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An Interview with EC, by Mike Robertson

An Interview with EC, by Mike Robertson (continued)...

MR:  You have a new book out, entitled Maximum Strength.  Who is this book geared toward?

EC:  People who enjoy gardening.  Next question?

Kidding, of course.  I would say that this book targets the typical lifter who goes to the internet to find information to take his/her training to the next level.  There are a lot of people in the T-Nation, etc. crowd who have done a good job to get from untrained, to beginner, to intermediate – but don’t necessarily have the tools to take it to the advanced level.  Maximum Strength provides that opportunity – and addresses mobility/activation, nutrition, motivation, programming strategies – basically a lot of the things you need to know to be successful not just for the 16-week program I outline, but also the years of lifting that follow it.  Thus far, the feedback has been fantastic.

MR: I think every guy in the industry has the dream of getting a book published, but it’s a lot more complicated than one would think. Could you give the readers an idea of how much goes into this process?

EC: Matt first approached me with the idea in the fall of 2006, and we created a proposal (I think it was 14 pages, plus a sample chapter). Our literary agent took it to some publishing companies, and we eventually agreed on a contract with one (DaCapo) in January of 2007. Matt and I wrote the book over the next six months and submitted in mid-June. Over the summer, I dedicated seven Sundays to the photo shoot (harder than it sounds – especially when you wear the wrong color/type of clothing, as I did in the first two sessions).

We spent the fall going through proofs, cover designs, copy-editing, and sending out advanced copies. I’m pretty sure that it was complete in February – and production started in time for a late April/early May release. So, all told, it was about an 18-month process.

So, I’ve now self-published and dealt with a publisher. Both have perks and drawbacks, so I’ve got plenty to consider as I take on future projects.

MR:  You also recently released an e-book called The Art of the Deload.  What prompted you to write a manual all about taking time off training?

EC: I honestly don’t know that many people understand what it feels like to remove fatigue and display fitness.  Heck, I never did before I got into competitive powerlifting.  Going into my first powerlifting meet, I had never deadlifted more than 484 in training.  I had to hold myself back like crazy the last three weeks before the meet to avoid doing anything stupid – and it was hard because that amount of deloading was unfamiliar to me.

I went out and pulled 510 on a fourth attempt at a body weight of 161 for a Connecticut state record in that meet.  Strategic deloading has been a big part of my programming ever since. The thing is, not all trainees are the same.  Experienced lifters need to deload differently than beginners and intermediates.  Lifters with a previous history of injury need to deload differently than those who are completely healthy.  Competitive lifters need to deload differently than those who are just lifting to enhance quality of life and look good.  This e-book has something for all of them.

MR: Without giving away the farm, what are some of the different scenarios you outline? I know that I talk to people and they think of a deload week as one of two things:

1 – No strength training whatsoever; maybe some cross training.

2 – The typical 60% volume approach with a slight reduction in intensity.

EC: For the record, I don’t agree with #1 that you just outlined at all, and I think that in most cases, people who drop volume by 40% need to maintain or actually increase intensity. How’s that for barbecuing some sacred cows? Anyway, I also cover:
  • how to deload to make sure old injuries don’t resurface
  • how to know when to drop intensity instead of volume
  • how to effectively incorporate a testing day at the end of a deload week
  • why beginners don’t need to deload
  • what active rest means to me
  • how to deload on reactive training (particularly important for guys like me who have crazy supinated feet)

Plus, there is some nuts and bolts about how to individualize deload frequency.

MR:  Any new projects or things in the works we should know about?

EC: Next week, we’re moving everything – equipment, turf, flooring, computers, stereo – in Cressey Performance three miles east.  We also have to demolish the walls at our old place when we leave – and I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to that part!  All in all, though, with the new book out, and the new facility up and running (and summer training underway), I won’t have anything too exciting on tap until at least the fall.  My presentation at the Perform Better Summit in Providence at the end of May will be my last seminar for a while – unless we decide to do something at CP to celebrate the new location this summer.

MR:  Okay, time for the final question, and you know I ask everyone this! You’ve been doing this for a while now – what mistakes have you made in the past, and what have you since done to correct that mistake?

EC:  My biggest mistake was caring what stupid people thought of me.  Let me explain.

For whatever reason, the strength and conditioning and fitness industry is very polarized.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact that physique and performance enhancement tends to put people on pedestals; many people think that looking good and being stronger or more athletic will make life so much better.  When was the last time that a forward-thinking accountant or surveyor got the attention some strength coaches get?

Because of the puzzling nature of this industry, people get irritated more.  I think Mike Boyle said it best when he noted that many people don’t know the difference between “disagree” and “dislike.”  That said, there are some people that disagree with my methodology and hate my guts.  Because I put myself out there by writing articles/books, making DVDs, and speaking at seminars, it is hard to avoid it getting back to me.

Early on in my career, I let this stuff get to me.  The negativity weighed on me and I actually lost sleep at night for what some keyboard warrior said about me on an internet forum.  Fortunately, I quickly recognized the unfavorable impact taking criticism to heart was having on me.  I had five or six guys on the internet who didn’t like me even though they’d never met me and disagreed with an article I wrote.  It’s not something I needed to be losing sleep over.

So, I got that negativity out of my life and focused on what I’m doing right.  I’m a better coach, much more positive, and far more productive.  I’m helping people and not arguing with them.  Instead of defending myself or worrying, I’m continuing to contribute to the body of knowledge.  If I was as bad as these 5-6 people (or however many there are) seem to think, why are athletes practically kicking the door down to Cressey Performance to train?  And, why would a traditionally strength-training-unmotivated population (baseball athletes) not only be appreciating the benefits of what we do, but thoroughly enjoying the process as much as the destination?

So, my advice to those out there would be to get rid of the negativity in your lives.  We’ve all worked with people who just punch the clock, criticize those around them, and don’t really care.  Stay away from these people and focus on what’s right in the world around you.  It’ll make you a better lifter, coach, and person. As I type this newsletter up, I realized that I've trained athletes on each of the past 24 days - and the two days prior to that were spent attending a Perform Better Summit.  So, I guess you could say that I can't remember when my last true day off was.  But, you know what?  I'm not nearly as tired as I would have been if I had stayed up all night worrying about what somebody said about me on the internet. Blog Updates Maximum Strength: Band-Assisted Chin-ups Maximum Strength: Can You Adjust Your Schedule? My New Nemesis All the Best, EC
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An Interview with Eric Cressey, by Mike Robertson

To say that I’m a baseball fan would be an understatement. I essentially taught myself to read with baseball cards; I knew the players’ faces, so it was just a matter of sounding out the words on the cards with the names I knew. Now, some 23 years later, I’m older and wiser (I can even read complete sentences now) – but still a huge baseball fan, and far more than just a casual observer to the game.  I spend my days training tons of baseball guys and am pretty much inundated in the game; in fact, as I type this, I am following two minor league games online, as two Cressey Performance athletes are pitching tonight elsewhere in the U.S. At risk of sounding overconfident, I know baseball players: demeanors, attitude toward lifting, imbalances, performance enhancement, you name it.  I feel very strongly that we've created a system that not only knows how to get guys to perform at high levels, but also stay/fet healthy in the process.  That said, the past two days have been pretty big on the local publicity front for Cressey Performance:

So, with that in mind, it seemed like a good day to reprint an interview Mike Robertson did with me for his newsletter. An Interview with Eric Cressey

By: Mike Robertson (robertsontrainingsystems.com)

MR:  Eric, believe it or not you’ve never done an interview for the site before!  If you don’t mind, please explain to people that we AREN’T the same person. (Yes, people actually thought this for a while!)

EC: I’m actually just the president of the Mike Robertson Fan Club; he’s the real thing.

MR:  You’ve recently opened your own facility, Cressey Performance.  What kind of people are you training on a day-to-day basis?  How is the gym going?

EC:  It’s going very well and we’ve having a blast.  In fact, as I type this, we’re in the process of arranging a move into a new facility; it should take place within two weeks and double our space.

We get a little bit of everything in terms of client variety, but the overwhelming majority of my athletes are baseball players.  This past off-season, we saw 96 baseball guys from 32 high schools, 16 colleges, and 8 major league organizations.  Throw in some football, hockey, triathlete, track and field, soccer, bobsled, skeleton, rowing, and regular ol’ weekend warriors, and it keeps life interesting.

MR:  I’m willing to admit, you know a ton about shoulder.  Couple this with the fact that you work with a ton of baseball players daily, and that pretty much makes you a shoulder guru in my book.

Where are most people missing the boat with regards to training overhead throwing athletes?

EC:  Wow, there is a loaded question.  Here are a few thoughts – speaking specifically to a baseball population to keep it more focused.

People spend too much time looking at the rotator cuff.  It’s like focusing on the oars when there is a hole in your rowboat.  The truth is that when someone’s shoulder goes, the rotator cuff (and labrum) are just the place where someone becomes symptomatic; it’s poor soft tissue quality and faulty movement patterns elsewhere (and in many cases rotator cuff weakness) that cause the problem. So what are these problems?

First off, the very nature of baseball is an issue.  It’s a long competitive season (>200 games as a pro, potentially, and more than half that in high school/college): Short off-season + Long in-season w/daily games = tough to build/maintain strength, power, flexibility, and optimal soft tissue quality.

You’ve got unilateral dominance and handedness patterns, too; when was the last time you saw someone throw the first inning right-handed and then toss the second inning as a southpaw?  We know that asymmetry is a big predictor of injury.

Let’s take it a step further.  The best pitchers – with a few exceptions – are the tallest ones. In chatting with one MLB scout this off-season, he noted that only 14% of major league pitchers are under 6-feet tall.  The longer the spine, the tougher it is to stabilize.  I’ve worked with eleven guys 6-9 or taller since 2003, so I can definitely speak to this from experience.  They were all basketball guys; I can’t imagine how jacked up they’d be if they were throwing baseballs, too!

And, to be more blunt, there is absolutely nothing even remotely healthy about throwing a baseball.  Do a MRI of a pitcher’s shoulder and you’re going to find labral fraying: big deal!  That’s just what happens when you go through 7,500°/second of internal rotation during acceleration – or the equivalent of 20 full revolutions per second!  Some guys are symptomatic and some aren’t; it’s the other “stuff” that’s going on that dictates whether they’re hurting or playing pain-free.

MR: So what’s this “other stuff” of which you’re speaking?

If you want to keep a pitcher healthy, your job is to make him more athletic.  I have seen professional pitchers who couldn’t broad jump 80 inches or front squat 135, yet they could throw 94 mph.  I’m proud to say that we had two pitchers vertical jump over 35” and broad jump over 115” at their spring training testing this year.

Baseball is a population who – believe it or not – still doesn’t understand a) what good strength and conditioning is and b) what that solid training can do for them. I am a firm believer that much of the abuse of performance enhancing drugs in professional baseball is a direct result of players wanting a shortcut to make up for the fact that they really have no clue how to train for peak performance or sustain it for the long haul of a professional career. And, more sadly, there aren’t many good performance enhancement coaches out there who know how to show them the way. I’m strongly believe that our success in working with these guys is directly related to the fact that we show them direct, tangible results of their training, educate them on the “why” of what they’re doing, and make it fun in the process.

That said, in terms of athleticism, my goal is symmetry – or at least bringing guys closer to it in the off-season.  To that end, we address the following to keep shoulders healthy:

•Scapular stability – In Particular, we need to focus on lower trap and serratus anterior.  I know it’s hackneyed by now, but you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe!  It’s important to get pec minor, levator scapulae, and rhomboids loosened up to make this happen.  The problem is that the research has shown that pitchers have less scapular upward rotation than position players, specifically at humeral elevations of 60 and 90 degrees – the “zone” in which the humerus sits during throwing.

•Thoracic extension and rotation range of motion – If you don’t have thoracic extension and rotation, you won’t be able to get sufficient “lay back” during the cocking phase, so there is a greater stress on both the humerus and elbow to achieve this range of motion.

•Rotator cuff strength/endurance – You need a strong posterior cuff for decelerating all that internal rotation, but you also need a very strong subscapularis to both depress the humeral head during overhead work and prevent anterior translation of that head. The subscapularis takes on an even bigger role when you realize how many overhead athletes have chronic anterior-inferior laxity and posterior-inferior capsular contracture: adaptations that favor anterior translation of the humeral head (which the subscapularis must resist).

•Soft tissue quality – Pay close attention to lats, pec minor, levator scapulae, posterior cuff/capsule, forearms (flexor carpi ulnaris, FC ulnaris, pronator teres), rhomboids, and subscapularis.

•Opposite hip and ankle – 49% of arthroscopically repaired SLAP lesion patients also have a contralateral hip abduction ROM or strength deficit.  Lead leg hip internal rotation range of motion is extremely important for pitchers and hitters alike.

•Core stability/force transfer – If you can’t transfer force from the lower extremity through the core effectively to the upper body, you shouldn’t be throwing a baseball.  Period.

•Glenohumeral (shoulder) ROM – Over time, the dramatic external rotation during the cocking phase can lead to a loss of internal rotation ROM; this is known as glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD).  The posterior capsule and cuff stiffness leads to a superior and posterior migration of the humeral head during the late cocking phase.  You also get some osseous changes to the humeral head itself. This commonly presents as medial elbow issues – including UCL injuries and ulnar nerve irritation.

To fix this, we use posterior cuff/capsule soft tissue work, sleeper stretches/cross body mobilizations/doorway capsular mobilizations, and then subscapularis isolation work (prone internal rotation, cable internal rotation at 90 degrees of abduction).  Little league elbows get chewed up more by the varus torque (think transition from cocking to acceleration) and present more laterally with pain.  Adolescent elbows are a bit more skeletally mature and break down medially from the valgus-extension overload that takes place during acceleration.   Little leaguers just need to get stronger.  Adolescents need to get stronger and work on posterior cuff flexibility (more internal rotation).  College and pro guys need to start incorporating capsular mobilizations because of the actual structural changes that take place to the capsule.  Back and Goldberg provide an excellent series of photos for each situation HERE.

Now, there is some debate over whether the loss of internal rotation in experienced throwers is due to posterior capsule tightness. Burkhart and Morgan insisted that there was posterior capsule tightness involved via what they called the “peel-back” mechanism, which causes the humeral head to translate posteriorly and superiorly during the late cocking phase. They picked up on these posterior capsule contracture issues during surgeries of a large number of pitchers with type II SLAP lesions.

Wilk, Meiser, and Andrews (2002) countered that it was simply related to the posterior muscular tightness and the aforementioned humeral head adaptations. They therefore recommend primarily cross-body and sleeper stretch drills with the scapula fixed – but don’t pay much attention to the role of the capsule.

I’m not too handy with an arthroscope (I prefer samurai swords for all my impromptu operations), so I keep my mouth shut and do both capsular and soft tissue mobilizations, as they’re all means to the same end. They’re all brilliant guys, but are really debating on which one will get you from point A to point B faster – and how to perform surgeries once you are FUBAR. I’m more concerned with preventing the surgeries in the first place!

Interestingly, there appears to be a “threshold” of internal rotation deficit at which a pitcher becomes symptomatic. In the aforementioned Burkhart and Morgan study, all the surgery cases had an internal rotation deficit of greater than 25°. Myers et al. pinned that “don’t cross this line” number at about a 19° deficit. The research on non-symptomatic throwing shoulders was in the 12-17° range – so every little bit matters. Horizontal adduction (cross-body range of motion) is understandably impaired as well, and the common compensation pattern is for pitchers to substitute extra protraction for this lost ROM during the follow-through. This is where pec minor grows barnacles and the lower traps simply can’t handle the load alone.

•Breathing Patterns – Guys who breath into their bellies have much better shoulder function than those who breath into their chests.

•Cervical Spine ROM – Levator scapulae and sternocleidomastoid have significant implications in terms of shoulder health, but very few people pay attention to them.  Levator scapulae helps to downwardly rotate the scapula, so if it’s tight, overhead motion will be compromised.  SCM attaches to the mastoid process of the skull as well as the sternum and clavicle; it might be the latissimus dorsi of the head and neck.  Suboccipitals can be hugely important as well.  Get ‘em all worked on by a good manual therapist. Forward head posture is associated with too much scapular anterior tilt and too little upward rotation.

•Reactive Ability – We test all our guys on a single-leg triple jump to determine their reactive ability and look for unilateral discrepancies.  Typically, pitchers will have a better score on their lead leg, not their push-off leg.  It sounds backwards, but if you think about it, that front leg is more trained for deceleration and reactive ability (they have to land, and immediately swivel into fielding position).  The back foot is much more geared toward propulsion, so it doesn’t decelerate so well.

Interestingly, you can look at callus patterns and pick up on this.  Check out the base of the 1st and 5th metatarsals on a pitcher’s push-off leg and you’ll typically find calluses that indicate more of a supinator.  Check the lead leg, though, and you’ll find more thickening at the base of the 2nd and 3rd toes, indicating more pronation.  These won’t be as noteworthy in people who throw right and bat left (or vice versa); switch-hitting is actually really valuable for symmetry.

•STRENGTH – Yes, I put this in all caps because it is important.  If you think doing some rubber tubing external rotations is going to help decelerate a 100mph fastball that involves a total-body effort, you might as well schedule your shoulder or elbow surgery now.  Strength is an important foundation, so strengthen your posterior chain, quads, thoracic erectors, scapular retractors, etc, etc, etc.

MR: Damn that’s a pretty thorough answer! How does overhead pressing fit into all of this?  Some people say you need to do it because they encounter it in their sport.  What do you say?

EC: I stay away from it.  Contraindicated exercises in our program include:

•Overhead lifting (not chin-ups, though)

•Straight-bar benching

•One-Arm Medicine Ball Work

•Upright rows

•Front/Side raises (especially empty can – why anyone would do a provocative test as a training measure is beyond me)

•Olympic lifts aside from high pulls

•Back squats

While I'm working on a detailed article on this topic, in a nutshell, it has a lot to do with the fact that overhead throwing athletes (and pitchers in particular) demonstrate significantly less scapular upward rotation – and that makes overhead work a problem.  This is particularly serious with approximation exercises, which leads me to…

Comparing most overhead weight training movements (lower velocity, higher load0 to throwing a baseball is like comparing apples and oranges.  Throwing a baseball is a significant traction (humerus pulled away from the glenoid fossa), whereas overhead pressing is approximation (humerus pushed into the glenoid fossa).  The former is markedly less stressful on the shoulder - and why chin-ups are easier on the joint than shoulder pressing.

Likewise, comparing an overhead-throwing athlete to a non-overhead-throwing athlete is apples and oranges again. Throwing shoulders have more humeral and glenoid retroversion, an adaptation that many believe occurs when pre-pubescent athletes throw when the proximal humeral epiphysis (growth plate) isn’t closed yet. This retroversion gives rise to a greater arc of total rotation range-of-motion. Wilk et al termed this the “total motion concept” (internal rotation + external rotation ROM) and noted that the total arc is equal on the throwing and non-throwing shoulders – yet the composition (IR vs. ER) is different in overhead athletes, who have more less internal rotation in their throwing shoulders.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people believe that the internal rotation deficit overhead athletes experience has more do to with the osseous changes than soft tissue and capsular issues alone. We can work with the latter, but can’t do anything with the former. So, when someone says that all their YTWLs and theraband exercises make it okay for an overhead throwing athlete to overhead press, I have to wonder how those foo-foo exercises magically changed bone structure. Additionally, this acquired retroversion allows for more external rotation to generate more throwing velocity. In my opinion, this is why you never see someone just “take up” pitching in their 20s and magically become a stud athlete; the bones literally have to morph to throw heat! Believe it or not, some research suggest that this retroversion actually protects the shoulder from injury by “sparing” the anterior-inferior capsule in from excessive stress during external rotation.

Additionally, as I noted above, just about every overhead throwing athlete you see (and certainly all pitchers) have labral fraying. The labrum deepens the glenoid fossa (shoulder socket) by up to 50% and creates stability. Would you want to build a house on a foundation with chipped concrete?

There may even be somewhat of a congenital component to this. Bigliani et al. found that 67% of pitchers and 47% of position players at the professional level have a positive sulcus sign in their throwing shoulder. One might think that this is simply an adaptation to imposed demand – and that very well might be the case. However, those researchers also found that 89% of the pitchers and 100% of the position players with that positive sulcus sign ALSO came up positive in their non-throwing shoulder. It may very well be that the guys with the most congenital laxity are the ones who are naturally able to throw harder – and therefore reach the higher levels. If you’re dealing with a population that’s “picked the right parents” for laxity, you better think twice about having them press anything overhead.

With respect to the Olympic lifts, I'm not comfortable with the amount of forces the snatch puts on the ulnar collateral ligament, which takes a ton of stress during the valgus-extension overload cycle that dramatically changes the physical shape of most pitchers' elbow joints.  Cleans don’t thrill me simply because I don’t like risking any injury to wrists; surgeons do enough wrist and forearm operations on baseball guys already!  We teach all our guys to front squat with a cross-face grip.

Lastly, here is a frame of reference to deter you from the "Since they encounter is in sports, we need to train it in the weight-room" mindset.  Boxers get hit in the head all the time in matches; why don't we intentionally train that?  Getting hit in the head is not good for you, nor will it make you a better boxer.  It is a part of the sport, but they don't intentionally add it into the training because they can appreciate that it would impair longevity.

Some might ask if I feel that it limits development of the athlete on the whole.  If you’re dealing with a little leaguer, feel free to do some overhead stuff with him; I love one-arm DB push presses with our younger kids.  However, with our 16+ athletes, my glass-is-half-full mentality is that we're avoiding any unnecessary risk because the reward is trivial at best compared to what you can do with effective non-overhead programming.  Like I said, every baseball pitcher you see will have fraying in their labrum - and that means less mechanical stability.

MR: So what do you like to do instead? EC:  Here’s a small list:

•Push-up variations: chain, band-resisted, blast strap

•Multi-purpose bar benching (neutral grip benching bar)

•DB bench pressing variations

•Every row and chin-up you can imagine (excluding upright rows)

•Loads of thick handle/grip training

•Med ball throws

•Specialty squat bars: giant cambered bar, safety squat bar

•Front Squats

MR: Okay, that covers pitchers pretty damn well. Do you follow the same guidelines with position players as well?

EC: At the youth levels, pretty much every kid thinks that he is a pitcher or a shortstop. Next to catchers, these two positions throw more than anyone on the field. At the pro ranks, most guys have developed a lot more of the adaptive changes I outlined earlier, so the name of the game is conservative in terms of exercise selection. So, as far as avoiding the contraindicated exercises I noted above, we’re standard across the board.

I look at my baseball guys as pitchers, catchers, and position players. The big areas in which they’re different are a) initial off-season focus and b) in-season training.

In terms of “a,” I’ve found that we need to spend more time ironing out asymmetries early on in the off-season with pitchers, as they simply don’t move as much as position players. Additionally, with the amount of moronic distance running (can you tell I’m not a fan?) that many pitchers do, we spend a lot of time trying to get back a solid base of strength, power, and reactive ability upon which to build some pitching-specific endurance.

In-season, it’s not too hard to program for starting pitchers; you know they’re going to throw on a 5-day (pros) or 7-day (college/high school) rotation. Some guys might close games on Mondays and start on Wednesdays, though. Basically, you plan around the starts – and make sure that you get in a solid lower-body-emphasis lift in within 24 hours after a start. Relievers are a bit more challenging – and in many ways have to be treated as a hybrid between position players and starters. You base a lot of what you do on how many pitches they throw and the likelihood of them pitching on a given day.

As a general rule of thumb, I don’t do chin-ups or heavy pressing the day after someone pitches. It’s generally more rowing and push-up variations.

I don’t squat my catchers deep in-season. We’ll do some hip-dominant squatting (paused or tap and go) to a box set at right about parallel, but for the most part, it’s deadlift variations. We get our range-of-motion in the lower-body with these guys with single-leg work.

Position players just need to lift – before or after games. The name of the game is frequency, and as long as you aren’t introducing a lot of unfamiliar exercises or long eccentrics in-season, they won’t be sore.

MR:  This question may be for myself as much as the readers, but what resources can you recommend for someone that wants to learn more about the anatomy and biomechanics of the shoulder and elbow?

EC:  I haven’t seen a really good resource that effectively addresses the need for specialized training in overhead throwing athletes; I’ve actually had a lot of people telling me I should pull something together.  I guess that’ll be a project for the new facility.

That said, there are definitely some great resources available.  First and foremost, I really like all the drills you and Bill outline in Inside-Out – and I’m not just saying that to butter you up (hell, I already got the interview, and I can be a jerk to you whenever I want).

Second, I think Gray Cook’s Secrets of the Shoulder DVD is excellent.

Third is Donatelli’s Physical Therapy of the Shoulder is a classic.  It’s very clinical, and you won’t read it in one sitting, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Fourth is Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes.  Sahrmann really turned me on to looking at things in terms of inefficiency/syndrome rather than pathology.  The way she approaches scapular downward rotation syndrome is great.

Fifth, get over to Pubmed.com and read everything you can from James Andrews – and then search the related articles.  Be sure to check out Throwing Injuries to the Elbow by Joyce, Jelsma, and Andrews as well; it’s important to understand how shoulder dysfunction impacts elbow function.

Blog Update Athletes Aren't as Smart as We Think All the Best, EC

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How I Measure Peak Power

Q: In your newsletter about Pete’s results on the Maximum Strength program a few weeks ago, I noticed that you mentioned peak power as one variable that you tested. How and why do you do that? A: To calculate peak power, you’ll need a vertical jump height and the athlete’s body weight. We always calculate peak power with our athletes simply because we know that their body weights won’t remain perfectly constant – and it provides a way to measure absolute power output. If an athlete gains 15 pounds, but his vertical jump stays the same, then he’s still gained power – just not in a relative sense. The vertical jump provides your relative power measure, and your peak power output is your absolute measure; both relative and absolute power are important in most sports. We utilize the Sayers equation to calculate peak power. Traditionally, the Lewis equation has been used for this purpose, but research from Sayers et al. found that the Lewis equation really just predicted average power. As such, they came up with a new equation that more accurately reflects peak power. I’ve uploaded a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with the Sayers equation calculation; you can download it HERE. With this spreadsheet, you just have to change the body weight (pounds) and vertical jump (inches) in yellow, and the peak power will be displayed in green.  Normally, the Sayers equation takes kilograms and centimeters, but I just incorporated some calculations to make it more friendly for those of us who aren’t too good with the metric system.

What they’re saying on the internet forums about Maximum Strength…

“Preordered this as soon as I heard about it and I have to say that it is EXCELLENT.

”Long story short, it's a 4 month program with each month as a phase. Each week is alternating volume/intensity with built in deloading and mini-strength tests. ”I really like the program, not only as a strength routine but because it's corrective- it's got Anderson Front Squats right next to prehab exercises like Face Pulls and Lower Trap Raises that are important but that no one does. Add in there a great section on dynamic warmups and foam rolling and chances are that someone running this is going to come out a hell of a lot stronger and healthier than they were before.” To pick up a copy for yourself, click HERE.

Blog Updates

Question for the Day EC on Rest Periods Have a great weekend! EC
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Overhead Training and Throwing Athletes

Q: I had a quick question for you from the Perform Better Summit this past weekend.  I enjoyed your presentation, but was wondering why you do not do any overhead training with your throwing athletes.  Isn't it important to maintain balance in the shoulder musculature and by eliminating that plane of movement are we not putting our athletes at a greater risk for injury?

A: First off, to be clear, I am not opposed to overhead training; that would imply that I don’t like chin-ups, face pulls, long-tossing, or throwing bullpen sessions! I'm actually really surprised at how many people think that I really exclude such training altogether from my programs for non-overhead-throwing athletes. In my presentation, I specifically noted that I was opposed to overhead pressing and the majority of the Olympic lifts in baseball players.

In a nutshell, it has a lot to do with the fact that overhead throwing athletes (and pitchers in particular) demonstrate significantly less scapular upward rotation at 60+ degrees of abduction. Here’s a reference:

Laudner KG, Stanek JM, Meister K. Differences in Scapular Upward Rotation Between Baseball Pitchers and Position Players. Am J Sports Med. 2007 Dec;35(12):2091-5.

From that study: “CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This decrease in scapular upward rotation may compromise the integrity of the glenohumeral joint and place pitchers at an increased risk of developing shoulder injuries compared with position players. As such, pitchers may benefit from periscapular stretching and strengthening exercises to assist with increasing scapular upward rotation.”

Additionally, comparing most overhead weight training movements (lower velocity, higher load) to throwing a baseball is like comparing apples and oranges.  Throwing a baseball is a significant traction (humerus pulled away from the glenoid fossa), whereas overhead pressing is approximation (humerus pushed into the glenoid fossa).  The former is markedly less stressful on the shoulder - and why chin-ups are easier on the joint than shoulder pressing.

With respect to the Olympic lifts, I'm not comfortable with the amount of forces the snatch puts on the ulnar collateral ligament, which takes a ton of stress during the valgus-extension overload cycle that dramatically changes the physical shape of most pitchers' elbow joints. The catch on the clean isn’t something to which I’m going to subject to valuable wrists and hands that go through some serious abuse with every throw and are often injured in diving catches and sliding. I see no problem with high pull variations, though.

To take it a step further, all the research suggests that virtually all baseball players have some degree of labral fraying. The labrum deepens the shoulder “socket” to mechanically provide stability in a joint that is designed for mobility. Without optimal labral function, going to the extreme demands of stability – overhead movements – is not ideal, especially under load.

Lastly, here is a frame of reference to deter you from the "Since they encounter is in sports, we need to train it in the weight-room" mindset.  Boxers get hit in the head all the time in matches; why don't we punch them in the head in the weight room?

The risk outweighs the benefit. Food for thought.

Results Typical

A few weeks ago, I outlined the results my business partner Pete experienced on the four-month Maximum Strength program. One of our clients, Gregg, also completed the entire program; can you start to see a trend?

-Body weight increased by one pound with significant decrease in body fat %

-Broad jump increased by 8 inches

-Vertical jump increased by 2.6 inches

-Box squat increased by 35 pounds

-Deadlift increased by 40 pounds

-Bench press increased by 20 pounds

-Chin-up increased by 25 pounds

For more information, check out Maximum Strength.

Blog Updates Quad Pulls in Baseball Labral Tears and Pitchers All the Best, EC

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Baseball Pitchers: “Laying Back”

Q: I am a 18-year-old Division 1 college baseball pitcher, and I have a baseball mechanic/ biomechanical question for you. I've been trying to get my arm to "lay back" like in this picture of Billy Wagner.
wagner
When I pitch, my arm is not parallel to the ground like most major league pitchers. I am trying to throw with a more relaxed arm which helps it "lay back" more efficiently to help me throw harder, but I am struggling to get it to resemble the picture of Billy. Basically, I am just looking for suggestions on how to help my arm lay back from a biomechanical standpoint. Am I "too tight?" What are the possible reasons for it? Scar tissue? Flexibility? What are some solutions? A: Okay, I have a bunch of thoughts on this – and hopefully I can relate them pretty clearly and concisely. Want to know the biggest difference between you and Billy Wagner? 19 years of pitching! Seriously, there are just disgusting forces put on the shoulder and elbow joints over time in throwing a baseball. And, as a result, you can actually get changes in the structure of the bone. For instance, the research has shown that pro pitchers have on average 13.3° less total arc of elbow flexion-extension. To recreate the forces on Wagner's elbow in that picture, you'd have to take a plumb line and hang it down from his throwing hand with a 40-pound weight attached. Crazy, eh? The shoulder isn't much different; most of the pros have thickened posterior glenohumeral (shoulder) joint capsules. This can be advantageous for getting more external rotation to generate added velocity, but disadvantageous in terms of injury prevention, as the glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD) that results causing posterior, superior translation of the humeral head during the late cocking phase of throwing. Ever heard of a SLAP lesion? It’s superior-labrum-anterior-posterior. It’s no wonder that the guys with symptomatic labrum problems are the ones who have the least amount of internal rotation ROM. Younger guys are different. Little leaguers have little to no shoulder stiffness, and present with lateral elbow issues (compression type issues from the stress in the cocking to acceleration transition). As guys get to 14/15+, you start seeing more muscular stiffness in the posterior shoulder girdle, and the elbow problems are more medial and related to valgus-extension overload (the acceleration to deceleration transition). Take a look at what valgus-extension overload can do to a 16-year-old’s elbow when he throws a lot while developing:
img_0282
Can you tell that he’s right-handed? And, more specifically, can you see how the alterations to bony structure can make it easier to “lay back?” Just imagine his right arm in the cocking position; he’s got an extra 10° of ROM over the rest of us. This doesn't speak to the flexibility limitation you refer to directly, but what it does show is that one of the best ways to develop pitching-specific flexibility is to throw as you develop - and at age 18/19, you're still headed in that direction. Now, with that said, you're probably wondering why some kids can pop 90+ mph while still in high school, but you can't. First, there is a big genetic component to flexibility; some guys just have crazy laxity. I've found that long spines can be extremely advantageous in pitchers, as they allow guys to go into lumbar flexion in the follow-through without hitting end range (where disc issues present). As long as an athlete like this doesn’t get lazy and leave out his lumbar stabilization exercises, he’ll thrive with such a build. As for stuff you can fix, you could be looking at: 1. Soft tissues and flexibility restrictions in pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, or subscapularis – all of which would limit shoulder external rotation range of motion. I don’t normally like to stretch pecs in baseball pitchers simply because it’s a bit too much stress on the anterior capsule (alongside the crazy stress they get from throwing all the time), but it does have merit in some guys, particularly those who care too much about their bench press… 2. Restrictions in levator scapulae, pec minor, and rhomboids alongside weakness of lower trap and serratus anterior. These issues would interfere with effective upward rotation and posterior tilting of the scapula on the throwing side. 3. Poor thoracic spine extension and rotation. This is one more reason that doing thousands of crunches is a stupid idea; you’re chronically shortening your rectus abdominus and pulling your rib cage into depression, making it hard to extend your thoracic spine to lay back. Watch how much thoracic extension and rotation Nolan Ryan gets HERE. 4. Poor mobility of the opposite hip and ankle. If you take a look at the pitcher of Wagner above, you’ll see that the lead leg hip is flexed almost completely as the shoulder is in maximal external rotation. If you’re trying to lengthen on the front side, you’ll lose it on the back side. Kibler et al. found that in 49% of arthroscopically repaired SLAP lesions, there was a weakness or range of motion deficit in the opposite hip. 5. Poor core stability. This sounds like a buzz word, but there is actually merit to it. I got to thinking about it when I watched two athletes do overhead med ball stomps to the floor alongside one another. The first – one of our most experienced high school athletes – maintained a neutral lumbar spine and only a small amount of thoracic flexion as he stomped; the position of the rib cage was pretty constant. The second guy, who was in his first week, really “caved over;” the rib cage dropped as he stomped. Sure, this relates considerably to #3, but it also speaks to the weakness of the lumbar and thoracic erectors to resist the flexion momentum. These same erectors are going to be the ones that allow a pitcher to post-up, stand-tall, and throw gas downward. They don’t recruit predominantly tall guys for nothing, you know… Obviously, this just speaks to the direct flexibility issues affecting velocity. There are a ton of strength and power measure you have to take as well. We tell our guys that you have to “train ass to throw gas.” In other words, posterior chain strength is huge for the push off on the back leg and for the deceleration on the front leg. It takes a ton of glute and hamstrings strength to decelerate a 95mph fastball that ends like this: And, to take it a step further, if you’re a guy who throws more across your body (more rotation), you better have some excellent rotary stability at the lumbar spine to resist that destabilizing torque at follow-through – and the hip rotation range of motion to ensure that you’re rotating at the right places. Otherwise, your back will get chewed up pretty quickly. A lot of the movements in Jim Smith's Combat Core Manual are great for preventing this problem. So, all that said, to the naked eye, they’d say you just need to stretch your pecs to more effectively “lay back.” There’s actually a lot more to it – and the pec stretching could even give you problems if done too aggressively or if that isn’t your particular need. For more information, I strongly encourage you to check out the 2008 Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp DVD set. Blog Updates Confessions of an Ex-Ironman A Great Read on Being Barefoot Just Another Afternoon at Cressey Performance (my personal favorite for the week) Maximum Strength Update To those who have purchased Maximum Strength, all pre-orders have now shipped out. To those who haven’t, what are you waiting for? Check it out here: Maximum Strength. “The Maximum Strength program took me to the next level of performance with my lifting. After using a variety of programs focusing on fat-loss and hypertrophy and having limited results from them it was great to see such solid increases in strength and physique changes from the program. In addition, the program focus on dynamic flexibility and foam rolling has resulted in an injury free training cycle and major flexibility and posture improvements. I would highly recommend this program and book to anyone wanting to make real progress with strength, performance and body composition.” Dan Hibbert – Calgary, Alberta Increased body weight by 14 pounds, broad jump by seven inches, box squat by 80 pounds, bench press by 30 pounds, deadlift by 70 pounds, and 3-rep max chin-up by 27.5 pounds. All the Best, EC Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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Motivating Your Athletes with Success

In about eight hours, I'll hop on a plane to head to Chicago for a Perform Better Summit.  There are some great presenters on this year's agenda, including Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, Mark Verstegen, Martin Rooney, Alwyn Cosgrove, Brian Grasso, Robb Rogers, and even some schmuck named "Cressey" who probably ought to just be the guy carrying all their luggage. Kidding aside, at this point, I've now lectured in fourteen states and four countries.  In the process, I've talked about everything from corrective exercise and to performance enhancement.  This weekend, over 500 people will come from all over the country to hear all these presenters talk about those two topics and many others.  However, two stones have largely been left unturned both in writing and presenting: MOTIVATION and ATTITUDE. I feel strongly that the assessments, programming, and coaching at Cressey Performance is top-notch and unique within this industry.  However, I feel even more strongly that we can attribute our success as much to our environment as we can to our knowledge.  When you create a training system, it isn't just what's on paper; it is how that programmig is carried out.  It's been said that a bad program done with a ton of effort will always outperform a good program done without much effort; I couldn't agree more. It was a good week at the office for our baseball guys.  On Monday, Lincoln Sudbury senior Sam "The Landlord" Finn tossed a 13-strikeout no-hitter to go to 2-0 on the season.  Not to be outdone, Algonquin junior John "J-Mac" McKenna threw an 11-strikeout perfect game on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, Weston junior Sahil Bloom popped 91mph on the scouts' guns as he struck out 12 batters in six innings of work; he's now leading the league with 24Ks in 13 innings of work on the season. I bring these results up not to brag (okay, maybe a little; I'm really proud of these guys), but to show you what a good training environment can do for athletes.  Here are three guys who compete against each other during the season (Sam and John actually were on opposing sides in the state title game last year), yet they've all trained alongside each other and pushed dozens of other CP athletes to higher levels.  Put athletes in an unconditionally positive environment with quantifiable goals, turn the music up (and make sure it's not Justin Timberlake), and coach your butt off, and just watch what happens.  Young athletes do not need personal trainers; they need people to write solid programming and put them in an environment in which they can succeed. Speaking of success, I think it is quite possibly the best motivator there is.  Within 60 minutes of each of these pitching performances, all three guys had called or text messaged me to confirm the time for their lifting session the subsequent day.  I can't help but laugh when I hear coaches complain about how getting athletes to lift in-season is "impossible" or a "chore."  If that's the case, these coaches haven't shown them enough improvements to win them over - or just haven't created a motivating environment in which they can have fun. Now, I want to make it perfectly clear: having attitude in a facility does NOT mean allowing guys to get away with crap form on any exercise.  We lift weights to get better at sports, not put ourselves at risk of weight room injuries.  It never ceases to amaze me how some coaches will let athletes get away with murder on form - and it amuses me even more when these coaches will throw up videos of that form on YouTube as promotional material. If they were in collegiate or professional sports strength and conditioning, they'd be out of a job quickly, as the stakes are a lot higher with multi-million dollar contracts and athletes who aren't as resilient as 16-year-olds. So how do you avoid becoming one of those guys who looks like this? 1. Do a thorough assessment with every athlete - and program accordingly. 2. Coach all the basics hard early-on.  Variations are easy to teach once you have the basics down cold. 3. Don't add more external resistance until the movement is perfect without it. 4. THEN, add in the environment - music, enthusiastic training partners, different training stimuli, and regular quantifiable progress checks (built-in tests). Now, with all that said, back to my original point as I wrap up: I don't care how good your program is if you don't have attitude and constant motivation to keep pushing the bar higher.  It's why I love watching my buddy Todd Hamer of Robert Morris University coach.  Todd is a bright guy, but acts like he really couldn't care less what the books say; hell, he'd probably rather use the books for two-board presses.  However, he is the single-most energetic coach I know, always has the music playing, and is constantly throwing new things at his athletes to keep them interested and motivated. To take it a step further, among the "Guinea Pigs" for the 16-week program in my new book, the two guys who trained at Cressey Performance while following the program were the ones who made the best progress.  The other guys all improved tremendously, but the CP guys really stood out the most. So, with all that said, here are my challenges to you for the next week: 1. Stop thinking about programming for the short-term. 2. Take out a piece of paper, and in the left-hand column, write down everything that distracts you when you are about to train.  It could be traffic, cell phone calls, what's going on at work - you name it. 3. In the right-hand column, write down what you can do to fix that problem to get yourself in the right mindset. 4. Rank your current gym environment on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the absolute best environment you could possibly imagine in light of your goals. 5. if you wrote "5" or less for #4, start looking for a new gym. New Blog Content Preventing Plantar Fasciitis Feedback on Maximum Strength

“Maximum Strength is a guide for those who truly want to make meaningful changes to their bodies. Eric Cressey has created a program that will challenge any individual to push themselves to levels they have never been before. In the years that I have known Eric, his goal to help people achieve maximum performance and get the most out of their bodies has never wavered.”

Michael Irr - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chicago Bulls

For more information, click HERE.

I'm off to Chicago.  Have a great weekend! EC
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Baseball: Pro-Testing Numbers

Of our pro baseball guys from this past off-season, two really surprised me with their pre-testing numbers.  Both broad jumped (standing long jump) less than 80 inches.  These results would put them in the 80th percentile of CP athletes - in the eighth grade!  As a little frame of reference, a 101-inch broad jump puts you on our high school record board (top 13).

Meanwhile, one of these guys was topping out at 94 mph, and the other was around 91-92 mph.  If you appreciate how big a challenge it is for the body to decelerate a fastball with that kind of velocity, then you'll realize that it's not a surprise that both of them had shoulder and elbow problems in their past.  At the other end of the spectrum, we had one pitcher who tested second out of 80 pitchers in his MLB organization, putting a 119-inch broad jump on the board.  Another pitcher finished 5th of of 165 players (pitchers and position guys) in his organization, including a 35-inch vertical.  However, as much as I'd like to talk about valgus-extension overload and why I think distance running for pitchers is moronic, that's not the direction I'm going to take.

Rather, I'm going to talk about how many high school and junior high school kids (and their parents) think that they need to emulate the programs these guys are on.  Frankly, while the program the former two pitchers are on might be appropriate for some of these guys (or undertrain a large percentage of our high school athletes), the programs I put some of the more advanced athletes on would totally throw a 15-year-old under the bus.

To take it a step further, back in February, a Cressey Performance client was front squatting against chains - and when he finished, he set up the trap bar for some slighly higher rep work.  We had an intern in town for the week, and he quickly turned to me and said, "Squat and deadlift in the same day?  Won't that be too much on his central nervous system?"  Yes, CNS fatigue is a huge issue for a 43-year-old father of two who has just over one year of training experience under his belt (I added a mildly sarcastic wink here).

With that in mind, I denounced "canned," or "cookie-cutter" programs because I felt that they'd do more harm than good.  Eventually, though, I changed my mind - to a degree.

The cookie-cutter programs are still atrocious (some things never change), but the scary part is that most people do even worse when they put their own programs together!  We've got a) guys who are virtually untrained, b) guys who are highly trained, and c) guys who are completely overthinking things because they think they're more advanced than they are.  And, they're all on the same canned programs!

The solution to all these problems, I've found, is to qualify your recommendations if you're going to create a pre-made program.  Take my new book, for instance.

My experience has been that the overwhelming majority of those who read internet articles at the sites for which I write are in the intermediate category.  They've got an idea of some of the basics of exercise technique, but definitely want to get bigger and stronger.  However, they don't have a road map of how to get to where they want to be - especially in light of some mobility deficits, nutritional shortcomings, and a lot of conflicting information from various sources.

So, I make it clear that this book isn't for the complete beginner - and it probably won't be right for a world-record holder.  However, if you're somewhere in the middle, have about $20 tol spare, and would like a good read - pick up a copy.

“Eric Cressey continues to excel as an author and a coach.  Maximum Strength is an outstanding resource for anyone looking to enhance strength and mobility.”

Sean Skahan, M.Ed., C.S.C.S. - Strength and Conditioning Coach, Anaheim Ducks

New T-Nation Article

5 Programming Strategies for Quick Results

CresseyPerformance.com

The site for our facility is now live; you can check it out at www.CresseyPerformance.com.

Blog Updates

My Take on Reverse Hypers

Plenty of Space: Am I Ready to Press?

Listen Up, Hillary

All the Best,

EC

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Advanced Torso Training: A Combat Core Review

This morning, my girlfriend turned on Regis and Kelly. Now, before you start giving me a hard time, I’ll make it known that a) it was her choice and b) I was checking my emails, and my computer happens to be in the neighborhood of my television.

My attention shifted from emails to the TV when I saw that they were featuring a transformation contest where a bunch of ordinary weekend warriors went to different personal trainers to get “toned” (I knew I was in for it when I heard that word).

In the minutes that followed, I heard the word “core” mentioned approximately 487 times as trainers put clients through all sorts of stuff:

1. interval jogging on a treadmill (nearly made me vomit in my mouth)

2. playing basketball (You can charge for that? I would have gone with dodgeball so that I could throw stuff at my trainer for ripping me off.)

3. Curls while standing on a BOSU ball in a pair of Nike Shox (yes, you can actually find a way to make unstable surface training MORE injurious by exaggerating pronation even more)

Incidentally, this third trainer was featured with some hardcore Kelly Clarkson blaring in the background. I not only got dumber (and angry) by watching this segment; I also realized that if I ever go nuts and decide to write my suicide note, you’ll hear “SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE!!!!” blaring in the background as I sob over my pen and paper.

Normally, my reaction wouldn’t have been so pronounced, but after this weekend, I was all about REAL “core stability.” You see, I got to catch up with my buddy, Jim Smith (of Diesel Crew fame), while in Pittsburgh to give a seminar. “Smitty” and Jedd Johnson gave an awesome presentation outlining their innovative and effective methods on everything from sled dragging to grip work – and most specific to the discussion at hand, they both raved about how much they love Kelly Clarkson! Plus, they’re HUGE Regis and Kelly fans.

Okay, so that last little bit wasn’t entirely accurate; I’m pretty sure that these guys would have Hatebreed or some other angry, belligerent, “my-mother-didn’t love me” music blaring in the background when they finally get their moment in the spotlight on Regis and Kelly. Anyway, they DO know a ton about non-traditional means of training “core stability.”

In addition to watching a great presentation, on the plane ride home, I finally got a chance to read through Smitty’s new e-book, Combat Core: Advanced Torso Training for Explosive Strength and Power. To say that I was impressed would be the understatement of the year.

You see, I spend a ton of money each year on seminars, books, DVDs, etc. – and if I can take away even one little thing from each of them, I’m thrilled. In many cases, it’s “same-old, same-old.” Smitty has quickly built a reputation for overdelivering, and this resource was no exception. In the 133 pages of photos and descriptions of loads of exercises you’ve surely never seen, I found:

-13 sweet modifications to exercises I’m already doing

-16 completely new exercises I can’t wait to incorporate to my own training and that of my athletes

-seemingly countless “why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

So, to put it bluntly, I think it’s an awesome read – and well worth every penny, especially when you factor in all the bonuses he’s incorporated (including lifetime updates to keep you up to speed on his latest bits of insanity). If you’re interested in some effective, fun, innovative ways to enhance TRUE core stability, definitely check it out:

Combat Core: Advanced Torso Training for Explosive Strength and Power

Blog Updates

EC’s Best Work?

Seminar Updates

More information on my New Hampshire seminar with Brijesh Patel is now available on my schedule page.

In wrapping up, I just want to send out a special thanks to everyone who came out to the seminar in Pittsburgh this past weekend; it was great to meet all of you.

All the Best,

EC

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80/20 of Lifting

You often hear about the 80/20 rule applied to business; 20% of your efforts account for 80% of your income.

Or, it’s training; 20% of your exercise selection – squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, chin-ups, presses, rows, etc. – account for 80% of your progress in the gym.

After my trip to Ireland last week, I got to thinking about how this rule is applicable to coaching. You see, much of my week was spent with a great strength coach, Will Heffernan. Will’s prices are probably higher than anyone in Dublin (or all of Ireland, for that matter) – yet he’s still working with and writing programs for over 300 athletes.

Will is a really bright guy with a ton of experience:

-He’s worked with athletes who have competed at each of the last three Olympics in his capacity as a strength and conditioning coach and massage therapist. This total includes including two that are bound for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

-Dessie Farrell, one of the best Gaelic Footballs of all time, publicly thanks Will in his book, Dessie: Tangled Up in Blue. Farrell was told he’d never play again due to knee injuries – yet after working with Will – he’s back out there.

-He’s working with some of the best rugby players in Ireland – and seeing hundreds of other athletes simultaneously either as individuals or in team settings.

Now, as you can imagine, Will and I had some good chats about science-this and science-that. He was an awesome contributor in the audience at my seminar, too. As I discovered later, though, we were talking about the 80% of knowledge we probably don’t get to use with any of our athletes very often.

You see, the other 20% of our training knowledge is all we really use with athletes because:

a) most athletes aren’t as advanced as you think

b) they aren’t as motivated as you think.

Most critically, this knowledge includes the ability to speak to athletes on their level in their language.

I’ve seen some pretty well-read coaches who scare athletes off – or don’t get anything out of them – because they expect too much early-on. It’s why guys who expect high school kids to train 6x/week to start wind up tanking pretty quickly (and winding up with athletes who hate them and their sports). It’s also why many professional sports strength coaches struggle to get off the ground with a new team; they expect to overhaul things completely right off the bat. The better move is to play the “one of mine, one of yours” game for a while to work your way in.

I'm more laid back and work my way in with athletes - and pretty soon, 2x/week becomes 5x/week.Goofballs become all-stars and all-scholastics and get Division 1 scholarships. Those skeptical of our programming in general start appreciating how much of a difference it can make. And, I get 80 high school athletes sending me 800 text messages a month because I wind up being a big brother as much as a coach!

Clearly, Will is in the same boat. I lifted alongside Will at one of his rugby clubs, and it was very clear that all his athletes completely buy in to what he’s doing. There were no egos; guys just came in and busting their butts with simple, yet effective programming. It was the 20% executed to perfection.

Getting through to an athlete gives you the ability to take that 20% figure and move it to 25%, 30%, and higher. If you scare them off by expecting too much to start, you’ll won’t get anywhere.

Cressey Performance’s #1 Client

Normally, I don’t like to play favorites. Then again, not every one of my clients bakes us ridiculously tasty (and healthy) stuff for every session.

Nancy doesn’t deadlift 500, push a bobsled, or throw a 90-mph two-seam fastball. Heck, her change-up isn’t even good. She does, however, wield a copy of John Berardi’s Gourmet Nutrition cookbook with the best of them, though.

This past weekend, it was a combination of the banana nut squares with peanut butter crunch bars on top.We contemplated shutting the facility down completely for ten minutes while we savored their taste. It was a

You might not have a Nancy of your own, but you can definitely have the next best thing: a copy of JB’s new cookbook, complete with 120 new recipes with full nutritional information on each of them. Check it out for yourself:

Gourmet Nutrition Version 2.0

Blog Updates

Training in Extreme Positions

Who Needs Percentages?

I’m off to Pittsburgh this weekend to do a seminar (more info on the schedule page). Also, Brijesh Patel and I just confirmed that we’ll be speaking at a seminar on April 12 in New Hampshire. Drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com if you’re interested and I’ll pass along the information.

All the Best,

EC

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What I Know About Women

I'm opening a big can of worms with this subject line... The truth is that I really don't know anything about women; I just know how to train them and am relatively observant. I actually got the idea for this newsletter when my girlfriend and I returned from our trip to Ireland on Tuesday. On the plane ride back, we were reviewing the photos in our cameras. She had taken hundreds of pictures of everything from sheep, to waterfalls, to rugby matches, to the training we did, to my seminar - and even four photos of our plane ride to Ireland last week. When we had tapped out her camera's memory card, we turned on mine. I had one picture. It was taken at the Guinness Brewery on the sidewalk - and likely only because we were waiting for the tour bus to pick us up. I guess pictures just aren't my thing. Anyway, it got me thinking about the differences between men and women in the gym - so I thought I'd throw some out there. Enjoy.

Women generally don't do well with spring clamps for barbells because many of them can't put them on with a single hand because their hands aren't big enough (and they're actually more awkward to put on with two hands). Muscle clamps are a better bet. Men, on the other hand, forget to use clamps altogether. Women will not add a 2.5-pound plate to the bar until you tell them to do so. With men, you’re constantly telling them to check their egos and take weight off the bar in order to perfect their form. Women respond differently to diets than men in a few ways. I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg here, but first off, they tend to be smaller absolutely, so fat loss comes slower. Second, my experience has been that while they do quite well with lowered carb intakes, these reductions don’t work quite as well as with men in all cases. Cassandra Forsythe does an awesome job of outlining different nutrition strategies for women in The Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet. Women do not handle comparisons to others well at all, whereas men almost always respond well to comparisons. Alwyn Cosgrove discussed this phenomenon in a previous interview for my newsletter; check out Part 1 and Part 2.

At Cressey Performance, we have a high school male record board – but not a female one – for this very reason. Women will attempt to complete hour-long training sessions in 30-35 minutes, whereas men will drag their heels and attempt to slow things down as much as possible. With women, we often program in more “filler” movements (low-level flexibility/activation/soft tissue drills) between sets to slow them down. With men, we usually just yell at them. Women will wear high heels even if they know they are absolutely horrible for lower extremity health – and even in spite of your desperate pleas for them to lose the heels. If a male athlete wants to wear high heels, though, chances are that he has more pressing concerns than ankle mobility – and this one might be outside your scope of practice. Women typically need more soft tissue and activation work, but not necessarily as much mobility work (ankles being the exception).

Men, on the other hand, are tighter than a camel’s a** in a sandstorm, and need soft tissue work, activation, and loads of mobility drills. Women will generally require a bit more cybernetic periodization – “rolling with the punches” programming-wise – than men at the advanced level. You’d be surprised at how much the menstrual cycle can affect things. Speaking of the menstrual cycle, women need to be cognizant of getting enough iron in their diets, whereas men need to be cognizant of giving blood every so often to control their iron levels. Women are at risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears for a variety of reasons, including an increased Q-angle, quad dominance/hamstrings weakness, differential gastrocnemius recruitment strategies, and a host of other factors. Would you believe that women are also at more risk at certain times of the month because there are estrogen receptors on the ACL? This newsletter was inspired in part by Steph Holland-Brodney, a CP client who is running her second marathon and raising money for Boston Medical Center in the process. If you have a few dollars to spare and want to do something nice this Easter weekend, you can show BMC and Steph some love HERE.

New Article at T-Nation

5 Common Technique Mistakes

Blog Updates

Enhancing Your Pressing Days

Lifting at a Young Age

Rugby Recovery

That’ll do it for this week. As a little aside, yes, I know this is my 100th newsletter. Unfortunately, given that I just got back from an overseas trip and the baseball off-season just wrapped up on Sunday, I wasn’t in much of a position to throw an extravaganza with clowns, balloon animals, shadow puppets, magic tricks, or even a corny joke or two. I would, however, like to extend my thanks to all of you for your continued support; I’m looking forward to the next 100 installments and beyond.

All the Best,

EC

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