Home 2008 January (Page 4)

An Interview with Chris Mohr, PhD, RD

By: Eric Cressey

Some of you might not be familiar with Dr. Chris Mohr, so after reading this interview, you might be inclined to think that he’s and “up-and-coming star” in the world of nutrition for health and human performance.  I beg to differ; Chris is already a star – you just might not know about him yet.

Dr. Mohr has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Nutrition, from Penn State University and the University of Massachusetts, respectively.  He received his PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and is also a registered dietitian.  He has consulted with various media outlets and corporations, including the Discovery Health Channel, Clif Bar, Fit Fuel, and Labrada Nutrition.  Chris works with all types of individuals, from soccer moms to collegiate and professional athletes.  He has authored or co-authored several textbooks that are to be published in 2007, including a sports nutrition textbook for Human Kinetics and a book, The Platinum Body, on which he consulted with LL Cool J.  In all, Chris has written over 500 articles for consumer publications such as Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, and Muscle and Fitness, to name a few.  In short, this guy knows his stuff!

EC: Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  We typically focus a lot on the training end of the spectrum with our interviews, but I think that having more nutrition talk will be a good thing with “beach season” upon us.  Let’s get right to it…randomly toss out ten things that our readers can do right now to optimize their nutritional plans?


  1. Add at least one fruit and/or vegetable to EVERY meal.
  2. Replace saturated and trans fats with fish oil, flax, olive oil, and other healthy fats.
  3. Drink more tea – green and black, as both offer a ton of benefits.
  4. Use a pre-, during-, and post-workout product that offers a carbohydrate:protein blend of about 2-3:1
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Think fiber, not carbs; whole grains are awesome, unless it’s pre-, during-, or post-workout.
  7. Write down what you eat on a daily basis/
  8. Eat at least one handful of almonds and/or walnuts daily.
  9. Add berries to your diet.
  10. Always eat breakfast.

EC: It goes without saying that you’re one of the industry leaders in the field of nutrition for health, performance, and body composition, but who were your mentors?  Likewise, who are the other individuals within the industry with whom you communicate on a daily basis for advanced nutrition knowledge?

CM:  I like to read all that I can – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to keep me in the loop of what’s out there being said, promoted, etc.  With that said, here are some folks I really trust for their nutrition knowledge – well, it’s nobody; I know all the answers!  Just kidding, of course.  John Berardi is great and a good friend, Tom Incledon is very knowledgeable, and I also look to Dave Ellis, who is a dietitian and strength coach who works with many pro/college teams or athletes in every sport.

EC: We’ve talked about the good guys, so how about the bad?  What frustrates you the most about this industry?

CM: The thing that frustrates me the most are those who only want that quick fix; they want all the results, with none of the work.  I hate the different fad diets that come out nearly every day.  Carbs are bad; now they’re good.  Fat is the devil; now it’s the greatest thing in the world.  Nutrition does not have to be that difficult; sure, there are some intricacies that will help you improve body comp, achieve goals, etc., but stick with the basics.  And don’t live off of supplements.  I received an email from a reader the other day with a list of EIGHTEEN different products he was taking and there were about three of each product, just different brands (creatine with dextrose, without, effervescent, three different multivitamins, and more).  Food works pretty damn well – and supplements can of course be beneficial, but don’t try to live off them!

EC: Let’s go with a little word association game.  What 2-3 sentences come to mind when I mention the following words/phrases?

The Food Guide Pyramid - Wish there was more focus on quality of nutrients.  If you’re stuck on a pyramid, I like the Mediterranean Food Pyramid, which emphasizes whole grains, fish, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats.

John Berardi - John is a great guy, very knowledgeable, and a good friend.  Although when he lumps all sports dietitians together as not knowing their head from their ass, he’s barking up the wrong tree!

Fasting - If you want to lose a lot of lean body mass, it’s REALLY effective.  You may be 120 years old when you die because of the extended life from caloric restriction, but you’ll wish you died when you started fasting.

Digestive Enzymes - Depends on your situation.  I don’t believe everyone needs them; the body works pretty darn well, but some folks may benefit from adding them to their regimen.

Eating Organic - Great if you can afford it.  I’m more concerned with folks first getting some healthier foods in their diets; many folks eat less than one fruit and/or vegetable each day.  I’d rather have them start there and just add healthier foods than worrying about paying a lot for organic foods.  If you can afford it, great, but more importantly, start making positive changes from your current diet without worrying too much about the organic thing and then “graduate” to that.

EC: If our readers want to be at the top of their game nutrition-wise, what are a few resources they need to check out?


Yes, the first two are shameless, self-promoting plugs:

  1. Human Inferno – A manual to help you with fat loss; I wrote it with Alwyn Cosgrove
  2. Weapons for Mass – Another manual I co-authored, this time with Dr. Greg Bradley-Popovich.
  3. Gourmet Nutrition by John Berardi and John Williams
  4. Fundamental Fueling Tactics DVD by Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS

EC: Similarly, who are five speakers they should see present?

CM: Alwyn Cosgrove, Craig Ballantyne, John Berardi, Phil Kaplan, and, of course, Eric Cressey.  Well, they should see me too.

EC: What’s new in your world?  I know you’re traveling a ton this summer; please fill us in on what has been on your agenda. Any new projects coming up?

CM:  I am traveling a ton this summer – lots of work, but of course some pleasure too.  So aside from being all over the country in the next few months, I’m working on another cool fat loss project with Alwyn Cosgrove and am in the early stages of a very cool project with someone else in my company that we plan to launch in the fall.  Stay tuned for more details.  I also just wrapped up some work on a book I did with LL Cool J and his trainer that will be coming out in January, in addition to a Sports Nutrition Textbook I co-authored for Human Kinetics that will be out in February 2007.  So, lots of stuff on the horizon!

EC: Thanks for being with us today, Chris.  Where can our readers find out more about you?

CM:  Thanks, Eric!

Check out www.MohrResults.com.
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Cement Your Neural Patterns

Q: I have a question about your latest blog post. In the question, that was ask, you talk about Dr. Eric Cobb saying "Strength training 'cements' your neural patterns." How does strength training affect your neural patterns vs. repetitive motion with no weight (i.e., weighted squats vs. body weight squats).

A: Give this article a read:


In particular, pay attention to the Law of Repetitive Motion (#7), which we cover in detail in our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set. Resistance is the "F" in the equation - and you can use that equation to iron out imbalances in the same way it causes imbalances in the opposite direction (hopefully that makes sense).

Reps are still important – and light weights are the way to go early on when you’re trying to groove appropriate movement patterns. As an example, we can do supine bridges and birddogs to get the glutes firing in our warm-ups, but the real meat and potatoes in terms of ironing out quad vs. posterior chain dominance and improper glute-ham-adductor-lumbar erector firing patterns comes when we add in loaded single-leg movements, deadlifts, box squats, glute-ham raises, and pull-throughs.


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Budgeting For Bodybuilders

By Eric Cressey

A while back, during the infancy of my transition from business school to the world of exercise science, I wrote Budgeting for Bodybuilders, a collection of thoughts that unified these two facets of my academic background. To me, all the information seemed like common sense; like many poor graduate students, I'm up to my neck in student loans, so I need to be--gasp--cheap. As such, I was pretty surprised to receive dozens of emails from people who really went out of their way to let me know how much they appreciated the article. Apparently, there are a lot of other people out there like me who are constantly looking for ways to save a few bucks and better manage their dough. These folks thanked me for helping them to save money and better organize their finances and priorities. Heck, one reader even offered me his first-born child. Okay, so I'm lying, but lots of people did ask if I had any more secrets on how to keep on training like a madman and eating like a horse without breaking the bank. I really only scratched the surface with my old "tips;" in case you missed them, here's a recap:

  1. Buy in bulk
  2. Drink tap water.
  3. Buy generic foods.
  4. Reuse empty cottage cheese containers as Tupperware.
  5. Shop for supplements online.
  6. Order in bulk to save on shipping charges.
Without further adieu, here are ten more magical secrets specifically for the iron enthusiast: 1) Befriend a hunter: This tactic won't do much for your sex life if he introduces you to his one-toothed, inbred sister, but it's a sure-fire way to fill your freezer a couple times per year with venison, moose, pheasant, or the odd stray cat. Besides, can you think of anything cooler than knowing that what you're eating was carved on the back of a pickup truck? 2) Stock up at sale time: Be sure to read mailings and the flyers in the local newspapers; clip coupons, too. When meats are on sale, stock up and fill your freezer. You'll derive satisfaction not only from saving boatloads of cash, but also from knowing that the mothers in the grocery store will be hiding their "tasty" young children from the carnivore with 47 pounds of chicken in his cart. You can freeze fresh vegetables (and some fruits) that are on sale, too, to save over pre-packaged frozen items. You might even consider some local farmers' markets for these purchases; they'll usually offer cheaper, and definitely higher quality produce than larger stores. Unfortunately, purchasing large quantities of vegetables tends to elicit less fear in innocent bystanders, and a lot more vegetarian jokes. Speaking of which, what do you call a vegetarian with the runs? Salad-shooter! But I digress...look for sales, stock up, and freeze. 3) Do your homework when buying supplements!: You'd think that this would be common sense, but I'm constantly amazed at how many suckers there are in the world. Nitric oxide supplements are perfect examples; they're ridiculously expensive and ineffective, yet how many people do you think have wasted money on them in order to learn that? Way too many frat boys, and most of the time, the ones that do report amazing gains are the ones that couldn't drag themselves to the gym beforehand. Now that they have this amazing supplement, they finally start to train; talk about magnifying the placebo effect! Plus, even if they realized nitric oxide bit the big one, these guys have too much pride to admit that they got ripped off. Heaven forbid that anyone find out that they spent the money mom and dad sent for laundry and books on crap supplements and... 4) BOOZE!: If you go to bars or sporting events, it's too damn expensive to get drunk. If you're sitting at home getting drunk by yourself, you're an alcoholic with bigger problems; I suggest taking up solitaire. Or, dare I say it? You could exercise. By the way, alcohol won't do much for your physique, either. Remember: you want the six-pack, not the keg! If you absolutely must get plastered, you can at least make an effort to return the bottles for a modest return on investment afterward, slacker! 5) Prioritize: When you got into the iron game, you probably realized early on that to make good progress, you also needed to be willing to make some sacrifices. One has to make time instead of finding time to train several times per week and eat 6-8 healthy meals per day. Moreover, if you really want to improve, you need to be take time to read and discuss training, nutrition, and supplementation methodologies in order to learn. Since I don't want to sound overly harsh in lecturing you here, I'll just toss out another vegetarian joke: Q: How many vegetarians does it take to change a light bulb? A: It's a trick question; vegetarians can't change a damn thing! 6) The Magical Change Jar: This tip is absolutely priceless. I started doing it about two years ago; without fail, I collected enough change every month to pay off the monthly interest bill (roughly $12-$15) I received for some of my student loans. Very simply, find an empty jar and place it within five feet of the door to your apartment or house. Each time you walk past it (i.e. returning home at the end of the day), take all the change out of your pockets, wallet, or purse, and put it in the jar. Throughout the month, never buy anything with change. For instance, if you're at the store and your total comes to $14.02, give the cashier $15; don't offer the extra two pennies. Instead, take the $0.98 home and deposit it in your "magical change jar." Think of it as a deceptive way to force yourself to save without even knowing it. Some people may frown on deception, and you may piss off the cashier that is forced to make change, but you'll thank me when you have enough money at the end of the month for a new training book or a few pounds of protein powder. 7) Plan and pack ahead: I shouldn't need to tell you how much cheaper it is to pack your grub for the day the night before than it is to go out to lunch. Hitting the coffee shop every morning is just as bad; if you save that two bucks every weekday, that's roughly $520 over the course of a year. Either use this money to buy a coffee maker and your own materials, or save the dough and kick the morning caffeine habit altogether. Your pre-workout caffeine buzz will be all the more satisfying if you aren't a habitual coffee drinker, anyway. More importantly, you'll have more cash available for more worthwhile expenditures. Again, nothing witty on which to end here, so here's another one: Q: Why did the vegetarian cross the road? A: She was protesting on behalf of the poor and defenseless chicken. 8) Learn the art of the home brew: This one piggybacks on #6. Not only is this a great way to save cash, it's also a lot of fun, as you get to play the part of "deranged chemist" in your kitchen! Customizing your proteins is useful in both meal-replacement shakes, puddings, and post-workout concoctions. If you're interested, look no further than Black Star Labs; these guys know their stuff and offer high quality proteins and great service at low prices. From a pre-bed or midday MRP standpoint, you might want a blend with more slow-digesting proteins like calcium caseinate and milk protein isolate. Or, if you're someone that likes an MRP at breakfast, you might want more whey. You can even buy a few pounds of each and be your own mixer by having a few varieties on hand. Additionally, an added advantage of having separate powders on hand for your post-training "home brew" is that you can tinker with your protein/carb/BCAA/glutamine inclusion decisions. If you're training with lower reps or are looking to lean out quickly, you'll want fewer (or no) carbs in your mid/post training shake. In contrast, when volume is higher, and you're looking to gain some size, you can be more liberal with your dextrose and maltodextrin additions. Finally, when you buy BCAAs and glutamine in bulk, you save a ton over encapsulated forms. Did I mention that most cannibals agree that vegetarians taste better? 9) Be a guinea pig: Check with local universities and independent research organizations to see if individuals of your age, physical profile, and qualifications are needed for studies. You might as well have some fun in the process, so look into something exercise-related. Studies dealing with strength and conditioning always need young, resistance-trained men to participate in various protocols, many of which pay very well: $100-$1000 in my experience, depending on the extent of the intervention (duration, difficulty of the protocol, dietary records, biopsies, blood sampling, etc.). In many cases, you'll get a free body composition assessment via a DEXA scan or hydrostatic weighing as a bonus. In longer duration studies, you might even get your own educated personal trainer for a few months at a time! Unfortunately, in most cases, women are excluded due to variations that arise with the menstrual cycle. Don't let that stop you from taking part in supplement, dietary, or other performance-related tasks, though! On a totally unrelated note, how can you spot vegetarians in restaurants? They're the customers that talk with the waiter for twenty minutes, and then just order garden salads. 10) Be your own butcher: Take a look at the typical cost of a thin sliced top-round steak at your local grocery store. At mine, it's at least $3.99/lb. Now, when I went to a wholesale club and bought a 73-pound case of top round roasts for $118.99, I paid $1.63/lb. The trade-off? Thirty minutes of my time to carve off some of the extra fat, chop the suckers up, individually bag them, and put them in the freezer. When I'm ready for a steak, all I need to do is hack off part of the roast. If I had let the local butcher do it for the 65 pounds (let's assume I chopped off eight pounds of fat), I would have paid $259.35. Now, was my thirty minutes worth $140.36? Damn right! And, if that's not enough, I avoided the time and hassle of having to go shopping every week. Plus, I got the sick thrill of seeing the horrified looks on my neighbors' faces when I hauled a massive quantity of animal flesh out of my trunk? That about wraps it up. I should note that although I eat an exorbitant amount of meat, I harbor no ill will toward vegetarians; I'm just not creative enough to write an entire article on being cheap without having a little fun at someone else's expense. So whether you're eating vegetables or soft, fluffy, innocent, woodland creatures that were brutally massacred and then carefully carved, marinated, and grilled to tasty perfection, I hope that your wallet appreciates the tips I've provided. Note: no animals were injured in the creation of this article. During the writing process, I did, however, cook and devour the remains of several that were already dead. They were yummy.
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An Interview with Brijesh Patel

By: Eric Cressey

It seems only fitting that I kick off the interviews with one of the guys who played a large role in getting me to where I am today.  When I arrived at the University of Connecticut, I was a little unsure about where my graduate school experience would take me, although I was leaning toward becoming a hardcore geek and doing loads of research.  Then, I met Brijesh and Pat Dixon and hit it off immediately with both of them.  These guys really took me under their wing in my first few weeks on campus.  Pat gave me the tour of campus, and Brijesh took the time to chat with me about anything related to training, nutrition, and life in general.  Perhaps most importantly, these two guys brought me into the UCONN varsity weight room to train, and it was there that my love of coaching really went to a whole new level.

The day I met Brijesh, he invited me to come to watch him coach the baseball guys the next morning at 6AM.  I showed up without thinking twice.  The passion “B” displayed for coaching and his complete control over an indoor track full of 25 college guys were really remarkable – especially since he did it in a very mild manner.  B isn’t one of those coaches who needs to scream and yell at you all the time to make you better, and I’ve really modeled myself from his example.  Perhaps most impressively was that every one of those players was wide awake at the crack of dawn; they were anxious to be coached by a guy whom they obviously respected tremendously as someone who could get them to where they needed to be.  That was a little over 30 months ago, and my coaching career has absolutely skyrocketed since then; I owe a lot of this success to B.

EC: Hey B, thanks for agreeing to do this.  Some of our readers might not have heard of you (and it’s their loss), so let’s try to bring them up to speed.  Fill them in a bit on your background, what you’ve got going on now, your pets, favorite color, whatever.

BP: Thanks Eric, I’m honored to be one of your first interviewees and would love to help out a fellow Husky and a Husky fellow.

EC: I was a husky kid long before I went to UCONN.  That’s what they used to call us fat kids when they didn’t want to hurt our feelings.

Mom: “You’re not fat; you’re just husky.  That’s why you need to wear elastic jeans and sweatpants all the time.”

Little Eric: “What does “husky” mean?”

Mom: “It just means that you play hard, honey.  Now wipe the cotton candy stains off your face and try on these Bugle Boys.”

I digress, but not totally.  You were a “husky” guy before UCONN, too, right?

BP: Yes!  This is kind of a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short so I don’t bore any of your readers.  I was always a “bigger” kid growing up, and had trouble participating in many sports because of my disadvantageous size.  I went out for football my freshman year in high school and vowed to lose enough weight so that I would have the opportunity to play more.  At my peak, I weighed 225 lbs (standing in at a whopping 5’4) with probably a body-fat of 30% (and that’s being generous).

I did a complete overhaul on my diet, began to exercise every day, and read anything I could get my hands on regarding training, and nutrition.  I ended up going a little over board and lost 90 lbs in six months.  I was then introduced to the weight-room and fell in love with it.  As a high school senior, I knew I wanted to be involved in athletics in some way and what better way than athletic preparation?

EC: Sounds all too familiar to me; how did you take the next step and get into coaching?

BP: I went to the University of Connecticut and volunteered in the varsity weight room in my second week of school.  I began by simply observing and asking questions and each year I gained more and more responsibility.  By my senior year, I was given two teams to train and coach on my own, which was an unbelievable opportunity in itself.  This worked itself into a graduate assistant position at UConn for another year a half.  Along the way I was fortunate enough to complete internships with Mike Boyle at his professional facility, and with Jeff Oliver at the College of the Holy Cross (where I presently coach).

EC: Mike and Jeff are both great mentors; who else inspired you?

BP: There have been a number of people that have inspired me in a number of ways.  I really admire all of the people that I have gotten to work with over the years, namely: Jerry Martin, Andrea Hudy, Shawn Windle, Teena Murray, Chris West, Moe Butler, Pat Dixon, Mike Boyle, Ed Lippie, Walter Norton Jr., Jeff Oliver, Liz Proctor, Charles Maka, and anybody else that I forgot.

I would also like to mention that people that have really shaped the industry and been willing to share their own knowledge: Everybody at T-Nation (Cressey, Robertson, TC, Waterbury, Shugart, Thibaudeau, Berardi, John, Cosgrove, Tate, Poliquin, King, and many others), Louie Simmons, Robb Rogers, Vern Gambetta, Mike Boyle, Paul Chek, Juan Carlos Santana, Mike Clark, Carl Valle, Mark Verstegen, Charlie Francis, and all the other great minds and coaches in the field today.

EC: What frustrates you the most about this industry?

BP: The number one problem in my opinion is the lack of “open-mindedness” of coaches, and self-proclaimed “gurus.”  This may be hard for some people to believe, but there is more than one way to get it done (create a strong, lean, mobile, and injury-resistant athlete).  I was asked a question recently about who I don’t really like in the industry, and I don’t think I could actually answer that question.  If you take the time to listen to what people say, you’ll find that everybody has something to offer.  We need to get over our egos and realize that you could learn something from somebody – even if it’s how NOT to do something.

EC: Describe a day in the life of Brijesh Patel – coaching, training yourself, you name it.

BP: I typically wake up by 5 am (I push it to 6 am on the weekends; I know, I’m a rebel!), have a couple cups of coffee and am out the door to work.  I like to train in the morning before it gets crazy in the weightroom, so I’ll usually train for about 90-120 minutes.  I’m not training for anything in particular, so I try the programs I write for my athletes.  This benefits me because I can see what is realistic and what works and what doesn’t before I try something out on my athletes.

The rest of my morning consists of catching up on emails, writing programs, speaking with coaches, helping out athletes who may come in to make up workouts, and reading up on articles.  Our afternoons are extremely busy with teams coming in every 30 minutes, and this lasts from about 2 pm to 6 pm.  If you want to check out weightroom efficiency, feel free to stop up to Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.  Then I’ll usually do some personal training or group training with high school kids (which I think is the best time to start training).

EC: The “knowledge is power” mentality is something I’m going to reiterate in each of my newsletters; it’s often been said that you should be reading at least one hour per day if you want to make it anywhere in life.  With that said, one question that everyone I interview will have to answer is “What are ten books that every aspiring coach should read or watch?”  We’re even going to make it easy on readers by providing them links to these books and DVDs.  You’re one of the most well-read guys I’ve ever met, B; what are your top ten?


1. Training for Speed, by Charlie Francis

2. The Egoscue Method of Health through Motion, by Pete Egoscue

3a. Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities, by Mike Boyle

3b. Functional Training for Sports, by Mike Boyle

4. Science and Practice of Strength Training, by Vladimir Zatsiorsky

5. Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—and it’s all Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson

7. Science of Sports Training, by Thomas Kurz

8a. The Black Book of Training Secrets, by Christian Thibaudeau

8b. Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods, by Christian


9. Modern Trends in Strength Training, by Charles Poliquin

10. Who Moved My Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard

I think these are a good mix of practical training that works, and personal development that will aid you in becoming a better coach.

EC:  If you had to pick five things our readers could do right now to become better lifters/athletes/coaches/trainers, what would they be?


1. Seek Knowledge - To become the best athlete/coach/trainer/person you have to go out and seek to learn from the best.  This knowledge can come from self-help books, business books, college classes, seminars, videos, the internet, you name it.  Just go out and learn.

2. Listen to People - This is a huge problem for all people.  We all judge people and shut them and their ideas out based on what we think we know about them.  When we actually take the time to listen to what somebody has to say, then and only then should we really judge.  If it works for somebody else and not for you find out why it works for them…don’t be quick to judge.

3. Train - There is nothing more frustrating to see than coaches who don’t do the programs that they write.  How do you know if it works?  How do you know what it feels like?  How do you know if it’s too heavy, too light, too much or not enough?

The only way to find out is to do it.  The program may look great on paper, but if it’s too much and you can’t recover from it, what’s the point?

4. Balance - Balance is a general word that refers to how we should do everything in life.  If we do too much of any one thing, something else is going to suffer.  For example, if we spend too much time at work our family and social life are going to suffer.  If we train our internal rotators too much with excessive volume our external rotators are going to suffer and leave us more susceptible to shoulder injuries.  If we eat too many carbohydrates, our insulin sensitivity is going to decrease and increase our chances of having type 2 diabetes.  We need to have balance in everything we do in our lives: work, family, social life, training, and nutrition.

5. Coach People, not Athletes - The more experienced I get in this field, the more I realize that I not only coach athletes, but coach people.  As coaches and trainers, we can have a profound influence on the people with whom we work.  We need to realize that we are not only helping an athlete achieve their goals, but also helping them to become better people.  We are teaching them what they can do mentally and physically, how to focus their mind, how to stay positive, how to make changes in their lifestyle, how to reduce stress, and how to lead a healthier lifestyle.  We run a summer program for high school kids and the biggest changes we see in them are their confidence levels.  Parents always remark on how our coaches have been a positive influence on their children.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Veronica Jutras (former HC women’s basketball player and Be Athletic Camp Counselor)

EC: Great advice, B.  On a semi-related note, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your training and professional careers?  Looking back, what would you do differently?

BP: Boy, where do I begin?  My first mistake could have been all of the long distance training I did to lose weight when I was in high school.  I’m positive that that training killed my chances to make it to the NBA (other than the fact that my genetics weren’t the greatest to begin with).  Side note: I haven’t grown much since high school, either.

As I mentioned earlier, being close-minded and not seeking enough knowledge were the biggest mistakes I made.  I thought I knew enough and didn’t believe in what other coaches did.  Because it didn’t make sense to me, I closed them out and thought they were bad coaches.  I didn’t seek to understand their perspectives or what they were looking to accomplish.  I also stopped seeking out new information for a while and became content and comfortable.  I soon realized that this was not a quick ticket to become a better coach or a better person.  I know now that to become better, I have to try and learn from everybody that I meet.  The only way to do that is to ask questions and seek to understand their perspective.

EC: Where do you see yourself in a few years, and how would you like to be remembered way down the road?

BP: In a couple years, I imagine myself as a head strength and conditioning coach at a university.  I would like to run an excellent program that is respected by my peers, and produces quality professionals.  I ultimately want to be known as a good educator and teacher.  I really relish the opportunity to work with interns who are eager to learn and become good professionals.  Another thing that I hope for is to have a lasting impact upon all the athletes with whom I work.  There is nothing more satisfying than to know that you have helped somebody become a better person.

EC: I think it’s safe to say that you’ve already accomplished more in your 20s than most coaches accomplish in your lifetime, and there’s no doubt that you’ll continue to be a force on the performance enhancement scene for decades to come.  That said, feel free to use the space below to shamelessly plug all of your products and services.

BP: Robb Rogers, Shawn Windle, and I make up S B Coaches College (www.sbcoachescollege.com), an internet education business committed to bringing you the latest information about the methods used by top-level strength coaches to prepare their athletes for competition.  Whether you are a sport coach, strength coach, or athlete, we will provide you with products and information that will help you and your athletes achieve new levels of performance.  You will find hundreds of inspirational and motivational quotes in our coach’s corner, thought-provoking tip of the months, information-packed newsletters, easy-to-understand articles, PowerPoint presentations that we have utilized, and high quality CD-ROMs and manuals for sale.

Readers can contact me at bnpuconn@hotmail.com

EC: Thanks for the time, B!

BP: Thanks Eric, I really appreciated and enjoyed this opportunity.

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Bogus Biomechanics, Asinine Anatomy: Part II

By Eric Cressey

Last month, I covered the five myths that you're bound to come across in any gym during your time in the iron game. This month, five more!

Myth #6: Stance width dictates recruitment of the different muscles of the quadriceps during squats and leg presses. Contrary to what the local self-proclaimed bodybuilding guru might have told you, this is false. Recruitment is more a function of squat depth than width. McCaw and Melrose (1999) demonstrated that although a wider stance will recruit more of the adductors and glutes, it doesn't change the relative contributions of the four muscles of the quadriceps during a squat (1). In other words, the "feet together for the vastus lateralis" and "wide stance for the vastus medialis" concepts simply don't hold water. The vastus medialis is better recruited with terminal knee extension and any movements that send the knee into valgus. Likewise, anecdotally, knee extension exercises from positions of great knee flexion (e.g. deep squats, lunges, and step-ups) preferentially recruit the vastus medialis. This could result from increased activity of the adductor magnus - which also works as a hip extensor – to assist in hip extension from the low position. Research has shown that because the vastus medialis oblique originates on the adductor magnus tendon, increasing adductor magnus activity will enhance vastus medialis recruitment. This is the premise behind many physical therapists recommending straight leg raises with the knee extended and femur adducted to strengthen the vastus medialis; unfortunately, this rehabilitation model isn't functional at all, and therefore doesn't have much value beyond the initial stages of rehabilitation. The next time someone tells you that stance width is what determines quadriceps recruitment, ask him how we classify single leg movements, where there is no such thing as stance width! Myth #7: The "core" consists of just the abs, and can best be trained with crunches. This statement is accepted as gospel in most mainstream muscle magazines, but it's actually way off the mark. The core actually encompasses far more musculature than the rectus abdominus alone; broadly speaking, it extends from the upper torso and neck to the knees, serving as the link between strength and power in the lower and upper body. Clark (2001) put forth perhaps the best functional anatomy breakdown of the core when he divided it into the local (deep) and global (superficial, prominent) musculature (2). The local musculature – including most notably the transverse abdominus and multifidus – functions primarily to stabilize the spine. Much debate has arisen in the strength training and rehabilitation communities in regards to whether or not the local musculature warrants direct training in healthy individuals. Since it's my article, I'm allowed to give my opinion: in healthy individuals, spinal stabilization occurs involuntarily, so direct training is unproductive, and potentially counterproductive, as McGill has pointed out (3). I'd also like to take this opportunity to say that I think it sucks that most canned tuna has soy hidden in it. Oh yeah, this is also a good spot for my prediction of a third Patriots Super Bowl win in four years. Clark further divided the global musculature into the lateral, deep longitudinal, posterior oblique, and anterior oblique "subsystems." All of these subsystems function as a cohesive unit during complex movements (2), but they warrant mention individually to understand how training can be targeted for improving function in one or more. The lateral subsystem involves the interaction of the gluteus maximus, tensor fascia latae, adductors, and quadratus lumborum (think "inner and outer thighs and hips"). This subsystem plays an important role in stabilizing the body in the frontal plane during activities (especially single-leg work) involving the lower body (2). The deep longitudinal subsystem most notably includes the erector spinae, biceps femoris, sacrotuberous ligament, and thoracolumbar fascia; this system is a crucial component of the powerful posterior chain that you've likely heard discussed by numerous strength coaches. Essentially, this subsystem's primary function is to allow forces generated in the lower body to be carried up to the upper body (and vice versa, in less common occurrences) (2). The posterior oblique subsystem also includes the gluteus maximus and thoracolumbar fascia, but this time in collaboration with the contralateral latissimus dorsi (2). You may have heard of the "serape effect," which relates the gluteus maximus and latissimus dorsi during the gait cycle. Basically, both muscles are extensors; when the right arm is extending (thanks to the right lat) during gait, so is the left leg (thanks in part to the left gluteus maximus). By "posterior oblique," we're referring to the back and across nature of this muscular interaction. This subsystem also has implications in transverse plane stability (2). The anterior oblique subsystem consists of the adductors, internal and external obliques, and external rotators of the hips: gluteus maximus, piriformis, obturator internus and externus, gemelli superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, long head of biceps femoris, posterior fibers of the gluteus medius, sartorius, and adductor complex (at certain degrees of hip flexion). Beyond its obvious role in producing rotational motion, this final system is an important part of transverse plane stabilization (2). Myth #8: You can "isolate" muscles in a resistance training context. True muscular isolation is only possible in fine movements like blinking and twitching. In more gross movements and those involving significant external loading, numerous muscles interact as prime movers, synergists, and stabilizers. While some single-joint exercises will allow you to focus more on one muscle than others in concentric, eccentric, and isometric actions, it's simply impossible to truly isolate a muscle. In fact, the concept of isolated muscle action actually has dangerous implications, as elimination of important stabilizers would undoubtedly compromise exercise safety. If you don't believe me when I say that true isolation is impossible, you can continue to try to isolate your medial gastrocnemius while your bandana-sporting, belt wearing, pretty boy training partner screams in your ear about how badass you are. Meanwhile, those of us who know better will just keep to ourselves and do multi-joint exercises that allow for significant external loading, and we'll see who makes better progress. Myth #9: The secret to healthy shoulders is to have a big, strong chest, lats, delts, and "traps." I've heard this one on several occasions, and it never ceases to crack me up. These larger muscles are usually the problems, not the solutions! When you hammer your pecs, lats, anterior delts, and upper traps mercilessly and ignore their antagonists (external rotators, horizontal abductors, scapular retractors, and scapular depressors), unfavorable postures and movement patterns develop. Specifically, the humeri tend to assume an internally rotated resting position and the scapulae become elevated, winged and anteriorly tilted. These changes mechanically decrease the already-narrow subacromial space, increasing the likelihood that the tendons of the rotator cuff will become irritated when the arm is raised. When the rotator cuff is strong, it serves to depress the humeral head in the glenoid fossa so that this impingement doesn't occur. If the SITS muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) are weak relative to these larger muscles, the humeral head translates superiorly excessively; the pain is most prominent in bench pressing and overhead movements. Summarily, the secret to healthy shoulders is to train the antagonists to the "big dogs" in order to foster appropriate strength ratios and maintain ideal resting posture. Myth #10: Calves won't grow without calf raises. In my experience, calf development is perhaps the single-most genetically influenced aspect of weight training. Some guys are born with high calves, and some have thick ankles attached to tree trunks. That's not to say, however, that training and lifestyle factors can't markedly improve the size of one's calves. Yes, I said lifestyle factors! Take a look at any really fat person, and you'll see a great set of calves. The soleus comprises roughly 2/3 of the lower leg musculature, and since it's largely a postural muscle, it tends to hypertrophy in tubby people even if they don't exercise. It may not seem fair to those of you who are putting in the time with hours upon hours of calf raises, but that's life. Speaking of calf raises, they aren't the only way to train calves. The gastrocnemius works not only in plantarflexion, but also in knee flexion. As such, it gets hit hard with glute-ham raises and leg curls. Moreover, plantarflexion is trained heavily in a variety of more compound movements, including Olympic lifts, sprinting, sled dragging, and farmer's walks (with accentuated pushoffs). Sometimes, ignoring the calf raises altogether and focusing on these compound movements is a great way to spark growth "by accident." Or, they can serve as valuable adjuncts to your regimen of seated, standing, leg press, and donkey calf raises. Finally, the tibialis anterior (muscle on the front of the shin) can contribute to lower leg mass; dorsiflexion exercises and downhill running can be effective means of improving in this regard. Conclusion Hopefully, the past two articles have given you some intellectual firepower to call upon the next time you're confronted with these myths. Then again, old myths die hard, so sometimes it's better to just shake the "gurus" off and do your own thing. References 1. McCaw ST, Melrose DR. Stance width and bar load effects on leg muscle activity during the parallel squat. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Mar;31(3):428-36. 2. Clark, M. Performance Enhancement Specialist Online Manual. National Academy of Sports Medicine, 2001.
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4 Ways to Stay on Track

Back in 1999, I made the decision to flip a switch and dive into a healthy lifestyle, to theextreme. The all-or-nothing mindset has always worked pretty well for me, and if you're readingTestosterone, you've probably been lumped into the nutrition/training/fitness/health nut category a few times in your life. This all-or-nothing mindset was all well and good back when I was a college guy and didn't have the obligations I do today. But right around the time that TC taught me about the birds and the bees, life got more complex and I realized that I was going to have to learn to be a lot more flexible if I wanted to keep my string of dedication intact. Continue Reading...
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Bogus Biomechanics, Asinine Anatomy: Part I

Kinesiology Myths that Need to Die

By Eric Cressey

Call me anal-retentive, but when intelligent, experienced writers make incorrect statements in their publications, it makes me question their credibility. As we all know only too well, myths abound in the area of weight training ("high reps for toning") and nutrition ("protein is evil"). Since the kinesiology and biomechanics realm is my area of expertise, erroneous statements tend to get on my nerves even more. With that in mind, here's my opportunity to vent with respect to ten of those myths.

Myth #1: You can train the "medial deltoids." I always get a kick out of it when some of the most brilliant strength coaches (I can think of at least five) write about training the medial head of the deltoids with lateral raises or some other shoulder-specific exercise. These are some brilliant guys, so I never have the heart to speak up and tell them that "medial deltoids" don't even exist. Incorporating exercises for this imaginary head is not only impossible, but attempting to do so represents a fundamental lack of knowledge of anatomy. The term "medial" is a directional term that means "toward the midline" of, in this case, the body. From the anatomical position - standing, arms at sides, palms supinated (facing forward), the head of the deltoid that is sandwiched between the anterior and posterior deltoid fibers is actually the farthest away from the midline of the body of all of the heads of the deltoid. If anything, it should be called the lateral head! As such, these fibers are referred to as the "middle deltoid," a term that correctly identifies their position between the anterior and posterior deltoid. Myth #2: You can work on your left and right "bicep" and "tricep." These muscles both have more than one head, so you'd be better off saying, "You can work on your left and right biceps and triceps." Now that we've got the terminology down in a broad sense, let's look at the specific anatomy and how one can prioritize certain heads over the others. An important principle of which you should be aware is active insufficiency, a scenario that occurs when a two-joint muscle cannot contribute optimally to concentric action (i.e. shortening) at one joint because it is already shortened at another. In the case at hand, the long head of both the biceps and triceps can be preferentially recruited or excluded (for the most part) by avoiding or encouraging active insufficiency, respectively. The long (lateral) head of the biceps crosses both the elbow and shoulder joint (and the radio-ulnar joint to act as a supinator, but we won't worry about that right now), acting as an elbow and shoulder flexor. To maximally recruit the long head of the biceps, we need to eliminate one of these joint actions. As such, our options are to a) maintain shoulder extension (preferably past neutral) while flexing the elbow joint (e.g. incline curls) and b) flex the shoulder joint while maintaining elbow extension (e.g. front raise). Both scenarios avoid active insufficiency and force the long head of the biceps to bear the brunt of the load. Likewise, if we want to focus our efforts on the short (medial) head of the biceps, we simply flex the elbow with the shoulder flexed (e.g. preacher curls); because the long head of the biceps is already shortened at the shoulder, it can't contribute effectively to elbow flexion. The long head of the triceps also crosses the shoulder and elbow, but it acts in extension at both joints. If you want to overload this head of the triceps, you can a) maintain shoulder flexion while extending the elbow (e.g. overhead or lying extensions) and b) maintain elbow flexion while extending the shoulder (e.g. bent-arm pullover), although the latter option tends to recruit the lats and teres major more extensively. To reduce involvement of the long head of the triceps in favor of overloading the medial and lateral heads, simply extend the elbow with the shoulder extended (e.g. variations of pressdowns and dips). Myth #3: The traps are just the muscles between your shoulders and neck; they can be trained with just shrugs. This is an unfortunate misconception that has led to countless shoulder injuries in anatomy-ignorant lifters. The trapezius is actually a very large muscle that essentially spans from the lumbar spine all the way to the base of the skull. It can be divided into the lower, middle, and upper fibers; each of the three divisions has unique functions, so it's almost easiest to think of them as separate muscles altogether (much like the different heads of the deltoid). The lower fibers are responsible for scapular depression, retraction, and upward rotation. The middle fibers contribute to scapular retraction, elevation, and upward rotation. Finally, the upper fibers contribute to scapular elevation retraction, and upward rotation, and extension, lateral flexion, and contralateral rotation of the neck. Interestingly, as you may have inferred, the different fibers of the trapezius can act as both antagonists (elevation and depression) and synergists (retraction and upward rotation) to each other! Perhaps more importantly, you hopefully can tell that shrugs only directly train scapular elevation and the upper traps, so you need to use a wider variety of exercises to achieve complete trapezius development. If you didn't pick up on that, you're hopeless; go play in traffic. The rest of you should note that the lower and middle trapezius both play crucial roles in maintaining scapular stability and proper posture, two factors with definite implications in terms of overall shoulder health. Myth #4: Close-grip bench presses are good for the "inner" chest. I've read a lot of anatomy books, but I've never come across the inner head of the pectoralis major. There are clavicular (upper) and sternal (lower) fibers, but selective recruitment of these fibers is a function of angle of inclination of the bench and different movement patterns rather than grip width. Bringing your grip closer together will recruit more triceps, though. Myth #5: Your body doesn't know the differences between similar exercises that target similar musculature. I have been surprised to see this coming from a few prominent writers in the bodybuilding and strength and conditioning industries, so I thought this article would be a good place to air my disagreement with such a statement. Essentially (and pardon the stereotype), this is bodybuilding logic. For the most part, in the bodybuilding world, there are only muscles; in the quest to be big, and not strong or proficient at some athletic endeavor, many bodybuilders completely overlook the role of the nervous system in exercise selection. Let's start with the most basic arguments against this logic. As Mel Siff points out, "Subtle differences apparently as insignificant as a change in grip, stance or head position in regular training can cause significant neural changes which control the way in which the athlete executes a given skill (1)." When we change our grip on standing dumbbell curl variations, for instance, we can shift the emphasis within the elbow flexors among the biceps brachii, brachioradialis, and brachioradialis (among other muscles). Like I said, we're starting with the basics, but let's now make our example a bit more complex by comparing a preacher curl and a standing dumbbell curl. As I mentioned before, there are obvious muscular recruitment changes that occur due to the aforementioned active insufficiency of the long head of the biceps with the flexed-humerus position. Likewise, there are implications in terms of force production capabilities. According to Siff,

Many studies indicate that, in all of the diverse isolated single-joint movements, changes in strength apparently depend upon the role and functions of the joint mechanisms and the relative disposition of the body's links relative to one another. Changes in joint angle alter the conditions of muscular work, since muscle length and angle of pull are changed. Muscular strength and leverage change, and consequently, so does the torque (i.e. moment of force) produced by the muscles about a joint (1).

Keep in mind that the above quote only refers to single-joint movement; as I'm sure you can imagine, when multiple joints are involved, recruitment patterns can differ even more dramatically. Because joint angle affects how muscles produce force, there are clear implications in terms of the overall training effect. For instance, at joint orientations, rate of force development (RFD) will be faster than at others; when dealing with athletes, this is an important consideration. Moreover, strength increases over the entire range of motion depend to a large degree on the joint angle in training at which maximum muscular tension is attained (1). If this strongest position is avoided (via partial reps, for example), the magnitude of the strength increases may be compromised.

Now, let's go back to the preacher curl versus standing dumbbell curl example. Not only are recruitment patterns different within the elbow flexor musculature, but contributions (or lack thereof) from the rest of the kinetic chain are also altered. Far more stabilization must take place at multiple joints in the latter exercise because of the standing position and the lack of support for the upper arms. This underscores the importance of basing all training programs on core exercises; they simply involve more musculature and train recruitment patterns that are functional for our daily lives. It also demonstrates the differential training effect of, say, a floor press when compared to a 2-board press. Both have their place in training programs, but the latter involves greater muscle recruitment and loading in a fixed distance traveled by the bar. Now, let's take this a step further. Which is more neurally draining: a 1RM barbell curl or a 1RM deadlift? If you answered "the curl," it's time to start taking your lower body training more seriously. Very simply, the deadlift is more taxing because it requires more work (force times distance) to be done. Increasing both the force and distance components necessitate increased muscular recruitment via increased neural output. One step further: is a full ROM 1RM barbell curl more neurally draining than a ½ curl? Assuming the same weight it utilized, of course (force stays the same, but distance is greater). However, let's assume you can use enough additional weight on the ½ curl to offset the reduction in distance, and the overall work is the same for both exercises. Then, you certainly have a conundrum. In a broad sense, the neural demands are similar; however, differences exist in terms of rate coding and fiber recruitment, depending again on joint orientation. Here's where a lot of folks want to end the discussion (if they're even gotten this far without getting bored or confused). If we've established that subtle variations in exercises won't markedly change the overall impression left on the nervous system, then we can go ahead and bench 52 weeks per year as long as we change our rep ranges and tempo of execution, right? Yes, but since when is lifting weights about "avoiding stagnation," and not about "getting hella beeeg, fast, and strong?" That's right; I'm talking about optimization of training here. Read on… Training has a far more profound impact on the nervous system than just fiber recruitment. Most attention in the literature is focused on the efferent (motor) and not the afferent (sensory, or feedback) component on the nervous system. However, varying exercise selection – just like varying speed of execution, loading, and volume – is crucial to developing afferent pathways as well. Specifically, I'm referring to the joint receptors.

  • Pacinian corpuscles are rapidly adapting receptors that are highly sensitive to vibration frequency, acceleration, and deceleration.
  • Golgi-Mazzoni corpuscles are sensitive to compression of the joint capsule, therefore supplying crucial information to the CNS regarding how close one is to the end of the range of motion.
  • Ruffini endings are sensitive to capsular stretching with respect to speed and direction; this information complements that gathered by the Pascinian corpuscles.
  • Golgi ligament endings are sensitive to tension and stretch on ligaments, whereas free nerve endings (nociceptive and nonnociceptive) may respond to a variety of mechanical and biochemical stimuli (2,3).

The CNS cannot act without information upon which to base its actions, so efficiency of these joint receptors is of paramount importance in determining not only success, but injury prevention (e.g. knowing when to fire a muscle to decelerate a movement). For this reason, re-education of joint receptors should be an important focus in all rehabilitation and prehabilitation programs. The best way to train these receptors is to expose them to a wide variety of speeds, loads, and positions.

The last few paragraphs are just my two cents on the issue, so I suppose calling this one a "myth" is somewhat of a stretch. Conclusion Next month, I'll cover five more myths that need to be banished from weight rooms for the rest of eternity. In the meantime, be leery of everything you hear from the self-proclaimed gurus at your gym. References 1. Siff, M. Supertraining: 6th Edition. Supertraining Group, 2003. 2. Tiberio, D. Unpublished. 2004.
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An Interview with Eric Cressey

Brian Grasso - Your newest DVD, ‘Magnificent Mobility’ cites the importance of delineating the difference between ‘mobility’ and ‘flexibility’ in a training program. What is the difference and when do each apply?

Eric Cressey - Those are great questions, Brian; very few people understand the difference – and it is a big one. Flexibility merely refers to range of motion – and, more specifically, passive range of motion as achieved by static stretching. Don’t get me wrong; static stretching has its place. I see it as tremendously valuable in situations where you want to:

a) Relax a muscle to facilitate antagonist activation (e.g. stretch the hip flexors to improve glute recruitment)

b) Break down scar tissue following an injury and/or surgery (when the new connective tissue may require “realignment”)

c) Loosen someone up when you can’t be supervising them (very simply, there is less likelihood of technique breakdown with static stretching because it isn’t a dynamic challenge)

However, the principle problem with pure flexibility is that it does not imply stability nor preparedness for dynamic tasks. As one of my mentors, Dr. David Tiberio, taught me, we need to have mobile-stability; 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!

Moreover, it’s not uncommon at all to see individuals with circus-like passive flexibility fail miserably on dynamic tasks. For instance, I recently began working with an accomplished ballet dancer who can tie herself into a human pretzel, but could barely hit parallel on a body weight squat until after a few sessions of corrective training. She was great on the dynamic tasks that were fundamentally specific to her sport, but when faced with a general challenge that required mobility in a non-familiar range of motion, she was grossly unprepared to handle it. She had flexibility, but not mobility; the instability and the lack of preparation for the dynamic motion were the limiting factors. She could achieve joint ranges of motion, but her neuromuscular system wasn’t prepared to do much of anything in those ranges of motion.

We went to great lengths in Magnificent Mobility to not only outline mobility drills, but also what we call “activation” movements. Essentially, they teach often-dormant muscles to fire at the right times to normalize the muscle balance, improve performance, and reduce the risk of injury. Collectively, mobility and activation drills are best performed as part of the warm-up and on off-days as active recovery. We’ve received hundreds of emails already from athletes and ordinary weekend warriors claiming improved performance, enhanced feeling of well-being, and resolution of chronic injuries; this kind of positive feedback really makes our jobs fun!

Brian Grasso - You certainly are known for you ability to get athletes stronger. What type of training do you use for adolescent athletes… let me narrow that down (i) a 16 year old with no formal strength training experience (ii) a 16 year with a solid foundation and decent knowledge with exercise form

Eric Cressey - First and foremost, we have fun. It doesn’t matter how educated or passionate I am; I’m not doing my job if they aren’t having a blast coming in to train with me. With respect to the individual athletes, I’ll first roll through a health history and just run them through some basic dynamic flexibility movements to see where they stand. As we all know, there is a lot of variation in terms of physical maturity and training experience at these ages, and I can get a pretty good idea of what they need just by watching them move a bit. In your individual cases, much of my training would revolve around the following:

In the unprepared athlete, I’d go right into several body weight drills – many of them isometric in nature – to teach efficiency. We often see an inability to differentiate between lumbar spine and pelvic motion, so I spend quite a bit of time emphasizing that the lumbar spine should be stable, and range of motion should come from the hips, thoracic spine, scapulae, and arms. Loading is the least of my concerns in the first few sessions; research has demonstrated that beginners can make progress on as little as 40% of 1RM, so why rush things with heavy loading that will compromise form? The lighter weights will allow them to groove technique and improve connective tissue health prior to the introduction of heavier loading. At the start, I’ll emphasize unilateral work; mobility; any corrective training that’s needed; classic stabilization movements (i.e. bridges); and learning the compound movements, deceleration/landing mechanics, and how to accelerate external loads (e.g. medicine balls, free weights). I’ll also make a point of mentioning that how you unrack and rerack weights is just as important as how you train; it drives me crazy to see a kid return a bar to the floor with a rounded back.

In the athlete with a solid foundation, I’ll run through those same preliminary drills to verify that they are indeed “solid” and not just good compensators for dysfunction. Believe it or not, most “trained” athletes really aren’t that “trained” if you use efficiency as a marker of preparedness – even at the Division I, professional, and Olympic ranks; you can be a great athlete in spite of what you do and not necessarily because of what or how you do it.

Assuming things are looking good, I’ll look to give them more external loading on all movements, as the fastest inroads to enhanced performance will always be through maximal strength in novice athletes. As they get more advanced, I’ll start to look more closely at whether they’re more static or spring dominant and incorporate more advanced reactive training movements. Single-leg movements are still of paramount importance, and we add in some controlled strongman-type training to keep things interesting and apply the efficiency in a less controlled environment. Likewise, as an athlete’s deceleration mechanics improve, we progress from strictly closed-loop movement training drills to a blend of open- and closed-loop (unpredictable) tasks.

In both cases, variety is key; I feel that my job is to expose them to the richest proprioceptive environment possible in a safe context. With that said, however, I’m careful to avoid introducing too many different things; it’s important for young athletes to see quantifiable progress in some capacity. If you’re always changing what you do, you’ll never really show them where they stand relative to baseline.

Brian Grasso - Olympic lifts and adolescents… do you use them? Why or why not?

Eric Cressey - Personally, I generally don’t for several reasons. It’s not because I’m inherently opposed to Olympic lifts from an injury risk standpoint. Sure, I’ve seen cleans ruin some wrists, and there are going to be a ton of people with AC joint and impingement problems who can’t do anything above shoulder level without pain. That’s not to say that the exercises are fundamentally contraindicated for everyone, though; as with most things in life, the answer rests somewhere in the middle. Know your clients, and select your exercises accordingly.

My primary reasons for omitting them tend to be that I don’t always have as much time with athletes as I’d like, and simply because such technical lifts require constant practice – which we all know isn’t always possible with young athletes who don’t train for a living. Equipment limitations may be a factor (bumper plates are a nice luxury). And, to be very honest, I’ve seen athletes make phenomenal progress without using Olympic lifts, so I don’t concern myself too much with the arguing that goes on. If another coach wants to use them and is a good teacher, I’m find with him doing so; it just isn’t for me, with the exception of some high pulls here and there.

Brian Grasso - Basing off of the last question, do you teach Olympic lift technique to pre-adolescents?

Eric Cressey - I don’t. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so with a broomstick or some PVC pipe, but when I consider the pre-adolescents with whom I’ve worked, I just can’t see them getting excited about all that technique work for one category of exercises. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself, and I think it should be viewed that way.

Brian Grasso - My subscribers know that I believe as much in deceleration training as I do in any sort of speed enhancing-based work… How do you improve speed and deceleration habits?

Eric Cressey - We’re definitely on the same page on this one. In a nutshell, I just slow everything down for the short-term – starting with isometric holds. Every change of direction has a deceleration, isometric action, and acceleration; I’ve found that if you teach the athlete how his/her body should be aligned in that mid-point, they’ll be golden. My progressions are as follows (keep in mind that you can span several of these progressions in one session if the athlete is proficient):

Slow-speed, Full Stop, Hold > Slow Speed, Full Stop, Acceleration > Slow Speed, Quick Transition, Acceleration > Normal Speed, Full Stop, Hold > Normal Speed, Full Stop, Acceleration > Normal Speed, Quick Transition, Acceleration

Open-loop > Closed-loop (predictable > unpredictable)

With respect to reactive training methods (incorrectly termed plyometrics), we start with bilateral and unilateral jumps to boxes, as they don’t impose as much eccentric force (the athlete goes up, but doesn’t come down). From there, we move to altitude landings, and ultimately to bounce drop jump (depth jumps), repeated broad jumps, bounding, and other higher-impact tasks.

Finally, one lost component of deceleration training is basic maximal strength. All other factors held constant, the stronger kid will learn to decelerate more easily than his weaker counterparts. So, enhancing a generally, foundational quality like maximal strength on a variety of tasks will indirectly lead to substantial improvements in deceleration ability – especially in untrained individuals.

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Baggett of Tricks Part II: An Interview with “The Truth About Quickness” Author Kelly Baggett

In Part I, The Truth About Quickness Author Kelly Baggett and I discussed his unique background, the importance of perspective, and common mistakes performance enhancement specialists (not to be confused with "strength and conditioning specialists") make. We began to touch on the topic of testing athletes, so let's pick up where we left off.

EC: With optimal testing frequency down, let's cover the tests themselves. Which tests are good? Which ones are outdated? KB: Any test that gets an athlete injured is obviously no good. For this reason there are times (e.g. inexperienced athlete) when it can be counterproductive to perform certain tests like low-rep squats, bench presses, etc. Any test can be improved with practice and I really like tests that don't require much if any practice. Now, for specific tests I really don't like the 225 max reps test for obvious reasons. There is also too much emphasis on a 40-yard dash. I like the test itself but don't like how coaches give so many points based on a player's "40." Agility tests are useful but they can also be improved dramatically with practice and are pre-rehearsed, so they aren't always accurate. Statistical data shows the only test the NFL uses that has much reliable correlation to playing ability is the vertical jump test. Interestingly, it would also seem to be the least "football specific" of all these tests. I'm also all for certain postural tests, length-tension assessments, and the like because these will go a long way in eliminating injuries, optimizing movement efficiency, and helping everything run smoother from the ground up.

EC: New tests that you have to introduce? I know you and I are both are big proponents of the vertical jump vs. counter movement jump comparison. Any others? KB: When it comes to using tests to determine training focus, the vertical jump with and without counter movement is useful to determine strength functions. As an extension of the one you mentioned, try this: sit back on a chair in a ¼ squat and jump up and then compare this to your regular down-and-up jump. If the difference is less than 10%, it indicates that you rely on more pure muscular explosive strength and need plyometric/reactive work. If the difference is greater than 30%, it indicates you need more muscular/explosive strength because you rely largely on the reflexive/plyometric effect. This test is okay, but I still prefer a reactive jump test. The chair version will often give false results because people simply aren't used to jumping from a pure standstill. If I was only able to use one test to indicate ones optimal training focus, strengths, and weaknesses, I'd use the reactive jump test because it tells so much. Not only are the results important in terms of jumping, but they can also be carried over to sprinting, agility, and multiple sports movements. I ran across it in some writings by Schmidbleicher and am surprised that it hasn?t been used more. I've been using it for a year and a half now, and it is very effective; DB Hammer is a true master of testing and finding athletes' weaknesses and he also uses a version of this test but with a specialized reactive jump pad that measures the amortization phase. It's a nice addition, but most aren't going to have access to it and it's not really necessary anyway. The test enables you to gradually increase plyometric contribution and see how the body responds. EC: For our readers who aren't familiar with the VJ vs. CMJ test, how about tossing out a brief outline? KB: No problem. Generally, when reactive ability is good, the amount of energy that you put out in a movement will be directly proportional to the energy you take in. So, if you absorb more force, you develop more force. What you do on the reactive jump test is measure how much force you take in and compare this to how much power you put out. First, measure a regular down-and-up jump. Then, you use boxes and starting from around 12-inches perform a depth jump. Step off the box, jump as high as possible when you hit the ground and measure the height you jump. If it's less than your regular VJ, you can stop there because it's obvious you are lacking in reactive ability. Your ability to absorb negative force and transfer it into positive power is lacking. You'll want to start using reactive and power training immediately; altitude landings would also be good for training your system to better absorb force. Once you become proficient, you then just follow the altitude landings up with reactive jumps.

Now, if your 12-inch reactive jump was better than your VJ, you keep increasing the height of the box in 6-inch increments until you find where your reactive jump drops below your vertical jump. The greater the height of the box when you reach that point, the greater the reactive ability. For some, there will be a gradual increase with each increase in box height. They may find their best jump comes off a 30 -inch box or better. These people are very plyometrically efficient so they need to emphasize muscular strength and hypertrophy to create more resources they can draw from in a plyometric movement - and nearly all sports movements are plyometric dominant. The test also will establish the optimal height of the box one should use for depth jumps; simply use the box that gives you the best reactive jump height. EC: This test also underscores the importance of postural assessments and seeking connections between different tests. If someone has dysfunction at the subtalar joint, it won't matter if they have potential for excellent plyometric abilities at the plantarflexors, knee extensors, and hip extensors. If they're excessively pronating, they'll cushion the shock too well, spending a lot of time on the ground because they can't switch over to supination, which provides a firm base for propulsion. They'll probably wind up with plantar fasciitis, an ACL tear, patellofemoral dysfunction, hip or lower back pain, or sacroiliac dysfunction. You can do power and explosive training until you're blue in the face, but unless you correct the underlying problem with orthotics or specific stretching and strengthening interventions, the exercises to make an athlete proficient will really only make them deficient: injured. Likewise, if someone has excessive supination, they'll be fine with the propulsion aspect, but won't be able to cushion landings well at all. These individuals will wind up with lots of lateral ankle sprains, iliotibial band friction syndrome, pain deep to the kneecap, or problems in the lower back and hip. They're easily spotted, as they don't get immediate knee flexion when upon landing. Again, corrective exercise initiatives have to precede corrective initiatives! Just my little aside; I couldn't keep my mouth shut for this entire interview! Where were we? Oh yeah - any more tests? KB: Let's see...another test that I like to use is the speed rep test; this can easily be implemented for the squat and bench press. You want to be able to explosively and quickly move a load that is fairly close to your limit strength so that you stay to the left on the force/time curve. Instead of basing your explosive training off of percentages you base it on the time it takes you to complete your reps. You simply try to get one rep for every second. You can go two reps in two seconds, three reps in three seconds, or five reps in five seconds. The percentages will vary among athletes, but I like to see bench press numbers up around 65-70%, achieving five reps in five seconds. The squat should be up around 55-60%.

The higher the percentage weight you use relative to your 1RM, the faster you are and the more of your max strength you'll be able to use in a short sports movement.

The converse is also true; the lower the percentage relative to your 1RM, the slower you are. You want to gradually push up your max numbers while maintaining or improving the % of your maximum you can move quickly. If you're up around 70% for bench press, it's time to focus more on pure strength. If you're down around 50%, you need more speed. I should also note that it's not absolutely necessary to know your 1RMs for these tests. Very simply, the more you increase the weight you can use for this one rep per second explosive training protocol, the more explosive you will be in your sport. EC: Good stuff. I know you've got some excellent points on 1RMs; care to enlighten our readers? KB: Sure. For 1RMs, one thing I've picked up from Buchenholz is to look at the time it takes to complete the lift instead of just analyzing the weight lifted. There is a reason why so many people are divided on whether a maximal squat will transfer to added speed or power. It's because the time it takes you to complete a maximal squat is much more relevant to sport transfer; those who achieve their 1RMs with great speed tend to have greater carryover of pure strength into sport than those who lift slower. Watch the guys who naturally lift a max load fast and compare their athletic abilities to those who lift slowly and you'll see what I mean.

To give you an idea, Fred Hatfield completed his former world record 1014 lb. squat from start to finish in under 3 seconds! That's what you call being explosive with a high percentage of your limit strength. I'm not saying that the squat is the best activity to directly transfer to a jump, but it's no wonder that he (at one time) had a vertical jump around 40 inches without any specific training for it! A guy who can complete a true 1RM bench or squat in around four seconds or less from start to finish will often be able to train with more heavy strength training and hypertrophy work and get a good sport carryover. A guy who takes seven seconds or more to complete a 1RM attempt is too slow when applying his maximal strength to get much carryover. Even though he may be very strong, it doesn't matter - nearly all sports movements are quick. He'll need to back off on the heavy stuff and work on rate of force development (RFD) and reactive ability so that he can use a given percentage of his absolute force capabilities quicker. The test to which I just alluded is also useful because it will automatically encourage athletes psychologically to explode more in any of their lifts because they'll realize how important rep speed is. You just have to be careful people aren't going to try to go too fast, increasing the likelihood of injury. EC: Any norms for these tests? What do you typically find? KB: What is interesting about this is that the majority of genetically gifted professional and upper level collegiate athletes are going to fit into the first - naturally more explosive - group. In other words, basic heavy training will work for them - which is what most programs are focused on. What about the guys who are in the other group, though? What if they have to be thrown in on the same program with all the other guys? Unfortunately, they probably won't make optimal progress on the same plan. They need something designed to optimize their attributes and overcome their deficiencies. This is what I meant when I said that we'll see better athletes in all sports as the body of knowledge on training increases. Instead of arguing about basic heavy weights vs. Olympic lifts etc., more strength and conditioning coaches will understand what the best plan is for any given individual or group and train them accordingly. Toss preconceived notions and prejudices out the window and let the athlete be your guide. EC: Optimize attributes and overcome deficiencies? Ubiquitous intelligent strength coaches? You're a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, aren't you Kelly? I mean, honestly, no arguments in the field of strength and conditioning? I can't decide if it would be a good thing because it'll quiet down all the HIT Jedis, or a bad thing because it means we won't be able to torture on them any more. While I search for answers, feel free to tell our audience about any other tests you use. KB: When it comes to speed and finding the right training focus, it's useful is to look at split times. During the start of a sprint - especially for the first 20-30 yards - relative body strength is key. After the initial acceleration period, reactivity becomes dominant, so it's important to find where in the race the athlete is weak. Someone who has a strong start but weak finish is likely strong, but is trying to muscle his sprinting stride. His hips may drop and he'll be unable to run smoothly, allowing his hips and hamstrings to contract reflexively. It could be that his heavy training is getting in the way of relaxation and messing up his reflexive ability. For example, if someone has a 1.4 second 10 yard-dash, but only a 4.9 40, it's pretty obvious that he's explosive and strong. However, when reactive ability takes over, he suffers. He needs more speed work - either through flying runs, longer sprints, or quick action plyometric drills - where relaxation and reflexive action is key. If a guy is fast over the second half of a timed split but has a slow start and acceleration, he just needs to emphasize basic relative strength and explosiveness. EC: As a kinesiology and biomechanics dork, I have to ask: how about actual movement analysis? KB: Instead of evaluating posterior chain strength in the weight room and flexibility with static stretches, just watch how an athlete runs and moves. Is he getting triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips with each stride, or is he chopping his stride short? This can indicate weak hamstrings or a flexibility or postural issue. Often, there is also a poor correlation between posterior chain strength demonstrated in the weight room and function of the posterior chain during a sprint, so you have to look at function instead of just numbers. If the function isn't there but the strength is, you?ll need to cut back on the weight work and focus more on things closely related to the specific activity. EC: Let's talk about the future of sports training. What do you think are the biggest issues on this front, and what can we expect to see in the years to come? KB: I think that the controversy over manufacturing athletes vs. letting nature do all the work will become even more of an issue than it already is. It's obvious that the U.S. is falling behind and it's readily evident by the number of what one could call naturally physically inferior European NBA players in the NBA now. It's getting to a point where the athletes born with the ability aren't the only ones who succeed, although that's pretty much the way it's always been.

EC: You gotta' love the Larry Birds of the world; they do a great job of throwing wrenches in the model for the perfect athlete on paper. That's not to say that we can't make every athlete better with proper training, though. KB: I agree; with improved training methods, you'll see a lot more athletes with inferior physiques and skills (at least initially) make it to the top. The level of training will rise up so that someone who is born without any great physical abilities will be able to improve his abilities above and beyond someone who is born with them but doesn't work at it. Now, we have all these sports performance centers popping up across the US. I feel that's a good thing but they, of course, require money. The people who are able to take advantage of places like these will be well ahead of the guys who just have a school program. This will become even more apparent in the coming years, especially as the people running these places get even better at their jobs. I think Shaq said it best a few years ago; he may have been joking, but I don't know. When asked how he saw the NBA in ten years, he responded, "They'll be a bunch of white guys who can run and dunk as well as shoot!" We'll just have to wait and see? EC: Definitely. Okay, time for a little change of pace. We've focused on performance-based training exclusively thus far, but I know you have some insights regarding how to effecting positive changes in body composition and even bodybuilding-oriented training and nutrition tactics. The floor is yours... KB: Bodybuilders and those interested in physique enhancement need to learn how to better work from the inside out rather than the outside in. Hormones are always going to be at least, if not more important than external initiatives with exercise and diet when it comes to determining what happens with our body composition (muscle gain and fat loss). Any male will put on a good 40 lbs of muscle without doing anything when he goes through puberty. The reverse will also gradually occur with age; that's just how powerful the hormonal effect is. True, we can influence our hormonal state and internal chemistry by what we do, but people interested in the best gains of their life need to learn exactly what is going on inside them and how to best influence everything through diet and exercise to mimic as close as possible that natural hormonal growth surge. In other words, they must learn to optimize their internal chemistry so that fat will melt off or muscle will go on in slabs. Contributors from science and real world-based information sources are really advancing what we know about physical change related internal chemistry: how hormones affect us, what we can do to change certain signals, etc. Up until now, the only approach was to do a few things right and hope everything fell into place. Simply stated: eat like a horse and train heavy, or starve and eat a low calorie diet to lose fat - or load yourself up on steroids and a host of other drugs. Those approaches definitely work and will always work, but I feel they're getting outdated. For example, when it comes to fat loss and stress, leptin has been touted as the major controller of all things related to bodyfat and bodyfat setpoint over the past few years. I believe that the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the stress response is as important, if not more important than leptin. The HPA axis and related central controls will largely dictate partitioning of nutrients, thyroid levels, androgen levels, and overall anabolism/catabolism. We know about too much stress and its effects on cortisol, but it's important to remember that having a lowered response to stress can be just as problematic as having too much. There's no doubt in my mind that methods to more optimally manipulate all these central controls will become very popular in the next couple of years EC: It speaks volumes for knowing something about everything. It's not enough to be a strength coach that only understands training; you have to be up-to-date on nutrition, endocrinology, anatomy, biomechanics, rehabilitation, supplementation, motivation, equipment, and how they all are interrelated. There aren't many coaches out there that are that good, but you're definitely one of them, Kelly. Thanks for your time. KB: No problem; thanks for having me! EC: For more information on Kelly, check out the outstanding product he and Alex Maroko created, The Truth About Quickness.

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Baggett of Tricks, Part I: An Interview with “The Truth About Quickness” Author Kelly Baggett

Today, we have an interview with Kelly Baggett, co-author of The Truth About Quickness.  Kelly's one of the brightest guys in the field of strength and conditioning - but I don't need to tell you that, as you'll get the picture very clearly just by reading the interview below.  Check it out!

EC: Thanks for taking the time to talk shop with me, Kelly. Tell me a little bit about yourself; I don't want our readers to think that I just pulled some lunatic off the street for an interview in order to get an article in on time.

KB: I'm 30 years old and work as a performance enhancement specialist with individuals and coaches of all levels, setting up training, nutrition, and supplementation programs to optimize their progress. I've been fortunate to work in many aspects of the fitness, health, and sports training industry since the age of 18. My passion for these fields isn't limited to team sports; rather, it also includes bodybuilding, which, because of the emphasis on body composition management, has enabled me to pick up many things related to nutrition and apply them to the sports training world. I've pretty much always been into one sport or another; at one time or another over the last 20 years, I've been involved in motocross, baseball, football, basketball, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, martial arts, boxing, and gymnastics. Now that I think about it - pretty much every sport except for golf!

EC: Yeah, I usually get bored after about five holes, too; there needs to be more violence, cheerleaders, and swearing...but I digress. What were the roots of your passions? KB: I've always been partial to the speed and power dominant sports, but in spite of my yearning to be a great athlete, I really struggled as a youngster. Not only was I very small, but I was also really slow: these two qualities don't add up to much! I grew up with a lot of desire for developing the attributes of superior athleticism and plenty of curiosity and dedication to figure out how best to get the job done. These attributes, of course, include qualities like strength, size, speed, power, agility, quick feet, and, of course, "the look." With consistent training, my own athletic attributes really took off and I knew I was onto something. Fortunately, because of the environments in which I've worked, I've been able to apply the knowledge and experience I've gained toward helping others reach their goals. Nonetheless, I realize this is still the very beginning; right now, we're really just getting started with what can be done. When we look at strength and conditioning fifteen years from now, we'll be amazed at just how far we've come; I just want to do my part and contribute to this advancement as much as I can. EC: One of the things that I've always admired about you is your willingness to think outside the box. Where did this unique perspective originate? KB: It's funny that you'd use the phrase "think outside the box," as I hear that quite a bit; a lot of people comment that I seem to dig up answers from all over the place. When it comes to figuring things out, I probably do tend to stray from the more chosen paths. I guess you could say my overall approach of thinking was solidified by some things I've experienced personally. I developed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at the age of 25 and was basically told that I would be fortunate if I could walk in a few years. The commonly accepted treatment options for RA are drugs with harsh side effects like medications used during chemotherapy treatment and prednisone: drugs that I would have had to take for the rest of my life to help slow the progression of the disease. Based on what I observed and heard from others, the drugs didn't work consistently and the side effects were harsh. So, I decided to take my own path, which led me to explore alternative treatment options and develop an understanding of the disease in order to treat it holistically. To make a long story short (I have definitely had my fair share of struggles), I've never touched any common prescription medications for RA and am stronger now then I was 25. I pretty much carry that mindset into everything I learn and do; I feel that you can learn from anyone or any situation if you just keep an open mind. When you learn something, you have to immerse yourself in it fully. However, to really take advantage of the information and advance, you must back out and look at things from the outside-in, asking yourself, "How can I best use this and is this really the best way to accomplish my objective?" I'm all for science, but I prefer to start backwards; in other words, how can real world observations be explained by science? EC: That's a perspective that I'd like to see a lot of people in the strength and conditioning industry adopt. All too often, strength and conditioning coaches are afraid to try something new and, as a result, wind up making the same mistakes year after year with different athletes. For instance, I'm amazed at how many people still think that boatloads of boring, steady-state aerobic exercise and a low-fat diet are the best ways to lose fat. All these athletes do is become weak, tired, sick, and apathetic with compromised endocrine status. KB: I agree; conditioning for athletes is a very common area of ignorance in today's coaches. Too many coaches and athletes try to make up for poor diet by running their guy into the ground with conditioning. Not enough attention is paid to diet, and I feel not enough coaches are well versed in dietary approaches. Physically, someone like David Boston, although probably too extreme, is a good example of what can be accomplished with excellent combinations of each - training and diet. EC: While we're on the topic, what do you think are the most prominent errors that strength and conditioning coaches make? KB: Before I get to the errors themselves, we ought to reconsider the use of the term "strength and conditioning," coach, which I feel would be better renamed "performance enhancement" coach. The term "strength and conditioning specialist" conveys that as a coach you must either be busting your athletes' asses in the weight room or running them to death on the field. Too many coaches get caught up on the strength aspect when their time would be better spent focusing on means of improving performance. They should be asking themselves how they can best increase the short- and long-term performance of an athlete, and they should be able to tell you exactly why they're training a certain way at a particular time and know exactly how and why what they're doing is going to improve performance. Often, performance can be improved by doing nothing at all: simply allowing recovery to take place. Or, in some cases, focusing on things unrelated to strength and conditioning like basic sports movement patterns can be of tremendous value.

EC: Excellent observation; recovery is unquestionably one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated facets of not only making people bigger, stronger, and faster, but also improving demeanor. Some athletes just need more time off than others, so you have to know when to back off on volume, do some pool work, or just send them home to eat and go to bed. KB: I agree. That statement also underscores the important of recognizing that one athlete's trash is another athlete's treasure; it's important to assess each athlete's needs individually. I can't tell you how many times I've seen football players with near-zero agility, dynamic flexibility, and reactive movement ability spend their entire summer in the weight room doing nothing but pounding the weights in an effort to get stronger with very little return in playing ability. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many basketball players, runners, and cheerleaders I've seen who have struggled for months and years on end trying to develop their skills when their woes could easily be cured by a solid month in the weight room making friends with the iron. So, it's definitely not a one-way street; the coach needs to understand which direction the athlete should go. EC: Any other common errors? KB: Another thing I see a lot that I don't always agree with is coaches and specialists looking a bit too much to the rehab setting for answers when they should be looking to the real world for answers. Now this is totally different for the general population, but when it comes to athletes, I think you have to draw the line and ask a simple question: "What qualities do the best athletes have and how can one gain those qualities?" To sum it up, list the twenty greatest athletes you can think of in the NFL, NBA, soccer, hockey etc. Out of those twenty, how many of them do you think spent significant time being coached in stability training, core activation, functionally correct linear and lateral movement training, etc. in their youth? Now, if your answer is anything like mine, it's going to be "Not very many!" What is it, then, that separates these athletes from the rest? What are the things that we commonly do now - the best methods to develop these attributes? That's what you need to be doing! Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for almost everything, but I feel if something isn't working right, then you can go back step-by-step and correct it. You usually can use drills or exercises that are very close to what you would normally do; there's rarely a need to go back all the way and have this athlete performing a workout that would be more fitting for someone coming out of multiple joint replacement surgery. If your car drives pretty good and you want it to go faster, you'd want to put a bigger engine in it before you waste time trying to make it drive absolutely perfect. Moreover, before you go and start modifying an engine with all sorts of fancy gadgets, you better be able to use the engine you do have in the first place.  This is a theme that resounds in our product, The Truth About Quickness.

To illustrate this concept, let me give a couple of examples from some "Rocky" movies. I'm just going to assume everyone reading this has seen "Rocky." Remember how Micky trained Rocky for speed and agility by having him catch chickens? Sometimes you just have to "turn the chicken loose." If you can catch the chicken, you're most likely able to move functionally well enough! However, if you can't catch the chicken, maybe you should initially spend more time focusing on the things that will more DIRECTLY improve your speed and quickness and see where that takes you instead of worrying about all the often excessively complex functional training techniques. EC: It kind of brings to mind how the term "functional movement training" has been bastardized over the past few years. There were some really smart people on the right track with their definitions and explanations initially; now, commercially-driven goons have redefined it to convince housewives that standing on a stability ball while performing some silly-looking unilateral inverted wiggling motion with a two-pound medicine ball is the optimal way to be "functional and fit." Last time I checked, if a movement got you from point A to point B, it was functional. So, I suppose these people aim to look moronic, then what they're doing is somewhat functional? KB: Sometimes you just have to take that more straightforward approach. Here's another "Rocky example." Recall that in "Rocky IV," Rocky trained in a harsh Siberian environment with nothing but logs, farm equipment, hills, axes, snow, and a pair of sneakers?in short, nothing that even remotely resembled sophistication. Then, you have his Russian opponent training in a pristine scientific environment with every little aspect of his training measured and accounted for. Sure, it's a movie, but I there's still a lesson to be learned. It's fine to use all that science has, but don't forget there are times when it's better just to roll up the sleeves because that's what sporting environments are like anyway; you can't get too far from that mentality. I try to combine optimal amounts of both sophistication and crude toughness.

EC: Another important lesson that I'd like to highlight from that example is that "Rocky IV" is the greatest movie of all time; I'm still upset that it isn't required viewing in high school history classes when the Cold War is the topic of discussion. By the way, you've already covered my favorite movie, but if you can somehow relate "Happy Gilmore" to deadlifting and "Braveheart" to insulin-independent glucose uptake, you'll be on my Christmas card list forever. You mentioned the optimal amounts of different contributing factors; I'm a firm believer that one can't just understand training or nutrition/supplementation. Rather, coaches and athletes need to understand both individually and, more importantly, the synergistic effect of the two. The old adage that success is "90% diet," while admirable in verse, really does send a bad message. Coaches and athletes need to treat training and nutrition/supplementation like they're both 100%. In fact, we ought to also include factors like restoration, motivation, and education in this equation. KB: Well said, in short, coaches need to put their prejudices and preconceived notions aside and look to the end goal: taking an athlete from A to Z even if that means stepping away from tradition. Let performance and needs determine the optimal focus. Learn how to initiate individualized training prescriptions. Learn how to analyze strengths and weaknesses. Learn what training methods are best for a given goal. Optimize the training economy and don't get cute just for the sake of being different. EC: Okay, let's delve into strength training programs for athletes. I'd like to start by getting your perspective on testing athletes. First off, how often? I think that some coaches waste way too much time with testing-only weeks because they test too many different things and get hung up on testing improvements rather than performance improvements in the sport in consideration. KB: Yes, you're exactly right about this. Too many schools spend an entire week or more getting everybody tested and a large part of that time is spent messing around. I don't see any real need for a testing-only week unless part of that week is also going to be used as a regeneration week. It shouldn't take longer than 2-3 days to test everything, anyway. What I have always liked is to incorporate testing into part of the workout or program. This is very similar to what Westside guys do. Those guys are really "testing" every week on their max effort days. All you'd have to do is cut down on volume in the days prior to the testing workouts and do everything nearly the same - that way the testing doesn't become a distraction to the main goal: improving performance. Also, as a coach, I feel the athletes are constantly being tested and evaluated. When I work one-on-one with someone, there is rarely any definite need for testing because during every session I'm observing and usually always know what's going on. Likewise, I can learn a lot and reduce the need for testing just by analyzing someone's training log. If I see a guy improves six inches in two weeks on his depth jump or reduce his times in a sprint drill, I don't need him to run a week of testing to tell me that his sprint times have improved and his vertical jump has improved. If a guy increases by 20 lbs in a strength exercise working in a lower rep range, I don't need to take time off and have him test his 1RM to show he's improved. However, I should note that the one time that can be an advantage is when it used to show an athlete how much he's improved and to boost his confidence, or when a player absolutely needs to be evaluated in the test. For example, if you're preparing for an NFL combine, you have to get used to the testing procedures and learn how to peak at the right time. Times like that are when it's necessary to run a complete battery of tests and train for the tests because they'll be the main focus. I feel as a coach you should be able to tell where your athletes stand just by observing them and their performance in training and what they do on the field. Look for improved function rather than just numbers. EC: I couldn't agree more. In Part II, we'll pick up where we left off with strength testing, and move on to discuss the future of sports training and how to tie all this together for performance and physique enhancement. Thanks for dropping some knowledge bombs on us, Kelly. KB: My pleasure. I look forward to Part II.

In the meantime, for more information on Kelly's methods, check out the product he created along with Alex Maroko, The Truth About Quickness. It's a fantastic product that I highly endorse.

Update: Be sure to read Part 2: Baggett of Tricks, Part 2: An Interview with "The Truth About Quickness" Author Kelly Baggett. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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