Home 2007 August

Ask Eric: Runner’s Knee

Will the excercises on Magnificent Mobility help treat runner's knee, along with the tight IT bands and hamstrings? Are there different exercises which you would recommend for the knee/IT band problems? I haven't bought the dvd's yet, but if they'll help my knees I'd consider it.
Absolutely, Peter. Most knee issues arise from lack of mobility at the ankles and hips - so one goes to the knee (what should be a stable joint) and creates range of motion. We've had a lot of great feedback from people with bum knees who have seen great results with the DVD. Mike and I are more than happy to help you customize the drills to your needs. I'd also recommend that you pick up a foam roller to work on soft tissue quality in the ITB/TFL. You can read more about it here. I'd also recommend that you take a lacrosse ball to your calves and glutes to free up any restrictions that are there - very common in anterior and lateral knee pain.
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Defending the Deadlift

It’s been really busy up here with lots of projects and upcoming seminars on top of my normal workload, but fortunately, Myles Kantor recently interviewed me with a specific focus on the deadlift; the interview was just published by John Berardi at Precision Nutrition to give you some great content for this week. Check it out: Defending the Deadlift: An Interview with Coach and Powerlifter Eric Cressey
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Foam Rollers and Football

Q: Hey Eric, I've been a member of T-Nation for about three years now. I really enjoy your articles. And one caught my attention abouta year ago. The foam roller article. I bought one, asked my PT about it and he didnt know much so i kind of threw it aside. Well to make a long story short. I play high school football, its my senior year. I've been playing and training for seven years now. My ultimate goal of course is to get a scholarship to play some college ball. However the day before practice I pulled my hamstring doing sprints down the beach. I've been going to PT and seen about three doctors. Its not that serious of a pull id say a mild grade 2. I've been feeling alot of pressure from my coaches to get back on the field and have tried to comeback twice. Whenever i put any pressure on the thing it just tighens right up. But running on it seems to be fine. There is a pretty good size knot on the lower part of my left hamstring right above the back of the knee. So tonight i read your article again and busted out the foam roller. After the first 10 minutes of the hamstring it felt 100 times better. I've done it three times in the past three hours. I got a big game on friday that I have to play in and I'm doing as much as i possibly can to get this thing healthy. I know you guys dont diagnos over the internet or anything like that i just wanted to tell you thank you for the info on the foam roller. I'm gonna use this thing everyday before and after practice/games and hopefully i can get back to 100% as soon as possible. Thanks again for all the great info!
A: I'm glad to hear that the roller worked out for you. Just remember that work you do with the roller is just treating the symptoms (scar tissue). You have to get to the bottom of why your hamstrings are so knotted up if you want to fix the problem rather than just take one step forward and one step back. In most cases, the hamstrings get locked up because they're overactive - because the glutes aren't doing their job as hip extensors. It's one reason why after hamstrings go, you also see groin pulls (adductor magnus is a synergist to the glutes in hip extension) and piriformis strains (piriformis is a synergist in lateral rotation). Check out our Magnificent Mobility DVD; it would be a good investment. It's worked for a lot of guys w/their hamstrings problems, and provided that the right exercises are selected, you should see some great improvements. Eric Cressey
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Unstable Surface Training… For Golf!?

Q: I have received a golf fitness program designed specifically for my injury history. This program came from the - Insert Noteworthy Golf Performance Institute’s Name Here - I have concerns about this program.

Some of the exercises I am concerned about involve:

1. mimicking my golf swing on an unstable surface
2. performing one legged golf stance with my eyes closed
3. hollow my stomach for 30 second holds
4. upright rows

Correct me if I'm wrong but your advice on various T-Nation articles and your Newsletter go against these practices. Should I look elsewhere for my golf fitness program?

A: Where do I even begin? That's simply atrocious!

I've "fixed" a lot of golfers and trained some to high levels, and we've never done any of that namby-pamby junk. In a nutshell...

1. I did my Master's thesis on unstable surface training, and it will be featured in the August issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. I can’t release the results yet, but let’s just say that if the ground ever moves on YOU instead of you moving on the ground, you have bigger things to worry about than your golf conditioning; you’re in the middle of an earthquake!

2. There is considerable anecdotal evidence to support the assertion that attempting to replicate sporting tasks on unstable surfaces actually IMPAIRS the learning of the actual skill (think of competing motor learning demands). In a technical sport like golf, this is absolutely unacceptable.

3. Eyes closed, fine - but first show me that you can be stable with your eyes open! Most golfers are so hopelessly deconditioned that they can’t even brush their teeth on one foot (sadly, I’m not joking).

4. Abdominal hollowing is "five years ago" and has been completely debunked. Whoever wrote this program (or copied and pasted it from when they gave it to 5,000 other people) ought to read some of Stuart McGill's work - and actually start to train so that he/she gets a frame of reference.

I’m sorry to say that you got ripped off. The fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of golfers are either too lazy to condition, or too scared that it’ll mess up their swing mechanics (might be the silliest assumption in the world of sports). So, said “Performance Institute” (and I use the word “performance” very loosely) puts out programs that won’t intimidate the Average Joe or his 80-year-old recreational golfer grandmother. For the record, Gram, I would never let you do this program, either (or Gramp, for that matter). On a semi-related note, Happy 85th Birthday, Gramp!

In short, I’m a firm believer in building the athlete first and the golfer later – and many golfers are so unathletic and untrained that it isn’t even funny. Do your mobility/activation to improve your efficiency, and then apply that efficiency and stability throughout a full range of motion to a solid strength training program that develops reactive ability, rate of force development, maximal strength, and speed-strength. Leave the BOSU ball squats, Body Blade frolicking, and four-exercise 3x10 band circuits for the suckers in the crowd.

Yours Cynically,

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Quick Reference: Screwy Shoulder

I get asked quite a bit about what I look for when I see a screwy shoulder. Here you go! 1. Scapular stability 2. Thoracic spine range of motion 3. Cervical spine function 4. Breathing patterns 5. Mobility of the opposite hip 6. Mobility of the opposite ankle 7. Overall soft tissue quality (especially posterior capsule) 8. Glenohumeral (ball-and-socket joint) range of motion 9. Rotator cuff strength Rotator cuff function is lower down on the ladder simply because the rotator cuff is reflexive and you don't have to worry about firing it in everyday life. Nobody actively tightens up infraspinatus to pick up a suitcase - and you can more easily compensate for a lack of rotator cuff function with added scapular stability (as evidenced by the number of people with internal impingement - a hypermobility problem - who can get by without surgery). The thing I absolutely love about the Inside-Out DVD from Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman is that it covers the overwhelming majority of these problems. If you have a shoulder problem or want to prevent one, it's a great DVD to have on your shelf. Eric Cressey
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The Cheat to Lose Diet

Back in the spring of 2001, I got an email from some guy named Joel Marion. At the time, I was a whopping 19 years old, and he and I had a few mutual friends who thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to get in touch. Apparently, we were both up-and-comers in this "biz" as evidenced by the fact that we spent a lot more time lifting weights, posting on training/nutrition forums, and reading everything in sight than all our peers, who were busy boozing themselves into oblivion. It was somewhat of an ordinary introduction email, but the signature line was what got my attention (and not for the reason you might think): Joel Marion 2001 Body-for-Life Grand Champion, Ages 18-25 Continue Reading...
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Feedback for Building the Efficient Athlete

When we made the Building the Efficient Athlete 8-DVD set, Mike Robertson and I – by our own admission and intentions – barbecued some sacred cows in in the fitness industry with some of our non-traditional ideas. Moreover, given that Mike and I interact with a ton of physical therapists, doctors, athletic trainers, and other health care professionals – and do a lot of writing with respect to corrective exercise – it’s safe to say that this DVD set has turned some heads in the medical community as well. I thought you might be interested in the following testimonial sent to us by Hector Lopez on behalf of Physicians Pioneering Performance, LLC: “Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson’s BTEA raises the bar and sets a new standard for applying functional anatomy, biomechanical assessment, and corrective exercise to athletes at all levels. Congratulations on fine work that addresses many limiting factors of human performance, while enabling the athlete/client to progress and experience a training effect. Just one pass through this DVD set, and it stands to make us all more critical and active in thinking through the patient/client/athlete’s pain, dysfunction, impairments and inefficiencies. “A fantastic resource that we (Physicians Pioneering Performance) would recommend without reservation, not only for athletes, strength coaches and fitness professionals, but also for musculoskeletal/sports medicine practitioners and many of their patients." Hector Lopez, MD, CSCS Co-Founder, Physicians Pioneering Performance, LLC Northwestern University – Feinberg School of Medicine
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Posterior Capsule Tightness: Subscapularis Dysfunction

I saw you write somewhere recently that subscapularis dysfunction was generally associated with posterior capsule tightness? Is there a causal relationship?
The subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor work together to depress the humeral head during dynamic shoulder activities. The subscapularis posteriorly pulls the humeral head in the joint (counteracts pectoralis major), while the other two anteriorly pull it (counteract posterior deltoid). So, they're antagonists and synergists at the same time. If subscapularis shuts down, infraspinatus and teres minor fire overtime as depressors - but you don't get subscapularis’ posterior humeral head pull. Tightness kicks in with the posterior capsule, and you can also get anterior humeral glide issues. This is a big no-no in overhead throwing, as they’ll look to the elbow to get range of motion – and that’s when you start to see ulnar collateral ligament ruptures, ulnar nerve compression, etc. Eric Cressey


Click here to purchase the most comprehensive shoulder resource available today: Optimal Shoulder Performance - From Rehabilitation to High Performance.
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The Dead Horse: Front Squats vs Back Squats

What is your opinion of front versus back squat? I question with my football players whether I should be doing back squat with some of my older kids; they all go off to college and do them. Recently I've run into a problem with kids going to the gyms to do back squat because we're not doing them at the school. I struggle between sticking to my guns and continuing to educate the kids on why we do front squat and feeling like If their going to back squat I'd rather have them lifting with me under supervision. Can you offer any guidance on this?
I don't do any full Olympic back squats anymore. All our quad dominant squatting is either front squats or Anderson front squats. When we're looking for more posterior chain emphasis while squatting, I will box squat them. Box squats get crucified by a lot of coaches simply because they don't know how to teach them - or they've watched someone else teach them poorly. I'm an accomplished powerlifter who has been around them long enough to know how to teach them very well, so they're a mainstay in my program. We go regular box squats, box squats with a front squat grip (awesome exercise), and safety squat bar box squats. The concerns with forward lean isn't as bad when you're only squatting to slightly below parallel and not giving the kid wiggle room to good morning the weight up out of the hole. Eric Cressey
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Shoulders: Front Squats or Back Squats

Q: In regards to shoulder injuries, do front squats place less stress on the shoulder than back squats? A: This would depend on the shoulder injury in question. For people with typical impingement problems, the back squat position puts them in the at-risk position (abduction + external rotation). So, for them, the front squat set-up is much better. For people with acromioclavicular (AC) joint problems, the bar position on the front squat will put some really uncomfortable pressure directly on the AC joint. They'll handle back squatting a bit better. So, I guess the answer - as always - is "it depends." Eric Cressey
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series