Home Articles An Interview with Eric Cressey: Part I (LBC)

An Interview with Eric Cressey: Part I (LBC)

Written on January 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm, by Eric Cressey

By: Erik Ledin ofLean Bodies Consulting

EL: First off, thanks for agreeing to the interview. We’ve known each other for a number of years now. I used to always refer to you as the “Anatomy Guy.” You then became know for being “The Shoulder Guy” and have since garnered another title, “The Mobility Guy.” Who is Eric Cressey?

EC: Good question. As you implied, it’s the nature of this industry to try to pigeonhole guys into certain professional “diagnoses.” Personally, even though I specialize in athletic performance enhancement and corrective exercise, I pride myself on being pretty well-versed in a variety of areas – endocrinology, endurance training, body recomposition, nutrition, supplementation, recovery/regeneration, and a host of other facets of our industry. To some degree, I think it’s a good thing to be a bit all over the place in this “biz,” as it helps you to see the relationships among a host of different factors. Ultimately, I’d like to be considered a guy who is equal parts athlete, coach, and scholar/researcher.

All that said, for the more “traditional answer,” readers can check out my bio.

EL: What are the three most underrated and underused exercises? Does it differ across gender?

EC: Well, I’m not sure that the basics – squats, deadlifts, various presses, pull-ups, and rows – can ever be considered overrated or overappreciated in both a male and female population.

Still, I think that single-leg exercises are tremendously beneficial, but are ignored by far too many trainers and lifters. Variations of lunges, step-ups, split squats, and single-leg RDLs play key roles in injury prevention and development of a great lower body.

Specific to females, we know that we need a ton of posterior chain work and correctly performed single-leg work to counteract several biomechanical and physiological differences. Namely, we’re talking about quad dominance/posterior chain weakness and an increased Q-angle. Increasing glute and hamstrings strength and optimizing frontal plane stability is crucial for resisting knock-knee tendencies and preventing ACL tears. If more women could do glute-ham raises, the world would be a much better place!

EL: What common issues do you see with female trainees in terms of muscular or postural imbalances that may predispose them to some kind of injury if not corrected? How would you suggest they be corrected or prevented?

EC: 1. A lack of overall lower body strength, specifically in the glutes and hamstrings; these shortcomings resolve when you get in more deadlifts, glute-ham raises, box squats, single-leg movements, etc.

2. Poor soft-tissue quality all over; this can be corrected with plenty of foam rolling and lacrosse/tennis ball work.

3. Poor core stability (as much as I hate that word); the best solution is to can all the “turn your lumbar spine into a pretzel” movements and focus on pure stability at the lower back while mobilizing the hips and thoracic spine.

4. General weakness in the upper body, specifically with respect to the postural muscles of the upper back; we’d see much fewer shoulder problems in females if they would just do a LOT more rowing.

EL: You’ve mentioned to me in the past the issues with the ever popular Nike Shox training shoe as well as high heels in women. What’s are the potential problems?

EC: When you elevate the heels chronically – via certain sneakers, high-heels, or any other footwear – you lose range of motion in dorsiflexion (think toe-to-shin range of motion). When you lack mobility at a joint, your body tries to compensate by looking anywhere it can to find range of motion. In the case of restricted ankle mobility, you turn the foot outward and internally rotate your lower and upper legs to make up for the deficit. This occurs as torque is “converted” through subtalar joint pronation.

As the leg rotates inward (think of the upper leg swiveling in your hip joint socket), you lose range of motion in external rotation at your hip. This is one of several reasons why females have a tendency to let their knees fall inward when they squat, lunge, deadlift, etc. And, it can relate to anterior/lateral knee pain (think of the term patellofemoral pain … you’ve got restriction on things pulling on the patella, and on the things controlling the femur … it’s no wonder that they’re out of whack relative to one another). And, by tightening up at the ankle and the hip, you’ve taken a joint (knee) that should be stable (it’s just a hinge) and made it mobile/unstable. You can also get problems at the hip and lower back because …

Just as losing range of motion at the ankle messes with how your leg is aligned, losing range of motion at your hip – both in external rotation and hip extension – leads to extra range of motion at your lumbar spine (lower back). We want our lower back to be completely stable so that it can transfer force from our lower body to our upper body and vice versa; if you have a lot of range of motion at your lower back, you don’t transfer force effectively, and the vertebrae themselves can get irritated. This can lead to bone problems (think stress fractures in gymnasts), nerve issues (vertebrae impinge on discs/nerve roots), or muscular troubles (basic strains).

So, the take-home message is that crappy ankle mobility – as caused by high-top shoes, excessive ankle taping, poor footwear (heel lifts) – can cause any of a number of problems further up the kinetic chain. Sure, we see plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, and shin splints, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can happen.

How do we fix the problems? First, get out of the bad footwear and pick up a shoe that puts you closer in contact with the ground. Second, go barefoot more often (we do it for all our dynamic flexibility warm-ups and about 50% of the volume of our lifting sessions). Third, incorporate specific ankle (and hip) mobility drills – as featured in our Magnificent Mobility DVD.

Oh, I should mention that elevating the heels in women is also problematic simply because it shifts the weight so far forward. If we’re dealing with a population that needs to increase recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings, why are we throwing more stress on the quads?


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