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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success: Installment 3

My topic for our 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar is "Forecasting Fitness." I'll be talking about where I think the fitness industry is headed in the next few decades. While I've been pulling together my PowerPoint, I've come up with some good odds and ends that I feel warrant reflection here in a blog. Before I get started, though, just a quick, friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on the event. Hope to see you there!

Without further ado...

1. Humility is a must.

Over the past week, I've listened to podcasts interviews with three of my good friends in the industry: Brijesh Patel (head S&C coach at Quinnipiac), Mike Irr (S&C coach and physical therapist for the Golden State Warriors), and Josh Bonhotal (S&C coach at Purdue). I'm a huge believer (both in life and continuing education opportunities) in the importance of finding common ground. [bctt tweet="Focus on the 90% of things successful people have in common, not the 10% upon which they disagree."]

In all three of these interviews, the coach - in one way or another - stressed the importance of humility. Josh, in particular, commented on how he knew absolutely nothing about training divers (or even the sport itself) when he first started training divers with Olympic medals under their belts. And, rather than trying to employ a "fake it 'til you make it" strategy with them, he was very honest with them about his lack of experience, but also committed to learning as much as he could by observing and asking tons of questions. I think athletes and clients appreciate that humility - and certainly prefer it over a "know it all" demeanor.

2. There are four predominant ways to win over a potential customer in the fitness industry.

Last month, an intern asked me what I felt made some fitness writers successful while others struggled to gain a following. It got me to thinking about the qualities of the prominent fitness writers I know, and the more I considered it, the more I realized that these are the same qualities that make for a good in-person trainer or coach. Here are some of the four primary things the best writers (and trainers) do:

Innovate - These are new ideas that you can't find elsewhere. Think of what Nick Tumminello and Ben Bruno do with the introduction of exercises you haven't seen before. It's what we've tried to do with our baseball-specific approach to strength and conditioning. Ron Hruska did this with the Postural Restoration Institute approach to restoring optimal movement, and Dr. Stuart McGill has done it with his research on back pain and spine biomechanics. In the in-person training realm, this is the trainer at the commercial gym who picks up clients because they see him/her always introducing new drills with clients to keep things fresh. Or, it might be the reason baseball players move from across the country to train at Cressey Sports Performance in MA or FL. 


Translate - This is someone taking an innovator's ideas and making them more user-friendly for the masses, and it's often necessary because not all innovators make great teachers.  I think Mike Boyle has done a tremendous job of this over the years because he's very well read and a good teacher. In a presentation in Charlotte earlier this year, Mike joked that he has "no problem being the dumbest person in the room." In other words, he asks questions, and in doing so, learns how to best teach the material he's acquiring. Ultimately, this also leads to innovation, too.

In the in-person training world, this is the trainer who has great knowledge, but can "dumb things down" to create an efficient training program without overwhelming clients (who may not be interested in the science behind the training, anyway).

Entertain - This approach finds ways to make otherwise mundane content more palatable. If you read Tony Gentilcore's content, he does this really well; you hear about his cat and the movies he's seen as you're digesting content on shoulder mobility. These are also people who bring to the forefront entertaining stories that you might not have seen, but also offer social commentary (think of Barstool Sports or The Onion). In-person, these are the trainers who make things so fun that you actually forget you're working out.

Relate - This skill creates a sense of acceptance or unity. It's what Girls Gone Strong has done for females who like to lift weights, and why many powerlifters enjoy following other lifters' training logs that are posted online. The exercises aren't necessarily unique or hard to understand, but it gives a glimpse into someone else's reality that feels like your own. In-person, this is why some clients seek out trainers who are more like themselves. Smaller females usually don't want to train with huge bodybuilders, and guys who want to be huge bodybuilders don't want to train with smaller females. Baseball players don't want to train with guys who look like 300-pound offensive linemen, and 300-pound offensive lineman are usually skeptical of little guys who don't look the part.

Keep in mind that all successful writers and trainers do a combination of a few of these things; they never happen in isolation. If you look at EricCressey.com, I have a whole lot of innovation and translation, but less entertainment and relating. Conversely, you can get those latter two things on my social media offerings (particularly Instagram), as I post pics of my kids and own training, plus loads of self-deprecating humor and comical hashtags. 


First high-five! They're ready for you, @nancy_newell! #cspfamily #twinning

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

3. Unpolished writing is a "tripwire."

Let me preface this point by saying that you can be a great coach even with poor writing skills. What I will say, however, is that having unimpressive writing skills will make it dramatically harder to a) get a job and b) acquire clients.

For me, writing is a "tripwire." The second I see an email or resume with horrendous punctuation and loads of typos, it flips the "evaluate this under a microscope" switch. In other words, if someone writes (especially in a professional context) carelessly, it makes me wonder how far their lack of attention to detail extends. Will they show up on time? Will they swear in front of clients? Will there be typos in the programs they write?

In a world where 95% of fitness resumes look almost identical, polished writing can actually be a strong distinguishing factor.

4. Switch "ABC" to "ABCD."

This is borrowed from a slide in my 2016 Perform Better talk, but it's so important that I think it warrants reiteration. 

Many business coaches have written about the ABC approach to selling: "Always Be Closing." I happen to think that's the short-term-gain, long-term-pain approach to building a business, especially in the fitness industry. People are constantly getting pitched on something, and it sure gets old.

I favor the ABCD approach: "Always Be Creatively Delivering." As Pat Rigsby has said, you want to find ways to add value, not extract it. Go out of your way to find avenues through which you can add more value to a client's experience and you'll have a much higher likelihood of fitness industry success.


That'll do it for this month. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. And, we'd certainly love to see you at our fall seminar!

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6 Objectives for Successful Training Sessions

Today's guest post comes from Virginia-based strength and conditioning coach, Todd Bumgardner. I think it's very useful material for all the trainers and strength and conditioning coaches out there. Enjoy! -EC

It’s rare that large successes are accomplished without an idea of what success will look like. Sure, there are the occasional one-off miracles that happen when people swing hard with good intentions, but I don’t believe even those were truly accomplished without at least a loose plan that existed in the action taker’s head. It’s far more advantageous, and consistent, to materialize an actionable plan, with clear objectives, in the real world.

We often think in terms of plans and objectives when examining our businesses, or our financial goals, but a lot of coaches and trainers miss on the powerful outcomes elicited by setting training session objectives. I’m not just talking quantitative outcomes for our clients, but objectives that guide our coaching behaviors. Defining a list of session objectives, for you and your coaches, can dramatically improve your clients’ experience and results.

How We Did It

Chris Merritt and I own and operate Strength Faction together, while also tag teaming the leadership roles at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA—our small slice of semi-private training heaven in Dulles, VA.

The gym’s been running strong for five years now and has a great culture that’s focused on continual progression toward improvement. So we were inherently doing a lot of coaching things right. That set the context for our objectives discussion. We held it at one of our Friday in-services and we opened the floor to all the coaches. Then we simply asked, “What should our objectives be for running a successful training session?”


We involved the guys in the discussion because they coach just as many sessions as we do; who are we to stand in dictatorship? Besides, the opportunity to give input creates buy-in. When folks feel like they have responsibility, and that they’ve contributed to a cause, they’re more likely to take things seriously and give optimal effort.

The outcome: a lot of what we were already doing correctly ended up on paper and we sprinkled in a few more bits to improve our process.

Here’s what we ended up with.

Personal Interaction with each Client by each Coach

We schedule no more than six clients per time slot, and maintain a coach to client ratio of one to three, so we have innumerable opportunities for personal interaction. We have to capitalize on that.

Each coach must, at least briefly, interact with every client that walks through the door during his shift. Our goal at BSP NOVA is to continually improve our interconnectedness and sense of community, so we prioritize actions that help us accomplish that end. It’s not too much to at least ask how someone’s day has been.

Sure, this might sound like a no-brainer, but any coach that’s worked in a busy semi-private training gym knows how easy it is to lose focus and miss out on connecting with people. So we make it a focus and set the intent on connection at the beginning of every shift.

No Injuries

This speaks to our vigilance. Are we paying attention to what our people are doing? Are we checking positions? Are we updating programs based on the clients’ current readiness and ability?

If we’re answering yes to all of those questions there’s a high likelihood that we’ll avoid injuries during that shift. If we answer no, the chance of injury creeps up. Training injuries should be a rarity; maintaining focus keeps it that way.

Be the Best Part of Someone’s Day

We want our gym, our little slice of semi-private training heaven, to be a place of respite from the outside world, where folks can lay down their burdens, train, and have a good time. We’re ever aware that people don’t have to train with us, that Northern Virginia is rife with fitness options, and that we have to give them a reason to choose us over and over again.

Beyond that, our job as coaches is to lift others up. Every day, we have an opportunity to make the world a better place one interaction at a time. Making someone laugh, showing them that you care, or listening to a story that they really want to tell goes a long way toward improving someone’s day. Do that over and over again, with all of the clients that walk through the door, and we’ll make great strides toward making the world a better place.


Focus On Getting Better at One Aspect of Your Coaching

Kaizen, baby! We’re getting one percent better every day. This requires continual self-assessment and acknowledgement of our weak points. Each day we set a focus that toggles between what am I good at, and, where do I need to improve?

It begins with being open to constructive criticism from your leaders and peers and comfort with self-honesty. Nail those, make honest self-assessments, and attack improvement at one aspect of coaching every day.

Sweep the Sheds

I’m personally a huge All Blacks fan, and as a staff we love the book Legacy, James Kerr’s book about their culture, so we’ve focused hard on integrating the lessons from their phenomenal organization into our every day actions. We’ve incorporated “sweep the sheds,” The All Blacks humility-promoting mantra, into our everyday mindset.

Here it is:

"Sweeping the sheds. Doing it properly. So no one else has to. Because no one looks after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves."

Their point is to never be too big to do the small things while taking personal responsibility and acting with self-reliance. We’ve internalized the same point—but we’ve also extended it to mean something personally for us.

For us, sweeping the sheds also means taking as much as you can off of your teammates’ plates. If you can do a job that helps everyone else out, do it; don’t leave it for the next guy—even if it’s not necessarily “your job.”

Put Clients in the Best Positions to be Successful

Mentally and physically, it’s our job to put our clients in the best positions to be successful while they’re under our supervision. This means checking in with their state of mind and training readiness. It also means altering exercise selection if a given movement doesn’t fit for a certain person right now.


Checking in with clients first thing, and as the session continues, is a must. Without those continual assessments we can’t know whether or not we’re putting people in the best positions to be successful. And we can’t live with not doing that.

Progress in Form and Exercise Proficiency from Set to Set

Our last objective fits nicely with the one that precedes it. If we’re paying attention to our people, and they’re getting better each set, even minutely, we’re doing something right. Not every rep is going to be perfect, and the same is certainly true for every set. But if we’re improving incrementally each time we commence movement, all is right with our tiny, little world.

Set Some Objectives

These six points are by no means the end-all-be-all of training session objectives, but they’re solid examples and they work for us at our gym. Now, sit down with yourself, or your people, and list the objectives that make your training sessions successful.

About the Author

Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS is a co-founder of Strength Faction, an online coaching program for strength coaches and personal trainers that helps fitness industry folks transform their bodies and their coaching. He and his partner, Chris Merritt, just released a great, free E-book on how to keep your training on track, even while you’re training all of your clients. You can download it here: Train Yourself…Even While You’re Training Everyone Else.   

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/22/16

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  We're busy hosting one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships, but here's a little recommended reading to get your Monday off to a good start nonetheless:

How Brain Signaling Drives What You Eat - In this excellent Precision Nutrition article, Brian St. Pierre discusses some of the factors governing why individuals may overeat.

8 Lessons from My First 600 Pound Deadlift - After a lot of hard work and patience, CSP coach Tony Bonvechio finally got his first 600-pound pull. Here are the lessons he learned along the way. 


Fitness Tourism - Thinking of opening a gym? Before you do, be sure to get out and visit a few successful gyms first, writes my business partner, Pete Dupuis. 

Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar Registration - Just a friendly reminder that this Thursday, August 25, is the early-bird registration deadline for the 5th Annual CSP Fall Seminar at our Massachusetts location. Hope to see you there! 

Top Tweet of the Week:


Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Now Available: CSP Strength Ladies Tank Tops!

It's long overdue, but after years of requests from our female clients, we've created CSP Strength Ladies Tank Tops. They come in three colors:


We are currently accepting PRE-ORDERS through next Thursday, August 25 for a production run. They should ship out by the second week in September. The tank tops are $24.99 plus shipping and handling.

If you'd like to purchase one, please just add the appropriate size to your cart at the link(s) below, and note which color you'd like (teal, black, or pink) in the comments section at checkout. At important note: these tank tops run a bit big, so you'll want to order a size smaller than you'd normally get.




Extra Large

Looking forward to seeing a lot of these around the globe instead of just in CSP facilities!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/15/16

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's some recommended strength and conditioning material to kick off the new week:

Physical Preparation with Josh Bonhotal - Josh has been a friend for close to a decade now, and he's doing some great stuff with Purdue's men's basketball and diving teams. I noticed a lot of parallels to what we do with our up-and-coming baseball players from a long-term development standpoint. 


Youth Strength and Conditioning Programs: Systems, Not Just Sets and Reps - With this week's $100 off sale on the International Youth Conditioning Association High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification, it seemed like a good time to "reincarnate" this one from the archives.

I Hired an Intern with an English Literature Degree and Zero Coaching Experience - and it was a Good Move - This post from my business partner, Pete Dupuis, discusses how there are some invaluable qualities that you just can't perceive on the typical fitness professional's resume.  

Top Tweets of the Week

One got more retweets, and the other got more favorites, so I figured I'd just include both:



Top Instagram Post of the Week 


It's good to be home. #cresseytwins #cspfamily

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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Register Now for the 5th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar!

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, September 25, we’ll be hosting our fifth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past four years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn. 


Here are the presentation topics:

Pete Dupuis -- Business Before Branding

All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by focusing on branding before establishing a solid business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need efficient systems, a sound team, and concrete training philosophies. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but a consistent and predictable service retains the lifetime value of a customer. In this presentation, Pete will take an in-depth look at the core values, systems and principles that helped to create the foundation of our success at Cressey Sports Performance.

Miguel Aragoncillo -- Enhancing Performance with Plyometrics

Are you using bounding, jumping, skipping or hopping in your exercise programs? From track and field to team sports, plyometrics can enhance your performance. Miguel will cover plyometric basics to address various aspects of speed and power development. Whether you're a trainer or want to improve your own performance, this presentation will cover coaching and programming based on your goals. This presentation includes a hands-on component to identify specific techniques when performing jump training.

Greg Robins -- Lessons in Savagery

Nothing can replace old fashioned hard work in the weight room, but a savage work ethic and intelligent programming don't have to be mutually exclusive. Greg will share several important lessons to get strong, build muscle and become a savage without sacrificing the fundamentals of quality physical preparation.

Chris Howard -- What Massage Can Do for Your Strength Training

Massage therapy is often used to treat pain in the strength and conditioning setting. However, after seven years as a strength coach and massage therapist, Chris has developed methods to integrate massage into training programs for improved performance in healthy individuals. In this presentation, Chris will share his lessons learned on how massage therapy can benefit professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.

Tony Bonvechio -- Reverse Engineering the Novice Powerlifter

The rising popularity of powerlifting has sparked a resurgence in heavy barbell training for people of all ages and experience levels. Tony will discuss how to handle a brand-new powerlifter, including considerations for fine-tuning their technique, writing their programs and preparing them for their first competition. This presentation will feature hands-on movement and technique assessments to highlight what truly matters when evaluating powerlifters.

Nancy Newell -- Tackling the Road to ACL Recovery

An estimated 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament tears occur annually in the United States. The majority of these injuries are suffered by 15- to 25-year-olds who want to get back on the field or court as fast as possible. Nancy will examine current research regarding graft selections, risk factors, and how the strength and conditioning coach can help athletes recover both mentally and physically.

Eric Cressey -- Forecasting Fitness

Fifteen years after entering the industry, Eric will make some projections on what the next 15 years will look like in the fields of health and human performance. He'll pay attention to the business, training, and clinical sides of the equation to help fitness professionals to position themselves correctly in the years ahead.

**Bonus 2:30PM Saturday Session**

George Kalantzis and Andrew Zomberg-- The Method Behind CSP Strength Camp Madness

Group training is rapidly overtaking one-on-one training as the most profitable fitness service. However, an effective group fitness system is often difficult to create and sustain. In this session, George and Andrew will take participants through an actual CSP strength camp. The training session will be accompanied by a brief presentation and handouts that dive into the components of programming, coaching and marketing strategies to drive new business and client retention within a group training model.


Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749


Regular Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $129.99, Regular $149.99
Student Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $99.99, Regular $129.99

The early bird registration deadline is August 25.


Sunday, September 25, 2016
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

**Bonus session Saturday, September 24 at 2:30pm.

Continuing Education

0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (eight contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)


Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.

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5 Strategies for Training Hypermobile Clients

Several months ago, Laura Canteri contributed a great article on general guidelines for hypermobile individuals as they approach their training. Today, Cressey Sports Performance coach Ashley Crosby builds on this theme by introducing some specific strategies coaches can employ to help their loose-jointed clients feel and move better. Enjoy! -EC


I’m hypermobile, and have worked with hypermobile athletes and general population clients for the majority of my career. Let me be the first to tell you: if you tell me to get into a certain position for a lift, I WILL get there. Sure, it won’t be right 9 times out of 10 and I’ll feel it in the wrong places, but I’ll get there, and unless you are REALLY good at what you do, it’s going to look passable, and I’m going to feed into my dysfunctional movement patterns. And every hypermobile client I’ve worked with has done this exact same thing.

This leads to my first strategy:

1. Always, always, always ask your hypermobile client or athlete where they feel an exercise.

Always. Whether it is their first time lifting or their eight billionth session, ask. It’s not just that hypermobile people can cheat to get into a position, it’s that they very frequently don’t even know how it’s SUPPOSED to feel. Ask them, and educate them.

2. Provide external feedback.

Whether it's using your hands to put them in a position, block them off, poke them in the muscle they should be feeling, or give them a target to reach for, giving them a physical cue makes a world of difference. I can tell an athlete performing a wall slide with lift-off to only lift their arms off the wall two inches, or to stop at their ears, but hypermobile people often want to keep going until they “feel” an exercise.

Use your hands to block them until they learn where to stop, while also telling them to stop at their ears. Using bands (such as when you put one around your knees before a trap bar deadlift to correct knee valgus) also provides a little gentle reminder.

One of my favorite examples of providing feedback is regressing a core exercise down to the floor. We happen to work with a number of hyperextended low backs, and having an athlete push both the low back AND their ribs into the ground while in a supine bent-knee position helps reinforce a good core position. It also makes it easier when I tell them to keep their ribs down in an exercise. It’s like building a library of kinetic context for them. “Oh, this is what she means. I know how that should feel now.” Next time they hear the cue, they have an appreciation for what I mean.

3. Find a way to help them get and then maintain tension.

One such cue I frequently use when coaching a squat is, “pretend you’re standing on a towel that’s all bunched up, and spread the towel apart with your feet. Feel your glutes turn on? Good. Keep spreading it apart the whole time.” This helps hypermobile athletes build and maintain tension in their lower bodies through the movement while also reinforcing where an exercise should be felt.

Need one for keeping the lats tight during a deadlift? I like this other one from Tony Gentilcore:

4. Programs pauses, eccentric work, and tempo work.

Why? These approaches teach hypermobile folks to truly OWN the movement, from top to bottom and everything in between. Too often, a hypermobile athlete will drop into and out of a movement without ever truly feeling it. Pauses and tempos slow them down, and again, helps them maintain tension throughout the movement.

5. Stop before you feel the stretch.

Cressey Sports Performance - Florida co-founder Shane Rye gets a shout-out for this one.

Hypermobility literally means that an athlete can go way beyond the normal end range of motion in a joint before they feel anything. The idea is to teach them to stop and get strong in the right positions. An example would be an individual forcing excessive movement through the ball-and-socket (glenohumeral) joint instead of moving through the upper back. "Normal" mobility folks can't get into nearly as much trouble as hypermobile clients.

And on that note as well, for the love of all things good in this world, stop stretching your hypermobile athletes. Don’t LET them stretch. Have them foam roll, do mobility work if needed, or get soft tissue work done, but stop stretching: the relief from the stretch reflex is temporary, and the “tight” feeling comes back worse as the muscles knot up to keep loose joints in place.

About the Author

Ashley Crosby (@AshleyECrosby) recently finished her MS at Bridgewater State before coming to Cressey Sports Performance, first as an intern and then as a coach. A CSCS and Pn1 certified coach, she runs the strength camps in the CSP-FL location. Previously, she was the social media director for the Cape Cod Baseball League. When she's not coaching or lifting, she's usually watching baseball. In addition to her work at CSP-FL, Ashley works with folks from all walks of life through her distance-based consulting. You can reach her at ashley.e.crosby@gmail.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/2/16

I'm a day late with this week's recommended reading in light of a weekend trip to Chicago to present a shoulder seminar and catch a game at Wrigley Field. 



I'm back in town and fired up for a good week of content, starting with these good finds from around the 'net:

Building Bridges: Leveraging Your Employer to Enhance Your Personal Brand - This was an excellent guest post by Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio for my business partner Pete's blog. We strongly encourage our staff members to build their own personal brands under our roof, and this talks about the how and why.

EC on the Aggressive Strength Podcast - I joined Mike Mahler on his podcast, and we talked a lot about strength development and powerlifting, particularly with respect to the deadlift.

5 Steps to Building Better Athletes - I loved this piece from Mike Robertson. It's "necessarily general," but still wildly important for coaches to understand.

Top Tweet of the Week:


Top Instagram Post of the Week:

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10 Tips for Making Mobility Work with Your Schedule

I receive the following inquiry via email the other day, and thought it might make for a good Q&A post:

I've come to the unfortunate realization that 15 years of sitting at a desk - combined with the simple fact that I'm almost 40 - have left me severely lacking in mobility. And, it's something I now want (and need) to really address. However, I'm also a realist and know that with a busy work and family schedule, getting to the gym is hard enough - but adding a lot of mobility work on top of that could be really challenging. So, I'm wondering what the best way to efficiently tackle this problem is? Should I do a little bit each day? Is it better to go to a yoga class 1-2 times per week? Or something else? I'd like to make some positive changes, but ideally without completely overhauling my weekly schedule. Thanks for any direction you can provide.

The short answer to this question would be a blunt one:

[bctt tweet="If it's really important, make time instead of finding time."]

That wouldn't make for much of an educational blog, though, so let's explore this in more detail. Here are ten things I'd consider if you'd like to really dedicate yourself to improving your overall mobility as efficiently as possible.

1. Frequency is everything.

Remember that - simply stated - mobility is your ability to reach a certain position or posture. It's different than flexibility in that mobility necessitates stability within a range of motion, not just the range of motion of a joint (or series of joints). In other words, you need motor control to have motor control.

Think back to when you were learning to ride a bike. Did you go out and try for 5-6 hours every Saturday morning, or did you put in several runs every day for a few weeks? If you're like most people, it was definitely the latter option.

[bctt tweet="Frequent exposure is key for motor learning, and you can't improve mobility without motor control."]

What does that mean in the context of mobility work? You need to do something every day - and possibly even multiple times per day.

For most folks, a quality pre-training warm-up is an important first step. If you look at my High Performance Handbook as an example, each pre-training warm-up consists of about five minutes of foam rolling and ten mobility drills that should take about ten minutes total.


2. Find new planes and ranges of motion in your strength work.

Most training programs are very sagittal plane (front-to-back) dominant. In other words, a lot of exercisers do very little in the rotational (transverse) and side-to-side (frontal). While you do have to do work in these planes during single-leg work, that doesn't mean much for actually taking them close to their end-range of mobility. Simply adding in some lateral lunges to your warm-ups and strength work can go a long way.


If you're looking for more examples, check out this detailed article of mine: 7 Ways to Get Strong Outside the Sagittal Plane.

3. Sign up for classes if you really need the accountability or the instructor is absolutely fantastic.

Yoga and Pilates can be absolutely fantastic tools for helping you to improve your mobility if:

a) They improve your accountability so that you're more likely to actually make this a priority.

b) You have an outstanding instructor that both motivates you and teaches you about how your body works.

These options can also be terrible approaches if you have unqualified instructors or attending them absolutely destroys your schedule - and therefore becomes a burden more than a blessing.

4. Mix in a little work at night before bed.  

This piggybacks on the aforementioned "frequent exposures" theme. I know of a lot of people who'll do a bit of foam rolling and stretching at night while watching TV or getting ready for bed. Anecdotally, it does seem to help some people unwind - possibly by kicking the parasympathetic nervous system on (especially if combined with a good focus on breathing during this work). If getting in some stretching and rolling before bed doesn't exactly thrill you, just pick 1-2 high priority drills and do them. Or just stretch out your calves while you're brushing your teeth! 

5. Break up prolonged periods of immobility.

Each spring, I drive from Florida to Massachusetts. Then, in the fall, I drive back to Florida. It's a lovely 23 hours in the car over two days.

The first time I did it, I tried to be a cowboy and just plow through it with as few stops as possible. My hips hated me for about three days after the trip was done.

Since then, I make sure to stop every 2-3 hours. In fact, on my ride back this spring, I even stopped twice to train along this journey. I felt dramatically better in the days that followed.

I think you can extend this logic to how we break up our days, too. If you have to be at a computer for the majority of the 9am-5pm work day, try to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes. Walk to get some water, or do a doorway pec stretch.


It's a lot easier to do a little to maintain your mobility than it is to lose it and try to get it back.

6. Incorporate a bit more unilateral work.

When you take a lifter who's never done much single-leg work and start incorporating these unilateral movements, good things always seem to happen. I suspect that it has to do with the fact that a lot of these individuals are actually extending their hips past neutral for the first time in years, but I doubt that's the only mechanism.

To be clear, this doesn't mean that the hardcore squat/deadlift enthusiasts need to drop (or even tone down) these movements. It just means that it'd be a good idea to work in some more single-leg drills to the warm-up period, and to do some as an assistance exercise. They don't need to be loaded like crazy, either, particularly early-on. It's not uncommon to see groin strains (or very pronounced soreness) when someone incorporates single-leg work to a previously 100% bilateral program, so incorporate them gradually in terms of loading and volume. 

7. Be patient and don't skip steps.

Getting transient (quick) improvements to range of motion isn't particularly difficult. You can get that from manual therapy, increased body temperature, or "tricks" to the nervous system. After these initiatives, we need to incorporate some stability training to make these changes "stick."

They won't magically improve dramatically from one session to the next, though. In fact, you may only hold 5% of that change from one session to the next - and that's why you need to stay patient and persistent with these drills over an extended period of time to see pronounced results.

With that said, it's important not to skip steps in this process. Just because your squat pattern improved a little doesn't mean you're ready to sink a 500-pound front squat to the "butt-to-heels" position the right way. And, just because you experienced subtle improvements to your active straight leg raise doesn't mean that you're ready to run a sub-10-second 100m dash. Own the changes before you try to challenge them in more chaotic environments.

8. Manage your breathing.

We'll keep this one really simple and watered-down:

Inhale = tension = stress

Exhale = relaxation = destress

If you're holding your breath while doing your mobility drills, stop! You're just stretching your lats, not attempting a 700-pound deadlift. Control your breathing, and think about fully exhaling at the lengthened position to give your system a chance to perceive it as a "new normal." The yoga folks have been preaching this for thousands of years, but us meathead strength and conditioning coaches have only started to figure it out in the past decade or so.

One drill I love for teaching this is the TRX deep squat breathing with lat stretch. Just sink down into this bottom position and exhale fully on each breath. Give it a "two-one-thousand" count before inhaling again. I usually program five breaths per set.


9. Choose comprehensive mobility drills.

If you only have 10 minutes per day to devote to improving your mobility, you are best of focusing on drills that provide plenty of bang for your buck. In other words, you want drills that challenge multiple joints and planes of motion at the same time. Here are a few good options as examples:

10. Balanced programming and optimal technique help to improve mobility.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is "audit" your programs and training technique to see if they're pushing you further into your mobility deficit. Maybe you're benching too much and rowing too little? Or, perhaps it's been a lot of squatting and not enough deadlifting? Could it possibly be that you've been board pressing a ton and omitting full range-of-motion benching that could actually be really helpful for your shoulder? There are countless programming pitfalls into which one can fall, but you'll never identify them until you take a step back to review what you've been doing.

Moreover, crappy technique under load reinforces bad patterns and loss of mobility. Additionally, it can turn soft tissue and neuromuscular control restrictions into joint restrictions (laying down bone that shouldn't be there). You can't just fix reactive changes to the joint with stretching, either. Train hard, but train smart and with solid technique.


These are only ten thoughts off the top of my head, and there are surely many more. At the end of the day, though, most of the mobility improving strategies come back to common sense. Your body desperately wants to move, and you need to make time for that movement - and approach it with a plan as you would any other priority in your life.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/25/16

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Here's a little recommended reading from the strength and conditioning world to get the week started off on the right foot:

EC on the Movement Fix Podcast - Dr. Ryan DeBell had me on his podcast a few weeks ago, and we talked about everything from business to evaluations and programming for overhead athletes.

Recap of the 2016 Perform Better Functional Training Summit - Harold Gibbons wrote up this great review of the Perform Better presentations he attended recently in Providence. I've been presenting on the PB tour for ten years now, and I can honestly say that these events are the best value in continuing education in the fitness industry today. I'd highly recommend checking them out, if you haven't already.


A Comparison of Different Commercial Models of Physical Assessment: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 - This outstanding series from physical therapist Doug Kechijian discusses the utility of three different clinical approaches - PRI, FMS/SFMA, and FRC - and how they all deserve a place in your comprehensive approach.

Top Tweet of the Week:


Top Instagram Post of the Week:


In your life, you have friends, mentors, and people who change your life so immeasurably that neither of those two words can possibly do them justice. Alwyn Cosgrove falls into that third category for me. In my email account, I have a folder called "AC Stuff." It's a collection of literally hundreds of emails Alwyn sent me from 2005-2008 on topics relating to professional development and starting a fitness business. Without these invaluable lessons, there probably wouldn't be a @cresseysportsperformance today (let alone facilities in both MA AND FL). This generosity with his time and expertise was remarkable enough, but what makes these interactions even more incredible is that Alwyn was doling out this advice while he was beating Stage IV cancer for the second time. Between bouts of chemotherapy, he was passing along reading recommendations. As he prepared for his stem cell transplant, he was describing the ins and outs of semi-private training to me. If that's not the very definition of "selfless," I don't know what is. Always good to see you, buddy. You should get Instagram so that you can actually read this. :)

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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