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3 Barbell Hip Thrust Coaching Cues

Written on November 18, 2015 at 7:31 am, by Eric Cressey

We utilize both barbell hip thrusts and supine bridges on a regular basis in our programming. Popularized by Bret Contreras, we started utilizing these exercises in 2011 - and haven't looked back since.

They're great alternatives to squatting and deadlifting for those with a history of back pain, and can be awesome options for training the posterior chain in those with upper body conditions that may be exacerbated by certain squat and deadlift variations. They don't create a ton of soreness, so they can be awesome in-season exercises for athletes. And, they'll build bigger, stronger glutes that seem to carry over better to athletic performance because of the horizontally directed force (as opposed to the vertically directed force we see with squats and deadlifts). In short, I think they're awesome on a number of fronts - and they're here to stay.

While even the most inexperienced athlete can pick these drills up relatively quickly, that's not to say that there aren't a few common technique mistakes for which you need to watch out. Check out this video to learn how to correct these issues:

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Is Your Strength and Conditioning Internship a One-Way Street?

Written on November 11, 2015 at 7:36 am, by Eric Cressey

Just the other day, my Cressey Sports Performance business partner, Pete Dupuis, ran a live fitness business Q&A on my Facebook page, and he delivered some great insights on a number of fronts. I chimed in on one question that jumped out at me as worthy of an entire article, so here is my "expansion" on my initial response:

Q: We have had struggles trying to find a decent referral source for quality interns. How have you had success finding them?

Certainly, there are ways that you can “recruit” new interns. Establishing a good relationship with a nearby college with an exercise science program is a good place to start. Or, you can even look to your former high school athletes who have pursued a degree in a related field; they know your systems and can definitely hit the ground running.
However, I’d argue that the absolute best way to grow your internship is the same way that you’d grow your “normal” training clientele: deliver a high-quality product and generate great word of mouth buzz. In other words, as Cal Newport’s popular book’s title suggests, Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.


The problem, unfortunately, is that a lot of internships in the fitness industry aren’t very good. Before we delve into the “why” behind this, I’m going to let the numbers do the talking for a few paragraphs.

Each year at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP), we receive roughly 200 internship applications; this corresponds to roughly “accepted” 25-30 interns per year between the Massachusetts and Florida facility. In other words, we only accept about 10-15% of applicants.

As a frame of reference, in 2015, the acceptance rate of Ivy League schools ranged from 5.33% (Harvard) to 14.9% (Cornell). Have you ever heard of an Ivy League school saying that they just don’t have enough smart, talented, hard-working kids on campus? Absolutely not – and it’s because their reputation precedes them; this reputation generates a lot of “leads.”

Regardless of whether your issue is not having enough applicants, or not having enough “good” interns, the answer is the same: you need to deliver a better product. It sounds kind of like running a training business (or any business), doesn’t it?

We get 200+ applicants per year for internships because we go out of our way to deliver a quality experience. As a frame of reference, every incoming CSP intern goes through a 10-week online course and a video database of close to 800 exercises. In other words, they effectively have 60-80 hours of studying that needs to take place before they arrive. That’s roughly the equivalent of two college courses.


On the first day of the internship, during their 90-minute orientation, they are handed about $250 worth of head-to-toe New Balance gear. Each week, there is a 60-90-minute in-service delivered by one of our staff members. Over the course of the internship, they receive free admission to any seminars we host. They can sign out books/DVDs from the large training/nutrition library in the office. Finally, we are always looking for part-time employment opportunities for them during the internship – and full-time employment opportunities after the internships end. We also have a closed Facebook group for all former interns that keeps them connected for everything from sharing employment opportunities, to brainstorming on tough client/patient cases, to finding good referrals in different areas. In the last month alone, it’s led to a new job in Santa Cruz, CA, and a new internship at the University of North Carolina.

Above all else, though, we do our best to empower our interns as soon as they’ve proven they’ve capable of taking on more challenging roles. In other words, the internships evolve to allow their coaching responsibilities to expand as they become more proficient. As an example, in the past year alone, we’ve had two interns – Tony Bonvechio and Nancy Newell – who were so awesome during their internships that they “forced our hand” to create positions for them as full-time staff members.

To me, this still doesn’t seem like enough. These folks are putting their lives on hold to work unpaid internships – and in many cases, moving across the country to do so. They become part of our “CSP Family” for life and we want to treat them accordingly.


Unfortunately, we are an exception to the rule. There are still a lot of fitness internships that are “observation only.” If you don’t empower a young coach to grow, how can you truly evaluate whether he/she will be a great employee? Supervisors shouldn’t stay as supervisors; they should ultimately become “peers.” In this regard, I owe tremendous credit to coaches Chris West and Teena Murray (now of Louisville) for not only giving me an opportunity to help out during my University of Connecticut years, but for continuing to challenge me in different ways as my internship experience progressed. Great coaches bring their athletes along the right pace, but they also do so for those they mentor on the coaching side of things.

Sadly, a lot of people in the industry view internships as a one-way street, treating up-and-comers as just cheap or free labor. Cleaning may be a responsibility, but it shouldn’t be the only responsibility.

I know I can speak for our staff when I say that we take a lot of pride in trying to go out of our way to help them all develop. We really enjoy teaching.

To that end, a lot of our intern applicants are referrals from previous interns. And warm introductions from previous interns make it easier for us to select the best applicants, too. Just like building and managing a successful training business, it’s a continuous cycle:


With that in mind, I reached out to our former interns to get their “hindsight insights” on the CSP internship experience. Specifically, I asked "What part of the CSP internship experience did you a) enjoy the most and b) find the most crucial to your longer term success?" I apologize for the lengthy copy and paste, but I think the sheer volume of similar responses speaks volumes (skip ahead to my point after the last testimonial, if you want):

Doug Kechijian, Physical Therapist at Peak Performance in NYC:
“A) Being surrounded be people who challenged me to think critically (this included the other interns).
B) The network you have access to upon completion of the internship/the communication skills you develop from the volume of coaching you accumulate‬‬‬.”

Connor Ryan, Physical Therapist at Drive 495 in NYC:
“A) Gaining family and friends through means of collaboration, learning, and helping be a part of something genuinely special. You can feel the hard work around you from the staff and the athlete's. The environment breeds a standard of excellence.
B) The most crucial component is having network to lean on, having a growing team to learn from, and have people to identify with and push you and help you find others that want to get better and hold standards of performance and progress to a very high level.”

Dave Rak, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of Washington:
“A) My time interning at CSP put me in an environment where I was always learning whether it was from a staff in service, learning hands on through coaching, or even staff training sessions. I was surrounded by professionals who wanted to see me be successful and always pushed me to be better. ‬‬
‪B) The relationships I built at CSP have been the most crucial to my success. They have opened doors I never would have imagined. I can easily reach out to the CSP community of coaches/former interns for guidance with career advice, training/coaching advice, and anything in between. I feel like I am never on my own because I always have someone to reach out to for help when needed.”‬

Tim Geromini, Strength and Conditioning Coach at CSP-Florida:
“A) The most enjoyable part of my experience as a CSP intern was the people I got to work with and for on a daily basis. Clients become friends when you take the time to get to know them and find out their backgrounds. Same goes for the coaches. Everybody has their own style from past experiences and it was fun to see how many different ways you can gain results with the same intent.‬‬
‪B) The most crucial part of a successful CSP internship was being open minded and making the atmosphere a true family feel. If you're not open to learning new styles or open to different personalities, then you won't be successful in this field. It always keeps you hungry. The experience is more fun when you and your fellow interns get along, go to dinner, lift together, and get to know each other. It's a life experience, not just learning to coach.‬”‬

Molly Caffelle, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of North Carolina:
“A) Gaining lifelong friendships with the staff and intern group. The whole CSP environment in general, creates a very welcoming and learning atmosphere. All around best internship experience for any new young professional‬‬.
‪‬B) Learning how to connect one on one with clients. Understanding the true meaning of ‘they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.’”

Rob Rabena-Director of Sports Performance at Maplezone Sports Institute in Garnet Valley, PA.:
“A) I enjoyed being treated like I was on staff as a strength coach and not just an intern. ‬‬
‪B) for my long term success the most important aspect that I learned was every little detail matters from a brand perspective, marketing, coaching, evaluations, facility design, customer service, program design etc. ‬”‬‬

John O’Neil, Personal Trainer at Drive 495 in NYC:
“A) Being part of something special, because of the culture that CP has created, when you put on the logo, you feel like it's a shield and your job becomes important...
B) professional connections, both in job searching and in a network of bright, motivated individuals. As a coach, seeing a high volume of athletes and needing to appreciate cueing different people differently has had great carryover to my every day work.”

Roger Lawson, Personal Trainer and Writer in Boston, MA:
“A) The people, both staff and clients, without a doubt. With all the different personalities and backgrounds coalescing into a giant melting pot of awesomeness, there is never a boring day. The strong sense of community that forms when you spend several hours a week with someone is undeniable. It's a two way street; everyone has something to give and everyone has something to learn.‬‬
‪B) Being around a group of individuals who are striving to better themselves. It's impossible to stay bottom tier of knowledge when you're surrounded by those who are constantly evolving. That kind of environment creates the attitude where betterment isn't "work," but something that you actually want to seek out.”‬

Do You See a Trend?

Every single former intern refers back to becoming part of a family, or something special. They reflect fondly on being around people that empowered them and challenged them to be better, holding them to a higher standard of professional excellence. A good internship welcomes strength and conditioning up-and-comers as an integral part of a team.

Closing Thoughts

You wouldn’t spend a ton of money on marketing your training facility if you didn’t know that your training product was solid, would you? Of course not!

With that in mind, before you start going out to find interns, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because you love to teach and feel a responsibility to deliver a great product to benefit the future of the industry? If so, make sure a quality product is in place and then have at it. However, if you’re just looking for someone to help you sweep the floors, maybe you’re not meant to run an internship program.

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Making Movement Better: Different Paths to the Same Destination

Written on October 21, 2015 at 8:27 pm, by Eric Cressey

Lately, I've been posting more training pictures and videos on my Instagram page. The other day, I posted this video, and it led to some good discussion points that I think warrant further explanation:

One responder to the video asked the following:

You had an Instagram post the other day about an athlete not being able to differentiate between hip and lower back extension. I have a client with what seems to be a similar problem and just wondered how you generally go about teaching them the difference.

The answer to this question really just rests with having a solid set of assessments that help you to understand relative stiffness. I was first introduced to this concept through physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann's work. Relative stiffness refers to the idea that the presence or lack of stiffness at one joint has a significant impact on what happens at adjacent joints, which may have more or less stiffness. Without a doubt, if you've read for any length of time, the most prevalent example of this is a shoulder flexion substitution pattern. 

In this pattern, the "bad" stiffness of the lats (among other muscles) overpowers the lack of "good" stiffness in the anterior core and deep neck flexors - so we get lumbar extension (arched lower back) and forward head posture instead of the true shoulder flexion we desire. Truth be told, you can apply these principles to absolutely every single exercise you coach, whether it's an 800-pound squat or low-level rotator cuff exercise.

As an example, when you cue a wall hip flexor mobilization, you're working to reduce bad stiffness in the anterior hip while cueing an athlete to brace the core and activate the trailing leg glute. That little bit of good stiffness in the anterior core prevents the athlete from substituting lumbar extension (low back movement) for hip extension, and the glute activation creates good stiffness that impacts the arthrokinematics of the hip joint (head of the femur won't glide forward to irritate the anterior hip during the stretch). 

In the upper extremity, just use this back-to-wall shoulder flexion tutorial as an example.The "reach" would add good stiffness in the serratus anterior. The shrug would add good stiffness in the upper traps. The "tip back" would add good stiffness in the lower traps. The double chin would add good stiffness in the deep neck flexors. The flat low back position would add good stiffness in the anterior core. Regardless of which of these cues needs the most emphasis, the good stiffness that's created in one way or another "competes" against the bad stiffness - whether it's muscular, capsular, bony, or something else - that limits overhead reaching.

Returning to our prone hip extension video from above, if we want to get more hip extension (particularly end-range hip extension) and less lumbar extension, from a purely muscular standpoint, we need more "good stiffness" in rectus abdominus, external obliques, and glutes - and less stiffness in lumbar extensors, lats, and hip flexors. As the question received in response to the video demonstrates, though, this can be easier said than done, as different clients will struggle for different reasons.

Sometimes, it's as simple as slowing things down. Many athletes can perform movements at slow speeds, but struggle when the pace is picked up - including when they're actually competing.

Sometimes, you can touch the muscle you want to work (tactile facilitation). Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken in the past about "raking" the obliques to help create multidirectional spinal stability. I've used that cue before with this exercise, and I've also lightly punched the glutes (male athletes only) to make sure athletes are getting movement in the right places.

Sometimes, a quick positional change may be all that's needed. As an example, you can put a pad under the stomach to put the lumbar extensors in a more lengthened position. In fact, doing this drill off a training table (as demonstrated above) was actually a positional change (regression) in the first place; we'd ideally like to see an athlete do this in a more lengthened position where he can challenge a position of greater hip extension. Here are both options:

Sometimes, a little foam rolling in the right places can get some of the bad stiffness to calm down a bit. Or, you might need to refer out to a qualified manual therapist to get rid of some "tone" to make your coaching easier. I do this every single day, as I have great massage therapists on staff at both our Florida and Massachusetts Cressey Sports Performance facilities.


Sometimes, a little positional breathing can change the game for these athletes, as it helps them to find and "own" a position of posterior pelvic tilt while shutting off the lats.


The take-home point here is that there are a lot of different ways to create the movement you want; coaching experience and a working knowledge of functional anatomy and relative stiffness just help you get to the solutions faster and safer.


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3 Reasons Powerlifting Beginners Should Train More Frequently

Written on October 14, 2015 at 9:35 pm, by Eric Cressey

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


Many popular approaches to strength training have lifters training roughly 3-4 times per week. While this is a solid approach for most gym goers, the lifter looking to excel at squatting, bench pressing, and deadliftng may be better served increasing training frequency to 5-6 sessions per week. Here are a few reasons why:

1. More Practice

The most important variable to manage with newer lifters is technique. Technique on the big three lifts is a variable that is completely controllable by the lifter. In other words, while some people will certainly be limited by leverages or genetics, technique is one item that should not be a factor in stagnating progress. If your technique isn't improving, it's a matter of negligence; you aren't practicing enough. Training more frequently increases your exposure to the lifts. If a trainee makes a point to consciously evaluate technique each session, this should equate to more dedicated practice and therefore a steadier road to mastery of the lifts.

Action item 1: Use video to evaluate your lifts more often. Everyone has a camera on his or her phone these days, so video assessment is easier than ever before. While you may feel a bit awkward filming your lifts, there is truly no better way to revisit your training and evaluate where you can improve your technique.


2. More Volume

While intensity (for the sake of this example, we’ll refer to this as the weight on the bar) is the obvious training variable that must be improved to have success in powerlifting, monitoring and making incremental improvements in the volume (total work done in a training session, or training block) is how you will make that happen. In short, here’s why...

All training is about balancing the relationship among fitness, fatigue, and performance. Acutely, a single training session will cause an amount of fatigue that lessens your performance. You walk out of the gym capable of doing less (in that moment) than you could do when you walked in. However, that acute stress causes a response - which leads to an adaptation where you become more fit than when you walked in (assuming you take the proper steps to recover adequately).

Training is a constant management process between the training effect applied and one’s ability to recover from that loading.

While a single training session may acutely have a negative effect on you, if you manage this relationship well over a given training period, the training will yield a positive effect in improved fitness specific to your goal (in this case, maximal strength). Given that information, more intense training causes a larger amount of fatigue, while doing less intense work will help to build work capacity specific to your sport (powerlifting). Popularly, this is described as the difference between "building strength" and "testing it."

Focusing on adding more volume with less intensity causes a fatigue that is more manageable and more productive. Training more frequently is an obvious way to spread out more work, allowing for better recovery. While one could conceivably also add more work in less frequent training sessions, doing so makes the session more dense and therefore adds an element of increased intensity. In this case, we're viewing intensity less so from a "weight on bar" standpoint, and moreso from the "magnitude" of the training session.

Action item 1: Instead of training 3x/week, try doubling that frequency to 6x/week. Have each session focus on a different lift, and follow a high/low approach. As an example:

Monday: Squat High
Tuesday: DL Low
Wednesday: Bench High
Thursday: Squat Low
Friday: Deadlift High
Saturday: Bench Low (or High again; most beginners can repeat a heavy bench day twice per week)

Action item 2: Don’t warm up in an effort to make the top sets of the day "easier." Many lifters practice the minimal amount of volume necessary to feel prepared for the top sets in a training session. Instead, program out your warm up sets as well. If you do this, and increase your exposure to each lift to 2x/week, that means you will have to warm up twice as often. If you are making a point to do a certain amount work leading up to the top sets, this will increase submaximal training volume by quite a lot over the course of time. As an example, if you are working up to top sets in the 75-90% range try this for a warm up protocol:

35% x 8 to 10 reps
45% x 8 to 10 reps
55% x 6 to 8 reps
65% x 5 to 6 reps
70% x 4 to 6 reps

3. Improved Compliance

We are creatures of habit. How many people do a better job of optimizing sleep, nutrition, hydration, and body management (self massage, mobility, activation work) when their training sessions are taken into consideration? I know I do. If you train 3x/week, that may mean the nights before those sessions you make sure to get enough sleep. It may mean that on the days you train, you make sure to fuel yourself better. It may also mean you take better measures to prepare the body physically for loading. If you train 5-6 times/week, you essentially double those efforts. You drink more water, get more sleep, eat better food, and do more to keep moving and functioning optimally. That alone will improve your results.

For more information on maximal strength training, I'd encourage you to check out The Specialization Success Guide, a collaborative resource between Greg Robins and Eric Cressey. If you want to build a bigger squat, bench press, and deadlift, this is a great collection of programs for doing so!


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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 12

Written on September 24, 2015 at 9:09 pm, by Eric Cressey

It's time to bring back this coaching cues series to the forefront, as it's always been a popular one here at Here are three more cues I find myself using on a daily basis at Cressey Sports Performance:

1. "Chest before chin."

One of the biggest issues we see in folks with a lack of anterior core control and/or upper body strength is that they'll shoot into forward head posture as they descend to the bottom position of a push-up. Effectively, they're substituting head/neck movement for true scapular protraction and retraction. One cue that seems to clean the issue up quite well is the "chest before chin" recommendation - which means that the chest should arrive at the floor before the chin does. 

You do, however, need to make sure that the individual doesn't confuse this with simply puffing the chest out, which would put them in more extended (arched back) posture at the lumbar spine.

2. "Get your scaps to your armpits."

A huge goal of upper body corrective exercise program is to teach individuals how to differentiate between scapulothoracic movement and glenohumeral movement. In layman's terms, this means understanding that it's important to know when the shoulder blade is moving on the rib cage, as opposed to the upper arm (ball) moving on the shoulder blade (socket). Especially during overhead reaching, what we typically see in athletes is insufficient scapulothoracic movement and excessive glenohumeral movement - particularly in those athletes with noteworthy joint hyper mobility. This is one reason why we incorporate a lot of wall slide variations in our warm-ups.

Since we are really looking to teach good upward rotation (as opposed to just elevation), I always try to cue a rotational component to the scapular movement as the arms go overhead. I've found that "get your scaps to your armpits" can really get the message across, especially when this verbal cue is combined with the kinesthetic cue of me guiding the shoulder blades around the rib cage. These modifications can really help to kick up serratus anterior recruitment, as this video shows:

3. "Start in your jump rope position."

When you're working with young athletes on jumping variations - whether they're broad jumps, box jumps, or some other variations - many of them will start with an excessively wide stance. Then, they'll "dip" to create eccentric preloading (stretch) and the knees almost always cave in. As I've said before, if the feet are too wide, the knees have no place to go but in. My feeling is that many young athletes "default" to this pattern because a wider base of support generally supports a more stable position for a weaker athlete. Unfortunately, this position doesn't put them in a great posture for producing force.

The best coaching cues are the ones that build upon those movements an individual already knows, and most kids have jumped rope in the past. If you use a wide stance when you jump rope, you trip over the rope. Instead, you have to stay with the feet in around hip-width, which is right where we want our jump variations to occur.


If you're looking for more coaching tutorials and exercise demonstrations, be sure to check out Elite Training Mentorship, which is updated each month with new content from Cressey Sports Performance staff members.

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5 Lessons Learned From Training Those With Low Back Pain

Written on August 6, 2015 at 4:47 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Dean Somerset. Dean's made a name for himself as a "low back and hip" guy, and this post demonstrates this expertise. It's especially timely, given the release of his new resource, Advanced Core Training, which is on sale at a great discount this week.


I’ve had the distinct honor of working with a wide variety of clients. Some have been fresh from spinal surgical intervention following an injury, others had congenital issues where they were born with some sort of spinal irregularity, others just had low back pain. I’ve also worked with some Olympic champions, Paralympic hopefuls, professional sports teams, and pretty well every type of client in between, and today’s post is all about highlighting some of the commonalities among these very broad and different types of clients.

#1: They Usually Do Something Poorly.

I had the opportunity to do end-of-season testing on a local professional hockey team a few years ago. This meant I had direct access to some of the best hockey players in the world to see how they moved. While they could likely outskate and maneuver anyone on the ice, their ability to control their movements in the specific tasks asked were somewhat shaky on occasion, and in some instances, consistently so through the entire team.

Consider hockey players live their entire lives with their sticks on the ice and bent over. Shoulder pads prevent a lot of overhead movement, and getting checked into the boards frequently can cause some significant wear and tear on the shoulder joints, not to mention the rest of the body. Its no surprise very few of them had the ability to score well on an overhead squat assessment since they only ever put their arms overhead when they score a goal, and if you’re on an offensively challenged tem, that won’t happen much.

Additionally, since flexion is such as important position for their sports, they had no problem doing that, but had a lot of trouble controlling their spines into extension. The goalies could hit the splits in any direction, but many of their leg movement testing would have indicated that they were “tight” and required more stretching. If someone can go in and out of the splits in multiple directions, they don’t need more stretching.


With many people who aren’t elite athletes, they’ll also have some sort of a wonky movement pattern here or there. These may not directly cause injury, but they might increase the relative risk that something could happen. Think of a hip hinge, for example. A known mechanism of injury is low back flexion with loading and some degree of rotation. This is the common first timer setting up for a deadlift and not knowing what the heck they’re doing. In fact, that’s how Rob Gronkowski injured his back when he was a standout at Arizona and almost cost him a shot at the NFL.

The thing about increased risk is it won’t guarantee an injury occurs, just that there’s more likelihood that it would. If I bought a lottery ticket, there’s a 1 in 15,000,000 chance that I win big. If I bought 1000 tickets, there’s now a 1,000 in 15,000,000 million chance that I win, or 1 in 15,000 chance. It doesn’t mean I will win, just that my odds are higher.

Now, if I were to teach that beginner how to hip hinge well and reduce the pressure on their low back while also using their hips to produce the power for lifting the weight, there’s a greater chance that they will be successful and less of a chance they will get injured. Gronk showed even a great athlete who is unfamiliar with a certain movement can still do it with risk, and still get injured, just like a beginner stepping foot inside a weight room for the first time.

#2: The Value of Isometric Exercise Can’t be Overstated.

Dr. Stuart McGill’s lab at The University of Waterloo just released a very interesting study that looked at the effects of using isometric exercises like planks and dead bugs as well as more dynamic exercises such as Russian twists and rotational throws to train the core in two very different groups:

a) beginners who were naïve to resistance training and exercise in general,

b) Muay Thai athletes who were savvy to training concepts and instructions.

Half of the naïve group did isometric training and half did more dynamic training, and the same went for the savvy group. There was a control group as well; they didn’t train for the 6-week duration of the study.


Afterwards, all training groups saw improvements in both their fixed core strength and range of motion, and also in their response to more reactive stress to the spine. The isometric groups in both the naïve and savvy groups saw bigger improvements than the dynamic training groups.

While isometric exercises may seem very rudimentary and “beginner,” they can still prove beneficial to more advanced athletes and lifters, especially in terms of ease of set-up, relative risk to the individual doing them, and - most importantly - in quantitative outcomes, such as those measured in McGill’s research. It’s very exciting to see that a basic staple exercise, performed well, can benefit individuals of all experience level.

#3: Breathing is More Than Just Inhale/Exhale.

Getting beginners to do core-intensive training usually results in one question from me, repeated consistently through the entire series:

“Are you breathing?”

A go-to response for many is to hold their breath through core intensive movements. While this isn’t a bad response per se - especially if they’re trying to use a valsalva to increase spinal stability during a movement like a deadlift - not being able to inhale and exhale in pace with an exercise can actually reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Additionally, the speed of breathing can dictate whether a movement is more of a relaxation or mobility movement or whether the goal is speed and reactive capability development. In either case, being able to breathe through an entire set is vitally important to see the best potential improvements.

When breathing for improving mobility or parasympathetic activity, inhales and exhales should be long and full. I usually recommend 3-5 second inhalations and 3-5 second exhalations. For speed and power development, inhales are best with more of a sniffing action where air is taken in quickly and with some development of negative pressure through the ribs and abdomen, and exhaled forcefully and quickly, much like a martial artist throwing a strike. Boxers do this very well, exhaling on impacts to improve not only their ability to not gas out, but to improve the stiffness of their spine to improve the power of their punches.

This short, sharp exhale causes the abdominal muscles to brace very hard and very quickly, essentially momentarily turning the core into stone to allow for a solid strike to generate some impact.

Try this while you’re reading this article: place a hand on your stomach and sniff in quickly through your nose and feel what the abdominal muscles do. Then exhale sharply through pursed lips, like you would if you were throwing a very crisp jab. Did you feel how hard the abs became for the second you inhaled and exhaled? That’s your power center.

Clients along the entire continuum from rehab to elite performance can benefit from learning how to use their breathing to develop the specific goals they’re looking to accomplish. Rehab clients can use the sniff inhale and hard exhale effectively, as it doesn’t necessarily apply aberrant stressors to the spine or connective tissue, but does have a beneficial effect on the strength and reactivity of the core girdle as an entire unit. Simply doing forceful breathing, when appropriate to do so, is itself an effective conditioning tool for many.

#4: Core Strength Training Should Trump Core Endurance Training.

What’s more likely to lead to problems: having to lift 5 pounds 50 times, or having to lift 50 pounds 5 times? Most people would say lifting the heavier weight would be riskier, and I would say if the person didn’t know how to move it to reduce their risks and to take advantage of their leverages, then yes.

However, many training programs heavily prioritize development of core endurance, with higher rep ranges and longer duration isometric holds. While endurance is important, I would argue the ability to generate repeated bouts of higher threshold contractions would have much greater implications to spinal protection, athletic development, and resiliency, while also making the lower threshold contractions less stressful to the body.

A simple way to do this is to alter the methods used to get to a specific volume of training. For instance, let’s say you want to do three minutes of planking. You could do one long sustained plank for 180 seconds, or you could do 18 bouts of maximum intensity 10 second holds, where the goal is to try to contract everything so hard that your hair follicles turn into diamonds and you make it rain like never before. The three-minute sustained plank will challenge you, but you’ll be able to still do something afterwards. The 18 rounds of 10 seconds max effort planks will wreck you.


Consider it for strength training as well. Instead of doing 3 sets of 10 with a moderate weight, use a more challenging weight to get through 6 sets of 5 and using an appreciably heavier weight.

For lower capacity clients, this can be a great way of building up volume for those who may not have the endurance to go through longer sets or bigger volumes all at once. It also allows for more set-up and learning opportunities for each exercise than doing one or two larger volume sets would allow.

#5: Core Training Should be Vector, Speed, and Intensity-Specific, Not Just Muscle Specific.

Training a movement like an anti-rotation press to overhead raise sounds awesome and does a lot to work on controlling stability through transverse and frontal plane, all in a relatively slow and controlled manner. Asking, “What does this work? Like, your obliques or something?” can be a fair question, but only scratches the surface of what’s going on.

For athletes who compete in relatively specific directions and actions without the elements of contact and chaos, they can benefit from training with a high degree of specificity to their goal activities. For the less specific athlete or for the non-athletic client, they can still benefit from more variable-dependent training, depending on their goals. For instance, a 50-year-old accountant with a history of low back pain may not need to do max velocity rotational throws, but they could still benefit from some rotational velocity training to help prepare them for the eventual frozen sidewalks that they’ll have to walk around in Edmonton in a few months, or perhaps for the games of golf they’ll play when they Snow Bird south for the winter.

For rehab clients, the direction-specific element speaks volumes to whether they have a directional intolerance to certain movements. For instance, some clients can’t handle flexion-based movements very well, so involving some flexion progressions they can work with would be good, whereas full range crunches probably wouldn’t be beneficial. Slower movements to develop control would be important, but involving some higher velocity movements they could control and replicate would also be beneficial in case they encountered those kinds of scenarios on their own. An example would be if they stepped off a curb and had to catch their balance before falling or jerking their spine into a potentially disastrous situation.

Closing Thoughts

To recap, everyone from elite athletes to recovering spinal injury clients and everyone in between can involve core training into their programs in very similar ways, but with minor differences here and there to accomplish their specific goals. Most of the time it’s pretty easy to do, if you know how to do it.

This is where Advanced Core Training comes in. Dean has created a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to programming and coaching core stability exercises. You'll pick up new assessment ideas, innovative exercises, and coaching strategies you can employ to improve outcomes with your clients and athletes. The resource is on sale for $40 off this week, and it includes NSCA CEUs. Click here for more information.  

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10 Random Thoughts on Core Stability Training

Written on August 4, 2015 at 1:00 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm collaborating with Cressey Sports Performance coach Tim Geromini on today's post, as we both reviewed Dean Somerset's new resource, Advanced Core Training, over the weekend. Today, we'll highlight some of the biggest takeaways from the product - and how it relates to what we do at CSP on a daily basis.

Let me preface this article by saying that I think the world needs another "core training" product, seminar, or article like I need a hole in my head. Seriously, it's the most hackneyed topic in the fitness industry today. However, Dean is a super bright guy and his stuff never disappoints, so Tim and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, especially since the resource clocks in at a hair over four hours and therefore wouldn't destroy an entire day if it was less-than-stellar.

Fortunately, Dean put on a great show. Check out some key takeaways we wanted to highlight:

1. Training your core isn’t just about being stiff and stable: Core training is also about being elastic and malleable. We have to be able to get into positions and then lock down into them to prevent injury. However, we also have to be resilient enough to move through the continuum while being able to control movements. Freedom of the movement you have available is key.

2. The end of pain usually does not mean you have restored structure and function. More often than not, the end of pain just means you aren’t currently irritating those tissues enough to have pain. How many times have your client’s symptoms gone away and came back shortly after? Although the symptoms and pain may be gone, the injury is still there. Progressing exercises too fast can lead to a return in pain.

There is nothing wrong with owning basic exercises for long periods of time.

3. Your diaphragm is the roof and main anchor point for most core muscles: psoas, rectus, multifidus, and transverse abdominis. They also attach to the pelvic floor. When you can control breathing through your diaphragm, you can put yourself in a better position to express core strength.


4. Rotary stability exercises are incredibly important, but they usually occur with the lower body fixed and upper body creating the destabilizing torques. Chops and lifts are perfect examples.

However, in functional activities like the rotation that occurs with golf, tennis, baseball, track and field throwing, and hockey slapshots, there is a separation that takes place between the torso and hips. Effectively, they rotate in opposite directions – so it makes sense to have both “ends” of the chain moving in some of our exercises. A good example is the Dead Bug Anti-Rotation Press, which also offers some anterior core benefits.

5. If you’re always doing relaxed parasympathetic breathing, you won’t generate power. Likewise, if you’re always doing short and choppy breathing, you’ll never relax and will fatigue faster. Let’s take the squat, for example: if your breathing is slow and parasympathetic, your body is not primed to express the absolute force it can. On the other hand, if you’re performing a deadbug as part of your warm-up, you need to relax to activate your core.

6. Try programming for breaths instead of time. During a plank, instead of asking your client to hold the position for 30 seconds, try having them hold the plank for 5 full breaths. This forces them to actually breathe since their focus is getting 5 full breaths out as opposed to trying to survive for 30 seconds. It's an instant shift to quality over quantity.

7. Neutral, Brace, Breathe: when you’re changing positions or setting up for an exercise, the best way to put yourself in the correct position is to own your starting point. In order to do that, you need to reset to a neutral spine, brace your core, and breathe.

8. We really like quadruped walkouts as a “bridge” exercise that can be used as a progression from all fours belly lift toward bear crawls.

This awesome drill gets you not only an anterior core challenge, but also a means of building good serratus anterior function. You can't have good upper extremity function without quality core control!

9. Think set-up, execution, and recovery: to piggy back on the previous point, let’s take the deadlift as an example here. You wouldn’t perform repetition after repetition in rapid fire without resetting. Before going on to your next rep, you reset to a neutral spine, brace your core, and breathe. Instead of thinking of one set of five reps, think of performing five singles. Each repetition is a set in itself.

10. Producing force from lower body to upper body is core dependent. Here at CSP we talk a lot with our athletes about the importance of their core in their pitching delivery. You may have a strong lower half, but without a stable and strong core, that force from your lower body can’t be expressed all the way up the chain if your core gives out.


Advanced Core Training is on sale for $40 off the normal price for this week as an introductory discount. It covers the gambit of core training: everything from how to tune breathing patterns to the desired goal outcome (mobility, strength, reactive speed, etc) to assessing core function. There is a huge hands-on component, which provides a lot of different ideas on how to use exercises and - more importantly - when to use them.To sweeten the deal, Dean's locked down NSCA CEUs for it. In short, I think it's a great resource that has merit for fitness professionals, strength and conditioning coaches, rehab specialists, and fitness enthusiasts alike. Click here to learn more.



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Save 20% on Functional Stability Training!

Written on July 27, 2015 at 6:21 am, by Eric Cressey

I hope everyone's week is off to a great start. And, just in case it isn't, I've got some good news for you: Mike Reinold and I have put our Functional Stability Training products on sale for 20% off this week. These resources have been our most popular collaborations, and we have modules covering our approach to rehab and training of the upper body, lower body, and core. It’s essentially a snapshot of how we think when designing our programs.


You can get any (or all!) of the FST products for 20% off this week only as a special sale to our readers.  No coupon code is needed; the discount will be automatically applied at checkout. That’s under $80 for each of the modules or under $240 for the whole bundle! Click here for more information.


Is One-on-One Personal Training Really Dead?

Written on July 25, 2015 at 6:30 am, by Eric Cressey

Just about every fitness business coach out there will vehemently assert that one-on-one training is "dead," and that you have to go with semi-private (small group) training to stay relevant and profitable. Obviously, we work with almost exclusively semi-private training at Cressey Sports Performance, so I think there is some merit to this assertion.


The rationale for both the business and client is sound. The business can see more clients in a given amount of time, which is a deviation from popular trainers being limited to the number of hours they can train. The client gets more affordable training, allowing them to participate more frequently and do so with a more flexible schedule. Plus, there is added camaraderie from training alongside others in a motivating environment. Win/win, right? 

With that said, there are still some very profitable fitness facilities doing extremely well with one-on-one training thanks to their geography. Usually, these facilities are in affluent cities like New York where rent is very expensive and higher training prices can be charged. It's also common with celebrity trainers who may have clients who seek out privacy during training sessions. My last three true one-on-one clients have all been MLB All-Stars who had short time-frames with which to work, significant injury histories, and challenging family schedules that didn't make our semi-private "pro group" hours feasible for them.

Taking this a step further, though, I've always said:

       Your business model should never dictate your training model.

Business rationale aside, though, I'm of the belief that one-on-one training is vital to the long-term success of the coaches, not just the business in question. One-on-one training is where you hone your craft, learning to get more efficient with your cueing. It's where you learn how to be conversational with clients without interfering with the flow of the session. It's when you learn how to "read" clients: do they learn best with visual, auditory, or kinesthetic cues? It's when you learn to manage a schedule, and build rapport with clients who are new to the "gym scene."

Every single one of our coaches at both the Massachusetts and Florida facilities were successful personal trainers before they were successful semi-private coaches. And, each of our interns needs to demonstrate proficiency in a one-on-one context before we'd ever consider letting them handle scenarios with multiple athletes simultaneously. We hire exclusively from our internship program, so nobody works at CSP unless they've thrived in one-on-one training already; I feel like it's that important.


You see, we might be predominantly semi-private training, but all of our clients receive a lot of one-on-one attention, particularly in the first 1-2 months of training. We created the baseball strength and conditioning "niche," and a big differentiating factor is that we meticulously coach arm care drills in ways that are slightly different for each athlete, depending on their presentation. Can you imagine teaching a prone 1-arm trap raise to 5-6 people at the same time?

One of the "concessions" you make with larger group training is that you are going to let some less-than-perfect reps "go." I've watched large hands-on sessions at conferences with fitness professionals as the participants, and there are bad reps all the time - and this is in a population that should know exercise technique better than anyone! It's just reality. For me, though, I don't want a single bad rep performed with any of our arm care work. The baseball shoulder has so little margin for error that anything less than perfection with technique is unacceptable.

If we teach it meticulously up-front, we not only create a great movement foundation that will make it easier for the individual to thrive in a semi-private environment, but also clearly establish in the client's eyes that we are still taking into account their unique needs. We can do all this because we have sufficient staffing to make this work.


Conversely, if you're a single trainer and insist on billing in a semi-private environment and don't want shoddy exercise technique under your roof, you better carve out some time in your schedule for individual instruction. You have to move well before you move a lot.

What does this mean for the original assertion that "one-on-one is dead" (with a few notable exceptions)? Well, I'd argue that it should read:

One-on-one training is dead from a billing standpoint. It's still vitally important from a coaching standpoint - particularly in facilities that don't want to just deliver a "vanilla" product.

The same coaches who tell you to go to semi-private training will usually encourage you to go to watered down, one-size-fits-all programming templates. That might work okay if you're just doing general fitness training, but it fails miserably if you're working with clients who want to be absolutely awesome at what they do.

One-on-one training takes place every single day at Cressey Sports Performance, a "semi-private" facility that has done double-digit growth in every year since it opened in 2007. And, I know of loads of other facilities that incorporate it extensively under the semi-private umbrella.


One-on-one training isn't dead. It's just being called something else.

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Register Now for the 4th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar!

Written on July 22, 2015 at 7:10 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, September 13, we’ll be hosting our fourth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past three years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.


Here are the presentation topics:

Pete Dupuis -- Empowering Your Fitness Team

This presentation will serve as an introduction to the Cressey Sports Performance method for leveraging each coach's unique skill-set in an effort to create a superior training experience. In this presentation, Pete will discuss the importance of cultivating distinctive assessment skills, personal brand development, and the importance of employing a broad spectrum of personality types on your fitness team.

Greg Robins -- What Matters Most

One of the characteristics that makes the fitness industry special is the variety of approaches. However, it can also be a bit noisy. Constant access to new ideas and the plethora of free information may leave trainers, coaches and clients a bit confused. In this presentation, Greg will reflect on what he has found to matter most, both in getting you and your clients where you want to be.

Chris Howard -- Referred Pain: What is it and what does it tell us?

Practically every fitness professional has encountered an athlete or client dealing with referred pain whether they knew it or not. In this presentation, Chris will discuss what referred pain is, what it tells us about our clients, and training modifications to alleviate our client’s pain. Whether you are a strength coach, personal trainer, physical therapist or athletic trainer, this presentation will provide a new perspective on your client’s pain.

Tony Bonvechio -- Creating Context for More Efficient Coaching

Coaches put endless focus into what they say, but this presentation will illustrate the importance of how they say it. Creating context with your clients goes beyond internal and external cueing, and the ability to create "sticky" teaching moments will get your athletes moving better and more efficiently. Tony will discuss different cueing approaches, how they resonate with different learning styles, and how to say more with less to help your clients learn new movements with ease.

Tony Gentilcore -- Spinal Flexion: A Time and Place

Spinal flexion is a polarizing topic in the fitness world. Spine experts have illuminated the risks associated with loaded spinal flexion, leading to crunches and sit-ups getting labeled as taboo. In this presentation, Tony will discuss when encouraging spinal flexion - specifically on the gym floor - can address pain and dysfunction in our athletes and clients while also improving performance.

Miguel Aragoncillo – Cardio Confusion: A Deeper Look at Current Trends

Designing the cardiovascular aspect of a comprehensive exercise program often leaves us with more questions than answers: Is it helpful for body composition or performance? Should you run or should you sprint? Are there other ways to improve cardiovascular fitness? In this presentation, Miguel will discuss the trends and evaluate existing research of various conditioning methods. Finally, he’ll offer practical strategies for immediate application with your Monday morning clients.

Eric Cressey – Bogus Biomechanics and Asinine Anatomy

The strength and conditioning and rehabilitation fields are riddled with movement myths that just never seem to die. Drawing heavily on case studies, scholarly journals, and what functional anatomy tells us, Eric will “bust” some of the common fallacies you’ll encounter in the strength and conditioning field today. Most importantly, he’ll offer drills and strategies that can be utilized immediately with clients and athletes in place of these antiquated approaches.

**Bonus 2:30PM Saturday Session**

George Kalantzis and Andrew Zomberg-- The Method Behind CSP Strength Camp Madness

Group training is rapidly overtaking one-on-one training as the most profitable fitness service. However, an effective group fitness system is often difficult to create and sustain. In this session, George and Andrew will take participants through an actual CSP strength camp. The training session will be accompanied by a brief presentation and handouts that dive into the components of programming, coaching and marketing strategies to drive new business and client retention within a group training model.


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


Regular Rate – Early Bird $129.99, Regular $149.99
Student Rate – Early Bird $99.99, Regular $129.99

The early bird registration deadline is August 13.


Sunday, September 13, 2014
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

**Bonus session Saturday, September 12 at 2:30pm.

Continuing Education:

0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs pending (eight contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)


Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and each seminar we’ve hosted in the past has sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $63.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.

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