Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 8

About the Author: Eric Cressey

In collaboration with Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are some tips to get just a little more awesome this weekend.

1. Hard start, easy finish.

This phrase applies to almost everything in training and in life. In short, putting in the work up front is going to benefit you ten-fold throughout the rest of your…

Exercise Set: Put the time in to set up a lift correctly (bar placement, spotters, foot position, etc) and you will make the entire set go off smoothly.

Training Session: Don’t skimp on your warm-ups. Make sure you spend the 15 minutes to hit self massage, mobility, and activation work.

Training Block: Make the time to make a plan. If you do not have the time (really?!), or the knowledge (fair enough), then seek out someone to make a plan for you.

Training Career: If you’re new to the game, take the proper amount of time to learn correct movement patterns, build general work capacity, and understand technique. If you’re not, and these sound like foreign concepts, have you considered pressing rewind?

2. Meet the bar.

3. Address lagging body parts with frequency.

If you have a body part that isn’t making the grade, the answer could very well be to adjust the frequency in which you train it. Training variables such as volume and intensity are household names, even if their application is often butchered. Frequency is a less-considered variable in your training program. The frequency at which you train a muscle group can have a profound effect on its growth. Additionally, high frequency protocols can produce major surges in strength when programmed correctly. Using high frequencies to make gains in strength is definitely more complex. The more demanding the exercise selections (think deadlifts, squats, cleans, etc), the more tinkering you’ll need to do in the overall management of volume and intensities. Luckily for you, using higher frequencies to illicit gains in “size” isn’t as involved.

Here is a good place to start: choose an area (i.e. arms) and add a specialization day to your strength training program. Make this days short, but challenging. This is a good time to utilize drop sets, forced reps, pre-exhaustion etc. Stick with the same area for three weeks, back off a week, and either choose a new area for three weeks or continue with the previous selection. Maybe you’ll do calves like Tony does?

4. Appreciate that various characteristics relate to throwing velocity.

A study conducted in 2009 by The Open Sports Medicine Journal looked at the relationship between six anthropometric (body height, body mass, body mass index (BMI), arm span, hand spread and length) and four physical fitness (aerobic capacity, explosive power of the lower limbs, flexibility and running speed) characteristics and their relationship to throwing velocity in female handball players. The study found that “throwing performance is significantly correlated with all variables calculated in this study except of the body mass index. This suggests that high performance requires advanced motor abilities and anthropometric features.”

This isn’t revolutionary, and the study does not go into details (that have been found important to velocity) such as joint mobility, stiffness and laxity. However, it is interesting to note that the researchers ranked each characteristic in order of importance in terms of the effect on velocity:

1. Hand Spread
2. Playing Experience
3. Arm Span
4. Body Height
5. Standing Long Jump
6. 30m Sprint
7. Sit and Reach
8. Body Mass.
9. VO2max
10. Body Mass Index

As you’ll see, the recipe for success will always be a combination of genetic pre determents, mechanical skill (sport practice), and physical performance traits (explosiveness, strength, etc). Two out of three of those you have control over, and if you are willing to put the work in, you can make up for quite a bit that Mommy and Daddy didn’t pass on to you.

EC’s notes: three interesting asides to this…

First, it’s interesting that body mass index wasn’t more highly ranked, as body weight has been shown to have a significantly positive association with throwing velocity in baseball pitchers. The primary difference between these two populations, of course, is that the handball players aren’t throwing downhill on a mound, so perhaps having a greater body mass benefits pitchers because they’re more “gravity-aided?”

Second, this is friendly reminder that your silly long distance running won’t do anything for throwing velocity.

Third, the researchers only tested straight-ahead (sagittal) plane measures of power development. If they’d tested power development in the frontal and transverse planes, I’d expect to see a greater value for these measures.

5. Don’t limit yourself.

Have you heard this before?

If I do everything you say, and work as hard as possible, do I have a shot at: making it, losing 10lbs, benching 315?

The answer is always YES; why would it be NO? We are all capable of impressing – and even surprising – ourselves with what we are capable of doing. Not everyone (even with an insane work ethic) is going to look like Captain American or play on ESPN. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you never shot for something less than that. You gave everything you had, and you ran that course until it was over. Wherever that point may be, you arrived there knowing that you didn’t leave anything in the tank. This is the absolute most you could do, given the tools you had, and you can be happy and fulfilled knowing that. If you attack everything with that mentality, you will be successful and happy with the result, even if that result isn’t exactly what you thought it was when you got started.

This is an important lesson to remind young athletes and adult clients alike. Teach them to respect the process, and find value in the journey. Remind them that many variables are not within their control, but their effort is.

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