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An Easy Way to Rotate Strength Exercises

Written on March 31, 2009 at 11:15 am, by Eric Cressey

I’ve written on numerous occasions about the importance of rotating strength exercises for long-term strength development.  In fact, it’s one of the primary features of the Maximum Strength program.

One concern that a lot of people have is that with a typical commercial gym set-up, it isn’t always easy to rotate resistance training exercises.  These folks don’t have specialty bars for lower-body training (giant cambered bar, safety squat bar, trap/hex bar, etc.) or upper body training (multipurpose bar, thick bar, etc.).  Also on the upper-body front, these folks might not have an extra training partner on-hand to hold the boards for board presses.

A great, low-priced option that’ll allow you to instantly expand your exercise pool is to pick up two pairs of Lynx Grips.

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These implements enable you to instantly change the diameter of the bar to get “improvised” thick bar training.  And, for the ladies out there, they are a lot easier on the hands – a much better choice than wearing gloves.  Lynx Grips are also really useful for those who aren’t allowed to use chalk, as their texture can help to improve grip slightly on pulling movements. We use them all the time at Cressey Performance.

For more information, check out LynxPT.com.

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21st Century Nutrition: An Interview with Precision Nutrition Creator, Dr. John Berardi

Written on March 30, 2009 at 7:58 am, by Eric Cressey

Normally, my newsletters are “hidden” pages available only to our subscribers, but with the content today, I thought I’d open it up to the rest of the world.  After all, it’s not like you can just get a rock star like Dr. John Berardi to do an interview for your site.  JB has been a friend and incredible resource to me for almost ten years now, and he’s always got great information to share.  So, without further ado, here is EricCressey.com’s exclusive interview with Dr. John Berardi:

EC: First off, it’s hard to believe that over the course of almost 150 newsletters, I never got around to interviewing you.  Thanks for taking the time to jump in on this.

JB: Yea, tell me about it.  I’ve been waiting by the phone for, like, three years now.

EC: Well, now that you’ve gone through all that therapy to get over me neglecting you, we might as well right to it.  To start, fill us in on what you’re up to these days.  I know you moved back from Texas to the North Pole a while back, but I’m guessing that you aren’t building toys and stuffing stockings all year.  What’s new with John Berardi and Precision Nutrition?

JB:  Well, although working with high-level athletes is cool and all, when Santa calls for nutrition advice, you drop what you’re doing and you head north.

In all seriousness, though, I’m actually splitting my time between Austin, Texas and a town called St. Catharines in Ontario.  St Catharines is about 50 min outside Toronto and is basically the Napa Valley of Canada.  The area is a tremendous agricultural gem and because of this, I have a never-ending supply of locally grown produce and wines as well as local, hormone-free, and often grass fed meat.  So now, I’ve got two great towns to call my home.

EC: I hear you.  When I was considering the move to Boston, the lack of grass-fed beef and local wines was a bit of a turnoff, but it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make because I just couldn’t wait to sink my life savings into the Big Dig and the most inefficient state government in the United States – but I digress…

How about the professional side of things?

JB: On the professional side, I just did a tally.  As of last week, the Precision Nutrition community has grown to over 46,000 members in over 97 countries.  I can’t tell you how proud I am that we’ve been able to help out that many people.

And beyond this, we’ve also launched a couple of new programs for members of the community – our Lean Eating Coaching Program and our Clinical Services Program.

EC: 97 countries?  Don’t you want to just give out a few freebies in a few lesser known African nations to bring it to a cool 100?  I would.

Anyway, tell us about these two new things.

JB: First, our Lean Eating coaching program.  Over the last few years, we’ve become coaching experts, working with everyone from recreational exercisers, to folks suffering from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, to multiple Olympic medalists.

And as a result of this experience, we’ve developed intensive group coaching programs for men and for women.  Each coaching participant gets to work with us for 6 months.  And the feedback we’ve gotten is tremendous – and so are the numbers.  The average fat loss is 2-3lbs per month while following the program!

In addition, we’re in the process of launching a clinical services suite where we’re taking individualization to a whole new level.  Using things like psychometric profiles, wellness-based blood analysis, and nutrigenomics profiling, we’re now able to take a peek inside people’s psychologies and physiologies to determine the absolute best way to coach them to success.  This is like nothing our industry has seen before and I promise it’s going to shake things up quite a bit.

EC: Very cutting-edge – but I think that’s an adjective we’ve all come to associate with your name over time.  To that end, I was chatting with a colleague recently and your name came up in the conversation.  I told him that what amazed me was that you have not only taken a seemingly “boring” subject – nutrition – and made it “sexy” and “fun,” but have actually done that for close to a decade now.  What’s the secret to your success?

JB:  Well, thanks for saying that, although I don’t know if it’s actually true.  However, if it is, it might be because of a few reasons.

First, I can’t tell you how many “nutrition experts” I’ve met that wouldn’t know a healthy diet if it came up and bit them on the ear.  They may study nutrition.  And they may teach nutrition.  But they don’t practice it.  And that’s why they all seem to possess the same ability to make nutrition super-boring.  It’s not real to them.  They don’t live it day in and day out.

On the other hand, I actually live the Precision Nutrition lifestyle.  365 days a year, I practice what I preach.  And, I’ve been doing exactly that for about 20 years now.  Plus, I’ve worked with a helluva lot of clients, at all levels.  So I pretty much practice nutrition and think about nutrition all the time.  Trust me, it makes a huge difference.

EC: I can definitely attest to that.  Like you, I own my own business and have a lot of competing demands in my professional life, so it often seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day.  In other words, working efficiently and having energy all the time is of paramount importance.  I’ve been following your work since the late 1990s and it’s not only shaped my own personal nutrition practices, but also those of all of Cressey Performance’s clients.

JB:  And, you know, the funny thing is this.  When you do what I do, and you’ve done it for this long, you realize that there are a lot of nuances to eating well.  Sure, there’s the what to eat, the when to eat, and the how much to eat.  And these are all very interesting.   But that’s only scratching the surface.

There’s also the psychology of eating, which is quite fascinating.   There are genetic and individual differences associated with how each of us processes and tolerates foods.  And we haven’t even mentioned supplements yet.  Nor have we talked about all the great new research that’s coming out on food and nutrition every single day!  By exploring each of these very interesting areas, it’s pretty easy to keep things fresh, new, and, hopefully exciting.

EC: That’s a good point.

JB: Also, I always try to keep in mind that nutrition in the present deals in generalities.  There are recommended dietary intakes.  There are food pyramids.  There are general calculations for energy intake.

However, nutrition is evolving in exciting ways.  It’s becoming more individual.  And with blood analysis, genomic profiling, and more in the very near future, we’ll be able to prescribe highly individualized nutrition plans for folks based on just a few simple tests.

Indeed, the future is really exciting when it comes to nutrition.  And I’m happy that I’m in the prime of my career so I can ride the wave of this new nutrition information and technology.

EC: Speaking of “evoluation,” you’ve recently introduced Precision Nutrition: Version 3.0, which piggybacks on the first two installments.  What’s new in this version?

JB:  As our 46,000 members can attest to, I’m relentless about keeping the Precision Nutrition System, the cornerstone of all of our nutrition recommendations, up to date.

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So, every year or two, we release a new version.  This time, it’s our 3rd edition and this edition has improved upon V2 by an order of magnitude.  Now, don’t get me wrong, V2 was great.  However, we’ve completely revised the content, we’ve added three new manuals/sections, and we’ve even given the whole project a facelift.

As of V3, here’s what folks can find:

  • The PN Success Guide
  • The PN Diet Guide
  • The Quick Start Guide
  • The Super Shake Guide
  • 5 Minute Meals
  • The Individualization Guide
  • The Measurement Guide
  • The Plant-Based Diet Guide (Brand New)
  • The Maintenance Guide (Brand New)
  • The Support Guide (Brand New)

In addition, we’re now including Gourmet Nutrition V1, the Precision Nutrition Audio Collection, the Precision Nutrition Video Collection, and The Precision Nutrition Online Library.  It’s a ton of great stuff.  Indeed, it’s everything folks need to know to get the body they want.

EC: Absolutely.  Thanks for helping out with the interview; sorry it took so long for us to make it happen!

JB:  My pleasure.  Thanks, Eric.

To find out more about Dr. John Berardi and his renowned Precision Nutrition System, head on over to PrecisionNutrition.com.

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Random Friday Thoughts: 3/27/09

Written on March 27, 2009 at 5:15 am, by Eric Cressey

1. I’m feeling good.  It was our quietest week of the  year at CP, so I’ve actually had a few days to get myself a bit organized.  If this pace keeps up, I might even actually get my voice back by the time 2010 rolls around.  I’m sure I’ll be sick of the quiet by next week, but the good news is that there is a lot of baseball to watch, and UCONN is still looking good in March Madness.

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2. Another reason to smile is that we had two high school sophomores (ages 16) hit 89mph readings on the radar gun outside in cold Massachusetts this week.  The best part is that they weren’t “everyone throws 90mph on the internet” readings; they were actually legitimate.  It’s going to be a fun spring around it; it’s always nice to see guys rewarded for their hard work in the off-season.

3. Morgan Alexander – a member of the 2006 Canadian 4-man Bobsleigh team that finished fourth in the Olympics – is in town to train with me this week.  Yesterday, he and I visited CP client Steph Holland-Brodney’s third-grade class at a local elementary school.

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On one hand, it fascinated me how brilliant these kids are with respect to working computers; each of them has a laptop at each desk, and they are incredibly proficient.  Then, just as I’m about convinced that the future of America is bright with these kids, autograph time comes.  Obviously, they wanted Morgan’s autograph (and he signed a ton), but it never ceases to amaze me that they asked for mine, too.  I signed sneakers, balloons, and note cards – and I’m pretty sure that I devalued them completely (if that’s even possible) just with my signature.

4. Anyone who thinks that throwing submarine-style is easier on the arm needs to check out this picture (thanks to Paul Connolly for sending it along).  This is some serious external rotation.

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As you can tell, the real change in his throwing posture comes from the hips and trunk, not so much from the arm.  As such, he’ll encounter all the same flexibility deficits that regular pitchers experience if they don’t take care of their bodies.

5. The folks at Precision Nutrition published a great article about artificial sweeteners, particularly Splenda.  Check it out: Splenda: Is it Safe?

That’s all for today.  Have a great weekend, folks!


Only Four More Hours…

Written on March 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

The “Saving the Shuffler” Sale ends tonight at midnight.  Don’t miss out on this chance to get great discounts on great products while helping out a great charity.  You can find more details HERE.


A Good Rule of Thumb for Working with Injured Pitchers

Written on March 26, 2009 at 6:06 am, by Eric Cressey

If you have a pitcher athlete with good shoulder ROM (normal GIRD and symmetrical total motion), sufficient thoracic spine mobility, good scapular stability, and adequate tissue quality who has rehabbed and long-tossed pain-free, but has shoulder/elbow pain when he gets back on the mound, CHECK THE HIPS!

Staying closed and flying open will be your two most common culprits; this cannot be seen in a doctor’s office!  Changing lead leg positioning is a quick way to indirectly (and negatively) impact the position of the arm.  Guys who stay closed have to throw across their body, and guys who fly open often have problems with the arm trailing too far behind (out of the scapular plane).

For more information, check out the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD Set.

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Boneheads of the Week

Written on March 25, 2009 at 10:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Well, aside from the folks handing out bonuses at AIG, that is…


Stuff You Should Read: 3/24/09

Written on March 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm, by Eric Cressey

This week’s “worth checking out” list:

Five Resistance Training Myths in the Running World

Bill Hartman Tips Part 1

Bill Hartman Tips Part 2


Why Curt Schilling Should Go to the Hall of Fame

Written on March 23, 2009 at 11:59 am, by Eric Cressey

I got a phone call this morning around 7:30AM.  I knew it was coming, but was just a matter of time.  So, when I saw Curt Schilling’s name on the Caller ID, I figured that he was ready to call it a career – and a brilliant career at that.  You can read his official retirement statement on his blog.

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We had the radio on today, and the commentators talked quite a bit about his impressive career stats, fantastic post-season record, and three World Series rings.  It’s safe to say that all of these factors are going to come up time and time again in discussions over the next few years about whether or not Curt ought to go to Cooperstown.  He’s got over 3,000 career strikeouts, and a career ERA of under 3.46.  Throw in six all-star game appearances, three Cy Young runner-up seasons, and a World Series MVP.  He’s also got the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio of all time.  Those factors alone – plus the subjective fact that he is probably the single-best post-season pitcher of all time – ought to get him in.

To me, though, there are two more factors that make this a sure thing.

First, while I’m a huge Red Sox fan and – like millions others – will be eternally grateful for the two championships he helped bring to Boston, I have to say that what he did in Arizona from 2001-2003 was nothing short of incredible.  At a time when the use of performance-enhancing drugs was off the charts – and guys were destroying home run records – Schilling was a dominant pitcher.  It didn’t matter how much hitters cheated; they still couldn’t put runs on the board against him.  Curt’s been extremely outspoken against the use of these performance-enhancing drugs, but to me, his numbers during that time period are proof to kids everywhere that you don’t have to cheat to get ahead.

Second, Curt’s career spanned a time period where it seemed like every day, a new athlete was getting into trouble with the law.  We’ve heard about athletes making bad decisions and getting busted for drunk driving, bar fights, spousal abuse, drug abuse, gambling, adultery, and even murder.  Meanwhile, Curt was raising millions of dollars for various charities, being a devoted husband and father, contributing as a valuable member of communities in PA, AZ, and MA, and mentoring up-and-coming pitchers.

I watched first-hand this winter as he took time out of his busy schedule to talk pitching with my minor leaguers and high school athletes.  You could tell that it was an interesting blast of emotions for them.  On one hand, they were starstruck and amazed that he would actually care enough to share his wisdom with them – and do so with so much passion.  On the other hand, they were all frantically trying to understand and memorize all the great ideas they were hearing from a guy with decades of experience in the big leagues.

Say what you want about Curt being outspoken, but make no mistake about it: at a time when baseball needed good citizens off the field as much as it needed stars on the field, Curt filled both those roles.  Unfortunately, none of the folks with whom Curt interacted at Cressey Performance will get a vote in the Hall of Fame balloting in a few years.  However, if we did, I can say without wavering that everyone in this group would vote him as a person – and that’s independent of his impressive baseball resumé.

Congratulations on a great career, Curt.  I’m damn proud to have been even just a little part of it.


Know Your Anatomy

Written on March 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m in the process of reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s a fantastic book – and one of the foremost messages Gladwell works to convey is that split-second decisions – those made seemingly subconsciously – are in many cases better than those that are thought-out with great time and effort.

blink-by-malcolm-gladwell

As is always the case with a books I read that are seemingly unrelated to strength and conditioning, I got to thinking about how this applies to the industry in which I work – and I started to immediately see applications.  The best coaches are the ones who instinctively know exactly what to say to clean up a movement – and this requires not only quick recognition of what’s wrong, but also the ability to know exactly what to say to fix the problem.  For instance, you can’t see an athlete squatting who is breaking at the knees instead of the hips, and then go home and think about it for 24 hours before coming back to coach the movement correctly.

In one instance, Gladwell makes his point in the context of basketball:

Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions.  But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice – perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing, and running plays over and over again – and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court.

In other words, if you want to be successful in a challenge that depends on effective split-second decision-making, you need to have prepared yourself in terms of knowledge and practice.  Each week, I get close to a dozen emails from up-and-comers in the industry asking for my advice on how to advance their career, and I give them three pieces of advice that – if carried out – will immediately set them apart from the rest of their peers.

Step 1 is to master anatomy.  You can’t be a mechanic if you don’t know where the engine is, or what its constituent parts are.  Memorization is boring, but you have to do it; it is the basis for everything that you do.  If you are a fitness professional – or aspiring to be one – and you can’t answer the following three questions, then you have room to improve:

a. What are three flexors of the hip?
b. What are the points of attachment of the latissimus dorsi?
c. What are three muscles that attach to the coracoid process of the scapula?

I am not trying to put myself on a high-horse, as I’m far from knowing every subtle intricacy of the human body.  I do, however, know enough to realize that I am going to keep learning and it’s always going to keep benefiting my clients.

While any anatomy book will do, I’m partial to Kinetic Anatomy for those looking to get a good start.  And, if you have the opportunity to take a course in Gross Anatomy, definitely do so – or at the very least, check out the Bodies exhibit when it’s at a museum near you.

Step 2 is to take that anatomy foundation and apply it in a function context.  In other words, what happens when one muscle doesn’t do its job?  How can poor mobility in one area lead to instability elsewhere?  How can certain muscles be both synergists and antagonists, depending on the plane of motion in question?

Functional anatomy is largely the reason that Mike Robertson and I made the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set; we felt strongly that there was a need to improve on the rudimentary anatomy teaching that most fitness professionals receive in certification and academic programs.

btea_set

Step 3 is to acquire an internship where you can watch others apply their knowledge and get practice applying your own in a controlled environment.  With an internship, you learn about professionalism, coaching cues, and programming – and you learn how working with clients and athletes effectively blends your knowledge with your everyday demeanor.  As an extension of this step, I feel strongly that it’s important to get out during your career and interact with as many colleagues as possible to see what bits of wisdom you can clean from their coaching styles.  And, of course, attend seminars, and read everything you can get your hands on.

Once you’ve gotten through step 3, it is time to get out there and practice in the “real world” by interacting with as many clients as you possibly can.  These individuals will all have something to teach, and it’s a chance for you to apply everything you’ve learned.

One thing you will notice is completely absent from my recommendations is me encouraging people to go out and get more certifications.  Frankly, a certification is simply a foot in the door, and there aren’t any out there – even the so-called “gold standards” – that impress me.  If you are going to spend hundreds of dollars with the intention of becoming a better professional, there are much better investments than just paying for a certification that merely amounts to a piece of paper you can frame.  I’d rather spend the money on books, seminars, or travel expenses to see people who actually coach.

Take care of those three steps, and in my eyes, you’ll be well on your way to the “subconscious mastery” to which I alluded earlier.

A Quick Note on a Great Sale for a Great Cause

Speaking of Building the Efficient Athlete, as you may recall, I announced a sweet sale last week where a small charitable, tax-free donation can save you 20% on a boatload of our products.  This offer ends on Thursday at midnight, so don’t delay.  You can find the details HERE.

New Blog Content

Random Monday Thoughts
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Healthy Knees, Steady Progress
Random Friday Thoughts

All the Best,

EC


Random Friday Thoughts: 3/20/09

Written on March 20, 2009 at 5:18 am, by Eric Cressey

1. As I mentioned last week, I came down with a nasty bug of some sort – and it felt like I was swallowing thumbtacks for a few days.  Well, long story short, it’s a week later – and my throat isn’t much better, and I still don’t have my voice back (which tends to be pretty important when you spend your days yelling at athletes).  So, I’m finally breaking down and heading to the doctor’s this morning.  Normally, I probably would have been stubborn and tried to wait this out even longer, but I’m giving a 8am-5pm seminar on Sunday, and I’ll kind of need my voice for that.  It looks like I could be going on antibiotics for the first time since I was 17…

2. Speaking of antibiotics, Brian St. Pierre wrote a great blog recently about important dietary modifications for those who are on antibiotics.  It’s definitely worth reading; check it out HERE.

3. Continuing with the immunity stuff, I recently came across an article that noted that a recent study showed that children who slept seven hours or less each night are three times more likely to get a respiratory illness after exposure to a virus than their peers who sleep eight hours or more.   I wonder where strength coaches/writers/consultants/entrepreneurs who sleep less than two hours a night fall on this list…

4. If you’re a baseball fan looking for a good read, I’d encourage you to check out License to Deal: A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent.  Jerry Crasnick, a baseball writer for ESPN.com, follows around Matt Sosnick and Paul Cobbe of the Sosnick-Cobbe sports agency to offer a great overview of the baseball representation business and how it’s evolved in recent years.

license-to-deal

The book was actually recommended to me by one of our athletes and their clients, Harvard graduate and Oakland A’s pitching prospect Shawn Haviland.  It was an interesting read for me, as I’m a strength and conditioning coach in the private sector who deals with active pro baseball players, future pro baseball players with the draft rapidly approaching, agents, and representatives of the MLB organizations.  My business partner is reading right now and really enjoying it, too.  I’d definitely encourage you to check it out HERE.

5. This is the longest exercise name in history, but it’s a great one:

6. Last, but certainly not least, the sign-up page for the Maine NSCA event on April 18 is now up.  You can check it out HERE.

Have a great weekend!


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