Home 2007 May

Open Top Ten from Eric Cressey

Strength coaches have in recent years emerged as critical components to top level athletes looking for the competitive edge. What advice would you impart on those seeking a career in this field?

1. Learn functional anatomy.

2. Read at least one hour per day.

3. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do professionally and personally – good lifters and coaches. Intern, drive hours to train, etc. Build a big network.

4. Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It has nothing to do with training, but everything to do with being successful in whatever it is you do. The same goes for “Under the Bar” by Dave Tate.

5. Recognize that you’re more than just a strength coach and be versatile: mobility, regeneration strategies, nutrition, speed training, etc. It’s not just about strength.

6. Work smarter instead of longer. If you train people 12 hours per day, cut back and consolidate your clients into group training sessions. Use the time you’ve freed up to read, call/visit other coaches, and do what it takes to make yourself better. Income is temporary; knowledge sticks around forever.

7. When you’re starting out, read three training books to every one business book. Once you’ve been rolling for a while, shift it to a 1:1 ratio. Learn to leverage the abilities and knowledge you’ve accumulated.

8. Compete in something. Chess. Curling. Anything. Just do whatever it takes to share the competitive mindset with your athletes.

9. Swear less and coach/cue more. Athletes get desensitized to your yelling, and you look like a tool. Almost all of the best coaches I’ve ever seen have been relatively quiet in the weight room; it’s because they coach well at the beginning, so they just needed to sit back and fine-tune tactfully as time goes on.

10. Your #1 responsibility in working with an athlete/client is to not f**k them up. Your #2 responsibility is to provide programming and coaching that will prevent injury. Training to enhance performance is #3, but in every case, attending to #1 and #2 will always get you started on #3.

Eric Cressey

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A Carrot, An Egg, and A Bag of Ground Coffee

I just started working with a highly-ranked baseball and football prospect who – at the age of 17 – has already accumulated two stress fractures in his lumbar spine. His baseball season actually ended prematurely due to aggravation of one of these fractures. Given his potential, these injuries have been a local story of interest over the past year.

This morning, when she learned that I’d be working with him, another one of my clients came out and asked me, “Can you ever feel comfortable working with someone with injuries like that? Aren’t you scared about everything that could go wrong?”

Honestly – and confidently – I came right back with “No.” And, I followed up with a paraphrased story originally introduced to me by John Maxwell in “The Difference Maker.”

In trying to teach his daughter a lesson about life, a father takes out a carrot, an egg, and a bag of ground coffee. He then proceeds to add hot water to all three.

The carrot goes from solid to weak and mushy.

The egg goes from fragile to firm.

The ground coffee changes to become something better: a hot cup of coffee.

The lesson, the father insists, is that you have to look at your problems in life as if they are the hot water. They can make you weak and mushy – and easily broken. Or, they can simply harden you – and make you more unphased by future problems. Finally, they can make you better immediately, too – whether intentionally or not (let’s not forget that penicillin was discovered as the result of a botched experiment).

So, how does this apply to our young athlete? The problems, in this instance, are injuries – both mine and those of the individuals with whom I’ve worked in the past.

I’ve dealt with numerous injuries – some from before I ever got into this industry – myself: everything from a torn rotator cuff to a lumbar disc injury. In each case, they’ve hardened me – and motivated me to learn everything I can about the specific injury, its cause, rehabilitation, and post-rehabilitation training approaches – all while striving to maintain a training effect myself.

In clients, I’ve seen problems at every single joint – and in doing so, have carved out a niche for myself in the industry as a corrective exercise guy. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a physical therapist and what I do is a complementary approach to what they do; I work hand-in-hand with PTs and doctors.

Where I come in is with the “gray area” between healthy people and those in physical therapy – whether that means helping those with aches and pains that don’t truly qualify for physical therapy, helping reintegrate those who are just finishing up with physical therapy to more normal programming, or simply giving those in physical therapy a solid training effect in spite of their injury limitations.

Effectively, what other trainers and coaches might perceive as a problem is something I see as an opportunity to showcase my best stuff and win people over for life. So how did I get there?

First, I made my network as strong as it can be. I have dozens of people – from Dr. Stuart McGill, to Bill Hartman, to John Pallof, to Gray Cook, to Dr. Ryan Smith, to Michael Hope, to Mike Robertson, to Dr. David Tiberio (among others) – who I can call or email anytime if I need feedback on a specific condition.

Second, I read everything I can get my hands on and attend as many seminars as possible. Whether it’s Shirley Sahrmann, Florence Kendall, Dr. McGill, Robert Donatelli, or any of a number of other notables from the clinical realm, I actually enjoy reading about what others perceive as boring – mostly because I can see how it directly relates to what I’m going to do – or confirms or refutes what I’ve done in the past.

Third, I follow the mantra, “Be as aggressive as possible, but do no harm.” As Mike Boyle has said, “Does it hurt?” is a yes or no question. This common sense also comes into play in terms of knowing when to refer out when I first meet a client who is up-in-the-air on whether or not to go to physical therapy. When in doubt, refer out.

Fourth, I used experience to build my confidence. I’ve seen lumbar fractures in and Olympic bobsledder and NBA 7-footers (whose spines are, for the record, a LOT more difficult to stabilize). Comparatively speaking, why would a high school athlete’s injury be any more worrisome for me? He’s younger, and therefore more resilient – and given his training status, he’s more trainable – indicating a larger potential window of adaptation. Consider also that this athlete came to me in part because I helped one of his teammates – who went to the same doctor and wore the same back brace – with a similar problem, and also because his coach recommended me with unwavering support because of the results I’ve produced with several of his other athletes.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, over the past few years, I’ve established assessments and training progressions for all the commonplace injuries I encounter. With a system in place, it’s much easier to just tinker with minor adjustments on the fly rather than reinvent the wheel each time a new situation arises.

It’s taken me about six years to pull my network together, read a ton of books, attend dozens of seminars, and accumulate all my assessments and progressions – and I recognize that this collection is still a work in progress and will be throughout my career.

A few weeks ago, Alwyn Cosgrove wrote that Craig Ballantyne had said that he had spent more on continuing education in the first five months of 2007 than he MADE in his first year as a trainer. Immediately, I went and checked my financials for the year and realized that I’m in the same boat – and by a lot!

The take-home message is that the guys who have expedited their development are the ones who are looking at problems (for guys like Craig and Alwyn, it’s overweight clients) as ways to make hard-boiled eggs and coffee instead of mushy carrots. They’ve helped thousands of people reach their goals and made a great living from what could have been perceived as a daunting task.

And, they’re also the ones who view continuing education purchases as investments and not expenses. Ask any of these guys if they’d pay a few hundred bucks to fast-forward their development a few years, and they’d probably be willing to pay a few thousand dollars; time and effort are precious commodities!

Accelerated development for trainers is one of the reasons Mike Robertson and I put together the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set:


The feedback on this front has been nothing short of fantastic:

Building the Efficient Athlete is an amazing product from which I learned a ton. I studied in kinesiology, read books on functional anatomy and evaluating clients and athletes, and I can still say that I learned a lot of valuable information. And this is really the kind of practical knowledge you can apply today in assessments and training of your clients as well as your own training.

Eric and Mike do a very good job of covering the whole process of assessing and evaluating the athlete and how to interpret the results and apply it in their training. There are also a great deal of cues and tips to properly teach all of the main exercises. Even though I've been lifting for seven years and coaching for about three years and I knew how to lift properly, I learned more easy ways to easily teach those lifts.

Great job guys! I recommend BTEA to everyone serious about impro ving their health and performance.

David Lasnier
Montreal, Quebec


With all this in mind, regardless of your personal or professional goals, what are you doing to transform your problems into your strengths?

Eric Cressey
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Mastering the Deadlift: Part II

You'd be hard-pressed to find a single weight-training movement that's more "complete" than the deadlift. It's not just an upper or lower back exercise, or a grip exercise, or a posterior chain exercise, or a core exercise; it's an everything exercise. To that end, it's a must-have in any lifter, athlete, or weekend warrior's training arsenal. Unfortunately, as with any compound lift, the deadlift can get pretty technical. If you're going to be using big weights in hopes of getting big results, you need to make sure that you're lifting with proper technique. With that in mind, I'm first going to show the entire (conventional-style) movement in still frames, and then I'll show it to you in video form at regular speed. Finally, I'll come back and list the common errors that people make when deadlifting. Continue Reading... Sign up for our FREE Newsletter today and and receive this deadlift technique video!
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Indispensable Lifts

Any lifts you would say are indispensable, no matter what type of sport one is involved in?

Well, we know people need to squat, deadlift, bench, row, and do chin-ups, but for whatever reason, the big ones I see people overlooking are single-leg movements – and I’m not just talking about lunges. You need to look at three different categories:

1. Static Unsupported – 1-leg squats (Pistols), 1-leg RDLs
2. Static Supported – Bulgarian Split Squats
3. Dynamic – Lunges, Step-ups

From there, you can also divide single-leg movements into decelerative (forward lunging) and accelerative (slideboard work, reverse lunges). I’ve found that accelerative movements are most effective early progressions after lower extremity injuries (less stress on the knee joint). I think that it’s ideal for everyone to aim to get at least one of each of the three options in each week. If one needed to be sacrificed, it would be static supported. Because static unsupported aren’t generally loaded as heavily and don’t cause as much delayed onset muscle soreness, they can often be thrown in on upper body days.

Of course, I’m the corrective exercise guy, so people obviously need to be doing their mobility and activation drills along with plenty of scapular stability and rotator cuff work.

Eric Cressey
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Combining Resources: The Proper Warm-Up

I was trying to put together a couple warm ups from The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual as well as the Magnificent Mobility and Inside-Out DVD. It looks like The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual has a lot of exercises from Magnificent Mobility, although it also has foam rolling.

I'm thinking of adding a little foam rolling before the mobility/activition drills, but also was wondering about the upper body days. I know there is a lot of difference in the Inside-Out recommnedations and what is in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Should I lean more towards what is the Inside-Out DVD, or try to make a combination of what is in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual and the Inside-Out DVD?

Go with a combination. Here's a taster of what I'm using with one of my athletes this month, as an example.

Lower Body Days
Foam Rolling:
-IT Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae
-Hip Flexors
-Thoracic Extension
-Piriformis (tennis ball)
-Calves (tennis ball)
-Infraspinatus (tennis ball)
Seated 90/90 Static Stretch 15s/side
Warrior Lunge Static Stretch 15s/side
Birddog 8/side
Wall Ankle Mobilizations 8/side
Hip Corrections 8/side
Pull-Back Butt Kick 5/side
Cradle Walk 5/side
Walking Spidermans 5/side
Bowler Squats 8/side
Overhead Lunge Walks 5/side
Quadruped Extension-Rotation 8/side
Split-Stance Broomstick Pec Mobilizations 8/side

Upper Body Days
Foam Rolling:
-IT Band/Tensor Fasciae Latae
-Hip Flexors
-Thoracic Extension
-Piriformis (tennis ball)
-Calves (tennis ball)
-Infraspinatus (tennis ball)
Seated 90/90 Static Stretch 15s/side
Warrior Lunge Static Stretch 15s/side
Supine Bridge 1x12
X-band Walk 12/side
Windmills 10/side
Multiplanar Hamstrings Mobilizations 5/5/side
Reverse Lunge with Posterolateral Reach 5/side
Squat-to-Stand w/Diagonal Reach 5/side
Levator Scapulae/Upper Trap Stretch 15s/side
Side-Lying Internal-External Rotations 8/side
Scap Pushup 1x15
Scapular Wall Slides 1x12

All Warm-Ups Barefooted

Eric Cressey

Why Magnificent Mobility:

The principle problem with pure flexibility is that it does not imply stability nor readiness for dynamic tasks. We need to have mobile-stability at all our joints; there’s really no use in being able to attain a given range of motion if you can’t stabilize yourself in that position. Excessive passive flexibility without mobility (or dynamic flexibility, as it’s been called) will actually increase the risk of injury! Amazingly, it’s not uncommon at all to see individuals with circus-like passive flexibility fail miserably on dynamic tasks. Don't fall behind.
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Cricket: Training for Speed-Strength

Q: Cricket is essentially a “speed-strength” based game - hitting, throwing and running. However, it requires players to play for long periods - anything between 2-6 hours a day. How can players include these opposing factors in their training?

A: One of the things you always have to concede with any sport is that you're always going to be riding a few horses with one saddle. Ironman competitors will never squat 500 with their aerobic training stimuli, and powerlifters won't compete in Ironman events because training to do so would interfere with their strength gains. All other sports fall somewhere in the middle between these extremes.??From a general standpoint, you train to become more efficient as an athlete. First, you have to do so biomechanically by ironing out muscle imbalances. You need to be a better athlete before you can be a better cricket player. So, mobility and activation work, soft-tissue quality initiatives, and appropriate resistance training is key to success on this front.??Next, you have to be efficient in the context of your sporting movements - and that's where tactical work comes in.??What you're referring to with this question is one-third of the efficiency equation: metabolic efficiency. The more aerobic a sport, the sooner you'll need to prioritize intensive metabolic conditioning in the off-season period. So, a soccer player would require it sooner than a football player. I go into great detail on this in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual.??Cricket is a bit of middle-ground, though. From a duration standpoint, it's clearly a long event at times. However, it isn't necessarily continuous; it's more along the lines of what you see in baseball - which is basically a completely anaerobic sport. You sprint, stand around for an extended period, and sprint again - possibly even 30-60 minutes later! Just because the matches/games last 4-5 hours doesn't mean that they're aerobic - or that you need to train for them with repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise with INCOMPLETE rest.??My suggestion is to do what it takes to be fast and powerful - and let the duration of the matches just fall into place. Attend to nutrition/hydration and recovery protocols well, and the physical qualities you've built will sustain themselves in spite of the duration of the match. And, if you're crazy athletic, chances are that you'll win those matches a lot sooner.

Eric Cressey

Get your Questions Answered.

Don't Make The Same Mistakes as your Competition. Utilize Your Off-Season.
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A Single Off-Season

The hits on this particular night pinged loudly off the bats, traveled far, and were seemingly endless. With contributions from up and down the lineup, the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional baseball squad had piled up 13 runs by the end of the second inning.

The Boston Globe on Eric's High School Baseball Players
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“Puny and Weak” ISO “Size and Strength”

I was considering purchasing The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. I just wanted to ask if it is useful for the average joe to use. I'm an 18 year old guy who's a senior in high school. I don't partake any sports per se. So, I don't have a season. Maybe I'll play a game of football or soccer or throw some hoops around with the guys.

But, right now I'm a puny, skinny, 130 lbs. 5'8 teenager. I was wondering if this manual can help increase my muscle size, increase my strength, speed, and explosiveness? Also, I just stopped smoking a couple of days ago. So, my cardiovascular capacity pretty much...sucks! Is there any information on how to improve my cardiovascular endurance?

I was also thinking of getting Magnificent Mobility to increase flexibility. Also, in regards to nutrition I own Berardi's Precision Nutrition, so I got that area covered.

Thanks for bearing with this long post. I hope to hear from you soon.

Good question - and I've actually received the same inquiry from a few people now. Here's my (admittedly-biased) take on things:

If you've read stuff from Mike Robertson, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Boyle, Kelly Baggett, and me (among a few others), I hope one message you've taken away from the articles is that the ordinary weekend warrior would be a lot better off if he'd train more like an athlete. The strength work athletes do helps you move bigger weights and build more muscle while burning more calories to stay lean. The movement training keeps you functional and helps you with energy system work to keep your body composition in check. The mobility work keeps you healthy and functional so that you can stand up to all the challenges in your training programs without getting injured.

This manual shows you how all those pieces fit together at different times of year, and it also provides a lot of "stuff you just ought to know" if you train. Another cool thing is that you'll actually start to watch sports on TV in a different light; you'll begin to pick up on the little things that make each athlete unique.

And, if all that isn't enough, you've got 30 weeks of sample programming to keep things interesting. :)

Again, great question!

Eric Cressey

Get Your Questions Answered.

Crush the Competition.

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Mastering The Deadlift: Part I

Everyone knows how valuable the deadlift can be, but not everyone does it regularly. Yeah, a few people are just plain lazy, but many are simply afraid. They've never been taught to do it safely and are concerned that they'll get hurt if they push the weights without assurance that their form is on-point. With that in mind, this series was born. Here I'll give you a full-on analysis of a good deadlift, examples of every single deadlift debacle you'll see in the gym, and provide you with plenty of deadlift variations you can incorporate into your training for longstanding success with this fantastic movement. First, though, we need to cover eight prerequisite issues to set the stage. Continue Reading...
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The Underrated Exercises

What are the three most underrated and underused exercises? Does it differ across gender?

Well, I'm not sure that the basics - squats, deadlifts, various presses, pull-ups, and rows - can ever be considered overrated or overappreciated in both a male and female population.

Still, I think that single-leg exercises are tremendously beneficial, but are ignored by far too many trainers and lifters. Variations of lunges, step-ups, split squats, and single-leg RDLs play key roles in injury prevention and development of a great lower body.

Specific to females, we know that we need a ton of posterior chain work and correctly performed single-leg work to counteract several biomechanical and physiological differences. Namely, we're talking about quad dominance/posterior chain weakness and an increased Q-angle. Increasing glute and hamstrings strength and optimizing frontal plane stability is crucial for resisting knock-knee tendencies and preventing ACL tears. If more women could do glute-ham raises, the world would be a much better place!

Eric Cressey
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series