Master the King of All Exercises

Deadlifting Secrets 101

Everything you need to know about this complex exercise.

Free Video Training

Name:
Email:* 
The High Performance Handbook

The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...


7 Entertaining Quotes from Mike Boyle

Written on April 22, 2014 at 7:11 am, by Eric Cressey

Back in 2005, I presented at my first "big" event - about 120 coaches and trainers.  I spoke right after Mike Boyle, and right before lunch; it was the very epitome of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You see, Mike was a super polished speaker with many years under his belt, and lunch was pulled pork barbeque, which provided a fantastic scent that easily distracted a hungry audience.

To say that my presentation could have gone better would be an understatement.  I believe I used the word "umm" and "okay" a combined 1,500 times in the hour. I had about 75 slides for a 60 minute talk.  After the presentation, Mike gave me some great advice; paraphrased, it was: "Relax, have fun, and just be yourself; it's more entertaining if you're talking with them than if you're talking at them. And use more videos."

boyle-mike

Needless to say, it was helpful advice that was rooted in a lot of experience, as Mike is one of the more entertaining presenters in the fitness industry. One of the things he's noted for on this front is some good one-liners, so as I went through his new DVD set, Functional Strength Coach 5, I wrote down these gems, which I think you'll appreciate:

1. "It [Training] all comes down to anatomy and physics."

I loved this one because I'm constantly hammering home the importance of having an anatomy foundation. If you don't understand structure, you can't understand function or dysfunction.

2. "We want to be simple, not just safe."

Mike went on to discuss how "safe" alone doesn't get the job done, as a lot of people would argue that machines are "safe."  "Simple" implies safety - but with an appreciable training effect.

3. "There are a lot of poor people out there who just want to train athletes."

I cracked up when he said this, as just about every young fitness professional only wants to work with athletes.  As my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote in this great guest blog almost two months ago, the adult clients you encounter not only help pay the bills, but also have some of the greatest potential to teach you about training and life.  Very few people "make it" in the private sector by training athletes only.

4. "The intervention matters more than the monitoring. You’ve got to train."

This was a great point.  So many people are wildly focused on monitoring athletes now that the actual training seems to be getting back-burnered.  I'm all for monitoring, but if you are willing, able, or qualified to get quality work in, monitoring doesn't really matter.

5. "In culture, there is an asshole-to-good guy ratio."

Mike went on to discuss that if more than 20% of the people in a team setting are hard to deal with, it's going to be difficult to be achieve your training goals with everybody.

6. "You never see anyone who can run or jump who doesn’t have an ass – in any sporting activity."

You need to train ass to haul ass.  Enough said.

7. "The two most profitable areas of hospitals in the United States are bariatic surgery and spinal surgery."

Well, this certainly is a sad commentary on our society to wrap up this article, huh?

Looking to learn more about Mike's thought processes - and be entertained with more one-liners like this? Check out the newly released Functional Strength Coach 5, which is available at $50 off through the end of the week.

fscqhyl5a-fsc_0bb0aj0bb0aj000000

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Destroying Baseball Dogma: Installment 1

Written on April 21, 2014 at 7:48 am, by Eric Cressey

Today, I'm going to kick off a new series about common myths from the baseball world.  I'll tackle one of these each month.  In this first installment, we're going to have some fun with this quote that I hear all too often:

       "Guys are working too hard in the off-season,
    and all this strength training is leading to injuries."

I've heard this muttered hundreds of times, but this is this quote by Lou Piniella in the NY Times last year stands out for me:

“The season is so long now and so strenuous, you need to rest your body for two-three months after it’s over,” said Sweet Lou. “But today, these players all have their personal trainers and they work out all winter and put on more muscle. When I played, we didn’t have a weight room or a strength coach and everybody took the team bus to the ballpark. We never heard of an oblique. Now guys are going out on their own, five or six hours before the game, going right to the batting cages and taking hundreds of swings a day. It’s overdone. The body can’t take it. If you ask me, that’s where all these oblique injuries are coming from.

I'm going to respond to this in bullet point fashion, as I think there are a lot of gems in here:

1. You'll be surprised to know that I partially agree with Piniella on a few different fronts.  First, the season is absurdly long.  Guys may play 200 games in 230 days - with a lot of travel mixed in - and that makes it incredibly hard to maintain strength, tissue quality, and mobility. Interestingly, though, a lot more injuries occur at the beginning of a season than at the end. It makes you wonder if some guys are showing up unprepared and then benefiting from the adherence the team environment forces.

Second, setting the lazy off-season guys aside, there are a lot of players who are doing absolutely idiotic stuff with their training. As recently as a few years ago, a few teams were still recommending P90X to MLB players for off-season conditioning.  I'm not making that up.  How can we say strength training is the problem if most organizations still haven't even made it a priority?

EpicF

Third, guys getting bigger and stronger is leading to injuries...but doing so in an indirect.  You see, average body weight in Major League Baseball increased by 12% from 1990 to 2010; this time period parallels the rise in popularity of strength training. With the increase has come a huge increase in average fastball velocity, too - especially over the past 6-7 years.  And, the aforementioned body weight study also showed that offensive leaders were more likely to be heavier than their "normal" MLB counterparts. Obviously, the steroid era played into this, but the message doesn't change: being stronger increases your likelihood of success - even if it means you are playing with fire with respect to injuries.  Swinging quicker, throwing harder, and running faster will increase your likelihood of injury - regardless of whether you strength trained to get to that point in the first place.

The alternative, unfortunately, is to throw 88mph or have subpar bat speed - neither of which will help you compete in the modern game.  At the highest level, sports will always be a balancing act between high performance and injury risk.  To this point, I'd also subjectively note that most of the guys who have wound up with injuries this spring were not massive dudes; I'd argue that they really weren't that strong or heavy

Corbin_(9483063792)

2. With respect to the comment about taking 2-3 months off at the end of the season, one has to really do the math on this to realize how silly it would be. The big league season ends in early October for most teams, whereas playoff teams will play all the way through the month of October. If a player takes off all of October, November, and December, he wouldn't do anything until January 1.  If he make the playoffs, he wouldn't do anything until (potentially) February 1.  If players report in mid-February, that would give them 2-6 weeks to prepare. 

If you think that's enough, good luck dealing with the media scrutiny that comes when a load of the players are on the disabled list, and all the pitchers' fastball velocities are down.

I'd also ask: is it healthy for anyone to take 2-3 months off from exercise altogether?  Let's just make them obese in hopes of cutting back on our oblique strains!

3. I think it's important to recognize that not all lifting is created equal.  The problems usually stem from incorrect technique, poor exercise selection, excessive loading, or a number of other common mistakes. If one athlete burns himself on a cup of coffee because he wasn't careful with how he prepared or drank it, do you vilify coffee for an entire team? Of course not!  So, why vilify strength training because there are some idiots out there applying it incorrectly?

Taking it a step further, lifting sometimes "displaces" other important components of a successful training program - because lifting heavy stuff is "sexier" to many athletes. You simply can't lift at the exclusion of other key physical preparation strategies; it has to complement them.

Home_page1

4. To build on the last point, in many cases, lifting may become a problem because it's "ingraining" poor movement quality.  As Gray Cook has often said, "you can't put fitness on top of dysfunction."

The key word here is "fitness."  Many things - not just lifting - could bring these issues to threshold.  Throwing, swinging, and sprinting could all bring movement flaws to a painful threshold, too.  However, unlike strength training, these approaches can't be used to correct the fundamental problem - even if they're implemented perfectly. General training can correct movement dysfunction, whereas specific training usually exacerbates it.

5. Most obviously, if lifting was really the only problem, wouldn't we see a lot more guys getting hurt while lifting? Truth be told, the injury rates in strength training participation are remarkably low - even with crappy programming.

Bringing all these points together, the truth is that injuries have always been, are, and will continue to be multi-factorial.  Short of traumatic instances like being hit by a pitch, or fouling a ball off your foot, everything is something that has built for days, weeks, months, or years.  There are far too many different variables involved that have constantly changed over the past few decades to truly determine what causes injuries, so it's short-sighted to make strength training the scapegoat - especially when we know the value it has in enhancing performance, reducing injury risk, and facilitating injury rehabilitation.

Destroying Baseball Dogma is one reason we introduced our Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships; we want to teach baseball coaches, strength and conditioning professionals, and rehabilitation specialists to learn more about how to best prepare players to handle the unique demands involved in baseball. Our next Upper Extremity course will be in June; to learn more, click here.

footer_logo-3
 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 57

Written on April 18, 2014 at 6:09 am, by Eric Cressey

 It's been a while since I chimed in with some random tips to help out your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, so here are five suggestions to kick off your healthy weekend on the right foot.

1. Use a simple chain for added weight to chin-ups or dips.

A lot of people think that you can't load these exercises without a specialized chin-up/dip belt, but believe it or not, we don't actually have one of these at Cressey Performance - nor have we in the seven years we've been in business.

Why not?  Well, it's just as easy to just take a regular chain and use your butt to hold it in place. Check it out:

IMG_9514IMG_9513

2. Don't use "but it's paleo" as an excuse to overeat.

My wife and I cook out of paleo cookbooks all the time, and the food tastes great - and obviously includes unprocessed ingredients.  However, one thing that I often see with folks who go this route is overeating. They assume that since they're replacing regular flour with almond flour, that they can eat a lot more.  This is just one example, but I think it's important for people to realize is that just because it's minimally processed doesn't mean that it's automatically lower in calories. If you look at some of the paleo pizza recipes, as examples, they can be incredibly calorically dense.  "Clean"ingredients are great, but don't overdo it.

3. Try this exercise to train around shoulder pain.

One of the biggest complaints of folks with shoulder pain is that they struggle to find drills to train the pecs that don't make the shoulder discomfort worse.  Here's a basic drill that allows for a solid training effect with minimal equipment - and rarely any discomfort: the Pec Horizontal Adductor Iso Hold.

IMG_8929

With this exercise, you aren't raising the arms, so impingement isn't exacerbated. You also aren't slipping into a bad posture that would exacerbate that impingement, either.  In short, you're applying force in joint positions that are pretty close to "neutral."  Isometric exercises don't get much love, but this is a good one; you're basically trying to crush whatever is between your hands (a power rack or doorway are the best bets, in my experience). I'll usually prescribe one 15-20-second iso hold per set.

It won't take your bench press to 500 pounds, but it should help you avoid wasting away while you're on the mend.

4. Avoid bad upper extremity positioning with sled drags.

I'm a big fan of sled work, but when it comes to forward dragging, the upper extremity can be put in a compromising position.  You want to avoid a posture where the shoulder blades are anteriorly tilted, and the head of the humerus is allowed to glide forward; this positioning is really rough on the AC joint, biceps tendon, anterior capsule, and even many of the nerves and vascular structures of the upper extremity:

IMG_9516

Instead, make sure to get the shoulder blades posteriorly tilted (tipped back) slightly, and don't allow the arms to drag behind the body.

IMG_9517

5. Remember that the barbell isn’t always best.

The barbell is an unbelievable training tool - but it's far from the only effective training implement at your fingertips. I was reminded of this when reading through Bret Contreras' new resource, 2x4: Maximum_Strength.  In the text, Bret observes that you actually get better glute activation on kettlebell deadlifts and goblet squats than you do on barbell variations - in spite of the fact that the load utilized is substantially lighter.  Bret remarked that it likely has to do with the fact that the external loading can be kept closer to the center of mass (and, in these cases, the hips).

 

As a friendly reminder, this awesome new program is available at the introductory price through the end of the day today (Friday). I highly recommend that you check it out: 2x4: Maximum_Strength.

Cover-258x300

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/17/14

Written on April 17, 2014 at 5:58 am, by Eric Cressey

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

The Power of Habit - I actually started reading this yesterday while I was waiting around at jury duty, and it was so entertaining that I covered just under 100 pages in a very short amount of time.  I'm excited to finish it, and you'll definitely enjoy it if you're someone who likes to look at the "brain stuff" that impacts our habits and decisions.  It's super affordable on Amazon, too; you can get a Kindle edition for $7.99, and an actual book for $10.12.

habit9781400069286_custom-401a0d258f36abc0afccb673d3bab1de7926e20e-s6-c30

The Speed Ladder Fallacy - Dean Somerset expands on a topic I've covered in the past, and does a great job with it.

P90X and Muscle Confusion: The Truth - Charles Staley hits on this controversial topic from all angles.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Squats vs. Hip Thrusts: Which is Better?

Written on April 16, 2014 at 2:07 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Bret Contreras, author of the recently released 2x4: Maximum_Strength.

Many strength coaches, personal trainers, and strength athletes claim that the squat is the best exercise for promoting gluteal muscle development. Recently, the hip thrust has stumbled onto the scene, and its reputation for building impressive backsides has gained traction.

There is currently no published research examining the gluteal hypertrophic effects of squatting or hip thrusting, yet anecdotally we’re aware of their glute-building potential. While nobody can say for sure right now which is best for gluteal growth between the squat and the hip thrust, I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll be convinced that both exercises should be employed for optimal glute development.

2x4Header1

Hypertrophy Science

According to hypertrophy researcher, Brad Schoenfeld, there are three primary mechanisms to muscle growth. The most important mechanism appears to be mechanical tension. A close second in terms of importance appears to be metabolic stress. Finally, we have muscle damage, which appears to be of slightly lesser importance. As it currently stands, we don’t know for certain how to optimize these three stimuli in our programming in order to maximize muscle growth. The way I see it, until more is known, we should do our best to hit every base in our training. Therefore, we want to perform exercises that create the most tension in the glutes, produce the most metabolic stress in the glutes, and create reasonable amounts of damage in the glutes. How do squats and hip thrusts fare in regards to the three mechanisms of muscle growth?

Let’s take a deep look at what happens biomechanically and physiologically in the glutes when we squat and hip thrust.

Gluteal Biomechanics During the Squat

Let’s say you have the bar loaded up to around 80% of your one-rep maximum (1RM). You set up and take the bar off out of the rack. The upper glutes help stabilize your pelvis as you walk the bar backward. Once you get set, the glutes calm down. Now you start descending. Glute activation during the eccentric phase is very low – around 20-30% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). At the bottom position, the point where everyone thinks is so amazing for glute activation, is where the glutes actually reach their lowest activation during the rep – around 10-20% of MVC. I realize that this hasn’t been mentioned in any journal. It’s something I’ve noticed over the past year with the last fifteen or so individuals I’ve tested in EMG. These are highly experienced squatters, including several Arizona state record holders in the squat.

Now, before you call me crazy, please not that a similar phenomenon is seen in the erector spinae as they’re stretched under load; this has been deemed the lumbar flexion relaxation phenomenon. As the glutes are stretched out, their activation diminishes. This could be related to the passive-elastic force that they produce in this position, or some other reason, possibly related to the changing sarcomere length or the changing muscle moment arm length.

At this point, you explode out of the hole. This is where the glutes do their thang – during concentric actions. Glute activation will reach around 80-120% of MVC as you rise upward, peaking around halfway up, and gradually diminishing before you reach the top. You pause for a brief moment, and then resume the next repetition.

Mean activation is fairly low – around 50-70% of MVC – since the top portion of the squat is rather unloaded for the glutes, and since there is usually a considerable pause in between reps as the lifter takes a deep breath, resets, and gets tight, and since the glutes don’t fire very hard eccentrically during the lift. Because of this, you won’t feel a pump or a burn in the glutes when you squat, since blood in the gluteal region has plenty of time to escape during the set. However, you will develop glute soreness in the days following the workout, due to the fact that the glute fibers are stretched eccentrically to long muscle lengths while being activated, albeit at low levels. But this is only true for the lower gluteal fibers; the upper fibers of the glutes will generally fire at around 30-40% of MVC during a heavy squat.


 

Gluteal Biomechanics During the Hip Thrust

Now let’s discuss the hip thrust. Just as in the case of the squat, let’s say you’re using around 80% of 1RM. The bar is placed onto the hips. The body is wedged into place. Before the lift begins, the glutes are silent. The lifter then thrusts the hips upward until full hip extension is reached. During this concentric shortening, peak activation will typically reach around 120-200% of MVC, and this level of activation will be elicited in both the upper and lower gluteal fibers. The peak is reached at full hip extension, as the glutes reach their shortest muscle length. This could be due to the changing sarcomere length or the changing muscle moment arm length.

On the way down, the eccentric EMG activity mirrors the concentric activity, gradually diminishing until the bottom of the range of motion is reached. The movement is quickly reversed. Due to the rapid movements and consistent tension on the glutes, mean activation during the hip thrust is extremely high – around 100% of MVC. Due to the high levels of activation and constant pumping of repetitions, levels of metabolic stress are very high as well. Incredible “glute pumps” and burning will typically set in from multiple sets of hip thrusts. However, since the glutes are not fully stretched at the bottom of the hip thrust, muscle damage will not be very severe.


 

Theoretical Imposed Adaptations

As you can see, the squat and the hip thrust are actually quite different in biomechanics. Let’s examine some commonalities and differences.

Both exercises make for excellent glute exercises due to the bent knee position, which shortens the hamstrings and places more burden on the glutes for hip extension (when the hamstrings are shortened, they cannot produce maximum force due to active insufficiency).

Both exercises require dual actions out of the glutes. In a squat, the glutes must fire to create hip extension torque, but they must also fire in order to create hip external rotation torque to prevent knee valgus (caving in of the knees). In a hip thrust, the glutes fire to create hip extension torque, but they must also fire in order to create posterior pelvic tilt torque to prevent anterior tilting of the pelvis and lumbar hyperextension.

Squats can be limited by back strength, which is not the case for hip thrusts. Squats require more balance and coordination, whereas the hip thrust is very stable and simple to perform. The hip thrust is generally limited by glute strength, meaning that the set reaches failure when the glutes can no longer raise the hips. Squats move the hips into deeper hip flexion.

Let’s see which exercise outperforms the other in various biomechanical and physiological categories in the chart below.

chart 1

As you can see in the hypothetical chart, the squat outperforms the hip thrust in 2 of the 7 categories, whereas the hip thrust outperforms the squat in 5 of the 7 categories.

The Verdict

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to imagine how combining the squat and the hip thrust would elicit greater adaptations than performing either exercise alone. In terms of imposed neural adaptations, the hip thrust requires more neural drive to the glutes, but there may be neural benefits to including squats due to the myotatic “stretch” reflex. In terms of mechanical adaptations, the two movements target different ranges of motion and therefore different gluteal muscle lengths, which likely lead to different mechanical adaptations as far as fascicle length and pennation angle are concerned. For full range gluteal strength, a more complete neurological stimulis, and full development of the upper and lower gluteal fibers, you’ll want to perform both the squat and the hip thrust. Either exercise alone won’t suffice. The good news is that we don’t have to choose between squats or hip thrusts for maximal glute development; we should perform both movements.

Squats elicit moderate levels of activation while promoting tolerable levels of gluteal muscle damage. Hip thrusts maximize tension and metabolic stress on the glutes and do a better job of hitting the upper fibers. The two exercises combine to produce one heck of a glute hypertrophy stimulus.

If you're looking for a great resource to take your strength training program to the next level, I'd highly recommend Bret's 2x4: Maximum_Strength. It's on sale this week at a great introductory price.

Cover-258x300

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

A Great New Resource: 2×4: Maximum Strength

Written on April 14, 2014 at 5:41 am, by Eric Cressey

One of the things that I love about the strength and conditioning field is that it's remarkably dynamic in nature.  In other words, new information because available every single day. On one hand, this can make it difficult to stay on top of things, but on the other, it will always make you excited about going to work; things can't get stale if you choose to stay up-to-speed on new research.

This is a big area in which some coaches are able to differentiate themselves. In fact, all of the best coaches with whom I communicate on a regular basis are constantly seeking out new information, and finding ways to test new theories before they integrate it in their programs.  For me, Bret Contreras is one of those guys, as his passion for continuing eduction is unyielding. He's always talking about new studies he's read, or new exercises or programming strategies he's trying.

Hip-Thrust-Spinal-Curve1

Very few folks can say that they actually innovated and "changed the game," but Bret can.  The work he put in to make hip thrusts more "accepted" as a posterior chain exercise in the strength and conditioning exercise is admirable and has had a big impact on our programming.

That's one reason why I'm excited to share with you that Bret just released his excellent new program, 2x4: Maximum_Strength.

I'm a strength and conditioning "nerd" myself, and don't endorse many programs as being safe and effective. This program is both.

Cover-258x300

 

And, it's a great follow-up program to my latest resource, The High Performance Handbook. One of Bret's "guinea pigs" for his program was Andrew Serrano, who had just finished the HPH program.  He told us that the HPH program was the absolute perfect lead-in to 2 x 4, as it got him out of pain and cleaned up his movement quality to set the foundation on which he could push his strength on 2 x 4. He went on to add 210 pounds on his squat/bench/deadlift total in 14 weeks.

Basically, here's the difference: HPH strengthens imbalances and shores up weak links while you build your strength, enabling you to reach your full potential. HPH exposes you to a variety of exercises and teaches you about your body. It's the perfect lead-in to 2 x 4, since 2 x 4 assumes that you're in good balance and that you know which accessory exercises work best for you. After you've completed HPH, you'll be in good balance and you'll be able to transfer over some of your favorite exercises from HPH over to 2 x 4. While HPH is flexible to accommodate different schedules, 2 x 4 pushes you to your limits by requiring you to train four days per week so that you can truly peak in strength development by the end of the program. You'll have already gotten stronger from HPH, so you need an advanced program to help you reach even further levels of maximal strength. HPH lays the foundation to set you up for great success with 2 x 4.

If you're ready to get serious and looking to take your training to the next level, this is an outstanding resource with which to do so.  And, to sweeten the deal, it's on sale at a great introductory price this week only.  Check it out: 2 x 4: Maximum_Strength.

2x4Header1

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Band-Resisted Training for Power

Written on April 12, 2014 at 6:10 am, by Eric Cressey

Chat with any powerlifter about how he utilizes bands in his training, and you'll likely hear that they’re used for accommodating resistances to build strength. In other words, you can set up the bands to make an exercise harder at the portions of the strength curve at which you’re strongest. And, this is certainly an awesome application that’s helped thousands of lifters (myself included) to build strength.

Being a former competitive powerlifter, until just a few years ago, I’d looked at bands as something that could only make an exercise harder. Over the years, though, I've come around and begun to look for ways to utilize them to make things easier with our beginners. And, obviously, using them for pull-up and push-up assistance can be extremely helpful with working with new clients.

band7

I did not, however, realize until just recently that there was also a middle ground between these two extremes (advanced lifter and novice client). In this capacity, more and more, we use bands with our athletes to be able to train power more aggressively, and more frequently. How do the bands fit in? They lower the landing stress on more horizontal and lateral power exercises.

Need proof? Let's imagine “Athlete A” does three sets of five broad jumps (standing long jumps). Then, he lets us know how his shins feel 36-48 hours later. The soreness is absurd.

Simultaneously, we have “Athlete B” do the same volume of broad jumps, but with band resistance, like this:

I guarantee you that Athlete B has dramatically less soreness in the post-training period than Athlete A. And, while I don’t have all kinds of force plate data to back up my assertions, it’s safe to assume that the addition of the band reduces ground reaction forces. It’s like a box jump; we go up, but don’t come down (very much).

We’ll also use this for band-resisted heidens to develop some power in the frontal plane:

I love these band-resisted jumping options for a number of reasons. First, they allow us to train power with a bit more external loading in planes of motion we’d previously been unable to load – and this shifts things to the left a bit on the Absolute Strength - Absolute Speed Continuum.

Second, the pull of the band actually teaches athletes to get back into their hips more. You’ll often find that athletes don’t really know how to pre-stretch the glutes prior to power work in these planes. When a band is added, they simply can’t “drift into the quads;” they have to get back into the hips.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the reduced impact nature of these drills makes them a potentially useful addition to a return to action plan as an athlete is returning from an injury. It can also be a potentially useful application in older clients with whom we want to safely train power (because the loss of power is one of the biggest problems at we age). Full tilt sprinting and lots of plyometric work with loads of landing stress won’t necessarily fly, but these options (and band-resisted sprinting) can definitely lower the stress.

Fourth, with our pro baseball players, I like to use these in the early off-season as we get back to training power, but don’t want to beat up on the guys’ bodies with lots of stressful deceleration work. They jump out, but don’t come down as hard.

Bands are one of the best “take-it-anywhere” pieces of training equipment one can have, and it’s awesome that new uses for them are emerging on a regular basis. This is one such example – so I’d definitely encourage you to play around with these variations and see how you like them.

Looking for more innovative training strategies like these? Be sure to check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market today.

HPH-main

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/10/14

Written on April 10, 2014 at 6:24 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Cressey Performance Week at T-Nation - Three members of the CP staff had articles published at T-Nation this week. Greg Robins was up first, with Bench Press More in Four Weeks. Tony Gentilcore followed, with Building a Superhuman Core. Then, finally, I had an article published yesterday: How to Build Bulletproof Shoulders.  Suffice it to say that I'm a very lucky guy to have such an awesome staff!

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I provided a presentation called, "20 Ways to Build Rapport on a Client's First Day."  Additionally, I've got an article, as well as two exercise demonstrations - and this complements some great stuff from the rest of the ETM crew.  Check it out.

etmLogo

10 Nuggets, Tips, and Tricks on Energy Systems Development - Mike Robertson wrote this last week, and I thought it was a fantastic look at some key points coaches need to understand with respect to "conditioning."

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

How to Build Bulletproof Shoulders

Written on April 9, 2014 at 6:29 am, by Eric Cressey

I had a new article published today at T-Nation.  As you'll see, it builds on some of the thoughts I published here at EricCressey.com a few weeks ago.  Check it out: 

---> How to Build Bulletproof Shoulders <---

Enjoy!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Advice From a Former College Baseball Player: What If?

Written on April 7, 2014 at 7:17 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from current Cressey Performance intern, and former D1 college baseball player, James Cerbie. -EC

What if?

It’s the age-old question that has haunted athletes and competitive people for ages.

What if I had done this? What if I had done that? What if I hadn’t been stupid and done <fill in the blank>?

Unfortunately, these questions will never have answers. It’s impossible to go back and revisit what could have been. Rather, we’re left to look at the now, learn from our “what if” moments, and share our new understanding with another generation. That is where I now find myself.

I’m in the middle of my internship here at Cressey Performance, and to say I’m greeted with the “what if” question on a daily basis would be an understatement. Everyday I get a glance at how we train and prepare athletes, and get to reflect on how I was trained and prepared.

cerbie

And just to bring you up to speed, I’m speaking to the training and preparation of baseball athletes. I’m currently 24 years old and spent approximately 19 of those years playing baseball. It was my greatest passion growing up and I devoted countless hours to my craft. My hard work eventually paid off as I got to play Division 1 baseball at a great school (go Davidson). But, nevertheless, it’s impossible to wonder what could have been if I had known what I know now.

Here are 6 things I really wish I would have known, or done more of during my baseball career, courtesy of my experience here at Cressey Performance.

1. Get assessed.

I’ve always been a good athlete. That’s not to toot my own horn because I have my parents to thank for that more than anything; it just is what it is.

Because I was always a good athlete, however, I believe certain aspects of my training got overlooked. Number one on that list being an assessment.

Not once, throughout my entire athletic career, did I ever get assessed.

If I got injured or came up short on a certain task it was just chalked up to being an athlete:

“James…these things just happen. You’re a good athlete and getting injured is just a part of what you do.”

Oh really? A stress fracture in my back, multiple hip flexor strains, a pulled quad and a host of other injuries just happen for the sake of happening? Sorry, but that answer always frustrated me. What I really heard was:

“James…you keep getting injured but I really don’t know why.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that getting injured is a part of sports. Here’s the difference though: there are fluke injuries that pop up on the rare occasion, and then there’s being “chronically” injured which entails always being nagged by one thing or another.

Throughout my collegiate baseball career, I fell in the “chronically” injured category and would constantly be met with suggestions like:

“Oh, your hamstrings are tight. Just stretch those bad boys a couple times a day and that’ll help.”

“Oh, your hips are tight. Just stretch that and things should start feeling better.”

For those of you who haven’t tried the “stretch it because it’s tight” routine, let me save you the time and effort: it doesn’t work. There’s far more to it than that.

I don’t want to start sounding like a repetitive drumbeat, so let’s get to the point: you need to be assessed. It’s the number one most important thing you can do; it’ll help you stay healthy and take your performance to the next level.

I’ll use myself as example.

The first time I met Eric was about a year after I stopped playing baseball. Having heard great things about him, I visited Cressey Performance for a one-time consultation. Here’s an excerpt from the email Eric sent me, highlighting my “problems.”

“1. Your sit in significant scapular downward rotation, and your humeral head dives forward whenever you extend or externally rotate. These are super common in overhead throwing athletes, and you just took them a step further by also becoming an overhead pressing athlete! You simply don't get enough upward rotation when your arms elevate - and that's a big thing we'll address with these warm-ups.

2. Getting upward rotation and good overhead motion is also heavily dependent on building up anterior core stability. You're extremely lordotic and heavily overuse your lats to not only pull the spine into extension, but also take the scapula into depression/downward rotation. When lats are this overactive, your lower traps don't want to do their job. So, core stability closely relates to shoulder mobility and stability (not to mention breathing patterns and a host of other things). You could also see how your anterior weight bearing negatively affected your squat pattern, and why that counterbalance made so much of a difference.”

He actually talks about some of these issues in this video:

In short, here were my issues:

- I was incredibly extended with an obnoxious amount of anterior pelvic tilt
- I had crazy overactive, short and stiff lats
- Lower trap strength equivalent to that of a 7-year-old girl
- A 6 pack that meant nothing because my core was actually really weak

Cue epiphany.

I finally had answers to my seemingly endless list of injuries throughout college. Almost all of them could be tied back in one way or another to the list above and here’s the frustrating part: nobody had ever looked at these things before or had ever written me an individualized program to address them.

I was merely given generic “athletic” development programs that fed into and compounded my dysfunction.

Moral of the story? Get assessed.

2. Movement comes first.

I always equated problems with strength. I thought strength could solve any deficiencies I had and approached my training likewise. Looking back, I now realize how dumb that was.

More times than not, especially as you get older and advance from level to level, it has far less to do with strength and far more to do with how well you move. Like Gray Cook says, “Don’t layer fitness on top of dysfunction.”

Well, I layered a whole bunch of fitness on top of dysfunction.

This happened because one, I was never assessed, and two, I was incredibly stubborn. The thought of taking a step back to work on movement quality irked me like no other.

“I can squat over 400 lbs. Why am I going to go do goblet squats with an 80 lb dumbbell?”

This was foolish, and something the coaching staff at CP does an excellent job of handling. Because Cressey Performance puts every client through an assessment, they know what a client needs to work on and how to do so properly. Many times, this means taking a small step backward (from the client’s point of view) in order to take an enormous step forward.

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n

Unfortunately, most athletes are like I was. They want to always push the envelope and the thought of taking a step back is almost insulting.

Dear athletes: Please change this attitude.

I can’t harp on the importance of movement before strength enough. Do what you need to do to make sure you move well before you worry about building up strength. Your body and your career will thank you as you stay healthy and reach the highest levels of performance.

3. Focus on the little things.

It’s often the little things that get overlooked the most. These are things like prone trap raises, breathing patterns, soft tissue work and your posture outside the gym. They aren’t sexy and are, to be quite honest, boring.

It’s these boring and non-sexy items, however, that make a big difference.

Putting your full attention into the tiny details of arm care, how you breathe, how you stand, and how you often you foam roll will make the difference between being good and being exceptional.

Luckily, the athletes at CP have a staff that understands this and harps on it daily.

4. Do more single-leg work.

There were few things I hated doing more than lunges, single leg RDLs, split squats, step-ups…really any single-leg exercises. I hated them because I sucked at them.

Tell me to do something on two legs and I crushed it. Put me on one leg (especially my right) and I turned into Bambi on ice.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but it definitely wasn’t my forte.

Instead of forcing myself to conquer this deficiency, I merely found ways to implement as much bilateral work as possible. Seeing as the vast majority of baseball, and pretty much all sports for that matter, are played on one leg, this wasn’t the smartest decision. I would have been far better off doing like we do at CP and hammering single-leg work.

Not just doing lightweight, high rep sets though, but getting truly strong on one leg:

Ultimately, I believe a lot of the success CP baseball players have is because they are forced to get strong on one leg, while most people take my approach and only get strong on two.

Side note: that’s not to say CP athletes don’t get strong on two legs, because they do.

5. Get outside the sagittal plane.

Oh…the beloved sagittal plane.

BodyPlanes

 

Visit most weight rooms and you’ll see people living in the sagittal plane:

Squatting…sagittal plane
Deadlifting…sagittal plane
Box jump…sagittal plane

And the list could easily go on. Most sports (and life for that matter), do not comply with this North-South straight-line orientation; they are lived in multiple planes of motion.

Just think through the complexity and mechanics of throwing a baseball. All the things that need to take place to ensure a ball is thrown at the correct velocity, with the right spin and the right trajectory to bring about the desired result. It’s pretty amazing stuff when you consider the minute details.

Here’s another cool little tidbit of info: power development is plane specific. Just because you can generate power in one plane doesn’t mean you’ll do so well in others.

cish62115_10150356086959953_2125131643_n

Yup…you guessed it. I missed the boat on this one also.

At CP, however, they get outside the sagittal plane, and do so often. First on this list is medicine ball throws.

They use a lot of different medicine ball throwing routines to help their athletes develop power in the transverse and frontal plane. A great example of such an exercise is the rotational med ball scoop toss:

Second, they implement exercises like the 1-arm kettlebell lateral lunge and heiden:


Lastly, they use off-set loading on exercises; this provides a rotational component to the movement because the body has to resist rotating towards one side vs. the other. A good example of such a movement would be a 1-arm 1-leg kettlebell RDL:

Although this barely scratches the surface when it comes to exercises used by Cressey Performance and the importance of training outside the sagittal plane, I hope it has given you a good frame of reference.

6. More doesn’t equal better.

There’s a time to push it and a time to back off. Being an in-season athlete is not one of the “push” times. Many coaches, however, forget this and continue pushing their athletes as if nothing has changed.

If you read Eric’s blog often (which I hope you do) you’ll know he says, “You can’t add something without taking something else away.” I really wish that quote could be plastered on the walls of weight rooms around the country.

When the volume of swings, throws and sprints picks up because you’ve started the season, then you have to start taking something away.

Having been lucky enough to spend the past few months at CP, I’ve gotten to witness this first hand. As pitchers begin entering their competitive season (when they’re obviously throwing more often), you see a change in the program to reflect the increased volume outside the weight room.

Medicine ball throws are scaled back, if not eliminated completely. Lifts move towards a two-day per week full body structure, and extra movement days are limited.

As an athlete, it’s easy to forget how everything you do adds up. Every swing, every throw, every sprint and every lift leaves traces in your nervous system. And, although you may be awesome, your body can only handle so much. I understand the desire to get in and work hard, but you have to remember that a lot of times, less is more.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to things I wish I would have done differently. As opposed to dwelling on that, however, I’d rather write and share my experiences with coaches and athletes so they can avoid making the mistakes I did. Feel free to post questions or discuss your own experiences in the comments section below.

About the Author

James Cerbie is a cecerbie1rtified strength and conditioning specialist and USA weightlifting sports performance coach who is Precision Nutrition Level 1 and Crossfit Level 1 certified. He has been blessed to work with athletes from the middle school to professional level, including powerlifters, Olympic lifters and Crossfit athletes. Cerbie gets no greater enjoyment than seeing people improve, succeed and achieve their goals. He’s the owner of Rebel Performance and currently works as a strength and conditioning intern at Cressey Performance. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email

Cressey Performance
Individualizing the Management of
Overhead Athletes

Sign Up and Get Access to This Free 47-Minute Presentation

Name:*
Email:*
New Balance

Featured Product
Assess and Correct

YouTube Twitter Facebook