Master the King of All Exercises

Deadlifting Secrets 101

Everything you need to know about this complex exercise.

Free Video Training

Name:
Email:* 
The High Performance Handbook

The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...


What the Strength and Conditioning Textbook Never Taught You: The World Isn’t All Concentric

Written on June 29, 2012 at 8:54 am, by Eric Cressey

As a continuation of this week’s series on things you didn’t learn from a textbook, today I’ll be talking about how we’ve misunderstood muscle actions. As we go through anatomy and kinesiology in the typical exercise science degree, we memorize muscle actions.

The quadriceps extend the knee. The biceps flex the elbow. The teres minor and infraspinatus externally rotate the humerus. You get the point.

The point that many folks don’t get is that this is simply a practice of memorizing concentric muscle actions, and the truth is that this is really only one-third of the picture when it comes to how we move. You see, these muscles are also acting isometrically and eccentrically; sometimes the primary goal is not to shorten, but preserve muscle length, or prevent uncontrolled lengthening. This is a crucial understanding for one to acquire, as poor isometric and eccentric control are the culprits in an overwhelming majority of non-contact athletic injuries.

Our shoulder barks at us because our scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff don’t function correctly to prevent, slow, or limit inappropriate movement. An ACL goes because glutes and hamstrings couldn’t control unrestrained knee hyperextension and hip adduction and internal rotation.

To that end, while you might memorize a muscle’s concentric action first, it’s important to infer from that understanding that it has more implications above and below the joint it crosses. At the subtalar joint, pronation kicks off tibial and femoral internal rotation each time we land from taking a step. The gluteus maximus – as a hip external rotator, abductor, and extensor – plays a crucial role in decelerating this internal rotation and the accompanying hip flexion. In other words, your butt is an anti-pronator! Just watch what happens on the way down in a bowler squat and you’ll appreciate pick up what I’m putting down:

When you start looking at all movement like this, it will have a powerful influence on your ability to help people move more efficiently. With that in mind, I’d encourage you to look over the last strength and conditioning program you wrote and try to consider how the exercises you programmed help to prevent or control unrestrained movement, rather than creating movement. My prediction is that you’ll notice several exercises in there that you might not have included if you’d thought about this beforehand.

For more lessons like this, be sure to check out the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set, on sale for 25% off through this Saturday at midnight.


 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/28/12

Written on June 28, 2012 at 5:22 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Training the Baseball Catcher – This one was lost to archives at EricCressey.com, but it’s valuable information for anyone who deals with baseball players.  

Sounders Sports Science and Mentorship Weekend in Review – I liked this review from Patrick Ward on a great event with an outstanding speaker line-up (including Chris West, who was one of my mentors). 

Rotating Your Lifts – I liked this article from Jesse Irizarry because I think it’s a valuable reminder that sometimes, the indirect route is the fastest way to get to your goal.  I see too many people who think that they can only get better with specificity in their strength training programs, but the truth is that there is a ton of value to taking a step back and being more general with your training.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

What the Strength and Conditioning Textbook Never Taught You: Synergists and Antagonists

Written on June 26, 2012 at 7:34 am, by Eric Cressey

As a follow-up to yesterday’s “series premier,” I wanted to use today’s post to discuss another topic that rarely gets sufficient attention in the typical exercise science textbook: synergists and antagonists.

The typical explanation of the relationship of the two is that they’re on opposite sides of the joint and perform opposite actions.  As an example, the hamstrings flex the knee, and quadriceps extend the knee.  Simple enough, right? Not so much.  

Muscles can be synergists and antagonists at the same time.  

Let’s just look at the hip extensors to explain this point.  Your primary hip extensors are the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and adductor magnus (there are more, but we’re keeping this discussion simple).  They all work together to extend the hip each time you squat, lunge, deadlift, sprint, push the sled, or bust a move on the dance floor.  That said, the hip can do a lot of things as it extends.

If we use more gluteus maximus and biceps femoris, it externally rotates and abducts a bit as we extend. If we use more adductor magnus, semitendinosis, and semimembranosus, it internally rotates and adducts.

Taking it a step further, as the hamstrings extend the hip, they have little control over the femoral head, so it tends to glide anteriorly in the acetabulum (hip socket) in a hamstrings-dominant hip extension pattern.  The glutes have more direct control over the femoral head and can posteriorly pull the head of the femur to avoid anterior hip irritation (usually the capsule). Shirley Sahrmann did a great job of outlining femoral anterior glide syndrome in her landmark book, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes.

Herein exists the issue: typical discussions of synergists and antagonists focus on things things:

1. Single planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, transverse), but not the interaction of multiple planes

2. Osteokinematics (gross movement of bones at joints: flexion/extension, abduction/adduction, internal/external rotation), rather than arthrokinematics (smaller movements at joint surfaces: rolling, gliding, spinning)

3. Active restraints (muscles, tendons), but not passive restraints (ligaments, bones, labra, intervertebral discs) that may be synergists to them in creating stability

As another example, think about stabilization at the glenohumeral (shoulder’s ball and socket) joint.  There are a wide range of movements taking place, yet these movements must be controlled arthrokinematically in a very precise range via a complex system of checks and balances at the joint.  If the active restraints (primarily the rotator cuff) don’t do their job, one could wind up with stretched/torn ligaments, a torn labrum, or bony defects.  In other words, it isn’t a stretch (no pun intended) to say that muscles can be synergists to ligaments. Put that in your osteokinematic pipe and smoke it!

This is really a topic that deserves far more than a 500-word post; it could be an entire college curriculum in itself!  And, the more you can understand it, the better you’ll be able to help your clients and athletes. A great resource to get the ball rolling in this regard is Building the Efficient Athlete, a two-day seminar Mike Robertson and I filmed with functional anatomy heavily in mind.  We’ve put it on sale for 25% off this week only, so be sure to check it out HERE.

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

What the Strength and Conditioning Textbook Never Taught You: Fascia Exists

Written on June 25, 2012 at 7:24 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s not uncommon at all to hear recent college graduates in the strength and conditioning field talk about how they encounter a number of things in the “real world” that were never even considered in an exercise science curriculum.  And, while I’ve previously shared my thoughts on this topic in Is an Exercise Science Degree Worth It? – Part 1 and Part 2, the focus of today’s post won’t be debating the merits of this degree. Instead, it’ll be outlining some of the holes in a typical exercise science curriculum and learning accordingly.  With that in mind, here is my first point that rarely gets consideration in strength and conditioning textbooks:

Fascia actually exists.

Amazingly, I went through an entire undergraduate education of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics without the word “fascia” being mentioned a single time.  In fact, we didn’t even discuss it when I had gross anatomy; the med students cut it away so that we could look at what was deemed “important” stuff: muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, and organs.  And, when I got to graduate school, fascia really wasn’t discussed much in my endocrine-heavy kinesiology curriculum or the graduate level physical therapy courses I took for my electives.

Now, think about why so many personal trainers have never used a foam roller with their clients, or why a physical therapist or doctor might not appreciate how manual therapy could help with everything from anterior knee pain, to hamstrings strains, to ulnar collateral ligament tears.  It’s a school of thought on which they may have never been schooled.

Needless to say, “fascial fitness” is extremely important, and you need to understand why as well as how you can achieve it as you identify movement inefficiencies in your clients or athletes.  To that end, here are some recommended reads on this front:

8 Steps to Achieving Fascial Fitness – This was my write-up of a presentation from bodywork expert Thomas Myers back in 2010.

Anatomy Trains – This is Myers’ famous book on the topic. 

Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Lower Body – Dean Somerset’s presentation on fascia alone was worth the entire price of the product, but you also get the benefit of a bunch of other contributors’ information.

I’ll be back soon with more lessons the college textbooks never taught you, but in the meantime, get to reading on this topic and you’ll quickly separate yourself in the strength and conditioning field – and make a lot of clients and athletes happy with their results in the meantime. 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 8

Written on June 23, 2012 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey

In collaboration with Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are some tips to get just a little more awesome this weekend.

1. Hard start, easy finish.

This phrase applies to almost everything in training and in life. In short, putting in the work up front is going to benefit you ten-fold throughout the rest of your…

Exercise Set: Put the time in to set up a lift correctly (bar placement, spotters, foot position, etc) and you will make the entire set go off smoothly.

Training Session: Don’t skimp on your warm-ups. Make sure you spend the 15 minutes to hit self massage, mobility, and activation work.

Training Block: Make the time to make a plan. If you do not have the time (really?!), or the knowledge (fair enough), then seek out someone to make a plan for you.

Training Career: If you’re new to the game, take the proper amount of time to learn correct movement patterns, build general work capacity, and understand technique. If you’re not, and these sound like foreign concepts, have you considered pressing rewind?

2. Meet the bar.

3. Address lagging body parts with frequency.

If you have a body part that isn’t making the grade, the answer could very well be to adjust the frequency in which you train it. Training variables such as volume and intensity are household names, even if their application is often butchered. Frequency is a less-considered variable in your training program. The frequency at which you train a muscle group can have a profound effect on its growth. Additionally, high frequency protocols can produce major surges in strength when programmed correctly. Using high frequencies to make gains in strength is definitely more complex. The more demanding the exercise selections (think deadlifts, squats, cleans, etc), the more tinkering you’ll need to do in the overall management of volume and intensities. Luckily for you, using higher frequencies to illicit gains in “size” isn’t as involved.

Here is a good place to start: choose an area (i.e. arms) and add a specialization day to your strength training program. Make this days short, but challenging. This is a good time to utilize drop sets, forced reps, pre-exhaustion etc. Stick with the same area for three weeks, back off a week, and either choose a new area for three weeks or continue with the previous selection. Maybe you’ll do calves like Tony does?

4. Appreciate that various characteristics relate to throwing velocity.

A study conducted in 2009 by The Open Sports Medicine Journal looked at the relationship between six anthropometric (body height, body mass, body mass index (BMI), arm span, hand spread and length) and four physical fitness (aerobic capacity, explosive power of the lower limbs, flexibility and running speed) characteristics and their relationship to throwing velocity in female handball players. The study found that “throwing performance is significantly correlated with all variables calculated in this study except of the body mass index. This suggests that high performance requires advanced motor abilities and anthropometric features.”

This isn’t revolutionary, and the study does not go into details (that have been found important to velocity) such as joint mobility, stiffness and laxity. However, it is interesting to note that the researchers ranked each characteristic in order of importance in terms of the effect on velocity:

1. Hand Spread
2. Playing Experience
3. Arm Span
4. Body Height
5. Standing Long Jump
6. 30m Sprint
7. Sit and Reach
8. Body Mass.
9. VO2max
10. Body Mass Index

As you’ll see, the recipe for success will always be a combination of genetic pre determents, mechanical skill (sport practice), and physical performance traits (explosiveness, strength, etc). Two out of three of those you have control over, and if you are willing to put the work in, you can make up for quite a bit that Mommy and Daddy didn’t pass on to you.

EC’s notes: three interesting asides to this…

First, it’s interesting that body mass index wasn’t more highly ranked, as body weight has been shown to have a significantly positive association with throwing velocity in baseball pitchers. The primary difference between these two populations, of course, is that the handball players aren’t throwing downhill on a mound, so perhaps having a greater body mass benefits pitchers because they’re more “gravity-aided?”

Second, this is friendly reminder that your silly long distance running won’t do anything for throwing velocity.

Third, the researchers only tested straight-ahead (sagittal) plane measures of power development. If they’d tested power development in the frontal and transverse planes, I’d expect to see a greater value for these measures.

5. Don’t limit yourself.

Have you heard this before?

If I do everything you say, and work as hard as possible, do I have a shot at: making it, losing 10lbs, benching 315?

The answer is always YES; why would it be NO? We are all capable of impressing – and even surprising – ourselves with what we are capable of doing. Not everyone (even with an insane work ethic) is going to look like Captain American or play on ESPN. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you never shot for something less than that. You gave everything you had, and you ran that course until it was over. Wherever that point may be, you arrived there knowing that you didn’t leave anything in the tank. This is the absolute most you could do, given the tools you had, and you can be happy and fulfilled knowing that. If you attack everything with that mentality, you will be successful and happy with the result, even if that result isn’t exactly what you thought it was when you got started.

This is an important lesson to remind young athletes and adult clients alike. Teach them to respect the process, and find value in the journey. Remind them that many variables are not within their control, but their effort is.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

25 Questions to Ask During the College Baseball Recruiting Process

Written on June 21, 2012 at 7:37 am, by Eric Cressey

When I got into the strength and conditioning field, I always assumed my job would just be about getting athletes bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, and healthier.  And, I was right that those would be constituents of my job, but I failed to realize that there was actually a lot more to consider if I wanted to be successful in the private sector and working with up-and-coming baseball players.

Those unexpected responsibilities included learning about the Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement, interacting with advisors/agents, helping kids plan out their competitive year, creating a solid physician and physical therapist network, and even jumping in to catch some bullpens.

However, none of these tasks could possibly be more important than the interactions I have with a lot of high school baseball players as they work to select the right college/university for them.  While there are a lot of college advisory services out there, very few of them truly understand the athletic side of things; they're more heavily focused on the academic and social components, as there is no way they could ever possibly keep track of what each college baseball (or football, hockey, basketball, or whatever) program is doing. Coaching staffs change, universities move to different conferences, new facilities/fields are added, and new training methods are established.  With that in mind, here are 25 questions I ask of all our kids who approach me about the college recruiting process:

1. Will you have an opportunity to play right away?  If not, are you comfortable waiting?

It's very easy to fall in love with a campus and the thought of playing in front of thousands of fans, but "s**t gets real" when you've been riding the pine for your first two years of college.  Find out who is on the team who'll be playing ahead of you, as well as who else they are recruiting in your class at your position.

This, for me, is also a roundabout way of asking a kid if he is really good enough to play at a school.  If you didn't even pitch for your high school team, chances are that you aren't going to be able to pitch for a College World Series team.  In this instance, you'd be better off going to a team that will provide the innings you need to develop.

2. Do you have aspirations of playing baseball after college?

Will this program facilitate that objective? If it's going to do so, you need to see a history of players drafted.

3. Have you spoken to alumni who have played at these colleges (or for these coaches at different schools)?

Do they speak highly of their experiences, or do they rip on the coaches?  Do they go back to their college town to visit often?

4. How would the coaching staff describe their approach to coaching to you?

Some guys do well with the "in your face" coaching style, and others struggle with the regular confrontation.

5. What is the program's track record of success with developing players like you?

What do they do that will make you a better left-handed pitcher, second baseman, or catcher?  Do they have examples?

6. What (if any) scholarship or financial aid amount are you being offered?

College isn't cheap.  While full rides are rare in college baseball, the difference between a 25% scholarship and 50% scholarship can work out to $60,000 over the course of four years.  Don't forget transportation costs to and from campus several times per year, too.

7. How tenured are the coaches, and do they see themselves leaving the school in the next few years?

At the Division 1 level, while you have some wiggle room (usually) in leaving a school if the head coach that recruited you leaves, you don't get that luxury with pitching and hitting coaches.

8. How tenured is the team athletic trainer, and what is his/her approach to treatment?  

Does he/she just fill Gatorade buckets and stay out of the way, or get involved with manual therapy and individualized rehab programs?

9. How tenured is the team strength and conditioning coach, and what is his/her approach to training both in-season and off-season?

Do guys get bigger and stronger over their four years, or do they just run poles and waste away?  Observe a lift: is he/she a respected figure in the players' lives? Also, is he/she considered a true part of the coaching staff to allow for maximum synergy, or does the head coach never interact with him/her?  Are players on unique programs based on their positions and injury history, or does everyone do the same?

Hint: if the answer to every question is "clean, squat, bench," run away.  Quickly.

10. How successful are the coaches in placing players with competitive, well-managed summer teams?

Sadly, summer baseball becomes less and less developmental every year.  Fortunately, there are still some good summer coaches out there; is your coach placing you with those coaches?

11. How are the facilities, and will there be any construction going on during your college experience?

If they're building a new field, you might be playing elsewhere for your home games.  New weight room?  You might be pushing cars in the parking lot in the middle of winter (although that may be a good thing for some of you).

12. What is a program's track record in terms of injury rates?

Are they blowing arms out left and right?  Or, are guys avoiding surgery while pitching more effectively than ever?

13. What were starting pitchers' pitch counts over the past year?

Are they consistently sending guys out there for over 120 pitches? While it's not exhaustive, this is a cool pitch count page that looked at D1 programs across the country for each year.

14. How tough of an adjustment socially will it be for you?

If you're a New Englander headed to the Deep South, expect it to be an adjustment.  The adjustment is similarly challenging if you're a Southerner headed North. Are you prepared for that? A new social scene at the same time as a new coaching staff can overwhelm some guys.

15. Do they have the academic programs you want?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but only 2% of guys drafted actually make it to the big leagues.  That essentially works out to one guy per team pear year.  And, among the guys who make it to the big leagues, very few play there long enough to be financially set for life.  In other words, there is a 99.99% chance you'll be employed in some capacity after baseball, so you need to prepare for it.  Regardless of what our guys opt to study, I encourage them to take some finance courses, as everyone needs to understand money management.

16. Do they have a solid academic support staff in place if you need it?

Do you have a learning disability that warrants special assistance? Do you need organized study halls to help with getting your work done?  Or, do you just want people to stay out of your way?

17. What is the alumni network like?  

Will it help you to get internships or employment after graduation? Or, will you have to head to the local prison to interview them?

18. Does the coaching staff get out and attend different conferences to improve at their craft?

Are they teaching the same things they taught in 1978, or are you being introduced to more forward-thinking concepts?  "New" isn't always better, though, so that's why you ask the questions: it gives them a chance to provide rationale for their methods.

19. Are the hitting/pitching coaches more hands-off, or do they want to start tinkering with mechanics to solve problems they already see with your swing/delivery?

College coaches always see more things that need to be addressed than high school coaches ever can.  They get more hours with you, and they see you against better competition that may expose your weaknesses.  These weaknesses obviously need to be addressed.  However, how much will you be abandoning the horse that got you there in the first place?  Is it going to be tinkering or overhauling, and which are you willing to commit to?

20. How is the food on campus?

The food always tastes good…for the first month.  Then, most people get sick of it.  Don't become one of those people.

21. Who is the team doctor, and what is his background and accessibility?

If you're there four years, chances are that you'll roll an ankle or get hit by a pitch at some point.  Is the team doctor readily accessible, or do you have to book an appointment and then wait three weeks to see him?  Also, does he have a solid understanding of the management of overhead throwing athletes? Many doctors don't.

22. How competitive is the conference in which you play?

If you can go out and hit .500 or have a 0.00 ERA as a freshman, you probably aren't being challenged.

23. Have you watched this team play a game and practice?

Does the team go through a thorough warm-up, or do they just roll in, do ten seconds of arm circles, and then get to it?

Do players look coaches in the eye when they're being coached?

Do players cheer in the dugout, or is it completely silent?

I had one college kid tell me that his head coach didn't show up for a single fall practice; the assistant coach ran the entire thing.  Unbelievable!

24. What kind of throwing programs and pitch selection does a team use?

If you're a long toss guy, go somewhere that does long toss.  If you've thrived with weighted baseballs, go somewhere that integrates them in the throwing programs.  If you like to chuck ninja stars, go somewhere that you can fight crime.

If you're a guy with a history of elbow pain, don't go to a school where all pitchers learn sliders and are forced to throw them 60% of the time.

25. What is the team's graduation rate?

Graduation rate can definitely be impacted by a number of factors, including how many guys are drafted, but don't return right away to complete their degrees. As an interesting (and scary) fact, only 4.3% of those who have played in the big leagues this year have a college degree.  Still, graduation rates are something about which you should ask because it's a question that gives a coach a chance to show you what emphasis he places on academics.

In typing this up, I rattled all these questions off in under five minutes, and the truth is that there are a lot more.  The set of questions one asks will always be unique to one's situation.  The only commonality is that kids should ask questions – and lots of them, as this is going to be 3-4 years of your life.

As an important addendum, it's important to realize that there isn't a single program in the country that is going to give you the exact perfect answer you want on all these questions.  Your goal is to find the best fit, not the perfect fit.  With that said, though, you are committing to the program as a whole, not just the parts of which you approve.  To that end, you'll need to prioritize certain things depending on your circumstances:

If money is tight in your family, the scholarship/financial aid question might be most important.

If you have a history of injuries, the athletic trainer/strength and conditioning coach/team doctor questions might be the most pertinent.

If you want to play baseball in college, but not beyond, the questions about graduation rates and alumni networks will be significant.

If you have a very funky delivery that's worked well for you and are afraid a pitching coach will change it, you need to ask those pitching coaches if they are open to that arrangement.  This scenario was made famous when Tim Lincecum headed to the University of Washington with his unique delivery.

There really are no right or wrong answers – but there are definitely a lot of questions that should be asked along the way. One friendly suggestion I make to players is to make sure that these questions come from you and not just your parents. Parents will have questions of their own, but they should never dominate the conversation; young athletes need to take a proactive role in learning about what could be their lives for four years.  It not only shows maturity to the recruiting coaches, but also makes sure that you get the answers to the questions that are most important to you.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/20/12

Written on June 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

Increasing Dorsiflexion: Cuboid Mobilization – With yesterday’s post on ankle mobility, I thought I’d highlight another great “complementary” perspective on the topic from Bill Hartman.

Managing Structural and Functional Asymmetries in Ice Hockey: Part 1 and Part 2 – I’ve talked a lot about how much becoming familiar with the Postural Restoration Institute philosophy has helped me in the way I manage baseball players.  In these two blog posts, Kevin Neeld talks about how they’ve helped him with hockey – from assessment to corrective exercise.

The Age of the Pitcher and How We Got Here – This might be the single-best article I’ve ever read at ESPN.com.  Jayson Stark did an awesome job of reviewing all the factors that may have contributed to why pitchers are thriving and hitters are struggling compared to previous years – and it’s a trend that has lasted 12 years.  I’ll definitely echo the sentiment about pitchers being better than ever, particularly with respect to the number of power arms coming out of the high school ranks.  Years ago, throwing 92mph out of high school made you an extremely noteworthy prospect; now, it just makes you another guy that *might* get drafted – even as a lefty!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!


Name
Email

Improving Ankle Mobility without Increasing Knee Pain

Written on June 19, 2012 at 7:19 am, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that ankle mobility deficits are becoming more and more common these days.  It may be because:

1. Modern footwear is atrocious, with elevated heels, high tops, and rigid sides

2. We carry our center of mass too far forward thanks to postural distortions that encompass anterior pelvic tilt and forward head posture (among other ramifications).

3. We never utilize extensive dorsiflexion in our daily lives, whether it’s in a full squat or high-speed running.

Of course, it’s usually a combination of all these factors.  And, while we can try out minimalist sneakers to deal with problem #1 and tinker with our exercise program to work on problem #2, problem #3 is a bit more cumbersome, as many of these folks have anterior knee pain that is exacerbated with squatting, running, and ankle mobility exercises where the knee is driven in front of the toes, creating shear stress at the knee.  In other words, this ankle mobility drill might be great for someone with healthy knees, but painful for someone with a history of knee pain.

Interestingly, if you consider the functional anatomy of the plantarflexors (calf muscles) while looking at this mobility exercise, you’re really only putting the soleus on stretch. The gastrocnemius, actually crosses both the knee and ankle, working as a knee flexor and plantarflexor.  So, while this drill may be “more functional” because it occurs in an upright position, it actually shortens the muscle at the knee as it lengthens it at the ankle.  And, the more the knee tracks forward, the more symptoms those with knee pain will get.

To that end, if we think back to the functional anatomy lesson we just had, we can get the gastrocnemius to fully lengthen by combining knee extension with plantarflexion – which puts us in a great position that minimizes shear stress at the knee. Problem solved.

After someone has utilized this second drill for a while and minimized their symptoms, it can be progressed to a knee-break ankle mobilization, which still creates a bit of shear stress, but not nearly as much as the first video I showed.  Because dorsiflexion is maxed out before knee flexion can occur, it seems – at least anecdotally – to reduce the discomfort that some folks feel.

So there you have it: different ankle mobilization strategies for different folks!  For more information on mobility progressions like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

How to Improve Quickness: Understanding Shin Angles

Written on June 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

Brijesh Patel is has been a friend and colleague of mine since back in 2003, when we were both graduate students at the University of Connecticut.  I credit Brijesh as one reason that I opted to go into strength and conditioning; his knowledge, passion, and patience as coach were impressive and had a profound influence on me.  Brijesh has gone on to do great things since we both left UCONN, and he’s now the head strength and conditioning coach at Quinnipiac University.  

Recently, “B” released a great product, College Basketball Body, and it’s right in line with the guest video post we’re fortunate to have from him.  Check it out:

Click here to learn more about College Basketball Body.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 7

Written on June 15, 2012 at 7:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Here are some strength and conditioning and nutrition tips to help you lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and scare obnoxious kids off your lawn, compliments of Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.

1. A friendly reminder: you’re not that special.

After recently perusing the internet, I felt the need to give you this friendly reminder. I came across (as I am sure many of you have) the commencement speech delivered by David McCullough, Jr. to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduating class. I enjoyed his speech greatly, and found that much of it can be applied to training, nutrition, and athletics.

You’re not that special. The reason you’re not getting stronger likely has nothing to with your program. The reason you’re not losing body fat is probably not a major fault in the nutrition plan you were given. The athletes who impress me the most are the ones who pick up their teammates. They’re the ones who celebrate wins and mourn losses as a team, not the ones who advocate their own success and dwell upon their individual shortcomings.

You aren’t making progress because you aren’t consistent. You aren’t losing fat because you’re not following that nutrition plan. You aren’t impressing coaches because you are not willing to be a team player. Stop worrying about what strength and conditioning program you’re on, seek out those who know what they’re doing, and devote yourself to that approach. Stop dissecting your nutritional approach and truly embody the basics of better eating. Stop keeping your athletic talents on a pedestal, show up to practice every day, and work hard to make yourself and your teammates better. Stay humble, stay hungry.

As an interesting little aside to this, check out this recent report that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek removed all jersey numbers from practice uniforms this week as a means of building team unity. Nobody gets special treatment, even if they’re a well-known name.

2. Focus on bar speed as much as you focus on bar load.

One of the biggest mistake I see – particularly with intermediate to advanced lifters – is thinking that they need to be setting personal records in every single training session. While you’ll certainly hit a few PRs employing this strategy (and there are certainly times to get after them), this expectation is a quick way to not only get discouraged, but burned out on training.

Let’s say that Tank’s best trap bar deadlift is 415.

Do you really think that – at the end of the day – his body will appreciate a huge difference adaptation-wise between grinding out a rep at 435 and absolutely smoking a single at 400? The time-under-tension difference on one rep is trivial, the injury risk is dramatically higher with the PR attempt, and you run the risk of developing poor technique habits under significant load.

Don’t get me wrong; you should still seek to constantly get stronger in your strength training programs. However, you should appreciate that you can still get stronger by leaving a rep or two “in the hole” in some of your sessions, particularly as you get older and more experienced. And, as Anthony Michal pointed out in a recent guest blog for Bret Contreras, you can still get strong at 75-85% of one-rep max – even if a large percentage of your training is performed there.

3. The pullover is a forgotten gem, and we can make it better!

The DB pullover can serve as an outstanding exercise for those who can safely perform it. The benefits of the exercise are three-fold.  First, it build tremendous strength in the anterior “core” as one resists excessive lumbar hyperextension.  Second, the exercise provides a nice “active stretch” for the lats.  Third, it can be a great strength exercise for the lats when someone has medial elbow issues that prevent them from doing the intensive grip work that chin-up and pull-up variations mandate.

Athletes should be cued to keep the rib cage down as the shoulders move further into flexion. Also, make sure that athletes contract the glutes while in the bridge position, and don’t allow a forward head posture to occur.

4. Fitness professionals should be supportive of injured athletes and clients.

At Cressey Performance, we receive a lot of referrals of athletes who have recently undergone surgery and/or physical therapy. It is no surprise that many of these athletes are not in the greatest place mentally about their injuries. Can you blame them? As an athlete, your world largely revolves around playing sports and an injury can lead to a bit of an identity crisis; sports are a huge part of your life that can be taken away overnight. With that in mind, how important is it as a strength coach to keep these athlete’s positive about their return to the game? Furthermore, what impact to do we have on their outlook?

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the perceived social support from strength coaches among these injured athletes. The results found that:

“…the strength coach (SC) had a significant psychosocial impact on student-athletes’ overall psychological well-being during reconditioning. This study provides evidence of the vital psychosocial role that SCs can play during an injured student-athlete’s reconditioning program.”

Make sure that you do not ignore an athlete because he or she may be unable to fully participate (or participate at full intensity) in your strength and conditioning program. Give positive feedback, attention, and show them that you care. It can make the difference in their recovery and there is no greater feeling than helping an athlete beat the odds and return to top shape post-injury.

5. Find ways to make fitness social.

We often hear about how you need to “shut up and squat” when you’re in the weight room, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of lifters who are successful long-term are great friends with their training partners.  Nobody can be “on” all the time, and while it’s important to get serious when you get under the bar, you’ll usually find a lot of joking around between sets in even the most accomplished powerlifting and Olympic lifting gyms on the planet.  Training is supposed to be fun, and if it isn’t, you need to find a way to make it more enjoyable.

At Cressey Performance, the Thanksgiving morning lift is always very popular, and we notice that many clients really get extra motivated when they see our staff training hard, too.  

We have athletes who schedule their training sessions so that they can lift with friends for extra motivation, and even kids who book sessions when certain professional athletes are in so that they can draw inspiration from those who are living their dreams.  I also love it when we get coaches from other facilities, colleges, and pro teams training with our staff when they visit CP, as you get to see what they’re doing and chat a bit between sets.  

Whether it’s recruiting your spouse for a walk in the park, calling a buddy to spot you on the bench, or rounding up a team of college roommates to do an adventure race, it’s valuable to find ways to get friends in on the fitness fun. 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

New Balance

Featured Product
Assess and Correct

YouTube Twitter Facebook