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How to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation in Young Athletes

Written on April 21, 2015 at 7:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, John O'Neil, who has a huge interest in long-term athletic development. Enjoy!

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink outlines what defines true intrinsic motivation. As a coach, we clamor for multiple things: control, results, and motivated clients. In dealing with young clients, how do we develop a young athlete from someone who can’t define the word motivation into someone who comes to exemplify the definition of the word? Using strategies I learned practically and have organized through Pink’s motivation structure, here’s an outline of how I incorporate subtle motivation tactics while also gauging a youth athlete’s motivational progress.

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According to Pink, true motivation is a blend of three factors; autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You can’t have mastery or purpose before you have autonomy. Autonomy in the training process is a client’s ownership of their program, understanding that while they are provided structure and coaching, they are the one executing the movements and looking to improve upon their given goals.

Mastery is the ability to perform the process of the given program to the point where variables – movement type, loading scheme, structure – need to be altered periodically to maintain both psychological interest and physiological adaptations.

Purpose is a client’s awareness that movements they are given have reasons in progression towards their goals and the client feeling the need to continue the process to optimize performance.

While this progression is long-term, when these pillars are in place, we have created true motivation within the client. What kind of strategies can we practically implement to lay the foundations for autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

Autonomy: We provide the client with structure, but at what point is structure overbearing to the point where it diminishes an athlete's motivation? There needs to be an element of client responsibility within the process. Challenge your athletes to make decisions in the weight room as they will have to on the field. Incorporate options, not demands. Practically:

  1. Have your youth athletes carry their own programs and write in their own weights. While this sounds simple, how can something seem like it's truly yours if you never carry it, and you can't make your mark on it?
  2. Instruct clients on where to be, but make them responsible for being there. For example, once the kid knows where the warm-up area is, it shouldn't be up to us to lead them there and take them through foam rolling each time. Make sure they're doing what they should be without coaching everything again. Knowledge is power. Allow them to use knowledge you've given them.
  3. Let the client participate in the process of picking weights. Once they know an exercise and have an idea where to start, give them the option of choosing, say, 5 pounds heavier or 10 pounds heavier on the next set. I have one rule with my clients in regards to this: if you pick your own weight from options I give you, you better be confident in your decision. If not, I choose. Confidence in your selection will breed confidence in the movement and in the process in general.
  4. Have them rack and load their own weights. While a coach can and should help sometimes, a coach should never do all of the work for a youth athlete. Make them responsible for their own process and be respectful of where they are.
  5. Consider incorporating varying rep and/or rest schemes. There is nothing wrong with throwing in an exercise here and there that is listed as “6-8” or “8-10” reps. Assuming the client is proficient in the movement and not blowing past technical failure, this forces the client to make a decision while amidst the action. Is there anything more similar to sport than that? Another, and often times easier applicable option, is to allow rest to be up to the client. Give them a window - i.e., 3-4 minutes for a heavy strength set, or 30-60 seconds in conditioning - that makes them take responsibility for when they start the next set.
  6. Include the youth athlete in the scheduling process. In my experience, there seems to be a clear middle school/high school divide in terms of kids knowing their own schedules. Most middle school kids leave it up to mom to be chauffeured from activity to activity, not necessarily knowing what comes next until it's almost time, whereas most high school kids have knowledge of their schedules. While you can't practically leave it 100% up to many kids, you can at least broach the conversation and force them to think about when the best time for them to come back in would be.

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Mastery: Training models should stress the process, not the outcomes. We can monitor and control the process, but we can’t control the outcomes. We can, however, have a heavy influence on the outcomes and give our youth athletes as much opportunity for success as possible. A kid doesn’t necessarily have to be able to execute every movement to a “T” without coaching (most won’t), but they should gain knowledge of what they are trying to do and the difference between wrong and right. They should be held accountable to follow coaching when given and communicate with the coach about what they felt and how it went. Practically:

  1. Over time, the client should gain knowledge of the names and positions of given exercises, and they should be held accountable in doing so. If something says “half-kneeling cable chop” and the client routinely goes to the squat rack for it, we’re in trouble. The process can’t be mastered until it is understood.
  2. Allow this process to shift from a conscious one to an unconscious one. A foam rolling series, for example, isn’t “mastered” until someone can just go from one spot to another without being told and can hold a conversation in doing so.
  3. To steal a quote from Eric, our most important job as coaches is to prepare our athletes for the day they are on their own. While coaching and monitoring will always be paramount, our clients will hopefully go on to play at the next level and won’t always be able to train with us. By the time they do so, they should have an understanding of types of things they should and shouldn’t be doing/feeling.
  4. New variations are understood to be progressions of previous ones. If you spend a month goblet squatting a kid and then progress them to a double kettlebell front squat, you shouldn’t have to re-teach anything except the intricacies of the grip. If you have to, the kid really hasn’t put that mental effort into it that would allow us to believe they have taken ownership of the process.

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Purpose: At this level, the client craves training. They know that the training process is a contributor towards the success they have experienced with their goals, and that without it, they would not have achieved their level of success. You no longer have to stay on top of the athlete about keeping up with things like in-season training or any take-home mobility drills you’ve given them. Rather, you know that it has become as important to them as it is to you. Our practical motivational strategies are moot point with this type of client; they are already ingrained within them. We program and monitor with the goal of optimizing progress, but coaching becomes more guidance than dictation. Success experienced by an athlete with purpose and true intrinsic motivation breeds the desire to continue the process that got them there and builds a craving to experience success at a higher level. It should be every coach’s goal to have a stable of clients that exhibit this.

About the Author

John O’Neil is a strength and conditioning coach at The Annex Sports Performance Center in Chatham, NJ and Drive495 in New York, NY. He previously interned at Cressey Sports Performance and Ranfone Training Systems. You can contact him at joh.oneil@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/20/15

Written on April 20, 2015 at 5:53 am, by Eric Cressey

It's Marathon Monday here in Massachusetts, but just in case you're not here to experience the excitement (or marathons don't excite you, anyway), here's some good reading to atone for it:

EliteFTS Sports Performance Podcast - I was interviewed for this last week, and we covered a host of business and training topics. Hope you enjoy it!

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3 Reasons to Lift Weights Slower - Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio shares some insights that'll definitely lead to more productive training sessions.

No More Pulled Hamstrings! - My good buddy Mike Robertson shares five points on preventing hamstrings injuries. If you're looking for a quick introduction to the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought, this is a good teaser.

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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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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/13/15

Written on April 13, 2015 at 7:18 am, by Eric Cressey

It's Monday - and that means it's time for some recommended strength and conditioning reading to kick off the week.

Cressey Sports Performance Roundtable: Carving Your Path as a Strength Coach - After a question was emailed in to our facility's general inquiry email address, our staff chimed in with their recommendations for an up-and-coming strength and conditioning coach.

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How Sleep Can Make You Fat - Adam Bornstein discusses the many impacts sleep quality and quantity has on overall health. Suffice it to say that it's very important!

Blake Treinen's Path to the Nationals Involved 3 Colleges, 2 Drafts, and a Trade - CSP athlete Blake Treinen made the opening day roster for the Washington Nationals, but that's far from the entire story. If you work with young athletes and are looking for a story of perseverance to share with them, look no further.

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How to Use the Stage System for Size, Strength, and Speed

Written on April 9, 2015 at 11:09 am, by Eric Cressey

The stage system is one of the most versatile programming strategies around.

Training for scary strength? It excels at that. Training to build size so you can upgrade those extra-medium T-shirts? It can be adjusted for hypertrophy. Want to get faster for sports? The stage system has you covered.

Read more...

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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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Are You Willing to Ask for Help?

Written on April 4, 2015 at 12:01 am, by Eric Cressey

For a huge chunk of my life, I was a complete control freak. Looking back, I was convinced that I could "handle" everything that came my way - both in terms of expertise and actual time commitment. It was always easier to do it myself than it was to find someone else to do it, as I knew I'd have to be looking over their shoulder and second-guessing their work, anyway.

Then I hit a critical threshold.

Around 2006, my clientele grew exponentially right after I moved to Boston. All of a sudden, I was training clients seven days per week and - in many cases - over 13 hours per day. On top of that, my online presence was growing, product sales were rolling, and I had more writing and speaking opportunities than ever before. I was still powerlifting competitively, so training had to be a priority. With multiple revenue streams, my financials were getting more and more complex. And, last (but certainly not least), I'd just started dating Anna (who is now my wife), so that relationship was a big priority as well. I wanted to do it all.

Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day, and I was using almost all of them - which meant sleep was getting pushed out. The success that I'd dreamed of for years was actually kicking my butt. For the first time in my life, I recognized that I needed help.

As it turns out, "help" was a bit complex. It entailed opening Cressey Sports Performance and bringing on my business partner, Pete Dupuis, to handle the managerial side of things. Tony Gentilcore also joined in to help out with managing a rapidly-growing clientele.

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This help was game-changing for me. In spite of the exhaustion that went with starting a new business, I felt invigorated and the long hours didn't phase me. Having others' expertise and efforts working alongside my own afforded me more time and opportunities to focus on what I did really well: evaluating, programming, and coaching.

Months later, we brought on Brian St. Pierre as our first employee. We asked him to "help" step up our nutritional offerings for our clients, and he crushed it. It's been an important part of our business ever since. Chris Howard later "helped" to bring in massage therapy. Greg Robins and George Kalantzis "helped" build up our strength camps. We hired a fantastic accountant who has "helped" simply our finances and save us a lot of money. Later, it was a payroll company to "help" with that side of things, and an office manager to "help" manage the daily chaos at our facility so that Pete can focus on business development. I've got a lawyer, financial adviser, landscaper, cleaning lady, part-time nanny, and host of other people who "help" me on a regular basis. I refer clients out to physical therapists, physicians, chiropractors, pitching coaches, hitting coaches, and many other ancillary professionals who can "help" our clients. Now, I have the "help" of two new business partners - Brian Kaplan and Shane Rye - with the opening of our Jupiter, FL facility this past fall.

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I say this not to brag, but to show you how asking for help and being willing to outsource tasks that don't best leverage my skillset has completely changed my life for the better time and time again. It's freed up time to focus on things I do REALLY well. This has allowed me to grow my businesses, be a better husband and father, and have great satisfaction with my job (if I can even really call it a "job"). Time and time again, asking for help and outsourcing has proven to be a good decision - and I started out as the biggest micromanaging skeptic you could possibly imagine.

What does this have to do with YOU, though?

If you want a contract drafted up, you go to a lawyer.

If you want your taxes done, you go to an accountant.

For some reason, though, most folks try to take on their most precious commodity - the body - by themselves. And, this is probably why we see so many crazy fad diets, and so many brutal displays of "what in the world is that exercise, and is he really going to hurt himself?" on display at most commercial gyms. And, it's one reason why many people really aren't happy with their physiques, functional capacity, or physical quality of life.

The truth is that many of these people are just a few months away from looking, feeling, and moving dramatically better. They just need to seek out help - just like I have (albeit in different contexts).

This blog is obviously about fitness, and if you're reading it, I'm guessing that means that you've looked to me for help. Thank you for your vote of confidence.

To that end, I'm confident that one outstanding way in which I can help you is by directing you to The High Performance Handbook. I'm confident that it's a versatile program that can really help the overwhelming majority of my readers to get closer to their goals and educate them in the process. It also happens to be on sale for $50 off through tonight (Saturday) at midnight HERE.

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But even beyond The High Performance Handbook program, I hope this blog has made you think a bit about how you can find help to simplify your life and create opportunities to focus on what you do REALLY well. It's made a world of difference for me.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: Epic HPH Sale Edition

Written on April 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

With The High Performance Handbook on sale for the first time ever this week ($50 off), I've been doing a lot of guest blogging and interviews for other sites to spread the word. If you're looking for a few hours worth of reading and listening, look no further!

Guest Posts from Me

6 Exercise Upgrades for Better Results - Written for Adam Bornstein's Blog

6 Lower-Body Exercises that Won't Make Your Athletes Sore During the Season - Written for the Athletes Acceleration Blog.

Building Multi-Directional Strength and Power - Written for Bret Contreras' Blog

You're Invincible...Until You're Not - Written for Luka Hocevar's Blog

8 Strategies that Took My Deadlift to the Next Level - Written for Dean Somerset's Blog

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Understanding and Managing Joint Hypermobility - Written for Jen Sinkler's Blog

Reversing an Extension Posture - Written for the IYCA Blog.

One Thing You Probably Haven't Considered About Healthy Shoulders - Written for Jon Goodman's Blog.

Hip Pain in Athletes: What's the Scoop? - Written for Rick Kaselj's Blog.

5 Training Strategies to Avoid Shoulder Pain - Written for Jordan Syatt's Blog.

Podcasts

In the Trenches with Mike Robertson (Baseball and Business Focus)

The Fitcast with Kevin Larrabee (Training and Business)

Posts about The High Performance Handbook

Tony Gentilcore wrote up two great posts about the HPH program HERE and HERE.

 Click here for more information on The High Performance Handbook.

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15 Random Thoughts on Strength and Conditioning Programs

Written on April 1, 2015 at 6:08 pm, by Eric Cressey

With this week's big sale on The High Performance Handbook, I figured it would be a good time to discuss some programming lessons I've learned over the years - as well as the strategies that have emerged from these learning experiences. As a coach, I always want to be evolving - and the HPH program is a pretty up-to-date reflection on some of my strength and conditioning philosophies. You can check it out HERE for $50 off this week.

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That said, let's get to the random thoughts...

1. Coaches often highlight the importance of including single-leg work to help strength and conditioning programs "carry over" better to the real world of athletics, but rarely do you hear fitness professionals talking about the importance of unilateral upper body exercises, which offer some awesome functional carryover to performance, as well as a host of health benefits.

There's an increased challenge to rotary stability, and the athlete encounters weight shifts and extra thoracic rotation. These movements also teach protraction and retraction on rib cage, not just humeral movement. As perhaps the greatest benefit, less external loading is needed to create a training effect. So, don't just think that bent-over rows, inverted rows, and pull-ups cover everything you need!

2. If you want one more mobility option to help make your warm-ups more efficient, try this one. Adductor length and thoracic mobility: what's not to love?

3. A lot of people like to debate whether you should attack mobility or stability first. While I think the answer is generally "mobility," the truth is that it isn't such a black vs. white issue; there are a lot of gray areas. Think about breathing - and more specifically, a full exhalation. When you exhale fully, you get a deep muscular activation (stability) in your rectus abdominus, external obliques, and even your serratus anterior. Meanwhile, you'll likely actually see an increase of shoulder flexion, hip internal rotation, and ROM at other joints (mobility). With this in mind, the name of the game is attacking good movement, not just wasting time classifying things as "mobility" or "stability." 

4. Axially-loaded single-leg exercises can be a great substitute for squats in those who lack the hip mobility to squat deep, and those who have lower extremity or core issues that may not handle heavy bilateral loading well. Here's one of my favorites:

5. In spite of the point I made in #5, going really heavy on single-leg work for an extended period of time can definitely make your knees cranky, even in perfect technique. Just like anything else, they need to be cycled in and out. To that end, if you need a little break from them, but still want to preserve a training effect, try rotating in sled pushing and step-up variations. Both involve single-leg force production - but without a considerable eccentric component.

6. Speaking of single-leg work, bad things happen when people do a lot of lunging and sled pushing without shoes on. Usually, this means a really cranky big toe. I'm all for including barefoot work, but keep it to unloaded work in your warm-ups, or posterior chain oriented drills (deadlifts, good mornings, pull-throughs, hip thrusts, glute bridges, 1-leg RDLs, etc.).

7. There's a reason they put squats before deadlifts in powerlifting meets. I'd encourage you to just trust me on this one. If you're not willing to do so, go ahead and deadlift before you squat in your next lower body training session. You'll probably feel like garbage and have the mediocre training session to prove it.

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8. I feel like folks pick on bodybuilders too much nowadays, but they actually have a ton to teach us. To me, the foremost of these lessons is, very simply, that you need plenty of volume and time under tension to get big. I learned this in a bit of a roundabout way: by trying to avoid gaining weight.

You see, early on in my powerlifting career, I was trying like crazy to stay in the 165-pound weight class. At my first meet in June of 2003, I was about 163 pounds. By the summer of 2006, I was about 185 pounds - and without any significant changes to my diet - and I was leaner. What gave?

My upper back. That's literally where 90% of the muscle mass went. I went from being a medium/large t-shirt, to being a guy who had to wear XL t-shirts just because my upper back wouldn't fit into a large.

What's unique about the upper back? Very simply, it gets the most volume and time under tension in any powerlifting program. You get it with all your normal horizontal and vertical pulling, obviously. However, you also train it when you bench correctly (especially powerlifting style), and it's crucial for bar positioning with heavy squatting. And, deadlifts can certainly do a little something for the "yoke." And this doesn't even include things like farmer's walks, walking lunges, and other comparable exercises where you're holding heavy weights at your sides.

The point is not that "Cressey thinks he has a big upper back," but rather that the bodybuilders have known that consistent volume and time under tension matter across an entire body. Want bigger quads? You're going to need to do extra work for them. It's not rocket science, but a lot of people are so focused on being "down on" traditional bodybuilding that they fail to recognize the great lessons to be learned from this population.

9. The 1-arm kettlebell front squat is, without a doubt, the single-most "functional" exercise in the history of parenting. I can't count how many times I've had to pick something up off the floor or table while holding one of our twins in one arm.

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10. I'm often asked where we plug Turkish Get-ups into our programming. There are actually a few places we'll do it.

When done lighter and for technique, you can work them in at the end of a warm-up for practice on a daily basis.

When loaded up a bit more, I prefer to use them as a first exercise in place of pressing on an upper body day. And, we'll often pair it up with some kind of horizontal or vertical pulling exercise before moving on to more traditional pressing stuff.

So, I guess you could say that the answer to where we typically include it is "always early in the session."

11. Handstand push-ups are getting a lot of love these days as gymnastics movements are undergoing a revival in the strength training world. I'm all for athleticism, but we have to ask who is really prepared for going overhead - much less going overhead with the risk of falling! Here's a video I filmed for Wil Fleming a while back on the subject. While the topic is preparing for snatches, you can easily apply the point to handstand push-ups.

If you pass the back-to-wall shoulder flexion test with flying colors and have a decent foundation of strength, by all means, have at it with handstand push-ups. If you're just trying them out because you saw someone doing them on YouTube and they looked cool, they're probably not a good idea - at least not right away.

12. One equipment limitation many folks run into when training at commercial gyms is the lack of a medicine ball wall against which they can do rotational shotputs and scoop tosses. It's a huge bummer, as these exercises can be of tremendous value for not only training rotational power, but also part of conditioning medleys.

That said, it's not a perfect replacement, but I have found that a decent substitute is band-resisted heidens (or heiden variations without the bands). You at least get some of the same hip sequencing, even if the lower-to-upper body force transfer isn't quite the same.

13. Training athletes for performance is all about managing these competing demands. It’s about knowing when to push, and when to hold back. It’s about taking a step back and determining where an athlete’s biggest window of adaptation is so that you can direct more focus to that area.

With all this in mind, coaches often overlook just how difficult it can be to manage this balancing act when you want them all to be priorities, but know that’s simply not possible.

14. If you want to improve your vertical jump, there are really only three ways to do so:

a) put more force into the ground
b) put that force into the ground quicker
c) be less fat

Most people focus entirely on "a" and "b" - and they're often the athletes with brutal diets. Drop a few percentage points in body fat while maintaining your peak power, and you'll jump through the roof.

15. This post is all about programming, but it'd be shortsighted to wrap up without reminding you that I'd rather see a mediocre program executed with outstanding intensity and adherence than an outstanding program executed with mediocre effort. You can't outprogram "soft," so be sure you're working hard in spite of the focus on continued education!

If you're interested in taking a glimpse into more of my programming philosophies - or get a comprehensive strength and conditioning plan all prepared for you - be sure to check out The High Performance Handbook while it's on sale this week!

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better – Installment 61

Written on March 24, 2015 at 4:00 am, by Eric Cressey

This installment of quick tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Use “discovery learning” as a way to improve retention for movement patterns.

Going to continuing education courses consistently allows me to adjust my perspective based on the “latest” information available in the industry. However, one of the biggest things that allows me to shift my perspective further is to listen in and converse with other professionals during lunch breaks to further understand the topic at hand in a more productive way.

This first point divulges how to implement a sense of discovery about movement patterns and gives some very straight forward tips for coaching anything that is new to your clients or athletes.

Keep these points in mind when using this new technique of teaching.

Use your athlete/client's words and language to help them learn a movement better.

Not every person will know where their glutes are, for example. Have the athlete just point to the part of their body where they feel it; you don’t need a PhD in Exercise Science to teach a basic movement pattern.

Remove body parts.

If a hip hinge is too difficult, reduce the neuromuscular challenge by having them start on two knees instead of two feet. Now the movement is largely a singular hinging pattern when they start on their knees, instead of stabilizing on their feet.

2. Consider reducing the number of “corrective exercises” you perform.

I’m a big fan of Dan John and his easily quotable phrase, “Keep the goal the goal.” Maintain your perspective of the goal at hand. If your goal is to improve strength, lose fat, or improve at your sport, how many corrective exercises are you performing? How much time are you utilizing doing foam rolling? Minimize your time spent analyzing your own problems by seeking out the best coaches, therapists, or nutrition coaches, and get to work on that goal. Sometimes, you'll find that exercises can even be combined to improve efficiency without sacrificing the benefit.

Corrective exercises are supposed to correct something. By omitting these movements, will the athlete miss any crucial movement patterns? Play “Devil’s Advocate” and make sure to incorporate all that is necessary, but no more. If you aren't careful, your "correctives" can wind up becoming a cumbersome majority of your training sessions.

3. Learn the difference between blocked and random practice - and apply each appropriately.

On the topic of training youth athletes, I recently attended a seminar in which blocked vs. random practice was presented. For the purposes of this article, blocked practice is specific training of a singular skill with no changes in environmental surroundings (like swinging a bat against a pitching machine over and over). Conversely, random practice involves having an individual adapt to the surroundings and incorporate different (but similar) skills (like swinging a bat for different scenarios - with a live pitcher).

The biggest question of the day was, "Which athlete excelled when it came time for performance?"

When tested in the short-term, blocked practice performed better than random practice. This makes sense, because if you practice a singular skill over and over, you will get better at that skill.

However, when enough time passed for participants to “forget,” retention of skills was the name of the game. So when retaining skills for a longer term, blocked practice did not do as well, and practicing “randomly” prevailed.

From a logical point of view, this is similar to memorizing sentences when you’re cramming for a final exam. Sure, you’ll do great if the teacher just has the same exact sentences or questions as the book - but what happens if the teacher forces you to critically think, and asks questions that are different than the material presented during class?

This leads quite appropriately into the context of a long term athletic development model. By increasing skills and techniques in a broad sense, athletes will more easily acquire specific sport skills. Conversely, with early sports specialization, athletes are practicing (almost always) one skill over and over, and struggle when diverse, more unpredictable movement is required for success.

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What are the actionable items you can take away from this?

If you coach youth athletes, or you yourself have a young son or daughter:

• Encourage them to try multiple sports.
• Allow them to “figure it out” when it comes to decision making skills, especially as it applies to sports.
• Provide feedback - but much, much later after the competition, game, or practice session.
• This will allow for them to come up with their own unique thoughts, and allow them to be uninhibited when it comes to creating a solution to whatever problems occur during a game.

While this is a “Quick and Easy Way to Move and Feel Better” series, I imagine that we can help everyone of all ages move and even feel better by taking this information and acting on it.

4. Try this quick oatmeal snack.

I’ve been preparing for a powerlifting meet for the past few months, and an easy go to snack in the morning and/or at night is a quick oatmeal snack.

It’s fast, needs little ingredients, is a flexible snack, or even as a snack if your goal is to gain mass.

PB2 Oatmeal

• 1/2 cup Oatmeal
• 2 tbsp Chocolate Peanut Butter or Powdered Peanut Butter
• 1 Scoop of Protein Powder
• Handful of [Frozen] Blueberries
• Honey for taste
• 1 cup of almond or whole milk

Macros
Fat: ~9g
Carbs: ~54g
Protein: ~42g

Prep time: Pour the oats in first, followed by milk, then heat to 90-120 seconds. Then, add everything in and mix it up. The easy clean-up makes this a go-to for the past few weeks/months with all the snow in Massachusetts!

5. Remember that band can increase resistance - or assist in cleaning up a movement pattern.

Whether your goal is maximal strength, increased hypertrophy, or even learning an exercise for the first time, bands are a useful tool.

Band placement is critical for learning how an exercise can increase resistance, or assist during a movement.

For example, you can improve strength by performing a band resisted push-up, or help the push-up by utilizing a band under the waist to elicit a “pop” out of the bottom of the push-up (where the exercise is most difficult).

Band Assisted Push-Up - Miguel

At the same time, bands can help to improve reactive core engagement, or in other words, your body will have to reflexively react in a favorable way.

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 on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

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