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Written on February 18, 2013 at 11:29 am, by Eric Cressey
In this installment of Exercise of the Week, I introduce the supine leg whip, a great exercise that can be used to challenge both hip mobility and core stability to improve health and performance.
For more detailed exercise demonstrations like this, I’d encourage you to check out Elite Training Mentorship, where I upload several videos along these lines – as well as my staff in-services – each month.
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Written on February 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm, by Eric Cressey
One of the most debated topics in the strength and conditioning world in recent years has been whether or not static stretching is necessary and, if so, when it should be implemented. While I don’t think everyone needs it, and that there are certainly are times when it is a bad idea to utilize, I’m still of the mindset that it can have some solid benefits when implemented properly.
Unfortunately, like all training initiatives, some people do it all wrong. To that end, I wanted to devote today’s article to covering the top 15 static stretching mistakes I encounter.
Mistake #1: Stretching through extreme laxity.
This is the most important and prevalent one of all, so it comes first. When I see someone doing this, this is pretty much how I feel:
We’re all have a different amount of congenital laxity. Basically, this refers to how much “give” our ligaments have. Some folks have naturally stiff joints, and others have very loose joints. This excessively joint laxity is obviously much higher in females and younger populations, but, as Leon Chaitow and Judith DeLany discuss in Clinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques: Volume 1, it is also much higher in folks of African, Asian, and Arab origin.
When you take someone who is really lax and implement aggressive static stretching, it’s on par with having someone with a headache bang his/her head against a wall. It makes things worse.
This is a tricky thing to understand, though, because many of these “loose” individuals will comment on how they feel “tight.” Usually that tightness is just them laying down trigger points as a way for the body to create stability in areas where they are chronically unstable. They’d be better off working on stability training to get back to efficient movement.
I think yoga has a tremendous amount of applications and we borrow from the discipline all the time, but I think this is where many modern yoga classes fall short; they have everyone in the class go to the same end-range on certain exercises. Folks with serious joint laxity should not only contraindicate certain yoga poses, but also modify others so that they’re training stability short of the true end-range of their joints. Unfortunately, most of the people you’ll see in yoga classes are hypermobile women; you see, they like to do the things they’re good at doing, not necessarily what they need to do.
How do you know if you’re lax, though? I like to use the Beighton hypermobility scale to assess for both generalized congenital laxity and specific laxity at a joint. The screen consists of five tests (four of which are unilateral), and is scored out of 9:
1. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
One of the biggest problems I see in today’s strength and conditioning world is that we assume all “big, strong” athletes are tight and need aggressive stretching. As an example, take a look at this high Beighton score in a 6-3, 240-pound athlete. We do very little static stretching with him – and absolutely none in the upper body.
If someone is really lax, nix the static stretching and instead spend more time on stabilization work. If they still feel like they need to “loosen up,” tell them to do some extra foam rolling. They’ll transiently reduce some of the stiffness they’re feeling, but they won’t be working through harmful end-range joint range-of-motion in the process.
Mistake #2. Substituting knee hyperextension for hip flexion in hamstrings stretches.
This comment piggybacks a little bit on mistake #1, as lax individuals (who probably shouldn’t be stretching their hamstrings, anyway) are the most likely to have problems with this. Because the hamstrings are two-joint muscles (knee and hip), folks will often allow the knee to “give” extra because they are subconsciously trying to avoid an uncomfortable stretch at the hip – or they simply aren’t paying attention. These are the same folks who have terrible hip hinges on toe touch tests, yet can touch their toes without a problem; they just go to knee hyperextension to make it happen. As an example, this particular athlete scores really high on the Beighton hypermobility score, and he can actually put his palms flat on the floor with little to no posterior weight shift (the wall blocks him).
How does he do it? Knee hyperextension.
We’d much rather get a good hip hinge without resorting to excessive joint range of motion at the knee. You get good at what you train, so if you’re always doing your static stretching in a bad position, you’re going to be more likely to wind up in knee hyperextension on the field – and that’s where ACL injuries occur.
Mistake #3: Not creating stiffness at adjacent joints.
In a previous post, I talked about why stiffness can be a good thing, in spite of the negative connotation of the word. Stiffness is a crucial part of keeping us healthy and enhancing athleticism. “Good” stiffness allows us to overpower “bad” stiffness that’s occurring in the wrong places, and it helps to transfer force as part of the kinetic chain. Static stretching can either be an opportunity to foster good stiffness or develop bad habits.
You see, we static stretch to transiently reduce stiffness (or true tissue shortness). However, if we don’t stabilize (stiffen up) adjacent joints, it defeats the purpose. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that I want to stretch my hamstrings in the supine position with not just a neutral position (center), but also a bias toward internal rotation/adduction (left) and external rotation/abduction (right).
Now, let’s see what happens to these stretches if one doesn’t engage the lateral core to prevent the pelvis from rolling toward the direction of the stretch on the ones that go out to the sides.
Mistake #4: Irritating the medial aspect of the knee with 90/90 hip stretches.
Most folks are familiar with doing 90/90 hip stretches or cradle walks as a way to improve hip external rotation in a position of hip flexion. This is the position I commonly see people using at the point of maximal stretch:
The problem is that many folks crank excessively on the medial aspect of the knee by rotating the tibia (lower leg) instead of the femur (upper leg). This actually parallels what happens during a McMurray’s Test for medial meniscus pathology:
It’s a pretty safe bet that static stretching into a position that replicates a provocative test is never a good idea – and it’s one reason we use 90/90 stretches very sparingly. If you are going to use this stretch, however, I recommend that individuals grab the quadriceps on the stretching side to ensure that the majority of the pull into external rotation and flexion comes from the femur and not the tibia. The opposite hand is simply there to support the weight of the lower leg.
Mistake #5: Substituting valgus stress at the knee for hip adduction/internal rotation stretching.
It’s really important than folks have adequate hip internal rotation, as a loss of hip internal rotation has been correlated with low back pain, and it can certainly predispose individuals to hip and knee issues as well. The knee-to-knee stretch is a popular approach for maintaining and improving hip internal rotation, and it’s also my chosen method for demonstrating how incomplete my goatee was at the time of this picture. Sorry for teasing you with the view down thunder alley, too.
As you can see from the picture, this position can also impose some valgus stress at the knees if it isn’t coached/cued properly. So, instead of thinking of letting the knees fall in, I tell athletes to actively internally rotate the femurs (upper leg). The stretch should occur at the hips, not the knees.
In folks with a history of medial knee issues, we won’t use this static stretch. Rather, we’ll use a kneeling glute stretch, which still gets a bit of stretch into adduction, which will still stretch several of the hip external rotators indirectly.
Lastly, keep in mind that the knee-to-knee isn’t a stretch most females will ever have to utilize because of their tendency toward a knock-knee posture (wider hips = greater Q-angle) at rest.
Mistake #6: Not monitoring neutral spine during hip stretching.
This point really works hand-in-hand with #3 from above, which talked about establishing stiffness at adjacent joints. Certainly, maintaining neutral spine falls under the category of “good stiffness,” but because it’s such a common mistake, it deserves attention of its own. When the hip flexes, you shouldn’t go through lumbar flexion. For this split-stance kneeling adductor stretch, notice the correct on the left and the incorrect on the right:
And, when it extends, you shouldn’t go through lumbar extension. Again, the correct is on the left, and incorrect (hyperextended) is on the right:
Mistake #7: Not monitoring neutral spine during standing stretches.
Again, this is another point that piggybacks off of establishing good stiffness, but I see a lot of people doing upper extremity stretches – overhead triceps, lats, pecs – in terrible spine posture. Perhaps the best example is the overhead triceps stretch with the lumbar spine in hyperextension, plus forward head posture further up.
Mistake #8: Stretching your lower back.
There may be times when a qualified manual therapist might want to do some mobilizations on your lower back. The rest of you really shouldn’t be stretching your spine out. Stretch your hips, and mobilize your thoracic spine (upper back), where it’s much safer for you to move. Focus on building up some core stability.
Mistake #9: Stretching your calves – and then wearing high heels the rest of the day.
There’s nothing wrong with the “stretching your calves” part; it’s the high heels part that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Talk about a dog chasing its tail!
Mistake #10: Stretching a throwing shoulder into extension and/or external rotation (and creating valgus stress at the elbow in the process).
I devoted an entire video to this topic last week in my baseball-specific newsletter:
Mistake #11: Stretching through pain or neurological symptoms.
I honestly can’t think of a single reason why anyone should ever stretch oneself through pain. Sure, there may be times when physical therapists may push a post-operative joint through some uncomfortable ranges of motion, but that’s a trained professional making a educated decision. You stretching yourself through pain is just throwing a bunch of s**t on the wall to see what sticks. Don’t do it.
Sometimes, an indirect approach is better. As an example, there is research demonstrating that core stability exercises can transiently and chronically improve hip internal rotation – even without stretching the joint. If you’re hurting while stretching, see a qualified medical professional to help you devise a plan to work around the issue while reducing your symptoms.
On the topic of neurological symptoms, as an example, intervertebral disc issues with radicular symptoms into the legs may be exacerbated by stretching the hamstrings. Similar issues can come about if folks with thoracic outlet syndrome perform aggressive upper body stretching. If nerves aren’t gliding the way that they need to be, the last thing you want to do is yank on them.
Mistake #12: Not tightening the glutes during hip flexor stretches.
I’ve written previously at length about how anterior (front) hip irritation is often caused the head of the femur (ball) gliding forward in the acetabulum (socket) during hip extension. This femoral anterior glide syndrome (described in detail here), was originally introduced by physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann. Effectively, the hamstrings have a “gross” hip extension pull – meaning that they don’t have a whole lot of control over the head of the femur. Therefore, we need to have great gluteus maximus contribution to hip extension, as the glute max posteriorly pulls the femoral head back during hip extension so that the anterior hip capsule doesn’t get irritated.
What we don’t consider, however, is that if we stretch a hip into hip extension (osteokinematics), we also need that glute contribution to control the glide (arthrokinematics) of the femoral head. This is a definite parallel to what I described earlier with respect to stretching a throwing shoulder into extension or external rotation; you don’t just want to do it carelessly. As such, whenever you stretch the hip into extension, make sure that you tighten up the glute:
Mistake #13: Stretching into a bony block.
There are a lot of things that may limit range of motion at a joint. It could be muscular shortness/stiffness, capsular tightness, muscular bulk, swelling, or guarding due to injury. In many cases, though, it simply has to do with the congruency of the bones (or lack thereof) at a joint.
In the case of a “fresh” bone spur or loose body at the posterior aspect of the elbow, aggressively stretching into extension could easily provoke symptoms. Conversely, I’ve seen some elbows with flexion contractures that are a combination of bony blocks and subsequent tissue shortening and capsular tightening that can be stretched until the cows come home with no problem.
Each case is unique – but at the end of the day, remember that you’re better off being too tight than too loose. In other words, if you’re unsure about something, don’t stretch it.
Beyond just reactive changes like bone spurs and loose bodies, we also have folks who simply have different congenital or acquired bone structures. Many individuals have retroverted (externally rotated) or anteverted (internally rotated) femoral carrying angles. Those in retroversion will lack hip internal rotation no matter how much you stretch them, and those in anteversion aren’t going to be gaining external rotation no matter what you do. Trying to power through these bony blocks will likely create hip discomfort as well.
We also see retroversion as an adaptation in throwing shoulders, where bones “warp” to allow for more lay-back during the extreme cocking phase of throwing. This is why most throwers will have significantly less internal rotation on the throwing shoulder than on the non-throwing shoulder in-spite of the fact that they have symmetrical total motion (IR + ER) from side to side; they simply shift their arc.
Before you stretch, you better find out if it’s bone or soft tissue that is limiting you at end-range. If it’s bone, you’re better off leaving things alone.
Mistake #14: Putting the band behind your head during hamstrings stretching.
This one drives me bonkers. It screams “I know stretching isn’t hard to do, but I’m still too lazy to put any semblance of effort into doing it correctly.” Why create forward head posture and neck stress when stretching the hamstrings?
Mistake #15: Not monitoring your breathing.
Nowadays, I’d say that we do just as much “positional breathing drills” as we do actual stretches. The more I learn (particularly from the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought), the more I realize that breathing in specific positions can have a dramatic effect on reducing tissue stiffness. For instance, here is one that all our right-handed pitchers do.
The left femur is internally rotated and adducted, the left rib flare is “tucked,” right thoracic rotation is encouraged, the lumbar spine is flat, and the right shoulder blade is fully upwardly rotated with a bit of upper trap activation. We cue the athlete to inhale through the nose without allowing the rib cage to “fly up,” and then encourage him to exhale fully, allowing the ribs to “come down.”
We stretch to reduce tone, not increase it – and most athletes are in a constant state of inhalation, which corresponds to a big anterior pelvic tilt and lordotic curve.
When the rib cage flies up like this, we lose our Zone of Apposition (ZOA), a term the PRI folks have coined to describe the region into which our diaphragm must expand to function.
In this extended posture, rather than effectively use their diaphragm, athletes will overuse supplemental respiratory muscles like lats, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, and pec minor – and these are all areas where we’re always trying to reduce tone. Check out this great tutorial on apical breathing vs. apical expansion from Bill Hartman, as he hits the nail on the head and shows exactly what you’ll see:
Teaching athletes how to control their breathing during stretching – and paying particular attention to fully exhaling on each breath – goes a long way to help reduce sympathetic nervous system stimulation, get rid of unwanted tone in the wrong places, effective favorable changes to posture, and make the most of the stretches you’re prescribing. I think the folks in the yoga and Pilates worlds have done a good job of drawing attention to the importance of breathing, and we should appreciate that with respect to how static stretching and dynamic flexibility drills are implemented.
There are really only 15 mistakes that were right on the tip of my tongue – to the tune of 2,800 words! To reiterate, I have a lot of clients/athletes who do absolutely no static stretching, but that’s not to say that it can’t be of benefit to a good chunk of the population. Just remember that each body is unique, so no two static stretching programs should be alike in terms of exercise selection and coaching cues.
If you benefited from this article, please share it via Facebook or Twitter, as this is a very misunderstood topic in the world of health and human performance. Thanks for your support!
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Written on December 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm, by Eric Cressey
It’s been a while since I introduced a mobility exercise of the week, so I figured I’d introduce a new one that we use with a lot of our athletes nowadays.
The alternating lateral lunge with overhead reach gives you all the benefits – adductor length, hip hinge “education,” and frontal plane stability – that you get with a regular lateral lunge variation. However, by adding in the overhead reach, you get a greater emphasis on optimal core stabilization and mobility and stability at the shoulder girdle.
In this position, we’ll coach different athletes with different cues.
If it’s an athlete who is stick in an exaggerated lordotic posture, we’ll cue him to engage the anterior core and keep the ribs down as the arms go overhead.
If it’s a “desk” jockey who is very kyphotic, we may have to actually cue him “chest up” because he’s so rounded over; we have to bring him back to neutral before we even worry much about the anterior core involvement.
If it’s a high school athlete who has really depressed shoulder blades, we will actually cue him to shrug as he raises the arms to complete scapular upward rotation in the top position.
Conversely, if it’s a client is already very upper trap dominant, we may have to cue a bit more posterior tilt of the scapula during the overhead reach.
In other words, this is a great example of how you can take a good exercise and make it even more effective, especially if you individualize coaching cues as much as possible. Try it for a set of five reps per side as part of your warm-up and let me know how it goes!
Looking for more mobility drills like this? Be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.
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Written on October 10, 2012 at 10:58 am, by Eric Cressey
Here’s this week’s list of strategies to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs headed in the right direction. This is a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.
1. Add amplitude to your conditioning.
Let’s face it: jogging on the treadmill and riding the elliptical or recumbent bike is about as fun as watching paint dry. While an exercise causing boredom doesn’t mandate that it be thrown by the wayside immediately, it does become concerning with this exercise modality doesn’t broaden the amplitude – or range of motion – that you encounter in your daily life. Moving better is about improving mobility, which is defined as one’s ability to reach a certain posture or position. For some folks, this means actually lengthening short tissues or reducing tension in overly stiff tissues, while for others, it’s about establishing stability in the range of motion that one already possesses. Unfortunately, while you’re burn some calories on these cardio machines, you aren’t going to do much to improve your mobility.
The solution is to implement variety in your conditioning, whether it means taking a bunch of mobility exercises and doing them right after another, or integrating several strength training exercises with lighter loads. Step-ups, sled pushing/dragging, side shuffles, lateral lunges are all ways to get your hips moving in ways they normally don’t.
In the upper body, innovative rowing and push-up variations can keep things fun while improving your movement quality.
The next time you’re planning to do some interval training on the bike, try substituting some wider-amplitude movements and see how you like it.
2. Get your Vitamin D right.
I’ve seen studies that have shown great benefits from getting vitamin D levels up to normal, but to my knowledge, those effects were most observed with respect to body composition, hormonal levels, and tissue quality. Interestingly, I just came across this study that showed a significant improvement in power production over four weeks in the vitamin D supplementation group, as compared to the controls. These results are tough to interpret, as the subjects were overweight/obese adults; ideally, we’d study trained athletes with smaller windows of adaptation ahead of them to see just how beneficial vitamin D supplementation is on performance. However, it certainly makes sense that if we’re improving body composition, endocrine status, and tissue quality, folks are going to get more out of their training and make faster progress.
Vitamin D is one of very few supplements that I view as “must-haves’ for the majority of the population. I’d pair it up with a good fish oil and greens supplement to cover one’s nutritional foundation. This is one reason why I’m a big fan of the Athletic Greens Trinity Stack; you can a high quality version of all three in one place.
3. Plan out regressions and progressions.
People like to be good at things. This is especially the case when they are surrounded by a bunch of other people. In the case of group exercise, your attendees are going to have a much better time, get better results, and stay safer if they are performing movements correctly. Group settings aren’t ideal from a coaching standpoint, though, as you can’t spend as much individualized time coaching technique. Therefore, exercise selection becomes paramount to these classes’ success. In other words, you need to have both progressions and regressions in your exercise library.
A common flaw in group classes is that each week, there are 15 new exercise variations on the agenda. The week before, it was 15 other ones, and the following week, it will be 15 more. I know, I know; people want you to “keep it fresh.” In my mind, by changing the exercises so often you are taking the easy way out.
Instead, have people become incredible at the basics. Have them squat, swing, push up, row – all basic movements. From there, set up progressions and regressions. This is much easier to do when you keep the original exercises basic.
Here are a few examples:
TRX Supported Squat > Counter Balanced Squat To Box > Goblet Squat > Double KB Front Squat > Offset KB Front Squat
Hands-Elevated Push-up > TRX Chest Press > Push-up > Feet Elevated Push-up > Push-up vs. Band
This is mostly for teaching purposes, as an example. The goblet squat is accessible to most people, and it falls in the middle, with two levels of regression and progression built in.
I’m a big fan of more work up front and easy sailing there out. You might need to take some time to develop your class program, but it will make for a better product and better results thereafter.
4. Use leftover vegetables in your omelet.
I don’t know about you, but leftover vegetables never taste quite as good as they do when they’ve just been cooked. They’re cold, and often soggy to the point that even heating them up in the microwave doesn’t really make them sound appetizing. Rather than throw them out and skip on your veggies for a meal, try adding them to your omelet the following morning, as the other ingredients – eggs, spices, oils, cheese (if that’s your thing), salsa, and ketchup – can help to liven up their taste. I’ve done this with previously cooked asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, and tomatoes. Some vegetables – squash and turnip, for instance – don’t have the right consistency to make for a good omelet ingredient, though, so experiment carefully!
5. Learn to stand correctly before you even try to train correctly.
Many people think moving well is all about picking the right corrective exercises to get the job done. While that’s certainly part of the equation, the truth is that before you even talk about exercising, you have to educate yourself about how to simply stand with good posture. As an example, if you have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis, you need to learn how to engage your anterior core, activate your glutes, and prevent your rib cage from flaring up up when you’re standing around. Conversely, if you do all your exercises in this aberrant posture, you just get good at sucking!
Have a great week!
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Written on August 1, 2012 at 7:52 am, by Eric Cressey
Here’s this week’s list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:
Four Must-Try Mobility Drills – In case you haven’t already seen this, it’s a article I had published at Arnold Schwartzenegger’s website yesterday, including a lengthy video.
“He’s a Big, Strong Kid” – With the $100 off sale of the IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification this week, it seemed like a good time to “reincarnate” this popular one from the archives at EricCressey.com.
Everything You Need to Know about the Hip Thrust – This is a thorough blog post from Bret Contreras on “everything hip thrust.” Bret’s devoted his career to glutes and pioneered this exercise, so you could say that he’s an authority on the matter.
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Written on February 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm, by Eric Cressey
Can I just add some sets and reps of direct arm work?
How about cardio? Would a few 30 minutes interval training sessions work?
What if I did extra rotator cuff stuff every day? Just a little tubing, you know?
I’m going to add two extra days of calves, abs, and forearms. It shouldn’t be a problem, right?
These are just a few of the common questions I receive from people for whom I write strength training programs (plus all the other components of a comprehensive program). And, it’s these kind of questions that make me appreciate just how challenging it is to teach someone how to effectively write strength and conditioning programs – and why everyone gets all flustered when they first start writing training plans.
Very simply, most people don’t understand the concept of competing demands. Everybody wants to add something to their weight training program – but not everyone is willing to take something away in order to do so.
How many elite powerlifters or Olympic lifters do you know who regularly do interval training as part of their quest to get strong?
How many elite triathletes do you know who just want to add a few sets of biceps curls along the road to improving endurance performance?
The answer is, of course, none. And, it’s because – whether they appreciated it or not – these high-level athletes were effectively managing competing demands.
In some cases, different fitness qualities compete with one another; an example would be extensive aerobic training while trying to increase strength. You can’t get strong quickly if you’re doing hours of cardio each week. Somewhat similarly, in an overhead throwing population, it’s challenging to regain shoulder internal rotation and flexion range of motion (ROM) and pec minor length when an athlete is throwing – so you have to do your best to get the ROM during down-time in their training year.
In other cases, you may have multiple qualities that contribute to an overall training effect, but you can’t prioritize all of them at once. For example, my professional baseball clients need a host of different qualities to be successful, but the body has limited recovery capacity, so their training programs have to target their most readily apparent weaknesses – and do so at the right time of year. We cut back on the medicine ball and upper body strength exercises and volume when their throwing volume increases.
And, we can’t do as much lower body strength exercises when guys are doing more sprinting and change-of-direction work. Stress is stress, so you have to apply it judiciously.
Taking this into consideration, I think that one of the best drills for someone looking to get better at writing programs is to take a full-on comprehensive weight training program with supplemental conditioning/movement training where someone is training 6x/week – and then cut it back to 3x/week. Assume that there is a whole lot of of “other” stress in this athlete/client’s life – whether it’s work, illness, family issues, or just being an in-season athlete – and figure out how to scale a program back in order to make it productive and safe for that individual.
Lots of factors have to be taken into account: the volume and intensity that individual can handle, how long each session can last, and what specific factors one needs to address most. A good example to check out would be the differences between the 4x/week, 3x/week, and 2x/week weight training programs (and accompanying optional supplemental sessions) in Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel and Move Better.
There are loads of factors you have to take into account when you write a comprehensive training plan – from the weight training program, to soft tissue work, to mobility work, to movement training, to energy systems training. The most important consideration, though, is how they all fit together synergistically to make the program as a whole effective.
So, try the challenge I listed above and see how you do; I think you’ll find that it’s a lot harder to subtract than it is to add to your weight training programs.
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Written on December 30, 2010 at 4:55 am, by Eric Cressey
I made an effort to get more videos up on the site this year, as I know a lot of folks are visual learners and/or just enjoy being able to listen to a blog, as opposed to reading it. Here are some highlights from the past year:
The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum – Regardless of your sport, there are valuable take-home messages. I just used throwing velocity in baseball pitchers as an example, as it’s my frame of reference.
Should Pitchers Overhead Press? - This was an excerpt from Mike Reinold and my Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar (which became a popular DVD set for the year).
Shoulder Impingement vs. Rotator Cuff Tears – Speaking of Mike, here’s a bit from the man himself from that seminar DVD set.
Thoracic and Glenohumeral Joint Mobility Drills – The folks at Men’s Health tracked me down in the lobby at Perform Better in Providence and asked if I could take them through a few shoulder mobility drills we commonly use – and this was the result.
Cressey West – This kicks off the funny videos from the past year. A few pro baseball players that I program for in a distance-based format created this spoof video as a way of saying thank you.
Tank Nap – My puppy taking a nap in a provocative position. What’s more cute?
Matt Blake Draft Tracker – CP’s resident court jester and pitching instructor airs his frustrations on draft day.
1RM Cable Horizontal Abduction – More from the man, the myth, the legend.
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Written on December 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm, by Eric Cressey
I wrote yesterday about how fantastic I think Charlie Weingroff’s new DVD set, Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab is. Now that it’s on sale, I thought I’d use my next few posts to highlight the top ten key points he made that really stood out in my mind. Here are the first five.
1. I hear people saying all the time that they need to find a niche – and I’ve written in the past about how I found my own niche. As Weingroff points out, we’re all working with the same platform and set of rules: how the body works. A “niche” just comes about because we get good with working with those rules in specific populations to create a subspecialty. I train baseball players using my unique methodology, but there are others out there getting results in this population with different modalities, too, because they’re performed correctly and these folks keep the original set of rules in mind. Likewise, there are folks with similar thought processes as mine – and they’re getting results in populations outside of the baseball world.
The take-home message on this point is that if you want to be a specialist in your niche, you need to understand general principles first.
2. We’re always trying to find the “link” between terrible movement and pathology/diagnosis – and Charlie offered a good perspective in light of the joint-by-joint theory of movement (a central piece of his two-day presentation). When mobile joints become stable, we get degenerative changes (arthritis) and poor recovery. When stable joints become mobile, we end up with dislocations, positional faults, muscle strains, and disc herniations. Want to prevent or address these issues? Work backward along this line of logic with your corrective exercise strategy.
3. Speaking of the joint-by-joint approach, Charlie offered the most comprehensive approach I’ve seen. Traditionally, this approach has been discussed largely in the context of the sagittal plane only, but it definitely has frontal and transverse plane implications as well. Weingroff also went into more detail on the neck and foot than I’ve seen – as you have alternating mobile/stable joints within these entities, too.
4. Typically, a joint in this school of thought will only really have two direct impacts: the joint above it and the one below it. The hip might impact the knee or lumbar spine, for instance.
The thoracic spine, however, has more far-reaching effects, though, and that’s likely why it’s such a crucial area of focus. It affects four systems: the neck, ribs (respiration), scapula/clavicle, and the lumbar spine. So, if you’re seeing a lot of “gross” dysfunction above the hips, it’s often the best place to start with your corrective exercise.
5. Charlie goes to some great lengths in defense of the vertical shin (tibia) as compared to the angled shin during various tasks, most notably squatting. He raises an interesting question in asking whether it’s really a good thing for both the femur and tibia to move simultaneously during the angled shin squat – as it essentially works in contrast to the joint by joint theory of movement he proposes.
Meanwhile, almost every day, we see folks whose knee pain disappears when we teach them to squat with a vertical shin – effectively letting the femur move as the tibia stays still. The same goes for teaching folks to deadlift, do pull-throughs, or anything else that emphasizes “hips back” as opposed to “knees forward.”
Admittedly, Charlie says it much better than I do, though! And, I should note that he emphasizes mastering the movement far more than simply loading it up – especially if we are talking about loading up a dysfunctional pattern (not a good idea).
I’ll be back with five more takeaways tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out Charlie Weingroff’s Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab at the introductory price HERE.
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Written on December 14, 2010 at 8:07 am, by Eric Cressey
As EricCressey.com has grown in popularity and my professional network has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, the amount of free stuff that’s mailed my way has become borderline absurd. From $1,000+ fitness equipment, to books and DVDs, to gift cards, I’ve seen it all. And, in a big chunk of those cases, I’ve seen items go right in the garbage – either because they were so wretched in theory and appearance that they didn’t deserve my time, or because I got nauseous only a few minutes into using/watching them.
Usually, the problem is that some schmuck just wanted to make a quick buck and really didn’t care about the quality, accuracy, or utility of the product he/she created. Or, that person was simply too flat-out unqualified to create anything of value. Sad, but true.
Every once in a while, though, a diamond in the rough arrives and I’m glued to it excitedly like a little kid on Christmas. And, instead of a used car salesman pushing snake oil on me, it’s someone with some credibility, innovation, passion, and perspective – all of which can make me better at helping my athletes, clients, and readers. Last week, one such product arrived. It was called “Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab” – and my “Santa Claus” was Charlie Weingroff.
This is no jolly old fat man, though. In reality, he’s a super intelligent physical therapist and strength coach who has a knack for taking complex terms and relating them in understandable terms for up-and-coming fitness professionals. Oh, and he’s strong as an ox – to the tune of an 800-pound squat, 510-pound bench press, and 605-pound deadlift.
Beyond just the passion and knack for lifting heavy stuff, Charlie and I have conversed in the past about how similar our overall perspectives are with respect to the “blending” that takes place in the gray area between healthy training and physical therapy. So, I can say without wavering that if you enjoy reading my stuff (and have liked products from Robertson, Hartman, and I), then Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab will be right up your alley, as I watched it straight through (first time I have done that with a DVD set in years).
And, if you want a chance to get a feel for Charlie’s perspective, he’s offering a free webinar called “The Core Pendulum Theory” on Wednesday night at 6pm; click here for details. The product will then “go live” at 7pm – right after the webinar is complete – at an introductory rate of $147 (through Monday night only).
Introductions and product information aside, I asked Charlie what he thought the top eight general things were that one could take away from the DVD set, which lasts right about 12 hours – and these were his responses:
1. The only difference between “Training” and “Rehab” is the clinician’s skill set. The goals are really all the same.
2. If you don’t know how to treat someone in pain, team up with someone who can.
3. The Joint by Joint Theory tells you if the exercise has integrity.
4. The Core Pendulum Theory tells you why some positions are okay to establish movement, but not okay for exercise.
5. Creating Intra-Abdominal Pressure is the objective criterion for a “strong core.”
6. The Functional Movement Screen is a screen, not an assessment. The Selective Functional Movement Assessment is not useful for someone without pain.
7. The body does not react reliably in the presence of pain.
8. Restoring mobility in the painful patient/client is the key to total body integrity.
Again, these are all very general principles – but over the next few days, I’m going to bring to light some of the outstanding “impact” points that Charlie made in Rehab=Training, Training=Rehab. For now, though, I’d encourage you to sign up for the free webinar HERE; you won’t be disappointed.
Written on December 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm, by Eric Cressey
In part 1, I made the case for long toss as an effective addition to a throwing program. Today, we answer the question, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?” Let’s look at the top four reasons why someone may not be approaching long toss optimally.
1. They structure it incorrectly.
By far, the biggest mistake I see from pitchers when they’re long tossing is that they don’t utilize compression/pull-down throws at the end of the session. These throws teach the pitcher to get on top of the ball and bring the release point down to where it should be with pitching – but they do all this with the increased arm speed you get from long tossing. Effectively, you use compression throws to transition from your longest throwing distance to a flat ground session (this is a practice you’ll see from a LOT of MLB starting pitchers in pre-game warm-ups before they ever step foot on a mound).
Typically, our guys use a compression throw every 45-60 feet on the way back in (it almost amounts to a brisk walk back in). So, if a pitcher went out to 300 feet with his long toss, he’d take compression throws at about 250, 200, 150, 100, and 60 feet. I joke with guys that the last throw at 60 feet should pretty much scare the crap out of their throwing partners. If you’ve seen Trevor Bauer crow-hopping downthe mound for his last warm-up pitch prior to every inning, you know what I mean. Not surprisingly, Bauer is an Alan Jaeger/Ron Wolforth long toss disciple. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about it: “[Bauer] starts behind the rubber, runs over the mound and throws as hard as he can to the plate, from about 54 feet. I’ve heard reports that those throws have registered 100 mph…”
Some guys – particularly those with a history of control issues and the guys who are trying to tinker with their mechanics – are wise to go into a brief flat-ground (or regular) bullpen right after these compression throws. It’s a good chance to transfer the arm speed and athleticism of long toss into a little more of a sport-specific action. I’ve also seen quite a few pitchers who have improved their change-ups considerably by long tossing for part of the session with their change-up grip, and then integrating it into one of these post-long-toss flat ground or bullpen sessions. It helps with keeping the arm speed up in pitchers who tend to slow down the arm for change-ups.
2. They become good throwers and not good pitchers.
I’ll be straightforward with this one.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but pitch at 80-82mph, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and use that general motor potential to your advantage.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but have a 1:6 strikeout:walk ratio and have pitches hitting the backstop, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and actually throw strikes.
If you can long toss 350 feet, but are getting shelled because you just throw a very straight 93mph and don’t have any secondary pitches, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and learn some other pitches. The average fastball velocity is higher in low-A than it is in the big leagues, you know…
3. They think long toss covers all their needs.
There are a ton of different factors that contribute to pitching success and longevity. Once you can throw a ball a long way, there is a tendency to think that you’ve done what you need to be successful, but in reality, there are a lot more things to address to prepare your body and long toss is still pretty specific, in the grand scheme of things. As is often the case, the greatest benefits are usually derived from doing the things that you don’t do particularly well (yet). Bartolo Colon, for instance, might be able to long toss 330 feet, but he might have a heart attack on the light jog to the outfield to partake in that long tossing session.
4. They don’t long toss on a straight line.
It seems like a no-brainer, but you should throw on a straight line. If the guy 250 feet away is 20-feet to the left of “center,” you’re teaching yourself to either stay closed or fly open with your delivery. Stand on the foul line or line yourself up between foul poles, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to “get aligned.”
As you probably appreciate now, while long toss is usually a tremendously valuable inclusion in most throwing programs, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone – and that’s why each unique case must be considered individually.
Don’t forget that long toss guru Alan Jaeger has put his popular Thrive on Throwing DVD on sale for 25% off for my readers for a limited time only. Click here to learn more.
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