Home 2011 August (Page 2)

Strength and Conditioning Programs: How to Make Change Easier

Yesterday was a busy (but fun) day at Cressey Performance, and when I got home around 7pm, I was beat. Luckily, it doesn’t take much energy to check emails, so that’s what I did.  This one made my night: Hey Eric, Just wanted to thank you for helping me out this summer. I've weighed in at 197 the last few days, a 19 pound increase in about 3 months. My fastball has gone up 7-8 mph and I still feel like I haven't thrown the ball near my best yet. Because of the work I put in this summer I now have a legitimate shot to pitch a lot this year after not seeing an inning and getting redshirted last season. Thanks again, John Pretty cool, huh?  These are the kind of emails that make the long days all worthwhile and remind me why I have the coolest job in the world.  It gets better, though – as there is a lot to be learned from this specific story. John – a college pitcher coming off two surgeries in two years on his throwing shoulder, plus a few hamstrings pulls – drove seven hours for his one-time consultation/evaluation at Cressey Performance back in May and then took a program home with him.  Then, he drove back to CP at the start of his June and July programs to learn the exercises and check in with us to make sure everything was progressing nicely.  That’s some serious dedication (and gas money!).

Just as significant, though, was his ability to embrace change, as our programs were a huge deviation from his previous experiences.  His original email to us included this line: “I run 6 days a week, one of my goals between the end of this season and the beginning of next one is to run 1,000 miles.”  He didn’t do a single “run” over 50 yards in the entire three month program with us.  He also did far more (and longer) long toss in his throwing program than he had previously.  So, you could say that he not only embraced a change, but thrived with it. Change is tough, though.  Lots of people read my blogs, hear me speak at seminars, and interact with me on short-term observational visits to Cressey Performance – but only a small percentage of them actually put things into action.  Loads of people acquire knowledge, but never act on it. However, interestingly, when a new client starts up at CP, they stand a much better chance of succeeding with change.  Starting (and staying consistent with) a strength and conditioning program is a big undertaking; in fact, for many, it’s as significant as taking on a new job, opening a new business, or learning to play a new sport or instrument.  And, when that program is a complete deviation from what you’re expecting, it’s even tougher. Why, then, do some people succeed with change more than others?  I think it has to do with a lot of factors, but these five stand out the most to me: 1. They get those around them involved – John’s dad came along for the ride for his first day at CP – and this is often the case for the parents of our high school athletes.  While you don’t want overbearing parents, you do want a support system that’s aware of new goals and can be there to help keep one accountable in the quest for change.

2. They find good training partners and a quality training environment – I had a quick video blog about this yesterday, but I’m convinced that training partners and environment are just as important as an effective program.  There are always people to pick you up when you’re dragging, and the energy is contagious.  It makes change fun while making it seem like it is actually a “norm,” as training partners are constantly reaffirming what you’re doing and providing encouragement and feedback. 3. They don’t get overwhelmed by changing everything – Sometimes, the easiest way to create massive change is to take baby steps and break the overhaul into smaller components.  As I wrote recently, small hinges swing big doors.  This has never been my “cup of tea,” but there have been times when we’ve had to slowly change around a program for a client that was accustomed to a completely different school of thought.  “One of mine and one of yours” can work for the initial period and help you to gain an individual’s trust before a more thorough transition. 4. They incorporate this change into an existing schema – This is one I originally read in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.

To illustrate things, I’ll call upon my own personal experience.  Back in 2006 or so, I didn’t think that there was any possible way that semi-private training could work. How could you have clients of all different ages, experience levels, and goals training at the same time without having chaos?  My buddy, Alwyn Cosgrove (who, at the time, had just beaten stage 4 cancer for the second time), had some great advice: Physical therapy is done in group settings. Cardiac and pulmonary rehab are done in group settings.  I did pulmonary rehab post-chemo.  Seventeen of us in the group and one nurse. That's called semi-private! Chemotherapy is done in a semi-private setting for most cancers, too. My first time through there were ten of us in a room with two nurses. Actually, when I was in the hospital getting chemo it was still semi-private. I had one nurse who covered six rooms. Now I'm even more convinced. If life saving (and potentially deadly chemotherapy) is done in a small group setting, you're really stretching to tell me that an exercise program has to be one-on-one. We now do almost exclusively semi-private training, and it’s amazing.  Middle school athletes get to watch how the high school guys train.  The pro guys get to mentor the high school guys.  The adult clients get to know athletes they see on TV on a personal level.  Experienced clients introduce themselves to new clients when they start training.  Just the other day, one of our local families had two of out-of-town athletes (Colorado and Virginia) over for dinner on Saturday night, and then brought them to church with them on Sunday morning.  There is insane camaraderie among folks from all different walks of life.

None of it would have been possible if I hadn’t been able to wrap my head around the idea of semi-private training – and it would have been tough to get to that point if Alwyn hadn’t put the concept into my existing schemas (physical therapy, cardiac/pulmonary rehab/chemotherapy) for me. 5. They spend money – Taking a leap of faith and increasing the stakes can sometimes motivate people to make change happen.  Whether it’s a payment for training, or just a bet with friends about exercise consistency or some training goal, separating people from their money always seems to magically increase adherence.  People don’t like getting ripped off – and it’s even worse when you rip yourself off because there is nobody else to blame except yourself! In a recent example, Pat Rigsby, Mike Robertson, and I outline many assessment, training, and business strategies that one can effectively employ in a fitness business in The Fitness Business Blueprint.  One of our primary goals in making it the way that we did was to make sure that we made it easier for buyers to apply the changes we recommended; we discussed how to incorporate our ideas seamlessly in their current business strategy.  Still, none of these tactics will work is someone isn’t willing to change – and that means putting in some leg work to both set the stage for change and then follow through on it.

This resource is on sale for $100 off through Friday at midnight.  If you’re looking to make positive changes in your fitness business – or get one off the ground in the first place – it’s an outstanding way to get the ball rolling.  You can learn more about The Fitness Business Blueprint HERE. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Training Partners: The Most Overlooked Part of an Effective Strength and Conditioning Program

Here's a good illustration of how valuable training partners can be in a strength and conditioning program. Conversation from yesterday, during four sets of 8 trap bar deadlifts: Eric (after set #2):"You want to go five plates?" (505lbs) Tony: "No, I'm staying here." ("here" was four plates plus a 25-per-side or 465lbs) Eric: "So you're saying that it won't bother you to look me in the eye for the next seven hours of this work day knowing that I outworked you at a weight you know you can lift?  That'd really bother me." Tony: "Ok."

On a related note, congratulations to Tony on the release of his first product, Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper Body.  He contributed two webinars to what looks to be a great collaborative product.  Show our boy some love and check it out.

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The Fitness Business Blueprint is LIVE!

I'm psyched to announce that The Fitness Business Blueprint, a collaborative project among Mike Robertson, Pat Rigsby, and me, is now available for sale.

A ton of work went in to making this product the most comprehensive resource available to fitness professionals looking to start a successful training business.  And, even if you're already in business, there are business, relationship-building, assessment, program design, and training strategies you'll learn to instantly help take your business to the next level.

Mike, Pat, and I all have unique skill sets, and by combining them, I feel strongly that we've put together a comprehensive approach to attacking fitness business development from all angles.  Rather than list all the details here, I'll encourage you to check out The Fitness Business Blueprint sales page.

The product is on sale at an introductory $100 off price through this Friday (August 12) at midnight.  It's 100% online, and you'll be able to access (and put into action) all the information immediately.

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Why the Gym’s Out-of-Business and the Porn Store’s Thriving

A while back, while up in central Maine visiting my wife's family for the weekend, I couldn't help but notice that the local gym in the center of town had gone out of business since the last time I'd visited.  When I commented on it, my wife's response was: "No surprise; there have been three gyms there before it, and they've all gone under, too."

It's not all that surprising, given how many health clubs, gyms, and fitness facilities go belly-up each day in America.  What was a bit surprising, though, was that while you'd think the other businesses in the area would be struggling in light of the recession, that really wasn't the case at all.

About 1/2 mile up the road, the parking lot at an "Adult Film" store was completely full.  I would have snapped a picture of that, too, but it probably wouldn't have made the patrons in the parking lot too happy.

Instead, I got this one of a doughnut shop not too far away.  Yes, the place was hopping at 3:30PM on a Friday afternoon - not exactly what I'd call pristine "doughnut consumption time."

Recession, huh?  Would you consider porn flicks and doughnuts necessities?  Surely, if people have the disposable income to splurge on fornication and chocolate glazed awesomeness, they can front the $20/month to get rid of the spare tire that's hiding their unmentionables from view.

Taking it a step further, this doughnut shop has over 3,000 locations, and apparently, the porn store dude has several locations in the area and has done quite well for himself.  So, why can't the gym catch a break, in spite of their noble intentions?

Very simple: they likely made some big mistakes that their more successful counterparts avoided.  Right off the top of my head, here are three:

1. They likely went too big. - This gym opened at over 6,000 square-feet, while the porn store started as a small location with lower overhead and (presumably) grew into more locations over time.

Cressey Sports Performance started at 3,300 square-feet, then moved to 6,600 square-foot facility (which was renovated to add another 1,000 square-feet). Only after five years in business did we make the jump to our larger, 15,000-square-foot dream facility. In short, we bite off off what we can chew, and nothing more.

2. They likely overpaid for commercial space on the main road. - Location is important for a business, no doubt, but too many people think they need to pay for crazy expensive commercial property just to get as many drop-ins as possible.  This isn't exactly in line with the "niche" name, either, as it implies that they're pushing to be a specific location that people seek out because they serve baby boomers better than anyone else.  The porn store was on a side street.  Why?  People seek it out; they don't just drop in to pick some up on a whim.

Cressey Sports Performance is in an industrial park in what seems like the middle of nowhere - but it works because we are in a niche and clients will travel to train with us.

3. They likely wasted money silly equipment instead of investing in their greatest assets: their people and their relationships. - This is quite possibly the biggest mistake I see upstart gyms make; they spend thousands on cardio equipment and fixed-motion resistance training equipment rather than spending conservatively in this regard, and instead investing those financial resources on their true assets: people.

For the $30,000 it costs to purchase a treadmill, elliptical, recumbent bike, and 4-5 apparatus fixed-motion resistance training circuit, those folks could have purchased more effective equipment for 1/3 the price and instead spent the remaining $20,000 on staff education and referral bonus gifts for existing clients.  They probably blew a ton of money on direct mail and newspaper advertising, too, when they should have been out hustling to network in the community and tap into their existing clientele for referrals and help spreading the good word.


In short, they probably devoted money to depreciable assets when they should have been using them to add value to existing investments.

You know what porn videos are?  Investments.  People rent them, and they pay themselves off over time.  Seated triceps extensions doohickeys don't.

Several gyms had already gone out of business there previously, and it seems readily apparent that these folks tried to improve on a flawed business model instead of just scrapping it altogether.  They changed the oil on a car with no wheels.

Unfortunately, this kind of failure is pretty rampant in the fitness industry - and there were surely a lot of other factors that contributed to the business not making it.  While I don't claim to be a true expert, I can say that we've had a thriving business for almost five years now - and I've been fortunate to communicate on a regular basis with not only fitness industry business experts, but other guys in the field who run successful businesses.

Pat Rigsby, co-founder of the Fitness Consulting Group, is among the former. Mike Robertson, co-founder of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, is among the latter.   And, the three of us have teamed up to create a product called The Fitness Business Blueprint, which is a great resource I'd encourage you to check out for more fitness business strategies like the ones I discussed in this post.  

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Robertson, Rigsby, and Cressey: A Free Fitness Business Interview You Don’t Want to Miss

Earlier this week, along with Mike Robertson and Pat Rigsby, I recorded an audio interview all about opening and growing a successful fitness business.  It's now available at absolutely no charge at the link below: --> The Truth About Building a Great Training Business <-- We cover mistakes we made along the way, things we'd do differently, and decisions we made that proved to be really "clutch."  In short, you don't want to miss it. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/3/11

Here's a list of recommended strength and conditioning reading for the week: Strength Training Programs: The Higher Up You Go, the More Hot Air You Encounter - This is a reincarnation of an old post of mine that seemed fitting in light of a conversation I had with someone last week. Metabolic Flexibility - This was a very well researched piece from Mike Nelson that I enjoyed reading. Intimidate the Weight - More people need to get fired up about life in general, but especially lifting weights.  My business partner, Tony, elaborates here. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive my four-part "How to Deadlift" video coaching series!
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Understanding and Managing Fatigue

Understanding and Managing Fatigue

Perhaps it’s coincidence, or perhaps the scientific community is finally catching on, but recently, there have been several studies looking at the role of short- and long-term recovery in preventing and rehabilitating injuries.

Here’s a research study that demonstrates relationships among a variety of scheduling and recovery factors and injury rates. The part I found most interesting was that researchers observed that sleeping fewer than six hours the night prior to a competition led to a significant increase in fatigue related injuries.

Additionally, researchers at Stanford recently demonstrated the profoundly positive effect that “sleep extension” has on a variety of performance variables in high-level basketball athletes.

These results, in themselves, aren’t particularly surprising: fatigue impacts performance – whether that’s on the field, or in the rehabilitation realm. Anyone who has ever trained an athlete on a Saturday morning after he’s had a late Friday night, or rehabbed a roofer after he’s completed a 10-hour-workday, will tell you that there are certainly less-than-optimal times to get the work in.

What research like this doesn’t tell us, though, is that not all fatigue is created equal – and I suspect that this is one area where strength and conditioning specialists can “return the favor” to rehabilitation specialists for all that we’ve learned from them over the years. Very simply, the very best strength and conditioning coaches I know are the ones who are masters of managing competing demands, including strength training, mobility drills, soft tissue work, movement training, metabolic conditioning, and sport-specific training. In order to effectively manage all these factors, it’s imperative to understand the different stages of fatigue. On the rehabilitation side of things, every injured athlete likely has some element of fatigue that not only impacted his/her injury mechanism, but will impact the response to a given rehabilitation program.

Over-what? Over-everything!

In their classic review, The Unknown Mechanism of the Overtraining Syndrome, Armstrong and VanHeest discussed the importance of differentiating among overload, over-reaching, overtraining, and the overtraining syndrome (OTS). They defined the terms as follows:

  • Overload – “a planned, systematic, progressive increase in training stimuli that is required for improvements in strength, power, and endurance”
  • Over-reaching – “training that involves a brief period of overload, with inadequate recovery, that exceeds the athlete’s adaptive capacity. This process involves a temporary performance decrement lasting from several days to several weeks.”
  • Overtraining – training that “exceeds over-reaching and results in frank physiological maladaptation(s) and chronically reduced exercise performance. It proceeds from imbalances between training and recovery, exercise and exercise capacity, stress and stress tolerance; training exceeds recovery, exercise exceeds one’s capacity, and stressors exceed one’s stress tolerance.”
  • Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) – “a set of persistent physical and psychological symptoms that occur subsequent to prolonged application of heavy training loads. The critical diagnostic factor is a chronic decrease in performance, not simply the existence of SAS [signs and symptoms].”

Overload is inherent to a successful training process, and over-reaching is actually quite valuable when used appropriately. For instance, in our training programs at Cressey Performance, we generally fluctuate training stress in four-week programs as high (1), medium (2), very high (3), low (4), where the deloading in week 4 allows for adaptation from the fatigue imposed during week 3.

However, over-reaching is far from overtraining – a term that is thrown around far too often among even the most qualified individuals in the world of health and human performance. Over-reaching may be attained in as little as 7-10 days, and remedied in a matter of days or weeks with adequate deloading. Conversely, the process of overtraining must take place for months for the outcome, OTS, to be apparent. Recovery from OTS requires at least several weeks – and more often several months; in other words, you really have to go out of your way to get to overtraining syndrome.

Since high level performance – and even just normal physical health – is a priority, it is imperative that coaches, parents, and athletes recognize the signs and symptoms of over-reaching and overtraining syndrome – and the differences between the two. According to Armstrong and VanHeest, the signs and symptoms of OTS may include:

  • Decreased physical performance
  • General fatigue, malaise, loss of vigor
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability, restlessness, excitability, anxiety
  • Loss of body weight
  • Loss of motivation
  • Lack of mental concentration
  • Feelings of depression

What All These “Overs” Mean to You

Many of these signs and symptoms are shared between over-reaching and OTS, so how do we know the difference? How do we know when to hold back for a day or two (for overload recovery), 7-21 days (over-reaching), or even months (overtraining syndrome)?

Unfortunately, as much as I would like to be able to offer you the magic answer, I can’t do so. The scientific community has yet to agree on a single, highly sensitive diagnostic test to differentiate among the three. In fact, the only diagnostic tests that are universally accurate are those of physical performance; if performance drops off, there must be some degree of accumulated fatigue.

Other measures – such as heart rate, bloodwork, metabolic rate, substrate metabolism, and a host more – are subject to so many factors that they are hardly reliable tests of one’s training status.

As an example, research from Fry et al. had subjects perform ten sets of one repetition on machine squats at 100% of their one-rep maximum for 14 days straight. That’s an absurd volume of high-intensity resistance training, especially in a trained population. You know what, though? The only thing that dropped off was performance; hormone status (as measured by bloodwork) really didn’t change much at all.

Conversely, crush an endurance athlete with volume, and this same bloodwork will look terrible. The take-home point is that it’s a lot harder to “overtrain” on intensity than volume. And that’s where the problem exists when you’re dealing with athletes: just about every sport out there is a blend of volume and intensity. We don’t just train or rehabilitate shotputters or Ironman competitors; we get athletes from soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, and a host of other sports.

So, what is a coach or rehabilitation specialist to do when trying to determine just how much fatigue is present, and what the best course of action is to guarantee an optimal return-to-play as quickly as possible?

In two words: ask questions.

In my opinion, the absolute most important step is to establish communication with athletes and – in this case – patients. Ask about training practices before an injury, sleep patterns, dietary factors, family life, concurrent illness/injury, changes in body weight, and appetite.

These may seem like obvious questions to ask, but we live in a one-size-fits-all world of pre-made templates and rigid systems – and people can fall through the cracks all the time. My experience has been that those most commonly “thrown under the bus” in this regard are the most dedicated athletes forced to train or rehabilitate in a “general health” world. As an example, we had an adult athlete client request a Vitamin D test from a primary care physician last year, and he was turned down because he wasn’t “a post-menopausal female.” As it turned out, he was severely clinically deficient, and normalizing his Vitamin D was a big game-changer for him.

Simply asking the right questions will always help the cause when it comes to determining just how “systemic” what you’re dealing with really is. And, in the process, it gives you an opportunity to show a client or patient how much you care before they even care how much you know.

- Eric Cressey
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