actually gaining strength, you’ve done an awesome job!
So Who is this Cressey Guy, anyway?
Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS is the president and co-founder of Cressey Performance. Specializing in athletic performance enhancement and corrective exercise, Cressey is a highly sought-after coach for healthy and injured athletes alike from youth sports to the professional and Olympic ranks. Behind Eric’s expertise, Cressey Performance has rapidly established itself as a go-to high-performance facility among Boston athletes – and those that come from across the country and abroad to experience CP’s cutting-edge methods.
Cressey received his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science through the University of Connecticut Department of Kinesiology, the #1 ranked kinesiology graduate program in the nation. At UCONN, Eric was involved in varsity strength and conditioning and research in the human performance laboratory. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
As an invited guest speaker, Eric has lectured in four countries and more than one dozen U.S. states. An accomplished author, Cressey has written three books and more than 200 articles, and co-created two DVD sets.
A record-setting competitive powerlifter himself, Cressey has deadlifted 650 pounds at a body weight of 174 and is recognized as an athlete who can jump, sprint, and lift alongside his best athletes to push them to higher levels – and keep them healthy in the process. His competition bests for the squat and bench press are 540 and 402 pounds, respectively.
Want to be More Athletic?
“After four months, I am pleased with my results, but not completely satisfied because I know that the knowledge I’ve attained with this program will lead to continued gains for years to come. Did I get stronger? Absolutely! Do I want to continue? Most definitely! The program Eric has pulled together has inspired me to continue lifting, because it showed me results are possible if you put in effort. The program is the smartest and most fun I have completed. It’s been the best four months I’ve spent at the gym.”
Mike Czobit – Mississauga, Ontario
No change in weight, but increased broad jump by 36 inches! Also increased box squat by 40 pounds, bench press by 15 pounds, deadlift by 50 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 10 pounds.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Dr. John Berardi
Chapter 1: Why Stronger is Better
Chapter 2: Building Strength
Chapter 3: Maximum Strength Program Overview
Chapter 4: What to Expect
Chapter 5: Maximum Strength Warm-ups
Chapter 6: Phase 1: Foundation
Chapter 7: Phase 2: Build
Chapter 8: Phase 3: Growth
Chapter 9: Phase 4: Peak
Chapter 10: Nutrition for Maximum Strength
Chapter 11: The Muscle Between Your Ears
Chapter 12: Maximum Strength for Life
So with all this in mind, what are you waiting for?
Don’t take it from me, though; take it from guys like Doug Adams who have experienced Maximum Strength first-hand:
“At the beginning of the Maximum Strength project, I had an idea of the type of training I wanted to do in the gym, but no concrete plan or ‘map’ for how to get there. I was completely clueless, which is why I volunteered to be a part of the test group for this program. I wanted to blindly follow a program from someone who knows what they’re doing. Do every workout, as written and on schedule, I told myself. Keeping to those words proved to be beneficial because I made great improvements in strength, technique, and most of all, attitude.
“With the attitude, there comes a sense of independence, almost to the point of non-conformity. Now I am coming to a stage in my lifting career where I am beginning to question what is told to me. I am asking myself “is this really the best thing for ME to do TODAY?” I am not going to say I have all the answers now, because I do not. I have been pointed in the right direction to where I want to go. If I happen to get a little lost along the way, I can always ask for directions.”
Doug Adams – Middle River, Maryland
Gained 12 pounds and increased broad jump by seven inches, box squat by 25 pounds, bench press by 30 pounds, deadlift by 40 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 22 pounds.
Written on December 29, 2008 at 9:25 pm, by Eric Cressey
Q: For years, I have had difficulties with acquiring any real depth in my back squats. I took on board all the thoughts some authors had about working on ankle mobility and then what others had to say about weak abdominals and how they can wreak havoc on one’s ability squatting into the hole. However, it wasn’t until I went to get fitted for a pair of orthotics recently at the podiatrist’s that I realized that even though I have done STACKS of ankle mobility and soft tissue work, genetically, I am limited by my foot and ankle structure to ever really squat deep.
Why on earth have these authors of whom I have a great deal of respect for continued not to acknowledge that for some people, squatting DEEP is simply not an option due to structural limitations. I rate you among the best of the best out there Eric so if anyone should tackle this one and explore why genetics can dramatically improve or hinder someone’s ankle mobility it should be you!
A: I have actually seen a fair amount of high-level athletes with feet like this, and you just have to realize that you can’t put a round peg in a square hole. If you have a foot that won’t allow for much dorsiflexion (toe-to-shin range-of-motion), it just won’t let you squat deep safely. These are the guys who get better results from single-leg work in place of squatting.
And, if you are going to try squatting variations, it ought to be more sitting back (box squats or powerlifting-style free squats) where the shin is more vertical, but the spine remains in neutral. Have a look at this squatting video and you’ll see that sitting back minimizes how much dorsiflexion ROM one needs to get the benefits of squatting:
Conversely, check out this more quad-dominant, “traditional” squat. You’ll see that the knees come forward more, indicative of more dorsiflexion occurring.
Why has this become such an issue? Well, there are still a lot of coaches out there who are just “clean, squat, bench only” – and a one size fits all approach like that is sure to throw some athletes under the bus. These guys want to do what they’ve always done rather than recognize that everyone isn’t the same; otherwise, they’ve lost one-third of their training arsenal! The more open-minded guys are looking to functional mobility and stability deficits – and the guys who “get it” are realizing that some athletes are just “stuck” with the ankles they’ve got.
For more information, check out To Squat or Not to Squat, featured previously in Newsletter 91.
Written on December 24, 2008 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey
With the holidays upon us, I’m going to be taking a few days off from blogging. I did, however, want to take this last opportunity to wish all of you Happy Holidays and thank you for your continued support. This website has grown exponentially in popularity in 2008, and I have you to thank for your loyalty and enthusiasm (and, in some cases, patience for listening to me ramble).
All the best to you and your families this holiday season!
PS – Merry Christmas, Tony; this one is for you (and all of your deprived readers):
Written on December 23, 2008 at 1:56 pm, by Eric Cressey
It’s become a bit of a tradition for Cressey Performance interns to not only pick up on training knowledge while they’re at CP, but also get more diesel in the process by following the program in my book, Maximum Strength. This fall’s intern, Chris Howard, just had his Moving Day today.
Body weight: 159 to 174.5
Not too shabby for just under four months of training. Congratulations, Chris, and thanks for all your contributions to Cressey Performance!
Written on December 22, 2008 at 7:56 am, by Eric Cressey
Q: Hey Eric, let me start off by saying what a great job you’ve done with Maximum Strength. It is a wonderful book that I’ve enjoyed reading and am looking forward to starting in a few weeks. I have a question regarding the book, though. For certain exercises, like the DB Bulgarian Split Squat, DB Lunge, and DB Step-up, can I use a barbell across my back instead of dumbbells, as I find that variations harder and more challenging on my core and balance?
A: These drills feel harder on your “core and balance” because you’ve moved your center of mass further up and away from the base of support. It’s one way to make an exercise harder.
I’d prefer, though, that when starting the program, you simply load the dumbbell version more in the “lower center of mass” position. The barbell stuff would come later on. There are several key benefits to holding dumbbells early on in a training program, including strengthening of important postural muscles as well as those involved in gripping.
I actually go into a lot of detail on all the progressions you can use to make exercises harder in my new e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.
Written on December 19, 2008 at 12:49 pm, by Eric Cressey
We actually got a snow day up here, so I’m using it to catch up on all sorts of stuff – from holiday shopping, to wrapping presents, to writing articles and programs. Admittedly, I did sleep until 9AM this morning, and that’s pretty late for me.
1. It occurred to me that thanks to the miracle known as YouTube, I can embed a music video in my first random post each week, and you’ll have musical entertainment in the background (if you want) as you read my stuff. And, since it’s the season of miracles, I’ll do just that. For the record, the experience will be all the more enjoyable if you hold your mouse in your right hand and raise a lighter in the air with the left arm. Of course, it won’t really work out that well if you try to play the other videos below at the same time, but my intentions were good…
Here’s Coming Undone by Korn, a classic song around Cressey Performance. It gets me all fired up to blog like a rock star.
2. While snow is a royal pain in the butt up here in New England, it does have one upside: accident-prone reporters who think they need to be outside to accurately relate just how much it is snowing.
Occasionally, you’ll even get an in-studio goofball:
4. Apparently, we’ve got some pro pitchers – one in VA, and the other in NH – drawing inspiration from this blog as they prepare to get up here in early January to prepare for spring training. How you like these apples, fellas? Up five reps from the Thanksgiving day lift – simply because that’s how we roll.
Come get some, fellas!
A huge thanks goes out to Jeremy Heffer and the University of Georgia Strength and Conditioning staff for the “Power G” beanie that made this all possible.
5. I’ve talked previously about the long-term detrimental effects of taping ankles, and I recently got a good inquiry about whether I thought this same issue would be present in MMA fighters who tape their wrists. My response was that it probably wasn’t an issue as much at the wrist predominately because the wrist isn’t a weight-bearing joint. By loading the ankle while it’s taped, we solidify neural patterns a lot more quickly. Additionally, nobody tapes their wrists for the same duration and frequency as those athletes (basketball players, for instance) who tape their ankles daily for several hours – and combine those restrictions with wearing high-top sneakers. I remember seeing an interview with Bill Walton back in the mid-1980s when he joked about how the ankle taping got tighter and tighter as the season went on – probably because the guys got more and more unstable at their ankles!
That’s all she wrote for today. Have a great weekend, everyone!
Written on December 18, 2008 at 10:03 am, by Eric Cressey
Q: After an injury and rehabilitation of a low back overuse/deadlifting injury, I’m finally able to deadlift and squat again. Only problem is that I am having a lot of trouble performing the deadlift correctly.
The problem is during my heavy sets, my lumbar spine starts to round early on in the pull. I’m not sure why this happening, but I’m almost positive it’s NOT due to a lack of mobility anywhere. I’m wondering if it may be an issue of having TOO much lumbar spine mobility and/or not enough core stability.
Or, maybe it’s an issue of my hamstrings being too weak and my lower back wanting to take over the pull too much. What do you think?
A: First off, I don’t think it’s as simple as “Muscle A is weak and Muscle B is tight, etc.” It has a lot more to do with you not having all the “ducks in a row” with respect to this particular movement pattern. There are a lot of people who have great stability and mobility who look awkward attempting a movement for the first time simply because it’s unfamiliar to them.
Just having good stability and mobility (which are context-specific, anyway) doesn’t imply that you can just immediately master a movement. Otherwise, we’d all be superior athletes from strength training and flexibility work without every having to practice the sports in which we want to excel!
More than anything, I suspect that your struggles are a matter of you trying to groove technique with weights that are too heavy (as noted by your “heavy sets” comment). Would you try to teach an elbows-tucked bench press technique with 275 if you knew a guy could bench press 300 with his elbows flared? No! He’d go right back to his “natural” movement pattern (the path of least resistance).
Technique work needs to be performed with submaximal weights, with the progression being:
1. multiple sets with few reps, controlled speed, light/moderate weights
2. multiple sets with few reps, FAST concentric, light/moderate weights
3a. fewer sets with more reps, light/moderate weights
3b. few or multiple sets with few reps and heavier weights
I’m guessing that you’re just going right to 3b – and that’s where the problems set in. Your body basically goes into panic mode. As an example, I’ll throw myself under the bus. Here is a video of my best competition deadlift: 650 pounds at a body weight of 174.
Now, I know it might come as a surprise to some of you, but I don’t lift 650 pounds all the time. In fact, I’d say that I deadlift over 600 approximately 5-6 times per year between training and competitions. This is why competition lifts are never really good measures of excellent technique; they are all essentially panic-mode (others have called it chaos training). You can bet that I’d never let an athlete of mine attempt any weight where his form came close to this; the risk:reward ratio is completely out of whack.
Also, as a tag-along to this, some people need to have a Step 0 where they actually do a different movement in order to progress to a main movement. In the context of the deadlift discussion, this might mean doing pull-throughs, trap bar deadlifts, or rack pulls to get the hang of the proper hip sequencing before moving down to the floor to pull with a conventional stance. Others might be better off leaving out deadlifts for the long haul, if a previous injury is significant enough to warrant it.
All the Best,
Written on December 18, 2008 at 9:25 am, by Eric Cressey
At the seminar in Houston last weekend, both Brent Strom and Ron Wolforth had high praises for the book Talent is Overrated. These guys know their stuff, so I just ordered four copies (three books as gifts for players/coaches, and one unabridged audio for me to check out in the car). Sounds like it is worth a read; I’ll give it a review down the road.
Written on December 17, 2008 at 6:46 am, by Eric Cressey
As a guy who trains a ton of baseball players – and is a competitive powerlifter (and weight-training author), I get a ton of questions from both baseball coaches/players and folks looking to get stronger (and healthier, for that matter). And, to take it a step further, since the release of Maximum Strength, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether or not Maximum Strength is appropriate for baseball players.
My response is “yes” – but only with some important modifications:
1. Substitution of dumbbell bench pressing in place of barbell bench pressing (rep count will have to come up a bit higher, as you aren’t going to be doing heavy dumbbell bench pressing singles)
For more information, check out Maximum Strength.
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Written on December 16, 2008 at 7:06 am, by Eric Cressey
I always love it when folks come back from doctors with the “don’t squat” recommendation. My immediate response is, “So you aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom?”
Obviously, I’m saying this pretty tongue-in-cheek, as I know they’re referring to squatting under significant loads. However, I wish we’d get more doctors who would appreciate that certain things (e.g., squatting) are important parts of our daily lives, and that those with knee pain need to learn how to squat correctly, not avoid it altogether.
Learning to sit back and hinge at the hip can give a majority of knee pain sufferers relief from symptoms when they do have to do a squatting motion during their daily lives. Effectively, when one squats this way, it reduces shear stress at the knee and places the load more on the hip extensors: glutes, hamstrings, and adductor magnus. These muscles have big cross-sectional areas and can easily handle the burden of squatting.
I hate to play devil’s advocate, but it’s a perfect example of a scenario where a doctor only sees pathology and not movements. It never ceases to amaze me how simply alternating movement patterns can markedly reduce how symptomatic a pathology is – and this is where good physical therapists and trainers/coaches come in. A lot of doctors are extremely well-schooled in diagnostics, but have little background in terms of mechanisms of injury (particularly for chronic injuries), optimal rehabilitation , and the hugely important role soft tissue restrictions play in the development of pain. Often, these issues are left unaddressed and an individual still gets healthy simply because the doctor has contraindicated so many exercise modalities that a patient gets better only through resting the irritated tissues.
With respect to the knee, Mike Robertson has put forth some great material on this front in his Bulletproof Knees manual.