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Upcoming Seminar Opportunity: Need Your Feedback!

Written on December 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm, by Eric Cressey

Neil Rampe is a good friend of mine who works for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and just so happens to be one of the smartest (and most humble and approachable) dudes I know.  I spent three days with him out in Arizona in November, and he opened my eyes to so much great stuff that I couldn’t wait to bring him out to Boston for a seminar at Cressey Performance.  He’s got a crazy busy schedule, so we just now firmed up a date that he could do such an event here in Massachusetts: Sunday, January 24.

To that end, before we make it official, I want to quickly gauge who would be interested.  The price would be $149 for a full day’s seminar (food and handouts included), and we’d keep the headcount down to ensure that all the hands-on stuff includes plenty of direct interaction with Neil.  The overall theme of the event would be Movement Integration and how there are different schools of thought (Mezieres, Myers, Janda, and Hruska, to name a few) and modalities that can be applied along with some solid fundamental critical thinking skills to address the specific needs of athletes and clients.

Before we make this official and make more details known, I want to know that we have a good enough headcount to pursue this.  So, I thought I’d throw it out there to you.  If you are interested, please email me at ec@ericcressey.com right away to express your interest.

Below, you’ll see Neil’s bio; it should give you a quick glimpse into just how great a perspective he’s got:

Neil Rampe is currently in his third year as the Manual Therapist for Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Neil’s education includes an Associates degree in Personal Training as well as Bachelors degrees in Athletic Training and Physical Education with an emphasis in Strength & Conditioining from the University of Findlay in 2000. He went on to receive his M.Ed. in Applied Kinesiology with a Sport and Exercise Science emphasis in 2002 from the University of Minnesota, where he served as a strength & conditioning coach in the golden gopher athletic department before moving on to serve as a certified athletic trainer at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Boulder, CO. Neil then spent five years at The University of Arizona, where he served as the Associate Dierctor, Performance Enhancement.

Neil is a Certified Athletic Trainer through the NATABOC, a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, a Licensed Massage Therapist through the AMTA and NCBTMB upon graduating from the Providence Institute of Massage Therapy and has received his Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist advanced specializations through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Over the past nine years, Neil has had the opportunity to work with a number of elite athletes at the high school collegiate, Olympic and professional ranks in the areas of rehabilitation, therapy and performance enhancement.


What Would You Like to See in 2010?

Written on December 29, 2009 at 8:56 am, by Eric Cressey

The year 2009 was a tremendous one for this website, and I owe all of you readers a huge thanks for your contribution.

Right now, this site is ranked in the top 135,000 on the web, according to Alexa.com, one measure of a website’s popularity.  Each month, unique visitors (~25,000/month right now) and total hits (~100,000/month right now) exceed the previous month.

The one product I released this year – Assess and Correct – has already sold in dozens of countries since October.  Meanwhile, some older products are still very popular.  Maximum Strength, for instance, has a 5-star rating at Amazon.com and is holding steady just outside the top 5,000 books on the site.

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This site has become a channel through which Cressey Performance has grown as well.  Not a week passes that a new client doesn’t come through our doors thanks to something they’ve read from me on the internet.

I say this not to blow sunshine up my own rear end, but rather to frame my sincere thank you to all of you for your continued support in making EricCressey.com the success it is today.  Writing has never been (and hopefully never will be) a “job” for me because I genuinely enjoy getting to look at things in detail, interact with some bright, enthusiastic readers, and (hopefully) add to the body of knowledge in the process.  So, thanks for making my “job” (if you can call it that) fun.

That said, since you, the readers, are the ones that are ultimately responsible for making this site bigger and better, I want to put the ball in your court today.  What do YOU want to read in 2010?

Would you like to see me address certain issues?  Would you rather have more guest interviews (like this)?  Product reviews (like this)?  Debunking of fitness myths (like this)?  Geeky science stuff (like this)?

How about content formatting?  Do you like the video (like this) or written features – or a combination of the two?

I respect and value your opinions and suggestions, so feel free to voice them in the comments section below.  Again, thanks for a great 2009!


Cool Stuff to Check Out: 12/28/09

Written on December 28, 2009 at 2:44 pm, by Eric Cressey

I thought I’d use a quick blog post here to tell you about three of my holiday gifts this year that might interest a lot of you.  With it being a few days after Christmas, a lot of stores are running big sales, and you could probably pick these up at big discounts.

Dragon Naturally Speaking Software – This is a speech recognition software that works with your computer to directly translate what you say into a microphone into a word processing document or email. My hope is that it’ll make it easy for me to dictate blogs and emails while in the car on my 40-minute commute to and from Cressey Performance each day.

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Admittedly, I am still feeling this one out, as it takes some “calibrating” to learn how to interpret your voice correctly (I read John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address into it the other night).  However, I’m really psyched about how this could improve my efficiency in 2010; check it out for yourself.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures – Tony Gentilcore (and others) turned me on to Malcolm Gladwell’s writing in 2009, and I absolutely loved it (including The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers).  This is his newest work, and it is actually a collection of his short pieces that were featured in The New Yorker, where Gladwell is a staff writer.

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Tony got me the audio CDs for this, and I listened to it on my hours and hours of driving to and from Maine for the holiday.  It’s excellent: very entertaining, educational, and thought provoking. Something pretty cool: you can buy all four of these books from Gladwell on Amazon for under $40 right now (including free shipping).  That’s a tremendous value.

Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow – This book by Chip Conley was actually a gift to me from Alwyn Cosgrove about a month ago, and I’m about halfway through it.  As I’ve read, it’s made me realize several reasons that we’ve been successful in our business model at Cressey Performance (including 15% growth this year in spite of the “recession”).  Regardless of the industry in which you work, if you manage employees, I’d highly recommend it.

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Beede Makes Early Decision: Vandy

Written on December 28, 2009 at 6:43 am, by Eric Cressey

I’m working my way back into the swing of things after the holiday and will have some new content to you later on today, but in the interim, I thought some of you might like to check out this feature on Cressey Performance athlete Tyler Beede, who just committed to Vanderbilt on a baseball scholarship.  Tyler has put in a ton of hard work over the past 14 months at CP, and in the process, has increased his strength and throwing velocity substantially on top of packing 30 pounds on his frame.

Beede Makes Early Decision: Vandy

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Tiny Tim No More

Written on December 25, 2009 at 6:03 pm, by Eric Cressey

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I am out of town visiting family, but in my absence, I thought you might be interested in checking out this article about Tim Collins and his training at Cressey Performance.  Tim was recently named Toronto Blue Jays organizational Pitcher of the Year on MLB.com.

Tiny Tim No More

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Have a great weekend!


Santa vs. The Sled

Written on December 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

Happy Holidays, everyone!


Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/09

Written on December 23, 2009 at 9:38 am, by Eric Cressey

I’m a bit tied up with holiday preparation stuff on top of the regular CP goings-on, so I thought I’d use today to throw out some recommended reading for the week:

Cardio Strength Training – I just got my copy of Robert dos Remedios’ new book in the mail.  I was honored to have contributed to it, and it’s an awesome resource with a ton of protocols and exercises that you can implement to make conditioning a lot more interesting.  For those of you looking to drop some fat in the new year, this is a must-have.

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Only One Body – This is an excellent post from Mike Boyle that really helps to put things in perspective.  Quick read; check it out!

Medicine Ball Madness – This old newsletter talks a bit about how we attack medicine ball training with our baseball guys.  In 2010, I’ll be presenting on this concept in a lot more detail at my Perform Better appearances.


Mobility Exercise of the Week: Thoracic Spine Extension on Foam Roller

Written on December 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm, by Eric Cressey

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


The Importance of Ankle Mobility

Written on December 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm, by Eric Cressey

One of the most common issues we see in both athletes and our general population clients is a lack of ankle mobility – and more specifically, dorsiflexion range-of-motion.

For just about everything in life – from sprinting, to lunging, to squatting – we need a certain amount of dorsiflexion (think of how far the knees can go over the toes, or the positive shin angle one can create without lifting the heel).  If we don’t have it, we have to compensate.

One of the most common things we see in people with a lack of dorsiflexion ROM is an “out-toeing,” as this opens up the ankle and allows for them to get to where they need to be – even if it isn’t the most biomechanically correct way to do so.

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This out-toeing may also be caused by hip internal rotation deficit (HIRD), so it’s important to assess both.  Check out this previous video blog for more information on how to assess for HIRD.

In a more “uncompensated” scenario, an athlete with poor ankle mobility may push through the toe instead of the heel – creating a quad-dominant propulsion in a scenario that should have signification contribution from the posterior chain musculature.  In the pictures below, you’ll see that Josh Beckett requires a considerable amount of dorsiflexion range-of-motion to get the job done (push-off without the heel leaving the ground).

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This lack of ankle mobility may also negatively affect knee function.  Research has shown that a lack of ankle mobility can increase rotational torque at the knee.  This falls right in line with the joint-by-joint school of thought with respect to training; if you lock up a joint that should be mobile, the body will look elsewhere to create that range-of-motion.

This definitely applies to what happens to the lumbar spine during squatting in a person with an ankle (or hip) mobility deficit.  If someone can’t get sufficient dorsiflexion (or hip flexion and internal rotation), he’ll look to the lumbar spine to get that range of motion by rounding (lumbar flexion).  We know that combining lumbar flexion with compressive loading is a big-time no-no, so it’s important to realize that folks with considerable ankle mobility restrictions may need to modify or eliminate squatting altogether.

Take, for example, Olympic lifters who wear traditional Olympic lifting shoes with big heel lifts.  This artificially created ankle mobility allows them to squat deeper.  While I’m not a huge fan of this footwear for regular folks for squatting, used sparingly, it’s not a big deal.

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Other individuals may be better served with hip dominant squat variations (e.g., box squats) that allow them to sit back and not squat quite as deep while they work to improve that ankle mobility and get closer to squatting deeper (with more dorsiflexion).  With these individuals, we supplement the more hip dominant squatting with extra single-leg work and plenty of deadlift variations.

The take-home message is that ankle mobility has some far-reaching implications, and it’s important to be able to assess it to determine if it’s the factor that’s limiting someone’s safe and efficient movement.

For more information on how to evaluate and address ankle mobility, check out Assess and Correct.

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Shortening the Learning Loop with Effective Communication

Written on December 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm, by Eric Cressey

Note from EC: Great content from Matt Blake today.  If you want to read more of Matt’s stuff, enter his name in the search box to the right of your screen, and you’ll get some of his previous writing here.

Since the Christmas pre-sale is over on the 95 MPH arm, I figured I would follow up with some more insight into the way we are working with a wide range of pitchers here at Cressey Performance.

To give you perspective, recent throwing sessions in the CP cage have included anything from minor leaguers working through controlled  flat-ground drills and some simulated long-toss, to high-school guys working on velocity drills or throwing bullpens getting ready for college winter camps (for better or worse). We’ve also had a handful of players come to us following injuries as they try to build their arms back up from essentially scratch. With the wide variety of development and training that needs to take place as a result of these different situations, a strong need emerges for an effective communication style with your athlete.

For me, this is tremendously important if I expect to push a player in a sport that will have 57% of their population suffer some form of shoulder injury during a playing season (1).  It seems a little absurd to think that more than half the athletes in this population will get hurt in a given season, but it’s not that crazy when you consider the fact that we’re asking the shoulder to internally rotate at velocities greater than 7,000 degrees/second and the elbow to extend at 2,000+ degrees/s during the throwing motion. If that’s not bad enough, at maximum external rotation the torque placed on the elbow is equivalent to 40lbs pulling down on the hand.  When all of this is considered, it becomes clear how serious it is to actually ask an athlete to perform 80-100 repetitions of a skill at near human capacity.

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Once you understand the implications of what you are requesting your player to do, the ability to effectively communicate in a manner that gains quality feedback from your pitcher becomes essential. With the tremendous amount of stress being placed on the body and no objective way to know how a particular player’s arm or body feels during practice or competition, we need to have open lines of communication to make sure each and every piece is monitored for stress.

Obviously the easiest way to gather information is to verbally ask players how they are feeling, or have them rate their fatigue on a 1-10 scale with 1 being, “My arm feels like gold”, and 10 being, “I think I just tore something”. The only problem with this is that every player will have a slightly different pain threshold and one person’s “3” may be another person’s “6.”  So, if you are going to use this scale, it is important to stay on top of it and ask the player on a regular basis to calibrate the stress and watch how it slides one way or the other as they get loose or as the discomfort begins to build.

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The other problem with the verbal scale is that you have to account for each player’s personality and level of competitiveness. Some players will run themselves through a wall and not think twice about the damage they could be doing. These players will under-report their pain levels in an attempt to continue throwing.  With players like this, you need to resort to other means of monitoring pain levels. This is where understanding a player’s natural temperament is important. By knowing how a player normally acts, picking up subtle behavioral cues can play a large part in identifying underlying pain.

These subtle behaviors can include anything from the way they make eye contact, their facial expressions and head talk, body gestures, postural changes, etc… For example, if they grimace after throwing, shake out their arm after throws, or cross their arms when they’re standing still, then you are probably looking at some tenderness building somewhere in the arm. Mechanically, you can watch the elbow/arm slot begin to drop as they throw, the torso might become more upright, and the ball to begin to stay up in the zone more often. Velocity changes may or may not occur as well. As you begin to see one or more of these traits, it’s important to make sure you open the dialogue with the player to make them verbalize how the arm feels.

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Identifying these traits and gaining trust from your pitcher to speak honestly with you about his arm’s health is the foundation for developing them to their ceiling. Once you understand how much a player can be pushed while maintaining a healthy volume or amplitude, driving the development with this same mindset becomes just as critical.

One of the problems that I believe stands in the way of a lot of players/athletes in their personal development tends to be their inability to relate to new information that you are trying to give them. It’s not that they weren’t listening or the fact that what you gave them was right or wrong, but more that it didn’t fit neatly with what they had previously learned. Different personalities, different backgrounds, different learning styles, can’t all be expected to work off the same lesson plan.

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Each piece of the development needs to be looked at dynamically to see how the information is registering for the player. Two of the main things I work hard to identify early in the process are:

1) what style of learning does the player prefer?

2) where are they in their development?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin to provide the necessary information in the right form for the player, so they understand why they would want to apply it and, more importantly, how they apply the new information.

By using multiple avenues to find out what the player is looking to learn or needs to learn, you can optimize the use of certain tools to flush out higher levels of performance. One of the main tools we use here is slow-motion video analysis. I find this to be very effective in getting everyone on the same page regarding what is actually happening during these highly complex movements. From there, we’ll agree on a plan of action going forward that might use lead-up drills, velocity drills, weighted baseballs, medicine balls, etc. All of these pieces help to teach something, whether it be rate of force development, knowledge of the kinetic chain, or simply a consistent rhythm and tempo in the delivery.

Obviously, the examples I’m using here are baseball related, but this can be just as easily applied to strength and conditioning, as well as other skill-specific sports. It really just comes down to the proper application of each drill or exercise with targeted work that fits the developmental needs of the athlete. If player and coach are effectively communicating, the learning loop can certainly be shortened and the sky is the limit for your athletes’ development. With that said, I hope everyone enjoys the holidays and the rest of 2009, and I certainly look forward to continuing this ongoing conversation with you guys in 2010.

References
1. Ouelette, H et al. Spectrum of Shoulder injuries in the baseball pitcher. Skeletal Radiol. 2007 Oct 3.
2. Fleisig, GS. The Biomechanics of Baseball Pitching. Spring 2008 Southeast ACSM Conference.

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

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