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Band-Resisted Training for Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Advice From a Former College Baseball Player: What If?

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

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

What if?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Get assessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll use myself as example.

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

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

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

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

In short, here were my issues:

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

Cue epiphany.

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

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

Moral of the story? Get assessed.

2. Movement comes first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear athletes: Please change this attitude.

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

3. Focus on the little things.

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

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

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

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

4. Do more single-leg work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Get outside the sagittal plane.

Oh…the beloved sagittal plane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

6. More doesn’t equal better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

About the Author

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

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Exercise of the Week: Integrating Hip Mobility with Core Stability

Written on April 4, 2014 at 5:14 am, by Eric Cressey

In this week's installment of "Exercise of the Week," I want to introduce one of my favorite "combo" drills for hip mobility and core stability.  I actually came up with the lateral lunge with band overhead reach myself in the summer of 2012 as I was thinking up ways for our throwers to have better rotary and anterior core stability as they rode their back hips down the mound during their pitching delivery. I introduced the exercise in phase 2 of The High Performance Handbook, and got several emails from customers who commented on just how much they liked it.  Give it a shot!

The name of the game with this exercise is "bang for your buck."  You're getting anterior core stability that'll help you prevent the lower back from slipping into too big an arch.  You're getting rotary stability that'll help prevent excessive rotation of your spine.  You're getting hip mobility that'll enable you to get into new ranges of motion.  And, you'll build lower body frontal plane stability so that you can perform outside of just the sagittal (straight-ahead) plane.

I'll usually do three sets of 6-8 reps per side. Enjoy!

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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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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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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.

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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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Exercise of the Week: Split-Stance High-to-Low Anti-Rotation Chop w/Rope

Written on March 11, 2014 at 9:08 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been a while since we shared a new "Exercise of the Week" video here at EricCressey.com, so I thought it'd be a good time to highlight one I was actually discussing with one of my staff members yesterday.

The split-stance high-to-low anti-rotation chop w/rope is one of my favorite "catch-all" core stability exercises.  While it primarily challenges rotary stability (the ability of the core to resist rotation), we also get some anti-extension benefit from it.  Because the cable is positioned higher up, we must use our anterior core to prevent the lower back from arching in the top position.  By adding a full exhale on each breath, you can increase the challenge to the anterior core even further – and, as Gray Cook would say, use breathing to "own the movement."  Check it out:

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Another important consideration that may be overlooked is the fact that rotational movements in sports include both low-to-high (tennis forehands/backhands) and high-to-low (overhand throwing, baseball hitting, tennis/volleyball serving) patterns, yet for some reason, we see a lot more low-to-high or purely horizontal patterns trained.  I love the idea of getting the arms up overhead more often, particularly in athletes who may lose upward rotation, or people who just sit at desks all day with their arms at their sides.

We'll usually work this in during the latter half of a strength training session, and do it for 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps. This video was actually taken from The High Performance Handbook video database, as this exercise was featured in the 16-week program.

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Enjoy!

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Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 4

Written on March 8, 2014 at 9:21 am, by Eric Cressey

I always tell up-and-comers in the strength and conditioning field, "If you aren't assessing, you're just guessing."  It's not as simple as just doing a sit-and-reach test and having someone hop on the scale for you, though. This series is devoted to highlighting some of the most commonly overlooked components of the assessment process – and here are three more evaluations you might be missing:

1. Previous Athletic/Training Workload – If you're trying to help a client get to where they want to be, it's important to realize where they've been.  For example, someone who has a history of overworking themselves might respond really well to a lower volume program.  Or, an athlete looking to gain muscle mass who has never trained with much lifting volume might be well-served to add some "backoff" sets and additional assistance work.

This is an incredibly important discussion with our professional pitchers, too.  Starting pitchers who have a high workload (some in excess of 200 innings pitched in the previous 8-9 months) need to wait longer to start throwing than relief pitchers who may not have thrown more than 40 innings in a season.  The former group might not start an off-season throwing program until January 1, whereas the latter group might already have eight weeks of work in by that point.

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Discussions of building work capacity get a lot of love in the strength and conditioning field, but I think we often lose sight of the fact that sporting coaches are also looking to build work capacity in the context of the athletes' actual sports.  Now, these two things don't have to be mutually exclusive, but if everyone is always pushing high volume all the time, things can go downhill fast.

2. Quad and Adductor Length - Let's face it: a huge chunk of the population doesn't exercise enough, and even most of those who do exercise regularly don't pay attention to mobility needs. As a result, their entire exercise program takes place in a very small amplitude; they never get through significent joint ranges of motion. Two areas in which you see this probably rearing its ugly head the most are quad and adductor length. 

Your quads are maximally lengthened when your heel is on your butt.  How often do you see someone encounter this position in their daily lives?

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Adductors are stretched when the hips are abducted.  When was the last time you hit this pose in your daily activities – outside of a fall on the ice?

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If you want to do a quick and easy assessment of where you stand on these, try these two (borrowed from Assess and Correct):

Prone Knee Flexion: you should have at least 120 degrees of active knee flexion without the pelvis or lower back moving.

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Supine Abduction: you should have at least 45 degrees of abduction without lumbar or pelvis compensation, or any hip rotation.

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I generally just check these up on the training table when people get started up, but these should provide good do-it-yourself options for my readers who aren't fitness professionals.  Also, if you find that you come up short on these tests, get to work on the two stretches pictures at the start of this bulletpoint.

3. Taking the Shirt Off – This is a tricky one, as you obviously can't do it with female clients, and even when male clients, you have to be sensitize to the fact that it might not be something in which they'd like to partake.  That said, you'd be amazed at how many upper extremity dysfunctions can be obscured by a simple t-shirt.  As an example, this left-handed pitcher's medial elbow pain was diagnosed with ulnar neuritis, and he was prescribed anti-inflammatories for it and sent on his way without the doctor even having him take his shirt off to evaluate the shoulder and neck.

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Needless to say, he sits in heavy scapular depression on the left side, and it wouldn't be a "stretch" (pun intended) at all to suspect that his ulnar nerve symptoms would be originating further up the chain.  Take note on how the brachial plexus/ulnar nerve runs right under the clavicle as it courses down toward the elbow.

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Crank the scapula and clavicle down, and you can easily compress the nerve (and vascular structures) to wind up with thoracic outlet syndrome, a very common, but under-diagnosed condition in overhead throwing athletes.  The more forward-thinking upper extremity orthopedic surgeons are diagnosing this more and more frequently nowadays; elbow problems aren't always elbow problems!

The lesson is that you can see a lot when you take a shirt off.  If it's the right fit for your client/athlete, work it in.

I'll be back soon with more commonly overlooked assessments.  In the meantime, I want to give you a quick heads-up that to celebrate National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness week and help the cause, Mike Reinold and I have put both Functional Stability Training of the Core and Lower Body on sale for 25% off through tonight (Saturday) at midnight – with 25% of proceeds going to MS charities. Just use the coupon code msawareness to apply the discount at the following link: www.FunctionalStability.com.

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Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 5

Written on March 6, 2014 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been over a month since I posted an update to this series, so with the baseball season underway, I thought I'd get back to it – and focus on something we see as an in-season problem:

Pitchers not being advocates for themselves with respect to playing other positions games on non-pitching days.

Absolutely nothing drives me crazier than when I hear about a player throwing 6-7 innings, and then being asked to come back and play shortstop or catcher in the next few days. In fact, it might be the very definition of insanity, as it defies a lot of what we know about recovery, fatigue management, and arm stress.

To be clear, pitchers absolutely do need to throw throughout the week to optimize performance and develop.  You can't just pitch, then sit around for six days and expect to get better or stay sharp.  However, I think we do need to approach what guys do on non-pitching days on a very individualized basis.

If we're talking about starters who are going to throw 60+ pitches at least once a week, they need to stick to playing DH, 1B, 3B, 2B, or OF in the 2-3 days after a start – and preferably throughout the entire week.  Sure, there will stil be the possibility for intense throws, but the volume is much lower, and they'll be able to get their legs under them better, as compared to off-balance throws from shortstop, or rushed throws from the catching position.

If we're talking about relievers who just get innings here and there, it's a totally different story.  If they're only throwing 15-20 pitches a few times a week, they can play anywhere they're needed.  The volume just isn't enough on the mound to make it a very valid concern. The only exception to the rule might be early in the season; if guys are really sore in the 24-48 hours after they pitch, they're probably better off somewhere other than shortstop or catcher.

Now, all this seems well and good – until you realize that just about every 12-year-old in the country says that he plays "pitcher and shortstop."  Seriously, I get excited when I hear a young kid who is a catcher, second baseman, or just an "all over" utility guy.

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So, as you can see, players don't just need to be counseled on this; they need to be counseled on this at a young age.

A big part of developing starting pitchers over the long haul is helping them to build work capacity, the ability to throw more innings.  This obviously gets a lot of attention in the professional ranks with young pitchers who are on strict innings limits.  However, it's equally important at the youth levels; you have to build work capacity gradually, especially in athletes who are skeletally immature. The problem with throwing them at shortstop or catcher is that it immediately puts you in a position where you underestimate how much wear and tear is on the pitcher's arm over the course of a season.

Looking for more in-depth baseball insights?  Check out one of our Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships; we'll have events in June, October, and December.

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