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Written on July 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’ve got a cool opportunity for you for tomorrow (Saturday) morning.  I’ll be presenting at the International Youth Conditioning Association Summit at 11AM EST, and it turns out that there will be a LIVE video feed of my presentation.  So, even though you might not be here in Louisville with me, you’ll still be able to be a part of the event (and even take advantage of a great sale on Optimal Shoulder Performance at the end of my talk).  Simply head to the following website tomorrow morning, and you’ll be able to watch live:

Additionally, there will be a few other presenters after me that will be shown live as well, so don’t miss out on this awesome (and free) opportunity.  My apologies for the late notice, but I just learned of it today myself!

Here’s that link again:

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Tim Collins Featured on

Written on July 29, 2011 at 11:34 am, by Eric Cressey

Cressey Performance athlete and Kansas City Royals pitcher Tim Collins was featured in an article yesterday on, in light of his Fenway Park debut.

They talk a bit about his training at Cressey Performance as well.  You can check it out at the link below:

Kansas City Royals Lefty Tim Collins Coming Up Big Despite Small Stature

Also, keep an eye on my blog for a sweet announcement about an awesome free opportunity to watch me speak live on Saturday.

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Youth Strength and Conditioning Programs: “He’s a Big, Strong Kid.”

Written on July 27, 2011 at 8:25 am, by Eric Cressey

Recently, while discussing one particular athlete we encountered at Cressey Performance, my staff members and I got on the topic of how it's more of a challenge to train bigger (taller and heavier) young athletes than it is to work with smaller guys.  Interestingly, the challenges come less from the actual physical issues they present and more from the social expectations that surround their size. Here are seven reasons why I cringe when I hear parents say "he's a big, strong kid" when describing their children on the phone.

1. Bigger kids are often forced into sports and positions that may impede their long-term development – When you're the heavy kid, you're automatically pushed toward football and put on the line.  If you're playing baseball, it's first base or catcher.  If it's basketball, you're the power forward.  You get the picture – and similar "pushes" are made on tall kids to play basketball or volleyball.  The problem is that in most cases, these sport and positional "predispositions" put bigger kids in situations where they don't develop in a broad sense because there simply isn't enough variety.

2. Bigger kids usually start weight-training on their own – This point relates closely to point #1.  Unfortunately, when you're already labeled as the next star offensive lineman or power forward and you can already push your buddies around, chances are that you learned to lift with Dad in the basement, from a misinformed football coach, or be screwing around with your buddies.  I would much rather have a completely untrained 16-year-old start up with me than be presented with a 16-year-old with years of poor strength and conditioning programs and coaching under his belt.  This is true regardless of body type, but especially problematic in bigger kids for reasons I outline below.

3. "Strong" has different meanings – Sports require a combination of absolute and relative strength.  Strength is also highly specific to the range of motion (ROM) in which one trains. There is also a difference between concentric and eccentric strength.

What do most big young athletes do when left on their own?  Focus heavily on absolute strength (train what they're good at) through small ROMs (rather than fight their bodies) with concentric-heavy workloads (because pushing a blocking/tackling sled is sexier than a properly executed lunge).

I can count on one hand the number of teenage athletes who were called "big and strong" who have actually showed up on their first day and demonstrated any appreciable level of strength in any context – let alone usable strength that will help them in athletic endeavors.  Usually, we wind up seeing a sloppy 135-pound bench press with the elbows flared, legs kicking, bar bouncing off the chest…in a kid who can't do a push-up.

And this is where the problem arises: kids who have always been told they were strong don't like coming to the realization that they really aren't strong.  We don't have to directly tell them, either; taking them through basic strength exercises with proper form will reveal a lot.  And, there is typically an example of a smaller athlete like this kicking around not too far away.

The kids who check their egos at the door will thrive.  A lot might never come back until they're injured from poor body control or riding the pine because it turns out that their "strengths" really weren't that strong.

4. Bones grow faster than muscles and tendons – In young athletes who haven't gone through the adolescent growth spurt, you often don't have to do any additional static stretching, as a dynamic warm-up and strength training program through a full ROM can cover all their mobility needs.  Unfortunately, when kids grow quickly, the bones lengthen much faster than the muscles and tendons do, so we run into situations where bigger kids have truly short (not just stiff) tissues.  Effectively, this adds one more competing demand for their time and attention – and it's the worst kind to add, as most kids hate to stretch.

5. Being bigger changes one's stabilization strategy –  As I described in great detail in The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, the taller one is, the further the center of gravity is away from the base of support.  As such, taller kids are inherently more unstable than shorter kids – although this can be partially remedied by gaining muscle mass in the lower body to lower the COG and learning to "play lower" in appropriate situations.

Not surprisingly, though, being heavier – particularly with respect to having a belly – can dramatically change one's stability as well.  Carrying belly fat shifts the center of gravity forward – which is why individuals with this "keg" instead of a six-pack appear more lordotic (excessively arched at the lower back).  Compensations for this occur all along the kinetic chain, but the two things I'd highlight the most are:

a. An increased need for anterior core strength – As evidenced by the high incidence of spondylolysis (lumbar spine fractures) and how badly most kids perform on basic prone bridging and rollout challenges, the inability to resist lumbar hyperextension (and excessive rotation) is a serious problem.  The bigger the belly, the more extended the lumbar spine will be.  Just ask any pregnant woman how her back feels during the last trimester.

b. Substitution of lumbar (hyper)extension for hip extension – You'll see a lot of big-bellied kids who can't fully extend their hip and instead just arch their back to get to where they need to be.  This is a problem on multiple fronts.  First, the hip extensors are far stronger and more powerful than the lumbar extensors, so performance is severely impaired.  Second, there are huge injury implications both chronically (lumbar stress fractures, hip capsule irritation) and acutely (strained rectus femoris or hamstrings).

Simply dropping some body fat and improving anterior core strength is a huge game-changer for many overweight athletes.  It's not always the answer they want to hear.

6. Bigger kids usually have less work capacity – I've never been a guy who jumped on the work capacity bandwagon, as I feel that it's very activity-specific.  However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to observe that the more body fat one carries, the more work he'll do oxygenating useless tissue, and the less oxygen he'll get to working muscles.  More importantly, though, try doing your next training session with a 60-pound weight vest on and see what it does to your work capacity.

The lower the work capacity, the less quality work one can accomplish in a strength and conditioning program.  Gains simply don't come as quickly on the strength and fitness side of things – even if body fat is pouring off heavier athletes.  In other words, they've actually sacrificed one window of adaptation (athletic development) in order to make another one (fat loss) larger.

7. I speculate that bigger athletes have an increased prevalence of "subclinical" musculoskeletal pathologies/deviations from normalcy – I've written in the past about how many athletes are just waiting to reach threshold because their MRIs and x-rays look terrible – even if they are completely asymptomatic.  You can see this just about anywhere in the body; most basketball players are just waiting for patellar tendinosis to kick in, and many football lineman are teetering on the brink of a lumbar stress fracture or spondylolisthesis (or both).

The heavier one is – especially in the presence of insufficient relative strength, as noted above – the more pounding one will place on the passive restraints such as the meniscus, intervertebral discs, and labrum.  A bigger belly and the resulting lordosis will drive more anterior pelvic tilt, femoral/tibial internal rotation, and pronation.  How would you like to be the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon in this situation?

Tall athletes tend to slouch more because they have to look down at all their peers.  Get more kyphotic, add some scapular winging, and see what happens to the rotator cuff, labrum, and biceps tendon over time.

There are countless examples along these lines.  And, to make matters worse, obese individuals are more likely to have inaccurate diagnostic imaging.  In an interview I did with radiologist Dr. Jason Hodges, he commented:

By far, the biggest limitation [to diagnostic imaging] is obesity. All of the imaging modalities are limited by it, mostly for technical reasons. An ultrasound beam can only penetrate so far into the soft tissues. X-rays and CT scans are degraded by scattered radiation, which leads to a higher radiation dose and grainy images. Also, the time it takes to do the study increases, which gives a higher incidence of motion blur.


I want to be very clear; I love dealing with bigger kids just like I do all my other athletes.  We don't lock them in a closet with celery sticks and an exercise bike; we work them hard, but make training fun and support them fully in their quest to fulfill their athletic potential.  Having been an overweight teenage athlete myself, I know that weight management in young athletes is a hugely sensitive subject that must be approached with extreme care.

I also know, however, that in my overweight years, I would have much rather been worked hard like the other athletes and given the opportunity to choose my sport and position of interest rather than pigeonholed into one specific avenue because of my build.  That's where the "big, strong kid" label really concerns me and makes me want to plan out my strategy – both in terms of the physiological and social approach to training – very carefully.

For more information on how we train young athletes, I'd encourage you to check out the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification, which I co-authored.  It's on sale for $100 off this through this Friday at midnight.

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Healthy Food Options: Cashew-Crusted Chicken…Yum!

Written on July 26, 2011 at 9:45 am, by Eric Cressey

My wife cooked up some cashew-crusted chicken the other night, and it was spectacular.

These suckers were almost as good as the chicken fingers recipe I posted a few months ago – and serve as yet another example of how awesome Dave Ruel’s Metabolic Cooking is.  If you haven’t picked up a copy already, do so; you won’t regret it!

Click here to check out my full review of the product and see a bunch of other stuff we’ve cooked from this great resource.


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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/25/11

Written on July 25, 2011 at 6:57 am, by Eric Cressey

Here are some recommended reads from the strength and conditioning world to kick off your week:

Supine Sagittal Stability and the T-L Junction – This is an outstanding blog post from Charlie Weingroff on the important role that the thoracolumbar junction plays not only in early childhood development, but also the acquisition of pathology later on in life.

The New Rules of Strength Training – I got a kick out of this article from Bret Contreras.  There’s quite a bit of humor,  but with a bunch of valuable lessons at the end of the piece.

Is Saturated Fat Really the Dietary Boogeyman? – Brian St. Pierre presents a great case for why saturated fat isn’t as evil as it’s always been made out to be.

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Cybernetic Periodization: Modifying Strength Training Programs on the Fly

Written on July 22, 2011 at 7:53 am, by Eric Cressey

As I noted in my post earlier this week, I’m doing the Superhero Workout for a nice little change of pace in my training program – and simply because it’s nice to be able to outsource my training here and there to other qualified fitness professionals.

Yesterday’s strength training program included ten sets of three reps on a wide stance squat, and it was all going smoothly until the seventh set, when I started to get a little tight in my right adductor.  It wasn’t too bad, but I’m a firm believer in “better safe than sorry,” so I cut back on the weight by 50 pounds, narrowed my stance, and finished my last three sets with no problem at all.

Sure, I deviated from the program, but I completed the session just fine, and have zero issues in the adductor today.  I avoided taking an unnecessary risk that could have become a setback in my training, and as a result, I’ll be continuing with the program as-is today.

It got me to thinking about this question for my readers: what would you have done in this situation?  It’s a tough – and confusing – decision.

Would you have done what I did?  Would you have simply dropped the weight and tried another set with a wide stance?  Would you have canned the final sets and reps and moved on to the next strength exercise pairing? Would you have just pushed through it?  Or, would you just have taken your ball and gone home altogether?

The answers to these questions – whether they are correct or not – parallel something called cybernetic periodization.  I first came across the topic when Mel Siff wrote about it in Supertraining as he referred to programs not always taking “into account the athlete’s subjective perception of the intensity and overall effects of the loading.”  Siff went on to say that with cybernetic periodization, “the original preplanned periodisation scheme is regularly modified by subjective and objective feedback obtained from the lifter’s current performance state.”

Traditionally, at least from what I have read, cybernetic periodization has referred almost strictly to load, volume, and training frequency.  However, the question I pose today is: why can’t it also refer to exercise selection?

As an example, I’ve switched folks from conventional deadlifts to trap bar deadlifts or sumo deadlifts when they just couldn’t find their groove on the conventional version.  And, some people can do feet-elevated push-ups when regular push-ups hurt.  Exercise selection absolutely matters as much as any other strength training program variable.

I’m a firm believer that there is always something folks can do in a gym to get better, regardless of their injury or state of mind.  Folks may be wildy excited to train, but have physical limitations that need to be taken into account on the fly in the context of exercise selection.  To that end, I think it’s important to know what to watch for in this regard if you’re trying to determine whether you should change a day’s training program:

1. Is there a performance drop from previous weeks?

2. Do warm-up sets feel heavier than normal?

3. Do you find that you’re having a hard time getting warmed-up?

4. Did you get poor sleep quality the night before?

5. Do you have unusual tightness, or something you’d term an injury?

These are all questions you can ask yourself on the fly in your strength training program to determine whether you need to change things up.  The modification may be an exercise substitution or reduction in volume or intensity.  Regardless of the change, it’s extremely rare that the answer is to push through it, as it’s your body’s way of telling you something is wrong – and the correct cybernetic periodization approach is the way to “get things right.”

On a related note, the early-bird special price on the Superhero Workout ends Saturday at midnight.  Head HERE for more information.

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The Little Black Book of Fitness Business Success

Written on July 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today, I’m going to be short and to the point on a blog to which I could legitimately devote 10,000 words.

If you own a fitness business, you owe it to your self to purchase this book from Pat Rigsby.

Pat sent me an advanced copy last week, and I read the entire thing cover to cover without stopping.  I view this as a resource that could improve our fitness business in so many different capacities that I immediately made it mandatory reading for our entire staff in preparation for our next meeting.  We’re going to go through it page-by-page and discuss how we can improve the way that Cressey Performance is run.

I don’t make a penny for recommending this book.  In fact, Pat doesn’t earn a dime on the sale, either; all the proceeds go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

And, while Pat is a great friend and this is a fantastic cause, I still wouldn’t recommend The Little Black Book of Fitness Business Success unless it was top-notch reading.  Frankly, though, it’s the most kick-ass book I’ve read on the topic.

You see, success in training clients is all about finding windows of adaptation and addressing them.  As an example, some people need more mobility work, while others need to get strong above all else.  As I’ve learned, fitness business success is similar; you have to find the windows of opportunity.  Pat outlines dozens of these opportunities in his book.

At $19.95, you can’t lose – especially when you consider that it’s tax deductible as a continuing education expense investment for those in the fitness industry, and there are some cool video bonuses for those who order today.

Check it out HERE.

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Superhero Workout Review: Small Hinges Swing Big Doors

Written on July 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm, by Eric Cressey

I was reading a book Sunday afternoon, and this sentence really caught my attention:

“Small hinges swing big doors.”

Certainly, this is wildly applicable to just about every aspect of life, but particularly to strength and conditioning programs and nutritional approaches.

All too often, folks think that they need to overhaul what they’re doing because they’re stuck in a rut.  They switch from traditional sets and reps to high-intensity training, go on some fad diet, drop $200 at the supplement store on herbs they can’t pronounce, and buy a pair of “toning” shoes.   In short, instead of using the small hinge, they kick down the damn door.  The end results?

1. a thinner wallet (always)

2. continued poor results (almost always)

3. positive results (rarely), but with no idea which of the changes led to these outcomes

The longer I’m at it, the more I realize that long-term success in strength and conditioning programs is all about understanding how to change the hinges: finding the little things that make the big difference.  Maybe it’s a reduction in training volume or intensity to keep someone from burning out, or switching to a reverse lunge instead of a forward lunge to avoid knee pain.

Case in point, John Romaniello and Matt McGorry recently sent me an advanced copy of their new Superhero Program, so we decided that we’d make it the staff lift at Cressey Performnace, as it looks really solid.  Plus, we’re super busy at CP right now, so it’s nice to be able to “outsource” our own training for the time being.  We aren’t overhauling our diets or supplementation regimens, nor are we introducing a ton of new exercises; in fact, most of the exercises in the program are ones we do on a regular basis at CP (although many will be novel to others).

The program is, however, changing some of the hinges on our doors, particularly in the context of challenging set/rep/tempo protocols and novel fluctuation of training stress from phase-to-phase.  The only things that changed were, in fact, written on a piece of paper – but they got big doors in motion.

There was great energy in the facility today because the guys were excited to try something new.  And, there was more camaraderie among our staff because guys were coaching each other through things and shouting encouragement as we were all “feeling out” the new program.

And, judging from the soreness that’s slowly setting in as I write this roughly 10 hours after the first training session of the program, it’s going to be a fun, challenging, and productive few months on a great program.  No overhaul needed – because small hinges swing big doors.

The next time you find yourself looking to shuffle things up, remember that unless you’re a true beginner doing everything incorrectly, you usually don’t need to change a lot.  Rather, you pick and choose your modifications – or look to a resource like the Superhero program that has the important components in place, but perhaps in a light you hadn’t considered them before.

Click here for more information on Romaniello and McGorry’s Superhero e-book.

*For the record, I’ve never read a comic book, nor do I have any interest in Superhero movies.  Roman and McGorry are geeks, but the program’s sound.

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Tuesday is a Great Day to Get Strong.

Written on July 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’ve got no time for a blog today, but a little live action from CP should do the trick.  Big shout-out to AJ Wnukowski for bringing the A game.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/11

Written on July 18, 2011 at 5:37 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s time to kick off the week with some recommended reading:

Meet the Real John Berardi – Dr. John Berardi is a guy I really admire for the way he’s built up a successful business (Precision Nutrition) and large following the right way: with fantastic information and and awesome “way” of getting through to people.  As I read this, it makes me appreciate that I could learn a lot from the good doctor on managing my personal time effectively, too!

Men’s Health: Coffee and Alzheimer’s Disease – I stumbled onto this Men’s Health blog by accident, but was very intrigued.  My grandfather passed away last fall after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, and he absolutely loved coffee.  In the past, I’ve read stories about how the body seems to know how to self-medicate, and reading this blog about the association between coffee consumption and reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms makes me wonder if Gramp knew something we didn’t.

Two Red Sox Prospects and Former Ivy League Rivals Find Common Ground – This ESPN Boston story features Cressey Performance athlete Matt Kramer, who has made the switch from catching to pitching in the middle of his pro career.

Last, but certainly not least, don’t miss out on Everything Elbow, the staff in-service I filmed last week.

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