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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 60

Written on October 24, 2014 at 7:36 pm, by Eric Cressey

This installment of quick training and nutrition tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Spread the floor...correctly.

Spreading the floor is a cue that can get butchered very easily. For a new lifter, there is no easily understandable point of reference for what "spreading the floor" even means. Simply barking external cues such as “spreading the floor” may elicit incorrect movement patterns that are better understood with visual cuing, which saves time to begin with.

Watch and listen to this video for more detail:

2. Focus on the bigger picture.

Whether you’re a frequent gym goer, or a trainer or coach looking to help your clients, the following tip is useful when using new exercises and programs. If you’re using this information for yourself to help improve your approach to lifting, just replace the title of “athlete” with “you!"

Say a younger athlete walks into your facility on Day 1 after an assessment. This is their Day 1, and their first exercise after warm-ups is Trap Bar Deadlifts.

How heavy do you tell the athlete to go?

1. As heavy as the rep scheme will allow.
2. As heavy as they think they should go.
3. As heavy as possible, as long as the movement looks clean.
4. Teach that athlete the requisite movement patterns before progressing.

Choice number 4 is a safe bet!

If someone comes in and does not understand the concept of a Trap Bar Deadlift, it is unlikely that you will go as heavy as the rep scheme will allow, all for the simple fact that this person does not even understand the movement, let alone how to properly prepare for a max rep.

The good thing is that you can reinforce a hip hinge movement pattern in a number of ways, and it does not have to be a strict “you can only do this exercise if you have it on your sheet."

Further, sometimes, clients can come in feeling good, bad, sore, or any of a host of other sensations. While these feelings are very subjective and it is a case by case basis, the idea is that you want to keep movement quality above all else despite the external factors that you cannot control.

If a specific movement does not “feel” good due to external factors, regress appropriately. Live to fight and train another day, as opposed to blindly continuing in the fashion of “Well, it’s on the paper.”

In the case of the athlete, performing a kettlebell deadlift in a sumo stance can be appropriate depending on their training experience, especially if you have heavier kettle bells to teach a hip hinge pattern.

To put this statement in another light - how many times will any given athlete perform a deadlift, squat, or lunge? If an athlete begins an appropriately designed strength training program at the age of 14, and continues this program effectively until he is 18, you have over four years of consistent lifting to improve a specific number.

To extrapolate further, given a 4-day lifting program over 52 weeks in a year add up to 208 opportunities to practice a specific movement pattern. Take out holidays, vacation times, finals and midterms for school, and random weeks where there are snags in scheduling (likely about 7-8 weeks of "off time"), and you have a whopping 44 weeks to train a wide variety of movement patterns.

I’m in it for the long haul, so when you have an athlete hell-bent on getting a specific number, it is helpful to remember that the point is to improve in the gym in order to improve on the field.

3. Check out "The Obstacle is the Way."

One habit that I’ve gained over the past few years is learning how to pick up a book that is outside of my comfort zone in order to expand my mental horizons and challenge my current thought processes. Fortunately for me, many of the staff at CSP crush audiobooks and regular books alike, and not just anatomy and physiology minded books either.

A school of thought with which I’ve aligned my mentality is the stoic philosophy - not just a Dead Poets Society rant on free thinking, but rather the attitude on valuing action over non-action and pontificating on the “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’s” of life. One book that exemplifies this actionable philosophy is The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, and I have recommended this book to every staff member here to gain a better understanding of how to approach work, life, and other situations.

obstacle

To give a primer on the book, it essentially boils down to the aptly named title - that is, if there is an obstacle, then there is no other way around it but to simply stare it down and get to work on whatever that available solutions present themselves.

It is not quick, nor easy, but it is simple enough to understand, with possible long lasting effects, which can provide guidance in the face of adversity for any individual, not just athletes.

4. Try Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and whey protein.

Barring fancy names for a quick snack, I’ve been crushing yogurt ever since I started working at Cressey Sports Performance. Consuming Greek yogurt has allowed me to capitalize on macros, and depending on the brand of yogurt you get, you can get upwards of up to 22g of protein per cup. Add in a scoop of whey protein, and some powdered peanut butter (powdered peanut butter is used to aid in the consumption of the yogurt, and doesn’t take away from the flavor, but enhances upon it), and you have yourself a delicious snack.

I have been going with Greek yogurt, with vanilla whey protein powder, and finally adding in powdered peanut butter. It tastes like peanut butter cheesecake, which is an unreal thought in the first place.

5. Utilize a variety of movements in an exercise program.

There are hidden benefits to varying the position that you perform an exercise within your program. When you’re training the anterior core or the various anti-rotation, flexion, or extension movements, utilize different lower body positions to maximize movement variability. This will allow your body to build a stable foundation from which it can improve and build upon as you progress from one exercise to the next.

Here's a basic 3-4 month progression for cable chop variations, where you'll send 3-4 weeks on each step. This will allow a better foundation to be met prior to simply performing all exercises in a standing position.

1. Tall Kneeling Cable Chop - 3 sets of 10 reps per side
2. Half Kneeling Cable Chop (Inside Knee Up) - 3 sets of 10 reps per side
3. Standing Cable Chop - 3 sets of 10 reps per side
4. Split Stance Cable Chop - 3 sets of 10 reps per side

Further, you can vary the breathing patterns that you use within these contexts in order to optimize their effectiveness. When teaching this pattern to athletes, it is important to first allow a constant stream of inhalations and full exhalations, while watching for mechanical positioning of the lower ribs and pelvis, as ideal positioning involves reducing anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension (arching of the lower back). As you find yourself learning how to "own" this specific exercise, introduce a full exhale while maintaining your position as you perform the concentric portion of the exercise.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is the newest strength coach at the Hudson location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

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7 Ways to Make Your Strength Training Programs More Efficient

Written on October 21, 2014 at 9:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm a big believer in pursuing maximum efficiency in our training programs. We want exercises and training strategies that deliver the biggest "bang for our buck," as most people don't have all day to spend in the gym. That said, supersets, compound exercises, and other well-known approaches on this front are staples of just about all my programs.

Unfortunately, sometimes, the typical strategies just don't get the job done sufficiently. There are periods in folks' lives that are absurdly busy and require approaches to kick the efficiency up a notch further. With us opening a new facility right as our busiest season is upon us - and my wife pregnant with twins - you could say that this topic has been on my mind quite a bit these days. With that in mind, here are seven strategies you can utilize to get a great training effect as efficiently as possible.

1. Switch to a full-body split.

Let's face it: you might never get in as much work on a 3-day training split as you do on a 4-day training split. However, you can usually get in just as much high quality work. I've always enjoyed training schedules that had me lifting lower body and upper body each twice a week. However, usually, the last few exercises in each day are a bit more "filler" in nature: direct arm work, secondary core exercises, rotator cuff drills, and other more "isolation" drills. In a three-day full-body schedule, you should really be just focusing on the meat and potatoes; it's the filler you cut out.

Additionally, I know a lot of folks who actually prefer full-body schedules over upper/lower splits. This was one reason why I included 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training options in The High Performance Handbook.

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2. Do your foam rolling at another point during the day.

There has been a lot of debate about when the best time to foam roll is. While we generally do it pre-training with our athletes, the truth is that the best time is really just whenever it's most convenient - so that you're more likely to actually do it! If you'd rather foam roll first thing in the morning or at night right before bed, that's totally fine. As long as you get it in, over the long haul, you really won't see a difference if you compare pre-training to another point in the day.

3. Do a second, shorter session at home. (Waterbury, PLP program example)

Remember that not all training sessions have to actually take place in a gym. Rather, you might find that it's possible to get in 1-2 of your weekly training sessions at home. As an example, I have an online consulting client who has a flexible schedule on the weekends, but a crazy schedule during the week. He does two challenging sessions with heavier loading on the weekends (lower body on Saturday and upper body on Sunday). Then, he'll work in some filler work with body weight, band, and kettlebell exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. He's still getting in plenty of work in during the week, but he doesn't have to set aside extra time to drive to and from the gym. Obviously, a home gym alone can make for more efficient programs, too!

4. Move to multi-joint mobility drills.

If you're in a rush to get in a great training effect - and abbreviated warm-up - don't pick drills that just mobilize a single joint. Rather, pick drills that provide cover a lot of "surface area." Here are a few of my favorites, as examples:

Typically, you're going to want to do fewer ground-based drills and more drills where you're standing and moving around.

5. Dress in layers.

Speaking of warm-ups, it'll take you longer to warm-up if you dress lightly - especially as the winter months approach. Athletes always comment that they get (and stay) warm better when they wear tights underneath shorts, or sweatshirts and sweatpants over t-shirts and shorts. Of course, you can remove layers as you warm up.

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Additionally, if you're an early morning exerciser, you can expedite the warm-up process by taking a hot shower upon rising. A cup of coffee can help the cause as well.

6. Add in mobility fillers.

If you're going to shorten the warm-up a bit, you can always "make up" for it by working in "fillers" between sets of your compound exercises. I actually incorporate this with a lot of the programs I write, anyway. If you look at our baseball athletes, they're often doing arm care drills in between sets of squats, deadlifts, and lunges. They get in important work without making the sessions drag on really long, but at the same time, it paces them on the heavier, compound exercises so that they aren't rushing.

7. Use "combination" core movements.

Usually, the word "core" leads to thoughts of unstable surface training, thousands of sit-ups, or any of a number of other monotonous, ineffective, flavor-of-the-week training approaches. In reality, the best core training exercises are going to be compound movements executed in perfect form. Overhead pressing, Turkish get-ups, 1-arm pressing/rows/carries, and single-leg movements (just to name a few) can deliver a great training effect. Complement them with some chops/lifts, reverse crunches, dead bugs, and bear crawls, and you're pretty much covered.

There are really just seven of countless strategies you can employ to make your training programs more efficient. Feel free to share your best tips on this front in the comments section below. And, if you're looking to take the guesswork out of your programming, I'd encourage you to check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market today.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/20/14

Written on October 20, 2014 at 4:13 am, by Eric Cressey

It's a big week for us at Cressey Sports Performance, as we're in the home stretch and about to get into our new training facility in Jupiter, FL. If you want to follow along, I'll be posting some progress pics on my Instagram account. While I won't have much time to pull together new content this week, I can definitely tell you the following articles will be well worth your time!

Widening the Aerobic Window - Mike Robertson has published some excellent stuff on energy systems development in the past, and this article does a great job of building on them.

The Six Characteristics of a Good Dynamic Warm-up - I reincarnated this old post on Twitter yesterday, and it was a big hit. So, I thought I'd remind the EricCressey.com readers, too.

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How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are - I always love reading research on social phenomenons and how people behave. This Wall Street Journal article highlights some entertaining stuff in this realm.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/6/14

Written on October 6, 2014 at 8:10 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I include an in-service on the top 10 mistakes I see with medicine ball training. I also have two new exercise demonstration videos, and an article on how to prevent "training boredom."

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5 Thoughts on Sprinting - This informative post from Mike Robertson draws on insights from his own experience and what he's learned from others.

Squatting Semantics - Charlie Weingroff presents a quick, but informative look at the different kinds of squats and benefits that each affords - assuming technique is correct.

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Coaching the Close-Grip Bench Press

Written on October 3, 2014 at 6:39 am, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that the bench press is one of the "Big 3" lifts for a reason: it offers a lot of bang for your upper body training buck. That said, the close-grip bench press is an awesome variation, as it can be more shoulder-friendly and offer slightly different training benefits. Unfortunately, a lot of lifters struggle to perfect close-grip bench press technique, so I thought I'd "reincarnate" this video I originally had featured on Elite Training Mentorship. Enjoy!

If you're looking for a more detailed bench press tutorial - and a comprehensive bench press specialization program - I'd encourage you to check out Greg Robins and my new resource, The Specialization Success Guide.

SSG

Have a great weekend!

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4 Reasons We Struggle With “Diets”

Written on September 23, 2014 at 7:02 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been a while since we featured some nutrition content on EricCressey.com, so today, I've got a guest post from Sohee Lee, whose last contribution here was a big hit. It's very timely, as her new resource, Reverse Dieting, was just released and is on sale this week. Enjoy! -EC

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Dieting necessarily implies some form of restriction – normally starting with some sort of calorie suppression. The truth is, most dieters take the restriction a little too far – a combination of too few calories and too many foods on the forbidden list.

It should go without saying that resorting to extremes when it comes to fat loss will rarely end well. Yet perhaps due to the mentality that working harder should yield better results, this crash dieting phenomenon refuses to let up.

What’s ironic, however, is that the United States is the single most diet-obsessed nation in the world, but we’re also the most obese. This is no coincidence. The National Weight Control Registry reports that we spend a grand total of $20 billion a year on the diet industry (books, drugs, products, and surgeries), with approximately 108 million people on a diet in the U.S. at any given moment.

While there are a multitude of socioeconomic, technological, and environmental factors that contribute to this alarming rate, the truth is that when it comes to fat loss, we humans are fighting an uphill battle from the get-go. Our bodies were not designed to subsist on a food-deprived state. By embarking on crash diets, then, we fire up the biological and psychological mechanisms that protect against starvation and incline us, ultimately, to more weight gain.

Here are four common mistakes that you might be making with your diet.

1. You don’t consume enough protein.

Of the three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats – protein is the most important when it comes to muscle retention while on a diet. Dietary protein is considered muscle sparing, meaning that it increases protein synthesis, and it can also be utilized for the synthesis of glucose, or glycogenesis. Additionally, protein is considered an "expensive" molecule to be used as energy, so to speak, and consequently has a thermic effect.

When it comes to dietary consumption, people tend to fall in two camps: the first camp, mostly the general population, doesn’t consume nearly enough, while the second camp, consisting primarily of athletes and bodybuilding aficionados, perhaps consumes more than necessary. The majority of people tend to fall in the former category.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the average American male ingests 102 grams of protein per day and the average American female consumes 70 grams. Is this too much or too little?

The reality is that the body is actually highly efficient at absorbing amino acid, the constituents of protein. The small intestines and liver use a good portion of these amino acids for their own energy and protein synthesis before the remaining gets shuttled into the bloodstream – and at that point, they are further utilized by other tissues, including your heart and skin. Only after all of this happens do the amino acids get used in muscle building.

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As for the myth that high protein intake is damaging to the kidneys, those whispers can be laid to rest. A number of studies and reviews suggest that “there is no reason to restrict protein in healthy individuals” and have found no adverse effect with an intake up to 1.27 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (1). In fact, those same studies make one question whether low protein intake may actually be a cause of renal function decline.

What happens when you’re in a caloric deficit with insufficient protein, then, is that you lose lean body mass. Which, when you think about it, is not desirable, because the ultimate goal is fat loss, isn’t it? With loss of muscle mass, you become a softer, doughier version of your former self – not anymore defined or chiseled. And ultimately, your relative bodyfat actually increases, which thereby increases your bodyfat percentage as well. Doesn’t sound so great, does it?

We can then flip the question to: if a high protein diet is not harmful to my health, then how much is optimal? More specifically, how much should be consumed per meal when dieting?

The general rule of thumb is to aim for your body weight in grams of protein each day. So if you weigh 150lbs, then you should be consuming approximately 150g protein. Obviously the exact number is going to vary from one individual to the next based on age, exercise regimen, dieting history, level of leanness, and other factors, but it’s a good starting point.

2. You go too hard, too fast.

It’s true that we live in an obese nation, consisting largely of folks who eat way beyond their bodies’ caloric needs. Sitting on the opposite end of the pendulum, however, are those who grossly undereat in an effort to shed fat faster.

Ah, you might be saying, but clearly the more I undereat, the faster progress I will make.

To that end, you swear off all your favorite foods, and exercise all of a sudden becomes your part-time job. You swap out burgers and fries for spinach and dry chicken. You’re convinced that if you push yourself to the extremes, you will reap extraordinary rewards.

The thinking is logical enough. Work hard, do well; work harder and do even better; work the hardest you possibly can and achieve the best body of your dreams. Right?

If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, the body is incredibly complex – far more than we tend to give it credit for. We fool ourselves a la the Dunning-Kruger effect (2), which is a cognitive bias by which people tend to overestimate their competence in any given task.

We are equipped with a number of psychological and biological mechanisms that work to ensure that fat loss does not occur.

Don’t think of a pink polar bear.

Polar Bear (Sow), Near Kaktovik, Barter Island, Alaska

Don’t do it.

Anything but a pink polar bear.

Don’t!

Hard to resist, isn’t it?

From a psychological standpoint, we do not fare well with being told that we cannot do something. In fact, research has shown that being forbidden from something actually increases our desire for that very thing (3). Why? Simply because it focuses our attention onto that specific matter instead of away from it, and all of a sudden, that’s all we can think about it.

Moreover, crash diets rely heavily on willpower – which might seem like a good thing at first glance, but willpower is incredibly exhaustible. What’s more, self control when it comes to work, family, relationships, dogs, and diet all rely on the same willpower storage (4). So if you’re facing a good deal of work stress, that will deplete your willpower, leaving less room to adhere to your strict diet. Eventually you’ll reach a point at which it’s impossible to say no to those cookies, and you’ll find yourself scarfing down everything but the kitchen sink.

There are a number of physiological changes that take place as well. A reduction in energy intake leads to the body’s anti-starvation mechanisms kicking in; they include decreased thermogenesis and increased appetite due to reduced levels of leptin and a spike in ghrelin, the hunger hormone (5). These, coupled with an increased in metabolic efficiency, make it exponentially more difficult to lose fat – and the more drastic the measures, the more extreme these biological responses.

What does this mean? You’re hungry, cranky, and fatigued, and all you can think about is your favorite chocolate cake that you’ve deemed off-limits. That, to me, doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

hangry

3. You’re impatient.

Ah, but you want results yesterday.

And who’s got the time to patiently wait three months, six months, or even a year?

Is it really necessary to be diligent for that long? Can’t you just take a pill, tap your shoes together, and wake up the next morning to a new-and-improved you?

I wish there were an easier way. But the truth is, consistency is the name of the game.

Most people will give a diet program maybe five days – two weeks if they’re lucky – before they jump ship onto the next cool fad. From Atkins to Zone to Paleo, they can’t seem to make up their minds.

The truth is, most of the popular diets out there do work, to some extent. The key, however, is actually sticking with the program long enough to elicit the desired results.

Does it provide you with sufficient protein? Adequate calories? Abundant food choices? If so, then you’re probably fine.

Just because you “only” lost one pound this past week does not mean that it’s not working. In fact, it’s a sign that it’s working just fine. So, instead of throwing in the towel or lamenting the time that you’ve supposedly wasted, might I suggest a radical idea: keep going.

4. You don’t have a plan for after the "diet" is done.

Nine times out of ten, here’s what happens with fat loss: in our angst to get to the final destination as soon as possible, we overlook the fact that there’s going to come a time when the diet is over. And when that happens, we need to be just as, if not more, prepared with a plan of attack.

Assuming that you can simply go back to your former lifestyle of potato chips and drive-throughs and easily maintain your results is a naïve yet common train of thought. But what many fail to appreciate is that oftentimes, weight loss maintenance is perhaps more difficult than the actual weight loss itself.

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Why? Because the body is not static. It continues to respond to external stimuli. Meaning that if you all of a sudden consume calories in gross excess, the body will react by storing that extra energy in the form extra body fat and lean mass.

There are a number of routes to entertain at this point. One, you can continue to stay in a caloric deficit on the same diet program and keep up the intense training regimen – though from a longevity standpoint, I doubt that sounds very enticing. Two, you can bump up your calories slightly and enjoy the fruits of your labor for the time being. This also means you can slowly dwindle down any conditioning or cardio you may have been performing.

Lastly, if you’re interested in reverse the negative metabolic adaptation that occurred during fat loss, you may want to consider reverse dieting. This is a process by which you slowly and methodically increase your caloric intake in an effort to increase metabolic capacity and build some muscle while keeping fat gain at bay. This is a proven system in which people have been able to more than double their daily caloric intake while experiencing exponential strength gains.

reversedieting

Conclusion

The above is the culmination of the lessons I’ve learned through years of making mistake after fat loss mistake, plus my observations from working with hundreds of fat loss clients. My hope is that I can save you a good deal of stress, time, and energy by laying out the fundamental mistakes made in dieting that backfire.

I’ve found that, for just about every individual, if they stick to the principles above, they will see sustainable results. And ultimately, that’s the goal, isn’t it – to get off the yo-yo dieting wagon and stay lean for good, once and for all?

You have all the tools you need to succeed. Good luck on your journey.

Note from EC: In Reverse Dieting, Sohee and Dr. Layne Norton created an excellent resource. If there is someone in your life who struggles with "yo-yo dieting" - the inability to keep bodyfat off after diets - then this would be a great read (and plan) for them, especially at the great introductory deal that's in place for the next few days.

Also, references for this article are posted as the first comment below.

About the Author

Sohee Lee (@SoheeFit) graduated from Stanford University in June 2012 with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Human Biology (Psychosocial and Biological Determinants of Health). Since completing an internship at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, she has worked as a coach and nutrition consultant at Tyler English Fitness in Canton, CT as well as New York City's Peak Performance. She currently works as a fitness writer, coach, and entrepreneur. Sohee is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Sohee faced anorexia and bulimia in the past, thus her main interests include eating disorders and the psychology behind relationships and decisions that we make as humans. She loves to talk fitness and admires those fit-minded people who can push and pull heavy weights. You can find her on Facebook and at her website, www.SoheeFit.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/22/14

Written on September 22, 2014 at 8:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Monday, everyone; I hope you all had a great weekend. Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Reverse Dieting - Authors Sohee Lee and Layne Norton just introduced this resource, and I was fortunate to get an advanced copy to review. It's a great look at how chronic dieting can significantly damage metabolism and make it difficult to keep lost body fat off (or lose body fat in subsequent "dieting" efforts). Just as importantly, they outline a strategy for overcoming these challenges. I'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in nutrition, or have dealt with problems like this on your "physique journey." 

reversedieting

9 Training Concepts that Suck - While the title is unnecessarily harsh, this article from Ben Bruno is excellent.

Body Language and Leadership - I enjoy reading Gabe Kapler's stuff because he blends a successful background in baseball with a passion for training and nutrition. He also touches on everything from parenting to behavioral research and leadership. To that end, this is a great post for coaches and athletes alike. 

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Training Programs: Are Health and Aesthetics Mutually Exclusive?

Written on September 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

Roughly once a week, I run Q&A sessions on my Facebook page. Often, they give rise to good blog ideas - and today's post is a perfect example, as I received this inquiry during this week's Q&A:

"How do you think that we, as fitness professionals, can help people move from looks-based result mentality to health-based result mentality?"

This post really got me thinking, as it can definitely be viewed in a number of different ways.

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On one hand, I "get" what this fitness professional is trying to say: there are still a lot of people out there who are steadfastly adhering to old-school "body part splits" for training when it likely isn't the most efficient way to get to their goals. We want training that improves quality of movement if we're going to stay healthy and highly functional as the years go on.

On the other hand, I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with folks wanting to look better - and allowing it to dictate their training approach as the "carrot at the end of the stick."  Whether we like it or not, what one sees in the mirror does have a dramatic impact on one's health - psychological health, that is.

In order words, the question seems to imply that looking good and being healthy are mutually exclusive training goals. I simply don't think that's the case - and for a number of reasons.

First, "health" means something entirely different to everyone. We obviously have a ton of different measures of health status with respect to chronic diseases, but what about being "healthy" enough to take on life's adventures on a daily basis? I know some powerlifters who would feel incredibly "unhealthy" if they tried to play racquetball, but I can guarantee you that if you took a racquetball only guy and asked him to train with a powerlifter for two hours, he'd feel really "unhealthy" the next day, too. If you train to be "healthy" in everything you do, you just might wind up not being really good at any one thing.

Second, I'd argue that there are loads of people out there who train exclusively for aesthetics and are incredibly healthy. Natural bodybuilders come to mind, and I know of a lot of people who "recreationally" bodybuild and supplement this training with powerlifting, Olympic lifting, sprint work, and recreational sports for variety and supplemental conditioning. I'm sure there are loads of accomplished "recreational" Crossfitters out there who have perfect blood work and no joint pain to match their developed physiques, too.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's not our job to tell people what their goals should be; it's our job to help them work toward them, even if it does conflict with our own personal biases.

However, I don't think personal biases should be a problem in this context, though. You see, if you really look at successful strength and conditioning programs, they all have a ton of things in common. In fact, it might be 90% of the program that's comparable across "disciplines."

Everybody can foam roll and do mobility warm-ups, regardless of whether they want to look or just feel good.

Compound lower body exercise can benefit anyone, whether they want a firmer backside, better athletic performance, or just to fit in their jeans a little easier.

Most folks need extra horizontal pulling (rowing), regardless of whether they want to step on a bodybuilding stage or just not wind up with shoulder pain from slouching over the keyboard every day.

Fluctuating training stress and incorporating deloading periods is important whether you want to recovery and develop bigger biceps, or you just want to make sure you have enough energy left over after training to play with your kids at the end of the day.

I could go on and on, but the key message is that we can have both health and aesthetics - and if aesthetics are a goal that helps folks to work toward that end, then so be it. I'd be lying if I said that I don't derive more motivation from seeing my abs in the mirror in the morning than I do from a report that my blood lipid panel looks good. It's human nature that we're more concerned with what is public (our appearance) than what is private (our health), so we might as well get used to it. Health goals are awesome, and accomplishments on this front should be celebrated, but don't think you're ever going to see a population shift toward wanting the "fit look" less than the "healthy feel."

Taking it a step further, though, I think improved performance can be lumped in with aesthetics and health as a result of an effective training program. Successful programs might be 75% the same, but it's tinkering with the other 25% that delivers the benefits on all three fronts.

As an example, with The High Performance Handbook, my goal was to create a versatile "main" strength training program that initially could be easily modified based on posture, joint laxity, ideal training frequency, and supplemental conditioning. On the supplemental conditioning front, folks pick different options to shift the program to athletic performance, fat loss, strength improvement, or mass gain perspectives. Thereafter, individuals can choose from a number of different "special populations" modifications, whether it's for folks who want more direct arm work, those who play overhead throwing sports, or those over the age of 50. Then, there are the obvious nutrition individualization components.

The point is that the best programs are the versatile ones that give people the wiggle room to pursue the goals - aesthetics, health, performance, or some combination of the three - that they hold dear.

HPH-main

Obviously, this question opens a big can of worms, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How Chronic, Prolonged Sitting Impacts Your Body – and What to Do About It

Written on September 9, 2014 at 7:07 am, by Eric Cressey

Last week, over the course of two days, I made the long drive from Hudson, MA to Jupiter, FL. Suffice it to say that all those hours in the car gave me a newfound appreciation (or distaste?) for just how hard sitting is on the body. As such, it was really timely when my friend Michael Mullin emailed along this guest post on the subject. Enjoy! -EC

Disclaimer:

In this article, the author describes a fictional scenario in order to demonstrate a point related to the degree of information and misinformation there is in the layman and professional literature. It is in no way an attempt to create alarm that these facts apply to every person and every situation. While this article is not scientifically based, the published references are meant as an example of what some studies have found of the impact prolonged sitting and being in a stressful environment has on the body. Please read this article with the intent with which it was written—to provide concrete tools to use if you have to sit for extended periods of time.

I would like to have you read the scenario below and let me know if you would want this job.

“Congratulations on being selected for the position of top minion here at Do Everything Against Design, Inc. (DEAD).  Our company is a prestigious purveyors of thneeds—and a thneed is a thing that everyone needs (5). We pride ourselves on our commitment to being on the cutting edge of business and we use only the best, most up-to-date information possible to dictate how we run our business.”

“Let me start off by saying that this job will provide all kinds of potential benefits. It is up to you to decide how committed you are. The potentials are endless—overuse injury, chronic pain, depression, increased alcohol use, drug or medication use, cancer, increased general mortality, even bullying—that’s right, just like when you were a kid—are all very real possibilities here at DEAD, Inc.”

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“So first thing we will do is get you set up with your work area and station. Here is your cubicle which studies have shown are detrimental to not only work life but also your personal life (1). And here is your ergonomically correct chair so that your body doesn’t have to move, because research has shown that sitting 90% of your day, will almost double your risk of developing neck pain (2). We are also well aware of the fact that this increased time sitting will ultimately yield to a higher mortality rate for you (3), and make you feel generally crummy, but we are willing to take your chances. In fact, don’t even bother trying to counter all this sitting with exercise, because it will increase your risk for certain cancers by up to 66% regardless of how active you are when not sitting! (4)”

“However, placing this degree of stress and strain on your body is mainly so that we can reduce the organization’s costs and increase productivity (5), which is what is most important to us. Because ‘business is business and business must grow, regardless of crummies in tummies you know’ (6). And you do want to be a team player, don’t you?”

“In fact if you do end up having any physical problems, there is a greater than 63% chance that it is actually due to work (7). And if it isn’t from sitting too much (8), then it is due to the psychological stress that this position places on you. Heck, it might even be due to me and the stress I place on you! I will give you an 80% chance that our workplace stress will be the most important factor you will have to deal with here (9).”

forward head posture man

“We have also found that this job can also really give you a great chance on becoming an alcoholic or binge drinker (10), so you have that going for you as well.”

“If stress does become greater than you can learn how to cope with, which is apparently one important part of your employment here (11), then rest assured that we don’t really have a plan in place, because 80% of facilities do not have formal programs in place to deal with workplace stress, and of those that do, only about 14% say it is effective (12). Since that’s what the research suggests, then I mean, how important can establishing a plan be?”

“The single greatest thing about this whole situation is that I will actually pay you to let me break you down, little by little, bit by bit, until you feel beaten and broken. Don’t you see? It’s a win-win situation for both of us here at DEAD, Inc!”

I decided to title this article differently from my original title, “Your Employer Is Trying to Kill You” because I thought it might be a little less inflammatory. But, if you think about it, if data were used to truly guide what we should be doing, than many jobs where employees have to sit the better part of the day are truly a form of abuse. OSHA should be having a field day with these kinds of stats!

This is not about trying to bash many of the companies that have these incredibly sedentary work environments, though. Moreover, it's also not about the fact that I disagree with how our ergonomic evaluations and standards currently are. This is more about trying to create a "Movement/Movement."

Michael Mullin

Our bodies are designed for movement. Period. Our brains are designed for processing and trying to create efficiency so that we can process more. Now that’s pretty smart, however, highly detrimental when it comes to the importance of movement. Because if we continue to listen to what our brain is telling many of us, then it will constantly suggest that we just continue to sit to conserve energy.

So what to do for those of us who have to sit regularly during the day?

  • Get up regularly, even if it means setting a timer at your desk to walk down the hall a couple of times. Not only good for the body, but also good for the brain.
  • Stand every time the phone rings in your office, even if it means you have to sit back down to do something at your computer for the call.
  • Every hour, independent of getting up for regular walks:
    • Sit at the front edge of the chair, hands resting on thighs and body in a relaxed position—not too slouched or sitting up too straight. Take a slow breath in through your nose, feeling your ribs expand circumferentially. Then slowly, fully exhale as if you are sighing out and exhale more than you typically would, without forcing or straining. Inhale on a 3-4 count, exhale on a 6-8 count, then pause for a couple of seconds. Re-inhale and repeat for 4-5 breaths.
    • Staying in this position at the front edge of the chair, reach one arm forward, alternating between sides, allowing your trunk and torso to rotate as well. Your hips and pelvis should also shift such that your thighs are alternately sliding forward and back. Perform 10 times on each side, slowly and deliberately and while taking slow, full breaths.
  • Consider using your chair differently, depending on the task:
    • When doing work on the computer, sit with the lowest part of your low back (i.e. sacrum) against the seat back, but don’t lean your upper body back. This will give the base of your spine some support, but also allow for good trunk muscle activity as well as proper thoracic circumferential breathing.
    • When doing general work such as going through papers, moving things around your desk, filing, etc., sit forward on your chair so that you are more at the edge of the chair. This will allow your legs to take more load and your trunk muscles better able to aid in support, reaching and rotating tasks.
    • When reading items or reviewing paperwork, recline back with full back contact to give your muscles, joints and discs a rest. Make sure to hold the items up at roughly shoulder height—even if you support your arms on armrests or desk.

Remember, chairs and sitting is something that WE as humans created and the current norm is in no way optimal. We were not put on this planet to sit on chairs, and in particular not ones which shut our system off and limit our movement and ability to breathe normally. Until organizations and the general mindset changes to balance work requirements, work efficiency and human health, then we will be constantly be dealing with companies such as DEAD, Inc.

Note: the references to this article are posted as the first comment below.

About the Author

Michael J. Mullin, ATC, PTA, PRC: Michael is a rehabilitation specialist with almost 25 years of experience in the assessment and treatment of orthopaedic injuries. He has published and lectured extensively on topics related to prevention and rehabilitation of athletic injuries, biomechanics and integrating Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI) principles into rehabilitation and training. He has a strong interest in system asymmetry, movement, rehabilitation and respiratory influences on training and their effect on athletics. He has extensive experience with dancers, skiers, and professional and recreational athletes of all interests. You can find him on Twitter: @MJMATC

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/7/14

Written on September 8, 2014 at 4:06 am, by Eric Cressey

My wife and I are busy getting settled in our new house in Florida, but luckily, I've got some good recommended strength and conditioning content to kick off the week while I'm tied up:

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I have a new article, two new exercise tutorials, and a webinar, "11 Tips for Building and Managing a Pro Athlete Clientele."

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Your Career in Fitness: A Success Guide for Personal Trainers and Coaches - Nate Green did a tremendous job on this comprehensive post for Precision Nutrition. If you aspire to enter the fitness industry, this is a solid "road map" from which to work.

Simple Self-Assessments: Toe Touch - Miguel Aragoncillo is the newest member of the Cressey Sports Performance team, and in this post, he demonstrates some of the expertise that made him our top candidate for the position that recently opened up. He'll be a great addition to the CSP team.

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