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Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better
Written on March 4, 2013 at 6:43 am, by Eric Cressey
Thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs headed in the right direction.
1. Add finely ground nuts to your favorite meals.
A while back, I started using a chili recipe from Precision Nutrition that called for a few cups of finely ground up cashews. The cashews did a fantastic job of thickening up the chili and adding taste and texture. Since then, I have experimented doing the same thing to a few different stews, and other dishes as well. It seemingly works every time. Making a stir fry? Add a cup of finely ground nuts. Steaming up a big bag of kale? Try adding them in, it tastes amazing!
You will find that it is a great addition for those looking to add calories. Additionally, it works great to add flavor and texture to those on more low carb style meal plans.
2. Recognize that assessing exercise form is not the same as assessing movement patterns.
I’ll admit to a mistake right away. I was always impressed when coaches I had met would tell me how they could accurately assess people just by watching them squat, deadlift, or perform a host of other loaded exercises. I was fortunate that I stumbled upon people like Eric’s work early on in my career as a fitness professional. At the same time, I was frustrated because I didn’t have the knowledge yet to apply a lot of the information he was presenting. I wanted to use better methods of assessment, but I couldn’t draw the connections. Admittedly, I’m still not 100% there, if anyone is ever truly 100%. Luckily, I have him as a resource, and consider every week at work a mini course in my ongoing education. Being in this position early on I was impressionable, and the idea of looking at exercises I was very familiar with as a form of assessment was appealing. In turn, I began to do the same thing. Little did I know there was a major flaw in my thinking. The flaw is really quite simple when we take a second to think about it.
Loaded exercises, and movement patterns are two different things. While we must work to establish solid movement patterns, exercises under load do not need to, nor should they necessarily, look the same. Granted, one should prove proficient in establishing correct patterns before loading similar movements, but one should not use proficiency in a loaded movement to assess a person’s adequacy in a movement pattern.
The “why” is a long-winded explanation – and one that could branch off into many sub-topics. So, for the sake of today’s pointer, just respect the difference between performing a squat with 400lbs on your back, and assessing someone’s squat pattern. How can we look for compensatory movement in a 400lbs squat? Every muscle in the body is firing on full cylinders, so differentiating between what’s doing too much, and what’s not pulling its weight is impossible. If someone pitches forward in a 400lb squat how can we look past the 400lbs on their back and say it’s a movement flaw? You would probably be better served just watching the person walk around, tie their shoes, or walk up a flight stairs. Once we have switched into the totally active form of “exercise,” assessing movement integrity is a futile effort.
3. Get a grip on your bench press technique.
4. Pay attention to hip positioning during jumps and landings.
5. Utilize open and closed loop drills in your strength and conditioning programs.
Strength and conditioning programs are not meant to imitate the demands or movements of actual game play. However, decision-making is an important component to an athlete’s success. It is also a skill that can be, and should be trained.
Many drills that are used by strength coaches and sport teams would be considered “closed loop” drills. They are predetermined, and predictable.
“Open loop” drills, on the other hand, require an athlete to make changes in direction and speed on the fly in response to a scenario or outside cue. For more on the difference between them, give this a read.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28 (14 high standard and 14 low standard) Australian footballers were assessed on their decision-making skills, and the cost of poor decisions in relation to their reactive agility capabilities.
It’s not surprising that the study found errors in decision making to worsen reactive agility performance. What’s also useful to know is that the footballers of a “high standard” were much less likely to make incorrect decisions.
When training athletes, especially young athletes, make sure to incorporate open loop drills that challenge both the physical and mental side to sport performance. It can be as simple as making them react to the direction to which you point, or chase a tennis ball you throw.
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