Home 2013 September

Upcoming Seminar: Using Medical and Sports Science for Injury Prevention in Sports: The Throwing Athlete

I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up that I'll be presenting at a conference at Children's Hospital here in Massachusetts on October 13 alongside Mike Reinold, Tom House, and several other great presenters.  For more information or to register, click here.

Hope to see you there!

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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 7

It's been a while since we covered some strength training coaching cues that you'll want to have in your back pocket, so here's installment 7.

1. Follow your hand with your eyes.

It goes without saying the improving thoracic (upper back) mobility needs to be a big priority for many athletes.  However, individuals can lose out on the benefit of thoracic mobility drills can be performed incorrectly if one only moves through the shoulder and not the upper back.  Greg Robins covers that problem in this video, in fact:

To help ensure optimal technique, I encourage athletes, "Follow you hands with your eyes." It always seems to "right the ship" with respect to movement of the humerus.

2. Ease the bar out.

One of the biggest mistakes I see both lifters and spotters make is just picking UP the bar and handing it out from the pins on the bench press. This causes a lifter to lose his upper back tightness and start the lift from an unstable platform. Plus, the bar is more likely to drift excessively toward the hips, as opposed to staying right in the path the lifter prefers.

With that in mind, another Greg Robins video complements this tip well; check it out:

3. Get the chest to the floor before the chin.

Push-up variations are an incredibly valuable inclusion in just about any strength training program, but unfortunately, the technique goes downhill quite frequently, particularly under conditions of fatigue.  Everyone knows that we need to monitor core positioning so as to avoid excessive lumbar hyperextension (lower back arching).  However, what a lot of people may not realize is that this "sag" is only one potential extension-bias fault. 

You see, people who are in extension will find all the ways they can to shift away from a neutral posture and toward a more extended posture.  Take, for example, this shoulder flexion video. The individual doesn't just go into lumbar extension and a heavy rib flare to get his arms up overhead; rather, he also goes into a forward head posture.

I liken this to patching up a hole in a leaky roof - only to find a leak starting up somewhere else.  It's important that we patch them all!  With that said, with push-up variations, you can either cue "make a double chin" or tell folks that the chest should make it to the floor before the chin. As long as you've already controlled for excessive arching of the lower back, the cue will be spot-on.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/26/13

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

Hacking Sleep: Engineering a High Quality, Restful Night - Brian St. Pierre goes into great detail on how to improve sleep quality in order to optimize recovery and fitness progress.

What You Need to Know About GIRD - Mike Reinold put together a great review of the literature and outlined the common mistakes he sees with respect to glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD).  This is stuff that Mike and I discuss literally every week, so I'm glad he's finally put it into a comprehensive article.  If you're a coach who is universally prescribing sleeper stretch to all your players, this is must-read material; you'll reconsider it after you're done.

Injuries are an Opportunity - Andrew Ferreira is a CP pro guy in the Twins system, and he offered this great insight on how you can't just have a pity party when you get hurt; you have to use it as an avenue through which you can get better.

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3 Training Lessons You Can Learn from MMA

Today, we have a guest post from physical therapist, strength coach, and all-around great guy Martin Rooney. I think you'll really like it. -EC

You might be surprised to know the moment I began training mixed martial artists both started and almost ended my fitness career.  In 1998, I was a physical therapist in need of a new challenge.  The “sports performance” industry was in its infancy and MMA was a misunderstood and relatively underground sport.  Banned in most of the world and forbidden on cable TV, MMA met with almost as much opposition as I did when I explained to my parents I would be leaving my physical therapy career for fitness.

In the best professional move I have made, I chose to follow my passion.  I devoured information and as my skills as a trainer and coach improved, so did my client list and opportunities.  I have trained first rounders in many professional sports, consulted for professional teams, and written numerous articles and books, but when it comes to the lessons I learned along the way, many more came from MMA than from the NFL, NBA and MLB. 

Over the last five years, I have presented my Training For Warriors System in over 20 different countries.  At the beginning of my speaking career, however, my only requests were to discuss speed and strength training for traditional sports like football and baseball.  When I would explain that I was producing fantastic results with my fighters, no one wanted to listen.  In fact, due to the increased time I was spending with my martial athletes, I put my career in jeopardy.  As luck would have it, MMA exploded world-wide and people became open to the idea that lessons from my TFW System could be used for anyone.


The Lessons

You have clients that would like to look like a UFC warrior.  They also DON’T want to get punched in the face.  The good news?  You can use training concepts from MMA with your clients and athletes to make them feel like warriors.  The bad news?   Many trainers and clients think they have to practically destroy themselves in the process.  Today hardcore circuit style workouts are popular.  That doesn’t mean they are being used correctly.  In today’s article, I’m going to outline three lessons from MMA that you can use to improve your training immediately.

Lesson 1:  “Don’t Put On Your Tie Before You Put On Your Shirt”

Would you build a house in a swamp or fire a cannon from a canoe? Of course not! Why, then, are your clients allowed to progress to exercises and workouts for which they are unprepared?

Yes, it may be more fun to jump into the “sexy” stuff, but every client must first build a solid foundation of general physical qualities before the specific work is done.  These qualities include speed, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and endurance.  The more solid the foundation that is developed, the more solid the client can eventually become.  Just like the martial artist had to earn his or her first few belts with the basics, your students must “earn” his or her exercises.  This progression is something that your clients must understand and strive to complete.  So, although a client may want to try a more “fancy” or “creative” exercise, they must build the appropriate skills first.  Although this may seem like taking a step backward, remember that you don’t get paid for creativity; rather, you make money for delivering consistent progress. Your clients will actually take more forward with the proper base in place.

In TFW, a trainer must remember to first do no harm.  Before ever concerning yourself with the coolness of an exercise, make sure you can support that exercise as both effective and safe.  An injured client cannot train.  A person that can’t train doesn’t pay for training.  Build a safe and effective base and you’ll also build your book of business. 

Lesson 2:  “If You Think You Are Doing Too Much, You Already Are.”

I constantly tell my fighters:

“Don’t confuse fatigue or soreness with being productive.”

The goal of your training is not complete exhaustion or the search of fatigue.  Yes, the sessions you deliver may produce soreness and fatigue, but that is not the goal.  Just like the martial artist trying to improve his or her skills, the goal of the session is improvement.  In other words, results.  And results, contrary to common thought, are not so commonly achieved.  Results paradoxically happen during your recovery, not training.

Recovery is the first thing to add into a training week, not the last.

I am not just talking about monitoring the work/rest ratio during the session, but you must also make sure to recover in between sessions.  Yes, there will be moments where the students are tired.  This is a fact of training and some levels of fatigue must be created in order to deliver physical and mental gains.  Many of the workouts of TFW and other systems today are both physically and mentally demanding.  Although this can also become fun for some, that is not an excuse to do them too often.  As a trainer, you must find the amount of recovery your student needs and stick to it.

When I train fighters, one of the hardest things to get them to do is rest.  I must remind them during rest, you are not doing “nothing;” you are doing the most important thing: recovering.  No pain, no gain?  No, I say, “No pain, no brain.”

As the intensity of training is starting to advance, your clients are being brainwashed to believe MORE exercise always means BETTER.  The student must always adhere to the proper amount of rest and recovery in order for the body to supercompensate to the stimuli.  One must remember that real progress does not occur when you are working out, it occurs when you are recovering after that training. 


Lesson 3:  “You can’t manage if you don’t measure.”

The martial artist is constantly testing his or her techniques and skills in order to determine if progress is being made.  In fact, belts are given out as progress is verified.  What about your clients?  Are you constantly testing them for progress in the gym?  How is their hard work being rewarded?

Before you worry about consistently measuring someone else, I challenge you to first start with yourself.  When was the last time you stepped on a scale?  Did you measure your body fat percentage this week?  If not, then you have no idea how your diet is working.  Do you do circuit workouts?  Are you able to measure your own progress there?  If not, then I am sure you will not be able to show your client how to do the same.


If there is a major idea to pull from this article, it is that the most important reason to train is in the pursuit of a result.  Why, then, would you not monitor some training variable during the workout?  Strength, speed, reps, sets and more can all be assessed to determine progress.  Body fat, weight, heart rate, and girth can keep a client motivated as much as a martial arts belt.  Make sure to check something every session and never forget to reward progress.


Over the years, I battled with what style is “best.”  I have come to realize that there is and may never be a best way to get the job done.  Instead of getting “bitter,” we must always be on the search to deliver “better.”  I found that instead of tying Training for Warriors to individual exercise philosophies or pieces of equipment, I decided to uncover the principles that were essential to follow regardless of the exercise tool or methodology used.  With over 90 facilities worldwide and 1,300 coaches trained, I am now sharing my system with you. If you are interested in learning more about TFW and how you can benefit from the our system, you can now work your way through the certification online for the first time. You can learn more about the course here.

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Training Athletes with Funky Elbows: What a Valgus Carrying Angle Means

I talk a lot about how there's a difference between simply "training baseball players" and actually training baseball players with a genuine appreciation of the unique demands they encounter - as well as their bodies' responses to those demands.  Today's post will be a great example of how you can't just throw every throwing arm into a generic program.

One of the adaptations you'll commonly see in throwers is an acquired valgus carrying angle at the elbow.  For the laymen in the crowd, take note of how the throwing arm (in this case, the right arm, which is to the left side of the picture) has a "sharper" angle: 




This is an adaptation to the incredible valgus stress during the lay-back portion of throwing.


While the research on the subject isn't really out there, it's widely believed that a sharper valgus carrying angle predisposes throwers to elbow injuries, particularly ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears.  My good friend Mike Reinold actually has a lot of very good unpublished data on the topic, too. In my eyes, this verifies that we need need to treat throwers like this with extra care in light of this increased susceptibility to injury. 

From my perspective, I think it means more time off from throwing each off-season in order to regain passive stability, as the UCL is already stretched out more than in the normal pitcher.  Additionally, it may take longer for these athletes to regain good soft tissue quality, as the musculature at the medial elbow is likely working harder to make up for this loss of passive stability and the increased range-of-motion demands.  Another key point is that this valgus carrying angle may increase the likelihood of ulnar nerve hypermobility (snapping back and forth over the medial epicondyle during flexion/extension) or ulnar neuritis (irritation of the nerve from excessive stretch). If this nerve only has a limited number of flexion/extension cycles before it really gets irritated, then we need to use each throw wisely to put off the possibility of needing an ulnar nerve transposition surgery to set it where it needs to be.

Additionally, I think it means less aggressive throwing programs, particularly with respect to extreme long toss.  I think long toss has a ton of merit for a lot of throwers, but one concern with it is that it does increase valgus stress slightly as compared to throwing on a line at shorter distances.  With that in mind, these folks might respond better to other throwing initiatives, or simply less long toss than they otherwise might do.

From a training standpoint, we need to work to gain more active external rotation to ensure that more of the range-of-motion is occuring is at the shoulder than the elbow.  This should not be confused with simply stretching the shoulder into external rotation, which does much more harm than good in 99% of cases.  Rather, we need to educate athletes on how to get to lay-back without compensation. I like supine external rotation - an exercise I learned from physical therapist Eric Schoenberg - as a starting point.

Once we've been successful working with gravity, we'll progress this drills to prone to work against gravity, and then add in various holds at end-ranges of motion to strengthen athletes in external rotation closer to end-range.  Here's an example you can try at home:

In terms of contraindications, I can't say that it changes much as compared to what we avoid - back squats, Olympic lifts, etc. - with the rest of our throwers.  However, I think the fallout could be even more dramatic; just imagine these elbows catching a snatch overhead in the off-season after 200+ innings of wear and tear.


This picture also teaches us that one can simply be born with a more significant valgus carrying angle, but throwing during the adolescent and teenage years would make it more extreme.

Beyond training implications, for the reasons I noted above, it's also extremely important to take care of tissue quality at the common flexor tendon and pronator teres. I like a combination of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization and hands-on work like Active Release.

I hope this post brings to light an additional assessment and follow-up training principles you can use to give your throwers the quality training and (p)rehabilitation they need. If you're looking for more insights on training throwers, I'd highly recommend you check out our Elite Baseball Mentorships; the next course takes place on December 8-10.


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Cressey Performance Camo Shirts: 2013 Edition Now Available!

It's September, which means we just introduced our new edition Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Development t-shirts!  This go-round, you can rock the black with red camoflauge. 


These shirts are 90% cotton and 10% polyester and insanely comfortable.  They do, however, run a bit small.  So, if you normally wear a large, order a XL.  If you're normally a XL, get a XXL.

Each shirt is $24.99 + S&H, and you can click the links below to add shirts to your cart:


Extra Large


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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/20/13

It's time for this week's recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Insider Secrets to Movement Prep - This is a new "compilation" product from all of us at Elite Training Mentorship.  It's a series of videos from all the guys - me, Mike Robertson, Tyler English, Vaughn Bethell, Dave Schmitz, Steve Long, and Jared Woolever - who regularly contribute on this membership site.  If you have questions about planning a training, practice, or competition warm-up, this is a great resource for you.  The package includes 10 videos, plus several articles and exercise demonstrations.  It's on sale today through Sunday for just $29.95.


9 Great Ideas to Improve Your Workouts - Everyone loves Dan John - and rightfully so: his articles are always great.  This one was no exception.

Who Says You Can't Get After it After 80? - This was a fun blog post from my business partner, Tony Gentilcore, about a client of ours who is over the age of 80 and still crushing it in the weight room. 

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Regaining Scapular Control: Always Good Intentions, Often Bad Technique

The prone 1-arm trap raise (also known as the prone Y) is one of my favorite arm care drills. Unfortunately, it's also a drill that can be performed incorrectly in a number of different ways.  Additionally, as with most exercises, there's a big difference between "decent" and "optimal," and when it comes to taking care of throwing arms, even the most subtle adjustment can reduce injury risk or take away someone's pain.  A key part of being able to adjust on the fly is to appreciate how an athlete's resting posture looks.

With all these important considerations in mind, check out this detailed video tutorial so that you can make the most of this awesome exercise.

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How to Use Block Pulls to Improve Your Deadlift

Today's guest post comes from CP coach, Greg Robins.

In the past 2.5 years, I have made some pretty solid strides with my deadlift. I’m still no world record holder, but I’m continuing to make progress. Most of this can be credited to a much more focused effort on raising the max number I can lift. Another large amount is likely the result of gaining about 30lbs.

That aside, anyone can eat a lot and want to lift more. Below is something I find has been key in my ability to pull 3x my body weight (595lbs at 197lbs), and over 600lbs since then.

If you want to lift more weight you need to learn to
intelligently overload from time to time.

I like to read the training logs and watch interviews with lifters who are stronger than me. One commonality I find with a lot of them is the waved use of overload techniques. Once someone has garnered a decent amount of strength, I have my reservations on “speed” training – namely, its use for the acquisition of more maximal strength. [Note from EC: I disagree completely, but this blog is all about being open-minded to new thoughts and techniques!].

Instead, I have seen more carryover from using block pulls. A block pull is simply an elevated deadlift, with heights from 1-6 inches in height.

I prefer the blocks to rack pulls because the technique is more true to a conventional pull. Most notably, the slack remains in the bar, and must be pulled out by the lifter. This is really crucial, because you want to attack these heavier weights and learn what it’s like to initiate a lot of force into a heavier bar.

In a 12-week block of training, I might use block pulls for 3-4 weeks. My training partner and I generally hit these the month before a meet, or the month before hitting weights off the floor upwards towards 90-100%. Thinking back, every weight that I have ever pulled from the floor in the past two years has come off the blocks first. 

Over the rest of the article, I want to give you some guidelines on how to fit these in, as well as how to perform them correctly.

Let’s start with the technique. Below is a video detailing the proper technique, as well as some common flaws in the block pull.

Now that you know how to do them, the obvious next question is, “where do they fit in?”

As I alluded to before, I usually place these in after eight weeks of focused training. In those previous eight weeks I would recommend you work from a high volume-low intensity phase to a mid volume-mid intensity phase, and then insert the block pull after your regular deadlifts during a high intensity-low volume phase.

The first way to overload with block pulls is by adding weight to the bar. For example, let’s say you pull a single from the floor at 90% of your 1RM. Then you could finish the session with pulling a single or two from blocks at over 90%. With this approach, the blocks should be used to eventually pull a weight over 100% of your predicted max from the ground. I have been successful hitting 110% of a 1RM from 4.5in blocks. It’s important to note, though, that on a day where you will be over-reaching on the block pull, you’d want to make that your lightest day from the ground.

The next is to overload your training through the addition of volume. This can be done via adding reps to a set, or by adding sets. In either case, we are going to use the blocks to increase the volume, as opposed to doing more volume from the floor. In this approach, let’s say you hit the same 90% of your 1RM from the floor. From there, you could go in either of two directions:

1. You could hit and additional 2–3 singles from blocks at that 90%.

2. You could take that 90% for a set (or sets) of 2 to 3 reps from the blocks.

In both scenarios, we are overloading. Personally, I tend to go more in the direction of adding reps to a single set, because that is overloading in the sense that you might not be able to do that from the ground.

There you have it: a single lift that has had tremendous carry-over into my maximal strength on the deadlift. And, it’s helped out a lot of lifters even better than me! Be careful not to abuse the block pull or make into a “ego-booster” rather than an intelligent tool to add overload in both intensity and volume to your strategy for improving the deadlift.

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Fine-Tuning Deadlift Technique

I often do technique critiques for my online consulting clients by having them send me video demonstrations of them performing their exercises.  With that in mind, I recently did one as a favor to a friend, and in the process, came across what I thought was a great example of how some quick adjustments could yield big-time benefits.  Hopefully this serves as a good "teaching moment."  First, here's his report to me:

"I've been lifting around this weight for a while - 120kgs 1x5. Think my best might have been late last year around the 130kg mark, but have had a niggling back injury that's been slowing things down a bit."

Here's his video:

Here was my feedback:

1. I would bring the feet a bit closer together. You always want your elbows outside your knees, but not in front of them...like this:


2. Along those same lines, try to get your hands in tight to the sides of the legs, too. If you were to keep your hands where they are, but bring the feet in to where they should be, the gap between your arms and the sides of your thighs would be too much.  You want them essentially touching.

3. Think of trying to use the weight of the bar to pull yourself into the bottom position and puff the chest up. I should see the logo on your shirt a lot easier from the front position.  You're kind of just dropping into that bottom position, not going down to get it.

4. The double overhand grip is fine, but you don't see a lot of people pulling huge weights with it outside of the super freaks. Unless you're willing to put in the time and effort to master the hook grip, I'd go to alternate grip.


5. Think about putting force into the ground, not just lifting the bar.  This is the big one for you, and it's why the bar wants to drift away from you instead of staying closer to the body, which is a bar path you want.

If I was programming for you, in month 1, I'd do speed deadlifts (10-12 sets of 1) at 60-75% of one-rep max on one lower body day; the heavy focus would be on driving the heels through the floor and being fast at the start.  Then, I'd let you pull heavier with the trap bar on the other day for sets of 2-4 - just to keep strength up while you're grooving the pattern.  The trap bar doesn't allow you to get out in front with the load quite as much.  

If you're looking for some great programming advice, I'd encourage you to look into Dave Dellanave's great manual, Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination.  If you're looking for more coaching cues like I outlined above, definitely check out my free video, Mastering Deadlift Technique.  You can get it by subscribing to my free newsletter in the opt-in box below.

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  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series