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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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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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