Home 2008 (Page 2)

A Great Weekend in Houston

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend was Ron Wolforth's Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp just outside of Houston, TX.  To say that it was an awesome experience would be an understatement.  I considered myself really lucky to be presenting alongside the likes of Brent Strom (St. Louis Cardinals), Phil Donley (Philadelphia Phillies consultant who has rehabbed loads of million-dollar arms), Perry Husband (Downright Filthy Pitching), and Ron himself.  These guys are not only getting important information out there for coaches, but also getting their hands dirty in the trenches to take athletes and coaches to the next level with new information.

Just as great as the presenters were the 100+ attendees.  In addition to many enthusiastic high school and private sector coaches and a few physical therapists, you had pitching coaches and/or baseball strength coaches from big-time colleges like Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Auburn, Kennesaw St., Savannah College of Art and Design, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Columbia, and Trinity.  These guys immediately earned a ton of respect in my book for thinking outside the box, and it makes me want to encourage a lot of my stud athletes their way post-high school because I know that they're going to get coaches who are always looking for ways to help them succeed. The title of my presentation was "Building the Complete and Superior Pitching Athlete."  In my introduction to the coaches, I tried to make it very clear that my goal wasn't to try to teach them everything there was to know about S&C for baseball players, but rather to give them the knowledge (and resources, in the form of my handouts) to become informed consumers in dealing with the folks who carry out their players' programs.  I wanted them to know that you CAN give a pitcher a tremendous training effect without injuries to the throwing arm or interfering with velocity by losing pitching-specific mobility. I think that the secret to appreciating what it takes is understanding that baseball strength and conditioning is not just about lifting and running.  Sure, these are components of the overall process, but if you only address these two components, you DO run the risk of impairing a pitcher's development.  Sure, you've got to pay attention to these issues, but you also have to strategically address flexibility and mobility (yes, they are different), optimize soft tissue quality, and appreciate that you can use medicine ball work to maintain pitching-specific mobility during down-periods from throwing without all the stresses that come with throwing itself.

I also tried to get folks to think about what they already are doing with respect to distance running, "core" training, upper and lower body lifting, assessments, warm-ups (check out the Monster Mobility Pack for ideas), and post-throwing flexibility work.  I discussed the difference between inefficiency and pathology and how your can have a terrible-looking MRI and/or x-ray and still be pain free.

You can still get all the information from the event by purchasing the DVDs of the entire weekend.  I'd highly recommend them, as they include some great pitching analysis and recommendations from Brent Strom, awesome information on glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD) by Phil Donley, intriguing thoughts on "effective velocity" from Perry Husband, and excellent ideas on "blending" by Ron Wolforth.  Just head over to Pitching Central's UPCBC page and pick up a copy now.


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13 Things That Drive Me Nuts

By popular demand, some of the clients at CP who appreciate my cynical side requested that I pull together a list of things that annoy me.  I turned to our intern, Chris, and asked him to pick a number between 1 and 20, and he chose 13.  So, in lieu of Random Friday Thoughts, here are 13 things that drive me nuts... 1. It recently occurred to me that my Random Friday Thoughts are no longer very random - and not just because I do them every Friday.  Truth be told, I am the Random Pioneer, and countless individuals have attempted to randomly follow in my random footsteps with their own random attempts at random brilliance in random blogs.  I have a random message for these random copycats: you might as well give it up, as my randomness cannot be matched, so you might as well throw in your towel (and no, Steph, we aren't getting towels for you at CP). I believe this cat reflects my random sentiments quite nicely:

2.  I can't believe Joe Dirt didn't win an Oscar.

3. It's a written rule at CP that when you have one week remaining on your current program, it's your responsibility to notify a CP staff member that you'll need a new program printed out and ready to go within a week.  It's an unwritten rule (as one 17-year-old athlete found out this week) that those who forget to tell us that they need a new program - and then show up to lift on the day the new program would have started - are rewarded with the following program for the day: A1) Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats: 8x8/side A2) Neutral Grip Pull-ups: 8x6 I don't think we'll be having this problem much more... 4. I always love it when a fitness professional sets up a new program or opens his/her own facility and writes his own press release.  It usually comes out something like: "World-Renowned Fitness Expert Announces Plans to Revolutionize the Fitness Industry "In a move that has been called revolutionary, forward-thinking, bold, and daring, Ben Dover, CPT, QRS, ASAP, AEIOU is now personal training adults ages 18-65 in his mother's basement to help them loose [note from EC: this is intentionally spelled wrong, because people always spell lose incorrectly] weight.  Dover graduated with honors from Moldy Gordita Community College in Burnt Scrotum, New Mexico. "Says Dover, 'My Moldy Gordita and Burnt Scrotum experiences have made my outlook on fitness very unique.*   Unlike other personal trainers, I encourage clients to eat right and exercise.' *Note from EC: yes, I know you can't be very one-of-a-kind, but Ben doesn't. "Dover has limited availability, but is now accepting new clients for 22 available hour-long time slots between the hours of 1AM and 11PM." I see this at least once a week - seriously.  As I think about it more, though, it's pretty amusing. 5. I need to see another story on TV about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie like I need to gouge out my eyes with a hot poker. 6. Sometimes, a video says it all.

(for the record, it isn't Tony that drives me nuts; it's the universal acceptance of the stability ball as training implement for everybody) 7. If you Google "medial deltoid," you get 7,710 results.  You know what?  There is no such thing as a medial deltoid!  It's the middle deltoid - and yes, it is a pretty big difference anatomically (the medial deltoid would technically be the anterior deltoid, if you really think about it).  You don't get Google search results for rhombazoids or upper trapezoids - and medial deltoid isn't much better. 8. In my article series on running programs for pitchers, I alluded to how I dislike it when pitchers run to get fit.  Rather, I feel that they need to get fit to run.  Truth be told, this doesn't just apply to pitchers; it applies to everyone, endurance athletes included.  Taking up running to lose weight is a recipe for disaster for a lot of people.  These people may include: dentists, professional wrestlers, eskimos, Starbucks employees, politicians, elves, laywers, and even superheroes.  Yes, the only thing worse for Superman than kryptonite is distance-running-induced plantar fasciitis. If you're a marathoner or triathlete, have at it - but be sure you're prepared to start it in the first place. 9. Can somebody tell me why we're just arresting this guy now?  He should have been incarcerated for that hairstyle the seconds the 1980s were over!

10. The only thing worse than a close-talker is a close-coacher.  This may include standing on top of an athlete, or shouting as many cues as possible during a set.  Step off, dude. 11. Inside-Out doesn't get much love, but it is the single-best upper extremity injury prevention product out there.  If you have shoulder or elbow issues, you should have bought this over a year ago!

Give Bill and Mike (and your rotator cuffs) some love. 12.  I really could use about 28 hours in the day.  I'd even settle for 27 - but 24 just doesn't seem to be cutting it.

13. It drives me nuts that I really couldn't come up with #13, but then I realized that I could just go back to my mainstay.  Good Lord, this is atrocious.  I don't even know where to begin...

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A Good Blog Worth Reading

Shawn Haviland is a Cressey Performance athlete who started up a blog a month or two back.  The Oakland A's drafted Shawn out of Harvard in the 33rd round in 2008.  He actually wrote up a piece about training at CP: 5 Things I have Learned (So Far) from the Guys at Cressey Performance Shawn started out as a janitor at M.I.T. before he solved a complex math problem left on a chalkboard - and that led to instant baseball success.  Or maybe that was Good Will Hunting...
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Training Four Days in a Row?

I know, it's heresy! You can't lift weights on four consecutive days unless you're a juiced up professional bodybuilder - or just some teenager who doesn't know a thing about weight-training. I beg to differ. You can also do it (not necessarily by choice) if you're Eric Cressey and are flying to Houston Thursday night and not getting back until Sunday afternoon - and you know you're not going to have a chance to train while there. Knowing that this was the case, I took this past Sunday off altogether, and planned to train MoTuWeTh. Here's how I set it up: Monday was a speed bench day with some chain push-ups and loads of horizontal pulling and shoulder health stuff (especially considering I made over 500 throws that day while I helped eight separate pitchers through their throwing programs). Tuesday (last night) was some easy sprint work, and then front squats vs. two chains per side. I kept it light (205) and fast for the first six sets. For my last two sets, I changed the bar weight to 265 (325 at the top) for two reps. I added in some mat flips (like a tire flip), forward sled pushing, and then some Pallof Press isometric holds. As you can tell, there wasn't much eccentric stress (aside from the front squats), so I intentionally avoided soreness (feel fine Wednesday morning as I type this). Wednesday (tonight), I'll bench (floor press, actually) heavier, use dumbbells for my pressing assistance work, do more vertical pulling, and incorporate plenty of scapular stability and direct rotator cuff work. This session should be me up quite a bit more than Monday's. Thursday (tomorrow) morning, I'll deadlift heavier, do weighted glute-hams, hit some heavier single-leg work, and drag the sled at the end. I should be pretty dead by the end of the session and potentially sore for a few days - until I get back to train again on Sunday night. Basically, the point of this post is to show you that if you manipulate training stress within the sessions, you can have a lot of flexibility in your training schedule. All our pro baseball guys train Mo-Sa, for example, because we can incorporate mini-deloads within the week.

This is especially important when you've got lifting, medicine ball, movement training, mobility, flexibility, and throwing programs all competing for an athlete's time and energy. I actually wrote about this in a fair amount of detail in 4 Ways to Stay on Track.
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Newsletter 136

You probably noticed that the newsletter is a day late this week. I have been absolutely swamped with the goings-on at Cressey Performance on top of heading to a big baseball seminar in Houston this weekend (fly out Thursday night). Fortunately, though, this full schedule provided me with the idea for this newsletter.

With the chaos of the past week, I didn't have time to do my normal cooking and food prep for the week on Sunday night. So, Tuesday morning (had already had a normal breakfast), with about twenty minutes left before I needed to head out to work, I looked in the fridge in hopes of pulling together a few meals from a stir fry or casserole. Nothing was there.

As a result, I just wound up grabbing a half-empty tub of cottage cheese and added a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder for fiber. Later in the day, I'd add some Superfood and a scoop of low-carb Metabolic Drive, and had that concoction with a handful of almonds from the stash in the top drawer of the desk in my office. Another meal was a Metabolic Drive bar, and a third was simply a shake with Superfood and some Flameout (fish oil) and almonds. Obviously, it wasn't an ideal daytime meal plan - and it certainly wasn't an aesthetically-pleasing culinary masterpiece like you'd see in John Berardi's Gourmet Nutrition Cookbook, but it got me through the 8-10 hours.

I had a shake with my evening training session, and then came home to cook up a legitimate, whole food meal.

This certainly wasn't optimal, but it was a nutritional "out" for me: it got calories in, kept my energy levels up, and did so without blowing my diet with unhealthy convenience foods. Having good food easily accessible to me is huge when things get busy; I'll roll with mixed nuts, protein powders, protein bars (homemade and Biotest ones), Superfood, and beef jerky. We're also lucky to have a cafeteria in our building, and a good take-out place with awesome salads just about three miles down the road. So, in my eyes, there is never a reason for me to eat garbage - even if I haven't had time to cook up good stuff for myself.

Obviously, this can be applied to diet, but it also has applications in other facets of your healthy lifestyle.

From a training logistics standpoint, what happens if you walk in to your gym to squat, and find that the only squat rack is occupied and there is a long line waiting to use it. Do you stand in line, or do you go to trap bar deadlifts (option A) or walking dumbbell lunges (option B)?

Also along the training lines, but with more of injury perspective, what do you do if your shoulder starts acting up when you go to barbell bench press? Do you try to push through it, skip it altogether, or move to neutral grip dumbbell bench presses (option A) or a push-up variation (option B)? (As an aside, I just wrote an article covering these situations; check it out HERE)

How about professionally? If you're a trainer or a strength coach, if something stumped you, who do you contact? Have you built a good network of health care professionals with both general expertise and specializations? Case in point, one of my current clients started up with me in December of 2006, and he came to me with a C5-C6 disc hernation that had left him with numbness in the tip of his middle finger for the previous ten years - and none of the neurologists and physical therapists he'd seen could do anything about it. I introduced him to John Pallof, PT, COMT, and John had complete feeling back in his finger within two sessions from a combination of manual therapy and neural flossing.

Nowadays, John sees every neck issue that comes to Cressey Performance. Likewise, Dr. Bill Morgan sees all our significant wrist and elbow issues - and the list goes on and on. So, it's not just about having a network; it's about having a network of great people, some of whom specialize in certain areas. I had dinner with Dave Tate a while back, and I recall him saying that he was less concerned with knowing everything and more concerned with knowing who to call to find out everything. Dave was right on the money.

What about easily accessible resources? What books, DVDs, journals, and newsletters do you consult on a regular basis to stay on top of things and research new issues that cross your path? Improving your own abilities is just as important as expanding your network. If you haven't seen it already, a while back, I compiled a Recommended Resources page outlining my recommendations for both free websites and products you can use to stay ahead of the game.

At risk of sounding overconfident, I think that the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set is something that every trainer and strength coach should watch, as it covers everything from functional anatomy, to static and dynamic assessments, to troubleshooting common resistance training technique mistakes.

Food for thought - and hopefully a little something for everyone.

New Blog Content

Random Friday Thoughts
Training the Baseball Catcher
Relative Strength Improvements on Maximum Strength

Have a great week!


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Warpspeed Fat Loss: The Proof is in the Pictures

The Proof is in the Pictures I consider myself really lucky to have several clients who are, well, over-the-top adherent.  These guys would eat dirt and do two hours straight of sled pushes if I told them that it'd make them leaner, stronger, and faster. Now, a lot of these guys are up-and-coming baseball studs who dream of making it to the big leagues.    Occasionally, though, we get a guy who is just nuts for the sake of being diesel - even if it won't benefit him financially or make him any more famous. About six weeks ago, I used my weekly newsletter to highlight Warpspeed Fat Loss, a program from Mike Roussell and Alwyn Cosgrove that has yielded some excellent results since its introduction.  I immediately received an email from one of the Cressey Performance masochists who couldn't wait to get a piece of the action. An ex-Marine, Danny (age 35) now works in the financial investments realm at an internationally renowned firm.  As I'm sure you can imagine, work has been pretty turbulent and hectic over the past two months for him in light of the troubles on Wall Street.  However, to take things a few step further, he's married with a two-year old daughter, and his wife is expecting another child.  So, we're not exactly talking about ideal conditions from a time management standpoint for approaching an extreme fat loss phase. However, we're not exactly talking about a normal guy.  Danny feeds his rotweiler grass-fed beef and fish oil.  And, while we haven't confirmed it, the entire CP staff is pretty much convinced that he eats nails and craps lightning. So, electric farts and all, Danny undertook the Warpspeed Fat Loss program, lifting TuThSa with us and doing intervals MoWeFr at 5:30AM on his own.  I wrote the training, and he followed the diet to a "T" - thanks to his wife, who did all the cooking (jealous, fellas?).  In 28 days, he went from 217.8 pounds to 205.6 pounds - but the pictures tell the entire story.  The "befores" are on the left and the "afters" are on the right. Now, my picture editing abilities leave a lot to be desired, but you get the point.  Still, a lot of you are probably wondering what I'm getting at with this.  Yes, Danny's diesel.  Sure, Warpspeed Fat Loss is an awesome program - but I already told you about that a few weeks back.  And, it can't be about me blowing sunshine up my own butt, as I just wrote the program and turned up the volume on the music; Danny did all the hard work.  And, frankly, I don't really need to try to impress you guys, as you're already subscribed to my newsletter; chances are that you might be under the impression already that know what I'm doing! In reality, the main points I'm going to make will come in a second newsletter later this week - so stay tuned... For more information on the Warpspeed Fat Loss, CLICK HERE.  I can't say enough great things about it.

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FFL Week 14: It comes to an end…

Suffice it to say that my JV team showed up to play on Sunday, and my remarkable run (yes, 8-5 can still be remarkable; you wouldn't have believed the comraderie in my fantasy football locker room) has come to an end.  I'll be pulling for Brian St. Pierre from here on out so that we can keep the CP Fantasy Football Trophy in the family.

As for my performance, let's just say that those of you who told me to play Joseph Addai over LenDale White were all miserably incorrect - and it was the difference between winning and losing (well, that along with benching Matt Schaub, Steve Breaston, Dominic Rhodes, and the Bears defense).  All that said, this just about sums up my thoughts:

And, for those of you who aren't interested in football, here is a photo of a dude getting attacked by a deer.  It is sure to brighten anyone's day - unless, of course, you're the dude being violated by the buck.

On a semi-related note...

Q: What's the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts?

A: Beer nuts are a buck-fifty.  Deer nuts are under a buck.  Zing!

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Troubleshooting the Scapular Push-up

Last week, an online consulting client of my mentioned that he was getting some shoulder pain when doing scapular push-ups, so I asked him for a video in order to troubleshoot.  Basically, I wanted to know if it was his form or a fundamental structural issue that was the problem.  Here was the video he sent me:

After seeing this video, it was pretty clear why he was getting shoulder discomfort - especially as the set goes on.  If you watch the video again, you'll notice that the hips/lower back sag a bit toward the floor, thus exaggerating the natural thoracic (upper back) curve.  This forces the scapulae (shoulder blades) to "ride" up as a compensation for a less flexed humerus.  This riding up corresponds to scapular anterior tilt, which increases impingement on the rotator cuff and long head of the biceps.

With scapular anterior tilt, we're really using pec minor and not serratus anterior.  And, serratus anterior is really our target here, as this muscle really shuts down almost anytime that shoulder pain is present.  Serratus anterior works with lower and upper trapezius to upwardly rotate the scapula, a movement pattern that must be done correctly to ensure safe overhead activity. Obviously, fixing technique is the first option with this problem - but you can also get immediate symptomatic relief with this by elevating the feet on a box.  So, either get the feet up a bit, or just focus really hard on getting the hips up and bracing the abs hard.
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Lats: Not Just Good for Pulldowns

Imagine, for a second, that I was to tell you that there's a muscle that: a) has serious growth potential b) can dramatically increase your squat and deadlift poundages c) can drive your bench press through the roof d) can keep your shoulders, upper back, lower back, and hips healthy e) can help you run faster f) affects the way you breath You'd probably think I was nuts. Surely the strength training community would've caught on by now, right? Well, I wouldn't say that they haven't caught on; I'd just say that they haven't learned how to utilize this muscle — and it does exist — in the right ways. Perhaps the worst part is that this muscle has a big cross sectional area already, so it's staring people right in the face. I'm talking about the latissimus dorsi, lats for short. Let's get to it... Continue Reading...
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40 Random Thoughts

Like everyone else, I've had my role models and mentors who've looked out for me. My mother has taught high school English for over 20 years, so I owe a lot of my writing success to her. My father taught me to tie a tie and to remember to check the oil in my car. My brother, the accountant, is always a phone call away if I need financial advice. Guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, John Berardi, Dave Tate, and Jason Ferruggia have all been extremely gracious in giving me advice as an up-and-comer in this business. In short, I'm just the sum of many constituent parts: individuals to whom I owe a debt I'll never be able to repay. Continue Reading...
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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series