Home Posts tagged "Bill Hartman"

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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Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits (Another Nail in the Coffin of Distance Running for Pitchers)

If you've read EricCressey.com for any length of time, you're surely aware that I'm not a fan of distance running for pitchers. I've published multiple articles (here, here, here, and here) outlining my rationale for the why, but these articles have largely been based on theory, anecdotal experience, and the research of others. Today, I wanted to share with you a bit of data we collected at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida last week.

CSP-florida-021

First, though, I should make a few important notes that "frame" our training recommendations and

1. Athletes absolutely must have a well-developed aerobic system in order to recover both acutely (during the training session or competition/games) and chronically (between training sessions and competitions/games). It's relatively easy to improve if approached correctly, and can yield outstanding benefits on a number of physiological fronts.

2. As long as the intensity is kept low enough during aerobic training initiatives, it won't compromise strength and power development. I wrote about this all the way back in 2003 with Cardio Confusion, but many industry notables like Alex Viada, Joel Jamieson, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman Eric Oetter, Pat Davidson, Charlie Weingroff have done a far better job describing the mechanisms of action in the 12 years since that article was published. Speaking generally, most folks put the "safe zone" intensity for aerobic development without strength/power compromise at approximately 60-70% of max heart rate (Zone 2, for the endurance savvy folks out there).

3. It might be a large amplitude movement (great ranges-of-motion achieved), but baseball is a low movement variability sport. Pitchers are the most heavily affected; they do the exact same thing for anywhere from 6-9 months out of the year (or up to 12, if they're making bad decisions by playing 12 months out of the year). Distance running to me does not offer significant enough movement variability to be a useful training option for developing the aerobic system.

4. The absolute best time to develop the aerobic system is early in the off-season. For the professional baseball player, this is Sep-Oct for minor leaguers, and Oct-Nov for major leaguers. This is one more strike against distance running; after a long season of being on their feet in cleats, the last thing players need is a higher-impact aerobic approach.

With these four points in mind, two years ago, I started integrating aerobic work in the form of mobility circuits with our pro guys in the early off-season. The goals were very simple: improve movement quality and build a better aerobic foundation to optimize recovery – but do so without interfering with strength gains, body weight/composition improvements, and the early off-season recharge mode.

The results were awesome to the naked eye – but it wasn’t until this week that I really decided that we ought to quantify it. Lucky for me, one CSP athlete – Washington Nationals pitching prospect Jake Johansen – was up for the challenge and rocked a heart rate monitor for his entire mobility circuit. A big thanks goes out to Jake for helping me with this. Now, let’s get to the actual numbers and program.

Jake is 24 years old, and his resting heart rate upon rising was 56 beats per minute (bpm). If we use the Karvonen Formula for maximum HR (takes into account age and resting HR) and apply our 60-70% for zone 2, we want him living in the 140-154bpm range for the duration of his session. As you can see from the chart below – which features HR readings at the end of every set during his session – he pretty much hovered in this zone the entire time. The only time he was a bit above it was during an “extended” warm-up where I added in some low-level plyo drills just to avoid completely detraining sprint work (he’d already had a few weeks off from baseball before starting up his off-season).

MobilityCircuitsHR

When all was said and done, Jake averaged 145bpm for the 38 minutes between the end of his warm-up and the completion of the session.

Graph1

He bumped up a little bit high in a few spots, but that’s easily remedied by adding in a slightly longer break between sets – or even just rearranging the pairings.

Graph2

To that last point, I should also note that this approach only works if an athlete is cognizant of not taking too long between sets. If he chats with his buddies and heart rate dips too much between "bouts," you're basically doing a lame interval session instead of something truly continuous. Jake did 44 sets of low-intensity work in 38 minutes. You can't get that much work in if you're taking time to tell a training partner about the cute thing your puppy did, or pondering your fantasy football roster.

Think about the implications of this....

What do you think this kind of approach could do for the foundation of movement quality for a typical high school, college, or professional pitching staff?

Don't you think it might make them more athletic, and even more capable of making mechanical changes easier?

Don't you think they'd be less injury-resistant performing an individualized mobility circuit instead of one-size-fits-all distance running?

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they'd feel better after an 11-hour bus ride?

Don't you think they'd bounce back more quickly between outings?

Designing a low-intensity mobility circuit like this is not difficult. I have a ton of examples on my YouTube page and in products like Assess and Correct and The High Performance Handbook. Stuff like this works great:

What is difficult for some coaches, though, is admitting that distance running to "build up your legs" is like changing the tires on a car with no engine, or studying for the wrong test. Just because "that's how it's always been done" doesn't mean that's how it has to stay.

Give some of these a try in the early off-season - and even during the season in place of "flush runs." They'll be a big hit with your athletes both in terms of performance and health. 

And, for those of your looking for another Z2 training option, look no further.

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6 Reasons Anterior Core Stability Exercises Are Essential

This time of year, I'm doing a lot of assessments on professional baseball players who are just wrapping up their seasons.  One of the biggest issues that I note in just about every "new" athlete I see is a lack of anterior core control. In other words, these athletes sit in an exaggerated extension pattern that usually looks something like this:

APT-250x300

And, when they take their arms overhead, they usually can't do so without the ribs "flaring" up like crazy.

This is really just one way an athlete will demonstrate an extension posture, though. Some athletes will stand in knee hyperextension. Others will live in a forward head posture. Others may have elbows that sit behind their body at rest because their lats are so "on" all the time.

latsPosture

This isn't just about resting posture, though; most of these athletes will have faulty compensatory movement patterns, too. Once we've educated them on what better posture actually is for them, we need to include drills to make these changes "stick." Anterior core drills - ranging from prone bridges, to positional breathing, to dead bugs, to reverse crunches, to rollouts/fallouts - are a great place to start. Here's why they're so important:

1. Breathing

The muscles of your anterior core are incredibly important for getting air out. The folks at the Postural Restoration Institute often discuss how individuals are stuck in a state of inhalation, with each faulty breath creating problematic accessory tone in muscles like scalenes, lats, sternocleidomastoid, pec minor, etc. These muscles aren't really meant to do the bulk of the breathing work; we should be using our diaphragm. Unfortunately, when the rib cage flies up like we saw earlier, we lose our Zone of Apposition (ZOA), a term the PRI folks have coined to describe the region into which our diaphragm must expand to function.

Zone-of-Apposition-300x220

(Source: PosturalRestoration.com)

Bill Hartman has a great video demonstrating good vs. bad breathing here:

 

Step 1 is to get the ribs down and pelvis into some posterior tilt to reestablish this good zone. Step 2 is to learn how to breathe in this position, emphasizing full exhalation.

Step 3, as you may have guessed, is to strengthen these "newly rediscovered" patterns with good anterior core training.

2. Resisting extension.

This one is the most obvious benefit, as the muscles of the anterior core directly combat too much arching of the lower back. If you aren't controlling excessive lumbar extension, it's only a matter of time until you wind up with lower back irritation - whether it's just annoying tightness, a stress fracture, a disc issue, or something else.

3. Better force transfer and lower back injury risk reduction.

The research on core function is pretty clear: its job is to transfer force between the lower and upper body. Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken at length about how spine range of motion and power are positively correlated with injury risk. In other words, the more your spine moves (to create force, as opposed to simply transferring it), the more likely you are to get hurt. How do you prevent your spine from moving excessively? You stabilize your core.

4. Indirect effects on rotary stability.

For a long time, I looked at control of extension as "separate" from control of rotation at the spine. In other words, we did our anterior core drills to manage the front of the body, and our chops, lifts, side bridges, etc. to resist unwanted rotation. However, the truth is that these two approaches need to be treated as synergistic.

As an example, every time I've seen an athlete come our way with an oblique strain, he's sat in an extension posture and had poor anterior core control - even though an oblique strain is an injury that occurs during excessive rotation. All you need to do is take a quick glance at the anatomy, and you'll see that external obliques (like many, many other muscles) don't function only in one plane of motion; they have implications in all threes - including resisting excessive anterior pelvic tilt and extension of the lower back.

Gray392

What this means is that you can't simply ignore coaching in one plane when you think you're training in another one. When you do your chops and lifts, you need to prevent lumbar hyperextension (arching) . And, when you do your rollouts, you can't allow twisting as the athlete descends. Finally, you can add full exhales (a predominantly anterior core challenge) to increase the difficulty on rotary stability exercises.

5. Improved lower extremity function and injury risk reduction.

Lack of anterior core control directly interferes with lower extremity function, too. If the pelvis "dumps" too far forward into anterior tilt, the front of the hip can get closed down. As I described at length here, this can lead to hip impingement.

With a squat variation, while some athletes will stop dead in their tracks with this hip "block," others will slam into posterior tilt to continue descending. This is the "butt wink" we've come to see over and over again in lifting populations. When neutral core positioning is introduced and athletes also learn to manage other extension-based compensations, the squat pattern often improves dramatically. This can "artificially" be created transiently elevating the heels, turning the toes out, or by having an athlete hold a weight in front as a counterbalance.

Additionally, athletes in heavy extension patterns often carry their weight too far forward, throwing more shear stress on the knees during lunging and squatting. The more we can keep their weight back to effectively recruit the posterior chain, the better.

6. Improved shoulder function and injury risk reduction.

The lats can be your best friend and worst enemy. On one hand, they have tremendous implications for athletic performance and aesthetics. On the other hand, if they're "on" all the time (as we often see in extension-based postures), you can't get to important positions with the right movement quality. Overactive lats will limit not only shoulder flexion (overhead reaching), but also upward rotation of the shoulder blades. I covered this in quite a bit of detail in Are Pull-ups THAT Essential?. Moreover, with respect to elbow function, overactive lats can be a big issue with allowing throwers to get true external rotation, as I discussed here:

If you're using your lats as an "all the time" core stabilizer, you aren't just at risk of extension-based low back pain, but also problems at the shoulder and elbow. If you can get your anterior core control under control and normalize the length and tone of the lats, your "healthy exercise pool" for the upper body expands dramatically. Getting overhead is easier, and you'll feel stronger in that position. The same goes for external rotation; not surprisingly, pitchers always say that their lay-back feels smoother after soft tissue work on the lats, as an example.

Wrap-up

These are just six benefits of training the anterior core, but the truth is that they could have been broken down in much more detail as they relate to specific injuries and functional deficits. If you're looking to learn more on this front - and get a feel for how I like to train the anterior core - I'd encourage you to check out my presentation, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core.

AnteriorCore

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/16/14

It's time to kick off the week with a collection of recommended reading. This week, we've got a "squat technique" theme:

Short Topic: There's a Squatting Controversy? Seriously? - This was a quick blog from Bill Hartman, but it poses a question that a lot of people probably haven't considered.

How Deep Should I Squat? - Cressey Performance co-founder Tony Gentilcore takes a closer look at what may limit squat depth - and how to fix it.

good overhead squat

To Squat or Not to Squat? - I wrote this article back in 2009, but the recommendations still hold water.

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Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 5

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Performance coach, Greg Robins.

robins

I have this weird habit. Although, the more I pick the brains of like-minded individuals the more I realize it’s just something everyone fascinated with human development does.

I like to watch people. I like to watch their curious reactions to their external environment. I like to watch people converse with other people. I like to watch how they move, how they breathe, how they settle into their default static positions. It sounds creepy, I guess, but it’s far removed from the image you have of me lurking in the window with binoculars.

I’ll watch sports and realize I’m no longer even keeping an eye on the ball; I’m lost in awe of the fluidity of an elite athlete’s movement capabilities. If I’m close up at a live sporting event, I’m analyzing the body type and physical development of players while they’re warming up.

I’m constantly looking at people, and conversing with people; trying to piece together who they are.

When Eric started this series I thought it was fascinating. It only made me more tuned in to the details of people, outside of any diagnostic tests I may eventually bring them through. Assessments became like an experiment of sorts. I would take all these clues from the first 20 minutes I met someone and see if the eventual tests gave some validity to the observations, and presumptions I was making.

I decided I had to contribute a one of my favorite assessments that you might be overlooking:

Hypertrophy and or tone of the accessory breathing musculature, coupled with primarily breathing through the mouth.

As I stated above, one thing I watch is how people breathe. However, even before I tune into watching individual breaths, I look at the muscularity and apparent tone of their accessory respiratory muscles. In particular, I’m looking at their neck. Often time people who are “stuck” in a faulty respiration strategy have necks that seemingly look to belong on a pro strongman, not a middle-aged weekend warrior, or an undertrained high school pitcher. Their scalenes, sternocleidomastoids, and levator costarum muscles are incredibly developed in comparison to the rest of their musculature. Bill Hartman posted a great video on this a few years back, if you'd like to see it in action:

This little tip off leads me to take a closer look at their respiration. I often notice the same person breathing primarily through the mouth, rather than the nose. I lay them on their back, have them remove their shirt (when appropriate) and cue myself in to the pattern of their inhalations and exhalations.

Not surprisingly these giants of neck development, are often the same folks who are stuck in inhalation, or a state of hyperinflation. They have poor function of their diaphragms, and generally take the form of our usual “over-extended” individual. In many cases, they present with a lack of shoulder flexion because their lats are constantly “on.”

shouderflexion

They take shallow, frequent breaths, which never allow for full exhalation. To take a page out of the Postural Restoration Institute’s respiration manual, hyperinflation does the following:

- Increase sympathetic “fight or flight” responses and anxiousness
- Impairs nerve conduction
- Vasoconstricts peripheral and gastrointestinal vessels
- Restricts circulation in cerebral cortex
- Shunts blood flow peripherally
- Impairs coronary arterial flow
- Promotes fatigue, weakness, irregular heart rate, etc.
- Impairs breathing and weakens diaphragm contractility
- Increases overuse of “thoracic breathing”
- Enhances peripheral neuropathic syptoms
- Enhances sympathetic adrenaline activity and hypersensitivity to lights and sounds
- Increases phobic dysfunction, panic attacks, restless leg syndromes, heightened vigilance, etc.
- Facilitates catastrophic thinking and hypochondria

As you can see, this simple observation leads us to a series of additional questions, and more times than not, the discovery that someone’s ailments are the cause of their respiratory dysfunction. Their autonomics are dictating much of their dysfunction, even voluntary movement dysfunctions.

This is an important assessment because acknowledging this discord means we can intervene. Including breathing drills to correct respiratory function can help to restore many of the qualities we aim to improve (i.e. movement patterns, recovery rate, performance qualities, etc.).

If you are keen to excessive tone in the accessory musculature, you can begin to dig deeper and more closely observe their respiration, as well as ask them about different conditions listed above. If the pieces fit together, use some of the following drills to help them correct the dysfunction.


 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/7/14

Here is this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading.  As it turns out, you could call this the Assess and Correct edition, as it features the three of us who collaborated on this product:

The Secret to Ab Training - Mike Robertson did an awesome job introducing some movements you've probably never seen before.  That said, we've been using them at Cressey Performance with great results for quite some time now.

Thoughts on Long-Term Athletic Development and Training Young Athletes - Bill Hartman doesn't write very often, but when he does, he crushes it!

3 Things Everyone Should Know About the Shoulder - This is a quick read, but has some really useful takeaways if you're looking to wrap your head around shoulder assessment and training.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/6/14

It's time for the first 2014 installment of this weekly series.  Check out these recommended strength and conditioning reads:

Elite Training Mentorship - This month's update from me includes a presentation on the difference between anterior shoulder instability and laxity, and I talk about our approaches with athletes who may encounter these issues. There are also some great additions from Vaughn Bethell and Tyler English this month.

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How to Hip Hinge Like a Boss - My buddy (and Cressey Performance co-founder) Tony Gentilcore did a great job with this piece.  If you struggle with hip hinging, this is a good place to start.

Perception, Threat, Pain, and Purple - Bill Hartman makes an awesome point about dealing with people with pain.  Hint: it's about much more than just having a good series of assessments and corrective drills!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/16/13

Here's this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Nutrition in the NBA; Part 1: Lessons Learned in LA Help Howard's Career - This was a great article at CBS Sports on the awesome work my buddy Tim DiFrancesco has done on the nutrition front with the LA Lakers.  It's part of a multi-article series on nutrition in the NBA (including a section that discusses another friend, Mike Roussell, and his work with Roy Hibbert).

10 Best Unilateral Exercises - I like (and regularly use) several of the variations Bret Contreras highlights in this article.

Genetics, BDNF, Rehab, and Performance - Bill Hartman summarizes a conversation he had with Eric Oetter, and then discusses some practical applications.

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Energy Systems Development: A Presentation You Need to Watch

You know how everyone has that one friend who is just absurdly smart?  You know, the kind of person who could hear something once, instantly remember it, and then instantly apply it in a productive manner?

Unfortunately, not all these people are all that motivated, so they may take their impressive ability to learn and leverage it to the max by studying everything they can get their hands on.  However, when you do find one of them who is ultra motivated, you wind up with game changers.  In our industry, guys like Bill Hartman and Charlie Weingroff are two that come to mind: quick learners who love to learn and apply.

That said, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I realized that I had one of these in the making as an intern at Cressey Performance in the summer of 2011.  You may have even heard of him by now: Eric Oetter.  And, as this somewhat recent photo demonstrates, he's only 13 years old.

Oetter_1

Okay, the age was a joke, but the brain power isn't. In addition to interning at CP, he's also spent a lot of quality time at Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman's facility in Indianapolis, and undertaken a bunch of continuing education coursework (PRI, DNS, and several other schools of thought).

That said, to make a very long story short, Eric's making a name for himself in the industry - and as a little example of it, I'd strongly encourage you to check out this free video on Energy Systems Development he did as part of the pre-launch for Robertson's Bulletproof Athlete resource.  You'll need to opt in to view it, but I guarantee you'll find it to be well worth it. 

In this presentation, Eric discusses a lot of the myths surrounding aerobic exercise and energy systems development.  Most importantly, though, he provides practical recommendations to help you put this knowledge into action to improve your training programs, regardless of whether your goal (or your athletes' goals).  I learned some good stuff, and I'm sure you will, too.  Here is the link to check it out.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Corrective Carries - This excellent piece from Bill Hartman highlights just how valuable carrying exercises can be if they are executed with correct form.

The Paradox of the Strength and Conditioning Professional - This guest blog from Rob Panariello for Bret Contreras' blog was excellent, even if it did read very "sciency." I'd call it must-read material for up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches.

6 Primo Pressing Permutations - Here's another innovative article from Ben Bruno.  He always has some good exercises for spicing things up in your strength training programs.

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