It's time for the January edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training. Before I get to it, though, just a friendly reminder that today is also the last day of the introductory $50 off sale on Cressey Sports Performance Innovations. Don't miss out on this chance to get our new resource at a great price. You can learn more HERE.
Since my presentation is "Scapular Control: Implications for Health and High Performance," I thought I'd take an upper extremity approach to this month's cues.
1. If you want to relax the neck, talk or exhale.
One of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make when they're doing upper body work is aggressively recruiting the muscles surrounding the neck. In particular, we know that a hypertonic sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and scalenes can be implicated in not only neck pain, but also headaches and thoracic outlet syndrome.
In most cases, simply telling an athlete to relax or repositioning their head/neck will get the job done. However, another strategy you can employ is to have them exhale through the exertion phase, or simply talk during the set. Both the scalenes and SCM are accessory muscles of inhalation and this forces them to relax a bit so that you can build tension where you really want it.
2. When it comes to scapular control, nothing beats kinesthetic awareness coaching cues.
As I've written at length in the past, I'm a big believer in categorizing all athletes by their dominant learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory.
Visual learners can watch you demonstrate an exercise, and then go right to it.
Auditory learners can simply hear you say a cue, and then pick up the desired movement or position.
Kinesthetic learners seem to do best when they're actually put in a position to appreciate what it feels like, and then they can crush it.
My experience with teaching scapular positioning has been that option #3 - actually putting someone in the position you want - is the quickest and easiest way to teach someone about scapular positioning. This is likely because:
a. The scapula is a unique bone with some unique movements (upward/downward rotation, anterior/posterior tilt) that aren't familiar to most people
b. You're always wearing a shirt when demonstrating drills, which makes it harder to see these subtle movements as they occur.
When in doubt, put a shoulder blade in the position you desire and then ask an individual to hold it and own it.
3. Uncontrolled end ranges are bad for the scapulothoracic joint, just like every other joint.
Here's something to consider...
We know that if you repeatedly flex and extend the spine to its end-ranges, you'll eventually wind up in trouble - whether it's a herniated disc, stress fracture, or some other pathology.
We also know that if you repeatedly hyperextend an elbow, you'll eventually wind up with loose bodies in the joint, early osteoarthritis, or a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
The point is that it's important to have sufficient range of motion - and stability in that ROM - but not excessive ROM. Hanging out at any end range probably isn't a good idea.
Interestingly, though, we overlook the fact that the scapulothoracic joint - the interaction of the shoulder blade with the rib cage - is subject to these rules. In particular, one issue that sometimes emerges is an excessive "military posture" of scapular adduction (toward the midline) and depression when folks are cued "down and back" without understanding what it really means.
These athletes often get neck/upper back flare-ups when they do a lot of deadlifting, carries, or even too much horizontal pulling. The shoulder blades are so far pulled back that it becomes a faulty stabilization strategy instead of a strong base from which to perform.
4. A PVC dowel is a super affordable way to do a lot of great things for your upper body work.
I was looking at a program I wrote for one of our pro guys yesterday, and realized that we used the PVC dowel for three different exercises in a single training day. That's as much as barbells and dumbbells - but you can buy the piece of PVC for around $1. You won't find a piece of training equipment that offers that kind of bang for your buck - and this realization made me think back to this video CSP coach Greg Robins filmed a few years ago. These options are really just the tip of the iceberg, too:
Have a great Sunday - and don't forget about the CSP Innovations sale that ends tonight! Learn more HERE.
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I figured it'd be a good time to add another installment to this series, as today is the last day of the sale on Greg Robins and my resource, The Specialization Success Guide. Through midnight tonight (Sunday), you can save 40% by entering the coupon code ROBINS at checkout HERE.
Here are six strategies to help you in your strength pursuits:
1. Be a beltless badass.
My wife has a very good deadlift for someone who's never competed in powerlifting; she's pulled close to 300 pounds, which is about 2.5 times her body weight. What's most impressive to me, though, is that even when she gets up to 95-100% of her best deadlift, her form never breaks down. This has a lot to do with consistent coaching early on, and the right pace to progressions over the ten years I've known her.
That said, I also think that it has a ton to do with never wearing a lifting belt. Seriously, she has never put on one. Likewise, I have athletes who have been with us for close to a decade who have never worn one, either. I'm a big believer:
[bctt tweet="Optimal long-term technique and strength success is built on a beltless foundation."]
Interesting, on this point, I reached out to Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio, who coaches our women's powerlifting team. He said that most of his novice lifters will gain about 20% on their squat and deadlifts by wearing a belt.
Conversely, Tony himself gets about 9%, and I'm slightly less than that (6-7%). I reached out to some very accomplished lifters, and after crunching the numbers between raw and belted PRs, none of them were over 10% difference.
To this end, I think a big training goal should be to reduce the "Belt Deficit." Training beltless is a great way to make sure that "ugly strength" doesn't outpace technique in beginning lifters, and it can also be a hugely helpful training initiative for more advanced lifters who may have become too reliant on this implement.
2. Don't be afraid to gain some weight.
Make no mistake about it; you can improve strength without gaining weight. It can, however, be like trying to demolish a 30-story building with an ice pick instead of dynamite.
I've had some success as lightweight (165-181-pound class) lifter, but this can be misleading because there have been multiple times in my lifting career when I've pushed calories to make strength gains come faster. In the fall of 2003, for instance, I went from 158 up to 191, and then cut back to a leaner 165. In the summer of 2006, I got up to 202, then back down to the mid 180s. These weight jumps made me much more comfortable supporting heavy weights in the squat and bench press, as a little body weight goes a long way on these lifts.
3. Learn to evaluate progress in different ways.
Traditionally, powerlifters have only cared about evaluating progress with the "Big 3" lifts. Unfortunately, those aren't going to improve in every single training session. To some degree, the Westside system of powerlifting works around this by rotating "Max Effort" exercises - but even with rotating exercises, it's still an approach that relies on testing maximal strength on a very regular basis. Occasionally, it'll lead to disappointments even over the course of very successful training cycles.
For this reason, we always encourage individuals to find different ways to monitor progress. Tracking bar speed can be great, whether you have technology to actually do it, or you're just subjectively rating how fast you're lifting. A lower rating of perceived exertion (RPE) at a given weight would also indicate progress.
Volume based measures are also useful. Hitting a few more reps with the same weight during your assistance work is invaluable; those reps add up over the course of a longer training cycle. Also, making a training session more dense (more work in the same or less amount of time) can yield great outcomes.
Looking for more strength strategies or - better yet - programs to take the guesswork out of things for you? Check out The Specialization Success Guide, a resource for those specifically focused on improving the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Through the end of the day today, you can enter the coupon code ROBINS to save 40% off the normal price.
Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
This weekend is going to be a fun one for the Cressey Sports Performance family, as long-time staff member Greg Robins marries his wonderful fiancée, Taryn. When you combine Greg's 685-pound deadlift with Taryn's 320-pound deadlift, you quickly realize that a 1,000-pound combined pull makes them the very definition of a "power couple."
Greg was also my co-creator The Specialization Success Guide, so it seemed like a perfect week to have a Power Couple Sale (because weddings are all about cheesy hashtags and taglines). This 100% digital product is a great resource for those looking to specifically improve the squat, bench press, or deadlift. Just enter the coupon code ROBINS (all CAPS) to receive a 40% discount at checkout at the following link:
We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, September 25, we’ll be hosting our fifth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past four years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.
Here are the presentation topics:
Pete Dupuis -- Business Before Branding
All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by focusing on branding before establishing a solid business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need efficient systems, a sound team, and concrete training philosophies. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but a consistent and predictable service retains the lifetime value of a customer. In this presentation, Pete will take an in-depth look at the core values, systems and principles that helped to create the foundation of our success at Cressey Sports Performance.
Miguel Aragoncillo -- Enhancing Performance with Plyometrics
Are you using bounding, jumping, skipping or hopping in your exercise programs? From track and field to team sports, plyometrics can enhance your performance. Miguel will cover plyometric basics to address various aspects of speed and power development. Whether you're a trainer or want to improve your own performance, this presentation will cover coaching and programming based on your goals. This presentation includes a hands-on component to identify specific techniques when performing jump training.
Greg Robins -- Lessons in Savagery
Nothing can replace old fashioned hard work in the weight room, but a savage work ethic and intelligent programming don't have to be mutually exclusive. Greg will share several important lessons to get strong, build muscle and become a savage without sacrificing the fundamentals of quality physical preparation.
Chris Howard -- What Massage Can Do for Your Strength Training
Massage therapy is often used to treat pain in the strength and conditioning setting. However, after seven years as a strength coach and massage therapist, Chris has developed methods to integrate massage into training programs for improved performance in healthy individuals. In this presentation, Chris will share his lessons learned on how massage therapy can benefit professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.
Tony Bonvechio -- Reverse Engineering the Novice Powerlifter
The rising popularity of powerlifting has sparked a resurgence in heavy barbell training for people of all ages and experience levels. Tony will discuss how to handle a brand-new powerlifter, including considerations for fine-tuning their technique, writing their programs and preparing them for their first competition. This presentation will feature hands-on movement and technique assessments to highlight what truly matters when evaluating powerlifters.
Nancy Newell -- Tackling the Road to ACL Recovery
An estimated 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament tears occur annually in the United States. The majority of these injuries are suffered by 15- to 25-year-olds who want to get back on the field or court as fast as possible. Nancy will examine current research regarding graft selections, risk factors, and how the strength and conditioning coach can help athletes recover both mentally and physically.
Eric Cressey -- Forecasting Fitness
Fifteen years after entering the industry, Eric will make some projections on what the next 15 years will look like in the fields of health and human performance. He'll pay attention to the business, training, and clinical sides of the equation to help fitness professionals to position themselves correctly in the years ahead.
**Bonus 2:30PM Saturday Session**
George Kalantzis and Andrew Zomberg-- The Method Behind CSP Strength Camp Madness
Group training is rapidly overtaking one-on-one training as the most profitable fitness service. However, an effective group fitness system is often difficult to create and sustain. In this session, George and Andrew will take participants through an actual CSP strength camp. The training session will be accompanied by a brief presentation and handouts that dive into the components of programming, coaching and marketing strategies to drive new business and client retention within a group training model.
Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Hudson, MA 01749
Regular Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $129.99, Regular $149.99 Student Rate – Early Bird (before August 25) $99.99, Regular $129.99
The early bird registration deadline is August 25.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
**Bonus session Saturday, September 24 at 2:30pm.
0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (eight contact hours)
We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!
If you have additional questions, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to seeing you there!
PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
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."
How I Accidentally Raised a Professional Athlete - This awesome ESPNW article was written by Edie Ravenelle - who happens to be the mother of long-time Cressey Sports Performance athlete Adam Ravenelle. Adam has trained with us since he was in 8th grade, and won a national championship with Vanderbilt before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers.
Cressey Sports Performance on Snapchat! - CSP just started up a Snapchat account; you can follow us at CresseySP.
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.
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:
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 2015 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 the MLB Draft, to our gold medal win in the 18U Baseball World Cup, to books and DVDs I covered.