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Written on June 8, 2012 at 8:44 am, by Eric Cressey
Here are some strength and conditioning and nutrition tips to help you lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and scare obnoxious kids off your lawn, compliments of Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.
1. If you’re going to use kettlebells, hold them correctly:
2. There’s “strong,” and there is “strong enough.”
In our strength and conditioning programs, we focus on the improvement of three main strength qualities: maximal strength, explosive strength, and reactive strength. Strength is basically the ability to produce force. Potential force finds its ways into different equations that represent qualities executed on the field, court, diamond, ice, etc.
I look at maximal strength as a pool of potential force that can be called upon, while explosive and reactive strength are a measure of how efficiently and quickly this potential force can be utilized. At a certain point, improving one strength quality without another is a futile effort. The amount of each quality can be determined by the demands of the athlete’s sport, and position within that sport; how does the athlete need to move themselves, or someone or something else?
At a certain point the continued increase of maximal strength at the disproportionate increase of explosive and reactive strength is not productive. In other words, how beneficial is it to take a pitcher’s squat from 315lbs to 405lbs when he is asked to throw a baseball that weighs about 5 ounces? Do not get wrapped up in maximal strength numbers, be weary of assigning arbitrary numbers as benchmarks for your athletes, and make sure to train different qualities in a strength training program.
3. We were given two legs and two arms, don’t forget to use them together.
I am not dismissing unilateral work from a solid strength and conditioning program. I am offering that the dismissal of bilateral exercises, injury cases/movement issues withstanding, is not necessary. In fact, I would argue that it is detrimental to your purpose.
Strength coaches often use the analogy that “weight lifting is not your sport”, and I have written on this forum on how the only necessary activity to an athlete is actual sport practice. As coaches, and everyday people, we all know the last thing we want to do is get hurt in the weight room. So if weight lifting is an added benefit to sport performance, and not used to replicate the sport itself, why is uni lateral work considered more functional to our goal? Additionally, if the idea is to keep people healthy, why would we not use the best mechanical positions to move heavy loads in our strength training programs?
I realize an argument can be made for unilateral work in both of these cases, and thus I am not saying it shouldn’t be included; rather it shouldn’t be included at the expense of bilateral work. Instead of looking for ways bilateral lifts aren’t great choices, you are better served to look at how they are, and then find ways around their shortcomings. This is what we do at CP, via specialty bars, elevated trap bar settings, and so forth. Do yourself and your athletes a favor and include bilateral exercise selections in your strength training programs; they are safe, effective, and very “functional”.
4. When squatting, create outward pressure from the heel.
When I teach someone how to squat I am careful in how I cue pressure on the foot. I like people to imagine “spreading” when going down AND when coming up in the squat. However, I find that when you tell someone to spread they will often supinate and lose a neutral position of the ankle.
The good news is that this cleans up when you tell them (or yourself) to create outward pressure on the heel. In this position the ankle joint will remain centered, and you will produce better force through the ground. Make sure to keep contact with the ground with the front of your foot as well. The two points of contact there will be just below the big and little toe. This creates the “tri-pod” effect and gives you power through the lateral heel and control through the front foot. Give it a try and watch your squat improve right away!
Additionally, think about what this means in the context of your footwear selection. If you’ve got a huge heel lift, there is no way you’ll be able to get the appropriate weight positioning through your feet. That’s why a minimalist footwear option is a better bet for performing various strength exercises (and just about everything in life).
5. Cue up some music; it helps!
I don’t know about you, but I love to have some great music on when I train. I honestly prefer to listen to music I actually enjoy when training, not always something that just makes me want to put my head through a wall. Furthermore, it has actually been shown that music does improve performance in activities requiring high muscle outputs.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that music actually improves muscle power output.
“…peak and mean power were significantly higher after music than no music warm-up during the two times of testing. Thus, as it is a legal method and an additional aid, music should be used during warm-up before performing activities requiring powerful lower limbs’ muscles contractions, especially in the morning…”
While external sources of motivation should not be relied upon, make it a point to charge the iPod the night before big training sessions. It actually WILL make your strength and conditioning programs more successful!
My top five favorites on the playlist these days include Rage Against The Machine, Skrillex, Metallica, Jedi Mind Tricks, and “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Yes, I went there.
What are your favorites? Leave a comment below!
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