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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: 4/1/16

Written on April 1, 2016 at 3:30 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy April Fools' Day! I don't have any clever tricks to play on you, so I'll have to just go with posting good content from around the 'net. Enjoy!

Identifying an Untouched Fitness Niche - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, talks about taking lessons learned in building the CSP baseball niche and applying them to other realms in the fitness industry.

Dry Needling is the Next Big Thing in Physical Therapy - Dr. James Spencer offers a tremendously thorough review of what dry needling is, and how it works. James has been a great resource for many athletes at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida.

7 Priceless Things You'll Learn from the Right Mentor - I loved this article from Krista Scott-Dixon for Precision Nutrition. It parallels some of the great tips on mentorship that Robert Greene covered in Mastery.

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5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises that Overdeliver

Written on February 9, 2016 at 7:31 am, by Eric Cressey

With this week's $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite exercises that are included in the program. I like these, in particular, because they're "anti-isolation" exercises. In other words, they deliver multiple training effects to give gym-goers more efficient training outcomes. Keep in mind that just because I don't include classic compound lifts like squats and deadlifts in this discussion doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely fantastic; I just want to give you a little exposure to some different drills in this post.

1. Kettlebell Crosswalk

Because of the asymmetrical loading, you get some great rotary stability work at the core - on top of the anterior core stability work you get from holding a weight overhead while resisting too much arching of your lower back. You get some outstanding shoulder mobility and stability benefits, as getting the top arm up requires a lot of scapular upward rotation and rotator cuff activation. Finally, an overlooked benefit is the opportunity to reaffirm good neck positioning. A lot of athletes will want to shoot into forward head posture, but if you pack the neck correctly, you'll be able to avoid this.

2. Positional Breathing

I use a wide variety of positional breathing drills as part of The High Performance Handbook program, so this is really more of a "category" than a specific exercise. When you put athletes (especially those with more "extended postures) into a more flexion biased position and encourage them to full exhale, you are effectively training both mobility and stability simultaneously. When you exhale, many of the muscles of inhalation - scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, lats, pec minor (not surprisingly all muscles that have chronic tissue density in many individuals) - all are forced to relax. Concurrently, the rectus abdominus and external obliques fire to get air out - and in the process, establish better anterior core stability.

Here are a few examples:

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge to 1-leg RDL

Whenever I put this in an athlete's program, I go out of my way to warn them that they'll be pretty sore in the days that follow. Lunging and 1-leg RDLs constitute different kinds of single-leg work with different training effects, but when you combine them, you can get the best of both worlds.

This can also be done with one dumbbell at a time. As athletes get more proficient with the drill, I look for more "fluid" transitions, as opposed to a lot of stop-and-go movements.

4. 1-arm KB Turkish Get-up

This one is just too obvious. To do a good get-up, you need everything from a hip hinge, to anterior core control, to shoulder mobility, to single-leg stability.  

 

Not bad for a crafty lefty. #CSPfamily #100lb

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

If you're looking for a great coaching resource on Turkish Get-up Technique, check out Greg Robins' article, 6 Common Turkish Get-up Technique Mistakes.

5. Combination Mobility Exercises

Let's face it: nobody really enjoys mobility warm-ups. Fortunately, for those of you who dread these drills and prefer to get to the lifting as quickly as possible, there are some combination drills that speed up the process a bit. Check out these two examples from the program:

Wrap-up

If you're looking to learn more about how all these different pieces fit with an overall strength and conditioning program "puzzle," then I'd encourage you to check out my most popular resource, The High Performance Handbook. It's on sale for $30 off this week, and offers programs versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of training goals.  

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Register Now for the 1st Annual Cressey Sports Performance – FL Spring Seminar!

Written on January 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, March 13, we’ll be hosting our first spring seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL.  This event has been a big hit at our MA facility, so we decided to bring it to our FL location as well. This event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. As always, 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.

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Here are the presentation topics:

Eric Cressey – Bogus Biomechanics and Asinine Anatomy

The strength and conditioning and rehabilitation fields are riddled with movement myths that just never seem to die. Drawing heavily on case studies, scholarly journals, and what functional anatomy tells us, Eric will “bust” some of the common fallacies you’ll encounter in the strength and conditioning field today. Most importantly, he’ll offer drills and strategies that can be utilized immediately with clients and athletes in place of these antiquated approaches.

Shane Rye (CSP-FL Co-Founder) -- The Hip-Knee Hierarchy

In this presentation, Shane will summarize the current research and anecdotal evidence surrounding the interaction between hip function and knee pain. More importantly, he'll provide training strategies for preventing knee pain - or training around it if pain is already present.

Brian Kaplan (CSP-FL Co-Founder) -- Explosive Control: Making Medicine Ball Drills Work for You

Medicine ball exercises may only be a small percentage of a client's program, but they have a large effect on applying learned functional movement and strength to athletic activities. Coaching and cueing the exercises require an understanding of clients' compensation issues while harnessing their unique movement patterns and current fitness levels.

Pete Dupuis (CSP-MA Co-Founder) -- Business Before Branding

All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by concerning themselves with branding before establishing a tried and tested business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need to be certain that your systems are efficient, your team is sound, and your business and/or training philosophies are concrete. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but it is the business owner who delivers a consistent and predictable service that retains clients and truly experiences 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.

Tim Geromini (CSP-FL Coach) -- Piecing Together the Back Pain Puzzle

At some point in their careers, all fitness professionals will certainly encounter clients suffering from acute and chronic low back pain. The presentation aims to help you understand the complex origins of that pain to assist clients move pain free again. Tim will give special consideration to the collaborative efforts between rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals.

Laura Canteri (CSP-FL Coach) -- Joint Distraction Exercises: Friend or Foe?

Joint distraction has recently become a more popular form of mobility in the fitness community. This technique provides new ranges of motion by creating more “space” inside a joint complex and stretching the surrounding tissues. Most people find immediate, short-term improvements in their range of motion and pain through joint distraction. This quick fix may result in more harm than good; therefore, Laura will take a closer look at some common band distraction exercises that you may want to reconsider.

Tony Bonvechio (CSP-MA Coach) -- Creating Context for More Efficient Coaching

Coaches put endless focus into what they say, but this presentation will illustrate the importance of how they say it. Creating context with your clients goes beyond internal and external cueing, and the ability to create "sticky" teaching moments will get your athletes moving better and more efficiently. Tony will discuss different cueing approaches, how they resonate with different learning styles, and how to say more with less to help your clients learn new movements with ease.

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
880 Jupiter Park Dr.
Suite 7
Jupiter, FL 33458

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Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.99 (must present valid student ID)

Date/Time:

Sunday, March 13, 2016
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education:

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

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

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

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Fairfield Inn in Jupiter, FL offers our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 561-748-5252.


When Do Strength and Conditioning and Fitness Certifications Really Matter?

Written on January 18, 2016 at 8:13 am, by Eric Cressey

It's a question I get all the time:

Is this certification worth it?

Unfortunately, while it is a seemingly simple question, the answer is far from simple. Not all certifications are created equal, and not all trainers, rehabilitation specialists, and strength and conditioning coaches have similar educational needs, certification requirements, and target populations.

Given that each scenario is unique, I'll do my best to give you multiple perspectives in the paragraphs that follow.

First, I'll speak from an employer's perspective. You absolutely, positively need a certification to get your foot in the door in this industry. It's a baseline requirement. Sure, some are better than others, but I would never consider actually hiring someone who didn't have a certification. That's not to say, however, that having multiple certifications makes you a more qualified candidate. Nobody likes that person who have 14 certifications and the resulting "alphabet soup" after his/her name. One certification might very well be enough.

Second, putting myself in potential clients' shoes, they really don't know the differences among NSCA-CSCS, NASM-CPT, QRSTUV, ASAP, and R2-D2. There isn't a certifying body out there who spends enough money and time marketing to the masses to educate them that one certification makes for a better personal trainer than others. It's like me trying to figure out what makes one architect better than another if you just throw a bunch of initials after their names; I'd have no clue. Potential clients turn into actual clients because they've perceived your expertise in some fashion - e.g., word-of-mouth from another client, reading an article, chatting with you, observing a training session, etc. - but it rarely has to do with them becoming familiar with what certification you have.

Third, and most importantly, I'll speak from my own experience. When it comes to certifications, the only questions I ask are:

1. Will this experience provide me with specific information I wouldn't otherwise have?

2. Will this experience provide information I can immediately apply in my interaction with my clients and staff?

3. Is the experience delivered by one of the best in the experience? Can these individuals speak from perspective? Or, are they academics who haven't worked with an actual human in years?

In other words, I'll do a certification for the knowledge, not for the resume building. And, I want to make sure there are practical strategies that have been implemented in the trenches, not in a magical theoretical paradigm.

This is what Dr. John Berardi and his team delivers with the Precision Nutrition Certification. It's what we've worked hard to deliver with our Elite Baseball Mentorships (even though it's not a certification).

EBM-Cressey

And, most recently, it's what Lee Taft has done with his Certified Speed and Agility Coach (CSAC) offering. I'm actually going through the course myself right now, as Lee actually filmed it at Cressey Sports Performance and I got a sneak preview. To say that it's excellent would be an understatement, and we're actually implementing it as part of our staff training curriculum; all CSP coaches will be CSAC by the end of the spring. I really couldn't care less about the initials, though; it's about getting quality information from a guy who has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to teaching speed and agility to athletes from all different sporting disciplines. This program "correctly" answers all three of my questions from above, and that's why it's a go in my eyes.

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Registration for Lee's new certification actually opens today at an introductory $100 off discount, and it'll only stay open for 12 days. If you're looking for top notch direction in coaching movement training with your athletes, look no further. You can check it out HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/13/16

Written on January 13, 2016 at 3:34 am, by Eric Cressey

Here's a bit of recommended strength and conditioning reading to get you over "Hump Day:"

Is There a Recipe for a Great Gym Culture? - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, speaks to how the culture at CSP-Mass has evolved over the years, and how you can take the lessons we've learned and apply it to your unique training facility. 

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The Do and Don't of Coaching - This was an excellent post on a wide variety of important coaching points from Mike Robertson.

Weekly Meal Prep: Mastered - Dr. John Berardi presents a great infographic for those looking to plan their nutrition effectively. I love Precision Nutrition because they are all about specific, actionable items, as opposed to just handing out diet plans and simply telling people to follow them.

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Do Your Strength and Conditioning Progressions Create Context?

Written on January 10, 2016 at 8:11 am, by Eric Cressey

It goes without saying that some athletes pick up new movements faster than others. Usually, this occurs because they have context from which to draw. 

As an example, an athlete might have a great hip hinge because they've done it previously while playing defense in basketball. Having that hip hinge proficiency helps the individual to efficiently learn a deadlift pattern (among many other athletic movements).

Establishing context is just one of many reasons that children should be exposed to a wide variety of free play and athletic endeavors. The more movement variability we have at younger ages, the broader the foundation we build. The wider the base, the more we can stack specific skills on top of it once the time is right.

It's foolish to think, however, that every individual we encounter in personal training, strength and conditioning, or rehabilitation settings will have this broad foundation of context from which to draw. This is where appropriate training progressions become so important. You select exercises with which individuals can be successful not only to build confidence and achieve a training effect, but also to establish context for further progressions.

As an example, if you want to be able to do a quality lateral lunge with overhead reach as part of your warm-up, you've got to be able to string together several movement proficiencies: full shoulder flexion range-of-motion; sufficient thoracic extension and scapular posterior tilt/upward rotation; hip adductor range of motion; hip hinge proficiency; and good stiffness in your anterior core and deep neck flexors to prevent low back arching and forward head posture, respectively.

When I'm teaching this pattern for the first time, I'll always say, "It's just like your back-to-wall shoulder flexion, but with a long lunge to the side."

Back-to-wall shoulder flexion is big-time "context creator" for me because I can teach it to just about anyone really quickly. In fact, I've taught it to seminars with 100+ people without many challenges. More importantly, it creates quality movement from the core all the way up (five of the seven movement prerequisites I noted earlier) - and that has big payoffs later on when one wants to teach anything from a push-up, to a landmine press, to a snatch, to an overhead medicine ball variation.

 

 

#Orioles prospect Will Shepley with a little controlled chaos during this morning's pro crew. #cspfamily #medicineball

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

A lot of folks will read this article and think, "But these is just common sense progressions." I'd agree. However, as we've learned in recent years, in the world of larger group training without individualized programming, common sense isn't so common anymore - and as a result, folks wind up skipping steps and advancing to exercise for which they aren't ready. 

Perhaps more importantly, though, being able to effectively sequence coaching progressions will, in my opinion, become even more important in the years ahead. With the trend of early sports specialization, we're getting "less athletic athletes;" they don't have as much context in place, and wind up having to back-track. Additionally, we have an increasingly sedentary society, which certainly robs individuals of context.

All that said, just remember that if you want to have an exercise in your program, you have to think about how you're going to coach it with all the individuals that may come your way. And, that coaching might involve devising some exercise regressions that build context from which to draw.

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

Written on January 5, 2016 at 6:37 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the first collection of recommended strength and conditioning reading in 2016 - and I've got some good ones for you!

Extreme Ownership - This leadership book was written by two Navy Seals who have moved on to the world of business consulting. They draw on lessons learned in training and combat, and the parallels with business and coaching success are quite strong. It was both entertaining and practical, and I would highly recommend it.

Back Mechanic - This is Dr. Stuart McGill's newest book, and it's an excellent resource more targeted at end-users (i.e., those with low back pain) than his previous works, which really catered to rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals. There are some excellent pearls of wisdom in here and it's definitely something you should have in your library to remain current with a huge problem like low back pain.

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Natural Treatments for the Most Common Medical Problems - Precision Nutrition Drs. John Berardi and Spencer Nadolsky outline some lifestyle modifications that can make a big difference in your health - and potentially help you to avoid or reduce medications.

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The Best of 2015: Strength and Conditioning Features

Written on December 27, 2015 at 7:29 pm, by Eric Cressey

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.    

Installment 9
Installment 10
Installment 11
Installment 12
Installment 13
Installment 14

2. Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective

This coaching series has appeal for fitness professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and exercise enthusiasts alike.

Installment 10
Installment 11
Installment 12
Installment 13

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3. Strength Strategies

We're only two updates in on this series from Greg Robins, but it's been a big hit thus far.

Installment 1
Installment 2

The Best of 2015 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/10/15

Written on December 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm, by Eric Cressey

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading; it's got a big CSP-feel to it!

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Walking Before You Run: Managing Fitness Facility Growth - Here's another excellent piece from my Cressey Sports Performance business partner, Pete Dupuis. A lot of people recognize that starting a business is challenging, but very few recognize that managing growth is equally difficult.

My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 8 - CSP coach Miguel Aragoncillo outlines some great exercise progressions for dealing with those who struggle with single-leg drills.

Pitch-a-Palooza Brain Dump - I spoke at this great event in Nashville last weekend, and CSP Pitching Coordinator Matt Blake wrote up a thorough recap. 

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