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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/27/16

This post comes a day later than usual, as we're playing a bit of catch-up after Sunday's 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar. Fortunately, there is some good content to make the wait worth it.

Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach Course  - I'm actually going through this new offering from Wil Fleming right now myself. Admittedly, I was skeptical of whether Olympic lifts could be taught via an online medium, but it's actually very well structured and I'm enjoying going through it. Wil discusses assessments and programming in great deal as well. It's definitely worth checking out if you're someone who's looking to learn more about the Olympic lifts and how to coach and program them.

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Applied Technology in Training and Rehab - This is an excellent guest post from Adam Loiacono on Mike Robertson's website. With the big boom of athlete monitoring over the past few years, it's important to understand how all the pieces fit together.

The Ideal Business Show with Adam Bornstein - I loved Adam's interview for Pat Rigsby's podcast. Adam's a super bright guy who understands a lot about business development - particularly in the fitness industry, but definitely across multiple disciplines.

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Simple reminder. #cspfamily #elitebaseball

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 22

It's time for the September installment of this series. With the baseball season wrapping up for many minor league and high school players - plus the start of post-season play nearly upon us - I've got a lot of new thoughts rattling around my brain.

1. There's no such thing as "catching the injury bug." 

This is a term that gets thrown around a lot in professional sports. Certainly, there is a significant amount of happenstance in professional sports. Quarterbacks get sacked from the blind side and injure acromioclavicular joints (get well soon, Jimmy G!!!). Hitters get hit by pitches, and outfielders run into walls. Not all injuries are preventable, but not everything we assume to be "happenstance" is unpreventable, either. Additionally, there's something to be said about finding ways to shorten the down time on the disabled list when players are hurt. This recent article in Hardball Times does a good job of highlighting this observation: Doing What it Takes to Keep Players Healthy.

With respect to preventing injuries, most of the focus goes on training and rehabilitation initiatives. Is there a good strength and conditioning program? Are there good manual therapists on hand? Does the organization prioritize high quality nutrition? Are recovery options plentiful? The list goes on and on.

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There are, however, many overlooked factors that are outside the control of the sports medicine staffs in these organizations. For instance, if a front office creates a roster of players who a) are older and b) have more extensive injury histories, it's going to be a lot harder to keep that team on the field. Additionally, how bullpens are managed factors into injury risk heavily. Some relief pitchers get absolutely abused between game appearances and scenarios where they warm up and don't go into the game. I once had a MLB lefty specialist say that he threw more in two months in the big leagues than he did in 100+ innings as a college starer. 

The point is that while some injuries are, in fact, happenstance, the majority are highly preventable - particularly if as many different factors as possible are taken into consideration. The injury bug excuse just doesn't hold water.

2. There are varying levels of "strong enough."

In the strength training world, you'll often hear debates on the question, "how strong is strong enough for athletes?" Truth be told, it's not a simple question to answer.

First and foremost, you get what you train. So, I might just squat and deadlift all the time, but never build an appreciable level of single-leg strength. So, if my sport requires a ton of single-leg strength, I'm really not strong at all in a specific sense. That said, no competitive powerlifter is going to be able to hand his hat on a good Bulgarian split squat number; he's got to squat and deadlift heavy to be successful.

Taking this a step further, though, we have to consider what we're trying to strong enough to do? Is it strong enough to safely perform sprint work and plyos in training, as would be the case after a few months in post-op ACL rehabilitation scenario? Or, is it strong enough to be able to safely participate in athletics, as an athlete would be later in the rehabilitation timeline?

Does an athlete just need to be strong enough to need to even consider this continuum? Or, does he need to be strong enough to make good use of strength-speed and speed-strength training initiatives?

Is the athlete strong enough to not have to worry about training limit strength (the far left of this continuum) as much? Not many athletes ever get to this point because it takes a ton of hard work, consistency, and even a genetic predisposition to being strong to get there. However, I've seen several in my career, and we needed to spend a lot more time training absolute speed and speed-strength.

Above all else, I'd say that in the athletic world, the "strong enough" classification refers to a coach's refusal to push an athlete further due to the potential for injury. For example, there is no doubt in my mind that one of our pro outfielders could unquestionably train to attain a 600-pound raw squat in a matter of 3-4 months. The risk of pushing toward this goal just isn't worth the risk; he has other athletic qualities to which we can devote his training time and recovery capacity - and without the risk. If he could only squat 185 pounds, though, it would be an entirely different story.

3. If applied incorrectly, cross-training can beat athletes up as much as it can help them.

I'm all for young athletes playing as many sports as possible. A rich proprioceptive environment creates an awesome foundation for future athletic development in more specific endeavors. Likewise, later on, once an athlete has specialized, there is definitely a time of year for cross training - but it definitely has to be applied correctly. What am I getting at?

[bctt tweet="The lower the movement variability in one's sport, the less bold the cross-training can be."]

To put this in context, imagine a soccer midfielder or football defensive back. Both these athletes have a ton of movement variability in their sport participation; there is a lot of change-of-direction, full-tilt sprinting, backpedaling, jumping, and a host of additional sport-specific skills. Asking one of these athletes to go out and play ultimate frisbee or beach volleyball for a change of pace isn't going to dramatically increase their injury risk.

Conversely, take the typical pro golfer or baseball pitcher into this same challenge, and it's going to be a pretty stressful event with a much higher likelihood of injury. It's not to say these athletes are soft or "delicate;" it's just that the majority of their athletic calendars take place with more specificity, and there is less movement variability to their sports challenges. With both the golf swing and pitching delivery, you want to consistently repeat your mechanics.

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Invariably, during interleague play in Major League Baseball, we see an American League pitcher who gets injured running the bases or swinging at the plate. Specificity of training matters, and it takes a considerable volume of specificity to build a tolerance to competing at a high level.

This isn't just specific to amplitude of movement (range of motion). Rather, the direction and magnitude of forces need to be considered. As an example, elite swimmers have a high pain tolerance from the insane volumes they do in the pool, but get them into an ultimate frisbee game, and you're going to see some awkward movements because they aren't accustomed to ground reaction forces and moving in the frontal and transverse planes.

Just keep it in mind as you plan your cross-training activities. Just because you see NFL players dominating a game of "Tag" doesn't mean that your 51-year-old master's division swimming star is going to do as well with it.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/19/16

Another week, another Patriots win and fantasy football victory for me! I'll keep talking about it in this weekly blog until the luck wears off! 

That said, let's look at some top picks from around the web from the past week:

They Myths of Mental Toughness Training: Part 1 and Part 2 - Doug Kechijian is a super bright physical therapist who also happens to have extensive military experience. So, you could say that this fantastic two-part article comes from excellent perspectives in multiple regards.

Physical Preparation Podcast with Boo Schexnayder - This podcast from Mike Robertson is several months old, but I actually went back and listened to it a second time. There are loads of pearls of wisdom in there for any coach from any discipline.

Podcast Q&A with Dr. Stuart McGill - There was some excellent information on the lower back front in this interview for Dean Somerset's site. The discussion of calcification in the spine of lifters of various proficiency is fascinating, and is around the 18-minute mark.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Methods vs. Applications

Each week, invariably, I get a few email inquiries that go something like this:

What do you think of <insert training device or method here>?

The "training device or method" seems to come in waves. In training, for a while, it was kettlebells. Then it was Crossfit. In the rehab world, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are a hotter topic these days, and I'd expect stem cell therapy for musculoskeletal issues to be the next wave.

In the baseball world, people then asked about J-Bands. Then it was long toss. Now, it always seems to be weighted balls. 

Most of the time, people are asking the wrong question. 

[bctt tweet="You can't truly evaluate a method or device without considering its application."]

Using the weighted balls example, I love them and have used them in various capacities since 2007. I've used them with teenage athletes and I've used them with a Cy Young Award winner. I've used them with 1st round draft picks and 50th round draft picks.

You know what else? There were a lot of pitching coaches using them before I even started. And, they were well established in the track and field throwing community long before the baseball world adopted them. And, we now have plenty of studies in scholarly journals supporting their use. However, that doesn't mean they're right for every single application.

If you throw weighted balls a week after you have shoulder surgery - and then blow out the shoulder again - is the problem the weighted balls? Or, is the problem that you were an idiot in your application of this device/method?

If your 8-year-old does an aggressive weighted ball program and winds up with a growth plate fracture, is it the fault of the weighted balls or the program? Or, are you just a misdirected father who put the carriage way in front of the horse?

The weighted balls are the device/method. The programming volume, implement load, throwing technique, time of year, and athlete preparedness are some of the variables that constitute the broader "application" category.

My High Performance Handbook has been really popular across a number of training populations, but it's a horrible fit for you if you had spine surgery last week.  

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A lot of people have great fitness success with Crossfit programs, but many wind up banged up because their application of these principles is wrong. They may not adhere to solid technique, or they may have pre-existing structural pathologies and movement impairments that should lead to contraindicating certain exercises.

Front squats can be an awesome exercise. They aren't going to feel so good if you have a degenerative hip or acromioclavicular joint injury, though.

J-Bands are a huge training asset to your arm care routine when used correctly. If you're going to use them incorrectly, though, you're better off leaving them in your equipment bag.

Stop contraindicating methods and devices, and instead start improving your ability to critically think and evaluate applications. The best coaches that I know aren't just the guys with the most tools in their toolbox; they're the carpenters that know which tool is the best fit for the job at hand.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/12/16

Happy Monday! Well, at least it is for me. I'm pumped about the Patriots' season opening win on the road against the Cardinals last night! Let's keep the good vibes rolling with some recommended reading from around the 'Net over the past week:

3 Laws to Master Coaching Young Athletes - Cressey Sports Performance coach Nancy Newell does an awesome job with our CSP Foundations (7-12 year-old) class, and this blog shows why. The kids have a blast and learn a ton in large part due to her enthusiasm and fun approach to coaching. 

Performance Metrics in Professional Baseball Players Before and Surgical Treatment for Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - In light of the rise in TOS surgeries in professional baseball, I thought it'd be good to link to this recent publication from Dr. Robert Thompson's group in St. Louis. It's important to note that the case studies in question were performed between 2001 and 2014, and they've actually improved the surgery and rehab in the two years since then. I'd venture a guess that outcomes are even better now.

3 Tips for Transitioning Your Training Model to Semi-Private - When folks come to observe at one of the CSP facilities, invariably, they wind up asking the question, "How can I do this with my clientele?" In this blog, Pete Dupuis provides a thorough answer.

Elite Training Mentorship - Just a friendly reminder that the CSP staff uploads content to this resource every month, and the September update includes an awesome webinar, "Coaching, Cueing, and Performance," from Miguel Aragoncillo.  

Top Tweet of the Week:

 

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

To think, this all started with a handful of HS baseball players during the summer of '07... #cspfamily #elitebaseball #CSPpitching

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How Lower Body Exercises Can Impact Upper Body Function

A few months ago, I published a blog called Making the Case for Training in the Post-Surgery Period. In short, it discussed how we are almost always dealing with athletes who are training during their rehabilitation periods. In many cases, this is strictly working around the issues while they're going through physical therapy.

In writing these programs, one recognizes that it's actually far easier to write a program for a post-op lower body issue than it is for a post-op upper body scenario. Very simply, because most strength and conditioning exercise selections work "from the ground up," there are many more ways that lower extremity exercises can impact upper body drills than vice versa. Today, I'll outline some examples.

1. Grip work.

There is grip involvement in deadlifts, various dumbbell single-leg exercises, and even squatting exercises that require an athlete to grasp the bar. Particularly in the case of elbow issues, too much grip work can become a real problem. For example, in the 4-8 month period after Tommy John surgery, it's not uncommon for athletes to experience discomfort in the common flexor tendon region - and it usually has to do with the cumulative stress of gripping during strength training and rehab work on top of the intensification of the throwing program. Some doctors have surgical approaches that are a bit "rougher" on the flexor tendon, too. In these scenarios, you're best off working predominately with lower body drills that don't involve a lot of grip work.

2. Front rack position with acromioclavicular (AC) joint issues. 

When you want an AC joint issue to calm down, there are really three big rules: 

a. Avoid reaching across the body (horizontal adduction, like a cross-body stretch)

b. Avoid reaching behind the body (full extension, like in a dip)

c. Avoid direct pressure to the area (particularly because it has very little muscle mass to cushion it)

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With respect to "C," the front squat set-up is an absolute no-no. The pressure on the bar across the shoulder girdle can really take an upset AC joint and make it markedly worse. And, since this is in many cases an injury that we’re just “waiting out,” simply training through it will only makes things worse long-term.

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Therefore, deadlift variations, single-leg variations, and back squats (assuming no other related problems) are likely better bets. That said, we generally use the safety squat bar and giant cambered bar exclusively with those who present with AC joint problems.

3. Back squat position with internal impingement.

Internal impingement (also known as posterosuperior impingement) is a broad diagnosis most common in overhead throwing athletes. In the late cocking phase of throwing (or swimming, tennis, etc.) - which involves external rotation and abduction - the humeral head tends to translate superiorly (up) and anteriorly (forward) relative to the scapula.

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These issues are magnified by poor scapular control, weakness of the rotator cuff, insufficient thoracic mobility, loss of tissue extensibility around the shoulder girdle, and in some cases, structural changes. The end result is that the biceps tendon, labrum, rotator cuff, glenohumeral ligaments, or nerves that pass the anterior aspect of the shoulder get irritated. The term "internal impingement" really just explains the pain-provoking position, not the specific diagnosis. Generally speaking, the pain is purely mechanical in nature; it won’t bother an athlete unless the “apprehension” position (full external rotation at 90+ degrees of abduction) is created.

Just about every overhead athlete is constantly "flirting" with internal impingement problems, so my feeling is that it's best to just avoid this "at-risk" position in the weight room - and that's why we don't back squat any of our overhead throwing athletes. And, we certainly wouldn't use a back squat with anyone with symptomatic internal impingement.

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4. Giant cambered bar with scapular anterior tilt, humeral anterior glide, and forward head posture.

The giant cambered bar is an awesome option for avoiding the "at-risk" abducted, externally rotated position that often gives overhead athletes problems, but it can create a problem with athletes who are prone to scapular anterior tilt, humeral anterior glide, and/or forward head posture. Because of the positioning of the hands, the elbows are driven a bit behind the body, which can cause the shoulder blade to dump forward and "ball" to glide forward on the socket. You may also see the head shoot forward.

GCB

That said, these faults can be easily minimized with good cueing. However, I wouldn't recommend using this bar with an athlete who has a big predisposition toward any of the three issues.

5. Scapular depression from holding heavy weights in the hands.

The deadlift can be an awesome exercise for improving poor posture - but not in all cases. Specifically, whenever we have an athlete who sits in too much scapular depression and downward rotation (more info on that HERE), we'll avoid holding really heavy weights in the hands for lower body training.

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Our goal is to teach the shoulder blades to sit a little higher at rest, and functionally get higher when the arms need to go overhead. We don't want all our lower body work competing against that. During this time period, it's best to go with squatting variations, barbell supine bridges/hip thrusts, DB/KB goblet set-ups, sled work, the front squat grip, glute-ham raises, and anything else your imagination yields - as long as it doesn't tug the shoulder blades down.

There are many more considerations for how lower body work impacts upper body function, but these are definitely the five I most frequently encounter that you should keep in mind.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/5/16

Happy Labor Day! I hope you all are enjoying the long weekend with friends and family. This is always a fun time of year at Cressey Sports Performance, as a lot of our minor league players are starting their off-seasons, and many of our high school athletes are getting back in the swing of their "true" off-season training. And, of course, we've got MLB playoff baseball coming up soon! I won't digress too much, though; here are the goods!

Will a High Protein Diet Harm Your Health? - Dr. John Berardi has been at the forefront of the "understanding protein needs vs. optimization" debate for a long time, and this article is a great summary of the current literature on the subject.

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5 Concepts of Modern Manual Therapy - I know I have a lot of rehabilitation specialists who read EricCressey.com, and this excellent post from Erson Religioso is for you!

Time to Break up with Your MRI Report - Physical therapist Andrew Millett authored this excellent post for Dr. Jarod Hall's website.

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Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Baseball Development

We had a great staff in-service on strength and conditioning programming yesterday, and it really got the wheels turning in my brain. The end result was this video, which is especially timely, given that many professional baseball players are about to begin their off-season training.

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Recency Bias and Long-Term Training Success

Last week, I was reading through a quarterly magazine published by a financial advisory firm with whom my wife and I work, and it introduced the concept of recency bias. WikiInvest.com describes this phenomenon as:

"Recency Bias is where stock market participants evaluate their portfolio performance based on recent results or on their perspective of recent results and make incorrect conclusions that ultimately lead to incorrect decisions about how the stock market behaves."

In other words, when the stock market tanks, people are - in the short-term - very reluctant to invest. And, when the market thrives, they can't wait to invest. This is in spite of the fact that these might be the exact opposite of the best approaches, and inherently at odds with a fiscally responsible long-term strategy.

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Interestingly, the concept of recency bias has implications in the rehabilitation, health, and human performance fields. To illustrate this, I'll give you an example.

Back in October of 2015, I had a one-time consult at our Jupiter, FL facility with a individual with chronic shoulder, elbow, and hip/lower back issues. After a week-long stay in Florida with an assessment and week of in-person coaching, he's followed up with online-only programs from across the country. His progress has been fantastic in that time, with his exercise pool expanding and movement quality improving significantly. What's been really interesting is seeing the shift from "movement weary" to "fired up to train." 

His first few months of programming was very much about feeling out exercise selection and technique. For example, here were three email excerpts:

November 8: "Missed my first week of workouts after I got back home. Everything has been going good since. I plan on spending some extra weeks on this program before getting a new one to master the techniques on the serratus and periscapular exercises."

December 7: ".Can you check my wall slide form? Sometimes I feel it a tad bit in the front of the shoulder on the upward rotation and lift off."

December 16: "Need some help on bottoms up KB crosswalk. Not sure if I have the proper overhead scapula position. and suspect I might be in a bit of extension." 

When it comes to movement quality, I often talk with new clients about an eight-week magic mark. Be consistent for eight weeks, and re-evaluate where you stand. If there isn't considerable progress, you may need to shake things up with your approach. Take a look at what happened to the tone of the emails in the months that followed:

December 30: "Great new program by the way. I like how you bridged the gap between weights and corrective exercise. Shoulders and elbows feel better."

April 8: "Hips are feeling better than before I started the program!! Getting better glute activation on the back leg during lunges, and also getting better hip extension on bridges and hip thrusts were both very helpful for the hips."

May 24: "Keep working on my tight hips. Feeling better there but still a little stiff. My front squat went up! Keep getting stronger, and keep the shoulders safe!"

July 26: "New program is awesome! I didn't think I would be able to bench pain free before I started. Super psyched to see bench in my program."

August 28: "New program time! Made some good gains on the last one looking forward to the new one. Hips feel 3 times better. I want to make some more strength gains on this new program. Just throw in enough corrective exercise for all my previous chronic injuries. Really excited for this new program. I'm getting a lot stronger and I feel like a beast again!"    

This is where you see how important it is to avoid recency bias in your training, whether you have a considerable injury history or you want to avoid an injury in the first place. This individual is doing a great job of recognizing that while things are going well, he needs to preserve the balance between pushing his body and taking care of it. And, I'm sure that there will be times moving forward when we'll have to remind him to pump the brakes a bit; it's the give and take of training progressions. 

Don't only do your correctives when you are a) hurt or b) have recently been hurting; make sure to keep at least some of them around for the long haul. As my physical therapist buddy, Eric Schoenberg, has said, 

[bctt tweet="What gets you healthy keeps you healthy."]

Likewise, just because you've been healthy and managed to get away with brutal training technique and horribly designed programming doesn't mean that it'll last forever. As I Tweeted in the past, 

invincible

Now, please keep in mind that I'm not advocating that you foam roll for four hours per day and complete a two-a-day, 57-exercise mobility routine. If you're efficient with your exercise selection and pristine with your training technique, it can be accomplished relatively easily. If you look at the warm-ups in The High Performance Handbook, they cover the overwhelming majority of any "correctives" you'd need, and the rest is accounted for with the comprehensive, well-balanced strength and conditioning programs. It's not a rehab program; but it could very well be called an "avoid rehab" program.

HPH-main

The take-home point of this article is every successful approach to training avoids the recency bias trap. Just because something happened in the recent past doesn't necessarily mean it should be more heavily weighted in your planning or execution. In other words, have a smart plan - and stick to it!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/29/16

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. Here's some good strength and conditioning content from around the 'Net over the past week: 

Approach the Process with Joy: A Podcast with Mike Irr - Mike has been a friend for over a decade, dating back to our University of Connecticut days. He's now head strength and conditioning coach and a physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors. He's a perfect example of how great things happen for great people, and this podcast will show you why.

Historic Performance Podcast with Brijesh Patel - Another old friend and UCONN buddy, Brijesh ("B") Patel, is head strength and conditioning coach at Quinnipiac. B's work in the isometric training realm has influenced me, and he chats about it here.

When the Scale Sucks: 7 Better Ways to Know if your Nutrition Plan is Working - Alex McMahon authored this great post for Precision Nutrition. We often put down the scale, but folks rarely offer alternative "outcomes" to evaluate when improving nutrition and fitness approaches.

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Definitely winning hump day!

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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