In place of Random Friday Thoughts this week, we've got Random Late Thursday Afternoon Madness. Here's how it works:
1. Sled (on the floor, not turf) with four plates on it
2. Four guys (in this case, Tony, Pete, and I and one of our high school seniors)
3. 16 trips of 16 yards as fast as possible
4. Ideally, each guy does four full trips, but when one guy can't get it done, somebody has to step up and finish his trip.
5. Extreme nausea is normal, and projectile vomiting is considered a form of artistic mastery.
I just received an email from another satisfied Maximum Strength customer. Steve made great progress overall, but to take an already-great bench and add 15 pounds to it in four months with no change in body weight after 10 years of lifting is really impressive.
"I loved the Maximum Strength program!! I just finished it and the results were amazing. I currently have two friends on the program and they are also doing quite well.
"I've trained pretty consistently for about the last 10 years. My goals have changed throughout the years. I used to weigh approximately 189 lbs, but have been focusing on strength and athleticism more recently as that is more applicable to my profession than being big. Here are the results:
Body weight: 172
Broad jump: 106 inches.
Box Squat: 365 lbs.
Bench Press: 315 lbs.
Deadlift: 405 lbs.
3 Rep Chin-up: 232 lbs.
Body weight: 171
Broad jump: 111 inches.
Box Squat: 405 lbs.
Bench Press: 330 lbs, with an almost at 345.
3 rep Chin-lup: 271 pounds
Q: I know that you're a bid advocate of including barefoot weight training in your strength and conditioning programs. What in general is your "shoeless" policy with your athletes, if any?
A: Yes, we use a lot of barefoot weight training around Cressey Performance in our strength training programs. In addition to strengthening the smaller muscles of the feet, barefoot training "accidentally" improves ankle mobility in athletes who have been stuck in restrictive shoes their entire lives.
Here are the exercises we're open to doing barefoot:
All deadlift variations (rack pulls and DB variations included), box squats (hip dominant), and all any body weight mobility drills.
We don't go barefoot for any loaded single-leg movements (aside from 1-leg RDLs and 1-leg squats/pistols) or more quad-dominant squatting variations.
All that said, we are careful about integrating barefoot drills in very overweight or very weak clients. These individuals do not go barefoot for any of our dynamic flexibility warm-ups aside from in-place ankle mobilizations, as lunging variations can be a bit too much stress on them at first.
We do, however, encourage clients (in most cases) to go with a good minimalist shoe. My personal favorite is the New Balance Minimus.
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Let's get right to it...
1. Here's a link to a great news story about Cressey Performance athlete Olympic Bobsled hopeful Bree Schaaf:
Bree Schaff hopes to be on US Olympic Bobsled Team
2. Here's this week's mind-numbing personal trainer moment...
Our facility landlord spends much of his winter down in Florida, and as he told me yesterday, he went to a personal trainer down there to help him with some chronic shoulder pain he's had (this is funny, because I'm in his building and he never thought to ask me, but I won't digress). I talked with him for a few minutes, and without even having to physically examine him, I could tell it was a classic ol' supraspinatus tendinosis (external impingement - but it's more complex than that, as I've written in Newslettter 130 and 131). Taking him through some provocative tests just verified everything; he had extremely poor scapular stability (abducted and anteriorly tilted), markedly limited glenohumeral external rotation, and poor thoracic mobility. This is a pretty easy one to fix, I think.
Since he isn't going to be back up here full-time for a month or two, I asked him what he'd been doing with his personal trainer to address the shoulder issue. So, he shows me this stretch that they've been doing three times a week:
For the record, he wasn't wearing the short shorts and funky tube socks, and didn't appear so "cartoonish," but you get the idea. My bigger concern was that this dude was treating a) scapular instability and b) poor external rotation ROM with a stretch into internal rotation without the scapula stabilized. This is analagous to taking someone with poor glute function and stretching the lumbar spine into flexion. You're stretching the wrong structures at the wrong joint!
And, to take it a step further, this movement actually closely resembles two provocative tests for symptomatic impingement:
[caption id="attachment_2963" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Hawkins Kennedy Test"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2964" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yocum's Test"][/caption]
So, I guess you could say that our landlord paying this personal trainer to tell him to do this stretch is roughly on par with paying someone to bang your head against a wall when you have a headache.
Once again, it all comes down to assessment. If you can't assess, you can't effectively prescribe exercises to prevent or correct imbalances. For more information, check out Building the Efficient Athlete.
3. I gave Moneyball (one of my favorite books) a mention and some love in a recent newsletter, and then Tony Gentilcore sent me a link about how the book may be turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt. It better be good, because if it isn't, I'll berate Pitt mercilessly for tarnishing the reputation of a great read.
That's all I've got for this week, folks. The shoulder rant above sapped the life from me, so I'll recharge this weekend and bounce back with some good stuff for you on Monday. Enjoy the weekend!
A few months ago, Precision Nutrition contributor Erin Weiss-Trainor tracked me down for an interview of sorts where she inquired about what goes on in a day in the life of Eric Cressey. It includes training, nutrition, and what goes on at Cressey Performance. You can check it out at the link below:
Precision Nutrition Expert Profile: Eric Cressey
EricCressey.com Subscriber-Only Q&AQ: My question pertains to medicine ball workouts for pitchers. Are they only off-season training drills, or can I do them with my pitchers between starts? And, are there good ones for pitchers arms, in particular? I know you mentioned doing some one-arm drills with your pitchers.
A: It's safe to say that we probably do more medicine ball work than anyone on the planet. In fact, we've broken 17 medicine balls (16 featured in this photo) thus far this off-season.
Our destruction of medicine balls has been so epic that our equipment supplier actually asked us if we were throwing them against a wall with "jagged edges," as nobody had ever had similar problems, much less with as much regularity. So, suffice it to say that we hammer on medicine ball work a ton in the off-season, and the useful life of a ball around here is 4-6 weeks. But, I don't want to digress...
After the season ends, pitchers usually get a two-week break from anything that involves overhead throwing or rapid elbow extension after they are done throwing before we integrate any of this. Position players start right up with it. I think it's crucial to start up right away so that you can teach proper scap and hip loading so that guys will get the most out of it when the time comes to throw with more volume and complex exercises that help to maintain pitching-specific mobility, as Stanford-bound Sahil Bloom shows:
We typically go 3x/week medicine ball work with anywhere from 80 to 120 throws (never more than eight per set) per session from October through December (the last month overlaps with throwing programs where these guys are just tossing - nothing too challenging). This continues right up through spring training for all our position players. For pitchers, though, as January rolls around, we add in more bullpens and aggressive long tossing (and weighted balls, for some guys), and the medicine ball work drops off to two times a week with less volume and a more conservative exercise selection. This twice a week set-up goes right through Spring Training.
We always pair our medicine ball work with various mobilizations so that guys are addressing flexibility deficits instead of just standing around. It might be thoracic spine and hip mobility drills from Assess and Correct. Combining these mobilizations with all our medicine ball work, warm-ups, foam rolling/massage, and the static stretching programs guys are on, we have no concerns about pitchers "tightening up" with lifting. Blue Jays prospect Tim Collins doesn't seem to be all "muscle-bound" here, for instance:
I don't do a ton of medicine ball work in-season with my higher level guys; it's usually once every five days. A lot of the focus is on the non-dominant side. So, a right-handed pitcher would do more rotational stuff from the left side to keep as much symmetry as possible. With high school athletes, on the other hand, I see no reason why you can't use a slightly higher volume of medicine ball drills in-season. Kids are resilient and in many cases, undertrained, so there is always a big window of adaptation ahead of them.
With respect to the one-arm smaller medicine ball work, we use those two variations around this time of year. It's usually just two sets of eight reps right after throwing sessions twice a week. I like the idea of consolidating the stress with throwing outings. That said, there are some people that do them as warm-ups prior to throwing. Here, Atlanta Braves prospect Chad Rodgers demonstrates a few with a 1kg (2.2lb) ball.
As a random aside, off to the side in this video, you'll see how we tend to pair mobility/activation movements with power training, as Royals catching prospect Matt Morizio goes back and forth from clap push-ups to scapular wall slides.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg, so for more information, I would encourage you to check out our resource, Functional Stability Training; it is incredibly thorough, including plenty of options for both off- and in-season medicine ball work.
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I received this email from Kevin Miller, a high school strength and conditioning coach in Pennsylvania, who recently completed the Maximum Strength program:
I recently completed the 16 week Maximum Strength program by Eric Cressey, and I wanted to give my review on the program. I am 37 years old. I played H.S football and baseball and had good strength and speed. From 1995-2004 I switched gears and became an Endurance athlete (marathons and Iromans). I had great endurance and could run forever but I went from probably a 28-29 inch vertical to probably a 19-20 inch vertical.
Over the past few years I have jumped back and forth from endurance to strength programs. I saw results in both but I never stuck to one program. Two years ago I purchased Inside-Out by Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman. I thought it was a great program, so I started to read more about Mike, and in turn, Eric - and was instantly impressed with what he had to say, as I'm a volunteer sports performance coach at the high school where I teach. Over the past year I have read his articles and watched his DVDs, so, when Max Strength came out I was hooked and decide to STICK to a program. Below are my results (Pre and Post)
BW 146 lbs 151 lbs
Broad Jump 88 inches 94 inches (6 inches)
Bench Press 195 220 (25 lbs)
Box Squat 255 325 (70 lbs)
Deadlift 275 315 (40 lbs)
Three rep Chin up BW + 44 lbs BW + 58 lbs (19 lbs)
Overall, I was very pleased with the results. As far as BW, I was happy to gain 5 lbs, to be honest. I am a father with two kids and a third on the way. I never get to slow down. After school (I trained in the morning before school), I'm in the weight room with high school kids for 2 hrs (boys and girls). Although I am not "training," I probably do 100 body weight squats plus several other movements because the kids need to see what I'm recommending.
Physically although I only gained 5 lbs I look bigger, but not bulky - just thicker and more athletic
Overall, out of a rating of 10. I would give this program a 10. Here is why:
1. If you follow it, you will get STRONGER. The book is MAXIMUM strength, and it does what it says it does.
2. I feel really strong. Before, I had decent strength, but now I just feel a lot stronger
3. The mobility part is excellent. I knew what to expect here since I have several of Eric's products but this is where so many people can benefit (especially high school kids). I never stretched a day in my life in hs. Now, I would never start a workout with doing mobility work.
4. As a coach, I became a better coach by doing this program. Plain and simple, I now know how it feels to get under the bar with 325 lbs on my back. I realize that's a warm-up for some people but for me at 150 lbs it's a lot.
5. The progressions are excellent.
6. Nutritionally, there is some great advice in the book. To be honest, I think I've always had a good diet but for anyone who doesn't there are some great points.
Who can benefit from this book?
1. Any high school kid or "Mom/Dad" looking for strength and results.
2. Any high schools coach (football, track, hockey,etc). As much as we would like to "customize programs" for each athlete, it's impossible at the high school level. I train 50-60 kids at 3 pm, and at my school, I don't have the time, manpower, or money to make up individual programs. Sure, I can screen kids and put in groups, but I believe if high school kids followed this for 16 weeks, it would be better than 95% of the program they are currently following
Favorite exercises I never did before I read this book:
Rack pulls: I loved the feeling I got in my posterior chain
Pallof Press: Much harder than it looks
Anderson squats: I loved this type of front squat.
Overall, great book, and if you follow this program, you will get stronger