Home 2013 April

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 41 (Posture Edition)

Thanks to Greg Robins, here are five tips for the week, with a focus on postural awareness.

1. Monitor head positioning during supine bridge and hip thrust variations.

2. Consider this routine to taking your breath before lifts.

Breathing is a big part of postural awareness.  Check out this video for ensuring that you're locking things in correctly before big lifts:

3-5. Avoid parafunctional habits.

The following three points will be based on a common theme: “Parafunctional Habits.”

A parafunctional habit is a habitual movement, or positioning that differs from the most common, or ideal movement and / or positioning of the body. It can also be a habitual positioning or movement of the body that’s continuous exposure (repetitive practice of) leads to certain asymmetries or dysfunctions.

When I think about how to attack posture changes both with my clients and myself, I look for the most efficient ways to change daily habits. In other words, I look at how we can disrupt parafunctional habits.

“Posture is a composite of the positions of the positions of all the joints of the body at any given moment. If a position is habitual, there will be a correlation between alignment and muscle test findings.” – Florence Kendall (Adapted from PRI’s Postural Respiration)

Many of us tend to default to the same habitual movements and positions. Here are three examples, and three quick fixes. Making a point to apply these corrections will have a tremendously positive outcome in helping you "feel and move better.”

3. Don’t stand on the same leg all the time.

For a variety of reasons, many of us will tend to shift onto one leg when standing in place for a period of time. Our body is always looking for the most efficient way to “survive.” Shifting onto one leg is any easy way to gain passive stability, via our positioning.

Many of us will tend to shift onto the right leg. Why? In short, it’s easier for us to pull air into our left side, in light of the normal structural asymmetries you see with human anatomy. Breathing is kind of important. It’s also not fun to rob ourselves of air. Enter the “right stance," an aberrant posture you'll see all too often.

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Start paying attention to how you stand at rest. Additionally, look around and notice how others stand at rest. I bet it looks a lot like the picture above. This is something we see on extreme levels in some of our right-handed throwing athletes; they're right handed people, in a unilateral sport, in a right-handed world!

Now, let’s make a change. For now on, use the picture below as a guide for how to stand when you shift onto one leg. Place the right leg in front of the left, and shift your weight into the left hip. If you are doing it correctly, your left hip will sit just below the right. Give it a try!

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4. Cross your right leg over the left, and cross your right arm over your left.

In a similar fashion to your default standing position, those who tend to cross their legs will generally go left over right. Why? Same reason: it’s easier to sit into the right hip, and breathe into the left side. Instead, start doing the opposite. From now on cross the right over the left, and feel the left hip dig into your seat.

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Do the same with your arms. Instead of crossing left over right, cross right over left. Close down the left side, and open up the right.

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5. Change the way you sit while driving.

Driving is a GREAT place to work on positioning. Notice that your default is to slump over to the right side, opening the left leg and possibly resting it against the door. Instead, try this:

As you sit reading this, pretend like you’re in your car. First, even up your thighs and feet. Keep a space about the size of your fist between your two knees. At this point, your knees and feet should be even, or you might find the right slightly behind the left. Move the right foot into a position as if it was working the gas and brake pedal. You should look like this:

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Now, pull your left hip back and push your right hip forward. This will leave the left knee behind the right.

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You will notice the upper, inner thigh of your left leg “turning on.” Reach for the steering wheel with both hands. Consider this your new driving position. If you tend to drive with one arm, start making it your right arm. Leave the left arm hanging down to the side, causing a slight side bend to the left.

All of these positions will seem uncomfortable at first. That’s okay! Use them as much as possible, but allow yourself to just “chill” sometimes. Making these small changes is a fantastic way to better your posture and change your habits. Working on them will pay off in the long run, and you may even find your nagging aches and pains disappearing.

For more information on these postural approaches, check out www.PosturalRestoration.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/29/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

9 Reasons Pitching Velocity Increases Over the Course of a Season - One of the big stories of the first month of the MLB season is that Justin Verlander's velocity is down. It's to be expected, given that he he started his off-season throwing program later in light of the heavy workload during last year's season and playoffs.  Still, it's good to know why some pitchers see their velocity go up during the season.

Not Your Average B.S. Core Training - Ben Bruno offers some great new core stability exercises you can incorporate in your strength training programs.

The Sagittal Plane Still Matters - Here's a great piece from Mike Robertson that'll teach you a ton about the knee, including a discussion of the "Should you train the VMO?" question.

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Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling J-Band Ys

For this installment of the exercise of the week, I've got an option that's great for general fitness folks and throwing athletes alike:

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2013 Project: Guinea Pigs Needed!

Spoiler alert: I have a new project in the works.

In fact, the entire program is already written, and a few lifters have already taken it for a test-drive with excellent results. However, I need to get my sample size up to ensure that results are "typically extraordinary."

In other words, I need some guinea pigs to put this program to the test!

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Before I get an absurd numbers of email applications, here are a few things that “qualify” you:

1. You must be healthy – or at least very close to it! Some aches and pain in the past aren’t a big deal, but we aren’t going to be taking on anyone who is currently dealing with any injuries.  This isn't a rehab program.

2. You must be at least 18 years of age, with at least one year of resistance training experience.

3. You must have access to a reasonably well-equipped gym that is at least equivalent to a commercial gym set-up. Those who train at home are welcome to apply only if they have access to a cable column at home.

4. You would ideally have purchased Assess & Correct already.

5. You need to be able to train for four uninterrupted months for a minimum of three times each week.

6. You must be willing to take before/after pictures plus some performance tests.

7. Both men and women are welcome to “apply.”

8. You must have $199 to devote to this, because it is going to be a ton of work on our end to give you tech support for four months! That’s only about $50/month for full-on programming and tech support – which is markedly lower than my online consulting rates. And, you'll get a free copy of the product when it is released.

9. This isn't a program for baseball players; sorry!

10. I'd love to have a wide variety of people: folks who sit at desks all day, those or stand a lot, competitive athletes, weekend warriors, you name it.

If you’re interested, please drop me an email at cresseyproject@gmail.com with your name, age, and a brief background on your training history by April 30. I’ll only be accepting 20 guinea pigs for this project, and all decisions will be made by May 1. Those who are selected will be notified on May 2, with the program beginning shortly thereafter.

You won’t receive notification unless you’re selected, so please don’t take it personally if I don’t reply to your email; I’m just trying to save myself some extra work!

Thanks!

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College Baseball: Is Summer Ball Worth It?

The words "baseball" and "summer" have traditionally been virtually synonymous.  While the phrase "The Boys of Summer" initially referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers, it's now a term that is applied to all baseball players.  If you play baseball, you do so in the summer; that's just how it's always been.

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However, as you may have noticed, the game has changed dramatically since the Brooklyn Dodgers took the field.  Arm injury rates are sky-high at all levels of baseball. Average fastball velocities are at all-time high, too. Pitchers don't just throw fastball/curveball/change-up anymore; we're also seeing cutters, sliders, and splitters now.  And, perhaps most significantly, baseball players are specializing in this one sport alone earlier and earlier - meaning they're showing up to college with more accumulated wear and tear on their bodies, even if that wear and tear is only a blip on a MRI or x-ray, as opposed to actual symptoms.

These factors all build to the question: is it time for a paradigm shift with respect to the baseball calendar?

Both professional and high school baseball players align well with respect to high school ball, as neither of them play fall baseball. The minor league season runs March-September, with the big league season extended by a few weeks on both ends.  The high school season generally begins in February/March (with warm weather high school teams starting in January) and wraps up in August. The college season, however, is an incredible challenge.  Why?  I think this email I received last year from a well respected college pitching coach sums it up their unique scheduling challenges extremely well.

College training schedules and NCAA limitations make it very hard to develop kids properly:

-We have roughly 6 weeks of fall practice – team building, evaluation, some scrimmage

-After that, we have roughly 6-7 more weeks of training time before Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are limited to 2 hours of skill instruction per week: hardly enough time to make good adjustments.

-A 4-week break for Christmas – usually training takes a back seat to holidays, travel, and general laziness.

-We have a 2-week period once school starts to get back into the flow, followed by a 4 week period of practice before 1st game. Biggest goal here is to build a pitch count/base.

-We play 4-5 games per week from February to hopefully June

-Summer ball, for those who need it: this is where it would be great to take time off, get back into the weight room, skill building. BUT, it costs money for summer school AND the NCAA does not allow us to work with our players (skill-wise) during summer school. Plus, we are usually out working hard on recruiting.

Essentially, I am saying that the rules and demands of HS, college, and pro ball are all quite different, yet coaches at each level strive to develop their players. It’s hard to know, based on the unique qualities of each level, what is right and wrong [in terms of time off from throwing].

If it is complete shutdown, then let’s use a hypothetical situation. If I have a pitcher for 4 years and give him 3 months off from throwing per year, I have lost 1 full year of developing his pitching. That seems like a lot of time off…

Here, we realize the challenges that college pitching coaches and their pitchers face:

When does a college pitcher get time off? 

The fall is a crucial developmental period for all pitchers, but particularly for incoming freshmen.  Most of these freshmen pitchers are coming off "career" highs in innings from their senior years (and subsequent summer ball, in many cases).  This is one of many reasons that you see so many schools encouraging freshmen to arrive early; it's not just so that they can take summer courses, but also so that they can't get overused in summer leagues.  With the premier prospects who are drafted, there used to be incentive to pitch in the summer to "raise their price tag," but with Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement moving the signing deadline up to approximately July 15 (from August 15) and players signing much more quickly as a result, there really isn't much benefit to playing summer ball, if you're an incoming freshman stud. 

This is a particularly important decision to make, as many freshmen struggle during fall ball.  I've had lengthy conversations with two of the best college pitching coaches in the country about how they absolutely expect all their freshmen pitchers to see significant velocity drops during the fall.  They're adjusting to the increased throwing workload, as well as life on a new campus and a more rigorous academic challenge.  Effectively, they take a step back in order to take two steps forward when the winter/spring rolls around.  It's important that freshmen show up to campus expecting this drop-off, so it helps to show up fresh rather than dragging before the challenges begin.

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What about the summers between freshman/sophomore, sophomore/junior, and junior/senior years, though?  I think it goes without saying that there are a number of factors that must be considered:

1. How many innings did a pitcher throw during the spring?

Tyler Beede has been a Cressey Sports Performance athlete since his early high school years, and one of the many reasons he was a first-round draft pick our of high school in 2011 was the fact that he'd never thrown more than 80 innings in a year.  He didn't sign, but instead went to Vanderbilt. In his first season there, Tyler threw 71.2 innings - but he also put in a lot of work in the fall season to prepare for that season.  He long tossed, threw bullpens, and worked on a curveball at a time of year when he would have normally been playing football or just training. This was "necessary volume" that helped him develop as a pitcher, but it also dictated that some innings probably ought to be subtracted off the tail end of his competitive year, so he opted not to play at the Cape.

Instead, he put in a great summer of training at CSP, gaining 18 pounds of good weight and lots of usable strength. He started his fall throwing program in mid-August and had a great velocity jump during fall ball. He went on to be a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award in 2013, dropping his ERA by over two runs as compared to the previous year. There are a ton of factors that contributed to these improvements - fantastic pitching coaches, unique throwing programs, an additional year of experience in the SEC, adjustments to living on campus, etc - but the work he put in during the summer of 2012 was definitely a big contributing factor.

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Had Tyler sat on the bench for most of the spring season of 2012, though, he would have been a great fit for summer ball, as the spring season would have effectively constituted "time off."  Everyone is different.

2. What is the development potential at the summer ball option?

This is the big white elephant in the room that no college coaches will ever talk about publicly.  While there are some outstanding opportunities to improve at summer baseball options, there are also a lot of places that are just a field and a bunch of players and coaches.  In other words, players sometimes don't exactly thrive. One prominent pitching coach told me last spring, "Summer ball is getting less and less developmental every year. We're sending guys out for it less and less."

Think about it: you have a combination of new coaches, new (host) families, new geographic regions, new teammates, and long bus rides.  There are rarely athletic trainers on hand for games, and only a select few teams carry strength and conditioning coaches. Even still, players may want to execute their strength and conditioning programs, but have no gym access in a remote geographic region where they don't have their own transportation.  Roughly half of their meals will be pre-game PB&J sandwiches and post-game pizza while on the bus. In short, I'd argue that it's a lot easier for things to go wrong than it is for them to go right.

What's actually somewhat comical is that most college coaches will tell recruits who are drafted that they'll develop better in a college program than they would in minor league baseball if they decide to sign. Yet, that previous paragraph essentially describes minor league baseball to a T, and players are sent in that direction all the time!

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Long story short, if you're going to ship off to play in a league and location unfamiliar to you, you and your coach better do your homework. All that said, please don't take the preceding paragraphs as a gross stereotype; there are a lot of fantastic summer ball coaches and experiences out there.  You just have to find them and make sure they're in the right system and matched up to the right kids if you're going to call it a great developmental option.

3. What is a player's risk tolerance?

Mark Appel was selected eighth overall in the 2012 draft, but opted to return to Stanford for his senior season.  While he'd played summer ball after his freshman and sophomore seasons, Appel opted not to after his junior year. Why not? His risk tolerance changed.  He only threw 69 innings as a freshman in 2010 and needed to pitch in the summer that followed to continue to improve. In 2011, he got more innings, but also needed to demonstrate he could be effective against the best college hitters in the country that summer to improve his draft stock.  Once you've already been a top 10 overall pick and the NCBWA National Pitcher of the Year, though, there isn't much more to prove in the college game, so summer ball would pose an unnecessary risk. It worked out well, as Mark went on to be the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Obviously, this is a unique case, as very few throwers will reach this level of success.  However, it is a great perspective from which we can appreciate it's not always appropriate to just "ride the horse that got you here." Baseball development is an exception.  Summer ball might be a great option for a pitcher with a clean injury history, but not someone with a partial ulnar collateral ligament injury in his recent history. A lot of smart baseball people believe you only have a certain number of pitches in your arm, so you should use them wisely.

4. What are a player's long-term aspirations with baseball: experience or outcome?

Not everyone is going to be a Mark Appel or Tyler Beede.  In other words, college baseball may be the end of organized, non-beer-league baseball for a lot of pitchers.  In these cases, summer ball is about having fun and enjoying the game before you run out of time to do so. I'm all for it for these individuals. One has to decide whether it's about experience (having fun playing summer ball) or outcome (becoming a better player).  These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, though.

5. Does a player need to pitch or throw?

Some pitchers need in-game pitching experience to develop, while others simply need to build up arm speed.  There is a big difference.  The former dictates the summer ball is likely a necessity, while the latter can be accomplished via a number of different means.  Building arm speed might be a function of long toss, weighted balls, or just taking time off from throwing to build up strength, power, and mobility.

6. Does a player have adequate size and strength?

Taking the summer off from baseball is becoming an increasingly population option for players who are undersized or weak, but more polished on the baseball skill side of things.  If you're bigger and stronger, you can withstand a longer season. If you're not, you need to work to address your biggest window of adaptation.  More and more coaches seem to be moving in this direction in recent years, as we have dozens of players who move for the summer just to train at one of our Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and the numbers grow considerably each year.

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7. What's a player's mental state at the end of the college season?

It might surprise some of you to hear that regardless of talent level, most college and professional players are essentially sick of baseball by the time the last few weeks of the season roll around (assuming they aren't in a playoff scenario). You never want a player to burn out on baseball, so college players need to ask themselves whether they'd rather be on buses in the middle of nowhere in mid-July with their arms dragging, or at home with their families and friends, training and possibly even pursuing an internship. What seems like a great idea in May often winds up being a miserable reality two months later. It all depends on the player and his frame of reference.

Increasing Your Options

In their book, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Heath discuss how we often make bad decisions because we try to turn each one we encounter into "this OR that."  Instead, they argue, we should be trying to determine how to have "this AND that." I think this same logic can be applied to summer baseball.

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Coaches and players can dramatically improve the likelihood of a summer ball experience being productive by making players are placed on teams where they can thrive.  There needs to be good coaching and access to gyms to keep training during the summer season. And, they need to monitor innings and pitch counts, and educate players on staying out of trouble and on task.  Showing up in the fall unprepared is not an option.  And, just as importantly, it may mean these players need to start a bit more slowly with fall ball after taking the month of August off from throwing.

Players can also play a portion of the season, or opt to find a league where they might only pitch 3-4 innings once a week.  The rest of the week can be planned around training to prepare for the fall season.  This is a very popular option among those players who have moved to train at Cressey Sports Performance during the summer, as both our facilities are located near multiple summer baseball leagues in which pitchers can get innings. The days are free for training, and all the games are at night; it's a great developmental set-up.

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Players might also opt to simply take the summer off altogether, giving themselves two months off from late May or early June (depending on post-season play) through the middle of August.  They'd then start a throwing program to be ready for the start of fall ball, effectively making their "throwing year" September-May/June.  The summer months would effectively be an off-season devoted to strength and conditioning that would prepare them for the 8-10 months of throwing that would follow.  This option affords two significant, but often overlooked benefits:

a. The overwhelming majority of throwing would be done with the college pitching coach, so players wouldn't be as likely to learn bad habits in the summer while on their own.

b. The most intensive strength and conditioning work would take place when a pitcher isn't throwing.  This would ensure that mobility, rotator cuff strength, and scapular control would improve as fast as possible.  Improving in these three regards is generally always going to be at odds with throwing.

This final option seems to have some statistical backing, too.  Of the college first round draft picks (including supplemental rounds) from 2010-2012, only 68% (50/73) played summer ball (typically Cape Cod League or Team USA) in the previous summer.*  And, I suspect that we may have even had some players who would have been first rounders, but slipped in the draft after an injury that may have been exacerbated during summer ball. Conversely, I'm sure there are guys (particularly hitters) who helped their draft stocks by playing summer ball the year before they were draft eligible, as well as ones who benefited greatly from playing in previous years.  There is no one right way to approach the decision, and deciding to play likely affords greater benefits to hitters than pitchers.

We really don't know the answers, but these numbers certainly lead us to wondering if we've been asking the right questions. The big one is clearly, "If you're already throwing from September through June, is there really much to gain from continuing to throw in July and August?"  When I hear it phrased that way, the answer is a big fat "NO," but I also realize that not all throwing during that September-June window is created equal.

Wrap-up

Managing the college pitcher is one of the more challenging responsibilities in the baseball world, as the competitive season is a series of hills and valleys in the life of a student athlete.  Additionally, there are numerous NCAA regulations and traditions to keep in mind.  As examples, Cape Cod League Baseball might be the single-best example of what baseball really should be like, and many players have always dreamed of playing for Team USA in the summertime.  So, we have decisions that must be made on not just physiological factors, but also emotional ones as well. 

The truth is that I've seen players make dramatic improvements via each of these three proposed avenues, and I've seen them select these courses of actions based on a number of factors, from burnout, to injuries, to family issues, to academic endeavors. 

This article proposed some answers, but more importantly, I hope it introduced some questions that need to be asked to arrive at the right answers for each player.

*A big thanks to CSP intern Rob Sutton for helping to pull together these numbers for me

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The New CresseyPerformance.com

Just wanted to offer a quick heads-up that we just updated the website for Cressey Performance. If you're interested in checking it out, you can do so HERE.

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We'd love to hear your feedback; thanks!

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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 6

It's been a while since I published a new installment in my "Coaching Cues" series, so here are three new ones you can put into action.

1. "Imagine I have a rope around your waist and pull it back."

It goes without saying that teaching a proper hip hinge is essential to get the correct posterior weight shift we need for good deadlifting and squatting patterns.  Unfortunately, it can sometimes be much easier said than done, as lifters with poor kinesthetic awareness and body control might not even know what it feels like.  Take, for instance, this example from my 15 Static Stretching Mistakes article; he has so much congenital laxity (loose joints) that he can perform an "extreme" toe touch without any posterior weight shift.

Just because he can do it doesn't mean that he should do it, though. Just saying "sit back" or "hips back" doesn't always correct this, though. I've spoken about the "touch your butt to an imaginary wall behind you" external focus cue here, but I also like the idea of telling folks to pretend like I'm tugging them backward with a rope, as this fits the correction into a scenario with which they're familiar.

2. "Ribs down, scaps up."

We work with a lot of athletes who have a heavily extended posture, and their overhead movements often look like this:

Essentially, they will substitute lumbar extension (arched lower back) in place of keeping a stable core so that the scapula (and, in turn, humerus) can move appropriately with respect to the rib cage.  Most of these athletes lack scapular upward rotation, so we need to help them to get the scapula moving a bit while keeping the ribs down.  Here's a great exercise for which this cue would be appropriate:

In other words, you can use this cue with your core stability exercises and shoulder mobility drills in this population. Keep in mind, though, that this cue probably won't be appropriate for folks who sit at desks all day and are really kyphotic.

3. "Push yourself away from the bar."

One of the biggest bench press technique problems you'll see is that folks lose their "tightness" at the top of the rep by protracting the shoulder blades too much.  This sets you up for problems - both in terms of shoulder health and strength - on sets with more than one rep. 

With that in mind, one of the easiest ways to coach folks out of this bench press technique problem is to think about pushing themselves away from the bar, as opposed to pushing the bar away from them. It gets them into the "ground yourself" frame of mind and ensures that the upper back is a stable platform from which to press. It's not uncommon at all to see larger than normal dropoffs from 1-rep max loads to what you see on multiple-rep sets, and I firmly believe it's because a lot of lifters lose their tightness on the subsequent reps.  So, if you find that you can bench 315 for one rep, but only 265 for three reps, this cue could very well be a solution for you.

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Today’s Sale: All Proceeds Go to the One Fund Boston

It's been a rough week up here in Boston, as I'm sure you all know. For those of you around the country and world that would like to help, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have announced the formation of The One Fund Boston to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston last week.

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Additionally, Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots has offered to match donations to The One Fund Boston, up to $100,000, if donated through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. This is a fantastic opportunity to double any donation you may want to consider giving.

Mike Reinold and I have decided to offer both Optimal Shoulder Performance and Functional Stability Training for the Core for 33% off today only, with all proceeds going to the One Fund Boston. This is the lowest price we have ever offered on both resources.

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For more information go to either www.FunctionalStability.com or www.ShoulderPerformance.com. Be sure to enter coupon BOSTONSTRONG during the checkout process to get 33% off. We will donate all proceeds from today’s purchases.  We'll be donating through the Patriots Charitable Foundation, so your purchase should go even further.

If you would also like to donate directly, head to the The One Fund Boston or click here to double your donation by having the Kraft Family match your contribution through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Thanks for helping to support our great city!

 bostsky

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 40

Today, Greg Robins has five more tips to help you get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs on track.

1. Clean up your unilateral deadlift technique.

If there is one exercise that I see butchered on a daily basis, it’s the 1-arm, 1-leg RDL. Furthermore, it makes coaches look like they are speaking French when they try to get people to do it right. It’s a great exercise, but here are the issues:

• It’s used right away in the majority of popular programs as the staple of unilateral hip hinging.
• It’s there because it’s difficult to hurt yourself doing, mainly due to the lack of weight in an effort to maintain some semblance of balance. Therefore, people just assume that over time people will figure it out and get better.

Just because doing it incorrectly with 5lbs is “safe” doesn’t mean it’s that productive; especially if you still can’t get the form right. It’s a hard exercise that I feel has somehow got the reputation of something easy.

Instead of getting frustrated, try doing the exercise to a dead stop every rep. You can use a KB, or elevate a DB on some mats. Allow yourself to reset every rep, just like a normal deadlift. Having two points of contact, albeit for just a moment, is enough to keep you in check.

2. If you’re stuck, evaluate your approach.

“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum." -Bruce Lee

There are three types of people in the gym. The first is a group of people who don’t know a thing about training philosophy. The second is a group who know enough to understand what’s important and what’s not. The third is a group who knows just enough to completely twist up their training.

The majority of you are in the third group. The other two groups are the minority. The majority is making little progress. The minority is continually improving. If this was graph here’s what it would look like:

Progress

 

If you are making good progress, keep going. If you are stalling, you may be somewhere in the middle of my chart. In this case, really evaluate your training approach. Somewhere along the way you may have begun to acquire just the right amount of exercise variations, percentage schemes, and who knows what else to halt your progress.

At this point, do two things:

One, ask “why?” Why does jumping help, why does speed work help, why this and why that? You can’t go back to group one, so you have to try and get to group 2. This means you take something you read, and you look at where that person gets their information. When you do that, you might find that jumps aren’t doing what you thought they did, either is speed work, or that new exercise with all the bells and whistles.

Second, get back the secret of group 1. When you are in the gym, shut down your analytical side. Work hard, have fun, and trust your gut.

3. Utilize benches for better push-up regression/progression.

4. Do more complexes.

Maybe it’s me, but complexes are not talked about or used nearly enough. They had a stint three years ago or so where they were all the rage, but are slowly becoming worthy of a spotlight on VH1’s “Where Are They Now.”

I can assure you they are not hung over, face down in a pillow like 70% of the other people on that show. Instead, they are alive and well and deserve a spot in your training.

A complex is any series of exercises, done in sequence, with the same weight, preferably without putting the weight down.

Why I like them:

• Limited equipment
• Time efficient
• Helps groove form on major lifts
• Time Under Tension
• Doesn’t involve running
• Sucks in just the right way
• Tension, again

Things to remember:

• They are taxing. I prefer to see them used at the end of a training session.
• If used on off days, I prefer to see them done at a conservative intensity OR done all out if you are not lifting the next day. For example, if you take the weekend off lifting, Saturday would be a good spot to hit complexes.

Here are two of my favorites:

Barbell:

Barbell RDL x 6-10
Barbell Row x 6-10
Barbell Squat and Press x 6-10
Barbell Reverse Lunge w/ Front Squat Grip x 6-10/leg

Kettlebell:

Double KB Swing x 5–8
Double KB Clean x 5–8
Double KB Press x 5–8
Double KB Front Squat x 5-8

5. Consider another variation of the "plyo push-up."

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/18/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Training Mentorship - My in-service this month talked a lot about the business of fitness and how we developed our baseball niche.  I also uploaded a few articles and exercise demonstrations to complement the contributions from the rest of the ETM crew.  If you aren't checking this great resource out yet, do so!

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Fascinating Facts About Sleep - This was a fantastic piece by TC Luoma at T-Nation about the importance of sleep - and you'll definitely learn something.

Foam Rolling and Increased Joint ROM - This was a study summary from Patrick Ward.  It's a great read for those who are skeptical of the benefits of foam rolling.

Also, in light of this week's tragedy in Boston, I'd call this a must-view video.  It's the moment of silence, video tribute, and national anthem from before the first Boston Bruins game after the event.

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