Every Wednesday morning at Cressey Sports Performance, we have a staff in-service. It's an awesome chance for our staff and interns to exchange ideas, introduce new topics, standardize coaching cues, and explain strength and conditioning program design strategies. Yesterday, I presented on the elbow - and we decided to video it, as not all our staff members could be there.
Not to toot my own horn, but it came out really well. The elbow is right in my "wheelhouse," so when I get going on it, things seem to just roll off my tongue. The end result was a 32-minute in-service where I didn't use any notes, but covered everything from functional anatomy, to injuries, to injury mechanisms, to strength training program modifications. There are valuable lessons for both those in the baseball world as well as those who don't have any interest in baseball. With that in mind, I decided to put it up for sale today, as I feel strongly that the elbow is a topic that doesn't receive a lot of attention in spite of its importance.
When I woke up this morning, it seemed just like any other Wednesday morning.
I didn't even realize that it had been four years since July 13, 2007: the day we opened the doors at Cressey Performance. I would have blown right through today if my business partner, Pete, hadn't reminded me of July 13's significance when I came in to the office today.
On our first anniversary in 2008, I was absolutely swamped, as we'd just moved into a larger facility. I was 100% aware of the significance of the day, but literally didn't have time to enjoy it.
On the second anniversary, things had settled down a bit, and I wrote up a blog to celebrate the day: The Two Year Mark.
Last year, on the third anniversary, I went "all in" and wrote up this bad boy: Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way.
This year, I celebrating by simply forgetting.
Is this my first "over 30" moment, or is there something to be said for the fact that I forgot?
This has been, unarguably, our best year on a variety of fronts. Some highlights:
Tim Collins - one of our first pro guys and longest tenured clients - went to the big leagues this year. The same goes for guys like Cory Gearrin, Steve Cishek, and Trystan Magnuson. We also saw more professional athletes (and clients overall) than any other year before.
Tyler Beede - also a long-time Cressey Performer - was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft...and we celebrated in my living room.
Tyler was one of 12 players with CP ties taken in this year's draft.
Over 30 CP athletes in the Class of 2011 signed letters of intent to play Division 1 baseball.
We expanded our staff to include some great people who complemented our existing skill sets and program offerings nicely.
We added about 1,000 square feet more office space and polished up our look with some new paint and more framed/autographed jerseys on the walls. I even got my own office - which is shared with our new mascot, Tank, of course:
Most importantly, though, we continued to have an absolute blast each and every day we came to "work" - and that, to me, is what it's all about. We made new friends and further developed already-existing friendships. The CP family grew, and we offered a service to people that helped them get to where they wanted to be.
You'll notice I didn't mention financial gain - and the reason is pretty simple; I view it as secondary. It's the destination, and I'm a lot more concerned about the process. Cultivate relationships, deliver a quality service, and genuinely care, and the money will take care of itself. Before the business gurus out there start crapping on me, I'll add that our business has grown by more than 30% over the past year in spite of the fact that I usually forget that I'm supposed to receive a paycheck at month's end. Pete just surprises me with it.
Don't get me wrong; you need effective business systems to make things work. If you're an organizational disaster and can't make your rent, it's going to be pretty hard to put on a happy face and make someone's day with your smile. However, the overwhelming majority of "savvy business decisions" are actually a combination of common sense, courtesy, and a genuine desire to help someone.
Most of the people that ask us business questions want to know how much we charge, how much our rent is, how we schedule, what our hours are, who painted Tony's t-shirt on him, what our start-up costs were, and why we don't use electronic funds transfer (EFT). What they should be asking us:
1. How do you remember so many people's names?
2. How can you possibly know everyone's health history who walks through your door?
3. How do you write individual strength and conditioning programs for everyone?
4. What do you do to build relationships?
5. How do you find time to get to so many baseball games?
6. How do you do to educate and retain staff?
7. How is it that all of your clients seem to be friends with each other? (As a little aside to this point, Tim Collins was at the facility the past two days while home for the all-star break, and he greeted every person who walked through the office door. He even answered the phone for us twice. That's big-league customer service.)
There are some brilliant business consultants out there. Pat Rigsby and Alwyn Cosgrove, for instance, are super bright guys and great friends who have helped loads of fitness professionals increase their incomes and improve their quality of life. They are also the first guys to tell you that if you don't know how to cultivate relationships and treat people right, then you're studying for the wrong test by looking for the perfect business plan.
Spend more time focusing on the process, and worry less about the destination. Four years from now, you'll probably enjoy your "job" a lot more - both psychologically and monetarily - and have a lot more friends and experiences that make you smile each time you think of them. You'll probably even forget it's your business' anniversary!
Thank you, as always, to everyone for all your support.
As a mini-celebration of this day, I'll do a little promo: if you purchase a CP hat HERE before Friday (July 15) at midnight, I'll send along a video of a 37-minute staff in-service I did on shoulder assessment that's uploaded to the 'web.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
This past weekend, my wife and I headed down to Pennsylvania for some friends’ wedding. On Saturday morning, I awoke at 7AM to her standing next to my bed absolutely covered in sweat and wearing her workout clothes. As it turns out, knowing that the weekend would be full of not-so-healthy food and limited opportunities to exercise, Anna had taken the bull by the horns and hit up the hotel gym at 6AM to kick her day off right. It's no surprise, as she spends quite a bit of time at Cressey Performance.
That, in itself, isn’t a particularly riveting story to kick off today’s blog – until I discovered that the only thing this hotel gym had was an elliptical, recumbent bike, and treadmill. And, to take it a step further, Anna discovered that there was no power for any of them, meaning that they were essentially just places to rest her water bottle. What to do?
She could have said screw it and gone back to bed.
She could have woken me up and asked me to write her a body weight program.
She could have tried to run on the side of a busy road, or find a place to sprint in a town that wasn’t familiar to her.
Instead, though, she used the knowledge and experience she had to construct her own body weight training program. Anna’s an optometrist, not a trainer – but her skill set from asking questions, being in the right environment, and performing dozens of programs put her in a position to handle the curveballs life threw at her.
Coincidentally, a strength coach from the Cape Cod Summer League came up to observe at CP last week, and we got to talking about how you never quite have the continuity you want with training athletes because they go in-season for a big chunk of the year, and because you’re always working around competition and travel schedules. To that end, he asked me what the single biggest thing is that we focus on when we may only have someone for a short period of time. My answer?
“It’s the same thing we focus on when we have someone for a longer period of time: education. It’s our job to make athletes informed consumers who know how to listen to their body, adapt to their surroundings, eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, and do the correct programs regardless of what’s going on around them.”
You might think that your #1 job as a trainer is to strip 15 pounds of body fat off someone in two months. Or, maybe it’s to put four inches on a guy’s vertical jump prior to a scouting combine.
In reality, though, your #1 priority is to educate them so that they’re prepared for the days that they’re on their own.
Education needs to be different for everyone, though. A true beginner needs to be educated on everything from what to eat during/post-training to how to perform the actual exercises. If you teach a female client to have a protein and carb shake around a session in a weight training program, then chances are that she would eventually know to grab some Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit if a shake isn’t handy when she’s on the road. Or, if you teach a young baseball player how to do a dumbbell reverse lunge and a front squat, then he’ll be able to perform a barbell reverse lunge with a front squat grip someday when he needs a good single-leg exercise, but only has barbells at the exclusion of dumbbells.
A more advanced individual might want to know more about his/her unique muscle imbalances and what corrective mobility and stability drills to stay on top of to prevent problems from arising. Or, these folks might just want to make use of your network to find great gyms and manual therapists in other parts of the country so that they can stay on top of their workout routines while on the road.
Results are fantastic and obviously an absolutely essential part of a successful strength and conditioning program. However, if you aren’t educating folks along the way, then you’re not cultivating the long-term fitness success they really need, even if they don’t think to consider anything beyond short-term results.
What do you think are the most important things we absolutely have to teach our clients and athletes to ensure long-term success? And, what are the most overlooked things they need to learn to be successful over the long haul? Post your comments below!
Related PostsWhat a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Strength Training Program SuccessStrength and Conditioning Program Success: The Little Things MatterSign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
Here's a list of recommended strength and conditioning reads to kick off your week:
The Deadlift - This is an insanely thorough post from my buddy, Mike Robertson.
The State of the Fitness Industry - I really enjoyed this post from Pat Rigsby, who really has a great handle on what's up with our industry. While a lot of people think that the fitness industry as a whole is headed in the wrong direction, Pat does a great job here of highlighting the good things that are happening. Call it a bit of Monday morning optimism!
On a semi-related note, I should give you a heads-up that I'm actually collaborating with Mike and Pat on two projects that should be released within the next month. I think you'll all really enjoy what we have in store for you!
EricCressey.com Baseball Specific Newsletter - A lot of people don't realize that I actually have two newsletters here at EricCressey.com. There's my main one, which most people know about (but if you don't, you can subscribe to it on the right hand side of this page). Additionally, there is a free baseball-specific newsletter that you won't get unless you subscribe to it separately from the main one; you can do so here (and you'll receive a free copy of the post-throwing stretches our baseball guys utilize):
Today, we've got a guest blog from Jim "Smitty" Smith.
I was speaking with Mike Robertson the other day about life and we started talking about our next career moves. He was contemplating a run with Chippendales after his idol, Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, made a comeback. And I was telling him about my idea to get on the Deadliest Catch show and live my dream of being a fisherman. Both ideas were great and we are continuing to take steps forward to achieve our dreams — a little bit every day.
After that 3 hour discussion, we started talking about bracing.
Just Like the Volume Dial
I was telling Mike how I was going through Charlie Weingroff’s Training=Rehab | Rehab=Training and I had some questions about how he defines or explains bracing. I, of course, understand bracing as a whole and teach it for our max efforts and loaded means, but Charlie introduced me to the idea of the importance of the "inner core". That is what I wanted to discuss with Mike. Charlie stated that the inner core must fire first, neurologically, to setup up the foundation for the more intense loading or more sophisticated movements — this is when the "outer core" should kick in.
Mike told me to imagine the volume dial on your stereo. He asked me on the volume scale, where wouldplanks come in? I stated "1", and smiled like I just stole something. He then asked, "Where would the dial be for max efforts squats?" I was catching on and said "10"! Duh WINNING!
But Charlie and Mike threw up a caution flag.
If we brace at "10" all the time (force and brace our abdomen outward, anterior and laterally to create tension or irradiation to buttress shear and stabilize the torso) , it could "shut down" the inner core and leave us susceptible to injury. This is especially true if the establishment of bracing is not preceded by diaphragmatic breathing. The long term inhibition of diaphragmatic breathing can affect a whole host of things like pelvic alignment => which can inhibit and shorten certain muscles groups (lower cross and upper cross syndromes) => create kyphosis and lordosis and much more. The ramifications will be seen up and down the kinetic chain.
Turning Up the Intensity
There is a time for "breathing over the brace" at the lower intensities and there is a time for serious tension — take max effort strength exercises. If you look in most commercial gyms today, you might think talking on the cell phone or getting a drink at the water fountain is a max effort lift, especially with all of the cinched up velcro belts popping off. In reality, we’re talking about heavy compound movements performed with loads upwards of 80% + 1RM. These components of your strength training program require serious intramuscular and intermuscular coordination and full body engagement to remain injury free, stable and strong throughout the full execution of the lift. Also many times you’ll see novice, and sometimes experienced, lifters start the movement with a good brace, but lose it during the decent or accent. It is definitely a skill to keep "the brace" the whole time you are under load. Verbal and physical cues can be used to drill this technique. Training with an injury or other compensations will also directly impact your ability to keep the brace throughout.
Bracing for Max Attempts
If you talk to any elite powerlifter, bracing for max efforts involves not only keeping the tension (sequenced isometric contractions on the primary / synergistic / antagonistic muscle groups) but also holding your air. The air is taken (breathing through the belly) and held, and the abdominals are pressed outward forcibly. If you are pressing out against a stationary object (i.e. the belt) it will further secure the brace and improve torso rigidity. This is volume level "10". As you can see this is much different than the bracing required for a plank. Also remember, heavy bracing is not limited to just max effort attempts. Any high intensity movements could require sequenced bracing, if only for an instant.
The Ah-Ha Stuff
During simple, basic movements we should drill and become proficient at simply creating tension (bracing level "1") across the entire kinetic chain and "breathing over the brace" (Weingroff) through active diaphragmatic breathing. This will help to engage intra-abdominal pressure and lay the foundation for all of our movements. And as we progress, more intense bracing can allow for heavier loads and more powerful movements to be introduced safely.
It was very enlightening for me to understand how breathing incorrectly could have just as much of an impact on posture, strength and performance as injuries, immobility, instability, high volume | short ROM movements or even too much load with poorly performed exercises.
All this talk of volume has got me reaching for my glow sticks. Off to battle with Tony Gentilcore!
Jim Smith "Smitty" is the head strength and conditioning coach at Diesel Strength and Conditioning in Elmira, NY. Smitty has been called "one of the most innovative coaches in the industry" and has written for most major national fitness publications. He is also a featured writer for LIVESTRONG.com and on the EliteFTS Q/A staff. Check out some killer FREE gifts and his site at dieselsc.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
When it comes to corrective exercise programs, everyone simply wants to know "what" is and isn't included - and rightfully so. Picking the right strength exercises and mobility drills - and contraindicating others - is absolutely crucial to making sure you get folks to where they want to be.
However, very rarely will you hear anyone specifically discuss the "when" in these scenarios, and as I'll demonstrate in today's piece, it's likely just as crucial to get this aspect correct.
To begin to illustrate my point, I'm going to reuse a quote from an article I wrote a few weeks ago, Correcting Bad Posture: Are Deadlifts Enough?, on the Law of Repetitive Motion :
Consider the law of repetitive motion, where “I” is injury to the tissues, “N” is the number of repetitions, “F” is the force of each repetition as a percentage of maximal strength, “A” is the amplitude (range of motion) of each repetition, and “R” is rest. To reduce injury to tissues (which negative postural adaptations can be considered), you have to work on each of the five factors in this equation.
You perform soft tissue work – whether it’s foam rolling or targeted manual therapy – on the excessively short or stiff tissues (I). You reduce the number of repetitions (length of time in poor posture: R), and in certain cases, you may work to strengthen an injured tissue (reduce F). You incorporate mobility drills (increase A) and avoid bad postures (increase R).
What I failed to mention a few weeks ago, though, was that the sequencing of these corrective modalities must be perfect in order to optimize the training/corrective effect and avoid exacerbating symptoms. Case in point, we recently had a client come to us as a last resort with chronic shoulder issues, as he was hoping to avoid surgery. Physical therapy had made no difference for him (aside from shrinking his wallet with co-pays), and following that poor outcome, he'd had a similar result with soft tissue treatments twice a week for six weeks. In a single four-week program, we had him back to playing golf pain free. What was the difference?
In the first physical therapy experience, he'd been given a bunch of traditional rotator cuff and scapular stabilization exercises. There had been absolutely no focus on soft tissue work or targeted mobility drills to get the ball rolling. In other words, all he did was improve stability within the range of motion he already had. In the equation above, all he really worked on was reducing the "F" by getting a bit stronger.
In his soft tissue treatment experiences, he felt a bit better walking out of the office, but ran into a world of hurt when his provider encouraged him to "just do triceps pressdowns and lat pulldowns" for strength training. In other words, this practitioner worked on reducing "I" and increasing "A," but totally missed the boat with respect to enhancing strength (reducing "F") and increasing rest ("R") because of the inappropriate follow-up strength exercise prescription. Doh!
What did we do differently to get him to where he needed to be? For starters, he saw Dr. Nate Tiplady, a manual therapist at CP, twice a week for combination Graston Technique and Active Release treatments (reducing "I") at the start of his training sessions. He followed that up with a specific manual stretching, positional breathing, and mobility exercise warm-up program (increase "A") that was designed uniquely for him. Then, he performed strength training to establish stability (decrease "F") within the new ranges of motion (ROM) attained without reproducing his symptoms (decreasing "N" and increasing "R).
The sequencing was key, as we couldn't have done some of the strength exercises we used if we hadn't first gotten the soft tissue work and improved his ROM. He may have had valuable inclusions in his previous rehabilitation efforts, but he never had them at the same time, in the correct sequence.
This thought process actually closely parallels a corrective exercise approach Charlie Weingroff put out there much more succinctly in his Rehab = Training, Training = Rehab DVD set:
Get Long. Get Strong. Train Hard.
Keep in mind that there are loads of different ways that you can "get long." You might use soft tissue work (Active Release, Graston Technique, Traditional Massage, etc.), positional breathing (Postural Respiration Institute), mobility drills (Assess and Correct), manual stretching, or any of a host of other approaches (Mulligan, DNS, Maitland, McKenzie, etc). You use whatever you are comfortable using within your scope of practice.
When it's time to "get strong," you can do so via several schools of thought as well - but the important thing is that the strength exercises you choose don't provoke any symptoms.
It's interesting to note that this corrective exercise approach actually parallels what we do with our everyday strength and conditioning programs at Cressey Performance - and what I put forth in Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better. We foam roll, do mobility warm-ups, and then get cracking on strength and stability within these "acutely" optimized ranges of motion to make them more permanent.
I hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend. I'm a bit behind on things in light of the holiday festivities, so we're going to kick this week off with a list of recommended strength and conditioning reading for the week:
Preventing Lower Back Pain: Assuming is Okay - This post of mine discusses why what you see on a spine MRI doesn't always depict exactly what's going on.
When the Hips and Core Call BS on the Foot - I enjoyed this post from Charlie Weingroff, who continues to kick out quality information on a regular basis.
Pick Your Deadlifting Poison - This is a good blog from Mike Robertson on picking your assistance exercises based on where you miss your deadlifts.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!