Home 2012 (Page 3)

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 25

Compliments of Greg Robins, here is this week's list of quick and easy strategies to improve your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Consider this concept for easy general programming.

I often get asked for tips on how someone can go about writing their own strength and conditioning programs. There are many great posts and articles covering this topic out there. In fact, maybe none as complete as those Eric has featured here on this site.

I like to show people a very simple concept based around improving “work” by improving three different variables: intensity, volume, and density.

Consider setting up a training session like this:

a. Choose one exercise to focus on improving the actual amount of weight you can put on the bar for one set. For example, try to move more weight on the squat for one set of 3–5 reps. All that matters here is your “top” set, so you can take as little, or as long as you want to reach that set.

b. Next, choose 2-4 exercises to improve how much total weight you can move over all the sets for each given movement. For example, let’s say you choose DB Bench Press for 4x8, and DB Reverse Lunge for 4x8/side. For ease of calculations, assume you used 10lb dumbbells for each exercise; you would have moved 640lbs total for each exercise in that training session (per leg on the lunges). Next week the idea would be to move more than 640lbs total. This can be done by adding sets, reps, or increasing the weight.

c. Lastly, choose 4-6 exercises and designate a rep number and weight for each movement. After that, choose an amount of time (realistically 8-10min). Focus your efforts on doing more work in that time frame from one training session to another. For example:

A1. KB Swing (20kg) x 10
A2. Push Up (BW) x 10
A3. KB Goblet Squat (20kg) x 10
A4. Inverted Row (BW) x 10

Week 1: You complete three rounds in 10min.
Week 2: Anything over three sets of each exercise in 10min is an improvement.

For those of you in a jam, this should provide a simple and easy way to set up a training session. Enjoy!

2. Make 1-arm carries more effective.

3. Don’t attempt to use pre-workout supplements for a general lack of effort.

One debate that you can’t escape, in nearly any setting, is which pre-workout supplement is the best. Which one gets you the most “jacked up, bro!?” I’m here to reiterate once again, that it doesn’t matter. Take, for example, this recent study published in The Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition. A certain popular pre-workout supplement was put to the test against a placebo. While the results favored the group taking the supplement, the difference in results were minimal at best. Not to mention the favorable results were all things that could be just as easily provoked with other means. I’m not saying that things like creatine, caffeine, beta-alinine, etc. don’t work; they do. I am saying that no pre-workout supplement will ever be the difference maker in you having success in the gym or your sport. Want a boost? Have some coffee. Want to cover all your nutritional bases? Eat well, and grab a few supplements that actually supplement things you aren’t getting enough of from food. Want to perform at an elite level? Do what it takes to make that happen: outwork everyone, take care of your body, and seek out a motivating environment with like-minded people.

Your pre-workout supplement is overpriced, largely ineffective, and a non-factor in your success. Move on.

4. Improve your positioning on standing cable exercises.

5. Enjoy cranberries as a Thanksgiving super food!

There are a lot of great foods that make the cut for Thanksgiving, and one of my favorites is cranberries. Cranberries are a major super food, and one we probably neglect most of the year. After all, they are pretty bitter unless we add sugar. What a shame! Cranberries’ antioxidant properties are through the roof. Additionally, they help keep your urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder in check. Plus, they are often used to treat skin conditions, and help fight the “less desirable” physical characteristics of aging.

So, how do we go about including them without adding a bunch of sugar? Here are a few ideas:

a. Dehydrate them and include them in baked goods, salads, or other dishes.
b. Use them with fatty foods like oils, and fattier meats the bitterness can actually blend well!
c. Mix them with other fruits that tend to be sweeter in flavor.
d. For cranberry sauce recipes, experiment with honey, natural fruit juices, or agave nectars instead of the usual sugar filled varieties.

We hope everyone has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/20/12

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

The 4-Hour Chef - Tim Ferriss' book is now available, and it looks to be fantastic.  My wife and I actually had dinner with Tim in San Francisco back in February when he was immersed in the writing process.  We talked at length about how the scope of the book had grown incredibly from a cookbook only all the way up to becoming a book of lessons on how to learn and become highly proficient on any task - with cooking as a medium through which to do so.

I'm actually buying a few copies of this as Christmas presents, including one for my mother, who is a high school principal with a big interest in finding innovative ways to get kids excited about learning - and learning faster.  As a bonus, she likes to cook and eat healthy: win/win! 

The Virtual Squat Seminar - This was a great post from Jim Wendler over at T-Nation.  He covered a lot of what you need to know in order to squat safely and effectively.

All the Hype Behind Kipping Pull-ups - My good friend and business partner, Tony Gentilcore, goes into "dangerous territory" by covering the kipping pull-up, but actually presents a very "neutral" argument that I think anyone can appreciate, regardless of how they feel about Crossfit.

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5 Reasons to Use Speed Deadlifts in Your Strength Training Programs

When my first book was published back in 2008, a lot of people were surprised that I included speed deadlifts, either because they felt too easy, or because they didn’t think that deadlifting that wasn’t “heavy” couldn’t be productive. Interestingly, when their deadlifts invariably shot up after completing the four-month program, nobody was questioning their inclusion. With that in mind, I thought I’d use today’s article to outline my top five reasons for including speed deadlifts in one’s strength training program.

First, however, I think it’s important to outline what a speed deadlift is. Simply take any variation of the deadlift, and perform it at a lighter percentage: 35-80% of one-rep max (1RM) for sets of 1-5 reps. The higher the percentage, the lower the rep scheme, and vice versa. Examples include 8x1 at 80% of 1RM, 6x3 at 50% of 1RM, and 4x5 at 35% of 1RM. It’s possible to add chains or bands to the exercise, too, if you have access to them. You would rest anywhere from 30s to 120s between sets.

The most important factors, however, are perfect technique and excellent bar speed.

The bar should feel like it is exploding off the floor straight through to lockout.

Now, let’s get down to the reasons you might want to include it in your program.

1. Technique practice

I’ve coached a lot of deadlifts in my career, and people tend to fall into one of three categories:

a. Great technique (~5% of people)
b. Great technique until the load gets heavy (~60% of people)
c. Terrible technique (~35% of people)

In other words, 19 out of 20 people’s technique will go down the tubes as soon as the load gets heavy, so they might as well work on technique as they gradually build the weights up.

When you first took driver’s education class, you didn’t go straight for 65mph on the highway, did you? Nope, you drove around a parking lot, and then headed out for some back roads with very little traffic. Deadlifts are the same way; master the easy stuff before you get to the advanced stuff.

2. Improved bar speed off the floor

Imagine two lifters, both of whom are attempting 500-pound deadlifts. Lifter A puts a ton of force into the ground quickly at the start, and the bar jumps off the ground. Lifter B puts the same amount of force into the ground, but it isn’t applied as quickly, so the bar comes off a bit more slowly. Which lifter is more likely to complete the deadlift? My money is on Lifter A. Bar speed off the floor matters, and that is a very hard thing to teach at higher percentages of 1RM.

What you have to realize is that explosive strength (also known as rate of force development) is dependent on the INTENT to apply force rapidly (lift quickly), not the actual bar speed. An isometric muscle action can be explosive even though the bar doesn’t actually move; just imagine an elite deadlifter pulling against a bar 500 pounds heavier than his 1RM. He’s still applying a lot of force to the bar – and doing so quickly – but the bar isn’t moving. Take a look at my missed deadlift at the 2:12 mark of this video, as an example. You’ll see the bar bending, even if it isn’t moving; there is still force being applied. Advanced lifters get that.

The problem is that less experienced lifters don’t appreciate that you can be explosive in an isometric action; they have to have the feedback of the bar moving fast to teach them that they’re actually being explosive. And, that’s where speed deadlifts can be a great teaching tool and practice mechanism.

3. Power development

In an old installment of The Contreras Files, Bret Contreras did a great job of making a case for submaximal conventional and trap bar deadlifts (30-40% of 1RM) as potentially being as valuable as Olympic lifts in terms of the peak power production, in light of some recent research.  I think we all still have questions about this comparison, as the Olympic lifts require an athlete to apply force for longer (greater ROM) on each rep (allowing for greater carryover to athletes), and more seasoned Olympic lifters may be able to demonstrate higher power numbers simply from better technique.  However, the important takeaway message with respect to my article today is that submaximal deadlifts can, in fact, be a great option for training peak power - and I'd definitely recommend them over Olympic lifts for folks who don't have a qualified Olympic lifting coach available to teach technique.

4. Double extension is probably safer than triple extension in older, uncoordinated, inexperienced exercisers.

I'll probably get some nasty comments for this point; oh well.

We know that as people get older, the age-related loss in power is a huge deal.  So, training power is important for not only folks who are trying to get stronger and more athletic, but also folks who just want to preserve power for quality of life purposes.  I'd love nothing more than to be able to do loads of jumping, sprinting progressions, and Olympic lifts with a middle-aged population, but I'm just not sure that's a good idea in light of the number of degenerative Achilles tendons there are in the crowd, and how poorly many folks move.  These are exercises toward which we can build, no doubt, but early on, double extension exercises for training power can still be beneficial. 

I think this is one of many reasons that kettlebell swings have become so popular; they allow you to train power via double extension with a lot of the same benefits as the aforementioned modalities, but more safely.  Speed deadlift variations can work in much the same way: double extension, compound exercise, plenty of opportunity for power development, and less risk.  Eventually, when you want to start to introduce some eccentric challenges and triple extension, skipping drills, uphill sprints, and sled sprints are all good ways to do so gradually.

5. A way to train squats and deadlifts on the same day without feeling like poop.

Heavy squats are hard, and so are heavy deadlifts.  Doing both on the same day is brutal - and it can increase your injury risk in training.  Accordingly, powerlifters need to lower the intensity on one of the two if they want to get in plenty of quality work on both.

On this front, a training approach that worked really well for me during my powerlifting career was two have two lower body days per week, and break them up as:

Day 1: Squat for Speed, then Deadlift Heavy
Day 2: Squat Heavy, then Deadlift for Speed

Speed deadlifts allowed me to train bar speed, pull frequently enough to enhance technique, and get girls to like me - all without feeling like poop.  It was a win/win situation.

Speed deadlifts aren't the be-all, end-all of training initiatives, but then again, nothing is for everyone at every time. One thing that makes them unique is that they yield benefits to beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters - but for all different reasons. Try incorporating them here and there in your training and I think you'll find them to be valuable.

For more deadlifting tips, I'd encourage you to check out our free newsletter opt-in offer. When you sign up (no charge), you'll receive a detailed 9-minute video tutorial and three-part follow-up series on the deadlift. You can sign up here:

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Deadlift Domination: What a 1,000-Pound Pull Can Teach You

I know a thing or two about how to deadlift.  In the 165- and 181-pound weight classes, I've consistently pulled well over 600 pounds.

One thing I noticed early on in my training career was that while there were a ton of guys out there with huge squats and bench presses who could really coach technique, very few people could apply the same level of wisdom to the deadlift.  I suspect that it has to do with the fact that it's the one lift out of the big three that hasn't been as dramatically impacted by the addition of powerlifting suits/shirts to the sport.  Plus, there are more differing opinions, given that some folks pull sumo and others pull conventional.

Because of the fact that great pullers are pretty few and far between - even at powerlifting meets - I had to study a lot of videos of my technique and coach myself, especially as I added body weight and moved to a new weight class.  Candidly, nothing I ever read early-on in my powerlifting career ever helped me much, and I can't put a finger on a single person who gave me feedback that really made a difference.  It seemed like everyone just said to squat heavy and do plenty of good mornings, and then your deadlift would come along for the ride.  Really logical, right?

Then, in 2006, Andy Bolton changed the game when he pulled 1,003 pounds, becoming the first one to eclipse the half-ton mark.

That, folks, is a crapload of weight. You don't just get there by being genetically gifted or lucky.  Sure, those factors help, but to get to that point, you have to train smart in order to avoid injury and plateau - especially when you're also competing in the squat (1,214 pounds) and bench press (755 pounds), as Bolton does.

At the time, my best competition deadlift was 617.  I remember hearing that Bolton had pulled 1,000 pounds and instantly checking online to try to locate the video.  Then, I started asking everyone I knew (at the time, I was training at South Side Gym in Connecticut, one of the premier powerlifting gyms in the country) if they knew anything about how Bolton structured his training.  As I learned a bit more through the grapevine (this was before Bolton really had much of an internet presence), there were three things that really stood out for me, from what I had heard:

1. He didn't do a lot of sets at his heaviest weights for the day.  He worked up to the target weight for the day, but didn't really do multiple sets.  I'd been doing a lot of sets of 3x5 in the low 500-pound range, and it was really beating me up to the point that I couldn't pull as frequently as I would

2. His total sets/reps on assistance work and overall training frequency weren't all that high. Learning more about Bolton's training made me realize that as I got stronger, I needed to be cognizant of not letting volume and frequency remain as high as it had been when I was younger and weaker.

3. He didn't miss lifts. I, on the other hand, would often compete with guys 50-200 pounds heavier than me on a regular basis, and it meant that I'd miss a lift at least once every two weeks. I learned to be more conservative with selecting weights on my heaviest sets; the difference between 95% and 101% was a lot of wear and tear and recovery.  I think I went several months without missing a lift on multiple occasions.

Over the next year, I made a conscious effort to get more full days off from training, as opposed to always wanting to add assistance work on off-days.  And, I stopped pushing crazy volume on my deadlifts; in fact, I went to one heavy, low-volume day (e.g., work up to a heavy set of three), and another day where I pulled for speed (45-70% of 1RM) after squatting heavier.  In 2007, in my last official meet, I pulled 650.

An improvement of 33 pounds in a year might not seem like much to most people, but since I already had a deadlift in the Powerlifting USA Top 100 in my weight class, it was a huge deal to me.  There were quite a few things that changed in that year for me, but I can say without wavering that those two modifications to my training were a huge part of my improvement.

Would I have figured those out without asking around about Andy Bolton's training?  I don't know.  I doubt it, though, as I sure as heck hadn't figured them out on my own in the previous three years of competing!

Early on, I taught myself a lot about deadlifting through trial and error simply because I didn't feel like there was a good resource out there for it.  In fact, if you take a look at my technique now (recent "mock" meet video below), you'll see that I've simplified my pulling technique by eliminating the heel stomp. 

If even advanced pullers are trying to find ways to get better, surely there are lots of deadlifting secrets out there that could really benefit novice and intermediate lifters. And, that's why I was pumped when I heard that Bolton was creating a new resource, Deadlift Domination. I was fortunate to get an advanced copy, and it's absolutely fantastic.

deadlift_domination_3d_cover

I emphasize the term "resource" because it isn't a one-size-fits-all plan.  Rather, it's a great educational tool that teaches lifters of all ages about proper technique and programming strategies.  Some valuable topics they cover that stood out for me were how to:

1. Determine whether you're better built for the conventional or sumo deadlift technique.

2. Deload prior to meets/testing days.

3. Integrate kettlebell exercises with more traditional powerlifting training.

4. Manage your breathing during heavy deadlifting (I wish someone had taught me this eight years ago).

5. Build a solid hip hinge so that you can deadlift safely.

6. Make sure you appreciate the difference between how Olympic lifters deadlift (first pull) and how powerlifters do so.

7. Pull yourself down to the bar (this is a HUGE game-changer for lifters when they finally "get it," especially on deadlift bars with a lot of whip)

8. Utilize compensatory acceleration training: performing the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement as fast as possible, regardless of the weight.

These are just a few of the first things that come to mind as I went through the product.  Bolton also goes into great detail with respect to training the squat and deadlift.

Like I said, I wish I'd had access to it as a beginning lifter, and I give it my highest endorsement for those of you in the same situation.  It's on sale with a special collection of bonuses, so I'd strongly encourage you to check it out: Deadlift Domination.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/14/12

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

Elite Training Mentorship - In addition to the fantastic contributions from the likes of Mike Robertson, Dave Schmitz, Tyler English, and Vaughn Bethell, I have an in-service on frontal and transverse plane power development.  This covers a lot of the unique plyo drills we utilize in our progressions with rotational sport athletes.  Additionally, I have two new exercise demonstrations on how we coach lower trap activation and rotational medicine ball drills.  Check it out!

Do Pain Pills Impair Muscle Growth? - This was an exceptional, well-researched article from Brad Schoenfield on everything you need to know about NSAID usage as it relates to your strength training goals.

Training the Unstable Client - Here's another one of those epic Mike Robertson posts that clearly took 14 years to write.  Man, that guy is persistent. Kidding aside, this is great stuff for the fitness professionals in the crowd!

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 24

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are this week's strategies to help improve your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Create better tension in the Turkish Get-up.

2. Add fat to your shakes and smoothies for easy calorie addition.

For those of you looking to gain weight, here is an easy way to add more calories into your daily routine. When preparing shakes and smoothies, consider adding sources of healthy fat. Many of these options are easy to include, add a considerable amount of calories, and do so without adding a lot of actual volume.

Some of my favorites additions include: olive oil, coconut, coconut oil/butter, chia seeds, cacao nibs, almonds, walnuts, and nut butters.

3. Watch the kettlebell as reference for swing technique.

It’s great when you have a coach or training partner available to help give you feedback on your exercise form. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. One thing I love about the kettlebell swing is this easy way to gauge whether or not your form is staying on point. Check out this table I made for your convenience.

If the bottom of the kettlebell is above the wrists at lockout, there are two probable causes.  First, one may be excessively extending the spine instead of fully using the hips; the solution to this would be bracing the core at lockout to keep the rib cage down, and think about squeezing the butt cheeks together.  Second, the wrists may be "breaking" - which equates to pulling your knuckles to your nose; the solution to this is to keep the wrists locked in place, but maintain a medium/low intensity grip on the kettlebell.

If the bottom of the kettlebell is in line with the wrists at lockout, you're in a good position!

If the bottom of the kettlebell is below the wrists at lockout, there are two potential causes.  First, you may just be raising the kettlebell with your arms instead of using the hips; the solution is to think "swing out" and think of the arms as just "connectors" between the 'bell and your body.  Second, this faulty position may come from a "death grip" on the kettlebell; you'll want to relax your grip to the same medium/low intensity I discussed earlier.

4. Activate the glutes in all three planes of motion.

Glute activation is obviously an important element in many of our warm-ups, and programming strategies. However, we tend to focus primarily on glute function in the saggittal plane. Bridging variations dominate weight rooms and gyms across the country. It’s important to consider the function of the glutes (max, med / min) in all three planes of movement, and train them accordingly. Make sure you include exercises that attack this muscle group in the frontal and transverse plane, as well as drills to train their function in all three planes at once.

As an example:

Side Lying Clams - Transverse Plane - external/internal rotation.

Side Lying Straight Leg Raise Variations
- Frontal Plane - abduction/adduction.

Supine Bridge Variations - Saggittal Plane - flexion/extension.

Bowler Squat - Tri-Planar - flexion/abduction/external rotation.

5. Consider using balloons in breathing intensive drills and exercises.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend my first course with the Postural Restoration Institute. While the course was not on respiration, we were introduced to a few basic principles used within their approach to aid in respiratory facilitation.

One training aid I found particularly helpful, easy to implement, and under-utilized was - of all things - a balloon!
Using a balloon gives you feedback as to how fully you are exhaling, something many of us think we do, but tend to never fully complete. Additionally, the balloon acts as a source of resistance to help fire your abdominals. This activation is particularly important in heavily extended populations, such as athletes, and active individuals.

Give it a try by including it in drills such as the dead bug, or supine 90/90 belly breathing.

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Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships

I'm extremely excited to announce a project that has been in the works for quite some time: Elite Baseball Mentorships at Cressey Performance.  Folks have been requesting these for years, but I resisted the urge to go through with it until the time was right - and that time is now! 

Working with me on these mentorships will be two awesome minds who play a big role in helping CP provide comprehensive, synergistic programs for baseball players. Matt Blake is the pitching coordinator at Cressey Performance, and Eric Schoenberg is a physical therapist who handles some of our toughest cases.  The rest of the Cressey Performance staff will also be on-hand to assist with the practical portions of the event, and answer questions during the observation periods.

The first mentorship will take place January 6-8, 2013. Here are the specifics:

Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship
Phase 1: Understanding and Managing the Pitcher

Sunday, January 6

Morning Session: Lecture

8:30-9:00AM – Registration and Introduction (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Understanding the Status Quo: Why the Current System is Broken (Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:00AM – Functional Anatomy and Proper Movements of the Shoulder and Elbow (Eric Cressey)
11:00-11:15AM – Break
11:15AM-12:15PM – Common Injuries and their Mechanisms (Eric Schoenberg)
12:15-1:00PM – Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session: Lecture and Video Analysis

1:00-2:00PM – Flawed Perceptions on "Specific" Pitching Assessments and Training Modalities (Eric Cressey)
2:00-3:15PM –Key Positions in the Pitching Delivery: Understanding How Physical Maturity and Athletic Ability Govern Mechanics (Matt Blake)
3:15-3:30PM – Break
3:30-4:45PM – Video Evaluation of Pitchers: Relationship of Mechanical Dysfunction to Injury Risk and Performance (Matt Blake)
4:45-5:30PM – Case Studies and Q&A

5:30PM Reception (Dinner Provided)

Monday, January 7

Morning Session: Practical

8:00AM-10:00AM – Physical Assessment of Pitchers: Static and Dynamic (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:30AM – Prehabilitation/Rehabilitation Exercises for the Thrower (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Performance – 12PM-6PM*

Tuesday, January 8

Morning Session: Practical

8:00AM-9:00AM - Preparing for the Throwing Session: Optimal Warm-up Protocols for Different Arms (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
9:00-10:15AM – Individualizing Drill Work to the Pitcher (Matt Blake)
10:15-11:30AM – Throwing Program Progressions (Matt Blake)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Performance – 12PM-6PM*

* The afternoon observation sessions on Monday and Tuesday will allow attendees to see in real-time the day-to-day operation of the comprehensive baseball training programs unique to Cressey Performance.

Observation of live training on the CP floor with our professional, college, and high school baseball players will allow you to experience firsthand our approaches to:

• Programming
• Proper coaching cues for optimal results
• Soft tissue techniques
• Activation and mobility drills
• Strength/power development
• Medicine ball work
• Multi-directional stability
• Metabolic conditioning
• Sprint/agility programs
• Base stealing technique

In addition, you will experience:

• Live throwing sessions
• Biomechanical video analysis using the Right View Pro system
• Movement evaluation
• Live case examples

Location:

Cressey Performance,
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

Cost:

$899 early-bird (before December 6), $999 regular. No sign-ups will be accepted on the day of the event.

Continuing Education:

NSCA CEU pending

Registration Information: SOLD OUT

Please note that space is extremely limited. We are keeping the size of this seminar small so that we can make it a far more productive educational experience. Additionally, this event will not be videotaped. As such, I’d encourage you to sign up as soon as possible.

Hope to see you there!

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3 Coaching Cues for Strength and Conditioning Programs – Deadlift Technique Edition

Today marks the third installment of a series that looks at the coaching cues we use to optimize training technique at Cressey Performance. Today, we'll focus specifically on deadlift technique coaching cues.  Additionally, if you really want to learn how to deadlift from scratch, I'd encourage you to subscribe to my free newsletter, as you'll receive a video deadlift technique tutorial when you do so.

1. Touch your butt to an imaginary wall a foot behind you.

"Hips back" is a cue that works great for many people when it comes to coaching deadlift variations, box squats, toe touch progressions, and a host of other exercises requiring a good hip hinge.  For those with less-than-stellar "movement awareness," I prefer to give a slightly different reference point.

You see, "hips back" is an internal focus coaching cue; it focuses on the athlete moving part of his/her body.  The imaginary wall, on the other hand, is an external focus cue; it's just an inanimate object that serves as a reference point for the athlete.  With the "touch your butt to an imaginary wall a foot behind you" cue, you give an athlete both internal and external focus options, so it's more likely that one of them will register.  Plus, "butt" may register a bit more with folks who can't don't understand how to dissociate the hips from the lower back.

2. Show me the logo on your shirt.

Also on the deadlifting front, many individuals simply don't grasp the concept of "chest up" when they're in the bottom position of a deadlift and want to go hunchback on you.  However, I haven't met a lifter yet who doesn't understand what I mean when I stand in front of them and say, "Show me the logo on your shirt."  Again, "me" is an external cue that helps to fix things up.

Take note of the New Balance logo on the front of my shirt during this deadlift; is there ever a point during the lift that you don't see it?

This isn't just for singles, either.  You'll see the logo on Tony's shirt on every rep on this set of eight reps.

Now, let's compare two heavier lifts - one that was awful on this front, and two that were significantly better.  This first one was taken in August of 2007.  Notice how the logo disappears, and my spine looks like it's going to explode?

Now, compare that to the deadlifts (1:40 mark through the end) in my mock/impromptu powerlifting meet two weeks ago.  You'll notice that you never lose sight of the logo on my shirt.

3. Don't just lift; put force into the ground.

I've found that folks often get so caught up in the moment when they approach heavy weights on the deadlift that they will simply do anything it takes to get the bar up (reference my ugly August 2007 deadlift from above).  However, what they fail to realize is that they'll be stronger if they put themselves in the most biomechanically correct position possible.

In the context of the deadlift, this means not allowing the bar to get too far away from the body.  If you do, it's like sitting on a seesaw opposite someone, but letting them move further away from the center point; you've made them feel heavier without actually changing the weight.  In other words, crushing big weights on the deadlift is about keeping the bar close to the primary axis of movement: the hips.  It's why most lifters will be slightly stronger on a trap bar deadlift than a conventional deadlift; the weight is positioned closer to the hips. And, it's also why folks with long femurs usually can lift more weight with sumo deadlifts (and do so more safely).

Regardless of the deadlift variation in question, I've found that more advanced lifters can really benefit from thinking more about just putting force into the ground. This doesn't mean you have to stomp your heels down (I actually used to do that, but don't any longer), but rather just engaging your posterior chain to take tension out of the bar and ensure that the bar starts out in the right path: close to you.  Some cues that go hand-in-hand with this are #2 from above (show logo) and "pull back, not up."

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/7/12

Here's this week's list of recommended reading.  You'll be happy to note that there is absolutely no discussion of the election; I think we're all sick and tired of that by now!

8 Laws of Strength Training - This is a basic, but outstanding post from Bret Contreras.  I'd call this must-read for every beginning strength training enthusiast.

Jaundice or Just Yellow? - This is an excellent post at Precision Nutrition by Spencer Nadolsky.  If you eat a lot of pumpkin, give this a read.

Player Interview with Cubs Prospect John Andreoli - Current CP intern Jay Kolster interviews one of our pro guys on his hitting approach and how he prepares in the batting cage. This is a great read for coaches and players alike, as John is a guy who has worked extremely hard - and smart - to get to where he is.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 23

Here's this week's collection of strategies to improve your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins.

1. Teach/learn inverted exercises from finish to start.

2. If you’re a student-athlete, make sure that Tupperware is your best friend.

The summer is a tremendous time for college athletes to make outstanding progress. Athletes can train almost every day, get plenty of rest, and enjoy Mom’s home cooking. At the very least, they are tapping into a well-stocked fridge and pantry. August comes, everyone heads back to school, and it’s not too long until we get e-mails from many of these athletes. Each one is the same, and each one has a fairly simple solution.

Generally the problem is that they either can’t eat enough, the food they want is only available sometimes (ex. greek yogurt at breakfast, but not lunch or dinner), or the quality is inconsistent.

When I was in college, I actually made some of the best physique gains of my life. In fact, my freshman year was when my fitness kick truly began. I treated the cafeteria like a grocery store. In addition to eating what I wanted at each meal, I would bring empty Tupperware and plastic bags in my backpack. This way, I could take back veggies, yogurt, nuts, and other tasty amenities to my dorm room.

Once they were in my fridge, I had healthy snacks. Plus, if I showed up for dinner one night and everything on the menu was terrible, I could do some damage control and return back to my room afterwards to get some quality protein in.

3. Stop considering a week to be seven days long.

When people write programs, they always base it off a 7-day week. I get it, the rest of the world works off a Mon – Sun format, so your training should, too. Doing so leads to a few different ways to split up a training program, and for the most part, the common choices are 3–5 days of training with 2–4 days of rest or supplemental activity.

Don’t get me wrong; this is 100% fine, and it certainly works. However, your body doesn’t know what a week is; it has no idea a week is seven days long. Therefore, you should consider writing strength and conditioning programs in any format you choose that would be optimal for the results you are looking to achieve.

Essentially viewing a “training week” as however long you want gives you the opportunity to meet more demands while still allowing for optimal recovery. Or, it can be used to hit certain lifts,or body parts more often while still allowing other lifts or body parts that may require more time between training sessions to get rest. Here’s an example:

Traditional 4-Day Training Split w/Movement Training
Monday: Lower Body
Tuesday: Upper Body
Wednesday: Movement Training
Thursday: Lower Body
Friday: Upper Body
Saturday: Movement Training
Sunday: Off

"Spreading Things Out" Split
Day 1: Lower Body - Squat
Day 2: Upper Body 1
Day 3: Movement
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Lower Body - Accessory Work
Day 6: Upper Body 2
Day 7: Movement
Day 8: Lower/Full Body - Deadlift
Day 9: Off

By spreading my “training week” out, I have allowed two things to happen. One, I get an extra day of training to address weaknesses, or to just spread out some of the exercises from the previous model into a fifth day. Additionally, I will have more total days off in the course of a year, as the first model gives you one day off every 7 days, and the second model gives you 2 days off for every 9. Lastly, I have more days off before hitting certain lifts again, which can allow for better recovery between sessions.

Like I said, 7-day models work just fine. I just want to challenge you to think outside of the 7-day mindset, as doing so leaves some potential to do some different things with your training.

Note: Kudos to Chad Wesley Smith for introducing this concept to me. Chad utilizes a 9-Day training week with many of his athletes, and in his Juggernuat Method.

4. Spice up your heavy single arm rowing with this variation.

5. Do more “bottoms-up” kettlebell exercises.

I have often touted the versatility of the kettlebell, which are unique in large part due to their shape. In a very early installment of this series, I showed you how to hold the bell correctly. This time around, I challenge you to try a few traditional kettlebell exercises upside down!

No, not you, the kettlebell!

Turning the bell upside-down provides an awkward task to stabilize the bell in that position. Doing so can make traditional carries and presses more challenging, and also more productive, depending on the desired training effect.



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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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