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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Features

Written on January 2, 2015 at 6:16 am, by Eric Cressey

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2014 at EricCressey.com:

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training - I'm at my best when I'm my most random, and I think these posts are a great example of that. What started as a one-time post wound up becoming a regular series based on reader feedback. Here are links to all eight installments from 2014:

Installment 1
Installment 2
Installment 3
Installment 4
Installment 5
Installment 6
Installment 7
Installment 8

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2. Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better - This series is mostly CSP coach Greg Robins' work, but I jumped in quite a bit in 2014. Installments 53-60 ran this year; here were the most popular ones:

Installment 53
Installment 54
Installment 57
Installment 58
Installment 59

3. Is Thoracic Spine Extension Work Necessary? - My good friend and colleague, physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, put together this in-depth series to demonstrate that not everyone needs extra thoracic extension work, contrary to what many folks think.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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The Best of 2014 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Articles

Written on December 26, 2014 at 8:01 am, by Eric Cressey

With 2014 wrapping up soon, I’ll be devoting this week to the best content of the year, based on traffic volume at EricCressey.com. I’ll kick it off today with my five most popular articles from the past year.

1. 5 Things I've Learned About Mobility Training - This article only just ran about three weeks ago, but it still was the biggest hit of the year. Given the popularity, I suppose I should have written it a long time ago!

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2. Why We're Losing Athleticism - This was my favorite article that I wrote in 2014, and was especially popular among parents.

3. Should You Wear Olympic Lifting Shoes? - What started as a Q&A ended up being a lengthy post that kicked off a great discussion.

4. 6 Reasons Anterior Core Stability Exercises are Essential - We all know core control is incredibly important, but who knew an article about why would be a hit, too?

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5. The 10 Laws of Meatball Mastery - If you like meatballs, this article is for you. And, if you don't like meatballs, this article is still for you, as you'll surely find a recipe you like - and hopefully a lot more clarity for how to truly enjoy life.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2014" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

In the meantime, you might be interested to know that Rick Kaselj just put the entire Muscle Imbalances Revealed series on sale at a huge 60% off discount to celebrate Boxing Day. I'm a big fan of this series, so if you haven't seen it, I'd encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity here. You'll learn a ton!

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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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How to Coach the Deadlift Set-up for Strength and Safety

Written on September 4, 2014 at 7:11 am, by Eric Cressey

I recently was asked how I approach breathing at the start of a deadlift, and - realizing that it was just the tip of the iceberg with respect to the deadlift set-up - I decided I'd post this presentation on the topic. This four-minute video is an excerpt from my longer presentation, 15 Things I've Learned about the Deadlift, which is a component of our Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body resource.

For more information, check out www.FunctionalStability.com.

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Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body: Why Do You Feel “Tight?”

Written on May 6, 2014 at 2:26 am, by Eric Cressey

Mike Reinold and I recently released our newest resource, Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body.  We're super excited to introduce the third installment of our popular series, and thought you might like a little teaser of what to expect.  Here is an excerpt from one of my webinars, "Understanding and Managing Joint Hypermobility:"

Click here to learn more about this resource!

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Emotional Detachment for Training Success

Written on April 29, 2014 at 3:38 am, by Eric Cressey

About eight years ago, I had a defining moment in my career during a training session. Twice a week, I would train two guys who had been wildly successful in their careers – to the point that they’d both been able to retire in their early 40s. It was an absolute blast to work with them, as they were both huge sports fans and would constantly bust one another’s chops during training sessions. One day, one of them finished up his set of Prowler pushes, and remained “slumped” over the Prowler for 20 seconds or so, working to catch his breath.

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Once he regained it, he looked up at me and said, “You know, Eric, I’m really just doing this so that I can drink beer and eat pizza during Patriots games and not feel guilty.”

It was a big eye opener for me to realize that my fitness goals for him were a lot loftier than his goals for himself. Sure, we trained in a safe and effective manner and he got great results, but was I really doing all I could do to make exercise actually seem fun for him?

I think we take for granted how much we, as fitness professionals, love to train. We convince ourselves that clients don’t mind eating out of Tupperware every two hours. And, we assume that heavy deadlifts get these clients so excited that they have erections lasting more than four hours. Sorry, but most people just don’t look forward to exercise – or enjoy it during the sessions – as much as us fitness lunatics do.

Here is where we learn one of the most important lessons in terms of improving client adherence, retention, and long-term success:

   You need to be emotionally attached to your clients,
        but emotionally detached from a training style.

With respect to the former point, you should go out of your way to make clients know that you genuinely care about them and want to help them get to where they need to be. They really should be like extended members of your family. Heck, there have been times in my life when I’ve spent more hours with certain clients in a given week than I have with my own wife! Don’t neglect the importance of being a friend before you become a coach or trainer.

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On the other hand, though, you must emotionally detach yourself from a training system. We know that in our own training, we sometimes have to do things we don't enjoy in order to make progress; we have to emotionally detach ourselves from the exercises we enjoy. This also applies with how we manage clients, but in the opposite direction.

In other words, just because you love Powerlifting doesn’t mean a client will always want to lift heavy. Just because you enjoy broccoli doesn’t mean that a client won’t abhor the stench of it. Just because you think it’d be cool to drop $10,000 on a souped-up leg press doesn’t mean that it’ll over any benefit whatsoever for your clients. And, just because you feel like you look good in a tight-fitting sleeveless shirt doesn’t mean that potential clients won’t joke with each other than you look like a raging, self-consumed tool. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Candidly, I think this is one reason why Crossfit has gained popularity so fast. Effectively, it allows people to “ride several horses with one saddle” with their training. If there is one part of training (e.g., heavy lifting) that they don’t like, there is something else (e.g., metabolic conditioning, gymnastics movements, Olympic lifts) that might get them fired up. Add in great camaraderie – which makes clients feel the emotional attachment to people and not just a system – and you’ve got a recipe for a successful training business.

At the end of the day, what's the takehome message?  Be a good person, and be open-minded to new ways to evaluate, program, and coach. If you're looking for a tremendous resource to help you in this regard, I'd highly recommend Elite Training Systems, a collaborative product from Mike Robertson, Wil Fleming, Tyler English, Dave Schmitz, Steve Long, and Jared Woolever. This product delves into how to write effective strength and conditioning programs, as well has how to run the business side of things. I like it so much that I contributed several bonus videos of my own.  It's on sale at a great introductory price; check it out HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/10/14

Written on April 10, 2014 at 6:24 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Cressey Performance Week at T-Nation - Three members of the CP staff had articles published at T-Nation this week. Greg Robins was up first, with Bench Press More in Four Weeks. Tony Gentilcore followed, with Building a Superhuman Core. Then, finally, I had an article published yesterday: How to Build Bulletproof Shoulders.  Suffice it to say that I'm a very lucky guy to have such an awesome staff!

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I provided a presentation called, "20 Ways to Build Rapport on a Client's First Day."  Additionally, I've got an article, as well as two exercise demonstrations - and this complements some great stuff from the rest of the ETM crew.  Check it out.

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10 Nuggets, Tips, and Tricks on Energy Systems Development - Mike Robertson wrote this last week, and I thought it was a fantastic look at some key points coaches need to understand with respect to "conditioning."

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Exercise of the Week: Integrating Hip Mobility with Core Stability

Written on April 4, 2014 at 5:14 am, by Eric Cressey

In this week's installment of "Exercise of the Week," I want to introduce one of my favorite "combo" drills for hip mobility and core stability.  I actually came up with the lateral lunge with band overhead reach myself in the summer of 2012 as I was thinking up ways for our throwers to have better rotary and anterior core stability as they rode their back hips down the mound during their pitching delivery. I introduced the exercise in phase 2 of The High Performance Handbook, and got several emails from customers who commented on just how much they liked it.  Give it a shot!

The name of the game with this exercise is "bang for your buck."  You're getting anterior core stability that'll help you prevent the lower back from slipping into too big an arch.  You're getting rotary stability that'll help prevent excessive rotation of your spine.  You're getting hip mobility that'll enable you to get into new ranges of motion.  And, you'll build lower body frontal plane stability so that you can perform outside of just the sagittal (straight-ahead) plane.

I'll usually do three sets of 6-8 reps per side. Enjoy!

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How Tech is Helping Us Get in Shape

Written on April 3, 2014 at 9:22 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Jared Harris, who offers a change of pace to the typical EricCressey.com "programming." -EC

As a guy who loves technology and who tries his best to stick to a solid workout routine, I'm elated by a new trend among developers to include fitness-related features as a part of gadgets. According to a new study by CEA, consumer interest in purchasing wearable fitness devices in 2014 is expected to quadruple. The study also asserted that 75 percent of online U.S. consumers now claim to own a fitness technology product. Compare this from 61 percent in 2012, and clearly more of us are wanting to use our tech to help us get fit.

Traditionally, tech and getting in shape haven't gone hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to mobile gadgets. Playing or doing work on our phones is often a stagnant activity, one perfectly suitable for lounging on a couch. But that's all changing, and like a lot of things in the tech world, it's happening fast. This growing sense that technology and fitness don't have to be isolated from one another is helpful for guys like me who need as much encouragement as we can get to work out. Because, as many can attest to, getting in shape is quite difficult. Having my gadgets geared towards fitness is just another incentive for me to get off the couch and get moving. From fitness trackers like the Notch Body Tracker and Atlas Wearables to gadgets that give athletes real-time data about their performance (like the Zepp Sports Sensors), more and more devices are being aimed at improving the health of consumers.

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This year's CES (an annual global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show) recently featured fitness tech in a huge way, with 30 percent more floor space dedicated to the digital fitness show floor, as compared to CES 2013. The larger focus makes sense, given that big companies are getting into the fitness game. For instance, according to Verizon Wireless, Samsung has included a number of health-related features in their S Health technology for their upcoming Galaxy S5 phone. S Health is a "first–of–its–kind mobile health platform that tracks your life right down to your heartbeat" by working with the built-in heart rate monitor that sits on the back of the phone.

And you have probably seen the fitness apps. Pedometers, diet trackers, weight training apps, healthy recipe apps, and more are found in the app stores for both Android and iOS devices. There's even an app that helps you find seasonal produce grown on regional farms. One app I particularly liked was Zombies, Run!, which turns a regular jog into a thrilling experience where you run from zombies and save your base—like a real-life video game. Gyms and fitness centers are finding uses for apps, too; they allow you to find specific classes and class times, and view promotions. Plus, a lot of these apps are free or will only cost you a couple of bucks.

All this new technology is making it more convenient to get into shape. I, for one, am looking forward to where this new direction in technology will go.

About the Author

Jared Harris is a writer, husband, and lover of technology. And he still plays Nintendo 64 games, often winning any race against his wife in Mario Kart 64 (as long as he uses Yoshi).

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/2/14

Written on April 2, 2014 at 7:52 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning.

Opening Day Musings: Are You Willing to Put in the Work? - I wrote this post on Opening Day, 2012.  It might be two years old now, but the message still holds true.

Interview with Carlo Alvarez - This isn't exactly "reading," but the content is fantastic.  Carlo Alvarez, the Director of Sports Performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates, shares some great insights on what professional baseball is really like, and what up-and-coming strength coaches can do to improve.

PRI Cervical-Cranio-Mandibular Restoration Course Review - Kevin Neeld recaps his experience with this Postural Restoration Institute course.  It's on my list of "things to attend" in the next year.

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Cressey Performance
Individualizing the Management of
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