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How Much Work Are You Actually Doing?

Written on July 1, 2015 at 11:23 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm fortunate to do 99% of my training sessions at Cressey Sports Performance, where we've got all the equipment I can possibly desire and a great training environment to keep me motivated.

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Occasionally, though, I have travel - and that's when the other 1% of my training takes place. Usually, this means under-equipped hotel gyms or commercial gyms that can make for some good people watching. This morning was one example.

Normally, when someone in the fitness industry visit a commercial gym, they instantly go into "gym snob" mode and try to nitpick on all the things people are doing wrong, whether it's poor exercise selection or horrendous training technique. While I certainly recognize these things, I like to think of myself as an eternal optimist. If I can find the good in a commercial gym - whether it's a trainer's approach or some new piece of equipment I haven't seen - then there is a good chance I'll have something solid to bring back to improve CSP.

Today, there was one big lesson that really stood out in my mind: some people were doing a lot of actual "work."

Yes, by "work," I'm referring to Force x Distance.

Whether it was on machines or with free weights, these individuals (who, unsurprisingly, were typically very fit), were challenging themselves with appreciable loads. And, they were generally doing so through a full range of motion.

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Taking it a step further, though, they were doing so without wasting time. There wasn't just work; rather, there was significant work done without a lot of standing around.

Conversely, there were also folks who spent a lot of time standing or sitting around. Sets were few and far between, and supersets just weren't happening. There weren't compound exercises, and they weren't choosing challenging weights. In fact, exertion wasn't really present in any capacity. I couldn't help but wonder why anyone would bother to get up at 5:30am to "work out" if that individual didn't actually want to do much actual "work?"

Believe it or not, I think this is a more common problem than we realize. There are a lot of people struggling to make fitness progress because they think that they train a lot harder than they actually do. I don't necessarily fault them, though, as a lot of them have never been taught how much volume and intensity is needed for progress, and even fewer have actually gotten into a training environment that forced them to take on a challenging training program.

So, how do you know if you're working hard or not? Is it sweat on your shirt, or wobbly legs as you leave the gym? Sure, those are somewhat subjective signs, but they're a good start.

Speaking more objectively, though, I would just say that lifters should be able to get in warm-up work and then 20+ sets of mostly compound lifts in 60-75 minutes. And, in most cases (particularly beginner and intermediate lifters), the weight used on these sets should increase from week to week.

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If you're not able to get that much quality work in over the course of that much time, there is a good chance you're doing too much waiting around between sets, or you're getting caught up doing some other low-priority training initiative.

From time to time, I think it's useful to do a "training audit" to see where you stand on this front. Review your recent programs to see if you're getting in enough quality work to continue making progress. I've even seen accomplished powerlifters do this and realize that with all the heavy singles and long rest periods, they were actually getting in very little total work in training sessions. They added in more assistance work and incorporated some backoff sets in to bump up their total work number to get back to making better progress.

You may also find that you're doing so much work that you could benefit from a back-off period. That might come in the form of volume, intensity, or frequency reductions.

The important thing is that you are cognizant of the hard work it takes to succeed. And, even more importantly, you'll understanding where you are relative to that benchmark.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/30/15

Written on June 30, 2015 at 4:48 am, by Eric Cressey

 Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Coaching Grey Zone: When to Simply Shut Up - Dean Somerset makes some great points on when the best coaching approach is to just leave an athlete/client alone.

A Day with Alex Viada: The Hybrid Athlete - We hosted Alex Viada for a seminar at Cressey Sports Performance, and it was fantastic. In this article, Tony Gentilcore summarizes some of the key takeaways.

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EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast with Chris Doyle - This is an awesome interview with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He's a super bright and down-to-Earth guy.

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3 Ways to Create Context for More Effective Coaching

Written on June 24, 2015 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

 Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio.

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Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Content is king, but context is God.” He was talking about Internet marketing, but the same holds true for coaching.

Our goal as coaches is to get our athletes into the right positions as quickly and safely as possible. There are many ways to do this, but the best ways all use context to flip on the metaphorical light bulb deep within an athlete’s brain. Much like marketing, the content of our coaching is only as good as its ability to create context for our athletes.

Cueing and Context

There’s lots of buzz about internal versus external cueing (with most coaches agreeing the latter trumps the former), but without context, it doesn’t matter how precise your coaching cues are. It doesn’t matter if you tap into your athlete’s auditory, visual or kinesthetic awareness. If your coaching cues don’t conjure up a somewhat familiar position or sensation, your coaching will be ineffective.

People love context because they love familiarity. It’s the reason why we leave a familiar song on the radio even if we don’t actually enjoy it. It’s why we always order the same meal at a restaurant or buy the same car, if only a model year newer. It’s not so much brand loyalty as it is the confidence we feel in a familiar scenario. And when athletes are confident, they perform at their best.

But for many, strength training is anything but familiar. Throw a new athlete into a new environment with new coaches and new movements, and everything is, well, new. Context is painfully hard to find. It’s our job as coaches to create it.

This goes beyond internal versus external cueing. When’s the last time a young athlete had to push his butt back to the wall or spread the floor outside of the weight room? Yes, these are useful cues, but they pale in comparison to referencing movements and sensations they’ve experienced over and over. Your athletes have stockpiled heaps of complex movements while playing their sport(s), so use them as bridges to new movements in the weight room.

Coaches must constantly challenge themselves to refine their coaching skills and become more efficient. Striving to provide context in every coaching interaction will help you do just that. Here are three reliable ways to create context while communicating with your clients.

Relate to an Exercise

A well-designed training program will build upon itself from exercise to exercise. The warm-up creates context for power development, which builds context for strength training, which builds context for conditioning. Fellow CSP Coach Miguel Aragoncillo often calls this the “layering” effect, where we gradually introduce athletes to layers of a movement to make it easier to learn and retain.

For example, we use positional breathing drills to get the ribs and pelvis in position for proper inhalation and exhalation. Then, we use exercises like dead bugs and bird dogs to teach athletes to brace while moving their extremities. Then, when we hit our first strength movement of the day, whether it’s a deadlift, lunge or press, we can refer to the warm-up for context on proper technique.

Context becomes especially useful when progressing athletes from low-speed movements to high-speed ones. The faster the movement, the more concise your cues must be.

For example, you’d be hard pressed to get athletes to think about what’s happening while landing from a jump. Which cues are processed more easily?

“Hip hinge! Tripod foot! Externally rotate your femurs!”

Or…

“Land where you jumped from!”

If you’ve done your job as a coach by teaching a good take-off position, the second option should happen almost automatically. Not coincidently, this position will come up during many other exercises, providing context for all of them.

The entire training session should create material for you to call upon later, so don’t gloss over the little things early on.

Relate to a Sport

Working with baseball players after playing baseball for the majority of my life gives me a distinct advantage. I speak their language. I’ve walked in their cleats. I can create context by relating many of our exercises to familiar movements on the baseball diamond. Similarly, if you relate anything in the gym to an athlete’s sport, you’ll win them over quickly.

Recently, I was working with a young athlete who was struggling to do a trap bar deadlift. No matter how I cued him or physically put him in position, he couldn’t get there on his own. Just as I was about to regress to a simpler exercise, I took a shot in the dark. Our conversation was as follows:

Me: What position do you play in baseball?
Athlete: First base.
Me: So what do you do when the third baseman throws the ball too high?
Athlete: I do this. (Goes to do a countermovement jump)
Me: Stop!
Athlete: (Paused in a perfect hip hinge) What?
Me: Right there! Grab the bar.

He proceeded to do a set of five textbook deadlifts and nailed every set after that. Where internal and external cues failed, context prevailed.

You can duplicate this scenario for almost any sport.

Basketball: “How do you guard the ball handler?”
Football: “How do you take the snap from under center?”
Tennis: “How do you wait for the serve?”
Hockey: “How do you take the faceoff?”

The list goes on. With athletes, context is everywhere. Get to know their sport and speak their language. And if you can help them understand how their workouts will make them better at their sport, you’ll gain their trust and get their best effort.

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Relate to a Feeling

Perhaps the best way to make your coaching cues last a lifetime is to get in touch with your athletes’ feelings. Before you dismiss me as some Kumbaya-singing hippy, let me explain myself.

Many coaching cues are transient. Sure, cores brace, glutes squeeze and necks pack whenever we ask them to, but as soon as we turn our backs, things often go awry. Even the best lifters sometimes miss a key point on their pre-lift checklist of body parts to organize, and one weak link in the chain can lead to suboptimal (and even dangerous) movement.

If you simply take the time to implant a crucial feeling into an athlete’s mind (i.e. “Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel when you squat.”), they won’t soon forget it. It’s often easier to navigate one’s way to a feeling than think about multiple body parts at once.

I consider myself a decent bench presser, but when I set up, I don’t go from head to toe, double-checking if I’m retracted here or extended there. I know what I’m supposed to feel so I just feel it and lift. That’s how mastery occurs and eventually gets us to the coveted state of unconscious competency, as described by psychologist Thomas Gordon in his four-stage approach to learning. Miguel recently drew the four-stage matrix on our whiteboard during a meeting with the interns:

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Basically, we aim to go from being incompetent while thinking about it to being competent without thinking about it. We don’t want athletes to constantly think about their movement on the field. They need to move automatically or they’ll get left in the dust. Similarly, we need to coach them in the weight room with the intention of movements and exercises becoming automatic.

This is where taking 5 to 10 minutes of a single 90-minute training session can pay huge dividends down the road. Rather than hastily resorting to a regression when an athlete is struggling, create context and get the athlete to feel the right position. Get your hands on them. Ask, “What do you feel?”

Whether it’s pulling the bar away from someone during a deadlift to get their lats turned on (“Don’t let me take the bar from you. Feel that?”) or doing lateral mini-band walks to prevent knee valgus during squats (“Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel during squats.”), these extra steps are always worth the extra coaching effort.

It’s akin to the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Are you giving fish by always hand-holding athletes into position? Or are you teaching them how to fish by helping them discover the answer so they’ll always be able to access it?

Conclusion

Familiarly allows an athlete to let his or her guard down and perform to the best of their ability. Creating context with your coaching cues puts them in a familiar setting and opens the door for better movement. Instead of simply relying on internal and external focus cues, strive to create context wherever possible. I’m confident your athletes will move better and learn faster.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at www.BonvecStrength.com.
 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/23/15

Written on June 23, 2015 at 5:20 am, by Eric Cressey

 I hope everyone had a great Father's Day weekend. Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

EC on Joe DeFranco's Industrial Strength Podcast - Joe and I chatted about everything from training rotational sport athletes to raising twin daughters!

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EC on the Well-Traveled Wellness Podcast - This interview with me covered offseason programming, career longevity and usage, injury prevention and more.

Cluster Sets for More Gains in Less Time - I've long been a fan of cluster training, and in this article, Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio outlines the "who-what-when-where-why-how" of performing this set/rep approach.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/16/15

Written on June 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm a day late with this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading, as we were hosting another one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships at Cressey Sports Performance. I've still got some good reads for you, though:

Minimizing Key May Risk While Scaling Your Business - Pete Dupuis, my business partner at Cressey Sports Performance, recently started his own website, which focuses on the business side of fitness. This is his most recent post, and includes some great lessons for fitness entrepreneurs. I'd add this website to your regular reading list.

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Probiotics and Depression - The folks at Examine.com offered this free preview of their Research Digest resource. I always enjoy these updates and would recommend them if you're looking to stay on top of up-to-date research in the world of nutrition and supplementation.

10 Ways to Crush It at Your First Powerlifting Meet - This was a great article from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. It's a great read if you're thinking about competing in powerlifting. I also published this interview on the topic about ten years ago, but Tony's post definitely adds some great insights.

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Optimizing the Big 3 Seminar: August 2, 2015

Written on June 13, 2015 at 6:43 am, by Eric Cressey

For the third time, Cressey Sports Performance staff member and accomplished powerlifter Greg Robins will be delivering his one-day seminar, "Optimizing the Big 3," at our facility in Hudson, MA. This event is a great fit for lifters who have an interest in improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift - and may want to powerlift competitively. And, it's also been very popular with strength and conditioning professionals. It'll take place on August 2, 2015.

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Overview:

"Optimizing the Big Three" is a one-day seminar geared towards those looking to improve the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Split into both a lecture and hands on format, the event will provide attendees with practical coaching on the technique of the classic power lifts, as well as valuable information on how to specialize movement preparation, utilize supplementary movements, and organize their training around a central focus: improved strength in these "big three" movements.

Furthermore, Greg will touch upon the lessons learned in preparation for your first few meets, to help you navigate everything from equipment selection, to meet-day logistics.

The value in learning from Greg is a matter of perspective. He has a wealth of knowledge, and experience stemming from various experiences as a coach and lifter. Greg will effectively shed light on how he has applied human movement principles, athletic performance modalities, and anecdotal evidence from working with a plethora of different populations to one main goal; optimizing the technique, health, and improvements in strength of amateur lifters.

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Seminar Agenda:

8:30-9:00AM: Check-in/Registration

9:00-10:00AM: Mechanics, Technique, and Cueing Of the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift - In this lecture Greg will break down the biomechanics of each movement, how to optimize technique, and what to consider both as a coach and lifter in teaching / learning the movements.

10:00-11:00AM: Managing the Strength Athlete: Assessing and Meeting the Demands of the Lifter - Learn what demands a high amount of volume in the classic lifts puts on the body, how to assess for it in others and yourself, and what you can do to manage the stress associated with these demands.

11:00-11:15AM: Break

11:15AM-12:45PM: General Programming Considerations for Maximal Strength - Take a look inside Greg’s head at his approach to organizing the training of a lifter. Topics will include various periodization schemes, and utilizing supplementary and accessory movements within the program as a whole.

12:45-1:45PM: Lunch (on your own)

1:45-2:15PM: Preparing for Your First Meet - Based off his own experiences, and knowledge amassed from spending time around some of the best in the sport, Greg will share some poignant information on what to expect and how to prepare for your first meet.

2:15-3:30PM: Squat Workshop

3:30-4:45PM: Bench Press Workshop

4:45-6:00PM: Deadlift Workshop 

Date/Location:

August 2, 2015

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

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Cost:

Early Bird (before July 2)  – $149.99
Regular (after July 2) - $199.99

Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction - particularly during the hands-on workshop portion - so be sure to register early, as the previous offerings have both sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.

Registration:

Click here to register!

Still not convinced? Here is some feedback from previous attendees:

“The coaching I got was phenomenal; amazing experience!”

“Really happy with the content, and the coaching of the lifts. Definitely appreciated the appeal to reflect on training, and be able to defend all exercises you program. I had high expectations for this event and they were exceeded.”

“Honestly, I was really happy with the seminar, my only regret is I wish I asked a few more questions as Greg was really great about avoiding a dogmatic approach that is very common in this field!”

“This was awesome! I learned a ton about the big 3 and feel like I can pass on the knowledge to our clients.”

“I really like your approach to lifting and your lifting philosophy. I've been strength coaching for 20 years and I run a successful business; it's getting hard to find a good seminar. Normally, when I learn one thing I’m happy, but this last Sunday, I learned a lot. I'm really satisfied!”

“Very worthwhile and I would even attend the event again, especially for the hands on.”

“Very concise, while allowing the topics and questions to develop as the audience saw fit. It was very informative and engaging.”

“This was awesome. Definitely would attend something like this again!”

“I loved having the opportunity to actually lift, the coaching was phenomenal!”

Click here to register!

About the Presenter

Greg Robins is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. In addition to co-authoring The Specialization Success Guide, his writing has been published everywhere from Men's Health, to Men's Fitness, to Juggernaut Training Systems, to EliteFTS, to T-Nation. As a raw competitive powerlifter, Greg has competition bests of 560 squat, 335 bench press, and 625 deadlift for a 1520 total.


The 5 Most Common Mistakes Young Strength and Conditioning Coaches Make

Written on June 5, 2015 at 6:59 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, creator of the great new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, which is on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Saturday.

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Three times per year, we start a new intern class at our facility, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST). So, 19 times now, I’ve taught a group of interns the basics of program design, coaching, and anatomy and physiology.

And, even after all of these years, I consistently see some of the same mistakes being made by our interns.

I almost hate calling them mistakes, though. These are mistakes they often have to make to get to the next level of coaching.

Here are five of the most common mistakes young coaches make, as well as how to nip some of these problems in the bud.

#1 - Coach the Right Exercise

Coming up as a powerlifter, I thought the squat, bench and deadlift did everything besides cure cancer or promote world peace. Okay, maybe I didn’t think they were that awesome - but it was pretty darn close!

What you find over the years is that some exercises are flat-out easier to coach than others. A barbell back squat is an awesome exercise, but it may not be the best way to learn how to squat.

Think of it like this: even if you’re a good coach, how much sweaty equity does it take to coach someone on the back squat?

It takes a while, right? And, even with great coaching, it may take them quite some time to dial in the movement.

Now consider an alternative like a plate or goblet squat. You can take that same client and literally have them squatting with perfect form in a matter of minutes!

Make things easy on yourself. Rather than taking a month to teach someone a more complex exercise, give them a simpler exercise early-on and allow them to have success. Not only will you be less frustrated, but they’ll enjoy training a lot more, too.

#2 - Be Active!

When I’m taking new interns through our coaching program at IFAST, one of the first things I teach them is the sequence of positions I want them to review the clients’ movement.

In other words, they start with the sagittal plane first, or a 90-degree view. If things aren’t right in the sagittal plane (i.e. too much flexion, extension, etc.), then you know things will be off elsewhere.

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However, it’s not uncommon to see young coaches post-up in this position. Even if things look great in the sagittal plane, they’ll still hang out there for the rest of the set!

Instead, I always tell my coaches I want them to be active. Clean things up in the sagittal plane, and then move around to the front and back as well.

Chances are once things look great in one plane, there will still be things in the frontal or transverse plane (a knee caving in, the pelvis rotating to the right or left, etc.) that warrant your attention.

However, just because you’re active and seeing more doesn’t mean you want or need to fix everything all at once!

#3 - Don’t Over Cue!

I see it time and again: A young coach really starts to open their eyes and they see all the movement issues with which our clients and athletes struggle. This is all fine and dandy, until you see them throwing 1,000 cues at their client on every set!

I would liken coaching to doing triage in an emergency room. Are you worried about the kids that come in with little scrapes and bruises, or are you worried about the one who might lose a limb? Which one do you treat first?

Think of coaching in that same vein; everything isn't equally important.

What you’ll inevitably find with more time and repetitions is that one or two little cues or tips will fix 80-90% of the issues with which a client is struggling.

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#4 - Level Them Off

One of my jobs as a coach is to help my clients and athletes train at an optimal level on each and every session they’re in the gym.

If you look at arousal when training, it’s a bell curve. If your energy and motivation is too low, you’re probably not going to have a great session.

On the other hand, if you just crushed five energy drinks, blasted Pantera the entire way to the gym, and just snorted an ammonia cap, chances are you’re a little bit too aroused to put in a solid effort as well.

As a coach, I need to help get an athlete where they need to be.

Energy is too low? Maybe they need a bit more encouragement, or their favorite music station cranked up a bit.

Arousal too high? Maybe we need to get them to bang out some good breaths, or find a few relaxation strategies to bring them down a notch or two.

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As a coach, make it your job to get your clients and athletes at the appropriate level of arousal for each and every training session. They’ll be more consistently successful, and less likely to burn out as a result.

#5 - Coach in Bullet Points

When new interns start coaching exercises, their coaching may sound like this:

“Jane that looks great! Now I really need you to get your air out, tuck your pelvis underneath you, blah blah blah....”

As a client, you’ve already tuned out. You’re getting too much information, all while trying to concentrate on and execute the movement!

Instead, as a coach, make it a goal to say as little as possible while still getting the execution you're seeking.

You may have to create some context (which is best done in-between sets), but try to coach in bullet points:

* Exhale,
* Abs tight (or even just ABS!),
* Tuck,
* Etc.

The shorter and more concise you make your coaching, the more likely your client is to be able to take that information and use it effectively.

Summary

As a coach, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. However, I’d also like to think those mistakes have absolutely made me a better coach.

Whether you’re a total newbie or a savvy vet, I hope these tips help you take your coaching to the next level!

If you're looking for a more extensive collection of coaching and programming tips, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Mike's new resource, Physical Preparation 101. It's on sale for $100 off through Saturday at midnight, and it has my highest endorsement. You can learn more HERE.

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15 Lessons on Physical Preparation – Installment 2

Written on June 4, 2015 at 5:58 am, by Eric Cressey

Today, Tim Geromini and I present the second half of our "notes" on Mike Robertson's new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101. In case you miss it, be sure to check out Installment 1. Here are eight more key takeaways:

8. Coach the heck out of the set-up.

It's very difficult to properly perform an exercise if you don't set up in the best position possible. If you watch Mike during the hands-on portion of this seminar, he is constantly adjusting the demonstrator until they are in the exact position he prefers. Often, your clients have the strength and mobility to perform exercises correctly, but are not in the best position to do so. It may only be a small tweak here or there, but subtle adjustments can make a huge difference. If it adds one minute on to your session, it's a minute worth paying for.

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9. Remember that clients are where they are right now.

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching can be to hold clients back when they really want to do more. I always prefer the clients who want to challenge themselves over the ones you have to convince to train harder. However, emphasizing quality over quantity isn’t always easy. Make sure you let the client know we are looking for quality reps.

10. You can have a template, but treat everybody as an individual.

Mike’s R7 approach is a template, but all clients are treated individually. Too often in the strength and conditioning industry we see cookie cutter programs that are a "one size fits all" approach. For instance, those with flat thoracic spines and an extended low back are treated the same as someone with significant kyphosis and flat lumbar spine. A template serves as an organized structure for which individuals can improve. Sure, everybody who trains at IFAST will have the R7 template as part of their program, but the exercises are tailored to each individual.

11. Be an efficient coach.

When you are working with a client, you should a) name the exercise, b) describe why they’re doing it, c) demonstrate the lift, and d) coach the lift. These can all be accomplished in under 20 seconds and makes all the difference. When a client knows why they are doing an exercise, they now have ownership of it. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time in the future if the client knows the name of each exercise so they don’t have to keep asking you.

Mike-Robertson

12. Coaching angles matter.

If you master the sagittal plane, the frontal and transverse planes are easier to coach. Make sure you coach from 90-degree angles; there is a lot you can miss if you aren’t in the best position to coach. The "90-degree rule" also tells us that there are times when two coaches (one front/back and one left/right) can get the coaching job done faster than just one.

13. Think of yourself as a doctor of exercise.

When you’re a qualified expert, people come to you because you’re the best. Now, this also takes into consideration the work you are willing to put in to improve your assessment and programming process. However, you should understand we are not just writing down numbers on a sheet of paper and hoping it'll work. You put in the time to learn the client’s movement patterns and compensations.

14. Remember that aerobic work has its place.

Cardiovascular health and parasympathetic dominance are important goals in any training (and recovery) program. People are far too sympathetic dominant, essentially in today’s upbeat world, where there is no "off" switch. Mike cites the equation of "Anaerobic threshold – resting heart rate = aerobic window." In other words (and quite obviously), the higher your resting heart rate, the greater your opportunity for improvements. In recent years, though, everyone seemed to want to just push the left side of the equation (anaerobic threshold) with loads of interval training.

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If you can widen the aerobic window, you’ve done a lot of good things for the client even beyond just cardiovascular health. High intensity anaerobic exercise is built from a low intensity aerobic foundation, so get your "easy" gains first. Over the long haul, when you are more resistant to fatigue, you can handle more volume and recover easier.

15. Make sure clients can keep the pelvis square as they load the hips.

The biggest benefit to split-stance and single-leg work is turning the right things on and turning the wrong things off. Most people look like wounded animals when performing single-leg work, but those who perform single-leg and split-stance exercises correctly are generally improving hip mobility and strength - and most importantly, doing so without compensation.

As a friendly reminder, Physical Preparation 101 is on sale for $100 off as an introductory sale this week, so don't miss out on this great opportunity to get an excellent new resource at a low price. You can learn more HERE.

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15 Lessons on Physical Preparation – Installment 1

Written on June 2, 2015 at 2:03 am, by Eric Cressey

With the recent release of Mike Robertson's DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, Cressey Sports Performance coach Tim Geromini and I put our heads together to highlight some of the key takeaways from this great new resource. We'll highlight seven today, and eight more in the next installment.

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1. Be specific and clear with your clients.

This may seem obvious, but it’s a huge point to hammer home. If you can’t communicate your message clearly to your client, they aren’t as likely to have success. Two of the things we like most about the Mike's R7 approach is it gives you, the coach, a great template to work from and it gives the clients a specific goal in mind. When you create a clear and specific goal for your clients, it’s much easier for them to buy in.

2. You need to be able to 100% justify everything you put in your programs.

When you write a program, there should be a reason for every exercise you put in. Not only does it hold you accountable as a coach, but its much easier for your clients to buy in when you have a specific reason for each exercise they’re doing. If you can’t justify it, you have no business putting it in their program.

3. When you’re in the gym, you want to be in a sympathetic state. When you’re out of the gym you want to be in a parasympathetic state.

Everything in your program should be geared towards balance. Recovery outside the gym means your clients are prepared to perform inside the gym. One of the best things to hear as a coach is a client telling you how much better they feel not only for their sport, but life in general. That could be a parent saying they have more energy to play with their kids or an athlete feeling healthy for the first time in years. Whether you choose to use positional breathing drills or foam rolling, training sessions aren’t complete unless there is some form of recovery before they leave.

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4. Strength helps you in everything you do.

If you want to get faster, strength will help you. If you want to get more powerful, strength will help you. If you want to lose body fat, strength will help you. One of the main things we hear as strength and conditioning coaches is, “I want to get faster and be more explosive.” While plyometric drills certainly have their place in programs (and we use them quite a bit at CSP), often, the client needs to gain strength first before they are able to express that speed and power.

5. There is value in low intensity work and high intensity work.

Low intensity work gets a bad rap and is usually thought of as just distance running. Producing energy for longer periods of time and keeping your heart rate in a set spot gives you a larger/stronger aerobic base from which you can build a foundation to produce an anaerobic performance. Prowler pushes, sleds marches, ropes, kettlebells, and a host of other modalities can work if implemented properly.

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6. The goal at the end of a training session should be to kickstart the recovery process.

To piggyback on point 3, the return to a parasympathetic state allows your body and mind to recover for not only your next session, but your daily life. If you never recovered from your last training session, why do you think your next one will be as good? An appropriate recovery protocol takes 2-3 minutes at most. At CSP, we'll often incorporate some low-key mobility drills, positional breathing, and foam rolling.

7. Be smarter with how you progress energy system development.

You wouldn’t load up a lift at 90% on day one if someone doesn’t have much of a training history, but everybody seems to do that with conditioning. Sure, it’s the sexy thing to have somebody gassed on day one, but that doesn’t necessarily set them up for success going forward. 40% is enough to yield gains with regards to strength training and the same holds to true for developing their aerobic base. Start on the lower end and build up.

If you're interested in learning more, Physical Preparation 101 is a 12-DVD set geared towards strength coaches and personal trainers, and it's on sale for an introductory $100 off discount through this Friday. Mike Robertson has been a trusted friend and colleague for over a decade, and I can guarantee you that you'll learn a lot from checking out his stuff.

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12 Ways to Know if You Should Include an Exercise in a Strength Training Program

Written on May 27, 2015 at 8:50 am, by Eric Cressey

At Cressey Sports Performance, whenever we're training a new staff member to write strength and conditioning programs, I always heavily emphasize the following point:

If you're going to put an exercise in a program, you need to be able to quickly and easily justify its inclusion.

Without a doubt, exercise selection is one of the most important programming variables one must take into account. To that end, there are many ways that one can determine whether an exercise belongs in a strength training program (or not) - and each justification begins with a question. Here are ten questions to get the ball rolling:

1. Can it be sufficiently loaded, or does it allow you to achieve a training effect with less loading?

If one is looking to purely gain muscle mass, then a side bridge row probably isn't a great choice, as it doesn't give rise to athletes using significant loading:

Conversely, if someone has a cranky forearm and needs to find a way to maintain an upper body training effect with less gripping demands, the side bridge row can be a great option.

2. Does it offer functional carryover to an individual's life or athletic endeavor?

A deadlift is easy to sell on this front. It trains individuals to have a strong hip hinge that they'll use regardless of whether they're picking a child up off the ground, or jumping to grab a rebound. Conversely, juggling dumbbells while standing on one leg on an unstable surface isn't going to provide you with much (if any) real-world carryover. Don't waste valuable training time on unproductive exercises.

3. Does the individual have the capacity to perform the movement?

This question applies to both the osteokinematics (gross movements - flexion, extension, etc. - of bones at joints) and arthrokinematics (subtle movements - rolling, rocking, gliding, etc. - of bones at joint surfaces). As examples:

a. An individual with femoroacetabular impingement (a bony block) at the hip may not be able to get into a deep squat position. This would be a limitation on the osteokinematic front (limited hip flexion and, likely, internal rotation).

b. An individual with poor rotator cuff control might not be able to limit the anterior gliding of the humeral head during an external rotation toss to wall. This would be a limitation on the arthrokinematic front (even if the drill might look good to the naked eye).

4. Will an individual have sufficient equipment to perform it?

I always get a kick out of looking at canned, mass marketed programs that include things like the safety squat bar, chains, and sleds. Most commercial gyms don't have these things; heck, a lot of gyms don't even have kettlebells or medicine balls. Learning about equipment access up-front if you're writing a program for someone who isn't in "your gym" is an important step to save time and hassle.

As an interesting aside, I've had a lot of positive feedback on the "exercise modifications" section of The High Performance Handbook. Basically, this helps individuals modify the program to work with their equipment limitations. Versatility is very important to gym-goers!

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5. Does it allow for sufficient time under tension to yield hypertrophy (muscle building) benefits?

If you want to put muscle mass on someone, you need to have some time under tension. For that reason, an exercise like a rotational row would be an inferior hypertrophy training option, even if it is great for training power in an athletic population.

6. Does it take a lot of set-up?

If the individual performing the program is crunched for time, exercises that take considerable set-up time are generally better left out of the program.

7. Does it fit in with where an individual stands in a regression-progression continuum?

If someone can't even squat to parallel with body weight without major compensations, then programming a back squat probably isn't a good idea.

Conversely, if someone is an elite Olympic lifter with an excellent squat - both in terms of patterning and loading - then telling them to do three sets of eight goblet squats probably won't offer much benefit.

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8. Will it provide a training effect without creating significant soreness?

Sometimes, we want to avoid creating soreness. A perfect example is in-season programming for athletes, where we might avoid drills with a significant eccentric component, instead programming things like step-ups, deadlifts from the floor, and sled pushing/dragging. At other points in the year, it might be fine to have post-exercise soreness, so our exercise pool expands significantly.

9. Does it build "good stiffness" or reduce "bad stiffness?"

As we know, quality movement is a balance of mobility and stability. You need range of motion, but stability within that range of motion. Likewise, you need some rigidity, but not so much as to not allow for fluid movements. Every exercise should help you to find that "balance" in some way. For instance, look at the reverse crunch, which builds "good" stiffness in the anterior core (particularly external obliques) while reducing stiffness in the lats and lumbar erectors.

10. Will it allow an individual to train around an injury?

I'll admit: there are some exercises that I almost never use unless when we have an athlete who is on crutches, in a sling, or dealing with some other type of injury. When someone is hurt and wants to maintain a training effect without exacerbating an injury, you have to get creative.

11. Can it be used to train power?

Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses are all exercises that can be utilized to train power. Conversely, good luck trying to turn a chin-up into a power training exercise without blowing out a shoulder or elbow. An overhead medicine ball stomp would be a much better option for challenging high velocity shoulder extension.

12. Does an individual love or hate it?

Some people love certain exercises because they're good at performing them. In most cases, to make long-term progress, they need to emotionally separate themselves from those exercises a bit so that they can devote extra effort and training volume to bring up their weaknesses.

Conversely, in beginners who aren't completely "sold" on lifting weights, it's okay to use a favorite exercise to help deliver a message. I can't tell you how many women we've had over the years who love to trap bar or sumo deadlift in their initial months of training - and they actually request it in their new programs. If seeing a particular exercise in a program gets a new client fired up to put in extra effort and stay adherent, I'm all for meeting them halfway by including it.

Wrap-up

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of considerations one must take into account on the exercise selection front, but it's a good place to start. In the comments section below, I'd love to hear your thoughts on other things you take into account.

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