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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/26/14

Written on November 26, 2014 at 7:17 am, by Eric Cressey

I hope everyone is having a great week and is excited for a great Thanksgiving. It might be a holiday week, but it's still super busy at the new Cressey Sports Performance facility in Jupiter, FL. Luckily, I've got some great content from around the web to share with you.

The Cost of Getting Lean - The Precision Nutrition crew gives you the cold hard facts on what it takes to get to and maintain the body composition you desire.

Foam Rolling Isn't Stretching, but It's Still Important - Dean Somerset delves into the potential mechanisms of action for foam rolling.

How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1 and Part 2 - I wrote this two-part article back in 2011 when Mike Reinold and I released Functional Stability Training of the Core, the first in the three-part FST series. Since they're all on sale for 25% off this week, it seemed like a great time to bring these posts back from the archives.

For more information on this sale, check out www.FunctionalStability.com. It wraps up this upcoming Monday at midnight.

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7 Ways to Make Your Strength Training Programs More Efficient

Written on October 21, 2014 at 9:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm a big believer in pursuing maximum efficiency in our training programs. We want exercises and training strategies that deliver the biggest "bang for our buck," as most people don't have all day to spend in the gym. That said, supersets, compound exercises, and other well-known approaches on this front are staples of just about all my programs.

Unfortunately, sometimes, the typical strategies just don't get the job done sufficiently. There are periods in folks' lives that are absurdly busy and require approaches to kick the efficiency up a notch further. With us opening a new facility right as our busiest season is upon us - and my wife pregnant with twins - you could say that this topic has been on my mind quite a bit these days. With that in mind, here are seven strategies you can utilize to get a great training effect as efficiently as possible.

1. Switch to a full-body split.

Let's face it: you might never get in as much work on a 3-day training split as you do on a 4-day training split. However, you can usually get in just as much high quality work. I've always enjoyed training schedules that had me lifting lower body and upper body each twice a week. However, usually, the last few exercises in each day are a bit more "filler" in nature: direct arm work, secondary core exercises, rotator cuff drills, and other more "isolation" drills. In a three-day full-body schedule, you should really be just focusing on the meat and potatoes; it's the filler you cut out.

Additionally, I know a lot of folks who actually prefer full-body schedules over upper/lower splits. This was one reason why I included 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training options in The High Performance Handbook.

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2. Do your foam rolling at another point during the day.

There has been a lot of debate about when the best time to foam roll is. While we generally do it pre-training with our athletes, the truth is that the best time is really just whenever it's most convenient - so that you're more likely to actually do it! If you'd rather foam roll first thing in the morning or at night right before bed, that's totally fine. As long as you get it in, over the long haul, you really won't see a difference if you compare pre-training to another point in the day.

3. Do a second, shorter session at home. (Waterbury, PLP program example)

Remember that not all training sessions have to actually take place in a gym. Rather, you might find that it's possible to get in 1-2 of your weekly training sessions at home. As an example, I have an online consulting client who has a flexible schedule on the weekends, but a crazy schedule during the week. He does two challenging sessions with heavier loading on the weekends (lower body on Saturday and upper body on Sunday). Then, he'll work in some filler work with body weight, band, and kettlebell exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. He's still getting in plenty of work in during the week, but he doesn't have to set aside extra time to drive to and from the gym. Obviously, a home gym alone can make for more efficient programs, too!

4. Move to multi-joint mobility drills.

If you're in a rush to get in a great training effect - and abbreviated warm-up - don't pick drills that just mobilize a single joint. Rather, pick drills that provide cover a lot of "surface area." Here are a few of my favorites, as examples:

Typically, you're going to want to do fewer ground-based drills and more drills where you're standing and moving around.

5. Dress in layers.

Speaking of warm-ups, it'll take you longer to warm-up if you dress lightly - especially as the winter months approach. Athletes always comment that they get (and stay) warm better when they wear tights underneath shorts, or sweatshirts and sweatpants over t-shirts and shorts. Of course, you can remove layers as you warm up.

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Additionally, if you're an early morning exerciser, you can expedite the warm-up process by taking a hot shower upon rising. A cup of coffee can help the cause as well.

6. Add in mobility fillers.

If you're going to shorten the warm-up a bit, you can always "make up" for it by working in "fillers" between sets of your compound exercises. I actually incorporate this with a lot of the programs I write, anyway. If you look at our baseball athletes, they're often doing arm care drills in between sets of squats, deadlifts, and lunges. They get in important work without making the sessions drag on really long, but at the same time, it paces them on the heavier, compound exercises so that they aren't rushing.

7. Use "combination" core movements.

Usually, the word "core" leads to thoughts of unstable surface training, thousands of sit-ups, or any of a number of other monotonous, ineffective, flavor-of-the-week training approaches. In reality, the best core training exercises are going to be compound movements executed in perfect form. Overhead pressing, Turkish get-ups, 1-arm pressing/rows/carries, and single-leg movements (just to name a few) can deliver a great training effect. Complement them with some chops/lifts, reverse crunches, dead bugs, and bear crawls, and you're pretty much covered.

There are really just seven of countless strategies you can employ to make your training programs more efficient. Feel free to share your best tips on this front in the comments section below. And, if you're looking to take the guesswork out of your programming, I'd encourage you to check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market today.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/25/14

Written on March 25, 2014 at 6:29 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this week's collection of recommended reading, with a Cressey Performance flavor to it.  I grabbed dinner with a bunch of our Marlins, Cardinals, and Mets guys last night in Florida, so it seemed like only the right thing to kick things off with some baseball stuff!

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Draft Q&A: Eric Cressey, Part 1 – I was interviewed last week by Baseball America on the topics of MLB draft preparation, long-term athletic development, and some of our client success stories.  Be sure to also check out Part 2, as there are some great lessons in here, regardless of whether you work with baseball players or not.

CP Client Spotlight: Meet Stacie! – Here's a great story of a CP client who's made some awesome progress training at CP.  Stacie proves that Cressey Performance isn't just for baseball players!

Are You Foam Rolling All Wrong? – In this Daily Burn interview, CP massage therapist and strength and conditioning coach Chris Howard weighs in on the topic of foam rolling.

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Upper Body Self Myofascial Release Precautions

Written on October 1, 2013 at 10:32 am, by Eric Cressey

If you've read just about any of my writing, you likely know that I'm a big fan of various forms of soft tissue work. Obviously, there's foam rolling for our more "diffuse" work, but a lot of people also use a baseball, tennis ball, or lacrosse ball to get a bit more "focal."  While this can definitely be helpful, there are a few precautions you want to take.  Check out this video to learn more:

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5 Ways to Counteract Wearing High Heels

Written on July 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from CP coach, Greg Robins.

This week, my girlfriend is off competing for the Miss International title. I am really proud of her, as she is doing so to raise awareness for her charity. She asked me how she could cancel out some of the negative repercussions that come along with wearing heels for seven days straight. It got me thinking, and I decided to take my advice to her and make it into a post for the readers out there who regularly wear high heels – or train females who do so.

It almost goes without saying, but wearing footwear that includes an excessive heel lift (i.e. high heels), greatly alters the alignment of your entire body. When we are misaligned, certain areas of the body will be asked to do more than they should, while other areas, in turn, are unable to fulfill their duties. We recognize this problem and its ill effects with people who function day to day with poor posture and movement habits. When we choose to wear this type of footwear, we are forcing ourselves into a poor position, regardless of where we were prior. To make matters worse, most of us are not in a particularly great position barefoot. The addition of heel lifts, as high as 2 – 4 inches, certainly does not help. 

That being said, high heels are a fashion statement, and sometime ladies just want to look glamorous. I certainly am not one to advocate against wearing something that makes you feel like a million bucks. However, if you don't want to feel like the polar opposite of that the next day, try applying these five tips!

1. Do more self massage.

I recommend keeping a golf ball, lacrosse ball, and (if possible) a foam roller or piece of PVC pipe on hand. As we touched on above, wearing high heels will cause a few muscle groups to work overtime. The idea with all of our tips is to "undo" what you have "done." With that in mind, we need to start with a concerted effort to take down the tone down of these overactive muscles. 

Use a golf ball to massage the bottom of your feet. This can be done by placing the ball underneath your foot while standing. Apply a generous amount of pressure while rolling the ball in various patterns along the underside of the foot. 

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Like wise, you can do a similar thing on the muscles of your calves with either the golf or lacrosse ball. In a seated position, place the ball under your calf and apply pressure while rolling the ball around the back side of your lower leg. 

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Another great spot on which to use the ball is the front side of your upper leg. Attack the hip flexors by using the lacrosse ball and/or foam roller. In a prone (face down) position, use the implements to massage the quadriceps (thigh) as well as the high, anterior (front) of the hips. While I would make these two spots the priority, you would be well advised to work on the outer thigh, and inner thighs as well. Check out our foam rolling progression in the video below. Pay extra attention to the portion targeting the lower extremities.

2. Facilitate the inhibited muscle groups.

Once you have finished with the self massage techniques described above, you will want to "re-ignite" the areas that were inhibited by the mal-positioning of a high heel lift. I like people to start from the core, and work their way out. There are three easy to use activation exercises to get you going. First, you can use a low level breathing exercise. Breathing exercises will help facilitate the diaphragm, and the external / internal obliques. By doing so, we can help "turn on" the mid-section correctly, get you away from an extended bias, and further bring down the tone of your body. A great option is the the deep squat breathing with lat stretch. Check out the video below. 

Next, we can facilitate the mid section a little more aggressively by adding some movement of the limbs while controlling the core. Dead bugs are a viable option here. Check out this video:

Lastly, some easy glute activation is in order. The glutes function in all three planes of motion. Therefore, it is important that we facilitate their function correctly. For lesser trained individuals I would recommend hammering the sagittal plane first and foremost. Supine bridge variations are the best place to start. From there, we can work into a side lying clam variation. Lastly, for the more prepared individuals an exercise such as the bowler squat is a nice way to activate the glutes in all three planes. Check out the videos and pictures below.

3. Stress foot/toe and ankle function.

When wearing heels, the most obviously altered joints are the toes/foot and the ankles. It is important that we address them appropriately. The toes will be constricted by the narrow toe in most of these shoes. Because of this they will no longer function normally during gait. Additionally, the ankles will be placed into a position of plantarflexion permanently. With this in mind, there are a few easy exercises that should be done in order to restore proper function of the foot and ankle. The first would be some low level mobility drills for the ankle, stressing dorsiflexion. Knee break ankle mobs are terrific in this scenario.

Furthermore, some ankle "alphabets" are also a great way to restore function to both the ankle and the foot.

Lastly, I would recommend doing toe pulls as well to wake up the feet, and toes. Check out the video below from Hitting Performance Labs showing us the toe pull exercise made famous by the folks at Z Health.

4. Re-groove a posterior weight shift.

The heel lift causes us to shift our center of mass forward. This can be a big problem, namely for all the reasons we talked about in the opening of this article. In order to combat this, we need to re-groove a posterior weight shift. Basically, the idea is that we need to re-teach our body what right feels like. Eric did a great post on the effectiveness of the left-stance toe touch, you can read it here. For now, make sure that you implement this exercise as often as possible, especially when you find yourself wearing heels!

5. Take a break whenever you can.

Finally, you can offset the problems associated with wearing heels by simply taking them off whenever possible. If you have 10-15 minutes where you can catch a break, do so! If you really want to make progress, use that time to do some of the drills above. 

If you regularly find yourself in heels, I hope this article helps you out. Additionally, if you know someone who wears heels on a regular basis (I know you do!), then please share this with them!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/18/13

Written on April 18, 2013 at 10:58 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Elite Training Mentorship – My in-service this month talked a lot about the business of fitness and how we developed our baseball niche.  I also uploaded a few articles and exercise demonstrations to complement the contributions from the rest of the ETM crew.  If you aren’t checking this great resource out yet, do so!

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Fascinating Facts About Sleep – This was a fantastic piece by TC Luoma at T-Nation about the importance of sleep – and you’ll definitely learn something.

Foam Rolling and Increased Joint ROM – This was a study summary from Patrick Ward.  It’s a great read for those who are skeptical of the benefits of foam rolling.

Also, in light of this week’s tragedy in Boston, I’d call this a must-view video.  It’s the moment of silence, video tribute, and national anthem from before the first Boston Bruins game after the event.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 19

Written on September 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm, by Eric Cressey

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to make you just a little more awesome.

1. Consider assigning rest intervals, or using “active rest” to better facilitate the desired training effect.

Assigning rest intervals is a topic of hot debate. Many coaches are against it, some are strong advocates for it, and many don’t pay much attention to it at all. My stance, as it tends to be with so many strength and conditioning topics, is “situationally dependent.”

For many athletes (particularly younger or less experienced ones), assigning rest intervals simply adds an unnecessary variable. Why? It’s largely because the primary goal with these athletes is developing strength and muscle mass. These goals are pretty easily achieved in novice populations. They have little to no training experience and moving weight is going to cause these adaptations, generally regardless of the amount of rest they take between sets.

In more experienced athletes, though, different strength qualities must be trained in order to further advance the transfer of training to sport improvement. In these cases, the amount of rest can definitely alter the training effect, even when moving loads of the same intensity. In his text, Special Strength Training Manual For Coaches, Yuri Verkhoshansky outlines a few basic parameters in regards to this philosophy.

Consider an example: moving a load of 70-90% of one-rep max for as many as 3-10 total repetitions over 4-8 sets, with rest intervals of 3-4 minutes, yields a training effect geared more towards explosive strength development.

Moving a similar load (70-80%) for 6-12 total repetitions over the course of 3-6 sets, with rest intervals of 1-2 minutes, yields a training effect more geared towards maximal strength and muscular hypertrophy. In both cases, the load and set/rep scheme is basically the same. However, by giving the athlete time to recover (3-4 min), we allow them to apply a near maximal output against the resistance every set. This greatly alters the result of the training.

Verkoshansky goes on to provide a number of examples where rest is the most altered variable differentiating between working on explosive capabilities rather than maximal strength, hypertrophy, or localized muscular endurance. Keep this in mind when you utilize exercises in an effort to develop explosive strength, such as jumps or throws. If your goal is to make athletes more explosive, you need to make them rest. At Cressey Performance, we do this by pairing exercises such as med ball throws with mobility drills, which forces an athlete to take more time between sets. This approach has commonly been referred to as “active” rest.

2. Teach people how to be coached.

Does this sound familiar? Your client or athlete is in the middle of a set. He or she is on rep 2 of 5 and you call out a coaching cue: “chest up!” All of a sudden, they turn their head – right in the middle of the repetition – and ask, “what?”

Needless to say, this isn’t a great situation. Luckily, it is one that is easily avoided if you take the time to coach the “little” things right from the get-go. Some of you might be reading this and saying: “Duh, Greg.” Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME. In fact, I bet the majority of you don’t touch on the nuances of lifting and getting coached with your clients until an event like this takes place. Do everyone involved a favor: before you teach them anything concerning technique, teach them how to be coached. Make sure they understand that at no point during a lift should they turn their head, talk, or stop midway through, unless instructed to do so. A mentor of mine used to start every new client by getting them in a mock squat position and moving to various spots around them, asking if they could hear him. It was meant to prove that in order to be coached, they didn’t need to move their head. Again, it seems rudimentary, but it’s very important.

3. Roll your adductors on an elevated surface.

Many of you already roll out your adductors (inner thighs). However, in most cases, it is primarily done on the ground. While doing so on the ground is definitely beneficial, you will find the position to be somewhat awkward. Additionally, it is tough to apply enough pressure on the ground to actually get a good effect. Check out this video to see how we utilize an elevated surface to get into a better position; you can also utilize a med ball instead of a foam roller to improve the training effect.

I realize many gyms don’t have this luxury, but you will find that using a weight bench also works, but might feel somewhat awkward. Instead of placing the opposite foot on the ground, just place the opposite knee on the ground instead to make up for the lack of surface height.

4. Go ahead, eat some chocolate!

Who doesn’t like to indulge in some chocolate, and a good cry?  Okay, well at least the chocolate, right? In his popular book, The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth, Dr. Jonny Bowden makes a point to include dark chocolate. Thank goodness, because that stuff is delicious! The best part is that consuming the right kind of chocolate is actually great for our health as well. For starters, cocoa is rich in flavonoids. These are compounds found in plants that help protect the organism from various toxins. When we consume the plant, we also receive the benefits of these compounds.

It is interesting to note that the flavonoids found in cocoa help synthesize nitric oxide. Every meathead knows that nitric oxide helps increase blood flow, that’s why they crush NO workout products like nobody’s business.  Well, that and they think they’re going to make them hyooooge. Seriously, though, the flavonoids ability to modulate nitric oxide has a great effect on decreasing cardiovascular issues (such as high blood pressure) and can help to improve insulin sensitivity. Seek out real chocolate bars, not the kind you find in a mini mart. Make sure it’s at least 60% cocoa or more to get these benefits. Furthermore, while the fat content in real dark chocolate is primarily good fat, it does contain a fair amount of “bad” fat, so it is best consumed in moderation.

5. Volunteer or donate to charity.

This blog has never been about politics, nor will it ever be.  However, with the recent releases of tax returns from both candidates in the presidential race, it’s pretty awesome to see both Romney and Obama donating approximately 20% of their income in 2011 to charity.  I figured this could be the first blog to highlight something that’s not negative about either candidate!  Hopefully more Americans will follow their lead on this front – or at least volunteer their time if they don’t have the resources to contribute financially.  Remember, these tips are about ways to feel better – and that includes the psychological benefit you’ll receive from helping others.

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Groin Strain? Get Manual Therapy.

Written on October 28, 2010 at 6:06 am, by Eric Cressey

If you’ve had a groin strain (or adductor strain, for the anatomy geeks like me in the crowd) – or would like to prevent one in the first place – read on.

Those of you who check out this website regularly probably already know that I’m a huge advocate of good manual therapy – especially disciplines like Graston and Active Release.  One area where we constantly see athletes really “gritty” is the hip adductors (groin muscles) – and it’s one reason why we see so many groin strains in the general population.  Note that treatments DON’T have to be this aggressive to yield favorable outcomes; it’s just an extreme example of someone with a pale skin tone that makes it even more prominent:

Soccer and hockey players really overuse the adductors during the kicking motion and skating stride, respectively.  And, even outside athletic populations, you’ll see a lot of people who don’t activate the gluteus maximum well as a hip extension – so you have the adductor magnus taking over to help out with this important task.  The only problem is that the adductor magnus internally rotates and adducts the hip, whereas the glute max externally rotates and abducts the hip.  Movements get altered, one muscle gets overworked and all fibrotic, and the next thing you know you’ve got a nasty “tweak” just south of the frank and beans (or female equivalent).

Really, that’s not the issue, though.  Nobody is denying that groin strains occur – but there are different treatment approaches to dealing with this issue on the rehabilitation side of things.  Some professionals use manual therapy during their treatments, while others don’t.  Can you guess which school of thought gets my backing?

Well, it turns out that the “include manual therapy” side of the argument gets the backing of Weir et al in light of some new research they just published.  These researchers found that athletes with groin strains returned to sports 4.5 weeks sooner when they received manual therapy plus stretching and a return to running program as compared to an exercise therapy and return to running program only.  It took the average time lost down from 17.3 weeks to 12.8 weeks in those with good long-term outcomes! For a bit more information on the manual therapy discipline utilized in this particular study, check out this abstract.

Need a quick tutorial on how to come back from a groin strain?

1. Find a good physical therapist who does manual therapy.
2. Listen to and do everything he/she says.
3. If anything hurts in the gym, don’t do it.  In most cases, deadlifting variations are okay, but single-leg work will really exacerbate the pain.  Squatting is usually a problem at first, and then gets better over time.  It really depends on which of the adductors you strained.
4. When you are cleared for return to full function, keep hammering on glute activation and hip mobility as outlined in Assess & Correct.

5. Make sure you’re continuing to foam roll the area and getting the occasional treatment on them with that same manual therapy you had during your rehabilitation.  Here’s a great self myofascial release option with the foam roller:

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Assess and Correct Now Available!

Written on October 26, 2009 at 5:10 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s a really exciting day for Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and I – and hopefully for you, too!

You see, after months of planning, filming, and editing, our new product, Assess and Correct, is now available at www.AssessAndCorrect.com.  And, for the first week ONLY, we’re making the product available for $30 off what will be the normal retail price.

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Assess and Correct is the first resource that empowers you with not only a series of self-assessments to identify your own flexibility and stability limitations, but also exercise progressions to correct those inefficiencies.  In the process, you’ll take your athletic performance to all new levels and prevent injuries from creeping up on you – whether you’re a high-level athlete or someone who sits at a desk too much.

With 27 self-assessments and 78 corresponding exercises, you’ll cover virtually everything you need to feel and perform well. And, you’ll have plenty of variety to use for many years to come!  And, while the DVDs alone are really comprehensive, the bonuses we’ve added to this really sweeten the deal.  Included in this package are:

  • DVD #1: Your Comprehensive Guide to Self-Assessment
  • DVD #2: Your Individualized Corrective Exercise Progressions
  • Bonus #1: The Assess and Correct Assessment E-Manual, which is a guide to which you can refer to in conjunction with DVD #1.
  • Bonus #2: The Assess and Correct E-Manual, which includes written cues and photos for each recommended drill in DVD #2 so that you’ll have a resource you can take to the gym with you.
  • Bonus #3: “The Great Eight Static Stretches” E-Manual, which shows you eight additional flexibility drills that we use on a regular basis in addition to the drills featured in the DVDs.
  • Bonus #4: The “Optimal Self Myofascial Release” E-Manual, which shows you the soft tissue methods and techniques we use with our clients and athletes.
  • Bonus #5: “Warm-ups for Every Body” E-Manual, which is a collection of two sample warm-up templates for 19 different sports/scenarios.

Again, this introductory offer will end next Sunday, November 1 at midnight EST.  For now, though, I’d encourage you to head over to www.AssessAndCorrect.com to check out some of the sample videos from the DVDs – including the introduction in which we discuss our rationale for creating the product.


Random Friday Thoughts: 5/8/09

Written on May 8, 2009 at 6:52 am, by Eric Cressey

1. It’s going to be a quick one this week, as I’m doing some last minute preparations for this weekend’s Perform Better Summit in Providence, RI.  To all the poor abandoned souls who count on my blog for companionship each Friday, I apologize for not giving our relationship the tender romance it deserves this week.

2. Congratulations to Cressey Performance athlete and Auburn High pitcher Tyler Beede, who threw a no-hitter on Wednesday.  Tyler struck out 15 in his complete game performance.

3. I contributed on the fourth installment of Mythbusters at T-Nation this week.  It also includes contributions from Chad Waterbury, Tony Gentilcore, and Christian Thibaudeau.  Noticeably absent from this esteemed crew of contributors is Mr. Celery – so I thought I’d give him some love.

4. For the foam rolling aficionados in the crowd, here’s a great variation to use for those hard-to-reach grundle adductor region.  Thanks to Tony Gentilcore for the video:

This is a really important one for those of you in the crowd with a history of groin strains and sports hernias.  Hockey players, soccer players, and powerlifters should commit this one to memory.

5. It’s official: Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and I are filming a new DVD on June 7th.  Lots to prepare before then!

Have a great weekend!


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