Master the King of All Exercises

Deadlifting Secrets 101

Everything you need to know about this complex exercise.

Free Video Training

Name:
Email:* 
The High Performance Handbook

The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...


The 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery

Written on November 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm, by Eric Cressey

It's interesting how folks like to pigeonhole people into specific specialties. Over the years, I've been called "The Shoulder Guy." I've also heard "The Deadlift Guy" and "The Mobility Guy." And, if you talked to my wife, she'd probably call me "the guy who can't empty the dishwasher without getting distracted."

The truth is that expertise is in the eyes of the beholder. And, since this is my blog, let it be known the I really see myself as "The Meatball Guy," and I'd prefer to "be holding" a meatball.

photo-88

Being a meatball connoisseur isn't just a gift, though. Much like any proficiency, it's a craft I've worked tirelessly to hone. And, while my closest friends and family are very supportive of my meatball pursuits, the truth is that not everyone understands. As an example, my phone rang the other night as my wife and I were preparing a meatball extravaganza. One of our Major League Baseball clients was calling, and it went like this:

Me: "What's up, bud?"

Him: "Nothing. What are you up to?"

Me: "You know, the usual. Just eating some meatballs."

Him: "Dude, you have to find a new meal!"

Find a new meal? Seriously? Maybe he should "just" take up playing professional football instead of baseball! And, maybe Bobby Fischer should have "just" played checkers instead of chess! Me walking away from meatballs at age 33 - the prime of my meatball career - would be analogous to Barry Sanders walking away from football healthy at age 30 after ten consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. It just wouldn't make sense. I want to change the world, one meatball at a time.

Recognizing this, today's post is about recognizing those who have helped me achieve this level of meatball expertise, but also offering key advice to the up-and-coming meatball aficionados. To that end, I present to you the 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery.

Law #1: Meatball Mastery does not occur without the help of others, so you must be open-minded.

As shocking as it may seem, I did not invent the meatball. Rather, I've stood on the shoulders of a few meatball giants who've provided my top three "go-to" healthy meatball recipes. Here they are:

1. Everyday Paleo Marvelous Meatballs (Sarah Fragoso) - These are great for a numbers of reasons, the foremost being that they are a) meat and b) in a ball shape. Beyond that, I like the fact that I get to use a lot of stuff from the spice rack that I might not otherwise use.

photo-89

2. Everyday Maven Paleo Pesto Meatballs - I'm a sucker for pesto, but unfortunately, it almost always comes in really high calorie Italian Food recipes. This is a nice alternative. Candidly, we generally make these with ground turkey instead of ground beef and add a bunch of spinach and onions. It tastes awesome, but doesn't always stick together as well as you see with ground beef, presumably since the fat content is a bit lower.

photo-90

3. Anabolic Cooking Baked Meatballs - I like this recipe because I'm a big oregano fan, and the oat bran gives a little different texture than using almond flour. This recipe is featured in Dave Ruel's Anabolic Cooking, an awesome healthy recipe cookbook I highly recommend. Fortunately, Dave is a good friend of mine, and was kind enough to give me permission to post the recipe here (click to enlarge):

BakedMeatballs

Law #2: Meatballs are a form of artistic expression.

We've been conditioned to believe that meatballs should just be a few different ingredients: meat, bread crumbs, and eggs - basically whatever it takes to make things stick together. This is like saying that a good gym should just be full of cardio machines and nothing else.

Instead, we load our meatballs up with all sorts of vegetables and spices. In terms of vegetables alone, we might include celery, onions, spinach, carrots, and peppers. Try adding these, and you'll get a heck of a lot more nutritional value - and get to feel like you're creating a completely unique piece of meatball art each time you cook.

Law #3: Meatballs can (and should) be used for special occasions and as gifts.

Meatballs aren't just a versatile food choice; they're also a gift for every occasion. I made a "meat-heart" for Valentine's Day for my wife, in fact. We're still married, so I have to assume that she loved it.

vday539561_516141635103612_1132214481_n

And, what birthday would be completely without blowing out the candle on a meatball?

bday1016948_10151493837580388_882803681_n

I also like to incorporate meatballs into the celebration of Labor Day, Arbor Day, and Presidents' Day. And, I fully expect a meatball feast in celebration of my first Father's Day this upcoming June. Meatballs are the gifts that keep on giving.

Law #4: As with a fine wine and dinner, accompaniments matter with meatballs.

If you think meatballs can only be eaten with spaghetti, you're missing out. Some of our favorite meatball sides include baked kale chips, spaghetti squash, brussel sprouts, and sweet potato fries. Experiment and you'll find your favorite pairings.

Law #5: Don't even consider store-bought meatballs.

Next time you walk through the frozen foods section of your local supermarket, take a look at some of the pre-prepared meatball options. In most cases, they will include several ingredients you can't pronounce. When it comes to meatball ingredients, with the exception of eggs, if it wasn't green and didn't have eyes, it shouldn't belong in your meatball. This leads me to Law #6...

Law #6:  Meatballs must actually have meat.

As is often the case in mass food production these days, "soy protein concentrate" and "texturized soy flour" somehow managed to make their way into MEATballs. If you think this is limited to only the store-bought frozen versions, think again.

I like Whole Foods, including their hot foods bar. Unfortunately, one of the things I like the most about them is the fact that they display their ingredients - and it gets them in my doghouse with respect to meatballs. I'd love to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it's tough to do so after this Twitter exchange...

Tweet1

tweet2

Tweet3

Please don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. Meatballs shouldn't include "filler" materials, especially when sold at WHOLE Foods.

Law #7: Meatballs must meet a minimum size threshold.

As I showed in my picture earlier, any respectable meatball should be large enough to be eaten like an apple during the "leftovers" period. If it's small enough to be eaten put on a toothpick without that toothpick breaking, then you're really just dipping your foot in the shallows of a vast meatball ocean. Go big or go home.

Law #8: Meatballs bring the world together.

Last year, I attended John Romaniello and Neghar Fonooni's wedding in New York. At the reception, they had a meatball bar that featured four different types of awesomeness. Combined, Jason Ferruggia, Adam Bornstein, Sean Hyson, and I consumed approximately 600 of them. While it was probably a horrific experience for the terrified caterers that looked on, it's strengthened our friendships. Come to think of it, in communicating with these guys over the past year, I don't think we've had a single conversation or email exchange that didn't involve meatballs.

The next time you've got an old friend with whom you've want to reconnect, send him some meatballs as an icebreaker. If he's not more than thrilled at the gesture, then he's probably not worth the effort, anyway.

Law #9: Meatballs do not require bread crumbs.

Historically, bread crumbs have been a key inclusion in both meatballs and meatloaf because they help to hold everything together. Thanks in large part to the gluten-free and paleo trends, we've learned that almond and coconut flour (or meal) are healthier ways to hold things together.

photo-91

As a quick tip, it's cheaper to buy your almond flour in bulk than it is to buy individual bags at the grocery store. We order four pounds at a time on Amazon.

Law #10: Meatballs are meant to be shared.

If there was ever a food to selfishly guard for yourself, the meatball would be it. That just wouldn't be right, though; meatballs are best enjoyed in the company of others.

Moreover, meatball recipes are meant to be shared, too. Have a favorite way of enjoying them? Please share it in the comments section below.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Metabolic Cooking Recipe: Asian Turkey Burger

Written on May 1, 2013 at 7:18 am, by Eric Cressey

As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I’m a big fan of Metabolic Cooking, a healthy cookbook that offers recipes for 249 healthy food options, many of which my wife and I cook on a regular basis.  This week, the authors, Dave Ruel and Karine Losier, have put the resource on sale for more than 50% off.  And, more specific to today’s post, they told me it’d be cool to post a sample recipe for those who may be interested in learning more about what to expect from this cookbook.

Recipe: Asian Turkey Burger

Makes 3 Servings (3 Burgers)

Ingredients:

• 1 pound ground turkey
• ¼ cup minced onion
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons minced green bell pepper
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon water
• 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
• Salt and pepper
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl.
2. With clean hands, squeeze it together until it’s very well combined.
3. Divide into three equal portions and form into burgers about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick.
4. Spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Place over medium-high heat.
6. Cook the burgers for about 5 minutes per side until cooked through.

Nutritional Facts (per serving):

Calories: 184
Protein: 33g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 4g

turkey burgers

For more great recipes like this, check out Metabolic Cooking and take advantage of this week’s great discount.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

6 Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet

Written on March 8, 2013 at 6:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from Chris Howard. In addition to being a strength and conditioning coach, Chris handles nutrition consultations for all the clients at Cressey Performance.

In my work with clients at Cressey Performance I have noticed that people need to get more protein in their diets. Most of us are so carbohydrate focused, making sure that we get the Food Guide Pyramid’s recommended 6-11 servings of grains a day, that we neglect to get enough protein. This is unfortunate, not only because people are still using the Food Guide Pyramid for advice, but also because protein is such an important and essential nutrient. I find this is particularly true in our female clients, with whom I am always discussing ways to get more protein in their diets, as many tend not to be huge consumers of meat and animal products. In addition, I find that many of our high school kids who are looking to gain weight can benefit from eating more protein. Here are some of the tips that have really helped our clients.

1. Eat more eggs!

Eggs are a simple way to include more protein in your diet, particularly at breakfast. A large egg has 6 grams of protein in it. Adding a few of these in throughout the day can go a long way toward helping you achieve a protein consumption in grams equal to your body weight in pounds. As a bonus, there are numerous ways to cook eggs, so there is likely a method you will like even if you are not an egg person – scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, baked, fried, and many others. Add some veggies and spices for a more complete meal.

2. Switch to Greek yogurt.

Most of our clients eat yogurt frequently, but unfortunately most of it is the processed, sugar-added garbage that the commercials are telling them will help them lose weight. My suggestion for higher protein intake and a healthier body is to switch to Greek-style yogurt. Greek yogurt has over twice the protein of even plain traditional yogurt at 23 grams versus 10 grams per cup. Add some berries and flax or chia seed to your Greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast or snack idea.

3. Make a smoothie!

I think smoothies are a great option no matter what your nutritional goals are. You can easily incorporate additional vegetables as I mentioned previously. In this case, smoothies are a great way to up your protein intake by adding protein powder, greek yogurt, almond milk, or even egg whites. A lot of people don’t necessarily like the taste of protein powders or greek yogurt, so smoothies make for a more palatable way to incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan. Here is a great article by the folks at Precision Nutrition to get you started on your smoothie-making journey.

4. Increase your portion size.

I know this one sounds strange, especially to the fat-loss community. Think about it, though. If you are having chicken for dinner and want to increase your protein intake, just eat more chicken. Hey, no one said this was rocket-science. For most of our clients, I recommend aiming for 1-2 palm sized portions of protein at each meal, which will usually get them into the range of 1g/lb body weight. When I look at the portion sizes of many of our skinny high school kids and our adult fat-loss clients, they simply are not eating a large enough portion size of protein. Speaking of chicken, here is a dynamite recipe for chicken fingers from Metabolic Cooking. Add some vegetables for a complete meal.

5. Don’t forget cheese.

While I tend not to eat a ton of dairy food and a lot of people are switching to more paleo-style diets, let’s not forget about cheese. It can be used as an excellent source of not only protein, but also calories for those of you looking to gain weight. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that you sit around eating a block of your favorite cheddar every day, but I’m not opposed to throwing a little on an omelet in the morning or having some fresh mozzarella with your chicken and asparagus at dinner.

6. Look to your fat source for some extra protein.

Nuts and seeds are a great addition to any diet, mainly for the healthy fats they contain. However, nuts and seeds have the added benefit of providing some much needed protein. An ounce of almonds has 6 grams of protein, which when added to a snack of greek yogurt with blueberries can make for a significant protein punch. Both cacao nibs and chia seeds will provide an additional 4 grams per ounce. Two tablespoons of peanut butter with provide an additional 8 grams. While nuts and seeds won’t compare to chicken or beef in terms of the protein they contain, nuts and seeds provide the benefit of being portable raw food options that work well for snacks between main meals.

Wrap-up

In closing, give some or all of these ideas a try when you are planning out your next meal. I’ve heard countless clients talk about how much more energy they have and how much better they feel after increasing their protein intake. Please remember, you don’t ever need to completely overhaul your diet, but rather make small changes each day or week that will lead to large changes over time.

About the Author

Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/28/13

Written on January 28, 2013 at 9:28 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s a list of recommended strength and conditioning reads to kick off your week on the right foot:

Omega-6 vs. Omega-3: Who Cares? – The Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio is a topic that’s been scrutinized heavily in analyzing the typical American diet, but if you’re someone who is already good about picking healthy food options, you may be making things far too complex.  Dr. Mike Roussell clarifies in this article.

Is Metabolic Resistance Training Right for Everyone? – This was a guest post I published from Joe Dowdell back in 2011, and a conversation I had about progressions in beginners made me think of it.  This is a “must-read” for up-and-coming trainers who deal with deconditioned folks in the general population.

Will Your College Go Out of Business Before You Graduate? – I thought this was a tremendously interesting post from Mark Cuban.  While it might not seem related to the fitness industry at first glance, I suspect that our field could be among the first ones affected if a scenario like this emerged.  With such a low barrier to entry in this industry, it’s not unreasonable to think that folks will shun the $250,000 (or more) exercise science degree and just go right to the trenches. I touched on this a little bit a while back in my blog posts, Is An Exercise Science Degree Really Worth it? – Part 1 and Part 2.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!


Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 28

Written on January 11, 2013 at 8:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of tips to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs on track.  Greg Robins took a break this week, so I’m stepping up my game and covering this installment.

1. If you always squat, try a month without squatting.

There’s an old saying in the strength and conditioning field that “the best program is the one you’re not on.” In other words, everything works, but nothing works forever.  Squats have come under a fair amount of scrutiny over the past few years as diagnoses of femoracetabular impingement have gone sky-high and we’ve encountered more and more people in the general population who simply don’t move well enough to squat in good form.  So, it makes sense to not shove a round peg in a square hole; at the very least, try to remove them from your strength training programs for a month here and there.

In these instances, I like to start the training session with an axially-loaded single leg exercise for 3-6 reps/side.  If you’re not good in single-leg stance, start on the higher side with a lighter weight. If you’re a long-time single-leg believer, though, you can really load these up:

After that, you can move on to deadlifts, barbell supine bridges/hip thrusts, or any of a number of other exercises.  The point to take away from this is that eliminated loaded squatting variations for a month here and there won’t set you back.

2. Work on the squat pattern, not just the squat.

A lot of folks struggle to squat deep because they lack the ability to posteriorly shift their center of mass sufficiently.  This is particularly common in athletes with big anterior pelvic tilts and an exaggerated lordotic curve.

If you give these athletes a counterbalance out in front of their body, though, their squat patterns “clean up” very quickly.  As such, in combination with other mobility/stability drills, I like to include drills to work on the actual squat technique both during their warm-ups and as one of the last exercises in a day’s strength training program.  Goblet squats and TRX overhead squats are two of my favorites:

3. Make muffins healthier.

My favorite meal is breakfast, and I know I’m not alone on this!  Unfortunately, once you get outside some of the traditional eggs and fruit choices, things can get unhealthy very quickly.  That’s one reason why I’m a fan of Dave Ruel’s recipe for the much healthier high protein banana and peanut butter muffins from Anabolic Cooking.  Dave has kindly agreed to let me share the recipe with you here:

Ingredients (for three muffins)
• ¾ cup oatmeal
• ¼ cup oat bran
• 1 tbsp whole wheat flour
• 6 egg whites
• ½ scoop vanilla protein powder
• ¼ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp stevia
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
• 1 big banana
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp banana extract

Directions
1. In a blender, mix all the ingredients (except for the banana). Blend until the mix gets thick.
2. Cut the banana in thin slices or cubes. Add the banana to the mix and stir (with a spoon or a spatula)
3. Pour the mix in a muffin cooking pan, and cook at 350°F. Until cooked (about 30 minutes).

Nutrition Facts (per muffin)
Calories: 190
Protein: 17g
Carbs: 18g
Fat: 4.5g

Quick tip: you can cook a big batch and freeze the muffins, then just microwave them when needed down the road.

Anabolic Cooking is on sale for $40 off until tonight (Friday) at midnight, so I’d encourage you to check it out and enjoy the other 200+ healthy recipes Dave includes.  My wife and I cook from this e-book all the time.

4. Dominate the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill before you overhead press.

Whether your shoulders are perfectly structurally sound or not, overhead pressing can be a stressful activity for the shoulder girdle.  To that end, you want to make sure that you’re moving well before you move overhead under load.  I like to use the back-to-wall shoulder flexion “test” as a means of determining whether someone is ready to overhead press or snatch (vertical pulling is a bit different).  Set up with your back against the wall, and your heels four inches away from the wall.  Make sure your lower back is flat against the wall, and make a double chin while keeping the back of your head against the wall.  Then, go through shoulder flexion.

If you can’t get your hands to touch the wall overhead without bending the elbows, going into forward head posture, arching the back, or moving the feet away from the wall, you fail.  Also, pain during the test is a “fail,” too.  Folks will fail for all different reasons – but a big chunk of the population does fail.  Fortunately, a bit of cueing and some corrective drills – and just practicing the test – will go a long way in improving this movement quality.  Hold off on the snatches and military presses in the meantime, though.

5. Drink with a straw to get better about water intake.

I always give my wife, Anna, a hard time about how little water she drinks.  She’ll get busy at work and will simply forget to have a sip of water for 5-6 hours.  Other times, though, she just doesn’t want to drink cold water – because it’s winter in New England and she is always trying to get warm!  One quick and easy solution to the later problem is to simply drink with a straw, as water won’t contact your teeth, which are obviously very cold-sensitive.  My mother gave Anna a water bottle with a straw for Christmas, and she’s been much better about water consumption ever since.  Try it for yourself.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

How to Enjoy Smoothies Without Getting Fat

Written on December 16, 2012 at 7:28 am, by Eric Cressey

Smoothies are something we utilize all the time with our athletes at Cressey Performance as a means of getting in calories easily.  You see, it’s very easy to add 500-1000 calories to a skinny athlete’s diet by just blending up a shake.

Plus, they can be a great way to “sneak in” foods you want an anything to eat.  Rather than just having an athlete crush a ready-to-drink shake that’s loaded with not-so-stellar ingredients, you can “hide” things like spinach, fruits, oils, and other ingredients that these athletes might not enjoy by themselves.

That said, I’ll be candid: I am a fat kid at heart.  I can put away a ton of food and really don’t need help sneaking in more calories; I’d rather taste all my food.  Moreover, I don’t partake in any of our “go-to” CP smoothies simply because I’m a guy who doesn’t need a lot of carbohydrates, so these 80g shakes would go directly to the wrong places, if I was to consume them.  Accordingly, I don’t make a lot of fancy shakes – until now.

You see, my buddy Joel Marion just released a recipe e-book called 53 Fat Burning Smoothies and Milkshakes.  What I really like about this resource is that it provides higher carb, moderate carb, and – for folks like me – low carb shake recipes.  Joel agreed to let me reprint a few of my favorites so that you could try them out, too.  You’ll notice that both these shakes are high in fiber and low in carbs – but still bring you back to a few of your childhood favorites: peanut butter and jelly and pumpkin pie.

PB & J Protein Smoothie

Ingredients
2 scoops Biotrust Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
5 frozen strawberries
Stevia (to taste)
5 ice cubs

Nutrition Facts
Calories (cal): 384
Fat (g): 15
Carbohydrates (g): 21
Fiber (g): 7
Sugar (g): 8
Protein (g): 43

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients
2 scoops Biotrust Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Stevia (to taste)
5 ice cubs

Nutrition Facts
Calories (cal): 243
Fat (g): 6
Carbohydrates (g): 22
Fiber (g): 10
Sugar (g): 5
Protein (g): 27

Notes for both shakes: Put all ingredients in a blender and enjoy! These smoothies are great meal replacements to use at any time of day.

If you’re interested in learning more, the good folks at Biotrust (a company Joel co-founded) are making this 53-recipe e-book available – along with a free shaker bottle and free shipping – to anyone who places an order for their low-carb protein powder by the end of the day Monday. Click here for more information.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 22

Written on October 19, 2012 at 9:05 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s collection of strategies you can apply to your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs; it’s a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.

1. Clean up your overhead pressing and pulling with these exercises and cues.

Overhead pressing isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good exercise choice. In fact, vertical pressing and pulling is an important part to any balanced approach. For those of us who have lived most of our lives below the shoulders, it may play an integral part to an unbalanced approach, aiming to bring overall balance back.

Overhead pressing and pulling may become problematic when people allow themselves to move into a heavily extended posture as they perform the exercise. In some cases, the factors contributing to this may warrant the elimination of overhead work until certain mobility and stability deficits are improved upon.

For many it’s simply a question of cueing, and re-learning what “right” feels like. Try some of these exercises.

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion – engage anterior core, activate glutes, make a double chin, and don’t allow the lower back to arch (keep it flat against the wall).  Exhale fully in the top position.  Those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation will want to to get shrugged up a bit at the top, whereas those with a big upper trap substitution pattern will want to leave this cue out and focus on a bit more posterior tilting of the scapula during upward rotation.

Half-Kneeling 1-arm Landmine Press – The half-kneeling posture makes it harder to substitute lumbar extension for overhead activity, and the pressing angle serves as a nice progression to eventually getting overhead. The cues are largely the same as with the back-to-wall shoulder flexion, including the cue for those in a lot of scapular depression and/or downward rotation to get shrugged up a bit at the top.

Half-Kneeling 1-arm Lat Pulldown – You’ll generally do better with traction (pulls ball away from the socket) than approximation (forces ball back in to socket) exercises early on with overhead activity.  The cues are, again, much the same.  Notice, however, that Greg is attentive to not extending the humerus past neutral, which would create an anterior scapular tilt and cause the head of the humerus to glide forward.


 

2. Use the eccentric portion of a lift as an indicator.

We are stronger eccentrically than we are concentrically. In other words, we can lower higher weights in control than we can actually lift. For some, the difference between what they can load eccentrically, as compared to concentrically, is minimal. For others, the gap is quite large. Many refer to this difference as the “Strength Deficit.” Essentially the strength deficit is indicative of the difference between our maximal strength potential (absolute strength) and our actualized maximal strength.

With that in mind, keep a watchful eye on athletes (and yourself) during the lowering phase. Their ability (or inability) to show control in this portion is a valuable way to assess the appropriateness of the weight and exercise. I realize other factors could contribute to form breakdown on the way down or up, but in general, if you see athletes unable to lower a weight under control, it’s probably not going to look any better going up. Furthermore, if the athlete shows great control going down, but struggles on the way up, you know there is a recruitment breakdown and they are unable to realize their potential strength at this point. When you see that, address it as soon as possible! Lower the weight to where the concentric portion looks good and gradually progress the load.

Lastly, apply this concept to jumps as well. Consider teaching athletes (especially youth athletes) how to absorb and store force before sending them right into releasing it. Reversing the usual order of events, and teaching landing mechanics before jumping mechanics can effectively do this.

3. Vary soft tissue techniques for better recovery.

Many people don’t realize that the body will adapt to restorative strategies in a similar fashion to how it adapts to training. Vary how you approach your soft tissue work, by using different sized objects, changing directions between passes and modifying the sequencing.

Additionally, seek out trained professionals who can administer a number of different approaches.

4. Try meat muffins.

Meatloaf (the food, not the musician) makes everything better.  If I could eat it for every meal, I’d be a happy man. 

As with eating muffins, the absolute tastiest part is the top – but in a traditional meatloaf cooking container, the amount of “top shelf loaf” is minimized.  The solution to this, of course, is to cook your meatloaf in a muffin baking sheet.

Also, if you’re looking for a healthy meatloaf recipe, check out this great turkey meatloaf one from Dave Ruel (makes six servings):

Ingredients
• 2 lbs ground turkey
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 diced onion
• 1 tsp garlic (optional)
• 1⁄3 cup dried tomatoes
• 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
• 1 whole egg
• 1⁄2 cup parsley
• 1⁄4 cup low fat parmesan
• 1⁄4 cup skim milk
• Salt and pepper
• 1 tsp oregano

Directions
1. Cook the onion with olive oil separately
2. Mix everything together in a big bowl, add the cooked onions
3. Put the mix in a big baking pan
4. Bake at 375-400°F for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 393 calories, 46g protein, 14g carbohydrate, and 17g fat

This recipe is one of 200 awesome ones in Dave’s product, Anabolic Cooking; I’d highly recommend you check it out, as my wife and I cook from it all the time.

5. Be realistic when you write programs if you know you’ll have time constraints.

Most of us have very busy lives, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly cut into our gym time.  One of the biggest mistakes we see when folks write their own strength and conditioning programs is that they choose advanced exercises that may take a lot of time to set-up.  Take, for instance, a reverse band bench press.  In addition to requiring a lot of set-up time, it requires that you find a spotter and load/unload more plates than you’d normally use.  The same would go for a board press variation; you need a spotter, someone to hold the boards, and more weight than you’d use on a regular bench press. 

Sometimes, if you’re strapped for time you’re better off just picking an exercise on which you can fly solo, like a dumbbell bench press or push press.  You’re increasing your likelihood of adherence and, in turn, success if you know you can get in more quality work in less time.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

7 Strategies to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet

Written on September 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach Chris Howard.

As the “nutrition guy” at Cressey Performance, I spend a considerable amount of time looking over three-day food logs from our clients and athletes to help them create healthy food options for their menus. A common dietary trend among our young athletes and even some of our adults is a serious lack of vegetables. As a way to help the world at large consume more vegetables, I have come up with this list of seven strategies to get more vegetables in your diet.

1. Learn to Cook (or at least follow a recipe).

This strategy is a bit different from the other six, but it’s really where getting more vegetables in your diet has to start. Sure, you can eat vegetables raw; in fact, it’s encouraged, but you certainly get more variety from cooking them. Use Google as your friend and search for recipes that include vegetables or just different ways of making something as simple as broccoli. See some of the recommendations below for more information.

2. Include Vegetables in Smoothies.

In this post, Greg Robins talked about eating more pumpkin, and it made me think of a great smoothie recipe to enjoy this time of year. Here it is:

½ cup Canned Pumpkin (make sure it’s the pure pumpkin, NOT the pie filling)
½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 scoop Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
¼ cup Walnuts
¼ cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
8oz. Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
4oz. Water (just to thin it out a bit)

Throw all the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Of course, adding vegetables to smoothies doesn’t begin and end with pumpkin. Spinach is another smoothie-friendly vegetable common among the CP staff. It works in pretty much any smoothie and will usually be overpowered by the other ingredients so that you won’t even taste it. Still, you may get some weird looks from classmates and colleagues as they wonder what is in the green sludge you are drinking.

3. Make Soup/Chili.

Soup and chili recipes are a great way to hide vegetables. Brian St. Pierre has written extensively about his wife’s chili recipe, which is still one of my favorites. However, I have a new recipe that while technically not chili, looks, feels and tastes pretty darn similar. The recipe comes from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo website. Be sure to check out her version of the recipe here. To make this recipe easier and quicker to make, I have chosen not to stuff the green peppers with the meat mixture, but to chop up the peppers and include them in the meat mixture, instead, which makes it more like a chili. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

4. Don’t Forget about Stir Fry.

While participating in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Coaching Program, I was introduced to Robb Wolf’s Food Matrix. He outlines a simple set of instructions that really hammer home how simple cooking and eating healthy can really be. Try this “recipe” with your next stir-fry:

1. Put oil in a skillet or wok;1-2 tbsp coconut or olive oil will work well.
2. Put some meat on the skillet or wok; think chicken, beef, or whatever you like
3. Let the meat cook for a minute or so.
4. Add a ton of veggies; I tend to use frozen broccoli, cauliflower, or stir-fry mixes.
5. Stir it around a few times.
6. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes, until the veggies and meat are cooked to your liking.
7. Eat and Enjoy! It’s as simple as that.

This is not only easy to do, but you can also literally change the recipe every night for variety while still using the same cooking methods. Plus, I think this is something that even high schoolers can manage to do without burning down the house.

5. Add Flavor with Spices/Dressings.

Learning how to use spices on foods can really liven up a dish. Sure, there’s going to be some trial and error here, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Here’s a simple way to make kale, a superfood, taste better in the hopes of becoming a staple at your dinner table:

Ingredients
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (you can substitute any spice you like here)

Directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
3. Bake on a cookie sheet until the edges brown but are not burnt; it’ll be approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Make omelets a regular breakfast selection.

One of the questions I always get is how to get vegetables in at breakfast. I usually suggest either a smoothie with spinach or pumpkin (see above), or – even better – an omelet. Again, from a variety standpoint, the options are really endless with an omelet. Here are some ideas:

a. Peppers
b. Onions
c. Tomatoes (Yes, they’re technically fruits, but who cares? They are good for you.)
d. Salsa (best for those who are “easing” their way into vegetables)
e. Spinach
f. Mushrooms
g. Asparagus (if you’re feeling bolder)
h. The list goes on and on…

7. Substitute Lettuce for Tortillas on Tacos and Fajitas.

What kid doesn’t love tacos? I know I could eat them every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. One way to make them healthier – and maybe a bit messier – is to substitute lettuce for the tortilla. Try experimenting with different types of lettuce to see which you like the best.

Eating vegetables doesn’t have to be boring as long as you’re willing to put a bit of thought into preparing them.  Give these tips a shot – and by all means, share any additional strategies you may have in the comments section below.

About the Author

Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 15

Written on August 20, 2012 at 5:14 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of random tips to make you a little more awesome with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, with contributions from Greg Robins.

1. Outsource your cooking innovation.

One of the reasons folks “cheat” on their diets is that they don’t do a good job of incorporating variety in their healthy food choices.  Unless you are one of the 1% of the population who has outstanding willpower, eating the same thing over and over again is a recipe for feeling deprived – and that can only lead to some less-than-quality time with Ben and Jerry.

If you’re someone who isn’t all that creative in the kitchen, consider allocating some funds to a cookbook that features healthy recipes.  One of my favorites, Anabolic Cooking, is actually on sale for 52% off ($40 off) this week only. 

2. Make roasted chicken breast with spinach and walnut stuffing.

Speaking of the cookbook; here’s a great recipe from it.

Ingredients:

- 4 large fresh chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (average 8oz per breast)
– 4 cups fresh spinach
– 2 tbsp of garlic
– 1/4 cup walnuts crushed
– Salt
– Fresh ground black pepper
– Olive oil (not extra virgin)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Butterfly chicken breasts (cut along side and lay out flat leaving attached at one end like a book) and lay out flat on cutting board. You can pound it slightly to flatten a bit if you want.
2. Rub both sides with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Lightly wilt spinach in non-stick pan, or if using frozen just thaw.
4. Spread roasted garlic paste onto one half on inside of chicken breasts.
5. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.
6. Place spinach on top of walnuts.
7. Fold top over and place on a rack fitted inside a sheet pan or roasting pan.
8. Place chicken in oven and bake for 20 minutes on 400. Then reduce heat to 325 and roast for an additional 30 minutes, or until inside stuffing reaches 145 degrees.
9. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information (four servings)

Calories: 407
Protein: 55g
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 19g

*A special thanks goes out to Anabolic Cooking author Dave Ruel for allowing me to reprint this recipe.

3. Consider using concentric-only exercises for “off-day” training.

The most stressful, and therefore demanding part of an exercise is actually the eccentric, or lowering phase. This is where the majority of muscle damage occurs, and the part that will elicit the most muscular soreness. If you’re like me, you enjoy doing some kind of physical activity on a daily basis. Some people scoff at the idea of never taking a rest, but in reality, moving is good for you, and it can be done daily. If done incorrectly, it can interfere with recovery and lead to overtraining. If done correctly, it can keep you focused and actually speed up your recovery.

While there are multiple ways to go about off day exercise correctly, one option is to use mostly eccentric-free exercise choices. As examples, think of sled pushing, dragging, and towing. Additionally you can attach handles or a suspension trainer to your sled and do rows, presses, and pull-throughs. Another option is medicine ball exercises, which can be organized into complexes and circuits, or KB and sledgehammer swings, which all have minimal eccentric stress. These modalities will get blood flow to the appropriate areas and give you a training effect that won’t leave you sore, or stimulated to an extent that mandates serious recovery time.

4. Keep track of more than your one-rep max.

The ultimate rookie mistake in strength training is going for a one-rep max too often. You rarely need to train at the 100% intensity in order to get stronger. The issue is that most people only have that number as a benchmark in their minds. Therefore, the only way they know to measure progress is to constantly test that number over. This has two major flaws.

First, they train at that intensity too often, and all too often miss repetitions, essentially training above 100%. This teaches their body to miss reps, and leaves them neurally fried and unable to perform. Second, they get impatient with their training because they don’t realize new personal records throughout the training cycle. The consequence is that their impatience leads to unscheduled, and too frequent, attempts at new one-rep personal records, bringing us back to point number one. “What gets measured, gets managed,”so make a point of keeping track of repetition maxes. Testing your 3- and 5-rep maxes, for example, are also perfectly good ways to measure progress. Actually, they are better numbers to monitor as training those intensities is more repeatable.

5. Make your home a “safe house.”

No, I am not talking about replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors, although that is certainly important. What I am referring to has to do with nutrition. Your home should be a place where you are unable to make poor nutritional choices. Discipline is a function of decision making, or making choices. Many people relate great discipline to an ability to say “yes” or “no” in response to a question – even if it comes from one’s own mind (“Should I devour that box of donuts?”).

The truth is most of us might not be disciplined enough to make great choices at the drop of a hat, but you can be disciplined enough to prepare yourself for those moments that test you. Instead of keeping unhealthy foods in your house, have the discipline to throw away excess desserts after a party, and not keep certain foods in your fridge or cabinets. You can set yourself up for success, or you can tempt yourself by continually trying to prove you have the incredible discipline to only eat these foods in moderation. You will find that when you limit the consumption of more “relaxed” foods to “outside venues,” you will be eating them with other people, and therefore are more likely to eat less of them, enjoy them more, and have them less often; these are all good things! 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

The Truth About Meal Frequency: Is Intermittent Fasting for You?

Written on March 26, 2012 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest nutrition blog comes from former Cressey Performance intern Tyler Simmons.

“It’s best to eat 5 – 7 times a day.”

“Eating every three hours fuels your metabolism.”

“If you skip meals, your body goes into ‘starvation mode,’ you gain fat, and burn muscle for energy.”

Chances are that you’ve probably heard something like the above statements if you’ve read anything about diet or exercise in the last ten years. Many of you (myself included) probably spent a lot of time preparing and eating meals, in the hopes of optimizing fat loss and better muscle gain.

What does the data really show about spacing out your meals? When I started researching the topic of meal frequency in 2010, I assumed there was ample scientific evidence to back up these nearly unanimous claims that smaller, more frequent meals were better than larger, less frequent meals. Boy, was I disappointed.

To my surprise, the scientific literature had some different things to say. My research focused on how changing meal frequency impacts two different things: 1) Metabolic Rate and 2) Weight Loss. What I found was compelling evidence that reduced meal frequency, sometimes known as Intermittent Fasting (IF), could actually help me, so I started an experiment.

In the summer of 2010 I was living in Alaska doing construction and labor, as well as doing off-season training for Track and Field (sprinting, jumping, and lifting). For years I had focused on eating every 2-3 hours, but based on my new findings, I decided to limit all omy food intake to an 8-hour window, leaving 16 hours of the day as my fasting portion.

Despite doing fasted, hard labor all day, then lifting, sprinting, and playing basketball, I managed to set records on all my lifts at the end of the summer. Not only was I stronger than ever, but I got leaner too.

Here’s pictures from before and after, about 2 months apart:

Getting lean wasn’t even my main goal; the idea that I could be free from eating every three hours without suffering negative side effects was extremely liberating. No longer was I controlled by arbitrary meal times and tupperware meals in a lunch box. During this summer, I developed the ability to go long periods of time (18-24 hours) without food, and not get tired, cranky, our mentally slow down.

So why didn’t I catabolize my muscles, drop my metabolic rate, and end up looking like skinny-fat Richard Simmons (no relation)?

The Science

The idea that eating several smaller meals is better came from a few pieces of information. The first was because of an association between greater meal frequency and reduced body weight in a couple of epidemiological studies, although this only shows a correlation, not causation. Breakfast eaters are more likely to engage in other health activities, such as exercise, which explains the relationship. In the most comprehensive review of relevant studies, the authors state that any epidemiological evidence for increased meal-frequency is extremely weak and “almost certainly represents an artefact” (1).

The second piece is related to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which is the amount of energy needed to digest and process the food you eat. Fortunately, this is dependent on total quantity of food, not on how it’s spaced, making the distinction irrelevant.

So, now we can see that the supposed benefits from increased meal frequency do not hold up to closer inspection, but why would we want to purposefully wait longer in between meals?

Originally, researchers thought Caloric Restriction (CR) was the bee’s knees. Preliminary research showed that CR slows aging, reduces oxidative damage, and reduces insulin and levels. All good, right? Unfortunately, these benefits come with some nasty trade-offs, including reduced metabolic rate, low energy levels, constant hunger, and low libido, pretty much what you would expect from chronically restricting food intake. These were not happy animals.

Recent research has shown that Intermittent Fasting or reduced meal frequency can convey many of the benefits of CR while avoiding the negative side effects. Some of these benefits include:

  • Favorable changes to blood lipids
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased markers of inflammation
  • Reduction in oxidative stress
  • Increased Growth Hormone release
  • Greater thermogenesis/elevated metabolic rate
  • Improved fat burning
  • Improved appetite control

Some of these effects may be secondary to the reduction of calories due to improved appetite control, or they may be primary effects of IF, the research is not conclusive on this yet.

One of the most interesting findings was that contrary to conventional wisdom, reduced meal frequency actually causes an increase in thermogenesis (metabolic rate), which is mediated through the increase of catecholamines (stress hormones), such as adrenaline and norepinephrine (1,2). Yep, you read that right: instead of slowing your metabolism down, it speeds it up. Catecholamines also help with the liberation of fatty acids from fat cells, making them available to be burned as energy.

That’s the “why” and the “how” for some of the effects of IF. Whatever the mechanism for it, IF seems to be effective for at least some people, myself included. But before you rush off to go start fasting 16 hours a day, here are some tips and caveats.

Important Considerations

Many people ask me if IF is good or bad, but as with most things, it depends. IF is not appropriate in certain situations. It can be good or bad, depending on who you are (your current health status/lifestyle) and what your goals are. IF is a stressor on the body; one of the primary effects is an increase in stress hormones. If you’re lacking sleep, eating low quality foods, stressed out about your job, and excessively exercising then don’t start an IF protocol. It will backfire and you will end up fat and tired!

Only experiment with an IF program if you are getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night, eating a high quality diet, appropriately recovering from exercise, and don’t have too many mental/emotional stressors.

As far as what goals this works for, common sense applies here. IF is generally best for people who are already moderately lean and are trying to get leaner. If you’re trying to put on 30 pounds of mass, don’t start IF. If you’re an athlete with a very heavy training load, don’t try IF.

For those of you who fit the criteria of goals and health status, I suggest experimenting with the 8-hour fed/16-hour fasted periods. Eat quality foods to satiation in your eating window, especially focusing on the post-training period.

Keep in mind that IF is not for everyone, but it can be a powerful tool at certain times.  Most importantly, even if IF isn’t for you, remember that you shouldn’t stress out if you miss a meal occasionally!

Additional Note/Addendum

Many readers have noted that this is similar to what Martin Berkhan does in his LeanGeans protocol. Martin Berkhan was certainly influential in the thought process behind this, and I don’t mean to take anything away from him. To be clear, LeanGains is much more complex than a 16:8 fasting:eating period. LeanGains involves calculating calorie intake, fluctuating calorie intake +20% on training day/ -20% on off days, macronutrient cycling (high carb/low carb), supplementing with BCAA’s, etc. I didn’t use any of these techniques during my ten week experiment, I just ate to satiety during an 8-hour window. Martin is a great resource for people that want to learn more, especially on the body composition side of things. His website is leangains.com.

About the Author

Tyler Simmons is the owner and head Nutrition/Strength & Conditioning Coach at Evolutionary Health Systems. He has his bachelors in Kinesiology with a focus in Exercise Science and Exercise Nutrition from Humboldt State University. A former collegiate athlete, Tyler specializes in designing training and nutrition programs for athletes of all levels, as well as general population. Learn more at EvolutionaryHealthSystems.com.

Related Posts

Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice from Your Government
Anabolic Cooking: Why You Don’t Have to Gag to Eat Healthy

References

1. Bellisle, F., & McDevitt, R. (1997). Meal frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 77, 57-70.

2. Mansell, P., & Fellows, I. (1990). Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. The American Journal of Physiology, 258, 87-93.

3. Staten, M., Matthews, D., & Cryer, P. (1987). Physiological increments in epinephrine stimulate metabolic rate in humans. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, 253, 322-330.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

New Balance

Featured Product
Assess and Correct

YouTube Twitter Facebook