Home 2016 February

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/29/16

Happy Leap Day! Here's some recommended strength and conditioning reading to help you make the most of your "extra" day:

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World - Adam Grant (author of "Give and Take) released this earlier in the month, and I just wrapped up the audiobook and enjoyed it. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Chip and Dan Heath, Daniel Pink, etc., you'll like it, too.

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Carb Controversy: Why Low Carb Diets Have It All Wrong - Brian St. Pierre makes an appearance in our recommending reading two weeks in a row. He's been on fire with great content for Precision Nutrition. Speaking of Brian, don't forget that he'll be delivering a one-day seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts on April 10. Click here for more information.

You Need a Reality Check - Todd Hamer is a great strength and conditioning coach and writer. He offers some great perspective in this piece. In short, it's very easy to criticize when you aren't willing to think critically about someone's rationale for programming as they do.

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4 Ways Hypermobile Clients Can Improve Their Training

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Laura Canteri.

From super tight to super loose, people can fall at any point on the laxity continuum. Most women fall under the more hypermobile side of things, but there are a surprising amount of women who are nonetheless unaware of their extreme laxity. As a hypermobile female who learned the hard way, I want to share my knowledge and experiences with you to help improve your training and long-term health in four simple steps. While I'll focus my attention on females in particular, the overwhelming majority of these lessons hold true for hypermobile males as well.

1. Create Self Awareness.

What is Hypermobility?

Each joint has a certain amount of laxity and can be either congenital (you were born with it; thanks, Mom and Dad) or as a consequence of repetitive activities (e.g., swimming).  It shouldn't be confused with instability, which would result from an injury that leads to excessive, uncontrolled range-of-motion. With that said, hypermobility is excessive laxity at a joint. If you often feel “tight” and don’t think that this article pertains to you, I encourage you to keep reading.

How Do I Know If I’m Hypermobile?

At Cressey Sports Performance, we like to use the Beighton scale to assess joint laxity and hypermobility. The screen is scored out of nine points in which there are five tests (see below). Unilateral tests should be scored on both sides with each positive test counting as one point. The higher the score, the higher the laxity.

1. Extend the pinky to >90° angle with the rest of the hand (left and right sides)
2. Flex the thumb to contact with the forearm (left and right sides)
3. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
4. Knee hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
5. Toe touch with knees straight, touch the palms flat on the floor

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2. Remove Static Stretching From Your Routine.

From youth to college basketball, I had my fair share of injuries - from sprained ankles to dislocated shoulders -but despite having such loose joints, I would always feel “tight.” I couldn’t touch my toes, clasp my hands behind my back, or do any “cool” tricks. So, I incorporated static stretching before and after every game/practice to decrease my risk for injuries. Good news: I was eventually able to touch my toes and clasp my hands behind my back. Bad news: I continued to have even more shoulder instability issues, which resulted in surgery.

So, what gives? I wouldn’t feel “tight” if I was hypermobile, right? Wrong. Let me explain. When other structures aren’t working properly (i.e. your ligaments and tendons) to support a joint, the surrounding muscles work overtime to stabilize and protect it. This mechanism is known as "protective tension" and is the reason why someone who is hypermobile may feel “tight.”  Our body creates trigger points as a strategy to create stability where we don't have it. It may feel good to stretch in the moment, but stretching muscles around an already lax joint capsule will only lead to more instability and greater risk for injury.  It's like picking a scab; you feel better in the short-term, but wind up with longer term problems.

Long story short, if you're looking for a quick reduction in tightness, get rid of the static stretching and grab yourself a foam roller instead - and then follow that work up with some good stability exercises.

3. Stay Away From End Ranges.

Women who have a lot of joint laxity tend to stand, sit, and train in extreme end ranges (see pictures below). When joints are constantly loaded beyond normal range, the ligaments will continue to become more lax and the joint will experience more wear and tear overtime. Here are a few examples:

Hyperextended Elbows During a Push-up

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Hyperflexed Lumbar Spine and Hyperextended Cervical Spine During Sitting

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Hyperextended Knees During Standing

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Hyperextended Knees and Right Hip Shift During Standing

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Whether you are sitting behind a desk at work, attending a yoga class, or lifting weight, it is important to be aware of your body position and stop just short of end range.

4. Improve Motor Control.

Generally speaking, women have greater Q-angles (measured from hip to patella along femur) and a higher predisposition to joint laxity compared to men. Looser joints require more stability and motor control; therefore, learning better movement patterns is critical for improving long-term health and joint integrity.

For example, if you are experiencing discomfort in the front of your shoulder, one exercise you could incorporate is the standing external rotation. This is a great exercise for hypermobile individuals to increase posterior rotator cuff strength, increase shoulder stability, and improve motor control by learning how to keep the ball centered in the socket.

Regardless of what exercise you perform, in order to improve motor control you must:

a. Be present:  Eliminate distractions (e.g. texting, Facebook, etc.). If you are not focused, you will naturally fall back to your compensatory movement patterns

b. Maintain a neutral spine: It is common for hypermobile women to overextend their lower back and rely on bony stability; therefore, learning how to execute and maintain a neutral spine is important in every exercise in order to set a foundation for better alignment

c. Slow down: Perform each rep in a controlled manner, and emphasize quality over quantity.

d. Train in non-fatigued state: Be aware of how you feel, as fatigue will negatively affect your ability to learn new movement patterns

Conclusion

My personal experiences have led me to believe that hypermobility, especially for women, is more common than one might think. Creating awareness for yourself or your clients is the first step in the right direction. As Eric always says, “Assess, don’t guess.”

Happy training to all my hypermobile readers out there!

About the Author

Laura Canteri (@LC_Canteri) heads up strength camps (group training) at Cressey Sports Performance – Florida. She completed her master’s degree in exercise physiology at Florida Atlantic University, and also is Precision Nutrition certified. In addition to her work at CSP, Laura works with folks from all walks of life through her distance-based consulting. You can reach her at l.c.canteri@gmail.com. 

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Cressey Sports Performance – MA Spring Nutrition Seminar: April 10, 2016

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, April 10, we’ll be hosting the CSP Spring Nutrition Seminar featuring a day of learning with Brian St. Pierre. This event will take place at our Hudson, MA location. Brian was CSP’s first employee and has since moved on to be the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

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Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration

Morning Session – Laying the Foundation

9:00am: Human metabolism and the calorie conundrum
10:00am: Protein: the magical macro
10:30am: Carbs: the misunderstood macro
11:00am: Fats: the mystery macro
11:30am: Supplements: what works, what doesn’t, and what might
12:00pm: Q&A
12:30pm: Lunch

Afternoon Session – Practical Application

1:30pm: How to assess and where to begin
2:30pm: Controlling portions and making adjustments
3:00pm: Dietary adjustments for advanced muscle gain and fat loss
3:30pm: Problem solving and case studies
4:00pm: Why consistency is king
4:30pm: Q&A

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main Street, STE 310
Hudson, MA 01749

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Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.00

*The early bird registration deadline is 3/10/16.

Date/Time

Sunday, April 10
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar: 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs Pending (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign Up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign Up (Student)

We’re really excited about this event, as Brian is a polished presenter and always on top of the latest and greatest research on optimal nutrition practices. Space is limited and we expect this event to fill up quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/20/16

We're wrapping up the week with some good recommended strength and conditioning material. Check these reads out:

Can Eating Too Little Actually Damage Your Metabolism? - This was an absolutely outstanding article on energy balance from Brian St. Pierre for Precision Nutrition. Suffice it to say that it's much more complex than "calories in vs. calories out."

6 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Strength and Conditioning Program - Greg Robins wrote this article up for my website almost two years ago, but the useful messages strongly endure!

Why Our Gym Has No Mirrors - Tony Bonvechio explains CSP's rationale better than I ever could! 

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Exercise of the Week: Resisted Scapular Wall Slides

Today's "Exercise of the Week" guest post comes from Lee Boyce. Enjoy! -EC

One of the basic exercises that people are taught to practice for improved shoulder rotation, upper back activation, scapular mobility and anterior muscle release as a by-product is the standard scapular wall slide. To do them, a lifter would simply stand with the heels, butt, upper back, shoulders and full arms and hands against the wall, reduce the lower back arch, and slide the hands up and down, mimicking a full shoulder press movement pattern.

Regressing this movement is as simple as taking the feet a few inches away from the wall and assuming position otherwise. Progressing this movement, however, is another story.

The problem is that people adapt quickly to an unloaded mobility drill, and because of this, the wall slide can become another non-transferrable “skill” that doesn’t carry over to generally improved posture or performance. Moreover, depending on whether the humerus is properly nested in the glenoid fossa to begin with, the wall slides themselves may always pose a problem from a biomechanical perspective. To help this cause, adding some mild resistance can “remind” the muscles of the rotator cuff to center the humeral head in the socket and create a much more effective external rotation position. Plus, using a neutral grip via ropes (as compared to a palms-forward grip) creates a much more ideal (and shoulder friendly) environment for external rotation that can act to counter anterior shoulder glide.

For resisted scapular slides, I like using a cable pulley, and performing the lift from a seated position. It’s a bit easier for a lifter to focus on avoiding back hyperextension, which is a common compensation pattern when lifters have insufficient shoulder mobility.

This movement creates a force angle that works against the standard slide pattern, so keeping the hands and arms moving along the same plane becomes a much more challenging task for the scapular muscles. It’s easy to “let up” and allow the hands and arms to drift forward. To view the movement in action, watch the video below.

Coaching Cues

1. Have the athlete sit squarely on a box or bench. The closer parallel the box puts him in, the better.

2. Set up the cable pulley and ropes in a position just above head level. This way, at the top position, the force angle won’t be strictly downward, and there will be ample tension throughout.

3. If the lifter is still novice or intermediate level as far as shoulder mobility and control goes, a neutral grip is recommended for reasons mentioned above. If the lifter is more advanced, he can feel free to pinch-grip between the thumb and first finger, and face the palms forward.

4. During the movement, avoid slipping into lower back hyperextension; maintain thoracic region extension; and be sure to maintain neutral head posture. Also, avoid letting the elbows fall out of line with the hands in the vertical plane.

5. Your target areas are the rotator cuff muscles, rear deltoids, and lower traps (as you raise the weight further overhead). When you start feeling this in other areas like the biceps and upper traps, readjust positioning and continue.

6. The exercise is very specific, so it shouldn’t take much weight for it to be effective. 15-20lbs of resistance on most machines is usually plenty.

7. The movement won’t work if it’s done in a rush. Think of a 2121 tempo as a solid guideline.

8. Use higher reps to build up the muscular endurance of these muscle groups.

9. Your range of motion should replicate your typical dumbbell shoulder press – meaning the rep begins very close to the shoulder level, and ends at a full arm extension overhead.

10. Through the movement, remember to keep the hand separated (pull the rope handles apart) as much as possible. Doing so keeps the upper back engaged, avoids internal rotation, and keeps the hands stacked over the shoulder, where they belong.

About the Author

Lee Boyce (@CoachLeeBoyce) is a strength coach, writer, and former collegiate level sprinter and long jumper, based in Toronto, Canada. In 2013, he was named to the training and treatment staff for team Jamaica at the Penn Relays . He’s regularly featured in the largest fitness publications as a writer. Visit his website at www.LeeBoyceTraining.com or check him out on Facebook.

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10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age

Back in my early-to-mid-20s, my focus shifted into powerlifting and away from a "traditional" athletic career. While I got a ton stronger, I can't say that I felt any more athletic. In hindsight, I realize that it was because I trained strength at the exclusion of many other important athletic qualities. Since then, I've gone out of my way to include things that I know keep me athletic, and as a result, at age 34, I feel really good about taking on anything life throws my way. With that in mind, I thought I'd pull together some recommendations for those looking to remain athletic as they age.

1. Stay on top of your soft tissue work and mobility drills.

Without a doubt, the most common reason folks feel unathletic is that they aren't able to get into the positions/postures they want. As I've written in the past, it's much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back. Some foam rolling and five minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you athletic.

2. Do a small amount of pre-training plyos.

I think it's important to preserve the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). That's not to say that every gym goer needs to be doing crazy depth jumps and sprinting full-tilt, though. A better bet for many folks who worry about tweaking an Achilles, patellar tendon, or hamstrings is to implement some low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling. Here's a slightly more advanced progression we use in The High Performance Handbook program:

The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and before starting up with lifting.

3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

I love cable lift variations to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.

Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but don't forget this gem:

5. Get strong in single-leg.

Squats and deadlifts will get you strong, no doubt, but don't forget that a big chunk of athletics at all levels takes place in single-leg stance. Lunges, 1-leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone's training programs.

6. Use core exercises that force you to resist both extension and rotation.

Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places. The lower back isn't really the place to move, though; you should prioritize movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting both extension (too much lower back arching) and rotation. Here are a few favorites:

7. Train outside the sagittal plane.

It's important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it's useful to progress to a bit of strength work in the frontal place. I love lateral lunge variations for this reason.

8. Chuck medicine balls!

I'm a huge fan of medicine ball drills with our athletes, but a lot of people might not know that I absolutely love them for our "general population" clients as well. I speak to why in this article: Medicine Ball Workouts: Not Just for Athletes. Twice a week, try adding in four sets at the end of your warm-up and prior to lifting. Do two sets of overhead stomps and two sets of a rotational drill, starting with these two variations in month 1:

In month 2, try these two:

Trust me; you'll be hooked by the "8-week Magic Mark."

9. Be fast on your concentric.

If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. This can obviously entail including things like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and kettlebell swings. Taking it a step further, though, you can always just make a dedicated effort to always accelerate the bar with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. 

10. Play.

In a given week, on top of my normal lifting, I might catch bullpens, sprint or condition with my athletes, play beach volleyball, or run a few football receiving routes at the facility. The old adage, "Variety is the spice of life" applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don't be afraid to have some fun.

The longer you've been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun. If you're looking for a flexible program that's proven effective across several populations, I'd encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook. It's on sale for $30 off through the end of the day today.

HPH-main

 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/12/16

Happy Friday, everyone! Here are three good reads from the strength and conditioning world to kick off your weekend on the right foot:

Would I Be Healthier If I Quit Drinking? - Camille DePutter takes a close look into how alcohol and fitness can co-exist, and what tradeoffs the choice to drink may entail. As usual, Precision Nutrition delivers excellent content.

Resume Building 101 for Fitness Professionals - My business partner, Pete, reviews well over 300 resumes each year for both CSP internships and jobs. Suffice it to say that if you're looking to strengthen your resume in the fitness industry, this is must-read material!

EC on the Physical Preparation Podcast with Mike Robertson - I was a guest on Mike's show last week, and we talked a lot about baseball development.

Also, just a friendly reminder that the $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook ends this Sunday at midnight. Be sure to take advantage of this discount on my most popular resource of all time!

HPH-main

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5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises that Overdeliver

With this week's $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite exercises that are included in the program. I like these, in particular, because they're "anti-isolation" exercises. In other words, they deliver multiple training effects to give gym-goers more efficient training outcomes. Keep in mind that just because I don't include classic compound lifts like squats and deadlifts in this discussion doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely fantastic; I just want to give you a little exposure to some different drills in this post.

1. Kettlebell Crosswalk

Because of the asymmetrical loading, you get some great rotary stability work at the core - on top of the anterior core stability work you get from holding a weight overhead while resisting too much arching of your lower back. You get some outstanding shoulder mobility and stability benefits, as getting the top arm up requires a lot of scapular upward rotation and rotator cuff activation. Finally, an overlooked benefit is the opportunity to reaffirm good neck positioning. A lot of athletes will want to shoot into forward head posture, but if you pack the neck correctly, you'll be able to avoid this.

2. Positional Breathing

I use a wide variety of positional breathing drills as part of The High Performance Handbook program, so this is really more of a "category" than a specific exercise. When you put athletes (especially those with more "extended postures) into a more flexion biased position and encourage them to full exhale, you are effectively training both mobility and stability simultaneously. When you exhale, many of the muscles of inhalation - scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, lats, pec minor (not surprisingly all muscles that have chronic tissue density in many individuals) - all are forced to relax. Concurrently, the rectus abdominus and external obliques fire to get air out - and in the process, establish better anterior core stability.

Here are a few examples:

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge to 1-leg RDL

Whenever I put this in an athlete's program, I go out of my way to warn them that they'll be pretty sore in the days that follow. Lunging and 1-leg RDLs constitute different kinds of single-leg work with different training effects, but when you combine them, you can get the best of both worlds.

This can also be done with one dumbbell at a time. As athletes get more proficient with the drill, I look for more "fluid" transitions, as opposed to a lot of stop-and-go movements.

4. 1-arm KB Turkish Get-up

This one is just too obvious. To do a good get-up, you need everything from a hip hinge, to anterior core control, to shoulder mobility, to single-leg stability.  

 

Not bad for a crafty lefty. #CSPfamily #100lb

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

If you're looking for a great coaching resource on Turkish Get-up Technique, check out Greg Robins' article, 6 Common Turkish Get-up Technique Mistakes.

5. Combination Mobility Exercises

Let's face it: nobody really enjoys mobility warm-ups. Fortunately, for those of you who dread these drills and prefer to get to the lifting as quickly as possible, there are some combination drills that speed up the process a bit. Check out these two examples from the program:

Wrap-up

If you're looking to learn more about how all these different pieces fit with an overall strength and conditioning program "puzzle," then I'd encourage you to check out my most popular resource, The High Performance Handbook. It's on sale for $30 off this week, and offers programs versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of training goals.  

HPH-main

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

We're long overdue for a new installment of my "Exercise of the Week" series, so here's one of my all-time favorite drills. The 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold affords all the shoulder health and postural benefits of horizontal pulling, but also trains thoracic (upper back) rotation, and both anterior and rotary core stability. In other words, it delivers some fantastic bang for your training buck. Check it out!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/2/16

Happy February, everyone! Let's kick off the month with some good reading from the strength and conditioning world:

Why Rehabilitation and Fitness Should Be Delivered in Parallel - I thought this was a fantastic article from Charlie Weingroff.  Collaborative efforts between fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists always make for better patient outcomes.

Captivology - I just finished up this book from Ben Parr, and there are definitely some useful lessons for coaches looking to maintain athletes' attention and avoid "desensitization" to important messages. 

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My Favorite Thing About Owning a Gym - Here's another awesome post from my business partner at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts. Pete always delivers unique insights when it comes to the business side of fitness.

Speaking of CSP, just a friendly reminder that we just announced the Cressey Sports Performance - Florida spring seminar, which will take place on March 13 at our Jupiter, FL facility. You can learn more HERE.

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