Home 2020 September

Exercise of the Week: Supine Bridge w/Reach

The supine bridge with reach has been a popular mobility drill for us for close to a decade now, but I realized that we haven't highlighted it in an online feature to give it the love it deserves. The video is actually part of The High Performance Handbook video library.

I love this drill because it not only gives us the terminal hip extension we get with many glute activation exercises, but also an element of thoracic mobility. In many athletic endeavors (including pitching, as you see below), the thoracic spine must continue to rotate as the hips extend.

This drill enables us to not only train some of the muscular recruitment patterns we want, but also challenges the fascial system by getting us a more multi-planar, proximally initiated challenge. You also get a nice blend of elasticity because of the rhythmic nature of it, and can easily interject variety by changing the angle at which you reach.

We'll work this into a warm-up with a set of five reps on each side, or mix it in as a "filler" between medicine ball sets. Give the supine bridge with reach a shot to keep your mobility work engaging, progressive, and productive!

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Creative Conditioning: Installment 1 – Medicine Ball Medleys

It's important to have plenty of tools in your training toolbox to challenge energy systems development. With that in mind, I wanted to kick off a Creative Conditioning series for you. Hopefully, some of these options give you some variety to not only keep clients/athletes engaged, but also to help them stay healthy and continue to move well in the process.

One of the downsides of traditional cardio is that you typically get stuck in repetitive patterns through small ranges of motion. So, while you might be challenging energy systems in the ways you want, you may simultaneously be creating unfavorable biomechanical challenges. With that in mind, I always like to have higher-amplitude, less repetitive options for our clients.

Medicine ball circuits are one such option. In this version, I use the 6lb med ball for shuffle to scoop toss (5/side), side-to-side overhead stomps (5/side), and reverse lunge to shotput (5/side) - and it works out to right about a minute of work.

A few notes:

1. Medicine ball work is awesome because it won't make you sore (very little eccentric overload), offers endless variations/combinations, and provides a more significant functional carryover to the real-world.

2. Medicine ball medleys won't absolutely bury your lower body like sprinting or cycling can, so it can be an approach that fits into your overall programming a bit more "conveniently."

3. You can keep it simple with in-place options, or - as I do here - add more excursions with side shuffles, sprints, etc. to add a bit of complexity.

4. I wouldn't use medicine ball medleys with true beginners for conditioning because fatigue negatively impacts technique, and you can wind up seeing some ugly rotational patterns as sets progress. The last thing you want to do is chew up a lower back while you're trying to get heart rate up.

5. We use the Extreme Soft Toss Med Balls from Perform Better. I've found them to be the best blend of ideal rebound and durability.

Try them out - and remember that the only limit is your imagination. 

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Programming Principles: Installment 4

With this week's $50 off sale on The High Performance Handbook, it seemed like a good time to update this series on program design strategies. Many fitness professionals and strength and conditioning enthusiasts have looked to this resource as a model upon which to base some of their program design efforts, so I thought I'd dig in a bit deeper on a few useful principles you'll find in it that should be consistent across all programs.

1. The warm-up should always build context for the strength and power training exercises that follow.

A good warm-up shouldn't just get your body temperature up; it should also be a chance to drive quality movement so that you're patterned for the loading that follows.

Planning to sprint and want to improve the likelihood that you'll get clean hip extension? Try a glute wall march iso hold.

Looking forward to a big overhead pressing day? Get in a set of the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill.

[bctt tweet="Specificity doesn't just matter with respect to how your high-load and high-velocity movements carry over to performance; it also relates to how your warm-ups prepare you for those movements in the first place."]

2. In any program, the most important work should occur early in the training session.

In my opinion, one of the absolute ways to teach a young coach how to efficiently and effectively program is to ask him/her to take a 4x/week strength training program and pare it back to a 3x/week and eventually a 2x/week program. In doing so, it forces the coach to really consider what the most important programming inclusions are.

95% of the time, you'll find that it simply means cutting off the last exercise pairing from each day, trimming the volume on certain exercises, and then simply rearranging the exercises so that there aren't competing supersets (which can often happen when switching from an upper/lower split to a full-body approach). If you go through this exercise and find that any of your A1/A2 and B1/B2 programming is "expendable," then you probably need to reconsider your programming approaches.

3. Make use of combination exercises when you need to be efficient - or just more athletic.

Let's face it: you don't always have unlimited time to get in an optimal training effect. In this situations, it's really helpful to have exercises you can plug in to combine some of your favorites. Here are just a few examples:

Landmine Squat to 1-arm Press - I love this as a first exercise on the middle day of a 3x/week strength training program. You can train a squat pattern, get a bit of lower body stimulus, and still drive some free scapula pressing under considerable load.

Rear-Foot Elevated 1-arm Low Cable Row - This is a great horizontal pulling exercise you can plug in when you also want to get a little single-leg emphasis, but don't want to bury an athlete with fatigue or soreness. I might use it on a full-body day when we've already had a deadlift variation and lateral lunge variation, but I want some kind of single-leg work in the sagittal plane without making the session last much longer.

The possibilities are really endless on this front, but the point is that you always need to have options for delivering multiple training effects without driving excessive volume or really long sessions.

I'll be back soon with another Programming Principles installment, but in the meantime, as a friendly reminder, The High Performance Handbook is my flagship resource, and I currently have it on sale at the largest discount ($50 off) that we've ever offered, though Sunday at midnight. The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 36

This edition random thoughts from around the field of health and human performance is long overdue. Fortunately, more of the world is online more than ever, so at least it'll have a good audience now!

1. Physical maturity and training experience impact pitching stress.

File this one under the "duh" category, but it's good to have a study supporting the concept nonetheless. In this study, Nicholson et al found that while pitching velocity was weakly related to shoulder distraction force, this relationship was only observed in high school (and not college) pitchers. The researchers noted, "These findings suggest that older pitchers may attenuate shoulder forces with increased pitch velocity due to physical maturity or increased pitching mechanical skill in comparison with younger pitchers."

Here's the position (ball release) to which they're referring:

I've seen research in the past that reported shoulder distraction forces were 1.5 times body weight at ball release, but those numbers never made sense to me in light of the kinetic chain concept. Wouldn't a pitcher with better front hip pull-back, core control, thoracic spine mobility, scapular control, and posterior cuff strength have a better chance of dissipating these forces over a longer deceleration arc than someone who wasn't as physically prepared? And, wouldn't different release points (as shown above) relate to different stresses? This study demonstrates that being physically prepared and mature goes a long way in reducing one potential injury mechanism in throwers.

2. "You can’t separate biomechanics from metabolism."

I remembered this quote from Charlie Weingroff years ago when I recently heard White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada discussing how he hasn't felt like himself ever since he came back to playing after having COVID-19. Obviously, this is a more extreme perspective, as we know some cases lead to myocarditis and other challenging complications. It's certainly not out of left field, though. Just think about it:

Your joints often ache when you have the flu.

Many people get neck pain when they're stressed.

And, as Charlie observed in that same presentation, the higher your free cortisol, the poorer neurogenesis is.

I don't think we have to just consider these challenges only when someone is sick or under crazy stress. Rather, we have to appreciate that optimizing our metabolic environment - whether it's building a robust aerobic system or eating well and exercising frequently to improve insulin sensitivity - likely has an impact on how our musculoskeletal and fascial systems feel and perform. And, the nice thing about a lot of these initiatives is that they aren't hard to chase: you can build your aerobic system with some low-key cardio or even mobility circuits.

3. Vary surfaces with plyometric activities.

The latest Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research featured a very intriguing study that compared outcomes of a plyometric program on grass-only versus one that was matched for volume, but spread over six different surfaces: grass, land-dirt, sand, wood, gym mat, and tartan-track. The group that performed the multi-surface program outperformed the grass-only group at post-testing even though the testing took place on grass (which means it was a better program to the point that it also outperformed pure specificity over eight weeks, a relatively short intervention).

This is great because training should always be about providing a rich proprioceptive environment for athletes while still providing specificity. The surfaces were stable and ranged in their ability to challenge the stretch-shortening cycle (i.e., it's harder to "turn over" a jump quickly in sand than it is on a track surface).

Intuitively, it makes sense: give athletes variability across similar exercises and you get better adaptation. And, you could even make the argument that it likely reduces the potential for overuse injuries. Just imagine if they'd also rotated types of footwear: barefoot, minimalist sneakers, cross-trainers, turf shoes, cleats, etc.

Suffice it to say that I'll be leveraging this knowledge heavily at our new Cressey Sports Performance - Florida facility. We've got outdoor turf, indoor turf, grass, and indoor gym flooring - and we could do all three either in shoes or barefoot. There's eight options right there, and it's not hard to get access to sand in South Florida!

4. Exercise selection is the most important acute programming variable.

When you're writing a program, the big rocks to consider are intensity (load), volume, rest, tempo, exercise order, and exercise selection.

You'll see a lot of debates about whether 4 sets of 6 reps works better than 6 sets of 4 reps, and whether you need to do one set or three sets to get optimal gains. People may argue about whether you have to train above 90% of 1RM to get strength gains. And, internet arguments are fierce over tempo prescriptions and whether you should squat before you deadlift, or vice versa.

You know what doesn't get debated? The simple question, "Does an exercise hurt?"

This is why exercise selection will always be the most important acute programming variable to consider. If it causes pain, all the other variables don't matter, because it's a harmful training stimulus. This is why it's tremendously important for coaches to not only understand progressions, but also regressions and "lateral moves."

Squatting hurts your hips? Let's try a reverse lunge with a front squat grip.

Deadlifting isn't agreeing with your low back? Let's try a hip thrust instead.

Bench press is making your shoulder cranky? Let's pivot to a landmine press instead.

These quick and easy adjustments can absolutely save a program - and make all the other programming variable important actually matter. This is a big reason why I included an Exercise Modifications Library in The High Performance Handbook; they enable an individual to keep the core benefits of the program intact even if they have to modify a few exercises along the way.

While I'm on that topic, The High Performance Handbook is my flagship resource, and I currently have it on sale at the largest discount ($50 off) that we've ever offered (though Sunday at midnight). The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Does Early Sports Specialization Work?

I'm flying solo for this week's podcast, as I wanted to tackle an incredibly important topic in the world of baseball development: early sports specialization. Before we get to it, though, a special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order. It's great stuff and I use it every day myself!


Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

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And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/1/20

Happy September! It's been a few weeks since I posted a recommended reading list. Here goes...

Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry - This recent release from Joan Ryan is the best book I've read in 2020. If you're involved in strength and conditioning or team sports in any capacity, I'd call it a must-read.

The Most Important Coaching Responsibility - I wrote this last year, but in light of how many people are acting on social media these days, it seemed like a good time to reaffirm the importance of staying away from negative influences.

Why It's So Hard to Find Dumbbells in the US - This is an entertaining piece in light of the crazy times of 2020.

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I came across this picture of Josh Hader's delivery (via @brewers) the other day, and it was yet another reminder to always check the neck first when you see more distal (shoulder, elbow, etc.) symptoms in an overhead throwing population. When you consider the lateral flexion of his cervical spine in conjunction with the shoulder abduction and external rotation, elbow flexion, and wrist extension each throw is effectively an upper limb tension test on the nerves (and vascular structures) that run from the brachial plexus down to the fingertips. What exacerbates this tension? 👇 1. Increased cervical lateral flexion 2. Insufficient clavicular upward rotation 3. Insufficient scapular upward rotation and posterior tilt 4. Increased shoulder external rotation 5. Poor glenohumeral (ball on socket) control 6. "Gritty" tissue density from neck-to-hand that interferes with nerves gliding smoothly 7. Increased wrist extension (to a lesser degree, in my experience) Regardless of what you think might be in play, always start with the neck. I think the Selective Functional Movement Assessment four-part cervical screen (swipe left) is a great place to start. #cspfamily

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