Home 2014 January (Page 2)

Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 3

It's time for another installment of my series on things you might overlook when assessing a new client or athlete.  Here are three more things to which you should pay attention:
 
1. Shoulder Flexion Range of Motion - This is a valuable test to use in conjunction with a back-to-wall shoulder flexion test. If you can't effectively perform a back to wall shoulder flexion as in the video featured here, then we need to ask "why not?"

 
It might happen because you lack good stiffness in various places - anterior core, lower trapezius, upper trapezius, and serratus anterior, to name a few.  Or, it might be because you're unable to overpower bad stiffness or shortness. Maybe you lack thoracic extension, are too rhomboid dominant, or simply can't get full shoulder flexion range of motion.  To check for this last one, you'll want to put the individual in supine with the back flat and knees and hips flexed.  They should be able to get the arms all the way down to the table - so this would be no good.
 
shouderflexion
 
Shoulder flexion can be limited by a lot of things: short/stiff lats, teres major, long head of the triceps, and inferior capsule.  Regardless of what limits it, though, you can't just take someone with this limited a ROM and plug them into overhead pressing. You're just waiting to chew up a rotator cuff, biceps tendon, labrum, or all of the above.
 
As a little bonus, this is my favorite drill for improving shoulder flexion ROM:
 

 
2. Scapular Upward (or Downward) Rotation - It goes without saying that scapular control - or the ability to position the shoulder blades appropriately - is absolutely essential to safe and effective upper extremity movement.  In order for that to occur, though, the shoulder blades have to start in the right position.  With respect to scapular rotation, "neutral" posture has the shoulder blades sitting at 5 degrees of upward rotation at rest. In the picture below, the black line represents where he should be in terms of upward rotation, but instead, you'll see that he sits in about 20-25 degrees of downward rotation (for the record, there are a number of other things wrong with this posture, so this is only a start!).
 
ScapularDownwardRotation
 
The problem with starting in this much downward rotation (or any downward rotation, at all) is that it's like beginning a race from 20 yards behind the starting line.  When the arm starts to move up, the shoulder blade needs to rotate up to maintain the ball and socket congruency.  If it starts too low, it can't possibly be expected to catch up - so the ball will ride up relative to the socket, regardless of how strong the rotator cuff is to try to prevent that superior migration.  You'll wind up seeing irritation of the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, labrum, or bursa if it's left unchecked.
 
Step 1 is to simply educate people on where the scapula actually should sit, and step 2 is to work on training from that correct new starting position.

3. Constant stretching - I always take note of when I see a client who seems to be stretching "nervously" when they're just standing or sitting around.  You'll often see people cranking on their shoulders, cracking their necks, touching their toes, or any of a number of things that make them "feel better.
 
The problem is that these people are often stretching out protective tension - or stiffness that's there because they lack stability elsewhere.  This is often the case with those with significant joint hypermobility.  They're already unstable, but the stretching is like picking a scab; it gives them temporary relief from the tightness, but only makes things worse in the long run.  It might be hamstrings tightness in someone with crazy anterior pelvic tilt, biceps tightness in those with anterior shoulder instability, or any of a number of other presentations throughout the body.  Unquestionably, though, the most common one is neck stretching in those with poor scapular control.
 
There is no one solution for everyone's problem, but I would encourage you to always ask, "Why is this tight?"  And, don't even think about stretching until you know the answer.
 
I'll be back soon with more commonly overlooked assessments.  In the meantime, if you're looking for an additional resource on this front, I'd encourage you to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance and Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body
 
 fstupper

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Become a Little More Awesome with Cressey Performance Camo Hoodies

I'm happy to announce that the 2014 edition of the Cressey Performance Hoodie is now available.  The camo t-shirts were popular, so we carried the design over to sweatshirts, too.  Boom!

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For those who prefer action shots, here's a front double biceps pose from our office manager, Paige.

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These sweatshirts run pretty true to size, and are $39.99 plus shipping.  You can pick up your size by clicking on one of the following links:

Medium - SOLD OUT (please email ec@ericcressey.com to pre-order one)

Large

Extra Large

Enjoy!

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter’s Walk

In this installment of "Exercise of the Week," I want to introduce you to another great carrying variation you can use to accomplisha  number of different objectives.  The 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Waiter's Walk is one of my personal favorites, and we use it a lot with not only our baseball guys, but also many of our non-baseball clientele.

Those of you who have followed my "Exercise of the Week" series probably notice that this is a progression on a previous drill I introduced, the 1-arm Bottoms-up KB Carry. To bring you up to speed on the "why" behind this kettlebell exercise, here are a few reasons it's a great one:

1. It gets great reflexive rotator cuff activation in light of the bottoms-up position and the subtle perturbations to stability as the individual walks.

2. It teaches an athlete to fully upwardly rotate the scapula (shoulder blade) correctly, which helps us to build stability in an overhead position and solidify the mobility we have.  This is wildly important for overhead throwing athletes, too, as they always lose upward rotation over the course of the competitive season.

3. It creates a challenge to both lateral/rotary and anterior core function.  The individual has to work to prevent excessive lower back arching, as well as side bending.  Being able to get these challenges while still working the shoulder girdle ensures that you get great functional carryover to the real world.

4. Without even knowing it, you're also getting a pretty good grip workout simply from holding the slightly thicker handle of the kettlebell.

In addition to the coaching cues I discuss in the video above, one "outcome" measure for which you'll want to look is the amount of scapular upward rotation present.  You can do that by drawing a line along the medial (inside border) of the scapula, and then checking what angle it creates with a vertical line along the spine.  Your goal is about 55-60 degrees of scapular upward rotation.

KBWW

In a good overhead position, you shouldn't feel it at all in the top or front of your shoulder.  If you do, though, it's a sign that you're probably either lacking scapular upward rotation or don't have sufficient cuff strength to do this correctly.  I always tell athletes that they shouldn't "feel" this in one place; it should feel like the entire shoulder girdle is working synergistically to create good stabilization.

Also, a lot of people will ask if they need to "pack the shoulder down with the lat."  Why you would want to turn your lat on to reach overhead is a puzzle to me, as it limits shoulder flexion and scapular upward rotation, draws the humerus into internal rotation (closes down the subacromial space), and pulls the spine into an extended position (excessive arching).  What folks really should be doing is a subtly posterior tilting the scapula to free up space at the front of the shoulder, and facilitate upward rotation.  It's a flawed movement if you're just cranking the entire shoulder girdle down.  In short, we want lower traps, not lats.

If you're looking to learn more about how I incorporate many different carrying variations in my programming, I'd encourage you to check out my new resource, The High Performance Handbook

HPH-main

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/6/14

It's time for the first 2014 installment of this weekly series.  Check out these recommended strength and conditioning reads:

Elite Training Mentorship - This month's update from me includes a presentation on the difference between anterior shoulder instability and laxity, and I talk about our approaches with athletes who may encounter these issues. There are also some great additions from Vaughn Bethell and Tyler English this month.

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How to Hip Hinge Like a Boss - My buddy (and Cressey Performance co-founder) Tony Gentilcore did a great job with this piece.  If you struggle with hip hinging, this is a good place to start.

Perception, Threat, Pain, and Purple - Bill Hartman makes an awesome point about dealing with people with pain.  Hint: it's about much more than just having a good series of assessments and corrective drills!

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The Best of 2013: Strength and Conditioning Product Reviews

To wrap up my “Best of 2013″ series, I’ll highlight the top product reviews I did at this site in the last year.  Here they are:

1. Bulletproof Athlete - I firmly believe that Mike Robertson created the best "beginner lifter" resource available on the market today.  This resource is an awesome start-up program that'll prepare novice trainees for a program like you'd find in my High Performance Handbook.  I wrote up a detailed piece on training beginners when I reviewed Mike's resource; check it out: 5 Mistakes Beginner Lifters Make.

BPA Cover Photo

2. The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide - At a price of only $39 and with over 700 pages of content and lifetime updates, this resource is a game-changer, thanks to the folks at Examine.com.  I explained why in this post: The Question I Hate to Be Asked.

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3. Post Rehab Essentials 2.0 - I love reading Dean Somerset's stuff.  A lot of people "think outside the box" because they haven't mastered what's inside the box in the first place.  Dean has a great foundation of knowledge, and it gives rise to some innovative ideas and a forward-thinking corrective exercise approach.  This article is a perfect example.

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4. Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination - This was Dave Dellanave's first foray into the world of product development, and he crushed it!  It's a great resource not only for learning deadlift techniques, but also because it provides a great program for improving your pull. Check out my review here.

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5. The MX20V3 Training Sneaker - This was my pick for training sneaker of the year in 2013.  Full disclosure: I'm a consultant to New Balance, but that relationship was in part established because I was such a big fan of the original Minimus!  Since then, they've taken sneaker prototypes for test-drives with our staff at CP, and done focus groups with our athletes to make sure that the products get the job done.  Check out this commercial I filmed for the MX20V3 in August to learn more:

There were certainly some other great products I encountered this year, but these five proved to be the most popular with my readers.  Obviously, I also introduced some new products of my own in 2013, most notably The High Performance Handbook. However, Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body and Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core were hits as well.  Hopefully, there will be plenty more to come in 2014!

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