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7 Random Thoughts on Plyometrics

Today's guest article comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Miguel Aragoncillo. Miguel 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

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My contribution to CSP Innovations was on the topic of post-activation potentiation (PAP), and you can't talk about PAP without getting knee-deep in a discussion of plyometrics. That said, there were quite a few "spillover" thoughts on this front that I thought would complement my webinar nicely. Here they are: 

1. Change the Environment to Improve Outcomes.

Based on what the athlete or individual needs in his or her sprinting capabilities, a different starting position can be used to help teach a different “lesson.” Whether it is drive in the first few yards, arm swing, or even learning how to manage torso position past 10 yards, there are different tools that can be utilized to improve your sprinting ability.

With sprinting (along with several other forms of plyometrics) the position of the set up will greatly affect the outcome of the exercise. As an example, if you begin a sprint with one knee on the ground, you will need to display greater initial strength in order to overcome gravity in comparison to a sprint that starts after shuffling for five yards.

Further, you can use small hurdles at 12 inches or so in order to elicit a higher knee position, or you may simply or kick the hurdles as you move forward.

Hurdle and Sprint Drill

Much like attacking your specific weaknesses in your strength training and lifting endeavors, the correct tool must be used at the correct time in order to deliver the most appropriate outcome of efficiency, and in this case, power and force development.

2. Change the Words We Use.

While the above point looks to improve upon the external environment in order to help your athletes and clients to move better, the next point aims to improve how your brain processes this information in order to also move better.

Using words in order to describe a movement, motion, or intention behind a movement are all ways we can alter the outcomes of a movement.

Essentially, you can alter the outcomes of a movement by utilizing two techniques: 1) change your words to reflect the intensity of a movement, and 2) provide an external task to be accomplished.

Using words like tap, boom, and zoom, or using claps, or stomps can help reinforce the concept of moving with intention and speed. The purpose of these words will help to improve the rate of force production, along with force absorption if certain awareness is needed when landing as you perform different drills.

3. Physically Demonstrate Exercises.

As a coach, I am always interested whenever someone presents a faster and more efficient way to coach one or more athletes. With this in mind, the point should be driven further that non-verbal cueing is one of the bigger ways to improve upon a movement pattern.

Sure, there are tons of ways for people to learn. Using all five senses is certainly a way to help improve the learning process, but using smell as a way to teach someone to jump may not be the best course of action.

Sometimes a bounding motion is difficult to describe verbally, but showing it will help demonstrate the movement pattern, and describing the emphasis on the desired “hang time” from leg to leg for the movement will reinforce the intention of staying on the ground as little as possible.

Follow up your demonstrations with one or two words (similar to what was described above) to reinforce your intentions and any small details that may not appear to the naked eye.

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4. Improve Maximal Strength Before Looking to Improve Maximal Speed.

The off-season is a time to increase strength, as this is the foundation that can create greater speed for our athletes. At Cressey Sports Performance, we do not shy away from deadlifting or squatting the first week our athletes come back.

While the act of deadlifting may feel like a far cry away from increasing sprint time or even further removed from increasing baseball pitching velocity, the take-home message here is that the details found in lifting heavy will contribute to the whole and not take away from the movement pattern. In fact, improving total body maximal strength will eventually lead to a greater rate of force production, as force production is the name of the game when looking to increase speed for your athletes.

5. Using Overload May Not Be the Best Tool for Athletes.

While this may seem contradictory considering the last point, every athlete will respond differently to various percentages of maximal strength. Some athletes 90% of their 1RM relatively quickly, while others move that weight slowly. When speaking about force production, research from Stone et al. (among many others), saw 30% of 1RM maximal strength in lower body exercises as a “sweet spot” for power output with jumping exercises. Further, stronger athletes have greater abilities to express this force production quality.

From the Stone et al (2003):

“... The strong group had higher values at all percentages of 1RM when compared with the weak group. The strong group had their highest power outputs at 40% of 1RM; the weak group had decreasing power outputs as the percentage of 1RM increased.

“... These correlational findings suggest that jumping power may be increased with improvement of the 1RM squat. The fact that the 5 strongest subjects had markedly higher power outputs than the 5 weakest subjects strengthens this finding.”

In this same vein, when we begin to get more specific with our movement patterns, we will eventually need to express faster and faster motions, following the force velocity curve (or absolute strength to absolute speed continuum) as the off-season transitions to pre-season for our athletes!

6. Where the Head Goes, the Body Follows.

If your head, eyes, or other seemingly small detail is “off,” your ability to deliver a movement to its best potential will be thrown off. To this end, your set-up can affect the execution of your movement.

If you’re performing continuous jumps, try looking straight down, and see how you do. Then perform another set looking straight, and then looking up into the air. See what fits best for you and your athletes, and change it based on your drill. The eye and head position will change based on the focus of the drill.

Head and Eye - Vision Jump

Specifically, when you are looking to improve your distance in a movement such as bounding in a certain amount of jumps, or jumping to increase vertical force production, focusing on an object or space for your vision is the purpose when precision is the name of the game.

7. Competition can breed better output.

This isn’t so much a lesson in plyometrics, but a lesson in performing plyometrics based on your environment and possible training partners.

Perform a drill by yourself, and you can expect to get a certain result - whether it is up to standard is up for debate. Perform a drill in the presence of 10-15 teammates who are all motivating each other can create a better environment, and you can increase your results tenfold. This does not mean to crush your body to the point of no return and getting injured, but having a team or partner(s) to motivate you can improve your outcomes significantly.

How can this be put into action when you are trying to improve from a maximal speed drill? Next time you are in a training rut, see if you can find a few reliable training partners to hold yourself accountable. Challenge yourself or your friends to a few races at the end of a lifting session, whether it is with jumps, bounds, or chasing whoever is at the top of a leaderboard.

For more plyometric training strategies, be sure to check out Miguel's presentation, "Post-Activation Potentiation: Mechanisms, Methods, and Results." It's available as part of our new resource, CSP Innovations, which is in sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. Click here to learn more. 

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About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

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Cressey Sports Performance Innovations is Now Available!

When people ask me for my top business mistake, without hesitation, I answer, “Putting my last name on Cressey Sports Performance.”

When I say this, most folks assume that I’m referring to the fact that it’ll make the business harder to sell way down the road. Or, they recognize that it means everyone will expect me to answer the phone each time someone calls the office. And, these individuals aren’t wrong; these are certainly issues. However, they aren’t the primary source of my frustration with this mistake.

Rather, without even knowing it, putting my name on the facility undermines just how outstanding the rest of our staff at both Cressey Sports Performance facilities are. In fact, my business partner, Pete Dupuis, often refers to himself as “the guy behind the guy” even though he’s one of the brightest business minds in the industry – and every bit as integral to the success of CSP as I am.

This is something I’ve worked hard to remedy – and today, I have an announcement that will continue this momentum in the right direction.

Today, we introduce Cressey Sports Performance Innovations, a collaborative resource from the Cressey Sports Performance team. Eleven staff members from our Hudson, MA and Jupiter, FL facilities have each contributed a presentation “from their wheelhouse” to this product – and we’re really excited with how it turned out. I learned a lot in reviewing the 11+ hours of webinars, and I’m confident you will, too.

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This 100% digital/online resource is now available at an introductory $50 off discount through this Sunday at midnight.

For more information, please visit www.CSPInnovations.com

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4 Glute-Ham Raise Technique Tips

Glute-ham raise technique can give lifters a lot of trouble. To that end, I thought I'd film a video to demonstrate some of the common mistakes folks make with this drill.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/18/17

It's a big Wednesday. The Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017 is announced, and our family is actually closing on our new house here in Florida. And, it's a beautiful sunny day outside - and I'm headed to the fields for throwing, hitting, and sprint work with our pro baseball crew. Who says hump day has to suck?

Here are some recommended reads for the week:

4 Warm-up Mistakes You're Probably Making - Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio makes some great points on how to optimize your preparation for a training session.

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What Kind of Substitute Teachers is Your Fitness "Classroom" Prepared to Employ? - This article from my business partner, Pete Dupuis, is targeted toward gym owners, but a lot of the lessons can be applied to personal trainers managing their own clientele. Who do you trust to pick up the slack if you're sick for a day?

To Hell and Back: The Untold Story of Male Eating Disorders - This article by Mike Zimmerman for Adam Bornstein's site hits close to home for me in light of some troubles I went through roughly 15 years ago. 

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 5

I haven't published a post in this series since September, so this update is long overdue. Here we go...

1. Focus on optimism in training, but pessimism in business.

I'm in the process of reading The Founder's Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman. It's been excellent thus far, and this quote stood out to me, in particular:

"Higher optimism entrepreneurs have 20% lower revenue growth and 25% lower employment growth than lower optimism entrepreneurs who would be less susceptible to the perils of optimism."

Without even knowing it, Wasserman might have explained a big reason why so many fitness professionals struggle when they open their own business (as compared to working for someone else). The best trainers are upbeat, unconditionally positive, and energetic during their training sessions - but that doesn't mean that this approach also works well on the business side of things.

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As I think about the most productive meetings I've had with my business partners over the years, they haven't been sit-downs to talk about all the great things we're doing. Rather, they were meetings where we nit-picked and scrutinized everything we were doing to find ways to improve. In a broad sense, they were very pessimistic.

Wasserman elaborates: "Excessive optimism can blind many founders to their start-ups' critical needs. So, they must be particularly vigilant in identifying the gaps in their skills, knowledge, and contacts - and evaluating whether and when those gaps should be filled by a co-founder."

There's your quick, two-part recipe for fitness industry business struggles:

a. Be overly optimistic on the business side of things and miss key opportunities for improvement and growth.

b. Fail to have the knowledge and resources needed to improve a problem even if you do actually identify it.

2. Effective loss leaders shouldn't devalue your service.

A while back, my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote up a great article: 3 Reasons We Don't Offer Free Training Consultations. In it, he outlined three primary reasons why offering free training consults at your gym might not be a good idea. One point he didn't make, though, is that you are effectively devaluing your services.

Now, to be clear, I am not at all opposed to loss leaders in the fitness industry - as long as we have a broader definition of "loss leader." Wikipedia defines it as "is a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services." In my opinion, you can utilize "value addition leaders" with great impact without devaluing your services (the only "loss" is your time). You're simply finding ways to give potential customers something of value before they take the initial plunge with you.

This might be a free seminar at your facility that they attend, or a expedited referral to a physical therapist or sports orthopedist prior to them starting up with you. You might even go to this appointment with them to learn more about their injury and help make the transition as smooth as possible. It's a way to show you care and deliver value before the first transaction.

With our professional athlete clientele, we have a great opportunity to do this prior to them actually getting to Cressey Sports Performance for an evaluation. Maybe it's a function of helping them to find housing (sometimes even at the Cressey residence!), or passing along the information they need for the smoothest travel experience on the way to CSP. Or, maybe it's lining up a catcher for them to throw a bullpen when they're only in town for a short stint.

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There are countless ways to add value to the client's experience with your training facility, but you do need to be a bit more creative to find ways to differentiate yourself even prior to the first transaction.

3. Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, and Retention are the big three of fitness business success. 

Just as powerlifting has the big three - squat, bench press, deadlift - fitness business success has its own big three:

a. Lead Generation - how many people inquire about your services

b. Lead Conversion - how many of those prospects actually wind up paying for your services

c. Retention - how well you keep those clients

If you're a relatively experienced powerlifter, you can usually identify the quickest way to bring up your total. For me, I was always a strong deadlifter, decent bench, and mediocre squatter - so prioritizing the squat was the fastest way to bring up my overall performance.

Similarly, I think every business owner (even outside the fitness industry) would be wise to look at their businesses with this "largest window of adaptation" perspective. At CSP, lead conversion has never really been an issue for us, so we can devote most of our efforts on the business front to lead generation and retention.

Of course, don't overlook "ancillary" efforts like managing expenses, collecting outstanding payments, servicing equipment, and the like as important. While they are key considerations, they just usually aren't "big rocks" on the profitability front like these other three.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/9/17

Between the holidays and my "Best of 2016" series, it's been a few weeks since the last installment of this weekly recommended reading/viewing list. With that in mind, I'll throw out some extra recommendations this week:

Healthy Hips for Serious Sumo Deadlifts - Dean Somerset knows hips - and this article demonstrates just how thorough that knowledge is.

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Understanding Influencer Marketing - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, discusses the value of collaborative marketing efforts between one company or individual and another - using our relationship with New Balance as an example.

Stress is Not Stress - This was an outstanding post from Dave Dellanave; he cuts through all the science and explains why not all stress is created equal for every person.

5 Key Nutrition Lessons We Learned in 2016 - As always, the crew at Examine.com puts out some excellent science-backed information.

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Shoulder Health: Fine-Tuning Full Can Technique

The "full can" exercise is a popular shoulder prehabilitation/rehabilitation exercise of which I'm not super fond for a number of reasons. That said, if folks are going to utilize it, I think it's important that they understand exactly how to perform the exercise and where they should feel it. Check out today's video to learn more:

Speaking of shoulder performance, I'm excited to announce that Optimal Shoulder Performance - Mike Reinold and my first collaborative product - is now available for the first time as a digital resource. To sweeten the deal, you can get 20% off by entering the coupon code 20OFF at www.ShoulderPerformance.com through the end of the day Sunday.

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The Best of 2016: Product Reviews

To wrap up my “Best of 2016″ series, I’ll highlight the top product reviews I did at this site in the last year. Here they are: 

1. Certified Speed and Agility Specialist (CSAS) Course - Lee Taft is a go-to guy when it comes to speed and agility education, and this awesome certification demonstrates why. It was filmed at Cressey Sports Performance and was mandatory viewing for our entire staff. I wrote up an article about why it's so great: When Do Strength and Conditioning and Fitness Certifications Really Matter?

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2. The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint - I was proud of my longtime friend Tony Gentilcore for releasing this, which was his first product. The content was top notch from both Tony and Dean Somerset, his co-creator. Tony covered the shoulder and Dean covered the hips, and I put out some solid takeaways from the resource; see Shoulder Strategies and Hip Helpers: Part 1 and Part 2 for my review.

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3. Elite Athletic Development 3.0 - Unlike most sequels and trilogies, this third installment from Mike Robertson and Joe Kenn didn't disappoint, as there were loads of great coaching strategies introduced. Cressey Sports Performance coach Nancy Newell and I shared some of these insights in our review: 12 Elite Athletic Development Coaching and Programming Lessons.

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There were certainly some other great products I encountered this year, but these three proved to be the most popular with my readers.

In 2016, I personally released Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement with Mike Reinold, and will have two new products out in the first six months of 2017, so stay tuned!

We're back to the regular EricCressey.com content this week. Thanks for all your support in 2016!

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The Best of 2016: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2016" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. Preventing Baseball Injuries: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This was my first post of 2016, and it turned out to be one of my most impactful. A cool follow-up note on this: one of the suggestions I had to reduce pitching injuries was to push the high school season back in warm weather states, and here in Florida, they actually moved it back two weeks for 2017. I doubt my writing had anything to do with it, but it's nice to see things moving in a positive direction. 

2. Should Lat Strains Even Be Happening?

The lat strain is becoming far more prevalent in higher levels of baseball as pitchers throw with more and more velocity. In this lengthy article, I discuss mechanisms of injury, diagnostic challenges, prevention strategies, and longer-term prognoses.

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3. 6 Saturday Shoulder Strategies

I wrote this as a "brain dump" in about 30 minutes on a Saturday morning, and it turned out to be a hit with the baseball audience.

4. Looking Closer at Pitching Injuries: An Interview with Jeff Passan

I interviewed Jeff Passan around the time of the launch of his popular book, The Arm, and we covered in more specific detail some of the areas he touched on in the book.

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5. Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Baseball Development

This was actually a video blog more than an article, but it was still very popular - but didn't quite crack the top 5 videos of the year because it's more baseball specific.

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The Best of 2016: Strength and Conditioning Features

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2016 at EricCressey.com: 

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training

I really enjoyed writing this series, as I can always build on current events. This year, I drew inspiration from everything from off-season baseball preparations, to the Olympics, to new books and DVDs I'd covered. There's an article for every month:    

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Installment 17
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Installment 20
Installment 21
Installment 22
Installment 23
Installment 24
Installment 25

2. Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective

This coaching series has appeal for fitness professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and exercise enthusiasts alike.

Installment 14
Bench Press Technique Edition

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3. Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success 

While most of my writing folks on the training side of things, I do like to delve into the business side of fitness, too. These posts include various pieces of wisdom for those who make their living in the fitness industry.

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Installment 2
Installment 3
Installment 4

The Best of 2016 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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