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Counterintuitive Coaching: More Loading, Better Learning

Written on May 26, 2016 at 6:37 am, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that in the overwhelming majority of cases of resistance training technique coaching, adding weight makes it harder to teach an exercise. In other words, we want to deload the movement as a regression, as many trainees get into "panic mode" when you put external load on them. A deadlift that is ugly at 135 pounds is definitely going to look even uglier at 315 pounds. 

Lowering the weight is just one regression we can use to optimize technique. Other strategies include changing the exercise (e.g., trap bar deadlift over conventional deadlift), shortening the range of motion (e.g., rack pull vs. deadlift), eliminating fatigue (e.g., dropping a few reps off each set), tinkering with the base of support (e.g., split squat instead of lunging) and deceleration components (e.g., reverse lunges instead of forward lunges). I went into detail on these options and several more in an older article, 11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder.

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Sometimes, however, there are exceptions to these rules. In particular, I'm speaking to the idea that in some cases - as counterintuitive as it may seem - adding weight can actually improve your ability to clean up a movement pattern. Here are a few examples:

Anterior Counterbalance - The best examples to which one can look on this front are the goblet squat and plate-loaded front squat. You can see individuals who have brutal squat patterns that are quickly cleaned up just be giving them some external loading in one of these positions to facilitate an easier posterior weight shift and better core engagement.

Truth be told, this same set-up can be used to improve lateral lunges, too. And, it can also help to explain why some lifters have much better front squat technique than with the back squat.

Olympic lifts - There is definitely a sweet spot for teaching the Olympic lifts, which require a higher speed of execution and "feel" of tension against external load. If you're teaching them to a more trained athlete with a decent foundation of strength and power, just putting a 5kg training plate on each side of the bar almost never works. The weight is so light that it's very easy for them to slip into bad patterns like curling the weight or cutting the lower body triple-extension short. Bumping those 5kgs up to 10 or even 20kg bumper plates can make a big difference in syncing everything up.

Deadlifts - While lowering the weight is usually essential for improving deadlift technique, one issue you may encounter is that at very light weights, if you don't have bumper plates, the plates have a smaller diameter. In other words, lowering the weight below 135 pounds may actually increase the range of motion of the movement. This is easily corrected by elevating those smaller plates on a riser (two aerobic steps works well) or going to a rack pull. However, if strength is adequate, just going to 135 is often the easiest correction, even if it means you need to knock a few reps off the set.

elevatedDL

Medicine Ball Work - If a medicine ball is too light, an athlete will do one of two things. First, if it's a rotational drill, he'll use too much upper body work and not engage the hips correctly to create powerful rotation to transfer up the chain to the upper body. If it's an overhead stomp variation, he'll usually hold back because if the medicine ball is too light, it'll rebound excessively off the floor and hit him in the face before he can react to it. For this reason, we'll never do overhead stomps with anything less than 8lb medicine balls - and that would be with absolute beginners. Most folks do best with 10-12-pounders.

Turkish Get-up - I've evolved in the way that I teach the Turkish Get-up in recent years. In the past, I would teach it unloaded - and would always notice that lifters - especially hypermobile ones - would manage to slip into their faulty patterns really easily without external loading. Adding a kettlebell - even if it's only 4-8kg - can make a huge difference in keeping trainees more "compact" and under the kettlebell. Effectively, they guard against vulnerable positions that wouldn't be noticeable if they didn't have to support a load overhead.

Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) - Popularized by physical therapist Gray Cook, RNT involved using resistance to pull individuals into their dysfunctional pattern in order to increase proprioceptive awareness and build-up antagonist co-contraction. The athlete (or patient in the clinical realm) acquires the kinesthetic awareness to avoid the dysfunctional pattern, and the strength and motor control to resist falling into it. Perhaps the most well known example of adding resistance to teach a good pattern is in using a band to drive valgus (caving in) at the knee during single-leg patterns.

Weighted Baseballs - We've used weighted baseballs as part of our throwing programs since 2008 with great results. The reason isn't just to get contrast between heavy and light to increase arm speed via post-activation potentiation, but also because using weighted implements can actually help to improve arm action and clean up mechanical faults in certain individuals. If a pitcher has a very long or deep arm action, weighted ball throws can help to shorten it up. If a pitcher has a short deceleration pattern (including a big whip-back), doing some weighted ball holds can teach and train a longer, more joint-friendly pattern.

Wrap-up

There are just seven examples of how increasing external loading can actually facilitate teaching, but there are undoubtedly many more that you may already be using on a daily basis without even realizing it. There are many different ways to clean up movement, so don't ever rule anything out! Feel free to share additional strategies on this front in the comments section below. 

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 18

Written on May 18, 2016 at 7:40 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the May installment of my random thoughts on sports performance training. I never really expected this series to last this long, but I'm enjoying it and the feedback has been awesome, so we'll keep it rolling. Here goes...

1. Don't eliminate internal focus cues altogether.

I'm a big fan of external focus cues. As an example, I've had much better luck with saying "show me the logo on your shirt" than "pull your chest up" when coaching a deadlift. Effectively, individuals seem to perform better when we let them organize themselves to their surrounding environment (in this case, the logo on the shirt), as opposed to us sending mixed messages that might interfere with how they would naturally figure out how to organize the body for optimal performance. The key word here, however, is performance. If you're just looking to run faster, jump higher, or throw harder or farther, external cues are your best bet.

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What happens is there is aberrant movement, though? We've always heard that athletes are great compensators. If we just tell an athlete with very limited hip extension to "push the ground away" when he sprints, isn't he just going to continue to jack his lower back into excessive extension when the better long-term strategy is to get the hip extensors to do the job? To this point, there is actually some research (examples here and here) that internal focus cues definitely still have their place, especially when trying to modulate muscular recruitment patterns on single-joint exercises. I use internal focus cues (usually with tactile facilitate, or touching the region in question) every day to get better positional awareness and recruitment patterns, particularly with our arm care drills.

If you had to put me on the spot, I'd say that external focus cues are better and definitely a good place to start. I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water, though; internal cues definitely should always have a place in your coaching toolbox.

2. Barefoot deadlifting doesn't just clean up movement quality; it also makes it easier to coach.

I've written a lot in the past about how I like to have our athletes deadlift barefoot or in minimalist sneakers. Because the deadlift is a posterior chain dominant exercise and we want the athletes to think about driving their heels through the floor, it seems only fitting to make it easier for those heels to be in close proximity to the floor. Additionally, given that some people have mobility or stability restrictions that make it hard to get all the way down to the bar without compensation, being barefoot actually shortens an individual's range of motion by an inch or so. 

That said, there are two technique flaws you can spot easier in a barefoot scenario. First, you never want to see an athlete deadlift on a pronated foot; rather, a supinated foot gives us the rigidity we need to put force into the ground. You'll commonly see athletes "spin out" and dump into pronation like this, though.

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Second, you can more easily spot what the toes are doing. Often, when someone has a faulty hip hinge pattern, they'll simply pull the toes up rather than maintaining "tripod foot." This is most easily recognized on the decent of the lift.

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You can certainly spot these issues when athletes have shoes on, but they are definitely easier to pick up in the barefoot scenario.

3. If you're successful in one rotational sport, you've got a higher likelihood of success in other rotational sports.

A few days ago, Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run at age 42. This feat is is impressive in itself, but it's more surprising to the casual observer when you realize that Colon is a) a pitcher and b) obese.

For me, though, this wasn't nearly as surprising as it was entertaining. Efficient rotation is efficient rotation, whether you're a hitter, pitcher, hockey player, or golfer. There's a reason hockey and baseball players are usually excellent golfers without much formal skill instruction; they understand sequencing from the ground up.

Bartolo Colon has 17 years of Major League Baseball service time, has thrown over 3,000 innings, and has won 221 MLB games. You break down or lose effectiveness long before any of those numbers happen if your body doesn't "get" efficient rotation.

4. A little upper trap rolling can go a long way in improving upward rotation of the scapula.

Serratus anterior, lower trap, and upper trap work together to get the upward rotation of the scapula that we want with overhead movement.It's important, though, that they all work together to do this. If you want to get up to speed on upward rotation, give this video a watch:

If you've read this blog or followed me on YouTube for any length of time, you've probably realized that I'm a huge serratus anterior guy. It's really important that you get serratus anterior going to create the rotational component of upward rotation that gets the shoulder blade around the rib cage. I have quite a few serratus activation videos (examples here, here, and here), but I think it's important to realize that if someone doesn't have good serratus recruitment, they'll often create a pure scapula elevation (shrugging) pattern instead of the clean upward rotation we want. Effectively, upper trap and levator scapulae can pick up the slack and do too much work. When I see this pattern, I'll often encourage individuals to try out a little bit of upper trap rolling with a lacrosse or baseball to reduce the bad stiffness "up top" before we get to work.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/16/16

Written on May 16, 2016 at 6:47 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time to kick off your week with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

One Weird Trick: Half-Kneeling - CSP coach Miguel Aragoncillo highlights some of the common mistakes we see with folks in the half-kneeling position, and then outlines some strategies for cleaning it up.

Half-Kneeling-Exercises

Major League Wisdom - Mark Watts on EliteFTS published this compilation of audio interviews from Carlo Alvarez, Bob Alejo, Mike Boyle, and me, and it focuses heavily on our involvement in baseball. There is a lot of great stuff in here.

Strength Development Roundtable - Greg Robins, Tony Bonvechio, and I hopped on a Facebook Live Q&A to talk about all sorts of strength development topics, from percentage-based training, to exercise sequencing, and velocity-based training. Our signal cut out for a second, so it was actually broken into two parts. That said, you can watch them both here if you missed them live:

Top Tweet of the Week:

risingtide

Top Instagram Post of the Week (who would've thought my cooking skills would ever get love on this blog?):

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Tinkering vs. Overhauling – and the Problems with “Average”

Written on May 11, 2016 at 6:34 am, by Eric Cressey

Over the past year or so, Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta has been a highly celebrated MLB athlete not only for his dominant performances (including two no-hitters) on the mound, but also for "reincarnating" his career with a new organization. Previously, Arrieta had been a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization - and while he had been a Major League regular, his performance had been relatively unremarkable. That all changed when he arrived in Chicago.

Arrieta

Source: Yahoo Sports

In Tom Verducci's recent piece for Sports Illustrated, Arrieta detailed that his struggles with the Orioles were heavily impacted by constant adjustments with everything from mechanics, to pitch selection, to where he stood on the rubber. He was even quoted as saying, "I pitched for years not being comfortable with anything I was doing. I was trying to be somebody else."

I'm always cautious to take everything I hear in the sports media with a grain of salt, and this blog is certainly not intended to be a criticism of anyone in the Orioles organization. However, what I can say is that this story isn't unfamiliar in the world of Major League Baseball. There is a lot of overcoaching that goes on as many coaches try to fit pitchers and hitters into specific mechanic models. In other words, rather than looking for ways to make Jake Arrieta into the best Jake Arrieta possible, some coaches look to make athletes into Greg Maddux or Nolan Ryan - and they usually wind up with Henry Rowengartner (minus the arm speed).

Rookie_of_the_year

This "phenomenon" isn't confined to baseball, however. In his outstanding book, The End of Average, Harvard professor Todd Rose, writes: "The real difficulty is not finding new ways to distinguish talent; it is getting rid of the one dimensional blinders that prevented us from seeing it all along." Moreover, he adds, "We live in a world that demands we be the same as everyone else - only better - and reduces the American dream to a narrow yearning to be relatively better than the people around us rather than the best version of ourselves."

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As Rose notes, we can extend this concept to the idea of standardized testing for students and conventional hiring procedures for new employees, both of which often overlook the brilliant individuals among us who may be wildly capable of remarkable contributions if put in the right situations. In short, pushing the "average" rarely allows anyone to demonstrate - let alone leverage - their unique potential.

This is where coaching becomes more of an art than just a science. On the pitching side of things, we know there are certain positions all successful pitchers get to in their deliveries - and there are certainly bad positions they should probably avoid to stay healthy. With that said, we have to "reconcile" this knowledge with the realization that some of these "bad positions" may help pitchers generate greater velocity, influence pitch movement, or add deception. If we try to change them - especially at the highest level - we may take away exactly what makes a pitcher successful. 

You can draw parallels in a lifting environment. Some of the best deadlifters of all time pull conventional, and others use a sumo stance. Their individual anthropometry, training histories, and success to date govern the decision of how to pick heavy things up off the ground.

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It's important to note, however, that it's very easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback in situations like these, as hindsight is always 20/20. Long-time CSP athlete Corey Kluber won the American League Cy Young award in 2014 in large part because he switched to a 2-seam fastball with the help of Indians pitching coaches Ruben Niebla and Mickey Calloway. And, another long-time CSP athlete, Jeremy Hazelbaker, is one of the feel-good stories of Major League Baseball after a subtle adjustment to his swing from a Midwest hitting coach, Mike Shirley, yielded huge results and put him on the Cardinals opening day roster after seven years in the minor leagues.

Arrieta's Cubs teammate Jason Hammel spent some time with us at Cressey Sports Performance this off-season and made some mechanical adjustments, and he is off to a good start with a 4-0 record and 1.85 ERA. The point is that we hear a lot more about failures than we do about success stories, and it's really easy to rant when things don't work out. Subtle adjustments that keep guys healthy and confident don't always show up on the radar - and as a result, some really important and tactful coaches from all walks of life don't always get the recognition they deserve.

So when is it right to tinker on the coaching side? And, are there commonalities among what we'd see in pitchers, lifters, and other facets of the performance world? Here are seven questions I think you need to ask to determine whether the time is right to make a change:

1. Has the athlete been injured using the approach?

If an athlete can't stay healthy, a change might be imperative.

2. Has the athlete stagnated or been ineffective with the approach?

The more an athlete struggles doing it his way, the more open he'll be to modifying an approach. Career minor leaguers will buy in a lot easier than big leaguers - and the minor leaguers definitely have much less to lose if things don't work out. Conversely, Jason Hammel already had over eight years of MLB service time before I even met him; we weren't about to drastically change things.

3. Is the athlete novice enough that a change is easy to acquire and implement?

It's a lot easier to correct a 135-pound deadlift than it is to correct a 500-pound deadlift. You're best of fixing faulty patterns before a lifter has years to accumulate volume of loading the dysfunction. This is one reason why I'd rather work with a young athlete before he has a chance to start lifting on his own; there aren't any bad patterns to "undo."

4. What's the minimum effective dose that can be applied to "test the waters" of change?

Can a "tinker" be applied instead of an "overhaul?" Switching from a 4-seam fastball to a 2-seam fastball is a lot less aggressive than switching from a 4-seam fastball to a knuckleball. And, it's probably easier to go from an ultra-wise sumo deadlift to a narrower sumo stance than it is to go all the way to a conventional set-up.

5. How can you involve the athlete in the decision-making process with respect to modifications?

The concept of cognitive dissonance tells us that people really don't like conflict and generally like to avoid it. This works hand-in-hand with the concept of confirmation bias; we like to hear information that agrees with our beliefs and actions. In their fantastic book, Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath write, “In reviewing more than 91 studies of over 8,000 participants, the researchers concluded that we are more than twice as likely to favor confirming information than dis-confirming information.” Furthermore, the Heaths note, “The confirmation bias also increased when people had previously invested a lot of time or effort in a given issue.”

decisive--jacket

How, then, can we involve our athletes and clients in the decision-making process so that they effectively feel that the necessary changes are their ideas? And, can we regularly solicit feedback along the way to emphasize that it's "their show?"

6. How can we change the situation rather than the person?

In Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, another great read from the Heath brothers, the authors note that you will almost never effect quick change a person, but you can always work to change the situation that governs how a person acts. If a pitcher's velocity isn't very good in the first inning (particularly during colder times of year), there's a good chance he needs to extend his warm-up. However, many pitchers are very rigid about messing with pre-game routines. Maybe you just encourage him to do more of it inside where it's warmer, or have him wear a long-sleeve shirt until he starts sweating. Here, you're impacting his surroundings far more than his beliefs.

7. Can the change be more efficiently implemented utilizing an athlete or client's learning style?

All individuals have slightly different learning styles (one more reason "average"coaching isn't optimal). Some athletes simply need to be told what to do. Others can just observe an exercise to learn it. Finally, there are those who need to actually be put in the right position to feel and exercise and learn it that way. And, you can even break these three categories down even further with more specific visual, auditory, and kinesthetic awareness coaching cues. The more we understand individual learning styles, the more we can streamline our coaching with clear and concise direction. If a adjustment is perceived easy to understand and implement, an athlete will be far more likely to "buy in."

Closing Thoughts

On the whole, I think there is a lot of over-coaching going on in today's sports. Above all else, I think us coaches need to talk less and listen more so that athletes can be athletic. And, when a change is warranted, we need to make sure it's a tinker and not an overhaul - and it's important to give an athlete or client and ownership stake in the process.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/6/16

Written on May 6, 2016 at 5:17 am, by Eric Cressey

In trying to get this recommended reading series back on schedule, we're doing this one a day earlier than last week. We'll be Fridays from now on!

The Real (and Surprising) Reasons Healthy Movement Matters - As always, Krista Scott-Dixon and the crew at Precision Nutrition are kicking out excellent content in a user-friendly manner.

Do Athletes Need More Anterior or Posterior Chain Work? - I really enjoyed this post from Mike Robertson. The answer to this question really isn't as simple as one would think.

An Internship Commencement Address: 3 Reminders for New Coaches - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, gives some invaluable insights for strength and conditioning professionals as they wrap up their internships.  

Top Tweet of the Week:

sleepin

Top Instagram Post of the Week:

 

Coming soon!

A photo posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

Also, just a heads-up that Pete Dupuis and I also ran some live Q&As on the business of fitness on my Facebook page last week. We plan to do more in the future, but in the meantime, you can check this week's recordings below:  

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/1/16

Written on May 1, 2016 at 5:08 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Sunday - and month of May - to you. Let's get the week started with some recommended reading:

The End of Average - I just finished this (audio)book from Todd Rose, and found it to be fantastic. It really makes you reconsider how we really evaluate success - or even competency or fit in job applicants.

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15 Random Thoughts on Coaching - This was a quick, but insightful read from my buddy Mike Robertson.

7 Simple Cues to Improve Your Squat Form - This was an excellent read from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio, the best squatting coach I know.

Top Tweet:

efficientcoaching

Top Instagram Post:

 

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Strength Exercise of the Week: The Z Press

Written on April 26, 2016 at 6:19 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's Exercise of the Week guest post comes from Lee Boyce.

We all know the benefits of overhead pressing. As long as the shoulder girdle is in an acceptable position to handle them, they’re worth their weight in gold for health, strength, and mobility – when performed correctly. Many lifters and athletes find strength improvements on a typical standing overhead presses stall out because of the compensatory mechanisms that enter the lift as the loading increases. Specifically, poor core control can lend to an overarched position that causes much more lumbar spine stress than the exercise should ideally produce.

This usually becomes present to a certain degree, even with what most would consider “good form” when pressing. In the video below, I was quite happy with this technique, but nevertheless, a heavy press shows that some lumbar extension is unavoidable, despite plenty of pressing strength left in the tank.

The solution to this issue is simple. Instead of backing off on overhead pressing, a better idea would be to start training the lift by eliminating the lower body from the equation using the Z Press. This fixes the pelvic position and kills the chances for any shifting of the hips, thus locking the spine into a neutral position. There’s an added benefit to this. Using this setup makes it incredibly difficult to perform reps with poor form – if you lean back too far to compensate, you’ll lose balance since your feet aren’t planted. If you slouch, the bar will go straight down.

The Z Press asks for good mobility as a prerequisite. Trying a Z press may expose shoulder mobility issues a lifter wasn’t aware he had. For many, it’s difficult to load the bar over the spine at full lockout, while keeping the spine neutral. To get the bar to the proper position in space, the hips may drift forward, or the spine may extend.

One other benefit of the Z press is enforcing the correct rhythm to be used when performing reps of a standing barbell press. Knowing when to flare the elbows, and when to time the “head through” position is important. This timing is really put to the test with the Z Press since there’s no pelvic adjustment or leg drive that can be used to “save” the lift. For a live-action demonstration, check out the video below.

Coaching Cues

1. Set the pins in the squat cage just below shoulder level. There shouldn’t be more than 6 inches between where it rests and your starting position. That’ll make it easy to pick up and drop off while in position.

2. Set your feet according to your hip anatomy and mobility. A wider leg width may be good for someone with structural hip limitations, while those with stellar mobility will feel better with a narrower stance. Be sure the set-up you choose enables you to maintain a neutral spine position.

3. Remember to sit tall. Assume that your typical overhead pressing posture will be tough to pull off from a seated position with the legs in front of you. Overemphasize sitting tall, and you’ll be in the right place.

4. Once the bar clears the forehead, push your head and chest “through the window” as best you can. This will put the spine under the bar and load it correctly over the body. Achieve a full lockout at the top.

5. Don’t be afraid to let the elbows flare out in the final 1/3 of the movement.

6. Many people won’t have the mobility to maintain upright posture while sitting flat on the ground. To regress this movement, sit on a step platform or bumper plate to start. The slightly larger hip angle will help keep the spine upright. If you watch my video again, you’ll see I’m sitting on a 1” rubber mat, which is just what I need to perfect my form at this time. Your end goal should still be to reach the floor.

7. If you have shoulder issues barbell pressing, then feel free to modify this movement by performing it with a neutral grip and dumbbells.

8. Just because your lower body is out of the picture, it doesn’t mean the hips aren’t involved. The hip flexors usually work hard to stabilize the pelvis through the movement, and chances are they’ll feel worked and tight by the end of your workout. Release and stretch them before and after.

About the Author

Lee Boyce (@CoachLeeBoyce) is a strength coach, writer, and former collegiate level sprinter and long jumper. In 2013, he was named to the training and treatment staff for Team Jamaica at the Penn Relays. He’s regularly featured in the largest fitness publications as a writer. Visit his website at www.LeeBoyceTraining.com or check him out on Facebook.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/23/16

Written on April 23, 2016 at 5:16 am, by Eric Cressey

It's a rainy Saturday morning, so what better way to overcome the weather than to check out some good reading material? Here's some excellent stuff I've come across lately:

4 Reasons Fitness Professionals Must Understand Corrective Exercise and Post-Rehab Training - I wrote up this post a few years ago, but wanted to bring it back to the forefront in light of the fact that Dean Somerset put his excellent resource, Post-Rehab Essentials, on sale for $50 off through the end of the weekend.

PRE-header-final

"Because My Boss Sucks" is a Sh**ty Reason to Open Your Own Gym - The title is a bit aggressive, but my business partner, Pete Dupuis, wrote up a great post for all the fitness professionals out there who are considering opening their own facilities. 

Scaling Up Excellence - I finished up this excellent book by Robert Sutton on my drive back to Massachusetts last weekend. It's targeted toward managing growth of businesses, but has a ton of invaluable messages for coaches, too.

scaling-up-excellence

I've also decided to start including my top Tweet and Instagram posts of the week in this weekly feature. Here they are:

 

Top Tweet:

throwing

Top Instagram Post:

Have a great weekend!

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10 Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success

Written on April 14, 2016 at 7:57 am, by Eric Cressey

With my presentation tomorrow in Charlotte, I'll be kicking off my tenth year of speaking on the Perform Better Tour. It's hard to believe that I've been a part of this great experience for a decade now, having given my first presentation back in 2007 at age 25. To "commemorate" this event, I decided to entitle this year's talk, "10 Years, 10 Lessons: How to Perform Better in Business and Training."

PB

In the ten years I've had the honor of presenting on the PB Tour, a lot has changed in my life. I've gone from a single guy with minimal responsibilities to a married father of 16-month-old twin daughters. We have Cressey Sports Performance facilities in both Hudson, MA and Jupiter, FL, and my wife and I split our year between the two. We've got more than a dozen employees between the two locations. I've written six books, co-created six DVD sets, and lectured in six countries and 22 U.S. states. This website now gets over 400,000 unique visitors each month.

I mention these things not to brag, but only to emphasize that I've learned a ton in the past decade. Unfortunately, it's far too much to include in a single 75-minute presentation, so there were some important points that I couldn't include. With that in mind, I thought a quick blog on the topic would allow me to bring things to the forefront. Since EricCressey.com typically sticks to the training realm, I wanted to highlight some fitness business lessons that have come to mind that didn't quite make the cut for my presentation.

1. There are tremendous parallels among business, sports, and military success.

Whether it's leadership or culture lessons, we always have something to gain in seeking out wisdom from other disciplines. I always have an audiobook "in play" on this front. Success leaves clues, regardless of the industry in which it occurs. 

If you're looking for a great book in this regard, I'd recommend Extreme Ownership.

extreme-ownership

2. Contrarians falter eventually - even if they don't realize it.

Particularly in this social media era, you'll see people who always insist on being contrarians. To me, this is a "short-term gain, long-term pain" strategy for professional success (or lack thereof). Being a "renegade" may seem appealing for garnering attention in the short term, but over the long haul, it'll lead to a lot of broken relationships and dissatisfaction.

I spend a LOT of time withholding what I'd really like to say on social media because you never know who is reading and judging. It's easy to say "I got this many retweets for ranting about XYZ," but it's impossible to quantify bridges burned in the process. How many people chose to avoid training with you because you came across as too negative on social media? You'll really never know. To that end, I think that professional restraint has served me very well. I'd much rather be vanilla and get along with everyone.

3. You can change behaviors or beliefs, but it's very rare feat to change both.

You're better off picking one. I first read this in Robert Sutton's Scaling Up Excellence, and as I thought back on my work with both employees and clients, it couldn't have possibly made any more sense.

scaling-up-excellence

If someone is very set in their beliefs (e.g., I won't change my diet), you need to change the surroundings to impact their behaviors (e.g., get junk food out of the house). Make it harder for them to eat like crap.

If someone is set in their behaviors (e.g., lifting with brutal technique), you have to change their beliefs (e.g., teach them what good technique actually is). Make it harder for them to "accept" lifting like crap.

4. Clients want novelty.

No matter how much we've all convinced ourselves that clients simply need the basics, the truth is that they'll always be inclined to seek out novelty. With that in mind, if you don't plan to create it in your training programs, you better create it in your training atmosphere and culture.

5. It's much easier to spend other people's money than it is to spend your own.

This is my response when people ask me whether I think it's a good idea to bring on investors or bank loans when starting a fitness industry. When someone else is throwing in the cash, it's pretty tempting to buy 17 different kinds of leg curl machines when you probably don't even need one.

Think long and hard about whether you need every single dollar you spend when you open a gym.

6. I'm not sure that I buy the "10,000 Hour to Mastery" rule.

Malcolm Gladwell first introduced the 10,000 Hour Rule in his best-seller, Outliers. The premise was pretty simple: those who were remarkably successful in their fields had accumulated 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to attain a level of mastery.

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As is the case with a number of other people in the field, I'm not so sure about this number anymore. 

First, I know of a lot of people who have 10,000 hours that really haven't done much of it with deep study. There are a lot of people who lead very distracted lives. "Deliberate" practice seems to mean something different to everyone.

Second, I think that fitness business success requires mastery in multiple realms. The chances of you getting sufficient amounts in all of these realms over 10,000 hours are really low. For instance, to build on what Michael Gerber presented in The E-Myth, I'd say that I'm a pretty good technician (coach) and entrepreneur (idea generator), but still have a lot to learn as a manager of people. 

Third, remember that we're in a constantly changing field; new research emerges every single day. Putting in 10,000 hours of archaeology training might make you a fossil expert for life, but in the fitness industry, putting in 10,000 hours early in your career and then getting comfortable makes you the fossil - and really quickly.

7. It's good to know your personality and have others who do, too, to keep things in check.

I'm a giver, an eternal optimist, and an "idea guy."

I have a wife that is quick to tell me when someone is taking advantage of my kindness.

I have a business partner, Pete Dupuis, who slows me down on the ideas front to think things through.

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Having a great network is important, but having people who understand your personality and not just your expertise is invaluable.

8. Be succinct.

In coaching, you want your cues to be clear, concise, and firm. Don't overwhelm clients with too many cues, and don't give a cue unless you can deliver it with 100% confidence.

In networking, don't send long emails, especially if it's a first outreach. In this busy world, nobody wants to read a novel. Attention spans (mine included, admittedly) are growing shorter and shorter with each passing day.

With your resume, don't list every single course that you’ve taken in college. If you include any at all, only highlight the ones that had a profound impact on you or give you a competitive advantage as compared to other applicants. In fact, you're probably better off trimming your whole resume down. Nobody cares that you scooped ice cream for a summer job when you were 13.

9. Solve problems.

Every successful business in any industry solves a problem.

Paypal made currency transfer easier in an era of writing checks and cumbersome bank transfers.

The Diaper Genie eliminated the problem of dirty diapers smelling up the house if you didn't take the trash out every two hours. Don't laugh, it sold for $75 million all the way back in 1999.

Cressey Sports Performance offered innovative baseball-specific strength and conditioning when others didn't; we found a gap in the market and filled it.

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With all this in mind, if there are already three Crossfits in your town, are you really solving a problem by opening the fourth? Unless you're willing to go down the miserable path of competing on price, you better think long and hard about how you're going to differentiate your offering so that you can actually solve a problem that hasn't already been solved.

10. Peers are likely just as important as mentors.

This is a lesson I've learned from watching about nine years worth of Cressey Sports Performance intern classes. Consider our staff the mentors who are doing the teaching, and the interns as peers to each other. The mentor group hasn't changed much, with the exception of some staff expansion and more expertise at the interns' fingertips. The curriculum has evolved to provide more education, and fine tune the way we teach older material.

However, looking back, some intern classes seemed to thrive a little more than others. When you consider all the factors that could impact these outcomes, the one that seems to stand out is the camaraderie among the intern class. If they lived together - or at least spent a lot of time outside the gym together - they seemed to do even better. Peers have a pronounced impact on the way we process information and, just as importantly, how we reflect upon and utilize it.

Looking back on my own early career development, I was really fortunate to have great peers. My collaborative efforts with Mike Robertson in the early 2000s definitely stand out above all else on this front. Mike really pushed me to be better, and I think he'd say that I did the same for him.

Building on this, what becomes even more powerful is when a mentor becomes a peer. Alwyn Cosgrove really took me under his wing about a decade ago, and now that I'm a more seasoned fitness professional and business owner, I can contribute more of value to discussions with Alwyn. Likewise, I find myself reaching out to former interns of mine for advice all the time. And, sometimes we hire them to "formalize" their "peer" status.

As the old saying goes, you're an average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Make sure that it's a good blend of mentors and peers.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/8/16

Written on April 8, 2016 at 3:07 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Friday! I hope everyone is gearing up for a great weekend. Before you kick off the festivities, though, here are a few good reads to wrap up your week:

The $100 Billion Hoax - My buddy Adam Bornstein authored this fantastic post on how outrageously spending has increased in the health, fitness, and nutritional supplement sectors while Americans have become more obese than ever.

Fergus Connolly Coaching Series: Part 1 - Great Coaches - This was a fantastic article written by Fergus Connolly, who has a fantastic background in sports science at the highest levels.

The Arm - Jeff Passan recently released this great read - and it's the culmination of several years of research all around the country to examine the causes of the pitching injury epidemic. He actually stopped by CSP-Florida last spring to interview me. The finished product is great "infotainment," where you'll learn to see injuries through a different light while being drawn in by various stories on baseball development, new research on the horizon, and rehabilitation struggles. I'll be posting an interview with Jeff on EricCressey.com soon.

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