Home 2007 May (Page 2)

Take Home Messages for Parents

Many coaches, while well intentioned, haven’t been educated in how children develop, and that is part of the reason kids are pushed so far in sports. Until that changes, it is very important that parents take an active role in their child’s exercise and sports programs to allow for adequate variety, rest, and most importantly, fun. Here are some points to consider for your young athlete:

1. Encourage variety! While some sports may require earlier specialization, it’s best for most athletes to avoid concentrating on only one sport until they’ve at least reached 11th grade.

2. Regardless of your child’s chosen sports, emphasize the importance of resistance training and flexibility drills. These general approaches should take place year-round – even in multi-sport athletes – to reduce the risk of injury, assist in motor development, build confidence, and enhance performance. Without resistance training and flexibility work, young athletes are competing on fumes, not conditioning.

3. Ask your son or daughter candidly if he/she still enjoys his/her sport(s). If the answer is no, look for alternative ways for your child to have fun while exercising. Remember, kids need to play, not compete. When pressure takes the place of fun, it’s time to take a break and put the fun back in exercise.

4. Overuse and traumatic injuries are a sign that the physical challenges imposed on your child have exceeded his/her ability to stand up to them. If these injuries are occurring, your young athlete needs a break in order to get healthy with some corrective exercise programming.

Eric Cressey

Working with Young Athletes? Turn a Good Program into a Great Program.
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Maximal Strength Yields Maximal Vert

With the tests, etc, what would you need to look for in a powerlifting exclusive athlete. Obviously they would focus on strength, but is the speed and rate of force development exercises (reactive training) beneficial as well?

I'm thinking making the SSC more efficient would be beneficial as long as strength is maintained and focused on as well.

Definitely - you're on the right track. There are quite a few lifters who use box jumps and the like in their training. The main interfering factor for a lot of guys is body weight; they just get too heavy for the pounding. If you're 242 or below, though, I think there is a lot of merit to using them. I've subbed in box jumps and broad jumps for DE squat days when I needed to deload or just get the bar off my back for a week.

Interesting little aside...

My buddy Greg Panora was in town back in December for the Christmas holiday, so we got a lift in together. For those who don't know Greg, he's the world record holder at 242 (broke Steve Goggins' old record a few months ago - 1000+ squat, 700 bench, and 800+ deadlift). He lifts at Westside.

Greg is box squatting 495 + greens and blues for speed, and he glances over and sees the Just Jump platform and asks what it is. I tell him we use it to check vertical jump, so he wants to try it. He gets on in beat-up old briefs, Chuck Taylors, and a belt - at a weight of 250 - and jumps 35". Probably could have gone 38" with a deload and proper attire.

Anyone who says maximal strength doesn't matter for jumping and athletic ability is absolutely full of crap. :)

Eric Cressey

Lift Heavier. Jump Higher.

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Nike Shox and High Heels

You've mentioned to me in the past the issues with the ever popular Nike Shox training shoe as well as high heels in women. What's are the potential problems?

When you elevate the heels chronically - via certain sneakers, high-heels, or any other footwear - you lose range of motion in dorsiflexion (think toe-to-shin range of motion). When you lack mobility at a joint, your body tries to compensate by looking anywhere it can to find range of motion. In the case of restricted ankle mobility, you turn the foot outward and internally rotate your lower and upper legs to make up for the deficit. This occurs as torque is "converted" through subtalar joint pronation.

As the leg rotates inward (think of the upper leg swiveling in your hip joint socket), you lose range of motion in external rotation at your hip. This is one of several reasons why females have a tendency to let their knees fall inward when they squat, lunge, deadlift, etc. And, it can relate to anterior/lateral knee pain (think of the term patellofemoral pain ... you've got restriction on things pulling on the patella, and on the things controlling the femur ... it's no wonder that they're out of whack relative to one another). And, by tightening up at the ankle and the hip, you've taken a joint (knee) that should be stable (it's just a hinge) and made it mobile/unstable. You can also get problems at the hip and lower back because ...

Just as losing range of motion at the ankle messes with how your leg is aligned, losing range of motion at your hip - both in external rotation and hip extension - leads to extra range of motion at your lumbar spine (lower back). We want our lower back to be completely stable so that it can transfer force from our lower body to our upper body and vice versa; if you have a lot of range of motion at your lower back, you don't transfer force effectively, and the vertebrae themselves can get irritated. This can lead to bone problems (think stress fractures in gymnasts), nerve issues (vertebrae impinge on discs/nerve roots), or muscular troubles (basic strains).

So, the take-home message is that crappy ankle mobility - as caused by high-top shoes, excessive ankle taping, poor footwear (heel lifts) - can cause any of a number of problems further up the kinetic chain. Sure, we see plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, and shin splints, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can happen.

How do we fix the problems? First, get out of the bad footwear and pick up a shoe that puts you closer in contact with the ground. Second, go barefoot more often (we do it for all our dynamic flexibility warm-ups and about 50% of the volume of our lifting sessions). Third, incorporate specific ankle (and hip) mobility drills - as featured in our Magnificent Mobility DVD.

Oh, I should mention that elevating the heels in women is also problematic simply because it shifts the weight so far forward. If we're dealing with a population that needs to increase recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings, why are we throwing more stress on the quads?

Eric Cressey

Don't Know the Drills? Grab the Magnificent Mobility DVD.
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Children and Elite Athletes: Similar but Different

Just like kids need to learn to ride a bike or read, they need to learn how to use their bodies properly; this is really the premise behind training. Training can improve reaction time and enhance functional capacity, so your athlete can move faster and more easily. And, a solid exercise stimulus can build bone density, decreasing osteoporosis risk down the road. Improving athleticism through training also has amazing effects on a young athlete’s confidence, and research has shown that athletic success has a favorable effect on your sprinter’s classroom performance.

Unlike elite athletes, kids are growing and not all activities are appropriate for them.
This is true for all types of sport, whether recreational or competitive. For kids, injuries at young ages can have long-term impacts on their adult lives. A child’s nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones respond identically to that of the elite athlete – just not necessarily on the same level.

Eric Cressey

Train your athletes right.
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Never Rehashed; Always Reevaluated

After the seminar had winded down in Chicago, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Robertson, and I were chatting it up in the hotel lounge as we waited to leave for the airport. In the middle of the conversation, Alwyn said to me something along the lines of, “Your presentation is getting really good; I caught the second half of it and it’s really polished. I really like the term ‘metabolic debt’ that you used; I’ve always said ‘metabolic disturbance,’ but I like debt better. It describes what I’m trying to say better; I’m going to steal that.”

Needless to say, I was pretty flattered. Here’s a guy who has spoken all over the country about optimal fat loss programming, and he’s constantly looking to get better – not just in the context of the protocols he uses (i.e., seeking out cutting-edge research), but also in the way that he relates it to those who want to understand the “why” instead of just the what.

I starting thinking about it long and hard on the flight home. Since last January, I’ve been to a ton of seminars – both as a speaker and a presenter. I’ve seen both Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Boyle six times, Stuart McGill four times, and Dave Tate, John Berardi, Dan John, Mike Robertson, Brijesh Patel, John Pallof, and Carl Valle twice each…the list goes on and on. I’ve also seen several of them on DVDs, read their writing, and we even communicate via email or phone a weekly (and even daily) basis, too – so what gives? Wouldn’t I get sick of seeing them and talking to them – especially since we’re often repeating presentations in different locations? Isn’t it just the same information rehashed?

Absolutely not – and for the exact reason Alwyn, Mike, Dr. McGill, and Mike Robertson caught my presentation the other day: we’re always looking for two things:

First, subtle changes that have been integrated in terms of ideas – or the way in which they’re related. And second, a chance to review valuable information we might already know – but with a chance to incorporate it into schemas (essentially frames of reference) that we’ve recently incorporated

When I hear somebody reply to an article – or review a book – with a statement like “There’s nothing new here,” I can’t help but think that there "isn’t anything new here" because that individual is simply too lazy to think. And, it explains rather easily why this individual is the one reading the article instead of writing it, or listening to the presentation instead of delivering it.

Set yourself apart by not only seeking out education – but also by being open-minded enough to utilize it effectively.

Andrew Heffernan gets the “Blog of the Week” award from me for his thorough and entertaining recap of the Chicago seminar at http://blog.dynamicfitness.us/. He had me laughing out loud at his recap of my presentation:

Finally, Eric Cressey is a preposterously accomplished guy who, at age 25, is not only a very successful powerlifter but one of the most highly respected trainers around. Just listening to his lecture and getting a sense of the depth and scope of his knowledge made me wonder what the hell I've been doing frittering away these last 36 years. Part of me wanted to jump up on the stage and strangle him in all his youthful, charming, and articulate glory, but one look at his arms and chest made me realize that even that was a futile fantasy. My only comfort is that someday, many, many years after I've fallen into decrepitude, dementia and death, Eric Cressey, too, will die. Sure, there will be streets in Boston named after him, an Eric Cressey annual parade, and hoards of future gold medallists tearfully crediting him with all their success, but he will be dead, and I must be thankful for that one, tiny blessing

Thanks, Andrew… I think! Would it make you feel any better if I told you that I will be turning 26 on Sunday?

Eric Cressey

Here is a list of Eric's upcoming seminar dates.

Or catch Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson on their latest DVD release.

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Healthy Athletes are Better Athletes

Have you ever wondered why elite pitchers like Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens don’t pitch year-round? Simple. They need an off-season to address the imbalances their sports create, and correcting these issues requires a combination of time (rest) and appropriate weight training and targeted flexibility work.

Unfortunately, nowadays, many kids don’t usually get a true off-season. A Little Leaguer getting elbow pain from throwing year-round is no different than an adult with a desk job who gets carpel tunnel syndrome from typing too much. Truthfully, the Little Leaguer is worse off, as there is more force and velocity to each his movements and his body is still developing and vulnerable to injury.

Further, believe it or not, specializing in one sport too early on can actually impair a child’s development within that sport. According to Brian Grasso, founder and executive director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA):

Sport coaches who require young athletes to participate in one sport for extended periods of time are actually shooting themselves in the foot with respect to future ability. To learn complex skills associated with baseball, for instance, a young athlete will be restricted to what they have been exposed to and can neurally call upon in terms of practical athletic intelligence. A young athlete who has been exposed to baseball only, likely will lack the athletic dexterity necessary to perform advanced skills in that sport.

Eric Cressey

Revolutionize the way you approach the most crucial training period this year.

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Should Your Heels Touch?

In your opinion should the heels touch the ground lightly during a bounce drop jump. I've heard 'yes' and I've heard 'no' from several coaches and I'm trying to form my own opinion on the subject once and for all.

I think it's a must. Very few athletes have the eccentric strength to land completely on the balls of the feet. You're also putting a lot of undue stress on the Achilles and patellar tendons and limiting your ability to cushion with the hip extensors. You're also really increasing the amortization phase, therefore killing the very elastic response you're trying to train.

A lot of people will argue that it's counterintuitive in light of the sprinting motion, but I don't see that argument as holding water. Vertical displacement is centimeters in sprinting, but meters in bounce drop jumps, so you're comparing apples and oranges in terms of ground reaction forces. I use different short-response tactics for using just the balls of the feet.

Also, what would you conclude if a subject's countermovement jump (30") was identical to his bounce drop jump (30") off of each of the 12", 18", and 24" boxes. Finally, how would you proceed with the subject's training if they decreased to a 29" bounce drop jump off the 30" box? Thanks for the wisdom; your manual is a great resource.

Could just be accumulated fatigue, but I'd train him with a mix of reactive and strength work - with slightly more of an emphasis on reactive work. Stay at 24" for his bounce drop jumps in training and retest every fourth week.

Eric Cressey

Is your off-season integrated with the right active recovery strategies?

Have similar questions for Eric? Direct them Here.
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Powerlifting Set Progression

I have been following your high, medium, super high and deload weeks concept that you outlined in your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual (which is awesome btw) and I was wondering if the way i am implementing it for powerlifting is ok.

On the high weeks i usually do 4 sets of anywhere between 6-8 reps for my second exercise, on medium weeks i drop it down to 3 sets, on super high weeks i go up to 5 and then on deload weeks i go down to 2 sets.

would it be a better idea to say do 4 sets of 6-8 on high week, 3 on medium week and do something like 3 sets of 6-8 along with 1-2 sets of 15-20 either same exercise i am doing or different. Do you think that is to much volume?

Thanks for the kind words. You're on the right track with fluctuating the number of sets you do from week to week. I also like to vary the loading on the first assistance exercise depending on the day (we'll use lower body days in a Westside-influenced template as an example).

DE Squat: First assistance might be a deadlift variation - sets of 3-6
ME Squat: First assistance might be a heavy single-leg, rack pull, front squat, GHR, etc - sets of 6-10

Example of first assistance movements over the course of a month:

Week 1 (high):

DE Squat: 4x3
ME Squat: 4x6

Week 2 (medium):
DE Squat: 3x3
ME Squat: 3x6

Week 3 (very high):
DE Squat: 5x3
ME Squat: 5x6

Week 4 (deload):
DE Squat: 2x3 (with 5RM)
ME Squat: 3x6

Eric Cressey
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Back from a Great Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking alongside some of the best in the business at the Perform Better Three-Day Summit in Chicago. It was a great opportunity to meet up with several old friends who also presented, and also experience a few that I hadn?t had the good fortune to see until now.

I was thrilled to finally catch an Al Vermeil presentation, and only wish that I could have picked his brains for a few days more! Todd Wright of the University of Texas was fantastic as well; as a fellow basketball training ?junky,? I?d been looking forward to meeting him and learning more about his stuff for years. And, to top it all off, I probably learned as much in a few ten-minute ?asides? with Bill Hartman over the course of the weekend than I have in any day-long seminar I?ve attended in the past year!

Needless to say, Chris Poirier and the rest of the Perform Better crew do a tremendous job of putting on fantastic shows; I?d highly recommend checking out one of the two remaining three-day summits on the 2007 schedule. Long Beach, CA is in a few weeks, and then they?ll be in Providence, RI (with me speaking) June 20-22. For more information, check out Perform Better?s website.

Eric Cressey
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Naked Nutrition

A few months ago, Mike Roussell sent me the preliminary version of his new project, The Naked Nutrition Guide. Mike went out of his way to contact several industry notables to go over this manual with a critical eye, and this feedback ? combined with Mike?s outstanding knowledge of nutritional sciences ? resulted in a fantastic finished product. There are bonus training programs from Alwyn Cosgrove, Nate Green, and Jimmy Smith. The guide was officially launched on Thursday; check it out for yourself:

The Naked Nutrition Guide

Don?t delay; the first 500 to purchase are invited to a teleseminar Q&A session with Mike.

Eric Cressey

Will Your Athletes Be Ready for Next Season?

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