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Spring Sale!

The weather is warming up, baseball season is underway, and I've got my spring cleaning all wrapped up. The logical next step to keep the momentum rolling is to announce a big spring sale!

With that said, I'm putting my flagship product, The High Performance Handbook, on sale. From now through Sunday at midnight, you can get this popular training resource for $30 off HERE.

The discount has already been applied, so no coupon code is needed.

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Enjoy!

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How Bench Press Technique Impacts Shoulder Health

We often hear that an elbows-tucked bench press technique is more shoulder friendly than an elbows-flared approach. Nobody really ever seems to discuss why this is the case, though - so I thought I'd devote today's video blog to it:

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/17/17

I normally like to publish my recommended readings on Monday, but I got off schedule over the past few weeks. Posting this today will get me back on track:

CSP Business Building Mentorship - By popular demand, my business partner, Pete Dupuis, and I are hosting a business building mentorship.  We only have 20 spots in this one-day event, and nine are already taken from an "in-house" announcement to close industry colleagues.

Athletic Groin Pain - This was an excellent, comprehensive article from Chris Hart on everything from differential diagnosis to rehabilitation timelines and protocols.

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29 Years, 29 Lessons - Tony Bonvechio shares a collection of things he's learned in training, nutrition, and business.

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When people hear "in-season lifting," they seem to immediately think that the sole justifications for incorporating it is to maintain strength, power, and muscle mass. Surely, that's a huge part of the equation. However, I'm quick to point out to our athletes that in-season training includes a lot more. Each time an athlete trains at @cresseysportsperformance during the season, he's also going through his foam rolling work. And, he's working his way through a more individualized warm-up than he'd typically get at the field during practice or at games. Likewise, it's an exposure to an environment that "nurtures" good lifestyle behaviors. There are invariably discussions about optimizing sleep quality, and improving nutrition. These exchanges just don't happen as often at the field. #cspfamily #ArmCare #inseasontraining #pushup

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5 Tips for Improved Client Relationships

Today's guest post comes from Brett Velon, who interned at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida this past fall. Brett connected with clients better than any intern I've ever seen; he is one of those people who can talk to anyone, anywhere. With that in mind, I asked him to write up his thoughts on the topic. Enjoy! - EC

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Coaching as a career wasn’t even a thought until after I finished college. Although to many it would seem to be an impediment for me not having a traditional strength and conditioning background, it has actually been a blessing in disguise. Without being able to rely on a degree, my development as a coach has been heavily reliant upon the development of client relationships. Teddy Roosevelt said it best when he said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

What I realized was many coaches in the industry were very technically smart, but lacked the most basic people skills. Instead of addressing this issue, most accumulate more degrees and certifications, thinking a new certification will have clients lining up to train with them. The problem is most clients don’t know what the certifications mean. Once I truly understood that client’s retention was heavily dependent on their relationship with their coach, I became more cognizant of the experience I was providing clients. Despite not really knowing what I was doing, I decided it was best to start with simply enjoying myself. My thought was if I was in a good mood and wanted to be at the gym then maybe the clients might feel the same way. It seems stupid simple, but look around and notice how many coaches suck all the enjoyment out of training.

Understand and believe that cultivating relationships is a skill that can be improved and doesn’t require being the most charismatic person. Effort and the willingness to try are the only requirements. Here are five simple tips I have personally used to improve my ability to create rewarding client relationships.

Tip #1: Be self aware.

If the urge to talk about yourself arises, take a deep breathe and then don’t do it. It’s the simplest but rarely followed piece of advice I can give. Nobody cares about your past athletic career or your 500 pound squat; focus the conversation around the client. People love to talk about themselves, so give them the opportunity and most importantly listen. When asked about something, answer, but don’t confuse this as an open invite for a trip down memory lane, a la Al Bundy style. Despite how awesome you think you are, there will be clients who don’t want to talk. Embrace the awkward silence, it’s usually appreciated, and more times than not they will eventually open up to you.

One of the best methods I like to use is to try and mirror mannerisms and demeanour. If they like to talk, ask more questions. Do they swear like a sailor? If so, don’t feel like you need to talk to them like a boy scout. Personal rule: don’t be the first one to swear as some clients will not appreciate it.

Tip #2: Know your role.

“Know your role and shut your mouth”- The Rock.

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Determining your role for each client is vital to developing a positive connection. You’re not only a strength coach, but possibly also a motivator, guide, mentor, therapist, and babysitter. Understanding the reason why someone is training will guide you as to what role to take on. While not mutually exclusive, most reasons fall into one of the three categories: money/scholarships, parent/coach, and social/health.

The money and scholarship clients are generally very intrinsically motivated and often just need a guide to program and show them what to do.

The client that is training because of a parent or coach most likely feels forced to train, the last thing they need is another “hardo” coach screaming at them. The mentor/friend role works well with this demographic as the gym becomes an escape for them, and in turn they train harder and start to enjoy their time at the gym.

The social/health group is comprised mostly of general population clients and can be all over the map in terms of needs in the gym. Some might be bored and just want someone to chat with, others have never stepped foot in a gym and need a guide and teacher. Whatever the client’s reason is for training, the quicker you can figure out your role, the better experience both you and the client will have.

Tip #3: Broaden your interests.

If a client is training with you, odds are they think you know what you’re doing. Stop trying to prove how smart you are. Clients want results and really don’t care about the Krebs Cycle or optimal hypertrophy training protocols. If they cared, they would be in the field. Think of it this way, you go to an accountant for your taxes because:

1. You don’t know how to do your taxes
2. You don’t care about how to do your taxes
3. You don’t want to think about how to do your taxes, you just want them done.

Most of all, you don’t want to talk with your accountant three times a week about new tax codes.

Now that we can’t talk about training, we are going to need more material. This is where broadening your interests helps.

[bctt tweet="The more interests you have outside of fitness, the more you'll be able to connect with clients."]

In my experience, it has helped to avoid asking about someone’s work life. Everybody is more than their profession and usually has something that they are passionate about. People tend to perk up when talking about things they are truly passionate about. Hint: Finding a person’s weirdness and vice is an express ticket to good conversation. 

Note from EC: here's Brett finding his weirdness on the day he showed up dressed as Hulk Hogan.

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Tip #4: Be observant.

Think of yourself as a detective that is trying to piece together somebody’s story. Everything is a clue and clues are used to start conversations. Don’t think of it as negative pre-judgment but rather an opportunity to connect at an accelerated rate. If a client comes in wearing a camo hat and a Salt Life t-shirt, an easy conversation starter would be about outdoor type activities. Sure, you might be wrong, but being wrong also gives you the opportunity to learn more about the client, and the more you know the better.

Tip #5: Don’t give up on the introvert.

While extroverts are naturally easier to connect with, introverted clients have the biggest potential for the deepest relationships. There are numerous reasons why a client might be reserved: shyness, fear, anxiety, etc. can all contribute. Remember, be okay with silence. Not pressuring introverts to talk is a great way to help them relax and become comfortable. In most cases, once an introvert becomes comfortable they open up. Seeing an introvert become comfortable and open up is one of the most rewarding coaching experiences you can have.

Closing Thoughts

If you want to start changing lives, it is best to start getting to know the lives that you are trying to change. Relationships with your clients need attention and are something that can be practiced and improved upon. All it takes is some effort, positive mood and an enjoyment for what you do. Next time a client has a gathering or a game, do your best to go, as your support should extend to both in and out of the gym.

About the Author

Brett Velon (@brettvelon) is a former CSP-Florida intern and currently a Chicago area strength and conditioning coach. To contact him, please email brettvelon@gmail.com.
 

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Quick Takeaways from a Day with Brian St. Pierre

Yesterday, Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition delivered an excellent seminar at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. I live Tweeted the event, so I thought I'd share some of the big takeaways with some reposts here:

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You can learn more about Brian and the great work the folks at Precision Nutrition are doing HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/31/17

It's almost MLB Opening Day, which is just about my favorite "holiday" of the year. With that in mind, Mike Reinold and I decided to put our Functional Stability Training products on sale for 20% off. Using the coupon code MLBFST, you can pick up the individual components or get an even bigger discount on the entire bundle.

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This sale runs through Monday at midnight; head to www.FunctionalStability.com to take advantage of it.

Good vs. Bad Stiffness - With FST on sale, I thought it would be a good time to "reincarnate" this webinar except from my presentation in the Optimizing Movement component. Relative stiffness is an important concept for all fitness and rehabilitation professionals to understand.

Cryotherapy Doesn't Work - This was an excellent post from Dean Somerset on the topic of icing. It's a great follow-up to the two-part series Tavis Bruce authored up for us last year, too, so be sure to check those out: Cryotherapy and Exercise Recovery: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3 - This was an interesting article at Inc.com on the topic of balancing life's demands. It resonated with me because it was another good reminder that it's our job as fitness professionals to make people realize they CAN still be fit even if they don't have a ton of time. And, fitness might be a great avenue through which to spend time with family and friends, so it can "check a few boxes" in folks' busy lives.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Train High School Athletes Like Pros

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio.

Like many strength and conditioning coaches, I entered the fitness industry thinking I wanted to train professional athletes. I’m lucky that I get to do exactly that on a daily basis, but I quickly discovered that some of the most rewarding coaching experiences have come from training high school athletes.

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Sure, watching your clients play on TV is awesome, but your potential to help a younger, less established athlete can reach far beyond the field of play. Bumping a big leaguer’s fastball from 92mph to 95mph might help him land a bigger contract, but helping a 9th grader make the junior varsity team can build confidence and self esteem that is literally life changing.

That said, high schoolers and professionals have drastically different training needs. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many coaches promise the world to high school athletes by helping them “train like the pros,” only to see minimal results. Here are five reasons you can’t train little Johnny or Jane like their favorite pro athletes, even if it seems like good marketing:

1. They’re Not Strong Enough for Fancy Stuff Yet

Athletes ages 13-18 comes in all shapes, sizes and strength levels. Some look like babies while others look like they’re ready for the NFL combine, but most fall into the former category. These athletes usually struggle to perform elementary movements like squats, push-ups and lunges. They’ve got no business working on fancy change of direction drills or contrast training protocols until they’ve mastered the basics.

“Just get strong” is a common strength coach copout, but in this case it has merit. As my fellow CSP coach Greg Robins often says, think of athletic potential as a pool of water. The stronger the athlete, the more water they have in the pool. The more powerful the athlete, the faster they can draw water out of that pool. While power is of utmost importance for team sports, if your pool of water is shallow, it doesn’t matter how fast you draw it out. Strength is still the foundation of most athletic qualities, making it the most trainable quality for young athletes.

It’s certainly possible for a pro athlete to be “strong enough” to the point where they won’t improve much athletically by adding 50 pounds to their deadlift, but for a younger athlete, that might be exactly what he or she needs before they can cash in on more advanced training methods.

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2. They Need Less Loading for the Same Strength Gains

Novice trainees can get stronger with as little as 40-50% of their 1-rep max. On the other hand, more experienced lifters need a ton of submaximal volume and frequent exposures to heavy training loads (above 90 percent of 1RM) to keep gaining strength. And while not every pro athlete is an experienced lifter, they’ll likely have more training experience than a high school athlete.

What’s the point?

[bctt tweet="Teenagers get strong without much work. Don’t test 1RMs when you can gain with lighter weights."]

3. They (Hopefully) Play Multiple Sports

Young athletes have the opportunity to play multiple sports during the year, while virtually no pro athletes do that anymore. The days of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are long gone, so while the pros get to focus on the specific physical demands of their sport year round, high schoolers are likely playing several sports with drastically different requirements in terms of strength, power and endurance.

What happens if we have a high school athlete who plays football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring? There’s no defined off-season, making periodization much trickier. A pro baseball pitcher may not pick up a baseball from October to January, but for someone who constantly has games and practices, you can’t block training into specific physical qualities. A concurrent training approach (i.e. training endurance, strength and power all at once) or “concurrent with emphasis” (where you prioritize endurance, strength or power but touch upon the others to preserve them) becomes a necessity.

What about exercise selection? We know the bench press is great for football, but not ideal for baseball. We know distance running doesn’t do much for baseball, but may have merit for basketball. And what if he or she plays two sports at once (i.e. AAU basketball overlapping the other two high school seasons)? We can no longer speak in absolutes or make generalized exercise contraindications when it comes to developing a well-rounded athlete.

Yes, more young athletes are specializing at a younger age. We can do our part by influencing them to play multiple sports as long as possible, but we can also design well-rounded programs that expose them to dormant movement patterns and untapped strength qualities rather than always being laser focused on training for their primary sport.

4. There are Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

When too many cooks contribute to one dish, it won’t taste good. With high school athletes, you’ve got a lot of cooks (i.e. influences) in their kitchen (i.e. athletic career), making it difficult to create a cohesive dish worth tasting. It’s our job as the strength and conditioning coach to be the objective taste tester and adjust overall training stress to optimize performance.

Parents, teachers, coaches and friends influence every move an athlete makes on and off the field. It’s tough to get everyone on the same page. It’s common to hear an athlete say their coach wants them to get faster, their parents wants them to get more flexible and their teachers want them to study more and work out less. Who’s a teenager supposed to listen to?

In this case, it comes down to asking the right questions. I’ve learned that just by asking how an athlete is doing outside the gym can unveil the bigger picture. I’ve had a baseball player confess to performing upwards of four extra workouts a week because they’re participating in off-season training with the football team, all while getting less than five hours of sleep while studying for exams. This athlete is far from ready to hit in hard in the gym and it’s my job to adjust his training.

[bctt tweet="Ignorance is NOT bliss as the strength coach; keep tabs on ALL stressors in an athlete’s life."] Ask questions and get to know how an athlete’s lifestyle can affect their performance.

5. They Have Lackluster Recovery

Piggybacking on the last point, most high school athletes don’t recover from training as if their sport was their job. And that’s because it’s not. While most pro athletes are unrecovered too (they’re essentially third-shift workers with insane travel schedules), high school athletes don’t have a paycheck riding on their performance. So they stay up too late, eat Doritos and Skittles for lunch and don’t think twice about it.

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Great athletes live and die by their routines. Pro athletes especially settle into a daily routine that makes them feel ready to compete, from showing up to the field or court at the same time every day, to eating specific meals, to wearing the same sweaty socks for every game. A high school athlete may fly by the seat of his or her pants unless told otherwise, so we can guide them toward a routine that includes quality training, nutrition and sleep.

Take the time to educate your young athletes on the importance of simple recovery methods like foam rolling, eating enough protein and getting to bed before 10 p.m. They may not appreciate it immediately, but once they feel the difference in physical and mental performance, they’ll be more likely to recover like it's their job.

Conclusion

It’s tempting to use aggressive loading and exotic exercise selection with young athletes, but they rarely need either of them. The basics work for a reason and you’ll see success with surprisingly simple protocols if coached and performed diligently.

For more insight on how we train high school athletes at CSP, join me and Greg Robins on April 1-2 at The Annex Sports Performance Center in Chatham, NJ, for our 2-day seminar, “Complete Preparation for High School Athletes”. This seminar will equip coaches and trainers with the physical and mental tools needed to provide a comprehensive training experience for high school athletes of all sports and abilities. To register, CLICK HERE.

About the Author

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

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/14/17

We missed this regular feature last week, as I penned some extra original content in lieu of posting the regularly scheduled "redirects" around the 'net. Luckily, it allowed me to stockpile some stuff for this installment:

Conscious Coaching - Brett Bartholomew just released this excellent book for coaches, and it's already getting rave reviews. Add my name to the list of that list of impressed reviewers, as I'm halfway through and really enjoying it. I'd call this must-read material for any up-and-coming member of the fitness industry.

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The Resilient Performance Podcast with Bill Hartman - Bill is one of the brightest guys in the industry, and I learn something each time he speaks. Put him on a call with another super bright guy, Doug Kechijian, and you get an awesome podcast like this!

The 12 Best Ways to Build Shoulders - This roundtable was published this morning at T-Nation, and I was one of 12 contributors. You'll get a nice blend of contributions from bodybuilding and performance backgrounds.

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 6

It's time for the March installment of my thoughts on fitness career insights.

1. Four broad categories make your business successful.

I used to think that having a successful business in the fitness industry - or any industry, for that matter - was about two things: Lead Generation and Lead Conversion. Lead generation refers to how many people are inquiring about your gym, and lead conversion is how many of those people actually join your gym (or sign up to train with you). This is a very shortsighted view, though, as it doesn't take into account two super important systems components.

Retention is what ultimately differentiates the most successful gyms and trainers in the business, and it really doesn't fall under either of these categories. Retention is what magnifies your lead generation and conversion efforts over the course of a training career.

Efficiency is the other factor that you only understand once your business gets larger. Let's say you crush it on lead generation and lead conversion - and your retention is great - but you have a massive staff, insane utility expenses, an unreasonable lease, and are open 24 hours a day. You aren't very efficient, so the high expenses (and headaches) offset the gross revenue figures you're generating. Knowing how to "trim the fat" from an expenses standpoint is imperative to manage growth. Little things like switching to a new credit card processor or different payroll company can save you thousands without impacting your client experience at all.

If your business is struggling, take a look at those four factors and pick where you can improve the most - and the quickest. Pick the low-hanging fruit first.

2. There are four kinds of products/services.

I learned this all the way back in my undergraduate business education. You have new and old products/services, and new and old markets/customers.

SameNewProduct

I'll use Cressey Sports Performance as an example. We are well known for our work with baseball players.

When we get a new baseball player referral, it's the same product, old market scenario. We have all the systems in place for it. The line gets blurred a bit when the same product is rolled out to a new geographic area (i.e., nationwide vs. local), so you could argue that it "blends" with...

...Same product, new market: If we decided to take our baseball training principles and push them heavily to quarterbacks, swimmers, and tennis players, then it would be a same product, new market scenario.

When we first offered massage therapy, nutrition consultations, pitching instruction, and CSP clothing to our baseball players, that was a new product, old market scenario. 

If we decided to start producing a CSP branded javelin and pushing ourselves heavily to track and field throwing athletes, that would be a new product, new market scenario.

When you consider all these options, it becomes readily apparent that the two easiest ways to grow are using everything other than the new product, new market scenario.  It requires extensive resources and a huge leap of faith. It's far easier to sell an old or new service to an existing marketing than it is to acquire a brand new customer base completely. And, it's easier to sell your same service to and old or new market because you can fall back on your results and your reputation.

As with point #1 from above, it's easiest to pick the low-hanging fruit.

3. YOU are an appreciating asset that is tax-deductible.

With tax time at hand, here's an interesting observation: when you invest in yourself relative to your profession, it's usually tax deductible. Maybe it's a seminar you attend or DVD you purchase. It might be your fitness recertification fees, or what you spend on a CPR/first aid refresher. Perhaps it's some new equipment you purchase to use with clients, or the mileage you drive to observe a fellow professional in action so that you can learn. 

PB

You can't write off the Starbucks you drink, the new watch you got, or the fancy car in your driveway (well, unless it's a business vehicle, but that's a loaded topic). The point is that the government essentially incentivizes you to invest in yourself and your professional development, but it doesn't reward blowing money on "stuff" that doesn't make you better at what you do professionally or more likely to make money.

With that in mind, as the spring/summer seminar circuits start up, remember that the cost of attending a seminar - from registration fees to travel expenses - are deductible against your income. When you consider state and federal income taxes, most folks will actually get back upwards of 25-50% of what they pay for the seminar in question - and that doesn't even include the financial impact it could have on you if it helps you to become a more well rounded, marketable, and successful fitness professional. Invest in yourself and you'll never regret it.

We're hosting one such game-changing seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL on April 9. Brian St. Pierre, the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition, will be delivering a fantastic nutrition talk that was a big hit when he presented it at our Massachusetts facility last year. The early-bird registration deadline is fast approaching, and you can learn more about it HERE

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Making Sense of Exercise Contraindications

I've got a wonky shoulder. Actually, the term "wonky" probably doesn't do it justice. As of a MRI in 2014, here's what I've got:

"There is a high-grade partial thickness articular surface tear of the posterior fibers of the supraspinatus that measures 15 mm AP x 15 mm RL. The undersurface tendon fibers are delaminated and retracted 15
mm.

"There is a high-grade partial-thickness cartilage defect over the posterior medial aspect of the humeral head
(near the posterior-superior labrum) with cartilage flap formation that measures 8 mm SI x 5 mm AP."

That was about three years ago, and it may be worse now. The truth is that it started with internal impingement during my high school tennis career, and gradually progressed over the years. In comparing the 2014 MRI to one I'd had in 2003, you see that the damage has progressed (as expected), but the symptoms have actually gotten substantially better.

My (occasional) pain is your gain, though. You see, the symptoms (or lack thereof) can actually teach us a lot about how we view contraindicating exercises.

I can bench press as heavy as I want with zero issues. Pull-ups, rows, pullovers, overhead carries, landmine presses, Turkish get-ups are all completely asymptomatic. They're in my safe exercise repertoire.

And, as long as I don't go crazy with volume or intensity, I can throw a baseball just fine. I long-tossed out well over 200 feet with my pro guys consistently this offseason and it wasn't a problem.

Overhead pressing is weird for me, though. If I tried to push press 135 pounds, my shoulder would hate me for the next 6-8 weeks. Interestingly, though, if I keep the weight lighter, stick to dumbbells in the scapular plane, control the tempo, focus on perfect technique, and don't go crazy with volume, overhead pressing actually makes my shoulder feel better. I'll work it in as an assistance exercise every other month.

 

 

Thanks to a chronic partial thickness rotator cuff tear, overhead pressing is weird for me. If I tried to push press 135 pounds, my shoulder would hate me for the next 6-8 weeks. Interestingly, though, if I keep the weight lighter, stick to dumbbells in the scapular plane, control the tempo, focus on perfect technique, and don't go crazy with volume, overhead pressing actually makes my shoulder feel better. I'll work it in as an assistance exercise every other month. This reminds us that we shouldn't just contraindicate exercises, but rather specific SCENARIOS. You won't change a person's anatomy, but you can certainly change the training stimulus to accommodate that anatomy. Check out today's post at www.EricCressey.com/blog for more info. #cspfamily #rotatorcuff #overheadpress #shoulderpain #shoulderworkout

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

Interestingly, though, back squatting is what destroys my shoulder the most. This is consistent with an internal impingement diagnosis, but doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you consider that I can throw pain-free. Even if I just try to put a 45-pound barbell on my shoulders, it lights my shoulder up in a very bad way.

This weird collection of symptoms can actually teach us three really big lessons, though.

1. Everyone's symptoms and provocative patterns are completely different.  Two people might have a very similar medical diagnosis, but dramatically different safe exercise repertoires.

2. Too often, we contraindicate simply contraindicate exercises. In reality, we should be looking much broader, considering factors such as absolute loading, tempo, volume, and exercise technique.

[bctt tweet="We should contraindicate people from exercises, not exercises for people."]

3. An individual's "safe" exercise repertoire may evolve over time due to changes in movement quality, tissue quality, recovery capacity, and structural integrity. Our programming needs to evolve to accommodate those changes, too.

Certainly, some exercises are inherently bad and not worth the risk, but it's important to evaluate each individual and situation individually to make the determinations on all those "middle of the road" exercises that deliver great training effects and make strength and conditioning fun.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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