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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.

Top Tweets

Top Instagram Posts

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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: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2016, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…  

1. Cryotherapy and Exercise Recovery: Part 1 and Part 2 - Tavis Bruce absolutely crushed it with this heavily researched two-parter on one of the most controversial topics in health and human performance today.

2. Big Toe, Big Problems - Dr. James Spencer took a close look at Functional Hallux Limitus, a common problem that is frequently overlooked in the rehabilitation world.

3. 4 Strategies to Improve Athletes’ Innate Acceleration - Lee Taft introduced some excellent ways to improve your speed and agility coaching.

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4. 4 Ways Hypermobile Individuals Can Improve Their Training - Laura Canteri offered some excellent insights for a very underserved population: loose-jointed clients.

5. Building Better Core Control with “The Bear” - Mike Robertson shared one of his favorite core stability exercises and it was a big hit with the EricCressey.com audience.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2016.

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The Best of 2016: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2016 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. 5 "Combo" Core Stability Exercises - Great strength and conditioning programs are all about delivering results as efficiently as possible. Here are some exercises that'll help you do so by making your core stability training more efficient.

2. 10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age - The popularity of this article makes me realize that I need to devote more of my writing to the more mature athlete who still likes to get after it in the gym! 

3. How Lower Body Exercises Can Impact Upper Body Function - This article debuted around the time we released Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement. Squats, deadlifts, and other lower body drills can have a dramatic impact on the upper body in ways you might not realize.

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4. 5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises That Overdeliver - Similar to #1 from above, these are some of my favorite "big bang for your buck" exercises.

5. 6 Saturday Shoulder Strategies - You would think people would be sick of reading articles on the shoulder from me by now. Apparently not.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2016" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year! 

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Prioritization and Concession for Strength and Conditioning Success

As you’ve probably already noticed, it’s been a bit quieter on the blog of late. Normally, I try to get up at least two – and usually three – new posts per week. Over the past few months, it’s been more like 1-2 posts.

With two facilities in two states – and a pair of two-year-olds at home – life has a very brisk pace to it right now. The baseball off-season keeps me very busy, so when October through February rolls around, some things just have to take a back seat. For me, that’s usually writing and traveling for speaking engagements. In-person coaching is what I love, and this is the absolute best time of year for it.

Fortunately, though, it doesn’t have to be “either/or” for me; rather, it can be “and” if I select a convenient medium. To that end, I’ve done more video content on the social media front with my 30 Days of Arm Care series and some random videos of our pro guys training.

Right now, I’m prioritizing the most time-sensitive demands (in-person training), particularly because they’re the part of my professional responsibilities that I love the most. And, obviously, it’s a goal to prioritize family time above all else, and I need to get my own training in.

Simultaneously, while I’d much rather write detailed content and film longer videos, it’s not always feasible – so I’ve conceded that some quick social media posts and even the occasional guest contribution from another writer are solid ways to keep the ball rolling in the right direction with my online brand while I manage the pro baseball off-season.

As I thought more and more about this time crunch conundrum, it goes me to thinking about how it parallels what folks deal with on the training front. Two key principles – prioritization and concession – really stand out in my mind.

The best training programs are the ones that clearly identify and address the highest priorities for the lifter. If a 14-year-old kid can’t even execute a solid body push-up, putting him on a 3x/week bench press specialization program probably isn’t the best idea. Likewise, if a 65-year-old women can’t even walk from the car to the gym without back pain, she probably shouldn’t be learning how to power clean on her first day. These prioritization principle examples might seem obvious, but not all scenarios are as clearly defined. There are loads of factors that have to be considered on the prioritization front once someone has more training experience: duration of the window to train (off-season length), injury history, personal preferences, equipment availability, etc. It’s not always so black and white.

If you’re going to prioritize, it invariably means that you have to concede; very simply, you can’t give 100% to absolutely everything. If you go on a squat specialization program, you need to concede that you’re going to train your deadlift and bench press with less volume/intensity and later in your training sessions. Not everything can be prioritized all the time because of our limited recovery capacities.

Looking back, while I didn’t realize it at the time, these two principles help explain some of the popularity of my High Performance Handbook. By giving individuals various options in terms of both lifting frequency (2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week) and supplemental conditioning protocols, it afforded them the opportunity to prioritize and concede as they saw fit while still sticking to the primary principles that drive an effective program.

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Additionally, because they were the ones selecting which route to pursue, it gave them an ownership role in the training process. My good friend (and Purdue Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach) Josh Bonhotal went to great lengths to highlight how important this is to the training process in this article. I love this quote in particular:

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As I wrap my head around this even more, it makes me realize that when we educate an athlete about prioritization and concession - usually in the form of a thorough evaluation where we demonstrate that we want to individualize our programs to their needs - we're empowering them as part of the decision-making process. And that's where "buy-in" and, in turn, results follow.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/30/16

After a week in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving, the Cressey family is back in Florida. While up there, we celebrated our twin daughters' second birthday. I'm not sure they're fans of the cold yet...

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With that said, let's get to the recommended reading!

30 Days of Arm Care Updates - You can see all these videos (currently on day 17) via the hashtag #30DaysOfArmCare on both Twitter and Instagram.

Settling the Great Grain Debate - Here's some great stuff on the nutrition front from Precision Nutrition's Brian St. Pierre.  

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Professional Communication: Delivery and Context Matter - Whether you're a fitness professional or rehabilitation specialist, you'll want to read this great article from physical therapist Doug Kechijian.

Jim Harbaugh's Circle of Friends Is Even Cooler Than You Think - I often say that successful people find value in unexpected places. I love the discussion about how Harbaugh pries to ask questions and elicit deeper responses in his conversations with friends from all walks of life. The best coaches I know are always looking outside their fields to find ways to improve.

Top Tweet of the Week

 Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

First offseason program for @ckluber28 is ready! #cspfamily #250IP #backtowork

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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Here’s a Black Friday Sale Even Though It’s Not Friday Yet

Everyone on the planet is having a Black Friday sale this week, so we figured we wouldn't even attempt to keep you in suspense on this one. With that in mind, you can save 20% on the following products through Cyber Monday at midnightk by entering the coupon code BF2016 (case sensitive) at checkout. Just click on the links below to learn more and add them to your cart:

Functional Stability Training: Individual Programs or a Bundle Pack

Optimal Shoulder Performance

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core

Everything Elbow

The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual

The Specialization Success Guide

The Art of the Deload

Again, that coupon code is BF2016.

Additionally, my products with Mike Robertson are on sale, too. You can pick up Assess and Correct, Building the Efficient Athlete, and Magnificent Mobility for 20% off (no coupon code needed) HERE.

Enjoy - and thank you for your support!

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Shoulder Strategies and Hip Helpers: Part 2

This is the second half of my collection of take-home points from reviewing The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint from Tony Gentilcore and Dean Somerset. In case you missed the first half, you can check out Part 1 here. Additionally, I should offer a friendly reminder that the introductory $60 off discount on this great resource ends tonight at midnight; you can learn more here.

6. Shifting low threshold exercises to a high threshold strategy may yield faster results.

Dean goes to great lengths to discuss how proximal (core) stability affects distal (extremity) mobility. In doing so, he cites four examples:

a. Doing front planks may help one to gain hip external rotation.
b. Doing side planks may help one to gain hip internal rotation.
c. Doing dead bugs may help to improve your deep squat.
d. Training active hip flexion (one joint) may help one to to improve a straight leg raise (multiple joints).

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With that said, there is a HUGE clarification that must be made: these exercises are all performed with HIGH TENSION. In other words, if you can do eight reps of dead bugs, you aren’t bracing hard enough.

To some degree, this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that there are high-threshold exercises and low-threshold exercises – and most folks would assume the aforementioned four drills would fall in the low-threshold category. That said, I think a better classification scheme would be high- and low-threshold STRATEGIES. In other words, there is a time to treat a plank or dead bug as a low threshold drill, but also scenarios under which bracing like crazy is appropriate. Trying to create distal mobility is one such example.

That said, don't go and turn everything you do into a high-threshold strategy! This leads me to...

7. Improving mobility is a combination of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

I loved this quote from Dean so much that I replayed it a few times so that I could type up this quote:

"If you hold your breath, you're going to limit your mobility. If you breath through the stretch, you're going to access a greater range of motion than you had before. So, it's kind of a dance between parasympathetic and sympathetic and neural activation. You want to be able to use high-threshold sympathetic type stuff to fire up the nervous system and produce that stability, but you want to use parasympathetic stimulation - that long inhale, long exhale - to be able to use that range of motion after you've built the stability."

That's pure gold right there, folks.

8. The term “scapular stability” is a bit of a misnomer.

Nothing about the scapula is meant to be stable. If it were meant to be stable, it would have so many different muscular attachments (17, in fact) with a variety of movement possibilities. A better term would be something originally popularized by physical therapist Sue Falsone: controlled mobility.

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9. Don’t assume someone’s "aberrant" posture means an individual will be in pain.

Posture is a complex topic, and the relationship between resting posture and pain measures is surprisingly very poorly established in the research world. We can walk away from this recognition with two considerations:

a. It's important to assess movement quality, and not just resting posture.

b. Use posture as information that guides program design and coaching cues rather than something that tries to explain or predict injuries.

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10. Teach movements from the position where relative stiffness principles are challenged the most - but cue high-threshold tension.

During one of his presentations, Dean was coaching a hip flexor stretch in the lunge position, and it immediately got me to thinking about the principle of relative stiffness. In this position, if there isn't adequate anterior core control, lumbar extension will occur instead of hip extension. And, if there isn't solid glute recruitment, there will be a tendency of the head of the femur to glide forward in the socket during the hip extension that does occur.In other words, being able to brace the core and have solid glute activation is key to making sure that the individual is in a good place at this position where movement is challenged the most.

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In this instance, Dean cued a high-threshold strategy that allowed him to effectively coach the movement from the most challenging position - which is somewhat counterintuitive to what we've always assumed as coaches ("win the easy battles" first by owning the simple ranges-of-motion). However, if you can get to the appropriate position (adequate passive ROM) and educate a trainee on how to establish a bracing strategy, chances are that you can speed up the learning process.

As I thought about it, this is something we do quite commonly with our end-range rotator cuff strengthening exercises, but I simply haven't applied it nearly as much at the hip as we do at the shoulder. It's definitely something I'll be playing around with more moving forward.

Last, but certainly not least, just a friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the introductory $60 off discount on The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint. As you can probably tell from these posts, I've really enjoyed going through it myself, and would highly recommend it to any fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists out there. Click here to learn more.

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Shoulder Strategies and Hip Helpers: Part 1

I've spent the past week going through Tony Gentilcore and Dean Somerset's awesome new resource, The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint. With that in mind, Cressey Sports Performance staff member Tim Geromini and I pulled together ten solid takeaway points from the resource that we thought you'd like. Here are the first five, in no particular order...

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1. Full scapular range of motion during push-ups often gets overlooked as a great "corrective."

Tony did an excellent job of making this point during the shoulder portion of the seminar. Push-ups (when done properly) take take the scapula from retraction during the eccentric phase of the push-up to protraction and "wrapping around" the rib cage during the concentric phase. It is usually scapula protraction that is omitted, as many people only focus on straightening their arms to finish the push-up. This creates excessive glenohumeral (ball-on-socket) motion and insufficient scapulothoracic (shoulder blade on rib cage) movement.

Learning to "fill up" the upper back and get the shoulder blades to the arm pits can be a game changer for optimizing scapular control.

2. Your hip structure impacts your likelihood of surgical success.

Citing 2015 research from Fabricant et al, Dean noted that patients with retroverted hips had saw less improvement following surgery for femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) than those with anteverted hips.

This shouldn't be surprising if you understand the implications of these hip presentations. Anteverted hips gives rise to more hip flexion and less hip extension, whereas retroverted hips will yield hips that do well with extension, but struggle getting into flexion.

FAI is a flexion-based pathology; bony overgrowth occurs because the femoral head (ball) bangs repeatedly into the acetabular rim (socket). It makes sense that a hip structure more conducive to allowing flexion would be less likely to re-develop these negative structural changes after a surgical intervention.

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Source: Lavigne et al, 2004

That said, the big takeaway from this is that the more retroverted a hip is, the more conservative the rehabilitation ought to be - and the less aggressive that "patient" ought to be with squatting, etc. in the years that follow.

3. Don't let a lack of a partner prevent you from doing rhythmic stabilization work.

The main function of the rotator cuff is to center the humeral head (ball) on the glenoid fossa (socket). Partner assisted rhythmic stabilization drills are fantastic in training this quality. Here's an example:

However, if you don’t have a partner available to help, a nice substitute would be this simple exercise you can do with a band.

The pushing and pulling on the band with your free hand serves as form of distraction that will force the rotator cuff to resist. Of course, things like the Body Blade and Shoulder Tube can be options as well. Rhythmic stabilizations will always be the best option because they are less predictable, though.

4. Full exhalations can quickly enhance mobility - but only if you FORCEFULLY exhale.

A commonly overlooked limitation to mobility is alignment issues. As an example, if the pelvis is stuck in anterior tilt, the hip will be limited in internal rotation and flexion. As such, adding core stability (in this case, the ability to hold the pelvis in posterior tilt) can often quickly make changes to hip range of motion.

A great way to do this, as Dean notes, is to perform course stability exercises with full exhalations. When you exhale fully, the anterior core is engaged, as the rectus abdominis and external obliques, in particular, help to get air out. You can do this in various positions, but the most well-known are definitely prone and side plank positions with full exhale. It can't just be a light exhale, though. You have to work very hard and blow out every last bit of air to get that cord engagement in order to really assess that positioning will change the range of motion.

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We've used these strategies a lot in the past, but this video was a good reminder that we have to really push folks to get all that air out, especially if it's the first time we're cueing them to do so.

5. Make sure you're getting motion in the right places during your thoracic spine extension work.

Improving thoracic spine extension in some people is an important part of improving overhead mobility. It’s not uncommon for many to grab a foam roller and haphazardly start leaning back in an attempt to do so. Unfortunately, many individuals perform their reps with incorrect technique; check out this video to learn more.

Speaking of learning more, I strongly encourage you to check out Tony and Dean's excellent new resource, The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint. It's on sale for $60 off this week at an introductory discount; click here to learn more.

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