Home Blog Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 11

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 11

Written on July 15, 2012 at 6:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are this week’s random tips to kick your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs up a notch.

1. Pull back (not up) when deadlifting.

Incorrect bar “direction” is a common mistake I see in folks’ deadlifting technique is something I have had to work to overcome myself.  Instead of pulling “up” on the bar, you actually want to think about pulling “back” as you begin the deadlift. When you pull up, the bar tends to drift away from the legs and creates a gap between your body and the bar. As we know, the closer we can keep the resistance to the hips, the better leverages we are going to have during the pull. As the bar begins to move away from the hips, it’s like moving the weight to the end of a seesaw. Furthermore, as the bar drifts, the upper back will have to compensate and end up more rounded as it takes more of the load.

2. Change exercises LESS often to increase results.

Adaptation is big, scary word to most self-proclaimed fitness experts. The truth is, you will not adapt to resistance training very easily.

It never ceases to amaze me to hear people’s reasoning for how they set up their training. A common theme is that they chose to switch exercises so often to “keep the body guessing.” Maybe my experiences have led me wrong somehow, but when, if ever, is your body going to treat moving hundreds of pounds as a normal occurrence?

It’s not going to, and the basic barbell exercises (i.e. squatting, benching, deadlifitng, overhead pressing) are going to continue to improve if you work at them consistently week after week, month after month, year after year. You can quote fancy scientific reasoning, or you can look at sports like power lifting, and olympic lifting for evidence enough.

Consider leaving a few basic exercises in your strength training program ALL the time. It will take years of practice to hone in technique, and simple management of volume and intensity in these strength exercises will keep you progressing. The constant monitoring of a stable variable (exercise selection) will enable you to easily measure progress. There is room enough in a long-term strength and conditioning program to play around with different strength exercises through supplemental and accessory exercises. Do yourself a favor and simplify your approach by sticking to an exercise long enough to let it work for you and teach you something.

3. Tell people your goals to set up external sources of accountability.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, or accomplish another fitness goal, be sure to tell everyone!

People tend to keep their goals to themselves; they want to quietly make changes. While this may work for some, the more successful approach is often to tell the world your plans. When you announce your plans to make a change you instantly set up numerous sources of accountability. You must hold yourself accountable for your actions, but it helps when you know others are also looking to see your progress. If this is the case, you will be less likely to grab dessert in front of family at dinner, miss a training session (where others at the gym know your goals), or repeatedly stray from your diet when you know in a few weeks you are meeting up with people who are interested to see how far you have come. Other ideas include joining a site (e.g., Fitocracy) where people can track your workouts, or doing a blog or weekly Facebook post on your progress.

4. Grab a deck of cards for an impromptu home workout.

I get asked a lot about travel, or at-home workouts. A while back, I introduced my standard answer: get a deck of cards! Assign an exercise to each suit in the deck, and let the number dictate reps for each choice (face cards are always 10). Here is an awesome workout you can bring with you anywhere:

Spades: reverse lunges
Clubs: single-leg bridges
Diamonds: prone bridge arm march
Hearts: push-ups


Aces: 10 burpees
Jokers: 10 jump squats

If you have a TRX or pull-up bar, I recommend making one suit TRX rows, and jokers a doable amount of pull-ups.

Turn over a card, and GO! See how fast you can make it through the deck, and try to beat your time every workout.

5. Consider using a food journal to aid in weight loss.

I recently came across this Science Daily report on a study from The Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that found that women who used a food journal to monitor daily intake “consistently lost 6lbs more than those who did not.”  It’s always great when research backs up something that you’re already doing, 

You see, the first step we take with our nutrition consults at Cressey Performance happens before the initial consultation. The client is asked to fill out a 3-day food log detailing everything (food and drink) that they consume. More often than not, this alone helps raise people’s awareness as to how much they are consuming, and of what quality that food/drink is. It never ceases to amaze me how unaware people are until they actually take the time to write it all out.

While the act of filling out a food journal will help initially, in order to use this tool for constant progress I recommend a few key pieces of advice. Likewise, Anne McTiernan PhD, MD, and her colleagues asked the same of the 123 women participants: “Be honest — record everything you eat. Be accurate — measure portions, read labels. Be complete — include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments. Be consistent — always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smart phone…”

Pay close attention to being accurate and complete. Many diets fail when people are unaware of extra calories coming from condiments, dressings, or inaccurate portion estimates. I realize this may seem tedious, and it is not something one needs to continue for an extended period of time. However, keep an accurate journal long enough to help you know what “right” looks like.

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13 Responses to “Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 11”

  1. Matt Jennings Says:

    Hey brother, every bit of the information in today’s newsletter was basic, solid and usable! Good stuff…Thank you! Peace-Matt

  2. Scott Says:


    Is there any role for e.g. front squat one (squat) workout, back squat next, Romanian DL one workout, conventional DL the next, etc?

    My situation is non athlete, non-BBer older lifter returning to lifting after long time off, but the question might be of interest to other people in the more general sense.


  3. Randy Long Says:

    Agree wholeheartedly. I have to explain to many of my clients, who have had a “trainer” before, why I don’t change their exercises that often. I generally go to a sports analogy: ” if you played baseball Monday, football Wednesday, and basketball on Friday, how good do you think you would be at any of them? I explain that they have to go thru neurological adaptation, learning the mechanics of the exercise, before they can use a significant enough load to cause major physical change.
    As for nutrition assistance, I tell them I will help as much as they will allow, and require they keep a food journal for 2 weeks. 90% will not do that one simple thing. When they complain they are not losing weight, and I ask about their food, they will hem and haw and finally admit they have not made any changes. I will again offer to help and ask for a food log, and, again, 90% will not follow thru. After 3 times, I tell them that until they change their food intake, all I can do is make them “a fitter fat person”. Some find it harsh, but that’s why I call my business “Reality Workouts”. I tell them the truth. If they can’t handle it, I’m not their guy.

  4. Anthony J. Yeung Says:

    Love the deck of cards idea. The gym I currently work at recommends to change the workout almost every time to help keep client retention. While I disagree with their stance, I’m wondering what better ways to stick with the basics and progress while changing things now and again so clients don’t feel like the do the same thing with me every workout.

  5. Shane Says:

    Deck of cars is a great idea. Think that would work well in a group setting. Great tip of deadlifting. Thanks Eric

  6. Lisa Says:

    I have really enjoyed this series of tips, and this latest was no exception. It is always a challenge explaining to clients why we need to consistently include the basics into each program. They are used to getting quite a variety from trainers in the past. Thank you for keeping us on our toes and reiterating the fact that keeping things consistent leads to progress.

  7. Kyle Says:

    I tried that “deck” workout, Crossfit posted it on the main site a while back. Pretty brutal.

  8. Ben Says:

    Great Article! I really like the food journal idea. I have been using a food journal for awhile and it really helps monitor what you eat.

  9. Derek Says:

    I think accountability is one of the biggest factors for keeping a fitness program going, particularly in the beginning. People will do all kinds of stuff they don’t feel like doing if they have someone holding them to it. All you have to do is look at how many people will do jobs they hate when they have a boss to answer to and people depending on them.

    Great tips, thanks Eric!

  10. TED Says:

    Another awesome segment.

    Eric has been both an extended mentor and a reliable source of info for literally thousands of kids who participate in our Beyond Athletic Life Lessons program in addition to yours truly.

    Regarding a food journal: We use the http://www.MyFitnessPal.com website to track diet and excercise goals. It’s free and really simple to use. One cool thing is that you can do a “what if” diet plan to see how different foods/food values affect your overal fitness goals.

  11. Carl Thomas Says:

    Quick comment for Randy Long;

    I appreciate your frustration, but if people are paying you to help them to lose weight, and most of them are not doing what you ask/expect them to, maybe you are doing the wrong thing. Maybe the problem is not that they are unwilling to make changes, but that the fitness/health industry is not willing to make changes when we see that our methods are not producing results. It’s easy to suggest that “people aren’t willing to change” rather than face up to the possibility that our entire paradigm may not work. Just a thought.

  12. Tim Peirce Says:

    Thanks Eric and Greg,

    Regarding #1: I’m guilty of pulling up rather than back. This is a good coaching tip. Can’t wait to apply it

    Regarding #2: If the first mistake people make in the gym is never changing their programs the next biggest is the confusion around muscle confusion. Consequently they have no real practice in any particular movement, nor any solid way of measuring real progress.

    You consistently have something to offer up. Thanks and keep it up.

  13. Karim Says:

    Regarding point no 2, There are far to many trainers out there with 6 week qualifications and no real world experience teaching that type of nonsense.

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