It's pretty busy around here as I catch up after being out of the office for a few days for a big sports medicine conference, but fortunately, a T-Muscle compilation to which I contributed ran today. Check it out: Get Bigger By Doing Less
What do you think of...
I got the question again this week:
What do you think of yoga?
Don't get me wrong; this newsletter isn't going to be about yoga. To be honest, I already wrote an article about my thoughts on yoga a while back. Admittedly, I probably should have taken a more impartial standpoint, but I wrote it more for shock value to outline some of the fundamental problems with some practices that I felt were becoming universally accepted without question.
That said, with respect to this newsletter, the word "yoga" in the question above could easily be replaced with "lifting weights," "static stretching," "weighted balls," "Chinese food," "owning your own business," or "curling in the squat rack."
Lifting weights is generally great. Deadlifting with a rounded back isn't. Doing 150 sets of pull-ups as fast as possible probably isn't going to make your shoulders and elbows happy. Overhead pressing two weeks after you had a rotator cuff repair isn't a good idea.
Static stretching can be of huge benefit if you've got muscles that are legitimately short. If you're an individual with crazy congenital laxity on top of ten-years of gymnastics, then static stretching will probably chew up your joints really quickly.
Weighted balls have worked wonders for some of my athletes, particularly those who have already built a great foundation of velocity with long tossing and optimization of on-the-mound mechanics. For others, they're premature and inappropriate.
I like water chestnuts, but not mushrooms. I guess the jury is out on whether Chinese food is good or not in my book, huh? I never met General Tso, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Owning my own business is fantastic. I get a lot of autonomy, set my own schedule, and have my name on a t-shirt. I also get a lot of hours and the last paycheck of the month - for whatever is left over.
Curling in the squat rack is the most annoying thing in the world if you are the guy waiting to squat. If you're the guy curling, though, it's a great way to impress your frat buddies. If looking like a complete tool is your goal, there is no better way to do it.
Where am I going with all this? Yoga isn't good or bad. Some lifts aren't appropriate for some people. Static stretching can help or hurt. There is good and bad Chinese food, depending on the person and restaurant. Owning a business has its perks and drawbacks; it isn't for everyone. There are no absolutes. Okay, maybe there is just one: curling in the squat rack is always dumb, but I digress...
One of my primary goals in writing over the past eight years has been to empower folks with knowledge. in fact, it was the entire premise behind Mike Robertson and my Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set; rather than simply handing people fish and telling them it's good for them, we tried to teach people how to fish.
"Dumbing things down" can certainly be valuable when dealing with clients (particularly those with no injuries). However, as fitness and strength and conditioning professionals, it's important to not do the same with our own education. You can't dumb something down until you've fully understood it.
That, I feel, is where the industry has gone a bit astray. Resistance training research really didn't even start up until the 1980s; there is still a ton we have to learn. And, to be honest, there is much better information coming out of experimentation in the trenches than there is in any research lab out there. There are new methods to be discovered, and old methods that can better be leveraged in (or removed from) certain scenarios.
In short, this is a very dynamic field. If things just keep getting dumbed down to "good and bad" and "just do this," though, then we're really selling ourselves short.
Or maybe I don't know anything. I guess it depends on who you ask.
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Today, we've got the first ever Cressey Performance Intern Hazing Poll. Here's how it works....
Posted below are three videos of our interns getting dominated by a delightful assortment of torturous exercises. We really didn't expect them to look good doing this, but hey, that's the whole point, right? Anyway, you, the readers of EricCressey.com get to rank the interns from 1 to 3 (1=first place, 2=second place, 3=third place) based on the following criteria:
1. Artistic Mastery
2. Fashion (nice shoes, Roger)
3. Proximity to Vomiting
4. Time to Completion
5. Number of breaks in action
6. Inferiority to Mike Roncarati, the most diesel CP intern of all time, who could eat these kiddies for breakfast (way to be, Mike!)
7. Inspiration (someone out there was having a bad day until they watched these videos and realized that things could have been a lot worse).
Voting will be closed Monday night, June 15th at midnight. The winner really won't receive anything, but futility is really the name of the game anyway. Oh, feel free to suggest some torture for next Thursday for these guys.
Without further ado, the candidates:
Candidate #1: Phil "The Thrill" Gauthier
EC Commentary: He plays the grunting card nicely. Good speed...compared with a 12-year-old girl's performance on this medley. Push-up technique was probably the best of the bunch, although I don't think it's going to get him any Cirque Du Soleil tryouts.
Candidate #2: Alex Nash "and Burn"
EC Commentary: Admittedly, I was stretching out one of our pitchers while he was doing this, so I'm shooting from the hip on his on-camera presence rather than relying on my experience on Thursday. Eyewitnesses reported that he demonstrated the worst push-ups in CP history. I would have liked to see a jog back to the sled after finishing the overhead keg lunges, too. I will give him some credit for not losing his breakfast, as the omelet and oatmeal was flying after pushing the sled last week.
Candidate #3: Roger "Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun" Lawson
(Note: Roger took so long that the first camera's battery died, and we had to rush to grab a second digital camera in the office. There was a good two minutes of grunting, sweating, and weird spasm-like movement during this brief hiatus)
EC Commentary: Roger certainly took the grunting to a whole new level; in fact, was he crying at one point? I think I actually heard him blurt out, "My mother didn't love me, and I never learned to read!" I can't be sure, though. I'll give him some style points for managing to get caught in the batting cage net like a tuna; that was graceful. He also earned some drama points for the repeated collapses on the keg lunges, not to mention an artistic mastery bonus with the swift sniper roll during the sled-to-keg transition.
So what do you think, world? Cast your votes as replies to this blog, ranking these guys from 1 to 3 (1 being the best). And, don't forget to suggest some torture for Installment 3.
If you asked my fiancee (or anyone who knows me well, for that matter), she would tell you that I work all the time. If I'm not training athletes, I'm training myself, reading research, or writing programs or articles about training. My life pretty much revolves around it - and I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is challenging to get to everything.
To be very honest with you, I'd probably make more money if I just stayed home and wrote articles and books all day. It's a direction quite a few folks in this industry have taken, in fact. You'd be surprised at how many well-known internet personalities in the exercise world don't see athletes anymore; they just stay home and write about what life would be like if they actually did train people. Or, they talk about what they used to do when they worked with folks, or what they've seen in the research of late.
Now, I'm all for research. And, given my articles, books, and DVDs, I'm all for sharing knowledge that I've gained. However, I'm a huge believer that you can't add to the body of knowledge unless you are out in the trenches working with people. You'd be surprised at how many researchers and writers could never get results in the real world. Why? Because people - attitudes, emotions, individual differences, etc. - get in the way.
This is why I have so much respect for those who are "in the trenches" and derive a significant portion of their income from in-person training. I enjoy articles, blogs, seminars, and products from guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, Mike Reinold, Jim Smith, Brijesh Patel, Nick Tumminello, and dozens others because these are all guys who are in the real world working to help people. Unlike those who just write, they are constantly getting feedback from clients/athletes on what works and what doesn't; theories don't go untested. If I was a consumer, I'd actually go out of my way to make sure the person writing a book or article was actually seeing clients/athletes before purchasing it.
A few years ago, I never would have even thought to make this promise, but the internet certainly changes things. And, that's why I'm promising today that I'll be training athletes for a long time, and the day I stop training athletes is the day that I stop writing and speaking about training, too.
I've written previously about the many flexibility deficits we see in baseball players (particularly pitchers). One of the biggest issues we face is a loss of elbow extension range-of-motion. This adaptive change most likely occurs because of the insane amounts of eccentric muscle action required to decelerate the 2,500 degrees/second of elbow extension that occurs during pitching. You'll find some serious shortness/tissue restrictions in biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis, and all the rest of the muscles acting at the elbow and wrist.
Unfortunately, it's not an area you can really work on with the foam roller or baseball, as it's in a tough spot. For that reason, we prefer using The Stick - and hold it in place with the j-hooks in a power rack. Here is how it works when rolling out the anterior forearm musculature (this same technique can be utilized on the elbow flexors):
Follow that up with some longer duration holds of this stretch, and you'll get that elbow extension back in no time.
For the entire Cressey Performance foam roller series, click HERE.
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used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Risk-Reward in Training Athletes and Clients
This week, approximately 1,500 players will be drafted in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. Historically, a whopping 2-3% of these players will ever actually make it to the big leagues. In fact, only about 2/3 of all first-round draft picks - seemingly the most qualified candidates - ever make it to the major leagues.
For this reason, many have labeled competing in the professional baseball ranks a "War of Attrition." High-round picks get preferentially escorted through the minor leagues, while a lot of the late-round picks fight for their positions in the minors - especially since they know a brand new class of 40-50 draft picks and a bunch of free agent signees will line up to take their jobs each year. Along the way, loads of guys incur career-ending injuries.
Here, we come to several decisions in how to train athletes.
First, all athletes have unique movement inefficiencies, so we screen these issues and address them individually. Nothing remarkable there.
Second, some athletes have bigger contracts, so you have to be more conservative with their programming. Sure, they might get benefits out of more aggressive programming, but it also increases the likelihood that you'll mess up an athlete with multi-million dollar contracts in his immediate future.
Take, for instance, Cressey Performance athlete Shawn Haviland. Shawn was drafted out of Harvard by the Oakland A's in the 33rd Round of the 2008 Draft after being named Ivy League Pitcher of the Year. As Shawn himself has said, he "would have signed for a plane ticket to Arizona." In other words, he didn't get an $8 million signing bonus; he's a very low-risk investment. Life goes on for his organization if he doesn't work out because they can just draft another 50 guys the following year. After all, he's just another 6-0 right-hander in the system - a dime a dozen, if you will.
This is the exact conversation Shawn and I had last October when we first met up. He'd been 86-88mph on the radar gun most of last year, and that really isn't going to earn you a long stay in professional baseball. So, we decided to be more aggressive with his off-season programming than we would with someone who'd just become a first-round pick.
All off-season, he lifted, sprinted, accumulated 80-120 medicine ball throws three times a week, did some extreme long-toss, threw the weighted balls around, and consistently worked on his flexibility and tissue quality. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says: a) we shouldn't long toss more than 120 feet, b) weighted balls are the devil, c) only distance running and steady-state cardio will "build leg strength" in pitchers, d) lifting will ruin flexibility, and e) medicine ball throwing will cause oblique strains (yes, I've really heard that one). However, it worked.
Now, seven months later, Shawn was just named a Midwest League All-Star. He is consistently 91-94mph and has completely changed his body. In short, he took a chance, worked his butt off, and got better.
Shawn's program wasn't "unsafe;" it was just "less conservative." It was at a different point on the continuum on which every strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer works on a daily basis. This program was obviously different than what I'd do with, say, a 40-year-old marathon runner, but it's also different than I'd do with a first-round pick with Shawn's exact build, competitive demands, and inefficiencies. And, if I had a pitcher with those exact same characteristics and an extensive injury history, we'd be even more conservative. Otherwise, the risk: reward would be completely out of whack.
Often, in our industry, we get far too caught up in numbers - whether it's the weight one lifts or his/her body fat percentage. In reality, I look at what I do as a means to an end. People train with us first and foremost to stay healthy, whether they're pitching in the professional baseball ranks or just carrying their kids around. What you do in the gym should improve quality of life first and foremost, and any activity that carries a high likelihood of injury is very rarely worth the risk.
Why pick up a stone - which demands compression and lumbar flexion - when you're not a strongman competitor and could just as easily do a more controlled trap bar deadlift?
Why behind-the-neck overhead press - which puts the shoulder at one of its most at-risk position - when you've already had four shoulder surgeries and still have hunchback posture?
When it really comes down to it, you have to fit the program to the athlete, and not the athlete to the program. For more information, a few resources I'd recommend:
1. My article, 6 Mistakes: Fitting Round Pegs into Square Holes
2. The Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set
3. The 2008 Indianapolis Performance Enhancement DVD Set
4. For those of you interested in a bit of what we did with Shawn, check out this Athlete Profile on him.
New Article at T-Nation
For those who missed it, Part 3 of my "Lower Back Savers" series was posted at T-Nation last week. You can check it out HERE (and be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them in previous weeks).
New Blog ContentRandom Friday ThoughtsBogus Workouts and the Official Blog of...Building Vibrant Health: Part 2Friday Night Journals
Have a great week!
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used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
If you're an intern here at Cressey Performance, it's not enough to just get smarter, become a better coach, and refine your vacuuming prowess. You have to get diesel, too.
This summer's crop of interns began to learn that the hard way last Thursday when their introductory challenge, the 16x16 sled relay, was proposed to them. Lucky for them, we only used three plates (instead of four). Also lucky for them, they were assisted by Alex Hill, an 17-year-old Cressey Performance athlete (and recent Wayland High School graduate) with about 1.5 years of training experience with us under his belt. As you'll see, he crushes them.
In watching this video, you'll realize:
a) Interns do not know how to turn a sled without flipping it over. Just imagine them trying to parallel park their cars.
b) They went out of order. And, they stopped early - and then realized that there was more to do. Poor, confused souls.
c) They struggle with double-knotting their shoelaces.
d) They got dominated by a high school athlete (oops...already said that)
e) Several of the intern trips resembled this dude:
f) The sleeve monster attacked two of them prior to this challenge.
g) Roger's last trip was painful - quite possibly as painful to watch as this.
This Thursday, we'll be teaching them about the birds and the bees, and then crushing them with something else. These boys will be diesel by the end of the summer if it's the last thing we do.
In place of our normal "Random Friday Thoughts" blog, I just wanted to use today as an announcement of something I think is really cool, convenient, and forward-thinking.
Anthony Renna has done a great job with the Strength Coach Podcasts, and now he's taken it a step further with the introduction of the Strength and Conditioning Webinars. As the name implies, a webinar is a seminar done on the web. So, you view a speaker's Powerpoint presentation while he does the voice-over on it.
It's super-convenient for presenters because we don't have to travel anywhere to give it, and we can deliver it while in our boxer shorts and beat-up old t-shirts. And, it's convenient for the audience for that exact same reason, but also because it's a bit of a lower price point (no facility rental fees to cover) and because it's convenient as heck. You can watch it at your convenience and don't have to be there "live" - and you can rewind to listen to it again if there is something that doesn't quite make sense.
Essentially, Anthony has addressed a lot of the shortcomings of traditional seminars - yet still brings together a bunch of great minds. Thus far, he's recorded webinars with Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Tim Vagen, and Tim Yuhas. In the future, you'll see folks like Gray Cook, Mike Robertson, Mike Reinold, Lee Burton, me, and a whole bunch of other super-talented and smart strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists, aned athletic trainers.
If you look around, most webinars are going for $25-30 each. Conversely, Anthony is only charging $29.99/month for a membership to StrengthandConditioningWebinars.com. It's even cheaper if you pay up front for the year!
Even better, if you sign up before Monday, June 8, you can get an unbelievable deal- only $19.99 a month for as long as you are a member, or again, even cheaper if you sign up for the whole year- only $199.
You'll get two webinars a month guaranteed from the world's top coaches, bonus webinars, and access to presenter forums, all for $19.99 a month.
This is seriously a great deal and it is truly a one-time offer. After June 8, the price goes up.
So go to StrengthandConditioningWebinars.com, sign up for the Special Pre-Launch Offer before June 8 and start watching webinars right away.