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4 Business Lessons I’ve Learned from Clients

Written on June 18, 2014 at 6:28 am, by Eric Cressey

Several months ago, my business partner, Pete, pulled together a guest article on how training clients often have some amazing stories to tell if you're just willing to listen. You can read it HERE. That said, after the article was published, we received quite a few inquiries from folks asking for more fitness business themed articles here at EricCressey.com. To that end, I thought I'd pull together one today - and it features the top four business lessons I've learned from clients.

Lesson #1: You don't have to be first, but definitely don't be last.

Back in my first few years of personal training, I would train the same client Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6am. He loved to talk business, and we often wound up on the topic of investing. One day, he made a comment on how he'd purchased quite a bit of stock in True Religion (a jeans company) for a few bucks in 2004 - only to see it jump to almost $25/share in less than a year.

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Now, he certainly was no "jeans connoisseur," nor would he ever imagine even spending several hundred dollars on a pair of jeans. Hence, he wasn't the first one to jump on board the designer jeans bandwagon. Nonetheless, he was bright enough to recognize a good thing early on, and act on his instinct.

Not surprisingly, he did something very comparable with his own business, which involved high-end car detailing work. He wasn't the first one to do it, but he certainly wasn't late to the game - and he did it better than anyone else in his area.

Years later, I saw parallels in what we did with strength and conditioning for baseball players. We weren't the first people to train baseball players, but we did see recognize it as a remarkably underserved population - and were able to improve on a lot of the significant flaws we saw in other programs around the country.

Lesson #2: Your customers hire and fire you every day.

We're very fortunate to have a great landlord, and he's the one who first dropped this line on me. The fact that he recognizes it is likely the reason why he has been an awesome landlord, too.

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It's not good enough to be on top of things 3-4 days a week, but then useless on the other ones. Sadly, you see this all the time in the world of athletics; athletes can tell you when their coaches are in bad moods, and that absolutely shouldn't be the case. Being successful as a coach and business owner is all about delivering a consistently high-quality product, and you can't do that if you're moody or unresponsive. In fact, one of the first things we look at in bringing on interns and staff members is whether or not they're unconditionally positive. If you can't put on a happy face and get the job done even when things aren't going well for you, then you won't go far in any profession.

Lesson #3: Clients probably appreciate you for reasons you don't expect.

As part of our work with professional baseball players, we deal with quite a few agents. In fact, in many cases, these agents are also the ones referring the players to us in the first place. Last year, I was having a conversation with one of them, and he mentioned in passing something that surprised me: "The thing I appreciate about you guys the most is your accessibility."

I was really surprised, as I'd always assumed that folks appreciated our baseball-specific expertise first and foremost. And, while this is certainly important, me returning phone calls, emails, and text messages promptly was the most important thing to him. It makes sense; if I'm delayed in getting back to him, then he's delayed in getting back to his client, which makes him look bad.

Chances are that your clients don't care that you can name all 17 muscles that attach to the scapula, or that you just bought another safety squat bar for your gym. There are likely reasons they keep coming back of which you're not aware. If you put some thought into it, you might just find ways to improve your business by catering to these factors more. As an example, we knew athletes loved the sense of family and community at our facility, so we added a lounge with a TV, couch, ping pong table, and counter for eating in our new facility in 2012.

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Lesson #4: People who neglect their health generally struggle in other facets of their lives as well.

Early in my training career, I had a client who was approximately 120 pounds overweight - and he would always show up late for training sessions. It's one thing for a "normal" client to show up a bit late for a session, but when you're dealing with a severely obese client who is a legitimate risk for a heart attack, you can't just skip the warm-up and cool-down. In other words, his 60-minute session quickly became one where we could only get in 15-20 minutes of quality work.

Why was he always late? He had just started a business. And, just like he lost absolutely no weight in spite of having a trainer twice a week, his company also went out of business. Of course, I make this observation in hindsight, and I certainly wasn't cheering against him - but I do think it taught me an important lesson.

Youth and high school athletics teach kids about time management, teamwork, leadership, punctuality, professionalism, decision-making, and a host of other key success qualities. I firmly believe that many of these qualities are constantly "reaffirmed" in adult fitness programs; if you consistently show up and execute on the objectives you've set forth, you'll get closer to your goals. With each new training session and healthy meal, you're "grooving" these qualities more and more in your brain. 

Conversely, if it's okay to be late for a training session (or skip it altogether), who is to say that it won't eventually be okay to do it for an important business meeting? And, if it's okay to waste money on personal training sessions you won't use, who is to say that you won't waste money on silly expenditures with your business? And, if you're okay consistently bombarding your body with unhealthy food choices, who is to say that you won't be consistently adding "bad apples" to your staff?

Obviously, the last paragraph takes some leaps of faith, but I think that it's very safe to say that most people who are what we might consider "good decision makers" generally do so in all aspects of their lives. The reason they do so is because - whether they recognize it or not - they follow specific reasoning processes to arrive at those decisions. In their outstanding book, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Health cover the decision-making process in a great amount of detail; I'd highly recommend it, if you haven't read it already. 

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What I think it particularly interesting is the book's subtitle: "How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work." There aren't separate books for "life" and "work" because good decision-making shares common traits across multiple disciplines.

Closing Thoughts

I've surely learned far more lessons from my clients than I could ever squeeze into a single post, but these are four that popped to mind when I sat down to type this morning. To that end, in the comments section below, I'd love to hear about the lessons you've learned from clients and athletes in your training career.

And, if you're looking for more insights for starting up a successful fitness business, I'd encourage you to check out The Fitness Business Blueprint.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/16/14

Written on June 16, 2014 at 4:42 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time to kick off the week with a collection of recommended reading. This week, we've got a "squat technique" theme:

Short Topic: There's a Squatting Controversy? Seriously? - This was a quick blog from Bill Hartman, but it poses a question that a lot of people probably haven't considered.

How Deep Should I Squat? - Cressey Performance co-founder Tony Gentilcore takes a closer look at what may limit squat depth - and how to fix it.

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To Squat or Not to Squat? - I wrote this article back in 2009, but the recommendations still hold water.

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4 Strategies for Effective Group Coaching

Written on June 12, 2014 at 6:20 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.  In addition to his "normal" strength and conditioning coaching duties, Greg also heads up our bootcamps.

Training larger groups of people, or athletic teams, often gets a bad rap. Quickly identifying the downfalls, many of us never explore the intangibles that make group training great.

For example, large groups foster all kinds of natural qualities between people. If you don’t see the overwhelming value in developing camaraderie, loyalty, accountability, and – dare I say, family – you’re missing a large part of what it means to make people feel and perform better.

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There are two sides to every coin, and group training certainly falls short in some respects, for some individuals. However, I challenge you to reevaluate how you view the relationship between the group setting and the athlete or client.

Is group training a suboptimal format for training, or are certain people in a suboptimal position to undergo group training?

I would argue the latter.

Furthermore, if you are in disagreement with my assessment, maybe the question is this: if a person is willing and able to train under the obvious constraints of group training (my perspective being that they do not need individual attention and are mentally capable of embracing a social environment) then is it still the case that group training is a suboptimal format? Or, is it that the group training format on which you’ve shaped your opinion to needs to be elevated? In other words, how can we make the group training experience better?

Below, as a good place to start, I have compiled four strategies I use to optimize group training. Quick and easy, you can apply these right away and use them as reference. Enjoy!

1. Effective organization

Organization of a group training session is paramount to its success. If the sessions are clearly thought out, they leave little room for the chaos that often ensues in the mass organization of people.

Start with this concept: “format must fit focus.”

If you read my material, you know I like to have a clearly defined purpose in everything I do. That’s where you begin. What is the focus for your training session? Are you trying to teach new movements, build work capacity, dial in technique, or something else? Sure, these qualities all overlap to some degree, but you need to have an overarching rationale for the day’s training.

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With that in mind, the format you choose for the training session should allow you to carry out that goal most advantageously. For example, you won’t have much success teaching someone a complicated new movement when they have 30 seconds to perform it. Instead, you’re better off using a format that allows people to stay with a movement long enough to receive repeated exposure to it – so think out the training parameters. Are intervals the right choice, or is something more along the lines of a workshop or open gym type organization a better approach?

Lastly, how does the session flow through the training space? Do people have to bounce around from one side of the gym floor to the other, or is it very easy to move around? Set up the training session to be ridiculously easy to follow. That means you have to consider where the equipment is, and where people will be at all times.

2. Command presence

Not everyone may be cut out to coach large groups of people. In order to do so effectively, you have to have to do two things, be in charge and communicate clearly. You don’t need to be loud and boisterous, but you can be. I, for one, am not the type to yell; in fact, I rarely raise my voice. That being said, I have had plenty of new group members tell me they were referred by “so and so,” who says I am a “drill sergeant” and whooping their butt into gear. To me, that’s perfect; I’m not being overbearing, but I am fostering an environment in which I am clearly in charge of what we are doing.

In order to be in charge, you need to be prepared, and you need to be heard. Being prepared is simply a question of taking the time to assess the variables and act accordingly. Being heard is about doing what is necessary to deliver a unified message to many individuals at once. That transitions nicely to our final two bulletpoints.

3. Develop context

Context is everything when you want people to learn something. Essentially, we learn by comparing something foreign to us to something we already know (Eric wrote about this in a similar context here). Therefore, the more context you can create, the easier it will be for people to make connections, especially in the faster pace of a group setting.

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The first place to develop context is by actually getting to know the people you are instructing. Obviously, we need to know as much as possible about a person’s physical development. Doing so means we can choose wisely from movement and load selection standpoints. However, you cannot overlook getting to know who the person “is” as well. What do they do for work? What sports do they play? This information is gold when it comes to teaching them, as you can appreciate their point of view and help them view the challenge through their perspective.

Context can also be created. You can create context by introducing new movements and concepts slowly and well before they will be applied in a more intense fashion via training. My favorite time to do this is the warm-up. Use your warm ups to test the waters with different movements, as well as to introduce subtle cues to which they can relate later on. A simple glute bridge develops context for someone when you’re quickly instructing him or her to engage the glutes on a deadlift lockout, for example. These subtle cues can also be individualized, and triggered by general cues later on, as per my final point…

4. Create individual focus points

Recently, I attended a fantastic seminar with Nick Winkelman, and my mind was blown with the quality information he was presenting. In many instances, hearing him explain how he coaches helped me realize what I was doing well, not only what I could do better. This was very much the case in regard to developing individual focus points.

Developing individual focus points is HOW YOU PERSONALIZE GROUP TRAINING!

Pull someone aside and show him or her something they need to focus on, and then you can cue the entire group and have each member respond in their own way; that, my friend, will change the game completely. For example, one individual may need to work on better abdominal bracing to keep the spine neutral, while another person may need to create more upper back tension to not lose positioning. Pull them aside, help show them what “right” feels like and explain to them that when they hear “brace,” that is what they should be thinking. When you approach things this way, you can say one single word and have two people doing completely different things. It’s up to you to be creative with how you cue, but if you develop individual focus points, you will have people flourish in a group setting.

In closing, I challenge you to do two things. First, think about whether or not incorporating some group training might be a good idea for your approach. I think it’s a valuable tool that teaches people to be accountable to each other and boosts the sense of community. Second, if you have reservations on the quality of the training with group training, challenge yourself to deliver a better product to those who meet the criteria to participate by using some of the strategies above.

If you're looking to learn more about bootcamps at Cressey Performance, you can check us out on Facebook.

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Should You Wear Olympic Lifting Shoes?

Written on June 3, 2014 at 3:13 am, by Eric Cressey

I received the following question the other day, and thought it'd make for a good Q&A to post here. Enjoy!

Q: I was hoping to get your thoughts on whether or not I should incorporate Olympic lifting shoes with my training. I tried them out the other day, and they helped me to squat pretty deep, which is pretty significant, as I've always struggled to even make it to parallel without the "butt-wink" happening. Would you recommend I make them a part of my training so that I can get the benefits of squatting?

A: This is a great question; unfortunately, it's not a simple answer - so bear with me!

First and foremost, if you're an Olympic lifter, by all means, wear Olympic lifting shoes. It's how you compete and specificity is important. And, as we know, competing at the highest level of athletics always suggests an element of assuming a greater risk to achieve a greater reward - at least as compared to "simply" training.

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If, however, you're an athlete in a different sport - or just a general fitness enthusiast - I don't think they're necessary. And, they may even be problematic if long-term improvements to your movement quality and health are goals of yours.  I'll explain - but first, we need to understand the two primary reasons folks wear them.

First, there is the firmness factor. O-lifting shoes have a very solid heel without "give;" this makes them a better platform against which to produce force, as compared to normal sneakers. This firmness isn't exclusive to O-lifting shoes; you'll also find it in some minimalist shoes, Chuck Taylors, or no shoes at all. Most powerlifters know this, and it's why they generally lift in "firm" footwear that allows better heel contact with the floor.  This leads us to point #2...

There is a prominent heel-lift in these shoes. I've seen heel lifts ranging from everything from a 0.5 to 1.25 inches. In the sneaker world, however, everything is generally related in terms of heel-toe drop, or % grade.  For a long time, the standard running shoe was a 12mm heel-toe drop from 24mm (heel) to 12mm (toe), which creates a 8% grade. The tricky part about interpreting what this means in the context of Olympic lifting shoes is that I can't say that I've ever seen anyone list the height of the toe, so we don't really know the grade. The 0.5 inch lifts are surely pretty moderate, as 0.5 inches equates to 12.7mm, whereas the 1.25 inch ones would be 31.75mm, which is actually in excess of what you see with the much maligned Nike Shox (25mm).

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This obviously leads to the question, why isn't a firm shoe alone sufficient? What's the rationale for the massive heel lift? Effectively, it's a crutch that helps lifters with mobility or stability deficits reach squat depth easier.

To squat deep, you need to be proficient on a number of fronts, the foremost of which are:

1. You must have sufficient dorsiflexion range of motion (knee over toe ankle mobility).

2. You have to have sufficient hip internal rotation (can be limited by muscular, capsular, alignment, or bony issues).

3. You have to have sufficient hip flexion (can be limited by muscular, capsular, alignment, or bony issues; this typically isn't much of a problem).

4. You have to have adequate knee flexion (this is rarely an issue; you'd need to have brutally short quads to have an issue here).

5. You need to have adequate core control - specifically anterior core control - to be able to appropriately position the pelvis and lumbar spine. This is especially true if we're talking about an overhead squat, as it's harder to resist extension with the arms overhead.

If you lack ankle mobility, you either turn the feet out, go up on your toes, or rely on the crutch that a heel lift provides.  By elevating the heel, rather than going from neutral to dorsiflexion, you are going from plantarflexed to neutral.  Effectively, it brings you a few yards behind the starting line so that you don't false start, if that makes sense (if it doesn't, don't worry; I'll have more on this in the video below).

If you lack hip internal rotation, you turn the toes out so that you're internally rotating from an externally rotated position to neutral, as opposed to going from neutral to an internally rotated position.

I think that we all agree that these positional changes allow you to make up for a lack of mobility - but that doesn't mean they're necessary a good thing, as you're effectively loading an aberrant movement pattern. As Gray Cook has taught us, if you continue to pile fitness (strength) on top of dysfunction, bad things happen.

As you may have noticed, I've left out proficiency #5 from above: you have to have adequate anterior core control.  And, it's because I've saved the best for last; this is a HUGE issue.

I'm going to let the cat out of the bag and say that I think we've "over-diagnosed" ankle mobility restrictions. Most people automatically assume that if they have a poor squat pattern, it's because they have an ankle mobility problem. I'd estimate that in 90% of cases of people who think their ankle mobility stinks based on a bad squat pattern, they actually test pretty well when you look specifically at the joint, as opposed to relying solely on a gross movement pattern.  Why?  There is a tremendous interaction between mobility and stability. In this video, I elaborate:

As further proof of the fact that different athletes will demonstrate their patterns of insufficient control of extension differently, check out these four posture pictures of athletes who had poor squat patterns. In the first, you'll find a pretty "classic" extension posture that's distributed over multiple joints. Note the anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis, plus the relatively neutral knee and ankle positions.

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In the second, note the plantarflexed ankles; this athlete has shifted his "extension compensation" further down. Do you think he'll have much of a squat pattern with that resting presentation? He might have perfectly good ankle mobility, but he's completely unable to shut off his plantarflexors (calves); that's where he's "finding" his stability.

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In this third example, the athlete has dumped forward at the pelvis and lumbar spine to create what could be considered a swayback posture - even though his ankles actually look pretty neutral.

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Finally, we'll look more full-body for our fourth example. Obviously, this athlete is in a heavily extended pattern through the pelvis and lumbar spine, but note also the positioning of the arms; his lats are so "on" that he carries his elbow considerably behind his humeral head, and the scapula dives into anterior tilt. There's a forward head posture, and while you can't appreciate it well from this angle, this athlete also had a ton of "tone" in his scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and subclavius. He found his stability further up the chain.

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Every single one of these out-of-whack presentations is a way for the athletes to shift their faulty movement patterns around to "get by." Athletes are tremendous compensators - but they all do it differently. I think we can all agree that these are issues that should be addressed, right? Well, they were - and the athletes felt a lot better from the training interventions.

How does this relate back to Olympic lifting shoes, though?  Well, every single one of these athletes could demonstrate a perfect squat pattern if I put them in a pair of shoes with this dramatic a heel lift. It's like giving the most uncoordinated kid in the neighborhood training wheels...for good. At some point, you've got to lose the training wheels and learn to ride the bike. And, at some point you need to stop covering up your poor movement patterns and work to address them - rather than just loading them - if you want to stay healthy.

To me, squatting with a pronounced heel lift is really no different than squatting through a "butt-wink;" they are both compensations to allow a lifter to maintain the position of the center of mass within the base of support in the face of a gross extension pattern. Both fundamentally alter the ideal squat pattern, though. Conversely, if you use goblet squat or TRX overhead squats to train the pattern with a subtle counterbalance, though, you're keeping the movement intact, but reducing the challenge to the lifter.

In folks who have really poor squat patterns, I'd much rather see them work to improve the squat pattern for a bit, as opposed to considerable loading of the classic back squat. While they're working on improving the pattern (through these exercises and other breathing and core stabilization drills), they can train the heck out of the lower body with deadlift variations, single-leg drills, barbell supine bridges/hip thrusts, sled pushing/dragging, and a host of other exercises.  Once their squat pattern has improved, progressing to a front squat is a great first step, with the back squat coming a bit later on.

With all that said, before I get any hate emails, let me be abundantly clear: if you move well (i.e., have a good squat pattern to below parallel in bare feet), then by all means, feel free to use Olympic lifting shoes for your squatting and Olympic lifting, if it tickles your fancy. After all, it's only 5-10% of your training volume, most likely. Just make sure to a) only wear them for these exercises, b) maintain the underlying "heel-less" squat pattern, and c) pick the shoes with the smaller heel lift (0.5" instead of 1.25"). You might also consider wearing more minimalist footwear for the rest of your training sessions to "cancel" the O-lifting shoes out. And, again, if you're a competitive Olympic lifter, please feel free to rock whatever you want - and crush big weights doing so.

If, however, you're an athlete in another sport who uses squatting and Olympic lifting as part of your training, I don't think it's a useful addition. And, it's certainly not an appropriate initiative if you are just someone who is looking for a way to work around your poor mobility. Ignoring a fundamental movement flaw - and certainly loading it - will always come back to bite you in the butt.

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Holistic Farming: A Wholesome Choice

Written on May 29, 2014 at 5:48 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been a while since we featured a nutrition post, so today, Cressey Performance Coach Andrew Zomberg takes the baton and brings nutrition back to the forefront. Enjoy! - EC

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From a production standpoint, most farms focus on maximization. Big farms. Big concrete barns. Lots of cows. Lots of food. But this mentality only sees profit and neglects the economic, social, and environmental realities of these decisions. Fortunately, some farmers recognize the need to change and sustain our ecosystems.

I have the pleasure of buying a lot of my meat from Steve Normanton. A farmer since the ripe age of 8, Steve learned the livestock trade in South Africa and recently established himself as a full-time farmer in Litchfield, NH. His holistic farming system mirrors nature in a way that builds fertility in the soil, treats the animals humanely, and produces healthy food. He takes the focus away from yield maximization and puts it towards input optimization.

According to Holistic Management International, holistic farming is a whole planning system that helps farmers better manage agricultural resources in order to reap sustainable environmental, economic, and social benefits. This practice allows farmers to guide the relationships between plants, soil, livestock, people, and water in ways that mimic nature, while addressing the financial aspects of these unique elements. “The concept of holistic management takes into account the well being of everything involved,” says Steve. “It is not just about end product because in order to get this end product, you must better the whole.”

The term “organic” is such a buzzword, so I questioned the difference between organic farming and holistic farming. Apparently, while “organic” is a great place to start, it only refers to the end product, or the food we put into our mouths.

“Take organic dairy,” Steve suggests. “Sure, it is organic because the feed that the cows eat is organic. But cows are not designed to consume loads of grain. The grain (which fattens the cattle) turns a cow’s stomach very acidic. This toxic environment manifests super e-coli, which humans cannot tolerate.” Cows are meant to roam free and eat grass, and Steve Normanton Farm values this, allowing animals to exist they way they should.

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Holistic planning not only respects the animals, but uses their natural tendencies to keep land healthy and productive. For example, pigs are not thrown in concrete barns. They graze freely to root their nutrients, receiving 70% of their diet from underground. This nurtures biologically active soil (loaded with carbon and other organic matter) that attracts all that’s good, including water molecules. This increases the grazing capacity for the livestock and reduces the impact of erosion on the farm.

“If the soil is healthy, the grasses are healthy and we are providing better food for the animals” says Steve. “And remember, we are at the end of the food chain, so healthier animals means healthier food for us.”

Why am I writing this article? As a nutrition enthusiast, I encourage people to make the healthiest choices. Holistic farms nurture their soils and grasses for the welfare of their animals to produce high-quality, nutrient-dense food, which:

• Has a high concentration of beneficial fatty acids and a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s in beef that feed on grass is 7% of the “total fat” content)
• Is lower in total fat – especially saturated fat; leaner meat leads to lower LDL levels and lower in total energy (calories)
• Comprised of many micronutrients including: beta-carotene and Vitamin E (antioxidants), B-vitamins (thiamin & riboflavin) and minerals: calcium, magnesium and potassium (electrolytes)
• Has high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA, a fat found in meat & milk)

Further, the animals themselves are healthier, demanding less (if any) antibiotic treatment. They have minimal risk of contamination from dangerous bacteria because they aren’t confined in tight, crowded conditions. And most importantly, the animals are raised without added hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. (Exposure to chemicals and pesticides increases our chances of suffering from metabolic conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, autoimmune disorders, and more).

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The choice to buy from holistic farms is also economically smart. The dollar stays in our community and contributes to the growth and stability of the American economy. And sure, short-term, holistic management yields healthy food. But long-term, these farms enhance the biological diversity and productivity of our land. When we buy from these farms, we help mirror the way nature functions, sustaining the environment that sustains us all.

Food is always at our fingertips. But as consumers, we can help move away from conventional thinking and our way of eating and understand the situation. So next time you need to stock up your refrigerator, I encourage you to make decisions that feed your body right as well as emulate the way nature functions to ensure that our future is truly sustainable over time.

You can learn more about Steve and his farm at http://stevenormanton.com. For holistic farms in your area, visit http://www.eatwild.com.

Looking for more nutrition insight like these?  Be sure to check out The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide by Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition; it's available as part of the gold package of this resource.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/27/14

Written on May 27, 2014 at 6:16 am, by Eric Cressey

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

2014 University of Texas Commencement Address - I thought this speech by Naval Admiral William McRaven was absolutely awesome.  Don't be surprised if it's the best 20 minutes of your day.

Bulletproof Athlete - Mike Robertson's popular program is on sale this week at a great $50 discount. As I wrote here, I think this is an outstanding resource, particularly for beginners who need some excellent direction to kick off their training careers on the right foot.

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Calories: Should You Be Counting? - This was an excellent piece from Dani Shugart at T-Nation on a controversial topic where the appropriate answer is a bit different for everyone. 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/20/14

Written on May 20, 2014 at 7:16 am, by Eric Cressey

I've recharged the batteries after last week's product launch, so it's time to kick this week of with some recommended reading:

Lateralizations and Regressions - This is the new DVD set from Charlie Weingroff.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through it and enjoying it.  If you liked Charlie's first DVD set, you'll enjoy this one as well. Charlie does a great job of bridging the gap between rehab and high performance, so this is a solid resource for strength and conditioning professionals and rehabilitation specialists alike.

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4 Ways to Fire Up Work Capacity - There has never, ever been a Dan John article that wasn't worth reading. It's like when you were little and your grandfather told you a bedtime story, except Dan's not that old yet, and he's way more jacked than your grandfather (no offense, Grandpa). Always entertaining, and always educational and readily applicable.

CP Client Spotlight: Jake Sprague - This is a feature on one of my favorite Cressey Performance clients, who's been with us during his professional rugby career and beyond.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/12/14

Written on May 12, 2014 at 2:37 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 publish a webinar - 5 Important Lower Body Functional Anatomy Considerations - as well as two exercise demonstration videos and an article. The rest of the ETM crew kicks in some awesome content as well. If you haven't checked out Elite Training Mentorship, you're missing out on a super affordable way to stay on top of continuing education in the fitness industry - and so so very affordably.

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Is Bulletproof Coffee all it's cracked up to be? - As usual, the good folks at Precision Nutrition take a solid, unbiased look at a popular nutrition approach.  Before you try Bulletproof Coffee, be sure to give this a read.

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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Women Make With Their Training Programs

Written on April 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, who just released their first product, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training. -EC

Molly headshot

Over the last several years I’ve interacted with thousands of women – at the gym I co-founded, through the internet, and through my online coaching programs – and you know what I’ve found? Most women who are seeking training advice just want to look better and feel better, and not have to live in the gym.

So why is this so hard for them to accomplish? Why can’t they get the results they want when they are willing to work so hard?

Simple. Most of them are making one or more of these five mistakes.

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong training modality.

If left to their own devices, women often gravitate towards cardio-heavy activities like running or kickboxing, and shy away from pure strength training. While there is nothing wrong with doing cardio, (especially if you enjoy it), there are numerous benefits to strength training for women.

Not only will strength training help you improve your posture and increase your bone density, but you’ll add muscle mass, which is metabolically expensive (read: burns more calories), making it easier for you to lose body fat. Not to mention, getting stronger is incredible for boosting your self-confidence.

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Mistake #2: Not following a well-designed program.

As I mentioned above, strength training is critical for women. But you know what?

It’s not enough. A proper training program has balance.

I say it all the time: you can’t just run, you can’t just stretch, you can’t just lift – you have to have a combination of several things for a well-rounded training program. So what does a solid training program consist of?

  • Breathing – I like to incorporate breathing with a hard exhale at the beginning of the workout to help get the “core firing” and teach clients to blow out all of their air and get their ribs down. I also like to include silent, nasal breathing at the end of the workout to help clients calm down and switch to a more parasympathetic rest-and-digest state to help jump-start recovery.
  • Soft Tissue Work – I usually use a foam roller for soft tissue work, but you can use a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, stick, PVC pipe, tiger tail, Theracane, or whatever you’d like. Spending a few minutes before each training session doing soft tissue work can increase blood flow to the area, send a signal to the brain to relax that muscle a bit, and give you a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself to get into “training mode.
  • Dynamic Warm-Up – This is generally a series of 6-12 exercises designed to prepare you for your workout. For most people, it includes some basic hip and thoracic mobility drills, some glute activation drills, and some core stability exercises. These exercise can go a long way in improving your overall movement quality.
  • Strength Training – The training routine will vary based on the training age and ability level of the trainee, but it will include variations of the following movement patterns: squat, hinge, push, and pull, along with resisting rotation, extension, and lateral flexion with your core. It will also include single-leg and split-stance work.
  • Energy Systems Training (aka “cardio”) – The amount and type of energy systems training that should be included in a program is very dependent on goals, and amount of time available to train. I like using a mix of both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate intensity cardio.

While many fitness professional demonize moderate intensity cardio, I actually like including a couple of sessions a week to build and maintain a solid aerobic base which will help clients recover quicker between exercises within a workout, and between workouts so they can approach each session fresh and ready to train. That being said, if a client has limited time to train, I usually limit these sessions to an hour a week or less.

If your program is missing any one of these critical components, you’re going to be missing out on maximum results as well.

Mistake #3: Not lifting heavy enough.

Back in 2002 or 2003 – before I knew anything about strength training – I’d go to the gym and spend 60 minutes on the treadmill, and then walk over to the free weights and grab 5-10 lb. dumbbells and go to town.

I would do a little of this (lateral raises) and then a little of that (biceps curls) and then I’d try to slyly copy what someone was doing that looked really cool: Arnold Presses! Yes! I needed Arnold Presses in my life!

And, it’s safe to say that I got just about nowhere. My body didn’t change, and I didn’t notice any increases in my strength levels whatsoever. But…but…but…I was lifting weights! And I was consistent! Why didn’t I see results?

Because I wasn’t lifting heavy enough.

Keep in mind that “heavy enough” is all relative. If you are a beginner to strength training, using just your own body weight will be plenty “heavy” in the beginning, and as you get stronger you can work on adding external load to your training program.

Trap Bar Deadlift - Midpoint (Front View)

You simply need to make sure that you’re always challenging yourself so that your body has to consistently adapt to keep up with the increasing demands you are placing on it. This is how you make progress in strength, performance, and body composition.

Mistake #4: Not resting long enough in between exercises.

Almost every time a new client receives their first training program from me, I get the same question:

Client: “What do I do during my rest periods?”

Me: “You rest.”

While there is undoubtedly a time and a place to do consecutive strength training movements back-to-back with minimal rest in between sets, during your pure strength program is generally not it – at least not with the bigger movements, anyway.

Taking time to rest appropriately between exercises allows your muscles to recover almost fully, so that you can perform quality reps of each exercise with the heaviest load your body can handle for the given set and rep recommendation.

For bigger compound movements that are placed at the beginning of your workout, you want more rest (generally 2 – 4 minutes). In contrast, you can typically get away with 30–90 seconds between sets of accessory movements, especially if they are paired with other exercises.

Mistake #5. Not doing a thorough warm-up.

This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see not just women, but everyone, make in the gym. Most people walk in, go right to the machine or free weights that they plan on using, pick up their working weight, and get after it. If they’re really “in-the-know,” they might walk on the treadmill for five minutes to warm-up. Yikes.

I already gave you a little information of what a good dynamic warm-up consists of above, but let me give you some of the benefits. Not only does it increase blood flow to muscles, increase your core temperature and get your body prepared for your workout – but it’s fantastic for improving body awareness and increase your mind-muscle connection. This can help re-teach your body how to perform certain movement patterns using the correct muscle groups and allow for more effective and safe workouts.

Rockback Diaphragmatic Breathing

There you have it. The five biggest mistakes women make when it comes to their training programs – and how they can be fixed.

You know what’s even better than being told how to fix them, though? A program available that addresses them all for you!

Introducing The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training – a comprehensive guide that helps women from beginner all the way to high-level intermediate reach their goals of getting leaner, stronger, and more confident, while spending minimal time in the gym. We’ve worked with thousands of women and we know exactly what it takes to get the best results with the least amount of time and effort, and we are so excited to share it with you. It's on sale at a big introductory discount now; click here to learn more.

TMWGTST manual cover-1

About the Author

Molly Galbraith is co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, a movement dedicated to helping women improve their physical strength, mental strength, and strength of character through strength training. She is also co-founder J&M Strength and Conditioning, a private studio gym in Lexington, Kentucky. No stranger to the gym herself, Molly has competed in figure and dabbled in powerlifting; her best lifts include a 275-lb. squat, a 165-lb. bench press, and a 341-lb. deadlift.

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Emotional Detachment for Training Success

Written on April 29, 2014 at 3:38 am, by Eric Cressey

About eight years ago, I had a defining moment in my career during a training session. Twice a week, I would train two guys who had been wildly successful in their careers – to the point that they’d both been able to retire in their early 40s. It was an absolute blast to work with them, as they were both huge sports fans and would constantly bust one another’s chops during training sessions. One day, one of them finished up his set of Prowler pushes, and remained “slumped” over the Prowler for 20 seconds or so, working to catch his breath.

prowler

Once he regained it, he looked up at me and said, “You know, Eric, I’m really just doing this so that I can drink beer and eat pizza during Patriots games and not feel guilty.”

It was a big eye opener for me to realize that my fitness goals for him were a lot loftier than his goals for himself. Sure, we trained in a safe and effective manner and he got great results, but was I really doing all I could do to make exercise actually seem fun for him?

I think we take for granted how much we, as fitness professionals, love to train. We convince ourselves that clients don’t mind eating out of Tupperware every two hours. And, we assume that heavy deadlifts get these clients so excited that they have erections lasting more than four hours. Sorry, but most people just don’t look forward to exercise – or enjoy it during the sessions – as much as us fitness lunatics do.

Here is where we learn one of the most important lessons in terms of improving client adherence, retention, and long-term success:

   You need to be emotionally attached to your clients,
        but emotionally detached from a training style.

With respect to the former point, you should go out of your way to make clients know that you genuinely care about them and want to help them get to where they need to be. They really should be like extended members of your family. Heck, there have been times in my life when I’ve spent more hours with certain clients in a given week than I have with my own wife! Don’t neglect the importance of being a friend before you become a coach or trainer.

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On the other hand, though, you must emotionally detach yourself from a training system. We know that in our own training, we sometimes have to do things we don't enjoy in order to make progress; we have to emotionally detach ourselves from the exercises we enjoy. This also applies with how we manage clients, but in the opposite direction.

In other words, just because you love Powerlifting doesn’t mean a client will always want to lift heavy. Just because you enjoy broccoli doesn’t mean that a client won’t abhor the stench of it. Just because you think it’d be cool to drop $10,000 on a souped-up leg press doesn’t mean that it’ll over any benefit whatsoever for your clients. And, just because you feel like you look good in a tight-fitting sleeveless shirt doesn’t mean that potential clients won’t joke with each other than you look like a raging, self-consumed tool. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Candidly, I think this is one reason why Crossfit has gained popularity so fast. Effectively, it allows people to “ride several horses with one saddle” with their training. If there is one part of training (e.g., heavy lifting) that they don’t like, there is something else (e.g., metabolic conditioning, gymnastics movements, Olympic lifts) that might get them fired up. Add in great camaraderie – which makes clients feel the emotional attachment to people and not just a system – and you’ve got a recipe for a successful training business.

At the end of the day, what's the takehome message?  Be a good person, and be open-minded to new ways to evaluate, program, and coach. If you're looking for a tremendous resource to help you in this regard, I'd highly recommend Elite Training Systems, a collaborative product from Mike Robertson, Wil Fleming, Tyler English, Dave Schmitz, Steve Long, and Jared Woolever. This product delves into how to write effective strength and conditioning programs, as well has how to run the business side of things. I like it so much that I contributed several bonus videos of my own.  It's on sale at a great introductory price; check it out HERE.

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