Home 2012 May

Strength Training Programs: 8 Strategies for Easily Maintaining Strength

In a post a while back, I made a comment that intrigued quite a few people:

I've always been amazed at how much volume it takes to attain a level of fitness, but how little volume it takes to maintain that level of fitness.

If you train yourself to run a six-minute mile, then take two months off from running, you can usually come back and get pretty darn close to that same time in spite of the detraining.  However, chance are that you had to bust your butt to get to that six-minute time in the first place.

The same can be said of a 600-pound deadlift, appreciate level of mobility, or world-ranking in water chugging.

In short, once you've hit these milestones, they stick around pretty well, provided you don't completely screw up and allow yourself to detrain.  As a frame of reference, my best deadlift is 660, yet even though I don't pull over 600 all that frequently (my competitive powerlifting days are likely over), I know I can do so just about any day of the week.

I'm always amazed at where my strength levels stand at the end of a long baseball off-season.  I work some absurdly long hours from September through February when all our professional baseball players are around - and this definitely impacts how frequently I do much work in the 1-3 rep range with my lower body training.  And, frankly, I don't squat at all during this time of year because my knees are usually cranky from being on the hard floors all day.  Interestingly enough, when I get some down-time when the pro guys go in-season, my squatting numbers haven't fallen off much at all.

I don't just think this is a valuable lesson for lifters who anticipate life interfering with optimal training dedication; I also think it's a tremendously important message to older lifters who may not be able to load as frequently as they could in their younger years.  To that end, here are some strategies for sustaining the strength one has built up over the years.

1. Avoid significant weight fluctuations (particularly down).

Nothing every sapped my strength more than losing five pounds.  Maybe I was just hyper-sensitive to it because I competed at a lower weight class and always had to monitory my weight to the point of being neurotic, or maybe it was just because it slightly changed my range-of-motion and leverages on the squat and bench press.  Regardless of what it was, a five pound drop in body weight equated to a 30-pound drop off my squat and 15-pound drop off my bench.

To that end, if you're trying to keep your strength up during some down time in your strength training program, make sure to keep your weight up, too.  It's not the time to be skimping on calories (unless, of course, you have a lot of fat to lose as part of your fitness goals).

2. Eat right.

"Eating enough" and "eating right" are two completely different things.  It would be very easy for me to just live on fast food during our busiest season.  Instead, I still set aside time to prepare food for the long work day.  I'm also fortunate to have a cafeteria 100 feet down the hallway, and they'll cook me up whatever healthy food I need on the fly.  I've got Athletic Greens, fish oil, and probiotics in my office, plus beef jerky and almonds in case I need solid food on the fly.  "Busy" doesn't have to mean "unhealthy" as long as you plan ahead.

3. Lift heavy at least once a month.

If you want to get strong, you need to put in at least 2-3 heavy lifting sessions per month for the lift in question. And, if you're trying to trying to bring up a bench press, squat, deadlift, and chin-up simultaneously, you've got a lot of competing demands and overall training stress.

If, however, you want to stay strong, getting in just a few heavy sets of a particular movement each month can get the job done.

4. Get sufficient sleep.

No matter how busy life gets, I am pretty good about getting at least seven hours of sleep each night - and usually a little bit more. I'm typically in bed by 10PM and asleep by 10:30, then wake up between 6 and 7AM each day.  I (like many others) have noticed that sleep before midnight makes me feel a lot better than trying to catch up by sleeping in the following morning.

5. Forget the deloads.

I'm a huge advocate of deloading periods in one's training; in fact, I wrote an entire e-book about the topic!

 However, if you're going through a time when your normal training volume is compromised, you really aren't "loading" enough to require a deload.  You're better off getting in your work whenever possible.

The obviously exception to this rule would be older lifters with appreciable levels of strength; they need to set aside specific deloading periods even if they are training with heavier sets less frequently.

6. Still crush your assistance work.

Just because you're not feeling up to crushing a personal best squat doesn't mean that you can't still get after it with your single-leg work, sled pushing, glute-ham raises, or any of a number of other assistance exercises. Do your best to keep the resistance up on your assistance work instead of just getting your reps in. Sets in the 5-8 rep range are outstanding in this regard, as they're heavy enough to have strength benefits, and the volume can help keep muscle on you, too.

7. Stick with multi-joint exercises.

If you maintain your strength on compound movements (e.g., chin-ups), you'll maintain your strength on "sub-category" isolation movements (e.g., biceps curls) just fine.  It doesn't work the other way around, though.

If life is busy and you're dragging when you get to the gym, you're much better off hitting a set of deadlifts than you are doing some leg curls.

8. Consider rearranging your schedule or changing your strength training program split.

One of the biggest appeals of The High Performance Handbook I introduced was the versatility it provided via its 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week strength training program options.  Being able to shift from one approach to another as your schedule gets busier or lighter is valuable flexibility.

Additionally, it may be advantageous to plan your training for your less stressful days.  If you work crazy hours Monday through Friday, try lifting Saturday and Sunday, then picking 1-2 days in the middle of the week for short sessions consisting of just assistance work.

These are eight strategies you can easily apply even when life isn't easy and you want to maintain strength, but there are surely many more - some of which you'll accidentally discover over the course of decades in the gym.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/29/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading for you:

Research: Gaining Hip Rotation Without Stretching - My UCONN buddy Mike Irr wrote up this excellent research review, and did an equally solid job with discussing implications of its findings and recommendations for future research. 

Why Nobody Except Your Mom Reads Your Fitness Blog - The popularity of my business partner's guest blog (here) reminded me of this post I wrote last year.  I think you'll find it to be entertaining!

Scapular Stability and Push-ups - Dean Somerset wrote up an entertaining, video-packed post on how push-up variations fit in with your scapular stabilization programs.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 4

Here are some random tips to help you lose fat, get strong, gain muscle, feel better, and take over the world - compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins.

1. Swing it!

As a strength coach, you will be confronted by two big issues. One, you will most likely have a budget. Secondly, you will struggle to keep all your athletes consistently in the gym, or on track while in season. A recent study published in the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides us with a solution: kettlebell swings. "The results of this study clearly demonstrate that six weeks of bi-weekly kettlebell swings provides a stimulus that is sufficient to increase both maximum and explosive strength offering a useful alternative to strength and conditioning professionals seeking variety for their athletes."

Purchasing kettlebells for your program, or advocating the purchase of kettlebells by your athletes for at home use, is a low cost option to deliver a great training effect. The swing is a relatively easy movement to teach and safely prescribe to your athletes to keep up with, and improve their strength. The kettlebell swing has largely been touted as an incredibly efficient movement, most recently by the king of efficiency himself, Tim Ferriss, in his book, The 4-Hour Body. In this article he talks about his own incredible results, as well as links to a profile of another swinger, who garnered impressive results with as little as 10 - 20min of swinging a week. Not bad!

2. Make food taste better by adding...more food.

Chicken, turkey, and pork all taste great when you eat them right out of the oven or off the grill. However, everyone knows that "so dry that I'm coughing up dust" taste that you can get when you eat them as leftovers. To that end, try chopping the meat up and adding it to an omelet; it tastes great.

This is just one example of how you can "disguise" something that might not taste good. Don't like spinach? Blend it into your shakes. Don't like tomatoes? Grind them up and add some spices and fruit to make a salsa. Your imagination is the only limit.

3. Some small stuff is worth sweating.

More times than not, I am telling people not to sweat the small stuff. However, I would advocate locating small things, that are easily done, that can have a large effect on the bigger picture. When it comes to the gym I can think of a few examples:

  • Learn to, and teach your athletes / clients, to set up, un-rack, and re-rack weights properly. I like to see things done right, from the moment someone gets under the bar, to the moment they put it back. This isn't just the purist in me, these so called "little" things will have a big effect on the quality of the set, and the safety as well. Make sure that you, and those you teach, learn to do it right from the start. I don't usually make videos, but when I do, they are awesome:

  • Ask for spotters and hand-offs. It's always best to perform a lift safely and with a clear mind. If you have someone available to spot you, why wouldn't you ask? Furthermore, if you set up correctly in a bench press (uncomfortably tight, shoulder blades retracted, etc.) You will benefit greatly from receiving a good hand off that keeps you in position. Lastly, if you happen to train around people who know what they are doing, asking for an appropriate spot, or hand-off when they are not busy is a good way to grab a little sage wisdom

4. Always take the bar.

In sticking with the theme of the little things that make a big difference, here's a lesson I learned early in my training history: "Always take the bar." It means exactly what it says. Whether you are squatting, benching, lunging, or pressing always do a set with the empty bar. You don't pick up a baseball and throw it 200ft before you have thrown it 50ft do you? It is always best to ramp up to your working sets and get a gauge on how you feel. Furthermore, repetition is the principal of learning. Even as someone whose working sets are a good distance from 45lbs, I will take anywhere from 5 - 8 sets to get where I am going for that day's big exercise. In this time, don't just go through the motions, it is the perfect time to smooth out any form issues and build a habitual approach to each set.

5. Avoid paralysis by analysis.

There is a time for thinking, and a time for doing. Be careful not to let your thoughts interfere with your ability to execute. Additionally, remember that in many cases, "perfect" will be the enemy of "good." In order to achieve more from your training and sport practice, follow these two guidelines:

  • Separate planning and doing. I recently read a fantastic article from Dan John that speaks about managing options in your training. The article closes with a saying: "Plan the hunt, hunt the hunt, discuss the hunt." In other words take the time to formulate an intelligent plan, execute that plan with a full effort, and then review and revise based on the outcome. There are many different ways to achieve the same outcome, the difference maker will often be the effort put forward into whatever that approach may be. With that in mind, do not limit yourself by over thinking what you are doing while you are doing it. Just do it!
  • In the moment, redirect your thought process. In a recent discussion with one of our athletes at CP, I was reminded of something somebody had shared with me a while back. If you are in the "hunt," it is not a time to dwell on mechanical reasons for something not working right. Instead, technical changes and observations should be made during practice, or after the fact during review. While in the moment simplify your adjustment process. If you are throwing up, aim down. If you are coming forward in a squat, stay back. Easy enough, right?

Co-Author Greg Robins is strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Check out his website, www.GregTrainer.com, for more great content.

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10 Hidden Expenses in Opening Your Own Strength and Conditioning Facility

Today's guest blog comes from Pete Dupuis, my business partner at Cressey Performance.  Pete might fly a bit under the radar with respect to the online scene, but as you'll learn below, he plays a huge role in the success we've had at Cressey Performance. 

So you’ve decided to open your own strength & conditioning facility…

As any aspiring entrepreneur knows, there’s a considerably long list of expenses that come with getting your business off the ground. For those of us who’ve decided the right move is to open up our own gym, the obvious staples include: racks, benches, dumbbells, bands, mats, sleds, etc. Based on my experience, there are plenty more expensive surprises along the way.

Below, you will find ten quick examples that came to mind as I reflected on the time, energy and cash flow it took to get CP to where it is today. While I’m sure I could double or triple the number of bullet points on this list with a little time to run through my transaction records, the following collection represents the ten that either caught me by surprise, or simply slipped through the cracks as Eric and I sat at a local Applebee’s drawing up a business plan on a napkin during our “let’s start a gym” extravaganza. Enjoy!

1. The fine print on our insurance policy – Every business needs insurance. What every business does not need, is the anti-terrorism coverage built in to the policy that nearly went undetected on our radar before paying the year-one premium. A quick Google-search (or the application of common sense) told us that the terrorists of the world don’t seem to be particularly concerned with Hudson, MA, or the new gym that just popped on to the scene. We saved ourselves some money by throwing a check mark in the “no thank you” box next to anti-terrorism coverage.

2. Registering your LLC and maintaining it annually – I can’t speak for other states, but Massachusetts has devised a particularly profitable little policy that requires business entities in the Commonwealth to slap down a quick $500 LLC filing fee. Now, the filing fee wasn’t particularly shocking, but the realization that we’d owe an additional $500 on the anniversary of starting our business each July certainly stung a little bit when times were tight in the early stages of our operations.

3. Furnishings – Once you’re done with pulling together that list of equipment for your dream gym, you’ll probably realize that the key to keeping it full of clients is not only delivering results, but also demonstrating some level of professionalism. It’s pretty difficult to be taken seriously if you’re pitching your services from a poorly equipped office - or if Eric is passed out on a sketchy red couch after working a 20-hour day.  

While a laptop and a cell phone will get the job done for a couple days or weeks, you’ll soon realize that printers, phones, chairs, desks, trash barrels, etc. can pile up to make for a pretty hefty bill at Staples.

4. Logo design – Since we have yet to spend a dollar on what most would call traditional advertising (newspaper/internet/television/radio), CP has been dependent on delivering noteworthy results and some memorable t-shirt designs to stay top-of-mind with the baseball community. Without a decent logo, we’d be struggling on the brand-recognition front. Since design work isn’t cheap, we recommend taking the trade-barter approach with any client who’s got the right skill-set - and you'd be surprised at how many there are. You make them strong, and they make you the next Swoosh or Golden Arches…everybody wins. 

5. Website Design – On a similar note, writing HTML doesn’t come naturally to most of us. The “do-it-yourself” web-design tools might cut it for a little while, but the moment you begin working with professional athletes, their agents, or the organizations employing them, it becomes time for a website that reflects the same level of quality product you are promising on the training floor. Do yourself a favor and find a professional who is qualified to design an appealing site for you – and it’s especially nice if they’re interested in doing it in exchange for some of your appealing strength and conditioning programming and coaching.

6. Medicine Ball Wall – While some facility owners are fortunate enough to find space that incorporates cinderblock walls capable of handling the violence of a good med-ball session, many of us are not so lucky. In our case, the expansion from 2,000 sq. feet of gym space to over 6,600 came with the unanticipated $2,500 cinderblock wall installation. In our case, the 150+ feet of straightaway sprinting space outweighed the fact that brick/cinderblock walls were nowhere to be found upon our arrival.

7. Med-Ball/Equipment Replacement – The harsh reality of CP making baseball players better is the fact that we destroy medicine balls at an alarming rate. The same goes for wear and tear of exercise mats, bands, etc. Just because you managed to pull together the funds to outfit a facility on day one doesn’t mean you’re not going to be reinvesting in the business early and often.

8. Audio Equipment – In an industry where a mediocre training environment can singlehandedly kill your gym, loud music is a must. Unless you’re operating in a garage, it’s going to take more than a boom box to get the job done. Plan on investing in a receiver, some decent speakers, and an iPod to get the ball rolling on an environment in which people set PRs on a regular basis.

9. Memorabilia Mounting Fees – Assuming you’ve got a client or two that you’re proud to say you train, you’re going to want to hang a jersey, some photos, or the occasional newspaper story. Since thumbtacks are a little abrasive on game-worn MLB jerseys, professional mounting/framing is a must, and it isn’t cheap. The more successful your client roster becomes, the more expensive the gym walls become. It's a good problem to have.

10. City of Hudson Dumpster Licensing Fee – I saved this one for last because I find it to be both the most unanticipated and most obnoxious annual expense I’ve managed to come across since starting our business. Despite paying rent to the property owner and a dumpster rental fee to our trash-removal vendor, the city of Hudson “has enacted regulations to require licensing dumpster within the town” as of mid-2011. So if you potential gym owners are looking to open a S&C facility here in Hudson (which, by the way, would not be cool), you can plan on budgeting $75/year for the privilege of housing a dumpster on your off-street private property.

Like I mentioned earlier, these ten expenses are just the tip of the iceberg, and I could certainly go on all day with them. With that in mind, if you're a business owner who has walked a mile in these shoes, I'd be curious to hear what expenses surprised you along the way.  You can post your replies in the comment section below.

For those of you looking to learn more about Fitness Business start-up, be sure to check out the Fitness Business Blueprint, which includes loads of business, relationship-building, assessment, program design, and training strategies you’ll learn to instantly help take your business to the next level.

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5 Things that Might Surprise You about our Baseball Strength and Conditioning Programs

We have quite a few baseball coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches who stop by Cressey Sports Performance to observe our training.  While they are the ones visiting to learn, I actually learn quite a bit about the "norms" in the baseball strength and conditioning field by listening to them tell me about what surprises them about what they observe at CSP.  Here are some of the areas that seem to surprise quite a few people:

1. They're surprised we don't do more sprint work and change-of-direction training.

The competitive baseball season essentially runs from mid-February all the way through early September, and during that time, guys are sprinting, diving, and changing directions constantly during fielding practice.  They're also on their feet in cleats for an absurd number of hours each day.  To that end, when the off-season rolls around, most guys want a few weeks away from aggressive sprinting and change-of-direction work.  Once they get their rest, we typically go to 2-3 movement training sessions for October through December, usually on off-days from strength training.  I prefer to break them up so that we can get more quality work in with our strength training program, and also so that the sessions don't run too long.  Once January 1 rolls around, the volume and intensity of sprinting increases, while the strength training program volume is reduced.  

Summarily, because we often separate our sprint/agility work from our resistance training, many folks get the impression that we don't do much movement training - but that couldn't be further from the truth.  It's a big part of our comprehensive approach to baseball development; we just fit it in a bit differently than most coaches, and emphasize or de-emphasize it at different point in the year.

2. They're surprised how much medicine ball work we do.

One of the reasons there is a bit less movement training than you might see in other strength and conditioning programs is that we do a ton of medicine ball work, particularly during the months of October through January (for our pro guys).  

Medicine ball drills are great for not only training power outside the sagittal plane, but also because it helps to iron out excessive asymmetries while maintaining pitching- and hitting-specific mobility.  Our guys may do 240-360 medicine ball throws per week during their highest volume phases.

You can learn more about the medicine ball exercises we incorporate in our program by checking out Functional Stability Training of the Core.

3. They're surprised that we don't Olympic lift our baseball guys.

On multiple occasions, I've written at length about why I don't like overhead pressing and Olympic lifts in light of the unique demands of throwing and the crazy adaptations we see in throwers.

While the Olympic lifts might have great power development carryover to the sprinting one encounters on a baseball field, the carryover to power in the frontal and transverse planes just isn't as pronounced.  In other words, power development is extremely plane-specific.  I'll take medicine ball work and non-sagittal plane jumping exercises over O-lifts for baseball players in a heartbeat.

4. They're surprised we don't do more band work.

It's not that I think bands are useless; I just think most guys use them incorrectly, and even when used correctly, they just don't really offer that much advantage other than convenience.

The fundamental issue with bands is that the resistance is generally so light that guys can quickly develop bad habits - poor humeral head control, lumbar hyperextension, etc. - while doing them.  They'd be much more effective if guys would just slow down and use them correctly.  I am also not a fan at all of using the bands to get the arms into all sorts of extreme positions; you're just using a passive implement to create more laxity in an already unstable shoulder.  If you want (and need) to stretch a shoulder, do so with the scapula stabilized.  

Additionally, I'll take cables over bands whenever possible simply because the resistance is heavier and it matches the strength curve for external rotations better.  Throwers are generally weakest at full external rotation, yet the band has the highest tension in this position; meanwhile, the cable's resistance remains constant.  Obviously, manual resistance is ideal, but bands are a distance third.

5. They're surprised how "aggressive" our throwing programs are.

The overwhelming majority of our guys long toss, and most of them throw weighted baseballs at certain points of the year as well.  They pitch less and throw more.  They all still get their 2-3 months off from throwing each year, but when they are throwing, they work hard.

This is in stark contrast to some of the throwing models I've seen in professional baseball, where many organizations limit players to 90-120 feet with their long tossing, and the only time a baseball is "weighted" is when it gets wet on a rainy day.  Guys take so much time off that they never have any time in the off-season to actually develop.  I firmly believe that while you have to have strict limits on how you manage pitchers, you also have to stop short of completely coddling them.

These are surely just five areas in which we deviate from the norm with respect to baseball development, but important ones nonetheless.

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Increase Strength, Be More Awesome: Live Q&A #1

Here at EricCressey.com, tonight marks the start of a new feature: live Q&A.  Periodically, I'll post a blog where you can post questions in the comments section and get replies directly from me.  

My only rule is that your question must be limited to five sentences or less.  I'll answer the first 30 that are posted, so please don't bother posting questions if you come to this post days, weeks, or months after it was originally posted.

With that said, head on down to the comments section below and ask away! 

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Fitocracy: A Cool Online Resource

One of the biggest mistakes I think I've made in my career is believing that I would be able to leverage all of my knowledge all the time.  In other words, early on, I assumed that if I learned something and wanted to apply it with my clients/athletes, it would be as simple as writing it into a strength and conditioning program (or nutrition plan).

This assumption (like most assumptions) was, of course, very flawed.  You see, the concept of adherence was something I learned about through experience with a lot of people.  Just because folks know that they should do something doesn't guarantee that they will do something.  And, just because I was "Type A" and was always motivated to train regularly and eat right didn't mean that others were, too.

Adherence is a reason people hire personal trainers, recruit workout partners, make bets with their buddies, enter "Biggest Loser" competitions, participate on online forums, hire hypnotists, and employ a host of other strategies.  They know eating right and exercising are important facets of their lives, but they need outside influences to help make these things essential priorities.  

Enhancing adherence became a central strategy to the Cressey Performance business model, too; we wanted to make our facility an experience, not just a gym.  We wanted folks to not just be accountable to their training partners and our coaches, but also be so damn excited to train that they wanted to kick the door to the gym down.

To that end, when I learned about Fitocracy, I became immediately intrigued at their approach to enhancing exercise and nutrition adherence.  

They didn't just create an online social support network for exercisers of all ages and experience levels; they made tracking workouts fun and competitive (you earn points based on how challenging your workouts are).  It is like a combination of:

1. Facebook (social support)

2. Twitter's (you pick what's applicable to you)

3. Words with Friends (compete against your friends)

4. Individual sports like powerlifting, distance running, etc. (compete against yourself)

5. Beer League Softball (bust your buddy's balls)

Now, here comes the full disclosure: I liked this company and the adherence advantage it provides so much that I invested in it.  Likewise, there are loads of well-known fitness professionals with strong presences at Fitocracy (even if they aren't investors).  And, I think that you'll like it, too, so I wanted to encourage you to check it out - especially since it's free.  

In addition to what you see now (be sure to check out the iPhone app), there will be some cool stuff new coming in the months to come.  For instance, I plan to start doing some live Q&A with followers on the site, and we'll be "bulking up" the exercise selection library.

To learn more, head on over to Fitocracy through this link (if you sign up through this link, it will automatically make you one of my followers so that you'll hit the ground running).  I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the site and your experiences with it in the comments section below.

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5 Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 3

Here are this week's random tips to get you headed in the right direction with your workout routine and nutrition program, with assistance from Cressey Performance strength and conditioning coach Greg Robins.

1. Take a preventative approach.

Often times nagging pain, injuries, and adverse health effects are an issue of negligence. It is is important as a coach, athlete, or weekend warrior to take a preventative approach to keeping your body healthy. There is no shortage of information on how to deal with various joint pain, or why its important to do "this" to prevent "that". At Cressey Performance, we take a preventive approach to keep our athletes on the field, but the ball doesn't stop there.

A common example is resistance training among older women to prevent bone degeneration. A recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that younger women, in their mid twenties, who participated in a 12-week resistance training program showed significant increases in the hormones responsible for new bone growth. This isn't revolutionary, but the take home point is to promote heavy lifting long before signs of degeneration begin to present themselves.

Similarly, anterior knee pain is a hot topic with active individuals. This pain can be debilitating, especially as an athlete or someone with a more active job / lifestyle. Another recent study conducted at The University of Cincinnati found that an intervention with four daily close chained kinetic exercises among military recruits (undergoing rigorous training) greatly reduced incidents of knee pain when compared to a control group who did not. Military personnel underwent daily physical training for 3-4 hours per day, including endurance marching, military field exercises, running, weapons and foot drill, and strength and conditioning. If as little as four exercises were able to help these individuals, imagine what they can do for you.

2. Eat more fish - and preferably ones that did cool stuff like this while they were still alive.

3. Wear a pedometer for a day.

If you talk to a lot of people "in the know," non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) is an often overlooked factor contributing to fat loss success (or failure). Some people just move all the time, whether it's because of their occupation (e.g., manual laborer) or the simple fact that they are constantly fidgeting. It might surprise you, but this NEPA can really help get you lean - or keep you there.

One quick and easy way to get a feeling of where you stand on this front is to simply wear a pedometer for a day.  I did this about two years ago and discovered that I actually walk about four miles in eight hours of coaching at Cressey Performance.  That's a lot of calories burned!

Just like writing down everything you eat can force you to consider what you're putting in your mouth, wearing a pedometer can motivate you to take some extra steps each day.  Give it a shot; you may be surprised at how many or few steps you take each day.

4. Count your blessings.

Being happy, and finding fulfillment in your life and training, can be as easy as remembering all that you already have. Stop stressing about what you don't have, and focus on the many things you do have. Take five minutes and write down everything you are grateful for. Every morning start your day by reading through your list, and add to it as you see fit. Doing so will give you a positive start to each day. Try it out!

5. Be more specific with your "conditioning."

The term conditioning is grossly misunderstood. The lack of understanding, in consideration of the demands of an individual within their chosen sports or activities, has led to many asinine training protocols developed by misinformed coaches and general people alike. An elite powerlifter may not be able to run a six-minute mile, but they are perfectly conditioned for their sport. Likewise, a baseball pitcher has no business doing extensive distance running when they a play a sport that involves covering as little as 100ft of total ground per outing (if that). More appropriately, they need to develop the energy systems conducive to producing explosive movements repetitively for the amount of time they spend on the mound. This will differ within the position as well: Starters, long relievers, closers, etc.

Using resources such as "time motion analysis" is a great place to investigate the actual demands placed on an athlete in a given sport. You can access A LOT of these through a basic google search. As a team sport coach, take a critical look at what you assign as "conditioning" work to your athletes during practice. In this day and age, many kids are participating in strength and conditioning programs outside of their practice and game schedules. Assuming that they are receiving intelligent programming, you do not want to interfere with their training by having them do additional work that is detrimental to their progress. Solutions: stop the ridiculous amounts of distance running and "suicides," and instead form a relationship with their strength and conditioning coach.

For you weekend warriors: Your approach to conditioning will be as specific as your main goal. Many general fitness people are kind of across the board on what they are trying to accomplish. With that in mind, try to keep a similar stimulus in your conditioning work to what the rest of your training for that day is. For example, place sprint work with adequate rest on heavy lifting days, place more aerobic work on off days, and include a day of high intense intervals with shorter rest later in the week after training.

Co-Author Greg Robins is strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Check out his website, www.GregTrainer.com, for more great content.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/17/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Coming Meltdown in College Education and Why the Economy Won't Get Better Anytime Soon - I stay away from politics with this blog, but this post from Mark Cuban was too good to resist - particularly because it was a great follow-up to my series, Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? In case you missed my previous articles, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.  I think it's a really important consideration in our field, where the average personal trainer makes less than $30,000, yet an exercise science degree can cost well over $200,000 even before student loan interest is included. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Advanced Rotary Stability Plank Progressions - Be sure to check out this post from Mike Reinold, where he outlines some great core stability exercise progressions, many of which can be found in our Functional Stability Training DVD set.

The 10 Things Fitness Magazines Won't Tell You - I have gotten to work with Adam Bornstein quite a bit through both Men's Health and LiveStrong, and I like doing so because he isn't just a bright guy, but also a straight-shooter.  This article demonstrates both!

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Tips for Long-Term Triceps Health

I’d wager that if you chatted with 100 lifters over the age of 30 with more than five years of strength training experience, they’d tell you that their triceps exercise selection has increasingly diminished with each passing year.

It's sad and disturbing, but not unexpected.

Barbell and dumbbell triceps extension variations can kill the underside of the elbows.

Dips can irritate the medial aspect of the elbow in the bottom position, or just bother the AC joint at the shoulder girdle.

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