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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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The School of Hard Nipples

In light of my recent appearance on the front page of Boston.com and the City/Region section of the Boston Globe, I’ve received literally thousands of inquiries (or at least a half-dozen from sarcastic buddies*) – all asking the same question:

What does it take to be the nipple guy?

It seems only fitting to set the record straight once and for all – and this appears to be the best place to do it. Being a professional nipple model might seem like a cushy job, but in reality, it takes careful planning, smart training, years of dedication, and a hint of luck. To that end, here are my secrets for optimal nipple performance (my how-to manual will be available in the Spring of 2008):

1. Careful climate control – A steady temperature of 60-62°F is considered “on point” (pun intended). A common misconception is that slightly chilling nipples will optimize tissue texture, but in reality, dipping into the 50s increases the risk of nipple failure by over 77% both chronically (chaffing) and acutely (spontaneous rupture). And, obviously, increasing room temperature is a recipe for lifeless nipples – clearly not what a photographer wants.

2. Appropriate attire – As you can probably tell, I’m rocking the Dri-Fit™ technology from the good folks at Nike. From Nike.com: “This high-performance microfiber polyester fabric actually pulls sweat away from the body and transports it to the fabric surface - where it evaporates and leaves the skin cool and dry. It's all you need for hot days, and a critical base layer for cold days. Stay dry. Stay comfortable. No matter what.”

A cool, dry, comfortable nipple is a nipple that performs at a high-level – even with national level publications. Remember that, rookies. Taking care of your nipples in this “biz” is like watching over your feet in the jungle. No matter what.

3. Training to reduce the bilateral nipple deficit (BLND) – In the world of resistance training, we encounter what is known as the bilateral deficit (BLD). We generally cannot produce as much total force when both limbs are working simultaneously as we can when the limbs work separately, and the resulting forces are combined (think of bilateral curls vs. unilateral curls). The BLD is simply the difference between these two figures.

The more inexperienced the lifter, the greater the BLD. I’ve found this to be true with respect to unilateral versus bilateral nipple recruitment as well, and have trained accordingly. The more unilateral nipple training I’ve done – one-arm dumbbell bench presses, unilateral nipple cryotherapy, and one-arm inverted cable wobble board semi-supinated front raises (functional nipple training) – the more versatile my nipple repertoire has become.

The take-home message for those of you at home is that specificity once again reigns supreme; if you want your nipples to perform at a high-level unilaterally, you have to train them one at a time. My extensive research on the subject matter has clearly demonstrated that professional nipple performers have a smaller BLND than their amateur counterparts. This allows them to adapt on the fly – as when a client’s head is obstructing view of one-half of the diamond-cutting duo.

4. Picking the right parents – Sometimes, children are just born with that X-Factor. For some, it’s height – and they go on to play in the NBA. Or, it’s a beautiful voice – and they go on to become singers. I, apparently, was fortunate enough to be blessed with the sixth sense that enables me to train an athlete and be milked simultaneously. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for your willingness to live so close to power lines and eat paint chips every night for dinner during Mom’s pregnancy with me.

To all the up-and-comers, remember that if you aren’t cutting glass, you aren’t busting your ass!


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Fixing the Flaws: Weak Grip

Grip strength encompasses pinch, crushing, and supportive grip and, to some extent, wrist strength; each sport will have its own unique gripping demands. It's important to assess these needs before randomly prescribing grip-specific exercises, as there's very little overlap among the three types of grip. For instance, as a powerlifter, I have significantly developed my crushing and supportive grip not only for deadlifts, but also for some favorable effects on my squat and bench press. Conversely, I rarely train my pinch grip, as it's not all that important to the demands on my sport. A strong grip is the key to transferring power from the lower body, core, torso, and limbs to implements such as rackets and hockey sticks, as well as grappling maneuvers and holds in mixed martial arts. The beauty of grip training is that it allows you to improve performance while having a lot of fun; training the grip lends itself nicely to non-traditional, improvisational exercises. Score some raw materials from a Home Depot, construction site, junkyard, or quarry, and you've got dozens of exercises with hundreds of variations to improve the three realms of grip strength. Three outstanding resources for grip training information are Mastery of Hand Strength by John Brookfield, Grip Training for Strength and Power Sports by accomplished Strongman John Sullivan, and www.DieselCrew.com. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com
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Fixing the Flaws: Poor Frontal Plane Stability at the Hips

Frontal plane stability in the lower body is dependent on the interaction of several muscle groups, most notably the three gluteals, tensor fascia latae (TFL), adductors, and quadratus lumborum (QL). This weakness is particularly evident when an athlete performs a single-leg excursion and the knee falls excessively inward or (less commonly) outward. Generally speaking, weakness of the hip abductors – most notably the gluteus medius and minimus – is the primary culprit when it comes to the knee falling medially, as the adductors, QL, and TFL tend to be overactive. However, lateral deviation of the femur and knee is quite common in skating athletes, as they tend to be very abductor dominant and more susceptible to adductor strains as a result. In both cases, closed-chain exercises to stress the hip abductors or adductors are warranted; in other words, keep your athletes off those sissy obstetrician machines, as they lead to a host of dysfunction that's far worse that the weakness the athlete already demonstrates! For the abductors, I prefer mini-band sidesteps and body weight box squats with the mini-band wrapped around the knees. For the adductors, you'll have a hard time topping lunges to different angles, sumo deadlifts, wide-stance pull-throughs, and Bulgarian squats. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Max Pushups and Upper Body Strength

Q: I read your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual and really enjoyed the chapter on “Performance Testing for Succcess.” What is your opinion on using the push-up max rep test as a measurement of upper body strength for female athletes? Do you believe there is a correlation between performing max push-ups and absolute upper body strength? I was discussing this topic with another strength coach who believes if a female athlete can only give you 5 push-up reps then it may be a good assessment of absolute strength. In addition, take the following scenarios (if all is equal such as weight, body fat, arm length, mechanics, etc): Male Athlete A: 170lbs; Max Push-ups reps = 35 Male Athlete B: 170lbs; Max Push-up reps = 20 Would you say Athlete A has greater absolute strength (or better muscular endurance in the upper body)? I have an opinion but would like to get yours. There are research articles on the NSCA website regarding the push-up test as a measurement of upper body strength and the infamous 225 rep test and its correlation to maximum strength. A: I'd rather use the push-up as an assessment of an athlete's ability to stabilize the lumbar spine. Frankly, I don't use actual dynamic push-ups very much early on in females simply because there are very few people who do them correctly. I'd rather build upper body strength with movement that enable me to manipulate load differently while I work on stability with other exercises (push-up holds for time, prone bridge variations, side bridges, Pallof presses). Eventually, we work in limited ROM push-ups on a bar set up in a power rack and gradually move them closer and closer to the ground. Your example is a bit tricky. Sure, having more max strength will help your muscular endurance, but that's not to say that certain athletes can't become more metabolically conditioned to do a lot of rep at a high percentage of their 1RM. I recall hearing that elite rowers can do as many as 20 reps at something like 95% of their 1RM! And, as a little aside, I wish people would just stop throwing 1RMs under the bus. Everyone seems to be so afraid of making athletes actually lift heavy stuff nowadays, and it's one reason that very few female athletes are strong enough to punch their way out of a wet paper bag. If you look at the research, you're more likely to get hurt on a 3RM+ test than you are on a 1RM test. If you want an assessment that goes beyond just a 1RM test, try the five rep bench press for speed test that I outline in the Off-Season Manual. Eric Cressey www.EricCressey.com Technorati Tags: , , , , ,
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The 315 Deadlift Fiasco

I see that my latest T-Nation article has caused quite a stir on the forums. Specifically, these two paragraphs got people all flustered: "Sorry, folks, but I'm here to burst your bubble. A 315 deadlift is not inspirational ? at least not unless you're a 110-pound female. 315 is speed weight ? or something you do for 87 reps on a whim after a dare (not that I'd know anything about stupid challenges like that). I've said it before and I'll say it again: any healthy male under the age of 50 can deadlift 400 within two years of proper training ? and most can do it even faster than that." I thought I'd put this out there to - at the very least - put things in perspective. You guys need to remember that sometimes, to make a point, you use a hyperbole. Why do marketers hire professional athletes to promote products to kids who will likely never become professional athletes? Why do cosmetics companies hire drop-dead gorgeous models to sell mascara to women who have been beaten with the ugly stick? I have new clients who haven't pulled 315 yet - and I might never even want to take them that far. Some don't even deadlift. The deadlift is just a reference point for people to realize that they can do pretty amazing things if they stop selling themselves short. Consider these factors... 1. I haven't missed a planned exercise session in seven years in spite of the fact that I've injuries here and there along the way. Consistency is the single-most important element of success in terms of strength gains. If you have competing demands (sports practices, endurance training, etc.), you need to be consistent with those as well in order to make progress - and they might interfere with you getting a big deadlift (again, not the point of the article). 2. To that end, give this article a read: 28 Syngergistic Factors for Success Right now, you might only be covering a few of the 28 factors - and therefore have a tremendous window of adaptation. 3. In the 148-pound weight and 70-74 age class, the world record deadlift (WPC) is 440 pounds. My point is that if you live your life thinking about limits, you're condemned to find them prematurely. This world record holder probably trained a lot harder and more frequently than you and with better nutrition and recovery protocols in place; he wasn't just a weekend warrior on an internet forum. So, in consideration of that, if you're putting in, say, 25% of the effort they're putting in, why should you EVER reach a limit? The main problem I see with the overwhelming majority of people who get their information from the internet is that they're convinced that they are in some way completely unique and immune to the laws of physiology because they have the curse of knowledge. It's either because they played high school football 30 years ago, they've had four knee surgeries, they're too old, or a host of other issues. When it really comes down to it, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy of mediocrity that can only be remedied by getting out there, working hard and smart, being consistent and open-minded, and discovering that the sky really is the limit - especially when you get around people who can outperform you. As a kid, Pete Sampras used to lose matches in the 18-and-under division when he could have been winning tournaments in the U-12 ranks. A 315 deadlift is a solid mental image that fits into everyone's existing schemas, so it's an easy frame of reference from which to elicit an emotional response. If I had said that everyone needed to deadlift 1.57x body weight and incorporated a multiplying factor for age, gender, limb length, amount of endurance activity per week, etc. - people would have missed the point. My challenge to you is to see the benefit of an entire article rather than focusing on one sentence that was merely an example. And, once you've realized that benefit, act on it - regardless of your chosen endeavor. Have a great weekend, EC Technorati Tags: , , , ,
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Youth Depression and Anxiety

On Sunday night, I made an impromptu trip to Wal-Mart to pick up an umbrella for the rainy Marathon. As I was standing in line, a woman a few people ahead of me dropped something as she was loading her items onto the checkout conveyor belt. She was taking care of a small child, and didn’t reach down to pick it up right away. Just a second or two later, a rather overweight kid from a few feet away started walking toward her; my first assumption was that he was going to help her out and pick it up. Instead, he walked right past the item on the floor, actually bumped her aside a bit, grabbed a bottle of Sunkist® from a cooler next to her, and then walked off. After throwing a “what the heck?” look at the kid for a split-second, I walked the ten-feet or so over to the women and picked her item up, set it on the conveyor belt, and smiled. She said thank you, and that was that. The bad news is that kids are getting fatter and fatter, people. The good news is that many of them are so rude that pretty soon, we’ll be more occupied with their crap behavior to be concerned with their “husky” profiles. Not surprisingly, the two are pretty closely related: “Regardless of race or sex, increasing weight is associated with emotional and weight-related distress in children.” Young-Hyman D. et al. Psychological status and weight-related distress in overweight or at-risk-for-overweight children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Dec;14(12):2249-58. I’m going to go out on a limb and infer from the research and my anecdotal Wal-Mart observation that if a kid is overweight, leading to depression and distress, chances are that he’s going to be more likely to treat people like dirt. I was more sarcastic when I was an overweight kid, and as I’ve gotten older and into better shape, I’ve developed a sense of humor – not more bitter sarcasm. To that end, anecdotally, I’ve seen athletes who have lost considerable amounts of body fat and change their demeanors in a matter of months. The more self-confidence one has, the less likely he or she is to point out the shortcomings of others. The stronger and leaner one becomes, the more likely he or she is to help out an up-and-coming athlete. Physical health and appearance can literally transform one’s personality. About three weeks ago, I got a thank you email out of the blue from the father of one of my athletes. This past summer, right as I began working with him, his son (a senior) verbally committed to a solid Division 1 program to play baseball. Since August, this athlete has trained with me 3-4 times a week and given tremendous effort day-in and day-out. He’s leaned out, packed on some muscle mass, gotten a ton stronger, and actually looks like an athlete now. Now, when we lift, it’s like he’s another coach in the room, helping the newer guys out – just like a team captain should. He’s brought in teammates to experience the same great results that he did because he knows that it feeds right back into his own success. Perhaps most impressively, though, is the fact that his father contacted me to let me know just how much of a difference it has made in the way he carries himself. He dresses differently (for the better), walks with his head and chest up, and flat-out treats people better. I think that the take-home message in all of this is that if we’re looking to improve the attitudes of “Generation Y” – athlete or not – we need to make exercise and nutrition integral parts of that battle. Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS, is a strength and conditioning specialist at Excel Sport and Fitness Training (www.ExcelStrength.com) in Waltham, MA. Excel’s experienced staff specializes in working with athletes of all ages and ability levels in a fun and motivating environment. The author of The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to the professional and Olympic levels. You can find out more about Eric and sign up for his free newsletter at www.EricCressey.com. ec@ericcressey.com Eric Cressey Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Are You Doing Stupid Stuff in the Gym?

The Internet has been a tremendous resource for billions of people in a wide variety of realms, but as I've come to realize, it's allowed the "curse of knowledge" to rear its ugly head far too easily in the resistance-training world. I'm all for training smart, but the problem is that far too many people spend so much time on the "smart" part that they don't actually remember how to train hard. So they wind up unknowingly abandoning simple principles that pack major results. In his book, Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance, Dr. John Eliot debunks ten myths of high-performance as examples. Two of my favorites are "use your head" and "learn from your mistakes." With respect to these "myths," Eliot writes (respectively): "Using your head is stupid. In high-stakes performance, the real genius is someone like Yogi Berra. On his way to ten World Series rings and a place in the baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi was thinking about nothing." "Legends never say they're sorry. Having a long or frequent memory for mistakes and a short or infrequent memory for successes is a guaranteed way to develop fear of failure. High achievers dwell on what they do well and spend very little time evaluating themselves and their performances." With these two "myths" in mind, I want you to stop thinking, and start doing while following these five simple principles that have clearly been lost in many Internet warriors, thanks to the curse of knowledge. Continue Reading...
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