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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/10/16

It's been a hectic week in South Florida with Hurricane Matthew preparations on top of the baseball off-season, but we lucked out as the storm moved past us in Jupiter before coming ashore further North. Hopefully all our readers in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas are safe and sound! 

That said, here's a little content to get the week going:

Elevation Training Masks: An Analysis - I've been meaning to write a similar post up for a long time, but suffice it to say that I never got around to it. Luckily, Doug Kechijian made it happen and did a great job. Elevation masks are a waste of time and money - and have potentially negative side effects.

Gym Owner Musings: Installment 2 - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, discusses a few of the lessons we've learned in running Cressey Sports Performance for the past 9+ years. I think point #3 on early-stage "learning by doing."

The Ideal Business Podcast with John Berardi - Dr. John Berardi was been a great friend and mentor to me, and he shares some awesome business development wisdom in this podcast with Pat Rigsby. I thought the portion of the interview where he talks about the importance of saying "No" was particularly intriguing (and an area in which I need to improve!). 

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Culture, Social Facilitation, and Strength and Conditioning Success

Last week, in the midst of a great conversation with a college pitching coach who is a good friend of mine, he said something to the effect of, "You guys do a great job of creating a culture where guys want to work hard to get better."

Culture. That word seems to pop up in almost every discussion I have, whether it's on the training or business aspect of things in the strength and conditioning field. And, it seems to pop up a ton of time at this time of year with playoff baseball, the NFL and NCAA football regular seasons, and NBA pre-season all in swing. 

[bctt tweet="There's no recipe for an ideal culture, but if yours is poor, you'll probably have terrible results."]

Everyone talks about how Joe Maddon drives a clubhouse culture where guys have fun and play relaxed - and the Cubs have won 100 games. The New York Times celebrated his "Zaniness" earlier this year in a detailed article.

Meanwhile, Bill Belichick drives a culture of preparation, accountability to the team, and personal responsibility ("Do your job."). The Patriots have won four Super Bowls during his tenure, and he's 3-1 in the 2016-17 season without Tom Brady under center. I'd highly recommended you read this fantastic collection of quotes from his players and coaching peers.

Source: Keith Allison

From the outside, Maddon and Belichick couldn't be more different, yet they have both had tremendous outcomes. Each culture is unique and successful for different reasons. As my business partner, Pete Dupuis, has written, there is no single recipe for a great culture - and it actually might have subtle changes depending on time of day. Our gym culture is very different when our adult strength camps are running at 5:30AM, as compared to a crew of professional baseball players getting after it at noon. If you look the Wikipedia entry on culture, they cite anthropologist E.B. Tylor as defining it as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." In other words, there are plenty of different ways one can tinker with it to suit their liking - whether this tinkering actually improves the culture or not.

With that said, I do think we can look at commonalities of success. And, there are three things that I think every successful culture shares:

1. Good People

As has been often said in the fitness world and beyond, "They don't care what you know until they know that you care." This is why some corporate and athletic cultures improve dramatically just by getting "bad apples" out of the mix. I call it "addition by subtraction" - and it's one reason why we look really heavily at "fit" on the personality front before bringing someone into Cressey Sports Performance family as a staff member or intern.


On this front, here's an outstanding article on this front: Why Investments in the Right People - Not Analytics or Scouting - is Key to the Texas Rangers' Success. Very simply, people deliver the systems, and your perfect programming and pristine facility won't matter if you don't have great coaches using them.

I think Josh McDaniels (Offensive Coordinator with the Patriots) is an awesome example. From the outside, he seems like the complete opposite of Belichick. McDaniels is a younger, high-energy, super emotional guy. However, maybe it just works so well because Belichick understand how to complement his skill set and personality - and they both work well together because of a common vision of continuous improvement. This leads us to...

2. Dedication to Continuous Improvement

As I look around the country at the most successful strength and conditioning facilities, companies in other industries, and sports teams, the thing that stands out to me the most is innovation. Whether it's Apple always trying to improve on its product offering, Amazon taking convenience to a whole new level, Joe Maddon employing never-before-seen defensive shift approaches, or the Patriots finding creative ways to use their personnel, the best are always finding ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Regardless of your industry, it's really easy to get comfortable and stop innovating, or to drift away from the practices that made you successful in the first place. The best cultures preserve the good while always finding ways to bring up their weaknesses. 

3. Targeted Approaches to Social Facilitation

Referencing Wikipedia again, social facilitation "is the tendency for people to perform differently when in the presence of others than when alone. Compared to their performance when alone, when in the presence of others, they tend to perform better on simple or well-rehearsed tasks and worse on complex or new ones."

"Facilitation" is a bit of a misnomer, though, as it implies that performance gets easier or better in front of crowds. For this reason, social facilitation is often referred to as the "audience effect" instead.

In a strength and conditioning culture, social facilitation can be wildly important and helpful. It's the loud music and energetic training partners you want around when you're trying to set a personal record. It may also be the driven individuals around which you want your impressionable teenage son training in order to foster habits that will lead to long-term success in sports and life.


It can be easily problematic, though, too. Putting a rehabbing athlete in a high energy environment can force him to skip steps in his return-to-play progressions. Likewise, some individuals who are new to exercise may be intimidated in these environments. Having lots of eyes on an athlete who is learning a new skill may put too much pressure on this situation for optimal learning to occur. Finally, social facilitation tells us why a 350-pound offensive lineman probably isn't going to be sold on a 120-pound female training him, and why a 14-year-old female gymnast isn't going to be too keen on a 300-pound monster with a 500-pound bench press training her.

For this reason, the best coaches, leaders, and business owners understand how to specifically target social facilitation to drive athletic and business success. 

Culture vs. Systems

A few years ago, a strength and conditioning coach from another facility came to observe at our Massachusetts location, and she remarked to me, "I love your business model!" Apparently, at the facility at which she worked, it was a "one program on the dry erase board" model where coaches would wind up coaching large volumes of athletes through the same exercises all day. She liked the fact that our coaches had a lot of autonomy; they interacted with a wide variety of clients and coached dozens of unique programs each day.

What she might not have realized is that our business model would fail miserably with the wrong people. If I had incompetent coaches who weren't able to work across multiple populations or able to think on their feet, they'd really struggle. And, if they weren't dedicated to continuing education and always delivering the best quality product, we'd be forced to use more "mundane" programming. She actually really liked the Cressey Sports Performance training and coaching cultures; the business model is just structured to allow them to shine through.

[bctt tweet="Systems are important, but it's your culture that determines whether those systems actually work."]

In the aforementioned article's title, Bill Belichick is referred to as the "Greatest Enigma in Sports." I don't think there is anything puzzling about his success, though - especially after reading this article. He's an immensely driven person who is wilding committed to avoiding complacency, and he surrounds himself with people who are like him in this regard - but complement his personality in other ways. Then, he uses social facilitation to foster an environment of continuous improvement and accountability to the team. That's one approach to a great recipe for a winning culture over multiple decades.

However, what flies in the NFL might fail miserably in MLB, the collegiate realm, or the private sector of strength and conditioning. The trick is for you to find the right mix that works for you in establishing the right culture in your world. 

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 4

It's time for another installment of this popular series. In no particular order, here are some thoughts on building a career in the fitness "biz." 

1. Stay away from political discussion in a business context. 

I've briefly written about this in the past, but it warrants reiteration here with the election fast approaching.

[bctt tweet="There is little to gain by talking politics on social media, but there is a lot to lose."]

I'll give you an example. A good friend of mine in the fitness industry posted some pretty strong politic opinions on his personal page the other day. I won't mention which side of the fence he's on, but suffice it to say that it stirred the pot enough to warrant a somewhat contentious - but mild relative to the typical - political exchange in the comments section. As I type this, he's typed out 635 words between his initial post and the replies thereafter.

In the process, I guarantee that he's persuaded absolutely nobody to change their mind, and he's irritated at least a few of his friends, clients, and potential clients. Moreover, had he dedicated those 635 words to an educational blog post, exercise tutorial, he'd have added value to the industry and, in the process, likely added to his clientele.

It's easy to track how many clients you've gained, but it's impossible to quantify how many potential clients you've lost by putting your foot in your mouth.

2. Never underestimate the value of a hand-written note.

This is something I used to do really well, but foolishly got away from for a bit. I'm now doing it more than ever. Along these lines, I saw this Tweet from baseball writer Jerry Crasnick the other day and thought it was awesome:  

Vin Scully is an absolute legend - arguably the most famous sports broadcaster in history - and I'm sure that notes like this were just some of many things that made him so well liked by all in the game of baseball. So, grab a pen and note card and fire off a few messages; it's a lot more productive than arguing about politics on social media!

3. Trainers need to think about retirement savings.

I made this point at this past weekend's Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar. Here are three thoughts that are seemingly unrelated, but very important for fitness professionals to understand:

a. A majority of Americans are not on track with their retirement savings. While I can't verify the exact numbers, I recently heard that only 59% of Baby Boomers have any retirement savings, and that only 10% of Americans as a whole are on track with their retirement savings. It's virtually certain that we won't get back all that we are paying in on the Social Security front.

b. Outside of college and professional strength and conditioning positions, very few fitness professionals I know have 401(k) matching programs at their places of employment. And, very few of those who work for themselves are setting up simplified employee pensions (SEP IRAs).

c. It's a lot harder for trainers to prolong a career and delay retirement because standing on gym floors for long hours into your late 60s and 70s really doesn't feel very good.

Shorter careers + less structured retirement planning options = less-than-stellar retirement savings. To my fitness professional friends, even if it's just a few bucks a month, please, please, please start saving. If you understand the power of compound interest, you can skip one meal "out" each month to make it happen.

(Note to my talking-politics-on-Facebook friend: this article just exceeded 635 words. See how much value I've delivered in about twenty minutes of typing?).

4. Have a presence.

In his recent release, Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger writes, "The more people see something, the more they like it. Familiarity leads to liking."


To some degree, this is a spin on the law of repeated exposures. Folks may need to see your marketing message many times before they realize that your product/service is the right fit for them. However, I think that the most valuable marketing message is in-person interactions.

Looking back, I'm convinced that the single-most important contributor to our success in our early days was how much I got out to watch high school baseball games (which I really enjoy doing anyway). In doing so, I a) supported the players, b) saw up-close what we needed to work on, and c) met parents.

Remember that people aren't just buying the product or service you're selling; they're buying you and buying into your corporate culture. Especially with training young athletes, parents want to know they're putting their kids in an unconditionally supportive environment - much like they do when they seek out a day care for their toddlers. To the parents out there, have you ever noticed how most people have no problem leaving their kids with grandparents, aunts/uncles, and older siblings, yet every potential babysitter has to go through a thorough "vetting" process? The babysitter isn't familiar; family is. 

[bctt tweet="Your goal in the fitness industry is to become family, not just a contractor."]

5. Be really good at some things, good enough at other things, and always know enough to refer out.

Wil Fleming is a good friend of mine and very accomplished Olympic lifter. He also runs a successful sports performance facility in Indiana. Over the years, Wil has actually referred a few of his most accomplished baseball athletes to Cressey Sports Performance because he felt that our specialization could help take them to the next level.

Likewise, I'm heavily focused on the baseball population, but would be ill-equipped to support a competitive Olympic lifter who is trying to compete at a high level. Sure, we can coach up technique in beginners and the everyday athletes we train, but a guy like Wil is far more equipped to work with someone who is making a career of Olympic lifting. I've referred several of these kind of athletes out over the years.

It's important to have a baseline knowledge of a lot of facets of the health and human performance industries, and once you have this foundation, you might find that you've got a particular area of expertise that you can really pursue as a "niche."  Both Wil and I have a "niche," and we both have solid foundations - but we also realize that there are always other experts out there who can complement our offering and help deliver a better product to our athletes.

Speaking of Wil, he just launched his Certified Weightlifting Performance Coach course this week. I'm 75% of the way through it thus far and it's excellent. If you're looking for a resource to help you in coaching the Olympic lifts, I'd definitely recommend it, especially at the introductory $100 off discount that's available through this weekend. Click here to learn more.   

weightlifting image

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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.


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.


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 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.  


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

A photo posted by Cressey Sports Performance (@cresseysportsperformance) on

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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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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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Rhythmic Stabilizations: Where Should You “Feel” Them?

Earlier this week, I received the following question, and thought it would make for some good video content:

Q: I've been training a couple college guys this month before they go back to school and I had a few questions regarding rhythmic stabilizations. I started implementing them with my pitchers recently and they say they don't feel anything. Should they be? Is there any extra coaching points I'm missing here? Thanks for your time.

A: This video!

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 21

It's time for the August installment of this popular series, and with the Olympics in full swing, MLB season in the home stretch, and the NFL season rapidly approaching, there's plenty of material rattling around my brain. 

1. Don't criticize what you don't understand.

Maybe it's just because all the aforementioned sporting events are taking simultaneously and we're on sports social media overload right now, but it seems like a lot of people are ranting and raving about high-level athletes' preparation. They're cranky about Usain Bolt's hamstrings issue and how it's being managed. They're shocked the Kerri Walsh Jennings has had so many shoulder surgeries. They're flustered about Michael Phelps using cupping. They're floored by Prince Fielder's retirement after a second cervical fusion surgery. And they're cranky because they're confident that they can do a better job in spite of the fact that they have exactly ZERO knowledge of any of these situations.

If there's one thing I've learned from a lot of work with professional and Olympic athletes over the years, it's that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. What you read in the media is usually a partial truth (if that). For instance, I know of pitchers who have gone on the disabled list with calf strains or neck stiffness when they just needed to iron out mechanics or rest up from a high workload. I've also known athletes whose performance has suffered tremendously as they tried to plow through nagging injuries. They're getting blown up on Twitter when they should be getting commended for putting the team's needs ahead of their own personal health.

The point is that if you don't have any knowledge of the unique situations, blindly criticizing athletes and their sports medicine teams is a cheap shot. And, in my eyes, it makes you look incredibly unprofessional.

I'd also add that it's important to remember that you never know who is reading your criticism. Burning that bridge because you "just had to get it off your chest" could interfere with future job possibilities, or even the opportunity to work with the athletes in question.

So, sit back, chill out, and just be a sports fan, but not a Monday Morning Quarterback. You can't rehab someone on Twitter.


2. Use the bottoms-up get-up to remind hypermobile athletes to avoid elbow hyperextension - and cue "grabbing"the floor. 

I love using Turkish Get-ups with athletes for a host of reasons; this drill really trains whole-body mobility and stability and delivers a great training effect without insane external loading. That said, one thing you have to be really careful of with using get-ups is that hypermobile (loose jointed) individuals will often wind up with elbows hyperextended - both on the support and overhead arms.

Get-up hip hinge

With that in mind, I like the idea of using a bottoms-up Turkish get-up because it's more grip intensive and strictly mandates a more neutral wrist position. This activation of the flexors of the fingers, wrist, and elbow gets the muscles that prevent elbow hyperextension a little more "pre-tensioned," so it's a lot harder to slip into bad patterns.

The bottom arm is a bit trickier, but I have had some success with the cue, "grab the floor as if you're trying to palm a basketball." That same activation of the flexors can help to keep a slight flex in the elbow.

3. A training effect prepares you, but an education sustains you.

This morning, I woke up to this article about Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel "reinventing himself" this past offseason. Part of that process involved getting started up with Cressey Sports Performance, and we've be really cheering him on as he's put forth a career year to be a big part of the Cubs' success. As the article details, one of Jason's biggest struggles was fading in the second half of the season. This was something he and I discussed at length during his initial evaluation last November. Even though it was 8-9 months away, we started talking about in-season training approaches and how to sustain performance well into the second half of the long MLB season. Thus far, he's done a great job of it; in five starts since the All-Star Break, he's 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA.

I often tell our athletes that the training effects we deliver in the off-season gets them through the first half of the season, but it's the education we impart that should sustain them through the second half of the year. The MLB calendar spans from mid-February (spring training) all the way to early October (and even longer if a team makes the playoffs). Nothing we can do in the offseason is guaranteed to last for eight months, but education certainly can. We need to work hard to help athletes understand what is unique about their bodies so that they can be advocates for themselves - and their own best coaches. 

Jason's success has been a good reminder:

[bctt tweet="Coaching isn't just about building athleticism; it's also about educating."]

4. I still don't like Olympic lifts for baseball players.

By this point, most of you have probably heard (or seen) an Armenia Olympic lifter end up with a gruesome elbow injury on the jerk portion of a clean and jerk. It was a combination valgus stress - elbow hyperextension injury - which just so happens to be the exact same kind of stresses that lead to most pitching injuries at the elbow. Keep in mind that this was on a jerk - and the valgus stress is actually magnified on a snatch because of the bar path and distance traveled prior to the attempted catch.

I've written previously at length on my feelings about the topic: Should Baseball Players Olympic Lift? I think there are much better ways to train power in a specific context and with less injury risk.

Some coaches will argue, "But this is a max attempt in the Olympics! Our technique is much better than this and we aren't taking those kind of chances!" The truth is that video doesn't lie; you see a lot of ugly Olympic lifting technique all over the 'net. And, athletes will always want to push the limits and hit personal records. Moreover, baseball players have a lot more funky presentations (valgus carrying angle, medial elbow instability, and joint hypermobility) that muddy the waters further.


Perhaps more importantly, I know of very few high level arms who Olympic lift. We've demonstrated over and over again that you can build huge arm speed without snatches, jerks, and cleans, so why take the chance?

I should reiterate: I think the Olympic lifts are absolutely fantastic for other athletes. Baseball is just a different beast.

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