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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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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/23/15

Written on March 23, 2015 at 6:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, gang. I hope you all had a great weekend. We're going to kick off the week with some recommended strength and conditioning reading from around the 'net:

Settling the Great Grain Debate - My good friend and former Cressey Sports Performance coach Brian St. Pierre did a fantastic with this review for Precision Nutrition.

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Is it time to turn our attention toward central mechanisms for post-exertional recovery strategies and performance? - This is a science-heavy but outstanding article that was recently published in Frontiers in Physiology. It'll be required reading (and discussion) for an upcoming in-service at our facility.

Want to Get Strong? Quit Switching Training Programs Every Week. - As the title implies, this old article of mine begs readers to stay on programs long enough to actually evaluate if they work.

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How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Written on March 19, 2015 at 6:23 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from the good folks at Examine.com, a great website to which I refer often for unbiased information on supplements and nutrition. Enjoy! - EC

Protein is everyone’s favorite macronutrient. Why?

1. The media doesn’t go crazy over it like it does over fats and carbs.
2. It’s been proven to help build muscle.
3. Protein shakes are as well-known (and used) as energy drinks.

protein

Although there is the occasional study or media report that suggests too much protein can cause organ damage or increase cancer risks, these concerns are typically overblown. People with certain medical conditions may exacerbate their symptoms by eating too much protein, but the most likely damage that excessive protein will do to a health person is lighten their wallet.

The most frequent question posted online about protein consumption is a simple one: what’s the optimal daily protein intake?

Protein intake recommendations

The Examine.com page on recommended protein intake breaks down the existing research on protein intake. Recommended daily protein intake depends largely on health goals and activity level:

0.8 g/kg body weight (0.36 g/lb) if your weight is stable and you don’t exercise
1.0-1.5 g/kg (0.45-0.68 g/lb) if your goal is weight loss or you’re moderately active
1.5-2.2 g/kg (0.68-1 g/lb) if your goal is weight loss and you’re physically active

People who are obese should calculate their daily protein intake based on their goal weight, not existing body weight (in order to not ingest too many calories).

At least one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight a day is sufficient for an athlete. Studies show that there isn’t a significant practical difference between 1.5 to 2.2 g/kg(0.68 – 1g/lb) of daily protein intake. For a 180 lb athlete, this is 122 to 180 grams of protein (the difference being the equivalent of about two chicken breasts).

Protein intake and bulking

Bulking and weight gain doesn’t necessarily require increased protein intake. Muscle growth is affected by protein availability and protein elimination rates, or how fast protein is used up in metabolic reactions.

The more calories the body has to work with, the more efficiently it utilizes protein because fewer amino acids are converted into glucose. However, increasing protein intake may not be necessary during a bulk, because the added calories are contributing toward more efficient protein use. Ingesting protein also increases protein signaling, which is necessary for muscle growth. That being said, exercise has a similar effect, which means working hard in the gym could render the extra signaling effect from additional protein intake negligible during a bulk.

Excessive protein intake

There is enough evidence to support the safety of 0.8-1.2g/kg (about .5g/lb) of protein per day. Although there is little evidence to suggest excessive protein intake may be harmful, there are also not many studies on the topic.

People with kidney or liver damage should consult their doctor when determining how much protein to eat. Too much protein can overwork previously damaged organs and can exacerbate symptoms. Otherwise healthy people can eat an extra chicken breast or opt for another protein shake without worrying about their health.

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Supplementing to replace protein intake

People who cannot eat enough protein due to finances, diet preferences, or motivation often turn to supplementation to avoid eating yet another can of tuna.

The two best supplementation options for conserving muscle mass during caloric restriction are leucine and β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB). Leucine is the primary amino acid in protein that’s primarily responsible for signaling muscle tissue to grow. HMB, leucine’s metabolite, also helps preserve lean mass and reduces the rate of catabolism. Leucine turns into HMB at a 5% rate, so one gram of HMB is equivalent to about 20 grams of leucine.

Supplementation should only be used if dietary changes cannot be made to meet your protein requirements. It is however, worth noting that consuming protein in the form of actual food can yield benefits that supplementation can’t. But if dietary changes are not practical, supplementation can help improve muscle growth and minimize muscle loss.

Ideal sources of protein

As long as the protein is coming from a bioavailable source (not pure gelatin) and contains all the essential amino acids, it doesn’t matter what food it’s coming from.

Protein sources do matter in the context of the overall diet. For example, eating fatty tuna means there will be less room in the diet for other calories, since the fat in the tuna means the protein source contains more calories overall. Prioritizing lean meats can help keep calorie count low, or free up some calories for treats.

Worrying about the differences between whey protein vs casein protein vs hemp protein (and other protein powders) is an exercise in futility. The primary distinction between them is how you find their taste, and potentially their consistency (as casein is gel-like, it’s usually more applicable in baking situations). The slight difference in micronutrients is literally not worth the headache.

The bottom line on protein

The media and supplement industry overcomplicate recommended protein intake because it generates clicks, creates dogma, and helps sell product. As long as you’re eating a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise frequently, one gram of protein per kilogram to pound of body a day is plenty for your muscle and health-related goals. Yes, you read that correctly: 1 gram per kg to lb is likely sufficient. That means if you're 200lbs, targeting between 90 to 200g of protein is fine. People tend to overthink how much protein they need, and unless you are on a diet or an endurance athlete, you don't actually need as much protein as is often suggested. That said, having more is also likely not detrimental.

Examine.com is the internet's largest and most trusted unbiased resource with respect to supplement reviews. In celebration of their 4th anniversary, they've put all of their guides on sale for 40% off HERE.

supp331 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/17/15

Written on March 17, 2015 at 7:56 am, by Eric Cressey

Let's get this week off on the right foot with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us - An incoming Cressey Sports Performance intern asked for some additional recommended reading on top of the normal material they have to cover before they start up, and this was the first book that came to mind. This Seth Godin work is a quick read, but a classic, in my opinion.

Tribes-Godin

Examine.com - This is really an entire site to check out, but it's one I heavily endorse and it warrants a mention on its 4th anniversary. The internet's largest and most trusted unbiased resource with respect to supplementation has all its guides on sale for 40% off this week.

When Should Youth Pitchers Learn Curveballs? - Several people have asked me this question lately, and it seemed like a good time to bring this old post from Matt Blake back to the forefront.

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Repetition vs. Randomness: Which Will Get You Fit Faster?

Written on March 12, 2015 at 9:38 am, by Eric Cressey

In his book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, author Nir Eyal goes to great lengths to discuss the various factors that make consumers fall in love with certain offerings. One factor he highlights in great depth is novelty - or randomness..

As an example, Eyal talks about how we never get tired of our email because we know that each time we check it, there are going to be 100% unique messages waiting for us. Each new email experience may bring noteworthy news, new challenges, different emotions, or just a quick break from the "real" world in which we live. Checking our emails - even if we do so hundreds of times per day - always brings novelty. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media websites and apps are all endlessly novel, too.

hook22668729

Conversely, think about the game Farmville (yes, that annoying Facebook game for which you always get invites). In spite of small variations to the user experience, the game is always the same - and that's why people play it for hours on end - but ultimately give it up after a few weeks. The novelty wears off.

We can find similar parallels all across our daily lives. There's a reason so many people tune in to watch a reality TV show about the Kardashians; they say dumb things, fight a lot, and spend money on extravagant crap...to create novelty. Sorry, but a reality TV show about an accountant who pretty much does the same thing every day really doesn't drive ratings through the roof; it's just not at all novel.

Maybe you have a favorite restaurant because they have different weekly specials, whereas other spots don't rotate the menu. You probably have that one friend you adore because he/she always overreacts to things, gets easily flustered, or says the most random things - all of which provide endless entertainment value. Maybe you read this website because I make it seem random by talking about everything from training, to corrective exercise, to nutrition, to sports performance, to business, to my kids and dog.

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This randomness also has a place in fitness. Novelty is one factor that makes Crossfit popular; each workout is different, and that randomness can improve exercise adherence. Randomness also accounts for some of the success folks have working out with friends and training partners; your social experience for each training session is different when you have familiar faces with whom you interact (as opposed to working out by yourself in silence).

It goes without saying, however, that your entire program can't be random. Research has demonstrated time and time again that any periodization is better than no periodization at all with respect to improving a variety of fitness qualities. You need repetition to initially learn movement patterns, build strength and power on top of them, and - just as importantly - quantify these improvements. And, you need to plan to ensure that a training effect is achieved at an appropriate rate while reducing the risk of injury. It's an old adage, but failing to plan is planning to fail.

How, then, do we reconcile this need for repetition with our conscious and subconscious tendencies toward randomness, which likely actually improve exercise adherence? This reconciliation begins by recognizing the following:

All successful strength and conditioning outcomes are derived from a blend of repetition and randomness.

This is the classic discussion of strength and conditioning program design combining art (randomness/novelty) and science (repetition). It's important to note that there is an inverse relationship between randomness and motivation (but not necessarily training experience).

The lower the motivation of the exercising individual, the greater the need for randomness to keep exercise engaging. This is working out.

The higher the motivation of the exercising individual, the greater the need for repetition to deliver a specific physiological effect. This is training.

To somewhat arbitrarily assign percentages, lower motivation folks (who are generally - but not always - beginning exercisers) might need 80% randomness and 20% repetition. The best coaches can usually push that 20% up substantially by disguising repetition as "fun" that might seem random. This is particularly important in working with very young athletes; you want repetition, but with variety. Different drills might teach the same movement skills. As an example, are these two drills actually delivering dramatically different training outcomes (besides the fact that I don't have a cool beard in my video)? Probably not.

Conversely, higher motivation folks - and athletes seeking out a specific training effect - can afford less deviation from the plan for randomness. Sorry, but if your goal is to throw a baseball 100mph, an off-season of cycling 100 miles per day isn't going to get you closer to that goal, even if you do enjoy it. Specificity matters.

However, we can't ignore the need for novelty in high-motivation trainees and athletes' program. There has to be some randomness included to avoid boredom in training programs. To me, there are five great ways to do this:

1. Incorporate another sport - Get your athletes out for some ultimate frisbee, or even just play tag instead of movement/sprint training. We worked this in with our pro baseball guys this off-season and it was a big hit. Just make sure the options you choose aren't high-risk for the athletes in question.

2. Add finishers - You never want to overuse finishers, but they can be awesome motivators and team builders, when done in groups. Perhaps most importantly, they take place after the primary training effect has already been accomplished. Just make sure not to overdo it and impose too much fatigue in a single session.

3. Implement new training equipment - You don't have to go out and buy an entire new gym of equipment; rather, simple changes can make a big difference. Draping chains over someone's back instead of using bands for loading push-ups is enough variety for some athletes. Throwing a Fat Gripz on a dumbbell provides a different training stimulus without overhauling your programs. These are just a few examples.

fatgripz

4. Get in a different training environment - This goes hand-in-hand with option #1 from above, but just getting outside of your "typical" gym setting can be a great change of pace. Some of my best training sessions ever have taken place when I've been on the road and lifted at either friends' gyms or even random commercial gyms. These new locations might offer different training equipment, or you might even find extra focus lifting in a place where you don't know anyone (this is especially true for me, as it's very easy to get distracted training in a gym that may be filled with your clients!). Heck, this 616-pound deadlift was in Slovenia after I'd delivered a full two-day seminar!

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5. Different conditioning workouts - It's generally much easier to quickly quantify improvements in strength than it is to do so with conditioning. For that reason, the strength portion of your programs may be best suited for the "repetition" aspect of your training, whereas the conditioning (unless you're a competitive endurance athlete) is a good place to implement some randomness. As an example, I lift four days a week and do some form of "conditioning" on two other days. This conditioning might be rowing, sprinting, the Airdyne, the slideboard, barbell complexes, body weight circuits, kettlebell medleys, or any of a number of other options. It's where I find some randomness and can still use exercise to clear my head - and I actually find that I feel better when I get more variety in movements during my conditioning work.

One resource to which I commonly refer on this front is Jen Sinkler. Last year, she introduced her extremely thorough (and entertaining) resource, Lift Weights Faster. Effectively, it gives you hundreds of innovative conditioning workouts to try out when you need some randomness (and good challenges) in your life. I probably refer to the original resource 3-4 times per month, and it actually provided some great ideas that we incorporated in programs for our clients (particularly in our morning group strength camps).

As such, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard she was introducing Lift Weights Faster 2, which debuted this week at a great introductory price. I've reviewed the product, and it's fantastic - including this conditioning session I did yesterday:

TheGraveyard

This great discount ends tomorrow (Friday) at midnight, so don't delay on checking out this great collection of workouts and extensive exercise library. You can learn more HERE.

LWF2 Bundle

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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 11

Written on March 5, 2015 at 9:19 am, by Eric Cressey

In today's post, I want to cover three more coaching cues you can use to clean up your training technique. These are ones I use all the time with athletes at Cressey Sports Performance:

1. "Create a gap."

I use this one all the time with both rowing and pressing variations. Athletes love to keep the elbow too close to the side, and it creates an environment of faulty scapular positioning during movement of the upper arm. You can check out examples on my Instagram page, if you're interested (FAULTY vs. CORRECTED).

The answer is very simple: create a gap between the upper arm and torso. I'll usually just put my hand between the two landmarks and wiggle my fingers side to side to create a gap, as depicted by the blue line here:

goodrow

2. "Don't let this plate fall."

I've written in the past (here) about how much I love bear crawls as everything from a low-level core stability exercise to a great scapular control drill. That said, one thing you'll see as a common mistake from athletes is that they'll allow their lower back and hips drift side to side on each "step." While this is indicative of the need for rotary stability at the core, usually, the problem is still something that can be fixed up pretty quickly with some basic coaching cues, starting with "slow down."

To build on "slow down" with an external focus cue, I'll set a 2.5-pound plate on the athlete's lower back. The more the lumbopelvic shifts, the more likely it is to fall.

3. "Don't break the glass."

One of the biggest mistakes we see with quad dominant athlete who have poor hip hinge patterns is that they'll break the knee forward in lieu of shifting the hips back. You'll see this on everything from lateral lunges to the eccentric (lowering) portion of deadlifts.

Obviously, we can start to address this by coaching at the hip ("push your butt back to try to touch the wall behind you"), but you can also have a positive impact on the movement by coaching the knee with an external focus cue of an imaginary pane of glass running directly up to the ceiling from the toes. Check out this still frame I took from the lowering portion of a sumo deadlift. The knee shouldn't hit the blue line that signifies the imaginary pane of glass:

SumoDL

The image would be more powerful from the side angle, but the plates obscure the lower leg and foot from that perspective, unfortunately. Fortunately, the lateral lunge with overhead reach is a good second shot:

laterallunge

That wraps it up for this edition. Hopefully, you've found these cues useful and easy to apply in your strength and conditioning programs. If you're looking for direction with respect to both programming and coaching cues, be sure to check out The High Performance Handbook, which features more than 200 exercise coaching videos, comprising three hours of footage of the exact cues we use with our athletes.

HPH-main

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Strength Exercise of the Week: Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Band

Written on March 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm, by Eric Cressey

It's been a while since I posted an "Exercise of the Week," but hopefully today's offering will atone for that, as this is one of my favorite exercises to program in the late off-season period for our athletes. Check out the video below to learn how to deadlift using a trap bar and bands.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Understanding Stress and Adaptation

Written on February 25, 2015 at 7:24 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, James Cerbie. Enjoy! -EC

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Your body has its own bank account.

It’s an account full of what we’ll call adaptive currency, and it’s responsible for buying you different fitness qualities. For example, say you want to add 10 pounds to your deadlift…well, that’s going to cost you.

In fact, every decision you make in both life and training impacts the size of your bank account and influences how much “money you have to spend” at any one time.

For those of you out there who have aspirations to perform at a high level, and stay healthy doing so, it’s vital to understand this concept.

Stress and Adaptation

We all have training-related goals:

  • look like a Superhero
  • cut your body fat down to 6%
  • deadlift 500 pounds
  • have a 30-inch vertical jump
  • bench press 300 pounds
  • win a competition in the sport of your choice

Whatever your goal, you're relying on one of the most basic survival/evolutionary mechanisms to make it happen: adaptation.

And let's make one thing perfectly clear: while we may come across as sophisticated humans, deep down, we're still biological animals who survive to pass on as many of our own genes as we can. That's really the name of the game: do whatever you have to do to survive, so you can pass along more genes than the next guy or girl.
It sounds barbaric because it is, but deep down, it's a driving force we can't escape.

Thus, our "system's" number one goal is survival, and it's going to do everything it can to make sure that happens. Enter adaptation: the way in which we react to stressors in our environment to improve our likelihood of survival.
Before we talk about how it works, here are two definitions with which you need to be familiar:

1. Homeostasis: the body’s desire to stay within normal ranges needed to function and survive. For example, your blood prefers to stay within a pH range of 7.35-7.45 because that's where it's happy, that's where it functions well, and that's where we have the best chance of survival.

2. Allostasis: the body’s adaptive response to maintain homeostasis. In other words, how the body manages to maintain homeostasis in the face of a stressor. Think of it like those bumpers you set up in the gutters at the bowling alley: you need to stay within those set limits or else all hell will break loose.

When considering adaptation, this is the basic process* it follows:

*Please know that adaptation, stress, allostasis and everything we're talking about today is an incredibly complex topic. In order to make it more approachable, we're going to dumb it down a bit so you can focus on the big picture. Thus, if you're a big science person, please don't get all worked up because I know there's way more to this than what we're going to talk about today.

Step 1: You provide a stressor.

Step 2: Stressor threatens homeostasis and thus survival.

Step 3: The body, via allostasis, works to maintain homeostasis in the face of this stressor.

Step 4: You adapt to the original stressor in order to limit the amount of stress it can place on your system in the future.

Here's what that would look like in a graph (notice how it resembles a training cycle?):

pic1

As you can see, there's a decrease in performance while your body attempts to manage the unfamiliar stressor. Remember, it's trying hard to maintain homeostasis so you can stay alive.

Eventually, however, you adapt (supercompensate) above a level you were at previously. This is to ensure that the same stressor in the future won't have as large of an impact on your system.

Here's an easy example of this process in action: think back to when you first did back squats...what happened?

For starters, they were probably pretty ugly, but I'm also willing to bet you were sore the next day.

What about four weeks down the road when you squatted the same weight as you did on day one; were you as sore and/or beat up the next day?

Absolutely not. Why? Squatting was an incredible stressor the first time you did it. It's something your body had never encountered. But after a few weeks of exposure, your body had started to adapt to the new and repeated stressor to limit its overall effect on the system. This is the reason you must periodize your training; stimuli must change over time to continue the process of adaptation.

To review: your body’s goal is to limit the impact a stressor can have on your system to increase your likelihood of survival, and improve your chances of passing on copies of your own genes.

The way our body makes it all happen is via adaptation and the adaptation reserve.

The Adaptation Reserve

In a far-off land, behind desert and mountainous terrain, guarded by an army of manticores (do yourself a favor and Google that), you'll find your adaptation reserve.

While the adaptation reserve may seem like a mythological creature you've never managed to catch, it's really just your own personal bank account. It represents the resources your body uses to buy new things (adapt).

You have to keep in mind there's a finite amount of resources in this reserve. Think back to a time when you were a kid and saved up money to buy something you really wanted: you passed on buying other goods because you knew you needed to save up "X" amount of dollars to purchase "Y" toy.

Great. However, what happened after you did by the toy for which you’d been saving? You had no more money.

Does that mean you'll never be able to buy a new toy again? No. It just means you have to save up and make deposits into the account until you have enough resources to do so.

But what determines the size of the bank account? How do you make withdrawals and deposits? Is there more than one account?

Your Body's Bank Account

Below is a fictional image of your body's bank account (adaptation reserve), and it's full of your body's adaptive currency.

pic2

Feeling good after a restful weekend, you head off to the gym to crush a deadlift session, because you really want to pull 500lbs.

The following morning you wake up and take a look at your imaginary body bank statement to realize you made a big withdrawal the previous day. Hitting deadlifts over 90% of your 1-rep-max must have really used up a lot of your adaptive reserve because the account is vastly diminished.

pic3

This, in a nutshell, is what's happening on a daily basis: you introduce or encounter different stressors that act upon your body in a certain way, and then your body uses its adaptive reserve to respond/adapt.

Remember, your main goal is survival, and in order to increase your likelihood of survival you have to limit the impact stressors have on your system.

A More Realistic Story

For as awesome as it would be for your training session to be the only stressor you encounter, that's simply not the case.

Our life is full of stressors: work, relationships, traffic, etc. Each of these has an impact on your system and it's ability to adapt.

It's not as simple as, "Oh, I lifted today, and that's the only stressor I encountered."

Do I wish for both you and me that that's the case? Absolutely. Unfortunately, it's entirely unrealistic.

There's a good chance you’re stressed about a project at work. Perhaps you didn't sleep at all last night because you had too much caffeine late in the afternoon. Or, maybe you think your significant other is cheating on you and you spend all day and night stressing about it.

The point is this: there are an infinite number of stressors in our lives which all detract from our adaptive currency.

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The Size of the Bank Account

An obvious question to consider is: how do I increase the size of my bank account?

Besides genetics, which you have no control over, we can relate the size of the bank account to your overall fitness level. Another way of saying the same thing is to improve your GPP or work capacity.

If you've read anything I’ve written in the past, then you should be familiar with the concept of building a pyramid. In order to one day achieve high, optimal levels of performance, you must put in the time and groundwork to build yourself a monster base. That means attacking things like movement quality, base strength levels, aerobic fitness, and a host of other factors.

Depending on where you're at and what your goals are, you'll have to focus on different fitness qualities.
For example, are you a heavily extended stress ball posture with a resting heart rate in the low 70's? If so, you need to spend a fair amount of time doing low-level aerobic work and working on full exhalation because your body could never handle the type of work required to perform at high levels.

As your work capacity improves, however, you give yourself the potential to one day attack a more aggressive training program because you have the adaptive reserve in place to actually be able to handle large levels of stress.

Do you think Zach Hadge (with a 700+ pound deadlift) trained the way he does now eight years ago? Absolutely not. He spent a ton of timing building himself up to handle the volume and intensity levels he trains at now.

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Ultimately, if you have aspirations to be a monster in both training and life, you have to put in the work on the front end to build yourself a large bank account.

Withdrawals and Deposits

We began touching on this concept earlier, but when you look at your training program you have to consider what's making withdrawals from your bank account, what's making deposits, and how big of a deposit/withdrawal you're making.

At the end of the day, you're not making progress if you don't have any adaptive currency to spend. To keep this simple, rest and recovery makes deposits to your account. This includes things like active rest days, sleep, and quality nutrition.

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Withdrawals, on the other hand, involve all forms of stress.

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For example, let's consider three different training loads and the impact they'll have:

1. Stimulative: a very moderate training load from which one can recover quickly.

2. Developmental: this can be broken down further into high, medium and low, but for today just know that a developmental load triggers the adaptive responses and takes 2-3 days to recover from. For reference sake, a developmental load will fall somewhere between a 6-9 on an RPE scale out of 10.

3. Maximal: this is all you have. A true, "I have to do this or I die" type effort. It crushes your system (especially central nervous system) and takes a long time to recover from.

Here's another thing to consider: different types of fatigue. For example, there's a big difference in CNS fatigue (running a sprint) and local muscular fatigue (doing a bunch of curls). In all honesty, you're probably starting to look at separate bank accounts all adding up to one master account – but let's not go down that path today. Just focus on one bank account, and nail down this concept of stress and adaptation in broad terms (you have to see the forest before you can look at the individual trees).

Hopefully this is all beginning to make sense: training is really just an advanced form of stress management. All forms of stress will have an impact on the body, but the extent of that stress depends on things like volume, intensity, training history, genetics, nutrition, sleep, and a host of other factors.

The End

If you take one thing away from this post, please let it be that you view your training goals as goods you have to buy with money.

It doesn't matter if you want to lose weight, gain weight, have bigger arms, squat more weight, run a better 40 etc. etc. because each of those qualities requires an investment from your body, and your body only has so much to give at any one time.

You have to be methodical in the way you apply stress if you ever hope to see big improvements from your training. Just doing high-intensity work for the sake of doing high-intensity work is a waste of time without figuring out where it falls in the grander scheme of overall development.

Ask more questions, don't be afraid to push the envelope, and structure your training and life in a way that sets you up to succeed.

About the Author

James Cerbie (@JamesCerbie) is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Precision Nutrition, USA Weightlifting and Crossfit. He works with athletes from the middle school to professional level, is the founder of Rebel Performance, and works as a strength and conditioning coach at Pure Performance Training in Boston, Massachusetts. You can also connect with James on Facebook.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/23/15

Written on February 23, 2015 at 7:59 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Monday, folks! Here are some good strength and conditioning articles to kick off your week:

Hip Extension and Rotational in the Baseball Swing - Here's a "reincarnation" from the archives, courtesy of Houston Astros Minor League Hitting Coordinator, Jeff Albert. It seems only fitting, giving that spring training is underway!

The 5 Best Ways to Get Stronger - I couldn't agree more with all of the points Mike Robertson made here. There are some excellent strategies here for intermediate lifters.

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I Don't Even Want to Be Here - This was a great post from Kevin Neeld on the importance of positivity in coaching youth athletes, and always praising effort over outcomes.

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Long-Term Athletic Development: Optimizing A Young Athlete’s First Day at the Gym

Written on February 19, 2015 at 8:40 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, John O'Neil. I'd like to devote more attention to long-term athletic development here at EricCressey.com in 2015, and John will be helping me do so.

This article is geared towards working with a youth athlete who is in a gym for the first time. I have identified steps that I believe to be important with getting the ball rolling toward the athlete’s long-term athletic development, both from a physical and a mental standpoint.

The Physical

1. Establish Point A.

While athletic goals can be diverse, they all fall under the simple structure of getting from point A to point B in an efficient and appropriate manner. We need to be able to address the biggest differences between what an athlete’s current Point A is and what their potential Point B is, and provide them the skills to achieve them. It doesn’t matter what assessment system you use--just that you have the ability to identify where an athlete is the first time they are standing in front of you. For youth athletes, who may not know where their Point B is yet, it’s important that we give them a variety of motor skills that allows them succeed in a number of potential athletic goals years down the road.

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It’s our job to determine what lies within the arrow, and understand that if an athlete’s goals change, we have still put him closer to his new Point B than he was at the original Point A.

2. Give the athlete success.

Success is not something you can learn about on paper and enact. It is something you have to experience. While I understand it is not always practical depending on the schedule of your facility, in my opinion, it is important to give the athlete some type of training effect on Day 1. As a beginner athlete in the gym, success is given via the instant gratification of knowing that you got better today--in essence, you are one (small) step past Point A where you started. The sooner we can give an athlete confidence in their ability to execute the necessary motor skills in a gym to build strength, move more efficiently, and perform on the field, the sooner they will take ownership of their program and be able to convert what you are teaching them from their short to long-term memory.

3. Know which motor skills you want a youth athlete new to the gym to have in place.

Dan John’s basic human movement skills are a great place to start. Every advanced athlete, regardless of their sport, should be able to hip hinge, squat, push, pull, carry, and perform single-leg movements. While not all of these are always realistic to truly pattern in on Day 1, give the athlete the knowledge of and the physical basics of what you are trying to get them to do. In a baseball population, some of the most important movements will also include teaching the athlete true external rotation, scapular control, and the ability to safely get overhead. As an example, here’s a basic drill (usually included in the warm-ups) to educate athletes about where they should and should not be feeling exercises in their shoulder as their arm goes into external rotation.

4. Know which practical weight-room skills you want the athlete to have in place.

Identify the basic implements, grips, and stances used in your programming, and select exercises to teach these while also teaching the basic movement skills. A perfect example is an Anterior-Loaded Barbell Reverse Lunge, which teaches the athlete to get strong on one leg with an efficient lunge pattern, and also teaches them a front-squat grip with a barbell. We have to ask: How much of the overlap in the Venn Diagram can we get athletes proficient in, or at least give them a comfort level with, on Day 1?

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Another great example is a kettlebell goblet squat, as the athlete learns both the goblet grip and the squat pattern. As Eric has written in the past, barring any contraindication, a majority of Day 1 Cressey Sports Performers learn the trap bar deadlift, but many athletes new to lifting may need more direct work to effectively pattern the hip hinge component of a deadlift. One of my favorite exercises is a tall-kneeling banded hip hinge with a dowel. This teaching tool puts the athlete in a position where they cannot fail without knowing it, thanks to having a physical external cue in both places that are important to the hip hinge--hinging at the hips (the band) and maintaining a neutral spine (the dowel).

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The Mental

1. Put the athlete in an environment where they are comfortable and want to be.

For someone who has never been in a gym, it is important to schedule their assessment and first training session at a time when the gym is not busy. In order to really promote athletes taking ownership of their programming and truly wanting to pursue long-term athletic development, the gym needs to feel like a safe haven rather than an overwhelming place of chaos. The athlete could be coming from a difficult situation at home or in their personal life and it is our job to make the gym a place of comfort and enjoyment. If the gym is very slow/quiet, you might even have the athlete choose which music they want to listen to. The places we learn the best are the places we are the most comfortable and the happiest being in.

2. Assess the athlete in a way that tells them that you’ve seen, dealt with, and given success to many, many people just like them.

A majority of your athletes won’t have a clue what you’re looking at, but they’ll know if you come across as confident and sure of what you are seeing. In the baseball population at CSP, this is easy to portray to an athlete because they know the success that professional baseball players have had while training there. During the assessment, you might even be able to figure out whether the athlete is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, which will be invaluable when you are cueing the bigger movements.

3. Create context with the athlete that allows you and your staff to optimize your relationship with them, both as a person and an athlete.

Athletes are comfortable with coaches they know truly care about them, and, they respond best to cues that are already within their existing schemas. As coaches, we are always working to expand the amount of schemas we can tap into because we need to know what clicks best with the athlete. If talking about video games makes the athlete want to be there and listen to you, relate to them that way. If talking to a 14 year-old about why they don’t use Facebook anymore and how they only use Snapchat and Instagram is the best way to make them think you’re someone who’s cool to be around and worth listening to, then that’s the route you should take. The best time to create said context is when you are showing the athlete how to foam roll. The correctives/warm-ups and the lifts will be more task-oriented, and hopefully by that point you know what to talk about and how to talk to the athlete.

Conclusion

The challenge as a coach is choosing how much information you can give the athlete that they can actually retain. One of my favorite ideas to think about as a coach is Miller’s Law--the idea that a person can only hold approximately seven items in their working memory. At the end of the day, you can’t expect an athlete of any level to retain everything from their first training session, but you can give the athlete a concept of a few basic motor patterns and a few different grips, implements, and stances in the weight room. Most importantly, you can send that athlete home with the knowledge that they are one step closer to their goals.

If you're looking for more insights on training youth athletes, be sure to check out the International Youth Conditioning Association High School Strength and Conditioning Certification, which is on sale through the end of the week.

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About the Author

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

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