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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 12

Written on September 24, 2015 at 10:13 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time to bring back this coaching cues series to the forefront, as it's always been a popular one here at Here are three more cues I find myself using on a daily basis at Cressey Sports Performance

1. "Chest before chin."

One of the biggest issues we see in folks with a lack of anterior core control and/or upper body strength is that they'll shoot into forward head posture as they descend to the bottom position of a push-up. Effectively, they're substituting head/neck movement for true scapular protraction and retraction. One cue that seems to clean the issue up quite well is the "chest before chin" recommendation - which means that the chest should arrive at the floor before the chin does.

You do, however, need to make sure that the individual doesn't confuse this with simply puffing the chest out, which would put them in more extended (arched back) posture at the lumbar spine.

2. "Get your scaps to your armpits."

A huge goal of upper body corrective exercise program is to teach individuals how to differentiate between scapulothoracic movement and glenohumeral movement. In layman's terms, this means understanding that it's important to know when the shoulder blade is moving on the rib cage, as opposed to the upper arm (ball) moving on the shoulder blade (socket). Especially during overhead reaching, what we typically see in athletes is insufficient scapulothoracic movement and excessive glenohumeral movement - particularly in those athletes with noteworthy joint hyper mobility. This is one reason why we incorporate a lot of wall slide variations in our warm-ups.

Since we are really looking to teach good upward rotation (as opposed to just elevation), I always try to cue a rotational component to the scapular movement as the arms go overhead. I've found that "get your scaps to your armpits" can really get the message across, especially when this verbal cue is combined with the kinesthetic cue of me guiding the shoulder blades around the rib cage. These modifications can really help to kick up serratus anterior recruitment, as this video shows:

3. "Start in your jump rope position."

When you're working with young athletes on jumping variations - whether they're broad jumps, box jumps, or some other variations - many of them will start with an excessively wide stance. Then, they'll "dip" to create eccentric preloading (stretch) and the knees almost always cave in. As I've said before, if the feet are too wide, the knees have no place to go but in. My feeling is that many young athletes "default" to this pattern because a wider base of support generally supports a more stable position for a weaker athlete. Unfortunately, this position doesn't put them in a great posture for producing force.

The best coaching cues are the ones that build upon those movements an individual already knows, and most kids have jumped rope in the past. If you use a wide stance when you jump rope, you trip over the rope. Instead, you have to stay with the feet in around hip-width, which is right where we want our jump variations to occur.


If you're looking for more coaching tutorials and exercise demonstrations, be sure to check out Elite Training Mentorship, which is updated each month with new content from Cressey Sports Performance staff members.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 64

Written on September 18, 2015 at 5:42 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's five tips come from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo. 

1. Approach your sets and reps intelligently.

Whenever I start a new program, I’m always excited to attack the given sets and reps and put some weight on the bar. However, I won’t come into the gym every day of every training program as fresh and ready to go as I did on Week 1, Day 1.

When writing programs for our athletes, I want them to do the following things during their training sessions:

a. Move with quality and integrity.
b. Move with intensity, focusing on force production.

If you can’t bring either to a lift, one of two things is happening: you are fatigued, or the weight is too heavy. There are many causes of fatigue, whether it be from the previous day of training, previous weekend of traveling, or recent competition. 

To account for this, I can do two things: regulate sets and reps (volume), or weights used (intensity).

Fellow CSP coach Greg Robins uses the phrase:

“Programs are static, and training is a dynamic process.”

A program is a piece of paper that does not factor in your life: lack of sleep, outside stress, or fatigue from a previous competition. Training is a process that should respect how you recover from day to day.

So, if you fail or miss a rep for example, you can do one of two things:

If your program calls for 3 sets of 5 reps, that is 15 overall reps at a specific intensity. If you can’t complete the given numbers, you can:

a. Flip the numbers: 15 reps can be done using 5 sets of 3 instead. Mentally, 3 reps is easier to digest than 5, you can recover better in between sets, and you can evaluate how your body is reacting to the exercise on a more micro level. Essentially, you can do any amount of sets to accommodate for the same amount of total volume.

b. Maintain the same amount of volume and decrease the weight used: If the weights are feeling heavy for 8 sets of 3 reps, down the weight until you feel like you are moving without a significant grind.

2. Set goals by reverse engineering them.

If you want to achieve the goal of playing baseball (or any other sport, for that matter) beyond high school, keep these numbers from the NCAA in mind:

Out of 482,629 athletes in high school, less than 7% get the chance to play in college. Out of those student athletes, only 8.6% of draft-eligible players actually get drafted by a professional baseball organization. Even when combined with players who are drafted directly out of high school, you're still dealing with an incredibly low of moving on to professional baseball. And, this doesn't even take into consideration the number of players who make it to Minor League Baseball, but never advanced to the Major League level.


What's the point? Being in the top 0.5% of anything in life is very challenging, and baseball is certainly no exception.

So the question remains: if you want to achieve something great, how can you best achieve it?

There are a lot of ways to dissect and reverse engineer how to efficiently get to your goals. Locke and Latham (1) note that “specific goals direct activity more effectively and reliably than vague or general goals.”

While the path you may take will vary greatly because of the opportunities that are presented, there is always one thing you can control in the face of uncontrollable external factors, and it is your reaction to the given situation.

• If you got cut from a team, what is your plan of action to display your strengths, or improve your weaknesses?

• What is your reaction when something does not go as planned?

Using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) is a great place to start, and whether or not you desire to play professional sports, it can also help improve your likelihood to achieve aesthetically minded goals as well.

Also, the SMART method of goal setting can be used as a metric towards modifying behaviors to more positively align yourself with those goals. Are your behaviors allowing you to achieve your goals? If not, what can you do to alter these behaviors or habits?

3. If you stray from a diet, focus on your next meal, not the next day!

When it comes to healthy nutrition, you'll often hear of people "falling off the bandwagon" for a meal - and it leading to several days of poor food choices. For this reason, I always encourage folks to "right the ship" as quickly as possible.

If you go out with friends and indulge, binge eat, or just mess up your macros, don’t give up hope for the day and plan to start over tomorrow. Tomorrow may turn into the next day, and into the next day. So what do you do?

Gather your losses and do better on your next immediate meal, instead of restarting the next day. Don’t let a bad meal turn into a bad day of eating.

This is also one reason why I don't generally advocate full-on "free" days, where folks eat anything they want as a means of "de-stressing" from six days per week of quality nutrition adherence. It's a lot easier to get things back on track after a single bad meal (whether planned or unplanned) than from a full day. 

4. Reduce time “lost” training by continuing with low-level exercises.

If you consider training at an established gym with a great training environment as “going all out” as a “100%” of your efforts, what happens when you train elsewhere?


For example, I’ll refer to four days of lifting with extra days of working on sprints/shuffles/conditioning as 100% of the whole product. If you miss one day, that is 17% of your whole workout week missing. If you miss two days, that is 34% of your workout week that you have “lost” because of travel, long days, or other extenuating circumstances.

Take this day for example:

A1. Barbell RDL - 3x4
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction - 3x8/side
B1. DB Bulgarian Split Squat - 3x6/side
B2. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop - 3x8/side
B3. Half Kneeling 90/90 External Rotation Hold - 3x(2x6)/side

You have two arm care exercises, one lower body bilateral strength exercise, one lower unilateral exercise, and a rotary core stability exercise.

If you can’t get to the gym to do these, give this a shot:

A1. Supine Bridge March, or 1-Leg Hip Thrust with 3 Sec Pause - 3x10/side
A2. Prone Horizontal Abduction (Off Bed) - 3x8/side
B1. Bodyweight Split Squat with 3 second Pause - 3x10/side
B2. Feet Elevated Side Bridge - 3x30sec/side
B3. Standing External Rotation to Wall - 3x(2x6)/side

Certainly this is not the same, but when comparing these exercises, you can begin to identify that there is still something you can do despite not having access to coaching or equipment.

It won’t be 100% of the full effect, but any percentage of that 100 percent will be worth something when you look back over a longer period of time to evaluate your results.

5. Use density training to get more work done in less time.

Along with decreasing or regulating caloric consumption, increasing caloric expenditure can help you towards your fitness goals. Basically, doing as much work as possible in the form of density training can burn a lot of calories in a little amount of time. Utilizing non-competing muscle groups in a superset or giant set fashion will prevent fatigue and allow you to get more work done.

For example, performing a tri-set with a TRX Inverted Row, KB Goblet Reverse Lunge, and then a Stability Ball Stir the Pot will provide several biomechanical and force production benefits.

Rather than doing 3 sets of 10 for each exercise, waiting around in between sets, and then performing each set with no pre-determined intensity, do this:

A1. TRX Inverted Row - 10 reps
A2. KB Goblet Reverse Lunge - 5/side (10 reps)
A3. SB Stir the Pot - 5/side (10 reps)

Perform as many rounds of this circuit as possible in 5 minutes.


1. Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. "The application of goal setting to sports." Journal of sport psychology 7.3 (1985): 205-222.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found at

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How Gravity Impacts Exercise Progressions and Regressions

Written on August 12, 2015 at 5:40 am, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that if you want to help trainees of all experience levels succeed with strength and conditioning programs, you have to understand progressions and regressions. And, whether we're talking about mobility drills or strength exercises, coaches need to understand how gravity impacts one's ability to perform a specific drill. As you'll learn in today's video, it can either make an exercise easier or harder, depending on how we position the individual performing the drill: 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/20/15

Written on July 20, 2015 at 6:02 am, by Eric Cressey

 I hope everyone had a great weekend. For some reason, there was a ton of great content around the 'Net in the past week, so I actually had my work cut out for me in paring this down to my top three choices. Check them out:

When You Know it's Time to Get Out - This was an absolutely fantastic post from Dave Tate that appealed to me on multiple levels: small business success rates, retirement from strength sports, and the need for experienced coaches to "give back" to the strength and conditioning community. 

5 Things I've Been Wrong About and How I Updated My Thoughts on Them - I really enjoyed this post from Dean Somerset. The best in the industry are humble enough to recognize that they might not have all the answers, but are constantly trying to ask the right questions. I actually discussed this a few months ago in my article, The Most Important Three Words in Strength and Conditioning.


U.S. Women Were Multi-Sport Athletes Before Focusing on Soccer - The headline really says it all, but this USA Today article is a good bit of "ammunition" for those fighting the war against early sports specialization. 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/13/15

Written on July 13, 2015 at 6:39 am, by Eric Cressey

It's Monday, so let's get right to a week of content with some featured posts from around the 'net.

10 Conversations to Have Before Signing Your Gym Lease - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, did somewhat of a "brain dump" for all the potential gym owners out there. Be sure to read this if you're considering opening your own place.


Diet or Deception: The Problem with Nutrition Secrets - Adam Bornstein is a fantastic writer who always delivers "no BS" content as an entertaining read. This is an awesome example.

Technique Tuesday with Tony - We've started some new weekly features on the CSP-MA Facebook page, and on Tuesdays, Tony Bonvechio goes over some coaching cues with a 2-3 minute video. This week, he talks about how to keep your elbows under the bar while squatting.

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3 Ways to Create Context for More Effective Coaching

Written on June 24, 2015 at 7:46 am, by Eric Cressey

 Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio.


Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Content is king, but context is God.” He was talking about Internet marketing, but the same holds true for coaching.

Our goal as coaches is to get our athletes into the right positions as quickly and safely as possible. There are many ways to do this, but the best ways all use context to flip on the metaphorical light bulb deep within an athlete’s brain. Much like marketing, the content of our coaching is only as good as its ability to create context for our athletes.

Cueing and Context

There’s lots of buzz about internal versus external cueing (with most coaches agreeing the latter trumps the former), but without context, it doesn’t matter how precise your coaching cues are. It doesn’t matter if you tap into your athlete’s auditory, visual or kinesthetic awareness. If your coaching cues don’t conjure up a somewhat familiar position or sensation, your coaching will be ineffective.

People love context because they love familiarity. It’s the reason why we leave a familiar song on the radio even if we don’t actually enjoy it. It’s why we always order the same meal at a restaurant or buy the same car, if only a model year newer. It’s not so much brand loyalty as it is the confidence we feel in a familiar scenario. And when athletes are confident, they perform at their best.

But for many, strength training is anything but familiar. Throw a new athlete into a new environment with new coaches and new movements, and everything is, well, new. Context is painfully hard to find. It’s our job as coaches to create it.

This goes beyond internal versus external cueing. When’s the last time a young athlete had to push his butt back to the wall or spread the floor outside of the weight room? Yes, these are useful cues, but they pale in comparison to referencing movements and sensations they’ve experienced over and over. Your athletes have stockpiled heaps of complex movements while playing their sport(s), so use them as bridges to new movements in the weight room.

Coaches must constantly challenge themselves to refine their coaching skills and become more efficient. Striving to provide context in every coaching interaction will help you do just that. Here are three reliable ways to create context while communicating with your clients.

Relate to an Exercise

A well-designed training program will build upon itself from exercise to exercise. The warm-up creates context for power development, which builds context for strength training, which builds context for conditioning. Fellow CSP Coach Miguel Aragoncillo often calls this the “layering” effect, where we gradually introduce athletes to layers of a movement to make it easier to learn and retain.

For example, we use positional breathing drills to get the ribs and pelvis in position for proper inhalation and exhalation. Then, we use exercises like dead bugs and bird dogs to teach athletes to brace while moving their extremities. Then, when we hit our first strength movement of the day, whether it’s a deadlift, lunge or press, we can refer to the warm-up for context on proper technique.

Context becomes especially useful when progressing athletes from low-speed movements to high-speed ones. The faster the movement, the more concise your cues must be.

For example, you’d be hard pressed to get athletes to think about what’s happening while landing from a jump. Which cues are processed more easily?

“Hip hinge! Tripod foot! Externally rotate your femurs!”


“Land where you jumped from!”

If you’ve done your job as a coach by teaching a good take-off position, the second option should happen almost automatically. Not coincidently, this position will come up during many other exercises, providing context for all of them.

The entire training session should create material for you to call upon later, so don’t gloss over the little things early on.

Relate to a Sport

Working with baseball players after playing baseball for the majority of my life gives me a distinct advantage. I speak their language. I’ve walked in their cleats. I can create context by relating many of our exercises to familiar movements on the baseball diamond. Similarly, if you relate anything in the gym to an athlete’s sport, you’ll win them over quickly.

Recently, I was working with a young athlete who was struggling to do a trap bar deadlift. No matter how I cued him or physically put him in position, he couldn’t get there on his own. Just as I was about to regress to a simpler exercise, I took a shot in the dark. Our conversation was as follows:

Me: What position do you play in baseball?
Athlete: First base.
Me: So what do you do when the third baseman throws the ball too high?
Athlete: I do this. (Goes to do a countermovement jump)
Me: Stop!
Athlete: (Paused in a perfect hip hinge) What?
Me: Right there! Grab the bar.

He proceeded to do a set of five textbook deadlifts and nailed every set after that. Where internal and external cues failed, context prevailed.

You can duplicate this scenario for almost any sport.

Basketball: “How do you guard the ball handler?”
Football: “How do you take the snap from under center?”
Tennis: “How do you wait for the serve?”
Hockey: “How do you take the faceoff?”

The list goes on. With athletes, context is everywhere. Get to know their sport and speak their language. And if you can help them understand how their workouts will make them better at their sport, you’ll gain their trust and get their best effort.


Relate to a Feeling

Perhaps the best way to make your coaching cues last a lifetime is to get in touch with your athletes’ feelings. Before you dismiss me as some Kumbaya-singing hippy, let me explain myself.

Many coaching cues are transient. Sure, cores brace, glutes squeeze and necks pack whenever we ask them to, but as soon as we turn our backs, things often go awry. Even the best lifters sometimes miss a key point on their pre-lift checklist of body parts to organize, and one weak link in the chain can lead to suboptimal (and even dangerous) movement.

If you simply take the time to implant a crucial feeling into an athlete’s mind (i.e. “Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel when you squat.”), they won’t soon forget it. It’s often easier to navigate one’s way to a feeling than think about multiple body parts at once.

I consider myself a decent bench presser, but when I set up, I don’t go from head to toe, double-checking if I’m retracted here or extended there. I know what I’m supposed to feel so I just feel it and lift. That’s how mastery occurs and eventually gets us to the coveted state of unconscious competency, as described by psychologist Thomas Gordon in his four-stage approach to learning. Miguel recently drew the four-stage matrix on our whiteboard during a meeting with the interns:


Basically, we aim to go from being incompetent while thinking about it to being competent without thinking about it. We don’t want athletes to constantly think about their movement on the field. They need to move automatically or they’ll get left in the dust. Similarly, we need to coach them in the weight room with the intention of movements and exercises becoming automatic.

This is where taking 5 to 10 minutes of a single 90-minute training session can pay huge dividends down the road. Rather than hastily resorting to a regression when an athlete is struggling, create context and get the athlete to feel the right position. Get your hands on them. Ask, “What do you feel?”

Whether it’s pulling the bar away from someone during a deadlift to get their lats turned on (“Don’t let me take the bar from you. Feel that?”) or doing lateral mini-band walks to prevent knee valgus during squats (“Feel that? That’s what I want you to feel during squats.”), these extra steps are always worth the extra coaching effort.

It’s akin to the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Are you giving fish by always hand-holding athletes into position? Or are you teaching them how to fish by helping them discover the answer so they’ll always be able to access it?


Familiarly allows an athlete to let his or her guard down and perform to the best of their ability. Creating context with your coaching cues puts them in a familiar setting and opens the door for better movement. Instead of simply relying on internal and external focus cues, strive to create context wherever possible. I’m confident your athletes will move better and learn faster.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at

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The 5 Most Common Mistakes Young Strength and Conditioning Coaches Make

Written on June 5, 2015 at 6:59 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, creator of the great new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, which is on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Saturday.


Three times per year, we start a new intern class at our facility, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST). So, 19 times now, I’ve taught a group of interns the basics of program design, coaching, and anatomy and physiology.

And, even after all of these years, I consistently see some of the same mistakes being made by our interns.

I almost hate calling them mistakes, though. These are mistakes they often have to make to get to the next level of coaching.

Here are five of the most common mistakes young coaches make, as well as how to nip some of these problems in the bud.

#1 - Coach the Right Exercise

Coming up as a powerlifter, I thought the squat, bench and deadlift did everything besides cure cancer or promote world peace. Okay, maybe I didn’t think they were that awesome - but it was pretty darn close!

What you find over the years is that some exercises are flat-out easier to coach than others. A barbell back squat is an awesome exercise, but it may not be the best way to learn how to squat.

Think of it like this: even if you’re a good coach, how much sweaty equity does it take to coach someone on the back squat?

It takes a while, right? And, even with great coaching, it may take them quite some time to dial in the movement.

Now consider an alternative like a plate or goblet squat. You can take that same client and literally have them squatting with perfect form in a matter of minutes!

Make things easy on yourself. Rather than taking a month to teach someone a more complex exercise, give them a simpler exercise early-on and allow them to have success. Not only will you be less frustrated, but they’ll enjoy training a lot more, too.

#2 - Be Active!

When I’m taking new interns through our coaching program at IFAST, one of the first things I teach them is the sequence of positions I want them to review the clients’ movement.

In other words, they start with the sagittal plane first, or a 90-degree view. If things aren’t right in the sagittal plane (i.e. too much flexion, extension, etc.), then you know things will be off elsewhere.


However, it’s not uncommon to see young coaches post-up in this position. Even if things look great in the sagittal plane, they’ll still hang out there for the rest of the set!

Instead, I always tell my coaches I want them to be active. Clean things up in the sagittal plane, and then move around to the front and back as well.

Chances are once things look great in one plane, there will still be things in the frontal or transverse plane (a knee caving in, the pelvis rotating to the right or left, etc.) that warrant your attention.

However, just because you’re active and seeing more doesn’t mean you want or need to fix everything all at once!

#3 - Don’t Over Cue!

I see it time and again: A young coach really starts to open their eyes and they see all the movement issues with which our clients and athletes struggle. This is all fine and dandy, until you see them throwing 1,000 cues at their client on every set!

I would liken coaching to doing triage in an emergency room. Are you worried about the kids that come in with little scrapes and bruises, or are you worried about the one who might lose a limb? Which one do you treat first?

Think of coaching in that same vein; everything isn't equally important.

What you’ll inevitably find with more time and repetitions is that one or two little cues or tips will fix 80-90% of the issues with which a client is struggling.


#4 - Level Them Off

One of my jobs as a coach is to help my clients and athletes train at an optimal level on each and every session they’re in the gym.

If you look at arousal when training, it’s a bell curve. If your energy and motivation is too low, you’re probably not going to have a great session.

On the other hand, if you just crushed five energy drinks, blasted Pantera the entire way to the gym, and just snorted an ammonia cap, chances are you’re a little bit too aroused to put in a solid effort as well.

As a coach, I need to help get an athlete where they need to be.

Energy is too low? Maybe they need a bit more encouragement, or their favorite music station cranked up a bit.

Arousal too high? Maybe we need to get them to bang out some good breaths, or find a few relaxation strategies to bring them down a notch or two.


As a coach, make it your job to get your clients and athletes at the appropriate level of arousal for each and every training session. They’ll be more consistently successful, and less likely to burn out as a result.

#5 - Coach in Bullet Points

When new interns start coaching exercises, their coaching may sound like this:

“Jane that looks great! Now I really need you to get your air out, tuck your pelvis underneath you, blah blah blah....”

As a client, you’ve already tuned out. You’re getting too much information, all while trying to concentrate on and execute the movement!

Instead, as a coach, make it a goal to say as little as possible while still getting the execution you're seeking.

You may have to create some context (which is best done in-between sets), but try to coach in bullet points:

* Exhale,
* Abs tight (or even just ABS!),
* Tuck,
* Etc.

The shorter and more concise you make your coaching, the more likely your client is to be able to take that information and use it effectively.


As a coach, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. However, I’d also like to think those mistakes have absolutely made me a better coach.

Whether you’re a total newbie or a savvy vet, I hope these tips help you take your coaching to the next level!

If you're looking for a more extensive collection of coaching and programming tips, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Mike's new resource, Physical Preparation 101. It's on sale for $100 off through Saturday at midnight, and it has my highest endorsement. You can learn more HERE.


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15 Lessons on Physical Preparation – Installment 1

Written on June 2, 2015 at 2:03 am, by Eric Cressey

With the recent release of Mike Robertson's DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, Cressey Sports Performance coach Tim Geromini and I put our heads together to highlight some of the key takeaways from this great new resource. We'll highlight seven today, and eight more in the next installment.


1. Be specific and clear with your clients.

This may seem obvious, but it’s a huge point to hammer home. If you can’t communicate your message clearly to your client, they aren’t as likely to have success. Two of the things we like most about the Mike's R7 approach is it gives you, the coach, a great template to work from and it gives the clients a specific goal in mind. When you create a clear and specific goal for your clients, it’s much easier for them to buy in.

2. You need to be able to 100% justify everything you put in your programs.

When you write a program, there should be a reason for every exercise you put in. Not only does it hold you accountable as a coach, but its much easier for your clients to buy in when you have a specific reason for each exercise they’re doing. If you can’t justify it, you have no business putting it in their program.

3. When you’re in the gym, you want to be in a sympathetic state. When you’re out of the gym you want to be in a parasympathetic state.

Everything in your program should be geared towards balance. Recovery outside the gym means your clients are prepared to perform inside the gym. One of the best things to hear as a coach is a client telling you how much better they feel not only for their sport, but life in general. That could be a parent saying they have more energy to play with their kids or an athlete feeling healthy for the first time in years. Whether you choose to use positional breathing drills or foam rolling, training sessions aren’t complete unless there is some form of recovery before they leave.


4. Strength helps you in everything you do.

If you want to get faster, strength will help you. If you want to get more powerful, strength will help you. If you want to lose body fat, strength will help you. One of the main things we hear as strength and conditioning coaches is, “I want to get faster and be more explosive.” While plyometric drills certainly have their place in programs (and we use them quite a bit at CSP), often, the client needs to gain strength first before they are able to express that speed and power.

5. There is value in low intensity work and high intensity work.

Low intensity work gets a bad rap and is usually thought of as just distance running. Producing energy for longer periods of time and keeping your heart rate in a set spot gives you a larger/stronger aerobic base from which you can build a foundation to produce an anaerobic performance. Prowler pushes, sleds marches, ropes, kettlebells, and a host of other modalities can work if implemented properly.


6. The goal at the end of a training session should be to kickstart the recovery process.

To piggyback on point 3, the return to a parasympathetic state allows your body and mind to recover for not only your next session, but your daily life. If you never recovered from your last training session, why do you think your next one will be as good? An appropriate recovery protocol takes 2-3 minutes at most. At CSP, we'll often incorporate some low-key mobility drills, positional breathing, and foam rolling.

7. Be smarter with how you progress energy system development.

You wouldn’t load up a lift at 90% on day one if someone doesn’t have much of a training history, but everybody seems to do that with conditioning. Sure, it’s the sexy thing to have somebody gassed on day one, but that doesn’t necessarily set them up for success going forward. 40% is enough to yield gains with regards to strength training and the same holds to true for developing their aerobic base. Start on the lower end and build up.

If you're interested in learning more, Physical Preparation 101 is a 12-DVD set geared towards strength coaches and personal trainers, and it's on sale for an introductory $100 off discount through this Friday. Mike Robertson has been a trusted friend and colleague for over a decade, and I can guarantee you that you'll learn a lot from checking out his stuff.

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Are You Changing Behaviors with Motivation, Ease, or Both?

Written on May 8, 2015 at 8:23 pm, by Eric Cressey

I recently finished up the audio edition of the book, The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behavior, by Adam Ferrier.


It was a good "listen" that included a lot of strategies to create behavioral changes - and all of these strategies fell under two broader headings. If you want to change a behavior, you either need to a) increase the motivation to change or b) make it easier to change.

My mind, of course, immediately began to race as I thought about all the different ways this applies to individuals' success (or lack thereof) in strength and conditioning programs. There are countless examples of how we can impact both variables to improve outcomes in the fitness world. Let’s take a look at a few.


Encouraging athletes to train as part of a group, or having clients work with trainers/coaches definitely increases motivation. Someone is always waiting for you, so you’ll be more motivated to avoid missing training sessions.

Likewise, running challenges or contests can be very motivating for clients, as there may be a prize – or even just bragging rights – at stake.

I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people who purchased The High Performance Handbook have gotten great results not just because it's a good program, but because actually spending money on it increases the likelihood that they'll work really hard on the program!



To be clear, ease doesn’t refer to making the actual training easy. Rather, it refers to incorporating strategies that make it easier for clients to behave in ways that will achieve a great training effect. We really don’t want to lower the standard; instead, we want the client/athlete to realize that the standard is achievable with the right approaches.

Having more flexible scheduling options may make it easier for clients to remain adherent to their programs. For instance, my wife loves to take part in the Strength Camps at Cressey Sports Performance, but the sleeping/eating schedule for our twins can sometimes be very erratic. Luckily, there are classes every hour from 5:30AM to 10:30AM every MoWeFr, so she can make game-time decisions on which one she attends.

Incorporating a body weight only (or minimal equipment) home workout into a client’s training program may also make it easier for that individual to get a training effect. Many exercisers can get overwhelmed if they think that every session mandates a lot of equipment, an actual gym, and plenty of time.


These are just a few examples of how modifications to motivation and ease can quickly yield favorable outcomes in strength and conditioning programs. If you’re struggling to get the results you want – either for yourself or your clients/athletes – start by looking at these variables. Manipulating one or both may lead to the behavior changes you need to take progress to the next level.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 9

Written on April 30, 2015 at 8:16 am, by Eric Cressey

With only a day to spare, here's the April edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training.

1. Don't forget pauses can be beneficial with single-leg training, too.

Working pauses into your lifting can yield tremendous benefits, as they reduce contribution of the stretch-shortening cycle and force a lifter to work much harder to produce force from a dead-stop. For some reason, though, they usually only get applied to "big bang" bilateral exercises like squats, bench presses, and (obviously) deadlifts. I actually really like to program pauses into single-leg work to improve carryover to what athletes really encounter in athletics and the real world. Here's an example:

2. Try the 1-arm cable rotational row from a low setting.

I love incorporating rotational rows in our athletes' programming. Many coaches only program this as an upright variation where the cable is set at chest height. I think this overlooks the importance of athletes learning how to "accept" force on that front hip. Hip rotation rarely occurs in isolation in athletics; rather, it is generally concurrent with flexion/extension and abduction/adduction. By lowering the cable a bit, you challenge things in a bit more of a sport-specific manner - and, in the process, add some variety to your athletes' programs.

3. Make sure put your intensive rotator cuff work after your overhead work.

I recently reviewed a program that paired Turkish get-ups with cable external rotations. While both are great exercises, the last thing you want to do is fatigue the rotator cuff before you go overhead, where it needs to work really hard to keep the humeral head depressed relative to the glenoid fossa. Likewise, be careful about doing all your cuff stuff early in the session, then progressing to overhead carries later. My feeling is that you just do enough to turn the cuff on during the warm-up, then train your highest stabilization demands (e.g., overhead supporting/carrying), and then head to the more direct (fatigue producing) stuff.

4. Different strength qualities make different athletes successful.

We have two athletes - both left-handed pitchers - make Major League Baseball debuts this week. The first, Jack Leathersich, is a relief pitcher for the New York Mets, and he just has one of those insanely "quick arms." In other words, it's almost as if he doesn't know how to throw a ball softly; it really jumps out of his hand. I think it's a function of his natural "reactive ability."

The second, Tim Cooney, is getting a start in his big league debut today for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He's not as naturally reactive as Jack is, but you could make the case that Tim is the strongest pound-for-pound professional pitcher we train. I've seen him do Turkish get-ups with a 100-pound kettlebell, and walking lunges with the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. He can make up for less reactive proficiency by falling back more on pure strength. I think this "strength reserve" also helps Tim as a starter, whereas reactive capabilities tend to fall off as fatigue sets in, which is probably why Jack has thrived as a reliever.

This static-spring relationship closely parallels the absolute strength to absolute speed one I shared in the past.

The more "static" guys are strong and need more reactive training, which largely takes place on the speed end of the continuum. The more "spring" guys need to keep prioritizing strength as a foundation for effective stretch-shortening cycle function, as you can't display force quickly if you don't have enough force in the first place.

I'll be back soon with another installment during the month of May!

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