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Fat Loss Friday: 15 Lessons on Leaning Out

Written on May 22, 2015 at 8:44 am, by Eric Cressey

Usually, my "random thoughts" series focus on anything from corrective exercises to sports performance training. However, given the release of my buddy John Romaniello's great new fat loss resource, The Omega Body Blueprint, I figured I'd throw out 15 thoughts on the subject of leaning out. Here goes!

1. We often hear about how the average American consumes a certain amount of <insert unhealthy food or beverage here> each year. What I'd be curious to hear is how much of the excess consumption comes from "nibbles," "tastes," "bites," and "samples. In other words, I'd be willing to bet that people are getting a lot of extra calories with quick tastes throughout the day - whether it's a "preview" taste of whatever they're cooking, finishing a child's meal, or trying a sample of a product as they walk through the grocery store. I'd be willing to bet that just removing these tastes from one's diet would make a significant difference in portion control for the average person who struggles with his/her weight.

2. There's been some research on how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, but I don't think it's gotten the attention it deserves. As such, I'll put it out there right here: poor sleep quality absolutely has a profound effect on body composition! Take it from a guy who has six month old twin daughters at home; the past six months have been "eye opening" from a training results standpoint, too!

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This obviously happens predominantly through endocrine mediums that modulate appetite and where we store calories; this has been well established in research on night shift workers in the past. However, we can't overlook the indirect impact it has on training quality in a more experienced athletic population. If you're chronically sleep deprived, it's going to impact your performance in the gym. I, personally, found that while my "peak" fitness levels didn't fall off, my ability to display them consistently did. In other words, as an example, I could still go out and deadlift 600+ pounds, but I couldn't do it as often or as predictably. Over time, those hills and valleys add up to a detraining effect.

Additionally, when you're dragging and crunched for time, there is a tendency to cut corners on everything from warm-ups to finding quick pick-me-ups like energy drinks. This is a very slippery slope.

3. I've never bothered to confirm that the numbers are right on the money, but over the years, I've heard that 80% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated, and that dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime fatigue. If these are, in fact, true, how come nobody ever highlights drinking more water as a means of improving fat loss efforts? It improves satiety and "displaces" calorie-containing beverages - and that's on top of helping to optimize exercise performance and "normal" health factors. I wish more folks would look to water as a "magic pill" over anything they can buy on the shelf of a supplement store.

4. Fat loss is pretty simple, until you're 90% of the way to your goal. After that, EVERYTHING matters: macros, hormones, programming, timing, and a host of other factors. This was a key point John Romaniello makes in his new e-book. You wouldn't take your Ferrari to a mechanic who specializes in working on Honda Civics, so you need to make sure you seek out expertise from people who have actually helped people to finish that final 10% on the way to the goal.

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5. Everyone has a few foods that they find irresistible - food that they always eat if they're in the house. If you're trying to drop body fat, before you take any other steps, you need to get these foods out of the house. The goal should be making "cheating" as difficult to accomplish as possible. For me, it's natural peanut butter.

6. A lot of people can only train three times per week - and that's totally fine. With that said, I'm still largely in agreement with Dr. John Berardi's observation that the most fit people you'll encounter get at least six hours of exercise in per week. In other words, if you've only got three hours to work out each week, your training definitely better be dense; you need a lot of volume and relatively short rest intervals. Don't expect to be in phenomenal shape doing a 3x5 program MoWeFr unless you have an awesome diet and are really busting your butt working hard during those three sessions.

7. When it comes to athletes, gradual reductions in body fat are the name of the game. You see, often, body weight – and not body composition – are what predicts their success. Pitchers are a perfect example; I’ve seen many who have just indiscriminately lost body weight, only to see their velocity drop considerably. This may come from the actual loss of body mass, the increased training volume that caused it, the type of training (extra aerobic activity?), or – most likely – a combination of all these factors. One thing is for sure, though: dramatic weight reductions rarely work out really well.

8. One of the biggest complaints of folks on "diets" (as much as I hate that term) is that healthy food gets too bland. Without even knowing it, a lot of them start adding sauces that are loading with extra calories, usually from sugar. Nobody ever seems to recognize that BBQ sauce and ketchup can be loaded with sugar, for instance.

Fortunately, a quick solution is to encourage them to gravitate toward using spices and herbs over sauces to add some flavor to meat and vegetables. I love turmeric, sea salt, and pepper on my eggs, as an example.

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9. Avoiding liquid calories is the still, in my opinion, the biggest dietary game-changer most folks in the general population can implement. I wish I could go back in time and eliminate every soda I drank as a kid.

10. There is an inverse relationship between strength preservation and conditioning intensity during a fat loss training phase. In other words, if maintaining strength is a high priority, you'd be wise to leave the aggressive interval training out - and instead opt for lower-intensity supplemental conditioning. Obviously, this means results will come a bit slower - but you'll hold on to your hard-earned strength gains more easily.

11. My business partner, Pete, told me a funny story the other day, and I thought I'd share it here as a good fat loss lesson.

Pete did his first "big" presentation - to an audience of about 150 fitness professionals - last month. As luck would have it, he wears a watch that also tracks his heart rate - and Pete happened to glance down at it right before he went on stage to present. His resting heart rate is normally in the 55-60bpm range - and it was up over 120bpm at that moment!

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Obviously, this is a specific challenging, unfamiliar incident that can get heart rate to spike. However, there are people out there who respond to most challenges like this; they are constantly "wired" throughout the day. This obviously has both short- and long-term health impacts, and you can bet that if you're always on edge, it's going to be a lot harder to lose body fat.

We don't have the option of just removing stressors from our lives, but we can change the way we respond to them. A few coping strategies to keep you mellow and unconditionally positive in the face of adversity might just help to get/keep you lean, too.

12. Speaking of stress, I'm a firm believer that sometimes, when it comes the war on excess body fat, we need to look at reducing stressors before we look to add stressors (via exercise and caloric restriction). Think about it: if you have a busy, overweight executive who is sleeping four hours a night and crushing terrible fast food, is the first priority to put him on a crazy high-volume exercise program? Shouldn't we try to add some quality sleep, better food, a little massage and/or meditation, and a moderate exercise program from which he can bounce back? In other words, isn't it a better bet - both for short-term health and long-term adherence - to "normalize" routines before getting on a crazy routine?

13. If you want to understand fat loss, you need to understand insulin management. For the real geeks out there, check out this paper I wrote for an exercise endocrinology course back in graduate school. There were enough references in there to last me an entire career...

14. It's very easy to fall off the bandwagon on the nutrition front when you're on vacation. If you're only going on 1-2 vacations per year, this probably isn't a big deal. However, if you're someone who travels extensively and does a lot of weekend trips, these dietary missteps can add up. Vacations are extra challenging because they often include all-you-can-eat buffets, plentiful dessert choices, and lots of alcohol. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to pack away 5,000 calories in a day if you're having two big ol' strawberry daiquiris while on the beach, and then enjoying a slice of cheesecake and two glasses of wine with dinner.

The last thing I would ever tell our clients to do is avoiding "indulging" while on vacation, so my strategy has always been to simply encourage them to get some exercise in first thing in the morning on half the days they're on vacation. In addition to the short-term metabolic benefits it yields, an exercise session has a way of keeping people accountable to their diets so that they avoid going overboard. If you work out early in the day, you're more likely to go grab a healthy breakfast - which will help to limit caloric intake later in the day. And, you're less likely to have that extra glass of wine at 11pm if you know you're going to be in the resort's health club at 8am.

Of course, this is coming from a guy who took a TRX to Costa Rica for his honeymoon, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt!

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15. I'm constantly amazed at how many calories I need to eat to maintain my body weight - and I don't consider myself an ectomorph, by any means. In fact, I'm probably more toward the endomorph ends of the spectrum. What separates me from the rest of the endomorph population in this regard? To me, it's two things:

a. I eat a very clean diet - which means I need a greater quantity of food.

b. My daily non-exercise activity level is pretty high, as I typically walk 4-5 miles per day while coaching on the floor. I'm also not very good at sitting still, whether it's tapping my foot while I'm working on the computer, or constantly bouncing around the house doing different things. I'm actually more stressed when I'm sitting still!

To this end, I think most folks who struggle with their weight need to find ways to add a bit more movement to their daily lives. Wearing a pedometer can be a great initiative in this regard.

In wrapping this article up, if you're looking from some direction from a guy who has put far more time and effort into learning about the rhyme and reason for optimal fat loss approaches, I'd encourage you to check out John Romaniello's new resource, The Omega Body Blueprint. It's on sale for 50% off through tomorrow (Saturday) at midnight, and I really enjoyed going through it.

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7 Ways to Increase Your Training Density

Written on May 19, 2015 at 3:22 am, by Eric Cressey

All things held equal, if you want to continue to improve over the course of a training career, you need to progressively increase the training stimulus. While increasing the weight used is the most well known way of progressing, increasing training density is another means of making things more challenging. In other words, you need to do more work in less (or the same amount of) time.

To that end, here are some of my favorite strategies for making your training more dense. As you'll notice, some of them are as much "mindsets" as they are actual programming strategies.

1. Be accountable to rest intervals.

Here's the breakdown of a typical powerlifting training session:

a. Lift something heavy over about 10-15 seconds.

b. Sit around cracking jokes with your training partners over about 8-10 minutes.

Repeat a and b over the course of about an hour, then do some assistance exercises and go home.

Obviously, I'm embellishing things - but not by much! I can't say that I know of many powerlifters who rigidly adhere to rest intervals - and I'm not saying that they necessarily should. However, their approach can certainly impact how "everyone else" trains in a trickle down effect, so I do think it's important for the general fitness enthusiast to be cognizant of monitoring rest intervals. If you're not careful, you can easily get distracted and wind up wasting too much time between sets.

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2. Remove distractions.

This goes hand-in-hand with point #1, as distractions compete with sticking to rest intervals. However, I think it's one thing to just procrastinate before the next set, but another thing altogether to actually get distracted by something. This might be checking your cell phone, or striking up a conversation with somebody when you know you've only got 20 seconds left before the next set needs to start. Clear out the distractions if you're trying to make your training more dense.

3. Minimize variety.

I'm normally a huge believer in variety in a training program, but when you're trying to make your training more dense, variety is actually your enemy. You see, the more variety you work into a training program, the more set-up that's required. We never realize that we might spend 10-15 minutes of every training session setting up equipment and loading/unloading plates. If you want to get a lot of volume in over a 45-60 minute period, you can't spare that 10-15 minutes. In other words, the "densest" sessions might only include four different exercises, as opposed to 6-8.

4. Don’t be afraid of drop-offs in loading.

This is another mindset note. Many individuals - myself included - absolutely hate having to drop the weight from one set to the next. However, unless you've undershot your initial weight selections, it's pretty much inevitable when you're doing several sets of higher reps. If you want to be successful with density-based training programs that involve higher-rep sets and shorter intervals, you'll have to eat a bit of humble pie when the loading starts dropping off.

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5. Incorporate back-off sets.

I discussed "back-off" sets in my recent article on the stage system. While they can be used for training strength and power, the real density benefits come with respect to accumulating volume - whether it's to increase muscle size or help with fat loss. Adding in back-off sets of 6-20 reps after your heaviest strength work can quickly increase the density of your overall training sessions.

6. Don't think that increasing high-intensity density work will yield as great an energy expenditure as increasing moderate-intensity density work.

This example might seem complex, but it won't be after this example.

Imagine you can deadlift 400 pounds, and you want to get more density in your program. Let's say that you can hit 90% of 1RM (360 pounds) for a single every 60s for ten minutes - for a total workload of 3,600 pounds.

Let's say that in this same time, you could hit a set of five reps at 75% of 1RM (300 pounds) every two minutes. That's a total workload of 7,500 pounds.

The point is that more reps - even with a noteworthy drop in intensity - will always "outdo" lower-rep work - even with more sets - when it comes to increasing the total amount of work in a given session. In other words, use your strength work to build or test strength, not to try to make for a more dense training session. Otherwise, you wind up getting stuck in a tough middle ground where you aren't building strength optimally, and really aren't making your training any denser.

7. Position exercise pairings in close proximity to one another.

If you pair up a front squat and a chin-up in the same power rack, you can get a lot of volume in without having to move around the gym at all. Conversely, swap those chin-ups for a lat pulldown, and there's a lot more walking involved. This is an especially important consideration in a commercial gym where someone might jump in on a piece of equipment while you're a few feet away.

If you're looking for a training approach that challenges density in a number of different contexts - with the end goal of helping you shed unwanted body fat - I'd highly recommend John Romaniello's new resource, The Omega Body Blueprint. It's a comprehensive training and nutrition resource that looks closely at the interaction of exercise and diet to create an optimal hormonal environment for leaning out. It was released today and is on sale at an introductory 50% off discount for this week only, and I'd strongly recommend you check it out if you're looking for some direction (and results) on the fat loss front.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 63

Written on May 12, 2015 at 9:13 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's five tips come from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Get a training partner!

Having training partners helps TREMENDOUSLY with respect to improving your ability to lift more weights, get huge, and keep focus. They can:

a) Give objective feedback immediately after lifts. This feedback allows you to understand how you can improve from day to day.

b) Push and motivate you.

This is probably the most likely reason for grabbing a friend and hitting the gym. Hiring a trainer is similar to this, but lifting alongside other strong individuals who are striving towards the same goals is what makes this a distinctive reason.

While lifting weights may be an inherently self-driven purpose, if you have a slight competitive edge between friends and partners, you can not only help yourself grow, but allow your group of friends to grow as well.

This is something I’ve done instinctively when dancing - find the best dancer in the area, and hang around them. By seeing what is possible, or how they troubleshoot difficult issues, you can improve two-fold or more the next time you practice or have a lifting session.

c) Have fun.

Here are some of the late night lifting shenanigans that happen when Tony Gentilcore and pitching coach Matt Blake start practicing basketball drills after some heavy bench pressing.

This kind of environment helps to lighten up the mood in between crushing PRs in the gym and on the platform.

2. Supercharge your sleep.

Whenever I ask the athletes that come into our facility how their sleep has been, I always get one response: “good.” More prying often reveals tossing and turning, staring into the dark abyss for about 30 minutes before actually falling asleep, and hitting the snooze button multiple times. Is that truly “good?”

Many schools of thought promote the opening of airways in order to elicit better oxygenation to the brain and muscles, but the thought of improving airways during sleep had not occurred to me until recently. After being told I snore like a bear, and finding that snoring may equate to airway obstruction, I opted to take action by using a simple nasal strip to open up my nose!

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In fact, leading up to the weeks of my recent powerlifting meet, I improved my sleep tenfold by incorporating these strips. I didn’t need coffee as soon as I woke up, just for the mere fact that I had much more energy from getting quality sleep.

While research from McLean et al. (1) indicates that nasal strip as an intervention for sleep apnea and snoring is highly variable from person to person, if you purchase this and attempt to use nasal strips, and it doesn’t work, you only lose $6-10 tops. If you do use it and it helps get some Z’s in, well then it was worth the effort and money!

3. Alter equipment based on leverages.

If you told me a few years ago that levers would impact the difficulty of the exercise, I wouldn't have bought in to the legitimacy of the "tall vs. short" person discussion.

In fact, this statement may hold true for more youth athletes the more I’ve worked with the younger generations. When you have 12 year-olds that are 6’0” tall, and other 12 year-olds that are 4’0”, leverages and height come into play.

It is for this reason that barbell front squats may not be beneficial for someone, but double kettlebell front squats to a box may be more pragmatic. The same arguments can be made for several other exercise variations.

4. Replace coffee with green tea.

Tea has a whole host of benefits that can help improve your day to day activity levels, along with many other health benefits.

While not immediately noticeable in terms of energy spikes like coffee or various energy drinks, there is a subtle amount of caffeine in some teas, for those that do not enjoy weening off of coffee. Not to worry, because at the end of the day here are a few of these benefits if you were to make the switch:

• Reduction in various cardiac functions, namely reduction in atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and reduction in cardiovascular disease (2)

• Increase in energy expenditure (2)

• Inhibited free radical from oxidative damage (2)

• Reduction and prevention of various cancers (3)

I personally enjoy brewing tea, but for those that are on the “go”, utilizing teabags is also one way to still get a few of these benefits.

5. Utilize a head rest in warm-ups.

A forward head posture may be common in those who are also likely candidates to have a flat thoracic spine.

Implement a head rest such as a mat (a rolled up hoodie or sweater also works) in order to reverse this posture, albeit temporarily.

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As you can see, Tony sits in a little cervical extension when laying supine (top left image) - and there is nothing wrong with that. Giving him some directions (chin tucking, or “packing your neck”) will give him a little bit more anterior neck activation (top right). According to Thomas Myers, this will help to activate the deep front line - which consists of the abdominals as well.

In the moment, adding a slight elevation underneath his head when laying down (bottom left image) will theoretically allow your neck and other accessory respiratory musculature to relax during some low threshold exercises, such as glute bridge, dead bugs, or other warm-up drills.

Further enhance the position of any of these exercises by instructing the individual to look down through their skull (to help introduce a flexion based strategy for reducing cervical extension), which can be seen in the bottom right image. Note the position of his jaw line in the bottom right compared to the top left image - drastically different.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found at www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

*Note: the references for this article will be posted as the first comment below.

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Are You Changing Behaviors with Motivation, Ease, or Both?

Written on May 8, 2015 at 8:23 pm, by Eric Cressey

I recently finished up the audio edition of the book, The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behavior, by Adam Ferrier.

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It was a good "listen" that included a lot of strategies to create behavioral changes - and all of these strategies fell under two broader headings. If you want to change a behavior, you either need to a) increase the motivation to change or b) make it easier to change.

My mind, of course, immediately began to race as I thought about all the different ways this applies to individuals' success (or lack thereof) in strength and conditioning programs. There are countless examples of how we can impact both variables to improve outcomes in the fitness world. Let’s take a look at a few.

Motivation

Encouraging athletes to train as part of a group, or having clients work with trainers/coaches definitely increases motivation. Someone is always waiting for you, so you’ll be more motivated to avoid missing training sessions.

Likewise, running challenges or contests can be very motivating for clients, as there may be a prize – or even just bragging rights – at stake.

I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people who purchased The High Performance Handbook have gotten great results not just because it's a good program, but because actually spending money on it increases the likelihood that they'll work really hard on the program!

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Ease

To be clear, ease doesn’t refer to making the actual training easy. Rather, it refers to incorporating strategies that make it easier for clients to behave in ways that will achieve a great training effect. We really don’t want to lower the standard; instead, we want the client/athlete to realize that the standard is achievable with the right approaches.

Having more flexible scheduling options may make it easier for clients to remain adherent to their programs. For instance, my wife loves to take part in the Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance, but the sleeping/eating schedule for our twins can sometimes be very erratic. Luckily, there are classes every hour from 5:30AM to 10:30AM every MoWeFr, so she can make game-time decisions on which one she attends.

Incorporating a body weight only (or minimal equipment) home workout into a client’s training program may also make it easier for that individual to get a training effect. Many exercisers can get overwhelmed if they think that every session mandates a lot of equipment, an actual gym, and plenty of time.

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These are just a few examples of how modifications to motivation and ease can quickly yield favorable outcomes in strength and conditioning programs. If you’re struggling to get the results you want – either for yourself or your clients/athletes – start by looking at these variables. Manipulating one or both may lead to the behavior changes you need to take progress to the next level.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/4/15

Written on May 4, 2015 at 7:16 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, gang; I hope you all had a great weekend. Let's kick off the week with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Solving Sleep Problems - Adam Bornstein presents some non-obvious strategies for improving your sleep quality and quantity.

Fitness Professionals: How to Figure Out Your Learning Style - I wrote this just over two years ago, but a recent conversation with one of our interns reminded me of it. If you're a fitness professional, it'd be a good read to help with your continuing education approaches.

How to Build Success in Your Training - Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Gentilcore outlines some key success measures of which we need to be aware.

Also, just a friendly reminder that Elite Training Mentorship updates twice a month with inservices, webinars, exercise demonstrations, and articles from staff members at Cressey Sports Performance, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, and several other forward-thinking facilities from around the country. Be sure to check out this comprehensive continuing education resource.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/27/15

Written on April 27, 2015 at 7:47 am, by Eric Cressey

Here's some great strength and conditioning reading to kick off your week:

10 Ways to Un-Suck Diet Food - There are some great healthy recipe ideas from Dani and Chris Shugart. I'm anxious to try out the ketchup one.

The Difference Maker - Cressey Sports Performance coach Greg Robins provides some interesting thoughts on motivation relative to one's capabilities.

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Troubleshooting Anterior Hip Pain - Dean Somerset offers some great insights on why some exercisers develop pain in the front of the hip - and what to do about it.

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5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer

Written on April 16, 2015 at 6:42 pm, by Eric Cressey

Earlier today, I posted the following question on my Facebook Page:

I know there are a lot of professionals in the health, fitness, rehab, and S&C communities that follow this page. With that in mind, I'm curious: what do you folks feel are the biggest 1-2 problems you face on a daily basis? They can be training or business-related issues. I think this will generate some good discussion and hopefully even yield some good writing ideas for me, too. Thanks!

In response to this inquiry, one problem that seemed to be brought up over and over again was that many trainers are struggling to differentiate themselves from other trainers who appear less qualified. In response to this, I'd make several points:

1) Recognize that if these other trainers are not only busy, but busy enough that you'd consider them "competitors," then they are clearly doing something CORRECTLY, too.

Maybe their coaching cues are subpar or they have no rhyme or reason to their program - but if they have consistent clients, then pay attention to what they do well. Are they unconditionally positive? Are they great listeners? Do they have a knack for explaining complex topics in an easily understandable manner? Do they go an extra mile to really get to know their clients beyond the hour-long training session?

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It's easy to criticize, but it's challenging to emotionally separate yourself from your love of quality training and scientific principles for a second to appreciate that there are other factors that make trainers successful. Copy the useful traits!

2) Remember that expertise is perceived differently by every client.

Some perceive expertise as telling them what to do so that all the guesswork is taken out of the equation. They might think you are annoying if you try to tell them the “why” behind everything you do.

Others perceive expertise as your ability to justify everything that you do. They might think you’re incompetent if you tell them to “just trust you” because you “know” the program will work, or if you’re simply at a loss for words when they ask you to explain the “why” behind your training approach.

Some want to see you coach athletes to be confident in your abilities, and others just want to sit down with you and ask questions to verify your competence. Others might want to see you present at a seminar. Some want to read your writing, and others want to ask current clients about their experiences with you.

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You have to be versatile and multi-faceted in the way that you present your expertise. I can rattle off research and tell guys why we’re doing stuff, or I can skip the science mumbo-jumbo and replace it with loud music and attitude. People are welcome to watch me coach, ask me questions, read my writing (online and the stuff that is framed in the office), view seminars I’ve given, check out flyers in the office, and speak to our clients. Make “perceiving expertise” easier for them.

3) Always focus on what you do well, not what you think others do poorly.

Each time your mind wanders to what silly stuff Trainer X is doing with Client Y, refocus your attention on finding ways to leverage your strengths. Nobody likes to be around (or spend money to train with) Johnny Raincloud. Everyone likes to hang around problem solvers, though.

4) Find and develop a niche.

Fitness is getting more and more "specific" than ever before. As an example, 85-90% of our clients are baseball players. When you have a niche, you don't have to worry about what the competition is doing because there isn't competition when you've created the market. It's much easier to differentiate yourself as a specialist than as a generalist. How many world-renowned primary care physicians do you know? Not many, right? Meanwhile, I can name loads of famous orthopedic surgeons who specialize in a single joint.

5) Remember that results always speak for themselves.

Get results with your clients and your business will grow. Be patient and persistent - but also open-minded to better ways of doing things. 

There are surely many more than just five points to be made on this front, so I welcome additional suggestions from fitness professionals in the comments section below!

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Upcoming Seminar with Alex Viada at Cressey Sports Performance – Massachusetts

Written on April 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're really excited to announce that we'll be hosting Alex Viada for a one-day seminar - An Introduction to Applied Hybrid Training Methodology - at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA on June 28, 2015.

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For those of you who aren't familiar with Alex, let's just say that he's a powerlifter, bodybuilder, AND endurance athlete - and these experiences have shaped his work as a coach. His detailed bio is below, but before we get to it, here's a look at the agenda for the day:

An Introduction to Applied Hybrid Training Methodology: Understanding and Programming Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training

9:00-9:30AM: Introduction to hybrid training
9:30-10:30AM: Cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal adaptations: resistance training versus endurance/conditioning
10:30-10:45AM: Break
10:45AM-12:00PM: Defining specific versus general work capacity
12:00-1:00PM: Lunch (on your own)
1:00-2:15PM: Energy systems management and recovery
2:15-2:30PM: Break
2:30-3:30PM: Biomechanical and nutritional considerations for "crossover" athletes: endurance sport considerations for larger athletes and strength training considerations for lifelong endurance athletes.
3:30-4:45PM: Sample programming and programming for your athletes.
4:45-5:00PM: Q&A

Location:

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

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Continuing Education Units/Credits

This event is approved for 0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) CEUs (seven contact hours).

Cost

Regular Rate: $149.99
Student Rate: $129.99 (must have student ID at the door)

Date/Time

Sunday, June 28, 2015
9AM-5PM

About the Presenter

Alex Viada is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and USA Triathlon Coach, and is the founder and co-owner of Complete Human Performance. He has over thirteen years of coaching and personal training experience with athletes of all ages and levels; he specializes in training powerlifters, triathletes, strongman competitors, and military athletes.

Alex

A graduate of Duke University (biochemistry) and a MS(c) in physiology, Alex spent eight years in the clinical research and health care consulting field before moving to coaching full-time. His company, Complete Human Performance, currently consists of twelve extremely talented coaches and a roster of 200 current athletes. These athletes including nationally ranked powerlifters, nationally ranked strongman competitors, Kona qualifying triathletes, top ten OCR competitors, Boston qualifiers, bodybuilders, and numerous successful SOF candidates, among many others. His "hybrid" approach to programming was originally based largely on his own experiences combining strength and endurance sports, namely powerlifting and Ironman triathlons/ultramarathons, and has been fine-tuned over the years with input and feedback from hundreds of coaches and athletes.

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

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!


Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 62

Written on April 12, 2015 at 7:01 am, by Eric Cressey

This installment of quick tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio. Enjoy! -EC

1. Avoid over-tucking your elbows when performing the bench press.

It’s widely accepted that to bench press more weight and protect your shoulders, you should tuck yours elbows tightly to yours sides and touch the bar low on the chest. This may reduce the range of motion you have to press, but unless you’re a 300-pound powerlifter with a huge belly, your elbows may still drift too far past the midline of the body if you tuck too much. This can add unwanted stress on the shoulders and make the front of the shoulder cranky over time.

It’s similar to tucking the elbows too tight to the body during rowing variations - it makes it easy to let shoulder slip into too much extension. That’s why we coach athletes to row with a bit more space between the armpit and the elbow. You limit anterior humeral (upper arm) glide while still getting full scapular (shoulder blade) retraction.

Instead, keep the elbows about 45 degrees away from the body and touch the bar somewhere around the nipple line. This also reduces the moment arm between the shoulders and the bar, limiting the horizontal distance the bar needs to travel and making it easier to keep your elbows under the bar for a smooth lockout.

2. Optimize your leg drive to make the bench press more shoulder-friendly.

On that note, using proper leg drive can spare the shoulders by accelerating the bar though the portion of the lift where the shoulders are under the most stress. The less time you spend grinding the bar through the first few inches off the chest, the better.

Optimal leg drive technique differs from lifter to lifter, but foot placement dictates leg drive technique. Lifters with shorter legs tend to thrive with the feet hooked tightly under the bench and the heels off the ground, while longer-legged lifters do better with the feet out wide and heels flat.

Either way, if you plan on competing in powerlifting, you have to abide by your federation’s rules, which may require you to keep your heels on the ground. Here are some tips for choosing the right foot position:

3. Try dark roast coffee to reduce caffeine jitters.

At first I didn’t believe it when Greg Robins told me this, but it’s actually true: dark roast coffee has less caffeine that light roast coffee. And while the difference in actual caffeine content by volume may be small, dark roast coffee is harder to drink in mass quantities than light roast, so a bolder cup may reduce overall caffeine consumption if it gets you to drink less coffee overall. If your morning joe gives you jitters, consider switching to a darker roast.

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4. Slow down the concentric phase of isolation exercises.

As performance coaches, we constantly trying to help our athletes become more powerful. That means we’re often coaching them to perform the concentric portion of most exercises explosively to enhance rate of force development. But when it comes to small muscle groups that often get “overshadowed” when performing single-joint exercises, sometimes we have to slow down.

Specifically at CSP, getting athletes to “feel” their rotator cuff or lower traps during arm care exercises can be challenging, especially if they rush through the concentric phase. Slowing down the tempo of all phases of the exercise usually cleans things up by keeping athletes in a better position and reducing contribution of unwanted synergists. For example, taking 3-5 seconds to externally rotate the humerus during cuff work can prevent the deltoid or lat from taking over.


5. When setting up for the front squat, exhale first.

I stole this trick from Miguel Aragoncillo and it works wonders for athletes whose elbows drop during front squats. Take your grip on the bar and before you unrack it, give a good hard exhale to get your ribs down. Then, inhale into your belly and back, drive your elbows up and unrack the bar.

While “elbows up” is a great cue for front squats, it won’t work if the athlete doesn’t set his or her ribcage in a solid position during the setup. Exhaling first gives you a better zone of apposition, allowing for a fuller breath and creating greater intra-abdominal pressure to keep you upright. Like Miguel told me, “Front squats are just abs and legs, dude.”

For a detailed write-up on the front squat, be sure to check out Eric's thorough post on the topic, How to Front Squat: Everything You Need to Know.

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: 4/7/15

Written on April 7, 2015 at 6:52 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm making the drive from Florida to Massachusetts over the next two days, so there won't be time for new content. However, I've got some awesome reads and a "listen" to hold you over until I have a chance to blog again:

You Don't Have to Do This - I loved this post from Cressey Sports Performance coach Greg Robins. It's imperative to separate ourselves from what our clients want for themselves and what we subconsciously (or consciously) want for our clients.

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Red Flags that You're Working Out Instead of Training - My buddy Tim DiFrancesco, the strength and conditioning coach for the Lakers, just got his blog up and running. He's already got some great content up and running, too!

Charlie Weingroff Integrates All Aspects of Performance - This was an excellent podcast with Charlie at EliteFTS.com.

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