Home Blog Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 10

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 10

Written on July 7, 2012 at 8:29 am, by Eric Cressey

Here’s this week’s list of random tips to make you more awesome, in collaboration with Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins.

1. Optimize your strength training program’s warm-up sets.

Too often, I see people make the mistake of moving a ton of weight before they reach their top sets for that day. Many strength training programs are based on hitting a certain “top set” or sets in a given lift for that day. While this number may be a good distance from the first weight a person touches that day, it is important that you work to this set in a fashion that has you prepared to attack the weight, but not exhausted to a point that you cannot give that weight a true effort.

I often get asked how should one work up to these top sets. The answer is really dependent on the person asking; over time, a person will learn what works best for them. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • “Treat the light weights heavy and the heavy weights light.” Move everything fast, be methodical in your approach, take advantage of every set as repetitions in good form. By doing so, you will set up for successful top sets, prime your CNS to deliver more powerful, coordinated efforts, and be more confident under heavy loads.
  • Keep your weight jumps consistent. How many pounds each jump should be will depend on how dictate how many warm-up sets you’ll take on the way from A to B. Just make sure to keep the jumps consistent, 10, 20, 30lbs, etc.
  • Just because the top sets call for multiple reps doesn’t mean the sets leading up to them need to be the same. I often take singles and doubles at the heavy weights that land near my top sets, and recommend you do the same. I advocate any additional volume (work done) you need to add be done via drop down sets, or via supplemental lifts.

Here are two examples of how to work up to the top sets in a program:

Deadlift 3 x 3 (Assuming my top sets will be between 475 and 505lbs)
135 x 3, 225 x 3, 315 x 1, 405 x 1, 455 x 1, 475 x 3, 495 x 3, 505 x 3

A1. Squat 3 x 5 (Assuming my top sets will be between 365 and 405lbs)
135 x 5, 185 x 3, 225 x 2, 275 x 1, 315 x 1, 365 x 5, 385 x 5, 405 x 5

You’ll notice that the sets that “count” toward my working total follow the 90% rule that Eric outlined HERE.

2. Understand How to Modify Total Work as a Fat Loss Diet Progresses

You will be more successful with your fat loss dieting when you understand a simple concept: the harder you train, the hungrier you get.

The most important thing in losing fat is, has been, and will continue to be your nutrition. Your strength training program should be the priority in training when dieting. You want to maintain as much lean mass as possible, and what made the muscle (resistance training) is what’s going to keep it on you. However, you can’t just continue to strength train, add more conditioning, and eat less. It just doesn’t add up. Either you’re going to fail on the diet or get super weak. Neither of those sounds good to me.

So what’s the solution? Lower the volume as you lower the calories. Whether that comes in the way of shorter strength training workouts (focus on the top sets of big lifts and keep the accessory work limited), or you do less conditioning, you have to do less somewhere.

People are really into metabolic resistance training protocols nowadays, but in reality, all training is metabolic; your diet needs to come first, and these programs are just basic better management of total work done. Base your training around your diet, and as you eat less, do less. Pretty simple.

3. Make Kale Taste Better.

Kale by itself does not taste good. Fortunately, I have a simple recipe to make a delicious dressing to spice it up. I must admit that I am not the originator of this, so thank you to the person who showed me the recipe!

In a bowl, mix the following to “dress” four cups of uncooked kale:

• 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 3 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
• 3 TBSP Dijon Mustard
• 1 TBSP Pepper
• 2 TBSP Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


4. Make all Reps Quality Ones When You’re a Beginner.

When teaching a new athlete or client an exercise, trainers and coaches must understand the importance of using lighter loads. From a safety and development standpoint, it just makes sense. Moreover, a novice lifter can make gains from loads far below their estimated one-rep maximum.

In order to achieve technical proficiency with the exercise, make sure that you are also keeping the rep ranges low – even when the weights are light. While the person in question may very well be able to move the given load for 12 reps (as an example), you are better off splitting that into 3 sets of 4 reps. Even if that means they are doing 12 sets of 4 instead of 4 sets of 12 overall. Keep the rest a bit shorter, get quality reps, and don’t set them up to fail.

5. Make Sure Your Arm Care Program Includes Upward Rotation Training (from Eric)

I speak a lot to our staff about the importance of training scapular upward rotation to prevent and correct upper extremity problems (especially shoulders) in our clients, and one of my most prominent points is to consider not just “front to back” shoulder balance, but also “top to bottom.”  This point was verified yet again by research from the Musculoskeletal Research Center at LaTrobe University in Australia.  Investigators found that “The major difference between groups was that the shoulder pain group displayed a significant downward rotation of the scapula in almost all shoulder positions. There were no differences between the two groups for training factors, range of motion, or in clinical test results.”

Below are a few exercises we regularly include in our warm-ups to address these issues.  Forearm wall slides at 135 degrees stops short of full upward rotation and gives us a chance to train the lower trapezius in its line of pull.


Wall slides with overhead shrug and lift-off gets us to near full upward rotation of the scapula and recruits the upper trapezius more.  Remember, while upper trapezius recruitment has gotten a bad rap, the upper traps are actually tremendously important, as they elevate the scapula and directly oppose the depressive pull of the latissimus dorsi, which is heavily overrecruited in most folks.  As a heads-up, I generally teach this with the hands a bit closer together throughout the movement.


The upper and lower traps work with serratus anterior to get the scapula upwardly rotated (serratus recruitment is already optimized because we are slightly protracted and above 90 degrees of humeral elevation).

Summarily, remember the importance of scapular upward rotation when you see arm care programs where all the exercises are done with the arms at the sides.  Assuming folks can get there pain-free, get the arms up and start training upward rotation functionally.

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17 Responses to “Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 10”

  1. Christian Says:

    Eric, speaking of arm care, I noticed that show and go has only one “curling” exercises (reverse curl). Is this because your biceps will be getting enough work from pulling exercises? It seems an imbalance would occur… Would it be a bad idea (as a pitcher) to toss in a few sets of curls once a week as the only modification to the program?

  2. Neil Says:

    What are some of the best exercises you would use to train upward rotation if clients/athletes cannot position their arms overhead due to restriction or injury?

  3. Conor Says:

    Great stuff as usual! Keep bringing the great info!

  4. Michael Reid Says:

    Thanks for the Kale post. I really needed that. I recently incorporated Kale into my diet and yes, it has a very harsh taste, but this recipe should spruce things up a bit. Thanks again.

  5. Tad S. Says:

    Great stuff Greg!

    EC. I’ve been prioritizing scapular upward rotation with the majority of my swimmers. I can’t think of an athlete with a more overly facilitated lat. and downward rotators. solid results with pairing lat foam rolling with overhead shrugs and the like. Rock on.

  6. Eric Cressey Says:

    Right on, Tad! Keep up the good work, bud.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Michael! Enjoy!

  8. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Christian,

    Yes, you’re getting plenty of stimulus from the pulling alone. No need to add any curling. As a pitcher, I’d actually add more direct cuff and lower/upper trap work.

  9. Lindsay Mattingly Says:

    Thanks, Eric! Great stuff as usual. Im obesessed with kale! We’re going to start growing it soon. You enjoy smoothies and juicing? I have some good ones with kale, and you cant even tell! Also, I use the wall slides a lot as inbetweeners for my workouts. My bootcampers always made fun of me for using these, but their shoulder strength improved dramatically! I learn from the best! Take care!

  10. Eric Cressey Says:


    Thanks for the note! I’m all ears on the smoothies recipes; thanks in advance!


  11. Michael C Says:

    Good stuff Eric, I’d see alot less Shoulder impingement in my PT practice if folks did a more balanced shoulder workout.

  12. David Says:

    Great stuff, Eric.

    I’m training my first swimmer today, and the information I learned from your site and resources have been invaluable for my own swimming injuries. I’m looking forward to applying them to my athlete.

    Keep up the great work!

  13. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, David! Glad you’re benefiting from what you read here. I appreciate the feedback.

  14. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Michael!

  15. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s a bit of a loaded question, as there are a lot. Sometimes, just letting someone train WITH gravity (supine) as opposed to against it (standing) can help the cause. In many cases, just a repositioning of the scapula at the starting position can also reduce symptoms dramatically. It’s really treated on a case by case basis and depends heavily on whether you’re dealing with someone who is very loose or tight.

  16. Ronell Smith Says:


    This Greg Robins guy might be a keeper. Seems bright in the CP-way.

    Delivering some very good information.


  17. Rodney Trepess Says:

    Great article and I also believe that Kale is a super food. The only way I can get it down is to stick it in my vitamix and add a bunch of berries to hide the flavor.

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