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Random Friday Thoughts: 10/30/09

Written on October 30, 2009 at 5:51 am, by Eric Cressey

1.Just a quick heads-up: today is the last day you can get the new Functional Strength Coach 3 DVD set from Mike Boyle with all the sweet bonuses he’s offered as an introductory special.  Definitely check it out (here).

2. There’s some great new research out in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that compares front and back squats with respect to stress on the knees.  Not surprisingly, you actually see higher compressive forces and knee extensor moments with the back squat – which would imply that the front squat is a safer option for most folks.  This actually isn’t a huge surprise to me, as we’ve integrated front squatting well in advance of back squatting in returning folks with lower extremity issues to “normal training.”  However, there is a bit more.

You see, we’ll have people do a box squat variation before going to a front squat.  There is more of a sitting back motion, and a bit less knee flexion, so more of the stress it put back on the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) than the quads.  It not only takes the stress off the knees, but also allows folks to maintain a great training effect while they’re on the mend.  And, in reality, it probably helps to address some of their inefficiencies, as a good chunk of folks with knee issues tend to have weak posterior chains and be very quad-dominant.  While the majority of these individuals’ training focuses on deadlifting variations and single-leg work, when the time comes to squat, we’ll first use a front box squat:

From there, we’d go to a back-loaded box squat variation (giant cambered bar, safety squat bar, or straight bar), and then on to regular ol’ front squats.  (FYI, I covered front vs. back squats from a different perspective HERE)

3. When it comes to shoulder health, one thing folks miss out on all the time is the important role of the subscapularis, one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff.  This is a huge mistake if you want healthy shoulders.  Why?  As the picture below shows, this sucker has a big cross-sectional area (CSA).  In fact, according to Bassett et al., its CSA is the second largest (behind only the deltoid) of any muscle crossing the glenohumeral joint.

subscap

As an interesting little tag-along to that fact, I recall reading that research has demonstrated that subscapularis cross-sectional area was the only factor that predicted powerlifting performance.  While the primary focus of the subscapularis is dynamic stabilization of the humeral head (and, more specifically, creating anterior stability with its posterior pull), it also assists in internally rotating the humerus, so it’s lumped in as a “bad guy” with the other internal rotators: pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, and teres major.

In reality, in most folks, some subscapularis activation work during the warm-up should be done in conjunction with lengthening drills for the other internal rotators and posterior rotator cuff in order to establish a good shoulder groove before training.  We go into great detail in Assess and Correct with two of our progressions, but to get the ball rolling, try putting your hand behind your back (as if handcuffed) and then lifting off without extending your elbow or flexing your wrist.

shoulder_subscapularis

If this isn’t happening easily (both getting the arm back there and lifting off), you need to get to work!

4. Speaking of Assess and Correct,  the feedback thus far has been fantastic – and folks haven’t even received the DVDs yet!  Here’s a little sample from some of the emails I’ve received:

“I ordered a copy last night and have been looking over the e-manual this morning and I’ve got to say, it looks awesome! Can’t wait to put it to use.”

“I got it yesterday. It’s awesome and the DVDs haven’t even arrived yet!”

Needless to say, the DVDs alone will be 100% worth the deal, but the in-depth bonuses take things to the next level.  Remember that the one-week only introductory price of $97 expires on Sunday at midnight, so pick up your copy ASAP!

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Have a great weekend!

EC

PS – I’m looking for a good trainer/S&C coach in the State College, PA area.  If you are located there or know someone good nearby, please email me ASAP at ec@ericcressey.com.  Thanks!

PPS – I’m doing the Fitcast with Kevin Larrabee this morning.  I’ll get the link posted as soon as it’s available.


Wobble Boards and Warm Milk

Written on October 29, 2009 at 7:50 am, by Eric Cressey

This week’s list of recommended reading:

Build Your Balance – This article at Experience Life Magazine is based on a series of interviews with me in light of my research on unstable surface training.  For the more in-depth background and practical applications, you’ll want to check out my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

Pasteurization: Awesome or Complete Garbage? – This blog post from Brian St. Pierre is very well research and presented.  Let’s just say you won’t ever want to drink warm milk again after reading this.

Assess and Correct – Uh, duh.  We introduced it earlier this week.  What are you waiting for?

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So What Does a Pitching Coach Do, Anyway?

Written on October 28, 2009 at 4:50 am, by Eric Cressey

EC’s Note: Today marks the first of what I hope will be many guest blog posts from Matt Blake, an absolutely fantastic pitching coach who works out of the cage at Cressey Performance.  Matt is way ahead of the curve with what he’s doing, and the results he’s gotten with a lot of our athletes – from high school all the way up to the professional ranks – are nothing short of fantastic.  I consider myself tremendously lucky to have him as a resource with whom I can interact every day. Today’s post from him is a bit of an introduction and preview of what’s in store from us in the months to come.

Since Eric mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that he would like me to start contributing some articles to his blog, I have been debating about how to introduce myself to the EricCressey.com crowd and what his audience might want to hear.

All sorts of thoughts had run through my head on whether it should be oriented toward pitching mechanics, maybe talking about what Eric and I are doing together that separates us from other Elite Baseball Development programs, or maybe even a tidy little piece about who I am. Lucky for us, though, we have Eric’s business partner Pete around, and he conveniently gave me my first blog topic on Saturday.

As everyone on this blog probably knows, Mike Boyle recently released a new product called Functional Strength Coach 3.0 last week. So, on Friday, Eric loaned me his copy to take home to view. I did my part and watched 6 of the 8 DVDs that night (for those of you counting at home that was about 5-6 hours of material straight to the dome on Friday Night; I promise I’m not that big of a geek normally). Upon return on Saturday morning, and much to Eric’s shock, I gave him back the six DVDs that I had already watched and told him I would only need the other two for the afternoon.

functional_strength_coach

Here is where the crew of pro baseball guys from Pete’s office chimes in. “Why would you spend six hours of your Friday night watching DVDs that have nothing to do with your field?”

At first, I was kind of tongue tied, like, “Yeah, I guess that was pretty foolish, I teach pitching, so why would I want to know how to train people for functional strength?” And, to be honest, I continued to think about this most of Saturday, trying to justify why I just did that.  As I came to my contemplative answer, I realized the very exact same reason I am working with Eric at all, is why I’m watching these DVDs on Friday night.

When it comes down to it, I believe to be the best at anything, you need to understand the inherent depth of complexities for what you’re dealing with and this more often than not may involve pursuing multiple fields of knowledge to truly grasp your own discipline. In some sense, I believe the leaders in any field are polymaths of sort and this is something Eric clearly demonstrates in his own regard.

With that said, for me to provide the most knowledge and best service to an individual, a team, or camp of baseball players, I should understand why we are using foam rolling before we static stretch. Why would SMR of this nature would make sense before stretching and then proceeding into a dynamic warm-up?

I should understand what flexibility deficits are and why they are affecting a player’s performance.  I need to know why mobilizing the hips and thoracic spine while stabilizing the lumbar spine is allowing us to create more torque and whip for a pitcher. All of these things have huge ramifications for both player and coach, and if I want to optimize my players’ talent, then I need to be able to convey to them the importance of our drills and Eric’s exercises.

There is a reason for all of it, we’re not just throwing darts at the wall and hoping it works out for the player.  I’m also not going to claim to have all the answers for this, and that is why I am constantly searching for the next piece to add to my arsenal. It could be a psychological book about focus, or even an Eastern Martial arts book about how Tai Chi helps you find your center. Not any one of these books would have all of the answers on how to be a great pitcher, and they may even have none…but, at the end of the day, if I can take one thing away from Mike Boyle and add it to my knowledge of pitching in any way, then I just made myself better as a “Pitching Coach,” whatever that may be loosely defined as.

So I guess to answer their question: I was really watching Functional Strength Coach 3.0 because I plan on helping Eric turn out a large number of pitchers in Hudson, MA who are capable of throwing a baseball freakishly hard and stay healthy while doing so.

collins_stride

Obviously, there is a lot more to pitching and what we are working on together than that, but I think that should get the ball rolling. Over the next few months, I will be contributing more substantive articles that will cover a lot of the biomechanical aspects of a pitcher’s delivery that Eric and I see daily and how best to activate and optimize awareness for each piece of the puzzle. We’ll talk about what a flexibility deficit looks like in a pitcher and what its ramifications are in a player’s mechanics. We’ll discuss how we attack something of this nature with soft tissue/mobility/strength work and then how we teach the player to incorporate this back into his personal mechanics through progressive drill work.

The end goal is obviously to remove the limitation, and in turn, raising a pitcher’s velocity ceiling and keep him healthy. This could include anything from hip mobility, to thoracic spine mobility, to glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD), to a host of other issues. All of these issues could be holding a player back from optimal performance and maybe even putting a pitcher at a serious risk for injury.

Well, that is more than enough for one blog, and I want apologize for ransacking your daily allowance of blog reading time if you made it this far with me. I tried to get a word count limitation on my post from Eric, but he told me to just let it rip. I guess this was my definition of letting it rip…

Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com.


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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Adductor Foam Rolling

Written on October 27, 2009 at 9:24 am, by Eric Cressey

For more mobility exercises, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.


Assess and Correct Now Available!

Written on October 26, 2009 at 5:10 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s a really exciting day for Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and I – and hopefully for you, too!

You see, after months of planning, filming, and editing, our new product, Assess and Correct, is now available at www.AssessAndCorrect.com.  And, for the first week ONLY, we’re making the product available for $30 off what will be the normal retail price.

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Assess and Correct is the first resource that empowers you with not only a series of self-assessments to identify your own flexibility and stability limitations, but also exercise progressions to correct those inefficiencies.  In the process, you’ll take your athletic performance to all new levels and prevent injuries from creeping up on you – whether you’re a high-level athlete or someone who sits at a desk too much.

With 27 self-assessments and 78 corresponding exercises, you’ll cover virtually everything you need to feel and perform well. And, you’ll have plenty of variety to use for many years to come!  And, while the DVDs alone are really comprehensive, the bonuses we’ve added to this really sweeten the deal.  Included in this package are:

  • DVD #1: Your Comprehensive Guide to Self-Assessment
  • DVD #2: Your Individualized Corrective Exercise Progressions
  • Bonus #1: The Assess and Correct Assessment E-Manual, which is a guide to which you can refer to in conjunction with DVD #1.
  • Bonus #2: The Assess and Correct E-Manual, which includes written cues and photos for each recommended drill in DVD #2 so that you’ll have a resource you can take to the gym with you.
  • Bonus #3: “The Great Eight Static Stretches” E-Manual, which shows you eight additional flexibility drills that we use on a regular basis in addition to the drills featured in the DVDs.
  • Bonus #4: The “Optimal Self Myofascial Release” E-Manual, which shows you the soft tissue methods and techniques we use with our clients and athletes.
  • Bonus #5: “Warm-ups for Every Body” E-Manual, which is a collection of two sample warm-up templates for 19 different sports/scenarios.

Again, this introductory offer will end next Sunday, November 1 at midnight EST.  For now, though, I’d encourage you to head over to www.AssessAndCorrect.com to check out some of the sample videos from the DVDs – including the introduction in which we discuss our rationale for creating the product.


Random Friday Thoughts: 10/23/09

Written on October 23, 2009 at 3:45 am, by Eric Cressey

1. I got a question earlier this week about how I felt about swimming for pitchers.  To be honest, I’m not a huge fan for pitchers.  Swimmers actually have a lot of the same issues as pitchers in terms of adaptive changes in the shoulder: an acquired anterior scapular tilt, glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD), and generalized laxity.  I guess when it really comes down to it, I’d rather have guys actually throwing if they are going to develop imbalances.

2. Last, but not least, Mike Boyle has a good video up in conjunction with the release of his new Functional Strength Coach 3 product.  Check out The Death of Squatting.

3. Even if he never scores another goal in his life, this kid is a stud – quite possibly on par with the West Virginia Ninja from last week.

4. Tony Gentilcore just switched his blog over to a new site.  If you guys want to be entertained and learn something in the process (infotainment), check out www. TonyGentilcore.com.

5. Speaking of Tony, the two of us tested 1RM deadlifts yesterday (yes, together; it’s kind of like when women go to the bathroom together).  This came after a month-long deadlift specialization program that kicked the crap out of us (let’s just say it was 4x/week deadlifting for three weeks, then one week of rest).  Tony pulled a personal-best 550 pounds; here’s our boy in action:

6. As for me, well, there was no PR.  In fact, I got sent down to the JV team.  I got 700 about three inches off the floor, and that was it.  A subsequent attempt at 675 went only slightly better in my fatigued state.  And I put a crater in the middle of my hand when a callus ripped off.

callus

7. If you’re a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer looking for work and are anywhere near (or willing to move to) just east of Philadelphia, please shoot me an email at ec@ericcressey.com.  I have a friend who is looking for some good coaches to work with athletes at his facility in that area.  It’s a positive, learning environment – and he’s a great dude.

8. And, last, but certainly not least: Assess and Correct will be up for sale on Monday!  Newsletter subscribers will hear about the product first, so if you aren’t subscribed already, head HERE to get signed up.

Have a great weekend!


Strength and Conditioning Programs: Efficiency May Be All Wrong…

Written on October 21, 2009 at 6:08 am, by Eric Cressey

In my strength and conditioning writing, I throw the term “efficient” around quite a bit; in fact, it’s even in the title of our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set.  I’m sure that some people have taken this to mean that we’re always looking for efficiency in our movement.  And, certainly, when it comes to getting from point A to point B in the context of sporting challenges, the most efficient way is generally the best.

And, just think about strength training programs where lifters simply squat, bench press, and deadlift to improve powerlifting performance.  The goal is to get as efficient in those three movements as possible.

And, you can look at NFL combine preparation programs as another example.  Guys will spend months practicing picture-perfect technique for the 40-yard dash.  They might not even get faster in the context of applicable game speed, but they get super efficient at the test.

070226_adrianpeterson_vmed11awidec

However, the most “efficient” way is not always the right way.

In everyday life, efficiency for someone with poor posture means picking up a heavy box with a rounded back, as it’s the pattern to which they’re accustomed, and therefore less “energy expensive.”  This would simply prove to be an efficient way to get injured!  I’d rather lift things safely and inefficiently.

bent-over-row-hunched

And, take those who run long distances in hopes of losing fat as another example.  The research has actually shown that runners burn fewer calories for the same given distance after years of running improves their efficiency.  While this improvement is relatively small, it absolutely stands to reason that folks would be smart to get as inefficient as possible in their training to achieve faster fat loss.  In other words, change modalities, intensities, durations, and other acute programming variables.

Training exclusively for efficiency on a few lifts might make you better at those lifts, but it’s also going to markedly increase your risk of overuse injuries.  I can say without wavering that we’d see a lot fewer knee and lower back injuries in powerlifters if more of them would just mix in some inefficient single-leg training into their strength training programs.  And, shoulders would get a lot healthier if these specialists would include more inefficient rowing variations and rotator cuff strength exercises.

In the world of training for athletic performance, it’s important to remember that many (but not all) athletes perform in unpredictable environments – so simply training them to be efficient on a few lifts fails to fully prepare them for what they’re actually face in competition.  A strength and conditioning program complete with exercise variety and different ranges-of-motion,  speeds of motion, and magnitudes of loading provides athletes with a richer proprioceptive environment.

In other words, inefficiency in strength and conditioning programs can actually facilitate better performance and a reduced risk of injury.

Taken all together, it’s safe to say that we want inefficiency in our training, but efficiency in our performance – provided that this efficiency doesn’t involve potentially injurous movement patterns.

Related Posts

Why I Don’t Like 5×5 Strength Training Programs
Weight Training Programs: The Basics, but with Variety

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Wall Ankle Mobilization

Written on October 20, 2009 at 6:11 am, by Eric Cressey

For more mobility exercises, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.


Looking for a Reason to Head to Tampa in January?

Written on October 19, 2009 at 2:00 am, by Eric Cressey

I know as a New Englander, I never need an excuse to go someplace warm during the cold winter months.  Still, it was pretty cool when Joel Marion invited me to become a speaker at his big event, Transformation Domination, on January 16-18, 2010.  Joel’s brought 15 presenters of all different backgrounds together for event geared toward helping people changes their bodies and their lives with fitness and proper nutrition.

I’ll be very up-front and say that this isn’t for the fitness professionals and “geekiest” of readers in my regular audience, but for the beginner and intermediate folks out there who are really looking for a resource to help them get motivated and learn legitimate strategies to make the changes they want, this is it.  If you struggle with being consistent with exercise in nutrition, or walk into a gym and legitimately feel confused about where to start, and how to sort through all the different opinions in the fitness world, this event is for you.

Joel’s running an early-bird special where you can sign up with a friend, and in the process, get the second registration at half-price by signing up together.  He’s also worked out a great hotel discount at an AWESOME place to get away, if these pictures are any indication:

embassysuites

I hope to see some of you there.  For more information, check out the Transformation Domination Registration Page.


Quick Video Tip

Written on October 18, 2009 at 10:00 am, by Eric Cressey

When I was out in Long Beach, CA for the Perform Better Summit, Muscle & Fitness’ Dave Barr did a quick interview with me in the lobby between sessions.  Here’s a link to check out part of the interview:

Muscle and Fitness Videos: Expert Quick Tip – Eric Cressey


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