Home 2014 June

Upcoming Seminar: Optimizing the Big Three

We're excited to announce that Cressey Performance staff member and accomplished powerlifter Greg Robins will be delivering a one-day seminar on August 24, 2014 at our facility in Hudson, MA. This event is a great fit for lifters who have an interest in improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift - and may want to powerlift competitively.

robins

Overview:

"Optimizing the Big Three" is a one-day seminar geared towards those looking to improve the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Split into both a lecture and hands on format, the event will provide attendees with practical coaching on the technique of the classic power lifts, as well as valuable information on how to specialize movement preparation, utilize supplementary movements, and organize their training around a central focus: improved strength in these "big three" movements.

Furthermore, Greg will touch upon the lessons learned in preparation for your first few meets, to help you navigate everything from equipment selection, to meet-day logistics.

The value in learning from Greg is a matter of perspective. He has a wealth of knowledge, and experience stemming from various experiences as a coach and lifter. Greg will effectively shed light on how he has applied human movement principles, athletic performance modalities, and anecdotal evidence from working with a plethora of different populations to one main goal; optimizing the technique, health, and improvements in strength of amateur lifters.

robins377690_491576770879342_288587357_n

Seminar Agenda:

8:30-9:00AM: Check-in/Registration

9:00-10:00AM: Mechanics, Technique, and Cueing Of the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift - In this lecture Greg will break down the biomechanics of each movement, how to optimize technique, and what to consider both as a coach and lifter in teaching / learning the movements.

10:00-11:00AM: Managing the Strength Athlete: Assessing and Meeting the Demands of the Lifter - Learn what demands a high amount of volume in the classic lifts puts on the body, how to assess for it in others and yourself, and what you can do to manage the stress associated with these demands.

11:00-11:15AM: Break

11:15AM-12:45PM: General Programming Considerations for Maximal Strength - Take a look inside Greg’s head at his approach to organizing the training of a lifter. Topics will include various periodization schemes, and utilizing supplementary and accessory movements within the program as a whole.

12:45-1:45PM: Lunch (on your own)

1:45-2:15PM: Preparing for Your First Meet - Based off his own experiences, and knowledge amassed from spending time around some of the best in the sport, Greg will share some poignant information on what to expect and how to prepare for your first meet.

2:15-3:30PM: Squat Workshop

3:30-4:45PM: Bench Press Workshop

4:45-6:00PM: Deadlift Workshop 

Date/Location:

August 24, 2014

Cressey Performance,
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

CP3

Cost:

Early Bird (before July 24)  – $149.99
Regular (after July 24) - $199.99

Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction - particularly during the hands-on workshop portion - so be sure to register early, as this will fill up quickly.

Registration:

Sorry, this event is SOLD OUT! Please contact cspmass@gmail.com to get on the waiting list for the next time it's offered.

About the Presenter

Greg Robins is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance. His writing has been published everywhere from Men's Health, to Men's Fitness, to Juggernaut Training Systems, to EliteFTS, to T-Nation. As a raw competitive powerlifter, Greg has competition bests of 560 squat, 335 bench press, and 625 deadlift for a 1520 total.

Read more

What Cirque du Soleil Can Teach You About How to Build Muscle

I'm in Chicago to speak at the Perform Better Summit this weekend, but fortunately, my good friend Chad Waterbury provided this guest post for today. Enjoy! -EC

In 2001, I went with a buddy to Vegas. I wish I could say the trip was replete with all the temptations that Sin City had to offer, but it was strictly business.

At the time, I had a packed personal training calendar that kept me busy from dawn to dusk. Most of my clients were guys that wanted to build muscle, so I had them do a combination of heavy and high-rep training to failure.

That’s how bodybuilding protocols worked back then, and most of them still do today. I made my clients work hard and they trained each major muscle group about twice per week.

Now this is where my Vegas trip comes in.

That year I went to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Mystere. Many of my clients had seen the popular show and they mentioned that I should make a point to attend, mainly because of two heavily-muscled gymnastics that display mind-blowing feats of strength: the Alexis Brothers.

As my brain assimilated what I was seeing. I remember feeling blown away. What astonished me most weren’t the incredible routines they did, even though they were the coolest and most impressive things I’d ever seen.

Nope, I was absolutely shocked by the frequency they had to perform that routine. These guys were doing 10 shows per week!

What the Alexis brothers were doing defied all the “laws” of training and recovery I’d been taught in college, textbooks, and online write-ups. That moment I had an epiphany, if you will: I was going to have my clients train their underdeveloped muscles with a higher frequency. I was determined to figure out just how often a person with average genetics could stimulate a muscle group and still recover.

Eleven years later, in 2012, I had accumulated a huge amount of data on frequent training that I was ready to share. So, I released my High Frequency Training (HFT) training system to teach my audience how to build muscle using this approach.

My approach for HFT was pretty simple. First, you would choose an exercise you could do for anywhere from 12-20 reps before failure. Then you would perform a target number of total reps each day, say, 50. Finally, you would add a rep each day over the course of a few months.

It was a very good system, especially with exercises such as the pull-up, and many people gained a lot of muscle from it.

However, I still felt I could make HFT better. So over the last two years I continued to experiment with different training protocols while taking in the feedback from those who were following HFT.

What did I learn? A whole lot. Now my frequent training plans are shorter, and more specialized for each major muscle group. There are three components for making a frequent training plan work for you.

1. Understand whether a muscle responds best to high or low reps: The biceps won’t grow with high rep training; if they did, collegiate rowers would have massive guns. The quadriceps, however, will definitely grow with high reps – just ask any cyclist.

2. Stimulate the muscle group as quickly as possible: When you start working a muscle more often the last thing you want to do is spend more time in the gym. Plus, if the extra workouts are too long you’ll burn out fast. You must stimulate that muscle as quickly as possible, and it doesn’t take long if you know what to do.

Here’s one example for the pecs:

Push-up Iso-Squeeze: Get in the top position of a push-up, then attempt to pull your hands together as intensely as possible for 10 seconds (any longer than that and you won’t be recruiting the largest motor units).

HFT-pu-pic

Do 5 sets of that iso-squeeze with two minutes rest between sets every other day. It works!

3. Spare the joints: All forms of exercise stress the joints, but some do more than others. If you start doing an overhead triceps extension or leg curl every day, you’ll run into joint problems in a hurry. That’s why my latest muscle-building system, HFT2, incorporates instructional videos so you can learn how to best spare the joints and target the muscles.

As an example. Here’s how I spare the knees for the Goblet Squat:

Keep these three points in mind as you train with a higher frequency and you’ll get much better results.

Note from EC: we've already started experimenting with some of Chad's ideas on the high frequency training front, and I think it has tremendous merit. If you're looking for some direction to take the guesswork out of these applications, I'd encourage you to check out Chad's new resource, High Frequency Training 2, which is on sale through Tuesday at midnight.

HFT2


Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

A Quick Lesson on Long-Term Athletic Development

On Wednesday night, the Vanderbilt Baseball team won the first men's national championship in any sport in school history.  I'm absolutely ecstatic, as we've trained several current Vanderbilt players as well as some of their former players who are now in professional baseball, and I have a great relationship with the coaching staff.

To make the moment even more special, a long time Cressey Performance athlete, Adam Ravenelle, came on to get a six-out save in the deciding game three:

While Vanderbilt baseball's 2014 season is a amazing story in itself, there's a sub-plot that warrants mention as well, and Adam serves as a perfect example. "Rav" was a 5-10, 125-pound 8th grader when he first timidly walked in to Cressey Performance back in the summer of 2007.  At the time, he was a baseball player - but also a golfer, tennis player, and basketball player.

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, he played golf, basketball, and baseball. As a junior, he pared it down to basketball and baseball. Only when he was a high school senior did he trim things down to one sport - and even then, it was after he was already committed to play at Vanderbilt, and a serious MLB Draft prospect (he was drafted in the 44th round out of high school in 2011, and then again in the 4th round this year).

His teammate, Tyler Beede, is another one of our athletes. Ty played football, basketball, and baseball as a freshman. He went to football and baseball as a sophomore, then down to baseball only as a junior. He regretted leaving football, and went back to playing his senior year - and was still a 1st round draft pick in 2011 (and again this year).

I vividly remember a conversation I had with Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin in the winter of 2009-2010 when he talked about how he's always reluctant to recruit baseball-only guys. There are so many incredible benefits to playing multiple sports, from avoiding overuse, to developing general athleticism, to making friends in different social circles. If you look at the roster that just won a College World Series for Vanderbilt, you'll see that recruiting perspective is readily apparent. Look at their roster, and only 9 of the 34 guys come from states that could be perceived as "year-round baseball" states: Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, etc. There are a heck of a lot more guys from Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky and (of course) Tennessee - all states where it gets cold and snows in the winter, making year-round baseball a lot tougher. Most of the guys on the Vanderbilt roster were great athletes in other sports as well. In fact, of the 9 to which I alluded above, two - Carson Fullmer (FL) and Dansby Swanson (GA) - were praised by the ESPN announcers for their success in other sports (karate and basketball, respectively).

Early specialization might work out for a small percentage of young athletes, but it fails miserably for the majority. And, you can never go wrong with finding and developing general athleticism. Look at Vanderbilt's track record of success over the past decade (and their significantly lower injury rates), and it's impossible to argue. Let kids play, and not just baseball...they might just "surprise" you by winning a national championship.

Congratulations to the Commodores!

1891350_700671351977_323672517_o

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Supplementation Without Evidence: How to Approach Things that *Might* Work Intelligently

Today, we've got a guest post from Kamal Patel on the ever-controversial topic of supplementation. Kamal was instrumental in creating the great new resource, the Examine.com Stacks Guide. Enjoy! -EC

Science is a process used to uncover the truth, or at least get as close to the truth as possible. It isn’t the only option out there, but it is definitely the best one currently available to us and has served humanity very well.

Thing is, with all the praise science gets (deservingly so), people sometimes forget it is a process. Just because something is “unproven” does not mean it’s crap - it just means that enough research hasn’t been conducted. People are too quick to think that “proven” is synonymous with “effective” and that “unproven” is synonymous with “not effective.”

Consider creatine. We all know that it works for increasing power output because of the mountain of evidence and anecdotes for it, but what if we went back in time to 5 years before creatine had human evidence? What if we also took a few kilograms of our favorite white powder with us in this time machine; would the fact that no evidence existed at this point somehow render the powder completely useless?

No. Things work whether you like them or not, and things fail whether you like them or not. Science just shows us which is which, it doesn’t make them so. The only real difference is in the questions left unanswered.

FlPills

These ‘unproven’ supplements can still be really good, but they have to be approached differently from other ‘proven’ supplements. In the end they are both potential options for your usage, but the body of evidence needs to be considered.

How to approach unproven agents for yourself

When you come across a supplement which looks promising but doesn’t have much evidence for it, ultimately the choice of whether or not to use it is up to you. You can honestly run out and buy anything if you want, but at the least: look into the toxicology of it.

Take something like arginine - if you overdose on it, the side effects are diarrhea. Then you take something like Thunder God Vine, where the side-effect is gradual death of the immune system. Big difference!

How to responsibly approach unproven agents for others

It is difficult to recommend unproven supplements for others because unproven supplements tend to also have less safety data. There’s a difference between modifying your own body and recommending something to someone else. It’s something to approach cautiously.

You can easily tell somebody to “just take 5 grams of creatine a day and forget about it” - since it’s well researched that’s a safe statement. In the case of unproven supplements, you need to read over the evidence with them and let them come to their own decisions. A lot more prudency is needed here.

In the end though, unproven options could be amazing. Take cissus for example (which we’ve talked about here before): the one study on it was conducted in men with work-related muscle and joint soreness (a rare population to get studied in regards to joint health, almost everything is in osteoarthritis) and it has a very good reputation with athletes. It is a prototypical “unproven supplement that could be great but we do not have enough evidence yet.”

Stacking the known and the unknown

It is clear that stacks should be focused primarily around what is known to work and is known to be safe, but given the possibilities out there for personalizing your own stack, you can be smart about it. At the very least learn how to approach these things so you remain safe, add in new compounds so you can clearly attribute what supplement did what, and use a trial and error approach to find what works for you.

Eric said that the question he hates being asked the most is: “What supplements should I take?” That’s pretty much the same question we get: “What supplements should I take for ______?”

And that’s why we created our Stack Guides. It’s not just about “take this” and “don’t take that” - it’s a lot more subtle than that. There are promising supplements out there (like cissus), and you need to be a bit more nuanced than that.

stackbooks

We’re an independent, 100% transparent and unbiased source. Since we don’t sell any supplements, you know that our recommendations are all based on sound science, not us trying to make a quick buck.

Each stack also includes:

  • Stacks catered not only to a goal (ie. fat loss) but also demographics (ie. for people who cannot easily tolerant stimulants)
  • Nonsupplemental tips to help maximize efficacy
  • Practical considerations when dealing with the components, like how to easily avoid minor side-effects of inconveniences
  • Safety information on possible drug-drug interactions (although not all could be mentioned, referring to your medical doctor is still mandatory)
  • Tips to help future supplement additions
  • Free lifetime updates - as new research comes out, the stack guides will be updated accordingly

Note from EC: I've reviewed the resource and it's fantastic. I really could have used something this incredibly thorough when I was an "up and comer"in the industry and blowing far too much money on supplements that simply didn't work. If you're someone who purchases supplements regularly, I view this guide as an investment and not an expense; it'll actually save you a lot of money (especially since it's on sale at an introductory price this week). Click here to learn more.

About the Author

Kamal Patel is the director of Examine.com. He has an MBA and an MPH (Master of Public Health) from Johns Hopkins University, and was pursuing his PhD in nutrition when he opted to go on hiatus to join Examine.com. He is dedicated in making scientific research in nutrition and supplementation accessible to everyone.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Unstable Surface Training: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

In my latest article at T-Nation, I take a close look at training on unstable surfaces and how it impacts performance and health. Check it out:

--> Unstable_Surface Training: The Good, Bad, and Ugly <--

While this is a lengthy article, it's still just a quick glance at a very complex topic. If you're interested in learning more, I'd encourage you to check out my e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

cressey-flat-salespage

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/23/14

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

The Changing Face of Youth Baseball - Here's an awesome guest post by Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria for former MLB player Gabe Kapler's website. It's must-read material for every baseball parent and coach.

High Performance Training without the Equipment: Installment 2 - In light of the popularity of Andrew Zomberg's recent post on training with little to no equipment, I thought I'd bring this old post of mine to the forefront. This one features good options for training the rotator cuff if you don't have access to cables or bands.

CP3

Checklist for Determining Movement Dysfunctions and How to Get Over Them - Dean Somerset did an excellent, thorough job with outlining the training process, from assessment to correction and subsequent programming. Part 2 was a great follow-up, too.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

7 Strategies for Strength Training with the Minimum

Recently, my wife and I vacationed in Italy, and fitness nuts that we are, we frequented several hotel gyms - none of which were particularly well equipped. Here's the one from hotel in Florence; yes, it was just dumbbells up to 10kg.

photo-63

Immediately upon leaving, I sent an email to Cressey Performance coach Andrew Zomberg (@AndrewZomberg), who I knew was the guy to write up a post on having a great training effect without much equipment. This is what he pulled together; enjoy! -EC

Greater equipment availability generally yields greater efficiency because in order to induce structural or functional adaptations, you have to “force” the body to do so. Unfortunately, getting to a gym is not always feasible. The good news? Resistance training does not always have to depend on cable machines, power racks, and barbells.

Inaccessibility to gym equipment can be discouraging. The good news is that by creating structured programs and discovering new ways to challenge yourself with progressions, you can easily elicit a comparable training effect, just as if you were in a gym. Here are some options:

1. Body Weight Exercises

Undoubtedly, your body weight is the easiest, most accessible piece of equipment to utilize anywhere, anytime. Allowing for a more natural range of motion, body weight exercises enhance spatial awareness and improve the proficiency of movements since no other load is being used.

Progression: Alter the range of motion by increasing the total distance of the movement. For example, when doing a push-up, rather than keeping your feet in contact with the floor, try elevating them to increase stability demands of the core as well as the shoulder girdle. You can also add isometrics to any bodyweight exercise at halfway points and end ranges to impose added stress. You can use tri-sets to keep rest periods short and work in some bonus mobility work.

Sample Bodyweight Workout

Perform each tri-set three times:

A1) Body-Weighted Squats
A2) Push-up
A3) Wall Hip Flexor Mobilizations

B1) Reverse Lunge
B2) Prone Bridge Arm March
B3) Rocking Ankle Mobilizations

C1) 1-Leg Hip Thrusts off Bench
C2) Side Bridge
C3) Split-Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations

2. TRX Suspension Training

Easily portable, this piece of equipment can be anchored almost anywhere and targets virtually every muscle group. The TRX suspension trainer is a great tool for full-body awareness, as most of the exercises call for optimal body alignment from head to toe. It also places a significant emphasis on the core by challenging your ability to resist unwanted movement in every plane of motion at the lumbar spine.

197412_173702382680874_7668140_n

Progression: Lengthen the lever arm to reposition your center of mass further from the anchor to increase the total range of motion. Or, slow down the lift to create a greater time under tension effect thus imposing muscular damage for hypertrophy gains.

Sample TRX Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

TRX Anti-Rotation Press: x 8/side
TRX Inverted Row: x 10
TRX Bulgarian Split-Squat: x 8/leg
TRX Push-up: x 8
TRX Fallouts: x 10
TRX Overhead Squat: x 8

On a related note, if you haven't checked out EC's article, 10 Ways to Progress an Inverted Row, it's definitely worth a read!

3. Dumbbell and Kettlebell Exercises

Often found in hotel gyms, these are very affordable for the home or office and provide a wide range of exercise selection. Their biggest advantage is they provide enough options to gain a solid training effect. If the weight selection is too low, you can use higher volume schemes and minimize rest periods. When completing these complexes, execute the exercises without dropping the implement to increase the overall intensity.

DB Progression: Use stability balls, or half and tall kneeling positions to create a greater instability factor. Or, focus on the eccentric portion by taking a few more seconds to lower the weight in order to stress the muscle.

KB Progression: Turn the kettlebell upside down to a “bottoms-up” position to change the dynamic of the exercise. By moving the object’s center of mass further from the rotation (your wrist), you create more instability, forcing co-contractions of all the muscles of the upper extremity.

Sample Dumbbell Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

DB Goblet Squat: x 8
DB Renegade Row: x 8/arm
Offset DB Split-Squat: x 8/side
1-Arm DB Floor Press: x 10/arm
DB Prone Arm Marches: x 6/arm
DB Burpees: 3 x 15

Sample Kettlebell Complex:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

KB Front Squat: x 6/side
KB 1-Arm Row: x 8/arm
KB 1-Arm, 1-Leg RDL: x 8/leg
Half-Kneeling 1-Arm KB OH Press: x 10/arm
KB Swings: x 20
1-Arm KB Bottoms-up Waiter’s Carry: x 25 yards/arm

4. Resistance Bands

Very portable, bands are inexpensive and create an accommodating resistance effect. In other words, where you are biomechanically the weakest, the band will reduce its level of tension at that given position. The same effect will occur as you become biomechanically stronger; the level of tension will increase at that specific range. Bands also allow for direct arm and hip care for deeper muscles that provide the adequate stability for these multi-planar joints.

Progression: Play around with your base of support. Utilizing a narrow stance or tall kneeling position will alter the stability demands, making it more challenging to maintain joint neutrality. Or, add isometrics at the end range by holding the contraction for 5 seconds.

Sample Band Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Band Squats: x 10
Band-Resisted Push-up: x 10
Side-Bridge w/Row: x 8/arm
X-Band Walks: x 12/side
Standing Split-Stance Vertical Anti-Extension Press: x 12
1-arm Band Rotational Row w/Weight Shift: x10/arm

5. Medicine Balls

Affordable and found in many hotel gyms, these are great for linear and rotational power, given how quickly you must produce force for maximal output, and how the stretch-shortening cycle plays into each exercise. Medicine balls are also good for core activation due to their emphasis on optimal alignment with overhead and rotational patterns.

Progression: Speed up the movement to increase your heart rate and enhance your power skills. Or, simply add more volume to the complex.

Sample Medicine Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Overhead Med Ball Slams: x 12
Rotational Scoop Toss: x 8/side
Side-to-Side Overhead Slams: x 8/side
Tall Kneeling Chest Passes: x 12
Hip-Scoops to Wall: x 12

6. Gliders

Very portable, gliders (our favorite is the ValSlide) can conveniently be replaced by household items - like furniture sliders or even towels - if you're in a pinch. Given their size and usage, these disks provide a tremendous amount of direct and indirect core work, since most of the exercises force you to fight against gravity in an anti-extension and anti-rotational manner. Gliders also improve stability due to the unnatural surface environment on which each exercise is performed.

Progression: Change your base of support by elevating an arm or leg off the floor. Decreased points of stability will call for greater concentration of the core in order to maintain optimal spinal alignment during each movement. If accessible, add an external load such as a weighted vest for a real challenge.

Sample Glider Routine:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Reverse Lunges: x 8/leg
1-arm Push-up: x 8/arm
Leg Curls: x 12
Bodysaws: x 10
Mounting Climbers: x 30 seconds

7. Stability Ball Exercises

A staple in most hotel gyms and very affordable for home or office use, stability balls provide a level of volatility that challenges your strength. Basically, in order to combat the dynamic perturbations of stability balls, additional muscles must co-contract to prevent joint deviations.

Progression: Elevate your feet or attempt pause reps at the end range to make the unstable environment even more challenging. Or, create additional perturbations by having a training partner hit the ball in different directions in an effort to knock you off your stability during the lift.

Sample Stability Ball Workout:

Perform three times through, resting two minutes at the end of each "round."

Elevated Push-ups: x 8
Leg Curls: x 10
Stability Ball Rollouts: x 10
Dead Bugs – arms and legs: x 6/side

A Few Notes

  • Be sure to invest a few minutes with soft-tissue work and ground-base and dynamic movements to prepare your body for the workout and prevent injury.
  • Be mindful of areas that need more emphasis than others. For example, structural balance is a common issue due to postural adaptations. Placing more emphasis on the posterior chain and upper back will reduce the overused areas and still provide a solid training effect.
  • Select "casual" rest intervals for most programs. But if you decide to create a greater disturbance, reduce the rest time. Just make sure the load is relatively low so form is not compromised. For complexes, the goal is not to put the object down until you have completed the entire round of exercises prescribed!
  • Make an effort to log your workouts. Noting your exercise selection, volume, load, and tempo will spare time in programming your next workout so you do not backtrack but rather progress.

Give some of these ideas a try next time you're in an "equipment pinch" and I think you'll find them to be a lot harder than they look!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

4 Business Lessons I’ve Learned from Clients

Several months ago, my business partner, Pete, pulled together a guest article on how training clients often have some amazing stories to tell if you're just willing to listen. You can read it HERE. That said, after the article was published, we received quite a few inquiries from folks asking for more fitness business themed articles here at EricCressey.com. To that end, I thought I'd pull together one today - and it features the top four business lessons I've learned from clients.

Lesson #1: You don't have to be first, but definitely don't be last.

Back in my first few years of personal training, I would train the same client Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6am. He loved to talk business, and we often wound up on the topic of investing. One day, he made a comment on how he'd purchased quite a bit of stock in True Religion (a jeans company) for a few bucks in 2004 - only to see it jump to almost $25/share in less than a year.

TR

Now, he certainly was no "jeans connoisseur," nor would he ever imagine even spending several hundred dollars on a pair of jeans. Hence, he wasn't the first one to jump on board the designer jeans bandwagon. Nonetheless, he was bright enough to recognize a good thing early on, and act on his instinct.

Not surprisingly, he did something very comparable with his own business, which involved high-end car detailing work. He wasn't the first one to do it, but he certainly wasn't late to the game - and he did it better than anyone else in his area.

Years later, I saw parallels in what we did with strength and conditioning for baseball players. We weren't the first people to train baseball players, but we did see recognize it as a remarkably underserved population - and were able to improve on a lot of the significant flaws we saw in other programs around the country.

Lesson #2: Your customers hire and fire you every day.

We're very fortunate to have a great landlord, and he's the one who first dropped this line on me. The fact that he recognizes it is likely the reason why he has been an awesome landlord, too.

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n

It's not good enough to be on top of things 3-4 days a week, but then useless on the other ones. Sadly, you see this all the time in the world of athletics; athletes can tell you when their coaches are in bad moods, and that absolutely shouldn't be the case. Being successful as a coach and business owner is all about delivering a consistently high-quality product, and you can't do that if you're moody or unresponsive. In fact, one of the first things we look at in bringing on interns and staff members is whether or not they're unconditionally positive. If you can't put on a happy face and get the job done even when things aren't going well for you, then you won't go far in any profession.

Lesson #3: Clients probably appreciate you for reasons you don't expect.

As part of our work with professional baseball players, we deal with quite a few agents. In fact, in many cases, these agents are also the ones referring the players to us in the first place. Last year, I was having a conversation with one of them, and he mentioned in passing something that surprised me: "The thing I appreciate about you guys the most is your accessibility."

I was really surprised, as I'd always assumed that folks appreciated our baseball-specific expertise first and foremost. And, while this is certainly important, me returning phone calls, emails, and text messages promptly was the most important thing to him. It makes sense; if I'm delayed in getting back to him, then he's delayed in getting back to his client, which makes him look bad.

Chances are that your clients don't care that you can name all 17 muscles that attach to the scapula, or that you just bought another safety squat bar for your gym. There are likely reasons they keep coming back of which you're not aware. If you put some thought into it, you might just find ways to improve your business by catering to these factors more. As an example, we knew athletes loved the sense of family and community at our facility, so we added a lounge with a TV, couch, ping pong table, and counter for eating in our new facility in 2012.

CP-Family

Lesson #4: People who neglect their health generally struggle in other facets of their lives as well.

Early in my training career, I had a client who was approximately 120 pounds overweight - and he would always show up late for training sessions. It's one thing for a "normal" client to show up a bit late for a session, but when you're dealing with a severely obese client who is a legitimate risk for a heart attack, you can't just skip the warm-up and cool-down. In other words, his 60-minute session quickly became one where we could only get in 15-20 minutes of quality work.

Why was he always late? He had just started a business. And, just like he lost absolutely no weight in spite of having a trainer twice a week, his company also went out of business. Of course, I make this observation in hindsight, and I certainly wasn't cheering against him - but I do think it taught me an important lesson.

Youth and high school athletics teach kids about time management, teamwork, leadership, punctuality, professionalism, decision-making, and a host of other key success qualities. I firmly believe that many of these qualities are constantly "reaffirmed" in adult fitness programs; if you consistently show up and execute on the objectives you've set forth, you'll get closer to your goals. With each new training session and healthy meal, you're "grooving" these qualities more and more in your brain. 

Conversely, if it's okay to be late for a training session (or skip it altogether), who is to say that it won't eventually be okay to do it for an important business meeting? And, if it's okay to waste money on personal training sessions you won't use, who is to say that you won't waste money on silly expenditures with your business? And, if you're okay consistently bombarding your body with unhealthy food choices, who is to say that you won't be consistently adding "bad apples" to your staff?

Obviously, the last paragraph takes some leaps of faith, but I think that it's very safe to say that most people who are what we might consider "good decision makers" generally do so in all aspects of their lives. The reason they do so is because - whether they recognize it or not - they follow specific reasoning processes to arrive at those decisions. In their outstanding book, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Health cover the decision-making process in a great amount of detail; I'd highly recommend it, if you haven't read it already. 

41Dma69iHnL

What I think it particularly interesting is the book's subtitle: "How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work." There aren't separate books for "life" and "work" because good decision-making shares common traits across multiple disciplines.

Closing Thoughts

I've surely learned far more lessons from my clients than I could ever squeeze into a single post, but these are four that popped to mind when I sat down to type this morning. To that end, in the comments section below, I'd love to hear about the lessons you've learned from clients and athletes in your training career.

And, if you're looking for more insights for starting up a successful fitness business, I'd encourage you to check out The Fitness Business Blueprint.

fbb_mockup_2_green_mockup

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/16/14

It's time to kick off the week with a collection of recommended reading. This week, we've got a "squat technique" theme:

Short Topic: There's a Squatting Controversy? Seriously? - This was a quick blog from Bill Hartman, but it poses a question that a lot of people probably haven't considered.

How Deep Should I Squat? - Cressey Performance co-founder Tony Gentilcore takes a closer look at what may limit squat depth - and how to fix it.

good overhead squat

To Squat or Not to Squat? - I wrote this article back in 2009, but the recommendations still hold water.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

4 Strategies for Effective Group Coaching

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.  In addition to his "normal" strength and conditioning coaching duties, Greg also heads up our bootcamps.

Training larger groups of people, or athletic teams, often gets a bad rap. Quickly identifying the downfalls, many of us never explore the intangibles that make group training great.

For example, large groups foster all kinds of natural qualities between people. If you don’t see the overwhelming value in developing camaraderie, loyalty, accountability, and – dare I say, family – you’re missing a large part of what it means to make people feel and perform better.

10415652_397513717053522_4396609159997072501_n

There are two sides to every coin, and group training certainly falls short in some respects, for some individuals. However, I challenge you to reevaluate how you view the relationship between the group setting and the athlete or client.

Is group training a suboptimal format for training, or are certain people in a suboptimal position to undergo group training?

I would argue the latter.

Furthermore, if you are in disagreement with my assessment, maybe the question is this: if a person is willing and able to train under the obvious constraints of group training (my perspective being that they do not need individual attention and are mentally capable of embracing a social environment) then is it still the case that group training is a suboptimal format? Or, is it that the group training format on which you’ve shaped your opinion to needs to be elevated? In other words, how can we make the group training experience better?

Below, as a good place to start, I have compiled four strategies I use to optimize group training. Quick and easy, you can apply these right away and use them as reference. Enjoy!

1. Effective organization

Organization of a group training session is paramount to its success. If the sessions are clearly thought out, they leave little room for the chaos that often ensues in the mass organization of people.

Start with this concept: “format must fit focus.”

If you read my material, you know I like to have a clearly defined purpose in everything I do. That’s where you begin. What is the focus for your training session? Are you trying to teach new movements, build work capacity, dial in technique, or something else? Sure, these qualities all overlap to some degree, but you need to have an overarching rationale for the day’s training.

72950_211664285638467_1370417084_n

With that in mind, the format you choose for the training session should allow you to carry out that goal most advantageously. For example, you won’t have much success teaching someone a complicated new movement when they have 30 seconds to perform it. Instead, you’re better off using a format that allows people to stay with a movement long enough to receive repeated exposure to it – so think out the training parameters. Are intervals the right choice, or is something more along the lines of a workshop or open gym type organization a better approach?

Lastly, how does the session flow through the training space? Do people have to bounce around from one side of the gym floor to the other, or is it very easy to move around? Set up the training session to be ridiculously easy to follow. That means you have to consider where the equipment is, and where people will be at all times.

2. Command presence

Not everyone may be cut out to coach large groups of people. In order to do so effectively, you have to have to do two things, be in charge and communicate clearly. You don’t need to be loud and boisterous, but you can be. I, for one, am not the type to yell; in fact, I rarely raise my voice. That being said, I have had plenty of new group members tell me they were referred by “so and so,” who says I am a “drill sergeant” and whooping their butt into gear. To me, that’s perfect; I’m not being overbearing, but I am fostering an environment in which I am clearly in charge of what we are doing.

In order to be in charge, you need to be prepared, and you need to be heard. Being prepared is simply a question of taking the time to assess the variables and act accordingly. Being heard is about doing what is necessary to deliver a unified message to many individuals at once. That transitions nicely to our final two bulletpoints.

3. Develop context

Context is everything when you want people to learn something. Essentially, we learn by comparing something foreign to us to something we already know (Eric wrote about this in a similar context here). Therefore, the more context you can create, the easier it will be for people to make connections, especially in the faster pace of a group setting.

965525_261249167346645_665390122_o

The first place to develop context is by actually getting to know the people you are instructing. Obviously, we need to know as much as possible about a person’s physical development. Doing so means we can choose wisely from movement and load selection standpoints. However, you cannot overlook getting to know who the person “is” as well. What do they do for work? What sports do they play? This information is gold when it comes to teaching them, as you can appreciate their point of view and help them view the challenge through their perspective.

Context can also be created. You can create context by introducing new movements and concepts slowly and well before they will be applied in a more intense fashion via training. My favorite time to do this is the warm-up. Use your warm ups to test the waters with different movements, as well as to introduce subtle cues to which they can relate later on. A simple glute bridge develops context for someone when you’re quickly instructing him or her to engage the glutes on a deadlift lockout, for example. These subtle cues can also be individualized, and triggered by general cues later on, as per my final point…

4. Create individual focus points

Recently, I attended a fantastic seminar with Nick Winkelman, and my mind was blown with the quality information he was presenting. In many instances, hearing him explain how he coaches helped me realize what I was doing well, not only what I could do better. This was very much the case in regard to developing individual focus points.

Developing individual focus points is HOW YOU PERSONALIZE GROUP TRAINING!

Pull someone aside and show him or her something they need to focus on, and then you can cue the entire group and have each member respond in their own way; that, my friend, will change the game completely. For example, one individual may need to work on better abdominal bracing to keep the spine neutral, while another person may need to create more upper back tension to not lose positioning. Pull them aside, help show them what “right” feels like and explain to them that when they hear “brace,” that is what they should be thinking. When you approach things this way, you can say one single word and have two people doing completely different things. It’s up to you to be creative with how you cue, but if you develop individual focus points, you will have people flourish in a group setting.

In closing, I challenge you to do two things. First, think about whether or not incorporating some group training might be a good idea for your approach. I think it’s a valuable tool that teaches people to be accountable to each other and boosts the sense of community. Second, if you have reservations on the quality of the training with group training, challenge yourself to deliver a better product to those who meet the criteria to participate by using some of the strategies above.

If you're looking to learn more about bootcamps at Cressey Performance, you can check us out on Facebook.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series