I'm out in Long Beach, CA for my fifth annual trip to the New Balance Area Code Games. Now in its 30th year, this event brings together the top 230 high school baseball players in the country. Friday night, I spoke as part of the opening ceremonies.
I wanted to be succinct with my message, and with that in mind, I chose to emphasize the importance of differentiating between processes and outcomes. This is something I try to hammer home with all our in-person athletes at Cressey Sports Performance, but I feel it's an important differentiation for all players to make.
An outcome is - for lack of a better term - a result. It's going 4-for-4 at the plate, getting selected for an all-star team, or getting an "A" on a final exam. It may also be negative: going 0-for-4, getting left off the team, or flunking that final exam. There is never growth in an outcome alone; it's just something that happens after all the work is done. Unfortunately, it's been my experience that far too many people - and particularly young athletes who have had considerable success at a young age - become very outcome-oriented. They devote too much time and energy to celebrating their successes instead of recognizing the processes that got them to that end (good or bad).
Conversely, a process constitutes all the habits and actions that lead to an outcome. It's the hours you spent in the cage fine-tuning your swing before those four at-bats. It's your efforts and attitude that predated that all-star selection decision. And, it's your study habits that culminated in your final exam preparedness (or lack thereof).
[bctt tweet="There is growth in every process, but not in ANY outcome."]
Not surprisingly, there's evidence to suggest that outcome-oriented parenting is an inferior approach to process-oriented parenting. You're far better off praising efforts than you are outcomes, because it's those efforts that remind your kid to bust his or her butt in everything the future holds. Your work ethic and demeanor from tee ball can sustain for decades to help you in your job as an accountant when tax season is upon you, but don't expect your 20-year-old trophies to help you out when the going gets tough in adulthood.
Interestingly, though, this message actually has significant parallels to some conversations I had with respect to the fitness industry just last weekend, when I delivered a shoulder seminar to a room of 105 trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and rehabilitation specialists in Chicago.
At the conclusion of the event, I had several young trainers inquire about how I wound up where I am. In fact, one even asked, "What do I need to do to be you in ten years?" I always find these inquiries challenging to answer because I rarely reflect on success, and frankly don't consider myself successful because it's too early in my career (age 35) to determine that. Perhaps more significantly, though, I can't vividly describe where I plan to be in five (let alone ten) years. If I can't be sure of exactly where I'm headed, who am I to tell an up-and-coming fitness professional how he should get to where he thinks he wants to be a decade from now?
With that in mind, my answer is usually necessarily vague:
[bctt tweet="Embrace processes, but let outcomes take care of themselves."]
The problem is that the fitness industry is unique in that none of these processes are clearly defined. In other words, there is no strict foundation upon which a large body of work in the field is entirely based. There aren't many industries like this.
For example, my wife is an optometrist, and she had four years of undergraduate education, followed by four years of optometry school (including clinical rotations), and then board exams before she could become a doctor. There was a set curriculum, and then measures to determine competency in the areas emphasized in that curriculum. And, even after that proficiency was established, Anna did an additional year of residency where she specialized in cornea and contact lens. You can't just declare yourself an optometrist one day and start a career - but individuals do that all the time in personal training because the barrier to entry is completely non-existent.
So, how do we take this lesson and apply it to our fitness professionals who really want to be great? I think the first step is to heavily emphasize a minimum standard of education: a foundation upon which a career can be built.
While the skill sets needed to be a successful NFL strength and conditioning coach are obviously different than what one would need to do cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation in a clinical exercise physiology setting, there are surely many commonalities across these domains (and everything in between). Here are a few things I think everyone in the fitness field needs to know to create a solid foundation:
1. Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Biomechanics - Structure dictates function, and you have to know what good movement (function) is before you can structure a program to create, preserve, or reestablish it.
2. Physiology - I'm not saying that you need to be able to recite the Krebs cycle by heart, but you should have a clear understanding of energy systems development, the endocrine response to exercise, how various disease states impact exercise, the role of various medications your clients may be taking and a host of other physiological considerations.
3. Coaching Approaches - I'll be blunt: I don't think that anyone should be allowed to train someone unless they've first completed internships under multiple other credentialed coaches. Massage therapists need to complete hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of hours before they can go out on their own, and I'd argue that a bad fitness professional can hurt people a lot faster than a bad massage therapist. Good coaches understand how to not only deliver effective coaching cues, but also do so in the most efficient manner possible. The only way to get to this point is to get out and coach individuals from all walks of life - and then fine-tune when things don't work the way you expected.
4. Interpersonal relations - I've always been surprised at how little formal training in psychology the aspiring fitness professional gets in the typical exercise science curriculum. And, honestly, I think that the psychology lessons taught in a classroom by a "typical" college PhD (and I don't mean that disparagingly at all) are likely a lot different than ones you might learn from successful personal trainers who've had clients for decades, or strength and conditioning coaches who've thrived in college weight rooms for generations. Motivation is a very complex topic. Multiple times in my career, I've had a client walk in and start the session with (paraphrased), "So, I'm getting a divorce." Maybe deciding between a reverse lunge and Bulgarian split squat just became a little secondary?
What These Meant for Me
As I look at these four foundational educational processes, I feel like I was really well prepared on both #1 and #2 when I entered the industry. Having a class in gross anatomy during my undergraduate experience was a game-changer, and I was also fortunate to have some excellent kinesiology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology professors that went above and beyond simple memorization challenges.
Early on, though, I struggled with my coaching approaches. I spoke too quickly, blurted out too many cues, and likely confused a lot of athletes. It wasn't until I got to watch some great coaches at the University of Connecticut do their thing that I learned to be more clear and concise, and make the complex seem simple for our athletes.
Interpersonal relations seemed to come more naturally to me, likely because I worked at a tennis club for eight summers while I was growing up; I was constantly interacting with members across multiple age groups. However, this has actually been my biggest area of study over the past 3-4 years (particularly because I now have employees), and I always have an audiobook in progress with respect to leadership, communication, motivation, and related areas.
What These Mean for You
Everyone in the fitness field has unique preparation. Some folks are very good technical coaches, but not great communicators. Some trainers have a knack for making movements look good even if they don't know the exact anatomy governing that clean movement. Some professionals have delivered outstanding results even if they can't explain the underlying physiological changes that occurred. These successes (outcomes) don't mean that they shouldn't constantly be seeking out ways to improve (processes), so I'd encourage you to do a "self audit" to determine your biggest growth areas.
You can shore up a lot of these knowledge gaps with books, DVDs, and online mentorship programs, but I'm of the belief that the fastest way to learn will always be in-person, as you can pick up information on all four components and see how the fit together. Internships and mentorships are phenomenal in this regard; there is real-time application and feedback. Seminars are also be fantastic, particularly when you have both lecture and practical (hands-on) components.
Speaking of seminars, we just announced the lineup for our 5th annual Cressey Sports Performance fall seminar in Massachusetts. It's September 25th, with an early-bird registration deadline of August 25. For more information, click here. Hope to see you there!
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We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, September 25, we’ll be hosting our fifth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past four years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.
Here are the presentation topics:
Pete Dupuis -- Business Before Branding
All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by focusing on branding before establishing a solid business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need efficient systems, a sound team, and concrete training philosophies. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but a consistent and predictable service retains the lifetime value of a customer. In this presentation, Pete will take an in-depth look at the core values, systems and principles that helped to create the foundation of our success at Cressey Sports Performance.
Miguel Aragoncillo -- Enhancing Performance with Plyometrics
Are you using bounding, jumping, skipping or hopping in your exercise programs? From track and field to team sports, plyometrics can enhance your performance. Miguel will cover plyometric basics to address various aspects of speed and power development. Whether you're a trainer or want to improve your own performance, this presentation will cover coaching and programming based on your goals. This presentation includes a hands-on component to identify specific techniques when performing jump training.
Greg Robins -- Lessons in Savagery
Nothing can replace old fashioned hard work in the weight room, but a savage work ethic and intelligent programming don't have to be mutually exclusive. Greg will share several important lessons to get strong, build muscle and become a savage without sacrificing the fundamentals of quality physical preparation.
Chris Howard -- What Massage Can Do for Your Strength Training
Massage therapy is often used to treat pain in the strength and conditioning setting. However, after seven years as a strength coach and massage therapist, Chris has developed methods to integrate massage into training programs for improved performance in healthy individuals. In this presentation, Chris will share his lessons learned on how massage therapy can benefit professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.
Tony Bonvechio -- Reverse Engineering the Novice Powerlifter
The rising popularity of powerlifting has sparked a resurgence in heavy barbell training for people of all ages and experience levels. Tony will discuss how to handle a brand-new powerlifter, including considerations for fine-tuning their technique, writing their programs and preparing them for their first competition. This presentation will feature hands-on movement and technique assessments to highlight what truly matters when evaluating powerlifters.
Nancy Newell -- Tackling the Road to ACL Recovery
An estimated 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament tears occur annually in the United States. The majority of these injuries are suffered by 15- to 25-year-olds who want to get back on the field or court as fast as possible. Nancy will examine current research regarding graft selections, risk factors, and how the strength and conditioning coach can help athletes recover both mentally and physically.
Eric Cressey -- Forecasting Fitness
Fifteen years after entering the industry, Eric will make some projections on what the next 15 years will look like in the fields of health and human performance. He'll pay attention to the business, training, and clinical sides of the equation to help fitness professionals to position themselves correctly in the years ahead.
**Bonus 2:30PM Saturday Session**
George Kalantzis and Andrew Zomberg-- The Method Behind CSP Strength Camp Madness
Group training is rapidly overtaking one-on-one training as the most profitable fitness service. However, an effective group fitness system is often difficult to create and sustain. In this session, George and Andrew will take participants through an actual CSP strength camp. The training session will be accompanied by a brief presentation and handouts that dive into the components of programming, coaching and marketing strategies to drive new business and client retention within a group training model.
Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Hudson, MA 01749
Regular Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $129.99, Regular $149.99 Student Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $99.99, Regular $129.99
The early bird registration deadline is August 25.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
**Bonus session Saturday, September 24 at 2:30pm.
0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs pending (eight contact hours)
We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!
If you have additional questions, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to seeing you there!
PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
Several months ago, Laura Canteri contributed a great article on general guidelines for hypermobile individuals as they approach their training. Today, Cressey Sports Performance coach Ashley Crosby builds on this theme by introducing some specific strategies coaches can employ to help their loose-jointed clients feel and move better. Enjoy! -EC
I’m hypermobile, and have worked with hypermobile athletes and general population clients for the majority of my career. Let me be the first to tell you: if you tell me to get into a certain position for a lift, I WILL get there. Sure, it won’t be right 9 times out of 10 and I’ll feel it in the wrong places, but I’ll get there, and unless you are REALLY good at what you do, it’s going to look passable, and I’m going to feed into my dysfunctional movement patterns. And every hypermobile client I’ve worked with has done this exact same thing.
This leads to my first strategy:
1. Always, always, always ask your hypermobile client or athlete where they feel an exercise.
Always. Whether it is their first time lifting or their eight billionth session, ask. It’s not just that hypermobile people can cheat to get into a position, it’s that they very frequently don’t even know how it’s SUPPOSED to feel. Ask them, and educate them.
2. Provide external feedback.
Whether it's using your hands to put them in a position, block them off, poke them in the muscle they should be feeling, or give them a target to reach for, giving them a physical cue makes a world of difference. I can tell an athlete performing a wall slide with lift-off to only lift their arms off the wall two inches, or to stop at their ears, but hypermobile people often want to keep going until they “feel” an exercise.
Use your hands to block them until they learn where to stop, while also telling them to stop at their ears. Using bands (such as when you put one around your knees before a trap bar deadlift to correct knee valgus) also provides a little gentle reminder.
One of my favorite examples of providing feedback is regressing a core exercise down to the floor. We happen to work with a number of hyperextended low backs, and having an athlete push both the low back AND their ribs into the ground while in a supine bent-knee position helps reinforce a good core position. It also makes it easier when I tell them to keep their ribs down in an exercise. It’s like building a library of kinetic context for them. “Oh, this is what she means. I know how that should feel now.” Next time they hear the cue, they have an appreciation for what I mean.
3. Find a way to help them get and then maintain tension.
One such cue I frequently use when coaching a squat is, “pretend you’re standing on a towel that’s all bunched up, and spread the towel apart with your feet. Feel your glutes turn on? Good. Keep spreading it apart the whole time.” This helps hypermobile athletes build and maintain tension in their lower bodies through the movement while also reinforcing where an exercise should be felt.
Need one for keeping the lats tight during a deadlift? I like this other one from Tony Gentilcore:
4. Programs pauses, eccentric work, and tempo work.
Why? These approaches teach hypermobile folks to truly OWN the movement, from top to bottom and everything in between. Too often, a hypermobile athlete will drop into and out of a movement without ever truly feeling it. Pauses and tempos slow them down, and again, helps them maintain tension throughout the movement.
5. Stop before you feel the stretch.
Cressey Sports Performance - Florida co-founder Shane Rye gets a shout-out for this one.
Hypermobility literally means that an athlete can go way beyond the normal end range of motion in a joint before they feel anything. The idea is to teach them to stop and get strong in the right positions. An example would be an individual forcing excessive movement through the ball-and-socket (glenohumeral) joint instead of moving through the upper back. "Normal" mobility folks can't get into nearly as much trouble as hypermobile clients.
And on that note as well, for the love of all things good in this world, stop stretching your hypermobile athletes. Don’t LET them stretch. Have them foam roll, do mobility work if needed, or get soft tissue work done, but stop stretching: the relief from the stretch reflex is temporary, and the “tight” feeling comes back worse as the muscles knot up to keep loose joints in place.
About the Author
Ashley Crosby (@AshleyECrosby) recently finished her MS at Bridgewater State before coming to Cressey Sports Performance, first as an intern and then as a coach. A CSCS and Pn1 certified coach, she runs the strength camps in the CSP-FL location. Previously, she was the social media director for the Cape Cod Baseball League. When she's not coaching or lifting, she's usually watching baseball. In addition to her work at CSP-FL, Ashley works with folks from all walks of life through her distance-based consulting. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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I receive the following inquiry via email the other day, and thought it might make for a good Q&A post:
I've come to the unfortunate realization that 15 years of sitting at a desk - combined with the simple fact that I'm almost 40 - have left me severely lacking in mobility. And, it's something I now want (and need) to really address. However, I'm also a realist and know that with a busy work and family schedule, getting to the gym is hard enough - but adding a lot of mobility work on top of that could be really challenging. So, I'm wondering what the best way to efficiently tackle this problem is? Should I do a little bit each day? Is it better to go to a yoga class 1-2 times per week? Or something else? I'd like to make some positive changes, but ideally without completely overhauling my weekly schedule. Thanks for any direction you can provide.
The short answer to this question would be a blunt one:
[bctt tweet="If it's really important, make time instead of finding time."]
That wouldn't make for much of an educational blog, though, so let's explore this in more detail. Here are ten things I'd consider if you'd like to really dedicate yourself to improving your overall mobility as efficiently as possible.
1. Frequency is everything.
Remember that - simply stated - mobility is your ability to reach a certain position or posture. It's different than flexibility in that mobility necessitates stability within a range of motion, not just the range of motion of a joint (or series of joints). In other words, you need motor control to have motor control.
Think back to when you were learning to ride a bike. Did you go out and try for 5-6 hours every Saturday morning, or did you put in several runs every day for a few weeks? If you're like most people, it was definitely the latter option.
[bctt tweet="Frequent exposure is key for motor learning, and you can't improve mobility without motor control."]
What does that mean in the context of mobility work? You need to do something every day - and possibly even multiple times per day.
For most folks, a quality pre-training warm-up is an important first step. If you look at my High Performance Handbook as an example, each pre-training warm-up consists of about five minutes of foam rolling and ten mobility drills that should take about ten minutes total.
2. Find new planes and ranges of motion in your strength work.
Most training programs are very sagittal plane (front-to-back) dominant. In other words, a lot of exercisers do very little in the rotational (transverse) and side-to-side (frontal). While you do have to do work in these planes during single-leg work, that doesn't mean much for actually taking them close to their end-range of mobility. Simply adding in some lateral lunges to your warm-ups and strength work can go a long way.
3. Sign up for classes if you really need the accountability or the instructor is absolutely fantastic.
Yoga and Pilates can be absolutely fantastic tools for helping you to improve your mobility if:
a) They improve your accountability so that you're more likely to actually make this a priority.
b) You have an outstanding instructor that both motivates you and teaches you about how your body works.
These options can also be terrible approaches if you have unqualified instructors or attending them absolutely destroys your schedule - and therefore becomes a burden more than a blessing.
4. Mix in a little work at night before bed.
This piggybacks on the aforementioned "frequent exposures" theme. I know of a lot of people who'll do a bit of foam rolling and stretching at night while watching TV or getting ready for bed. Anecdotally, it does seem to help some people unwind - possibly by kicking the parasympathetic nervous system on (especially if combined with a good focus on breathing during this work). If getting in some stretching and rolling before bed doesn't exactly thrill you, just pick 1-2 high priority drills and do them. Or just stretch out your calves while you're brushing your teeth!
5. Break up prolonged periods of immobility.
Each spring, I drive from Florida to Massachusetts. Then, in the fall, I drive back to Florida. It's a lovely 23 hours in the car over two days.
The first time I did it, I tried to be a cowboy and just plow through it with as few stops as possible. My hips hated me for about three days after the trip was done.
Since then, I make sure to stop every 2-3 hours. In fact, on my ride back this spring, I even stopped twice to train along this journey. I felt dramatically better in the days that followed.
I think you can extend this logic to how we break up our days, too. If you have to be at a computer for the majority of the 9am-5pm work day, try to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes. Walk to get some water, or do a doorway pec stretch.
It's a lot easier to do a little to maintain your mobility than it is to lose it and try to get it back.
6. Incorporate a bit more unilateral work.
When you take a lifter who's never done much single-leg work and start incorporating these unilateral movements, good things always seem to happen. I suspect that it has to do with the fact that a lot of these individuals are actually extending their hips past neutral for the first time in years, but I doubt that's the only mechanism.
To be clear, this doesn't mean that the hardcore squat/deadlift enthusiasts need to drop (or even tone down) these movements. It just means that it'd be a good idea to work in some more single-leg drills to the warm-up period, and to do some as an assistance exercise. They don't need to be loaded like crazy, either, particularly early-on. It's not uncommon to see groin strains (or very pronounced soreness) when someone incorporates single-leg work to a previously 100% bilateral program, so incorporate them gradually in terms of loading and volume.
7. Be patient and don't skip steps.
Getting transient (quick) improvements to range of motion isn't particularly difficult. You can get that from manual therapy, increased body temperature, or "tricks" to the nervous system. After these initiatives, we need to incorporate some stability training to make these changes "stick."
They won't magically improve dramatically from one session to the next, though. In fact, you may only hold 5% of that change from one session to the next - and that's why you need to stay patient and persistent with these drills over an extended period of time to see pronounced results.
With that said, it's important not to skip steps in this process. Just because your squat pattern improved a little doesn't mean you're ready to sink a 500-pound front squat to the "butt-to-heels" position the right way. And, just because you experienced subtle improvements to your active straight leg raise doesn't mean that you're ready to run a sub-10-second 100m dash. Own the changes before you try to challenge them in more chaotic environments.
8. Manage your breathing.
We'll keep this one really simple and watered-down:
Inhale = tension = stress
Exhale = relaxation = destress
If you're holding your breath while doing your mobility drills, stop! You're just stretching your lats, not attempting a 700-pound deadlift. Control your breathing, and think about fully exhaling at the lengthened position to give your system a chance to perceive it as a "new normal." The yoga folks have been preaching this for thousands of years, but us meathead strength and conditioning coaches have only started to figure it out in the past decade or so.
One drill I love for teaching this is the TRX deep squat breathing with lat stretch. Just sink down into this bottom position and exhale fully on each breath. Give it a "two-one-thousand" count before inhaling again. I usually program five breaths per set.
9. Choose comprehensive mobility drills.
If you only have 10 minutes per day to devote to improving your mobility, you are best of focusing on drills that provide plenty of bang for your buck. In other words, you want drills that challenge multiple joints and planes of motion at the same time. Here are a few good options as examples:
10. Balanced programming and optimal technique help to improve mobility.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is "audit" your programs and training technique to see if they're pushing you further into your mobility deficit. Maybe you're benching too much and rowing too little? Or, perhaps it's been a lot of squatting and not enough deadlifting? Could it possibly be that you've been board pressing a ton and omitting full range-of-motion benching that could actually be really helpful for your shoulder? There are countless programming pitfalls into which one can fall, but you'll never identify them until you take a step back to review what you've been doing.
Moreover, crappy technique under load reinforces bad patterns and loss of mobility. Additionally, it can turn soft tissue and neuromuscular control restrictions into joint restrictions (laying down bone that shouldn't be there). You can't just fix reactive changes to the joint with stretching, either. Train hard, but train smart and with solid technique.
These are only ten thoughts off the top of my head, and there are surely many more. At the end of the day, though, most of the mobility improving strategies come back to common sense. Your body desperately wants to move, and you need to make time for that movement - and approach it with a plan as you would any other priority in your life.
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I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's a little recommended reading from the strength and conditioning world to get the week started off on the right foot:
EC on the Movement Fix Podcast - Dr. Ryan DeBell had me on his podcast a few weeks ago, and we talked about everything from business to evaluations and programming for overhead athletes.
Recap of the 2016 Perform Better Functional Training Summit - Harold Gibbons wrote up this great review of the Perform Better presentations he attended recently in Providence. I've been presenting on the PB tour for ten years now, and I can honestly say that these events are the best value in continuing education in the fitness industry today. I'd highly recommend checking them out, if you haven't already.
It's hard to believe that we're 20 installments deep on this series, but I'm glad they've been so well received and definitely plan to continue to write them. Before I get to the meat and potatoes, just a quick friendly reminder that the introductory $100 off Elite Athletic Development seminar DVDs ends tonight at midnight.
1. Tall athletes are usually longer term projects.
When you have a 15-year-old 6-6, 150-pound kid with size 17 shoes, you have your work cut out for you.
These athletes are challenging for a number of reasons:
a. Their bone growth has usually outpaced their flexibility (except in kids - usually those who haven't finished puberty - who have preserved their childhood joint laxity). This often means that they have to do a fair amount of "preliminary" work just to get into good positions to benefit from big bang exercises.
b. Their center of mass has rapidly shifted up away from their base of support, creating a constantly unstable state.
c. A longer spine is a lot harder to stabilize than a shorter one.
d. You can put 20 pounds on one of these athletes and barely notice. As a frame of reference, in the picture below, the 6-6 athlete on the left added 31 pounds between September and February (when this picture was taken) to get to approximately 200 pounds. Meanwhile, Greg Robins (the CSP coach in the middle) actually weighs more than him even though his about eight inches shorter.
e. Even if you put that 20 pounds on them, it might not be enough to have a "grounding" effect on the athlete. Unless an athlete is very gifted in terms of reactive ability (as you might see with lighter weight NBA players), you might need to add a lot more weight for them to learn how to properly load the lower extremity to create athletic movement using the stretch-shortening cycle.
f. At younger ages, they're often put in positions that don't require as much movement (first base, DH, or pitcher in baseball; center in basketball; goalie in soccer; etc.). This may rob them of crucial exposure to movement "education."
The take home points?
[bctt tweet="In tall athletes, push patience, consistency, calories, and perfect technique on fundamentals."]
2. It's not your job to have all the answers.
Earlier this week, I sent along a nutrition question to Cressey Sports Performance's first employee, Brian St. Pierre. Brian is now Director of Performance Nutrition for Precision Nutrition and a tremendous resource we have at our fingertips on everything relating to nutrition and supplementation. Within 24 hours, Brian had sent along a 244-word reply that covered his anecdotal experiences on the topic in question, along with some recommended reading in case I was interested in what the peer-reviewed evidence demonstrated.
I'd love to have all the answers, but I simply don't. As such, I refer out all the time - whether it's a question like this on the nutrition front, or sending a client to a physical therapist. Your job is to deliver the best possible outcomes for your athletes/clients, and referring out regularly usually leads to those ends - and creates learning opportunities for you via the collaborative efforts that occur during the referral.
It's not your job to have all the answers; it's your job to know where you can find them.
3. It's important to understand how much relative strength an athlete needs - and that is sport and position specific.
I'll use my experience with baseball to make this point.
Pitching is a combination of absolute and relative strength and power. From an absolute standpoint, more body weight equates to more force to push off the mound, and more momentum moving downhill; that's why gaining weight can have such a profound impact on pitching velocity.
On the other hand, from a relative strength and power standpoint, you eventually have to "accept" all the force you create. We know that there are substantial ground reaction forces taken on by the front leg, and research has demonstrated that they are (not surprisingly) directly impacted by body weight. Additionally, according to 1998 research on professional pitchers from Werner et al., at ball release, the distraction forces on the shoulder are approximately 108% of body weight. You could also make the argument that these forces are even higher now, as average fastball velocity has crept up significantly since 1998, and the subjects in that study averaged only 89mph. As is the case with body weight increases, as arm speed rises, so do shoulder distraction forces.
In hitting, "accepting" force on the front side isn't as stressful because we don't hit downhill on a mound. However, batters have to run the bases, and that's a significant relative strength challenge.
With all this in mind, you it's important to realize that some athletes need to gain weight, some athletes need to lose weight, and some athletes are good right where they are. Obviously, body composition plays into this as well, but speaking in general terms, understanding strength-to-bodyweight ratios in sport-specific contexts is really important for all strength and conditioning coaches.
4. Use upper body drivers in your lower body mobility work.
This video from Mike Robertson got me thinking a lot:
We've done quite a bit of upper body reaching in our warm-ups with drills like the lateral lunge with overhead reach, but typical, this motion has really only occurred in the sagittal plane:
Conversely, if you look at the bowler squat, the upper body reach drives hip internal rotation, adduction, and flexion on the support leg.
Moving forward, I plan to get a lot more creative with using reaching to challenge folks in the transverse and frontal planes during our warm-ups.
Speaking of Mike Robertson, along with Carolina Panthers strength coach Joe Kenn, he's the co-creator of the Elite Athletic Development 3.0 DVD set. It's a fantastic resource that I'd highly recommend, and it's on sale for $100 off through the end of the day today. Click here to learn more.
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Today's guest post comes from physical therapist, Eric Schoenberg. Eric is an integral part of the Elite Baseball Mentorships team.
A thought came to mind as I was considering how we can work towards reducing the incidence of injury in baseball: we need more specialists.
If we use the field of medicine as a model, the Total Knee Replacement has pretty much been mastered. Of course, there is room for improvement, but over the past 25 years, this surgery has become a massive success. The biggest reason for this is a progression of specialization:
If you need a knee replacement, you don’t go to your primary care physician. Instead, you schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon that specializes in TKR. So, if you are a baseball player, why does it make sense to work with a “general” strength coach or physical therapist?
[bctt tweet="Every profession matures into a state of “super-specialization” as it develops."]
Strength coaches and physical therapists have a great opportunity ahead of us to move our professions forward in this manner.
The current entry point for a strength coach is minimal. Most commonly, entry into the field falls somewhere between a fitness certification and a 4-year degree. In some cases, you will see dual degrees, Master’s degrees, and the occasional PhD.
However, there is no direct path available to niche into a “baseball specialist.” Instead, we have private sector, college, and even some professional strength coaches that may have seen baseball players by chance, but have no more experience with them than any other sport. It’s not a criticism of them, though; there simply isn’t an established “curriculum” they can pursue. As a result, in most cases, highly “specialized” baseball players are being managed by “general” strength coaches.
I have to believe that this is as much of a contributing factor as any to the high incidence of injury in the baseball world. By the time these athletes make it far enough in their careers to have access to “baseball specialists,” they are often too damaged for even the experts to manage.
Here are five tips to establish yourself as a trusted resource in the baseball community:
1. Watch baseball.
Don’t just watch it for entertainment value. Study the movements. Use slow motion and rewind on your TV. Watch video online and gain a better understanding of the actions and positions unique to the sport. Once you think you have it figured out, you are only just scratching the surface. Keep studying! Start to recognize why faulty mechanics can lead to improper distribution of stress and ultimately injury. By doing this, you can pair this knowledge with your individual assessment of the athlete to create a more optimal training program.
2. Spend time on a field.
Baseball players are unique in their habits and tendencies. Gain a “feel” for the game. Understand the culture of the game. Learn how to identify with and communicate with athletes that are much younger than you. Understand that most of their time on the field is spent standing around and waiting. Educate your players on how to optimize this time to prepare mentally, hydrate, properly warm up, etc. It is not enough to say you used to play baseball 20 years ago; nobody cares. My credibility and effectiveness in managing baseball players increased 10x once I started spending time at the field as part of a team. Create an angle to quickly establish trust and common ground with the athlete and watch your results dramatically improve.
3. Understand the unique physical characteristics and demands of baseball players.
Baseball players have physical characteristics that differ from other sports. Educate yourself for the benefit of your athletes. Learn about humeral retroversion, gross extension patterns, laxity, valgus stress, dynamic stability, rotator cuff timing, etc. Work towards understanding the importance of stability of the landing leg, proper hip hinge pattern, and the importance of tri-planar single leg balance. Don’t “stretch” a guy that is already too loose. Instead, give him some stability and watch his pain go away. The baseball player’s anatomy is a long way from “neutral.” Do your best to bring them closer to the middle and not further away. For example, your ability to recognize that a baseball player should not be cued to pull their shoulder blades “down and back” because their shoulder blades are ALREADY down and back may save dozens of careers.
4. Master functional anatomy and human movement.
Understand the critical role of the scapula. Train the rotator cuff in the throwing position through the entire range of motion (especially end-range external rotation). Learn how the kinetic chain applies specifically to baseball. Hitting and throwing are highly coordinated, precisely timed, multidirectional movements. Don’t train your athletes with single joint exercises that only occur in the sagittal plane. Learn about hip/trunk separation to maximize power and explosiveness. Be able to educate the athlete on what it means to have a labral tear or understand the specifics of an ulnar nerve transposition. If you can’t explain these pathologies, then how can you minimize risk when working with these athletes? Take pride in your job on this front.
5. Be willing to respectfully challenge the “institution of baseball.”
CSP coach Tony Bonvechio wrote a blog post a while back where he warned about the dangers of the phrase “this is how I’ve always done it.” I find myself observing on a daily basis that regardless of level – little league, high school, college, pro ball – at least 80% of the player’s warm up routine is exactly the same. How can that be? We have progressed as a profession; however, kids on baseball fields across the world are all doing the same useless warm-up routine.
An example of progress is Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. He has softened the traditional stance of getting to the ballpark at 1pm for a 7pm game. Instead, they have created a culture that emphasizes more sleep, nutrition, and recovery and his players love him for it. (and, by the way, the team is doing pretty well, too).
If we want different results, we have to continue to move towards a different approach. The efforts of strength coaches and physical therapists to move towards becoming baseball specialists will go a long way in helping to reach this goal.
If you are interested in learning more about our approach to managing baseball athletes, we'd love to see you at one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next three-day course - this one focused on the lower-extremity - is August 21-23, with Thursday, July 21 serving as the early-bird registration deadline. You can learn more HERE.
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With this week's release of Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn's Elite Athletic Development 3.0 DVD set, Cressey Sports Performance coach Nancy Newell and I put our heads together to highlight 12 of the key takeaways from this great new resource.
1. Coaching jump and landing technique is a must.
The “athletic position” occurs in every sport. If you want athletes to apply force, they also need to understand how to absorb force. With ACL injuries on the rise, it’s no surprise that 60-70% of these injuries result from non-contact incidences. This means that kids are getting hurt because they haven’t learned or practiced this technique.
Try these approaches:
a. Deceleration on two legs (Vertical Jump with Stick)
b. Deceleration on one leg (Heiden with Stick)
c. Upper body deceleration (Medicine Ball Work)
2. Don’t count the reps; make the reps count.
It can be challenging for a youth athlete to perform a set of ten bodyweight squats with perfect technique.
[bctt tweet= "Remember: the single-most transferable trait of an excellent program is confidence."]
If you start to see their form going down the drain, break the reps up into smaller pieces of success. Instead of performing one set of ten reps, you might perform five sets of two reps. The athlete will gain confidence, learn and retain HOW to perform the movement.
3. Teach athletes to “push,” not “pull.”
A common mistake athletes make is having the mentality to “pull” weight off the floor. When we pull weight off the floor, a large portion of that force produced comes from our lower back. If you can teach an athlete to apply force into the ground by “pushing,” a large majority of that force comes from our posterior chain and creates a strong, stable base for our bodies to produce force.
4. Use single leg strength to achieve stability and control, not maximal strength.
While incredibly important, single-leg work is not the best way to get “globally” strong. In a bilateral exercise such as the squat and deadlift, you have a larger base of support to move more weight using mostly prime movers (hamstrings, quads, glutes). A single leg exercise with a smaller base of support places more emphasis on owning and controlling our bodies through multiple planes of motion. Use single-leg exercises to fill in the gaps between maximal strength and stability.
5. Attitude controls your efforts.
One of the most impactful quotes Joe Kenn had during Elite Athletic Development 3.0 was, “You’re not giving good effort with a bad attitude.” Young athletes feed off coaches’ energy, so if you're upset about something personal that happened and you bring that to the weight room, your athletes will likely adopt that same poor attitude about today.
[bctt tweet="Your attitude is the number one dictator of the success of your program."]
You need to have the utmost confidence in yourself to achieve what you set out to complete for each day.
6. Get young athletes proficient in fundamental movements.
This may seem like a no brainer; however, many coaches are willing to place an external load on an athlete before they can confidently control their own bodyweight. Fundamentals are the building blocks for getting stronger, performing better and – most above all – staying injury-free. Youth training should not be about a “quick fix.” It should be about developing efficient motor patterns, skills, and confidence to form a robust foundation for long-term athletic development.
7. “Once relative strength is compromised, continuing to focus on maximal strength becomes an issue.” -Loren Landow
Robertson and Kenn highly urged everyone to over-emphasize general basic strength qualities because strength is a skill. Once you start to “own” this skill, you can start to add layers to challenge your mental and physical strength. Use layering to prepare your athletes for the next phase of training. As an example:
Phase 1: Bodyweight w/3second quasi ISO hold
Phase 2: KB Goblet Squat w/3second lowering/ Explosive concentric
Phase 3: 2KB Squat
8. “There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.”
In your personal life, career, athletics you can’t be afraid to work hard. The most valuable teaching tool is experience, and experience comes from jumping on opportunities to learn from smarter, more experienced people than you. Set your goals high, but don’t jump stairs.
9. Building a more robust athlete comes from the bottom of the pyramid.
If you want to maximize your training results, you have to maximize recovery. One way to kick start recovery is to be consistent with the little things at the bottom of the pyramid (sleep, nutrition, and soft-tissue work). These variables can have a dramatic impact on one's ability to feel good and stay healthy for the long haul. For example, take an athlete who works out 3x/week for one hour. That’s three hours out of 168 hours in a week. Your training makes up less than 3% of your week, but those "tiny" elements at the base of the pyramid that make up a big chunk of the remaining 97%.
10. An efficient warm up has three broad components:
a. Physiology - We want our athletes to warm-up to increase tissue temperature, improve joint lubrication (especially for the older athletes), and fire up the nervous system.
b. Biomechanics - We aim to optimize alignment; isolate then integrate; and sync up the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
c. Specific - We want to reflect the actual nature of the activities that follow, whether we're incorporate lifting weights or training speed/power.
11. High-intensity/anaerobic exercise is built from a low-intensity/aerobic base.
Focusing year-round on just high-intensity work with your athlete will result in a less than impressive work capacity and performance. Instead, use various forms of cardiac output work to expand your pyramid base and help your reach higher anaerobic peaks.
12. Everybody is an athlete.
Regardless of age and training experience, everyone can benefit from training power. Power is vital for overall athleticism, but it is unfortunately one of the first physical qualities we lose as we age. By respecting all the elements on the force-velocity curve you can help anyone get stronger, faster, and more explosive.
Here's an extended warm-up example that would constitute power training in these individuals:
-Low amplitude/high velocity (jump rope)
-Upper body throw (overhead med ball stomp)
-High amplitude/low(er) velocity (Heidens)
As I noted earlier, Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn's new Elite Athletic Development 3.0 seminar DVD set is on sale for $100 off through this Friday (7/22) at midnight. I would consider it an outstanding investment for any strength and conditioning professional. For more information, head HERE.
About the Co-Author
Nancy Newell (@NancyNewell2) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. Nancy earned her Bachelors Degree in Fitness Development from the State University of New York at Cortland. You can read more from her at www.NancyNewell.com.
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I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I was on the road for the Providence Perform Better Summit this weekend, but luckily, I've got some great content lined up for you from other folks around the 'net. Check them out:
Elite Athletic Development 3.0 - I'm in the process of reviewing this collaborative effort from Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn, and it's excellent (as were the first two installments). These two outstanding coaches have lots of wisdom to share from the private, collegiate, and professional strength and conditioning worlds - and the resource is on sale at an introductory discount this week.
Maybe You Shouldn't Deadlift from the Floor - This article actually serves as a really good follow-up to the guest post Dean Somerset authored for my site a few weeks ago. Some people are better served not deadlifting from the floor, and Dean outlines why, as well as some alternatives.