Last week, I was reading through a quarterly magazine published by a financial advisory firm with whom my wife and I work, and it introduced the concept of recency bias. WikiInvest.com describes this phenomenon as:
"Recency Bias is where stock market participants evaluate their portfolio performance based on recent results or on their perspective of recent results and make incorrect conclusions that ultimately lead to incorrect decisions about how the stock market behaves."
In other words, when the stock market tanks, people are - in the short-term - very reluctant to invest. And, when the market thrives, they can't wait to invest. This is in spite of the fact that these might be the exact opposite of the best approaches, and inherently at odds with a fiscally responsible long-term strategy.
Interestingly, the concept of recency bias has implications in the rehabilitation, health, and human performance fields. To illustrate this, I'll give you an example.
Back in October of 2015, I had a one-time consult at our Jupiter, FL facility with a individual with chronic shoulder, elbow, and hip/lower back issues. After a week-long stay in Florida with an assessment and week of in-person coaching, he's followed up with online-only programs from across the country. His progress has been fantastic in that time, with his exercise pool expanding and movement quality improving significantly. What's been really interesting is seeing the shift from "movement weary" to "fired up to train."
His first few months of programming was very much about feeling out exercise selection and technique. For example, here were three email excerpts:
November 8: "Missed my first week of workouts after I got back home. Everything has been going good since. I plan on spending some extra weeks on this program before getting a new one to master the techniques on the serratus and periscapular exercises."
December 7: ".Can you check my wall slide form? Sometimes I feel it a tad bit in the front of the shoulder on the upward rotation and lift off."
December 16: "Need some help on bottoms up KB crosswalk. Not sure if I have the proper overhead scapula position. and suspect I might be in a bit of extension."
When it comes to movement quality, I often talk with new clients about an eight-week magic mark. Be consistent for eight weeks, and re-evaluate where you stand. If there isn't considerable progress, you may need to shake things up with your approach. Take a look at what happened to the tone of the emails in the months that followed:
December 30: "Great new program by the way. I like how you bridged the gap between weights and corrective exercise. Shoulders and elbows feel better."
April 8: "Hips are feeling better than before I started the program!! Getting better glute activation on the back leg during lunges, and also getting better hip extension on bridges and hip thrusts were both very helpful for the hips."
May 24: "Keep working on my tight hips. Feeling better there but still a little stiff. My front squat went up! Keep getting stronger, and keep the shoulders safe!"
July 26: "New program is awesome! I didn't think I would be able to bench pain free before I started. Super psyched to see bench in my program."
August 28: "New program time! Made some good gains on the last one looking forward to the new one. Hips feel 3 times better. I want to make some more strength gains on this new program. Just throw in enough corrective exercise for all my previous chronic injuries. Really excited for this new program. I'm getting a lot stronger and I feel like a beast again!"
This is where you see how important it is to avoid recency bias in your training, whether you have a considerable injury history or you want to avoid an injury in the first place. This individual is doing a great job of recognizing that while things are going well, he needs to preserve the balance between pushing his body and taking care of it. And, I'm sure that there will be times moving forward when we'll have to remind him to pump the brakes a bit; it's the give and take of training progressions.
Don't only do your correctives when you are a) hurt or b) have recently been hurting; make sure to keep at least some of them around for the long haul. As my physical therapist buddy, Eric Schoenberg, has said,
[bctt tweet="What gets you healthy keeps you healthy."]
Likewise, just because you've been healthy and managed to get away with brutal training technique and horribly designed programming doesn't mean that it'll last forever. As I Tweeted in the past,
Now, please keep in mind that I'm not advocating that you foam roll for four hours per day and complete a two-a-day, 57-exercise mobility routine. If you're efficient with your exercise selection and pristine with your training technique, it can be accomplished relatively easily. If you look at the warm-ups in The High Performance Handbook, they cover the overwhelming majority of any "correctives" you'd need, and the rest is accounted for with the comprehensive, well-balanced strength and conditioning programs. It's not a rehab program; but it could very well be called an "avoid rehab" program.
The take-home point of this article is every successful approach to training avoids the recency bias trap. Just because something happened in the recent past doesn't necessarily mean it should be more heavily weighted in your planning or execution. In other words, have a smart plan - and stick to it!
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Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. Here's some good strength and conditioning content from around the 'Net over the past week:
Approach the Process with Joy: A Podcast with Mike Irr - Mike has been a friend for over a decade, dating back to our University of Connecticut days. He's now head strength and conditioning coach and a physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors. He's a perfect example of how great things happen for great people, and this podcast will show you why.
Historic Performance Podcast with Brijesh Patel - Another old friend and UCONN buddy, Brijesh ("B") Patel, is head strength and conditioning coach at Quinnipiac. B's work in the isometric training realm has influenced me, and he chats about it here.
My topic for our 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar is "Forecasting Fitness." I'll be talking about where I think the fitness industry is headed in the next few decades. While I've been pulling together my PowerPoint, I've come up with some good odds and ends that I feel warrant reflection here in a blog. Before I get started, though, just a quick, friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on the event. Hope to see you there!
Without further ado...
1. Humility is a must.
Over the past week, I've listened to podcasts interviews with three of my good friends in the industry: Brijesh Patel (head S&C coach at Quinnipiac), Mike Irr (S&C coach and physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors), and Josh Bonhotal (S&C coach at Purdue). I'm a huge believer (both in life and continuing education opportunities) in the importance of finding common ground. [bctt tweet="Focus on the 90% of things successful people have in common, not the 10% upon which they disagree."]
In all three of these interviews, the coach - in one way or another - stressed the importance of humility. Josh, in particular, commented on how he knew absolutely nothing about training divers (or even the sport itself) when he first started training divers with Olympic medals under their belts. And, rather than trying to employ a "fake it 'til you make it" strategy with them, he was very honest with them about his lack of experience, but also committed to learning as much as he could by observing and asking tons of questions. I think athletes and clients appreciate that humility - and certainly prefer it over a "know it all" demeanor.
2. There are four predominant ways to win over a potential customer in the fitness industry.
Last month, an intern asked me what I felt made some fitness writers successful while others struggled to gain a following. It got me to thinking about the qualities of the prominent fitness writers I know, and the more I considered it, the more I realized that these are the same qualities that make for a good in-person trainer or coach. Here are some of the four primary things the best writers (and trainers) do:
Innovate - These are new ideas that you can't find elsewhere. Think of what Nick Tumminello and Ben Bruno do with the introduction of exercises you haven't seen before. It's what we've tried to do with our baseball-specific approach to strength and conditioning. Ron Hruska did this with the Postural Restoration Institute approach to restoring optimal movement, and Dr. Stuart McGill has done it with his research on back pain and spine biomechanics. In the in-person training realm, this is the trainer at the commercial gym who picks up clients because they see him/her always introducing new drills with clients to keep things fresh. Or, it might be the reason baseball players move from across the country to train at Cressey Sports Performance in MA or FL.
Translate - This is someone taking an innovator's ideas and making them more user-friendly for the masses, and it's often necessary because not all innovators make great teachers. I think Mike Boyle has done a tremendous job of this over the years because he's very well read and a good teacher. In a presentation in Charlotte earlier this year, Mike joked that he has "no problem being the dumbest person in the room." In other words, he asks questions, and in doing so, learns how to best teach the material he's acquiring. Ultimately, this also leads to innovation, too.
In the in-person training world, this is the trainer who has great knowledge, but can "dumb things down" to create an efficient training program without overwhelming clients (who may not be interested in the science behind the training, anyway).
Entertain - This approach finds ways to make otherwise mundane content more palatable. If you read Tony Gentilcore's content, he does this really well; you hear about his cat and the movies he's seen as you're digesting content on shoulder mobility. These are also people who bring to the forefront entertaining stories that you might not have seen, but also offer social commentary (think of Barstool Sports or The Onion). In-person, these are the trainers who make things so fun that you actually forget you're working out.
Relate - This skill creates a sense of acceptance or unity. It's what Girls Gone Strong has done for females who like to lift weights, and why many powerlifters enjoy following other lifters' training logs that are posted online. The exercises aren't necessarily unique or hard to understand, but it gives a glimpse into someone else's reality that feels like your own. In-person, this is why some clients seek out trainers who are more like themselves. Smaller females usually don't want to train with huge bodybuilders, and guys who want to be huge bodybuilders don't want to train with smaller females. Baseball players don't want to train with guys who look like 300-pound offensive linemen, and 300-pound offensive lineman are usually skeptical of little guys who don't look the part.
Keep in mind that all successful writers and trainers do a combination of a few of these things; they never happen in isolation. If you look at EricCressey.com, I have a whole lot of innovation and translation, but less entertainment and relating. Conversely, you can get those latter two things on my social media offerings (particularly Instagram), as I post pics of my kids and own training, plus loads of self-deprecating humor and comical hashtags.
Let me preface this point by saying that you can be a great coach even with poor writing skills. What I will say, however, is that having unimpressive writing skills will make it dramatically harder to a) get a job and b) acquire clients.
For me, writing is a "tripwire." The second I see an email or resume with horrendous punctuation and loads of typos, it flips the "evaluate this under a microscope" switch. In other words, if someone writes (especially in a professional context) carelessly, it makes me wonder how far their lack of attention to detail extends. Will they show up on time? Will they swear in front of clients? Will there be typos in the programs they write?
In a world where 95% of fitness resumes look almost identical, polished writing can actually be a strong distinguishing factor.
4. Switch "ABC" to "ABCD."
This is borrowed from a slide in my 2016 Perform Better talk, but it's so important that I think it warrants reiteration.
Many business coaches have written about the ABC approach to selling: "Always Be Closing." I happen to think that's the short-term-gain, long-term-pain approach to building a business, especially in the fitness industry. People are constantly getting pitched on something, and it sure gets old.
I favor the ABCD approach: "Always Be Creatively Delivering." As Pat Rigsby has said, you want to find ways to add value, not extract it. Go out of your way to find avenues through which you can add more value to a client's experience and you'll have a much higher likelihood of fitness industry success.
That'll do it for this month. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. And, we'd certainly love to see you at our fall seminar!
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Today's guest post comes from Virginia-based strength and conditioning coach, Todd Bumgardner. I think it's very useful material for all the trainers and strength and conditioning coaches out there. Enjoy! -EC
It’s rare that large successes are accomplished without an idea of what success will look like. Sure, there are the occasional one-off miracles that happen when people swing hard with good intentions, but I don’t believe even those were truly accomplished without at least a loose plan that existed in the action taker’s head. It’s far more advantageous, and consistent, to materialize an actionable plan, with clear objectives, in the real world.
We often think in terms of plans and objectives when examining our businesses, or our financial goals, but a lot of coaches and trainers miss on the powerful outcomes elicited by setting training session objectives. I’m not just talking quantitative outcomes for our clients, but objectives that guide our coaching behaviors. Defining a list of session objectives, for you and your coaches, can dramatically improve your clients’ experience and results.
How We Did It
Chris Merritt and I own and operate Strength Faction together, while also tag teaming the leadership roles at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA—our small slice of semi-private training heaven in Dulles, VA.
The gym’s been running strong for five years now and has a great culture that’s focused on continual progression toward improvement. So we were inherently doing a lot of coaching things right. That set the context for our objectives discussion. We held it at one of our Friday in-services and we opened the floor to all the coaches. Then we simply asked, “What should our objectives be for running a successful training session?”
We involved the guys in the discussion because they coach just as many sessions as we do; who are we to stand in dictatorship? Besides, the opportunity to give input creates buy-in. When folks feel like they have responsibility, and that they’ve contributed to a cause, they’re more likely to take things seriously and give optimal effort.
The outcome: a lot of what we were already doing correctly ended up on paper and we sprinkled in a few more bits to improve our process.
Here’s what we ended up with.
Personal Interaction with each Client by each Coach
We schedule no more than six clients per time slot, and maintain a coach to client ratio of one to three, so we have innumerable opportunities for personal interaction. We have to capitalize on that.
Each coach must, at least briefly, interact with every client that walks through the door during his shift. Our goal at BSP NOVA is to continually improve our interconnectedness and sense of community, so we prioritize actions that help us accomplish that end. It’s not too much to at least ask how someone’s day has been.
Sure, this might sound like a no-brainer, but any coach that’s worked in a busy semi-private training gym knows how easy it is to lose focus and miss out on connecting with people. So we make it a focus and set the intent on connection at the beginning of every shift.
This speaks to our vigilance. Are we paying attention to what our people are doing? Are we checking positions? Are we updating programs based on the clients’ current readiness and ability?
If we’re answering yes to all of those questions there’s a high likelihood that we’ll avoid injuries during that shift. If we answer no, the chance of injury creeps up. Training injuries should be a rarity; maintaining focus keeps it that way.
Be the Best Part of Someone’s Day
We want our gym, our little slice of semi-private training heaven, to be a place of respite from the outside world, where folks can lay down their burdens, train, and have a good time. We’re ever aware that people don’t have to train with us, that Northern Virginia is rife with fitness options, and that we have to give them a reason to choose us over and over again.
Beyond that, our job as coaches is to lift others up. Every day, we have an opportunity to make the world a better place one interaction at a time. Making someone laugh, showing them that you care, or listening to a story that they really want to tell goes a long way toward improving someone’s day. Do that over and over again, with all of the clients that walk through the door, and we’ll make great strides toward making the world a better place.
Focus On Getting Better at One Aspect of Your Coaching
Kaizen, baby! We’re getting one percent better every day. This requires continual self-assessment and acknowledgement of our weak points. Each day we set a focus that toggles between what am I good at, and, where do I need to improve?
It begins with being open to constructive criticism from your leaders and peers and comfort with self-honesty. Nail those, make honest self-assessments, and attack improvement at one aspect of coaching every day.
Sweep the Sheds
I’m personally a huge All Blacks fan, and as a staff we love the book Legacy, James Kerr’s book about their culture, so we’ve focused hard on integrating the lessons from their phenomenal organization into our every day actions. We’ve incorporated “sweep the sheds,” The All Blacks humility-promoting mantra, into our everyday mindset.
Here it is:
"Sweeping the sheds. Doing it properly. So no one else has to. Because no one looks after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves."
Their point is to never be too big to do the small things while taking personal responsibility and acting with self-reliance. We’ve internalized the same point—but we’ve also extended it to mean something personally for us.
For us, sweeping the sheds also means taking as much as you can off of your teammates’ plates. If you can do a job that helps everyone else out, do it; don’t leave it for the next guy—even if it’s not necessarily “your job.”
Put Clients in the Best Positions to be Successful
Mentally and physically, it’s our job to put our clients in the best positions to be successful while they’re under our supervision. This means checking in with their state of mind and training readiness. It also means altering exercise selection if a given movement doesn’t fit for a certain person right now.
Checking in with clients first thing, and as the session continues, is a must. Without those continual assessments we can’t know whether or not we’re putting people in the best positions to be successful. And we can’t live with not doing that.
Progress in Form and Exercise Proficiency from Set to Set
Our last objective fits nicely with the one that precedes it. If we’re paying attention to our people, and they’re getting better each set, even minutely, we’re doing something right. Not every rep is going to be perfect, and the same is certainly true for every set. But if we’re improving incrementally each time we commence movement, all is right with our tiny, little world.
Set Some Objectives
These six points are by no means the end-all-be-all of training session objectives, but they’re solid examples and they work for us at our gym. Now, sit down with yourself, or your people, and list the objectives that make your training sessions successful.
About the Author
Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS is a co-founder of Strength Faction, an online coaching program for strength coaches and personal trainers that helps fitness industry folks transform their bodies and their coaching. He and his partner, Chris Merritt, just released a great, free E-book on how to keep your training on track, even while you’re training all of your clients. You can download it here: Train Yourself…Even While You’re Training Everyone Else.
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It's long overdue, but after years of requests from our female clients, we've created CSP Strength Ladies Tank Tops. They come in three colors:
We are currently accepting PRE-ORDERS through next Thursday, August 25 for a production run. They should ship out by the second week in September. The tank tops are $24.99 plus shipping and handling.
If you'd like to purchase one, please just add the appropriate size to your cart at the link(s) below, and note which color you'd like (teal, black, or pink) in the comments section at checkout. At important note: these tank tops run a bit big, so you'll want to order a size smaller than you'd normally get.
Earlier this week, I received the following question, and thought it would make for some good video content:
Q: I've been training a couple college guys this month before they go back to school and I had a few questions regarding rhythmic stabilizations. I started implementing them with my pitchers recently and they say they don't feel anything. Should they be? Is there any extra coaching points I'm missing here? Thanks for your time.
A: This video!
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I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's some recommended strength and conditioning material to kick off the new week:
Physical Preparation with Josh Bonhotal - Josh has been a friend for close to a decade now, and he's doing some great stuff with Purdue's men's basketball and diving teams. I noticed a lot of parallels to what we do with our up-and-coming baseball players from a long-term development standpoint.
It's time for the August installment of this popular series, and with the Olympics in full swing, MLB season in the home stretch, and the NFL season rapidly approaching, there's plenty of material rattling around my brain.
1. Don't criticize what you don't understand.
Maybe it's just because all the aforementioned sporting events are taking simultaneously and we're on sports social media overload right now, but it seems like a lot of people are ranting and raving about high-level athletes' preparation. They're cranky about Usain Bolt's hamstrings issue and how it's being managed. They're shocked the Kerri Walsh Jennings has had so many shoulder surgeries. They're flustered about Michael Phelps using cupping. They're floored by Prince Fielder's retirement after a second cervical fusion surgery. And they're cranky because they're confident that they can do a better job in spite of the fact that they have exactly ZERO knowledge of any of these situations.
If there's one thing I've learned from a lot of work with professional and Olympic athletes over the years, it's that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. What you read in the media is usually a partial truth (if that). For instance, I know of pitchers who have gone on the disabled list with calf strains or neck stiffness when they just needed to iron out mechanics or rest up from a high workload. I've also known athletes whose performance has suffered tremendously as they tried to plow through nagging injuries. They're getting blown up on Twitter when they should be getting commended for putting the team's needs ahead of their own personal health.
The point is that if you don't have any knowledge of the unique situations, blindly criticizing athletes and their sports medicine teams is a cheap shot. And, in my eyes, it makes you look incredibly unprofessional.
I'd also add that it's important to remember that you never know who is reading your criticism. Burning that bridge because you "just had to get it off your chest" could interfere with future job possibilities, or even the opportunity to work with the athletes in question.
So, sit back, chill out, and just be a sports fan, but not a Monday Morning Quarterback. You can't rehab someone on Twitter.
2. Use the bottoms-up get-up to remind hypermobile athletes to avoid elbow hyperextension - and cue "grabbing"the floor.
I love using Turkish Get-ups with athletes for a host of reasons; this drill really trains whole-body mobility and stability and delivers a great training effect without insane external loading. That said, one thing you have to be really careful of with using get-ups is that hypermobile (loose jointed) individuals will often wind up with elbows hyperextended - both on the support and overhead arms.
With that in mind, I like the idea of using a bottoms-up Turkish get-up because it's more grip intensive and strictly mandates a more neutral wrist position. This activation of the flexors of the fingers, wrist, and elbow gets the muscles that prevent elbow hyperextension a little more "pre-tensioned," so it's a lot harder to slip into bad patterns.
The bottom arm is a bit trickier, but I have had some success with the cue, "grab the floor as if you're trying to palm a basketball." That same activation of the flexors can help to keep a slight flex in the elbow.
3. A training effect prepares you, but an education sustains you.
This morning, I woke up to this article about Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel "reinventing himself" this past offseason. Part of that process involved getting started up with Cressey Sports Performance, and we've be really cheering him on as he's put forth a career year to be a big part of the Cubs' success. As the article details, one of Jason's biggest struggles was fading in the second half of the season. This was something he and I discussed at length during his initial evaluation last November. Even though it was 8-9 months away, we started talking about in-season training approaches and how to sustain performance well into the second half of the long MLB season. Thus far, he's done a great job of it; in five starts since the All-Star Break, he's 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA.
I often tell our athletes that the training effects we deliver in the off-season gets them through the first half of the season, but it's the education we impart that should sustain them through the second half of the year. The MLB calendar spans from mid-February (spring training) all the way to early October (and even longer if a team makes the playoffs). Nothing we can do in the offseason is guaranteed to last for eight months, but education certainly can. We need to work hard to help athletes understand what is unique about their bodies so that they can be advocates for themselves - and their own best coaches.
Jason's success has been a good reminder:
[bctt tweet="Coaching isn't just about building athleticism; it's also about educating."]
4. I still don't like Olympic lifts for baseball players.
By this point, most of you have probably heard (or seen) an Armenia Olympic lifter end up with a gruesome elbow injury on the jerk portion of a clean and jerk. It was a combination valgus stress - elbow hyperextension injury - which just so happens to be the exact same kind of stresses that lead to most pitching injuries at the elbow. Keep in mind that this was on a jerk - and the valgus stress is actually magnified on a snatch because of the bar path and distance traveled prior to the attempted catch.
I've written previously at length on my feelings about the topic: Should Baseball Players Olympic Lift? I think there are much better ways to train power in a specific context and with less injury risk.
Some coaches will argue, "But this is a max attempt in the Olympics! Our technique is much better than this and we aren't taking those kind of chances!" The truth is that video doesn't lie; you see a lot of ugly Olympic lifting technique all over the 'net. And, athletes will always want to push the limits and hit personal records. Moreover, baseball players have a lot more funky presentations (valgus carrying angle, medial elbow instability, and joint hypermobility) that muddy the waters further.
Perhaps more importantly, I know of very few high level arms who Olympic lift. We've demonstrated over and over again that you can build huge arm speed without snatches, jerks, and cleans, so why take the chance?
I should reiterate: I think the Olympic lifts are absolutely fantastic for other athletes. Baseball is just a different beast.
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I'm wrapping up my California trip tonight, but didn't want to leave you hanging on this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading/listening. Here are some good ones to check out:
EC on "The Impact Show" with Jim Kielbaso - This might have been my favorite podcast I've ever done, as I feel like Jim and I covered a lot of ground on the business and coaching sides of the equation. He's got some quality stuff in the archives of this podcast, too, so I'd encourage you to check some of his previous episodes out as well.
Invisible Influence - I've become a big fan of Jonah Berger's writing in a similar way to how Malcolm Gladwell won me over years ago. If you're interested in the factors that govern behavior and decision-making, Berger's stuff will be right up your alley. His commentary on "social facilitation" has immediate utility for those in the fitness industry.
Softball and Humeral Anterior Glide - If you like my baseball writing, you'll also enjoy CSP coach Nancy Newell's blogs on training softball players. This is one such example.