Home 2008 September

FFL Week 4: An Admirable Effort from the Free Agent All-Stars

I pretty much wrote off Week 4 intentionally during my fantasy football draft, as I had four starters on bye weeks (three from Indianapolis, and one from Seattle). I figured that anything I could salvage this week - even if it was just a good point total for potential tie-breakers down the road - would be a good result. I wound up losing 101-98; it wasn't even decided until Monday night. Props to Danny for putting up his best showing of the year in spite of being on a severe caloric deficit that's given rise to such gems as: "This diet is making me sharper, angrier, cockier. Driving into work at 6am this morning, I was shoveling 8oz. of grass fed ground sirloin and broccoli with parmesan into my piehole while gargling SPIKE." and "I am annoyed and grumpy as as hungry grizzly bear that has been waiting at the foot of the riverbed for the salmon to spawn." Nonetheless, he put up triple digits for the first time this year. I picked up Steve Slaton as a free agent last week to fill in for Joseph Addai, and he scored me 17 points. As usual, though, I didn't get jack from my tight end; Heath Miller has apparently been collaborating with every other TE I've started this year on a plot to put me through years of therapy. He had a whopping eight yards receiving last night for a total of zero points - when just 22 yards receiving more would have gotten me a tie. However, Kurt Warner is the goat of the week. With 472 yards passing and 2 TDs, you'd think he'd be the highlight of my team - but the truth is that he was the third-highest scorer because he had 87 fumbles and two inconsequential (for him, anyway) interceptions in the fourth quarter. If Warner just takes a knee, I win. Oh, and in a game where 91 points were scored, Chansi Stuckey had just two catches for 12 yards. I watched most of the game and seriously couldn't see him anywhere on the field. He didn't get a single mention from the commentators. As it turns out, he was in the locker room playing video games wearing Laveranues Coles' away jersey the entire time trying to live vicariously through Coles, who actually catches passes. But, all that said, 98 points on my bye week isn't too shabby. Good showing, fellas, and congrats, Danny. Oh, and on an interesting note, the top 3 scorers this week were the three guys on the Warpspeed Fat Loss program. Coincidence? Hmm...
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A Little Monday Update

I figured I ought to give the official check-in report on my Warp Speed Fat Loss journey, as I'm six days in (started last Tuesday). As I noted in Friday's blog, I don't really have a whole lot to lose, so I'm just playing it by ear on how I respond. Through five days, I have dropped from 194 to 187.5 pounds. I'm normally a pretty low carb guy anyway, so it really isn't as much water weight as one would normally think. I tend to lose "puff" from my face right away when I cut calories, and two people told me on Friday that I looked like I'd lost weight. They were right. Performance-wise, things aren't going badly at all. On Wednesday of last week, I benched 315 for 3x3 before heading on to a bit more "metabolic" weight-training pairings. I've been doing some low-intensity cardio (walking on the treadmill), but to be honest, I am on my feet so much at the gym that it's really not necessary, especially when you consider that I'm not looking to drop 20+ pounds. Thursday was just my 30 minutes of the where I take a medicine ball and just throw the crap out of it. It's an absolute blast; here's a little taste: When I was done, I did two rounds of 5x40yd sprints with jog-backs between sets. It is a little bit of a compromise between actual speed work and true metabolic conditioning. Lower-body lifting was Friday, and after doing some speed front squats at 275 for doubles, I hit up the trap bar for some higher rep work. Already with two sets of ten under my belt at 405, Pete called me out and said I could do more. He answered "14," so I went and did 14 on the next set (and another ten on the last set). It was probably a lot more amusing for him than me; my glutes, hams, and traps are all still sore. The low carbs caught up to me on Saturday. We did quite a bit of sprint work prior to our lift, and by the time I actually got around to speed benching, I was pretty gassed. I'm working at higher percentages now, and did my 225 for 6 sets of three, and while it was fast, it wasn't as fast as it should have been. Moved on to some assistance work to save the session, and made sure to get in some good post-training nutrition and hit up Sunset Cantina that night with the crew for some lime and garlic-rubbed chicken fajitas (more on that later in the week). Yesterday (Sunday), was my first extremely low carb day (i.e., less than 30g), and honestly, it wasn't so bad. I do fine with lower carbs, and was actually just doing boring computer stuff most of the day, so it wasn't an issue. All in all, so far, so good.
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Random Friday Thoughts: 9/26/08

1. We finally got our act together and put up the Elite Baseball Development Program page up on the Cressey Performance website. We’ve already got more than a dozen pro ball players committed for the off-season with several more just confirming schedules and accommodations. It should be a great time. We’ll be making this blog pretty interactive with videos as the guys get after it this winter in scenic Hudson, MA, the vacation destination of choice for guys who like to lift heavy stuff, run fast, dominate medicine ball walls, and throw wicked pissah fastballs. 2. Word’s gotten out that I’ve made myself a guinea pig for the Warpspeed Fat Loss program along with Kevin and Danny at CP. It’s the truth. Honestly, I took my before pictures and they weren’t nearly as bad as I expected to be, but I’m still going to go through with it. I won’t be doing the programming to a T, but in terms of diet, I’m 100% on board. We’ll see where it takes me; I’m not really worried about making it Warpspeed, to be honest; I just want to see some subtle changes and not lose strength. 3. Eric Chessen is doing a seminar in Hanover, MA on exercise for children with developmental disabilities. Eric specializes in autism and has some awesome ideas. Check it out HERE. 4. Also on the seminar front, Dr. Mike Maxwell has Dr. Stuart McGill presenting on October 25 in New Brunswick, Canada. Dr. McGill is absolutely fantastic in seminar and I’d highly recommend you check it out if you’re in that neck of the woods. 5. I got asked this week why strengthening the external rotators of the humerus drives the bench press up. The truth is that I don't know that the external rotators have a huge direct effect on the bench aside from stabilizing the humeral head in the glenoid fossa. However, if you don't have humeral head and scapular stability, it's like trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe when you bench. Probably more significantly, though, strengthening the external rotators is valuable because it indirectly helps you build strength by keeping your shoulders health for the long haul. I'll take a guy who can train continuously for a year over a guy who trains nine months out of the year and nurses a bum shoulder the rest of the year. That said, in the grand scheme of things, I’d put more emphasis on a number of other factors with respect to improving the bench press independent of actually benching. 6. Thought for the weekend: hindsight is definitely 20/20. Doh!
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Detailed Review of Maximum Strength

I just got an extremely thorough review back from a happy Maximum Strength customer. Check it out for yourself! Hi Eric, First of all, a big thank you for writing Maximum Strength. It is an awesome book and money well spent. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to get bigger, stronger and faster. Improvements [note from EC: weights are converted from kilograms): Broad Jump increased 12” from 93.5” to 105.5” Box Squat increased 55 pounds from 297 to 352. Bench Press increased 50 pounds from 220 pounds to 270 pounds Deadlift increased 22 pounds from 462 to 484 3RM chin-up increased 22 pounds from BW+44 to BW+66 (BW was unchanged) I could write a book on my verdict of the whole program, but I've just got back from Testing day at the gym and I'm shattered. The biggest thing the program showed me was that I had not been training hard enough. The training sessions in Maximum Strength were brutal and longer than I was used to prior to doing the program. My whole attitude changed. I now always dig deeper and push myself to the limit. This brings me to another interesting point. I cannot over emphasize how important the deload weeks proved to be for me. I found that midway through the third week of each cycle, I was hammered and by week 4, my enthusiasm was nil. However, after the deload week I was always firing on all cylinders and raring to go for the first week of the next phase. I understand everyone is different, but three hard weeks followed by one easy seems to work great for me. Needless to say, great product! I am ecstatic with my results and there will be more to come. Thanks, Elliot Newman Leeds, United Kingdom Find out more about Maximum Strength here.
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FFL Week 3: The Return to Dominance

After a little hiccup last week, I rebounded this week in the Cressey Performance Fantasy Football League with a 103-74 thrashing of Gregg's "Salt Lake City Magic Men." Fortunately for Gregg, he won the award for dorkiest title of the week for the third week in a row. If he plays his cards right, Larrabee might let him join in on the Dungeons and Dragons fun. It kind of makes you salivate a bit, doesn't it, Kevin? I got another stellar performance from the Tennessee defense, and Joseph Addai finally put some big numbers on the board for me at running back. Derek Anderson, twiddling his thumbs on my bench, put up a weak six points while Kurt Warner solidified himself as my nomination for...well...whatever award it is they give to old dudes who play well at QB. Nice try, Magic Man. Once again, fantasy football coaching brilliance triumphs over pulling rabbits out of hats. Headed to Fenway tonight to (hopefully) watch the Sox clinch. Waaaahooooo.
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Sturdy Shoulders, Big Bench

Anthony Lucia is a guy who came to Cressey Performance just over eight weeks ago with some chronic, painful shoulder issues – and he had just pre-tested for the Maximum Strength program. I gave him some takeaway mobility and soft tissue drills, plus a few subtle modifications to the Maximum Strength program. This morning, I got this email from him:

"Hey Eric,

"I just thought I'd give you some feedback. I have been doing MS for 8 weeks now, in fact I just started phase 3 today. On packing day my shoulder hurt so much I tried to bench 245 and just about couldn't rerack it. After seeing you personally, and 8 weeks of stretching and stretching and stretching, I benched 285 for 1 the other day, with no discomfort!

"You set straight an average gym guy with 25 years of lifting experience, who thought he knew it all. In fact, after I told my dad (age 70) what you did for me, he went out and bought your book. "I can honestly say, I never believed in stretching, I thought my warm-ups were good enough. Boy, was I wrong. Stretching has made me more flexible, and most importantly more aware of my form and balance.

"You have helped me with my recovery so much, thank you. I can't wait for the sequel to Maximum Strength!"

Anthony Lucia South Hadley, MA Order Maximum Strength!
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Random Thursday Thoughts: 9/17/08

We are publishing this on Thursday night again, as I am going to be up early tomorrow to train, do an evaluation on a pro baseball pitcher who is in town from South Carolina, and then hit the road to get to Stamford, CT in time to speak on a roundtable at Ryan Lee’s Bootcamp. I’m looking forward to a great weekend and catching up with plenty of friends in the industry – including Mike Roussell and Alwyn Cosgrove, which leads me to… 1. For those who missed it, it isn’t too late to get the EricCressey.com subscriber-only discount on Warp Speed Fat Loss. Check out this week's newsletter for more details – or just head over to pick up a discounted copy through the following link (coupon code is embedded already): Warp Speed Fat Loss 2. Still overpriced and lame. 3. Alan Aragon had a great article published at T-Nation yesterday. Definitely check it out: A Musclehead’s Guide to Alcohol 4. Anyone who can find me a good study that shows that you can isolate the vastus medialis effectively gets a gold star. If you want to save yourself a few days of frustrating Pubmed searching, you’ll give up now, because you aren’t going to find it. 5. Someone asked what I thought the best substitute for front squats would be in the Maximum Strength program if one didn’t have access to a power rack. I’d probably go with walking dumbbell lunges – mostly because it’d be funny to see someone do clusters with lunges! For the record, that was a joke, folks; lunge clusters would be stupid. 6. Some researchers say that we all would die of heart disease eventually if we “outlasted” everything else. I, on the other hand, would likely die from the monotony and pure frustration of trying to explain to baseball players and coaches why distance running is stupid. To tack a few years onto my life, please do me a favor; if you are a baseball player or coach, you need to read these two articles – and then forward them on to everyone you know who also plays or coaches. Part 1 Part 2 7. Someone asked me the other day if I thought all problems were related to anterior pelvic tilt. While it’s a big problem in athletes, I would not attribute any of the following problems to anterior pelvic tilt: gonorrhea, shingles, global warming, diarrhea, traffic jams, or that annoying cashier at Trader Joe’s who always insists on commenting on how I’m buying a lot of eggs. I do hope that bastard’s hip flexors are tight, though; he rubs me the wrong way. Michelle would probably kill him for a stupid comment like that. 8. I’ll be introducing a new product next week. While many of you might be disappointed that it won’t be the 2009 Mike Robertson Pin-up Calendar (March is the Funky Knee Surgery Scar Month; it drives the ladies wild), I’m sure you’ll be delighted with the content. This is absolutely, positively, a must-read for all personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. And, I suspect that a lot of you everyday gym-goers will like the content as well. If you aren’t already signed up for my free newsletter, sign up using the opt-in feature to the top-right of your screen (Name and Email Address) and you’ll be among the first to know. Have a great weekend, folks!
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Training around Elbow Issues in Overhead Athletes

We see a lot of baseball players, so a lot of these guys come to use with elbow problems. In most cases, the doctors they’ve seen have said, flat-out, “NO LIFTING WEIGHTS.” This drives me nuts for a variety of reasons: 1. They’ve still got two good legs, one good arm, and a bunch of core musculature that needs to be strong and functional. 2. This recommendation implicitly means “Stay away from personal trainers and strength coaches.” It’s probably due to the fact that there are a lot of bonehead personal trainers out there who could do more harm than good, but the truth is that these services comprise more than just lifting weights. We do a lot of mobility and activation work and self-myofascial release on the foam roller. Collectively, #1 and #2 demonstrate that this blanket recommendation includes an insanely ignorant omission, as the majority of elbow problems can be attributed to mobility and strength deficits at the shoulder. You can train a shoulder a thousand different ways without even involving elbow motion – let alone challenging it sufficiently to cause a problem. In fact, I'd estimate that you could prevent 90% of elbow problems in baseball guys if we simply taught all of them how to sleeper stretch in their early teenage years: I'd strongly encourage you to check out this article I wrote, where I go over the common mistakes folks make when performing the sleeper stretch. 3. This recommendation flat-out ignores the specific nature of the overwhelming majority of elbow problems in throwing athletes. Let me elaborate.. In my estimation, 95% of baseball players with elbow pain couldn’t elicit their pain in a weight room if they wanted to; seriously! The reason is that this elbow pain is typically mechanical in nature; that is, it’s only aggravated by specific activities (in their case, throwing). Believe it or not, I have had guys do everything from pull-ups, to dumbbell bench presses, to rows, to push-ups, to grip work just days out from elbow surgery. It isn’t true in every case, but it’s definitely the majority. And, they can all get diesel in the lower body during this time period. Some great related reading for you: Inefficiency vs. Pathology Lay Back to Throw Gas

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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FFL Week 2: Going Easy on the Birthday Boy

I lost 112-80 in fantasy football this week to this guy. No, I'm not joking. Doesn't it boggle the mind that he can even turn on and operate a computer to manage a fantasy football team? The truth is, I let Pete win because Monday was his birthday (he turned 12). Actually, it was Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis - also known as the captains of the Cleveland Browns JV team - who let him win on Sunday night when they combined for a whopping nine points for me. That's ten points less than my backup kicker (Ryan Longwell) scored with a five field goal performance as he was resting on my bench - but still an impressive nine points more than my tight end (Anthony Fasano) managed with his goose egg. I was hoping that the statisticians would at least throw Fasano a sympathy points for a good block or signing a few autographs on the way out of the stadium. No such luck, though. So, happy birthday and congratulations, Pete. Bring on the Magic Man for week 3; Kurt Warner's going to lead me to the promised land. EDIT: The only thing that got beaten worse this week than my fantasy football team was my retirement account. Ouch.
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Just One Missing Piece…

Each day, on my drive to work, I pass a series of traffic lights right where Rt. 16 in Somerville/Cambridge enters into Rt. 2, a pretty major pseudo-expressway here in Greater Boston. Without fail, at each traffic light, homeless folks will pace alongside stopped traffic with a cup in hand, asking for change (I'd say it's competitive among all of them, but the truth is that they seem to have a system mapped out, as there is always someone new on each corner daily). The locals have grown accustomed to it, and judging by the fact that these folks are there year-round, they make enough to get by. The other day, a gentlemen strolled past my car while I was stopped at a red light. He had the normal sign ("Homeless, Sober, God Bless") and the customary Dunkin' Donuts cup for change collection. However, he was also wearing a Yankees hat in the heart of Red Sox country - and in an area of knowledgeable/perceptive people (Harvard and Tufts are within a few miles of this spot, as a frame of reference). That hat couldn't be helping his cause... Here was a guy doing almost everything right (well, at least in the context of being homeless and asking for change), but he was missing out on a single crucial piece of the puzzle. It isn't all that different from most folks' fitness programs. You'll see people all the time have all sorts of stuff right: plenty of motivation, a good diet, a great training environment, top-of-the-line equipment, you name it. Then, they're missing out on something seemingly small, but hugely important. Maybe their back hurts because they're wearing cross-trainers when they deadlift (shifts the weight forward too much). Or, maybe they haven't implemented strategic deloading effectively, and are all banged-up or have hit a plateau. It might be poor exercise selection, too much or too little volume, or poor exercise technique. It's analogous to spending hours trying to figure out how to do your own taxes, and then overlooking a huge deduction you could have written off. You not only have to consider that you have physically lost money (the extra cash you paid to Uncle Sam would be your injuries and/or lack of progress); you also have to recognize the opportunity cost of your time doing taxes (efforts in the gym that didn't pay off). It would have been cheaper and more fruitful to just hire an accountant in the first place - just like you'd see a lawyer if you needed a contract, or a doctor if you needed surgery. For some reason, though, people have been conditioned to think that they can figure out exercise on their own. Just getting active is similar to understanding how to balance your checkbook. However, exercising safely, effectively, and efficiently is more along the lines of filing a tax return when you're self-employed with three ex-wives, 14 kids, and two company cars you want to write off (that's not me, for the record; I don't even have a goldfish, let alone 14 kids). What I'm saying in a not-so-concise format is that it's okay to outsource here and there. For a long time, I refused to put out articles and books/manuals that featured comprehensive programming, as I was all about how things need to be perfect for each individual. Eventually, though, after a lot of requests from readers, I broke down and found a happy medium when I wrote my Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual; it is a choose-your-own-adventure type of book where you tested yourself on some athletic qualities and then followed one of two programs depending on the time of year. The feedback was fantastic, and I realized that a lot of people were better off with an educated generic template than they were coming up with their own programs. That's why I was open to the idea of writing Maximum Strength when my co-author Matt Fitzgerald approached me with the idea. Effectively, we integrate comprehensive strength training, mobility/activation warm-ups, energy systems work, deloading, nutrition, supplementation, and quantifiable pre- and post-testing measures. For the majority of folks, these programs - with some minor modifications - do the trick. For others, more advanced strategies are necessary. Some folks see personal trainers, physical therapists, or orthopedists. I do a lot of online consulting work in the corrective exercise realm, helping folks who have chronic aches and pains that don't necessarily qualify them for physical therapy because they don't interfere with activities of daily living, but do act up with weight-training or sprinting, for example. I also work with a lot of folks who have just been discharged from physical therapy and need to figure out how to effectively transition back to "normal" training. So, with all this said, don't ever hesitate to outsource. Chances are there are people who outsource to YOU because you're an expert in some capacity where they need help.
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series