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The High Performance Handbook

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I Get Hitched, So You Save $$$ (and Shoulders)

Written on September 30, 2010 at 12:01 am, by Eric Cressey

This Sunday, my fiancee Anna and I officially tie the knot.

Also this Sunday, the major league baseball season officially ends – which means my buddy Mike Reinold (head athletic trainer and rehabilitation coordinator of the Boston Red Sox) is going to have some time to do some marriage “maintenance” of his own after lots of long days and travel since the season began in February.

So, in honor of the weekend, Mike and I decided that we’d run a sale on our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD Set.  From now through midnight on Sunday, just head to www.ShoulderPerformance.com, add the DVD set to your cart, and get $30 off the price of the DVD set by entering the coupon code “HITCHED” (no quotation marks) at checkout.

For those of you who may be on the fence about the product, be sure to check out the testimonials and product information on the website – as well as the following:

13 Fun Facts about Optimal Shoulder Performance

Video: Should Pitchers Overhead Press?

Again, that’s HITCHED at www.ShoulderPerformance.com through this Sunday (10/3) at midnight.


Why Can’t I Get a Suit that Fits?

Written on September 29, 2010 at 9:02 am, by Eric Cressey

As many of you know, I’m getting married on Sunday – which, of course, means that I had to be fitted for a tuxedo.  I’m about to head out to try it on one final time, and if it’s all good, bring it home with me.  And, I can assure you that it will still feel as stupidly big as it did the first time I tried on a jacket at the store.  What am I getting at?

Suits and tuxedos are not made for people who actually have muscle.

If you go with the smaller of two sizes, you need three groomsmen to help you get your arms and upper back into it – and you can plan on not being able to reach anything above nipple level while wearing it.

If you go with the larger of two sizes (which I did), you wind up swimming in it.  I’m 5-9, 195 pounds – and will be wearing a jacket that was probably made with somebody who was 6-0, 220 with 40% body fat in mind.  I’m the opposite of Chris Farley’s “Fat Guy in a Little Coat.”

In fact, after my fitting, my fiancee told me that I was not allowed to lose any weight before the wedding.  So, while she was crushing it in the gym and watching what she ate to prepare for her wedding dress, I simply continued to lift heavy stuff and eat normally.  The truth is, though, that I could have gone with 10,000 calories a day and just sat on the couch – and the jacket still would fit just fine.

This could just be a rant that ends here, but instead, I’ll make you think a little bit.  Every suit I have had to buy in the last decade has been a big and tall version – where I had to have the pants taken up by a tailor.

If we are concerned about the obesity epidemic, why do we only make suits and tuxedos for fat dudes?

If we know the body mass index (BMI) is a foolish way for doctor’s and insurance companies to determine healthy weight, why do we only make suits for guys who are 6-5, 165 pounds?

And, do you think Tony and Pete will look as good in these suits as the guys in Dumb and Dumber?

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High Performance Training Without the Equipment: Installment 1

Written on September 28, 2010 at 5:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Based on feedback on Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better, one of the most popular components of this strength and conditioning resource has been the exercise modifications section.  This section features recommended modifications for everything from mobility deficits (e.g., can't squat deep without rounding the back) to equipment limitations (e.g., no cables or squat rack).

That said, I know it's never possible to use a single chapter to cover absolutely every equipment modification one will encounter, so I wanted to get a series going here that highlights some quick and easy substitutions that you can use in your strength training programs.  To that end, here is the first installment of High Performance Training Without the EquipmentToday's focus will be what to do in your home gym if you don't have access to dumbbells.

If we're talking about regular bilateral dumbbell pressing, the modification is quick and easy: just use a barbell, and get your variety by using a collection of floor presses, board presses, full range-of-motion presses, and various inclines and declines.

If we're talking about either unilateral or alternating dumbbell pressing variations, then try out the 1-arm push-up.  You can make the exercise easier by performing it off the pins in a power rack - and as you get stronger, gradually move the pin down lower.

On the "flip side," you can obviously use barbell rowing variations to replace dumbbell rowing variations.  One that I particularly like is the 1-arm corner row, in lieu of the 1-arm DB Row.  You just stick the end of a barbell in a corner.

Or, you can just do the 1-arm barbell row - which requires a ton more grip and forearm strength to keep the bar from tipping.

Of course, there are plenty more options in this regard; your imagination is your only limit!

For more exercise modifications like this - as well as a comprehensive program in which to include them - check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Stuff You Should Read: 9/27/10

Written on September 26, 2010 at 3:57 am, by Eric Cressey

The good news is that I survived my bachelor party on Saturday night, but the bad news is that it pretty much wiped out my productivity this past weekend.  Fortunately, I was planning to throw a few gems from the archives your way, anyway.  Check out the following:

21st Century Nutrition: Talking Shop with Dr. John Berardi – JB is a good friend and a smart dude – and with Precision Nutrition rolling out a nutrition certification this week, it seemed like a great day to give this interview with him some love.

The “Don’t Squat” Recommendation – We’ve all heard it – and all wanted to vomit because of it. It’s worth a read.

Lats: Not Just for Pulldowns – The thing I remember most vividly about this article was that I wrote it faster and easier than any other contribution I’ve ever made to T-Nation.  It literally rolled off my fingers without hesitation.  I guess that means that I was 100% sure about it.

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7 Reasons to Buy Show and Go Before Midnight Tonight

Written on September 24, 2010 at 6:53 am, by Eric Cressey

In lieu of my normal “Random Friday Thoughts” blog, I thought I’d use this morning’s post to highlight why you ought to purchase Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better today.

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1. The most obvious reason, of course, is that at midnight tonight, the early bird discount (40% off) ends.  Forever.  There won’t be any of this “our system was maxed out, so we’re extending the sale by 2 days because I really care about you, friend!”  You know you’ve all heard it before – but you won’t hear it here.

2. To follow up on that one, let’s be honest: I’m not really sure if you’re my “friend.”  You could be a crazy internet person, for all I know.  In fact, many of you probably are – and acquiring a program like Show and Go could be really good for you to attend to your social awkwardness by heading to the gym to do the program and, in the process, meet some new people.  You might even get diesel and attract a member of the opposite sex, settle down with them, and name your first child “Eric Cressey.”  No pressure on that one, though.

3.  The feedback thus far from customers has been excellent.  In addition to all the testimonials you’ll see from the “guinea pigs” I put through the program, I’ve gotten some immediate one from people who have purchased the program via email; here’s one quick example that just came in this morning.

“Eric, I’ve just purchased Show and Go. Have started to use this straight away, and can definitely say that it makes training and writing programs for clients very easy and effective especially with the massive data base available. Plus all the add-ons from the other coaches – such as conditioning and glute exercises – are awesome.” – Chris Carter

4. At first glance, this simply looks like one demonstration from the huge Show and Go video library (don’t worry; trap bar deadlifts are not mandatory).

However, if you look closely, what’s going on in the background is possibly more significant.  You’ll see a few of my pro baseball guys starting up their sessions with foam rolling and mobility warm-ups.  Most of these guys are just now arriving for their off-season training – as the product is released.  In other words, this video was filmed back in February or so – which tells you that it literally took seven months (an entire professional baseball season) to bring this sucker to market because we spent so much time tinkering with it and trying to make it perfect (and putting a host of people through it as a pilot program over a four-month period).  In a day and age when some folks are kicking out new products each week, you have my word that this is not a fly-by-night operation; we invested a lot of time, thought, and energy into making this something of which we could be really proud.

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5.  On the financial side of things, I’m getting married next weekend…and it would be nice to use this book to pay for a wedding, honeymoon, and protective helmet to wear for the rest of my life.  Just kidding, honey!

6. On a more urgent note, tomorrow night is my bachelor party – and we’re going to need bail money to get Tony out of prison after he’s incarcerated for causing a scene at the casino when he realizes that they only serve free alcohol – and not almond milk – at the blackjack tables.

7. One afternoon earlier this week, just for the heck of it, I counted the professional baseball players in our facility.  There were 12 – two Royals, one Blue Jay, one National, four Braves, one Met, two A’s, and one Tiger – and this is just minor leaguers, without the major league season even having wrapped up.  All told, we’ll be over 40 professionals from all over the country.  This is not to blow sunshine up my own butt; it’s to make a very important point: I actually train people six days a week.  I write a ton of programs, do a ton of evaluations, and love to coach.  And all this give me a great perspective from which to program for the “masses” – as I see everything from 10-year-olds to 70-year-olds in just about every athletic and weekend warrior population.

This shouldn’t even be something I have to mention, but I do – because you’d be surprised how many people write and sell programs when they aren’t out there seeing it first hand.  Theories are all well and good, but the best programs are rooted in principles that have proven effective time and time again in the real world.

Give it a shot; you’ve got nothing to lose: www.ShowandGoTraining.com.


Is Show and Go Okay for Females? You Tell Me.

Written on September 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm, by Eric Cressey

I've gotten several inquiries about whether Show and Go will be a good fit for women trying to get fitter and stronger.  I guess it really depends on whether you want to be able to do stuff like this.

My lovely fiancee just showing up and banging out eight pull-ups – in her work attire, without a warm-up.

Or Cressey Performance client Natalie putting on a show of her own with some rope pull-ups.

And a little something for the deadlifters in the crowd…

"At the beginning of this program, I was very out of balance, where my lower body was much stronger than my upper body and I will give Eric the credit for balancing me out. I found incredible strength gains in my chest, back and shoulders and was still gaining at the end of my 4 months. Working with Eric I knew the mobility and stability throughout my body would improve in the areas it needed to; I have never had any shoulder issues, but now my shoulders have never felt healthier, more stable or stronger. By the time I got to the third phase, I found my 1RM for the bench press climbed almost 30 lbs and I was working with weight I have never worked with before. Beginning the program I could not do any pull-ups .. I finished with being able to do 3 complete reps for 4 sets … that's success to me! This program gave my body the perfect base to go in any training direction afterward."

Kelsey Pettengill – Saco, ME

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"My fiance, Mathew, and I completed Eric's 16 week strength program in June. We were both extremely pleased with our results. I increased my squat by 55lb, my deadlift by 33lb, my 3-rep maximum chin-up by 12lb, my bench press by 8lb and my standing jump by 7.5"- great results in just 16 weeks.

"This is the first intensive strength program I have undertaken. The program will produce amazing results if you are completely committed, determined and motivated for the 16 weeks. I even managed to complete my training with international travel and demanding work pressures.

Mathew was an ongoing source of support and this program highlighted the importance and value of a committed and motivated training partner.

"As a female who up to three years ago focused their entire fitness regime on cardio, I highly recommend Eric's program and his strength and conditioning expertise for maximizing strength gains and sculpting a lean physique."

Cassandra Lees – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

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"I have nothing but glowing praise for Eric Cressey's program. I have been a recreational lifter for many years. Eric's program has helped me overcome some sticking points in mobility and strength that I wasn't able to address on my own. Even though I am relatively strong, I have never been able to chin. Now, I can do several sets of chins with various grips.

"Because of all the unilateral work that Eric recommended in this program, my basic lifts (deadlift, squat, bench) have gone up significantly.

"My favorite lift, the deadlift, has gone from 225 to 280 and that's at my body weight of 130 lbs.

"I was always a good conventional squatter, either free squat or box squat, but was never comfortable with the front squat. This program provided me with the tools to finally perform a decent front squat.

"I could go and on and on and tell you about all the other lifts and how they improved. Suffice it to say…THIS PROGRAM WORKS! Thanks, Eric!"

Arlene Robbins  – New York, NY

"I can't say enough to describe the positive experiences I had with the Show and Go Program. Obviously, I gained significant strength across the board and got leaner, which in itself is rewarding, but the amazing part to me is that I did so as a 40 year old female with an office job and not as a younger elite athlete with access to more training resources. And my progressions weren't solely strength oriented as I also made improvements in my flexibility and range of motion in spite of having past issues in these areas. With the enhanced strength and flexibility, I'm now enjoying the best fitness, strength and health I've had at any point in my life. And, it's incredibly empowering to be a strong woman and reach strength levels I never thought were possible for me. There is no question in my mind that I got more than a 16 week training manual from the Show and Go Program. Rather, this program provided a road map for me to be able to continue to optimize my strength and overall health because I experienced the power of mixing of mobility exercises along with innovative strength gaining techniques."

Rebecca Wilson – Fayetteville, Arkansas

If this isn't proof enough that this is a great female fitness option, I don't know what is.  For more information – and a $50 off discount this week only – click here to check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

 

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An Interview with Eric Cressey (by John Romaniello)

Written on September 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm, by Eric Cressey

Earlier this week, I did an interview with John Romaniello for his website, and it came out so well (and long) that I thought it’d make for a great post here today.  Check it out below (with John speaking in the first person).

Okay, below is a transcript of the interview I did with Eric Cressey, beast of all beasts.  He’s seriously the man.  I’ve told you in another blog post how Eric and I met, and after 8 years and never less than 300 miles of distance between us, we’re still close and still learn a lot from each other.

Eric is seriously regarded as one of the Top 5 coaches in the world by just about any authority that has any authority (if you’ll pardon the redundancy) and in my view is probably the best from a standpoint of bringing things to a practical level.

His hew program, “Show and Go” has just been released, and is basically blowing the doors off of the industry.

Now, I’ll warn you that Eric works with professional athletes most of the time, so we talk about that A LOT in the interview; however, as he notes, he started in fitness-based training. The program brings it all together, and the interview very clearly explains why you should pick it up.

Check it out!

1.  Okay, right of of the gate, I want this interive to focus on your new program.  So, let’s get to it: how is Show and Go different from the other training products out there now?

Most products are written with a specific market – trainers, females, fat loss, or something else – in mind.  In the marketing world, they tell you to not try to be everything to everyone.  Well, I’m not a good marketer – so I decided to make this resource extremely versatile and a good fit for a LOT of people.

The reason is that there are a lot of things in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program that everybody needs to utilize.  From the minutia to the big picture, I could go on all day: foam rolling, mobility warm-ups, single-leg training, more horizontal pulling, fluctuation of training stress, sufficient deloading periods, extra posterior chain work, a balance of open- and closed-chain upper body pressing, glute activation, rotator cuff strength – the list goes on and on.

So, I guess you can say that the #1 thing that is different about this product is that there are easy-to-apply modifications in it that make it a versatile resource that offers something for everyone.  From the 2x/3x/4x per week training options to the supplement conditioning options, there are ways to make it the right fit for YOU.

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And, the guy who created it is also extremely good looking, charming, witty, and charismatic!

2. And modest.  Or not.  But I hate modesty anyway.  Now, like me, you’re still “in the trenches” right?  I mean, you still work clients hands on, every day in your gym?

Yes, that’s for sure – and, in fact, you could say that it’s one more thing that separates this program for a lot of the other ones that are out there in the fitness landscape right now.  In this digital retail era, there are a lot of people publishing fitness information products on the net that are largely based on theory, not trends that have proven significant over and over again in the real world.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as a lot of the most sound training practices we know today were originally just theories.  However, speculative training isn’t for me.

I think it’s one reason why I thought so highly of the Final Phase Fat Loss program you created; I know you as a guy who has put in years of efforts “in the trenches” with clients and with your own training.  If you recommend something, it’s because you know it’s legitimate and you’d stake your reputation on it.

I’m in the same boat.  We generally do over 300 client sessions per week at Cressey Performance.  Taking it a step further, I’ll have over 40 professional baseball players who come from all over the country to live in snowy Hudson, MA all winter to give themselves the best possible chance to make it to the big leagues – and have a long and healthy career along the way.

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Every single person that walks through the door is on an individualized program that was written by one of our staff members in accordance with the results of a one-on-one evaluation that took place.  When you write that many programs and supervise so many training sessions, you get a feel for the stuff that should be constant in just about everyone’s programs – and it makes you appreciate that there are many important principles that can be applied to make a program like Show and Go safe and effective for “the masses.”

You’ll see that in the detail that has gone into the Show and Go program.  It features the exact printable training templates we use with our clients so that people can record their progress.  The exercises and set/rep protocols have all been test-driven with our clients, too.  And, the 175+ videos in the online database that accompanies this guide were all filmed in my facility – not my mom’s basement or the park, as you often see from folks who write books, but don’t actually train anyone.

In short, I’ve got a unique frame of reference to share with people.  And, I’ve got a lot more to lose professionally if I was to put out an inferior product – so I put my heart and soul into this one.


3. Wow, that’s pretty intense.  Lets just touch on that for a sec.  You have over 40 pro baseball players from a number of different teams move into Red Sox territory to train with you.  That’s pretty telling.  Can you talk a bit more about your experiences with pro athletes?  I know this program is for “everyone” but how has working with some of the most elite athletes in the world shaped you as a coach.


Sure thing.  One of my biggest questions as we got Cressey Performance off the ground was whether or not professional baseball players would be willing to travel to the cold, snowy Northeast during all or parts of their off-season (roughly September-March) when they could be going to warmer weather climates.  To be honest, I never really waited to find the answer; we just focused on the few guys we had when we started out, and really hammered on getting great results and making people believers in our system.  The rest, I guess, is history – and I realize now that if you have a good product, it doesn’t matter where you are: people will find you.

Business stuff aside, with respect to training needs, most people are surprised when they discover just how similar the Average Joe or Jane is to a professional athlete – both socially and physically.

The lay population often sits in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day, but many pro athletes have 4-8 hour flights or 10+ hour bus rides where they’re sitting – and because they’re taller, sitting is even more uncomfortable and problematic.  Like everyone else, they’re on the computer or in front of video games a lot.  It’s actually quite interesting to note that technology advances haven’t just brought the “Pros and the Joes” closer together via fantasy football, but also in terms of the training they need to stay healthy.

Pro athletes are also very similar to the lay population in that they want very efficient training.  There are always competing demands for their attention – whether it’s their families, charity work, marketing stuff, playing golf, or a number of other things.  These guys live at the ballpark for 12+ hours per day for over half the year, so when the off-season rolls around, they aren’t particularly interested in long, drawn-out training sessions unless it’s absolutely necessary for their success.  Most of our pro guys train six days a week for about 90 minutes in each session; four of these days are lifting, and there is movement training, medicine ball work, foam rolling, and mobility work included as well.  Once the time comes to start throwing and hitting, this 1.5 hours might become three hours a day.


4.  That’s pretty great stuff.  And as much as you love training athletes, they love training with you, too.  Every time I pick up a publication from your area, everyone from high school athletes up to Kevin Youkilis are singing your praises, and that includes other trainers.  But let’s go back to the “regular” people.

Let’s talk about my readers for a bit: they’ve done a lot of programs, but most written by trainers who don’t train pros or (in the case of myself) only a few.

So can we assume that this is a good “next step” coming from the average fitness program?  How can we take what you do with pros, what you do with absolute beginners, and apply the “middle ground” in this program?  I guess the question is: why is it that Show and Go is going be THE program for performance?


It’s absolutely a great next step.

First and foremost, I should mention that while we’re probably best known for training baseball players, we’ve actually got a very diverse clientele.  Sure, there are athletes from everything from boxing to bobsled, but we also have an awesome group of adult clients who just want to just want to be leaner, more muscular, healthier, and more functional for the challenges that life throws their way.

In fact, this was actually the fitness clientele I was dealing with the most before the “baseball thing” blew up for me – so I’m certainly not shooting from the hip on this.

To that end, there are a lot of things in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program that everybody – from the pro athlete to the soccer mom – needs to utilize.  I could go on all day: foam rolling, mobility warm-ups, single-leg training, more horizontal pulling, fluctuation of training stress, sufficient deloading periods, extra posterior chain work, glute activation, rotator cuff strength – the list goes on and on.  All that just speaks to staying healthy and moving more efficiently – but let’s be honest: most people want to get lean, muscular, and strong.

But let me ask you this: how many of the “regulars” in the typical commercial gym are actually lean, muscular, or strong?  I haven’t lifted in a commercial gym in years, but my memory definitely serves me correct when it tells me that it couldn’t be more than 10-15% of those in attendance.  The other 85-90% are rubbing their arses raw on the recumbent bike and scratching their heads about why they aren’t getting leaner when the elliptical machine told them that they were burning 28,000 calories per hour.  After all, they made great progress in the first 8-12 weeks of their exercise program doing this – and it took them from the untrained stage to the beginner stage.  What they don’t realize is progress halts unless they change things up and kick their programs up a notch by adding strength training and interval work.

Meanwhile, you have a lot of intermediate trainees who have “been there, done that” who poke fun at beginners because they haven’t discovered the same Holy Grail of strength training and interval training that enabled them to advance from beginner to intermediate.  What’s actually quite ironic (and it is irony, because it’s tragic how badly this sabotages people’s program) is that, all the while, most of these intermediate trainees are missing out on valuable training secrets that could take them to the “advanced” stage.

You talked about a lot of those secrets with respect to fat loss when you wrote Final Phase Fat Loss.  I’ve had many of the same “epiphanies” when it comes to improving strength and performance.  You had trouble losing those last few pounds of body fat to get photo-shoot-ready, and I literally spent 14 months trying to figure out how to get from a 225 bench press to a 230 bench press.  Sad, but true.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve now got a 365 raw bench press at ~190 pounds, and by this point, I’ve actually kissed a girl (even convinced her to marry me!).  I learned a lot of lessons along the way – almost too many to share, in fact – which is one reason why I created Show and Go.

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Here’s an example…

Beginners can make strength gains on as little as 40% of their one-rep max.  Past that initial period, the number moves to 70% – which is roughly a 12-rep max for most folks.  Later, I’d say that the number creeps up to about 85% – which would be about a 5-rep max for an intermediate lifter.  This last range is where you’ll find most people who head to the internet for strength training information.

What they don’t realize is that 85% isn’t going to get the job done for very long, either.  My experience is that in advanced lifters, the fastest way to build strength is to perform singles (sets of one rep) at or above 90% of one-rep max with regularity.  As long as exercises are rotated and deloading periods are included, this is a strategy that can be employed for an extended period of time.  In fact, it was probably the single (no pun intended) most valuable discovery I made in my quest to get stronger.

I’m not saying that you should be attempting one-rep maxes each time you enter the gym, but I do think they’ll “just happen” if you employ this technique.

Like I said, there are a lot more – but the program takes all the guesswork out and includes them.

5. Most people know you for the more “mundane ” aspects of performance…the boring stuff that we should be doing by most people don’t: soft tissue work, mobility work, all that.

On the other hand, you and I have known each other for about 10 years now, and I have a “different” perspective on you than the industry at large.  I’ve seen you in your aesthetic-focused period where you wanted to get bigger, I’ve seen you get into powerlifting and pull HUGE weights.

I know that having done these gives you insight into aspects of fitness many people don’t realize you have.  That said, for the time being you’re not known as one of the go-to guys if your main goal is to look better (which I personally know is bullshit).

Do you think Show and Go will help show the world that you can get people lean and muscular? I think—actually, let me put it this way.  I’ve looked closely at the program, and WOW have you just knocked it the hell out of the park.  I guess I’m asking, have you put your heart and soul into this because you want to show the world a new side of yourself?  What are your thoughts on that?


The thing people really need to realize is that enhancing one’s performance – particularly with respect to strength gains – really sets the stage for long-term muscle mass gains.  You’re a big dude – but what people might not know is that you’re also a very metrosexual strong dude.  That strength and size are not mutually exclusive – and some of the best bodybuilders on the planet would tell you the same thing.  What I can tell you is that I have gained more muscle mass “accidentally” in years as a powerlifter than I gained “intentionally” in years as a wannabe bodybuilder.  For me, the biggest window of adaptation was in getting stronger – and that’s what I did.  My upper back, hamstrings, and glutes just weren’t going to stay small if I did what it took to get to a 660-pound deadlift.

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How does this work?  Well, the stronger you are, the most “work” you’re going to be doing in classic “hypertrophy” zones.  If Lifter A can bench press 300 pounds, and he’s doing sets of 6 (call it 83% of 1RM), he’s moving about 250 pounds in that set.  If Lifter B bench presses 260 pounds, he’s working at about 215 pounds.  If both do four sets of six reps, you’ll see that Lifter A is doing a lot more total work (force times distance). Lifter B needs to get his maximal strength up – and then return to these classic hypertrophy training zones to reap the benefits anew.

As an aside, staying healthy is a nice aside to training for performance, as you’re teaching your body to move efficiently.  I always tell people that the best program is one that is sustainable – meaning that it doesn’t leave you injured or exhausted (too badly, at least) to the point that you’re missing valuable training time.  Teach your body to move efficiently, and you’ll see that the threshold at which you get “banged up” is markedly more difficult to reach.  The high volume lifting and metabolic resistance training fat loss protocols just won’t be you up as easily if you come in prepared and take care of the “boring” ancillary stuff like foam rolling and mobility work that I advocate.


6.  Random – I’ll ask you this because I know people are interested in pro athletes: what is the one thing that makes athletes different from regular people?  Like, how do they really just differ in the way they respond to training?  What can we learn from that?


I’d say that, for the most part, the most immediate difference is in how quickly the pros pick things up.  Most of them compete at high levels in their sport because they acquire new skills so well and can immediately integrate them in their “motor program.”  In that regard, learning how to deadlift or throw the medicine ball isn’t much different than mastering a change-up.

This is also very significant when it comes to relearning movements and getting one’s body back once the off-season rolls around.  They just seem to rebound faster after periods of moderate detraining.  As perhaps the most extreme example I’ve seen, I work with Chad Rodgers, a left-handed pitcher in the Atlanta Braves minor league system.  From November 2008 to March 2009, Chad went from 200 to 217 pounds while training at our facility.  Then, he went into in-season mode – and was 206 when he arrived back at our facility the following October after a long season.  Get this, though: he was 222 within two weeks – and he finished up the off-season at 235 – and hit 95mph on the radar gun for the first time in his life.  Pro athletes de-adapt like everyone else – but they seem to readapt faster than the lay population – and that sets the stage for long-term gains in spite of periods of sometimes crazy detraining during the season.

That said, there are some high level athletes who are one-trick ponies.  I’ve met some pitchers who showed up with 17-inch vertical jumps, but just so happened to have a good curve ball.  And, I’ve seen some swimmers who seem really athletic – until you get them out of their realm and learn the true meaning of “a fish out of water.”


7. When you first opened your facility, you and I spoke and you were dead-set on making Cressey Performance stand out by having the most innovative people on staff and always trying new stuff.  At the same time, you didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  In looking at Show and Go, I feel you did the same:  New science-based techniques housed comfortably alongside some of the most “common” exercises that people are familiar with; whereas a lot of programs include 80 varietals of exercises people have never heard of.  Give me your thoughts that?


I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Let’s be honest: there isn’t much in this industry that’s new.  Most of the “innovations” are really just “reincarnations” of something from the past (e.g., kettlebells, strongman training) or “modifications” (e.g., accommodating resistance, modified tempo schemes, different loading parameters) of something that we already knew worked.  I wish I could say that getting people jacked was an area where earth-shattering discoveries are being made every day, but that’s just not the case; we’re repacking things and looking for the right synergy
among them.

In the real world, people still squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull, rotate, roll over, get up, get down, jump, run, frolic, prance, whatever.  My feeling is that if you stick to the basics – but at the same time expose people to a wind variety of movement patterns – you get the best of both worlds: neuromuscular efficiency for important fundamental tasks as well as a rich proprioceptive environment that keeps people healthy and “adaptable” to their surroundings.  And, when you expose them to these new exercise variations, you prevent them from getting efficient – which is exactly what we don’t want if our goal is to get bigger or leaner.

8.  Your videos on the squat were posted and re-posted all over the internet.  EVERYONE got something out of them.   Show and Go could well do the same thing for programming in general—whether you’re a trainee or a coach, you’ll learn…and in a small but real way, this could perhaps chance the way people write programs. With that in mind, if you could get people to STOP doing one thing (trainees OR coaches) and START doing one other, what would it be?


I’d tell both trainees and coaches to simply be more open-minded to learning from everyone and applying new techniques.  There are Crossfit guys, HIT guys, powerlifters, bodybuilders, kettlebell guys, speed guys, machine guys, you name it.  Lots of people have been doing lots of different stuff to get lots of different results.  If you adhere steadfastly to just one discipline, you miss out on what the others have to offer – even if it is just a few seemingly trivial things that you borrow here and there to incorporate into your philosophy.

Admittedly, I really struggled with this earlier in my career.  I hated not knowing everything – and while it was something that definitely drove me to do a ton of research, I could have saved myself a lot of frustration and energy if I’d just been open-minded enough to ask someone else about their approach – or just observe them in action.  Nowadays, I see these as opportunities to either learn something new, test my knowledge by refuting something that doesn’t fits with my philosophy, or confirm what I’m already doing.

Awesome.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Eric, thank you so much for taking the time for do this, and thank you so much for putting together an incredible program.

Oh, and hey…so sorry about the Jets dominating the Patriots last week.  That had to hurt.

Click here for more information on Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.


Weight Training Programs: 5 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Stronger

Written on September 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm, by Eric Cressey

Like just about all lifters, I got a lot bigger and stronger in my first 1-2 years of training in spite of the moronic stuff that I did in my weight training programs.  In hindsight, I was about as informed as a chimp with a barbell – but things worked out nonetheless.  That is, at least, until I hit a big fat plateau where things didn’t budge.

Think I’m joking?  Sadly, I’m not; otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent about 14 months trying to go from a 225-pound bench to 230.  When you’re finished laughing at my past futility (or about how similar it sounds to your own plight), we’ll continue.

Ready?  Good – because self-deprecating writing was never a strong suit of mine.  I have, however, become quite good at picking heavy stuff off the floor – to the tune of a personal-best 660-pound deadlift at a body weight of 188.

ec_660dlMy other numbers aren't too shabby, either, but this article isn't about me; it's about why YOU can't necessarily get strong as fast as you'd like.  Let's look at a few mistakes many people make in their quest to increase strength.  Sadly, I made most of these myself along the way, so hopefully I can save you some frustration.

Reason #1: You're only doing what's fun – and not what you need.

As you could probably tell, deadlifting is a strength of mine – and I enjoy it.  Squatting, on the other hand, never came naturally to me.  I always squatted, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it took the back seat to pulling heavy.

Eventually, though, I smartened up and took care of the issue – by always putting squatting before deadlifting in all my lower-body weight training sessions (twice a week).

In addition to me dramatically improving my squat, a funny thing happened: I actually started to love to squat.  Whoever said that you can't teach an old dog (or deadlifter) new tricks didn't have the real scoop.

Reason #2: You're not taking deload periods.

One phrase of which I've grown quite fond is "fatigue masks fitness."  As a little frame of reference, my best vertical jump is 37" – but on most days, I won't give you anything over 34.5" or so.  The reason is very simple: most of your training career is going to be spent in some degree of fatigue.  How you manage that fatigue is what's going to dictate your adaptation over the long-term.

On one hand, you want to impose enough fatigue to create supercompensation – so that you'll adapt and come back at a higher level of fitness.  On the other hand, you don't want to impose so much fatigue that you dig yourself a hole you can't get out of without a significant amount of time off.

Good weight training programs implement strategic overreaching follows by deloads – periods of lower training stress – to allow for adaptation to occur.  You can't just go in and hit personal bests in every single training session – and if you try, you're going to wind up exhausted.

art-of-the-deload2

Reason #3: You’re not rotating movements.

It never ceases to amaze me when a guy claims that he just can’t seem to increase strength on his bench press (or any lift, for that matter), and when you ask him what he’s done to work on it of late, and he tells you “bench press.” Specificity is important, folks, but if you aren’t rotating exercises in your strength training program, you’re missing out on a wildly valuable training stimulus: rotating strength exercises.

While there is certainly a place for extended periods of specificity (Smolov squat cycles, for instance), you can’t push this approach indefinitely.  Rotating my heaviest strength exercises was one of the most important lessons I learned along my journey.  In addition to helping to create adaptation, you’re also expanding your “motor program” and avoiding overuse injuries via pattern overload.

I’m not saying that you have to overhaul your entire strength and conditioning program each time you walk into the gym, but there should be some semi-regular fluctuation in exercise selection.  The more experienced you get, the more often you’ll want to rotate your strength exercises (I do it weekly).  We generally rotate assistance exercises every four weeks, though.

Reason #4: You’re inconsistent with your training.

I always tell our clients from all walks of life that the best strength and conditioning programs are ones that are sustainable.  I’ll take a crappy strength training program executed with consistency over a great program that’s only done sporadically.  In my daily practice, this is absolutely huge for professional athletes who need to maximize progress in the off-season; they just can’t afford to have unplanned breaks in training if they want to improve from year to year.

HPH-mainIf a strength and conditioning program isn’t conducive to your goals and lifestyle, then it isn’t a good program.  That’s why I went out of my way to create 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training options – plus five supplemental conditioning options and a host of exercise modifications – when I pulled Show and Go together; I wanted it to be a very versatile resource.

Likewise, I wanted it to be safe; a program isn’t good if it injures you and prevents you from exercising.  Solid programs include targeted efforts to reduce the likelihood of injury via means like mobility warm-ups, supplemental stretching recommendations, specific progressions, fluctuations in training stress, and alternative strength exercises (“plan B”) in case you aren’t quite ready to execute “Plan A.”

For me personally, I attribute a lot of my progress to the fact that at one point, I actually went over eight years without missing a planned lift.  It’s a bit extreme, I know, but there’s a lesson to be learned.

Reason #5: You’re using the wrong rep schemes.

Beginners can make strength gains on as little as 40% of their one-rep max.  Past that initial period, the number moves to 70% – which is roughly a 12-rep max for most folks.  Later, I’d say that the number creeps up to about 85% – which would be about a 5-rep max for an intermediate lifter.  This last range is where you’ll find most people who head to the internet for strength training information.

What they don’t realize is that 85% isn’t going to get the job done for very long, either.  My experience is that in advanced lifters, the fastest way to build strength is to perform singles at or above 90% of one-rep max with regularity.  As long as exercises are rotated and deloading periods are included, this is a strategy that can be employed for an extended period of time.  In fact, it was probably the single (no pun intended) most valuable discovery I made in my quest to get strong.

I’m not saying that you should be attempting one-rep maxes each time you enter the gym, but I do think they’ll “just happen” if you employ this technique.

To take the guesswork out of all this and try some programming that considers all these crucial factors (and a whole lot more), check out my resource, The High Performance Handbook.

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The Wait is Over: Show and Go is LIVE!

Written on September 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm, by Eric Cressey

This project has been almost a year in the making, so I’m super excited to have Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better ready for you.  As a way to celebrate, I’m offering a special introductory sale where you can save $50 off the regular price.  Check it out: www.ShowAndGoTraining.com.

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And the Winners are…

Written on September 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today, we go over some Frequently Asked Questions and announce the winners of the free copies of Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better. Check out the video below:

FAQ

If you’re one of the winners, you can post a comment below to get in touch with me.

This new resource will be released tonight at midnight at www.ShowAndGoTraining.com at a great introductory price that’ll only be around through the end of the day on Friday – so don’t delay and miss out!


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