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Stuff You Should Read: 1/31/11

Written on January 31, 2011 at 6:07 am, by Eric Cressey

Testing, Treating, and Training the Shoulder – This recap of my seminar with Mike Reinold features ten important takeaways from the day.

You Are What You Absorb – I thought this was an excellent article from John Meadows – both in terms of the background information he provides and the corrective strategies he advocates.

Rollouts: Friend or Foe and Two Anterior Core Progressions – These two video blogs were quite popular when they ran back in 2009.

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Deloading on 5×5 Workout Programs

Written on January 27, 2011 at 10:15 am, by Eric Cressey

Following my recent article on T-Nation about various weight training program loading protocols (you can read it HERE), I received an email from someone asking me how I’d approach deloading for someone doing a 5×5 workout program.  I’ve broken the paragraph up so that I can answer each of the inquiries individually:

Q: Let’s say on a horizontal push pull day your doing Bench press supersetted with 1-arm dumbbell rows at 5×5, do both lifts follow the same deloading strategies?

A: Yes, although I’ll often leave an extra set or two of the pulling exercise in there because people really need it from a postural/muscle imbalance standpoint.  So, in other words, we might just flip-flop things to be:

A1) 1-Arm DB Rows: 4×5/side
A2) Bench Press: 3×5

This, of course, would assume that we’re deloading on volume and not intensity.  It’d be a more appropriate strategy for intermediates.

Q: How do you adjust your assistance work, if at all?

A: Usually, I just drop a set, or sometimes cut the reps down by 2-4 per set.  Here’s how that would work, assuming that the normal set/rep prescription is three sets of eight on both exercises:

Example 1

B1) Chain Pushups: 3×6
B2) Close-Grip Chinups: 3×6

Example 2

B1) Chain Pushups: 2×8
B2) Close-Grip Chinups: 2×8

Again, this is an intermediate approach.  More advanced lifters might keep the sets/reps up and simply reduce intensity.

Q: Also, a lot of times there will be the first two push pull lifts (4 lifts total) done at 5×5 (e.g., flat bench 5×5 and incline 5×5) do you deload both lifts or do you think two chest/back exercises at 5×5 is too much and just the primary lift should have that scheme and the incline would be an assistance lift?

A: Personally, I think that doing all your lifts at 5×5 in a single workout is overkill. I would rather see other rep ranges attacked after the first pairing.  However, if you are going to do it, I’d go with the deloading approach outlined in the first response I gave (above).

For even more detailed information on how to approach backoff weeks appropriately, check out my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

Yes, although I’ll often leave an extra set or two of the pulling exercise in there because people really need it from a postural/muscle imbalance standpoint.

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Strength Coach TV Takes a Tour of Cressey Performance

Written on January 26, 2011 at 8:18 am, by Eric Cressey

This past summer, Anthony Renna came up to visit Cressey Performance and film a tour of the facility.  I know we have a lot of current and potential future training facility owners who read EricCressey.com, so I thought I’d post it, as the interview not only talks about why we set things up the way we did, but also addresses some of the mistakes we made along the way.  I should note that – as Anthony mentions – we have already expanded on what you see by adding another 1,000 square-feet of office space.

For more information, check out www.strengthcoachtv.com.


Helping High School Athletes: A Sweet Deal on the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification

Written on January 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm, by Eric Cressey

A lot of people know me as the guy whose products and articles have helped strength training enthusiasts prevent and correct movement inefficiencies that ultimately lead to injuries.

Others know me because we train about four dozen professional baseball players each winter.

The truth, though, is that the majority of our clientele at Cressey Performance is high school athletes.  In the class of 2011 alone, we’ve had 17 athletes sign letters of intent to play Division 1 baseball.  Still, that doesn’t tell the most important story.

For every kid who gets drafted into professional baseball or commits to play a college sport, we have 3-4 young athletes who train with us simply to build confidence, stay healthy while they play their sports, and foster fitness habits that will hopefully carry over to the rest of their lives.  I take that job extremely seriously not only because I genuinely care about each teenage and enjoy my job, but because it is a huge deal for parents to trust me with part of their kids’ physical and mental well-being during a crucial developmental time in an adolescent’s life.

And, it’s also why I’m psyched about tonight’s announcement: the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification is now available.

Along with Brian Grasso, Mike Robertson, Pat Rigsby, Wil Fleming, and Dr. Toby Brooks, I contributed to this new certification, which features both a textbook and accompanying DVD set.  Among the topics covered are:

Strength Training Technique, Functionality and Programming
Speed and Agility Mechanics or Sport Specificity
Mobility: Isolate and Integrate
Coaching the High School Athlete
Administration for the High School Strength Coach
Sample Programming for football, baseball, and basketball

The certification alone is something that, in our eyes, can not only dramatically help a high school strength coach’s career, but also help all the young athletes he/she encounters.  I’m going to sweeten the deal, though.

The early bird price runs now through Friday (1/28) at midnight.  If you purchase the product (HERE) before midnight on Friday and forward me your receipt, I’m going to send you an upper extremity assessment tutorial video that I am filming this week as an in-service for my staff and interns.  This feature will teach you how to assess and manage the upper body in athletes – with a particular focus on overhead athletes.

All you need to do is sign up for the certification and then forward your receipt to ec@ericcressey.com.  Then, next weekend, I’ll send out the video to everyone who contacts me.

There are a whole lot of high school kids out there learning some really bad habits in the weight room, and you’re in a position to change that – and the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification can help you do it.  Whether you’re in a high school or the private sector, there is a tremendous amount to be gained by checking this out.


Stuff You Should Read: 1/23/2011

Written on January 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm, by Eric Cressey

It’s been a while since I gave you a list of recommended reading, but that changes today!

Rotten Resolutions – I usually bring this article to light right at the beginning of January each year, but forgot in light of the busy last few weeks.  Check it out.  It might make you see your strength and conditioning program goals in a new light.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Immobility Impairs Lateral Step Down Test – This is a good post from Mike Reinold about how ankle restrictions can alter testing further up the kinetic chain and make you see “the big picture.”

The Proactive Patient – I still think that this is one of the better articles I’ve ever written at T-Nation.  What do you think?


High Performance Training Without the Equipment: 6 More Pushup Variations

Written on January 21, 2011 at 4:45 am, by Eric Cressey

In yesterday’s post, I outlined the importance of including pushup variations in your strength training program and introduced five ways to progress this basic exercise. Today, I’ve got six more pushup variations for you.

Pushup Variation #6: Yoga Pushups

I like Yoga pushups not because they are a subtle increase in difficulty over a regular pushup, but because they afford some extra mobility benefits at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.  They’re a great addition to a dynamic warm-up.

Pushup Variation #7: Spiderman Pushups

While it increases the difficulty a bit more than a yoga pushup, the spiderman pushup still affords some great hip mobility benefits.

One word of caution, though; it’s my experience that folks tend to “slip” into a forward head posture more often with the spiderman pushup than any other pushup variation, so make sure that you don’t let the head poke forward as the elevated leg’s hip goes into flexion and abduction.

Pushup Variation #8: Slideboard Pushup Variations

We utilize the slideboard a ton at Cressey Performance – and pushups are no exception.  Two of our favorites are slideboard pushups with band and slideboard bodysaw pushups.

In the case of the former, we take a 1/2″ band and wrap it around the wrists.  This band wants to pull you into internal rotation and horizontal adduction at the shoulder, so you have to activate the posterior rotator cuff and scapular retractors to hold the ideal pushup position.

The bodysaw pushups really take things up a notch on the difficulty scale, as they not only make the hand positioning dynamic, but also increase the anti-extension core challenge.

Pushup Variation #9: Pushup Iso Hold w/Perturbations

In our DVD set, Optimal Shoulder Performance, Mike Reinold and I spend quite a bit of time talking about the value of rhythmic stabilization drills to train the true function of the rotator cuff.  I’m also a big fan of pushup isometric holds to teach proper scapular positioning and educate athletes on ideal posture.  In the 1-leg pushup iso hold with perturbations, we get all those benefits – plus some added instability training because there are only three points of contact with the ground.

Pushup Variation #10: TRX Pushups

The TRX is probably the most versatile piece of equipment out there other than the barbell and the functional trainer – and one of its most basic uses is pushup variations.

As I alluded to in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, the instability created by the TRX likely allows you to maintain muscle activation in the upper extremity even though less loading is needed.  This means that when performed correctly, TRX pushups may have a place in a return-to-function protocol after rehab, or even simply as a deloading strategy in a strength and conditioning program.

For more information, check out the Fitness Anywhere website.

Pushup Variation #11: T-Pushups

Last, but certainly not least, we have the T-Pushup.  This pushup variation is great because it not only involves constant changing of the points of stability, but also because it requires thoracic spine rotation.  To increase the challenge, you can hold dumbbells in your hands.

I’ve listed 11 variations in the past two posts, but I know that a lot of you out there have some innovative pushup variations to suggest as well.  Let’s hear ‘em in the comment section!

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High Performance Training without the Equipment: 5 Pushup Variations

Written on January 20, 2011 at 8:07 am, by Eric Cressey

I’ve written several times in the past about how it’s important to not only balance your upper body pushing and pulling exercises, but also make sure that you have a similar volume of open- and closed-chain exercises in the pushing component.  In other words, you need to have plenty of pushup variations to “cancel out” all  the bench pressing variations in your strength training program.

There’s a problem, though; most of you can do a ton of pushups, and are in need of something more challenging that can take this beyond simply a warm-up.  With that in mind, I wanted to use today’s post to highlight some pushup variations we use quite frequently at Cressey Performance.  While a few might require some of the cooler amenities (e.g., chains, slideboard) we’ve got at our fingertips, most are drills you’ll be able to perform without them.  Without further ado, here are five pushup variations to throw some variety in your strength and conditioning program.

Pushup Variations #1 and #2: Feet Elevated and Band Resisted Pushups

I combine these two not only because they were both in the same video that I’d taken for Show and Go, but also because they represent two of the most convenient solutions for the typical lifter.

Elevating the feet not only makes the movement a bit more challenging from an anti-extension core training perspective, but it also increases activity of the serratus anterior, as I wrote HERE.  Believe it or not, while this modification makes the movement harder as a whole, it can often take away symptoms completely in some folks with shoulder pain.

In the case of the band-resisted pushup variation, the resistance accommodates the strength curve.  In other words, the band deloads at the bottom of the movement where you’re the weakest, and picks up resistance as you go further up toward the top of the movement, where you’re the strongest.

Pushup Variation #3: Chain Pushups

Okay, this one will require you to have some equipment, but trust me when I say that if you do decide to get some for your home gym set-up, you’ll use them over and over again – and not just for pushup variations!  As with the bands progression above, chain pushups are a form of accommodating resistance; the load is heavier where you’re strongest.  I also like chains because they allow you to quickly and easily modify resistance on the fly for drop sets or to simply make the exercise easier as a set progresses.  And, they can be pretty challenging:

Let’s assume conservatively that you’re lifting 60% of your body weight with a pushup.  At 190 pounds, that’s 114 pounds for me.  When you combine it with 10 chains at 15 pounds each, you’re looking at about 264 pounds of resistance.  Who says you can’t load up a pushup?

Pushup Variation #4: 1-leg Pushup Variations

One quick and easy way to make any exercise harder is to reduce the number of ground contact points.  On a normal pushup, you have four (both hands and feet).  Simply taking one foot off the floor not only increases the loading on the upper body, but also imposes a subtle anti-rotation challenge to your core.  You can do it feet-elevated, too:

Of course, you can combine the 1-leg pushup with external loading, too:

Pushup Variation #5: 1-arm Push-ups

Sticking with the theme of reducing the numbers of points of stability, you can go to one-arm pushup variations as well.  You don’t have to be diesel enough to do these from the floor to get the benefits, though; you can simply press from a pin in a power rack.

As you get stronger and more comfortable with the movement, you can move the pin down to increase the challenge.

Start thinking about how you can integrate these in your strength training program, and I’ll be back soon with five more pushup variations you can use to take things even further.

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Do You Train Athletes? Don’t Miss This.

Written on January 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm, by Eric Cressey

This past summer, I was approached by the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) about writing a chapter for the textbook for their new high school strength coach certification.  With the certification about to launch, Brian Grasso, Mike Robertson, Wil Fleming, and I will be hosting a FREE teleseminar this Wednesday night (1/19) at 7:30PM EST.  We’ll be covering a ton of topics regarding today’s young athletes and how to best train them.

For more information, click here.


Everything You Need to Know About Assess and Correct

Written on January 18, 2011 at 5:33 am, by Eric Cressey

We sometimes get questions about how our products differ from one another, so Mike Robertson stepped up and created the following webinar to describe a bit about one of our most popular products, Assess and Correct.  If you’re on the fence about purchasing, this should help with your decision.

Assess and Correct may be the most comprehensive corrective exercise product on the market.  I feel this DVD is a must have for anyone looking to make positive changes in their athletes’ bodies – or their own.

The assessment section provides simple and detailed information for tests that can help anyone become more aware of their body’s limitations while the correction progressions offer forward thinking solutions that guarantee optimal performance.

Eric, Bill and Mike have done it again!”

Mike Irr
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Charlotte Bobcats

“Assess and Correct is the most useful physical evaluation tool I’ve ever seen. It’s like having instant access to the knowledge that Hartman, Robertson, and Cressey have gained through years of experience studying anatomy and human movement, and working with real people.

“But most important, it’s presented in a way that you can put it to use immediately. In fact, the design of the manual is genius because you’re given a series of simple tests to identify postural and movement problems, followed by smart exercise progressions–which you can tailor to a client’s ability—to correct any issues. So it’s a powerful tool that will help any coach create more effective training plans, customized to an individual’s true NEEDS. The upshot: Assess and Correct will make any fitness professional better at what he or she does.

“One other note: Because I’m a fitness journalist, the authors offered me a free manual for review (common in the industry), but I had already purchased it. When they tried to refund my money, I requested that they not. The reason: I found the material to be so valuable that I felt like I SHOULD paid for it. I’m not sure there’s any testimonial I could give that’s better than that.”

Adam Campbell
Fitness Director, Men’s Health

Click here to purchase Assess and Correcting: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance!


Long Toss: Don’t Skip Steps in Your Throwing Program

Written on January 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm, by Eric Cressey

My good buddy Alan Jaeger has gone to great lengths to bring long tossing to the baseball world.  I discussed why I really like it and what some of the most common long toss mistakes are in two recent posts:

Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program
The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

However, one thing I didn’t discuss in those previous blogs was the status quo – which is essentially that long toss distances should not exceed 90-120 feet.  These seemingly arbitrary numbers are actually based on some research discussing where a pitcher’s release point changes and the throwing motion becomes less and less like what we see on the mound.  Alan looked further into the origins of the “120 foot rule,” and informed me that these programs began in the late 1980s/early 1990s and were based on “post-surgery experience” of a few rehabilitation specialists.

Yes, we’re basing modern performance-based throwing programs for healthy pitchers on 20+ year-old return-to-throwing programs that were created for injured pitchers.  It seems ridiculous to even consider this; it’s like only recommending body weight glute bridges to a football player looking to improve his pro agility time because you used them with a football player who had knee or low back pain.  It might be part of the equation, but it doesn’t improve performance or protect against all injuries.  Let’s look further at how this applies to a throwing context, though.

A huge chunk of pitching injuries – including all those that fall under the internal impingement spectrum (SLAP tears, undersurface cuff tears, and bicipital tendinosis), medial elbow pain (ulnar nerve irritation/hypermobility, ulnar collateral ligament tears, and flexor/pronator strains), and even lateral compressive stress (younger pitchers, usually) occur during the extreme cocking phase of throwing.  That looks like this:

It’s in this position were you get the peel back mechanism and posterior-superior impingement on the glenoid by the supra- and infraspinatus.  And, it’s where you get crazy valgus stress (the equivalent of 40 pounds pulling down on the hand) at the elbow – which not only stresses the medial structures with tensile force, but also creates lateral compressive forces.

In other words, if guys are hurt, this is the most common spot in their delivery that they will typically hurt.

So, logically, the rehabilitation specialists try to keep them away from full ROM to make the surgical/rehab outcomes success – and you simply won’t get full range of motion (ROM) playing catch at 60-120 feet.

Effectively, you can probably look at the “progression” like this:

Step 1: 60-120 ft: Low ROM, Low Stress
Step 2: 120+ ft: Medium ROM, Medium Stress
Step 3: 240+ ft: High ROM, Medium Stress
Step 4: Mound Work: High ROM, High Stress

In other words, in the typical throwing program – from high school all the way up to the professional ranks – pitchers skip steps 2 and 3.  To me, this is like using jump rope to prepare for full speed sprinting.  The ROM and ground reaction forces (stress) just don’t come close to the “end” activity.

Only problem?  Not everyone is rehabbing.  We’re actually trying to get guys better.

Long Toss.  Far.  You’ll thank me later.

Want to learn more? Check out Alan’s DVD, Thrive on Throwing, to learn more.  He’s made it available to my readers at 25% off through this link.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!

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