Earlier this week, I introduced you to the "shuffler," a breed of endurance athlete that seems to be everywhere in Boston this time of year. And, skilled trapper that I am, I actually managed to catch one last night to:
a) rescue her from herself,
b) learn more about how we can diagnose and treat this shuffling epidemic in the endurance training community
c) even help charity in the process.
In fact, promising to help her out with her charitable deeds was the only way I could cajole Steph Holland-Brodney into doing this interview from the cage we keep her in at Cressey Performance.
I'm not normally this sarcastic with our clients, but Steph's the most tenured of the bunch, having been with me since I first moved to Boston in the summer of 2006 as she prepared for her first Boston Marathon. She's put up with my bad jokes and stuck with me through two facility moves. With two Boston Marathons under her belt - and one more on the horizon - it's been interesting to watch the shift in her mindset over the past few years.
Maybe it's been Tony's mind-numbing techno music that's gotten her to come to her senses. Then again, I can't explain how that would have happened, as that garbage drives me crazy.
Or, maybe she got a pack of carb goo that had passed its expiration date. Nope, that can't be it; simple sugars make people dumber, not smarter.
My hunch is that there's a lot more to it - and that's why I think an interview with her will tell an awesome story. Check it out.
EC: Okay, let's get right to the meat and potatoes. When did you start running, and more importantly, why?
SH-B: You eat potatoes? Sorry, I'm easily distracted.
I ran here and there through college and graduate school, but never more than three miles. After I had my second child, I needed to lose that infamous and annoying "baby weight," so started running again. I bought this Oldsmobile of a double stroller and it took me longer to get them both in it than my runs took. I was running on the morning of September 11, 2001 when my mom died as her plane was hijacked. I wasn't home to see any of the images live. In many ways I am thankful for that.
Over the next few years I became more serious about my running; it was my escape. After completing some 5k and 10k races, I decided that I wanted to tackle The Biggest Enchilada of them all (you know, to honor my Mexican heritage.) When I saw that Boston Medical Center was a charity for the Boston Marathon, I applied immediately. The Good Grief program at BMC helped me so much after my mother passed away. It was a no-brainer.
EC: How has your training program changed in that time period? What have you added? Subtracted?
SH-B: I used to view lifting as "supplemental" and my "cardio" (yes, I was a Step Aerobics and Spinning instructor) as the core of my training. That has totally changed. I used to be a cardio 4x/week and lift 2x/week chick. Now, I lift 3x a week and do cardio three times. At least one or two of those times is interval work. I used to whine (well, I still do, but it's definitely a more angry whine) when I had to lift heavy. Now, I get pissed off if I don't hit a goal. I mean, what 5-2 marathon midget gets off on trap bar deadlifting 225?
EC: Whine? You? Never. I'll just say that there were a lot of us that were pretty relieved when you uttered these words and they became the photo-worthy quote of the year at CP :
Anyway, though, it's been my observation that roughly 80% of those who follow the cookie-cutter marathon training program they're given develop some sort of an overuse injury prior to the marathon. I think the hardest part about this is that it's impossible to really "fix" any lower extremity issue when an individual is still running with such high mileage. You've had your share of aches and pains along the way; what have you're your strategies for dealing with them, and what have they taught you?
SH-B: Marchese and Morgan torture, lower mileage, my foam roller, and a proper warm-up. Soft tissue work is a must. I see John Marchese and Tim Morgan every other week. I tell them that giving birth to two kids was less painful then their treatment. Those 45 minutes of torture though are so important. Like the CP staff, they were adamant about lowering my weekly mileage and replacing some of my runs with interval work and even some bike work. The foam roller and I have taken our relationship to an entirely new level. And the terms "ankle mobilization" and "glutes activation" have taken on new meaning in my life.
EC: Now, I've come to appreciate that we've turned you into a training snob. You appreciate a good training environment, and loathe watching people do moronic stuff in the gym. What are three things you've seen/heard among endurance athletes that made you want to hole them up in the Big Dig?
SH-B: So easy. Do yoga. Do yoga. Do yoga. No, wait: do hot yoga.
EC: You're right; that was too easy. What else you got?
SH-B: Add more mileage, "I don't have time to strength train," and going carb crazy before long runs and forgetting about protein. Brian St. Pierre has taught me a tremendous amount about carb/protein ratios and the breakdown of fat in your system. And the importance not only of the pre-long run meal but the post run nutrition also. If he tells me one more time about quinoa or kiwis....
EC: Speaking of good training environments, at Cressey Performance, there's something known as the "V-Hour" - and those who train during that time period are known as the "V-Club." While I came up with the name, you're undoubtedly the president and events coordinator for the group. So, I figured you could best articulate the mission of this esteemed group of ladies. Oh, and just what exactly does the "V' stand for?
SH-B: Oh Eric, you just want to make a mother of two and teacher say VAGINA, don't you? Clarification, I'm not the president. I am social director. Let me just say that last night at CP, the last three clients there were ALL women. I have trained with you for almost 3 years and that has never happened. When I started with you I was your only female client for quite some time. Slowly, more women started to jump in on the madness.
Let's face it, V Club Members are versatile; we have to be. We're married, single, confused, all ages. Some of us are professional athletes, some of us are endurance athletes and some of us just like to lift heavy stuff. We must tolerate the same rotation of three CDs all of the time, having Brian yell across the crowded gym for all to hear, "Stick your ass out more," and Tony walking around with his Tupperware full of beef, broccoli and guacamole saying things like, "Atta girl!" And let's not even get into you.
We've got to be witty and be able to dish it out. Have good taste in music and know how to rock a pair of Seven Jeans. We are a tiny percentage of the clientele. We support one another in our quest for CP greatness. And our favorite activity is of course making fun of the staff.
EC: Okay, let's talk fund raising. For whom are you raising money with this year's marathon efforts? And, how much have you raised in recent years for that cause?
SH-B: This is my third year with Boston Medical Center. Their mission is "exceptional care without exception." That pretty much sums up my mom's mission in life. Over the past 2 years I have raised $10,000. This year I need to raise $3,000. I have about $2,200 left to go.
I just have to say this. When I was first referred to you, I saw my time with you as maybe a six-week stint. I needed "corrective exercise." Never did I think that my entire philosophy on training would change - or that I'd make such great friendships. I look more forward to my CP sessions than I do my runs. A half hour at the track doing sprint intervals kicks my butt more than a "medium run." You guys really have turned me into a training snob and I am so thankful for it. Before this ends, I have one request. Can one of the interns vacuum my cage?
EC: I'll see what I can do. Thanks for taking the time; now, let's raise some money for a great cause.
Boston Medical Center has helped loads of people like Steph, and while I think they deserve the donations regardless, I'm going to sweeten the deal. Here's the scoop:
Make a donation of $20 or more to BMC HERE by next Thursday, March 26 at midnight. Then, forward your receipt to me at email@example.com. In exchange, I'll send you a coupon code for 20% off ANY purchase of:
1. Magnificent Mobility (e-manual and CEU package available)
2. Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set (CEU package available)
3. Inside-Out (e-manual and CEU package available)
4. The Ultimate Off-Season Manual
5. The Art of the Deload
6. The Truth About Unstable Surface Training
7. The Indianapolis Performance Enhancement DVD Set (CEU package available)
8. Bulletproof Knees (CEU package available)
In your email, just let me know which product(s) you'd like to purchase. As you can tell, if you purchased a bunch of these products at once, a simple $20 donation could save you hundreds of dollars in products. A huge thanks go out Bill Hartman and Mike Robertson for generously agreeing to help out with this promotion.
Here's that donation link again:
Thanks for your help in supporting this great cause!
Q: I know that you're tops when it comes to keeping baseball guys (especially pitchers) healthy and performing at the top level. How would your approach to training baseball players in general, and pitchers more specifically, differ when working with somewhat similar athletes such as:(a) football quarterbacks(b) swimmers other than backstrokers(c) swimmers specializing in the back strokeI realize there would be obvious differences, especially for C, since that is actually the opposite of pitching, so I'd love to hear some of your general thoughts on this.
A: This is actually a great question. I guess it's one of those things you do subconsciously and then think about after the fact. I'm assuming you are referring to the shoulder and elbow demands in particular, so I'll start with that.
Training football quarterbacks and pitchers would be virtually identical in terms of demands on the hips, ankles, and shoulders. Anecdotal experience tells me that there would be a higher correlation between hip dysfunction and shoulder/elbow problems in pitchers than in quarterbacks, though.
Swimmers would be similar at the shoulder, but I don't see the same kind of correlation b/t hip and shoulder dysfunction. Obviously, though, issues like scapular stability, thoracic spine range-of-motion, and tissue quality would all be present in all three populations.
Backstrokers would have comparable scapular stabilization demands, but different glenohumeral rotation patterns. With them, you assess total shoulder rotation and go from there (this is my strategy with everyone, but it just warrants extra mention in this discussion).
Above all, you've got to realize that while you might see trends in different athletic populations, each one is still unique, so assessment tells you what you need to know. For instance, I have a few pro pitchers throwing well over 90mph, and from looking at their shoulders, you'd never know they had ever thrown a baseball in their lives. At initial testing (i.e., right after the long season ended), the total motion among my eleven pro pitchers from this past off-season ranged from 133 degrees to 186 degrees. The guy with 186 degrees actually had more external rotation (135 degrees) than the least "lax" guy had in total motion!
So, a guy with a 3/4 arm slot is going to have different adaptive changes than a guy who is more over-the-top or sidearm - and you can certainly carry those variations across the board to different throwing styles in football, and the wide variety of shoulders you'll see in a swimming population that might be proficient in more than one stroke.
Related Posts:Flexibility Deficits in PitchersThe Truth About Impingement: Part 2
In a continuation of last Tuesday's post, here's another common mistake you'll see in the static posture of overhead throwing athletes. Many times, folks will see a low-shoulder like the one below and automatically assume is means "scoliosis."
In reality, this is a function of both the structural and functional adaptations that take place in a baseball pitcher's shoulder girdle over the course of a throwing career. I am not of the belief that you can altogether eliminate this, given the structural adaptations that have taken place over the course of years of throwing. However, I firmly believe (and have observed frequently) that as long as one normalized range of motion and strength/stability of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers, modest improvements in this posture can come about. Phil Donley goes into great detail on this topic in his presentation in the 2008 Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp DVD Set.
It is worth mentioning that in some populations, this may be a function of an ankle, hip, lower back, or other issues.
It's that time of year in Boston. The "shufflers" are out in full effect.
For those of you who aren't familiar with a "shuffler," it's an individual who has recently taken up distance running as a means of losing weight. As the weather gets nicer and the Boston Marathon rapidly approaches, you can spot shufflers out in droves all over Boston. They shuffle for a number of reasons:
1. They believe that shuffling at 2.5mph is actually more effective than walking at 2.5mph.
2. Usually, they're about 80% of the way through the marathon training programs that were provided to them, and as a result, most are suffering from IT band problems, plantar fasciitis, Achilles and patellar tendinosis, sciatica, and a serious case of "whatthehellwasithinkingsigningupforthis-itis."
3. Because they never learned to sprint, they run with zero hip flexion (check out Newsletter 77: Sprinting for Health for details).
4. They are simply trying to finish their exercise in the most efficient way possible. In other words, complete the task with as little discomfort as possible.
And here, we have the problem. Sally takes up running because she thinks she'll lose some body fat. And, initially, she does lose weight because - to quote Alwyn Cosgrove - it's a "metabolic disturbance" compared to doing nothing. Moving burns more calories than not moving.
However, over time, that activity injures Sally and fosters bad movement patterns, meaning that she'll miss more exercise sessions down the road. And, she quickly starts searching for the most efficient means of completing her runs, so her body gets more and more efficient - meaning that it burns fewer calories to accomplish the same task. Whether it is three miles or 13 miles, it's always about just finishing. Quantity always takes precedence over quality.
With March Madness upon us, pretend you're watching a basketball game where you have two teams: Team A wants to win, and Team B wants to simply get through the 40 minutes of the game. Team A dives for loose balls, full-court presses, and hits the boards hard. Team B watches the clock. Who burns more calories? Team A, no doubt - because they get lost in their performance.
Back in college, did you learn more in the graded courses, or the ones that were simply pass-fail? And, as I asked in Maximum Strength, do you get stronger when you "train" or "work out?"
This, to me, is one more reason why interval training outperforms steady-state cardio on top of all the other reasons (e.g., excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, reduction of overuse injuries) that we already know. There is not a single effective exercise modality out there in a non-beginner population that works simply because one shows up and finishes. The outstanding success loads of folks have had with Warpspeed Fat Loss is a perfect example; Cosgrove and Mike Roussell challenged them to be just a little bit better at each successive training session - either with loading or number of sets completed.
If you are going to distance-run (and aren't a competitive endurance athlete), focus on going faster, not fine-tuning the art of pacing yourself when grandmothers are passing you with their walkers. Pacing yourself doesn't even work at all-you-can-eat buffets; everyone knows you get full too fast and never live up to your gluttony potential. And, as I always say, if it doesn't fly at all-you-can-eat buffets, it just ain't right.
If you're going to interval train, your goal is to go faster each time. More watts, more steps in a given time period, more ghastly stares from the lady reading a magazine on the leg press, whatever. Mike Boyle had some great thoughts on this front in a recent submission HERE. As long as it is quantifiable and you're busting your hump to compete against your previous best, I'm happy.
I like the idea of camaraderie and/or competition with others in interval training, too. For example, our staff did this 16-yard x 16-trip sled medley three Thursdays in a row - and each time, it was a little faster (meaning that we had fewer rest periods between sets):
You might find it weird that I'm playing this song on March 16.
Then again, if you really know me, you know exactly what I mean. Yes, folks, it's the first day of the high school baseball season. Loads of great kids busted their humps with us this off-season, and now we get to go out and watch them perform. I'm also excited to take a few road trips to catch our pro guys in action. I love it.
Meanwhile, we've been getting more and more variety around Cressey Performance. While about 74% of our clients are baseball players, and we always had people from different disciplines, we've been getting a lot more hockey, football, basketball, and endurance athletes, plus adult fitness clients. I love being a "baseball guy," but variety is always great, too.
We've had a good run of weather in the Boston area, too. Anytime you can get temperatures over 60 degrees F in Boston before St. Patrick's Day, you've got to consider yourself pretty lucky. A few of us have been sprinting stadiums over at Soldiers Field at Harvard for the past few weekends, and the weather's been really cooperative.
I also get to travel a fair amount this time of year for seminars. And, while I am not fond of sitting in airports, I love interacting with fitness professionals and strength and conditioning coaches at these events. Everyone has a unique story to tell, and I enjoy getting questions that push me to be better at what I do. It's also a great chance to catch up with great friends and colleagues across the country who I may only see 2-3 times per year.
It's also an extremely productive time for me as a writer. My days at the facility start a bit later now, so I can focus a bit more on writing. And, when I write at night, I know I can always listen to the online broadcast of one of our pro baseball guys playing anywhere from Portland, Oregon to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If you have particular topics you'd like covered in blogs, newsletters, or articles, by all means, please offer some suggestions in the comments section below. I've already got a new product in the works.
And, perhaps most significantly, this time of year is when I make my best gains in the gym. It's just my nature to put all our athletes' needs way ahead of my own, and that usually manifests itself in the form of achy knees from spending long hours on the hard floor at CP. I've also been sick twice this winter, which is unheard of for me; I never get sick. In fact, I lost my voice for both Friday and Saturday and was practically coaching in Morse code and "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" signs. I'm feeling better now, though.
As a result, my training frequency and volume isn't as high during the baseball off-season, but once things get going in March-May, we ramp it up. Later this morning, I'm headed over to get a massage to get the ball rolling.
So, if you don't have anything to smile about today, just smile on my behalf!
With today being Friday the 13th, I figured we'd roll with that theme for today. As you probably know, Friday the 13th is - according to superstition - a day of bad or good luck. Honestly, I didn't know that good luck was a feasible outcome until I just Googled it, but apparently it is, and I'm just a stupid pessimist without even knowing it. So, in hopes of turning my day around, I'm going to post this video and make all the villagers rejoice because they know they're smarter than this girl:
2. Did you know that there is actually a term - paraskavedekatriaphobia - forthe fear of Friday the 13th? Apparently, this problem is a more specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, which is just fear of the number 13. Fortunately, though, these phobias aren't nearly as bad as:
a. Logophobia - fear of words (reading this blog would really suck for those folks, huh?)
b.Electrophobia - fear of electricity (turning on the computer would must have been terrible, but missing out on my electric sense of humor must have been the worst!)
c.Arithmophobibia - fear of numbers (you'll be happy to note that I'm using a, b, c, and d instead of a numerical listing scheme because I am sensitive to your concerns)
d.Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - fear of long words (coincidentally, they gave this guy a syndrome with 36 letters)
A few other honorable mentions to to levophobia (fear of objects to the left of the body), geniophobia (fear of chins), chronomentrophobia (fear of clocks), and Gentilcorophobia (fear of painfully bad techno music).
3. Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture/hands-on session for an exercise science class at UMASS-Boston. I've done this several semesters in a row, and this semester's topic was "Core Stability and Mobility." While I think that folks like me who have been in the trenches for a while and attend a lot of seminars need another presentation on core stability like I need a whole in the head, it was cool to speak about the topic to a younger audience that didn't have as much experience under their belts. One book I encouraged all of them to pick up was Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance by Stuart McGill.
4. Along those lines, one movement I find us using around the facility quite a bit is the split-stance cable lift:
5. Mike Robertson's just begun doing a podcast component in his newsletters, and it allows him to cover more material than he would with writing along. Check out the first installment HERE; I think you'll like it.
6. About two years ago, I was featured on the front page of the Boston Globe in a picture with Steph Holland-Brodney, CP's most tenured client, as she prepared for the Boston Marathon. Almost immediately, I was thrown into a world of international fame as "the dude with the hard nipple" - and I added to the already-insane media frenzy by authoring a literary masterpiece known as The School of Hard Nipples. For weeks, I couldn't even go grocery shopping without being swarmped by paparazzi and adoring fans who couldn't wait to catch a glimpse of the nipple that had changed so many lives.
Fortunately, Boston won the World Series in 2007 about six months later, and it was about the same time that "The Departed" came out to put Boston in the spotlight. So, thanks to the Red Sox and Marky Mark, some of the pressure was lifted - and I managed to move forward.
As I learned this week, though, the stardom hasn't died down altogether. You see, when I check my website stats, I can find out what people most frequently type in with search engines when they ultimately come to EricCressey.com. And, would you believe that I average about 3.5 "hard nipples" searches per day? In other words, random people are typing "hard nipples" into Google, and in many cases, they're winding up at EricCressey.com instead of many of the millions of adult entertainment sites out there.
Cressey Performance was lucky to have Kevin Neeld around the facility last summer, and all our coaches were much better off thanks to this experience. Kevin always makes some great points and is never afraid to question the norm - and do a ton of research. Kevin's specialty is hockey, and he recently introduced an Off-Ice Performance Training E-Manual for hockey players and coaches that is absolutely fantastic. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy, and it was so good that I couldn't wait to get an interview with him up here at EricCressey.com. So, without further ado, here it is.
EC: I'll be the first to admit that if I see another seminar presentation or article on "core training," I'm going to lose my lunch. Interestingly, though (and to be blunt), yours in this product doesn't suck. In other words, there is a lot to be learned both specific to hockey and in a general sense. Can you explain for my readers in a bit of detail?
KN: Sure thing. In my experience, the reason core training is so poorly practiced is because people don't understand what muscles are involved in the core and what their collective function is. Beyond the rectus abdominis ("6-pack" muscles) and the external and internal obliques, the core encompasses over a dozen other muscles that attach to the hips, rib cage, and spine. Collectively, these muscles serves a few major, inter-related functions: 1) Control movement of the hips; 2) provide a stable base for leg and arm movement; and 3) create stiffness for efficient force transfer between the upper and lower body.
My approach to core training is pretty straight forward: 1) Teach athletes awareness-what core stability is and feels like; 2) Train for core stability; 3) Progress to dynamic stability (stability challenged by internal or external forces); 4) Progress to training core stiffness and force transfer; 5) Combine force transfer and dynamic stability into one exercise.
The progressions are explained in more detail in the course, but to give you an idea of what that looks like:
1) Abdominal draw-ins (for awareness, NOT transversus abdominis isolation...which is a stupid concept), and simply having the athlete put their hands over their stomach, fill their belly up with air, squeeze their core and continue to breathe.
2) Planks and bridges
3) Planks and bridges with partner perturbations
4) Medicine ball throws, tosses, and slams
5) Combined med ball exercises with holds in various positions challenged by a partner perturbation
I hope that all makes sense. The course doesn't go into full detail on medicine ball exercises because I really wanted to make the exercises and progressions realistic for a team setting, and typically there isn't a lot of equipment available.
EC: Along these same lines, what are the specific injury issues that you prioritize in this e-manual?
KN: Hockey players are plagued by hip and lower abdominal injuries. What's scary is that the true causes and predisposing risk factors to these injuries are only starting to be explored in the research community. Usually, creating an appropriate balance within and between the hip and core musculature can prevent these injuries. For example, if you have a strength imbalance between the muscles on the outside and inside of your hip, your risk of adductor (commonly referred to as the "groin") strain increases. If you have a strength imbalance between your adductors and your anterior abdominal musculature, your risk of lower abdominal injury increases. As with most injuries, the key is creating a balance.
As a quick note, creating balance often means utilizing unbalanced training. Your readers may know this already since you talk about the same things with your baseball guys. Hockey players take several dozens shots every week. These shots usually involve forceful rotation in the same direction. The best way to create balance would be to use an unbalanced training program with more rotation or anti-rotation exercises in the direction OPPOSITE to that in which they shoot. This is where sport-specific training really threw people off. Training "sport-specific" patterns again and again off the ice is likely to increase injury risk, not performance.
Getting back to hip and lower abdominal injuries...Typically these injuries are a result of under-preparation or overuse, both of which can be addressed with similar training methods. I first implemented some of the dynamic warm-up and core training exercises outlined in the course with the University of Delaware Men's Ice Hockey Team in 2006. We had ZERO pre-season hip flexor or "groin" injuries. Not a single player missed a single practice or game. I've refined a lot of things since then, but a lot of the concepts are still the same. Warm-up appropriately by improving range of motion around the right joints and activating the right muscles, and train the core for its true function, and you'll likely avoid these injuries.
EC: Hockey players, like all athletes, have loads of competing demands - from on-ice technical work, to energy systems training, to resistance training, to flexibility training. This manual does a great job of integrating all these features. Where do you feel that most people make the biggest mistakes in this regard?
KN: It really depends on the team, but the three things that seem to come up most often are:
1) The training of most youth programs involves a couple laps around the rink, a long stretch, maybe some jumping, push-ups and sit-ups. These programs leave out a lot of important forms of training (e.g. dynamic flexibility, core stability, reactive agility, acceleration/deceleration, etc.).
2) Conditioning is still horribly misunderstood. The idea that hockey players need to train for a well-developed "aerobic system" by going for long runs is pretty ridiculous. We're talking about a sport that typically involves 30-45 second shifts, followed by several minutes of rest. Within each shift, there are typically a few bouts of 3-5 second all out efforts, followed by periods of gliding, and usually a stoppage or two. This breaks down into something like 20 seconds of high intensity effort every five minutes. Repeated 20-minute jogs around the rink will make you well-conditioned for the wrong sport.
3) The largest problem I see in team settings is a complete disregard for the QUALITY of movement. Hockey players and coaches are very driven, which usually means they want more, not better. The first thing I do when working with a new team is sit them all down and tell them that focus will be placed on quality of movement before intensity or quantity of movement. Moving the wrong way, at a high intensity or volume, will only make bad patterns worse. I made a strong effort in the course to emphasize proper movement and technique and provide simple coaching cues so that people without a background in sport biomechanics can still move the right way.
EC: A large percentage of the folks reading this resource are going to be high school athletes and coaches - many of whom play multiple sports. What pieces of advice do you have for these folks? How can they make the most of this training when they've got other sports on top of the competing demands we discussed above?
KN: My advice: Keep playing multiple sports. Early specialization (only playing hockey from a young age) will have detrimental effects on your development and movement quality as you get older. Typically these are the players that dominate when they're 12-14, then drop off the map or are plagued by injuries at 20.
To get to the heart of your question, good training is good training. The course outlines quality training in the context of hockey, but the principles are mostly the same for all sports. A strong, functional core will improve performance in all sports. Training to improve acceleration, and your ability to rapidly decelerate and change direction explosively will improve performance in all sports. I use many of the same dynamic warm-up progressions for hockey players as I do for athletes in all other sports (rowing, soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, etc.). All team-sport athletes need to be mobile, stable, strong, explosive, and quick. I honestly can't think of a sport that wouldn't benefit from the training outlined in the course, which details how to alter the intensity and volume of your training in preparation for more important games (which becomes an increasingly important concept for athletes playing multiple sports at the same time).
EC: Thanks for taking the time, Kevin. Great points - and definitely a great resource, too.
For more information on Kevin's Off-Ice Performance Training Course, head over to HockeyTrainingU.com.
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Here is this week's list of recommended reading:
The Mainstream Media Lag - Here's an old blog post with an enduring theme.
An EricCressey.com Exclusive Interview with Dr. Jason Hodges - This interview includes a lot of really interesting thoughts from an openminded and forward-thinking radiologist. I guarantee you'll learn something new - whether it's about shoulders, knees, or just being an informed consumer.
Go Barefoot, Get Stronger - This article included a lot of quotes and perspectives from Martin Rooney, who is one of the initial "pioneers" of barefoot training. We do a lot of barefoot work, and it's absolutely fantastic.
One of the big mistakes many people make in assessing static postures is that they think they can determine that the humerii are internally rotated just from looking at someone from in front, and seeing the tops of their hands (as opposed to the thumb-side, which would be more neutral). So, in these folks' minds, this individual would need to stretch more into external rotation:
In reality, this individual is a professional pitcher and actually has far more external rotation (roughly 130 degrees on his throwing side) than ordinary folks. Stretching him into external rotation could actually cause injury.
So, why are his palms turned backward like that? Well, it's very simple: his scapulae are abducted, or winged. When the scapular stabilizers - particularly the serratus anterior and lower trapezius are weak - the shoulder blades sit further out to the sides. The humerii are in normal, but their "foundation" (the scapulae) have been moved.
Last week, my girlfriend had a big decision to make. As she finishes med school (optometry) this year, she had two offers on her plate: one for a job in a private practice, and one for a one-year residency. If she took the job, it meant we'd move out of the city. Instead, she took the residency - which means that we can stay in our current apartment for another year once our current lease is up on August 15.
Now, this might seem mundane to a lot of you, but not for me. I'm a guy who has moved eight times in the past ten years - including three separate states. I was 100% supportive of any avenue that she opted to choose, but I had made it clear that if we went anywhere, we were getting a moving company to do it. After ten years of moving, I was sick of putting my life on hold for 3-4 days at a time to relocate. It made me think of a quote I read over at T-Nation a few years back:
"Stagnancy is often confused with stability."
In the strength and conditioning world, status quo is largely understood to be unacceptable. We always have to be looking to get better. Maybe a basketball player is looking to push work capacity by perpetually increasing training volume on the court. Powerlifters rotate max effort exercises each week. And, bodybuilders may constantly changing programs in hopes of keeping muscles "confused" and growing.
However, in the world of "Eric Cressey hates moving more than he hates drunk Yankees fans in center field at Fenway Park," stagnancy is a beautiful thing. This stagnancy in living arrangements gives me stability with my schedule and productivity - so I guess the quote from above isn't always accurate. And, it makes me think about a few examples from the world of exercise where stagnancy can be a good thing:
1. Activation Drills: I often get asked how to make a scap push-up, scapular wall slide, or other mobility/activation drill harder. The truth is that you really shouldn't be trying to make them much harder; they're just low-intensity drills designed to be done with perfect technique to get certain muscles "turned on" before you get to the more complex stuff. So, if you want to make these movements harder, do a bench press or loaded push-up after the scap push-up, or a chin-up after the scapular wall slide (just a few examples).
2. Learning New Movement Patterns: It actually takes a lot more repetitions to ingrain something in your "movement memory" than you might think. In fact, research has shown that elite athletes have practiced their specific skills over 100,000 times to make them "subconsciously" learned.
Let's be clear: I'm not saying that you have to do 100,000 body weight lunges before you can start to load the movement and derive benefit from that training in other tasks. However, for untrained folks and those returning from injuries, motor (re-)education takes repetition and time. You can't expect a 16-year old girl to have an ACL reconstruction, then do a session of body weight lunges and be ready to go out and play soccer or basketball safely the next day. In fact, in this example, "stagnancy" - or consistency in training and gradual progressions - truly does enhance stability in more ways than one.
3. The Biggest Loser - When this TV show is on, it is best for you to leave your remote stagnant on the coffee table and your TV turned off. This will ensure that ratings go down for NBC and this mind-numbing crap will eventually get yanked off the air.
4. In-Season Athletes - As I wrote in Four Ways to Stay on Track, you have to be very careful with modifying things too aggressively with athletes who are in the middle of their competitive season. New exercises can bring about delayed onset muscle soreness, which may interfere with performance. And, increasing training volume and/or loads in-season can inhibit recovery between practice sessions and competition, or lead to overuse injury.
5. Deload Phases - I devoted an entire e-book, The Art of the Deload, to this topic, in fact. Make no mistake about it: the overwhelming majority of your time in the gym should be focused on getting better. However, there should always be deloading periods in your training where it's okay to intentionally be "stagnant," as these periods give rise to adaptation that make you better in the long-term.