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Fat Loss Friday: 15 Lessons on Leaning Out

Written on May 22, 2015 at 8:44 am, by Eric Cressey

Usually, my "random thoughts" series focus on anything from corrective exercises to sports performance training. However, given the release of my buddy John Romaniello's great new fat loss resource, The Omega Body Blueprint, I figured I'd throw out 15 thoughts on the subject of leaning out. Here goes!

1. We often hear about how the average American consumes a certain amount of <insert unhealthy food or beverage here> each year. What I'd be curious to hear is how much of the excess consumption comes from "nibbles," "tastes," "bites," and "samples. In other words, I'd be willing to bet that people are getting a lot of extra calories with quick tastes throughout the day - whether it's a "preview" taste of whatever they're cooking, finishing a child's meal, or trying a sample of a product as they walk through the grocery store. I'd be willing to bet that just removing these tastes from one's diet would make a significant difference in portion control for the average person who struggles with his/her weight.

2. There's been some research on how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, but I don't think it's gotten the attention it deserves. As such, I'll put it out there right here: poor sleep quality absolutely has a profound effect on body composition! Take it from a guy who has six month old twin daughters at home; the past six months have been "eye opening" from a training results standpoint, too!

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This obviously happens predominantly through endocrine mediums that modulate appetite and where we store calories; this has been well established in research on night shift workers in the past. However, we can't overlook the indirect impact it has on training quality in a more experienced athletic population. If you're chronically sleep deprived, it's going to impact your performance in the gym. I, personally, found that while my "peak" fitness levels didn't fall off, my ability to display them consistently did. In other words, as an example, I could still go out and deadlift 600+ pounds, but I couldn't do it as often or as predictably. Over time, those hills and valleys add up to a detraining effect.

Additionally, when you're dragging and crunched for time, there is a tendency to cut corners on everything from warm-ups to finding quick pick-me-ups like energy drinks. This is a very slippery slope.

3. I've never bothered to confirm that the numbers are right on the money, but over the years, I've heard that 80% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated, and that dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime fatigue. If these are, in fact, true, how come nobody ever highlights drinking more water as a means of improving fat loss efforts? It improves satiety and "displaces" calorie-containing beverages - and that's on top of helping to optimize exercise performance and "normal" health factors. I wish more folks would look to water as a "magic pill" over anything they can buy on the shelf of a supplement store.

4. Fat loss is pretty simple, until you're 90% of the way to your goal. After that, EVERYTHING matters: macros, hormones, programming, timing, and a host of other factors. This was a key point John Romaniello makes in his new e-book. You wouldn't take your Ferrari to a mechanic who specializes in working on Honda Civics, so you need to make sure you seek out expertise from people who have actually helped people to finish that final 10% on the way to the goal.

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5. Everyone has a few foods that they find irresistible - food that they always eat if they're in the house. If you're trying to drop body fat, before you take any other steps, you need to get these foods out of the house. The goal should be making "cheating" as difficult to accomplish as possible. For me, it's natural peanut butter.

6. A lot of people can only train three times per week - and that's totally fine. With that said, I'm still largely in agreement with Dr. John Berardi's observation that the most fit people you'll encounter get at least six hours of exercise in per week. In other words, if you've only got three hours to work out each week, your training definitely better be dense; you need a lot of volume and relatively short rest intervals. Don't expect to be in phenomenal shape doing a 3x5 program MoWeFr unless you have an awesome diet and are really busting your butt working hard during those three sessions.

7. When it comes to athletes, gradual reductions in body fat are the name of the game. You see, often, body weight – and not body composition – are what predicts their success. Pitchers are a perfect example; I’ve seen many who have just indiscriminately lost body weight, only to see their velocity drop considerably. This may come from the actual loss of body mass, the increased training volume that caused it, the type of training (extra aerobic activity?), or – most likely – a combination of all these factors. One thing is for sure, though: dramatic weight reductions rarely work out really well.

8. One of the biggest complaints of folks on "diets" (as much as I hate that term) is that healthy food gets too bland. Without even knowing it, a lot of them start adding sauces that are loading with extra calories, usually from sugar. Nobody ever seems to recognize that BBQ sauce and ketchup can be loaded with sugar, for instance.

Fortunately, a quick solution is to encourage them to gravitate toward using spices and herbs over sauces to add some flavor to meat and vegetables. I love turmeric, sea salt, and pepper on my eggs, as an example.

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9. Avoiding liquid calories is the still, in my opinion, the biggest dietary game-changer most folks in the general population can implement. I wish I could go back in time and eliminate every soda I drank as a kid.

10. There is an inverse relationship between strength preservation and conditioning intensity during a fat loss training phase. In other words, if maintaining strength is a high priority, you'd be wise to leave the aggressive interval training out - and instead opt for lower-intensity supplemental conditioning. Obviously, this means results will come a bit slower - but you'll hold on to your hard-earned strength gains more easily.

11. My business partner, Pete, told me a funny story the other day, and I thought I'd share it here as a good fat loss lesson.

Pete did his first "big" presentation - to an audience of about 150 fitness professionals - last month. As luck would have it, he wears a watch that also tracks his heart rate - and Pete happened to glance down at it right before he went on stage to present. His resting heart rate is normally in the 55-60bpm range - and it was up over 120bpm at that moment!

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Obviously, this is a specific challenging, unfamiliar incident that can get heart rate to spike. However, there are people out there who respond to most challenges like this; they are constantly "wired" throughout the day. This obviously has both short- and long-term health impacts, and you can bet that if you're always on edge, it's going to be a lot harder to lose body fat.

We don't have the option of just removing stressors from our lives, but we can change the way we respond to them. A few coping strategies to keep you mellow and unconditionally positive in the face of adversity might just help to get/keep you lean, too.

12. Speaking of stress, I'm a firm believer that sometimes, when it comes the war on excess body fat, we need to look at reducing stressors before we look to add stressors (via exercise and caloric restriction). Think about it: if you have a busy, overweight executive who is sleeping four hours a night and crushing terrible fast food, is the first priority to put him on a crazy high-volume exercise program? Shouldn't we try to add some quality sleep, better food, a little massage and/or meditation, and a moderate exercise program from which he can bounce back? In other words, isn't it a better bet - both for short-term health and long-term adherence - to "normalize" routines before getting on a crazy routine?

13. If you want to understand fat loss, you need to understand insulin management. For the real geeks out there, check out this paper I wrote for an exercise endocrinology course back in graduate school. There were enough references in there to last me an entire career...

14. It's very easy to fall off the bandwagon on the nutrition front when you're on vacation. If you're only going on 1-2 vacations per year, this probably isn't a big deal. However, if you're someone who travels extensively and does a lot of weekend trips, these dietary missteps can add up. Vacations are extra challenging because they often include all-you-can-eat buffets, plentiful dessert choices, and lots of alcohol. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to pack away 5,000 calories in a day if you're having two big ol' strawberry daiquiris while on the beach, and then enjoying a slice of cheesecake and two glasses of wine with dinner.

The last thing I would ever tell our clients to do is avoiding "indulging" while on vacation, so my strategy has always been to simply encourage them to get some exercise in first thing in the morning on half the days they're on vacation. In addition to the short-term metabolic benefits it yields, an exercise session has a way of keeping people accountable to their diets so that they avoid going overboard. If you work out early in the day, you're more likely to go grab a healthy breakfast - which will help to limit caloric intake later in the day. And, you're less likely to have that extra glass of wine at 11pm if you know you're going to be in the resort's health club at 8am.

Of course, this is coming from a guy who took a TRX to Costa Rica for his honeymoon, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt!

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15. I'm constantly amazed at how many calories I need to eat to maintain my body weight - and I don't consider myself an ectomorph, by any means. In fact, I'm probably more toward the endomorph ends of the spectrum. What separates me from the rest of the endomorph population in this regard? To me, it's two things:

a. I eat a very clean diet - which means I need a greater quantity of food.

b. My daily non-exercise activity level is pretty high, as I typically walk 4-5 miles per day while coaching on the floor. I'm also not very good at sitting still, whether it's tapping my foot while I'm working on the computer, or constantly bouncing around the house doing different things. I'm actually more stressed when I'm sitting still!

To this end, I think most folks who struggle with their weight need to find ways to add a bit more movement to their daily lives. Wearing a pedometer can be a great initiative in this regard.

In wrapping this article up, if you're looking from some direction from a guy who has put far more time and effort into learning about the rhyme and reason for optimal fat loss approaches, I'd encourage you to check out John Romaniello's new resource, The Omega Body Blueprint. It's on sale for 50% off through tomorrow (Saturday) at midnight, and I really enjoyed going through it.

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7 Ways to Increase Your Training Density

Written on May 19, 2015 at 3:22 am, by Eric Cressey

All things held equal, if you want to continue to improve over the course of a training career, you need to progressively increase the training stimulus. While increasing the weight used is the most well known way of progressing, increasing training density is another means of making things more challenging. In other words, you need to do more work in less (or the same amount of) time.

To that end, here are some of my favorite strategies for making your training more dense. As you'll notice, some of them are as much "mindsets" as they are actual programming strategies.

1. Be accountable to rest intervals.

Here's the breakdown of a typical powerlifting training session:

a. Lift something heavy over about 10-15 seconds.

b. Sit around cracking jokes with your training partners over about 8-10 minutes.

Repeat a and b over the course of about an hour, then do some assistance exercises and go home.

Obviously, I'm embellishing things - but not by much! I can't say that I know of many powerlifters who rigidly adhere to rest intervals - and I'm not saying that they necessarily should. However, their approach can certainly impact how "everyone else" trains in a trickle down effect, so I do think it's important for the general fitness enthusiast to be cognizant of monitoring rest intervals. If you're not careful, you can easily get distracted and wind up wasting too much time between sets.

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2. Remove distractions.

This goes hand-in-hand with point #1, as distractions compete with sticking to rest intervals. However, I think it's one thing to just procrastinate before the next set, but another thing altogether to actually get distracted by something. This might be checking your cell phone, or striking up a conversation with somebody when you know you've only got 20 seconds left before the next set needs to start. Clear out the distractions if you're trying to make your training more dense.

3. Minimize variety.

I'm normally a huge believer in variety in a training program, but when you're trying to make your training more dense, variety is actually your enemy. You see, the more variety you work into a training program, the more set-up that's required. We never realize that we might spend 10-15 minutes of every training session setting up equipment and loading/unloading plates. If you want to get a lot of volume in over a 45-60 minute period, you can't spare that 10-15 minutes. In other words, the "densest" sessions might only include four different exercises, as opposed to 6-8.

4. Don’t be afraid of drop-offs in loading.

This is another mindset note. Many individuals - myself included - absolutely hate having to drop the weight from one set to the next. However, unless you've undershot your initial weight selections, it's pretty much inevitable when you're doing several sets of higher reps. If you want to be successful with density-based training programs that involve higher-rep sets and shorter intervals, you'll have to eat a bit of humble pie when the loading starts dropping off.

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5. Incorporate back-off sets.

I discussed "back-off" sets in my recent article on the stage system. While they can be used for training strength and power, the real density benefits come with respect to accumulating volume - whether it's to increase muscle size or help with fat loss. Adding in back-off sets of 6-20 reps after your heaviest strength work can quickly increase the density of your overall training sessions.

6. Don't think that increasing high-intensity density work will yield as great an energy expenditure as increasing moderate-intensity density work.

This example might seem complex, but it won't be after this example.

Imagine you can deadlift 400 pounds, and you want to get more density in your program. Let's say that you can hit 90% of 1RM (360 pounds) for a single every 60s for ten minutes - for a total workload of 3,600 pounds.

Let's say that in this same time, you could hit a set of five reps at 75% of 1RM (300 pounds) every two minutes. That's a total workload of 7,500 pounds.

The point is that more reps - even with a noteworthy drop in intensity - will always "outdo" lower-rep work - even with more sets - when it comes to increasing the total amount of work in a given session. In other words, use your strength work to build or test strength, not to try to make for a more dense training session. Otherwise, you wind up getting stuck in a tough middle ground where you aren't building strength optimally, and really aren't making your training any denser.

7. Position exercise pairings in close proximity to one another.

If you pair up a front squat and a chin-up in the same power rack, you can get a lot of volume in without having to move around the gym at all. Conversely, swap those chin-ups for a lat pulldown, and there's a lot more walking involved. This is an especially important consideration in a commercial gym where someone might jump in on a piece of equipment while you're a few feet away.

If you're looking for a training approach that challenges density in a number of different contexts - with the end goal of helping you shed unwanted body fat - I'd highly recommend John Romaniello's new resource, The Omega Body Blueprint. It's a comprehensive training and nutrition resource that looks closely at the interaction of exercise and diet to create an optimal hormonal environment for leaning out. It was released today and is on sale at an introductory 50% off discount for this week only, and I'd strongly recommend you check it out if you're looking for some direction (and results) on the fat loss front.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/18/15

Written on May 18, 2015 at 4:54 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, everyone. In following with Monday tradition, here are some good strength and conditioning readings to kick off your week:

6 Mistakes Experienced Lifters Make - Ben Bruno was spot-on with his points in this article at T-Nation.

Durability on Decline for Today's Players - This MLB.com feature brings to light some pretty crazy numbers on how injury rates have gone up in professional baseball - both due to change in the game, and how players prepare.

35 Ways to Transform Your Body - As always, the folks at Precision Nutrition come through with practical advice for those looking to improve their nutrition and training programs. Here, they highlight lessons from their most successful clients.

Finally, just a friendly reminder that we're ten days out from the early-bird registration deadline for the Alex Viada seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. This will surely be a great event you won't want to miss. You can get more details HERE.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 10

Written on May 15, 2015 at 9:22 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the May installment of this popular strength and conditioning series.

1. Train OUTSIDE.

One of the things I've noticed over the years - both with sprinting and long tossing - is that athletes seem to "hold back" when they're indoors. They won't run at top speed when there are only 40-50 yards of turf ahead of them because they're already worrying about decelerating before they even really get moving. And, with throwing, there just seems to be more inhibition when an athlete is throwing into a net - as opposed to throwing to a partner who is pretty far away. Maybe it's the quantifiable feedback of actual distance, or maybe it's just less restriction - but the effort is always better.

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To that end, it's mid-May and the weather is getting really nice around the country. Now is a perfect chance to get out and sprint in the grass or at the local track. Don't miss this chance, as it'll be snowing again before you know it!

2. When selecting exercises, prioritize upside over avoiding downside.

This will be the "glass is half full/empty" point of the day - and I'll use an example to illustrate it.

Let's take the question of whether or not to prescribe bench presses for baseball players. I, personally, don't prescribe them for this population, but there are still a lot of strength and conditioning coaches out there who do.

Their argument is that they aren't as big a problem as has been proposed. In other words, they're protecting against the downside.

My mindset, by contrast, is to highlight the lack of an upside. In a population where shoulder and elbow issues are astronomically high, does this exercise provide substantial benefit such that it deserves a place in our programs? Does it deliver a better training effect than a push-up variation or landmine press, for instance?

In other words, it's not just a discussion of "good vs. bad;" it's a discussion of "optimal vs. acceptable." Even if some players can "get away with" bench pressing, are we really doing right by these players if our approach to training is to simply try to justify that our exercise selection isn't doing harm?

3. Use fillers to break up power training sets.

Optimal training for power mandates that athletes take ample time between sets to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have a tendency to rush through power work because it doesn't create the same kind of acute fatigue that you'd get from a set of higher-rep, loaded work. In other words, you'll want to rest more after a set of five squats than you would after a set of five heidens, even if you were attempting to put maximal force into the ground on each rep with both.

To that end, one thing I commonly do is pair power training exercises with low-key corrective drills. We call these drills "fillers," but that's not to say that they aren't very important. We might pair a rotational medicine ball training drill with a wall slide variation. This helps us get more quality work in with each session, but just as importantly, slows the athletes down to make sure they get the most out of their power training exercises.

4. Coach standing posture.

Static posture assessments are boring; I get it. However, they can still be incredibly telling. Here's an example...

Last weekend, during a two-day seminar I was giving, a trainer approached me and asked about his chronic bilateral knee issues. He described his soft tissue initiatives, mobility work, and strength training modifications in great detail; it was clear he'd put a lot of thought into the issue and was clearly frustrated, especially having been through physical therapy a few times without success. When he was done describing everything, I looked down at his lower body and asked, "Do you stand like that all day?"

He was just "hanging out" in a bunch of knee hyperextension. A follow-up toe touch screen looked pretty similar to this:

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The toe touch is obviously a movement fault, but he was in a bad starting position before the movement even started. If you stand in knee hyperextension all day - especially if you're a personal trainer on hard, unforgiving surfaces all day - your knees will hurt. It doesn't matter how much you foam roll or modify your strength program. You have to learn to stand correctly before you learn to move correctly.

With that said, apply this to your athletes. How many of them do this during down-time in practice or games? And, next time you watch a Major League Baseball game, watch how many position players just "hang out" like this between pitches - and wonder why we see more hip and back pain on the right side.

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Sometimes, the easiest solutions aren't the most obvious - even when they really are obvious if you know where to start looking!

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 63

Written on May 12, 2015 at 9:13 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's five tips come from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Get a training partner!

Having training partners helps TREMENDOUSLY with respect to improving your ability to lift more weights, get huge, and keep focus. They can:

a) Give objective feedback immediately after lifts. This feedback allows you to understand how you can improve from day to day.

b) Push and motivate you.

This is probably the most likely reason for grabbing a friend and hitting the gym. Hiring a trainer is similar to this, but lifting alongside other strong individuals who are striving towards the same goals is what makes this a distinctive reason.

While lifting weights may be an inherently self-driven purpose, if you have a slight competitive edge between friends and partners, you can not only help yourself grow, but allow your group of friends to grow as well.

This is something I’ve done instinctively when dancing - find the best dancer in the area, and hang around them. By seeing what is possible, or how they troubleshoot difficult issues, you can improve two-fold or more the next time you practice or have a lifting session.

c) Have fun.

Here are some of the late night lifting shenanigans that happen when Tony Gentilcore and pitching coach Matt Blake start practicing basketball drills after some heavy bench pressing.

This kind of environment helps to lighten up the mood in between crushing PRs in the gym and on the platform.

2. Supercharge your sleep.

Whenever I ask the athletes that come into our facility how their sleep has been, I always get one response: “good.” More prying often reveals tossing and turning, staring into the dark abyss for about 30 minutes before actually falling asleep, and hitting the snooze button multiple times. Is that truly “good?”

Many schools of thought promote the opening of airways in order to elicit better oxygenation to the brain and muscles, but the thought of improving airways during sleep had not occurred to me until recently. After being told I snore like a bear, and finding that snoring may equate to airway obstruction, I opted to take action by using a simple nasal strip to open up my nose!

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In fact, leading up to the weeks of my recent powerlifting meet, I improved my sleep tenfold by incorporating these strips. I didn’t need coffee as soon as I woke up, just for the mere fact that I had much more energy from getting quality sleep.

While research from McLean et al. (1) indicates that nasal strip as an intervention for sleep apnea and snoring is highly variable from person to person, if you purchase this and attempt to use nasal strips, and it doesn’t work, you only lose $6-10 tops. If you do use it and it helps get some Z’s in, well then it was worth the effort and money!

3. Alter equipment based on leverages.

If you told me a few years ago that levers would impact the difficulty of the exercise, I wouldn't have bought in to the legitimacy of the "tall vs. short" person discussion.

In fact, this statement may hold true for more youth athletes the more I’ve worked with the younger generations. When you have 12 year-olds that are 6’0” tall, and other 12 year-olds that are 4’0”, leverages and height come into play.

It is for this reason that barbell front squats may not be beneficial for someone, but double kettlebell front squats to a box may be more pragmatic. The same arguments can be made for several other exercise variations.

4. Replace coffee with green tea.

Tea has a whole host of benefits that can help improve your day to day activity levels, along with many other health benefits.

While not immediately noticeable in terms of energy spikes like coffee or various energy drinks, there is a subtle amount of caffeine in some teas, for those that do not enjoy weening off of coffee. Not to worry, because at the end of the day here are a few of these benefits if you were to make the switch:

• Reduction in various cardiac functions, namely reduction in atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and reduction in cardiovascular disease (2)

• Increase in energy expenditure (2)

• Inhibited free radical from oxidative damage (2)

• Reduction and prevention of various cancers (3)

I personally enjoy brewing tea, but for those that are on the “go”, utilizing teabags is also one way to still get a few of these benefits.

5. Utilize a head rest in warm-ups.

A forward head posture may be common in those who are also likely candidates to have a flat thoracic spine.

Implement a head rest such as a mat (a rolled up hoodie or sweater also works) in order to reverse this posture, albeit temporarily.

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As you can see, Tony sits in a little cervical extension when laying supine (top left image) - and there is nothing wrong with that. Giving him some directions (chin tucking, or “packing your neck”) will give him a little bit more anterior neck activation (top right). According to Thomas Myers, this will help to activate the deep front line - which consists of the abdominals as well.

In the moment, adding a slight elevation underneath his head when laying down (bottom left image) will theoretically allow your neck and other accessory respiratory musculature to relax during some low threshold exercises, such as glute bridge, dead bugs, or other warm-up drills.

Further enhance the position of any of these exercises by instructing the individual to look down through their skull (to help introduce a flexion based strategy for reducing cervical extension), which can be seen in the bottom right image. Note the position of his jaw line in the bottom right compared to the top left image - drastically different.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found at www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

*Note: the references for this article will be posted as the first comment below.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/11/15

Written on May 11, 2015 at 8:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers who read this blog; I hope you all had a great day yesterday! As a belated gift, here are some recommended resources for the week:

A Doctor's View of CrossFit - I thought this was an excellent interview at T-Nation with Dr. Stuart McGill, arguably the world's premier spine specialist. He definitely covered some points that haven't been mentioned previously in the Crossfit debate, and you'll find quite a few one-liners you'll want to commit to memory. One that stood out to me: "Olympic lifting must find the lifter. Not the other way around given the special anatomical gifts needed to lift with efficiency and injury resiliency."

An Interview with Eric Cressey, by Jason Glass - Jason and I talked shop a few weeks ago, and you can listen to the podcast online now. We covered a lot of topics, the foremost of which was training rotational sport athletes.

Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing - I had a great conversation with a seminar attendee this weekend about this very topic, so I thought I'd bring this great guest post from Jeff Albert (minor league hitting coordinator for the Houston Astros) back to the forefront.

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Are You Changing Behaviors with Motivation, Ease, or Both?

Written on May 8, 2015 at 8:23 pm, by Eric Cressey

I recently finished up the audio edition of the book, The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behavior, by Adam Ferrier.

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It was a good "listen" that included a lot of strategies to create behavioral changes - and all of these strategies fell under two broader headings. If you want to change a behavior, you either need to a) increase the motivation to change or b) make it easier to change.

My mind, of course, immediately began to race as I thought about all the different ways this applies to individuals' success (or lack thereof) in strength and conditioning programs. There are countless examples of how we can impact both variables to improve outcomes in the fitness world. Let’s take a look at a few.

Motivation

Encouraging athletes to train as part of a group, or having clients work with trainers/coaches definitely increases motivation. Someone is always waiting for you, so you’ll be more motivated to avoid missing training sessions.

Likewise, running challenges or contests can be very motivating for clients, as there may be a prize – or even just bragging rights – at stake.

I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people who purchased The High Performance Handbook have gotten great results not just because it's a good program, but because actually spending money on it increases the likelihood that they'll work really hard on the program!

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Ease

To be clear, ease doesn’t refer to making the actual training easy. Rather, it refers to incorporating strategies that make it easier for clients to behave in ways that will achieve a great training effect. We really don’t want to lower the standard; instead, we want the client/athlete to realize that the standard is achievable with the right approaches.

Having more flexible scheduling options may make it easier for clients to remain adherent to their programs. For instance, my wife loves to take part in the Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance, but the sleeping/eating schedule for our twins can sometimes be very erratic. Luckily, there are classes every hour from 5:30AM to 10:30AM every MoWeFr, so she can make game-time decisions on which one she attends.

Incorporating a body weight only (or minimal equipment) home workout into a client’s training program may also make it easier for that individual to get a training effect. Many exercisers can get overwhelmed if they think that every session mandates a lot of equipment, an actual gym, and plenty of time.

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These are just a few examples of how modifications to motivation and ease can quickly yield favorable outcomes in strength and conditioning programs. If you’re struggling to get the results you want – either for yourself or your clients/athletes – start by looking at these variables. Manipulating one or both may lead to the behavior changes you need to take progress to the next level.

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4 Keys to Making the Most of Summer Baseball

Written on May 5, 2015 at 7:19 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach, Tim Geromini. Tim has seen summer baseball on both the collegiate and professional levels, and today, he shares his insights on how players can thrive between June and August. Enjoy! -EC

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The topic of whether or not to play summer league baseball has been debated quite a bit over the last few years. Eric wrote a great article about it (HERE). This article is not designed to make the case for or against playing summer league baseball, but rather to give some points on how to make the most out of your experience if you decide to play. With four seasons in summer league ball under my belt, I’ve heard the phrase “this was the best summer of my life” more times than I can count. Assuming it is the right timing and situation for you, here are four keys to making it the best summer of your life on and off the field.

1. Get your mindset right before you arrive, and stick with it.

This might seem like an easy one, but you’d be surprised how many guys come in with the wrong mindset every year. Summer league baseball should not be what it’s made out to be (party time!) in movies like Summer Catch. Rather, it’s a chance to become a better player and person. I’m not saying you have to be sound asleep in your bed right after the game ends, but you should understand the true reason you are there.

You are there to learn more about the game and become a more complete player. Some coaches will not do much teaching, but rather let you play your style and make some adjustments. Others will be incredibly critical and teach you until the day you leave. I’ve seen both coaching styles work. What are the common traits of players who’ve thrived under both circumstances? The players were open minded, incredibly positive, and wanted to get better. If you’re willing to accept another way of thinking, keep a good attitude about it, and do it with a determination to be better, you are doing everything you can to improve on and off the field.

2. Be part of your host-family.

Most players will live with a host family, and you are lucky to have that opportunity. Be part of that family for the summer and beyond. If you have a host-brother or host-sister, you have an opportunity to positively impact that person’s life. They look up to you, just as you would have when you were younger. Hang out with them, teach them, and learn something from them. I always loved seeing my players playing with their host families on the field after games. Whether its dinner with the host-parents, running the bases with their host-brother, or playing a round of mini-golf with them after the game, it’s a great way to spend your summer. On a related note, most of our Major League Baseball guys at Cressey Sports Performance keep in close contact with their host families from their college and minor league days, as they’ve built life-long friendships.

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Remember that you also represent the town for which you play. Be a gentleman on and off the field.

3. Rest and Recover.

In many cases, players are playing competitively 8-10 months out of the year. Summer league is at the tail end of this run, when your body is exhausted. Sleep and nutrition are your keys to be able to perform every day. It’s difficult to play your best and be mentally in the game on a few hours of sleep every night. A hidden form of recovery is to get yourself out of the sun when you can. Baseball camps, practices, and games can make for upwards of 8 hours in the sun all day. Get yourself in the shade or in a cool, dark area when you can. Some teams will have a rule where your host family provides a certain amount of meals for you each day. Take advantage of this to get your calories in and make healthy decisions. The most successful players I have seen took rest and recovery seriously.

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4. Train!

There’s no way I could write this article without highlighting the importance of training during the summer. If you follow this website, I trust you know the benefits of training and are proof of the results. I must say, however, that many athletes think the summer away from their college strength coach is their opportunity to not see a weight room. You don’t have to train every day. In fact, trying to train 6 days per week while playing 5-6 days per week can do more harm than good. I always shot for 2-3 training sessions per week for my guys, depending on their situation; this kept them fresh and strong. The non-training days are just as important to improving tissue quality and maintaining mobility. Whether it’s doing it yourself by foam rolling and going through some dynamic flexibility drills, or seeking manual therapy elsewhere, it’s important to get your work in on these fronts.

Conclusion

There are a number of ways to make summer league baseball an enormous success and something you will always remember. These four always stuck out to me and I hope it can help some of you in the future. I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on other important factors in summer baseball in the comments section below.

About the Author

Tim Geromini is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/4/15

Written on May 4, 2015 at 7:16 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, gang; I hope you all had a great weekend. Let's kick off the week with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Solving Sleep Problems - Adam Bornstein presents some non-obvious strategies for improving your sleep quality and quantity.

Fitness Professionals: How to Figure Out Your Learning Style - I wrote this just over two years ago, but a recent conversation with one of our interns reminded me of it. If you're a fitness professional, it'd be a good read to help with your continuing education approaches.

How to Build Success in Your Training - Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Gentilcore outlines some key success measures of which we need to be aware.

Also, just a friendly reminder that Elite Training Mentorship updates twice a month with inservices, webinars, exercise demonstrations, and articles from staff members at Cressey Sports Performance, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, and several other forward-thinking facilities from around the country. Be sure to check out this comprehensive continuing education resource.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 9

Written on April 30, 2015 at 8:16 am, by Eric Cressey

With only a day to spare, here's the April edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training.

1. Don't forget pauses can be beneficial with single-leg training, too.

Working pauses into your lifting can yield tremendous benefits, as they reduce contribution of the stretch-shortening cycle and force a lifter to work much harder to produce force from a dead-stop. For some reason, though, they usually only get applied to "big bang" bilateral exercises like squats, bench presses, and (obviously) deadlifts. I actually really like to program pauses into single-leg work to improve carryover to what athletes really encounter in athletics and the real world. Here's an example:

2. Try the 1-arm cable rotational row from a low setting.

I love incorporating rotational rows in our athletes' programming. Many coaches only program this as an upright variation where the cable is set at chest height. I think this overlooks the importance of athletes learning how to "accept" force on that front hip. Hip rotation rarely occurs in isolation in athletics; rather, it is generally concurrent with flexion/extension and abduction/adduction. By lowering the cable a bit, you challenge things in a bit more of a sport-specific manner - and, in the process, add some variety to your athletes' programs.

3. Make sure put your intensive rotator cuff work after your overhead work.

I recently reviewed a program that paired Turkish get-ups with cable external rotations. While both are great exercises, the last thing you want to do is fatigue the rotator cuff before you go overhead, where it needs to work really hard to keep the humeral head depressed relative to the glenoid fossa. Likewise, be careful about doing all your cuff stuff early in the session, then progressing to overhead carries later. My feeling is that you just do enough to turn the cuff on during the warm-up, then train your highest stabilization demands (e.g., overhead supporting/carrying), and then head to the more direct (fatigue producing) stuff.

4. Different strength qualities make different athletes successful.

We have two athletes - both left-handed pitchers - make Major League Baseball debuts this week. The first, Jack Leathersich, is a relief pitcher for the New York Mets, and he just has one of those insanely "quick arms." In other words, it's almost as if he doesn't know how to throw a ball softly; it really jumps out of his hand. I think it's a function of his natural "reactive ability."

The second, Tim Cooney, is getting a start in his big league debut today for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He's not as naturally reactive as Jack is, but you could make the case that Tim is the strongest pound-for-pound professional pitcher we train. I've seen him do Turkish get-ups with a 100-pound kettlebell, and walking lunges with the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. He can make up for less reactive proficiency by falling back more on pure strength. I think this "strength reserve" also helps Tim as a starter, whereas reactive capabilities tend to fall off as fatigue sets in, which is probably why Jack has thrived as a reliever.

This static-spring relationship closely parallels the absolute strength to absolute speed one I shared in the past.

The more "static" guys are strong and need more reactive training, which largely takes place on the speed end of the continuum. The more "spring" guys need to keep prioritizing strength as a foundation for effective stretch-shortening cycle function, as you can't display force quickly if you don't have enough force in the first place.

I'll be back soon with another installment during the month of May!

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