Home 2017 March

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/31/17

It's almost MLB Opening Day, which is just about my favorite "holiday" of the year. With that in mind, Mike Reinold and I decided to put our Functional Stability Training products on sale for 20% off. Using the coupon code MLBFST, you can pick up the individual components or get an even bigger discount on the entire bundle.

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This sale runs through Monday at midnight; head to www.FunctionalStability.com to take advantage of it.

Good vs. Bad Stiffness - With FST on sale, I thought it would be a good time to "reincarnate" this webinar except from my presentation in the Optimizing Movement component. Relative stiffness is an important concept for all fitness and rehabilitation professionals to understand.

Cryotherapy Doesn't Work - This was an excellent post from Dean Somerset on the topic of icing. It's a great follow-up to the two-part series Tavis Bruce authored up for us last year, too, so be sure to check those out: Cryotherapy and Exercise Recovery: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3 - This was an interesting article at Inc.com on the topic of balancing life's demands. It resonated with me because it was another good reminder that it's our job as fitness professionals to make people realize they CAN still be fit even if they don't have a ton of time. And, fitness might be a great avenue through which to spend time with family and friends, so it can "check a few boxes" in folks' busy lives.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Train High School Athletes Like Pros

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio.

Like many strength and conditioning coaches, I entered the fitness industry thinking I wanted to train professional athletes. I’m lucky that I get to do exactly that on a daily basis, but I quickly discovered that some of the most rewarding coaching experiences have come from training high school athletes.

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Sure, watching your clients play on TV is awesome, but your potential to help a younger, less established athlete can reach far beyond the field of play. Bumping a big leaguer’s fastball from 92mph to 95mph might help him land a bigger contract, but helping a 9th grader make the junior varsity team can build confidence and self esteem that is literally life changing.

That said, high schoolers and professionals have drastically different training needs. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many coaches promise the world to high school athletes by helping them “train like the pros,” only to see minimal results. Here are five reasons you can’t train little Johnny or Jane like their favorite pro athletes, even if it seems like good marketing:

1. They’re Not Strong Enough for Fancy Stuff Yet

Athletes ages 13-18 comes in all shapes, sizes and strength levels. Some look like babies while others look like they’re ready for the NFL combine, but most fall into the former category. These athletes usually struggle to perform elementary movements like squats, push-ups and lunges. They’ve got no business working on fancy change of direction drills or contrast training protocols until they’ve mastered the basics.

“Just get strong” is a common strength coach copout, but in this case it has merit. As my fellow CSP coach Greg Robins often says, think of athletic potential as a pool of water. The stronger the athlete, the more water they have in the pool. The more powerful the athlete, the faster they can draw water out of that pool. While power is of utmost importance for team sports, if your pool of water is shallow, it doesn’t matter how fast you draw it out. Strength is still the foundation of most athletic qualities, making it the most trainable quality for young athletes.

It’s certainly possible for a pro athlete to be “strong enough” to the point where they won’t improve much athletically by adding 50 pounds to their deadlift, but for a younger athlete, that might be exactly what he or she needs before they can cash in on more advanced training methods.

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2. They Need Less Loading for the Same Strength Gains

Novice trainees can get stronger with as little as 40-50% of their 1-rep max. On the other hand, more experienced lifters need a ton of submaximal volume and frequent exposures to heavy training loads (above 90 percent of 1RM) to keep gaining strength. And while not every pro athlete is an experienced lifter, they’ll likely have more training experience than a high school athlete.

What’s the point?

[bctt tweet="Teenagers get strong without much work. Don’t test 1RMs when you can gain with lighter weights."]

3. They (Hopefully) Play Multiple Sports

Young athletes have the opportunity to play multiple sports during the year, while virtually no pro athletes do that anymore. The days of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are long gone, so while the pros get to focus on the specific physical demands of their sport year round, high schoolers are likely playing several sports with drastically different requirements in terms of strength, power and endurance.

What happens if we have a high school athlete who plays football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring? There’s no defined off-season, making periodization much trickier. A pro baseball pitcher may not pick up a baseball from October to January, but for someone who constantly has games and practices, you can’t block training into specific physical qualities. A concurrent training approach (i.e. training endurance, strength and power all at once) or “concurrent with emphasis” (where you prioritize endurance, strength or power but touch upon the others to preserve them) becomes a necessity.

What about exercise selection? We know the bench press is great for football, but not ideal for baseball. We know distance running doesn’t do much for baseball, but may have merit for basketball. And what if he or she plays two sports at once (i.e. AAU basketball overlapping the other two high school seasons)? We can no longer speak in absolutes or make generalized exercise contraindications when it comes to developing a well-rounded athlete.

Yes, more young athletes are specializing at a younger age. We can do our part by influencing them to play multiple sports as long as possible, but we can also design well-rounded programs that expose them to dormant movement patterns and untapped strength qualities rather than always being laser focused on training for their primary sport.

4. There are Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

When too many cooks contribute to one dish, it won’t taste good. With high school athletes, you’ve got a lot of cooks (i.e. influences) in their kitchen (i.e. athletic career), making it difficult to create a cohesive dish worth tasting. It’s our job as the strength and conditioning coach to be the objective taste tester and adjust overall training stress to optimize performance.

Parents, teachers, coaches and friends influence every move an athlete makes on and off the field. It’s tough to get everyone on the same page. It’s common to hear an athlete say their coach wants them to get faster, their parents wants them to get more flexible and their teachers want them to study more and work out less. Who’s a teenager supposed to listen to?

In this case, it comes down to asking the right questions. I’ve learned that just by asking how an athlete is doing outside the gym can unveil the bigger picture. I’ve had a baseball player confess to performing upwards of four extra workouts a week because they’re participating in off-season training with the football team, all while getting less than five hours of sleep while studying for exams. This athlete is far from ready to hit in hard in the gym and it’s my job to adjust his training.

[bctt tweet="Ignorance is NOT bliss as the strength coach; keep tabs on ALL stressors in an athlete’s life."] Ask questions and get to know how an athlete’s lifestyle can affect their performance.

5. They Have Lackluster Recovery

Piggybacking on the last point, most high school athletes don’t recover from training as if their sport was their job. And that’s because it’s not. While most pro athletes are unrecovered too (they’re essentially third-shift workers with insane travel schedules), high school athletes don’t have a paycheck riding on their performance. So they stay up too late, eat Doritos and Skittles for lunch and don’t think twice about it.

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Great athletes live and die by their routines. Pro athletes especially settle into a daily routine that makes them feel ready to compete, from showing up to the field or court at the same time every day, to eating specific meals, to wearing the same sweaty socks for every game. A high school athlete may fly by the seat of his or her pants unless told otherwise, so we can guide them toward a routine that includes quality training, nutrition and sleep.

Take the time to educate your young athletes on the importance of simple recovery methods like foam rolling, eating enough protein and getting to bed before 10 p.m. They may not appreciate it immediately, but once they feel the difference in physical and mental performance, they’ll be more likely to recover like it's their job.

Conclusion

It’s tempting to use aggressive loading and exotic exercise selection with young athletes, but they rarely need either of them. The basics work for a reason and you’ll see success with surprisingly simple protocols if coached and performed diligently.

For more insight on how we train high school athletes at CSP, join me and Greg Robins on April 1-2 at The Annex Sports Performance Center in Chatham, NJ, for our 2-day seminar, “Complete Preparation for High School Athletes”. This seminar will equip coaches and trainers with the physical and mental tools needed to provide a comprehensive training experience for high school athletes of all sports and abilities. To register, CLICK HERE.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.BonvecStrength.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/23/17

Here's some recommended reading from around the strength and conditioning and nutrition worlds from the past week:

What to Do When You Don't Like Vegetables - I liked this article from Precision Nutrition because it touched on good long-term strategies more than just creative ways to "hide" veggies in what you normally eat. The infographic at the end is clutch.

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You Don't Need More Self Discipline. You Need Nuclear Mode - Have a bad habit you're trying to kick? Nate Green discusses nuclear mode, a strategy you might want to employ.

The 10 Dumbest Motivational Sayings - I contributed to this T-Nation roundtable discussion on hackneyed sayings that really need to go away.

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I think the popularity of this Tweet has more to do with the thought of steak than the actual message. #cspfamily

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 27

 I didn't get a chance to write a February installment of this series, so I'll do my best to over deliver with an extra few bulletpoints in this March edition.

1. Use video even if you don't think you need to use video.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was about time I learn how to use iMovie on my iPhone. What better way than to film pieces of my training session and put them all together?

Interestingly, beyond proving that I’d actually entered the 21st century from a technology standpoint, there was an added benefit: I identified some subtle technique issues that I could address. I didn’t like the inconsistent way I unracked the bar from set to set on squats, and I was slipping into more forward head posture than I would have liked on my TRX fallouts. These aren’t epic technical faults, but over time, they’d certainly detract from an optimal training effect. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t videoed. And, this is coming from a guy who uses video regularly with his athletes.

On the whole, I think folks video TOO MUCH nowadays. A phone on the training floor is usually a distraction and interferes with the training process. However, used correctly, video can be a tremendous resource – and one I’ll be using more with my own training.

2. Think of assessments as descriptive, not predictive.

There is a ton of research out there on how to predict sports injuries. When it really boils down to it, though, we learn that:

a. the single best predictor of future injuries is a previous injury (duh)

b. predicting injuries is really, really hard

Why is predicting injuries so challenging? Very simply, injury risk is incredibly multifactorial. Injuries occur because of a remarkable interplay of systemic, biomechanical, and physiological factors – and they’re mixed in with pure happenstance: collisions, hit-by-pitches, poor weather conditions, and equipment malfunctions.

As such, it’s challenging to say that any single assessment will ever truly be a gold standard in predicting injuries. Accordingly, we should think of the assessment process as descriptive above all else. In other words, what we see when we first encounter an individual is their “default pattern:” how they’ll respond to a chaotic environment in the real world “fight-or-flight” scenarios.

For example, consider one of my favorite assessments, the overhead lunge walk:

When first challenged with an overhead lunge walk, many athletes dive into knee valgus, use a short stride, and slip into lumbar extension and forward head posture. Sure, we can clean a lot of these things up in a matter of less than 15 seconds, retest, and get a better outcome. That doesn’t fundamentally mean we’ve improved their movement quality or reduced their risk of injury, though. Effecting lasting changes takes time and lots of high-quality reps. However, the descriptive nature of the assessment guides our program design, which gives us a road map for these efforts.

3. Go unilateral to progress anterior core stability drills into rotary stability challenges.

When we categorize our core stability drills, we’ll break them down into the following designations:

a. anterior core (resisting extension of the lower back): rollouts, fallouts, etc.
b. rotary core (resisting rotation of the lower back): chops, lifts, etc.
c. lateral core (resisting lateral flexion – or side bending – of the lower back): 1-arm farmer’s walks, side bridges

With both rotary and lateral core “dominant” exercises, we can appreciate that the anterior core is also working to resist extension as we do a chop, lift, or farmer’s carry. In other words, we’re always controlling the sagittal plane above all else.

However, when we perform anterior core challenges – rollouts, fallouts, bodysaw drills, and basic prone planks/bridges – we really don’t get much of a challenge to rotary or lateral core stability. With four points of contact (two feet/knees and two arms/hands), the challenge outside the sagittal plane is minimal.

Fortunately, we can quickly and easily “bias” our anterior core work to get us additional challenges in the frontal and transverse planes by simply going to unilateral or asymmetrical set-ups. This is one (of many) scenarios where a TRX suspension trainer can be a game-changer. Here are two favorites: the 1-leg TRX fallout and TRX flutters:

 


4. Coaches need to train.

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days.

Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes.

Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games.

Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip.

Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes.

You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic.

If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/14/17

We missed this regular feature last week, as I penned some extra original content in lieu of posting the regularly scheduled "redirects" around the 'net. Luckily, it allowed me to stockpile some stuff for this installment:

Conscious Coaching - Brett Bartholomew just released this excellent book for coaches, and it's already getting rave reviews. Add my name to the list of that list of impressed reviewers, as I'm halfway through and really enjoying it. I'd call this must-read material for any up-and-coming member of the fitness industry.

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The Resilient Performance Podcast with Bill Hartman - Bill is one of the brightest guys in the industry, and I learn something each time he speaks. Put him on a call with another super bright guy, Doug Kechijian, and you get an awesome podcast like this!

The 12 Best Ways to Build Shoulders - This roundtable was published this morning at T-Nation, and I was one of 12 contributors. You'll get a nice blend of contributions from bodybuilding and performance backgrounds.

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 6

It's time for the March installment of my thoughts on fitness career insights.

1. Four broad categories make your business successful.

I used to think that having a successful business in the fitness industry - or any industry, for that matter - was about two things: Lead Generation and Lead Conversion. Lead generation refers to how many people are inquiring about your gym, and lead conversion is how many of those people actually join your gym (or sign up to train with you). This is a very shortsighted view, though, as it doesn't take into account two super important systems components.

Retention is what ultimately differentiates the most successful gyms and trainers in the business, and it really doesn't fall under either of these categories. Retention is what magnifies your lead generation and conversion efforts over the course of a training career.

Efficiency is the other factor that you only understand once your business gets larger. Let's say you crush it on lead generation and lead conversion - and your retention is great - but you have a massive staff, insane utility expenses, an unreasonable lease, and are open 24 hours a day. You aren't very efficient, so the high expenses (and headaches) offset the gross revenue figures you're generating. Knowing how to "trim the fat" from an expenses standpoint is imperative to manage growth. Little things like switching to a new credit card processor or different payroll company can save you thousands without impacting your client experience at all.

If your business is struggling, take a look at those four factors and pick where you can improve the most - and the quickest. Pick the low-hanging fruit first.

2. There are four kinds of products/services.

I learned this all the way back in my undergraduate business education. You have new and old products/services, and new and old markets/customers.

SameNewProduct

I'll use Cressey Sports Performance as an example. We are well known for our work with baseball players.

When we get a new baseball player referral, it's the same product, old market scenario. We have all the systems in place for it. The line gets blurred a bit when the same product is rolled out to a new geographic area (i.e., nationwide vs. local), so you could argue that it "blends" with...

...Same product, new market: If we decided to take our baseball training principles and push them heavily to quarterbacks, swimmers, and tennis players, then it would be a same product, new market scenario.

When we first offered massage therapy, nutrition consultations, pitching instruction, and CSP clothing to our baseball players, that was a new product, old market scenario. 

If we decided to start producing a CSP branded javelin and pushing ourselves heavily to track and field throwing athletes, that would be a new product, new market scenario.

When you consider all these options, it becomes readily apparent that the two easiest ways to grow are using everything other than the new product, new market scenario.  It requires extensive resources and a huge leap of faith. It's far easier to sell an old or new service to an existing marketing than it is to acquire a brand new customer base completely. And, it's easier to sell your same service to and old or new market because you can fall back on your results and your reputation.

As with point #1 from above, it's easiest to pick the low-hanging fruit.

3. YOU are an appreciating asset that is tax-deductible.

With tax time at hand, here's an interesting observation: when you invest in yourself relative to your profession, it's usually tax deductible. Maybe it's a seminar you attend or DVD you purchase. It might be your fitness recertification fees, or what you spend on a CPR/first aid refresher. Perhaps it's some new equipment you purchase to use with clients, or the mileage you drive to observe a fellow professional in action so that you can learn. 

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You can't write off the Starbucks you drink, the new watch you got, or the fancy car in your driveway (well, unless it's a business vehicle, but that's a loaded topic). The point is that the government essentially incentivizes you to invest in yourself and your professional development, but it doesn't reward blowing money on "stuff" that doesn't make you better at what you do professionally or more likely to make money.

With that in mind, as the spring/summer seminar circuits start up, remember that the cost of attending a seminar - from registration fees to travel expenses - are deductible against your income. When you consider state and federal income taxes, most folks will actually get back upwards of 25-50% of what they pay for the seminar in question - and that doesn't even include the financial impact it could have on you if it helps you to become a more well rounded, marketable, and successful fitness professional. Invest in yourself and you'll never regret it.

We're hosting one such game-changing seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL on April 9. Brian St. Pierre, the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition, will be delivering a fantastic nutrition talk that was a big hit when he presented it at our Massachusetts facility last year. The early-bird registration deadline is fast approaching, and you can learn more about it HERE

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Making Sense of Exercise Contraindications

I've got a wonky shoulder. Actually, the term "wonky" probably doesn't do it justice. As of a MRI in 2014, here's what I've got:

"There is a high-grade partial thickness articular surface tear of the posterior fibers of the supraspinatus that measures 15 mm AP x 15 mm RL. The undersurface tendon fibers are delaminated and retracted 15
mm.

"There is a high-grade partial-thickness cartilage defect over the posterior medial aspect of the humeral head
(near the posterior-superior labrum) with cartilage flap formation that measures 8 mm SI x 5 mm AP."

That was about three years ago, and it may be worse now. The truth is that it started with internal impingement during my high school tennis career, and gradually progressed over the years. In comparing the 2014 MRI to one I'd had in 2003, you see that the damage has progressed (as expected), but the symptoms have actually gotten substantially better.

My (occasional) pain is your gain, though. You see, the symptoms (or lack thereof) can actually teach us a lot about how we view contraindicating exercises.

I can bench press as heavy as I want with zero issues. Pull-ups, rows, pullovers, overhead carries, landmine presses, Turkish get-ups are all completely asymptomatic. They're in my safe exercise repertoire.

And, as long as I don't go crazy with volume or intensity, I can throw a baseball just fine. I long-tossed out well over 200 feet with my pro guys consistently this offseason and it wasn't a problem.

Overhead pressing is weird for me, though. If I tried to push press 135 pounds, my shoulder would hate me for the next 6-8 weeks. Interestingly, though, if I keep the weight lighter, stick to dumbbells in the scapular plane, control the tempo, focus on perfect technique, and don't go crazy with volume, overhead pressing actually makes my shoulder feel better. I'll work it in as an assistance exercise every other month.

 

 

Thanks to a chronic partial thickness rotator cuff tear, overhead pressing is weird for me. If I tried to push press 135 pounds, my shoulder would hate me for the next 6-8 weeks. Interestingly, though, if I keep the weight lighter, stick to dumbbells in the scapular plane, control the tempo, focus on perfect technique, and don't go crazy with volume, overhead pressing actually makes my shoulder feel better. I'll work it in as an assistance exercise every other month. This reminds us that we shouldn't just contraindicate exercises, but rather specific SCENARIOS. You won't change a person's anatomy, but you can certainly change the training stimulus to accommodate that anatomy. Check out today's post at www.EricCressey.com/blog for more info. #cspfamily #rotatorcuff #overheadpress #shoulderpain #shoulderworkout

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Interestingly, though, back squatting is what destroys my shoulder the most. This is consistent with an internal impingement diagnosis, but doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you consider that I can throw pain-free. Even if I just try to put a 45-pound barbell on my shoulders, it lights my shoulder up in a very bad way.

This weird collection of symptoms can actually teach us three really big lessons, though.

1. Everyone's symptoms and provocative patterns are completely different.  Two people might have a very similar medical diagnosis, but dramatically different safe exercise repertoires.

2. Too often, we contraindicate simply contraindicate exercises. In reality, we should be looking much broader, considering factors such as absolute loading, tempo, volume, and exercise technique.

[bctt tweet="We should contraindicate people from exercises, not exercises for people."]

3. An individual's "safe" exercise repertoire may evolve over time due to changes in movement quality, tissue quality, recovery capacity, and structural integrity. Our programming needs to evolve to accommodate those changes, too.

Certainly, some exercises are inherently bad and not worth the risk, but it's important to evaluate each individual and situation individually to make the determinations on all those "middle of the road" exercises that deliver great training effects and make strength and conditioning fun.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/3/17

Here are some good strength and conditioning reads for you to check out as you head into the weekend! 

The Sleep Sweet Spot for Avoiding Memory Problems - This is a quick read from Dr. Mike Roussell; he covers the ever important - but commonly overlooked - topic of sleep.

Random Thoughts on Speed, Strength, and Conditioning - Mike Robertson and I are a lot alike - especially when it comes to our love of "random thoughts" brain dumps. There are some gems in here from my brother from another mother.

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Why the Phrase, "I Need to Rest" is a Misleading Excuse - Frank Duffy outlines some important points about responsibly helping folks to avoid time off from training when they're injured.    

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