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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 14

Written on October 9, 2015 at 5:15 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the next installment of this popular series here at, but I've pulled in some help from an old friend for this one. Given that his new DVD set, Elite Athletic Development 2.0, was just released this week, the one-and-only Mike Robertson agreed to chime in with some sports performance tips this week. Those beginning with "MR" are from Mike, and the ones with "EC" are me. Enjoy!


1. MR: When working with overhead athletes, learn to love specialty bars.

When it comes to athletes in general, it’s obvious that they are not powerlifters. Is it helpful if they’re strong? Absolutely. But let's be honest - no one cares about how they get strong. You don't get bonus points for deadlifting from the floor, nor do you necessarily have any reason to put a barbell on your back. At IFAST, we're huge fans of specialty bars for our athletes, but especially for our baseball players.

Trap bars are kind of a god-send, if you ask me. It's an incredibly easy exercise to coach, you reduce the mobility demands (vs. a sumo or conventional deadlift), and you can load a guy up fairly quickly without compromising technique.

On the other hand, just because we don't put a barbell on our back doesn't mean we don't squat! The safety squat bar is an invaluable tool if you train baseball players (or really, any overhead athlete). You know that your wrist, elbow and shoulder are your money makers, so the last thing you want to do is expose yourself to injury in those areas. The safety squat bar front squat is awesome for newbies, as it teaches them a front squat pattern without having to "rack" the bar using the wrists, elbows and shoulders. I'll often start my baseball players off with this variation for a month or two, just to get them back in the swing of things. If we want to load up the squat pattern a bit more, all we have to do is flip the safety bar around and now we've got a back squat progression that again unloads the upper extremity. Quite simply, if you train overhead athletes - or any athletes, for that matter - invest in a high quality trap and safety squat bar. You'll thank me later.

2. EC: Show some love to the broad jump!

For some reason, in the world of athletic performance assessments, vertical jump testing gets all the attention. In my anecdotal experience, though, broad jump proficiency has a far greater carryover to actual athletic success. Bret Contreras has also alluded to this as part of his rationale for including hip thrusts and other loaded glute bridge variations in strength training programs; horizontal (as opposed to just vertical) force production really matters in sports.

That said, one reason some coaches shy away from programming broad jump variations in training programs is that they be a bit hard on the joints and elicit more soreness in the days that follow a training session. This is easily remedied by having an athlete land on a more forgiving surface (such as grass), or by using band-resisted broad jumps.

3. MR: Appreciate that push-ups can actually improve rotator cuff function!

Push-ups are a critical component of our training programs, and for numerous reasons. You see, push-ups (versus a traditional bench press), allow for a high degree of serratus anterior development. And I’d argue that in the upper body, the serratus anterior is one of the most overlooked, yet incredibly important, muscles we have. Strengthening the serratus anterior does a host of good things for us, most notably upwardly rotating the scapula. However, what many people don't understand is how it actually improves thoracic kyphosis.

This is a really loaded topic, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Back in the day we would look at most people and say they have an excessive thoracic kyphosis, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. What I think we see (more often than not) is a flat thoracic spine, coupled with shoulders that are rolled forward due to an inability to expand a chest wall. (Thank you, Postural Restoration Institute). Here's an example EC posted a while back of a flat thoracic spine in action:

While we tend to get caught up on the scapular attachment site (or motion) of the serratus, it also attaches anteriorly to the ribcage. If we lock the scapulae in place and engage serratus anterior, it pulls on the rib cage and gives us a more normal thoracic kyphosis. Now I’m sure you may be thinking, why do we want a kyphosis? Isn’t more extension a good thing? You need a kyphosis (or subtle rounding of the upper back), because your scapulae are curved as well; just look at this side angle to appreciate it.


If you have a curved scapulae sitting on a flat upper back, you lose passive stability at the shoulder. And when we lose stability at the scapulae, we are virtually guaranteed to lose stability at the shoulder. Because the rotator cuff muscles attach to the scapula, trying to stabilize the glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint with a flat thoracic spine is like trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe.

Want more serratus? Incorporate more push-ups, and do them correctly. As EC notes in this video, don't just let the arms do all the work; get the shoulder blades moving. The scapula should rotate toward the armpit as you press up and away from the floor:

Get this upper back positioning squared away, and you'll improve rotator cuff control both transiently (positional stability) and chronically (better training results).

4. EC: Remember that joint range-of-motion falls off over the "athletic lifespan."

It never ceases to amaze me how much a teenage athlete will change over the course of a year - even independent of training. If a kid goes through an 8-inch growth spurt at age 13, he's usually going to go from that "loosey-goosey," completely unstable presentation to the uncoordinated, stiff movement quality. Basically, the bones have stretched out quickly, and the soft tissue structures crossing the joints haven't had time to catch up (let alone learn how to establish control of new stabilization demands).

What many folks fail to recognize is that "bad" stiffness doesn't just increase in teenage athletes, but also in the decades that follow. It's well established that joint laxity decreases over the lifespan; it's one of several reasons why your 80-year-old grandmother isn't as supremely mobile as she was in her 50s.

What's the point? A lot of the foundational mobility drills you use with your teenage athletes are probably "keepers" that people can use over the course of their entire lifespan. So, teach them perfectly early on so as to not develop bad habits that will be magnified over decades.


5. MR: Remember that good hip development for athletes should be tri-planar.

Whether it's stealing bases, returning a punt, or changing directions on the ice, there's more to the hips than sagittal (straight ahead) plane development. Sure, it never hurts to be a stronger squatter or deadlifter, but I'd also argue that's just the tip of the iceberg. We also need our athletes to be able to move well in both the frontal and transeverse planes as well. I like to think of the sagittal plane as the "key" that unlocks the frontal and transverse plane.


If you're into the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) , you can even take this a step further and think of it like this: we need the ability to shift into and load our left hip, while we need the strength and stability to push (or get off) our right hip, particularly in those demonstrating this heavily asymmetric postural presentation.  


Once we have that basic movement capacity, now we need to start cementing it. This can be done initially in the weight room, with exercises like dynamic chops, lifts, the TRX Rip Trainer, etc. I'm also a huge fan of concentric med ball throws as well. Start low to the hip initially, and then raise it up over time. Progress to eccentric as movement capacity and strength improve.


Taking this a step further, don't be shy in doing some aggressive lateral plyo progressions as well. Work on Heidens/skier jumps with a stick first to develop eccentric strength and control, then work on improving speed, power and explosiveness. Last but not least, we need to prepare our athletes for the specific demands of their sport, and this is where lateral acceleration and crossover stepping comes into play.  At the end of the day, use the weight room to get strong in the sagittal plane, but don't forget that the frontal and transverse planes are critical for a highly-functioning athlete!

6. EC: Don't be afraid to progress birddogs.

The birddog is an awesome core stability and hip mobility exercise, but it can quickly become really easy for athletes with some training experience under their belt. Not all exercises need to be progressed, but the band-resisted birddog is one way to add some variety and additional challenge for this invaluable exercise:

As I noted earlier, Mike and Joe Kenn recently release their Elite Athletic Development 2.0 Seminar DVD set. This awesome resource is on sale at an introductory $100 off discount through tonight (Friday) at midnight. I'm reviewing this product now myself, and it's excellent. You can learn more HERE.


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How to Stand Out in a Crowded Fitness Industry

Written on October 7, 2015 at 5:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from my Cressey Sports Performance business partner, Pete Dupuis.  


I’ve decided it is time to add an additional component to our internship program. As it turns out, Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) has been doing a disservice to its interns for a while. We’ve been sending extremely prepared coaches out into the world with a lot to offer and no idea how to sell it!

A former intern currently coaching at a commercial gym recently admitted that he had regrets about how he’d approached his time with us. He explained that he’d like to go back in time and spend more hours in my office during his internship at CSP. In his words:

“I learned the hard way that being the best coach in your gym is irrelevant if you’re unable to convincingly sell your personal training services. I walked through the door thinking that my superior coaching skill-set would translate to a full client roster and ended up watching meat-head trainers pack their schedules and even turn away clients as I scrambled ineffectively trying to fill my book of business.”

It’s officially time for me to put some thought into preparing our interns for the realities of the personal training world beyond the basis of coaching.

Pay Attention to those Who Sell Effectively

I should start by acknowledging that I have never been a personal trainer. I am, however, the business guy at a fitness facility that has employed a number of fantastic strength coaches. I’ve seen the difference between the good and the bad, and know that every successful coach has at least one redeemable quality outside of their coaching skill-set. More specifically, my staff members with the infectious personalities are always the ones who draw people in.


In a recent post, I discussed my new initiative of training alongside our clients to improve my “feel” for our training environment and client experience. It was during one of these afternoon training sessions when I realized we have a team member who routinely puts on a clinic when it comes to client interaction. His name is Matt Blake, and he’s actually not even a strength coach here at CSP. Matt is the CSP Pitching Coordinator and also the only guy in the room who doesn’t count on me to fill his coaching schedule. Much like your typical personal trainer, Matt’s time spent mingling on the training floor and in the offices of CSP ultimately drives his earning potential.

Since Matt routinely has his winter pitching instruction schedule fully booked by late October, our interns could stand to benefit from paying attention to how he handles himself in the gym. Here are four valuable lessons any current or future personal trainer can take away from Matt Blake:

What you deliver off-the-clock is often just as important as what you do during a session.

On the surface, Matt sells pitching instruction here at CSP. As far as the general public is concerned, there’s standard one-on-one pitching instruction, and there’s video analysis sessions where the mechanics of one’s delivery are broken down step-by-step. What they don’t realize is that Matt actually offers what he casually refers to as a “suite of complimentary services.”

2013.01.26 - CP (348)

More specifically, Matt over-delivers with his clientele by making himself available in an informal setting outside of the pitching cage to discuss the complicated college recruiting process, the intricacies of the word of summer/AAU baseball, the importance of strength training and manual therapy as it relates to pitching, and more. He makes time “off-the-clock” to help his athletes understand that the effectiveness and usefulness of his pitching instruction is ultimately going to be driven by a variety of factors lying outside of the pitching cage.

Matt explains:

“In my field, if you’re going to charge a premium rate for your services, you need to be able to justify the price-point by delivering more than an agreed upon block of time in your schedule for the week. When I under-promise and over-deliver, parents and athletes are quick to spread positive reviews of my services.” -MB

As a personal trainer in a commercial gym setting, you have the perfect opportunity to replicate Matt’s efforts. I’m sure you see your clients executing unsupervised training sessions outside of your regularly scheduled appointments, so why not approach them on the training floor (in front of other gym members) to give a quick deadlift refresher free-of-charge? Why not catch them by surprise by saying, “I was thinking about how your shoulder was bugging you last week and tracked down a really fascinating article for you to read about addressing the issue with manual therapy.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz often says that while coffee is the product, his company is in the “people business.” Personal training may be your product, but make no mistake; you are in the people business. Differentiating yourself from other trainers (or pitching coaches) is essential to building and sustaining a career in this industry.

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Know More Than You Need To Know

“The general working knowledge of pitching mechanics is very superficial, so I stepped away from the commonly used jargon and lazy coaching cues during instruction and began to focus closely on the fundamental movement patterns involved in throwing a baseball.” -MB

The message Matt is sharing here is actually very simple: If you continue to do what everyone else is doing, you will continue to get the results that everyone else is getting. He’s taken the initiative to step outside of his comfort zone and obtain a working knowledge of cutting-edge arm-care protocols, the basics of self-administered manual therapy, and more. Matt sits in on every one of our CSP weekly staff in-services and doesn’t receive a paycheck for it. His dedication to understanding fundamentals outside of his niche not only helps him “talk shop”, but also inherently improves his craft by broadening his relative knowledge.

Differentiate by Association

Matt is smart enough to know what falls outside of his scope of practice. With a comprehensive network of qualified professionals, he is quick to refer out to when appropriate. He knows who his go-to physical therapist is in each part of New England. If an athlete complains of throwing-related pain, he has the contact information needed to get a fast-tracked appointment with one of the country’s best orthopedic surgeons. He can get an athlete in need of nutrition assistance in front of a qualified professional in minutes. Matt’s referral network has become one of his most distinct assets.

2013.01.26 - CP (441)

Manage Expectations without Selling a Dream

“I’ve created a model that is focused on long term incremental gains. I don’t place a huge focus on the use of radar guns. I don’t count balls and strikes on a daily basis. That certainly has its place, but I put a lot more focus on mindful effort and understanding the process of throwing. My clients throw a baseball with a purpose and a plan.” -MB

The personal trainers who promise “10lbs of fat loss in just four weeks” are destined to lose clients in the long-run. The pitching coaches who guarantee specific velocity gains are destined to be replaced by the next flavor of the month instructor when results don’t reflect expectations. His initial message may not be as sexy, but Matt sells attainable and sustainable results. He explains that his clients are asked to embrace a process-oriented mindset and stop worrying about short-cuts to improvements.

If you can get your clients to appreciate the process of creating a healthier lifestyle or mechanically efficient pitching delivery, you’re likely to see them get excited about their incremental gains. It’s hard to value (or replicate) where you end up if you can’t remember how you got there.

Time for You to Take Action

Eric recently mentioned on Twitter that the best way to improve within your industry is to look outside of it. You can apply this concept immediately by emulating one or more of Matt’s habits outlined above. As you’ll soon see, it doesn’t require an extraordinary amount of effort in order to differentiate yourself from the rest of the trainers within your commercial gym.

About the Author

Pete Dupuis (@Pete_Dupuis) is the Vice President & Co-Founder of Cressey Sports Performance. Please visit to find additional fitness business blog content and to learn more about his Business Consulting Services.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/6/15

Written on October 6, 2015 at 4:57 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I hope your week got off to a great start. It's a day late, but here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Athletic Development 2.0 - This is the new DVD set from Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn. The first installment was fantastic, and I'm excited to go through this next version this week. It's on sale for $100 off this week, and both these guys do a first class job as both coaches and educators, so I'm sure it'll be top-notch.


Why We Do Stuff We Know We Shouldn't, and How it Affects Your Workouts - This Dean Somerset write-up is a lengthy blog post with a  lengthy title, but it's still well worth the read.

Less Medicine, More Health: I'm currently listening to this audiobook from Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, and it's an outstanding read. At the very least, it'll teach you to be much more skeptical about "buying in" to small, yet statistically significant effects for an intervention, particularly in a large sample size on something that impacts a huge chunk of the population. Welch comes across as quite the cynic when it comes to the excessive medical care that is often practiced today, but his skepticism is well founded, given his extensive research on the subject. It's been a great listen thus far.


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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Simplicity, Confirmation Bias, and Specific vs. General Programs

Written on October 4, 2015 at 7:26 am, by Eric Cressey

Confucius once said, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." You could say that I modernized and expanded on this quote in the context of the fitness industry a few weeks ago with my post, 6 Ways to Simplify Your Coaching for Better Results

While I'd encourage you to read this piece in full (if you haven't already), the premise was very simple (for lack of a better term): our programming and coaching almost never needs to be complex. Both research and anecdotal observations have shown time and time again that people thrive on simplicity in various aspects of their life - including exercise and nutrition.

Why, then, do we as coaches constantly find ourselves needing to avoid the complexity trap? The answer is very simple: confirmation bias.

Confirmation Bias

This term simply means that we're wired to automatically prefer information/solutions that confirm what we believe and prefer/enjoy doing.

Confirmation bias is why almost every Olympic lifter I've met who has shoulder problems thinks they can just tinker with their jerk or snatch technique to make things feel better.

Confirmation bias is why some Crossfit coaches will try to convince baseball players that their training can prepare these athletes for the unique demands of their sport.


Confirmation bias is why some strength and conditioning coaches who work only with athletes have actually forgotten how to help a general fitness client lose 20 pounds of body fat.

Confirmation bias is why we still have some nutritionists advocating for the Food Guide Pyramid.

Our goals - whether it's for our own programs or those we coach - is to avoid confirmation bias as much as possible. Being open-minded to new ideas and approaches enables us to constantly improve our programming.

Specific vs. General

To me, avoiding confirmation bias is a (surprise) simple process. Assume that your absolute best proficiency constitutes a general approach. For me, this is training baseball players. For a powerlifter, it's powerlifting. For a Crossfit coach, it's coaching Crossfitters. It's considered general (even though the training may be highly specific) because it's the overwhelming majority of folks with whom you work, and because you're most familiar with it.

With each new client you see, ask yourself whether this person fits into your general paradigm, or whether it's actually a very specific case. For instance, at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, we train Atlanta Falcon Matt Bosher, who is currently leading the NFL in average yardage on kickoffs and punts. His program is dramatically different from what we might prescribe for our baseball players; we can't fit the athlete (specific) to the program (general). 

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If Major League Baseball players are training at facilities other than CSP, though, they are the specific case. They have specific injury mechanisms that might be unfamiliar to those coaches. Just any general program won't adequately address things. 

"General" fitness training - improving body composition, functional capacity, and quality of life - is (as the name implies) something that general programs can usually accommodate quite easily, particularly in beginner clients. This is why general programs can work great for untrained young athletes, too; young players may derive great injury prevention and performance enhancements with general training early on.

However, when clients become advanced, they may need something more specific. Perhaps a casual fitness enthusiasts builds appreciable strength and shows and interest in competing in powerlifting or Olympic lifting. Or, maybe an athlete shows great potential in one sport and decides to hone in on that path. Our training has to get more specific to accommodate the evolution of these athletes' abilities and goals. This is even why we set up a female powerlifting team at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts; we had some strong women who wanted to take things to the next level.


What's the take-home message? Don't take specific solutions to general problems - or vice versa.

Have a great Sunday!

PS - Remember that the 50% off sale on Metabolic Cooking and Anabolic Cooking ends tonight at midnight. Don't miss this chance to get some awesome healthy recipes at a huge discount!

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21 Tips for Up-and-Coming Fitness Professionals

Written on September 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

Over the years, my favorite posts to write have been my "Random Thoughts" pieces. Effectively, these write-ups are just brain dumps on a particular topic, as opposed to a clearly constructed arguments. It occurred to me the other day that - after years of our internship programs at Cressey Sports Performance - I've accumulated a lot of useful tips for up-and-coming fitness professionals. So, here's a brain dump on the subject!

1. Improve your writing skills.

In this industry – as much as you may think it’s unfair – a lot of people are going to assume that you are just a meathead. You’re feeding into that stereotype each time you send an email with all lower-case letters or fail to utilize correction punctuation.

True story: I once had an athlete’s mother joke with me that she was sure that I was the only strength coach on the planet that knew how to correctly use a semicolon.

2. Don’t make continuing education harder than it needs to be. Your goal should be 30 hours per month, or 360 hours per year.

Three seminars of 1-2 days each = 24-48 hours/year

20 minutes per day of audiobooks during your commute, or regular book reading: 122 hours/year

Go observe another trainer/physical therapist/doctor once a month for 4 hours: 48 hours/year

Online Programs/Videos for 20 minutes per day: 122 hours/year

Buy/Watch three DVD sets: 24-48 hours

At the minimum, this is 340 hours. On the high end, it’s 388. Either way, it’s incredibly manageable. You just have to make it a priority.

Subscribe to Elite Training Mentorship. It's under $30/month, and literally takes 75% of the guesswork out of this continuing education "battle" for you. Just make sure you cover everything that's included in every update each month, and you'll be in a great spot.


3. Talk 20% of the time, and listen 80% of the time – especially during initial evaluations/consults.

4. Incorporate videos into your coaching. Many clients are visual learners who do best when they see themselves performing an exercise.

5. Make it easier for potential clients to perceive your expertise. There are a million different avenues you can use to do this; think long and hard about what really “matters” to your clients. For instance, don’t expect an awesome Facebook presence to mean much to teenage athletes, as they’re all on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

6. Have a clear and consistent persona. Don’t be an introvert one day and then bounce off the walls the next. Sure, there is a time and a place to shake things up to help with client engagement, but that shouldn’t change you are as a person to the point that clients don’t know what to expect when they show up. Moreover, they should never be able to tell whether you’re having a bad day or not.

8. Look the part. It actually does matter.

9. Use social media as a means of building rapport with your clients and potential clients, celebrating clients’ achievements, and also in positioning or reaffirming your expertise (think of it as a short article or blog). Don’t use it to be confrontational/negative.



9. Never be afraid to refer out. Your #1 priority is to help clients – especially if that means to get them out of pain. I see too many trainers who are afraid to refer clients out to doctors and physical therapists because they’re afraid the client won’t come back and they’ll lose the business. If that’s the way you’re thinking, then you ought to be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I create a stronger relationship with this client?” If you do a good job, you should create a sense of loyalty in your clients – and this shouldn’t even be an issue.

10. Some clients won’t mind it if you swear. Others will REALLY mind it. Why risk it when there is nothing to be gained?

11. Don’t try to fit clients to programs. Fit programs to clients.

12. When you see another trainer with a busy schedule, don’t think, “That guy sucks. I should have way more clients than he does.” Instead, ask yourself, “What is that guy doing so well that he makes clients flocks to him?”

13. If you want to build confidence while honing your skill set in the early stages, volunteer to help out with training teenage female athletes. They have considerable joint hypermobility, which means that it’ll be easier for them to acquire the postures needed to lift effectively. And, if you’re familiar with the concept of relative stiffness, because they have less passive stability, there will be less “bad stiffness” for them to overcome as you work to establish good stiffness for lifting.


Additionally, younger female athletes are generally more untrained, meaning they haven’t spent years lifting in the basement, establishing bad patterns the entire time. So, you don’t have egos to deal with in terms of changing lifting techniques or selecting lighter training loads. They won’t put another 2.5 pounds on the bar until you tell them to do so.

Finally, untrained athletes will make progress quickly – and that can make the training process more fun for coach and athlete alike.

Obviously, you don’t always get to pick the exact populations with whom you work, but training this “slam dunk” population is one way to get some momentum on your side.

14. Find ways to introduce clients to each other to help establish culture. Did one client vacation where another client is heading? Maybe Client A will have a good restaurant recommendation for Client B, or can comment on how good the gym access is at a particular resort.

Just this past week, an agent reached out to me to ask if I knew of any forward-thinking doctors in the Arizona area where one of his baseball clients could get blood work done. I texted one of our MLB clients who’d had it done out there last year, and he got me the contact info for one – as well as a thorough review of his experience with this particular doctor.

The more you grow your culture, the more you realize that clients don’t just come back to you time and time again for the training. If you need proof, here's a photo of the CSP Family members from the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals during the 2014 Spring Training. We organized this get together for dinner on 24 hours notice. Not pictured are the wives and girlfriends in attendance, but suffice it to say we were a crew of 30+ that evening. 


You don't get that if you just punch the clock with your clients; you get it by treating them as family and inviting them to be part of something much bigger.

15. Never speak badly about another trainer or business. Focus on what you do well and, more importantly, how you can help the client.

16. Be very careful with how you manually cue female clients, particularly if you are a male trainer. I can lightly jab my fist into a 24-year-old MLB athlete’s core to get him to brace, but this would be highly inappropriate with a 45-year-old female client on her first day. So, if you feel the need to use your hands to cue a client directly, politely ask permission before doing so.

17. Always be on time. On the first day of their internship, I teach all our new interns about the concept of “Respect Reciprocity.” If you want clients to respect you as a coach, you need to respect them first – and that begins and ends with showing up on time and being ready to coach. Organized facilities/trainers attract (or help to create) organized clients.

If that’s not incentive enough to show up on time, just remember that doctors who have poor bedside manner are more likely to be sued by patients – and that’s independent of their actual diagnostic or treatment abilities. If a customer perceives you as disrespectful, you’re going to be paddling upstream to make things right.

18. Never, ever, ever discuss religion or politics.

19. Don’t just work to create a good network of medical professionals around you, but also a great network of specialists. Not all orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, massage therapists, and other related professionals have identical skill sets. I'm very in tune with this because you can't send baseball elbows and shoulders to "just any" doctor or physical therapist. It's a unique population with specific adaptations, injury mechanisms, and functional demands.


20. Be really, really, really good at something and you will do very well in this industry. However, before you can be really, really, really good at something, you should be proficient at a lot of things.

21. Remember that proficiency precedes popularity. You’ll get really busy when you’re really good at what you do.

That does it for this go-round. I'll definitely do this one again, as they really rolled off my fingertips! 

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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 12

Written on September 24, 2015 at 10:13 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time to bring back this coaching cues series to the forefront, as it's always been a popular one here at Here are three more cues I find myself using on a daily basis at Cressey Sports Performance

1. "Chest before chin."

One of the biggest issues we see in folks with a lack of anterior core control and/or upper body strength is that they'll shoot into forward head posture as they descend to the bottom position of a push-up. Effectively, they're substituting head/neck movement for true scapular protraction and retraction. One cue that seems to clean the issue up quite well is the "chest before chin" recommendation - which means that the chest should arrive at the floor before the chin does.

You do, however, need to make sure that the individual doesn't confuse this with simply puffing the chest out, which would put them in more extended (arched back) posture at the lumbar spine.

2. "Get your scaps to your armpits."

A huge goal of upper body corrective exercise program is to teach individuals how to differentiate between scapulothoracic movement and glenohumeral movement. In layman's terms, this means understanding that it's important to know when the shoulder blade is moving on the rib cage, as opposed to the upper arm (ball) moving on the shoulder blade (socket). Especially during overhead reaching, what we typically see in athletes is insufficient scapulothoracic movement and excessive glenohumeral movement - particularly in those athletes with noteworthy joint hyper mobility. This is one reason why we incorporate a lot of wall slide variations in our warm-ups.

Since we are really looking to teach good upward rotation (as opposed to just elevation), I always try to cue a rotational component to the scapular movement as the arms go overhead. I've found that "get your scaps to your armpits" can really get the message across, especially when this verbal cue is combined with the kinesthetic cue of me guiding the shoulder blades around the rib cage. These modifications can really help to kick up serratus anterior recruitment, as this video shows:

3. "Start in your jump rope position."

When you're working with young athletes on jumping variations - whether they're broad jumps, box jumps, or some other variations - many of them will start with an excessively wide stance. Then, they'll "dip" to create eccentric preloading (stretch) and the knees almost always cave in. As I've said before, if the feet are too wide, the knees have no place to go but in. My feeling is that many young athletes "default" to this pattern because a wider base of support generally supports a more stable position for a weaker athlete. Unfortunately, this position doesn't put them in a great posture for producing force.

The best coaching cues are the ones that build upon those movements an individual already knows, and most kids have jumped rope in the past. If you use a wide stance when you jump rope, you trip over the rope. Instead, you have to stay with the feet in around hip-width, which is right where we want our jump variations to occur.


If you're looking for more coaching tutorials and exercise demonstrations, be sure to check out Elite Training Mentorship, which is updated each month with new content from Cressey Sports Performance staff members.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/21/15

Written on September 21, 2015 at 6:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, everyone. I hope you had a great weekend. Here are some good strength and conditioning readings to kick off your week:

The Making of an All Black: How New Zealand Sustains Its Rugby Dynasty - This article offers some good insights into the talent identification and development process that takes place in New Zealand rugby.

Legacy - In light of the last reading recommendation, if you're looking for a longer, more thorough read on the success of the All Blacks, I'd highly recommend this book James Kerr. It's the single best one I've covered in the past two years (I listened to it as an audiobook), and offers some fantastic lessons on leadership and building a championship culture.


Why I Still Work in a Commercial Gym - I thought this was an excellent blog from Dean Somerset. I often tell folks that most trainers are far better off - both personally and professionally - as employees. While opening your own facility has a lot of upsides, it also comes with a lot of headaches that most folks fail to appreciate. There are a lot of trainers out there who could really benefit from adopting Dean's approach and mindset. You'd be amazed at how much autonomy you can earn if you make yourself an indispensable employee.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 64

Written on September 18, 2015 at 5:42 am, by Eric Cressey

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

1. Approach your sets and reps intelligently.

Whenever I start a new program, I’m always excited to attack the given sets and reps and put some weight on the bar. However, I won’t come into the gym every day of every training program as fresh and ready to go as I did on Week 1, Day 1.

When writing programs for our athletes, I want them to do the following things during their training sessions:

a. Move with quality and integrity.
b. Move with intensity, focusing on force production.

If you can’t bring either to a lift, one of two things is happening: you are fatigued, or the weight is too heavy. There are many causes of fatigue, whether it be from the previous day of training, previous weekend of traveling, or recent competition. 

To account for this, I can do two things: regulate sets and reps (volume), or weights used (intensity).

Fellow CSP coach Greg Robins uses the phrase:

“Programs are static, and training is a dynamic process.”

A program is a piece of paper that does not factor in your life: lack of sleep, outside stress, or fatigue from a previous competition. Training is a process that should respect how you recover from day to day.

So, if you fail or miss a rep for example, you can do one of two things:

If your program calls for 3 sets of 5 reps, that is 15 overall reps at a specific intensity. If you can’t complete the given numbers, you can:

a. Flip the numbers: 15 reps can be done using 5 sets of 3 instead. Mentally, 3 reps is easier to digest than 5, you can recover better in between sets, and you can evaluate how your body is reacting to the exercise on a more micro level. Essentially, you can do any amount of sets to accommodate for the same amount of total volume.

b. Maintain the same amount of volume and decrease the weight used: If the weights are feeling heavy for 8 sets of 3 reps, down the weight until you feel like you are moving without a significant grind.

2. Set goals by reverse engineering them.

If you want to achieve the goal of playing baseball (or any other sport, for that matter) beyond high school, keep these numbers from the NCAA in mind:

Out of 482,629 athletes in high school, less than 7% get the chance to play in college. Out of those student athletes, only 8.6% of draft-eligible players actually get drafted by a professional baseball organization. Even when combined with players who are drafted directly out of high school, you're still dealing with an incredibly low of moving on to professional baseball. And, this doesn't even take into consideration the number of players who make it to Minor League Baseball, but never advanced to the Major League level.


What's the point? Being in the top 0.5% of anything in life is very challenging, and baseball is certainly no exception.

So the question remains: if you want to achieve something great, how can you best achieve it?

There are a lot of ways to dissect and reverse engineer how to efficiently get to your goals. Locke and Latham (1) note that “specific goals direct activity more effectively and reliably than vague or general goals.”

While the path you may take will vary greatly because of the opportunities that are presented, there is always one thing you can control in the face of uncontrollable external factors, and it is your reaction to the given situation.

• If you got cut from a team, what is your plan of action to display your strengths, or improve your weaknesses?

• What is your reaction when something does not go as planned?

Using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) is a great place to start, and whether or not you desire to play professional sports, it can also help improve your likelihood to achieve aesthetically minded goals as well.

Also, the SMART method of goal setting can be used as a metric towards modifying behaviors to more positively align yourself with those goals. Are your behaviors allowing you to achieve your goals? If not, what can you do to alter these behaviors or habits?

3. If you stray from a diet, focus on your next meal, not the next day!

When it comes to healthy nutrition, you'll often hear of people "falling off the bandwagon" for a meal - and it leading to several days of poor food choices. For this reason, I always encourage folks to "right the ship" as quickly as possible.

If you go out with friends and indulge, binge eat, or just mess up your macros, don’t give up hope for the day and plan to start over tomorrow. Tomorrow may turn into the next day, and into the next day. So what do you do?

Gather your losses and do better on your next immediate meal, instead of restarting the next day. Don’t let a bad meal turn into a bad day of eating.

This is also one reason why I don't generally advocate full-on "free" days, where folks eat anything they want as a means of "de-stressing" from six days per week of quality nutrition adherence. It's a lot easier to get things back on track after a single bad meal (whether planned or unplanned) than from a full day. 

4. Reduce time “lost” training by continuing with low-level exercises.

If you consider training at an established gym with a great training environment as “going all out” as a “100%” of your efforts, what happens when you train elsewhere?


For example, I’ll refer to four days of lifting with extra days of working on sprints/shuffles/conditioning as 100% of the whole product. If you miss one day, that is 17% of your whole workout week missing. If you miss two days, that is 34% of your workout week that you have “lost” because of travel, long days, or other extenuating circumstances.

Take this day for example:

A1. Barbell RDL - 3x4
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction - 3x8/side
B1. DB Bulgarian Split Squat - 3x6/side
B2. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop - 3x8/side
B3. Half Kneeling 90/90 External Rotation Hold - 3x(2x6)/side

You have two arm care exercises, one lower body bilateral strength exercise, one lower unilateral exercise, and a rotary core stability exercise.

If you can’t get to the gym to do these, give this a shot:

A1. Supine Bridge March, or 1-Leg Hip Thrust with 3 Sec Pause - 3x10/side
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction (Off Bed) - 3x8/side
B1. Bodyweight Split Squat with 3 second Pause - 3x10/side
B2. Feet Elevated Side Bridge - 3x30sec/side
B3. Standing External Rotation to Wall - 3x(2x6)/side

Certainly this is not the same, but when comparing these exercises, you can begin to identify that there is still something you can do despite not having access to coaching or equipment.

It won’t be 100% of the full effect, but any percentage of that 100 percent will be worth something when you look back over a longer period of time to evaluate your results.

5. Use density training to get more work done in less time.

Along with decreasing or regulating caloric consumption, increasing caloric expenditure can help you towards your fitness goals. Basically, doing as much work as possible in the form of density training can burn a lot of calories in a little amount of time. Utilizing non-competing muscle groups in a superset or giant set fashion will prevent fatigue and allow you to get more work done.

For example, performing a tri-set with a TRX Inverted Row, KB Goblet Reverse Lunge, and then a Stability Ball Stir the Pot will provide several biomechanical and force production benefits.

Rather than doing 3 sets of 10 for each exercise, waiting around in between sets, and then performing each set with no pre-determined intensity, do this:

A1. TRX Inverted Row - 10 reps
A2. KB Goblet Reverse Lunge - 5/side (10 reps)
A3. SB Stir the Pot - 5/side (10 reps)

Perform as many rounds of this circuit as possible in 5 minutes.


1. Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. "The application of goal setting to sports." Journal of sport psychology 7.3 (1985): 205-222.

About the Author

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

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/14/15

Written on September 14, 2015 at 6:44 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Let's kick off the week with some recommended reading from around the strength and conditioning world:

The Most Important Decision You'll Make For Your Fitness Business - Here's another gem from my business partner, Pete Dupuis. It actually goes into depth about how we became business partners, and helps gym owners (and aspiring ones) determine whether someone else is a good business partner.


10 Things Vegetarians Get Wrong - I found this piece from Mike Sheridan at T-Nation to be very well constructed, even if it is mildly controversial.

31 Random Training Thoughts - Mike Robertson's randomness is better than most people's organized thoughts! There are lots of good nuggets in here. 

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6 Ways to Simplify Your Coaching for Better Results

Written on September 10, 2015 at 4:03 am, by Eric Cressey

As you progress through a career in the fitness industry, it’s easy to fall into the complexity trap. In other words, the more you learn, the more prone you are to making things overly complex with your interaction with clients/athletes.

To be clear, it’s absolutely essential to continue growing as a professional throughout your career. However, part of this growth is learning to be more efficient in your coaching. It’s about figuring out how to get the same or better results in less time and effort. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the simpler you can keep your approach, the better.

This “simple” phenomenon isn’t confined to the fitness industry, though. In their excellent book, Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt cite numerous examples of how simple solutions generally far outperform complex ones:

-Simple diets outperform complex ones, as people are more adherent to nutrition recommendations that they can easily understand and apply. Sull and Eisenhardt note that simply switching to a smaller plate for meals improves weight loss outcomes.


-Individuals are less likely to actually pay their taxes when the tax code is complex.

-Employees are less likely to save for retirement when employers offer more than two 401(k) options, even when employers matched their contributions. Too many options overwhelms them – so the simple choice is to do nothing.

Author Seth Godin also wrote about our tendency to get overwhelmed in Purple Cow: “In a society with too many choices and too little time, our natural inclination is to ignore it [making a tough choice].”


How can we apply this knowledge to coaching? Try these six strategies:

1. Shut up – or at the very least, cue less.

The more cues you give – particularly if they all come as a “barrage” in a short period of time – the more likely an athlete is to get overwhelmed and tune you out. Think of all the things you want to say, and then cut it back by 50%.

2. Establish predominant learning style.

I’ve written about this previously, so I won’t reinvent the wheel:

I'm a big believer in categorizing all athletes by their dominant learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory.

Visual learners can watch you demonstrate an exercise, and then go right to it.

Auditory learners can simply hear you say a cue, and then pick up the desired movement or position.

Kinesthetic learners seem to do best when they're actually put in a position to appreciate what it feels like, and then they can crush it.


In young athletes and inexperienced clients, you definitely want to try to determine what learning style predominates with them so that you can improve your coaching.

Conversely, in a more advanced athlete with considerable training experience, I always default to a combination of visual and auditory coaching. I'll simply get into the position I want from them, and try to say something to the point (less than ten words) to attempt to incorporate it into a schema they likely already have.

This approach effectively allows me to leverage their previous learning to make coaching easier. Chances are that they've done a comparable exercise - or at least another drill that requires similar patterns - in previous training. As such, they might be able to get it 90% correct on the first rep, so my coaching is just tinkering.

Sure, there will still be kinesthetic learners out there, but I find that they just aren't as common in advanced athletes with significant training experience. As such, I view kinesthetic awareness coaching as a means to the ultimate end of "subconsciously" training athletes to be more in tune with visual and auditory cues that are easier to deliver, especially in a group setting.

3. Speak clearly, crisply, and concisely.

I have a bad habit of mumbling and speaking too quickly, so this is something of which I’ve had to be cognizant for my entire career in strength and conditioning. It’s important to be “firm” in your auditory cues, both to ensure that the athlete actually hears and understands you, but also to reaffirm to them that you know your stuff and are confident in your cues.

4. Consider both motivation and skill.

This was a lesson I learned from Brian Grasso back in the early days of the International Youth Conditioning Association. About a decade later, the message is still tremendously useful for coaches at all levels. All athletes fall somewhere on both the motivation and skill continuum.


In terms of motivation, they may be very fired up to train, or more disinterested. The more unmotivated they are, the more you need to engage with them to determine how to push the right buttons to get them excited to train. Conversely, the more motivated athletes are, the more you should stay out of the way. Obviously, you still need to coach them, but they're not looking to be engaged with you as much, as they already have their own intrinsic motivation to want to dominate the challenge ahead.

From a skill standpoint, some athletes will obviously be quicker learners, or have a stronger training history. These athletes usually respond best to short - but direct - cueing. The last thing you want to do is slow them down and make them feel like you are micromanaging everything about their training. On the other hand, if an athlete is less skilled, you obviously need to spend some time teaching the basics, which requires you to slow things down a bit - especially since fatigue is the enemy of motor learning.

5. Catch yourself when you’re trying to simplify programming, but actually make things more complex.

You can't out-coach a crappy program. And, when it comes to trying to simplify coaching to make it more effective, everything begins with a quality program. If you're coaching the wrong exercise for the athlete, then it doesn't matter how many key coaching principles you're employing; the movement is still going to be ugly, and the training effect is still going to be subpar.

As an example, there are still a lot of folks out there who insist machines are a good method of training because they "simplify" exercises, removing stability demands and reducing the need for coaching. However, I snapped this photo of a seated leg curl while I was lifting in a commercial gym in Japan last week. If you look closely and actually count, you'll note that there are SIX adjustments that must be made to the machine just to get the lifter in the right position.


Now, let's compare that to a 1-leg hip thrust off bench, which requires virtually no set-up and is incredibly easy to coach, progress, and regress. It also blows a seated leg curl out of the water in terms of functional carryover to the real world.

Poor exercise prescription will always make coaching far more challenging and excessively complex.

6. Learn about previous training experience to best prepare progressions/regressions.

Imagine interacting with an athlete with whom you have never had any interaction whatsoever - and he's about to conventional deadlift. Ideally, in the back of your mind, you'll always have ideas in place about how you can progress and regress. However, with you knowing nothing about him, you have no idea whether he might need to be regressed to a sumo or trap bar deadlift, or even taken all the way back to a pull-through or kettlebell sumo deadlift.

This is why it's so important to have an up-front discussion with an athlete when he/she first starts training with you. You can quickly learn whether they're folks who need exercise regressions, or just better coaching to clean up faulty movement patterns.


As coaches, we have a lot of goals for our training systems. Foremost among those goals are behavior change and fun, because if we can accomplish both those things, we improve adherence to our programs and optimize outcomes. Unfortunately, when your coaching is unnecessarily complex, you overwhelm athletes - and that works against both these goals. When in doubt, always opt for the simple solution - or find ways to make complex solutions seem very simple to the athletes with whom you're working.

If you're looking for more insights on programming, coaching, and assessments, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Elite Training Mentorship. Each month, Cressey Sports Performance coaches (myself included) upload staff in-service presentations, webinars, exercise demonstrations, and articles - and there's also great content from Mike Robertson, Ryan Ketchum, Dave Schmitz, Steve Long, and Jared Woolever. You can learn more HERE.


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