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Get $100 Off the IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification

Written on July 31, 2012 at 5:53 am, 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.  Each year, we have dozens of athletes go on to play college sports, as well as kids who are selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

For every kid who gets drafted into professional baseball or commits to play a college sport, we have 2-3 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.

This is one reason why I was so excited to be a contributor to the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) High School Strength Coach Certification.  This resource, which includes a textbook and DVD set, covers topics such as:

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
 

And, I’m happy to announce that the certification is on sale for $100 off from now through this Sunday, August 5, at midnight EST.  Be sure to check out this comprehensive resource at a great price HERE.

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Monday Musings: Foot/Ankle Injuries and Physical Therapy

Written on July 30, 2012 at 6:55 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s been white some time since I typed up a “Random Thoughts” post, so I thought I’d bring it back for today. I’ve usually got a few dozen things rattling around my brain at all times, so if I can dump one of them here, hopefully I’ll replace it with something noteworthy. Today’s question is somewhat “Andy Rooney-esque.”

Have you ever noticed that doctors are less likely to prescribe physical therapy for foot and ankle issues than any other problem? I might be skewed by my perspective in this part of the country, but I doubt it, as Boston has a great medical reputation. “Just walk on it” is the advice I often hear folks say they’ve gotten. Would you do that for a hip or knee replacement?  As I discuss in my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, following inversion ankle sprains, a lot of folks wind up with functional ankle instability due to a proprioceptive deficit of the peroneals; this muscle group just doesn’t turn on quickly enough to prevent “re-sprains” from occurring.

Additionally, some individuals present with some considerable “anterior jamming” that can’t be addressed by classic ankle mobilizations, and these individuals can benefit greatly from good manual therapy and joint manipulation by a qualified professional.  Lastly, breaking a big toe can be a big deal; it’s dangerous to assume that it’ll just magically heal perfectly if someone walks on it for months – and it can be problematic to brace a foot in an immobile position for an extended period of time and wind up with stiffness or compensation patterns.

Along those lines, though, maybe they just aren’t prescribing physical therapy for these issues because there aren’t specialized physical therapists. I know of a lot of wrist/hand physical therapists, but no true foot/ankle specialists on the PT side of things. Sure, there are PTs who do foot/ankle as part of their normal practice (and some who do it very well), but you’d think that the weight-bearing joints that connect us to the ground would receive even more specific attention than wrist/hand issues. Perhaps this lack of specialization has emerged because the foot and ankle are so complex and misunderstood; it could be a good “niche” for some of you up-and-coming physical therapists to pursue.


 

Again, these are just some Monday musings off the top of my head. To the general fitness folks out there, push hard to get physical therapy after a foot/ankle issue. To the rehabilitation specialists and strength and conditioning professions out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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Risk Homeostasis and Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

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

A few years ago, I read What the Dog Saw, a collection of short stories from popular author Malcolm Gladwell.

In one particular short story, Gladwell introduces the concept of “risk homeostasis.” Essentially, risk homeostasis refers to the fact that modifications that are designed to make things safer often eventually have a break-even effect on safety because of adaptations to those modifications.  In other words, something that should protect us doesn’t because new compensatory factors make things more dangerous.

As an example, Gladwell observers that taxi drivers who are given anti-lock brakes actually wind up with higher incidences of traffic violations and accidents.  Presumably, this occurs because the drivers feel they can drive faster and more aggressively because of this added “protection.”  

In another case, a study showed that adding childproof lids to medicine bottles actually increased the likelihood that children would die from accidental overdose of consuming drugs not meant for them. The added “safety” leads to adults being less cautious with where they hide bottles of pills.

While watching an absolutely atrocious YouTube video with some of the worst box squat technique in history the other day, my thoughts flashed back to this concept of risk homeostasis from when I read Gladwell’s work.  There are actually some remarkable parallels in the world of strength and conditioning.  

1. Wearing a belt.

When a lifter throws on a belt, he assumes that it will make an exercise safer for him.  While the research isn’t really in agreement with this assertion, we’ll roll with this assumption.

In real life, most lifters throw on a belt because it helps them handle additional weights – and at these weights, their form usually deteriorates rapidly, and does so under additional compressive loading.

2. Popping anti-inflammatories and getting cortisone shots.

When a doctor gives you a cortisone shot or recommends oral anti-inflammatories, it’s because he believes you have some level of inflammation, whether it’s a bursitis, tenosynovitis, or other issue. This short course of anti-inflammatories will reduce that inflammation.

You rarely see these issues in isolation, though; they’re usually accompanied by degenerative changes (e.g., tendinosis) or structural changes (e.g., bone spurs) that could also be causing your symptoms.  Unfortunately, your anti-inflammatories don’t know that; they just know they’re supposed to kill off all your pain.  They make you asymptomatic, but not necessarily “healthy.”

Many individuals get a cortisone shot or take a few days of NSAIDs and assume they can just go right back to training hard with no restrictions because their pain is gone.  A few weeks or months later (when the cortisone shot wears off), they’re back in pain (and usually it’s worse than before) because they’ve done nothing to address the underlying causes of the problem in the first place.  They shut off the inflammation and pain, but kept the degeneration, structural changes, and stupid.

The anti-inflammatory intervention is supposed to be part of a treatment plan to make folks healthier, but actually gives them a false sense of security, which in turn makes an injury or condition worse.

3. Lifting alongside an “experienced” coach who has done stupid s**t for decades, but has never been hurt.

It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of security when you train with a coach with tons of time “under the bar” himself.  His training background – and reportedly clean injury history – gives you peace of mind and you buy into his system.  And, you continue lifting heavier and heavier in poor form because he’s proof that it works, right?

Unfortunately, he’s a sample size of one.

His experience should make training safer, but instead, it just leads you to take more poorly calculated risks with your training.

As an example, I did this while goofing around a few years back, but I’d never let one of my athletes try it. There are enough ugly box jump videos out there on YouTube to appreciate that a lot of coaches don’t have the same kind of self-restraint.

4. Wearing elbow sleeves and knee wraps.

Elbow sleeves and knee wraps are incredibly common in the world of strength sports, and with good reason: they can really help with getting or keeping a joint warmed-up.

The only problem is that most lifters use them just so that they can power through the exact exercises that caused the joint aches in the first place.

As an example, a lot of lifters lack the upper back and shoulder mobility to use a narrow grip position on the barbell when back squatting, and the medial (inside of the) elbow takes a beating as a result.  Rather than doing some shoulder mobility drills, they just throw on a band-aid in the form of an elbow sleeve.

5. Picking “joint-friendly” strength exercises.

 There are lots of ways to deload a bit in the context of strength exercise selection. Maybe you do some single-leg work instead of squatting.  Or, maybe you do some barbell supine bridges in place of deadlifting.  These substitutions usually make a strength training program safer.

That is, of course, unless you do them with horrendous technique.  Sadly, this isn’t uncommon.  You see people who meticulously prepare for squatting and deadlifting and heavily scrutinize their technique with video analysis, yet they’ll blow through other exercises with terrible form.  They expect exercise selection alone to make their strength training program safer, but compensate for this added safety by butchering technique.

Of course, these are only five examples of how risk homeostasis applies to strength and conditioning programs, and there are certainly thousands more.  Where do you see good intentions go astray in your training?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/26/12

Written on July 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

Light Lifting, Big Muscles? – I was interviewed for this Chicago Tribune feature by James Fell.  It was particularly cool for me to be featured alongside one of my mentors, Dr. William Kraemer.  Dr. Kraemer was actually on my master’s thesis committee for my graduate degree at the University of Connecticut.  

Cressey Performance In-Service: Get-up/Swing – Tony Gentilcore (with help from Greg Robins) gave this week’s staff in-service at CP, and Tony videoed it and put it up on YouTube.  If you listen carefully, you can hear me playing catch in the background with one of our baseball guys.  Sorry about that!

The Who-What-When-Where-Why-How of Barefoot Training – I got a question the other day about my thoughts on barefoot training, and I referred the individual in question to this post.  I thought I’d reincarnate it from the archives for you, too.

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8 Ways to Make Practice More Productive for College Baseball Pitchers

Written on July 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest blog comes from current Cressey Performance intern, Landon Wahl.

By its very nature, the life of a pitcher avails itself to many hours of pondering the game. Fresh out of my senior year of pitching at the collegiate level and having time to reflect upon my experience, overall I can say it was the best time of my life. However, there were many times during practice where I felt like I should have stayed home because nothing was accomplished. I would often stand in the outfield gaps behind the position players wondering: “how is this making me a better pitcher?”

After 2-3 hours of batting practice, our coach would have us bring it in and that was the end of practice. Summary: a 3-hour practice that consisted of a 10-minute warm-up, 5-10 minutes of throwing, and 2 hours and 40 minutes of standing around listening to my teammate tell me how sure he was that all of his teachers were trying to fail him (go to class, buddy). Some practices involved the pitchers more than others, but for the most part, practice time could have been used much more efficiently. Below are some ways practice time can be used to make pitchers more involved at practice as well as some things to avoid!

1. Set aside time in practice to have a proper warm up.

Too often, players come to practice and will disregard the warm-up or perhaps not warm up at all! Players grab a ball and start throwing with no physical or mental preparation. Every program is different in regard to warm ups. As a coach, make sure that regardless of what style warm-up you prefer, that you stick to it! At Cressey Performance, all athletes go through a foam rolling series as well as a dynamic warm-up before even touching a baseball, medicine ball, or weight. If you are a coach looking for inspiration, watch the video below and have your guys do it for a warm up. It almost goes without saying that it will help your guys feel and move better as well as prevent future injuries.

2. Make sure throwing – especially the long toss component – isn’t rushed.

Some programs are pretty good about this, but others aren’t. It is understandable that as a coach you have a lot to cram into a 2-3 hour practice and you want your guys to get as many swings in as possible, too. Think of long toss as a pitcher’s BP. It is important to let your pitchers get their arm speed up to help improve performance and stay healthy throughout the season. Try not to rush through the throwing to get to batting practice; it will help everyone be more prepared for your big weekend conference series.

3. Stop making pitchers stand around during batting practice.

First of all, I understand that sometimes pitchers are needed to help shag fly balls and make sure that the hitters get their work in, but this doesn’t have to be ALL the time! Sure, it’s nice to talk with fellow teammates and occasionally track down a fly ball, but overall there is little to no value to preparing your pitchers. Instead of having the pitchers stand around during the early parts of the week at batting practice, send them to the weight room for resistance training, athletic training room for manual therapy or stretching, or elsewhere on the field to do movement training or plyos.

4. Set aside time in practice to work on pick-offs, 1st/3rd defensive plays, PFP, live situations, and bunt defenses.

Too often, basic pitching defense gets brushed aside on the daily practice schedule. All of these essential parts of the game could take a full week just to cover, not master. For incoming freshman, these situations may not have been covered very thoroughly or even at all in high school! Have the coaching staff split up and cover these situations often; they may arise at any time during your important conference series! For your players to have confidence in the plays and skills that they will develop in practice is crucial, and will directly relate to confidence on the mound during in-game situations. This is also a good time to break away from the monotony of an extended batting practice session and get the pitchers involved.

5. Don’t enforce “punishment” running.

As a coach, it is understandable that players can upset you in many ways: poor play, off-field offenses, or on-field offenses. Nothing as a player is worse than hearing, “on the line,” not just because the punishment is usually miserable to complete, but also because nothing productive is being accomplished!

Consuming alcohol at the collegiate level is what unfortunately gets lots of guys into trouble. Having to participate in “punishment runs” was an absolute nightmare, usually because I was always running for someone else’s screw-up. And, it didn’t matter how many times we were punished; guys would still go out to the bars later that night, not having learned a thing. It brings team moral down and creates problems between teammates. Believe me, there were some guys with whom I was not happy.

Some of the most successful teams win games because they’re close-knit groups, not because they have the most talent! A prime example was my high school baseball team during my senior year of 2008. One could debate whether we were the most talented team in comparison to teams in the past, but we made it all the way to the state championship game. This was due to the fact that we did absolutely everything together as a team, and never had situations that compromised our positive team dynamic.

Punishment runs not only wreck your players physically, but also destroy them mentally. Sometimes discipline is in order, but try and find another way to do it! There is only one thing you need. Bench the player until behavior improves. Negative reinforcement such as running only deals with issues temporarily. Benching a player might cause some player-coach tension, but that’s part of being a coach. Make the best decision for the whole team and ensure that every player represents your college or university in a proper manner.

6. Don’t make pitchers catch bullpens.

This is just my personal opinion. I understand that some programs do this and others don’t. Hopefully, I can provide insight for just one coach, at any level. Coming from a previous program who endorsed this, I saw firsthand how it can really end up injuring a pitcher. I’ll relate a personal account…

One afternoon during freshman year at practice, I walked up to the field and my coach informed me that I would be catching every single pitcher, and then I would get to throw my bullpen. Unfortunately, I had never caught an inning in my entire life. Still, I suited up. The first few fastballs went well. The first curveball, however, didn’t.  It bounce in front of me by about two feet and you can probably guess what happened next.

The whole team thought it was funny (and in hindsight, it was), but at the time, it was not. In the months after that experience, I was afraid of the ball, shying away whenever it got close to the mitt. This not only was physically taxing on me, but the pitchers couldn’t get in a rhythm and their bullpens suffered as a result. There is something to be said for having a catcher who sticks your pitches, moves back and forth across the plate, gives feedback on your pitches, and encourages you because they are confident; this was not happening with me. After I caught all of the bullpens, I began to throw mine. You can also be sure that another fellow freshman caught me; the practice was a total waste, for everyone.

7. Talk to each player one-on-one.

Every coach could do this more often. I know that after a game in which I performed well (or not so well), it was nice to have my coach tell me things I could improve upon while highlighted things I executed correctly. This is also important for players who are not regular starters, or kids who have never played an inning. It is essential to provide hope for these players; at any time they can be a cornerstone in the lineup! Too often, good baseball players don’t receive the proper mental reinforcement. It sounds cliché and simple, but even telling a player “good job” can carry them a long way. It is also important to have meetings with players outside of practice and listen to their thoughts and concerns, both academically and athletically.

8. Have fun.

Having fun is what the game is all about. Winning is fun. Having fun at practice is fun, too! Create competitions between the players. Let pitchers take batting practice. Create incentive for your players to be excited and ready to go when practice time rolls around! Most of all, be supportive of every player. Playing college ball and going to class is quite a workload. There is nothing better in the world that blowing off some steam and forgetting about school responsibilities by playing some baseball.

 Questions or comments?  Please post them below.  Also, Landon Wahl can be reached at landonwahl@yahoo.com.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 12

Written on July 23, 2012 at 7:25 am, by Eric Cressey

Here are some random tips from CP coach Greg Robins to help you improve health, get strong, lose fat, gain muscle, and move better.

1. Consider mixing protein powder with something other than water or milk.

I hardly ever recommend protein powder as the best choice for a quality protein source. However, a quality product (with minimal garbage thrown in the mix) is an easy way to get more protein into someone’s diet. For some, a scoop with water or milk is fine; they even enjoy the taste. For others, myself included, the novelty of protein shakes has diminished greatly. Enter other viable options to mix in a scoop or two of your favorite protein supplement.

Option 1: Ice Coffee

This is a game changer. Adding a scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein powder to black coffee is a delicious alternative to milk, cream, and sugar. It not only tastes great, but also fuels your body and gives you a little boost. Furthermore, I find it to be a fantastic option for people looking to shed some weight. The protein powder will satiate you, while the caffeine can work to curb your appetite and stimulate your metabolism.

WARNING: don’t try this with hot coffee. The protein powder will not mix well and tends to curdle at the top.

Option 2: Oatmeal

After you cook up a cup or two of raw oats, throw in a scoop or two of your favorite flavor. Make sure the protein goes in after the oatmeal is cooked, and before it cools down and solidifies.

Option 3: Plain Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious on its own, but sometimes it needs some variety. I would much rather get some flavor from a scoop of protein than the sugar filled “fruit” you find at the bottom of most other varieties. One of my favorite concoctions looks like this: 1 cup of plain greek yogurt, 1 scoop of chocolate whey, 4tbsp of oat bran, 4tbsp of shredded coconut flakes. Mix it all together, place it in the fridge over night, and you’ve got a delicious breakfast or snack for the next day.

2. Keep things fresh to keep people motivated.

Last week, I touched upon the importance of sticking to exercise selections long enough for them to have value/transfer in a strength training program. That said, I have spent some quality time inside the walls of commercial gyms, and run a number of different boot camps. You have to keep it fresh, I GET IT! So, how does a coach or trainer get the best of both worlds? First and foremost, educate your clients. You don’t need a fancy explanation; just give them a little insight. Show them the “why” that backs up the “how” that gets them the “what.”

Look to your assistance exercises as the first place to add variety. Monitoring the progress in (most) assistance work is not as important as just doing it. With that in mind, this is the first place where exercises can be altered more often. There is no point in choosing variations without a purpose. Luckily there are a lot of different exercises that accomplish similar, or the same thing. Resources, such as this blog, are full of different ideas.

Likewise, coaches such as Ben Bruno and Nick Tumminello have made it a point to offer up tons of innovative exercise variations, so check them out!

Lastly, “finishers” (circuit/medley training) at the end of a strength session is a logical place to add in something creative and fun. Keep the intensity high, the duration short, and mix it up. I know many people utilize these, so if you have a “go-to” option, please drop a comment below.

3. If you can’t do full push-ups, stop doing them on your knees.

The push up is a fantastic exercise. It will forever remain a staple for building the pecs, shoulders and triceps. However, let’s not forget to appreciate its most redeeming quality: The push up is an ultimate test in torso stability, and the ability to coordinate movement around a stable midsection. While this function of the push up makes it such a great choice for gym goers, it also provides us the reason that push-ups from a kneeling stance will have little transfer to performing them on your feet. Instead, elevate the hands as necessary, and train the push up in the position you ultimately desire to do them from in the future. Doing so will not only help you to train the muscles responsible for pushing, but also those responsible for keeping the spine in a neutral position.

4. Get outside!

5. Remind parents and team coaches that gaining good weight is still a good thing!

Without fail, I will hear at least one young athlete each week ask one of our CP coaches if putting on weight will make them slower. We all know “speed” is what separates the good from the great, as the faster we can move, react, throw, etc., the better we’ll perform. We need to appreciate that speed is dependent on force, and stronger people have more force potential.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, investigators looked at the off-ice fitness profiles of elite female ice hockey players relative to team success. The study found that, “Athletes from countries with the best international records weighed more, yet had less body fat, had greater lower body muscular power and upper body strength, and higher aerobic capacity compared to their less successful counterparts.”

To those of us in the field, this is obvious. As with many topics, we as strength coaches or trainers tend to forget the popular opinions of those less involved with what we do. Many parents and coaches still argue that “lighter” means faster, and muscle is “bulky”. Gaining 25lbs of muscle over the course of year will make a 16 year-old athlete who weighs 165lb. into a 190-lb., faster, bigger, stronger athlete. Moreover, 25lbs dispersed evenly over the frame of a 6′ athlete will not transform him into the next Lou Ferrigno. Be mindful of this, and again, educate your clients, athletes, and parents!

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Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique

Written on July 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm, by Eric Cressey

The chin-up is one of the most sacred inclusions in strength and conditioning programs, but unfortunately, it's common performed with incorrect technique.  Check out the video below to learn how to avoid the most common chin-up exercise technique mistakes.

 

If you're looking for more detail on the "gross extension" pattern I discuss in this video, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training of the Core.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Increase Strength, Be More Awesome: Live Q&A #3

Written on July 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm, by Eric Cressey

Okay, it’s time for another live Q&A here at EricCressey.com.  To get your questions answered, just post your inquiry in the comments section and I’ll approve it and then reply.  

My only rule is that your question must be limited to five sentences or less.  I’ll answer the first 25 that are posted, so please don’t bother posting questions if you come to this post days, weeks, or months after it was originally posted.

With that said, head on down to the comments section below and ask away! 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/12

Written on July 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

Corrective Carries – This excellent piece from Bill Hartman highlights just how valuable carrying exercises can be if they are executed with correct form.

The Paradox of the Strength and Conditioning Professional – This guest blog from Rob Panariello for Bret Contreras’ blog was excellent, even if it did read very “sciency.” I’d call it must-read material for up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches.

6 Primo Pressing Permutations – Here’s another innovative article from Ben Bruno.  He always has some good exercises for spicing things up in your strength training programs.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Table Adductor Dips

Written on July 17, 2012 at 6:56 am, by Eric Cressey

In this week’s mobility exercise of the week, I’ve got an excellent drill for reducing stiffness in the hip adductors.  I came up with this exercise when I realized that I wanted to be able to do more drills to improve hip abduction range-of-motion, but I didn’t always want them to be ground-based.  And, just doing lateral lunge variations all the time can get a little boring for athletes.  Enter table adductor dips.

I especially like to use this with our throwers because it actually parallels some of the hip angles we see with the pitching delivery, so it makes for a great warm-up and off-season maintenance/improvement exercise.  I also like it for them because they can do it out on the field without having to roll around in the grass (which would be the case with a lot of other adductor mobility drills).

In terms of coaching cues, it’s important to keep the weight on the support leg’s heel and sit back “into” the hip.  The majority of the weight should be on the down leg, with minimal pressure put on the leg that’s up on the table.

As you go through the exercise, brace the core to ensure that the movement comes through the hips (flexion and abduction) at the bottom position, rather than just allowing the lower back to round.  Having the arms out in front as I do in the video above can help as a counterbalance to prevent your butt from tucking under.  If you’re super stiff, you may want to consider holding a ten-pound plate out at arm’s length as an additional counterbalance.

At the top position, be sure to extend the hips all the way to stand tall between each rep.  I usually cue folks to activate the glute on the support leg to finish each rep.  This will also help guarantee that you’re stretching the adductors in both flexion and a neutral position.

We’ll typically do sets of eight reps on each side during the warm-up period.  This can, however, be held for a longer duration as a static stretch at the end of a training session.

For more drills like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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