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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/2/14

Written on April 2, 2014 at 7:52 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning.

Opening Day Musings: Are You Willing to Put in the Work? - I wrote this post on Opening Day, 2012.  It might be two years old now, but the message still holds true.

Interview with Carlo Alvarez - This isn't exactly "reading," but the content is fantastic.  Carlo Alvarez, the Director of Sports Performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates, shares some great insights on what professional baseball is really like, and what up-and-coming strength coaches can do to improve.

PRI Cervical-Cranio-Mandibular Restoration Course Review - Kevin Neeld recaps his experience with this Postural Restoration Institute course.  It's on my list of "things to attend" in the next year.

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Catching Up With Chad Waterbury

Written on April 1, 2014 at 5:32 am, by Eric Cressey

This Saturday, Chad Waterbury will deliver his Advanced Training Workshop at Cressey Performance.  And, since I hadn't caught up with him here for quite some time, I thought it'd be a good time to bring him back for an interview. Check it out. -EC

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EC: Welcome back to EricCressey.com! It's been a while since we last touched base, so we ought to get up to speed on what you've been doing. To start, what would you say is the biggest change you’ve made compared to when you started training?

CW: The most significant change I’ve made is the way I assess clients. In the early days I would do some basic range of motion tests and ask a client which joints felt stiff or painful. Then I would do a combination of soft tissue work and PNF stretches to correct the issues. It helped clients move better and have less pain for the workout that followed, but those were usually just temporary changes. The next workout the client would often complain of the same problems.

Take the IT band, for example, since it’s usually stiff and painful to the touch on many athletes. I used to have my clients foam roll the IT band before training to release the tension. It hurts like hell to foam roll a super stiff IT band, and it’s easy to associate the pain of foam rolling with a gain in tissue quality. But that’s rarely the solution. In most cases, the IT band would be right back where it started the following day.

So a few years ago I started studying more progressive corrective approaches, namely the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). What I learned from those two approaches is how imperative it is to identify and correct the position of the ribcage and pelvis.

In my early training years I would look for muscles that were tight or painful and find a way to eliminate the tension through stretching or foam rolling. But I learned that instead of figuring out how to release a tight muscle it’s much more valuable to ask yourself: Why is the muscle tight?

When you learn to ask the right questions you put yourself much closer to the solution.

EC: I agree.  Learning and integrating PRI into our system has been a huge game changer, and you'll definitely see aspects of DNS in our training programs, too. Where are you seeing it have the most dramatic impact?

CW: Three areas that often have excessive tension are the psoas, TFL and IT band. Now, you can stretch and foam roll and it might help temporarily. But in many cases the psoas is excessively stiff because the diaphragm and ribcage aren’t sitting properly. For the TFL and IT band, those problems are usually related to a rotated pelvis and poor glute activation. When you correct those issues, and sometimes it only takes five minutes, the excess tension disappears immediately. Now you’re working on the source of the problem.

Or take shoulder pain as another example since that’s one area you specialize in. I think we have learned how crucial proper positioning of the ribcage and diaphragm are for optimal shoulder mechanics.

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And the coolest part is that it’s not difficult to learn how to reposition the ribcage or pelvis, once you know what you’re looking for.

EC: I read your blog post where you describe some of the things you learned at the Movement Performance Institute. Care to elaborate on that?

CW: I think it’s the duty of a trainer or therapist to make an effort to learn from others. The key is to seek out experts that have had considerable success in a specific area and do your best to learn from them. That’s what I try to do.

I had heard some terrific things about the research from Chris Powers, Ph.D., at his Movement Performance Institute in west Los Angeles. So I met with him last fall and he let me spend five months under his tutelage where I drastically increased my training IQ, especially when it comes to the biomechanics of running and glute development.

Dr. Powers wears many hats. He’s a professor at the University of Southern California (USC), a physical therapist, and one of the world’s best researchers on knee rehab, especially ACL injuries. He was one of the first researchers to demonstrate that patients who have knee pain probably have weakness in the hips and core.

What’s also great about Dr. Powers is that he has a background in powerlifting. He isn’t a guy who wants you to spend the rest of your training days doing band exercises. His goal is to get you back to lifting hard and heavy. That was one of the things about him that impressed me most, and why I wanted to learn from him.

Now my approach to glute training, and how I implement it to increase performance, is at a much higher level. I learned why many of the glute exercises out there are doing very little to reduce knee pain or increase athleticism. The glute max, in particular, is a tri-planar muscle group so you must train it with that fact in mind.

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EC: It sounds like you’ve shifted more toward the physical therapy end of the spectrum, as opposed to traditional performance training?

CW: When it comes to building explosive strength the key is to figure out where an athlete is weak or compensating. Once you correct those issues, explosiveness will increase tremendously. It doesn’t matter if you’re a powerlifting coach, an athletic trainer or a physical therapist, the goal is always the same: find where the athlete is weak and fix it. In other words, if you want to be a guy who builds explosive strength you must be proficient at identifying and correcting the factors that affect it.

I’m learning how important those factors are thanks to my time working with incredible doctors like Chris Powers, Stu McGill and Craig Liebenson. I’ve become passionate about the clinical side of athletic development. That’s why I’m heading to USC in the fall to start their doctor of physical therapy program.

EC: How do you typically assess clients?

CW: Everything starts with the ribcage and pelvis. The reason is because those two areas have such far-reaching effects. The feet are also important to assess. Most people shouldn’t train barefoot because they have excessive pronation that, in turn, can cause knee valgus. And if there’s one thing you need to stay away from, it’s knee valgus. You only need to read the research by Chris Powers, PhD, and Tim Hewett, PhD, for proof.

What I do next depends on the type of client I have. If it’s an athlete, I’ll test the vertical jump, deadlift and 5-10-5, for starters. Those are three key indicators when improvements in explosive strength and agility are the goal.

However, as I said in the beginning, the assessment is the most crucial part of any training program because it will identify where you need to focus your time and energy. My goal is to use the fewest corrective exercises possible. And, sometimes the best corrective is to just use better form while lifting.

EC: Great stuff, Chad. Thanks for the interview!

For those interested in this weekend's workshop, we still have a few spaces open. You can register HERE.

And, if you can't make the workshop, you can still visit Chad's site at www.ChadWaterbury.com.


How to Build Back to Overhead Pressing

Written on March 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm, by Eric Cressey

With all the shoulders I've seen over the years, I've stumbled onto quite a few key "take-home" points. Today, I'd like to share one observation I've made. First, though, I have to tell a quick story to set the stage.

Like a lot of guys with shoulder problems, I miss being able to overhead press, so I've taken to experimenting with a lot of different approaches to see how I can at least "get close" to working it back in.  Last year, I talked about how landmine presses had been working as a nice "bridge" between overhead work and true horizontal pressing exercises.  Check out the coaching cues:

The arm path on a landmine press really isn’t much different than an incline press – so why does the incline press hurt so much more for those with shoulder pain in their injury history?  Having the shoulder blades pinned against a bench limits their ability to freely upwardly rotate; they're stuck in scapular downward rotation. 

This year, to take it a step further, I played around a lot with bottoms-up kettlebell overhead carries and pressing, and my shoulder did great with them.  With this drill, you teach people where an appropriate “finish” position is, and then you can work backward from it.

The next progression would be a 1-arm bottoms-up KB military press:

The unstable bottoms-up position shifts more of the muscular contribution to joint stability than actual force production, so you can get to positions pain-free that would otherwise be really uncomfortable.

Assuming you don't have shoulder pain, these are two good progressions to try to see if you're really cut out for overhead work.

Looking for more shoulder insights?  Check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, our popular DVD set that bridges the gap between rehabilitation and high performance.

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Cressey Performance Ladies T-Shirts Now Available!

Written on March 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm psyched to announce that - due to many requests over the years - we now have a Cressey Performance Ladies T-Shirt available.  Catchy slogan, huh?

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These shirts are 65% polyester and 35% cotton and super comfortable (or so I've been told).  That said, they do run a bit small, so you'll want to order one size up from your normal fit. Each shirt is $19.99 plus shipping/handling, and you can click the links below to add shirts to your cart:

Small

Medium

Large - temporarily out of stock

Extra Large

XXL

We expect this first batch to sell out quickly, so don't delay in ordering if you want one of these to rock as the weather gets nice!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/25/14

Written on March 25, 2014 at 6:29 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this week's collection of recommended reading, with a Cressey Performance flavor to it.  I grabbed dinner with a bunch of our Marlins, Cardinals, and Mets guys last night in Florida, so it seemed like only the right thing to kick things off with some baseball stuff!

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Draft Q&A: Eric Cressey, Part 1 – I was interviewed last week by Baseball America on the topics of MLB draft preparation, long-term athletic development, and some of our client success stories.  Be sure to also check out Part 2, as there are some great lessons in here, regardless of whether you work with baseball players or not.

CP Client Spotlight: Meet Stacie! – Here's a great story of a CP client who's made some awesome progress training at CP.  Stacie proves that Cressey Performance isn't just for baseball players!

Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong? – In this Daily Burn interview, CP massage therapist and strength and conditioning coach Chris Howard weighs in on the topic of foam rolling.

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!

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6 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Strength and Conditioning Program

Written on March 24, 2014 at 4:35 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.

Planning the training of an athlete is mainly a question of considering variables. The success of a strength and conditioning program is largely the result of how well a coach can manage these variables, as well as the implementation of the training program.

In order to effectively begin the planning process, a coach must ask himself six questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Many coaches instinctively weigh the answers to these questions in order to develop the training as a whole. I am no different. That being said, I recently watched a presentation from James Smith in which he organized common consideration into the familiar WWWWWH format. His acknowledgment of these considerations was the inspiration for this article, so thank you, James.

Who?

The first consideration must be the athlete with whom you’ll be working. Each athlete is different, and thus each athlete will need an individualized approach to his or her preparation. We are quick to label a program or exercise “sport specific,” but in reality, a good programs are exercise selection are “athlete specific.”

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Are you planning the training of a male or female? What is the athlete’s age?

The sex of the athlete may call for different training parameters. The same is true of the athlete’s age, as well as the interaction of the two factors.

Furthermore, what are their movement or orthopedic limitations, and injury history? This is a huge question in both the terms of exercise selection and workload. This consideration will also affect the answer of subsequent questions. Not to jump ahead, but the “why” you are training an athlete can be greatly influenced by their limitations.

Lastly, who is the athlete from a preparation level? This question can lend itself to the “when” as well as the “how.” However, an athlete’s “identity” is largely a product of their preparation to date. What is their level of skill or sport mastery, general and specific work capacity, limit strength, explosive strength, and exercise technique?

What?

The main question here is, “what is the athlete’s sport?“

The training plan must aid an athlete in attaining a high level of sport mastery. Do you as the coach understand the parameters and demands of the athlete’s sport?

How do the improvements of different categories translate to the improvement of the athlete in their sport? The special work capacity of the soccer player differs greatly from that of the sprinter. Limit strength, for example, may hold a higher priority to the football player than the baseball player.

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Also of consideration for some sports is the position or primary event of the athlete. Offensive lineman are a lot different than quarterbacks, and goalies have markedly different demands than midfielders. Obviously, this consideration weighs more heavily in some sports than others.   

When?

Asking “when?” leads us to series of questions based on time.

When is the athlete’s competitive season, and when is the off-season? The answer to this question helps us to form an idea of the length of any training stages.

For example, a Major League Baseball season consists of spring training, plus 26 weeks and 162 regular season games, plus a possible 20 additional post-season games. In other words, a MLB player spends more time in the competitive season than he does in the off-season. Factor in a block for restoration from the competitive season, and you have very little time to actually prepare the athlete for the following season. Now, ask yourself the difference in the length of the competitive season for a minor league player, college player, and high school player? Each offers different lengths of time for the coach to prepare the athlete. Therefore, while each athlete’s training should be geared toward producing the best possible result on the field, each athlete will be able to spend different amounts of time on improving certain abilities.

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Football, on the other hand, has a pre-season, plus a 17-week competitive season, and a possible additional 3-4 post-season games. The football player has considerably more time to prepare in the off-season.

Lastly, when will you be working with this athlete?

Will you have them for a few weeks, a single off-season, the next four years, or the next eight years? Furthermore, when will you be monitoring their training, and when will they be carrying out the training plan without your guidance?

These final answers MUST be taken into account when developing the strength and conditioning program of an athlete. A coach must train for the future, and knowing that you will influence an athlete for multiple years rather than multiple weeks greatly changes the approach.

Where?

Where are you receiving this athlete in their preparation and skill development timetable? While a coach may receive an athlete who has developed a high level of skill, they will not necessarily have a high level of physical preparation. The two are not linked.

Is this the first time ever dedicating any time to physical preparation as opposed to skill development?

Has the athlete acquired a high level of physical preparation, and lacks the skill development to move forward?

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The answers to these questions will help you as the coach better determine the means, and minimal effective dose, for this athlete to make improvements to their game.

To back track, you must also ask yourself where the athlete is in relation to their competitive season. If you receive an athlete one week after the close of business, as opposed to one month before the start of business, the training focus must be in line with the plan, regardless of what you see them lacking in on a global scale.

One month before the competitive season is not the time to makes gain on maximal strength, even if that is a weak link. Moreover, one week after the competitive season is not the time to place a majority focus on skill development, regardless of the fact that an athlete may be greatly lacking in this quality.

 

Why?

This may be the single best question you can ask yourself as a coach. Why are you working with this athlete?

The answer to that question is the sum of all the questions you have asked yourself up to this point. On a general level, the answer is the same: to improve the athlete’s sport outcome.

The real question you are asking is on a far more specific level.

You are not working with a professional athlete for the same reason you are working with a freshman in high school. Additionally, you may not be working with professional athlete A for the same reasons you are working with professional athlete B.

Each athlete will produce different answers to the questions of Who, What, When, and Where. Therefore, the “why” is different in each athlete’s case, and the training must be tailored to that individual’s needs.

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How?

How is the final question, and one that has many different answers. This is not an article on training philosophies, and so the answer to this question is different for each of you. That said, once you get to this final question, all pre-requisite variables have been established.

From here, you as the coach must form the training plan. How will you sequence the training, and what means, methods, amounts of volume, intensity, and frequency will you use?

In ending, qualified coaches will ask themselves these six questions before ever entering a single digit or exercise name into their template. Not doing so is to completely ignore the preparation process as a whole. Consider the training process on a much larger scale than just a single workout, or four-week phase. Instead, investigate where an athlete falls in the scheme of physical preparation and skill mastery on a career-long basis. Use the information gathered to enter the athlete into the proper phase of preparation and to focus the training to the needs of each athlete on an individual basis.

Looking for a program that helps you with individualization and takes the guesswork out of self-programming?  Check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market.

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Chad Waterbury Advanced Training Workshop at Cressey Performance!

Written on March 21, 2014 at 11:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Last week, I got an email from Chad Waterbury saying that after years of trying to make it work, he was finally flying out to the East Coast to hang out with us at Cressey Performance.  Since Chad doesn't get to this side of the country very often, I floated the idea of doing a workshop while he's here, and he was all in!  It's short notice, but this April 5 from 2pm to 6pm, he'll deliver his Advanced Training Workshop at CP in Hudson, MA – and we'd love to see you there!

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Here's some of what Chad will cover:

  • The essential factors that limit and enhance explosive power.
  • The crucial role of proper ribcage and pelvis alignment, and how to identify and correct them.
  • How to increase full-body neural drive before each training session using only your body weight.
  • A simple way to get the most glute activation during squats and deadlifts. (Hint: it’s not the “spread the floor with your feet” trick.)
  • The single most accurate test to determine if your client is at risk for knee injury.
  • The most effective ways to measure explosive strength.
  • Key elements for designing any strength-building program.

In short, these four hours will be jam-packed with knowledge you'll be able to put into action immediately.  Here are the specifics:

Date/Time: Saturday, April 5, 2014, 2pm-6pm

Location: Cressey Performance, 577 Main St – Suite 310, Hudson, MA.

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Price: $99.99 regular, $79.99 student rate through the early bird registration deadline (March 31). The price goes up $30 after 3/31.

Registration:

Click Here to Register at the Regular Rate

Click Here to Register at the Student Rate

If you'd like to register more than one attendee, please just change the quantity to 2 (or more) on the order form, and then list the attendees' names and email addresses in the comments section.

Sorry for the short notice, but this opportunity is too good to pass up, as Chad is fantastic in seminar. Hope to see you there!

For those interested in hotel options, we have a great deal in place with Extended Stay America – Marlborough. They offer a preferred rate of $59.00 + tax on Queen Studio Suites.  Rates can be accessed by calling the hotel at 508-490-9911 and identifying yourself as a guest of Cressey Performance.

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5 Training Tips for the Busy Adult Athlete

Written on March 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today, I've got a guest post from Jen Sinkler, the creator of an awesome new resource, Lift Weights Faster.

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The playing field may look a little different these days: Rather than washing your own sweaty, grass-stained uniforms, perhaps you’re doing so for your kids. Maybe you’re throwing a laptop messenger bag over your shoulder instead of a duffle filled with equipment.

But the desire to get better has never waned.

Being a former athlete myself — one who continues to pursue better physical fitness and still chases performance in and out of the gym, as well as working with clients who want to look and feel athletic, regardless of whether or not there is a sport involved — has afforded me the opportunity to learn what it takes achieve these goals while juggling a busy work schedule. Below are the essentials.

1. Know when to push and when to chill.

I love Dan John’s analogies — he’s one of the best fitness translators in the business (that is to say, he breaks down even ideas better than almost anybody, for almost everybody) — and a favorite is the risk-reward spectrum of the aging athlete. To summarize, the undersized high school athlete who doesn’t get much playing time will take more risks in the weight room, scarf down more calories, and keep hypertrophy at the forefront, whereas the starters are playing it a little safer, just trying to stay strong and healthy enough to remain on the court or field, at least when they’re in season.

On a larger scale, you’ve got pro athletes earning money at their sport. At a certain point in their careers, they shift on “stealing more millions” by staying in the league. Redefining their game, approach or body at that point is too risky — the goal is to simply stay alive.

If your life is highly stressful, consider yourself the pro athlete. As Eric pointed out the other day, your body doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of stress. All stress matters and counts – simply put, if it feels like too much, it probably is. Examine how you feel after you train: in a nutshell, better or worse? And adjust accordingly.

If, on the other hand, you’re in a place in your life where you can add a little challenge, that opens up your possibilities in the gym. (Keep in mind that as we age, it takes longer to recover, so for those who fall under this umbrella, consider making your workouts more compact, regardless.)

The point is to adjust your workout style to your lifestyle. The person that gets into the gym 52 weeks a year will always make more progress than the person sidelined because they pushed it too hard in 52 minutes.

2. Vary work-to-rest ratios and circuit structure.

Varying the length and structure of your finishers are a great way to stimulate your body in a different, highly metabolic way.

To be clear: I’m not advocating screwing around in a way that isn’t going to net you results. That is, doing squats while teetering atop a BOSU ball may qualify as novel, but it’s not useful. And, we’ve all done workouts where one muscle group was so thoroughly taxed that you can’t perform a sufficient amount of work to qualify as a metabolic workout. I am talking about adding new and productive challenges to your conditioning routine.

Strength ladders are great as they can allow you to get a good amount of volume into a short time period, as do complexes, combos and chains.

And, depending on their training volume within the week and the day of, I’ll toy with my clients’ work-to-rest ratios. Some days short and intense, some longer and lighter, with a negative-rest workout sprinkled in sparingly.

Here are a few options:

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3. Play mind games.

Humans are hardwired to love novelty (a quality called neophilia), and new movements can be a gateway for new progress.

Movements like the “monkey hustle” or “silverback” below are great primal movements that are great strength and coordination builders – but be smart with ’em. High amounts of primal/crawling patterns on top of pushups can be a recipe for tender wrists.

Treat newer movements like your strength training, increasing the volume by roughly 10 percent each week. If 15 meters of crawling feels good, just bump it up to 16 to 17 meters the next time you incorporate them in your repertoire. Slow and steady here — no one ever benched 200 pounds for the first time ever and then jumped to 300 (actually, that’s not true, but it usually results in a viral YouTube video).

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4. Prep your food plan.

I’m a systems person, from tracking my workouts to cooking at home. Systems save you plenty of time and stress. Nothing works harder against body-comp and performance goals than the aftermath of coming home famished and having nothing prepared. If you can come up with a weekly plan for what’s on deck in the fridge and an inventory of what’s cooked up and ready to reheat, you’ll be set.

If you’re intimidated by home-cooking, short on time, or just like when your meals cook themselves, the crockpot has gone gourmet. It’s as easy as
choosing ingredients, cutting them up, tossing them in, and a few hours later,
done. The secret is in the spices. (Plus, it makes your house smell
like the inside of the best restaurant you’ve ever visited.)

Another option: hash. Again, super easy: throw a bunch of fresh, high-quality ingredients into the same pan and then take credit for the flavorful result.

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5. Be adaptable.

Chances are that your schedule varies due to familial or social obligations, work travel, and energy levels. When you can’t stick to Plan A, try workouts like this body weight ladder. The Plunge can be completed for time (I like to jot my times in my training journal to make sure I’m continually making progress, even in conditioning). Or, if you’ve had a heavier strength-training session, this circuit complements the iron nicely with the variety in movement and just enough volume.

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Get Better Faster

If you’re looking to improve your fitness in creative but productive ways, I’ve put together a mammoth 130-workout pick-and-choose conditioning library called Lift Weights Faster. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of over 225 exercises (from classic moves to more creative ones), a video library that includes coaching on 14 of the more technical lifts, five challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I leveraged my background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time. 

Plus, every workout is organized by the equipment you have available and how much time you’ve got, including plenty of effective options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes. If you’re on the go, there are plenty of options to keep you busy, interested and progressing in the direction you want to go. And if you like a challenge, there are five keystone workouts that you can track online on the site’s tracker along with challenge your coworkers for a place on the leaderboard.

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About the Author

Jen Sinkler (www.jensinkler.com), RKC, PCC, PM, USAW, is a long-time fitness journalist who writes for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis.

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5 Characteristics of Successful Metabolic Resistance Training Programs

Written on March 18, 2014 at 8:36 am, by Eric Cressey

Metabolic resistance training (MRT) has been all the rage in the fitness industry over the past few years.  And, while people have started to appreciate that interval training is a better option for fat loss than steady-state aerobic activity, that doesn't mean that they've learned to effectively program this interval training – especially when it involves appreciable resistance, as with MRT.  In other words, it's much easier to program intervals on the recumbent bike than it is to include kettlebell swings, as one obviously has to be much more cognizant of perfect technique with the swing.  With that in mind, with today's post, I'll highlight five characteristics of safe and effective metabolic resistance training programs.

1. They must include self-limiting exercises.

With self-limiting exercises, fatigue stops you from completing a rep before your technique can break down.  A perfect example would be sled pushing or dragging.  It's virtually impossible to have technique break down with these exercises, especially in a trained athlete, and even under considerable loading.  And, I can't say that I've ever seen anyone injured while using a sled.

Taking this a step further, I'd note that there are exercises that might not be self-limiting initially, but reach that point eventually. For example, with a beginner, a suspension trainer inverted row is not self-limiting at all; there are several important technique elements that a lifter needs to master because doing the exercise under conditions of fatigue.

Push-ups would be another example.  We've all seen the classic push-up form deterioration under fatigued conditions: a sagging, excessively arched lower back; forward head posture; and elbows flaring out.  It's the classic "panic mode" strategy employed by beginners.  However, you never see it in experienced lifters; they'll simply fail before the technique breaks down.  Part of this comes from technical proficiency, but it's also related to the fact that the limiting factor shifts from anterior core stability to upper body strength/endurance as an individual gets more experienced.

With all this in mind, it shouldn't surprise you that what's appropriate for a MRT program changes over the course of a training career.

2. There has to be sufficient total work to achieve a training effect.

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but doing 5-10s intervals probably isn't going to do much for you – unless you're doing a ton of them, or using really short rest intervals.  Essentially, you have to get to the point where you shift over from the ATP-PC to the glycolitic (anaerobic) system.  This is a sweet spot where intensity of exercise is high while volume remains up – and that's how you create the "metabolic debt" that makes interval training so beneficial.

I think it's better to look at total work than just reps in a given set, as not all drills are created equal.  For example, if you do a barbell complex consisting of five snatches, five cleans, five front squats, five barbell rows, and five deadlifts, you've done a ton more work than if you just did 25 medicine ball throws.  The loading capabilities are greater with the barbell complex, and the bar travels over a greater distance.  Since work equals force times distance, it's a more powerful stimulus than the medicine ball throws.

3. The work intervals must be short enough to preserve a high effort level and good technique.

This could be considered the "corollary" to #2.  Doing a set of 100 barbell snatches is absurd, as technique breaks down, and the amount of weight an athlete can use is almost too trivial to even call it metabolic RESISTANCE training.  Plus, it would likely take about 2-3 minutes to complete, which means that you're getting much more aerobic, even if an athlete is "working hard."  My feeling is that you use your work bouts to challenge anaerobic systems, and your recovery period to condition the aerobic energy system.  Let's be honest: most strength training enthusiasts care more about the aerobic system for recovery than actual aerobic exercise performance, anyway.

4. The programming must appreciate the influence of "other" stress.

My wife takes bootcamps at Cressey Performance three days a week, and they're heavily focused on MRT.  Accordingly, she only does "true" strength training sessions two days a week.

I, on the other hand, don't take bootcamps, but have more traditional lifting sessions four days a week.  I'll usually supplement them with one metabolic resistance training, sprinting, or rowing intervals session, as well as one low intensity "blood flow" day.

Our dog, Tank, on the other hand, lays around all the time and doesn't do a damn thing.

tank

Effectively, the harder you train on the strength side of things, the less you can do on the conditioning side of things.

This also applies to those with considerable stress outside the gym.  Stress is stress, so if your life is crazy hectic, it may not be appropriate to do a lot of high volume MRT.  Some low-key aerobic activity might be a better supplement to your strength training work until you can get your stress sorted out.

5. There must be adequate equipment and sufficient space available.

This is an incredibly important, but commonly overlooked factor that heavily influences a metabolic resistance training program's success. While you can usually get by with minimal equipment with a MRT program, body weight only can get old very quickly.  Fortunately, just adding a kettlebell, band, suspension trainer, barbell, or other implement can quickly expand your exercise selection pool.  It's important to realize that a little bit can go a long way, especially if you're training in a busy gym and can't monopolize pieces of equipment for too long without someone walking off with them!

Space is a different story, though.  If you have a 10'x10' home gym with low ceilings, it's going to be tough to do barbell complexes, sled pushes, or farmer's walks.

1-armfarmers

Likewise, using our busy gym example from above, do you really want to even attempt a barbell complex in a busy commercial gym?  You might have pristine form, but some inattenive gymgoer might still walk right into you in a middle of a set of power cleans.  Make sure that your area is big – and secure – enough.

As you can see, there is a lot more that goes into designing a safe and effective metabolic resistance training program than meets the eye. To that end, I highly recommend Jen Sinkler's new resource on the topic: Lift Weights Faster.

LWF-Product-Bundle-no-EBF

The depth of this product really blew me away, as there are 138 pages of sample MRT workouts using all sorts of different equipment, or none at all. There are some great ideas in there for fitness professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike, and I'll certainly be implementing some of the techniques Jen describes in our programming at Cressey Performance.  It's on sale at a great introductory price this week, so be sure to check it out.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/17/14

Written on March 17, 2014 at 11:39 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Here's something to read while you're enjoying a pint of Guinness:

High-Protein Diets Linked to Cancer: Should You Be Concerned? – The good folks at Examine.com tackle this question that has come up in light of some questionable research that has recently been making the rounds in the mainstream media.  Also, as an aside, the Examine guys just put their Supplement-Goals Reference Guide on sale to celebrate three years since they were founded.  I'm a big fan of this resource, and at just $29, it's a tremendous resource.

supp331

Baseball Injuries: What to Expect in the Coming Months – I wrote this piece two years ago, but the injury patterns haven't changed – aside from getting slightly worse!  You'll look at baseball injuries differently after reading it.

Love of Game, Family Fuels Seratelli's Quest – If you're looking for a guy for whom to cheer this season, make it Cressey Performance athlete Anthony Seratelli, who is in big league camp with the Mets.  This is a great story that keeps getting better with each passing year. Anthony actually lived with my wife and me for the month of January while he was up here training.

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