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Maximum Muscularity: Kickstart Your Day

You're going to watch SportsCenter anyway, right? Why not jump on a treadmill or bike for 20-45 minutes while taking in the "Plays of the Week?" On the other hand, if infomercials and cooking shows suit your fancy, then we recommend you shell out five payments of $49.95 for "Saggy Man Breasts for Dummies;" you probably aren't cut out for Maximum Muscularity. This activity is, of course, optional and by no means needs to be done indoors. Intensity should be kept at 40-60% of heart rate reserve. At this low intensity, the majority of energy will be derived from plasma fatty acids (i.e. broken down from adipose tissue) (1) and will give your metabolism a brief kick in the pants without sacrificing precious lean body mass (1). Prior to these low-intensity sessions, one can utilize stimulants (i.e. caffeine and ephedrine) and other fat mobilizers (i.e. yohimbine). These implements will enable you to maximize adipose tissue lipolysis without worrying about any unfavorable consequences in terms of insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal, as these sessions will not be followed immediately by carbohydrate-laden meals. The half-life of caffeine is broadly defined as 3-7 hours, depending on dosage and activity (exercise decreases this time period) (3). Assuming that you are leaving adequate time (i.e. 5 hours) between your morning java wave and any carbohydrate-containing meal, consumption of caffeine in the morning should not be problematic. Also of note, researchers have noted a 3-4% increase in metabolic rate in the 2.5 hours following ingestion of 100mg caffeine (4). We don't know about you, but we're all for maximizing our metabolic rates during the time of day where lipolysis is highest! Stay tuned as this series unfolds! Eric Cressey www.EricCressey.com
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Introduction to the Maximum Muscularity Series

Typically, whenever a trainee aspiring to improve his physique utters, "I want to gain muscle and lose fat...", he is immediately greeted by eager critics from opposite ends of the spectrum. First, there are those experts that pounce on the opportunity to suppress such a bold quest. They proclaim that such a task is doomed for failure, and simply respond with an unscientific, "You can't. Choose one or the other." In contrast, there are those that say that such a mission is rather simple. While the former cynics are just downright ignorant, the latter faction is just as useless, offering no other advice than one must train hard and eat right. Uh, duh! With that in mind, we'd like to introduce a plan that we feel will lead to what many call the Holy Grail of Bodybuilding: Maximum Muscularity. The term "Maximum Muscularity" elicits a beautiful vision of the classic physique of someone like Arnold or Serge Nubret. Maximum Muscularity isn't just about being ripped...yet of beanpole proportions, nor is it just about being huge--yet uncomfortably rotund. Rather, Maximum Muscularity is fusion of the two: being Ripped and Huge; it's about becoming a walking, super-sized anatomy chart. It's about pushing the envelope of one's capabilities to add muscle and lose fat. In a broad sense, the ultimate goal of Maximum Muscularity is to gain muscle mass and lose fat mass. However, the principles of Maximum Muscularity also apply to gaining muscle while keeping bodyfat constant OR to losing fat while maintaining all hard-earned muscle--both scenarios involve a drop in percent body fat. The context in which you view the aforementioned goals is paramount to the realization of these favorable scenarios. Rather than asking "How do I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?", we ask you to ponder, "How do I gain muscle and lose fat in the same training period?" Our reasoning is very simple; at any given moment in time, the body is either in a state of anabolism (i.e. tissue-synthesizing: muscle or fat gain) or catabolism (tissue-destroying: breakdown of triglyceride, glycogen or protein stores). This is not to say, however, that one cannot control the shift from anabolism to catabolism or vice versa at various times throughout the day. With the Maximum Muscularity protocol, you will do just that. This approach departs from the traditional Bulk and Cut scheme to which so many trainees adhere. This plan is especially well suited to those individuals who tend to store fat easily and gain more fat than muscle during traditional bulking cycles; it can and should be applied year-round and for long-term purposes. In short, there is absolutely no need to deviate from the Maximum Muscularity plan, as it is easily adapted to suit any physique goal and provides great versatility. Gaining muscle and losing fat in the same training period is the culmination of diligent training and dietary practices. Paramount to achieving this lofty goal is the creation of a superior anabolic state and enhanced insulin sensitivity through various dietary and training measures. From a nutritional standpoint, you'll be paying specific attention to nutrient timing and energy intake to capitalize on and manage your body's hormonal milieu in order to promote muscle gain and fat loss. Likewise, your training protocol is of paramount importance to providing the anabolic and metabolic stimuli necessary to accomplish such a mythical feat. That said, stay-tuned as this series unfolds. a special thanks to Tim Skwiat who co-authored this series Eric Cressey www.EricCressey.com
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A Simple Cressey-ism from Tuesday Night

"Horizontal stripes, white clothes, carbs, and aerobic exercise are a recipe for being fat. Vertical stripes, black clothes, protein, and lifting/interval training make a lean casserole." Eric Cressey
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Fixing the Flaws: Weak Neck Musculature

The neck is especially important in contact sports such as football and rugby, where neck strength in all planes is highly valuable in preventing injuries that may result from collisions and violent jerking of the neck. Neck harnesses, manual resistance, and even four-way neck machines are all good bets along these lines, as training the neck can be somewhat awkward. From a postural standpoint, specific work for the neck flexors is an effective means of correcting forward head posture when paired with stretches for the levator scapulae and upper traps as well as specific interventions to reduce postural abnormalities at the scapulae, humeri, and thoracic spine. In this regard, unweighted chin tucks for high reps throughout the day are all that one really needs. This is a small training price to pay when you consider that forward head posture has been linked with chronic headaches. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com
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Lower Back Pain and the Fitness Professional

Some amazing statistics for you: • 80% of Americans have lower back pain at some point in their lives. • At any given moment, 31 million Americans are experiencing back pain. That’s roughly one out of every ten people you encounter every day! • More than 50% of all American employees have back pain each year. In fact, back pain is second only to upper respiratory infections as a leading cause for doctor’s office. • Each year, Americans spend more than $50 BILLION on back pain – and this estimate is very conservative, given that not all associated costs are easily identified. Now, consider that the basis for modern physical therapy is exercise. However, we can’t send everyone to physical therapy for every minor ache and pain – so fitness professionals need to pick up the slack. To that end, Dr. Stuart McGill – the world’s premier spine biomechanist – has published several fantastic books and countless journal articles dealing with how to train for Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance. Unfortunately, while you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In January, I spoke to a crowd of roughly 115 fitness professionals in Atlanta. When I asked how many of them had heard of Stuart McGill, five hands went up. This past weekend, my first lecture in Maryland was attended by 90 fitness professionals; three hands went up to acknowledge that they had heard of Dr. McGill. Want to know who four of these eight people were? • Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, and Chuck Wolf – the three other presenters in Atlanta • Brett Jones – one of the other presenters in Maryland Factor me in, and you see that if you had read Dr. McGill’s work, you stood a 60% chance of being a speaker at one of these two highly respected conferences in the fitness industry. Go figure: the ones who have put in the legwork to read and get better are the ones who are presenting instead of just attending. Funny how that works, isn’t it? The truth is that we exist in an extremely unregulated industry. On one hand, it’s a bad thing, in that all trainers quickly get a bad rap because their incompetent weekend certification trainers are ruining spines with sit-ups, hyperextension machines, and leg presses. However, on the other hand, it makes it that much easier to differentiate yourself as being top-notch. Do you want to be the one hurting people or helping them? Two investments every trainer should own if they want to be in the top 10% of their field in a matter of one week of reading and viewing: Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance Building the Efficient Athlete Eric Cressey
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Fixing the Flaws: Weak Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)

The VMO is important not only in contributing to knee extension (specifically, terminal knee extension), but also enhancing stability via its role in preventing excessive lateral tracking of the patella. The vast majority of patellar tracking problems are related to tight iliotibial bands and lateral retinaculum and a weak VMO. While considerable research has been devoted to finding a good "isolation" exercise for the VMO (at the expense of the overactive vastus lateralis), there has been little success on this front. However, anecdotally, many performance enhancement coaches have found that performing squats through a full range of motion will enhance knee stability, potentially through contributions from the VMO related to the position of greater knee flexion and increased involvement of the adductor magnus, a hip extensor. Increased activation of the posterior chain may also be a contributing factor to this reduction in knee pain, as stronger hip musculature can take some of the load off of the knee stabilizers. As such, I make a point of including a significant amount of full range of motion squats and single-leg closed chain exercises (e.g. lunges, step-ups) year-round, and prioritize these movements even more in the early off-season for athletes (e.g. runners, hockey players) who do not get a large amount of knee-flexion in the closed-chain position in their regular sport participation. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com
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Lifestyle Checklists

Last week, I put something I call the “lifestyle checklist” in place with a few of my young athletes. In a nutshell, it’s a simple checklist used to keep them accountable to something with respect to their nutrition, sleep, and off-day exercise habits. In Precision Nutrition, John Berardi highlights the 90% rule – which states that if you are on-point with 90% of your meals, you’re in good standing from a physique and health standpoint. I’ve simply applied that principle to my athletes’ weekly checklists.

precision_nutrition

We select seven habits we want to prioritize, factor in the seven days a week (49 total boxes to check), and aim for them to earn checks in at least 44 of those boxes (yes, I know that’s only 89.8%; I hope nobody is deeply offended). Take, for instance, a 16-year old pitcher with whom I’m working; up until now, he’s had an intimate relationship with the golden arches. And, at 6-4 and 170, he also had the lumbar spine stability of one of the Olsen twins. His seven habits are: 1. Eat 5+ meals per day. 2. Eat protein at each meal. 3. One additional set of birddogs, side bridges, and sleeper stretch (pitching arm only) daily. 4. Breakfast = eggs, fruit, and oats every day. 5. Avoid fast food altogether. 6. Eat 5+ servings of fruits/veggies per day. 7. Avoided calories from drinks – with the exceptions being protein shakes (this was to kick his soda and Gatorade habit). After three weeks at or above 90%, we’ll move to seven new habits. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. For more information on John Berardi’s ideas, check out the Precision Nutrition website.
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Fixing the Flaws: Unilateral Discrepancies

These discrepancies are highly prevalent in sports where athletes are repetitively utilizing musculature on one side but not on the contralateral side; obvious examples include throwing and kicking sports, but you might even be surprised to find these issues in seemingly "symmetrical" sports such as swimming (breathing on one side only) and powerlifting (not varying the pronated/supinated positions when using an alternate grip on deadlifts). Obviously, excessive reliance on a single movement without any attention to the counter-movement is a significant predisposition to strength discrepancies and, in turn, injuries. While it's not a great idea from an efficiency or motor learning standpoint to attempt to exactly oppose the movement in question (e.g. having a pitcher throw with his non-dominant arm), coaches can make specific programming adjustments based on their knowledge of sport-specific biomechanics. For instance, in the aforementioned baseball pitcher example, one would be wise to implement extra work for the non-throwing arm as well as additional volume on single-leg exercises where the regular plant-leg is the limb doing the excursion (i.e. right-handed pitchers who normally land on their left foot would be lunging onto their right foot). Obviously, these modifications are just the tip of the iceberg, but simply watching the motion and "thinking in reverse" with your programming can do wonders for athletes with unilateral discrepancies. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com
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The “Great Eight” Reasons for Basketball Mobility Training

When it really comes down to it, regardless of the sport in question, the efficient athlete will always have the potential to be the best player on the court, field, ice, or track. Ultimately, knowledge of the game and technical prowess will help to separate the mediocre from the great, but that is not to say that physical abilities do not play a tremendously influential role on one’s success. Show me an athlete who moves efficiently, and I’ll guarantee that he or she has far more physical development “upside” than his or her non-efficient counterparts. This “upside” can simply be referred to as “trainability;” I can more rapidly increase strength, speed, agility, and muscle mass in an athlete with everything in line than I can with an athlete who has some sort of imbalance. That’s not to say that the latter athlete cannot improve, though; it’s just to say that this athlete would be wise to prioritize eliminating the inefficiencies to prevent injury and make subsequent training more effective. Unfortunately, most athletes fall into the latter group. Fortunately, though, with appropriate corrective training, these inefficiencies can be corrected, and you can take your game to an all-new level. Mobility work is one example of the corrective training you’ll need to get the job done. What’s the Difference Between Mobility and Flexibility? This is an important differentiation to make; very few people understand the difference - and it is a big one. Flexibility merely refers to range of motion - and, more specifically, passive range of motion as achieved by static stretching. Don’t get me wrong; static stretching has its place, but it won’t take your athleticism to the next level like mobility training will. The main problem with pure flexibility is that it does not imply stability nor readiness for dynamic tasks - basketball included. When we move, we need to have something called “mobile-stability.” This basically means that there’s really no use in being able to get to a given range of motion if you can’t stabilize yourself in that position. Believe it or not, excessive passive flexibility without mobility (or dynamic flexibility, as it’s been called) will actually increase the risk of injury! And, even more applicable to the discussion at hand, passive flexibility just doesn’t carry over well to dynamic tasks; just because you do well on the old sit-and-reach test doesn’t mean that you’ll be prepared to dynamically pick up a loose ball and sprint down-court for an easy lay-up. Lastly, extensive research has shown that static stretching before a practice or competition will actually make you slower and weaker; I’m not joking! Tell Me About This Mobility Stuff… So what is mobility training? It’s a class of drills designed to take your joints through full ranges of motion in a controlled, yet dynamic context. It’s different from ballistic stretching (mini-bounces at the end of a range of motion), which is a riskier approach that is associated with muscle damage and shortening. In addition to improving efficiency of movement, mobility (dynamic flexibility) drills are a great way to warm-up for high-intensity exercise like basketball. Light jogging and then static stretching are things of the past! My colleague Mike Robertson and I created a DVD known as Magnificent Mobility to address this pressing need among a wide variety of athletes - basketball players included. We’ve already received hundreds of emails from athletes and ordinary weekend warriors claiming improved performance, enhanced feeling of well-being, and resolution of chronic injuries after performing the drills outlined in the DVD. I think it’s safe to say that they like what we’re recommending! In case that feedback isn’t enough, here are seven reasons why basketball players need mobility. Reason #1: Mobility training makes your resistance training sessions more productive by allowing you to train through a full range of motion. We all know that lifting weights improves athletes’ performance and reduces their risk of injury. However, very few people realize the importance of being able to lift through a full range of motion. Training through a full range of motion will carry over to all partial ranges of motion, but training in a partial range of motion won’t carry over to full ranges of motion. For example, let’s assume Athlete A does ¼ squats. He’ll only get stronger in the top ¼ of the movement, and his performance will really only be improved in that range of motion when he’s on the court. Now, Athlete B steps up to the barbell and does squats through a full range of motion; his butt is all the way down by his ankles. Athlete B is going to get stronger through the entire range of motion - including the top portion, like Athlete A, but with a whole lot more. It goes without saying that Athlete B will be stronger than Athlete A when the time comes to “play low.” Also worthy of note is that lifting weights through a full range of motion will stimulate more muscle fibers than partial repetitions, thus increasing your potential for muscle mass gains. If you’re a post-player who is looking to beef up, you’d be crazy to not do full reps - and mobility training will help you improve the range of motion on each rep. Reason #2: Mobility training corrects posture and teaches your body to get range of motion in the right places. If you watch some of the best shooters of all time, you’ll notice that they always seem to be in the perfect position to catch the ball as they come off a screen to get off a jump shot. Great modern examples of this optimal body alignment are Ray Allen and Reggie Miller; their shoulders are back, chest is out, eyes are up, and hands are ready. The catch and shot is one smooth, seemingly effortless movement. By contrast, if you look at players with rounded shoulders, they lack the mobility to get to this ideal position as they pop off the screen. After they receive the ball, they need to reposition themselves with thoracic extension (“straightening up”) just so that they can get into their shooting position. This momentary lapse is huge at levels where the game is played at a rapid pace; it literally is the difference between getting a shot off and having to pass on the shot or, worse yet, having it swatted away by a defender. These athletes need more mobility in the upper body. As another example, one problem we often see in our athletes is excessive range-of-motion at the lumbar spine to compensate for a lack of range of motion at the hips. Ideally, we want a stable spine and mobile hips to keep our lower backs healthy and let the more powerful hip-joint muscles do the work. If we can’t get that range of motion at our hips, our backs suffer the consequences. Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard estimates that as much as 60% of the players in the NBA have degenerative disc disease. While there are likely many reasons (unforgiving court surface, awkward lumbar hyperextension patterns when rebounding, etc.) for this exorbitant number, a lack of hip mobility is certainly one of them. Get mobility at your hips, and you’ll protect that lower back! Reason #3: Mobility training reduces our risk of injury. It’s not uncommon at all to see athletes get injured when they’re out of position and can’t manage to right themselves. If we get range of motion in the right spots, we’re less likely to be out of position, so we won’t have to hastily compensate with a movement that could lead to an ankle sprain or ACL tear. As an interesting add-on, one study found that a softball team performing a dynamic flexibility routine before practices and c ompetition had significantly fewer injuries than a team that did static stretching before its games (1). Reason #4: Mobility training will increase range of motion without reducing your speed, agility, strength in the short-term. Believe it or not, research has demonstrated that if you static stretch right before you exercise, it’ll actually make you weaker and slower. I know it flies in the face of conventional warm-up wisdom, but it’s the truth! Fortunately, dynamic flexibility/mobility training has come to the rescue. Research has shown that compared with a static stretching program, these drills can improve your sprinting speed (2), agility (3), vertical jump (3-6), and dynamic range of motion (1) while reducing your risk of injury. Pretty cool stuff, huh? Reason #5: Mobility training teaches you to “play low.” All athletes want to know how to become more stable, but few understand how to do so. One needs to understand that our stability is always changing, as it’s subject to several environmental and physical factors. These factors include: 1. Body Mass - A heavier athlete will always be more stable. Sumo wrestling…need I say more? 2. Friction with the contact surface - The more friction we can generate (as with appropriate footwear) with the contact surface, the better our stability. Compare a basketball court (plenty of friction) to the ice in a hockey rink (very little friction), and you’ll see what I mean. This also explains why athletes wear cleats and track spikes. 3. Size of the base of support (BOS): In athletics, the BOS is generally the positioning of the feet. The wider the stance, the more stability we are. Again, think sumo wrestling. 4. The horizontal positioning of the center of gravity (COG) - For maximum stability, the COG should be on the edge of the BOS at which an external force is acting. In other words, if an opponent is about to push you at your right side, you’ll want to lean to the right in anticipation in order to maintain your stability after contact. 5. Vertical positioning of the COG: The lower the COG, the more stable the object. You’ll often hear sportscasters talk about Allen Iverson being unstoppable because of his “low center of gravity” or because he “plays low.” From a training standpoint, we can’t do much for #1, #2, or #4. However, mobility training alone can dramatically impact how well an athlete handles #3 and #5. The better our mobility, the easier it is for us to get wider and get lower. The wider and lower we can get when we need to do so, the better we can maintain our center of gravity within our base of support. Neuromuscular factors - collecting providing for our balancing proficiency - such as muscular strength and kinesthetic awareness play into this as well, and the ultimate result is our stability (or lack thereof) in a given situation. Reason #6: Mobility training can actually make you taller…Really! I’ve worked with a lot of basketball players, and I can honestly say that not a single one of them has ever told me that he wants to be shorter. And, I can assure you that the coaches and scouts would take a guy who is 7-0 over a 6-11 prospect any day. So what does that have to do with our mobility discussion? Well, imagine an athlete who is very tight in his flexors; his hips will actually be slightly flexed in the standing position, as the pelvis will be anteriorly tilted (top of the hip bone is tipping forward). Likewise, if an athlete has tightness in his lats (among other smaller muscles), he’ll be unable to fully reach overhead. These two limitations can literally make an athlete two inches shorter in a static overhead reach assessment. Just as importantly, such an athlete is going to “play smaller,” too. He won’t jump as high because he can’t get full hip extension and won’t be able to optimally make use of the powerful gluteal muscles. And, his reach will be limited by his inability to get the arms up fully. Together, these factors could knock two inches off his vertical jump and prevent him from making a game-saving block. It really is a game of inches. Need further proof? I’ve seen several athletes instantly add as much as two inches on their vertical jump just from stretching out the hip flexors and lats before they test. This is an acute change in muscle length, though; mobility training will enable you to attain these ranges of motion all the time. Reason #7: Mobility and “activation” training teach certain “dormant” muscles to turn on. In our daily lives and on the basketball court, it’s inevitable that we get stuck in certain repetitive movement patterns - things we do every day, several times a day. With these constant patterns, certain muscles will just “shut down” because they aren’t being used. Two good examples would be the glutes (your butt muscles) and the scapular retractors (the muscles that pull your shoulder blades together). As a result, these shutdowns lead to faulty hip positioning and rounded shoulders, respectively (and a host of other problems, but we won’t get into that). To correct these problems, we need what is known as activation work. These drills teach dormant muscles to fire at the right times to complement the mobility drills and get you moving efficiently. Mike and I went to great lengths in Magnificent Mobility to not only outline mobility drills, but also activation movements and movements that incorporate components of both. Reason #8: Having mobility feels good! Think about it: what’s the first thing an athlete wants to do after a good stretching session? Go run and jump around! Now, just imagine having that more limber feeling all the time; that’s exactly what mobility training can do for you. Closing Thoughts Knowledge of the game and technical prowess will take an athlete far in the game of basketball, but it takes an efficient body to build the physical qualities that will take that same athlete to greatness. Without adequate mobility, an athlete will never even reach the efficient stage - much less the next level. Eric Cressey www.MagnificentMobility.com References 1. Mann, DP, Jones, MT. Guidelines to the implementation of a dynamic stretching program. Strength Cond J. 1999;21(6):53-55. 2. Nelson AG, Kokkonen J, Arnall DA. Acute muscle stretching inhibits muscle strength endurance performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):338-43 3. Kurz, T. Science of Sports Training. Stadion, 2001. 4. Young WB, Behm DG. Effects of running, static stretching and practice jumps on explosive force production and jumping performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003 Mar;43(1):21-7. 5. Thompson, A, Kackley, T, Palumbo, M, Faigenbaum, A. Acute effects of different warm-up protocols on jumping performance in female athletes. 2004 New England ACSM Fall Conference. 10 Nov 2004. 6. Colleran, EG, McCarthy, RD, Milliken, LA. The effects of a dynamic warm-up vs. traditional warm-up on vertical jump and modified t-test performance. 2003 New England ACSM Fall Conference. 11 Nov 2003.
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Fixing the Flaws: Weak Dorsiflexors

It's extremely common for athletes to perform all their movements with externally rotated feet. This positioning is a means of compensating for a lack of dorsiflexion range of motion – usually due to tight plantarflexors - during closed-chain knee flexion movements. In addition to flexibility initiatives for the calves, one should incorporate specific work for the dorsiflexors; this work may include seated dumbbell dorsiflexions, DARD work, and single-leg standing barbell dorsiflexions. These exercises will improve dynamic postural stability at the ankle joint and reduce the risk of overuse conditions such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com
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