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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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How to Build Back to Overhead Pressing

Written on March 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm, by Eric Cressey

With all the shoulders I've seen over the years, I've stumbled onto quite a few key "take-home" points. Today, I'd like to share one observation I've made. First, though, I have to tell a quick story to set the stage.

Like a lot of guys with shoulder problems, I miss being able to overhead press, so I've taken to experimenting with a lot of different approaches to see how I can at least "get close" to working it back in.  Last year, I talked about how landmine presses had been working as a nice "bridge" between overhead work and true horizontal pressing exercises.  Check out the coaching cues:

The arm path on a landmine press really isn’t much different than an incline press – so why does the incline press hurt so much more for those with shoulder pain in their injury history?  Having the shoulder blades pinned against a bench limits their ability to freely upwardly rotate; they're stuck in scapular downward rotation. 

This year, to take it a step further, I played around a lot with bottoms-up kettlebell overhead carries and pressing, and my shoulder did great with them.  With this drill, you teach people where an appropriate “finish” position is, and then you can work backward from it.

The next progression would be a 1-arm bottoms-up KB military press:

The unstable bottoms-up position shifts more of the muscular contribution to joint stability than actual force production, so you can get to positions pain-free that would otherwise be really uncomfortable.

Assuming you don't have shoulder pain, these are two good progressions to try to see if you're really cut out for overhead work.

Looking for more shoulder insights?  Check out Optimal Shoulder Performance, our popular DVD set that bridges the gap between rehabilitation and high performance.

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6 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Strength and Conditioning Program

Written on March 24, 2014 at 4:35 am, by Eric Cressey

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

Planning the training of an athlete is mainly a question of considering variables. The success of a strength and conditioning program is largely the result of how well a coach can manage these variables, as well as the implementation of the training program.

In order to effectively begin the planning process, a coach must ask himself six questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Many coaches instinctively weigh the answers to these questions in order to develop the training as a whole. I am no different. That being said, I recently watched a presentation from James Smith in which he organized common consideration into the familiar WWWWWH format. His acknowledgment of these considerations was the inspiration for this article, so thank you, James.

Who?

The first consideration must be the athlete with whom you’ll be working. Each athlete is different, and thus each athlete will need an individualized approach to his or her preparation. We are quick to label a program or exercise “sport specific,” but in reality, a good programs are exercise selection are “athlete specific.”

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Are you planning the training of a male or female? What is the athlete’s age?

The sex of the athlete may call for different training parameters. The same is true of the athlete’s age, as well as the interaction of the two factors.

Furthermore, what are their movement or orthopedic limitations, and injury history? This is a huge question in both the terms of exercise selection and workload. This consideration will also affect the answer of subsequent questions. Not to jump ahead, but the “why” you are training an athlete can be greatly influenced by their limitations.

Lastly, who is the athlete from a preparation level? This question can lend itself to the “when” as well as the “how.” However, an athlete’s “identity” is largely a product of their preparation to date. What is their level of skill or sport mastery, general and specific work capacity, limit strength, explosive strength, and exercise technique?

What?

The main question here is, “what is the athlete’s sport?“

The training plan must aid an athlete in attaining a high level of sport mastery. Do you as the coach understand the parameters and demands of the athlete’s sport?

How do the improvements of different categories translate to the improvement of the athlete in their sport? The special work capacity of the soccer player differs greatly from that of the sprinter. Limit strength, for example, may hold a higher priority to the football player than the baseball player.

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Also of consideration for some sports is the position or primary event of the athlete. Offensive lineman are a lot different than quarterbacks, and goalies have markedly different demands than midfielders. Obviously, this consideration weighs more heavily in some sports than others.   

When?

Asking “when?” leads us to series of questions based on time.

When is the athlete’s competitive season, and when is the off-season? The answer to this question helps us to form an idea of the length of any training stages.

For example, a Major League Baseball season consists of spring training, plus 26 weeks and 162 regular season games, plus a possible 20 additional post-season games. In other words, a MLB player spends more time in the competitive season than he does in the off-season. Factor in a block for restoration from the competitive season, and you have very little time to actually prepare the athlete for the following season. Now, ask yourself the difference in the length of the competitive season for a minor league player, college player, and high school player? Each offers different lengths of time for the coach to prepare the athlete. Therefore, while each athlete’s training should be geared toward producing the best possible result on the field, each athlete will be able to spend different amounts of time on improving certain abilities.

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Football, on the other hand, has a pre-season, plus a 17-week competitive season, and a possible additional 3-4 post-season games. The football player has considerably more time to prepare in the off-season.

Lastly, when will you be working with this athlete?

Will you have them for a few weeks, a single off-season, the next four years, or the next eight years? Furthermore, when will you be monitoring their training, and when will they be carrying out the training plan without your guidance?

These final answers MUST be taken into account when developing the strength and conditioning program of an athlete. A coach must train for the future, and knowing that you will influence an athlete for multiple years rather than multiple weeks greatly changes the approach.

Where?

Where are you receiving this athlete in their preparation and skill development timetable? While a coach may receive an athlete who has developed a high level of skill, they will not necessarily have a high level of physical preparation. The two are not linked.

Is this the first time ever dedicating any time to physical preparation as opposed to skill development?

Has the athlete acquired a high level of physical preparation, and lacks the skill development to move forward?

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The answers to these questions will help you as the coach better determine the means, and minimal effective dose, for this athlete to make improvements to their game.

To back track, you must also ask yourself where the athlete is in relation to their competitive season. If you receive an athlete one week after the close of business, as opposed to one month before the start of business, the training focus must be in line with the plan, regardless of what you see them lacking in on a global scale.

One month before the competitive season is not the time to makes gain on maximal strength, even if that is a weak link. Moreover, one week after the competitive season is not the time to place a majority focus on skill development, regardless of the fact that an athlete may be greatly lacking in this quality.

 

Why?

This may be the single best question you can ask yourself as a coach. Why are you working with this athlete?

The answer to that question is the sum of all the questions you have asked yourself up to this point. On a general level, the answer is the same: to improve the athlete’s sport outcome.

The real question you are asking is on a far more specific level.

You are not working with a professional athlete for the same reason you are working with a freshman in high school. Additionally, you may not be working with professional athlete A for the same reasons you are working with professional athlete B.

Each athlete will produce different answers to the questions of Who, What, When, and Where. Therefore, the “why” is different in each athlete’s case, and the training must be tailored to that individual’s needs.

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How?

How is the final question, and one that has many different answers. This is not an article on training philosophies, and so the answer to this question is different for each of you. That said, once you get to this final question, all pre-requisite variables have been established.

From here, you as the coach must form the training plan. How will you sequence the training, and what means, methods, amounts of volume, intensity, and frequency will you use?

In ending, qualified coaches will ask themselves these six questions before ever entering a single digit or exercise name into their template. Not doing so is to completely ignore the preparation process as a whole. Consider the training process on a much larger scale than just a single workout, or four-week phase. Instead, investigate where an athlete falls in the scheme of physical preparation and skill mastery on a career-long basis. Use the information gathered to enter the athlete into the proper phase of preparation and to focus the training to the needs of each athlete on an individual basis.

Looking for a program that helps you with individualization and takes the guesswork out of self-programming?  Check out The High Performance Handbook, the most versatile strength and conditioning program on the market.

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Help Me to Help You: An EricCressey.com Survey

Written on March 12, 2014 at 8:06 am, by Eric Cressey

I just have a quick post today – and it's actually me asking a favor of my readers.  In my search to improve EricCressey.com (including an upcoming site redesign), I'm hoping to learn a bit more about my readers and newsletter subscribers so that I can target my content a bit better. If you have a few moments free and would be willing to share your thoughts with me, I'd greatly appreciate it.  We promise not to share your responses or information with anyone.

You can access the survey HERE.

Thanks!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/10/14

Written on March 10, 2014 at 8:01 am, by Eric Cressey

I hope you all had a great weekend.  Before the Monday Blues can set in, here are some recommended strength and conditioning reads to get the week started off on the right foot.

Is Nutrient Timing Dead? – Not a week goes by the Dr. John Berardi and his team at Precision Nutrition don't kick out some awesome nutrition-related content. Former CP employee and current PN team member Brian St. Pierre (who authored The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide) took the lead on this great article.

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Reality: You Can't Run a Sub 5.0 Forty – This article is absolutely awesome because it highlights just how inflated most high school 40 times are. 

Elite Training Mentorship – In this month's ETM, I've got two new exercise demonstration videos, an article, and a webinar called "5 Important Upper Body Functional Anatomy Considerations." There's also some great content from Tyler English and Vaughn Bethell this month.

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Aspiring Fitness Professionals: You’re Already Coaching Inspirational Athletes

Written on March 4, 2014 at 9:17 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Pete Dupuis, my business partner of seven years at Cressey Performance. In addition to serving as our business director, Pete oversees our internship program and has a great perspective on how many aspiring fitness professionals see themselves, and where they want to be.

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Now that your “busy season” is coming to an end, and all of your pro athletes have reported to spring training, do you guys basically throw it on autopilot and count the seconds until next September when the minor league season wraps up?

An intern applicant asked me this question earlier this week.  His mentality actually wasn’t all that far off from that of many other previous applicants. In fact, I ask every single candidate what his or her long-term career goal within the fitness industry is, and the response is almost universally inspired by this attitude. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that at least 90% of the responses I receive when asking the career goal question specifically mention working with either “elite” or “professional” athletes. 

I get it.  Professional athletes are living the dream.  Why would you want to coach soccer moms?  General fitness population is boring you to death.  The lawyer you train isn’t concerned with getting in to “beast mode” every time he hits the gym.  Seriously, I get it.

Before you go and make a career change to coach professional athletes, or abandon a successful personal training business at your local commercial gym, I have a question for you: have you made an effort to REALLY get to know the people surrounding you every time you go to work?  More specifically, do you realize the goldmine of networking opportunities you are letting pass by on a daily basis as you dream about prepping a D-1 athlete for the NFL combine?

I’m not here to tell you that you have to “pay your dues” before you can start setting the bar that high (although, you do).  I’m here to tell you that in some cases, the least interesting clients we have at Cressey Performance can be the professional ballplayers.  In short, the season is so long and draining that when the off-season rolls around, most of them really don’t want to talk about baseball – which is the stuff you may find “cool” and discussion-worthy. While their in-season periods are very much abnormal as compared to “typical” jobs, they’re normal people in the off-season.

So, what do I tell an intern applicant when he or she asks me what the best thing is about working with so many professional athletes? 

Sometimes I’ll tell them that we have one client who dresses up as Santa Clause and jumps out of an airplane with multiple other Santa impersonators every December to raise funds for charity. 

He also happens to own one of the most successful roofing companies in Massachusetts, as well as property in Costa Rica that he kindly offered to EC for his honeymoon trip in 2011.

I’ll occasionally tell them that we once prepared a client for the FBI entrance exam, and he demonstrated the art of subduing a suspect by taking Tony Gentilcore to the floor and handcuffing him in less than 4 seconds…in the middle of a crowded gym…while dressed in a Halloween costume…in between his sets of deadlifts.

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Maybe I’ll tell them that we have one former intern whose favorite part of his time with us was the hours he spent coaching and socializing with the 7th employee at Facebook. 

Sometimes I tell them to look across the gym where we have not one, but three engineers from Bose who like to soak up the unique training environment while they’re not at their office designing some of the best audio equipment the world has seen.

Most importantly, I tell them that they’re going to miss out on a truly amazing learning experience if they spend their time with us (or at any other gym) only concerning themselves with chasing the “elite” athletic population.  There are some amazing stories just waiting to be told right there on the training floor.  You’ll inevitably find yourself on the receiving end if you step out of your comfort zone and appreciate the fact that many of the “average” people you interact with have experienced some pretty amazing things.  The clients who show up for training sessions on a year-round basis, as opposed to during an off-season, are the ones with whom you have the chance to make a life-long impression.

There will be times in the future when you’ll need to consult the people around you as you encounter difficult decisions.  Some of your best career, life, and business advise is likely to come from the network of individuals you’ve worked hard to develop in this gym setting.  This type of insight is almost certainly NOT going to come from the guy who has spent the last six months riding buses around the country and surviving entirely on sunflower seeds and fast-food.  It is also unlikely to come from the ones who are accustomed to bypassing airport security to step on to their chartered flight to the next MLB stadium.

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Whenever it is that my CP days are behind me, I’m obviously going to look back fondly on seeing close friends make big-league debuts, or maybe even compete in the summer or winter Olympics.  What I’ll absolutely cherish, though, is the fact that a couple of casual Saturday morning conversations with one of our general fitness clients eventually led to an introduction to the girl who is now my wife.  It’s a good thing I didn’t pass on chatting with her so that I could spend more time watching the pro guys argue over who had next on the ping-pong table.

Looking for more fitness business insights?  Check out the Fitness Business Blueprint, a detailed "how-to" guide for those interested in starting up their own businesses in this industry.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 56

Written on February 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're lucky to have Cressey Performance coach Andrew Zomberg filling in for this week's collection of quick tips for your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.  Here we go!

1. Own the weight/movement during execution.

Far too often, I see trainees fail to take control during the execution of a lift. For example, many people completely disregard the tempo, which inevitably leads to a faulty lift.  If I see something like this, I tell the individual to "own the weight/movement or count to three” as they go through the eccentric portion." By employing this cue and focusing on the tempo, you will not only mitigate the risk of injury, but you will become more proficient with the given lift.

So, the next time during the execution of a lift, try to become more mindful with how fast you’re completing each rep.  Make an attempt to utilize a countdown or envision the “owning” cue in order to control the lift.

2. Limit yourself to three steps when you set-up for a squat.

Squatting (whether a traditional back squat, front squat, or one that utilizes specialty bars) is generally a staple in most training programs.  But too often, a lifter will take too many steps to set up once they unrack the bar from the J-hooks.  This bad habit not only causes the lifter to lose his/her pre-settings (air and tension), but it also expends far too much energy during the foot-placement.

So, once you are under the bar and your air is set, take only three steps for your set-up.  On the first step, allow yourself to clear the hooks.  Then, use the second and third step to position yourself in the appropriate squat stance.  From there, reset your air and go to town!

3. Assume a quadruped position while loading for a push-up.

Once you have mastered a conventional push-up (unloaded without elevation or additional stability points), the next step for progression is loading it (using a weighted-vest, chains or bands).  However, this weight should not be added while in the push-up position because you will fight the anti-extension component and waste a lot of energy you need for the lift.

Instead, assume the quadruped position (on all fours) as weight or added resistance is being loaded.  If you opt for a vest or bands, still assume the quadruped position (rather than hanging out in a starting push-up position).  By doing this, you allow your base of support to be closer to your center of gravity, making the set-up less strenuous.  Remember, even though you want to work hard, be smart.  You need to know when to preserve your energy in order to optimize the exercise.

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4. Get out of your footwear as much as you can.

The shoes we wear often restrict our range of motion and provide external stability that our feet need to develop on our own.  This is why many lifters perform some of their training exercises barefooted.  Eliminating footwear allows for improvements in ankle and foot mobility and stability, reduction in hypertonic calves, greater activation of the posterior chain, and increased proprioception of the foot.

However, there are unfortunate situations where gyms do not allow members to take off their footwear.  So in these cases, you should purchase minimalist sneakers (we like the New Balance MX20v3) that will aid in providing just enough stability to prevent lateral sprains, all while helping you increase ankle mobility and stability in the foot.  Also, get out of your footwear (running sneakers, dress shoes, or heels) whenever you can, and while shoeless, implement foot and ankle drills in order to maintain adequate function.

5. Create a shake matrix to streamline the smoothie making process.

A busy lifestyle forces many of us to eat on-the-go, which is why shakes are all the craze lately.  Unfortunately, a lot of people make the same smoothie day after day, week after week, without any changes or new add-ons.  Incorporating different nutrient-dense ingredients is very important, though.  The variety provides a blend of essential macronutrients, vitamins and minerals you need for optimal bodily functioning.

So, I refer you to the “shake matrix” (see below), created by Dr. Mike Roussell.  This table presents different, tasty ways to eliminate boredom and ensure that you provide plenty of nutrients to your body.  Use it as inspiration and change up your recipes!

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