Home 2007 June

The Overhead Press

Q: I was reading your Shoulder Savers: Part I article and noticed your table on balance in training. My main question is concerned with overhead presses. These lifts are categorized as internal rotation of the humeral joint. When we do overhead pressing, the humerus is fixed in an externally rotated position, correct? Why then is this internal rotation? A: Good question. It's more out of necessity with the population in question than it is true functional anatomy. You're never really "fixed" in any sort of rotation; your humeral head is always going to be rotating in order to accommodate the degree of flexion/abduction. More external rotation = more subacromial space. This is also going to be affected by the position of the bar (front vs. back vs. dumbbells) and the chosen grip (neutral corresponds to more external rotation). But anyway... Long story short, if you look at all the other exercises in the "right" categories, they're the ones that - when used in excess - typically contribute to impingement. Overhead pressing is only going to make impingement worse, and a large percentage of the population really can't do it safely. As such, it needed a place to go beyond just scapular elevation. Additionally, while I can't remember where I saw the data, there was a study that looked at relative EMG of the three heads of the deltoid and found that anterior deltoid (internal rotator) EMG activity was always higher than that of the posterior deltoid (external rotator). Consider that the posterior deltoid also leads to superior migration of the humeral head, and the external rotation contribution that you get with the movement is still going to have a sublte effect on increasing the risk of impingement. All that said, debating the minutia isn't what is important; what IS important is that lifters, trainers, and coaches start to appreciate who is and isn't suited for overhead pressing. The more people I encounter, the more I realize that the "isn't" crowd is a lot bigger than we previously thought. Eric Cressey


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Inversion Tables

Q: Why is it that when I go on an inversion table – whether it’s totally upside-down hanging by the ankles or just partially upside-down, my lower back actually hurts as it stretches? I don't know whether it’s stretching or whether the total area is just relaxed from the gravity and daily crunch on the spine. Any ideas? I can't stay on it long enough to benefit.
A: Inversion tables aren't a universal treatment approach for lower back injuries. They might work well with disc issues, but if you have another underlying pathology, there's a chance that this position will actually give you problems. For example, I've seen people with SI joint problems who can't hang from a chin-up bar without pain. You need to get a concrete diagnosis upon which to base treatment modalities - not just pick and choose what you think might work. Eric Cressey 10 Minutes to Better Health, Flexibility, and Performance
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Weekend Warriors: The Off-Season

Q: Eric, I have a question about your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Knowing who wrote this manual, I know that it's going to be a great product! I realize that this would be geared more towards the high performance athlete, but could the "Weekend Warrior" realistically utilize this manual?
A: 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, 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
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Isometric Elevated Push-Ups

Q: Had a couple questions on the isometric elevated push-up holds. How do you structure this exercise into your training programs? Is this something you will do in the warm-up or after other movements? What have you found to be the most effective scheme as far as the hold is concerned? Meaning, do you have your athletes go for time/until fatigue/reps/multiple sets, etc. Have you utilized unstable surfaces with this exercise as well? I would be using the holds mostly with my softball players as they prepare this upcoming fall and am always looking for various shoulder exercises to reduce the risk of injury. Thanks so much for any help you can give.
A: With beginners, it may be the first movement. Generally, though, I'll include it later in the training session. It's also great for back-off weeks; I actually include it as part of regeneration phases if an athlete is worn out post-season (maintain muscular activation with lower joint torques). I go into more detail on this in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. We always do at least two sets, and sometimes as many as four. I generally won't go longer than a minute; many athletes won't be able to go much longer than 15-20s (especially female athletes). As far as unstable surfaces are concerned, there's not much reason to use them for this; you can train proprioception pretty easily at normal speeds. One of the inherent benefits to using upper body unstable surface training is the maintained muscular activation with lower resultant joint torques (prime movers become joint stabilizers - see JSCR research from David Behm and Ken Anderson). You can get this same benefit from isometric holds, so doing them on unstable surfaces would be overkill, IMO – especially in a female athlete population who is likely too weak in the upper body in the first place. Eric Cressey I’ve seen the mistakes they commonly make, and I’ve seen how tremendous the results are when they get things right.
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Bulletproof Athletes

Nick Grantham: I like to develop what we call 'bulletproof' athletes - men and women that can take to the field and cope with what the sport and their opponents throws at them. What would be your main tips for making a 'bullet proof' athlete - what areas should we focus our attention on and what exercises could we use? Eric Cressey: 1. Adequate hip mobility. 2. Stability of the lumbar spine, scapulae, and glenohumeral joint. 3. Posterior chain strength and normal firing patterns 4. Loads of posterior chain strength. 5. More pulling (deadlifts, rows, and pull-ups) than pushing (squats, benches, and overhead pressing) 6. Greater attention to single-leg movements 7. Prioritization of soft-tissue work in the form of foam rolling, ART, and massage 8. Attitude (being afraid when you’re under a bar is a recipe for injury) 9. Adequate deloading periods 10. Attention to daily posture (you have 1-2 hours per day to train, and 22-23 to screw it up in your daily life) Eric Cressey
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Training and Coaching

Competing has completely changed me as a coach and a writer; I never realized how much better I am at what I do when I share a competitive mindset with my athletes. My decision to compete was one of the wisest choices I ever made. In fact, this decision had such profound implications that I think I could go on all day. However, a few things that I have come to appreciate in a whole new light: 1. Planned overreaching is tremendously valuable when used correctly. 2. You need to appropriately schedule back-off/regeneration phases. 3. Success rests with attention to detail. Imagine putting in an entire 12-week training cycle and then bombing out because your squat technique was off on just one day…this hasn’t happened to me, but it does happen. 4. Train for performance, eat clean, and things will almost always fall into place. I couldn’t care less about “the pump” anymore. 5. Attitude is the single-most important factor that determines your success or lack thereof. I’ll take a guy with a great attitude on a garbage program over someone with a lousy attitude and the best program in the world anyday. 6. The value of a good training crew cannot be overstated. It changes your attitude completely. They pick you up when you’re dragging, and you do the same for them. They pick up on the little things that make the big differences and help you get personal bests when you don’t realize you have them in you. I could go on all day, but you get the point. If you don’t have a goal, it’s hard to view exercise as anything more than “working out.” Anybody can “work out;” you need to train. Eric Cressey
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Cressey on Professionalism

It doesn’t cost a thing to be punctual, professional, and polite. I credit a ton of my success to the fact that my parents instilled these values in me at an early age. Write thank you notes to people who help you. Shake people’s hands firmly and look them directly in the eye. Show up on time. Dress up for seminars that warrant dressing up. Spell-check everything. Say “please” and “thank you.” You’d be amazed at how far these things go – seriously. Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People should be required reading in every high school for this very reason. Eric Cressey Have you ever wondered what separates the average coaches from the best of the best?
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Off-Seasons: Year Round Sports

I have gone through your book and it is very good. I am however confused as to how I can apply the phases to year round sports like BJJ. Our tournaments are not to often and I do not find out about them until 2 months before. I love the static template as it is just what I need. Any help with organizing this into a yearly plan would be great. Thanks. A few options: 1. Give it up and take up checkers. :) 2. Plan several mini off-seasons. That is, go into off-season mode, and then just kick in the metabolic conditioning work 4-6 weeks out from your tournament. 3. Set aside 4-5 months out of the year when you won't compete; you'll just train. Eric Cressey Step-by-Step what it Takes to Become a Superior Athlete
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Basketball Ball Handling

Q: In light of the information in your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, i.e. minimizing sport specific training in the off season, how would you train a basketball player with a dire need to improve his ballhandling skills and jump shooting? A: You're actually in luck, as these are skills that aren't as hard on the system as actual gameplay. That is, you might get some accumulated fatigue from loads of jump shooting, but it really won't detract from your weight room work. We always just tried to get our guys to do the two in separate sessions - or even use the shooting in small sessions to help warm them up for lifting. Eric Cressey
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Cressey on Demeanor

If you don’t love what you’re doing, find something else. Be enthusiastic; you can't teach passion. If you love this, act like it and have some fun! You’ll be amazed at how your athletes and clients get excited when YOU get excited. And, if you're just training for you, you'll be amazed at how much better you progress when you find something that excites you. Going to train should never be an undesirable experience; if it is, you need to shuffle things up.

Eric Cressey

Have you ever wondered what separates the average coaches from the best of the best?
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