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How Much Work Are You Actually Doing?

Written on July 1, 2015 at 11:23 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm fortunate to do 99% of my training sessions at Cressey Sports Performance, where we've got all the equipment I can possibly desire and a great training environment to keep me motivated.

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Occasionally, though, I have travel - and that's when the other 1% of my training takes place. Usually, this means under-equipped hotel gyms or commercial gyms that can make for some good people watching. This morning was one example.

Normally, when someone in the fitness industry visit a commercial gym, they instantly go into "gym snob" mode and try to nitpick on all the things people are doing wrong, whether it's poor exercise selection or horrendous training technique. While I certainly recognize these things, I like to think of myself as an eternal optimist. If I can find the good in a commercial gym - whether it's a trainer's approach or some new piece of equipment I haven't seen - then there is a good chance I'll have something solid to bring back to improve CSP.

Today, there was one big lesson that really stood out in my mind: some people were doing a lot of actual "work."

Yes, by "work," I'm referring to Force x Distance.

Whether it was on machines or with free weights, these individuals (who, unsurprisingly, were typically very fit), were challenging themselves with appreciable loads. And, they were generally doing so through a full range of motion.

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Taking it a step further, though, they were doing so without wasting time. There wasn't just work; rather, there was significant work done without a lot of standing around.

Conversely, there were also folks who spent a lot of time standing or sitting around. Sets were few and far between, and supersets just weren't happening. There weren't compound exercises, and they weren't choosing challenging weights. In fact, exertion wasn't really present in any capacity. I couldn't help but wonder why anyone would bother to get up at 5:30am to "work out" if that individual didn't actually want to do much actual "work?"

Believe it or not, I think this is a more common problem than we realize. There are a lot of people struggling to make fitness progress because they think that they train a lot harder than they actually do. I don't necessarily fault them, though, as a lot of them have never been taught how much volume and intensity is needed for progress, and even fewer have actually gotten into a training environment that forced them to take on a challenging training program.

So, how do you know if you're working hard or not? Is it sweat on your shirt, or wobbly legs as you leave the gym? Sure, those are somewhat subjective signs, but they're a good start.

Speaking more objectively, though, I would just say that lifters should be able to get in warm-up work and then 20+ sets of mostly compound lifts in 60-75 minutes. And, in most cases (particularly beginner and intermediate lifters), the weight used on these sets should increase from week to week.

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If you're not able to get that much quality work in over the course of that much time, there is a good chance you're doing too much waiting around between sets, or you're getting caught up doing some other low-priority training initiative.

From time to time, I think it's useful to do a "training audit" to see where you stand on this front. Review your recent programs to see if you're getting in enough quality work to continue making progress. I've even seen accomplished powerlifters do this and realize that with all the heavy singles and long rest periods, they were actually getting in very little total work in training sessions. They added in more assistance work and incorporated some backoff sets in to bump up their total work number to get back to making better progress.

You may also find that you're doing so much work that you could benefit from a back-off period. That might come in the form of volume, intensity, or frequency reductions.

The important thing is that you are cognizant of the hard work it takes to succeed. And, even more importantly, you'll understanding where you are relative to that benchmark.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/30/15

Written on June 30, 2015 at 4:48 am, by Eric Cressey

 Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Coaching Grey Zone: When to Simply Shut Up - Dean Somerset makes some great points on when the best coaching approach is to just leave an athlete/client alone.

A Day with Alex Viada: The Hybrid Athlete - We hosted Alex Viada for a seminar at Cressey Sports Performance, and it was fantastic. In this article, Tony Gentilcore summarizes some of the key takeaways.

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EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast with Chris Doyle - This is an awesome interview with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He's a super bright and down-to-Earth guy.

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3 Ways to Create Context for More Effective Coaching

Written on June 24, 2015 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

 Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio.

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Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Content is king, but context is God.” He was talking about Internet marketing, but the same holds true for coaching.

Our goal as coaches is to get our athletes into the right positions as quickly and safely as possible. There are many ways to do this, but the best ways all use context to flip on the metaphorical light bulb deep within an athlete’s brain. Much like marketing, the content of our coaching is only as good as its ability to create context for our athletes.

Cueing and Context

There’s lots of buzz about internal versus external cueing (with most coaches agreeing the latter trumps the former), but without context, it doesn’t matter how precise your coaching cues are. It doesn’t matter if you tap into your athlete’s auditory, visual or kinesthetic awareness. If your coaching cues don’t conjure up a somewhat familiar position or sensation, your coaching will be ineffective.

People love context because they love familiarity. It’s the reason why we leave a familiar song on the radio even if we don’t actually enjoy it. It’s why we always order the same meal at a restaurant or buy the same car, if only a model year newer. It’s not so much brand loyalty as it is the confidence we feel in a familiar scenario. And when athletes are confident, they perform at their best.

But for many, strength training is anything but familiar. Throw a new athlete into a new environment with new coaches and new movements, and everything is, well, new. Context is painfully hard to find. It’s our job as coaches to create it.

This goes beyond internal versus external cueing. When’s the last time a young athlete had to push his butt back to the wall or spread the floor outside of the weight room? Yes, these are useful cues, but they pale in comparison to referencing movements and sensations they’ve experienced over and over. Your athletes have stockpiled heaps of complex movements while playing their sport(s), so use them as bridges to new movements in the weight room.

Coaches must constantly challenge themselves to refine their coaching skills and become more efficient. Striving to provide context in every coaching interaction will help you do just that. Here are three reliable ways to create context while communicating with your clients.

Relate to an Exercise

A well-designed training program will build upon itself from exercise to exercise. The warm-up creates context for power development, which builds context for strength training, which builds context for conditioning. Fellow CSP Coach Miguel Aragoncillo often calls this the “layering” effect, where we gradually introduce athletes to layers of a movement to make it easier to learn and retain.

For example, we use positional breathing drills to get the ribs and pelvis in position for proper inhalation and exhalation. Then, we use exercises like dead bugs and bird dogs to teach athletes to brace while moving their extremities. Then, when we hit our first strength movement of the day, whether it’s a deadlift, lunge or press, we can refer to the warm-up for context on proper technique.

Context becomes especially useful when progressing athletes from low-speed movements to high-speed ones. The faster the movement, the more concise your cues must be.

For example, you’d be hard pressed to get athletes to think about what’s happening while landing from a jump. Which cues are processed more easily?

“Hip hinge! Tripod foot! Externally rotate your femurs!”

Or…

“Land where you jumped from!”

If you’ve done your job as a coach by teaching a good take-off position, the second option should happen almost automatically. Not coincidently, this position will come up during many other exercises, providing context for all of them.

The entire training session should create material for you to call upon later, so don’t gloss over the little things early on.

Relate to a Sport

Working with baseball players after playing baseball for the majority of my life gives me a distinct advantage. I speak their language. I’ve walked in their cleats. I can create context by relating many of our exercises to familiar movements on the baseball diamond. Similarly, if you relate anything in the gym to an athlete’s sport, you’ll win them over quickly.

Recently, I was working with a young athlete who was struggling to do a trap bar deadlift. No matter how I cued him or physically put him in position, he couldn’t get there on his own. Just as I was about to regress to a simpler exercise, I took a shot in the dark. Our conversation was as follows:

Me: What position do you play in baseball?
Athlete: First base.
Me: So what do you do when the third baseman throws the ball too high?
Athlete: I do this. (Goes to do a countermovement jump)
Me: Stop!
Athlete: (Paused in a perfect hip hinge) What?
Me: Right there! Grab the bar.

He proceeded to do a set of five textbook deadlifts and nailed every set after that. Where internal and external cues failed, context prevailed.

You can duplicate this scenario for almost any sport.

Basketball: “How do you guard the ball handler?”
Football: “How do you take the snap from under center?”
Tennis: “How do you wait for the serve?”
Hockey: “How do you take the faceoff?”

The list goes on. With athletes, context is everywhere. Get to know their sport and speak their language. And if you can help them understand how their workouts will make them better at their sport, you’ll gain their trust and get their best effort.

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Relate to a Feeling

Perhaps the best way to make your coaching cues last a lifetime is to get in touch with your athletes’ feelings. Before you dismiss me as some Kumbaya-singing hippy, let me explain myself.

Many coaching cues are transient. Sure, cores brace, glutes squeeze and necks pack whenever we ask them to, but as soon as we turn our backs, things often go awry. Even the best lifters sometimes miss a key point on their pre-lift checklist of body parts to organize, and one weak link in the chain can lead to suboptimal (and even dangerous) movement.

If you simply take the time to implant a crucial feeling into an athlete’s mind (i.e. “Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel when you squat.”), they won’t soon forget it. It’s often easier to navigate one’s way to a feeling than think about multiple body parts at once.

I consider myself a decent bench presser, but when I set up, I don’t go from head to toe, double-checking if I’m retracted here or extended there. I know what I’m supposed to feel so I just feel it and lift. That’s how mastery occurs and eventually gets us to the coveted state of unconscious competency, as described by psychologist Thomas Gordon in his four-stage approach to learning. Miguel recently drew the four-stage matrix on our whiteboard during a meeting with the interns:

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Basically, we aim to go from being incompetent while thinking about it to being competent without thinking about it. We don’t want athletes to constantly think about their movement on the field. They need to move automatically or they’ll get left in the dust. Similarly, we need to coach them in the weight room with the intention of movements and exercises becoming automatic.

This is where taking 5 to 10 minutes of a single 90-minute training session can pay huge dividends down the road. Rather than hastily resorting to a regression when an athlete is struggling, create context and get the athlete to feel the right position. Get your hands on them. Ask, “What do you feel?”

Whether it’s pulling the bar away from someone during a deadlift to get their lats turned on (“Don’t let me take the bar from you. Feel that?”) or doing lateral mini-band walks to prevent knee valgus during squats (“Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel during squats.”), these extra steps are always worth the extra coaching effort.

It’s akin to the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Are you giving fish by always hand-holding athletes into position? Or are you teaching them how to fish by helping them discover the answer so they’ll always be able to access it?

Conclusion

Familiarly allows an athlete to let his or her guard down and perform to the best of their ability. Creating context with your coaching cues puts them in a familiar setting and opens the door for better movement. Instead of simply relying on internal and external focus cues, strive to create context wherever possible. I’m confident your athletes will move better and learn faster.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at www.BonvecStrength.com.
 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/23/15

Written on June 23, 2015 at 5:20 am, by Eric Cressey

 I hope everyone had a great Father's Day weekend. Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

EC on Joe DeFranco's Industrial Strength Podcast - Joe and I chatted about everything from training rotational sport athletes to raising twin daughters!

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EC on the Well-Traveled Wellness Podcast - This interview with me covered offseason programming, career longevity and usage, injury prevention and more.

Cluster Sets for More Gains in Less Time - I've long been a fan of cluster training, and in this article, Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio outlines the "who-what-when-where-why-how" of performing this set/rep approach.

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3 Tips for Improving Your Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion

Written on June 18, 2015 at 11:27 am, by Eric Cressey

I've often alluded to how important I think the back to wall shoulder flexion drill is as both an assessment and actual training exercise. Today, I've got three strategies for improving your performance of this exercise:

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/16/15

Written on June 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm a day late with this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading, as we were hosting another one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships at Cressey Sports Performance. I've still got some good reads for you, though:

Minimizing Key May Risk While Scaling Your Business - Pete Dupuis, my business partner at Cressey Sports Performance, recently started his own website, which focuses on the business side of fitness. This is his most recent post, and includes some great lessons for fitness entrepreneurs. I'd add this website to your regular reading list.

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Probiotics and Depression - The folks at Examine.com offered this free preview of their Research Digest resource. I always enjoy these updates and would recommend them if you're looking to stay on top of up-to-date research in the world of nutrition and supplementation.

10 Ways to Crush It at Your First Powerlifting Meet - This was a great article from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. It's a great read if you're thinking about competing in powerlifting. I also published this interview on the topic about ten years ago, but Tony's post definitely adds some great insights.

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Optimizing the Big 3 Seminar: August 2, 2015

Written on June 13, 2015 at 6:43 am, by Eric Cressey

For the third time, Cressey Sports Performance staff member and accomplished powerlifter Greg Robins will be delivering his one-day seminar, "Optimizing the Big 3," at our facility in Hudson, MA. This event is a great fit for lifters who have an interest in improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift - and may want to powerlift competitively. And, it's also been very popular with strength and conditioning professionals. It'll take place on August 2, 2015.

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Overview:

"Optimizing the Big Three" is a one-day seminar geared towards those looking to improve the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Split into both a lecture and hands on format, the event will provide attendees with practical coaching on the technique of the classic power lifts, as well as valuable information on how to specialize movement preparation, utilize supplementary movements, and organize their training around a central focus: improved strength in these "big three" movements.

Furthermore, Greg will touch upon the lessons learned in preparation for your first few meets, to help you navigate everything from equipment selection, to meet-day logistics.

The value in learning from Greg is a matter of perspective. He has a wealth of knowledge, and experience stemming from various experiences as a coach and lifter. Greg will effectively shed light on how he has applied human movement principles, athletic performance modalities, and anecdotal evidence from working with a plethora of different populations to one main goal; optimizing the technique, health, and improvements in strength of amateur lifters.

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Seminar Agenda:

8:30-9:00AM: Check-in/Registration

9:00-10:00AM: Mechanics, Technique, and Cueing Of the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift - In this lecture Greg will break down the biomechanics of each movement, how to optimize technique, and what to consider both as a coach and lifter in teaching / learning the movements.

10:00-11:00AM: Managing the Strength Athlete: Assessing and Meeting the Demands of the Lifter - Learn what demands a high amount of volume in the classic lifts puts on the body, how to assess for it in others and yourself, and what you can do to manage the stress associated with these demands.

11:00-11:15AM: Break

11:15AM-12:45PM: General Programming Considerations for Maximal Strength - Take a look inside Greg’s head at his approach to organizing the training of a lifter. Topics will include various periodization schemes, and utilizing supplementary and accessory movements within the program as a whole.

12:45-1:45PM: Lunch (on your own)

1:45-2:15PM: Preparing for Your First Meet - Based off his own experiences, and knowledge amassed from spending time around some of the best in the sport, Greg will share some poignant information on what to expect and how to prepare for your first meet.

2:15-3:30PM: Squat Workshop

3:30-4:45PM: Bench Press Workshop

4:45-6:00PM: Deadlift Workshop 

Date/Location:

August 2, 2015

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

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Cost:

Early Bird (before July 2)  – $149.99
Regular (after July 2) - $199.99

Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction - particularly during the hands-on workshop portion - so be sure to register early, as the previous offerings have both sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.

Registration:

Click here to register!

Still not convinced? Here is some feedback from previous attendees:

“The coaching I got was phenomenal; amazing experience!”

“Really happy with the content, and the coaching of the lifts. Definitely appreciated the appeal to reflect on training, and be able to defend all exercises you program. I had high expectations for this event and they were exceeded.”

“Honestly, I was really happy with the seminar, my only regret is I wish I asked a few more questions as Greg was really great about avoiding a dogmatic approach that is very common in this field!”

“This was awesome! I learned a ton about the big 3 and feel like I can pass on the knowledge to our clients.”

“I really like your approach to lifting and your lifting philosophy. I've been strength coaching for 20 years and I run a successful business; it's getting hard to find a good seminar. Normally, when I learn one thing I’m happy, but this last Sunday, I learned a lot. I'm really satisfied!”

“Very worthwhile and I would even attend the event again, especially for the hands on.”

“Very concise, while allowing the topics and questions to develop as the audience saw fit. It was very informative and engaging.”

“This was awesome. Definitely would attend something like this again!”

“I loved having the opportunity to actually lift, the coaching was phenomenal!”

Click here to register!

About the Presenter

Greg Robins is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. In addition to co-authoring The Specialization Success Guide, his writing has been published everywhere from Men's Health, to Men's Fitness, to Juggernaut Training Systems, to EliteFTS, to T-Nation. As a raw competitive powerlifter, Greg has competition bests of 560 squat, 335 bench press, and 625 deadlift for a 1520 total.


Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 11

Written on June 12, 2015 at 7:20 am, by Eric Cressey

Earlier this week, the Major League Baseball Draft took place, and when all was said and done, 27 Cressey Sports Performance athletes had been selected. To that end, I thought it was a good time to type up this month's Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training installment, as the draft has been what's on my mind. Point #1 is a lead-in to the points that follow.

1. I actually posted this on my Facebook page and was surprised at how many "likes" it got, so I'm sharing it here - especially since I think it'll serve as a jumping off point with respect to culture.

The biggest compliment a client can pay to CSP is when a parent trusts us to train their son/daughter during the teenage years when they're young and impressionable and need good role models to model positive behaviors.

The second biggest compliment a client can pay to us is when a professional athlete trusts us with his/her career.

The annual MLB Draft is the time of year when these two compliments coincide, and we get to see how point #1 can lead to point #2 as dreams come true. Congratulations to the 27 CSP athletes drafted over the past three days; thank you very much for having us along for the ride.

It's always awesome to see guys we've trained through their high school years transition to professional athletes. These scenarios not only provide lessons on long-term athletic development, but also the importance of creating a culture at the facility that makes training fun over the long haul.

2. I recently finished up the audiobook, Unmarketing, by Scott Stratten.

UnmarketingCover

One of the key messages Stratten drills home is that customers have to like you before they can get to know you, and they have to know you before they can trust you. Obviously, in the strength and conditioning field, our athletes/clients are our customers. This "like-know-trust" is an important message, because long-term athletic development - and certainly working with professional athletes (or those trying to become pro athletes) is all about trust. They need to trust that you're giving them the appropriate programming and cues they need for success.

He goes on to discuss how many businesses put the carriage in front of the horse on this point. They don't work to build a relationship with their customers before trying to monetize them. It's like asking someone to marry you in the middle of the first date. I immediately thought about how our business model has impacted our training model.

When a new athlete comes to CSP, they're individually assessed and we have a chance to spend anywhere from 20-60 minutes getting to know them. It's not only a chance to review injury history and go through a movement evaluation, but also an opportunity to build rapport by learning about goals, training history, and common interests. It also gives us a chance to subtly demonstrate our expertise and relate a plan of attack for how we can help. In short, an initial evaluation is about learning about so much more than just whether an athlete has sufficient hip internal rotation!

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Conversely, think about what happens when an athlete walks into a facility where every athlete does the same program on the dry erase board, and there isn't an assessment to kick things off. In these scenarios, the trainers/coaches really haven't done anything to get to know the athletes, and they certainly haven't gotten these athletes to "like" them. The road to building trust has gotten started with a pretty messy detour - and it'll take a long time to build things up.

3. We really go out of our way to create context for our athletes when we're coaching. In other words, our coaching cues need to build on what an athlete already knows. A front squat is easier to learn when you've already done a goblet squat, and a rotational medicine ball shotput can build upon what an athlete knows from baseball hitting. However, I don't think people ever recognize the importance of creating context for success - and I'm a big believer that it's been a huge part of the results we've gotten.

Everyone knows that for years and years, the world dreamed of having someone run a sub-4-minute mile. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister accomplished this great feat - and thereafter, it became very commonplace. Granted, the sports media somewhat unfairly sensationalized the "quest" for the 4-minute-mile, but the message is still very much the same: once you've seen someone accomplish something that appeared very daunting, you're more likely to be able to accomplish it yourself. The 27 CSP guys drafted this year have watched over 50 guys get drafted in the three years ahead of them - and, just as importantly, they've had a chance to rub elbows with them during training. Success leaves clues - and clues help to create context for more success.

4. On the whole, at young ages (younger than 16), I think the notion of "Sports-Specific Training" is actually pretty silly. We can all agree that good movement is good movement, regardless of whether a young athlete plays soccer, football, lacrosse, or basketball. Overhead throwing athletes, though, are - at least in my opinion - a very important exception to the rule.

In all these other sports, we can adequately prepare for the most common injury mechanisms with well coached general training exercises in our strength and conditioning program. However, how many weight room exercises do you see that help an athlete build stability in this position?

layback

If you have an athlete that goes through this kind of lay back - whether it's with baseball/softball, swimming, tennis, or any other overhead sports - you need to train them to build stability in this position.

5. In all, there were 1,215 players drafted earlier this week over the 40 rounds. That's astronomically higher than any other professional sport - and in no other sport do you more quickly go from being a big fish in small pond to being the small fish in a big pond. As of right now, only two of the 41 first round (plus supplemental round) picks in last year's draft have made it to the big leagues. Conversely, if you're a first rounder in the NFL or NBA, you're in "the show" right away pretty close to 100% of the time.

In other words, there is a lot of time for things to go wrong for draft picks while in minor league baseball. Injury rates are at all-time highs, players may get into trouble, and others might just discover that they don't have the talents necessary to compete at the highest level. Scouting baseball players is an imperfect "science" - and, sadly, 90% (or more) of these 1,215 players won't "make it."

For this reason (and many others), I heavily emphasize to our staff and athletes that our #1 job is actually to educate our minor league guys on how to be advocates for themselves and understand what is unique about how they move. If we can give them the best training and nutrition insights possible - and teach them how to practically apply them throughout a long season - they stand much better chance of making it to the big leagues. Strength and conditioning coaches may not be able to impact talent (at least not directly), but we can impact one's ability to display it consistently. In fact, this is what the wall of our assessment room looks like:

durability

6. I've talked in the past about how all our arm care programs work proximal to distal. In other words, we focus on core control, rib positioning, and thoracic spine mobility, then move to scapular control, then to the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint, and then down to the elbow. It's because there is somewhat of a "downstream" effect. Improving thoracic rotation can improve shoulder internal rotation. Getting an athlete out of a heavily extended core posture can get the latissimus dorsi to calm down, which takes stress off the elbow. Taking care of scapular control might even relieve nerve impingement that's causing symptoms into the hand. The possibilities for this "downstream" effect are really endless.

Conversely, though, there isn't an "upstream" effect. Nobody's thoracic spine mobility improves if you do some soft tissue work and stretching to get some elbow extension and supination back. Improving rotator cuff strength won't get rid of lower back pain.

This is why I think improving anterior core control in baseball players can be such an unbelievable game changer. We know that improving function in the sagittal plane is generally easier than improving it in the frontal or transverse planes, and the anterior core is really responsible for resisting lumbar extension.

APT

Additionally, the core is the furthest "upstream" option to impacting function. So, if you're a believer in the concept of minimum effective dose (and I am), your goal should be to work on the easiest, most impactful stuff first. Anterior core is that option in a baseball population.

In fact, it's so important that I did an entire 47-minute presentation on the topic. If you haven't checked out Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core yet, I'd encourage you to do so.

AnteriorCore

Congratulations again to all this year's MLB draft picks! Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/8/15

Written on June 8, 2015 at 9:21 am, by Eric Cressey

It's not just any Monday, as today kicks off the 2015 MLB Draft, which is always a big event in the Cressey Sports Performance world. To that end, I thought I'd use this installment to highlight a few old posts I've made on the subject. There are some good lessons on perseverance and long-term athletic development in these articles.

6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development - This was my 2014 post-draft feature, where I discuss key characteristics of successful players.

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MLB Draft Thoughts: Talking vs. Doing - This was the 2013 post-draft feature, which highlights that actions speak louder than words.

Draft Q&A with Eric Cressey: Part 1 and Part 2 - This two-part article was actually an interview of me for Baseball America prior to last year's MLB Draft. I think it delves into a lot of important topics for up-and-coming players as well as coaches and parents.

Enjoy the draft!

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The 5 Most Common Mistakes Young Strength and Conditioning Coaches Make

Written on June 5, 2015 at 6:59 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, creator of the great new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, which is on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Saturday.

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Three times per year, we start a new intern class at our facility, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST). So, 19 times now, I’ve taught a group of interns the basics of program design, coaching, and anatomy and physiology.

And, even after all of these years, I consistently see some of the same mistakes being made by our interns.

I almost hate calling them mistakes, though. These are mistakes they often have to make to get to the next level of coaching.

Here are five of the most common mistakes young coaches make, as well as how to nip some of these problems in the bud.

#1 - Coach the Right Exercise

Coming up as a powerlifter, I thought the squat, bench and deadlift did everything besides cure cancer or promote world peace. Okay, maybe I didn’t think they were that awesome - but it was pretty darn close!

What you find over the years is that some exercises are flat-out easier to coach than others. A barbell back squat is an awesome exercise, but it may not be the best way to learn how to squat.

Think of it like this: even if you’re a good coach, how much sweaty equity does it take to coach someone on the back squat?

It takes a while, right? And, even with great coaching, it may take them quite some time to dial in the movement.

Now consider an alternative like a plate or goblet squat. You can take that same client and literally have them squatting with perfect form in a matter of minutes!

Make things easy on yourself. Rather than taking a month to teach someone a more complex exercise, give them a simpler exercise early-on and allow them to have success. Not only will you be less frustrated, but they’ll enjoy training a lot more, too.

#2 - Be Active!

When I’m taking new interns through our coaching program at IFAST, one of the first things I teach them is the sequence of positions I want them to review the clients’ movement.

In other words, they start with the sagittal plane first, or a 90-degree view. If things aren’t right in the sagittal plane (i.e. too much flexion, extension, etc.), then you know things will be off elsewhere.

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However, it’s not uncommon to see young coaches post-up in this position. Even if things look great in the sagittal plane, they’ll still hang out there for the rest of the set!

Instead, I always tell my coaches I want them to be active. Clean things up in the sagittal plane, and then move around to the front and back as well.

Chances are once things look great in one plane, there will still be things in the frontal or transverse plane (a knee caving in, the pelvis rotating to the right or left, etc.) that warrant your attention.

However, just because you’re active and seeing more doesn’t mean you want or need to fix everything all at once!

#3 - Don’t Over Cue!

I see it time and again: A young coach really starts to open their eyes and they see all the movement issues with which our clients and athletes struggle. This is all fine and dandy, until you see them throwing 1,000 cues at their client on every set!

I would liken coaching to doing triage in an emergency room. Are you worried about the kids that come in with little scrapes and bruises, or are you worried about the one who might lose a limb? Which one do you treat first?

Think of coaching in that same vein; everything isn't equally important.

What you’ll inevitably find with more time and repetitions is that one or two little cues or tips will fix 80-90% of the issues with which a client is struggling.

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#4 - Level Them Off

One of my jobs as a coach is to help my clients and athletes train at an optimal level on each and every session they’re in the gym.

If you look at arousal when training, it’s a bell curve. If your energy and motivation is too low, you’re probably not going to have a great session.

On the other hand, if you just crushed five energy drinks, blasted Pantera the entire way to the gym, and just snorted an ammonia cap, chances are you’re a little bit too aroused to put in a solid effort as well.

As a coach, I need to help get an athlete where they need to be.

Energy is too low? Maybe they need a bit more encouragement, or their favorite music station cranked up a bit.

Arousal too high? Maybe we need to get them to bang out some good breaths, or find a few relaxation strategies to bring them down a notch or two.

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As a coach, make it your job to get your clients and athletes at the appropriate level of arousal for each and every training session. They’ll be more consistently successful, and less likely to burn out as a result.

#5 - Coach in Bullet Points

When new interns start coaching exercises, their coaching may sound like this:

“Jane that looks great! Now I really need you to get your air out, tuck your pelvis underneath you, blah blah blah....”

As a client, you’ve already tuned out. You’re getting too much information, all while trying to concentrate on and execute the movement!

Instead, as a coach, make it a goal to say as little as possible while still getting the execution you're seeking.

You may have to create some context (which is best done in-between sets), but try to coach in bullet points:

* Exhale,
* Abs tight (or even just ABS!),
* Tuck,
* Etc.

The shorter and more concise you make your coaching, the more likely your client is to be able to take that information and use it effectively.

Summary

As a coach, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. However, I’d also like to think those mistakes have absolutely made me a better coach.

Whether you’re a total newbie or a savvy vet, I hope these tips help you take your coaching to the next level!

If you're looking for a more extensive collection of coaching and programming tips, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Mike's new resource, Physical Preparation 101. It's on sale for $100 off through Saturday at midnight, and it has my highest endorsement. You can learn more HERE.

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