Today's guest article comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio. Tony is also one of the contributors to the new Cressey Sports Performance Innovations resource, which is on sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. Enjoy! -EC
I wouldn’t break the Internet if I told you that we don’t use the barbell bench press to train baseball players at Cressey Sports Performance.
As a powerlifter, I love the bench press. It’s a solid choice for general fitness folks, too. But by now, it’s widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting really strong on the bench press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. And if you dig a little deeper, there’s some more specific reasoning why the bench press doesn’t show up in most programs at CSP.
1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations to Throwing
When you throw a baseball for a living, it’s likely that a handful of things will happen, including:
So basically, you get a shoulder that’s loose in the front and tight in the back, along with an elbow that doesn’t straighten all the way. But what happens at the torso and lower body?
• Decreased scapular upward rotation
• Decreased soft tissue quality (lats, rotator cuff, pec major and minor, among others)
• Abnormal spinal curvature (i.e. lumber and/or thoracic hyperextension)
• Decreased hip rotation (most often loss of hip internal rotation)
Now we have scaps and hips that don’t move well, gritty tissue surrounding the shoulder, and a spine that’s stuck in extension. This paints a grim picture and it’s not as bad as it sounds, but what does bench pressing do to help this situation?
The answer? Nothing. In fact, it feeds into many of these dysfunctions.
Coach someone into a proper bench press setup and what do you get? Global spinal extension, scapular retraction and depression, humeral motion WITHOUT scap motion, and heavy loads placed on the pecs, delts, lats and triceps. The stresses are eerily similar to throwing, albeit at slower speeds and heavier loads.
We spend a lot of time each offseason trying to restore movement quality in our baseball players, which means staying away from many of these gross extension patterns and exercises that lock the scaps in place. You can’t justify strength gains at the expense of movement quality. As Gray Cook says, don’t build strength on top of dysfunction.
2. It’s Not Speed- or Plane-Specific
In order for a movement to transfer to sport, it needs to have some degree of specificity. We have to look at the plane in which the movement occurs (sagittal, frontal or transverse) and where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.
Granted, simply getting stronger has direct transfer to sport without being specific. Otherwise, strength coaches wouldn’t have jobs. However, research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific and that traditional sagittal plane power exercises (jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches, etc.) have limited transfer to throwing a baseball. We've seen plenty of pitchers with sub-20-inch verticals and 90-mile-per-hour fastballs to back this up. Research from Lehman et al. (2012) backed this up as well.
Rather, frontal and transverse plane movements like Heidens and med ball throws work better. So building a fast, crisp bench press might make a football player incredibly powerful, but it won’t transfer much to baseball.
Also, bench pressing is simply too slow to have much transfer. If you look at the force-velocity curve (also known as the strength-speed continuum), throwing a baseball is all the way at the velocity end. It’s a light load moved incredibly fast. Benching is on the other end: a heavy load moved slowly.
High-load, low-speed lifting might benefit some athletes who have spent their entire training career on the pure velocity end (i.e. the travel team athlete who plays all year and never lifts weights), but we can still “fill in” this gap with push-ups and dumbbell bench pressing. And while we can train our athletes to develop force quickly and move heavy weights with ballistic intent, it’s too far removed from baseball to have much of an impact, especially for athletes who are already pretty strong.
3. It’s Not Very Self-Limiting
In my experience as a lifter and coach, I’d wager that most of the poor decisions in the gym occur on or near the bench press. People are much more likely to overestimate their strength capabilities while benching than they are squatting, deadlifting or lunging. If health and performance are our two top priorities, we need to pick exercises that don’t unleash our athletes’ inner meathead.
An incorrectly performed bench press can put an athlete in some lousy positions. Elbows flared, body squirming with hundreds of pounds hovering over their throat; that’s the LAST place I want my athletes. Sure, any heavy exercise can be risky, but a missed rep on a push-up or landmine press has less potential for disaster. Even the dumbbell bench press requires a light enough load to get into the starting position, making it a more self-limiting choice.
If you coach multiple athletes at once, you won’t see every rep of every set. As hard as you might try, it’s impossible to see everything in a high school or college weight room. That said, picking exercises that are self-limiting while still effective makes for a safer training environment. For our athletes at CSP, that means more push-ups and landmine presses than barbell bench variations.
The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.
If you DO bench press and use it with your athletes, you won’t want to miss our newest product: Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. It’s a collection of 11 webinars from the staff members at CSP with tons of great fitness and business content, including my presentation, “10 Things I’ve Learned About the Bench Press.”
CSP Innovations is on sale for $50 off until Sunday at midnight, so click here to grab your copy now!
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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It's time for this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading. With this week's launch of Cressey Sports Performance Innovations($50 off through Sunday at midnight), we're going with a CSP staff theme here.
Believe It Or Not, CSP Isn't a One-Man Show - Pete Dupuis authored up this great post about how to build up a multifaceted fitness team instead of just a one-man show. It's a great read for anyone who aspires to own a facility one day (or already has one).
Technique Tuesday with Tony Bonvechio - You might not know that CSP coach Tony Bonvechio posts a thorough technique video each Tuesday morning on the CSP-MA Facebook page. Here's this week's:
I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2016 at EricCressey.com:
1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training
I really enjoyed writing this series, as I can always build on current events. This year, I drew inspiration from everything from off-season baseball preparations, to the Olympics, to new books and DVDs I'd covered. There's an article for every month:
3. Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success
While most of my writing folks on the training side of things, I do like to delve into the business side of fitness, too. These posts include various pieces of wisdom for those who make their living in the fitness industry.
We're excited to announce that on August 14, 2016 Greg Robins will be delivering his one-day seminar, “Optimizing the Big 3″ alongside fellow Cressey Sport Performance Coach Tony Bonvechio. This event, which will take place at our Hudson, MA location, is a a great chance for strength and conditioning professionals to learn from the best. And, it's also been very popular with athletes who have an interest in improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
“Optimizing the Big 3” is a one-day seminar for towards those looking to improve the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Split into both a lecture and hands-on format, the event will provide attendees with practical coaching on the technique of the classic power lifts. Additionally, Greg and Tony will cover how to individualize movement preparation, utilize supplementary movements, and organize their training around a central focus: improved strength in these “big three” movements. Furthermore, they'll touch upon the lessons learned in preparation for your first few meets to help you navigate everything from equipment selection to meet-day logistics.
The value in learning from Greg is a matter of perspective. He has a wealth of knowledge, and has experience stemming from various experiences as a coach and lifter. Greg will effectively shed light on how he has applied movement principles, athletic performance modalities, and anecdotal evidence from working with a wide variety of different populations to optimize the technique, health, and improvements in strength of amateur lifters.
9:00-11:00AM: Maximal Strength Training Theory – The main lecture of the day will be focused on the principles of how to assess where you (or your athletes) are in terms of training history and how that determines what kind of training loads should be used. Furthermore, this lecture will focus on principles of managing stressors and how to assign proper loading parameters for different level lifters. Last will be a discussion of the cornerstones of training vs. planning, as well as a look at the commonalities and differences of different training approaches.
11:00AM-12:00PM: Managing the Strength Athlete: Assessing and Meeting the Demands of the Lifter – Learn what demands a high amount of volume in the classic lifts puts on the body; how to assess for it in others and yourself; and what you can do to manage the stress associated with these demands.
12:00-12:30PM: Group Warm-up
12:30AM-1:15PM: Squat Hands-on Session
1:15-1:30PM: Squat Recap, Programming Considerations, and Video Review
1:30-2:15PM: Lunch (on your own)
2:15-3:00PM: Bench Press Hands-on Session
3:00-3:15PM: Bench Press Recap, Programming Considerations, and Video Review
3:15-4:00PM: Deadlift Hands-on Session
4:00-4:15PM: Deadlift Recap, Programming Considerations, and Video Review
4:15-5:00PM: Final Q&A
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Hudson, MA 01749
Note: we’ll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction – particularly during the hands-on workshop portion – so be sure to register early, as the previous offerings have both sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.
On the fence? Here is what previous attendees have to say...
"Greg Robins has constructed one of the most comprehensive seminars that I have ever attended. I’ve had the opportunity to not only attend The Big 3, but host it at my gym as well. I truly believe that every coach and/or individual who's interested in mastering the squat, bench, and deadlift absolutely must attend this workshop. Greg is loaded with knowledge and learning directly from him has greatly impacted my ability to coach my clients and athletes."
Co-Owner, War Horse Barbell - Philadelphia, PA
"Attending the Big 3 Workshop with Greg Robins and Tony Bonvechio was the best thing to happen to my barbell training. After taking close to 20+ years off from working with a barbell I decided to attend the Big 3 workshop to receive excellent coaching and guidance in training. In my experience as a healthcare provider (ATC) a strength coach and a kettlebell instructor this course has helped myself and my clients significantly. I was able to relate all the movements to rehabilitation, strength training and kettlebell training I perform with clients and this helps me to give them a better transition back to sport and training. I would happily attend this workshop again to continue to learn and dial in the Big 3 movements. Just one day with these two professionals is not enough time to soak in all the knowledge!"
Co-Owner, Iron Body Studios
"Greg Robins is the epitome of high integrity, an unparalleled work ethic, and a true passion and dedication toward making those around him better. His Optimizing The Big 3 Workshop is no different. After attending this workshop while also being a personal client of Greg's, I've increased numbers in all 3 lifts, and improved my overall strength by leaps and bounds in the process. Greg is the real deal. Don't hesitate - just go."
Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Greg Robins.
Many popular approaches to strength training have lifters training roughly 3-4 times per week. While this is a solid approach for most gym goers, the lifter looking to excel at squatting, bench pressing, and deadliftng may be better served increasing training frequency to 5-6 sessions per week. Here are a few reasons why:
1. More Practice
The most important variable to manage with newer lifters is technique. Technique on the big three lifts is a variable that is completely controllable by the lifter. In other words, while some people will certainly be limited by leverages or genetics, technique is one item that should not be a factor in stagnating progress. If your technique isn't improving, it's a matter of negligence; you aren't practicing enough. Training more frequently increases your exposure to the lifts. If a trainee makes a point to consciously evaluate technique each session, this should equate to more dedicated practice and therefore a steadier road to mastery of the lifts.
Action item 1: Use video to evaluate your lifts more often. Everyone has a camera on his or her phone these days, so video assessment is easier than ever before. While you may feel a bit awkward filming your lifts, there is truly no better way to revisit your training and evaluate where you can improve your technique.
2. More Volume
While intensity (for the sake of this example, we’ll refer to this as the weight on the bar) is the obvious training variable that must be improved to have success in powerlifting, monitoring and making incremental improvements in the volume (total work done in a training session, or training block) is how you will make that happen. In short, here’s why...
All training is about balancing the relationship among fitness, fatigue, and performance. Acutely, a single training session will cause an amount of fatigue that lessens your performance. You walk out of the gym capable of doing less (in that moment) than you could do when you walked in. However, that acute stress causes a response - which leads to an adaptation where you become more fit than when you walked in (assuming you take the proper steps to recover adequately).
Training is a constant management process between the training effect applied and one’s ability to recover from that loading.
While a single training session may acutely have a negative effect on you, if you manage this relationship well over a given training period, the training will yield a positive effect in improved fitness specific to your goal (in this case, maximal strength). Given that information, more intense training causes a larger amount of fatigue, while doing less intense work will help to build work capacity specific to your sport (powerlifting). Popularly, this is described as the difference between "building strength" and "testing it."
Focusing on adding more volume with less intensity causes a fatigue that is more manageable and more productive. Training more frequently is an obvious way to spread out more work, allowing for better recovery. While one could conceivably also add more work in less frequent training sessions, doing so makes the session more dense and therefore adds an element of increased intensity. In this case, we're viewing intensity less so from a "weight on bar" standpoint, and moreso from the "magnitude" of the training session.
Action item 1: Instead of training 3x/week, try doubling that frequency to 6x/week. Have each session focus on a different lift, and follow a high/low approach. As an example:
Monday: Squat High
Tuesday: DL Low
Wednesday: Bench High
Thursday: Squat Low
Friday: Deadlift High
Saturday: Bench Low (or High again; most beginners can repeat a heavy bench day twice per week)
Action item 2: Don’t warm up in an effort to make the top sets of the day "easier." Many lifters practice the minimal amount of volume necessary to feel prepared for the top sets in a training session. Instead, program out your warm up sets as well. If you do this, and increase your exposure to each lift to 2x/week, that means you will have to warm up twice as often. If you are making a point to do a certain amount work leading up to the top sets, this will increase submaximal training volume by quite a lot over the course of time. As an example, if you are working up to top sets in the 75-90% range try this for a warm up protocol:
35% x 8 to 10 reps
45% x 8 to 10 reps
55% x 6 to 8 reps
65% x 5 to 6 reps
70% x 4 to 6 reps
3. Improved Compliance
We are creatures of habit. How many people do a better job of optimizing sleep, nutrition, hydration, and body management (self massage, mobility, activation work) when their training sessions are taken into consideration? I know I do. If you train 3x/week, that may mean the nights before those sessions you make sure to get enough sleep. It may mean that on the days you train, you make sure to fuel yourself better. It may also mean you take better measures to prepare the body physically for loading. If you train 5-6 times/week, you essentially double those efforts. You drink more water, get more sleep, eat better food, and do more to keep moving and functioning optimally. That alone will improve your results.
For more information on maximal strength training, I'd encourage you to check out The Specialization Success Guide, a collaborative resource between Greg Robins and Eric Cressey. If you want to build a bigger squat, bench press, and deadlift, this is a great collection of programs for doing so!
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This installment of quick tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Tony Bonvechio. Enjoy! -EC
1. Avoid over-tucking your elbows when performing the bench press.
It’s widely accepted that to bench press more weight and protect your shoulders, you should tuck yours elbows tightly to yours sides and touch the bar low on the chest. This may reduce the range of motion you have to press, but unless you’re a 300-pound powerlifter with a huge belly, your elbows may still drift too far past the midline of the body if you tuck too much. This can add unwanted stress on the shoulders and make the front of the shoulder cranky over time.
It’s similar to tucking the elbows too tight to the body during rowing variations - it makes it easy to let shoulder slip into too much extension. That’s why we coach athletes to row with a bit more space between the armpit and the elbow. You limit anterior humeral (upper arm) glide while still getting full scapular (shoulder blade) retraction.
Instead, keep the elbows about 45 degrees away from the body and touch the bar somewhere around the nipple line. This also reduces the moment arm between the shoulders and the bar, limiting the horizontal distance the bar needs to travel and making it easier to keep your elbows under the bar for a smooth lockout.
2. Optimize your leg drive to make the bench press more shoulder-friendly.
On that note, using proper leg drive can spare the shoulders by accelerating the bar though the portion of the lift where the shoulders are under the most stress. The less time you spend grinding the bar through the first few inches off the chest, the better.
Optimal leg drive technique differs from lifter to lifter, but foot placement dictates leg drive technique. Lifters with shorter legs tend to thrive with the feet hooked tightly under the bench and the heels off the ground, while longer-legged lifters do better with the feet out wide and heels flat.
Either way, if you plan on competing in powerlifting, you have to abide by your federation’s rules, which may require you to keep your heels on the ground. Here are some tips for choosing the right foot position:
3. Try dark roast coffee to reduce caffeine jitters.
At first I didn’t believe it when Greg Robins told me this, but it’s actually true: dark roast coffee has less caffeine that light roast coffee. And while the difference in actual caffeine content by volume may be small, dark roast coffee is harder to drink in mass quantities than light roast, so a bolder cup may reduce overall caffeine consumption if it gets you to drink less coffee overall. If your morning joe gives you jitters, consider switching to a darker roast.
4. Slow down the concentric phase of isolation exercises.
As performance coaches, we constantly trying to help our athletes become more powerful. That means we’re often coaching them to perform the concentric portion of most exercises explosively to enhance rate of force development. But when it comes to small muscle groups that often get “overshadowed” when performing single-joint exercises, sometimes we have to slow down.
Specifically at CSP, getting athletes to “feel” their rotator cuff or lower traps during arm care exercises can be challenging, especially if they rush through the concentric phase. Slowing down the tempo of all phases of the exercise usually cleans things up by keeping athletes in a better position and reducing contribution of unwanted synergists. For example, taking 3-5 seconds to externally rotate the humerus during cuff work can prevent the deltoid or lat from taking over.
5. When setting up for the front squat, exhale first.
I stole this trick from Miguel Aragoncillo and it works wonders for athletes whose elbows drop during front squats. Take your grip on the bar and before you unrack it, give a good hard exhale to get your ribs down. Then, inhale into your belly and back, drive your elbows up and unrack the bar.
While “elbows up” is a great cue for front squats, it won’t work if the athlete doesn’t set his or her ribcage in a solid position during the setup. Exhaling first gives you a better zone of apposition, allowing for a fuller breath and creating greater intra-abdominal pressure to keep you upright. Like Miguel told me, “Front squats are just abs and legs, dude.”
Tony Bonvechio (@BonvecStrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at www.BonvecStrength.com.
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For the second time, Cressey Sports Performance staff member and accomplished powerlifter Greg Robins will be delivering his one-day seminar, "Optimizing the Big 3," at our facility in Hudson, MA. This event is a great fit for lifters who have an interest in improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift - and may want to powerlift competitively. And, it's also been very popular with strength and conditioning professionals. It'll take place on March 8, 2015.
"Optimizing the Big Three" is a one-day seminar geared towards those looking to improve the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Split into both a lecture and hands on format, the event will provide attendees with practical coaching on the technique of the classic power lifts, as well as valuable information on how to specialize movement preparation, utilize supplementary movements, and organize their training around a central focus: improved strength in these "big three" movements.
Furthermore, Greg will touch upon the lessons learned in preparation for your first few meets, to help you navigate everything from equipment selection, to meet-day logistics.
The value in learning from Greg is a matter of perspective. He has a wealth of knowledge, and experience stemming from various experiences as a coach and lifter. Greg will effectively shed light on how he has applied human movement principles, athletic performance modalities, and anecdotal evidence from working with a plethora of different populations to one main goal; optimizing the technique, health, and improvements in strength of amateur lifters.
9:00-10:00AM: Mechanics, Technique, and Cueing Of the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift - In this lecture Greg will break down the biomechanics of each movement, how to optimize technique, and what to consider both as a coach and lifter in teaching / learning the movements.
10:00-11:00AM: Managing the Strength Athlete: Assessing and Meeting the Demands of the Lifter - Learn what demands a high amount of volume in the classic lifts puts on the body, how to assess for it in others and yourself, and what you can do to manage the stress associated with these demands.
11:15AM-12:45PM: General Programming Considerations for Maximal Strength - Take a look inside Greg’s head at his approach to organizing the training of a lifter. Topics will include various periodization schemes, and utilizing supplementary and accessory movements within the program as a whole.
12:45-1:45PM: Lunch (on your own)
1:45-2:15PM: Preparing for Your First Meet - Based off his own experiences, and knowledge amassed from spending time around some of the best in the sport, Greg will share some poignant information on what to expect and how to prepare for your first meet.
2:15-3:30PM: Squat Workshop
3:30-4:45PM: Bench Press Workshop
4:45-6:00PM: Deadlift Workshop
March 8, 2015
Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Hudson, MA 01749
Early Bird (before February 8) – $149.99
Regular (after February 8) - $199.99
Note: we'll be capping the number of participants to ensure that there is a lot of presenter/attendee interaction - particularly during the hands-on workshop portion - so be sure to register early, as the previous offering sold out well in advance of the early-bird registration deadline.
Sorry, this event is sold out! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the waiting list (and announcement list for future seminars).
Still not convinced? Here is some feedback from previous attendees:
“The coaching I got was phenomenal; amazing experience!”
“Really happy with the content, and the coaching of the lifts. Definitely appreciated the appeal to reflect on training, and be able to defend all exercises you program. I had high expectations for this event and they were exceeded.”
“Honestly, I was really happy with the seminar, my only regret is I wish I asked a few more questions as Greg was really great about avoiding a dogmatic approach that is very common in this field!”
“This was awesome! I learned a ton about the big 3 and feel like I can pass on the knowledge to our clients.”
“I really like your approach to lifting and your lifting philosophy. I've been strength coaching for 20 years and I run a successful business; it's getting hard to find a good seminar. Normally, when I learn one thing I’m happy, but this last Sunday, I learned a lot. I'm really satisfied!”
“Very worthwhile and I would even attend the event again, especially for the hands on.”
“Very concise, while allowing the topics and questions to develop as the audience saw fit. It was very informative and engaging.”
“This was awesome. Definitely would attend something like this again!”
“I loved having the opportunity to actually lift, the coaching was phenomenal!”
About the Presenter
Greg Robins is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. In addition to co-authoring The Specialization Success Guide, his writing has been published everywhere from Men's Health, to Men's Fitness, to Juggernaut Training Systems, to EliteFTS, to T-Nation. As a raw competitive powerlifter, Greg has competition bests of 560 squat, 335 bench press, and 625 deadlift for a 1520 total.
It goes without saying that the bench press is one of the "Big 3" lifts for a reason: it offers a lot of bang for your upper body training buck. That said, the close-grip bench press is an awesome variation, as it can be more shoulder-friendly and offer slightly different training benefits. Unfortunately, a lot of lifters struggle to perfect close-grip bench press technique, so I thought I'd "reincarnate" this video I originally had featured on Elite Training Mentorship. Enjoy!
If you're looking for a more detailed bench press tutorial - and a comprehensive bench press specialization program - I'd encourage you to check out Greg Robins and my new resource, The Specialization Success Guide.
Have a great weekend!
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I realize that competing in powerlifting is a far cry from what most aspire to do. That being said, much can be learned from the approach, and much of what the general gym-goer is looking to accomplish can be reached with the help of a powerlifting program.
To be honest, when I began training alongside a few competitive lifters, competing was not even a thought in my mind. To this day, I don’t consider myself first and foremost a “competitive lifter.” I am a coach, and powerlifting simply has done the following positive things for me. I have seen it do the same for countless other people, and so I invite you take a gander, and ask yourself if you aspire for a similar outcome.
1. It teaches you the difference between “training” and “working out.”
Simply stated, if your visits to the gym don’t serve to attain a greater result in some physical endeavor, then you are simply “exercising.” Diving into a powerlifting program gives your visits to the gym a purpose. When you have a purpose for what you do, you are “training,” not “working out.“
When you make the switch, a few essential characteristics of the successful gym goer begin to emerge. For starters, you become more consistent. Knowing that each session builds off the last makes you more accountable to each training session. Consistency is the absolute must-have ingredient to accomplish any goal.
With that in mind, you ultimately become more accountable to yourself. Recovery measures like sleep and nutrition no longer become a tedious chore. Instead, you willingly make the decision to eat right, get adequate sleep, and minimalize activities that may take away from your training.
When those things organically start happening, you become more productive, see more results, and all the while never feel like they are anything but part of your way of lifes.
2. It teaches you about managing variables and gives you a consistent measurement for improvement.
The problem with most gym-goers is that they have no idea what is working, what isn’t working, or even what they are using to measure their success. Following a powerlifting program gives you three fundamental lifts from which you can measure progress. It’s cut and dry: are the numbers going up? If not, you can look back on your training and assess a few possibilities for why your strength isn’t improving. If yes, you can make note of what you are doing as a source of information to look back on should you run into a plateau down the road.
Over time, consistently working on the same end goal helps you to understand the training process as a whole. You will be able to take ownership for your plan, and optimize it for you.
3. Getting stronger just so happens to do a lot of good things for your physique, health, and lifestyle.
I’m not clueless; I know why most folks exercise. You can feed me all the lines about health, but the fact is most people just want to look good. I was no different. If I could go back in time, I would have started training like a powerlifter at age 16. If I had, I would have acquired everything I sought out from an aesthetic standpoint a LOT SOONER. When I began powerlifting, I obviously began to get a lot stronger – but I also ate better, slept more, and kicked bad habits that didn’t help my performance to the curb.
Not surprisingly, getting stronger meant I put on more muscle, eating better meant I actually got leaner, and paying attention to how my lifestyle did or did not support my training meant I was actually healthier, more productive, and just generally feeling more awesome.
I realized that looking and feeling good were just a bi-product of training with a purpose. My outlook changed, and I wasn’t caught up in superficial crap, just in paying my dues in the gym and earning my progress.
4. The powerlifting community brings out the best in the industry.
When you begin to train for the “Big 3,” you begin to enlist the help of others who do the same. You read their articles, watch their videos, attend their seminars, and so on. Maybe I’m biased, but those who put the time under the iron – and instill that mindset in others – are the people I have come to admire the most.
It’s really not surprising to me at all. Powerlifting taught me what was important. It taught me about movement, because I had to optimize my positions in each lift. It taught me about programming, because I had to be able to objectively look back on all my training variables. It taught me about delayed gratification, because strength takes time to develop. It taught me about work ethic, because nothing comes easy in the battle of forcing adaption. Again, it taught me about what is important, because I began to only concern myself with things that had positive influences on my development. It has done the same for others who share in the pursuit of strength and they are among the best people to learn from and be around.
When you take on this identity to your training, you become part of that community.
5. It instills a sense of confidence in you that is unparalleled.
Walk around and look at the state of this country. It can be appalling. Exercising, in general, may make you feel like you aren’t wasting away, but possessing a level of physical strength far higher than the normal person makes you feel like the specimen you are.
I’m all about using powerlifting as an outlet for my aggression, my need to push the levels of what I can do, to channel my inner animal, to overcome. To some, that notion is unappealing; it’s too “meatheadish”, or too primal. I beg to differ, completely.
In fact, through purposeful training I am more confident to share how I feel, to learn about anything and everything, to explore different avenues of self-development.
A well-defined training goal gives you an opportunity to willingly make yourself uncomfortable. In doing so you learn that even in times of adversity, or pain, that you did not choose to encounter you can get through. I walk around with a sense of confidence, not because I can lift a certain number of pounds, but because I can welcome a challenge head on, and crush it.
Can other forms of physical activity do something similar? Sure they can, but if you are part of the herd of gym-goers that walks into the gym each day and doesn’t know exactly why you there, and what the focus is for that day, then I challenge you to give a powerlifting-geared approach a shot.
You can pick up several 12-week training programs in The Specialization Success Guide that Eric and I developed, or you can dive into any other number of programs out there. I don’t care what you choose to do, but I do challenge you to see it through for a prolonged period of time. I welcome you to this community of like-minded individuals, and for those of you who do choose to run our program I thank you and look forward to hearing about your success.
For more information on The Specialization Success Guide - which is on sale through this tomorrow night at 40% off the normal price - click HERE. Just enter the coupon code ROBINS at checkout to receive the discount.
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I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each blog being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2013 at EricCressey.com:
1. Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better - This series is mostly CP coach Greg Robins' work, but I jump in here and there. Installments 28-52 ran this year. Here were the most popular ones:
2. Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – I kicked off this (ongoing) feature in early 2012, and it was as huge a hit this year as it was last year. My goal with this series is to feel like you have a coach right there with you. Here were the ones we ran this year: