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Career Capital in the Fitness Industry – Part 1

Written on July 22, 2014 at 7:02 am, by Eric Cressey

I just finished reading a fantastic book, So Good They Can't Ignore You.

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In his book, author Cal Newport goes to great lengths to demonstrate just how terrible "follow your passion" is as career advice. It's a compelling read, especially for those who are working hard to develop a career they genuinely enjoy.

Newport argues against the "passion" approach, as it can lead individuals down a road that may not be financially viable; just because you enjoy something doesn't mean that you'll be able to make a living doing it. This may be because there isn't sufficient demand in the market for it, or because you might not have sufficient "career capital" to be successful enough early on to actually stay in business. "Career capital," according to Newport, consists of "rare and valuable skills;" you need these to acquire the "traits that define great work." And, as the author also points out, being very good at what you do is actually more closely linked to job satisfaction than income alone.

Newport continues with several case studies to support this "Career Capital Theory:" people work long and hard to acquire rare and valuable skills (don't forget Malcom Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Theory) that give them more and more control over their careers by making them coveted and/or indispensable in their field of study. This control doesn't just afford them more compensation and flexible schedules, but also enables them to gradually test the waters to determine whether one specific avenue or "niche" is best for long-term career satisfaction.

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This is a stark contrast to the fitness industry, where many folks have lost their life savings opening gyms because they enjoyed exercise - but didn't have the rare and valuable skills required to be successful in the fitness industry. It leads to the question: why are some people very successful in the fitness industry - even with mid-life career change - while others fail miserably? What are the "rare and valuable skills" that allow them to succeed?

Before I answer these questions, though, I thought I might shine a little light on how Newport's theories spoke directly to me. To be candid, growing up, I never expected to work in the fitness industry. In fact, it was quite the opposite: I went to college thinking I was going to be an accountant.

However, around that time, I had some health problems, and as I got healthy, had to learn a lot about proper training, nutrition, and recovery so that I could put weight back on and get my strength back. I realized that it was something I enjoyed, and learning in this realm came somewhat naturally to me. After much deliberation, I decided to transfer to a new school to pursue exercise science - but I still "hedged my bet" by doing a double major in sports management and exercise science. I had two years of business school under my belt, and wanted to continue to nuture my entrepreneurial spirit (and avoid losing a lot of college credit).

Over the next two years, I worked for $7/hour at a gym to learn everything I could about the industry - all while I was taking classes. Simultaneously, I was rehabbing my shoulder from a chronic tennis-related condition, so I was "accidentally" finding a niche within a niche. Without even knowing it, I was building career capital while testing the waters to make sure it was actually what I wanted to do. I might not have gotten 10,000 hours under my belt by the age of 22, but I was definitely well on my way - and it put me in a position to know that I wanted to go to graduate school for exercise science.

At graduate school, I had the opportunity to "feel out" what I wanted to do without much risk. I got involved in the human performance laboratory to see if research was for me (it wasn't). It was only when I volunteered in varsity strength and conditioning that I found something I genuinely enjoyed, and I recognized that I could do well and be very happy working in collegiate strength and conditioning. Interestingly, I spent most of my time working with soccer and basketball players while I was there.

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As it turns out, I tested the waters in the private sector when I first left graduate school, and enjoyed working in that realm. Over the subsequent few years, I trained as many people - athletes and non-athletes alike - as I could possibly fit into my schedule. I honed my skill set, learned about what I enjoyed the most, gradually created more and more autonomy in my schedule, became financially stable, and recognized a sustainable, underserved population (baseball players) where I had unique expertise. Without even recognizing it, I had built career capital and started to "purchase" the coaching life I wanted.

That was 2007, when we founded Cressey Sports Performance. I've had seven more years to acquire career capital in a number of different contexts - actual training knowledge, interactions with athletes, managing employees, cultivating business relationships, evaluating opportunities, and a host of other areas - to put us the position we're in (opening a second location in Jupiter, FL).

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Back in 1999, I had no idea training baseball players would be my ideal job. And even if I had known, I probably would have fallen flat on my face if I'd tried to follow this passion. I didn't have enough rare and valuable skills to be successful at that point.

Fast-forward five years to 2004, and my current business partner and I watched the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series together. It was an awesome moment for us as baseball fans.

Another five years later, we owned a business and were training two of the athletes that were on the 25-man Red Sox roster that won that World Series. It was an awesome moment for us as business owners who'd earned and redeemed career capital.

"Follow your passion" IS horrible career advice; "build career capital" isn't. In Part 2, I'll discuss what "rare and valuable skills" one needs to be successful in the fitness industry. In the meantime, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Newport's book, So Good They Can't Ignore You.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/20/14

Written on July 20, 2014 at 9:36 am, by Eric Cressey

After a one-week hiatus, it's time for another installment of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

So Good They Can't Ignore You - This is a tremendous book that was recommended to me by my good friend, Luka Hocevar. If you've ever gotten the career tip of "follow your passion," this book will set you straight with outstanding examples of why it's terrible advice, and how to best build the career you want. I'll be discussing it in more detail in an upcoming blog as well.

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Butt Wink is Not About the Hamstrings - Amen, Dean Somerset, amen. Your butt isn't tucking under when squat because you have "tight hamstrings."

Dinosaur Logic - This is a great post from Dirk Hayhurst about the idiocy of people thinking that professional pitchers (with Masahiro Tanaka's recent injury as the example) are getting hurt because they're weak and getting babied. It actually came out right after this article I wrote on a similar topic, but from a different perspective: Are Pitchers Really Getting Babied?

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5 Deadlift Technique and Programming Lessons

Written on July 19, 2014 at 7:27 am, by Eric Cressey

Yesterday, I deadlifted 600 for three reps for the first time.  This is a number I've been after for quite some time.

After the lift, I got to thinking about some good lessons I could "teach" in light of this milestone for me. Here are five quick Saturday morning thoughts:

1. Personal records sometimes happen when you don't expect them.

I honestly didn't feel particularly great when I started the training session yesterday. In fact, if you'd asked me prior to the lift if I was going to be setting a PR in the gym that day, I would have said, "Absolutely not." However, a thorough warm-up and a few extra sets of speed deadlifts on the "work-up" did the trick.  Make sure to never truly evaluate where you stand until you've actually done your warm-up.

2. It's really important to take the slack out of the bar.

If you watch the video above, you'll notice that I pull the bar "taut" before I ever really start the actual lift. Every bar has a bit of slack in it, and you want to get rid of it early on. Check out this video on the subject:

You can actually get a feel for just how much slack there is in the bar if you observe how much it bends at the top under heavy weights. This doesn't happen to the same degree with "regular" barbells.

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3. Don't expect to accomplish a whole lot in the training session after a lifetime PR on a deadlift.

Not surprisingly, heavy deadlifting wipes me out. Interestingly, though, it wipes me out a lot more than heavy squatting. From a programming standpoint, I can squat as heavy as I want - and then get quality work in over the course of the session after that initial lift. When the "A1" is a deadlift, though, it's usually some lighter, high-rep assistance work - because I mostly just want to go home and take a nap after pulling any appreciable amount of weight!

4. Percentage-based training really does have its place.

For a long time, I never really did a lot of percentage-based training for my heavier work. On my heavy days, it was always work up, see how I felt, and then make sure to get some quality work in over 90% of my 1RM. As long as I was straining, I was happy. Then, I got older and life got busier - which meant I stopped bouncing back from these sessions as easily. Percentage-based training suddenly seemed a lot more appealing.

I credit Greg Robins, my co-author on The Specialization Success Guide, with getting me on board the percentage-based training bandwagon. He was smarter than me, and didn't wait to get old to start applying this approach when appropriate.

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5. You've got to put force in the ground.

This is a cue I've discussed at length in the past, but the truth is that I accidentally got away from it for a while myself.  Rather than thinking about driving my heels through the floor to get good leg drive, it was almost as if I was trying to "just lift the bar." It left me up on my toes more than I wanted, and my hamstrings got really cranky. 

I took a month to back down on the weights and hammer home the heels through the floor cue with speed work in the 50-80% range, and it made a big difference. I've got almost 15 years of heavy deadlifting under my belt, and even I get away from the technique that I know has gotten me to where I am. Technical improvement is always an ongoing process.

Looking for even more coaching cues for your deadlift technique? Definitely check out The Specialization Success Guide. In addition to including comprehensive programs for the squat, bench press, and deadlift, it also comes with detailed video tutorials on all three of these "Big 3" lifts. And, it's on sale at the introductory $30 off price until tonight at midnight. Check it out HERE.

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5 Reasons Why a Powerlifting Program Might Be Just What You Need

Written on July 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from CSP Coach Greg Robins, who is my co-author on the new resource, The Specialization Success Guide: 12 Weeks to a Bigger Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.

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I realize that competing in powerlifting is a far cry from what most aspire to do. That being said, much can be learned from the approach, and much of what the general gym-goer is looking to accomplish can be reached with the help of a powerlifting program.

To be honest, when I began training alongside a few competitive lifters, competing was not even a thought in my mind. To this day, I don’t consider myself first and foremost a “competitive lifter.” I am a coach, and powerlifting simply has done the following positive things for me. I have seen it do the same for countless other people, and so I invite you take a gander, and ask yourself if you aspire for a similar outcome.

1. It teaches you the difference between “training” and “working out.”

Simply stated, if your visits to the gym don’t serve to attain a greater result in some physical endeavor, then you are simply “exercising.” Diving into a powerlifting program gives your visits to the gym a purpose. When you have a purpose for what you do, you are “training,” not “working out.“

When you make the switch, a few essential characteristics of the successful gym goer begin to emerge. For starters, you become more consistent. Knowing that each session builds off the last makes you more accountable to each training session. Consistency is the absolute must-have ingredient to accomplish any goal.

With that in mind, you ultimately become more accountable to yourself. Recovery measures like sleep and nutrition no longer become a tedious chore. Instead, you willingly make the decision to eat right, get adequate sleep, and minimalize activities that may take away from your training.

When those things organically start happening, you become more productive, see more results, and all the while never feel like they are anything but part of your way of lifes.

2. It teaches you about managing variables and gives you a consistent measurement for improvement.

The problem with most gym-goers is that they have no idea what is working, what isn’t working, or even what they are using to measure their success. Following a powerlifting program gives you three fundamental lifts from which you can measure progress. It’s cut and dry: are the numbers going up? If not, you can look back on your training and assess a few possibilities for why your strength isn’t improving. If yes, you can make note of what you are doing as a source of information to look back on should you run into a plateau down the road.
Over time, consistently working on the same end goal helps you to understand the training process as a whole. You will be able to take ownership for your plan, and optimize it for you.

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3. Getting stronger just so happens to do a lot of good things for your physique, health, and lifestyle.

I’m not clueless; I know why most folks exercise. You can feed me all the lines about health, but the fact is most people just want to look good. I was no different. If I could go back in time, I would have started training like a powerlifter at age 16. If I had, I would have acquired everything I sought out from an aesthetic standpoint a LOT SOONER. When I began powerlifting, I obviously began to get a lot stronger – but I also ate better, slept more, and kicked bad habits that didn’t help my performance to the curb.

Not surprisingly, getting stronger meant I put on more muscle, eating better meant I actually got leaner, and paying attention to how my lifestyle did or did not support my training meant I was actually healthier, more productive, and just generally feeling more awesome.

I realized that looking and feeling good were just a bi-product of training with a purpose. My outlook changed, and I wasn’t caught up in superficial crap, just in paying my dues in the gym and earning my progress.

4. The powerlifting community brings out the best in the industry.

When you begin to train for the “Big 3,” you begin to enlist the help of others who do the same. You read their articles, watch their videos, attend their seminars, and so on. Maybe I’m biased, but those who put the time under the iron – and instill that mindset in others – are the people I have come to admire the most.

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It’s really not surprising to me at all. Powerlifting taught me what was important. It taught me about movement, because I had to optimize my positions in each lift. It taught me about programming, because I had to be able to objectively look back on all my training variables. It taught me about delayed gratification, because strength takes time to develop. It taught me about work ethic, because nothing comes easy in the battle of forcing adaption. Again, it taught me about what is important, because I began to only concern myself with things that had positive influences on my development. It has done the same for others who share in the pursuit of strength and they are among the best people to learn from and be around.

When you take on this identity to your training, you become part of that community.

5. It instills a sense of confidence in you that is unparalleled.

Walk around and look at the state of this country. It can be appalling. Exercising, in general, may make you feel like you aren’t wasting away, but possessing a level of physical strength far higher than the normal person makes you feel like the specimen you are.

I’m all about using powerlifting as an outlet for my aggression, my need to push the levels of what I can do, to channel my inner animal, to overcome. To some, that notion is unappealing; it’s too “meatheadish”, or too primal. I beg to differ, completely.

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In fact, through purposeful training I am more confident to share how I feel, to learn about anything and everything, to explore different avenues of self-development.

A well-defined training goal gives you an opportunity to willingly make yourself uncomfortable. In doing so you learn that even in times of adversity, or pain, that you did not choose to encounter you can get through. I walk around with a sense of confidence, not because I can lift a certain number of pounds, but because I can welcome a challenge head on, and crush it.

Can other forms of physical activity do something similar? Sure they can, but if you are part of the herd of gym-goers that walks into the gym each day and doesn’t know exactly why you there, and what the focus is for that day, then I challenge you to give a powerlifting-geared approach a shot.

You can pick up several 12-week training programs in The Specialization Success Guide that Eric and I developed, or you can dive into any other number of programs out there. I don’t care what you choose to do, but I do challenge you to see it through for a prolonged period of time. I welcome you to this community of like-minded individuals, and for those of you who do choose to run our program I thank you and look forward to hearing about your success.

For more information on The Specialization Success Guide - which is on sale through this weekend at an introductory $30 off price - click HERE.

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My Top 5 Powerlifting Mistakes

Written on July 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

With this week's release of Greg Robins and my new resource, The Specialization Success Guide, I got to thinking about some of my biggest mistakes with respect to developing the Big 3 (squat, bench press, and deadlift). Here are the top five mistakes I made in my powerlifting career:

1. Going to powerlifting equipment too soon (or at all).

Let me preface this point by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect for all powerlifters, including those who lift in powerlifting equipment like bench shirts and squat/deadlift suits. Honestly, they just weren't for me.

I first got into a bench shirt when I was 160 pounds, and my best raw bench press was about 240-250 pounds. I was deadlifting in the high 400s, and squatting in the mid 300s. In hindsight, it was much too soon; I simply needed to develop more raw strength. My squat and bench press went up thanks to the suit and shirt, respectively, but just about everything I unracked felt insanely heavy. I just don't think I had enough training experience under my belt without any supportive equipment to feel truly stable under big weights. It's funny, though; my heaviest deadlifts never felt like this, as it was the "rawest" of any of the big 3 lifts for me.

There's more, though. Suits and shirts were just an annoying distraction for me. I absolutely hated the time and nuisance of having to put them on in the middle of a lift; training sessions easily dragged on to be three hours, when efficiency was something I'd always loved about my training. Perhaps more significantly, getting proficient with equipment took a lot of time and practice, and the more I was in it, the less athletic I felt. I spent too much time box squatting and not enough free squatting, and felt like I never developed good bottom-end bench press strength because the shirt did so much of the work for me.

At the end of my equipped powerlifting career, I had squatted 540, bench pressed 402, deadlifted 650, and totaled 1532 in the 165-pound weight class. Good numbers - enough to put me in the Powerlifting USA Top 100 for a few years in a row - but not quite "Elite." I tentatively "retired" from competitive powerlifting in December of 2007 when Cressey Sports Performance grew rapidly, but kept training - this time to be athletic and have fun.

For the heck of it, in the fall of 2012, I decided to stage a "raw" mock meet one morning at the facility. At a body weight of 180, I squatted 455, bench pressed 350, and deadlifted 630 for a 1435 total. In other words, I totaled "Elite" by 39 pounds...and did the entire thing in 90 minutes.

Looking back, I think I could have been a much more accomplished competitive lifter - and saved money and enjoyed the process a lot more along the way - if I'd just stuck with raw lifting. Again, I don't fault others for using bench shirts and squat/deadlift suits, but they just weren't for me.  I would just say that if you do decide to go the equipped route, you should be prepared to spend a lot more time in your equipment than I did, as my dislike of it (and lack of time spent in it) was the reason that I never really got proficient enough to thrive with it in meets.

2. Not understanding that fatigue masks fitness.

Kelly Baggett was the first person I saw post the quote, "Fatigue masks fitness." I thought I understand what it meant, but it wasn't until my first powerlifting meet that I experienced what it meant.

Thanks to a powerlifting buddy's urging, I went out of my way to take the biggest deload in my training career prior to my first meet. The end result? I pulled 510 on my last deadlift attempt - after never having pulled more than 480 in the gym.

You're probably stronger than you realize you are. You've just never given your body enough of a rest to actually demonstrate that strength.

3. Not getting around strong people sooner.

I've been fortunate to lift as part of some great training crews, from the varsity weight room at UCONN during my grad degree, to Southside Gym in Connecticut for a year, to Cressey Sports Performance for the past seven years.

When I compare these training environments to the ones I had in my early days - or even what I experience when I have to get a lift in on the road at a commercial gym - I can't help but laugh. Training around the right people in the right atmosphere makes a huge difference.

To that end, beyond just finding the right program, I always encourage up-and-coming lifters to seek out strong people for training partners, even if it means traveling a bit further to a different gym. Success happens at the edge of your comfort zone, and sometimes that means a longer commute and being the weakest guy in a room.

4. Spending too much time in the "middle zone" of cardio.

A lot of powerlifters will tell you that "cardio sucks." I happen to think it's a bit more complex than that.

Doing some quality work at a very low intensity (for me, this is below 70% of max heart rate) a few times a week can offer some very favorable aerobic adaptations that optimize recovery. Sorry, but it's not going to interfere with your gains if you walk on the treadmill a few times a week.

Additionally, I think working in some sprint work with near-full recovery can be really advantageous for folks who are trying to get stronger, as it trains the absolute speed end of the continuum.

As I look back on the periods in my training career when I've made the best progress, they've always included regular low-intensity aerobic work - as well as the occasion (1x/week) sprint session. When did cardio do absolutely nothing except set me back? When I spent a lot of time in the middle zone of 70-90% of max heart rate; it's no man's land! The take-home lesson is that if you want to be strong and powerful, make your low-intensity work "lower" and your high-intensity work "higher."

As an aside, this is where I think most baseball conditioning programs fail miserably; running poles falls right in this middle zone.

5. Thinking speed work had to be "all or nothing."

"Speed work" is one of the more hotly debated topics in the powerlifting world. I, personally, have always really thrived when I included it in my program. If you want to understand what it is and the "why" behind it, you can check out this article I wrote: 5 Reasons to Use Speed Deadlifts in Your Strength Training Programs.

A lot of people say that it's a waste of time for lifters who don't have an "advanced" level of strength, and that beginners would be better off getting in more rep work. As a beginner, I listened to this advice, and did lots of sets of 5-8 and never really focused on bar speed with lower reps.  The end result? I was slower than death out of the hole on squats, off the chest on bench presses, and off the floor with deadlifts. And, it doesn't take much strength training knowledge to know that if you don't lift a weight fast, your chances of completing that lift aren't particularly good.

To the folks who "poo-poo" speed work, I'd just ask this: do you really think focusing on accelerating the bar is a bad thing?

Here's a wild idea, using bench presses as an example. If a lifter has a heavier bench press day and a more volume/repetition oriented day each week, what would happen if he did an extra 3-4 sets of three reps at 45-70% of 1-rep max load during his warm-up? Would that be a complete waste of time? Absolutely not! In fact, the casual observer would never even notice that it was happening.

The point is that speed work is easy to incorporate and really not that draining. You can still do it and get a ton of other quality work in, so there is really no reason to omit it. Having great bar speed will never hurt your cause, but not training it certainly can.

Looking to avoid these mistakes and many more - all while taking the guesswork out of your squat, bench press, and deadlift training? Check out The Specialization Success Guide, a new resource from Cressey Sports Performance Coach Greg Robins and me. This comprehensive product to bring up the "Big 3" is on sale at at $30 off introductory price this week only.  You can learn more HERE.

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12 Weeks to a Bigger Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift

Written on July 15, 2014 at 5:49 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm happy to announce to my new product - a collaborative effort with Cressey Sports Performance coach and regular EricCressey.com contributor Greg Robins - is now available. If you're looking to improve on the Big 3 - squat, bench press, and deadlift - this resource is for you! Check it out: www.BuildingTheBig3.com.

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This resource includes three separate 12-week specialization programs to improve one of the "Big 3" lifts, and it's accompanied by a 140+ exercise video database and detailed video coaching tutorials on squat, bench press, and deadlift technique. To sweeten the deal, we've got two free bonuses available if you purchase this week at the introductory price.

“As a former international athlete, The Specialization Success Guide gave me the structure I needed to not only get back into form, but has put me on track to crush my previous PRs across the board. Currently squatting 565, benching 385 and deadlifting 620, I am stronger, more mobile, and happy to report that my only regret is not having started this program earlier. SSG has been a game changer for me and I am excited to see where it takes me next!”

Jake S.
Needham, MA


“The Specialization Success Guide is legit! This program is ideal for those who want to get stronger, put on lean muscle, and improve their major lifts. The simplicity makes the program easy to follow and the exercise video library ensures everything is done right. Within the simplicity of the program you will find specific details that will target weak areas of your lifts to get you closer to your goals.

“Prior to running the SSG, Greg had been writing my programs for a year and a half using the same principles and philosophies you will find in The Specialization Success Guide. Greg’s programing has helped me add over 50 pounds to my back squat and a recent PR squat of 420lbs (2.2x my body weight), and I will be closing in on a triple body weight deadlift soon thanks to insights from him and Eric – just as you’ll find in this manual on the Big 3.”

Dave R.
Seattle, WA

Again, this resource - which comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee - is only on sale at the introductory $30 off price this week, so don't miss out. Click the following link to learn more: www.BuildingTheBig3.com.


Cressey Sports Performance Just Turned 7!

Written on July 14, 2014 at 4:48 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance co-founder and vice president, Pete Dupuis.

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Lost in all of the excitement surrounding yesterday’s announcement of Cressey Sports Performance’s soon-to-open second facility, is the fact that our business officially turned seven years old yesterday! It was on the 13th of July way back in the summer of 2007 that Eric, Tony and I decided to dive headfirst into an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Rather than recycle the same old song and dance covering a list of our seven proudest moments, I will be taking a new approach in the 2014 edition of our annual birthday post. This time around, I’m going to outline the seven reasons that we are in a position to begin expanding our business and brand to other parts of the country.

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This isn’t going to be a seven-point bullet list of “how to add additional locations to your existing model”. Instead, this is going to be my way of highlighting the importance of employing good people who genuinely care about their clients, care about each other, and make it a priority to have fun every time they show up to work. I don’t think that Eric or I currently do enough to illustrate how much we appreciate our team, so this piece is a long time coming.

Gym owners with book smarts are useless without a good team

The first discussion point I like to cover during our business consultations here at CSP is the fact that the foundation of our success is quality customer service. Who really cares if you’re exceptionally talented at assessing athletes and designing individualized programming if you’re socially inept to an extent that people can’t bring themselves to spend 90-minutes with you?

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With this in mind, it should make perfect sense that I believe the seven “reasons” we’re in a position to expand are actually the collection of faces that our clients see on a daily basis. We couldn’t possibly open a second gym AND continue to operate our showcase facility simultaneously without an exceptional team of individuals who are dedicated to making both places special.

To give you a feel for what I’m talking about, consider this…

Over 3,000 athletes have now trained at CSP. That means 3,000+ assessments, some multiple of that number in individualized programs, and just a shade under 100,000 supervised training sessions executed since 2007. It is probably going to blow some people’s minds when I tell you that Eric didn’t assess every athlete and write every one of these programs himself. In fact, assessment and programming responsibilities are spread evenly throughout my staff of strength coaches here at CSP, and each one of them has their own unique specialties under our "umbrella."

What I think makes our staff amazing

This piece serves as MY perspective on what makes our entire staff unique, inspiring, caring, talented, ambitious, etc. There are, in fact, exactly seven of us who qualify as full-time staff here at CP. Since I happen to be one of the seven, you’re all about to get cheated out of a seventh “reason”, because I’m most certainly not covering what I like about myself!

Here’s a look at six people who I believe qualify as the crème of the fitness industry crop, beginning with our newest team members:

Stacie Leary – Office Manager

While Stacie is not a coach here at CSP, she is the first person that every single client through the door encounters. Stacie started as a client in 2013 and fell in love with the training environment. When our last Office Manager Paige departed (CP Hall of Fame staff member, by the way), Stacie was the first to inquire about the position.

Stacie

In the brief time since she’s been a part of our team, I’ve had more than a few clients find their way into my office to tell me that she’s doing an exceptional job. Her attention to detail borders on psychotic, which is EXACTLY what we need at the front end of our business.

Most importantly to me, Stacie genuinely cares about doing her job to the best of her ability. This is reflected on an almost daily basis as I receive text messages and emails from her making suggestions for improving the customer experience here at CSP. All of these messages roll in during times when she is “off the clock.”

Andrew Zomberg – Strength and Conditioning Coach

There are a lot of characteristics about Andrew that I appreciate, but my favorite happens to be the way he came to be part of the “CSP Family.”

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Back in the beginning of 2012, we decided to hire a new full-time strength coach. We chose to open the opportunity up to candidates from all different backgrounds and Andrew submitted an application. When the dust settled on the close to 100 candidate materials we reviewed, he happened to be in the final three candidates for a position that ultimately went to Greg Robins.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2013, when I found Andrew’s name at the top of the applicant pool for our coming summer internship. While this may not have been the most shocking occurrence in the world, I really appreciated the fact that he was eager to earn a spot in an unpaid internship program a year after just barely missing out on a paid opportunity with us. Not to mention the fact that Andrew and his wife were expecting a child, and settling in to a new life in New Hampshire after having recently relocated from Philadelphia.

Long story short, he genuinely cared about becoming a better coach. His decision to put in hundreds of unpaid hours to accomplish this over the coarse of that summer ultimately resulted in a full-time offer being extended his way. I’ve been thrilled by his contribution. And, his devotion to continuing education still remains strong; he spent his last "day off" observing elbow and knee surgeries.

Greg Robins – Strength and Conditioning Coach

As noted above, Greg became a member of our team back in the spring of 2012. Since that time, he’s coached thousands of hours of training sessions, assessed countless athletes, and designed more programs than he probably ever imagined he would. He’s also been a regular contributor to EC’s website, and helped me to build a thriving bootcamp program here at CSP.

Outside of being a well-liked coach on the training floor, Greg is undoubtedly the quirkiest individual I’ve ever met. He sings loudly (completely off-tune) at unexpected times, has survived entirely on the brisket he smoked in his backyard for multiple weeks at a time, and has a strange fashion sense.

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This past spring, as we were transitioning our Office Manager role from Paige to Stacie, I asked that each of my coaches work a single day of the week at the front desk so that they could gain an appreciation for the front end of our services. I think that our coaches tend to underappreciate this piece of the client experience, so this seemed to be the most effective way to educate them.

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Greg took the role seriously, showing up for his first day at the front desk wearing a blazer. When I asked what inspired him to clean up his look, he told me “I wear gym clothes in the gym, and office clothes in the office. There’s no in between with me.” As you can see above, I requested that he pose for a picture. Since he insisted that we figure out a way to incorporate the plant and a baseball bat, I opted for a nice spread of images.

Never a dull moment with Mr. Robins, and I love it.

Chris Howard – Wears many hats

Other than our co-founders, Chris is by far the longest tenured CSP staff member. He completed an internship with us during the fall of 2008 and ultimately joined the team as a full-time strength coach just over a year later upon completion of a massage therapy program. Chris is a strength coach, licensed massage therapist, nutrition guru, and internship education coordinator here at CSP. He does it all.

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I know for a fact that Chris cares as much about this place as us owners do. I say this because he makes his way in to my office at least once a week with one or more ideas of how we can improve our systems. He is single-handedly responsible for recording and documenting all of the content delivered in our weekly in-services and for creating an on-boarding manual for our incoming interns which essentially has them arriving on day-one ready to coach. Most importantly, he takes the initiative to systemize, organize and distribute all of this material on his own.

Earlier, I mentioned that my staff members care about not only our clients, but also each other. Chris clearly illustrated this concept just a few short weeks ago when he and his longtime girlfriend Jess volunteered to drive to my house on a Saturday night and babysit my three month old son so that my wife and I could escape for our first date night as parents.

Much like the rest of my team, Chris is as much a friend as he is an employee.

Tony Gentilcore – Co-Founder & Strength and Conditioning Coach

Tony is the most humble personality in the fitness industry. As one of the faces of CSP, Tony is a prime example of the continuity our clients look forward to in their training sessions. What these clients usually do not realize is that outside of the walls of our facility, Tony has thousands of loyal readers, Twitter followers, and fans in general who rely on his training insight on an almost daily basis.

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One of the problems with being as nice as Tony can be, is that he is vulnerable to relentless verbal assaults from people like Matt Blake, and often finds himself the subject of our “Quote of the Day” featured on the CSP Facebook Page. To this day, the most “liked” quote I’ve ever shared came from a 14-year-old female client who said:

“You know what, Tony…at first you appear to be a pretty intimidating guy with your big arms and shaved head. But then you wont stop talking about your cat, and I realize that you’re painfully soft.”

As much as it is fun to bust on his gentle nature, this underappreciated style is what makes him such an effective coach and talented writer. He was standing right there alongside me with a broom in-hand seven years ago as we prepared a brutally hot empty warehouse to be our first gym, and for that reason will forever share a bond with Eric and me.

Eric Cressey – President, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Future Exhausted Dad

Given that you are reading this on Eric’s website, I obviously do not need to outline his resume.

All I will say is this: Eric literally cares about every single aspect of how this business operates, from the program design, to the equipment selection, to social media, and everything in between. He eats, sleeps, and breathes Cressey Sports Performance.

One of the more common questions I receive from industry professionals considering opening their own facility is how to go about finding a business partner who clicks with you on both a personal and professional level. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this question. I say this because Eric is truly one of a kind. Not only is he the smartest person in every room he walks into, but he also happens to have a work ethic that does not exist in anyone else. It is for this reason that I expect CSP to be uniquely productive and successful for years to come.

How’s that for a competitive advantage?!?!

Pete Dupuis – Vice President & Business Director

This guy shows up, answers calls, writes a few emails, and calls it a day. His report card reads: “Meets Expectations.”

Note from EC: in working in some humor, Pete has failed to give himself the tremendous amount of credit he deserves. Without him, the trains don't run on time at CSP, as every hour of training requires an hour of planning that goes on behind the scenes. And, logistics aside, we have Pete to thank for the unique look of our facility, witty "Quotes of the Day"on our Facebook page, and the fact that every training session is actually a social experience where clients feel right at home. We wouldn't be where we are without him and the immense amount of intellectual and emotional "capital" he's invested in the business.

Here's to seven more years of fun!

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Cressey Sports Performance is Coming to Florida!

Written on July 13, 2014 at 5:53 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s with great excitement that today, I can announce that we’ll be opening a second Cressey Sports Performance location – this one in Jupiter, Florida – this September!

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We’ve carefully contemplated this decision for years, turning down many other opportunities for expansion until we felt the time, location, and situation was right. And, most importantly, we wanted to make sure that our second location would be the right scenario for us offer the same high-quality training experience and family environment that’s available at our original facility in Massachusetts.

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Cressey Sports Performance – Florida will be a 7,770 square-foot facility that will offer both semi-private and private training for athletes of all ages and ability levels, and certainly for anyone looking to look, feel, and move better. For those who aren’t familiar with Jupiter, it’s on the east coast of Florida – roughly 90 minutes north of Miami and 45-60 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale, and just over 2 hours southeast of Orlando. Our facility is right off the main turnpike, I-95, and very accessible to spring training facilities for the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, and New York Mets – not to mention some of the best “baseball hotbeds” in the country. We feel strongly that it’ll be a great place to utilize our passion and expertise to help athletes stay healthy, perform at a high level, and work toward their goals with our comprehensive, synergistic approach to long-term athletic development. This approach has played an instrumental role in more than 60 clients from our MA facility being selected in the Major League Baseball Draft over the past four years.

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As part of this expansion (and as you may have noticed from my initial paragraph), we’ll be going through a very subtle “rebranding,” shifting from Cressey Performance to Cressey Sports Performance. Folks have always said that our logo looked like a “CSP” more than a “CP,” and we felt that the shift would make it easier to better demonstrate what our services are all about. So, expect to see #CSPFamily posts on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and that’s how we’ll refer to the brand moving forward.

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Joining us in this endeavor are two incredibly skilled, passionate coaches, Brian Kaplan and Shane Rye. And, even more importantly, they’re two genuinely great people who are in the fitness industry for all the right reasons, and serve as outstanding role models for impressionable young athletes. Over the years, I’ve sent many of my professional athletes to Brian and Shane, and the feedback has been outstanding. They’ve also spent considerable time at our Massachusetts location, and we’ve collaborated in a distance-based context on a number of amateur players and general fitness clients, so we’re very excited to see what happens when we put our heads together under one roof!

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My wife and I will be splitting our year between our Massachusetts and Florida locations. And, of course, our mascot, Tank, will be “taking his talents to South Beach” (or at least a few hours away from it).

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We’re also extremely excited to continue our strong relationship with New Balance, a company that has done things right in the baseball community, providing great footwear, equipment, and experiences while heavily emphasizing charitable involvement among its athletes. New Balance Baseball will be prominently featured at CSP – Florida, and we’re grateful for their support. We’re also excited to announce more great collaborative baseball efforts in the future between New Balance and CSP.

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Additionally, I’m happy to announce a new collaboration between Cressey Sports Performance and TRX, a company that has done a great job of pushing innovation and cutting-edge training, equipment, and education in the field of strength and conditioning. TRX equipment and ideas have long been an integral part of our training system, and we’re pumped to take things to the next level.

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I could go on and on about how excited I am about the facility, but there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up before we open, so I’ll hold off on going into crazy details (especially since I won't have pictures for you until our renovations are complete). Still, if you’re looking for more information on the facility, our approaches to training, and the services we'll offer at CSP-Florida, email CSPFlorida@gmail.com and we’ll take good care of you.

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Thanks to everyone has supported Cressey Sports Performance over the years. We look forward to seeing you in Florida when we’re up and running!

PS – We are also looking forward to providing an accessible continuing education opportunity for fitness professionals in Florida, so we’ll be hosting several seminars throughout the year. If you'd like to get on our mailing list to be notified of events on that front, please shoot us an email to let us know. Thanks!


Baseball Injuries: Are Pitchers Really Getting “Babied?”

Written on July 10, 2014 at 3:51 am, by Eric Cressey

Today, I want to tackle another argument that gets thrown out there a lot nowadays in the baseball world:

"Pitchers are getting hurt because we're babying them."

Usually, this phrase comes from more of an “old school” coach who simply doesn’t appreciate how substantially the game has changed over the last 20-30 years. Flash back to the 1980s and 1990s, and you’ll see the following differences:

1. Kids weren’t heavily abused with year-round baseball at a young age, so there weren’t as many damaged goods arriving in collegiate and professional baseball.

2. Strength and conditioning was simply non-existent at all levels. As quantifiable proof of this evolution of the game, recent research has shown that the average MLB player’s body weight increased by roughly 12% between 1990 and 2010. Bigger, stronger athletes throw harder – and guys who throw harder get injured more frequently. All those guys who threw 86-90mph in the 1980s would be out of jobs if they played nowadays and didn’t strength train.

3. Video analysis was archaic back then as compared to now. Nowadays, throwers at all levels can optimize mechanics much more easily with the help of technology. Better mechanics should reduce injuries, but we have to realize that optimizing mechanics usually also equates to greater velocity. Efficient movement is efficient movement, so this is likely a “wash” in terms of injury risk.

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4. Travel wasn’t as stressful at the professional level. The game has expanded to include more teams (which equates to more travel) and nastier time zone changes. That wreaks havoc on players more than the typical fan realizes.

5. The season was slightly shorter. This is likely a trivial difference, but with the expansion of the wild card at the MLB level – as well as the World Baseball Classic every few years – the season has been stretched out a bit. Anecdotally, it seems that more and more players are heading out to play winter ball as well.

6. There weren’t nearly as many guys throwing cutters. This pitch isn’t very friendly on the elbow, and it seems like everyone is throwing it nowadays.

7. The pitching side of the game wasn’t as specialized. Nowadays, outside of starters, you have set-up guys, lefty specialists, righty specialists, and closers. It seems counterintuitive, but the more specialized a pitcher you are, the more likely you are to pitch frequently. And, this doesn’t just include getting into games, but also the number of times pitchers throw in the bullpen, but don’t go in the name (a scenario that is not-so-affectionately known as a “dry hump” in professional baseball).

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8. Sports medicine wasn’t as advanced. This is a bit of a leap of faith, but I’d say that modern medicine has made it possible for pitchers at the highest level to throw through a lot more arm discomfort than in previous decades. The anti-inflammatories/analgesics are more powerful and they’re sometimes handed out like candy, so you have a lot of scenarios where minor issues become major injuries over the course of time because they’re masked pharmaceutically.

Take these eight points all together, and you realize that we have taken already damaged pitchers and provided them with tools (strength and conditioning and video analysis) to help them move at greater velocities than ever before, throwing more stressful pitches than ever before – and then pushed them out into a longer and more stressful competitive calendar than ever before – where they pitcher more frequently than ever before. And, sports medicine has trended more toward making it easier for them to push through injuries than preventing injuries in the first place.

How the heck does that equate to us “babying” them?

This is on par with sending an experienced racecar driver out to the Daytona 500 track in a beat-up old lemon and having him drive it as fast as he can for 250 days per year. Would you be surprised if the car broke down, or the driver crashed and was injured? Would you say that the car or driver was “babied?”

Go ahead and let all your starters throw 150 pitches per game, and leave ‘em out there for 300 innings. Dry hump all your relievers until they don’t sit down in the bullpen all season. And, be sure to let me know how it goes.

The current system hasn’t “babied” pitchers; the pitch count and innings restrictions were a response to the dramatic changes to the game that have effectively destroyed the long-term health of pitchers. Look at the velocity drops (and, in some cases, injuries) of CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, Mark Buerhle and others who have racked up a lot of innings at a young age. While other players their ages may be able to preserve (or even increase) their velocities, these guys are on the steady downslope. Do you really think the problem is that they haven’t pitched enough?

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This leads to a very important clarification I should make: I’ll agree that pitchers need to throw more – but only if that means they pitch less. In other words, we need to get them away from specificity. We know too much specificity hurts them – and we also know that pitching off the mound dramatically increases arm stress as compared to flat-ground throwing. Whether it’s long toss, weighted balls, flat-ground work, or a combination of all these things, players need to find a way to build or preserve arm speed without the stress of the mound.

On the whole, pitchers aren’t being babied. In fact, in most cases, they’re being pushed more than ever before – and if you just keep pushing, something will always give.

Looking to get more insights on our long-term approach to developing baseball athletes? Check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 59

Written on July 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm, by Eric Cressey

It's time to rock and roll with a new installment of quick tips you can put into action with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs:

1. Enjoy some cherries!

Cherries are in-season right now in the Northeast, and my wife and I have been enjoying them regularly. In addition to being really tasty and loaded with nutrients and some fiber, there is actually a bit of research to suggest that eating them may help us overcome muscular soreness. Granted, working around the cherry pits is a bit of a pain in the butt - especially if you want to use them in a shake - but it's still worth the effort. Enjoy!

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2. Watch baggy shorts with kettlebell swings.

Rugby players and female athletes excluded, most athletes prefer longer shorts that are a bit baggier these days. I don't anticipate a return to the era of Rocky and Apollo anytime soon, so it's important to appreciate this fashion sense and coach accordingly.

The biggest issue with baggy shorts is that they can get in the way on exercises like kettlebell swings and pull-throughs where you want to keep the weighted implement (kettlebell or rope/cable) close to the family jewels. When the shorts are too baggy, they can actually get in the way.  With that in mind, when an athlete is wearing baggy shorts and performing these exercises, it's best to have him folder over the waistband a bit so that the material won't block the movement path.

3. Find your biggest windows of adaptation.

Dr. John Berardi gave a great presentation at the Perform Better Summit in Chicago last weekend, and while there were a lot of outstanding points, one stood out the most for me. While "JB" is an incredibly bright guy with seemingly infinite knowledge, he never overcomplicates things when counseling folks on the nutrition side of things.  In fact, he stressed fixing the most glaring problems for individuals before even considering anything more "sexy." On the nutrition side of things, it might be as simple as correcting vitamin/mineral deficiencies, getting omega-3 fatty acids in, improving hydration status, or eating protein at every meal.  When things like these are out of whack, it doesn't matter what your macronutrient ratios or, or whether you eat two or six times per day.

It got me to thinking about how we can best apply this to training. One thing that popped to mind: a lot of people jump to advanced training strategies when they simply haven't gotten strong in the first place. If you are a male and only bench press 135 pounds, you don't need wave loading, drop sets, German Volume training, or accommodating resistances; you just need to show up and keep adding weight to the bar each week with straight sets, as boring as they may seem. And, if you aren't training very hard or frequently enough, you need to increase your effort, not find a fancier program.

Likewise, there are a lot of people who look to add, add, and add to their training volume, but never pay attention to recovery. If you're sleeping three hours a night or eating a horrible diet, a lack of training volume probably isn't what is keeping you from reaching your goals.

The takeaway message is that everyone has different windows of adaptation where they can improve. And, what a novice lifter needs is usually much different than what an experienced trainee should incorporate.

4. If you're going to sprint, start on the grass.

It's an awesome time of year to get out and do your conditioning in the beautiful weather. For me, this means I get to get outside and do longer sprints than I can do the rest of the year when the weather is less than stellar and I'm limited to a 45-yard straightaway at the facility. A common mistake I see among folks at this time of year, though, is heading right out to the track or an even more unforgiving surface: pavement. If you want to start sprinting, grass is your best friend - and it's even better if you can find a slight hill up which you can sprint. For more tips on this front, check out my old article, So You Want to Start Sprinting?

5. Try some band-resisted broad jumps before deadlifting.

Whenever I'm not feeling so hot when I first go to deadlift, it's usually because I just haven't warmed up thoroughly enough. I've found that the bar speed almost always seems to "come around" when I add in a few sets of plyos before returning to try deadlifts again. Without a doubt, my favorite option on this front is band-resisted broad jumps:

These are a great option because they offer a little bit of resistance to push you more toward the strength-speed end of the continuum, but perhaps more importantly, the band reduces the stress you encounter on landing, as it effectively deloads you. Next time you're dragging and it's time to deadlift, try two sets of five jumps.

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