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Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 2

It's time for part 2 of "things you aren't doing - but SHOULD be doing - with a Jaeger Band." In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1, too. Also, as a friendly reminder, this article series is running because the Jaeger Sports crew was kind enough to put J-Bands on sale for 20% off for my readers through Friday, February 24th. Just head HERE and enter the coupon code CRESSEY.

Without further ado, here are five more exercises to try with the oh-so-versatile J-Bands!

6. Core-Engaged Dead Bugs

In this core stability drill, we use the tension from the band to build some extra core stiffness to resist lumbar extension (lower back arching) and (to a lesser extension) rotation during leg lowering. Add a big exhale at the bottom to fire up the anterior core and reaffirm good positioning.

7. J-Band Assisted Leg Lowering

This builds on our previous drill from a core stability challenge standpoint (straight leg is harder than bent-knee), but also helps individuals improve their hip mobility. Make sure to double up the band to get sufficient resistance, - and don't do this with cleats on!

8. J-Band Assisted Quadruped Band-Assisted Thoracic Rotation

Here's a Functional Movement Systems inspired drill we'll use with those athletes who have very limited active thoracic mobility into extension. In other words, they passively rotate well (with the assistance of the assessor), but can't get to that same range of motion actively. The band assistance reduces the gravity challenge against which an individual has to extend and rotate.

9. Band-Assisted Overhead Squat

I've traditionally done this drill with a TRX, but one day, I had an athlete try using the J-Band on the road when he didn't have a TRX handy. His immediate response was that it was "frying" his lower traps. Maintaining continuous tension in scapular posterior tilt and thoracic extension really takes this squat pattern assistance drill up a notch. 

10. Side Bridge with Horizontal Abduction

Once an individual gets a solid feel for arm care, I'm all for integrating core stability with scapular control and rotator cuff challenges. This is one advanced progression along those lines. I say "advanced" because many individuals struggle to get a true "T" positioning on horizontal abduction; instead, they'll yank down with the lats (more on that HERE). That said, I recommend athletes perform this on video or with a coach watching the first time, as they'll usually be in the wrong pattern. The goal is 90 degrees of arm elevation, and you should feel this predominantly in the mid-traps.  

That wraps up this two-part series - but it's certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative exercises you can integrate with a versatile piece of equipment like Jaeger Bands. With that in mind, if you don't already have a set in your training bag, I'd highly recommend you pick up a J-Band, especially given the 20% off sale we're running right now. Just head to http://www.jaegersports.com/J-Bands-Cressey/ and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive the discount. Your arm - and the rest of your body - will thank you for the investment!

jBands

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Overlooked Uses for a J-Band – Part 1

Go to just about any baseball field in America, and you'll find Jaeger Bands (J-Bands). They're well established as great tools for getting in some quality arm care - and doing so conveniently.

What you might not realize, though, is just how many exercises you can do beyond the traditional J-Band sequence. Through February 24, in conjunction with the release of this article, the good folks at Jaeger Sports have given me the opportunity to put J-Bands on sale for 20% off (using coupon code CRESSEY) HERE. To celebrate, I thought I'd introduce ten exercises our guys often do with J-bands when they're looking to step up their training while on the road. Today, we'll cover the first five.

1. Chops and Lifts - Popularized by the innovative rehabilitation specialists at Functional Movement Systems, these exercises are awesome for teaching core stability as it relates to resisting excessive rotation through the lower back. Depending on the height of the band, too, they can also challenge an athlete's ability to resist extension (too much arching of the lower back).

2. 1-arm Rotational Row w/Weight Shift - I absolutely love this drill for guys who have poor extension down the mound and need to learn to accept force on the front leg. The goal is to get in and out of the front hip - and also learn how to "sync" this loading/unloading up with proper movement of the thoracic spine, scapula, and arm.

3. Lateral Lunge w/Band Overhead Reach - Similar to the chops and lifts from above, you get great core recruitment in resisting extension and rotation, but in this drill, we also add some additional upper body and hip mobility challenges.

4. Serratus Wall Slides w/J-Band - I love me some serratus activation drills - and the J-Band is a great way to progress these exercises. Before you try it with a J-Band, though, give it a shot with a foam roller using these cues:

Then, grab your J-Band and go to town on a dugout wall. If you don't feel "cleaner" scap movement at ball release, I'll be stunned.

5. Side Bridge w/Band-Resisted Hip Extension - Side Bridges are some of the best lateral core exercises there are - but some folks will do them with incomplete hip extension, thereby falling into a faulty stabilization pattern that overrelies on the hip flexors. I like using the band to teach that terminal hip extension. To make this challenging, do them "high-tension" style: brace as hard as you can, squeeze the glutes together like you're trying to crush walnuts between your buttcheeks, and exhale as hard as you can. If you're doing them correct, you should be struggling by the end of five breaths - and you'll probably gain some hip internal rotation in the process.

That does it for part 1! I'll be back in a few days with five more creative uses for a J-Band. In the meantime, you can pick up a J-Band (or ten) at 20% off using the coupon code CRESSEY at http://www.jaegersports.com/J-Bands-Cressey/.

*A big thanks to Marlins pitcher Tyler Kinley for the help with demonstrations for this article!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/15/17

It's been an exciting and busy week, thanks to the launch of the new Minimus 20v6 Cressey Trainer coinciding with the last week of the Major League Baseball off-season.

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I'm happy to report that the shoes have sold really well - to the point that we're already sold out in several sizes. With that in mind, there are still some options for you to get them:

1. If you're looking for international shipping, Eastbay.com is your best bet. They should be making the shoe available on their site either today (Wednesday) or tomorrow.

2. If you're in the U.S. and your size is already sold out HERE at New Balance's website, Eastbay.com is also your best bet.

3. If you're in Canada and your size is already sold out HERE at New Balance's Canadian site, you can try SportChek.ca or Eastbay.com.

Now that all that is out of the way, let's get to this week's content!

Meet the First Performance Coach to Get His Own Signature Training Shoe - This article at Stack.com takes a look at the design process behind the new Minimus 20v6 Cressey Training sneaker.

As Spring Training Begins, Pitchers Enter Tommy John Danger Zone - Along with Alan Jaeger and Mike Reinold, I was interviewed for this USA Today article on the spike in injuries seen during spring training each year. 

Power Development for Powerlifters - This is an excellent post from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. I wish I'd had it back in the early 2000s to help my bar speed along, as it took me a few years to figure out that getting faster was a key to getting stronger for me.

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My New Favorite Training Sneakers

All the way back in 2011, I wrote up a detailed article about the New Balance Minimus, a shoe that had just been released and really caught my attention as the best option in a sea of minimalist sneakers that had flooded the market. That review - alongside my work with professional baseball players - actually led to a consulting deal with New Balance, and it's been a great partnership.

One of the biggest initiatives as part of that collaborative relationship was to find ways to continually improve the Minimus. Over the past six years, Cressey Sports Performance's staff and athletes have provided regular feedback to New Balance to fine-tune the designs - and early last year, they released Version 6, which has been extremely popular. And, last spring, I was psyched to learn that New Balance wanted to pair with us to release a Cressey Sports Performance themed Minimus, the Minimus 20v6 Cressey Trainer.

We've spent the last year fine-tuning the design, and we're excited to announce that it's now available for sale:

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This is a very limited edition shoe; only about 500 pairs were produced. With that in mind, if you'd like to pick up a pair, don't delay! You can check them out at the following links:

In the United States: http://www.newbalance.com/pd/minimus-20v6-cressey-trainer/UX20-V6.html#color=Alpha%20Red_with_White_and_Black&width=D

In Canada: http://www.newbalance.ca/en_ca/pd/minimus-20v6-cressey-trainer/UX20-V6.html#color=Alpha%20Red_with_White_and_Black&width=D

We hope you like them! Thanks for your continued support of Cressey Sports Performance! 

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Less Sickness For Better Results

Back in 2011, Posner et al. published a descriptive study called “Epidemiology of Major League Baseball Injuries”. The researchers reviewed all the injuries reported in MLB from 2002 to 2008 and classified them based on anatomical region. As expected, there was a lot of disabled list time attributed to injuries to shoulders, elbows, hamstrings, low backs, hands, and wrists – and a host of other maladies.

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Interestingly, “illness” accounted for 1.1% of all “injuries.” No big deal, right? Players get the flu, food poisoning, and the occasional migraine, so this is actually surprisingly low.

Actually, it’s a very misleading number. You see, as the study authors point out in their “methods” section, “We utilized data only for those injuries that resulted in a player being placed on the disabled list.”

In other words, “illness” was only counted if it landed a player on the 15-day disabled list. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been sick enough to miss 15 days at work. Even when I got sick as a kid, I was usually back in school within two days because I got sick of watching the same episode of Sportscenter 18 times per day.

Before I digress too much, let me get to my point:

[bctt tweet="Illness is actually remarkably underreported in professional sports."]

Just because a guy is sick doesn’t mean he goes on the disabled list. As an example, take A’s pitcher Sonny Gray’s food poisoning incident in 2015, where he missed a start in the middle of the summer. In 2015, as one of the best pitchers in baseball, Gray was 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA. In the 31 starts he made, he put up a 3.7 WAR (wins above replacement) number, which equates to a WAR of 0.12 per start. According to Fangraphs, each WAR was worth $7.7 million in 2015 – so Gray’s food poisoning cost the team $924,000 – but definitely didn’t count against any disabled list time. Additionally, he was scratched from his opening day start in 2016 for the same reason – and it still wasn’t included in the man games lost total.

Moreover, just because a guy is sick doesn’t mean he even misses a game. I’ve heard plenty of stories of MLB guys praying to the porcelain gods between innings – and games where an entire team gets ravaged by the flu, but still has to go out and play.

What’s the take-home point? The individuals who manage to not get sick are the ones who make better progress over the long haul. Avoiding those 3-4 periods of sickness each year is on par with avoiding tweaking your lower back and missing a month in the gym.

[bctt tweet="The goal is consistency, and injury/sickness are big roadblocks to a consistent training effect."]

Here’s where I’ll toot my own horn a little bit. My wife and I have twin daughters who were born in November of 2014. I’ve only been sick once since they were born. And, this is with co-owning two gyms in two states on top of my normal writing, consulting, and speaking responsibilities, which includes travel at least once a month. Staying healthy while managing a life’s craziness has somehow become right in my wheelhouse. With that in mind, I think you can break down your ability to stay healthy into three big categories:

1. Sleep Quality

I came across this Tweet a few months ago, and it became one of my all-time favorites:

 

The one time I got sick was when I was really pushing my luck on sleep deprivation and trying to make up for it with extra caffeine consumption. Doing so always saps your immunity in the long run.

Interestingly, I’ve been rocking a Fitbit since back in May. And, while I don’t think it’s perfectly accurate, it does give a pretty accurate measure of when you go to bed and when you wake up. Since September 1, I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that my weekly average sleep duration is always at least seven hours per night.

It’s had a massive impact on how I’ve felt in the gym. Normally, my training is terrible in December and January when our busiest seasons in the gym are upon us. This year, I felt strong – and without any aches and pains. Sleep tracking - no matter how basic it may be - can have a dramatic impact on your immunity and, in turn, your performance.

2. Overall Stress

"Stress" means something different to everyone. As an example, I could work 18-hour days for weeks on end without feeling stressed, yet if you ask me to stand on the 4th floor of a building and look over the edge, my cortisol levels would be off the charts. I'm terrified of heights, but not long hours. Other folks are the exact opposite.

One thing we can all agree on, though, is that training is a big stressor - regardless of whether it's higher volume endurance training or higher intensity weight training. If you want to stay healthy, you have to fluctuating that training stress so that you remain in overload and overreach mode without slipping into true overtraining scenarios. I cover this in much more detail in my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

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3. Nutritional practices.

A discussion of proper nutrition and supplementation habits to optimize immunity has been the topic of entire books, so I won't even attempt to do the topic justice in a matter of a few sentences (although this article from over a decade ago tested the waters in that regard: Invincible Immunity). 

I can speak to personal experience when I say that I feel the best when I hydrate sufficiently, get in enough total calories, and eat plenty of healthy fats and vegetables. I'm also a huge advocate of Athletic Greens, which I take religiously every single day. I use it instead of a multivitamin, and also like the fact that it includes some digestive enzymes and probiotics for gut health. 

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It's not rocket science, but that's because it doesn't have to be complex. Getting sick is about your ability to fend off stress to your system. Two of these factors - sleep quality and nutrition - are about warding off the stress. The third factor is about managing the amount of stress actually imposed to the system. Critically examine these three broad realms if you want to find ways to stay healthy! 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/7/17

We're only about a week out from pitchers and catchers reporting, so things are about to quiet down at Cressey Sports Performance for the offseason. I've got lots of new content prepared for the next few months, but for now, here's some good reading material from around the web.

Lindsay Berra on MLB Network on Corey Kluber's Offseason Workouts - Lindsay wrote up a great article at MLB.com last week, and this week, there was a follow-up interview on MLB Network. Here it is:

The Surprising Way Jet Lag Impacts Major League Baseball Performance - Sleep deprivation has a significant impact on performance, and jet lag is a big culprit in professional baseball. This article sums up some research on the subject. West Coast teams, in particular, really need to stay on top of optimizing sleep environments and opportunities for their guys.

Forget the Athletes; I Want to Coach the Everyday Joes - This is an excellent guest post from new Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy for Pete Dupuis' site. CSP might be best known for our work with baseball players, but Frank writes about why we love our general fitness clients, too.

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Halftime musings. #cspfamily #superbowl

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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A Sneak Peek Inside Corey Kluber’s Off-Season Training at Cressey Sports Performance

Earlier this week, a crew from MLB.com visited Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts for a feature on former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber's offseason training.

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Today, the article ran at MLB.com; check it out:

Indians Corey Kluber Training Hard for 2017

Some of the topics covered included:

  • Weighted ball training
  • How we've modified Corey's off-season after his big workload in the 2016 regular season and post-season
  • Transitioning from "rested" to "ready" each off-season
  • "Money-maker" exercises

Again, you can check it out HERE.

Have a great weekend!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/31/17

I'm flying up to Massachusetts tonight for a quick visit, so I don't have time to write up anything new. Luckily, I have some great stuff from around the 'Net to share with you. 

The Hierarchy of Fitness Industry Success - Here's a great post for the fitness industry up-and-comers, courtesy of CSP-MA co-founder, Tony Gentilcore.

Lessons New Coaches Can Take from the Belichick Blueprint - I'm a big Patriots fan not only because I was born in New England, but also because they always seem to find value where others miss it. Some of the personnel decisions during Bill Belichick's tenure have come under scrutiny, but they always seem to work out. This article shares some invaluable lessons that carry over across industries.

Some Reasons Why You Should Stop Stretching Your Hip Flexors - Dean Somerset presents some excellent thoughts on better ways to attack the problem of "tight hip flexors."

Gray430

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Great point from @bonvecstrength in today's guest post at http://www.ericcressey.com/blog. #cspfamily #benchpress

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 26

It's time for the January edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training. Before I get to it, though, just a friendly reminder that today is also the last day of the introductory $50 off sale on Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. Don't miss out on this chance to get our new resource at a great price. You can learn more HERE

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Since my presentation is "Scapular Control: Implications for Health and High Performance," I thought I'd take an upper extremity approach to this month's cues.

1. If you want to relax the neck, talk or exhale.

One of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make when they're doing upper body work is aggressively recruiting the muscles surrounding the neck. In particular, we know that a hypertonic sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and scalenes can be implicated in not only neck pain, but also headaches and thoracic outlet syndrome.

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In most cases, simply telling an athlete to relax or repositioning their head/neck will get the job done. However, another strategy you can employ is to have them exhale through the exertion phase, or simply talk during the set.  Both the scalenes and SCM are accessory muscles of inhalation and this forces them to relax a bit so that you can build tension where you really want it.

2. When it comes to scapular control, nothing beats kinesthetic awareness coaching cues.

As I've written at length in the past, I'm a big believer in categorizing all athletes by their dominant learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory.

Visual learners can watch you demonstrate an exercise, and then go right to it.

Auditory learners can simply hear you say a cue, and then pick up the desired movement or position.

Kinesthetic learners seem to do best when they're actually put in a position to appreciate what it feels like, and then they can crush it.

My experience with teaching scapular positioning has been that option #3 - actually putting someone in the position you want - is the quickest and easiest way to teach someone about scapular positioning. This is likely because:

a. The scapula is a unique bone with some unique movements (upward/downward rotation, anterior/posterior tilt) that aren't familiar to most people

b. You're always wearing a shirt when demonstrating drills, which makes it harder to see these subtle movements as they occur.

When in doubt, put a shoulder blade in the position you desire and then ask an individual to hold it and own it.

3. Uncontrolled end ranges are bad for the scapulothoracic joint, just like every other joint.

Here's something to consider...

We know that if you repeatedly flex and extend the spine to its end-ranges, you'll eventually wind up in trouble - whether it's a herniated disc, stress fracture, or some other pathology.

We also know that if you repeatedly hyperextend an elbow, you'll eventually wind up with loose bodies in the joint, early osteoarthritis, or a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

The point is that it's important to have sufficient range of motion - and stability in that ROM - but not excessive ROM. Hanging out at any end range probably isn't a good idea.

Interestingly, though, we overlook the fact that the scapulothoracic joint - the interaction of the shoulder blade with the rib cage - is subject to these rules. In particular, one issue that sometimes emerges is an excessive "military posture" of scapular adduction (toward the midline) and depression when folks are cued "down and back" without understanding what it really means.

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These athletes often get neck/upper back flare-ups when they do a lot of deadlifting, carries, or even too much horizontal pulling. The shoulder blades are so far pulled back that it becomes a faulty stabilization strategy instead of a strong base from which to perform.

4. A PVC dowel is a super affordable way to do a lot of great things for your upper body work.

I was looking at a program I wrote for one of our pro guys yesterday, and realized that we used the PVC dowel for three different exercises in a single training day. That's as much as barbells and dumbbells - but you can buy the piece of PVC for around $1. You won't find a piece of training equipment that offers that kind of bang for your buck - and this realization made me think back to this video CSP coach Greg Robins filmed a few years ago. These options are really just the tip of the iceberg, too:

Have a great Sunday - and don't forget about the CSP Innovations sale that ends tonight! Learn more HERE

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3 More Reasons We Don’t Have Our Baseball Players Bench Press

Today's guest article comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. Tony is also one of the contributors to the new Cressey Sports Performance Innovations resource, which is on sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. Enjoy! -EC 

I wouldn’t break the Internet if I told you that we don’t use the barbell bench press to train baseball players at Cressey Sports Performance.

As a powerlifter, I love the bench press. It’s a solid choice for general fitness folks, too. But by now, it’s widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting really strong on the bench press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. And if you dig a little deeper, there’s some more specific reasoning why the bench press doesn’t show up in most programs at CSP.

1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations to Throwing

When you throw a baseball for a living, it’s likely that a handful of things will happen, including:

• Increased glenohumeral external rotation
• Decreased glenohumeral internal rotation
• Decreased elbow extension

So basically, you get a shoulder that’s loose in the front and tight in the back, along with an elbow that doesn’t straighten all the way. But what happens at the torso and lower body?

• Decreased scapular upward rotation
• Decreased soft tissue quality (lats, rotator cuff, pec major and minor, among others)
• Abnormal spinal curvature (i.e. lumber and/or thoracic hyperextension)
• Decreased hip rotation (most often loss of hip internal rotation)

lowleftshoulder

Now we have scaps and hips that don’t move well, gritty tissue surrounding the shoulder, and a spine that’s stuck in extension. This paints a grim picture and it’s not as bad as it sounds, but what does bench pressing do to help this situation?

The answer? Nothing. In fact, it feeds into many of these dysfunctions.

Coach someone into a proper bench press setup and what do you get? Global spinal extension, scapular retraction and depression, humeral motion WITHOUT scap motion, and heavy loads placed on the pecs, delts, lats and triceps. The stresses are eerily similar to throwing, albeit at slower speeds and heavier loads.

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We spend a lot of time each offseason trying to restore movement quality in our baseball players, which means staying away from many of these gross extension patterns and exercises that lock the scaps in place. You can’t justify strength gains at the expense of movement quality. As Gray Cook says, don’t build strength on top of dysfunction.

2. It’s Not Speed- or Plane-Specific

In order for a movement to transfer to sport, it needs to have some degree of specificity. We have to look at the plane in which the movement occurs (sagittal, frontal or transverse) and where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.

Granted, simply getting stronger has direct transfer to sport without being specific. Otherwise, strength coaches wouldn’t have jobs. However, research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific and that traditional sagittal plane power exercises (jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches, etc.) have limited transfer to throwing a baseball. We've seen plenty of pitchers with sub-20-inch verticals and 90-mile-per-hour fastballs to back this up. Research from Lehman et al. (2012) backed this up as well.

Rather, frontal and transverse plane movements like Heidens and med ball throws work better. So building a fast, crisp bench press might make a football player incredibly powerful, but it won’t transfer much to baseball.

Also, bench pressing is simply too slow to have much transfer. If you look at the force-velocity curve (also known as the strength-speed continuum), throwing a baseball is all the way at the velocity end. It’s a light load moved incredibly fast. Benching is on the other end: a heavy load moved slowly.

High-load, low-speed lifting might benefit some athletes who have spent their entire training career on the pure velocity end (i.e. the travel team athlete who plays all year and never lifts weights), but we can still “fill in” this gap with push-ups and dumbbell bench pressing. And while we can train our athletes to develop force quickly and move heavy weights with ballistic intent, it’s too far removed from baseball to have much of an impact, especially for athletes who are already pretty strong.

3. It’s Not Very Self-Limiting

In my experience as a lifter and coach, I’d wager that most of the poor decisions in the gym occur on or near the bench press. People are much more likely to overestimate their strength capabilities while benching than they are squatting, deadlifting or lunging. If health and performance are our two top priorities, we need to pick exercises that don’t unleash our athletes’ inner meathead.

An incorrectly performed bench press can put an athlete in some lousy positions. Elbows flared, body squirming with hundreds of pounds hovering over their throat; that’s the LAST place I want my athletes. Sure, any heavy exercise can be risky, but a missed rep on a push-up or landmine press has less potential for disaster. Even the dumbbell bench press requires a light enough load to get into the starting position, making it a more self-limiting choice.

If you coach multiple athletes at once, you won’t see every rep of every set. As hard as you might try, it’s impossible to see everything in a high school or college weight room. That said, picking exercises that are self-limiting while still effective makes for a safer training environment. For our athletes at CSP, that means more push-ups and landmine presses than barbell bench variations.

Conclusion

The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.

If you DO bench press and use it with your athletes, you won’t want to miss our newest product: Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. It’s a collection of 11 webinars from the staff members at CSP with tons of great fitness and business content, including my presentation, “10 Things I’ve Learned About the Bench Press.”

CSP Innovations is on sale for $50 off until Sunday at midnight, so click here to grab your copy now!

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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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