Home Blog Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 43

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 43

Written on May 31, 2013 at 10:24 am, by Eric Cressey

Courtesy of Greg Robins, here are this week's five tips to help your strength and conditioning programs out.

1. Try this simple cue to maintain proper leverages with your deadlift technique.

2. Consider coaching a softer knee position in prone bridge variations.

The most important aspect of any prone bridge exercise is control of the spine. Gravity is working down on us, and creating a need to engage the anterior core to keep from over extending. Coaching a stiff, or locked out knee may be o.k. for much of the population. However, in some cases you are better off coaching a knee position that is slightly flexed, to just short of fully extended. More times than not, this slight regression will help trainees to a better feel for using the appropriate muscles, whereas before the hard locked out legs were causing a lot of compensation elsewhere. 

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3. Utilize "blocks" in your programming.

Block periodization is somewhat of a “buzz” word in the strength training community. It is viewed as a complex system reserved for the advanced training population. In reality, the general concept of block periodization is something that can be easily utilized by all strength training enthusiasts.

By now, you have probably heard that periodization itself isn’t the super cutting-edge concept some make it out to be. In fact it’s more or less just a way to say “organization.” Block periodization refers to organizing your training into specific periods of time. Each period can have a different length, and each should have a different primary focus. So how does this system of organization apply to you, and why is it worth considering?

For starters, organizing things into blocks helps you define a specific goal for a certain period of your training. Additionally, acknowledging different blocks in a training period helps you select appropriate exercises, use movements you might not normally know where to insert, and assign a quantity of work to a given exercise.

Normally, block periodization is synonymous with fancy words like accumulation, transmutation, and realization. For some, understanding these terms is beneficial. For many, it’s not necessary at all. Instead, you can assign whatever focus you want to a given block. However, I would encourage you to embody the theme of moving from “general to specific.”

What you do in the gym will work to either help you, hurt you, or in some cases have no effect whatsoever. Assuming you a have a specific goal in mind, everything you do in the gym should be done in an effort to aid you in achieving your goal.  All these things have a different relationship with your progress towards the end goal. Some have a very direct relationship, while others have a more indirect relationship. Each is important, but without planned organization, we tend to focus solely on those with a more direct relationship.

The issue there is that the time spent on an area with a more indirect relationship is still very important. Ignoring them for too long can cause a rapid change in your training out of necessity. Because you ignored these areas, their improvement has now become essential to you moving forward with the more directly related things. Now that this is the case, more time must be spent on improving the indirect things, and the direct things become stagnant at best.

As an example, the most direct correlation to improved sport performance will always be the training of the sport in question. If an athlete spends 90% of his time playing his sport, he has a greater risk of injury due to repetitive overuse of the body in relation the movements of the sport. For every one percent of time he spends on items more indirectly related to his sport performance, the better his oddGR262682_659447396708_1354528890_ns of avoiding an overuse injury. See Eric’s College Baseball: Is Summer Ball Worth It? article for a real-world example of this.

The same could be said for someone looking to improve a certain fitness category. If you want to squat, bench, and deadlift more – and all you do is these lifts, you, too, will combat the aches and pains associated with the exposure to the same movements over and over. Enter the block organization scheme.

With this concept, we can allot certain periods of time to being either more general, or more specific. In other words, they can be more indirect or direct. When you organize your own training, start incorporating this idea. Everyone’s blocks will be different, and completely dependent upon his or her goals. Here is a simple way to think about it.

Block 1 (4 – 8 weeks)

Most general, or indirect: 60% or more of what you do.

Less general, more direct: 30% or more of what you do.

Most specific or direct: 10% or less of what you do.

Block 2 (3 – 6 weeks)

Most general, or indirect: 20% of what you do.

Less general, more direct: 50% or less of what you do.

Most specific or direct: 30% or more of what you do.

Block 3 (2 – 4 weeks)

Most general, or indirect: 10% or less of what you do.

Less general, more direct: 10% or less of what you do.

Most specific or direct: 80% or more of what you do.

4. Add the band-resisted sled sprint to your arsenal.

Band resisted sled sprints are a great tool for a variety of reasons. Any sled sprint sprint offers the benefit of lower impact, and in this case you have the ability to move the feet very explosively with less ground contact forces than traditional sprinting. Furthermore, the trailing person can alter the resistance to meet the demands of either the training intensity or the output from the sprinter. Lastly, these are a viable option for people coming back from upper extremity issues who may not be able to push a heavier sled.

5. Take advantage of grilling season.

Up North, we have crappy weather, plain and simple. This year, it's been exceptionally awful. Unfortunately, that means our time available to grill is shorter than I would like. While the good weather is upon us, I make it a point to use the easiest food preparation tool short of the microwave as much as possible, and you should, too. Grilling is about as simple as it gets. You can cook meats, veggies, and even starches all in the same place. Plus, clean-up is virtually non existent. If you have been in a food prep rut, get yourself outside and on the grill!

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  • These are great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • brian

    thanks

  • Jeff

    This is one of the dumber things you have posted. Please do not post information on topics in which you do not have an understanding of. Block periodization is an advance form of training for high level athletes. Your explanation of it is misguided and advocating the use of it for anyone is unwise and may lead to injury.

  • @Jeff, block periodization is a detailed approach to training. In it’s truest sense it is reserved for advanced athletes, in particular those who peak for a single event. The example above is not block periodization in this sense. Above I am simply taking a few themes from the block method and offering a way to apply them to the general strength training enthusiast. There are important, and useful concepts within this method that’s benefits can be enjoyed by more than the advanced athlete.

  • Kreg

    Jeff,

    Are you really going to troll one of the best minds in strength and conditioning in the country? Go home, you’re drunk.

  • Shane

    Really like tip number 2. Will try that. Think Jeff is upset with you.

  • Great coaching cue for the deadlift. I’ve seen this issue many times with my lifting buddies, as it seems almost intuitive to hike the hips up to prevent yourself from “squatting instead of deadlifting”.

  • j

    Thanks

  • David

    Jeff will probably not respond to any of the comments here because he’s an ignorant troll but i feel compelled to say that he’s wrong. How does varying exercises from general to specific lead to more injury? It doesn’t. Is it only reserved for high level athletes? No. Caitlyn Trout is now one, if not, the strongest female 123lbs power lifter in the world, yet she began on ‘block periodization’. I bet she is stronger than him, too. This is only one example but it is enough to invalidate his fallacious claim that BP is only reserved for advanced athletes. I would even say that BP is actually suitable for beginners because accumulation allows them to get a lot of practice with both general and specific exercises, which can lead to beneficial effects on hypertrophy and strength. Much better than routines from Flex.

  • Jeff

    @Greg, I’m sorry I just don’t understand what concepts you are advocating for general strength enthusiasts. The theory of going from General to Specific is nothing new nor was it born from BP, and trying to apply this to general strength development has nothing to do with BP. If you are referring to concentrated loading (Verkhoshansky), then that is a different can of worms, but still not meant for general strength development and general strength enthusiasts. As well, using the terms general and specific without giving definitions and examples leaves people astray.

    BP is not meant for a single peaking event. One of its many features is to allow high-level athletes to peak multiple times a year. The blocks are meant to obtain a certain goal towards improving sport performance, not so “you can assign whatever focus you want to a given block.” There must be a specific focus to each block so that they lend themselves using the residual effects from the previous block, while always keeping in mind the end goal which is to improve sport performance, not a bench press or dead lift.

    “For every one percent of time he spends on items more indirectly related to his sport performance, the better his odds of avoiding an overuse injury.” Depends on the level of the athlete you are speaking off, but even still this is completely false. Improving a baseball player’s dumbbell bench press will not strengthen the muscles of this shoulder for how it is used in throwing. This then refers back to how you define what is specific training.

    You are a smart guy and I am sure you have great success with general strength, but please don’t write about advanced forms of training if you do not fully understand the subject yourself.

  • Awesome tips.

    Although I don’t live up North, I love the grilling tip. Super simple for preparing food in bulk, and like you said, little to no clean up.

    Keep up the good work!

    Jake

  • Alicia

    I’m an avid follower but don’t often comment – just wanted to let you know a family of weight lifters in FL is reaping the benefits of your tips and vids, thank you! Also, while stationed in northern Germany when our boys were small we were CONSTANTLY grilling on our tiny, dark, snow-covered patio. Locals thought we were crazy Americans (we are) but holy hell the taste of grilled beef or chicken in the pit of winter was so welcome. My point? You know it, Greg, it’s ALWAYS a good time to grill!

  • Please keep individuals like Jeff off this blog! Greg, keep this great information coming please. I use block training cycles with most of my general population clients and weekend warriors, not just high profile athletes and it works very well on all fronts. Some people just view the world through a straw.

  • Jeff

    @David, I was not advocating that going from general to specific would lead to injury. If you were to understand BP, then it calls for concentrated loading which, for a lower-level person could lead to CNS burn out and or injury. The use of general and specific exercises should be used for athletes. But no definition of what those are was given. And the fact that you say BP was used for power lifting just goes to show that you don’t know what you are talking. Starting at high volume – low intensity and moving to low volume – high intensity with the intent of only increasing lifting a barbell doesn’t qualify as BP. Your example with youth athletes isn’t BP and doesn’t make sense. Read a fucking book.

    You can take any time frame you want and call it a block. You can concentrate on only improving one lift (bench, squat, deadlift), but that doesn’t make it BP. When you start referring to general and specific exercises, and concentrating the loading, using terms BP, Accumulation, Transmutation and Realization around, then you are using Dr. Issurin’s model, which was not intended for general strength enthusiasts.

    BP is not a simple old strength training program with a few buzzwords. Articles like this need to be better defined…..said the drunken troll

    @Richard, why? I am entitled to my opinion just as much as you are. If we can’t have conversations about training and trying to clarify issues, then why is there the ability to comment after articles like these? Just to comment and swing from the author’s nuts?

    @Shane, cheers!

  • Vicar

    Something is wrong with the formatting lately – the text runs all the way across the screen, and so do the video “boxes,” so the videos appear about 1″ big in the middle of the post.

  • As someone who just started writing my own blog, I have to say that jeff is one in a million people that just needs to shoot his mouth off. If the quality of the material here is so bad, what are you reading for? Eric and Greg are two of the inspirations that made me decide to write my own blog. You guys give phenomenal tips for free and I can only hope to give at least a fraction of the quality that you guys put out on a regular basis. Thank you for everything you post!

  • David

    @Jeff

    You’re of the camp that believes there’s a such thing as ‘CNS burnout’. Now I know you’re a damn sham. And you are clearly not familiar with Caitlyn Trout’s protocol. If you were, you would see that she does not only do the big three lifts.

    What do I or the people practicing BP in powerlifting not know? So if a person who is a competitive powerlifter says he or she has taken principles from Vladimir Issurin’s Block Periodization book and applied them to powerlifting not know what they’re talking about just because ‘it was not intended for the general health enthusiast’? Last time I checked, powerlifting is a sport and competitive powerlifters who total Elite are not general health enthusiasts. You must have a problem with categorizing. Do you even know who James Smith, Jeremy Frey, Chad Smith, Christian Thib, Dave Tate, Gabriel Naspinski, Michael Tuscherer, or any of the other much-more-important-and-influential people than you are? Apparently not, because you probably read a BP blurb or Yahoo.com and now think you’re some smidgen hot-shot. These people are actually using BP and churning out medals and world record holding lifters. But then again, these are general health enthusiasts.

    I’ll go read a book, but that’s not all I’ll do. I’ll read the book, apply what’s in it, and be fuckin’ awesome, unlike you. You will read the book, post on Facebook how you THEORIZE some method will or will not work for your imaginary friend, Bob, and then rattle off on some meaningless diatribe on a reputable blog such as this one.

    You offer absolutely nothing to discuss.

  • Tom

    Jeff,

    Your tone and goofy criticisms are laughably douche-tastic. If you want anyone to take anything you say seriously, why not try being a tad bit more respectful?

    If this were a street fight, you’d be all alone, my man.

    Cheers,

    Tom

  • David

    I forgot to say, Greg. Good stuff.

  • Robert

    Great advice on the deadlift! Thank you for the other tips too! I definitely see the importance of Block training and have used this concept myself.

  • Chris

    Strange mob mentality in here bashing “Jeff” when in reality he is just pointing out the very sloppy description and implementation of Block Periodisation in this post by Greg. What Greg is describing is just the basics of many periodisation methods which is to assign a particular main training focus to a specific amount of time. Block Periodisation uses this principal but amplifies the loading in far shorter periods then in most other periodisation schemes. There is no need to come on here and attack this Jeff fella just because he disagrees with the poster on EC’s site. We all respect this place as a great resource and most of Greg Robbin’s posts are full of great, free info. But that doesn’t mean he is infallible. And in this case his post about BP is pretty sloppy and is using the current popularity of BP to get some more hits! In my opinion. Discussion is good. I’m sure Greg or EC have no problems with anyone reasoned and educated disagreeing with them.

  • Drake

    @David

    I don’t think Jeff was saying that you couldn’t use Block Periodization for powerlifting at all, he was stating that the average person should not use it, which is true. Gabriel Naspinski and I have talked about this before while discussing the training of someone who is weak (under 400 squat/under 250 bench at around 170 lbs). When I asked about using block periodization he replied:

    “In my opinion I think he is not at a level of preparation where the concentrated loading of block periodization is needed. What I would suggest is that he uses a more concurrent/complex-parallel approach utlizing the main lifts and general accessory work at the end.”

    Block periodization is simply a system that does not meet the needs of a most people. Most all people could probably use a concurrent method for the first year of training, or until they pass the point of being “not weak”. Block periodization is an astounding system for elite level powerlifters, that truly is not a better system. I think Jeff would agree with this; however, he is just stating that block periodization is something that it is not a system that should be used by those who are not prepared to use it.

    In my opinion (which has been influenced mainly by James Smith and Mr. Naspinski), beginners only truly need a system that revolves around the use of “light” weights (60-80%) with an emphasis on technique and work capacity. I’ve used this method with three of my athletes for the past 14 weeks and have had fairly decent results, here are the results:

    Athlete A, bench 135×1 -> 155x3x5 / squat 135×1 -> 205×5
    Athlete B, bench 165×1 -> 165×9 / squat 265×1 -> 265×9
    Athelte C, bench -> 190×1 -> 185×7 / squat 225×1 -> ~300×1

    All of them stayed the same weight (and all under 160), while performing sprints/jumps/throws/cardiac work/technical work 3x a week. Also, those results were seen on week 11 of their training. I believe this system also has its place for the general fitness population. It is almost like a prolonged accumulation phase (I hope neither James nor Gabriel read that I said that). So, I concur with Jeff that Block Periodization is something that should not be used by most people; however, I still think that his approach for saying so was misguided.

    Thanks to everyone for the discussion,

    Drake

  • jj

    Though Jeff’s approach to . is may have been off, the information he provided is not.

    @david

    Block perioreason on is not for the average health enthusiast.

    And cns fatigue does occur. Charlie Francis did a great job describing how in his lectures on his site. I suggest you purchase them. Worth every penny.

    http://Www.CharlieFrancis.com

    @Jeff

    Please contact me to talk training hookupjj@gmail.com

    @Jeff if you ever

  • Chris,

    I’m totally fine with open debate regarding anything posted on this site. I just prefer that folks keep it civil and approach things a bit more tactfully than Jeff did in his original post.

  • David

    Hi Drake,

    Gabriel Naspinski is my coach, and I will tell him you said beginners should be on an extended accumulation block. I’m just kidding.

    If you read what Jeff wrote: “And the fact that you say BP was used for power lifting just goes to show that you don’t know what you are talking. Starting at high volume – low intensity and moving to low volume – high intensity with the intent of only increasing lifting a barbell doesn’t qualify as BP.”

    Basically Jeff was pigeon-holing powerlifting into some linear and simplistic sport. Did I read into it too much or was he basically calling powerlifting a sport unworthy of BP? I interpreted it as the later.

    I agree that BP should not be used by everyone. But I did state that BP is suitable for beginners. Any program can be used by beginners, but not all of them will be suitable. I believe if many beginners structured their programs similar to how lifters like Caitlyn Trout structured it in the early stages of her career, they can see very good results with BP. This means what you alluded to earlier, continuous accumulation blocks with an occasional transmutation block so the trainee can go into higher intensities since technique should be somewhat refined from back-to-back accumulation blocks. In fact, her current training is not that different from how she trained 18 months ago; and she went from a 65 lbs. squat to a 320 lbs. squat in that time frame.

    And doing complex training within a BP framework is completely possible. BP only outlines principles for each specific block. What coaches and athletes decide to do within the confines of those principles is up to them. So a novice can very well do squats for 5 sets of 5, followed by assistance work, during the accumulation block. If he does the accumulation block at least 2 more times, his technique should be refined enough to do 3 sets of 5 at a higher intensity. This is actually what I have my clients do, and they are seeing great results. For example, I have a 58-year old female, 123 pounds, who can trap bar deadlift 250 pounds for 3 sets of 6, do 10 unassisted chin-ups, and squat 175 pouunds for 3 sets of 5 after about a year of BP.

    We can argue until the sun explodes on which protocol is best for each individual trainee. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I will tell you that BP has been effective for the lot of my trainees–young and old. With that, I will say that BP can be effective for more people than not.

    @JJ

    No one said his information was incorrect. His information is very well correct. But to prattle his high horse mentality just because he can read some lines out of a book does not give him the right to discredit a reputable strength coach who is just trying to get people to move and feel better. If that requires a new protocol to throw into the mix that may be better suited for someone more advanced, so be it. The key is, Greg and the rest are doing their best to help others, not berate them.

    @Eric

    Sorry about my disrespectful post earlier. I shouldn’t have thrown fuel into the fire.

  • Gordon

    The only problem I have with this information is what you refer to as crappy weather. I’m from the Midwest and was used to the cold long winters, where you really looked forward to summer. I always longed for what I imagined the better weather of the South. Well, now that I live in the South my experience is that you may get some mild winters (and again you may not) but the summers are horrible. Think max humidity and high temps every day that makes one count down the days until summer ends. I tell my friends up north that I would rather spend winter in Chicago than summer in Atlanta.

  • Mario

    First timer here!
    I’m a basketball coach here in Mexico and an avid reader about anything that could give me information to improve and increase the level of my guys on the team.
    Also,I studied (and have a degree) my college career about sports.
    About 2 years ago I have the fortune to assist to a Clinic with Natalia Verkoshansky, daughter of the late Yuri Verkoshansky (the father of the Block Periodization).
    Just to point that the comment of Jeff and others are totally true and I don’t see it as a way of disrespect to Eric Cressey.
    This theme (Block Periodization)specifically, is very complex to describe,understand, and apply.
    To Eric: You gave us great tips to use with our athletes…A big thanks for this…and for the others guys, why bother with other people comments and start some kind of a fight?
    PEACE AND RESPECT TO ALL!

  • Sebastian

    Hey Eric.
    I’m a big fan of your work and your articles – keep up the good work.
    I just want to report that I’ve had technical problems reading your articles like this one, because the “comment box” won’t go away even though I click cancel.

  • Shaun Fulton

    Great article

  • Great deadlift tip! I’ve definitely pushed my hips back quite a few times first instead of simultaneously with my knees. Will definitely be working on this at the gym!

  • Thanks, Sebastian.  We’ll look into it.

  • Martin

    I enjoyed the article but was dismayed by the personal attacks on Jeff in the comments section. Is this a girly fan club page? His comments were very interesting. Thanks.


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