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Pitch Count Roundtable: Your Thoughts?

Written on April 30, 2012 at 8:38 am, by Eric Cressey

Last week, I contributed on a pitch counts roundtable for ESPN Boston. You can read it HERE.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below, as it is a certainly a heated debate that has come to the forefront in recent years with pitching injuries on the rise.

 

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Why Pitchers Shouldn’t Do Year-Round Throwing Programs: Part 1 and Part 2
Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured
7 Weeks to 7 Pounds of Lean Mass and 7 Miles Per Hour


5 Overlooked Resources for Making Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective

Written on April 27, 2012 at 7:38 am, by Eric Cressey

I know there are a lot of fitness professionals who look to EricCressey.com as a continuing education resource. With that in mind, I wanted to discuss a few resources that have been tremendously valuable to me; hopefully you'll benefit from them (if you aren't already) as much as I have.

1. Video - Video is a powerful tool for coaching and monitoring progress in clients, and it's also very accessible nowadays, thanks to smart phones and digital cameras. Still, I'm always amazed at how few fitness professionals utilize it to help coach. I use it quite a bit in my evaluation process, especially with tough cases where I want to be able to monitor progress in movement quality. It's just as valuable on the training floor to back up coaching cues that you're giving.

Additionally, having access to the RightView Pro software in our facility thanks to our pitching coordinator, Matt Blake, has been tremendously valuable in not only breaking down inefficient mechanics, but also demonstrating the powerful effects a good baseball strength and conditioning program can have on a pitcher's body control and power on the mound.

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2. Related Professionals - A fresh sets of eyes and a new perspective can have a huge influence on your strength and conditioning programs and how you coach. We've learned a ton from rehabilitation specialists, other fitness professionals, sport coaches, business consultants, and folks from a host of other professions.

As an interesting aside to this discussion, have you ever noticed how doctors - who have a minimum of eight years of higher education - refer patients out all the time to other doctors for second opinions? Yet, how often do you see personal trainers - who are a profession with an absurdly low barrier to entry - ask for another perspective from an unbiased third party? Food for thought.

3. Your Clients - I'm sure you'd love to think that you know your clients' bodies better than anyone else, but the truth is that those clients know themselves and how they're feeling much better than you ever could! I made the mistake early in my career of assuming too much and asking too few questions; I was talking 70% of the time and listening for the other 30%. Nowadays, I'm listening 70% of the time (at the very least) and I am a much better coach as a result.

As an example, now is a quiet time of year with all of our baseball guys in-season, so I'm using it as an opportunity to follow up with all our clients from this past off-season. I want to know how they felt during spring training, and how the transition to the start of the season went. All the feedback I get is valuable for not only next off-season, but helping them to tinker with things as needed right now.

4. New Training Equipment - Variety in a strength and conditioning program isn't just important to ensure optimal progress, but also to make sure that clients remain interested. Do you need to go out and buy all new equipment every other month? Of course not! However, adding some new training implements - or even just new uses for old equipment - can provide some variety. And, it's an opportunity for you to teach your client, as they're sure to ask: "What is this and what does it do?"

5. Business Partners/Assistants - When I first got started in Boston, I was doing all the scheduling and billing. While swiping credit cards and watching your schedule fill up is fulfilling at first, it eventually becomes a huge drain on your time, energy, and productivity. I'm a much better coach than I am a business logistics guy - and that's why the first person I contacted to help me start Cressey Sports Performance was my buddy, Pete Dupuis.

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Pete's become a fantastic business director (and vice-president) at CSP, and we've had double digit growth every year since we opened in 2007. He's managed my schedule, handled phone calls, done all our billing/invoicing, and become a liaison between coaches and clients when the clients aren't in the gym. In short, his efforts have made me more efficient so that I can evaluate, program for, and coach clients; review research; interact with other coaches; and do more staff/intern education.

Additionally, business partners, staff, and interns are great for asking the challenging questions that make you rethink the way you're doing things - and often provide suggestions and solutions that help make things more efficient and effective.

These are only five resources to get the ball rolling, but there are certainly many more available to fitness professionals in their quest to deliver a great client experience. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below on what resources have helped to make you better at what you do. 

And, in the meantime, I want to give you a heads-up about a new option on this front that I'm really excited to incorporate in my "continuing education arsenal." It's called the Examine Research Digest. This regular publication features reviews of recent nutrition and supplementation research by an accomplished panel of industry experts, and the reviews end with practical applications. It's a time-saving way to stay on top of the latest research, and it's also very affordable, especially at the introductory 20% off discount. The sale ends tonight, though, so don't delay in checking it out HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/26/12

Written on April 26, 2012 at 8:21 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of recommended strength and conditioning reading.  

The Walk-On – This article by Jim Wendler should be mandatory reading for an high school kid who hopes to play college sports – and not even just the walk-ons. It’s a great story about hard work, humility, and why the process is as important as the destination.

The New Rules of Lifting for Life – Alwyn Cosgrove has been a great friend and mentor to me for years – and this book is a great resource, too. I view this as excellent “gift” material; it’s something you can recommend to a family member who wants to get fit, but needs direction. Lou Schuler is Alwyn’s co-author, and his writing is always very engaging.

Scariest Fitness Trends – Adam Campbell interviewed me for this compilation for Men’s Health, and it was subsequently picked up by Fox News. I think this is another one you can simply forward to a relative who trains like an idiot and needs direction!

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Baseball Strength and Conditioning: What to Do With an Extra Day Between Pitching Starts

Written on April 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm, by Eric Cressey

Q: I read your series, A New Model for Training Between Starts, and love the ideas you introduced.  Since eliminating distance running between outings, I’ve noticed a big difference in how I feel and how I pitch.  I did have one question about the weekly rotations you outlined in Part 2.  What happens if I have an extra day between starts due to erratic scheduling or just a rain out?

A: This is a great question – and one I have received several times – so I’m glad I’m finally getting around to answering it here on the blog!

I usually look for guys to do a “bridge” training session.  Basically, these sessions are all about leaving the gym feeling refreshed; you work, but not so hard that you’re exhausted.

In the typical in-season baseball strength and conditioning program we use with professional pitchers on a five-day rotation, here’s how we’d schedule it:

Day 0: pitch
Day 1: challenging lower body lift, push-up variation (light), horizontal pulling (light), cuff work
Day 2: movement training only
Day 3: Single-leg work, challenging upper body lift (less vertical pulling in-season), cuff work
Day 4: low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits only
Day 5: next pitching outing

However, if the next outing isn’t until Day 6, we will integrate one of two options:

The first option would be to simply split the Day 3 training session into two shorter sessions: one upper, one lower.  These sessions might only be 10-12 sets in all. Then, Day 5 would be the low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits.

The second option would be to keep the strength training component as-is, but perform some medicine ball circuits on Day 4, then use Day 5 for the low-intensity dynamic flexibility circuits.

Both options keep you training hard without interfering with the subsequent pitching outing.  Particularly in professional baseball, there are more days off early in the season, so it’s important to be able to roll with the punches like this.

At the college and high school levels, the 7-day rotation is usually implemented.  If a pitcher starts on Day 0, I like to see him strength training on Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5, with Day 5 being a lower-intensity lift (Days 2 and 4 are movement training, and Day 6 is low-intensity dynamic flexibility).  If there is an extra day on the end, we simply treat our Day 5 lift like we did the Day 3 option in the 5-day template from above; it can either be split into upper and lower body sessions, or we can do it as-is, and add medicine ball circuits on Day 6, taking Day 7 for dynamic flexibility before starting again on Day 8.

That said, as in my experience, guys rarely get that extra day in high school and college; they’re more likely to have their starts pushed up.  In this case, we just drop the Day 5 lift.

Getting training sessions in between starts is incredibly important, but that doesn’t mean that one must be rigid in the scheduling of these sessions.  In fact, one must be very flexible in tinkering with that scheduling on a week-to-week basis to make sure that guys are getting in their lifts, but not at the expense of their performance on the mound. Hopefully this blog provided some strategies you can employ when weather or scheduling throws you a curveball!

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Strength Exercise of the Week: DB Goblet Lateral Lunge

Written on April 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that poor adductor length is a huge problem in many of the athletes I encounter, particularly those participating in sports (e.g., hockey, soccer, baseball) involving a lot of extension and rotation.  As a result, we always spend a lot of time with self myofascial release, static stretching, and mobility exercises for the adductors.

As I’ve written in the past, though, after you transiently reduce stiffness in a tissue, you want to build some stability through that newfound range-of-motion.  Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly easy to load folks up in the frontal plane, and some folks still won’t be able to get in to a lateral lunge position without pitching forward.  Enter the Dumbbell Goblet Lateral Lunge, which borrows the “counterbalancing” benefits we see with a traditional goblet squat to allow us to get back “into” the hip and build some longer-term mobility in the frontal plane.

I don’t worry about folks really loading this up; in fact, form tends to break down a bit if you go heavier than 40 pounds with the dumbbell.  We’ll usually include it as the last exercise on a lower-body day, for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

We spend a lot of time focusing on building strength and power, but a lot of times, movement quality gets overlooked.  Here’s an exercise that helps you to improve the latter without forgetting the former.  Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

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Q&A: Can You Overtrain on Core Stability Exercises?

Written on April 21, 2012 at 8:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: What are your thoughts on the right amount of volume, intensity and frequency on core exercises ranging from bridging variations to ab wheel rollouts from the feet for the intermediate to advanced lifter looking to decrease back pain and get out of anterior pelvic tilt? Is it possible to make progress for a while, but overdue it on volume, intensity or frequency and actually have your core get weaker or stop progressing/responding, and start to experience back pain and anterior pelvic tilt again?

A: This is an outstanding question, and I can really go in a number of different directions with it.

First, let me say that the single best way to get out of excessive anterior tilt is training oneself to not live in anterior tilt!  No amount of exercise will undo the damage you can do with your daily posture.  That’s the easy part of this response, though.

Next, I’ll say that I absolutely believe that we can overdo it with “core-specific” exercises.

As a parallel, just consider the shoulder.  The glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint is heavily reliant on both active (muscles/tendons) and passive (capsule/ligaments and labrum) restraints for stability. If you overdo it with rotator cuff exercises and train the cuff to excessive fatigue, individuals lose dynamic stability and can’t maintain the position of the humeral head in the glenoid fossa. Overuse conditions and injuries can occur.  I wrote about this in an old series, How Much Rotator Cuff Work is Too Much? – Part 1 and Part 2.

Similarly, the lumbar spine relies heavily on both active and passive restraints.  People can overcome lumbar ligament and disc injuries to live pain-free if they maintain adequate soft tissue control.  Likewise, many sedentary folks can live pain-free in spite of poor soft tissue function simply because the challenges of their daily activities don’t exceed the tolerance of the passive restraints (these are the folks who often blow out their backs trying move couches).

That said, we have to be careful about overreacting to this realization.  Just as the trend of doing thousands of sit-ups in the past few decades created a ton of back pain, you see a lot of completely deconditioned individuals who are hurting, too.  There has to be a middle ground between the two.  So, you could say:

Optimizing core function is really a delicate balance of exercise selection, volume, frequency, and intensity.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that we have a perfect (or even close to perfect) answer with respect to all of these factors, as everyone is different.  Consider the following:

1. Flexion-intolerant backs must be treated differently than extension-intolerant backs.

2. Trained athletes probably need a lower frequency because of their sport participation and neural efficiency, but can handle a greater intensity and more complex exercises – and need to prepare the core for fatigue over an extended period (e.g., soccer game, tennis match, 100-pitch outing).

3. A sedentary individual probably needs a greater frequency of low-intensity exercises.

4. In-season athletes must be careful not to do too much work and pre-fatigue the core before competition.

5. Those with congenital laxity (loose joints) likely need a greater frequency of core work for “neuromuscular reminding.”

6. The general exercises we can do in a weight room or rehab setting must be complemented by sport-specific activities in the appropriate volume.  When general volume goes down, specific can go up – and vice versa.

7. Athletes with a previous history of injury – or known diagnostic imaging red flags – may need to do more just to maintain.

8. Everyone’s definitions of “core” is different.  I view the core as pretty much everything between the knees and the shoulders – but the truth is that poor core control can also lead to elbow and foot/ankle issues; should we include those joints as part of the equation?

9. Everyone’s definition of and “core stability exercises” is also different.  Rollouts – an anterior core stability exercise – were mentioned in the question above, but I’ve never had more soreness in my anterior core than after doing heavy push presses.  Simply holding a weight overhead forces our anterior core to work to prevent lumbar hyperextension (the photo below shows what happens when the anterior core isn't properly engaged).

As you can see, the “how much is too much” question is a big, fat, hairy one.  Ask 100 fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists, and they’ll all have different answers – and even then, it will still be dependent on the athlete/client/patient.  We can’t even effectively define “core,” let alone “core stability exercises” to answer today’s question.

Taking it a step further, only 15% of low back pain has a definitive diagnosis.  One could make the argument, therefore, that only 15% of core function can be adequately assessed/interpreted.  We’d like to think that we know exactly what is going on with a spine, but it’s just not reflected in the research.

The good news, though, is that while most people encounter low back pain at some point in their lives, the overwhelming majority of them do get better with rehabilitation.  We just don’t know what’s optimal – and I’m not sure we ever will, but we are getting a lot better, thanks to the availability of both research and anecdotal experience of rehabilitation specialists, fitness professionals, and folks who have stayed healthy.

This is one reason why I’m so proud of Functional Stability Training of the Core, a resource from Mike Reinold and me. The two of us have collaborated in the past on Optimal Shoulder Performance to bridge the gap between rehabilitation and performance training, and we have done it again with respect to core function with this project.

FST1

Whether you’re a fitness or rehabilitation professional, or exercise enthusiast or athlete looking to learn more about how to effectively prepare the core, train around various lumbo-pelvic injuries/conditions, or learn about developing power in the frontal and transverse planes with medicine ball drills, there is much to be gained from watching Functional Stability Training.

Click here to purchase, or here for more information.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/19/12

Written on April 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm, by Eric Cressey

Here’s a list of strength and conditioning stuff you should read/watch for the week.  The theme of this week will be Functional Stability Training, our new resource.

Integrating Medicine Balls in a Strength and Conditioning Program – This is the introduction to my medicine ball presentation from the event, and it also highlights a few of our overhead medicine ball stomp variations.  FST also includes a bunch of rotational medicine ball exercise progressions we utilize, as well as mobility/activation drills we utilize as fillers between sets.

To Arch or Not to Arch? – This old blog post talks about arching when one squats.  It might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Glute Bridge Exercise Progressions for Rotary Stability – This post from Mike Reinold shows how to progress what can quickly become a boring exercise, even though it’s super valuable.

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What Folks are Saying about Functional Stability Training

Written on April 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm, by Eric Cressey

On the fence about checking out Functional Stability Training for the Core?  Check out what some of the seminar attendees had to say about the event:

To learn more about this resource, head here.  To purchase, head here.

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Core Stability: Training Around Disc Herniations and Bulges

Written on April 17, 2012 at 10:20 am, by Eric Cressey

With the recent release of our Functional Stability Training resource, I thought you might be interested to check out this preview from one of my sections.  In the two minute video below, I discuss how one can manage clients with a history of intervertebral disc issues:

To learn more about this resource, head here.  To purchase, head here.

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Functional Stability Training is Now for Sale!

Written on April 16, 2012 at 4:41 am, by Eric Cressey

I’m excited to announce that my newest product, Functional Stability Training (a collaborative project with physical therapist Mike Reinold) is now available.  It will be on sale through Sunday at midnight at an introductory price of $77 (normally $97).

This resource consists of the footage from a seminar we filmed this past fall at Cressey Performance; it includes both lecture and hands-on components.  The resource is geared toward personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, various rehabilitation specialists, and fitness enthusiasts looking to learn the “why” behind the “what.”  Here was the agenda from the event:

  • Functional Stability Training – An integrated approach to rehabilitation and performance training – Reinold
  • Recent Advances in Core Performance - Understand the concept of Functional Stability Training for the Core, true function of the spine, and how this impacts injuries, rehab, and training – Reinold
  • Maintaining a Training Effect in Spite of Common Lumbar Spine and Lower Extremity Injuries – Outlines the causes and symptoms of several common injuries encountered in the lower extremity, and how to train around these issues to keep clients/athletes fit during rehabilitation – Cressey
  • Understanding and Controlling Extension in Athletes – Looks into the causes of and problems with excessive lumbar extension, anterior pelvic tilt, and rib flairs in athletes – Cressey
  • LAB – Assessing Core Movement Quality:  Understanding where to begin with Functional Stability Training exercises for the core – Reinold
  • LAB – A Dynamic Progression of Core Performance Exercises  – Progression from simple core control to advanced rehab and training techniques – Reinold
  • LAB – Understanding and Controlling Extension in Athletes – Progresses on the previous lecture with specific technique and coaching cues for exercises aimed toward those with these common issues – Cressey
  • LAB – Advanced Stability: Training Power Outside the Sagittal Plane – Traditional power training programs are predominantly focused on the sagittal plane, but in most athletic endeavors – especially rotational sports – power must be displayed in other planes of motion – Cressey

The product is available as either an online resource or DVD set; you get to choose. For more information, check out www.FunctionalStability.com. Or, you can purchase HERE using our 100% secure server.

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