Home 2007 September

The Truth About Leg Extensions Part 2

This blog is continued from part 1. Rule #4: You can never have too much information. Ask a lot of questions and consider every angle — and know when to refer out to a professional more qualified than you to handle the problem in question. Your Take-Home: It will never hurt to get diagnostics done on your knee from a qualified physician. Some of your problems could be related to a meniscus issue; it would explain some of the problems with weight-bearing exercise (although you would still be able to do some exercises in the standing position). That said, though, you still likely have a big window of adaptation ahead of you, so read on. Rule #5: Think "correct" before you think "different." If an exercise causes pain, stop performing it. Evaluate technique before moving on, though. If performing the exercise correctly alleviates pain, keep it. Chances are that correctly performing the exercise will actually help correct the imbalance. Your Take-Home: Have you considered that it might be the way that you squat that is the problem? Are you breaking the knees forward or hips back first? Perhaps front-squatting is a better option for you now. Is box squatting painful? Rule #6: Make the athlete feel like an athlete — not a patient — both physically and psychologically. Tell them what they can do. Your Take-Home: I can almost guarantee that deadlift variations, pull-throughs, various single-leg movements, and glute-ham raises would allow you to train pain-free in closed-chain motion if you performed them correctly and with appropriate progressions. Rule #7: Before you go changing what's going on in the gym, figure out what you can do to improve what's going on outside of it. Think posture, repetitive motions, sheer lack of movement, sleeping posture, footwear, and even poor diet. Your Take-Home: What is your footwear like? Is it appropriate for your foot-type? Are you taking fish oil? Glucosamine? Are there activities in your daily life that you do repetitively that could be avoided or revised to keep you healthy? Rule #8: Soft-tissue work serves a valuable role in preventing and correcting imbalances, without making any programming modifications. Foam rolling and lacrosse ball work is cheap and effective. Just do it. Your Take-Home: I’m willing to bet that you aren’t foam rolling or doing any work on your calves or glutes with the lacrosse ball. And, I’m guessing that massages aren’t a common occurrence in your life. All three are great interventions (the former two are very affordable, too). Rule #9: Implement mobility and activation work in your warm-up. It only takes 5-10 minutes, which is a lot less time than it takes to recover from an injury. You'll be amazed at what shakes free when you enhance stability through full ranges of motion. Your Take-Home: I’m guessing that you haven’t done anything to improve hip internal and external range of motion, hip extension ROM, or ankle dorsiflexion ROM. You should be. Rule #10: As a last step, modify the training plan — and only on a small-scale, if possible. This is the most "sacred" aspect of an athlete's preparation, so you should butcher it as little as possible. The more you screw with things, the more the athlete is going to feel like a patient. Your Take-Home: I’m guessing that the leg extensions are causing more harm than good. I would try some lower intensity rack pulls and/or pull-throughs, plus some split squat isometric holds. See how it goes. I would also highly recommend picking up a copy of Mike Robertson’s Bulletproof Knees manual. Mike goes into far more detail in several hundred pages than I ever could with a single blog post. Good luck, Eric Cressey
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The Truth About Leg Extensions Part 1

Hello Eric, I just read “The Truth About Leg Extensions.” Because of my standing work , I can`t do any leg exercises that press under my feet (deadlift, squat, and leg press), more that once a week, without getting trouble with my knees. They get full of water and hurt. When training full-body, three times a week, I do leg extensions Monday and Wednesday and then squats on Friday. This way, I don’t have to stand up for 8 hours the day after squats. I just tried to do squats twice a week (Monday and Friday), also with bad results. So I am happy to have the Leg extension. With Friendly Regards from Denmark, Bent A: You know, I can only imagine how challenging your life must be if you can only go to the bathroom once a week. I mean, honestly, not being able to squat down to the toilet more than once every seven days? You must have a pretty strong colon! Kidding aside, I’m the last person from whom you will get sympathy. I regularly train clients and athletes anywhere from 7-13 hours per day – and those are on some pretty hard rubberized gym floors (rubber is on top of turf). I also happen to have supinated feet (very rigid feet that don’t like to cushion the body), so I regularly wear through the insoles I put in my shoes. Still, I do a wide variety of lifts – from deadlifts, to squats, to various single-leg movements – and sprint 2-3 times a week on top of that stimulus. Now, getting to your issue… First off, go check out my article, The Ten Rules of Corrective Lifting, at T-Nation. It will give you an idea of the direction I’m going to take with this reply. I would actually recommend opening it up in another window as I go through step-by-step what could be your problems. Rule #1: Fit the program to the lifter, not vice versa. The best way to correct dysfunction is to prevent it. If you're blindly following cookie-cutter programs, stop. Your Take-Home: Stop reading your favorite muscle magazine; it takes more than leg extensions and squats to build solid legs that are pain-free. Rule #2: Learn to program for yourself. Establish a small group of people who will give you honest feedback on your programming ideas, and then use your intuition when it comes to modifying things on the fly. Your Take-Home: Seek out the help of others who understand the dynamics of your knees better than you do. Rule #3: Some exercises just aren't worth it. Don't bother with them; there are better options available to you. Your Take-Home: Cough…leg extensions….cough. See the rest of this article in tomorrow's update!
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One More Reason to Have Good Training Partners

I've written quite a bit in the past about the importance of having good training partners. These are lifters who know you and your tendencies: how to get you fired up, what type of training to which you respond best, and when to hold you back. Yes, a good training partner should know when to hold you back - just like coaches know when to play it conservative with their athletes at specific points in the season. Tony Gentilcore has been my training parter for over two years now. I know his strength levels, injury history, and what style of training best suits him for particular goals - and he knows the same about me. Last night, we were deadlifting for heavy singles on the trap bar, and Tony just didn't look good. Before he could even turn to talk to me after his last warm-up set (405 for a single), I told him to shut it down and do something else. His bar speed was down, and it just didn't look good. It was one of those nights to modify things on the fly and avoid getting hurt doing something stupid. So, he shut it down and went over to do some full squats with the safety squat bar for reps. He went on to get in some assistance work, and all the villagers rejoiced. With inexperienced lifters, sometimes, you have to push through not feeling so hot, as you're still dealing with an athlete who needs to practice technique. Or, in the case of in-season lifting, you may need to do what it takes to keep strength levels up. Ultimately, it comes down to asking yourself, "Can I achieve a training effect safely?" If the answer is no, you modify. If the answer is yes, you consider whether you need to play around with the loading parameters. Do you go from sets of three to sets of five? Do you drop a few sets? Do you swap some resistance training for added mobility and activation work? Extend the warm-up? Pick a different exercise and maintain the loading parameters? There are literally hundreds of potential modifications you can make. Only time, experience, and knowing the athlete in question will help you make the best decision. Eric Cressey
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Mental Athletic Performance Testing

In my off-season manual, I allude to several performance tests that I feel best demonstrate potential for athletic excellence. As a tag along to this, I've noticed several non-physical behavioral "tests" that show me an athlete is psychologically ready to commit to success. These issues are especially common in our high school athletes. 1. On the diet front, we ask our athletes to bring us two-day nutrition logs (one training day and one non-training day) so that we can evaluate how they can improve their diets. The more dedicated athlete, the sooner we get that back (if at all). 2. Also on the diet front, aside from those who are lactose-intolerant, athletes who complain about the taste of cottage cheese just never seem to "get it." These same individuals are usually the ones who dislike every flavor of protein powder imaginable. 3. Motivated athletes realize that if they fall off the wagon by eating some junk food, the entire day isn't "lost." They get back on track and call it water under the bridge. Less motivated athletes tend to just consider an entire day a way and have another bag of Twizzlers and a two-liter bottle of Coke. 4. One's response to injury is also always a good indicator of how bad one "wants it." The best athletes want to train through the injury - even though we don't advise it, obviously. With these individuals, we're big on showing them what they CAN do rather than just reaffirming what they CAN'T do. The idea is to continuously challenge them with movements that either a) allow them to train around the injury and b) movements that will help to rehabilitate the injury and/or prevent it from occurring again. The softest of the bunch usually skip the session because they want a pity party. As much as a stereotype as it may seem, my experience with female athletes in particular has been that injuries tend to lead to complete abstinence from exercise in favor of partaking in slumber parties with Ben and Jerry. 5. Some exercises - deadlifts, squats, single-leg work - are flat-out challenging. I love it when guys show up to the gym absolutely ready to get after these movements. It drives me crazy when guys only get pumped up for bench day, and would jump at the chance to miss lower-body training sessions. The more you learn to love an exercise, the faster you'll improve with it. Eric Cressey www.CresseyPerformance.com
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In Must be a Pennant Race

Hinske for Governor!
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Money Makes the World Go Round? Or “Un-Round?”

According to a recent article, in light of the doubling of the obesity rate in Australia over the past 20 years, the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) is encouraging the government to pay overweight Australians 170 dollars ($140 USD) to attend weight-loss programs. Yes, they’re actually considering paying people to lose body fat. Apparently, the prospects of looking and feeling great and living a long and healthy life just aren’t rewarding enough for some people. Here’s a wild idea… How about FINING people for being overweight? You see it all the time with offensive lineman in the NFL who come to camp overweight. I recall reading a while back that according to the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL in 2006, a team could fine an overweight player as much as $457 per extra pound per day. Even when guys are making millions, this adds up – especially when it’s hurting their playing time. It’s happened in the NBA, too. Human nature is such that people won’t always get motivated by money when you give them incentive to work on something. It’s the reason people don’t accept low-paying jobs (the reward doesn’t justify the effort, in their minds). However, separate someone from money that is already theirs, and they’ll get motivated FAST. Just as you don’t like to lose your wallet, offensive linemen don’t like to get fined or lose their starting jobs. Eric Cressey
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Studying for the Wrong Test

When I read this article about the FDA asking companies to consider using a system of symbols on packaging to denote whether foods were healthy or not, I immediately thought back to my trip last week to buy a new desk at IKEA. For those who don’t know, IKEA is a company of Swedish origin that just so happens to have a food court. That food court is world-renowned for – you guessed it – Swedish meatballs. And, given that the store is roughly the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, you can bet that my girlfriend and I were in there so long that we needed a nutritional intervention at the food court to avoid dying of starvation during what amounted to the Hundred Years War of furniture purchasing (for the record, we lost this war; the desk was sold out and I’m now typing this with my laptop on top of my bureau). Plus, I was anxious to show my girlfriend that I really know how to treat a lady to a fine meal (eat your heart out, ladies). But I digress… As we stood in line with two chicken caesar salads (dressing on the side), we (seemingly simultaneously) noticed the cafeteria tray of the woman in front of me. She was about 5-3, 200 pounds. I’d estimate that she had about 487 meatballs (or at least 15) on her plate, and it was tastefully arranged such that the add-on heap of macaroni and cheese offered such a delicate contrast of coloring that even Martha Stewart would have skipped a breath. Had Martha seen the accompanying chocolate and peanut butter torte, she might not have been able to get her breath back at all. It was 4,000 calories worth of trans-fatty grace. But it clearly wasn’t enough. Just in front of my fellow shopper was a stack of chocolate bars that caught her attention like a fart in church. She grabbed one of the bars, and glanced at the label (of course, so did I). It had 630 calories and 31 grams of fat. I couldn’t get a good view of the sugar content – as she had tossed it onto her tray before I could even read it. There was no hesitation at all. Chances are that she almost swallowed her hand minutes later in her attempt to eat it. What’s my point? Frankly, labels don’t mean much. Behavior modification goes a lot further than that. When you were ten, did you know to not drink the Draino because it had the little skull and crossbones on it, or did you know because it was hidden from plain view – and your mother had instilled in you early-on that drinking Draino wasn’t good for you? If we want to effect favorable societal changes in the way people eat, we need to spend more time educating kids and their parents about good food choices and – just as importantly – behavior modifications. Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition System has been wildly popular and successful. Why? Among other reasons, John focuses on behavior modification via his Seven Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Programs. As much as I dislike the programs, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig have worked for many people simply because they’ve encouraged behavior modification before the fact. In other words, in both cases, you pick what you’re going to eat ahead of time – not when you’re reading a label at the grocery store. That’s when you’re behind the eight-ball already. Eric Cressey
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The No Hitter

On Saturday night, my girlfriend and I finished setting up our new television – only to turn it on for the first time and see Clay Buchholz toss a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles. Like everyone, I was very impressed with his ability to change speeds effectively with his pitches and get ahead in the counts all night. I’m more impressed, however, with the overall athleticism that has helped him get to where he is so quickly. In multiple telecasts, Red Sox commentators have noted that he’s the fastest guy in the organization. Yes, that’s even faster the stud center field prospect Jacoby Ellsbury (Had David Wells still been with the Sox, I’m sure he would have won that race, for the record). It’s speculated that while Buchholz was taken as a pitcher in the first round of the draft, he could have been selected in the fifth round as a hitter as well. Pitching and sprinting: two athletic endeavors that – to the casual observer to exercise physiology – are loosely related at best. I however, am of the belief that you need to become a better athlete before you become a better pitcher, basketball player, tennis player, or even a bowler. There are right and wrong ways to move – and if you have general dysfunction, it’s going to carry over to specific movements. If you are efficient in a general sense, on the other hand, that efficiency will carry over to sporting movements provided that you practice them (delayed transformation, as per Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s writings). Toss in a pitching coach, knowledge of the game, the right psychological profile, some favorable biomechanics, and get a catcher that calls a great game (kudos to Jason Varitek), and you must just have the youngest guy to throw a no-hitter in Red Sox history. Interestingly, in an interview at SoxProspects.com, when asked about his off-season training regime from last year, Buchholz responded: “First of all I lived in Dallas with a couple of other guys that also play ball, and we all worked out together. So we all had a little advice for each other. My main goal this off-season was to be in shape and have gained weight. I gained just about 12 lbs and I was in pretty good shape. I have lived in Dallas the last two off seasons and the clear focus was to get stronger and go to camp in great shape so I could show the front office I was committed to getting to the big leagues. The schedule I have been on has been very successful and I don't expect that to change. So I would say that the off-season was a success.” Buchholz also commented: “I think my athleticism shows up as a pitcher in my ability to change on the go, make adjustments quickly, and certainly in my ability to cover the bunt in both directions.” Get efficient, improve multiple strength qualities, and in the case of an absolute power sport position (i.e., pitcher), slap on some muscle mass. Not exactly rocket science, is it? Eric Cressey
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The Good Side of Broke

I received this email from an online consulting client of mine (a marathon runner). He had been experiencing some unexplained glute pain last month, so we modified the training program considerably to work to correct it. Just yesterday, I received this email from him: Funny story. So, like I had mentioned last month, my right glute was killing me. I could tell it just wasn't firing properly, and the pain was fairly intense, radiating down my leg. Continued hurting all this month, which surprised me, because more mobility stuff and rolling usually solves those types of problems. I figured that maybe all the travel of last month had just really screwed me up. But then, a few days ago, I realized that I had started carrying a wallet in my back right pocket, which I haven't done in years. Stopped carrying/sitting on wallet, pain almost completely gone in like three days. Important things to learn from this? 1. Asymmetry is the single-most common cause of injury in sports, in the eyes of some really smart dudes in this "biz." 2. Remember the 23:1 rule. You can have a perfect hour in the gym each day, but that still leaves you 23 hours to screw it up at home and work! 3. Clean out your damn wallet and carry it in your front pocket! The 23/1 Rule Applies To Your Athletic Efficiency. Click Here and Get Started.
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Phases of The Off-Season

Your off-season manual is very addictive. You have really put together something special. I got the manual yesterday and proceeded to read 3/4ths of it before it was 1:00am and I had to be at work at 7:30 the next morning. You write well and down to earth. I think you have a lot of talent writing; keep it up! Thanks for your awesome feedback; I'm glad you liked it! On another note I wanted to tell you I was deeply surprised about the different phases of the off-season. It is now apparent that I should set my late off-season to four weeks out from August 23(school starts). My question to you while I'm still in the main chunk of the off-season is what should I right now after I have completed a bunch of running volume? (for example last week I ran 8x60yd sprints with 30s rest after 8xdifferent speed drills usually lasting 15yrds like fall forwards) One week won't throw you off too much. I would just focus on complete recovery between movement training sets for the next two weeks, and then move to your late off-season. Remember that as a quarterback, you're not going to need to be as metabolically conditioned as another position that does a lot more running (unless you're a Michael Vick type, of course - and I'm not referring to your criminal record). Finally I'm going to an intense camp where I throw close to 300 passes a day. I don't know if you remember my program but it has such an emphasis on lat strength I'm wondering if you might be able to help me modify my program to help balance out all the volume? Thanks for your thoughts, Will Your best bet is to do a ton of external rotations at various positions (arms below and above 90 degrees of elevation). Include some seated rows as well as some higher rep DB stability ball bench presses every third week (in place of max effort work). Keep up the good work! Eric Cressey Pick Up Your Copy and Make the Most of Your Off-Season
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