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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/9/13

Written on December 9, 2013 at 9:02 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Crossfit: The Good, Bad, and Ugly – I enjoyed this candid look at a controversial topic, courtesy of Mark Rippetoe.

I Know What to Do; Why Am I Still Not in Shape? – Precision Nutrition delves into a discussion about how knowledge doesn't really matter without application – and they help you to make application happen with easy-to-apply strategies.

Strength Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Band Rotational Row w/Weight Shift – I discussed this exercise in quite a bit of detail with our Elite Baseball Mentorship attendees this morning, and it reminded me of this post from last year.  It's a great exercise we like to use with our throwers.

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Register Now for the 2nd Annual Cressey Performance Fall Seminar

Written on August 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m psyched to announce that on Sunday, September 22, we’ll be hosting our second annual fall seminar at Cressey Performance.  As was the case with our extremely popular fall event last year, this event will showcase both the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team.  Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.

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Here are the presentation topics:

Cracking the Crossfit Code – Presented by Eric Cressey

Let's face it: Crossfit is here to stay.  With that in mind, it's time for someone to take an unbiased look at how we can make coaches and fitness enthusiasts successful within the scope of this training system.  In this presentation, Eric will look past the emotions people have with respect to this approach, and discuss rationale ways to accentuate the positives while offering solutions for the shortcomings. In short, the goal is to bring people together, not drive two sides further apart.

Training Joe vs. Jane:  Do Women Need to Train Differently Than Men? – Presented by Tony Gentilcore

Should women avoid lifting appreciable weight?  What are the most effective strategies for training women through pregnancy? Is there such a thing as an ACL-Prevention Program?

In this presentation, I will discuss many of the common misconceptions and "myths" relating to training female athletes.  I intend to provide extensive responses and feedback to some of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered relating to the art of strength training for women.

Insulin: The Hormone, The Myth, The Legend – Presented by Brian St. Pierre

Carbs spike insulin and insulin causes fat gain. So, cut the carbs and you'll end up lean and healthy. End of story. Or is it?

While the Paleo and low carb camps loudly proclaim that carbs and insulin are the enemy, the latest science suggests otherwise. In fact, we're starting to learn that high insulin is an effect of being overweight, not a cause. In this session, Brian will explore the real relationship between carbs and insulin, discussing some of the common myths about insulin, and sharing some practical eating strategies you can put into action immediately.

Integrating Corrective Exercise for Performance Enhancement – Presented by Mike Reinold

Often times, muscle imbalances, alignment issues, and movement impairments can lead to injury and decreased performance.  However, corrective exercises are often unsuccessful for various reasons.  By focusing on several key principles, you can maximize your ability to apply corrective exercises to optimize movement and enhance performance.

Getting To Know Your Athlete: Understanding Learning Styles to Be a More Effective Coach – Presented by Chris Howard

In this presentation, I will discuss the different learning styles and how knowledge of this information is helpful in becoming a more effective coach.  I will also delve into the differences between introverted and extroverted clients and how it is necessary to coach and assess them differently.

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Excellence In Group Training – Presented by Greg Robins

Group training, small group training, and bootcamps are here to stay. Let me help you understand how I manage the variables associated with group training to optimize a less than ideal scenario. The information presented will be sure to help everyone from the strength and conditioning specialist to commercial fitness professional alike.

The Role of Physical Therapy in a Strength and Conditioning Facility – Presented by Eric Schoenberg

Physical Therapy earns little respect in strength and conditioning circles due to the inability of traditional PTs to properly progress a patient from injury to high-level activity.  This lack of versatility has contributed to an increased role of the strength and conditioning professional in the care of the injured athlete.  But, is there a role for Physical Therapy in the training world?  Physical therapist Eric Schoenberg will share his thoughts on why partnering with the right physical therapist can add great value to your business and improve results for your clients.

Location:

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

Cost:

Regular – $149.99
Student (must present current student ID at door) – $129.99

Date/Time:

Sunday, September 22, 2013
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5:30PM

Continuing Education:

0.7 NSCA CEUs (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

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

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


Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/12/13

Written on March 12, 2013 at 12:01 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Some Thoughts on Crossfit – I thought Patrick Ward did an excellent job writing up this post, which features a review of a recent study performed on the efficacy of Crossfit.

Elite Training Mentorship – In this month’s update, I contributed an in-service on evaluating and managing “tight hamstrings” as well as a few articles and exercise demonstrations. Vaughn Bethell and Tyler English also contributed some excellent stuff, so check it out!

Unilateral Work: Don’t Forget the Upper Body – I wrote this blog post over at Men’s Health almost two years ago, but was reminded of it during a conversation I had with an athlete this week.  It seems like as good a time as any to bring it back to life!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/20/12

Written on November 20, 2012 at 7:37 am, by Eric Cressey

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

The 4-Hour Chef – Tim Ferriss’ book is now available, and it looks to be fantastic.  My wife and I actually had dinner with Tim in San Francisco back in February when he was immersed in the writing process.  We talked at length about how the scope of the book had grown incredibly from a cookbook only all the way up to becoming a book of lessons on how to learn and become highly proficient on any task – with cooking as a medium through which to do so.

I’m actually buying a few copies of this as Christmas presents, including one for my mother, who is a high school principal with a big interest in finding innovative ways to get kids excited about learning – and learning faster.  As a bonus, she likes to cook and eat healthy: win/win! 

The Virtual Squat Seminar – This was a great post from Jim Wendler over at T-Nation.  He covered a lot of what you need to know in order to squat safely and effectively.

All the Hype Behind Kipping Pull-ups – My good friend and business partner, Tony Gentilcore, goes into “dangerous territory” by covering the kipping pull-up, but actually presents a very “neutral” argument that I think anyone can appreciate, regardless of how they feel about Crossfit.

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Strength Training Programs: Is Cross-Training Necessary?

Written on February 11, 2011 at 6:01 am, by Eric Cressey

As I noted earlier in the week, I’m two weeks in to the new Lean Hybrid Muscle program and really enjoying it.  It’s a pretty significant change of pace from what I might call my normal programming that’s geared toward predominantly increasing strength and overall athleticism – but it’s working extremely well.  As the saying goes, “The best program is the one you’re not on.”

This temporary paradigm shift got me to thinking that it’d be a good idea to bring in the LHM creators, Mike Westerdal and Elliott Hulse, in for an interview to talk about whether this kind of cross-training is necessary in a strength and conditioning program.  Here goes…

EC: Whenever you see people who are successful across multiple disciplines, you look for commonalities in the way that they prepare themselves.  Mike, you’ve done well for yourself in powerlifting, and Elliott, you’re an accomplished strongman competitor.  What do you believe to be the most important factors governing one’s success in strength sports?  I figured that before we talk about what might need to be changed from time-to-time, we ought to talk about what should always stay the same.

EH: In my experience there are only a handful of tired and true principles that govern success and achievement in all areas of life.  Whether you are a strength athlete or a stay-at-home-mom, the same principles apply.  Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “methods are many, but principles are few.” So, instead of spouting off some of my training methods here, I will share three foundation principles that I tend to value and refer to most when taking aim towards any particular goal – strength or otherwise.

The first is CLARITY.  It is paramount that we know exactly what effect we would like our actions to produce.  You cannot hit a target that you can’t see.

The next is COMMITMENT.  Most people have a vague and fuzzy idea of what they want, but even worse is that most think of these things as “nice-to-haves,” as opposed to “I-WILL-haves.”  The difference between someone who is “trying” to win because it would be nice and the person who DOES win is commitment.  Winners commit 100% to reaching their goal.  They never have a backdoor to escape and never take “no” for an answer.

The third principle governing one’s success is DISCIPLINE!  I once heard that discipline is, “doing what you have to do, whether you feel like it or not.”  I like to think of myself as a robot.  Once I set my mind on a particular target, I must then put fickle emotion aside and continue to do everyday what I set out to do from the get-go…whether I “feel like it or not.”

MW:  Elliott is a tough act to follow when it comes to success.  A lot of people – myself included – like listening to him not only because of his strength and conditioning knowledge but also because of his general leadership when it comes to personal development in other areas of life as well.

Eric, this a great question.  I’ve actually had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of different athletes for a book I published at Critical Bench.  It included in MMA fighter, powerliftes, strongman competitors, bodybuilders, pro athletes and industry experts.  I’ve thought a lot about this and really tried to figure out the common denominators when it comes to excelling in sports.

It almost never has to do with an exact training method or style.  Guys get huge with heavy lifting and guys get huge with volume training.  Powerlifters have attained world class status having trained with  Westside as with Sheiko training.  What it really comes down to is a few other factors that I’ll list below:

-You have to surround yourself with other successful people: people that are already in a place where you want to go.  If you hang around with a bunch of lazy deadbeats you’re going to get dragged down with them.  Instead, find people that are the best at what they do and try to make them a part of your life.

-To take this a step further you have to visualize yourself or imagine yourself becoming what you want before it’s ever happened.  If you don’t already think you can bench press 600 pounds there’s no way that will ever manifest itself in real life until you brain can accept it as reality.

Now you may think this is hocus pocus talk, but when they asked Joe Montana what it felt like to win the Super Bowl.  He said it felt like the other 300 times I won it.  The reporter said, “300 times?”  “That’s right” Montana replied, “I’ve been winning the Super Bowl in my backyard since I was 12-years old.”

-The next thing I see from a lot of successful strength athletes is sacrifice.  Many things in life are possible, but you have to decide if what it takes to reach that goal is worth the sacrifice.  The energy you exert on a certain sport may affect your energy levels for other areas of your life.  During a heavy powerlifting cycle, I’m toast even when I’m not training.  I find myself resting a lot more.  So you have to ask yourself.  What exactly do you want and are you willing to do what it takes to achieve the goal?  So guys who get to the very top level often sacrifice things like certain social events, for example.

-My cousin is a successful business owner and recently gave me a valuable lesson that I believe can be applied not only to business, but also to strength sports.  He told me to just keep showing up.  It sounds pretty simple but most people don’t have the consistency to just keep showing up and stick with something until the end.  Lots of small steps over a long period of time add up. Unfortunately, it’s very rare that you’ll find a secret shortcut or magic bullet.  Just keep showing up and over time you’ll get better.

-My last point is similar to my first point.  I mentioned surrounding yourself with successful people.  You also need to eliminate negativity from your life and your training.  If people are complaining about bad luck, aches, pains, circumstances and a host of other problems, you can’t let that stuff get into your head.  I swear these things happen to these people because that’s what they think about and talk about all the time.  Why not spend your time with people who are focused on where they are going and what they want?

EC:  Great points – and definitely a lot of stuff that I’ve seen in my successful clients and training partners, too. Back to the subject at-hand, though: “cross-training” within a strength training program.  How often do you guys intentionally deviate from your “normal” programming – whether it’s to shake things up for specific physiological reasons or just to get a little mental break?

MW:  As a competitive powerlifter I trained the same way for several years straight.  This is not the fault of the sport, but I was doing the same kind of training for too long.  I believe that the lack of conditioning and doing the same strength exercises for too long eventually led to me gaining some unnecessary weight and even contributed to a lower back and shoulder injury.

Now, I love powerlifting and if your only goal is one-rep max strength, it’s the way to go. I wanted to drop a weight class, heal up some injuries, and get some of my athleticism back, though, so it felt good to try a more hybrid program.  If you compete in any specific sport you need to train for that sport.  However, at this stage of my life I have multiple goals and feel that training for them at the same time is working since I’m not trying to be the absolute best at any skill set.  I do want to compete again and when I do I’ll have to cut back on the conditioning and hypertrophy work and focus more on nervous system training again.  For now, though, I’m really enjoying the feeling of being more well rounded and athletic.

EH: As a professional strongman I had followed a pretty similar program of power-building mixed with strongman implements for about 3 years straight, never “mixing it up.”  This not only led to weaknesses in some areas of overall health and performance, but also created the muscular imbalances that caused me to tear my biceps tendon last spring.

Now, I am committed to working towards multiple performance goals within 12-24 month periods so as to avoid the lopsidedness that caused my injury.  For example, I have gone from competing as a pro strongman to running a 10 mile “psycho race” called the Tough Mudder this spring.  Next, I am going to qualify for the Crossfit games before building my lifts back up to compete in a raw power lifting meet in the winter.

This may sound crazy to most people, but I’m going to give it a try. It doesn’t mean that my new approach is the right one for everyone, but I’d like to see if it is possible to excel in multiple fitness qualities at once.  And I do recognize balance as a foundational principle as well.

EC: How long do these “cross-training” periods typically last?

EH: If you mean “periods” as in using hybrid training for only a portion of time during the year, then I would say “forever” – unless you are a professional athlete or bodybuilder who needs to excel in one fitness quality over another in order to compete in your sport.

If building a leaner, more functional and athletic physique is your goal, then I invite you to use this type of training all the time.  The beauty of hybrid training is that you can adjust your parameters in order to emphasize one quality over another. For example, if building muscle mass is your goal, then you would continue to use more strength and hypertrophy work over conditioning – but without totally ignoring the latter.

MW: That would depend on who you’re asking.  If you compete in a sport with a specific skill set like powerlifting this would be more an off-season conditioning program to do for a couple months.  I see a lot of powerlifters train 12 weeks for a meet followed by two weeks completely off.  Of course, there are deload weeks in the meet cycle as well.  I’ve seen guys throw together three of these 12-week cycles back-to-back.  After that, they usually know they need a break or their body forces them to slow down.  Adding in some cross training workouts or hybrid training could be beneficial at this time for a couple months.

Now if you don’t compete in a specialized sport I truly believe you can train “Hybrid Style” all year long.  You’ll feel good, look good and have great conditioning.  If you decide to compete in any one area of fitness you’ll need to focus more on that area, though, to be competitive.

EC: How about when you return to your “conventional” programming?  What kind of favorable adaptations (or unfavorable de-adaptations) have you seen?

MW: The biggest advantage I can see when returning to powerlifting would be injury prevention.  With the different programming, I get a chance to work on any imbalances and heal up any nagging injuries.  The health benefits are there too.  The reduction in body fat and the cardiovascular conditioning helps me perform better on dynamic training days.

The down side is that my one-rep max strength takes a bit of a hit and I have to get the nervous system re-adjusted to doing really heavy weights.  I am really glad that Lean Hybrid Muscle has powerbuilding days so that I can maintain some strength.

In my case, coming from a powerlifting style of training, strength was down a bit.  However, for someone that has never trained with triples, doubles. or singles they could absolutely increase strength while following this program.

EH: The fact is that if you are working toward excellence in one particular fitness quality and you incorporate too much training from a contradictory quality, your performance will suffer.  I make no claims otherwise and my experience tells me it’s true.

So, the leaner more conditioned Elliott Hulse no longer has the strength to log press 365 lbs over head, I can no longer front squat 455 lbs.  So, strength has been lost.

However, things are far more balanced, where now I can only front squat about 365, I can also run a mile under seven minutes and I don’t bend over panting for air after climbing a flight of stairs, like the bigger, stronger version of me did. Ha!

EC: Not a bad tradeoff at all! Thanks so much for your time, fellas.

For more information on Mike and Elliott’s strength and conditioning programs, check out Lean Hybrid Muscle.


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Stuff You Should Read: 4/4/10

Written on April 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m about to head out to go to Fenway Park for the season-opening Red Sox vs. Yankees game.  So, with the baseball season officially underway, I thought it’d be good to kick this week off with a collection of baseball-related recommended reading material.  Of course, you can certainly always find plenty of great stuff on the Baseball Content Page here at EricCressey.com.  That said, here are just a few personal favorite articles that I’ve written (it was tough to just pick a few, as I love writing about this stuff!):

Crossfit for Baseball

Developing Young Pitchers the Safe Way

Risk-Reward in Training Pitchers

Weighted Baseballs: Safe and Effective or Stupid and Dangerous?

And a few baseball books that I’d highly recommend:

License to Deal (great look at the sports agent/representation industry)

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Moneyball

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And some favorite baseball-related DVDs:

The 2009 Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp DVD Set

Optimal Shoulder Performance (just released last week, and only around at the introductory price for a bit longer)

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The Best of 2009: Articles

Written on January 3, 2010 at 10:00 am, by Eric Cressey

In place of “Stuff You Should Read” this week, I thought it might be cool to direct you to our most popular pages and videos for 2009, according to our website statistics.  Presumably, these are the ones that people forwarded to friends the most, and/or the ones that caught the most people’s eyes.  This excludes pages like the homepage, baseball content, products, etc.  Here we go:

Medicine Ball Madness – This piece outlined some of the medicine ball work I do with both my baseball guys and the rest of our clients.  It was so popular that it actually led to me deciding to cover this topic at my Perform Better talks for 2010.

Hip Internal Rotation Deficit: Causes and Fixes – This Q&A on what the lying knee-to-knee stretch does actually led to a discussion of the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Front vs. Back Squats – This is a different kind of discussion on a debate that’s been going on for years.

Crossfit for Baseball – Controversial?  Yup.  I got a little hate mail for this one, but on the whole, I think I was pretty fair with how I approached it.

“Quad Pulls” and Sprinting Warm-ups – This article discusses how the term “quad pull” might not be the most accurate one out there – and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

A Common Cause of Hip Pain in Athletes – This piece discusses femoral anterior glide syndrome, a term coined by Shirley Sahrmann.

Next, we’ll feature the most popular product reviews of 2009.


“My Coach Says I Shouldn’t Lift…”

Written on September 21, 2009 at 4:36 am, by Eric Cressey

I got this question in person from the parent of a new athlete the other day and thought I’d turn it into a blog post, as I’ve received the email before on many occasions.

Q: I read with great interest your blog on Crossfit for Baseball, but my question would be what your response would be to a coach that insists that baseball players shouldn’t lift weights PERIOD?  My son’s baseball coach is completely against it.

A:  This is definitely going to be one of those “where to even begin” responses, but I’ll do my best.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll start with a quote directly from my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training:

“…resistance training exercises performed on stable surfaces have been demonstrated effective in numerous research studies with respect to improving a variety of athletic qualities, including:

  • muscular strength (5)
  • power (5)
  • aerobic endurance (53)
  • running efficiency (54)
  • anaerobic endurance (5)
  • rate of force development (66,90)
  • hypertrophy (5)
  • reactive strength (66,90)
  • agility (47)

These qualities transfer to improved performance in a variety of sporting tasks, including vertical jump (74), throwing velocity (79), sprinting speed (22), and running economy (53).”

(FYI, these numbers are references from the e-book, so if any of you would like the exact studies, please just request them in the comments section)

Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that your coach IS NOT looking to field a team that lacks agility, sprinting speed, jumping prowess, throwing velocity, rate of force development (think of a catcher’s pop time).  In fact, even those who are clinging to a worthless training initiative like long-distance running for pitchers can get closer to their chosen training effect (as silly as it is) from lifting!

Taking this a step further, we know that resistance training can enhance immune and endocrine function, so players will get sick less often and feel better when game time rolls around.

And, just as importantly, remember that resistance training is one of the foundations of modern physical therapy.  Would your coach tell a physical therapist that resistance training as part of a rehabilitation program was inappropriate? Of course not!  How in the world it is within his scope of practice to tell a kid that lifting is bad for him – either in terms of increasing injury potential or decreasing performance – is completely beyond me.  Throwing a baseball is the single-fastest motion in sports; you simply don’t decelerate 7,500 degrees/second of humeral internal rotation without at least a bit of muscular contribution.

And, let’s not forget that an ideal strength and conditioning program encompasses a lot more than just strength exercises. It includes good self massage work (foam rollers, etc), mobility training, sprinting/agility/plyos, and much, much more.  It begins with a detailed assessment to determine what mobility or stability deficits may lead to injury down the road.  It may also be the only avenue through which an athlete learns proper nutrition.

The fundamental problem is that many baseball coaches think of garbage like this when they hear the words “lifting weights:”

Can someone please tell me how my “biceps will develop” with this?  Only at “Expert Village” does the biceps EXTEND the elbow.  Yikes.

Ouch.

The take-home message is that a lot of coaches think that lifting programs are either a) a waste of time or b) flat-out dangerous.  Sadly, as the videos above demonstrate, in many cases, they’re right. However, completely contraindicating lifting can really stunt the development of players and predispose them to injuries.  Throwing is dangerous when done incorrectly, and so are sprinting, fielding ground balls, and taking batting practice.  We don’t contraindicate those, though, do we?  We educate athletes on how to participate in these training initiatives properly.

I can tell you that at Cressey Performance, each one of our pro baseball players lifts four times a week, throws the medicine ball 2-3 times a week, and does supplemental movement training 2-3 days per week during the off-season – and they continue lifting during the season (at a lower frequency and volume).  This is true of both position players and pitchers.

Our high school guys get after it as well; I don’t know of many other private sector facilities in the country who have eight high school guys throwing 90mph+ before the age of 18 (with several more right on the cusp of this milestone).  Something is working.

And, beyond just the direct training benefits of this system, there is something to be said for the camaraderie strength and conditioning does for teammates on top of regular practices.  The fact that kids actually requested this says volumes!

Hopefully, blogs like this – and bright coaches who are “in the know” – will help to spread the word about what safe, effective training is – and where to get it.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Crossfit for Baseball?

Written on September 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’ve received a lot of emails just recently (as well as some in-person questions) asking me what I think of Crossfit for strength and conditioning programs with baseball players and, more specifically, pitchers.

Let me preface this email with a few qualifying statements.  First, the only exercise “system” with which I agree wholeheartedly is my own.  Cressey Performance programming may be similar in some respects to those of everyone from Mike Boyle, to Louis Simmons, to Ron Wolforth, to the Crossfit folks – but taken as a whole, it’s entirely unique to me.  In other words, I will never agree completely with anyone (just ask my wife!).

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Second, in spite of the criticism Crossfit has received from some people I really respect, I do feel that there are some things they’re doing correctly.  For starters, I think that the camaraderie and enthusiasm that typifies their training groups is fantastic; anything that gets people (who might otherwise be sedentary) motivated to exercise is a plus.  Moreover, they aren’t proponents of steady-state cardio for fat loss, and they tend to gravitate toward compound movements.  So, good on them for those favorable traits. Additionally, I know some outstanding coaches who run Crossfit franchises, so their excellent skill sets may be overshadowed by what less prepared coaches are doing simply because they have the same affiliation.

However, there are several issues that concern me with applying a Crossfit mentality to the baseball world:

1) The randomness of the “workout of the day” is simply not appropriate for a sport that has quite possibly the most specific sport-imposed asymmetries in the world of athletics.  I’ve written about these asymmetries in the past, and they can only be corrected with specific corrective training modalities.

I’m reminded of this constantly at this time of year, as we get new baseball players at all levels now that seasons are wrapping up. When a player presents with a 45-degree glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, a prominent scapular dyskinesis, terrible right thoracic rotation, a big left rib flair, a right hip that’s stuck in adduction, and a complete lack of rotary stability, the last thing he needs to do is a 15-minute tri-set of cleans, kipping pull-ups, and push-ups – following by some 400m sprints. It not only undermines specificity of exercise selection, but also the entire concept of periodization.

Getting guys strong isn’t hard.  Neither is getting them powerful or building better endurance.  Finding the right mix to accomplish all these initiatives while keeping them healthy is the challenge.

2) The energy systems development found in Crossfit is inconsistent with the demands of baseball.  I wrote extensively about my complete and utter distaste for distance running in the baseball world, and while Crossfit doesn’t go this far, in my eyes, anything over 60yds is “excessive distance” for baseball guys.  Most of my guys sprint two times a week during the off-season, and occasionally we’ll go to three with certain athletes.  Let’s just say that elite sprinters aren’t doing Crossfit, and the energy systems demands of baseball players aren’t much different than those of elite sprinters.

3) I have huge concerns about poor exercise technique in conditions of fatigue in anyone, but these situations concern me even more in a population like baseball players that has a remarkably high injury rate as-is.  The fact that 57% of pitchers suffer some sort of shoulder injury during each season says something.  Just think of what that rate is when you factor in problems in other areas, too!  The primary goal should not be entertainment or variety (or “muscle confusion,” for all the morons in pro baseball who call P90X their “hardcore” off-season program).  Rather, the goals should be a) keeping guys on the field and b) safe performance enhancement strategies (in that order).

cockingphase

As an example, all I need to do is look back on a program we used in one of our first pro pitchers back for the off-season last fall.  He had a total of 20 pull-up and 64 push-up variation reps per week (in addition to some dumbbell bench pressing and loads of horizontal pulling/scapular stability/cuff work).  This 84-rep figure might be on the low-end of a Crossfit program for a single day.  Just like with throwing, it’s important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.

4) Several of the exercises in typical Crossfit programs (if there is such a thing) concern me in light of what we know about baseball players.  I’ll cover this in a lot more detail in an article within the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that most have significant shoulder (if not full-body) laxity (acquired and congenital), abnormal labral features, partial thickness supraspinatus tears, poor scapular upward rotation, retroversion (gives rise to greater external rotation), and diminished rotator cuff strength in the throwing shoulder (particularly after a long season).  Most pro pitchers will have more than 190 degrees of total motion at the shoulder, whereas many of the general population folks I encounter rarely exceed 160 degrees.

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In short, the shoulders you are training when working with baseball players (and pitchers, in particular) are not the same as the ones you see when you walk into a regular ol’ gym.  Want proof? Back in 2007, on my first day working with a guy who is now a middle reliever in the big leagues, I started to teach him to front squat.  He told me that with only the bar across his shoulder girdle, he felt like his humerus was going to pop out of the socket.  Not surprisingly, he could contort his spine and wrists like a 14-year-old female gymnast.  This laxity helps make him a great pitcher, but it would destroy him in a program where even the most conservative exercises are done to the point that fatigue compromises ideal form.  And, let’s be honest; if I was dumb enough to let someone with a multi-million dollar arm do this, I’d have agents and GMs and athletic trainers from a lot of major league systems coming after me with baseball bats!

5) Beyond just “acts of commission” with inappropriate exercise selection and volume, there are also “acts of omission.”  For example, a rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address thoracic spine and hip mobility and anti-extension and anti-rotatoin core stability.  If you exhaust your training time and recovery capacity with other things, there may not be enough time or energy to pay attention to these important components.

All that said, I would encourage anyone who deals with baseball players to learn to borrow bits and pieces from a variety of methods available today.   Along the way, take into account the unique characteristics of the overhead throwing athlete and manage accordingly.  Simply saying “I’m a Crossfit guy”  and adhering to an approach that was never intended for a baseball population does a huge disservice to the athletes that count on you to bring them the most up-to-date, cutting-edge training practices available.

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the asymmetries and training techniques I noted above, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, where both Mike Reinold and I go into some detail on assessment and corrective exercise for pitchers in this seminar (and there’s also a lot more fantastic information for anyone looking to develop pitchers). You can buy it HERE, or learn more about it HERE.

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Want to Get Strong? Quit Switching Strength Training Programs Every Week.

Written on July 15, 2009 at 10:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Day in and day out, I see loads of athletes and regular fitness enthusiasts who have hit plateaus in their quest to get stronger, bigger, and leaner – or run into injury issues.  Each situation is unique, but one thing that I am always especially attentive to is learning whether someone has recently altogether overhauled their approach to training.

As is the case in so many things in life, “Slow and steady wins the race,” “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and “Don’t run sideways on treadmills while wearing jeans.”  Actually, that last one wasn’t all that applicable to what I’m getting at, but it’s probably still good advice to heed for some of our easily distracted teenage readers.

I come across a lot of “program hoppers” in what I do.  These are individuals who might do four weeks of Sheiko, four weeks of 5×5 workouts, four weeks of Crossfit, four weeks of German Volume Training, and then four weeks of Tae-Bo DVDs in spandex.  At the end of this five month journey, they are somehow more fit – but literally have no idea what training principles were key in them achieving that end.  Everything was too muddled; they overhauled the entire strength and conditioning program rather than keeping the valuable stuff.

About 8,000 strength coaches before me have used the line, “The best program is the one you aren’t on.”  Well, I would agree with that – unless, of course, it means that this new strength and conditioning program leaves out all the important stuff that you learned from previous training experiences.

I mean, honestly, I’ve heard of guys going to strength training programs where they only squat, bench, and deadlift.  They don’t even do warm-ups;  nothing else stays!  Then, after six weeks of this program, they email me to ask why their shoulders, back, and knees hurt.  Uh, maybe become the only thing they kept from your old program was specificity?  With no single-leg work, no horizontal pulling, and no mobility work, it’s a surprise that they have only been diagnosed with a musculoskeletal injuries – because they probably should have been institutionalized for being so dumb that they’re a harm to those around him.

For instance, rather than tell this individual to stop squatting (he actually kept a pretty good neutral spine on the way down), I’d encourage him to a) get a squat rack, b) get a training partner/spotter, and c) put on some clothes.

Major kudos for rocking “The Final Countdown,” though; seriously.

Where am I going with this, and how does it apply to you?  Well, the message is very simple: never overhaul.  Instead, tinker, fine-tune, adjust, or whatever else your thesaurus recommends as a synonym.  Good strength and conditioning programs all share certain things in common, and anything that deviates from those qualities isn’t worth it.  It’s something that I really tried to take into account when I wrote Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.


To take it a step further, I encourage you to be leery of those who encourage you to adapt an entire discipline and change everything that you’re doing.  I find that even in the most injured and hopelessly weak folks that come to me for help, I can always find several things that they’re doing correctly that deserve to stay.  This is something I’ve seen in some of the best physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches with whom I’ve worked in the past, too.  A good professional should work with athletes and clients to meet halfway on what works, not simply pass judgment on a strength training program and overhaul it altogether.

Related Posts

5 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Stronger

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