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Written on March 1, 2012 at 7:28 pm, by Eric Cressey
My “random thoughts” pieces are some of my favorite writings that I’ve ever published, and today seemed like a good day to throw out some quick and easy ideas on how you can feel better, move better, lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and – if you’re super-motivated – take over the world. Here goes…
1. Get a good training partner.
There are random dudes you meet at the gym who provide a mediocre lift-off on the bench press here and there, and then there are dedicated training partners. There is a big difference. A good training partner will tell you to get your act together and train hard when you’re slacking off, or even hold you back when your body is banged up, but you’re stupidly trying to push through it. It’s guaranteed accountability, motivation, expertise, safety, competition, and all-around awesomeness. To be honest, I often wonder if most people get the best results working with a trainer/strength coach for these factors more than the actual expertise the fitness professional provides!
2. Make your bedroom a cave.
One of the best investments my wife and I made when we bought our new house were reinforced window shades for our bedroom so that very little light could get through when they were down. They make a dramatic difference in terms of how dark you can make your room at night (especially if you have street lights near your residence) and were 100% worth the extra cost, as compared to regular shades.
Even if you don’t want to spend the extra few bucks on souped-up shades, though, you can still get some of the benefits of “cave sleeping” by blocking out light from cell phones, alarm clocks, and – if you’re a frat boy – bright green neon signs of your favorite beer in your dorm room. Also, do your best to shut the TV and computer off at least thirty minutes before you hit the sack as well, as it’ll give your brain time to wind down and transition to some deep, restful sleep.
3. Take Athletic Greens.
I’ve always been a non-responder to supplements. As an example, I never gained an ounce when I started taking creatine in 2001, and never noticed a huge difference in sleep quality when I started taking ZMA. Still, I pretty much trust in research and go with these supplements, plus mainstays like fish oil and Vitamin D and assume that they’re doing their job. It’s interesting how some of the most essential supplements we take are the ones where we might notice the most subtle difference, isn’t it?
Anyway, in 2011, I added Athletic Greens to this mix. I look at it as whole food based “nutritional insurance” use it in place of my multivitamin. I think it’s solid not only as a greens supplement (which, incidentally, doesn’t taste like dog crap), but also because it directly improves gut health to improve absorption of micronutrients. With loads of superfoods, herbal extracts, trace elements, antioxidants, and pre- and probiotics, I could tell that it would be something that would decrease inflammation and improve immunity (something I’ve viewed as increasingly important with each passing year as life has gotten more stressful with the growth of Cressey Performance).
Interestingly, one of our long-time athletes who is now playing baseball at a highly ranked D1 university, started taking Athletic Greens after we chatted about it this summer, and he sent me this note:
Hey Eric, thanks for the recommendation on Athletic Greens. I love the product! I have not gotten sick once since I started taking it 4 months ago, and my body feels better than ever. This is the first semester I haven’t gotten sick. Hope all is well!
I guess I’m not the only one who likes it! Check it out for yourself here.
As an aside, they do a pretty cool combination where you can get greens, fish oil, and vitamin D all at once at a great price, and the fish oil is excellent quality. We have several athletes who get everything in this one place for convenience.
4. Go split-stance.
Last week, in my popular post, Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?, I included the following video of forearm wall slides at 135 degrees, a great drill we like to use to train upward rotation, as the arms are directly in the line of pull in the lower traps. With this exercise, we always cue folks “glutes tight, core braced” so that they don’t just substitute lumbar extension in place of the scapulae moving into retraction/depression on the rib cage.
Unfortunately, these cues don’t work for everyone – particularly those who are super lordotic (huge arch in their lower back). A great “substitute cue” for these folks is to simply go into a split stance, putting one foot out in front of the other (even if it’s just slightly). As you have probably observed in performing single-leg exercises like lunges and split-squats, it is much harder to substitute lumbar extension for hip extension than it is with bilateral exercises like squats and deadlifts. Fortunately, the same is true of substituting lumbar extension for scapular movement on the rib cage. So, if you’re struggling with the exercise above, simply move one foot out in front of the other and you should be golden.
5. Get some assessments done.
Imagine you were about to embark on a cross country trip with a great vacation in mind in, say, San Diego. However, I didn’t tell you where you were starting the journey. While you might get to where you want to be (or at least close to it), it’d make the trip a lot more difficult. You’d probably blow a bunch of money on gas, sleep in some nasty motels in the middle of nowhere, pick up an awkward hitchhiked who smells like cabbage, and maybe even spend a night in a Tijuana jail along the way. Not exactly optimal planning.
A strength and conditioning program isn’t much different than this cross-country trip. If you don’t know how your body works – both internally and externally – you need to learn before you subject it to serious stress. Get some bloodwork done to see if you have any deficiencies (e.g., Vitamin D, iron, essential fatty acids) that could interfere with your energy levels, ability to recover, or endocrine response to exercise. Likewise, consult someone who understands movement to determine whether you have faulty movement patterns that could predispose you to injury. I think this is one reason why Assess and Correct has been our most popular product ever; it gives folks some guidance on where to start and where to go. Otherwise, the strength and conditioning program in front of you is really just a roadmap, and you don’t know where the starting point is.
These are just a few quick thoughts that came to mind today, but I’ll surely have many more in the follow-ups to this first installment. Feel free to post some of your own ideas in the comments section below, too!
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