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The Best of 2012: Strength and Conditioning Videos

Written on December 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

In continuing with our “Best of 2012″ theme to wrap up the year, today, I’ve got the top EricCressey.com videos of the year.

1. Four Must-Try Mobility Drills – This video was part of an article I had published at Schwarzenegger.com.  You can check it out here.

2. Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique – It’s one of the most popular exercises on the planet, but its technique is commonly butchered.  Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.

3. 8 Ways to Screw Up a Row – Rowing exercises are tremendously valuable for correcting bad posture and preventing injury, but only if they’re performed correctly.

4. My Mock/Impromptu Powerlifting Meet – After being away from competitions for a while, I decided to stage my own “mock” powerlifting meet just to see where my progress stood.  I wound up totaling elite (1435 at a body weight of 180.6) in about two hours.

5. Cressey Performance Facility Tour – We moved to a new space within our building back in August, and this was the tour I gave just prior to the doors opening.

Those were my top five videos of the year, but there were definitely plenty more you may have missed. Luckily, you can check them out on my YouTube Channel.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Best of 2011″ feature. 

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The Best of 2012: Strength and Conditioning Articles

Written on December 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm, by Eric Cressey

With 2012 winding down, I’ll be dedicating this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com. I’ll kick it off today with my most popular articles from the past year.

1. 5 Reasons You Have Tight Hamstrings – This article received about 24,000 more views than the next most popular post of the year.  I guess a lot of people have tight hamstrings!

2. Are Pull-ups THAT Essential? – People love controversy, and when you call into question the risk/reward of one of the most sacred strength training exercises of all time, that’s exactly what you get! 

3. The Superset Survival Guide – This article, which featured my “Top 10 Supersets,” got a ton of Facebook shares and Retweets.

4. Everything You Need to Know About the Front Squat – This article was published less than a month ago, but already shot up to the top five, which isn’t easy to do!

5. 6 Tips for Adjusting to Exercise in the Morning – Early morning exercise might not be your cup of tea, but with some of these tips, it very well could be in 2013!

This wraps up my top 5 posts of 2012, but I’ll be back soon with more “Best of” highlights from 2012. Next up, I’ll list my top videos of the year.

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3 Coaching Cues for Strength and Conditioning Programs – Shoulder Edition

Written on December 26, 2012 at 9:46 am, by Eric Cressey

Since this series was so popular this year, I figured I’d try to squeeze in just one more collection of suggestions before the 2012 wraps up. Here are three more coaching cues for your strength and conditioning programs:

“1. Pull the elbows to your hips.”

As I discussed a while back in my Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique post, you want to be careful about extending the humerus past neutral at the top position of a chin-up. If the elbow moves behind the body In this position, the humeral head can glide forward, irritating the biceps tendon and anterior capsule. Additionally, the thoracic spine becomes excessively kyphotic, and the scapula may anteriorly tilt, closing down the subacromial space and exacerbating impingement on the rotator cuff tendons. Here’s what the bad looks like:

I’ve found that encouraging athlete to pull the elbows to the hips prevents this excessive humeral extension, and it also makes athletes stricter with their technique; they have to get the chest to the bar instead of just reaching with the chin and creating a forward head posture.

Conversely, if you encourage many young athletes to “just get your chin to the bar,” you get some garbage kipping concoction that looks like Quasimodo on the monkey bars with his pants on fire.

“2. Keep the biceps quiet.”

Piggybacking on our previous point, just like excessive humeral extension can create anterior (front) shoulder stress, uncontrolled external rotation can be equally problematic, as the humeral head will once again want to glide forward if it isn’t appropriately controlled by a combination of rotator cuff recruitment and scapular stability.

If an athlete feels external rotations in the front of his shoulder even in what appears to be the correct position, he’s performing them without monitoring humeral anterior glide. If this occurs, I’ll have him place his opposite hand on the front of the shoulder to monitor any kind of anterior glide of the humeral head, and encourage him to “keep the biceps quiet.” I’d say that 90% of the time, athletes are good to go once this correction takes place. In the other 10% of cases, we’ll regress the athlete to supine and prone external rotations, as well as manual resistance “holds” at the 90/90 position.

“3. Try to touch your butt to the ceiling.”

The yoga push-up is one of my favorite push-up variations. Just like all other push-up variations, it gives our shoulder blades freedom of movement, which is important when you consider that they’re essentially stuck in place during bench press movements.

I especially like the yoga push-up because it doesn’t just combine protraction/retraction, but also involves near-full humeral flexion. By elevating the humerus further, we force athletes to work on getting more scapular upward rotation.

If you tell an athlete, “Push your butt away from the floor,” you get greater recruitment of serratus anterior and upper trapezius to really get that last bit of scapular upward rotation – and, at the same time, get some good thoracic spine extension.

That wraps up this installment of cues.  If you like what you’re reading, I’d encourage you to check out the Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper series, which features a collection of outstanding webinars from some really bright guys in the industry.  Rick Kaselj, who organized the collaborative effort, has the product on sale at a great discount with a 60-day money-back guarantee.  You can check it out here for yourself.


 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/22/12

Written on December 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm, by Eric Cressey

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

Like Swings, Offseason Workouts Evolve with Time – Evan Drellich from MLB.com interviewed me for this feature on how professional baseball players change their training approaches from one offseason to the next. He did a great job with the article.

Warm-up – Here’s an incredibly thorough piece on warming up by Mike Robertson, one of my co-creators on the Assess and Correct DVD set.

The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness 2012 – I was honored to be included at #31 on this list that was put out by Greatist.com. 

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Coaching the TRX Y Exercise

Written on December 21, 2012 at 7:34 am, by Eric Cressey

The TRX Y is a fantastic exercise for correcting bad posture and strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into bad traps with technique on this exercise.  In today’s post, I discuss some of the more common problems we see with the TRX Y – as well as the coaching cues we use to correct them.

The TRX Y is a tremendous addition to your corrective exercise and strength training programs, so be sure to put these coaching cues into action to reap all the benefits of performing this movement.

Related Posts

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 23
Cool Holiday Fitness Gift Ideas: The TRX Rip Trainer

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Better Footwork for a Faster 60 and More Stolen Bases

Written on December 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm, by Eric Cressey

Back in August, while I was out at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, I filmed several coaching videos for New Balance Baseball. One of those videos covered a controversial topic in the baseball world: base-stealing technique.  This discussion also has implications for players running timed 60-yd dashes in recruiting scenarios.  Give it a watch/listen:

Also, for those of you in the market for new cleats before the spring season, check out the brand new colors that just came out in the New Balance 4040.  Our pro guys really like them, and the new camo designs have been a big hit.

 

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 27

Written on December 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm, by Eric Cressey

 Here’s this week’s list of tips to fine-tune your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, compliments of CP Coach Greg Robins.

1. Improve your squat by starting neutral.

2. Remember: “Everything should made as simple as possible, and not simpler.”

At Cressey Performance, we are fortunate to be in an environment where we are constantly learning.

As an example, this past week we had a spectacular in-service delivered by Eric Schoenberg of Momentum Physical Therapy and Performance. Eric is someone with whom we work closely. I respect Eric immensely as he has the rare ability to make things simple. When I hear him speak, I am reminded of the quote from Albert Einstein:

      “Everything should made as simple as possible, and not simpler.”

In his presentation, Eric made one point in particular that really hit home with me.

His talk mainly focused on helping us create a united front on how we coach many of the arm care and movement drills used by our athletes; as many of them swing between his clinic and our gym floor. When pressed with questions on the specifics of these exercises (where should the shoulder blades be, what muscle are making this happen, that happen, etc?) he stressed the importance of making the movement just look and feel good.

If it looks good and feels good, it’s probably good. If it looks like poop, and feels like poop, it’s probably poop.

Makes sense, right? Everyone is a little different, and everything may measure out to be a little different, but it holds true in the majority of cases.

However, there are times when it might look good to the eye and feel fine to the athlete, but not actually be good. These are the cases we don’t want to make simpler. As an example, what if an overhead squat looks phenomenal, but when you assess the individual on the table, you notice considerable tissue shortness at the hips? These individuals may have phenomenal core stability to overpower their stiff hips, but still need to work hard on tissue length to prevent injury.

Focus on making things look good, and know what “good” looks like, and you’ll be in a great position 90% of the time. However, don’t ever forget about that 10%.

3. Get out of extension before bridging exercises.

4. Make water less boring.

I strive to drink a gallon of water every day. And, 80% of the year, I accomplish that objective just fine. I don’t dislike the taste because, well, it doesn’t taste like anything.

However, I guess the lack of taste is why I sometimes find myself falling off the wagon. When I can’t stand the thought of drinking another ounce of water, I simply spice it up. For many of you, doing so may be just what you need to start making hydration more enjoyable. It seems like a stupidly obvious suggestion, but I guarantee that half of the people who read this don’t drink enough water. I also guarantee they would if it tasted like something worth putting in their mouth.

We all know the benefits of cooking ahead of time. If you are struggling to drink enough water, then prepare a few gallons of flavored water ahead of time, too. Squeeze in lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, or anything else you want to include. Spread throughout the entire gallon, the squeeze of half of an orange is going to add a trivial amount of calories to your intake; don’t get worked up about it.

5. Overhaul your dishware for portion control.

Here is an easy tip to control portion size without even thinking about it. Take a look at your dishes: I’m willing to bet they are pretty massive. If you’re in the market for new kitchenware, or just looking for a strategy to reduce calorie intake, consider downsizing your plates and bowls. If there’s less to fill, you will be forced to consume a smaller helping.

Additionally, this is a great strategy for damage control at holiday parties. Many times, people will offer dinner plates and smaller plates for appetizers and desserts. Choose the smaller plate and limit yourself to what you can fit on top. This is another simple tip, but an incredibly effective way to make your nutrition program more successful if you struggle with portion control.

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How to Enjoy Smoothies Without Getting Fat

Written on December 16, 2012 at 7:28 am, by Eric Cressey

Smoothies are something we utilize all the time with our athletes at Cressey Performance as a means of getting in calories easily.  You see, it’s very easy to add 500-1000 calories to a skinny athlete’s diet by just blending up a shake.

Plus, they can be a great way to “sneak in” foods you want an anything to eat.  Rather than just having an athlete crush a ready-to-drink shake that’s loaded with not-so-stellar ingredients, you can “hide” things like spinach, fruits, oils, and other ingredients that these athletes might not enjoy by themselves.

That said, I’ll be candid: I am a fat kid at heart.  I can put away a ton of food and really don’t need help sneaking in more calories; I’d rather taste all my food.  Moreover, I don’t partake in any of our “go-to” CP smoothies simply because I’m a guy who doesn’t need a lot of carbohydrates, so these 80g shakes would go directly to the wrong places, if I was to consume them.  Accordingly, I don’t make a lot of fancy shakes – until now.

You see, my buddy Joel Marion just released a recipe e-book called 53 Fat Burning Smoothies and Milkshakes.  What I really like about this resource is that it provides higher carb, moderate carb, and – for folks like me – low carb shake recipes.  Joel agreed to let me reprint a few of my favorites so that you could try them out, too.  You’ll notice that both these shakes are high in fiber and low in carbs – but still bring you back to a few of your childhood favorites: peanut butter and jelly and pumpkin pie.

PB & J Protein Smoothie

Ingredients
2 scoops Biotrust Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
5 frozen strawberries
Stevia (to taste)
5 ice cubs

Nutrition Facts
Calories (cal): 384
Fat (g): 15
Carbohydrates (g): 21
Fiber (g): 7
Sugar (g): 8
Protein (g): 43

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients
2 scoops Biotrust Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Stevia (to taste)
5 ice cubs

Nutrition Facts
Calories (cal): 243
Fat (g): 6
Carbohydrates (g): 22
Fiber (g): 10
Sugar (g): 5
Protein (g): 27

Notes for both shakes: Put all ingredients in a blender and enjoy! These smoothies are great meal replacements to use at any time of day.

If you’re interested in learning more, the good folks at Biotrust (a company Joel co-founded) are making this 53-recipe e-book available – along with a free shaker bottle and free shipping – to anyone who places an order for their low-carb protein powder by the end of the day Monday. Click here for more information.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/14/12

Written on December 14, 2012 at 8:10 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Invincible Immunity – This is an article I wrote all the way back in 2002.  While it’s over a decade old now, the information is still valuable, especially with cold and flu season upon us!

Player Interview: Steve Cishek of the Miami Marlins – Current CP intern Jay Kolster interviews long-time CP client and Marlins closer Steve Cishek on everything from pre/post-game routines, to strength and conditioning, to advice for up-and-coming players.  This is excellent stuff.

7 Tips for Dominating Seminars – This was an awesome post from Mike Robertson that everyone in the fitness industry should read prior to attending seminars. It’ll help you guarantee that you’ll get the most of these learning experiences.

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Baseball Strength Training Programs: Are Dips Safe and Effective?

Written on December 12, 2012 at 9:52 am, by Eric Cressey

I received the following question from a baseball dad earlier today, so I thought I'd turn it into a quick Q&A, as I think my response will be valuable information for many players - as well as those in the general population who want to avoid shoulder problems.

Q: What's your opinion on bar dips for baseball players? My son's high school coach has a strength training program that includes bar dips and I was wondering about the safety and effectiveness of the exercises for baseball players. 

A: I'll occasionally include dips in strength training programs for general fitness clients, but I'll never put them in programs for baseball players.

You see, when you do a dip, you start in a "neutral" position of the humerus with respect to the scapula; the arm is at the side (neither flexed nor extended):

The eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise takes the lifter into humeral extension far past neutral.

This is an extremely vulnerable position for many shoulders, but particularly in overhead throwing athletes.  You see, overhead athletes like swimmers and baseball, volleyball, cricket, and tennis players will acquire something we call anterior instability from going through full shoulder external rotation over and over again.  Essentially, as one lays the arm back (external rotation = osteokinematics), there is a tendency of the humeral head to glide forward (arthrokinematics). 

If the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers aren't perfectly strong and completely on time, the only things available to prevent the humeral head from popping forward in this position are the long head of the biceps tendon and the glenohumeral ligaments at the front of the shoulder.  Over time, these ligaments can get excessively stretched out, leading to a loose anterior capsule and a biceps tendon that moves all over the place or simply becomes degenerative from overuse.  And, anyone who's ever had a cranky biceps tendon will tell you that you don't want to overuse that sucker.

As a quick digression, this is one reason why you're seeing more anterior capsule plication (capsular tightening) procedures being done, with Johan Santana probably being the most noteworthy one. The problem is that after a surgeon tightens up a capsule, it takes a considerably amount of time for it to stretch out so that a pitcher will regain his "feel" for the lay-back portion of throwing.  Additionally, anecdotally, I've seen more biceps tenodesis surgeries in the past year on throwers and non-throwers alike, which tells me that surgeons are seeing uglier biceps tendons when they get in there to do labral repairs.  These are tough rehabilitation projects without much long-term success/failure data in throwers, as they fundamentally change shoulder anatomy (whereas a traditional labral repair restores it) and call into question: "Does a pitcher need a biceps tendon?"  Mike Reinold wrote an excellent blog on this subject, if you're interested in learning more.

Bringing this back to dips, we make sure that all of our pushing and pulling exercises take place in the neutral-to-flexed arc of motion, meaning we try to keep the humerus even with or in front of the body.  This is because humeral extension past neutral (as we see with dips) has a similar effect on increasing anterior instability as throwing does.  For those who are visual learners, check out the first few minutes of this rowing technique video tutorial:

I'd argue that the negative effects of bench dips are even more excessive, as they don't allow an individual to even work from a neutral position to start, as the bench must be positioned behind the body, whereas the parallel bars can be directly at one's side.

So, to recap...

1. No dip is a good idea for an overhead throwing population. Bench dips - which are probably used more because they are more convenient for coaches out on the field - are especially awful.

2. Regular dips probably aren't a great idea for the majority of the population, especially those with bad posture, weak scapular stabilizers, poor rotator cuff function, or current or previous shoulder pain.

3. In particular, anyone with a history of acromioclavicular joint injuries or chronic pain in this area (e.g. osteolysis of the distal clavicle) should stay away from dips (and another other exercise that puts the elbow behind the body).

4. Bench dips are really awful for everyone.

Looking for a program that trains the upper body safely and effectively - and without dips? Check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market.

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