Master the King of All Exercises

Deadlifting Secrets 101

Everything you need to know about this complex exercise.

Free Video Training

Name:
Email:* 
The High Performance Handbook

The High Performance Handbook Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before...


Repetition vs. Randomness: Which Will Get You Fit Faster?

Written on March 12, 2015 at 9:38 am, by Eric Cressey

In his book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, author Nir Eyal goes to great lengths to discuss the various factors that make consumers fall in love with certain offerings. One factor he highlights in great depth is novelty - or randomness..

As an example, Eyal talks about how we never get tired of our email because we know that each time we check it, there are going to be 100% unique messages waiting for us. Each new email experience may bring noteworthy news, new challenges, different emotions, or just a quick break from the "real" world in which we live. Checking our emails - even if we do so hundreds of times per day - always brings novelty. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media websites and apps are all endlessly novel, too.

hook22668729

Conversely, think about the game Farmville (yes, that annoying Facebook game for which you always get invites). In spite of small variations to the user experience, the game is always the same - and that's why people play it for hours on end - but ultimately give it up after a few weeks. The novelty wears off.

We can find similar parallels all across our daily lives. There's a reason so many people tune in to watch a reality TV show about the Kardashians; they say dumb things, fight a lot, and spend money on extravagant crap...to create novelty. Sorry, but a reality TV show about an accountant who pretty much does the same thing every day really doesn't drive ratings through the roof; it's just not at all novel.

Maybe you have a favorite restaurant because they have different weekly specials, whereas other spots don't rotate the menu. You probably have that one friend you adore because he/she always overreacts to things, gets easily flustered, or says the most random things - all of which provide endless entertainment value. Maybe you read this website because I make it seem random by talking about everything from training, to corrective exercise, to nutrition, to sports performance, to business, to my kids and dog.

tanksunglasses401589_10150801805065388_1901316032_n

This randomness also has a place in fitness. Novelty is one factor that makes Crossfit popular; each workout is different, and that randomness can improve exercise adherence. Randomness also accounts for some of the success folks have working out with friends and training partners; your social experience for each training session is different when you have familiar faces with whom you interact (as opposed to working out by yourself in silence).

It goes without saying, however, that your entire program can't be random. Research has demonstrated time and time again that any periodization is better than no periodization at all with respect to improving a variety of fitness qualities. You need repetition to initially learn movement patterns, build strength and power on top of them, and - just as importantly - quantify these improvements. And, you need to plan to ensure that a training effect is achieved at an appropriate rate while reducing the risk of injury. It's an old adage, but failing to plan is planning to fail.

How, then, do we reconcile this need for repetition with our conscious and subconscious tendencies toward randomness, which likely actually improve exercise adherence? This reconciliation begins by recognizing the following:

All successful strength and conditioning outcomes are derived from a blend of repetition and randomness.

This is the classic discussion of strength and conditioning program design combining art (randomness/novelty) and science (repetition). It's important to note that there is an inverse relationship between randomness and motivation (but not necessarily training experience).

The lower the motivation of the exercising individual, the greater the need for randomness to keep exercise engaging. This is working out.

The higher the motivation of the exercising individual, the greater the need for repetition to deliver a specific physiological effect. This is training.

To somewhat arbitrarily assign percentages, lower motivation folks (who are generally - but not always - beginning exercisers) might need 80% randomness and 20% repetition. The best coaches can usually push that 20% up substantially by disguising repetition as "fun" that might seem random. This is particularly important in working with very young athletes; you want repetition, but with variety. Different drills might teach the same movement skills. As an example, are these two drills actually delivering dramatically different training outcomes (besides the fact that I don't have a cool beard in my video)? Probably not.

Conversely, higher motivation folks - and athletes seeking out a specific training effect - can afford less deviation from the plan for randomness. Sorry, but if your goal is to throw a baseball 100mph, an off-season of cycling 100 miles per day isn't going to get you closer to that goal, even if you do enjoy it. Specificity matters.

However, we can't ignore the need for novelty in high-motivation trainees and athletes' program. There has to be some randomness included to avoid boredom in training programs. To me, there are five great ways to do this:

1. Incorporate another sport - Get your athletes out for some ultimate frisbee, or even just play tag instead of movement/sprint training. We worked this in with our pro baseball guys this off-season and it was a big hit. Just make sure the options you choose aren't high-risk for the athletes in question.

2. Add finishers - You never want to overuse finishers, but they can be awesome motivators and team builders, when done in groups. Perhaps most importantly, they take place after the primary training effect has already been accomplished. Just make sure not to overdo it and impose too much fatigue in a single session.

3. Implement new training equipment - You don't have to go out and buy an entire new gym of equipment; rather, simple changes can make a big difference. Draping chains over someone's back instead of using bands for loading push-ups is enough variety for some athletes. Throwing a Fat Gripz on a dumbbell provides a different training stimulus without overhauling your programs. These are just a few examples.

fatgripz

4. Get in a different training environment - This goes hand-in-hand with option #1 from above, but just getting outside of your "typical" gym setting can be a great change of pace. Some of my best training sessions ever have taken place when I've been on the road and lifted at either friends' gyms or even random commercial gyms. These new locations might offer different training equipment, or you might even find extra focus lifting in a place where you don't know anyone (this is especially true for me, as it's very easy to get distracted training in a gym that may be filled with your clients!). Heck, this 616-pound deadlift was in Slovenia after I'd delivered a full two-day seminar!

dl10288789_10152010742930388_341074997162924712_n

5. Different conditioning workouts - It's generally much easier to quickly quantify improvements in strength than it is to do so with conditioning. For that reason, the strength portion of your programs may be best suited for the "repetition" aspect of your training, whereas the conditioning (unless you're a competitive endurance athlete) is a good place to implement some randomness. As an example, I lift four days a week and do some form of "conditioning" on two other days. This conditioning might be rowing, sprinting, the Airdyne, the slideboard, barbell complexes, body weight circuits, kettlebell medleys, or any of a number of other options. It's where I find some randomness and can still use exercise to clear my head - and I actually find that I feel better when I get more variety in movements during my conditioning work.

One resource to which I commonly refer on this front is Jen Sinkler. Last year, she introduced her extremely thorough (and entertaining) resource, Lift Weights Faster. Effectively, it gives you hundreds of innovative conditioning workouts to try out when you need some randomness (and good challenges) in your life. I probably refer to the original resource 3-4 times per month, and it actually provided some great ideas that we incorporated in programs for our clients (particularly in our morning group strength camps).

As such, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard she was introducing Lift Weights Faster 2, which debuted this week at a great introductory price. I've reviewed the product, and it's fantastic - including this conditioning session I did yesterday:

TheGraveyard

This great discount ends tomorrow (Friday) at midnight, so don't delay on checking out this great collection of workouts and extensive exercise library. You can learn more HERE.

LWF2 Bundle

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Conditioning for Powerlifters (and Anyone Who Just Wants to Get Strong)

Written on March 10, 2015 at 9:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post is an interview orchestrated by Jen Sinkler, the creator of the expansive new conditioning resource, Lift Weights Faster 2.0. Enjoy! -EC

JenHeadshot

Full disclosure: I didn’t actually expect to actually like powerlifting. I just wanted to experience it once, and to distract a training buddy who’s always trying to get the rest of us to enter triathlons. (No. Hey, look, something shiny and heavy!) Nonetheless, last August, I entered my first powerlifting meet, and to my surprise, I did like it. Very much. I liked it enough to enter a meet every two months for the past six months, bringing me to a total of four meets by February.

I followed lifting plans from fellow Movement Minneapolis coach Jennifer Blake, and during another training cycle I got coaching from big ole squatter Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems. Partly because I was so new to the specificity of powerlifting training and partly because my plans (which I adapted daily based on biofeedback) were on point, I saw dramatic improvement from meet to meet, regularly adding 25-35 pounds to my squat in the two months between competitions. It won’t always be like this, of course, but it sure is satisfying while it lasts. Also satisfying: I took home best overall female lifter in three of my four meets, and the trophies tend be exceedingly pointy and dangerous.

Pl-Sword

What I didn’t do a tremendous amount of in those first four months of my powerlifting-specific training was conditioning. I could say I was worried about my gains, I suppose, but it’s more accurate to say I just needed to wrap my training sessions up in the interest of time, so conditioning was what got axed. Until late December, that is, when I started finalizing the pieces of my conditioning manual, Lift Weights Faster 2. That put me in the mood to play with lighter weights: to do more kettlebell and barbell circuits, to do sprint workouts and calisthenics. So…that’s what I did. And I’m pleased to say that not a gain was lost (and in fact, I continued to see improvements in all three lifts).

That’s because, when wielded well, conditioning is extremely useful for powerlifters. I’ve tapped two experts in the field to explain how and why you can incorporate it into your maximum-strength plan.

Intros to the Experts

julia1Julia Ladewski, CSCS, is a powerlifter and physique competitor who spent eight years as a Division I strength and conditioning coach and five in a private sports-performance facility. Julia now trains clients both online and at her husband's private training and powerlifting facility, The Region Barbell Club. She is a highly competitive and elite-level powerlifter, totaling 1102 at 132 pounds and 1085 at 123 pounds. She has been a member of Team EliteFTS since 2005, and regularly speaks at a number of conferences..

AlexVAlex Viada, CSCS, has over 12 years of experience coaching athletes, specializing in training powerlifters, triathletes, and military athletes. A graduate of Duke University (biochemistry) and a MS(c) in physiology, Alex spent eight years in clinical research and health-care consulting before transitioning to coaching full-time. His company, Complete Human Performance, has worked with nationally ranked and national-record-holding powerlifters and strongman competitors, Kona-qualifying triathletes, Boston qualifiers, and bodybuilders. He has attained (and maintained) an elite powerlifting total in the 220-pound class while competing in numerous endurance events -even ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons.

Sinkler: Is handling conditioning for powerlifters tricky? It seems a little like serving two masters — one that cares only about max strength, and one that cares more strength endurance.

Ladewski: Serving two masters is always difficult, but conditioning can be done year-round. Like any other sport that has in-seasons and off-seasons, you’ll vary your conditioning depending on where you are in your training and the importance of that conditioning to your goals.

Pounding some conditioning the day before a heavy squat session can definitely affect your training. But with careful planning, you can be well-conditioned, stay in your weight class, lose body fat, and still perform at a high level.

Viada: Handling conditioning for powerlifters is very tricky. Powerlifters fall on the extreme end of the pure strength spectrum, obviously. They view limit strength as the competition, or sport proficiency (and correctly so), with a far lesser emphasis on strength-endurance. Any sort of endurance or conditioning programming for them needs to be carefully introduced and needs to clearly show the lifter that the endurance training interferes minimally and has tangible benefits.

If there is one thing I would like to dispel, however, it’s the thought that endurance is a separate, unattainable dimension of athleticism for strength athletes. It’s just another dimension of athleticism that can exist together with strength. One doesn’t need to look much further than the NFL or Rugby League to see remarkably strong individuals with far-better-than-average conditioning. Athleticism needs to be viewed on a spectrum, not as a series of yes-or-no options.

Sinkler: Why is conditioning for powerlifters important? What purpose(s) does it serve?

Ladewski: Years ago, it was kind of a big joke for powerlifters to just get bigger and bigger to lift big weights. While there is some truth behind that, it's shifted a bit towards being strong, leaner and healthier. Aside from the health benefits that even the general population receives from conditioning (heart health, better bloodwork, and so on), powerlifters are finding that having a level of conditioning is beneficial for their training, as well.

julia2

To be strong, one needs to be able to do a lot of work. More work requires a level of conditioning. If I do two sets of pushups and I'm completely spent and ready to call it a day, then my training — even for strength — will suffer. Of course there’s also the benefits of staying closer to your weight class, having less overall body fat, and having fewer achy joints.

Viada: Conditioning is important not only for general health, but is also important to sport itself. So why would a powerlifter look to improve aerobic conditioning? Can it help sport performance? The answer is (provided that deleterious effects can be minimized) an absolute yes.

Though powerlifting competition is a pure ATP/CP sport, recovery even over the course of a workout taps into aerobic systems heavily (for substrate replenishment and recovery between higher volume sets).

Improved aerobic capacity can lead towards greater overall work capacity and training volume, as well as faster recovery between sets.

Improvement in muscle glycogen stores and increased mitochondrial density would also greatly improve training quality (by allowing higher workout volume), and though event-day sport performance will not be directly impacted, more (and longer) quality training sessions are a major benefit.

Is aerobic training necessary for the powerlifter? No. But all else being equal, these positive effects are decidedly worthwhile for the majority of lifters, and I’m of the opinion that a lifter with superior aerobic capacity will have more productive training sessions than one who is absolutely exhausted after walking to the monolift.

Sinkler: Very well said. What kinds of conditioning activities do you program for your powerlifting clients? How do you include said activities without detracting from their powerlifting performance?

Ladewski: For powerlifting, I like to do a variety of things. Much of it depends on the individual, but sled dragging (upper and lower body work), prowler pushes and interval circuits work well. Bodyweight, high-rep band work, even kettlebell stuff works really well. Planning it around their regular strength work is important. as well. Don't underestimate walking, either. Brisk walking is great for powerlifters.

Viada: For strength athletes, I will often prescribe fast-paced rucking with moderate loads at low to moderate intensities, steady-state cycling or Airdyne, rowing, and aqua jogging (swimming tends to be a poor choice, as strength athletes often sink like rocks, and the additional shoulder mobility that swimming requires and develops can hurt strength and stability in pressing movements).

I also program circuit training for them, but there’s a tendency among powerlifters to go too high intensity on it. Lots of powerlifters load up too much weight and miss the benefit. So, I steer them away from circuit until they learn how to go low intensity. Once they learn to use less weight, it goes back in.

Sinkler: That makes sense. You mentioned that people often miss out on the benefit of circuit training. Talk a little more about that. And, how can circuit training, in particular, be used to develop greater work capacity?

Viada: This is actually a huge pain point for me in training athletes. We train a huge number of military athletes, fighters, obstacle-course racing competitors, CrossFit athletes, and the like, and we heavily utilize circuit training, though we’re often loathe to call it that. Circuit training, if properly implemented, has tremendous value in developing specific work capacity in certain movements, training individuals to perform while fatigued, building and developing “pacing” ability, and yes, even eliciting several positive cardiovascular adaptations.

That said, for athletes, circuit training should be specific — durations should be selected that are comparable to the demands of their sport, modalities and exercises should closely track movements and muscle groups the athletes need to develop strength-endurance in, and overall the emphasis should be on movement quality, not simply throwing a hodgepodge of different exercises at them.

For the general population, there’s greater flexibility, but I always come back to one point: there’s sometimes the sense that I dislike circuit training, but nothing could be further from the truth. The issue is that many individuals do not like using appropriately submaximal weights. If a load is so heavy that it interrupts the flow of a circuit, changes pacing, forces the use of the Valsava maneuver (or otherwise occludes bloodflow), the point is being missed entirely.

Alex-Viada-Running

During resistance training or HIIT, a combination of muscle occlusion and the Valsava maneuver actually increases blood pressure but occludes venous return; in other words, since everything is tensed during every repetition or short interval, no blood is flowing during muscular contraction, and less is flowing into the heart. When an individual is running or biking, this isn’t the case, venous return is actually increased. In essence, with weight training, though the heart rate is increasing, it’s not necessarily pumping more blood. With cardiovascular training, it is. This is why going too heavy on circuits can provide less of an aerobic benefit.

Whatever weight you want to pick, use less. If done properly, a circuit or complex intended to develop overall (general) work capacity should start taxing the heart and lungs around the same time as the muscles. Ego is the enemy here; people use 75 to 80 percent of their maximum loads when they should be using 25 to 30 percent!

The body itself is a load — moving a weight in a complex is no different than moving the body in a run, the difference is only when individuals decide that if they’re not groaning under the weight, they’re not working their muscles. If individuals can reign in that tendency, circuits can be extremely useful for conditioning, developing both general and specific work capacity, and otherwise building both strength and endurance in general populations.

Sinkler: That’s really useful, actionable advice, thank you. Generally speaking, how often do you include conditioning for your powerlifting clients? How long do these sessions last, and on what days do you do them?

Ladewski: During meet prep, I keep it to about two sessions a week. If there's not a meet on the horizon, I'll prescribe three to four days. Personally, I like short, intense sessions. Timewise, it works for busy schedules. Plus, I like using athletic movements, moving fast and pushing hard.

Circuit training is actually a great way for powerlifters to work in conditioning. It works really well after the main strength moves. If you take some of your accessory work and circuit that together at the end, you can get some really good conditioning work and not feel like you have to add in another session or detract from your heavy lifting.

A good, 30- to 45-minutes walk in the sun is also excellent for recovery, de-stressing, and conditioning.

Viada: It’s important to consolidate stressors as much as possible, and to approach strength and endurance as a single entity. One term used lately that I enjoy — and Chad Wesley Smith writes frequently on this concept — is “consolidation of stressors.” That term really represents the cornerstone of this method — high-intensity, low-volume work and high-volume, low-intensity work each requires its own sort of recovery, but most critically, an individual can train one extreme while recovering from another.

“Recovery” is systemic to an extent, but it is also structurally specific — a long, low-intensity bike ride taxes the athlete in very different ways than a heavy squat session, but fast sprint intervals may present similar challenges to the body as that same squat session. In the former case, it would make sense to place those two workouts at opposite ends of the training week, but in the latter case, it would make sense to do them most likely in the same session.

Any high-intensity work should be done concurrently with high-intensity strength training, and the majority of the low-intensity, high-volume work should be done after any sort of volume workouts. Important to remember: Sport practice takes priority. The lifter should only use remaining work capacity to work on conditioning.

Frequency does not have to be significant — two or three 20- to 30-minute sessions is often enough for the majority of pure powerlifters with whom I’ve worked. This is already enough to see some benefits without detracting from sport focus, and with rotating modalities, the workouts should flow seamlessly. Examples include 20 to 30 minutes of row intervals after deadlift work, steady-state cycling after volume squatting, or easy rucking on the first of two days off would be enough conditioning volume.

Sinkler: What other factors do you consider?

PL-sumo

Ladewski: When starting conditioning, the main factor is the person's current conditioning level and how much they can handle at the moment. And what their current goals are: are they in meet prep? Off-season? Do they have body fat to lose? And also, what do they enjoy doing? If they hate running, I probably won't include a lot of running. If they aren't well-versed in kettlebells, then I probably won't include much of that kind of training until they learn it better. I want to find things that are challenging for them but that they also enjoy doing.

Sinkler: Anything else you want to say on the topic of conditioning for powerlifters?

Ladewski: When powerlifters hear the word conditioning, they automatically think "cardio,” and worry about long, boring, workouts, having to run, about losing muscle. But conditioning doesn't have to be like that.

Conditioning is typically what powerlifters would call general physical preparedness, or GPP. It amounts to preparing the body to handle more work as training gets more intense.

Start with some off-season conditioning and build up. Then maintain a level of conditioning during your meet prep, as well, and your body will thank you.

Looking for Circuit-Training Ideas?

If you’re looking to amp up your GPP in productive ways, I’ve put together a mammoth 180-workout pick-and-choose library called Lift Weights Faster 2. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of nearly 270 exercises (from classic moves to more unusual ones), a video library that includes coaching on 30 of the more technical lifts, 10 challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I’ve combined my training and athletic experience with my long background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.

Every workout is organized by the equipment you have available and how much time you’ve got, with options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes. And, to sweeten the deal, it's on sale at a great introductory discount through this Friday at midnight.

For more info, click HERE.

LWF2 Bundle


Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis. Jen talks fitness, food, happy life and general health topics at her website, www.jensinkler.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/4/15

Written on March 4, 2015 at 11:33 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been a busy week, so I've gotten a late start to putting out new content. Fortunately, I came across some good reads from around the 'net. Check these out:

The Positivity Trap: How Upbeat Coaches Can Kill Client Results - I thought this was a very interesting perspective from Krista Scott-Dixon at Precision Nutrition.

Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 5 - I published this article last year right around this time, and I think it's a good reminder for athletes who are both pitchers and position players. Managing weekly scheduling can be tough, and this article provides some thoughts on how to best accomplish it.

10711126_851815541536218_8932946763214799409_n

Teaching Humility and Success - Todd Hamer is an old friend of mine in the strength and conditioning world, and I loved this post from him on building character in our athletes.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/28/15

Written on January 28, 2015 at 7:30 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this week's installment of recommended strength and conditioning reading. Here are three articles worth reviewing:

7 Strategies for Strength Training with the Minimum - This Andrew Zomberg article is specifically targeted toward all my friends who are snowed in up in the Northeast. If you want to get your training in when the gym isn't open, you've got to be a little creative.

photo-54

5 Reasons Your Program Isn't Working - This article's messages might seem like common sense, but let's face it: common sense isn't so common anymore. It's great stuff from Mike Robertson at T-Nation.

Risky Fitness - Jen Sinkler takes a close look at risk: reward considerations in training programs. This appeals to me heavily, as a lot of my one-time consultations are folks who have traveled long distances to help undo the damage of irresponsible training programs.

Have a great Wednesday!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

The Most Important Three Words in Strength and Conditioning

Written on January 20, 2015 at 9:07 am, by Eric Cressey

From 2007 to 2009, I was a big sleeper stretch guy. All our throwing athletes did this stretch at the end of their training sessions, and we meticulously coached the technique to make sure it accomplished what we *hoped* it would accomplish. I featured it in the program in my first book, Maximum Strength, and this picture of me even shows up in the first row of photos on Google Images if you search for "sleeper stretch."

goodsleeper3-300x281

Then, in March 2010, I attended my first Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) event and "saw the light." I left the course with some great new positional breathing drills that often delivered quick results in terms of improving shoulder internal rotation - without having to actually stretch the shoulder, a joint that doesn't really like to be stretched. Looking back, we were probably trying to "stretch" out an alignment issue - and that never ends well.

We've since progressed our approach, complementing PRI exercises with thoracic spine mobility drills and manual therapy at the shoulder in those who present with true internal rotation deficits. Only after they've still come up short following these initiatives do we actually encourage stretching of the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint. And, even when that happens, it's gentle side-lying cross-body stretching with the scapula stabilized; this has proven safer and more beneficial for improving internal rotation.

SLCB

The three preceding paragraphs about my experiences with the sleeper stretch could really be summed up in three words:

                           I was wrong.

It's not the only time I've been wrong, either.

I wish I'd done more barefoot work and ankle mobility training with the basketball players with whom I worked early in my career.

I wish I'd not just assumed that all athletes needed more thoracic mobility when, in fact, there are quite a few who have hypermobile t-spines.

I wish I'd focused more on the benefits of correct breathing - especially full exhalation - with athletes sooner in my career.

tg1378614_632858636765244_530365547_n

In my own powerlifting career, I wish I'd spent more time free squatting and less time box squatting. And, I wish I'd competed "raw" instead of with powerlifting equipment.

I've made some errors in the ways I evaluated, trained, and programmed for athletes. I've made dumb decisions in both my business and personal life. However, at the end of the day, I can attribute a lot of my improvements as a person and a professional to the fact that I was completely comfortable admitting, "I was wrong." Heck, I'm so comfortable recognizing my mistakes that I've written entire posts on the subject!

This is trait just about every successful strength and conditioning coach generally shares. Humility is an essential trait for personal and professional advancement, especially in a dynamic field like strength and conditioning where new research and training techniques emerge on a daily basis.

This isn't just limited to strength and conditioning, though. If you asks a lot of the best surgeons in the country, they'd admit that they were wrong in doing a lot of lateral release (knee) surgeries and thermal capsule (shoulder) shrinkage procedures earlier in their careers. And, they'd probably admit that they misdiagnosed a lot of cases of thoracic outlet syndrome as ulnar neuropathy. If they aren't willing to admit their past mistakes, you probably ought to find a different doctor.

If you're an athlete, the same can be said of seeking out a strength and conditioning coach. If the person writing your programs hasn't learned from his/her mistakes, are you really getting a "modern" or forward-thinking program that has been tested in the trenches? We've all seen those programs - both in training and rehabilitation - that have been photocopied so many times over the years that they're barely legible.

Likewise, if you're an up-and-coming strength and conditioning coach, you want to seek out mentors that'll admit their past mistakes and reflect on how they learned from them. Only then can they help you avoid making them, too. You're better off learning under someone who has 15 years of strength and conditioning experience than someone who has 15 years of the same year of experience.

Finally, if you're an established professional, the only way to grow is to get outside your comfort zone. Five years from now, if you're not looking back on your current approaches and wondering what the heck you were thinking, then you're stuck in the bubble on the left.

BlhnE5AIcAAsbHp

You need to visit other facilities, talk with other coaches, and empower your employees/co-workers with a voice that challenges the norm. I learn a lot from my staff on a daily basis. And, looking back on that first PRI event I attended, I was the only "non-clinician" in the room. I was surrounded by PTs, PTAs, respiratory therapists, pelvic floor therapists, and ATCs. I got out of my element and it changed the course of my career dramatically.

Looking back on these experiences when I was clearly wrong, part of me wants to send individual apology notes to all the athletes I saw early in my career. By that same token, though, I feel like thank you notes might be more appropriate, as these mistakes played an essential role in my growth as a coach and person.

If you're looking for different perspectives on continuing education, I'd encourage you to check out our online resource, Elite Training Mentorship, which updates frequently with innovative contributions from various strength and conditioning experts, including the Cressey Sports Performance staff.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/26/14

Written on November 26, 2014 at 7:17 am, by Eric Cressey

I hope everyone is having a great week and is excited for a great Thanksgiving. It might be a holiday week, but it's still super busy at the new Cressey Sports Performance facility in Jupiter, FL. Luckily, I've got some great content from around the web to share with you.

The Cost of Getting Lean - The Precision Nutrition crew gives you the cold hard facts on what it takes to get to and maintain the body composition you desire.

Foam Rolling Isn't Stretching, but It's Still Important - Dean Somerset delves into the potential mechanisms of action for foam rolling.

How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1 and Part 2 - I wrote this two-part article back in 2011 when Mike Reinold and I released Functional Stability Training of the Core, the first in the three-part FST series. Since they're all on sale for 25% off this week, it seemed like a great time to bring these posts back from the archives.

For more information on this sale, check out www.FunctionalStability.com. It wraps up this upcoming Monday at midnight.

FST_Complete_Set-300x184

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 7

Written on November 18, 2014 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this month's edition of "musings" on the sports performance training front. Here goes...

1. Professional athletes don't need "special" exercises; they just adapt faster and need special progressions.

One of the most important lessons coaches can learn with professional athletes is that they don't need crazy advanced exercises. Far too often, coaches will assume that because a client is a high-level athlete, he/she will automatically require some fancy, innovative drill. The truth is that they need the basics, just like everyone else. You'd be amazed at how poorly some of the most high-level athletes you'll see actually move when you get them out of their sporting environments.

That said, they are unique in their ability to adapt to a given stimulus quicker than their "less athletic" counterparts. Movement quality will improve dramatically from one week to the next, and strength and power can increase much faster than you'd expect from "normal" folks. This is obviously a blessing, but can also be a burden, as it means programs may need more updating on-the-fly to continue challenging the athlete. Additionally, you have to be cognizant of the fact that their strength levels may actually increase faster than their motor control and connective tissues can safely handle. In other words, you have to be careful not to load bad patterns or degenerative tissue tendencies.

2. Don't worry about the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum if you're untrained or detrained.

With over 55,000 views on YouTube, this is one of my most popular videos ever:

The lessons here have tremendous value to athletes of all ages and ability levels - except novice trainees, or athletes who have recently been detrained. In other words, if we're talking about a 13-year-old kid who has zero resistance training experience, or an athlete who just finished a long, grueling season and has lost appreciable strength, then you need to build strength up first.

Effectively, treat these scenarios as if an athlete is all the way to the right (speed) end of the continuum. They need to build a foundation of strength up before they'll benefit from any of the other modalities - or even be able to perform them safely. This is one reason why handing an aggressive weighted ball program to an untrained 13-year-old kid might be harmful, and why doing a ton of plyos with a volleyball player who just finished a long season is silly. Give them what they actually need, not just what you think is "sexy."

3. Efficient rotation is efficient rotation - and consistent across multiple sports.

One thing I'm really excited about with respect to our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility is working with a wider variety of rotational sport athletes beyond just baseball. My business partner, Shane Rye, is an accomplished lacrosse coach, and Jupiter also happens to be home to loads of golfers of all levels. I've also got a big tennis background, and am excited to explore opportunities on that front.

CSP florida-02(1)

There are a load of commonalities among all rotational sports, and it's going to be exciting to see how our training approaches impact these other sports. How can I be so sure?

Have you ever noticed how easily baseball and hockey players pick up golf? And, have you noticed how many athletes were drafted in multiple rotational sports? Think of Tom Brady in baseball and football, and Tom Glavine in hockey and baseball. These guys weren't what you'd call "powerhouse" athletes; in other words, they weren't freak athletes that played baseball and football. Rather, you could argue that they're just guys who learned to use their bodies really efficiently in rotational patterns.

4. "Where do you feel it?" is as important a question as "How does it look?"

Every once in a while, you'll observe an athlete with a movement that looks absolutely perfect, but might not be "felt" in the right place. Or, it might even actually cause pain. This is why it's so important to always solicit feedback on where an athlete (especially a beginner) feels an exercise, as opposed just assuming it was fine just because it "looked good." As an example, I commonly see athletes who "feel" all their shoulder exercise rotation drills in the front of their shoulder, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

Without getting too "geeky" on this front, many times, the reason we have discomfort or the "wrong" feeling with drills is that athletes are paying close attention to the osteokinematics - gross movements of internal/external rotation, flexion/extension, adduction/abduction - of the joint in question, but not paying attention to the arthrokinematics of that same joint. In other words, the rolling, rocking, and gliding taking place needs to be controlled within a tight window to ensure ideal movement.

In the external rotation variation, as we externally rotate the arm, the humeral head (ball) likes to glide forward on the glenoid fossa (socket). The glenohumeral ligaments (anterior shoulder capsule), rotator cuff, and biceps tendon are the only things that can hold it in the socket. In a throwing population, the capsule is usually a bit loose and the cuff is a bit weak, so the biceps tendon often has to pick up the slack - which is why some folks wind up feeling these in the front, thereby strengthening a bad pattern. There are also a bunch of nerves at the front of the shoulder that can get irritated, but that's a blog for another day!

Gray523

5. Making your room colder can be really helpful for sleep quality.

Everyone knows that turning off electronics before bed is important for sleep quality. Additionally, getting your room as dark as possible definitely makes for better sleeping. Very few people pay attention to the temperature of the room, though. I can definitely speak to its importance, though.

As many of you know, my wife and I moved to Florida in early September. As part of this transition, I made three trips back up to Boston over the course of September-November. On each of those trips, my sleep quality was insanely better than I have in Florida. The difference? Roughly 8-10°F in the temperature of my sleeping environment. With that in mind, we're cranking up the air conditioning a bit more - and thanking our lucky stars that the Florida summer has wrapped up. If you're having trouble sleeping, tinkering with the temperature in your sleeping environment might be a good place to start. Also, I'd encourage you to check out this great guest post I published a while back: Sleep:What the Research Actually Says.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

The Hard and Soft Skills of a Strength and Conditioning Coach

Written on November 15, 2014 at 6:51 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

MA-Headshot

I haven’t always been "just" a strength coach. I’ve also done personal training, a fair bit of online writing, and have even stints of teaching dance to those willing to learn. The following is directed towards those looking to “advance” in the fitness and strength and conditioning fields. I have not worked in the collegiate strength and conditioning world, though, so take this with a grain of salt!

As I transitioned to the title of “strength coach,” I have started to associate the word “coach” with the word “leader.” The idea here is that – at the very least - there is a "need to lead" in the form of exercise to an individual or group of people.

Growing up, I wasn’t a leader by nature. I was shy, and lacked the confidence to do relatively basic things: like even just talking to people. I also wasn’t the best at sports, nor was I the strongest, fastest, or even the smartest at any given sport. However, I could study how the greats played, and from this mentality I understood that I could begin to develop myself. Some would sleep, but I would study, practice, and train, since I didn’t have any natural talent on which I could reliably lean to improve myself.

madefault

With that said, here are some of my expectations and thoughts on what it means to be a coach in this industry.

Hard Skills

Understanding the basic fundamental movement patterns that are involved within a specific model or facilities movement philosophy.

First off, you won’t get to work in an ideal situation in any work environment.

Having the adaptability to understand varying philosophies of movement will allow you to determine what step to take next with a given exercise, along with a hierarchy of movement protocols.

Some coaches will always want to include power cleans in the beginning of their programs, but if you have pushback from the get-go, you might not have a job in the morning.

There are many things that you can learn from this not-so-ideal scenario:

1. Learn the best cues for how to coach the power clean (and other Olympic lifting variations).
2. Learn the regressions and progressions, along with the best programming of how to incorporate this specific item within a program.
3. If possible, it could lead to skills that can hypothetically separate you from a “on-paper” resume for your next position.

Identifying biomechanically incorrect positions and providing the “correct” position with which an athlete can excel - and coach it quickly.

In the past few years, I’ve had the fortune of watching friends, coaches, and trainers do what they do best: coach! This “skill” is often referred to as developing a “coach’s eye” for movement.

ecdefault

If you don’t know your anatomy, get to studying. Admittedly, my intelligence is average as compared to others, so perhaps I overcompensate by staying up late reading these books and I have personally taken multiple classes of biology and anatomy - after my undergraduate career.

However, nothing you’ll learn in an anatomy class will replace the time you spend identifying aberrant movement patterns. With this in mind, no one expects you to take multiple anatomy classes or read some books after midnight on anatomy.

Here are some things you can do to improve your ability to coach exercises:

1. Coach anyone and everyone.

Let me clarify. You don’t need to start training a professional athlete to begin coaching. I’m sure your co-worker’s son would love to get trained at a reduced price. Heck, train the kid’s entire team! Train anyone, be professional, and overdeliver. You could be training the next Cy Young.

CKluber_Indns

2. Visit other coaches and trainers to understand how they coach exercises and program for athletes.

I remember reading from someone a lot smarter than me that they bought a coach lunch to understand how that coach got his athlete’s strong. So I did that and then some. Now, I’ve lost count of the number of lunches and after-seminar drinks I’ve bought other trainers and coaches (who are now close friends) to hear their opinion on a certain subject.

3. Purchase continuing education DVDs, make YouTube channels, start blogging - and utilize the internet to your advantage.

If you find yourself relatively “stuck” professionally, this is an option to provide options for mental and professional growth. I’ve had people ask me what kinds of things they can do to get started in the online side of things.

Funny enough, getting started involves … starting anywhere.

• My blog started out as a way for me to track workouts in 2011. Now it sees unique visitors from all over the world, and I’ve had people email me from many different continents on the world asking questions and looking for more information.
• I also started a YouTube channel to also track my lifting progress. And the camera that I used to post all of my videos? For almost all of 2011, it was an iPhone 1.
• For the record, the iPhone 4s came out late 2011.

I’m not saying I’ve reached massive success by any means, but merely starting the action of tracking and logging the things that you are already doing will help to refine your thought process, and improve your communication skills as well.

Having these videos or blog posts will allow you to interact with others while getting your message across with visual and reading components. The alternative is sitting at home after working with five clients for the day, watching Netflix, and going to sleep wondering how you can improve. Take your pick.

Adapting to regressing and progressing an athlete based on their presentation.

This is probably the most “artful” part of being a coach. If one of your regular athletes walks in after a tournament, and presents with anterior left knee pain, what do you do?

• Train upper body?
• Train the other leg?
• Train the abdominal and core reflexive movement patterns?
• Try to condition? (if necessary - but also keeping in mind that enhancing aerobic qualities has some justifications in aiding recovery time)
• Reviewing game clips to stay mentally sharp and “in the game?”

The message here is that there is always something that you can do to improve. The steps are simple - not easy, but simple.

1. Identify your weak points from a professional point of view.
2. Decide if you need to address it to become a more well-rounded professional, or have someone else fill the spot for you (if you can hire or refer out).
3. Find the actionable items that you can improve upon immediately - not tomorrow, or the next day.
4. What can you improve on now?
5. Of course, do it.

btea_set

Soft Skills

The following is a list of items that I feel are not taught in a formal manner, but could be lessons that have been instilled after a number of interactions, readings, and other forms of informal education. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but this is why internships have provided valuable experience for me; they allow for graded exposure with which I can improve my skills in a safe environment. I can “mess up,” hopefully receive honest feedback, and improve myself both from a skills and growth point of view.

Be personable. Be likeable.

“No one cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

You don’t need to be everyone’s best friend. In fact you don’t need to be anyone’s friend at all; you merely need to understand what makes a person tick, and allow yourself to be whatever that is so that they’ll connect with you. Of course, making friends and actually caring is probably the easiest approach on this front!

Look people in the eye.

Don’t be shift or falter in your gaze. Lock eyes, shake hands, and smile. Today you are alive and helping others along their own journey.

Mean what you say.

Whether it is a coaching cue or advice that will help you get to the next level, the words that I choose are often meant exactly as how I present them.

If I say move your left foot back, funny enough, I don’t mean to move your right foot. I mean move your left foot back!

I’m all for cracking jokes (and I’m often the first to laugh at even the worst of jokes), but at the same time, my responsibility as a strength coach is to elicit change. Sometimes a hard talk is necessary, in which clear lines, clear expectations, and clear meaning needs to shine through.

• If I say you should be getting more sleep, let’s figure out a way to improve the amount of sleep we receive.
• If I say your lack of attention to nutrition is what is limiting your progress, let’s figure out a way to bring awareness to what you are eating and why you are eating that way.
Change does not occur by merely thinking about it. There needs to be action.

Speak up.

There will be music in the gym. It will be loud. There will be lots of people around. Sometimes there is yelling. You will have people not pay attention.

What will you do in this case? Will you stand idly by, being the person that didn’t talk much, and therefore wasn’t memorable? Or, will you mean what you say, and say it once so it didn’t need to be repeated?

Understand how to best help an individual based off of their current psyche surrounding their immediate goals and/or injury history.

This does not immediately mean provide an amazing movement intervention.

This could mean simply listening to them and being there to vent to. Or you can talk about the football game, to take their mind off of whatever is bugging them for the next hour of training. At the same time, I’m not saying you need to be an enabler for avoiding the immediate problem, but there it’s important to be “likable” in times of stress.

Learn how to adapt to various personalities.

All kinds of personalities will walk into the gym. Some are there because they want to improve, others want to simply stick to their routine and not talk to anyone. Some even just need a place to unwind and hang out for hours at a time.

Understanding what makes a person tick will help you get along with everyone. You do not need to be best friends with everyone (some athletes/clients won’t want that); merely coexist and help them get to their goals as fast as possible!

Some may seek you out as a friend, some will seek you out for lifting advice, some on school advice, some on day to day life conversation, and others for something else completely.

CP3

For what it is worth, I’m of the belief that change is possible at ultimately any level; my personal mindset is one of malleability.

Now, imagine this scenario: What would happen if you did not have this ability to adapt to multiple personalities? This completely shuts you off from specific populations of people that can support your business and help you grow as a coach.

Create a system for memorizing multiple names in rapid succession very quickly.

Learning names is important. Calling someone by the wrong name stings, and even if you work with people in large group settings, do your best.

Rhyming is an easy method.

Frank the Tank.

Jake the Snake.

For those that don’t have a “rhyme-able” name, say that person’s name at least three times from introduction, to small talk, to brief departure (if need be).

If that doesn’t sit well with you, utilize the power of imagery to your advantage: imagine their name plastered right between their eyebrows or forehead to emblazon an image in your own head.

Be 100% up-front with your intentions from the get-go.

Time is of the essence. If my thoughts aren’t clear, my intentions may not come across as clear, and my actions may not represent me in a manner of which I will be proud.

You’re considered a coach; act like one.

This involves being considered a role model, whether you like it or not. There can be an unwritten or even written rule that others will be going to you for advice for many different things: nutrition, mindset, or basic lifting advice.

Choose a mentor, and walk with him or her.

If you don’t have access to a mentor, purchase a DVD, watch a YouTube clip, and read their information. Draw from it the most useful information that they offer you in terms of personality, coaching cues, tools, etc., and walk with that as if they were watching your every step.

Sure, it sounds strange, but imagine if your favorite coach or whomever were to watch your every coaching cue, every action on and off the court, field, or weight room.

Would you act differently?

Would you act the same?

—-

Some of these things you may already do. Some of them may have never crossed your mind. I am merely passing on things that I have found to be helpful professionally and personally. If you have additional suggestions that complement mine, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

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 on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Trust in the System: How Being an Optimist Will Help You in Strength and Conditioning

Written on November 4, 2014 at 6:57 am, by Eric Cressey

I'm always trying to learn about things we can find outside the strength and conditioning industry that may in some way benefit the way we coach athletes. I recently finished up the audiobook, The Pursuit of Perfect, by Tal Ben-Shahar, and there was a section that really stood out for me.

4462310

It can be quickly summed up with this quote:

"Those with a positive view of old age lived on average more than seven years longer than those with a negative view."

Immediately, I began thinking about this message's implications with respect to training progress, coaching approaches, and running a business.

As an eternal optimist, this quote resonated with me. With respect to personal relationships, I joke that I don't have any enemies; I just have raving fans who are in denial. I do my best to see the good in people and always try to give folks the benefit of the doubt, even if a first impression was less than favorable. In short, I feel like good things happen if you think about good things!

Applying this to the strength and conditioning field, I've always said that I want athletes to see training with us as a competitive advantage for them. I want them to know just how meticulous we are in our assessments and programming, and how nobody else takes as much pride in delivering baseball-specific training. I want them to know we're getting out to do continuing education instead of "getting comfortable;" have developed a great network of everything from pitching coordinators, to physical therapists, to nutrition consultants, to orthopedic surgeons to help them get the best training and care; and have built a system where our training model dictates our business model (not vice versa). I want them to know we've fostered an environment where they can train around individuals with similar goals and look forward to training around people who want to "get after it."

In short, them having an extremely positive view on training with us is vital to their success. If they don't buy in, they're starting behind the 8-ball.

"Buy in" doesn't always happen, though - and it's for one of two broad reasons:

1. The athletes' personalities don't allow it; they're skeptical of everything.

2. The program simply isn't worth buying into; the athletes have no confidence in it.

In the first instance, as an example, I've actually had a few people request refunds for The High Performance Handbook before even starting the program. Conversely, I've had other folks that open up the program and instantly email me about how excited they are to try out some new exercises, or how they're really excited to finally have some good structure in their training programs.

HPH-main

Which group do you think is going to train harder and with more consistency over the long haul? If you're questioning a program (or a coach) before you even try it (or him) out, you might as well just stay home. You have to get your mind right before you can get your body right.

There are parallels in the business world, too. When business owners encounter new ideas (especially from other industries) that may be worthwhile to incorporate in their existing structures, many immediately insist, "My business is different; it won't work for me." Usually, these are the same business owners who spend their entire professional careers (which are often short-lived, because they go out of business) speaking negatively about their competition, as opposed to emphasizing their own unique strengths. Clients and athletes perceive and dislike pessimism, regardless of the industry.

The "hardcore" evidence-based crowd in the health and human performance industries can trend in this direction, too. They're often so pessimistic about every new idea because it's not backed by research that they completely discount anecdotal evidence supporting new ideas. It's important to remember that everything we understand with research-backed certainty was just a theory supported by anecdotal evidence at one point, though. And, if we wait around for the peer-reviewed literature to "approve" everything we do, we'll miss out on a lot of beneficial stuff, and the industry will progress at a snail's pace.  Evidence-based practice is tremendously important, but you can't combine it with unyielding pessimism.

In the second scenario above, some programs and coaches just aren't very good. And, the problem about delivering a low-quality product is that word spreads much quicker than it does when you do a great job. In our business, if a kid drops a weight plate on his foot, word spreads quickly. If we train 100 pitchers in an off-season and none of them has an arm surgery, though, nobody really hears about it. Building credibility and a confident following of athletes takes time.

IMG_7810

I think college strength and conditioning is the best example. We have some athletes who absolutely dread going back to school in September because their programs are the exact same thing every year, and there is no element of individualization. It's the same old repeatedly-photocopied-program from 1989, plus loads of distance running. They have no confidence in their programs before they even show up because they've experienced it first-hand, know its reputation, and are keenly aware of the fact that it hasn't changed at all.

Conversely, take a college program that wants to do right by their guys with continuous improvement. Right now, we're hosting an Elite Baseball Mentorship at Cressey Sports Performance. It's the fifth time we've offered our upper extremity course, and we've had strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, and baseball coaches from dozens of top tier D1 schools attend over the years. Many of these coaches go out of their way to tell us just how excited their athletes are to hear that the coaching staff is attending. Seeing their coaches want to get better enhances their confidence in the program. When they return, the athletes get excited when they see new exercises implemented, a new piece of equipment in the weight room, or some updated coaching cues to clean up movement. A dedication to continuous improvement among coaches fosters an environment of optimistic, motivated athletes.

footer_logo-3

What's the take home message of this post? Put on a happy face, be open-minded, give people the benefit of the doubt, and try new things. Doing so might not add seven years to your life, but it'll certainly help you build a life that's a lot more fun to live.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/22/14

Written on September 22, 2014 at 8:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Monday, everyone; I hope you all had a great weekend. Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Reverse Dieting - Authors Sohee Lee and Layne Norton just introduced this resource, and I was fortunate to get an advanced copy to review. It's a great look at how chronic dieting can significantly damage metabolism and make it difficult to keep lost body fat off (or lose body fat in subsequent "dieting" efforts). Just as importantly, they outline a strategy for overcoming these challenges. I'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in nutrition, or have dealt with problems like this on your "physique journey." 

reversedieting

9 Training Concepts that Suck - While the title is unnecessarily harsh, this article from Ben Bruno is excellent.

Body Language and Leadership - I enjoy reading Gabe Kapler's stuff because he blends a successful background in baseball with a passion for training and nutrition. He also touches on everything from parenting to behavioral research and leadership. To that end, this is a great post for coaches and athletes alike. 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email

New Balance

Featured Product
Assess and Correct

YouTube Twitter Facebook