Home 2013 August

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/31/13

It's a bit belated in light of my traveling schedule, but here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Research Review: Older and Inflamed? Try Exercise - This was a thorough, yet understandable review of some recent research on inflammation as it relates to exercise, courtesy of the good folks at Precision Nutrition.

Training Speed to Get Strong - I wrote this article for T-Nation just over two years ago, and the information is still very on-point and important for intermediate to advanced lifters to understand.  I just didn't want it to slip into internet obscurity, so I'm bumping it up here.

Giving up the PED Guessing Game - This was one of the absolute best perspectives on the performance enhancing drugs debate, as it was written by Gabe Kapler, a former player who has been very outspoken in discussing why he decided to stay clean throughout his career. I think it's a particular good perspective because Kapler also managed in the minor leagues and mentored a lot of younger players - and because he was a heavy fitness and nutrition enthusiast himself.

I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 50

Today marks the 50th installment of this series; not too shabby! We want to quickly say thank you to everyone who has been following along. We have received plenty of messages, and many an in-person “thank yous” for the information passed along; we really appreciate your support. With that in mind, we (Greg and Eric) have decided to collaborate on this “momentous” 50th installment to make it extra memorable.  Enjoy!

1. Consider doing more “core” work at the beginning of your training sessions.

Usually, we save direct, or less-indirect, core stability exercises for the latter portions of a strength training program. There is nothing wrong with this approach, and if you look at many of our programs at Cressey Performance, that’s still largely how we operate.

More recently, however, we are also including more of these core stability exercises early on. Here are a few scenarios where it makes sense:

The warm-up: Low-level core stability exercises should definitely be included in your warm-ups. They fit nicely into the theme of working from proximal to distal. In other words, you work at the trunk, thoracic spine, and pelvis before moving out to the extremities. Furthermore, hitting them early on will get athletes and clients “using” their core more appropriately before their training session.

With more hypermobile populations: These folks need to train for stability all the time. That training should be centered on the trunk first. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to include core stability exercises throughout their program, and expose them to those demands more times than just at the bottom end.   To determine how hypermobile a client is, run them through the Beighton Hypermobility Test, which Eric discussed recently here.

With people who lack anterior core strength: We see a lot of grossly extended individuals walk through our doors. These clients need more exposure to core stability type drills, as well as more repetition in feeling what correct positions are. With that in mind, they are another population that can benefit from core-based drills littered between their more typical upfront exercise selections.  Here are a few examples:

Additionally, keep in mind that just because an exercise doesn’t seem to be core-intensive at first doesn’t mean that you can’t make it that way.  As an example, this drill is largely geared toward improving length in the lats and long head of the triceps while improving thoracic spine extension, but the anterior core should be braced to maintain the lumbar spine in neutral.  At the bottom position, we cue the athlete to exhale fully to get some extra anterior core recruitment.

(For more details on anterior core training progressions, check out Eric’s presentation on the topic HERE)

2. Prevent compensation patterns when you clean up a movement.

Building on our discussion of anterior core control from point #1, athletes in extension will always find ways to shift their weight anteriorly, whether it’s via a heavily lordotic lumbar spine, anterior pelvic tilt, scapular depression, humeral anterior glide (elbows will often be behind the body at rest), forward head posture, or plantarflexion. 

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If you correct one, they’ll often try to go to one of the others to make up the difference.  A good example would be the forward head posture that might kick in when you correct an anterior pelvic tilt and excessive lordosis on the previously featured back-to-wall shoulder flexion.  As has often been said, the best athletes are the best compensators, so you need to make sure you don't let them just shift their postural dysfunction up or down a joint or two.

3. Use chia seeds in your shakes.

Chia seeds, in the opinion of many, are one of those super foods that are nearly impossible toeat. These little guys pack a ton of healthy fats, including a great amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), but they don’t taste so great out in the raw. However, they will make a welcomed addition to your smoothies. Along with boasting a very positive nutrient profile, chia seeds also become gelatinous when wet. That gelatinous consistency does wonders for your stomach, as well as for thickening up the consistency of your smoothie! Give them a try next time you're blending it up!

4. Improve your diet by planning ahead.

We have been big supporters of Precision Nutrition for many years now. Since the start, they have always placed a huge focus on meal planning. This habit is crucial to anyone’s success in developing better nutrition. The key word here is MEAL. Nobody likes to shop for macronutrients, or raw food items. However, that’s how many so called “healthy” people shop. A much better approach is to plan the week’s food intake based around a few recipes. From there, you can shop for the meals, not just for food.

Doing so will hold you accountable to actually cooking, and cooking tasty meals at that. This will help you develop a much better relationship with food. Additionally, as you continue to learn recipes and cook meals, you will have an arsenal of healthy eats in your pocket.

A little extra work up front will have a payoff down the road. As an action item, explore some recipes yourself, jot down a grocery list based off the ingredients and head to the grocery store this week with a plan! If you are looking for some good recipes, check out Metabolic Cooking, a great online cookbook full of delicious healthy food options.

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5. Have you kids take an active role in your nutritional approach.

To piggyback off my last point, I (Greg) recently learned a lesson from one of my online nutrition clients. One of our goals over the past few weeks was the inclusion of meal planning out of a cookbook. Each week, he has been using the recipes to make at least three meals per week. Slowly, he is amassing the experience to cook and shop for healthy meals with ease.

He described to me that his go-to process in selecting the meals is laying the cookbook out, and having his daughter select two recipes. When I heard this I was blown away! What an easy way to get kids involved with the process.

His daughter was excited to eat the meals she selected – and these were often meals that she normally wouldn’t touch if her parents made them without her help. I have interacted with many parents who struggle with eating healthy and feeding their kids. They lean on their kids’ distaste for the new healthier foods as an excuse to be lax in their own efforts. If you are one of these people, or just want a great way to get your kids involved in better nutrition, give this a try right away!

Wrap-up

If you enjoyed the first 50 installments of this series, we'd love your feedback in the comments section below.  Are there particular areas you'd like to see us touch upon with our weekly tips?  If so, please let us know!  Thanks for your continued support.

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Seminar Announcement: Seattle – October 26, 2013

I just wanted to give you a heads-up on one-day seminar with me in Seattle on October 26, 2013. We’ll be spending the day geeking out on shoulders, as the event will cover Shoulder Assessment, Corrective Exercise, and Programming.  The event will be geared toward personal trainers, rehabilitation specialists, and fitness enthusiasts alike.

 It will take place at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance in Renton from 9am-5pm. Here’s the agenda:

9:00AM-9:30AM – Inefficiency vs. Pathology (Lecture)
9:30AM-10:15AM – Understanding Common Shoulder Injuries and Conditions (Lecture)
10:15AM-10:30AM – Break
10:30AM-12:30PM – Upper Extremity Assessment (Lab)
12:30PM-1:30PM – Lunch
1:30PM-3:30PM – Upper Extremity Mobility/Activation Drills (Lab)
3:30PM-3:45PM – Break
3:45PM-4:45PM – Upper Extremity Strength and Conditioning Programming: What Really Is Appropriate? (Lecture)
4:45PM-5:00PM – Q&A to Wrap Up

The event is approved for 0.7 NSCA CEUs.

Sorry, this event is now SOLD OUT!

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Smart Things We Did With Starting a Fitness Business – Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I talked a lot about the financial portion of starting a training facility.  If you missed it, definitely give it a read before you move forward with this article, as this second installment won't mean much if you have no money when you start up!

With part 2, I'll focus more on the actual decisions we made with respect to planning our staff, business model, and actual gym space. We'll pick it up with point #4, as Part 1 included the first three.  What's funny about these points is that I can distinctly remember sitting down for dinner at Applebee's with my business partner, Pete, and discussing them.  We wrote our notes on a napkin.

4. We started small.

Cressey Sports Performance 1.0 could have been politely described as a dungeon.  This is actually the view on the second day.

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It was very rough on the eyes, so we had to put in a lot of renovations in the first few weeks to make it more aesthetically appealing.

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Still, in spite of what we invested on this side of things, it still wasn’t what I’d consider a showcase location. Rather, it was our "test facility."  We had to make sure that our business model was sustainable and profitable before writing checks our butts couldn't cash.  In other words, we made a good decision by starting small.

That first facility was only 3,300 square feet.  The rent and utilities were very reasonable, and it allowed us to get profitable quickly.  Just as importantly, it helped to give the perception of "busyness" that you want in order to create good energy in the gym.  Had we gone to 10,000 square feet right off the bat, we would have dug ourselves a much deeper hole – and I question whether we would have been able to establish a great training environment early on. Rather, it might have felt like a personal training studio – which doesn’t exactly get young athletes excited.  While we longed for a larger facility, we resisted the urge - and instead opted to satisfy our temptations by getting panoramic shots of our ~1,500 square foot weight room to make it seem really big to us.

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Only nine months later, we moved three miles east to CSP 2.0.  It was 6,600 square feet.

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Then, 18 months later, we knocked down a wall to bump it up to 7,600 square feet by taking on some new office space.

Finally, 2.5 years later, we essentially doubled our space again, going to our current 15,000+ square-foot space.

The other hidden benefit of gradually increasing your space is that you can get away with making facility design mistakes along the way, as you simply commit them to heart and then work them into your next expansion.  You don't get that luxury if you start at 25,000 square feet, especially since you're usually more worried about paying rent than managing the "flow" of the facility and optimizing the client experience.

The moral of the story is to start small and give yourself room to grow. This might mean you need to sign shorter-term leases to allow for these adjustments, or just seek out a building that you know has room into which you can expand.

5. We purchased equipment our clients needed, not just stuff we thought would be fun to have.

This is a basic lesson, but an important one nonetheless.  We all (hopefully) learn the difference between "need" and "want" at a young age.  However, the ability to make this differentiation often escapes fitness entrepreneurs when they plan their new facilities and are perusing equipment catalogs and websites.  Don't buy stuff you want to train yourself; buy stuff you need to train your clients.

Just like 25,000 square feet isn't necessary if you only have five clients, a $10,000 machine probably isn't necessary - especially right off the bat. You probably don't need a leg curl - let alone four different varieties of leg curls.  It's much easier to add items later than it is to have to continually look at (and pay off) an unnecessary piece of equipment you never use.

As an interesting frame of reference, in our last facility expansion, we added about 7,500 square feet, but only two pieces of equipment: an extra set of farmer's walk handles and a Prowler.  We just needed more space.

Remember that it's your expertise and the training culture and environment you create - not equipment bells and whistles - that brings people back.

6. We selected a sustainable niche.

I've written at length in the past about how we found and developed the baseball "niche" and expanded our business in this avenue.  One of the key points I made what that we made a point of picking a population segment that was sustainable.  You can't pick farmers in New York City and expect to thrive, nor would you be able to train surfers in Ohio.  There are cultural, geographical, scarcity, financial, and logistical factors one has to consider in making this specialization decision.

Our "niche" came about somewhat by accident, but our development of it was absolutely, positively no accident.  In fact, our approach to baseball training and growing our business in this regard is incredibly calculated.  Believe it or not, by popular demand, we added a one-hour business development presentation from my business partner, Pete Dupuis, as part of our Elite Baseball Mentorship - and he received insanely positive reviews.

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7. We complemented ourselves instead of replicating ourselves.

I've written about this in the past, so this will be brief. If you're going into business, don't just pick business partners and initial employees because they are "just like you."  Pick people whose skillsets complement yours.  If you don't, your entire staff is going to be standing around with hammers looking to smash nails when you really need a screwdriver. 

As a quick example, my goal on a daily basis is to do zero administrative business tasks; we have a business director and office manager who handle these responsibilities so that I can best leverage my strengths.

8. We established a good network.

Your network may consist of professionals to whom you refer clients (physical therapists, massage therapists, pitching and hitting instructors), or those to whom you look for business advice (accountant, equipment supply company, business consultant).  These are all relationships you can establish before your business is up and running, as they are important and must be trusted resources before you have already backed yourself into a corner where you're too busy to critically evaluate their role with respect to your business.  Essentially, my recommendation is to not just establish a network, but be meticulous early on in making sure these individuals are a good fit for your business. If you don't do this up-front leg work, these individuals can make your business look very bad at a time (start-up) when you need to look very good.

Closing Thoughts

I hope that these last five points have complemented the three from part 1 nicely in order to give you a more comprehensive perspective from which to draw when starting up a fitness business.  As you can probably tell, there are a lot of incorrect paths you can pursue if you don't critically evaluate important decisions in the planning stages.  For more insights on this front, I'd encourage you to check out the Fitness Business Blueprint.

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Smart Things We Did With Starting a Fitness Business: Part 1

This blog is a unique blend of fitness advice, baseball training discussion, nutritional information, and a host of other health and human performance concepts.  That said, while I never really set out to do so, as Cressey Sports Performance has grown year after year, this website has also become a business development resource for those in the fitness industry who would ultimately like to have their own training facilities.  So, that's the direction that today's post (and the follow-up) will take.

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Typically, when a writer covers "lessons learned," it's based entirely on mistakes one has made - and we've certainly had our fair share of business blunders that become "teachable moments" at Cressey Sports Performance.  However, I thought I'd use this two-part article to highlight a few things we've actually done correctly over the years. I think you'll be surprised to find that none of these points have anything to do with training; they are actually largely applicable to just about any business, regardless of industry.

I should preface these points with the note that I'll discuss my financial situation in a small amount of detail. I do this only to illustrate the importance of understanding opportunity cost and long-term financial planning, not to toot my own horn. When you start talking money, things always get awkward, and I don't want to come across that way.  I'm not looking for applause by talking about myself; I'm just utilizing my own experiences to make some very important points.

1. I made sure I didn't get buried under student loans and other debt.

I've spoken a bit in the past about how I actually started out at a business-oriented university with the intention of becoming an accountant.  After two years there, it was clear to me that my passion was actually in the fitness industry, and I wanted to shift my business credits into a Sports Management program while double majoring in Exercise Science. While there were several options available to me, I opted to attend the University of New England.  It was a program that had grown by leaps and bounds, but perhaps the biggest appeal to me was that my total tuition and fees bill would be about $15,000 lower each year - and I could live at home and commute to campus. Just as importantly, I could work to make money and gain experience (I worked at a gym) all through my last two years of undergraduate education.  I had a full-time summer job all four years, and never spent a penny on alcohol in my undergraduate career.  Very simply, I knew what I wanted - and over the course of the four years, these collective decisions probably amounted to a $60,000 "swing" in the direction of not beind buried in debt.

I opted to go to the University of Connecticut for graduate school thereafter, and there was not graduate assistant funding available for me in the first year.  As such, I paid out-of-state tuition and got my own room and board for the first year.  To cancel it out, I worked as a personal trainer and bartender on nights and weekends - all while volunteering in the human performance laboratory and in varsity strength and conditioning while taking a full course load. My hard work was rewarded with a graduate assistantship in year 2, and that included a tuition waiver and stipend for the year. I dropped the personal training, but continued to bartend. This two-year period was also the time where my writing career took off. When all was said and done, I left graduate school with more in the bank than when I arrived - and had a Master's Degree and countless valuable experiences under my belt, too. Had I not worked like I did, it would have been another $60,000 swing toward debt.

In spite of this apparent $120,000 swing, I still finished graduate school with student loans waiting for me - a lot of them.  Where I think I'm different than a lot of kids nowadays (besides the fact that the cost of college have skyrocketed since 1999-2005) is that I worked hard to minimize the accumulation of loans and had a firm plan of attack for how to address them.  I saw this picture yesterday and had to laugh at how brutally honest it is:

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If you're going to take on a quarter-million dollars in student loans, you better be damn sure that the education you receive gives you a competitive advantage in the workforce. I've written about this at length in Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It - Part 1 and Part 2.

The University of New England gave me a competitive advantage because I wanted a school that offered gross anatomy in its curriculum, was close to my home, enabled me to double major at very limited added costs, and put me in a position to work during my undergraduate career. I'd also had some health problems around this time, and wanted to be closer to some of the professionals to whom I'd become accustomed over the previous years. The University of Connecticut also gave me a competitive advantage because I had exposure to high level athletes, great coaches, cutting-edge research, and professors with tremendous expertise and professional networks - as well as the opportunity to receive a graduate assistantship.

If you can't name the competitive advantage your school provides, then you need to think long and hard about why you're there.  And, even if you can find the competitive advantage, with today's college costs, you better make like Cressey and start personal training and mixing up Cosmopolitans at the bar so that you're not buried under student loans in a few years.

2. I got out of debt early.

Here's a quick and dirty lesson on debt: there is good debt and bad debt.

Mortgages can be good debt (if you can afford to pay them) because of the mortgage interest tax deduction, and the fact that if it's at a low enough rate, you can get a greater return on investing your money, as opposed to paying down the mortgage.  Don't worry about that; you're looking to start a fitness business, not buy a house.

Credit card debt is bad.  If you're not paying them off in full each month, it's a pretty good indicator that you're spending money you don't have - and paying super high interest rates on that amount.  Taking it a step further, the interest isn't tax deductible.

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Somewhere in the middle is student loan interest. You can write it off if you earn below a certain amount, so that's good.  However, a lot of people exceed that income threshold quickly (sorry, doctors and lawyers), so it can also be bad debt that you want to pay down quickly, especially nowadays, with the rates being super high.

What does all this have to do with starting a fitness business? Two things:

a. I always tell people that if you're going to start a fitness business, you should have three months operating expenses handy in cash.  Alwyn Cosgrove taught me this, and I remember him being really surprised when I told him I had it kicking around.  Apparently, very few fitness professionals he'd encountered to that point had any savings - so they were a long ways from being in a position to start a gym up.

b. If you're carrying student loans - and certainly credit card debt - it's going to be virtually impossible to get a business loan.  Banks aren't loaning money as easily as they used to do so; lots of financially stable folks with good credit scores get turned down for mortgages every single day in light of our current economic climate.  So, if you think you're going to get a $50,000 bank loan when you're showing a balance sheet with $100,000 in student loans and $10,000 credit card debt - and no assets to back the loan - you'd probably be better off going back to school to sit in on some finance courses. Or, you'll need to have that awkward conversation with a spouse or other family member about putting your house up as collateral for the loan.

I was lucky to have approximately 5,897 accountants in my immediate family.  Seriously, at our family reunions, they play cornhole with calculators instead of beanbags, and my first toy was an abacus.  Those are mild exaggerations, but it would be an understatement to say that I had excellent financial advice handy whenever I needed it. I learned about good vs. bad debt at a young age, and resigned myself to getting rid of all of it as soon as possible. 

In the year that followed graduate school, I worked absurd hours, had no social life, and lived well below my means.  It was worth it, though, as on my 25th birthday, I wrote a check to clear my student loans - roughly one year after I'd finished graduate school.  That was May 20, 2006.  Cressey Performance was founded on July 13, 2007. In those 419 days, I trained athletes over 70 hours per week, published my first book, co-created a DVD set with Mike Robertson, and continued to save - which was easy, since all I did was work. And, as a single guy, I really didn't have any major expenses.

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What did this mean?  When the time came to open Cressey Sports Performance... 

3. I didn't have take out any loans.

This is a huge deal.  Historically, when fitness professionals want to start gym and don't have the capital to do so, they do one of three things:

a. Try to get a business loan (generally problematic for the reasons above)

b. Ask family members for money (this couldn't possibly go wrong, right?)

c. Get supportive personal training clients to invest

I had the capital handy to start our gym because I knew this day would come at some point and therefore had years of financial preparation under my belt.  That said, it didn't prevent five separate clients from approaching me about investing in me (which is a variation of "c"). It was absolutely flattering, as these were very business-savvy people who were effectively saying that they trusted in me as a fitness professional, business owner, and person.  I politely declined in all five cases, though, for three primary reasons.

First, you never want to give away equity in your business unless you absolutely have to do so. It always muddies the water long-term, particularly in the case of a silent partner.  It's easy to forget the initial financial risk an individual put forth when you may be cutting him/her a check 4-5 years later for double or triple what that initial investment was, so resentment can build. Plus, the more you dilute the ownership, the less long-term profitability you have the potential to attain. You never want to kill your upside entirely just to protect against the downside.

Second, when someone has an equity stake, he/she will obviously have suggestions on your business. You need to be prepared for the relationship to go from client to adviser - and an established friendship can often be a complex part of that interaction.  Nobody will ever understand your business as well as you do, so it can be difficult to take outside perspectives from those who weren't there putting in the long hours from Day 1.

Third, as I noted, I didn't need the funding. You might not be in this situation, but there is still an important lesson to learn: only borrow as much as you need, not as much as you want.

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Part 1 Wrap-up

Now that you've finished reading this piece, I'll clue you in on something: none of this is information that is "exclusive" to starting a fitness business.  This is just 100% solid business advice that should demonstrate for you that being financially responsible and independent is of paramount importance to starting any successful business - and that includes one in the fitness industry.  It doesn't matter how good a trainer or strength coach you are; if you don't have your financial ducks in a row, you're playing from behind the 8-ball from the start. 

Sadly, very few fitness professionals who approach me for business advice have put themselves in this position and are therefore much further away from their dream facilities than they realize. It's unfortunately quite the coincidence, as fitness professionals are constantly working to make clients aware of how each and every choice they make in terms of training, nutrition, sleep, and other factors impacts their fitness progress.  Meanwhile, they may be overlooking the fact that their own short-sighted financial decisions and inability to manage debt and save money effectively are taking away from the long-term success of their fitness businesses.

I'm incredibly proud of what we've been able to accomplish at Cressey Sports Performance, with seven straight years of double-digit growth that was undoubtedly fueled in large part by our training expertise and the culture and environment we've created.  However, I'm also very proud of the fiscal responsibility, hard work, patience, and focus that my business partners and I demonstrated in the initial planning stages eight years ago.

With all that said, I apologize for rambling on with stories about myself.  I hope that it came across not as narcissistic, but rather as a case study you can use to help guide your path to fitness business success. In part 2, I'll discuss some of the more fitness-oriented topics we managed well during the start-up period.

In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about starting a fitness business, I'd encourage you to check out the Fitness Business Blueprint.

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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Prisoner Lunge Walk with Pec Stretch

Those of you who have followed along with my "Exercise of the Week" series probably can tell by now that I'm a fan of "big bang for your buck" exercises.  This isn't just limited to multi-joint strength exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, squats, overhead presses, chin-ups, and rows, though.  Rather, it can also apply to mobility exercises because - let's face it - single-joint warm-ups are boring and take too long.  Here's one mobility warm-up drill we'll use to improve thoracic mobility and pec length while opening up the hips.  Simultaneously, you're training the anterior core to resist excessive lumbar extension (arching at the lower back).

For the throwers out there reading this post, be sure to avoid really cranking those elbows back; chances are you already have plenty of range-of-motion.  Just focus more on resisting the excessive arching of the lumbar spine.

Looking for more great mobility drills like this?  Check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/19/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading.  We've got more of a baseball focus this week.

Teres Major: An Important Muscle that is Often Overlooked in Throwers - Here's an awesome post from Mike Reinold with both an anatomical and functional basis.

Our Turn to Learn: A Baseball Tradition Reconsidered - I'm quickly becoming a big fan of Gabe Kapler's guest blogs on WEEI.com.  In this piece, he talks about how American baseball could steal some great lessons from the Japanese approach to batting practice.

7 Ways to Stand Out at a Camp - This was a good piece in New England Baseball Journal about how kids can stand out at college baseball camps. I think the body language point is the best one.

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How to Use Reverse Band Set-ups in Your Strength Training Programs

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.  Be sure to check out his new website, which just went live.

Reverse band bench presses and squats are becoming more and more common inclusions in strength training programs these days, as accommodating resistances – bands and chains, in particularly – have really surged in popularity.  With that in mind, I wanted to use today’s article to provide some tips on when to use reverse bands in your training, and also demonstrate how to set them up – even if you just have a regular ‘ol squat rack.

I must admit, I am not incredibly well versed on why or when people have traditionally trained with methods that allow you to “overload.” Overloading, in my eyes, is most commonly a way to get your body adjusted to heavier weights. This is done with either the help of spotters, or more commonly by using bands and chains. In the context of today’s theme, I would like to consider overloading in the context of using a reverse band set-up. 

Reverse bands should be rigged to be lax at the top of a lift, and tight at the bottom. By doing so, we unload a certain number of pounds at the bottom of a lift, and have the weight gradually increase as we move the bar and the bands lose tension.  By using this set-up, the bands are the most taut in the bottom position, meaning you’ll use the least amount of weight at the point in the strength curve when you’re the weakest.  Conversely, they’ll have very little tension at the top, where you’re stronger.

While there are many different ways to utilize reverse band set-ups, I’ll simply share my experiences with them. Let me preface the following by saying that we do not use them on a deadlift, only the squat and bench press.

1. Use reverse bands to build confidence.

First, reverse bands can serve as an excellent training TOOL. The confidence in knowing the weight will unload towards the bottom, gives you the opportunity to practice lowering weights at high speeds in order to maximize the reactive strength you have via the stretch shortening cycle.

This is most advantageous with the squat, but works with the bench press as well. The confidence in handling heavy weights will have great mental carry-over into the lifts when the bands are missing.

2. Use reverse bands for hypertrophy.

Hypertrophy is primarily the result of increased volume. Each time I have seen significant muscle gains in myself, or my clients, it has come at a time when the appropriate increases of volume occurred.

Reverse bands will allow you to add some smart volume to a program geared towards maximizing muscle gains. The reason is two-fold.

First, the overloading nature of reverse bands will allow you to handle more total tonnage. Second, the bands also play a part in stabilizing the weight for you. Therefore, I find you can train it more often, either in a single session or a program as a whole.

3. Use reverse bands for scheduled deloads.

One area I have found myself using reverse bands more often is during my “back-off” weeks. The bands make it possible to “feel” heavier weights, without it being overly strenuous on your system. This strategy works well in a few scenarios.

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First off, if you are someone who trains sub-maximally, then heavy work with the reverse bands makes sense. It produces significantly less volume, and allows you to continually remember what it feels like being under a heavy loads.

Second, my training partner Jamie Smith recently commented on how our somewhat spontaneous usage of the bands in recent deloads was actually perfect for our training cycle. We train in “blocks” that move from periods of lower intensity to periods of higher intensity. Sometimes, the jump from one block to another can be pretty high (in terms of actual weight on the bar). By bridging the gap during deloads with reverse band set-ups, we both felt more prepared going into our next training block.

With these approaches in mind, here are some video tutorials on how to set up for reverse band bench presses and squats, respectively:

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The Deficit Deadlift: A Strength Exercise You Can Do Without

The deadlift from a deficit is a strength exercise that has gained some popularity in recent years, and it's popping up in more resistance training programs.  Unfortunately, it's an exercise that sounds a lot better on the internet than it plays out in the real world.  I have a lot of one-time consultations at Cressey Sports Performance with people who have a history of lower back pain after deadlifts, and not surprisingly, a lot of them have attempted the deficit deadlift when they have no business performing it, as the risk-reward ratio is far too high.

To that end, in our Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body resource, I devoted a segment of my deadlift presentation to the topic.  Here's a free preview:

To view the rest of the presentation (and eight others), be sure to check out Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/14/13

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

Elite Training Mentorship - In our August update, I have an in-service called "7 Ways to Progress a Push-up," as well as two new exercise demonstrations and an article.  Add in great content from Mike Robertson, Vaughn Bethell, Tyler English, Dave Schmitz, and the Smarter Group Training guys, and you've got loads of new valuable training information waiting for you.

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Lessons in Coaching - This article from Mike Robertson should be "must-read" material for all new strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers.

7 Squat Dilemmas Solved - This squat article from Bret Contreras is a great complement to the excellent piece Dean Somerset wrote for T-Nation a few weeks ago.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series