Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 7
Written on June 15, 2012 at 7:42 am, by Eric Cressey
Here are some strength and conditioning and nutrition tips to help you lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and scare obnoxious kids off your lawn, compliments of Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.
1. A friendly reminder: you’re not that special.
After recently perusing the internet, I felt the need to give you this friendly reminder. I came across (as I am sure many of you have) the commencement speech delivered by David McCullough, Jr. to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduating class. I enjoyed his speech greatly, and found that much of it can be applied to training, nutrition, and athletics.
You’re not that special. The reason you’re not getting stronger likely has nothing to with your program. The reason you’re not losing body fat is probably not a major fault in the nutrition plan you were given. The athletes who impress me the most are the ones who pick up their teammates. They’re the ones who celebrate wins and mourn losses as a team, not the ones who advocate their own success and dwell upon their individual shortcomings.
You aren’t making progress because you aren’t consistent. You aren’t losing fat because you’re not following that nutrition plan. You aren’t impressing coaches because you are not willing to be a team player. Stop worrying about what strength and conditioning program you’re on, seek out those who know what they’re doing, and devote yourself to that approach. Stop dissecting your nutritional approach and truly embody the basics of better eating. Stop keeping your athletic talents on a pedestal, show up to practice every day, and work hard to make yourself and your teammates better. Stay humble, stay hungry.
As an interesting little aside to this, check out this recent report that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek removed all jersey numbers from practice uniforms this week as a means of building team unity. Nobody gets special treatment, even if they’re a well-known name.
2. Focus on bar speed as much as you focus on bar load.
One of the biggest mistake I see – particularly with intermediate to advanced lifters – is thinking that they need to be setting personal records in every single training session. While you’ll certainly hit a few PRs employing this strategy (and there are certainly times to get after them), this expectation is a quick way to not only get discouraged, but burned out on training.
Let’s say that Tank’s best trap bar deadlift is 415.
Do you really think that – at the end of the day – his body will appreciate a huge difference adaptation-wise between grinding out a rep at 435 and absolutely smoking a single at 400? The time-under-tension difference on one rep is trivial, the injury risk is dramatically higher with the PR attempt, and you run the risk of developing poor technique habits under significant load.
Don’t get me wrong; you should still seek to constantly get stronger in your strength training programs. However, you should appreciate that you can still get stronger by leaving a rep or two “in the hole” in some of your sessions, particularly as you get older and more experienced. And, as Anthony Michal pointed out in a recent guest blog for Bret Contreras, you can still get strong at 75-85% of one-rep max – even if a large percentage of your training is performed there.
3. The pullover is a forgotten gem, and we can make it better!
The DB pullover can serve as an outstanding exercise for those who can safely perform it. The benefits of the exercise are three-fold. First, it build tremendous strength in the anterior “core” as one resists excessive lumbar hyperextension. Second, the exercise provides a nice “active stretch” for the lats. Third, it can be a great strength exercise for the lats when someone has medial elbow issues that prevent them from doing the intensive grip work that chin-up and pull-up variations mandate.
Athletes should be cued to keep the rib cage down as the shoulders move further into flexion. Also, make sure that athletes contract the glutes while in the bridge position, and don’t allow a forward head posture to occur.
4. Fitness professionals should be supportive of injured athletes and clients.
At Cressey Performance, we receive a lot of referrals of athletes who have recently undergone surgery and/or physical therapy. It is no surprise that many of these athletes are not in the greatest place mentally about their injuries. Can you blame them? As an athlete, your world largely revolves around playing sports and an injury can lead to a bit of an identity crisis; sports are a huge part of your life that can be taken away overnight. With that in mind, how important is it as a strength coach to keep these athlete’s positive about their return to the game? Furthermore, what impact to do we have on their outlook?
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the perceived social support from strength coaches among these injured athletes. The results found that:
“…the strength coach (SC) had a significant psychosocial impact on student-athletes’ overall psychological well-being during reconditioning. This study provides evidence of the vital psychosocial role that SCs can play during an injured student-athlete’s reconditioning program.”
Make sure that you do not ignore an athlete because he or she may be unable to fully participate (or participate at full intensity) in your strength and conditioning program. Give positive feedback, attention, and show them that you care. It can make the difference in their recovery and there is no greater feeling than helping an athlete beat the odds and return to top shape post-injury.
5. Find ways to make fitness social.
We often hear about how you need to “shut up and squat” when you’re in the weight room, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of lifters who are successful long-term are great friends with their training partners. Nobody can be “on” all the time, and while it’s important to get serious when you get under the bar, you’ll usually find a lot of joking around between sets in even the most accomplished powerlifting and Olympic lifting gyms on the planet. Training is supposed to be fun, and if it isn’t, you need to find a way to make it more enjoyable.
At Cressey Performance, the Thanksgiving morning lift is always very popular, and we notice that many clients really get extra motivated when they see our staff training hard, too.
We have athletes who schedule their training sessions so that they can lift with friends for extra motivation, and even kids who book sessions when certain professional athletes are in so that they can draw inspiration from those who are living their dreams. I also love it when we get coaches from other facilities, colleges, and pro teams training with our staff when they visit CP, as you get to see what they’re doing and chat a bit between sets.
Whether it’s recruiting your spouse for a walk in the park, calling a buddy to spot you on the bench, or rounding up a team of college roommates to do an adventure race, it’s valuable to find ways to get friends in on the fitness fun.
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