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Written on October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am, by Eric Cressey
Here’s this week’s collection of strategies you can apply to your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs; it’s a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.
1. Clean up your overhead pressing and pulling with these exercises and cues.
Overhead pressing isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good exercise choice. In fact, vertical pressing and pulling is an important part to any balanced approach. For those of us who have lived most of our lives below the shoulders, it may play an integral part to an unbalanced approach, aiming to bring overall balance back.
Overhead pressing and pulling may become problematic when people allow themselves to move into a heavily extended posture as they perform the exercise. In some cases, the factors contributing to this may warrant the elimination of overhead work until certain mobility and stability deficits are improved upon.
For many it’s simply a question of cueing, and re-learning what “right” feels like. Try some of these exercises.
Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion – engage anterior core, activate glutes, make a double chin, and don’t allow the lower back to arch (keep it flat against the wall). Exhale fully in the top position. Those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation will want to to get shrugged up a bit at the top, whereas those with a big upper trap substitution pattern will want to leave this cue out and focus on a bit more posterior tilting of the scapula during upward rotation.
Half-Kneeling 1-arm Landmine Press – The half-kneeling posture makes it harder to substitute lumbar extension for overhead activity, and the pressing angle serves as a nice progression to eventually getting overhead. The cues are largely the same as with the back-to-wall shoulder flexion, including the cue for those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation to get shrugged up a bit at the top.
Half-Kneeling 1-arm Lat Pulldown – You’ll generally do better with traction (pulls ball away from the socket) than approximation (forces ball back in to socket) exercises early on with overhead activity. The cues are, again, much the same. Notice, however, that Greg is attentive to not extending the humerus past neutral, which would create an anterior scapular tilt and cause the head of the humerus to glide forward.
2. Use the eccentric portion of a lift as an indicator.
We are stronger eccentrically than we are concentrically. In other words, we can lower higher weights in control than we can actually lift. For some, the difference between what they can load eccentrically, as compared to concentrically, is minimal. For others, the gap is quite large. Many refer to this difference as the “Strength Deficit.” Essentially the strength deficit is indicative of the difference between our maximal strength potential (absolute strength) and our actualized maximal strength.
With that in mind, keep a watchful eye on athletes (and yourself) during the lowering phase. Their ability (or inability) to show control in this portion is a valuable way to assess the appropriateness of the weight and exercise. I realize other factors could contribute to form breakdown on the way down or up, but in general, if you see athletes unable to lower a weight under control, it’s probably not going to look any better going up. Furthermore, if the athlete shows great control going down, but struggles on the way up, you know there is a recruitment breakdown and they are unable to realize their potential strength at this point. When you see that, address it as soon as possible! Lower the weight to where the concentric portion looks good and gradually progress the load.
Lastly, apply this concept to jumps as well. Consider teaching athletes (especially youth athletes) how to absorb and store force before sending them right into releasing it. Reversing the usual order of events, and teaching landing mechanics before jumping mechanics can effectively do this.
3. Vary soft tissue techniques for better recovery.
Many people don’t realize that the body will adapt to restorative strategies in a similar fashion to how it adapts to training. Vary how you approach your soft tissue work, by using different sized objects, changing directions between passes and modifying the sequencing.
Additionally, seek out trained professionals who can administer a number of different approaches.
4. Try meat muffins.
Meatloaf (the food, not the musician) makes everything better. If I could eat it for every meal, I’d be a happy man.
As with eating muffins, the absolute tastiest part is the top – but in a traditional meatloaf cooking container, the amount of “top shelf loaf” is minimized. The solution to this, of course, is to cook your meatloaf in a muffin baking sheet.
Also, if you’re looking for a healthy meatloaf recipe, check out this great turkey meatloaf one from Dave Ruel (makes six servings):
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 393 calories, 46g protein, 14g carbohydrate, and 17g fat
This recipe is one of 200 awesome ones in Dave’s product, Anabolic Cooking; I’d highly recommend you check it out, as my wife and I cook from it all the time.
5. Be realistic when you write programs if you know you’ll have time constraints.
Most of us have very busy lives, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly cut into our gym time. One of the biggest mistakes we see when folks write their own strength and conditioning programs is that they choose advanced exercises that may take a lot of time to set-up. Take, for instance, a reverse band bench press. In addition to requiring a lot of set-up time, it requires that you find a spotter and load/unload more plates than you’d normally use. The same would go for a board press variation; you need a spotter, someone to hold the boards, and more weight than you’d use on a regular bench press.
Sometimes, if you’re strapped for time you’re better off just picking an exercise on which you can fly solo, like a dumbbell bench press or push press. You’re increasing your likelihood of adherence and, in turn, success if you know you can get in more quality work in less time.
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