Home Articles posted by Eric Cressey (Page 266)

Back on Track

I’m back in the US after a great trip to the UK. A huge thanks go out to Dave Fleming and Nick Grantham for all their hard work in organizing the weekend event and to playing such great hosts to me over the course of my visit. Likewise, I want to extend my thanks to Scott White and Daniele Selmi for pulling together an outstanding seminar in Oxford, showing me around town, and all the hospitality. And, above all, I want to thank everyone who came out to the seminars. As I mentioned on more than one occasion during my visit, I’m really humbled by the fact that people across the world actually care about what I have to say! With that said, I really appreciate your continued support and hope that you enjoyed the seminar as much as I enjoyed interacting with you. I look forward to visiting again soon!

These blogs are supposed to be about content, so I’ll come right out and say that I was an idiot for not packing any Greens Plus for the trip. I’ve got a lot of veggies to eat in the next week to try to catch up!

Keep an eye out for some pictures and more thoughts on the trip as soon as I’m caught up on work and sleep.



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Power What!?

As many of you know, I’m headed out to the UK on Thursday to speak at three seminars in six days – and see some of the sights and work with some great athletes while I’m out there. With that said, it goes without saying that the beginning of this week is pretty busy. I’m working out the plan for my in-person athletes and clients, online consulting clients, and making sure all the pieces are in place for my online stuff to run smoothly in my absence. So, as you can imagine, I am very busy and very focused right now. That is, I was focused until I saw a sign last night that nearly made me drive off the road:

Power Yoga

Here’s an oxymoron that ranks right up there with Jumbo Shrimp and Deafening Silence.

I’ll give a gold star to anyone who can tell me how an activity where you stay in one place for an hour, move slowly and rhythmically, and try to relax can possibly be powerful.

Call me a physics geek – or just a cynical bastard – but I’m not buying it either way.

(For those who missed it, check out Yoga This and Pilates That

Eric Cressey


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Ten Weeks to Summer: What’s your plan?

I’m not sure if you all are aware of it, but it’s just under ten weeks until Memorial Day – the unofficial start to summer and the time at which everyone starts panicking about how they’ll look at the beach. With that in mind, I was brainstorming the other day about what motivates people to get things done (in this case, get lean).

In the weight-training world, I’ve always been motivated the most by competition and quantifiable goals. This is one reason why I’ve done so much better from a physique standpoint as a powerlifter than I ever did as someone who “worked out.” Let’s face it: there is a huge difference between training and working out.

And, if there is one thing that is the closest thing to a universal motivator, it’s money. People do stupid human tricks, enter reality TV shows, and spend hundreds of dollars each year on lottery tickets in hopes of padding their wallets. Likewise, lots of people will go to great lengths to avoid being separated from their money, even (sometimes) in the case of worthwhile investments.

To that end, an “ideal” fat loss motivator (in my mind) would integrate these three factors: competition (with oneself or another), quantifiable goals, and money…so here’s what came to mind.

Find a friend, and have him/her take your 7-site skinfold readings: pectoral, abdominal, thigh, triceps, subscapular, suprailiac, and axilla. Add these seven readings up and write the number down (I don’t really care what your body fat percentage is).

Next, make out a check for $500 (or any amount) and put it “aside” (whether that’s in a glass jar on your counter, or even with a deposit to an interest-accumulating account) for the duration of your fat loss phase. That money could potentially go anywhere: your friend, a charity, you name it. The point is that it’s no longer yours; you have to work to earn it back.

Set a fat loss goal in millimeters you’re going to lose off your 7-site skinfold total. If you hit it, the money is yours once again. If not, it goes to your buddy or, better yet, charity. In the latter case, you’ll help out a good cause and get a tax write-off – even if you are still a tubby failure!

The next step would be taking steps to ensure success – namely, forming a plan. For the dietary component, you can’t beat Precision Nutrition from Dr. John Berardi. For training options, I have been very impressed with Afterburn from Alwyn Cosgrove and Turbulence Training from Craig Ballantyne.

So what are you waiting for? Shouldn’t you be writing a check that your butt CAN cash?

Eric Cressey


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Leg Curls are for Wankers

Q: I just read your article on leg extensions, and I'm wondering if leg curls are bad, too. I'm rehabbing a mild hamstring pull, and I’m wondering if light-weight leg curls are okay. A: I'm not a fan of leg curls at all. Your hamstrings will never work in isolation like that; they'll always be co-contracting with the glutes, adductor magnus, and smaller hip extensors. When you do a leg curl, you really just encourage an overactive muscle to tighten up even more than it already has. In our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set, Mike Robertson and I go into great detail on how when you see a muscle strain, you should always look for a dysfunctional synergist. Think about the functions of the gluteus maximus: hip extension, abduction, and lateral rotation. If it shuts down, you can get hamstrings or adductor magnus strains (synergists in hip extension), piriformis issues (synergist in lateral rotation), tensor fascia latae (TFL) strains (synergist in hip abduction) or even quadratus lumborum tightness/strains (hip-hiking/lateral flexion to compensate for lack of hip abduction). You also might get lower back tightness or lumbar erector strains from lumbar hyperextension to compensate for a lack of hip extension range of motion (secondary to glute weakness not being able to finish hip extension). Finally, you might experience hip joint capsule irritation anteriorly because your glutes aren't providing enough posterior pull to counteract the tendency of the hamstrings to allow the femoral head to glide forward during hip extension. Yes, I know I'm a longwinded geek, but I do have a point. That is, always look for inefficiencies and dysfunction; don't be lazy and just stop at pathology. Several pathologies can result from a single inefficiency/dysfunction/syndrome. If you understand how to identify and correct these inefficiencies, you can use comparable protocols to fix a lot of problems. They say that one of the best ways to win people over is to take their pain away. If you're a trainer or therapist whose income depends on getting people healthy, you NEED to know this stuff. Oh, and as for your hamstrings issue, get the glutes firing with various activation exercises and stick to hip extension movements such as pull-throughs, deadlifts, forward sled dragging, box squats, and back extensions to get co-contraction of the glutes. It goes without saying that I would also include plenty of single-leg exercises. If you want to start training knee flexion, when the time is right, incorporate some glute-ham raises. www.BuildingTheEfficientAthlete.com
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Monday Q&A with Eric

Q: The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual was fantastic; I just have one question about one of the jumping tests you utilize. In your opinion, should the heels touch the ground lightly during a bounce drop jump? I've heard “yes’ and I've heard “no” from several coaches and I'm trying to form my own opinion on the subject once and for all. A: I think it's a must. Very few athletes have the eccentric strength to land completely on the balls of the feet. You're also putting a lot of undue stress on the Achilles and patellar tendons and limiting your ability to cushion with the hip extensors. By eliminating that cushion (preactivation), you'll increase the amortization phase, therefore killing the very elastic response you're trying to train. A lot of people will argue that it's counterintuitive in light of the sprinting motion, but I don't see that argument as holding water. Vertical displacement is centimeters in sprinting, but meters in bounce drop jumps, so you're comparing apples and oranges in terms of ground reaction forces. I use different short-response tactics for using just the balls of the feet. www.UltimateOffSeason.com
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Paying Homage to the Greatest…

Basketball had Michael Jordan. Hockey had Wayne Gretzky. Martial Arts had Bruce Lee. Their abilities transcended mere stardom and redefined their sports. It's about time all bloggers recognize that we're all just humble villagers next to Bill Simmons - AKA Sports Guy. Eric Cressey
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The First Time in Five Years

It's one thing to make a resolution, it's another thing to adopt a lifestyle. At over 900 lbs. Manuel Uribe left the house for the first time in five years after dropping 256 lbs, from his peak of 1,235 lbs. When given the option, Manuel Uribe made a choice to adopt the Zone diet over gastric bypass surgery, back in 2006; this decision has made the difference. Having adopted a manageable program, Manuel has set the bar at 250 lbs within four years. Ask yourself: Are you on a plan that you can tolerate for the next four years? If not: What are you expecting to happen? Beginner exercisers are not the only ones who fall into the mismanaged training program, athletes do it to. The first step in any successful training program is adherence, if you cannot stick to your plan, it's worthless. If you are forcing yourself through your routines and through your training, you're not proving anything; you're delaying the inevitable. What can we learn from Manuel? It's great to set goals that test your limits, as long as you have the self-efficacy to get there. The first step, is accomplishing enough to have that self-efficacy. Lofty goals and "hardcore" programs do not create self-efficacy, they slowly diminish it. The number one determining influence of positive behavioral change is past performance. The clincher: was it positive or negative. Your coach, your training, and your habits should envelop your goal. I have no doubt that in four years Manuel will walk away from his bed at 250 lbs. Where will you be? Jon Boyle jb@ericcressey.com
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Hot off the Press!

I just got this in the mail today; it’s yet another study to show that static stretching pre-training is (with a few minor exceptions) a big no-no! Bradley, P.S., P.D. Olsen, and M.D. Portas. The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. J. Strength Cond. Res. 21(1):223-226. 2007. The purpose of this study was to compare the acute effects of different modes of stretching on vertical jump performance. Eighteen male university students (age, 24.3 +/- 3.2 years; height, 181.5 +/- 11.4 cm; body mass, 78.1 +/- 6.4 kg; mean +/- SD) completed 4 different conditions in a randomized order, on different days, interspersed by a minimum of 72 hours of rest. Each session consisted of a standard 5-minute cycle warm-up, accompanied by one of the subsequent conditions: (a) control, (b) 10-minute static stretching, (c) 10-minute ballistic stretching, or (d) 10-minute proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. The subjects performed 3 trials of static and countermovement jumps prior to stretching and poststretching at 5, 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes. Vertical jump height decreased after static and PNF stretching (4.0% and 5.1%, p <> 0.05). However, jumping performance had fully recovered 15 minutes after all stretching conditions. In conclusion, vertical jump performance is diminished for 15 minutes if performed after static or PNF stretching, whereas ballistic stretching has little effect on jumping performance. Consequently, PNF or static stretching should not be performed immediately prior to an explosive athletic movement. Okay, so we know that static and PNF stretching are bogus, and it looks like ballistic stretching doesn’t do much for us, either. So what can we do to warm up for effective performance? Fletcher IM, Jones B. The effect of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 meter sprint performance in trained rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Nov;18(4):885-8. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of different static and dynamic stretch protocols on 20-m sprint performance. The 97 male rugby union players were assigned randomly to 4 groups: passive static stretch (PSS; n = 28), active dynamic stretch (ADS; n = 22), active static stretch (ASST; n = 24), and static dynamic stretch (SDS; n = 23). All groups performed a standard 10-minute jog warm-up, followed by two 20-m sprints. The 20-m sprints were then repeated after subjects had performed different stretch protocols. The PSS and ASST groups had a significant increase in sprint time (p < or =" 0.05)," or =" 0.05)."> or = 0.05). The decrease in performance for the 2 static stretch groups was attributed to an increase in the musculotendinous unit (MTU) compliance, leading to a decrease in the MTU ability to store elastic energy in its eccentric phase. The reason why the ADS group improved performance is less clear, but could be linked to the rehearsal of specific movement patterns, which may help increase coordination of subsequent movement. It was concluded that static stretching as part of a warm-up may decrease short sprint performance, whereas active dynamic stretching seems to increase 20-m sprint performance. Dynamic stretching, huh? Maybe these Cressey and Robertson guys are on to something with that DVD of theirs… www.MagnificentMobility.com
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Lawn Chairs for Knees

Last week, sports fans witnessed arguably the most gruesome knee injury – both visually and medically – in recent history when the Clippers’ Shaun Livingston’s knee folded up like a lawn chair on a seemingly harmless play (be forewarned; this video is not for those with uneasy stomachs). Given Livingston’s age (21) and “fragile” 6-7 frame, many supporters of the NBA’s new age minimum restrictions are quick to assert that this injury would not have happened if Livingston had been forced to wait longer to enter the NBA. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote a detailed piece on the topic. As a strength coach who has worked extensively with basketball players, I can say without wavering that this couldn’t be further from the truth; chronological age had nothing to do with Livingston’s injury. Physical maturity, training experience, and – presumably – ignorance of previous injuries and imbalances did. What seems to be lost in the details is that the Clippers guard also had a stress reaction in his lower back and pre-existing ankle problems; any of the best coaches and physical therapists in the business will all tell you that dysfunctions are almost never isolated. Stress reactions are commonly the result of repeated hyperextension of the lumbar spine secondary to poor core stability and hip mobility (not to mention that the typical NBA spine is a LOT longer than that of the Average Joe). As part of this dysfunction, the gluteal muscles fail to fire sufficiently, and they lack the strength and activation level to decelerate “knock-knee,” internal rotation forces in landing – just like the one that ended Livingston’s season. When you lack mobility at the hips and ankles (most basketball players have terrible ankle mobility due to high-top sneakers and ankle taping), the knee (a joint that should just be a stable hinge) develops instability to create mobility. He could easily have developed chronic hip or knee pain; a traumatic injury got him first. Put a 1983 Buick engine in a 2007 Ferrari body, and you’ve got the typical NBA athlete. When it comes to injuries, the basketball culture is reactive, not proactive. Unlike sports like football, hockey, and baseball that have embraced dedicated off-season conditioning programs (not to mention resistance-training from an early age), the basketball community – from the youth leagues right up to the NBA – has yet to appreciate how valuable a role strength and conditioning can play in preventing injuries like Livingston’s.

uotm

Rather than preventing the injuries by participating in dedicated off-court off-season training programs, most basketball players go right back to playing street ball, AAU hoops, or NBA summer leagues – all the while reinforcing the imbalances they’ve developed. Everyone wants to compete, but nobody wants to train or even rehab. Apparently, alley-oops and crossover dribbles are a lot more “sexy” than lifting weights and doing flexibility drills – at least until you rupture an ACL, MCL, PCL, patellar tendon, and lateral meniscus on a lay-up. Karl Malone was notorious for his rigorous off-season lifting regimen, and he was quite possibly the most durable player in the history of the league. Entering the NBA at a young age wasn’t a problem for Lebron James – and it should come as no coincidence that he was resistance training for years before his arrival to the NBA at age 18. I had a 15 year-old, 192-pound high school shortstop front squat 300 for an easy single on Friday, then vertical jump 28.5 inches and box squat 355 today with a bit left in the tank. Do you mean to tell me that he won’t be ready for professional sports physically in three years? Please! The NBA doesn’t need to institute age restrictions; it needs to take the initiative to develop a culture – independent of age – where players start training smart and taking care of their bodies. Want to learn more?  Check out The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual.
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10 Rules of Corrective Lifting

Whether I like it or not, around these parts I've become known as an "injury guy." People get jacked up doing stupid stuff, and guys like Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and myself fix them up by pointing out that said "stuff" is, in fact, stupid. To that end, a lot of my consulting work is done in the corrective exercise realm — basically handling people who fall into the gray area between physical therapy and healthy training... bridging the gap, so to speak. We know that 80% of Americans will have lower back pain at some point in their lives, and 70% of gym-goers will experience shoulder problems somewhere along the line, but we can't send all of these people to physical therapy. Continue Reading...

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