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Lee Taft’s Certified Speed and Agility Coach Course

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Fat-Loss with Alywn Cosgrove

I thought you might be interested in checking out Part I of the fat-loss interview with Alwyn Cosgrove that we ran in today's newsletter. Part 2 will be out next week; you can subscribe to the FREE newsletter to be the first to find out when the time comes: Enjoy! EC
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True March Madness, or April Fool’s?

With the NCAA tournament final on Monday night, I thought this email exchange I had Sunday morning might be of interest. As a little background, I was recently contacted by a local D3 basketball coach to help with his team’s off-season conditioning. As a little background, this team is a solid D3 program that generally loses in the first round of the NCAA tournament after winning its conference regular season title. I gathered some background information on the team, and even went up to check out a game a few weeks ago. Following the game, we met up, talked shop, and worked out some of the details on what I’d be doing to help them out; it was a go.

Then, I got an email that included the following:

We just met as a staff and when they were down in Atlanta they met with the a couple of coaches from the NYC area and decided to do a three day trip in mid December. Obviously this is a great experience for our players, but this trip cripples our budget. After punchig the numbers we literally have just under $400 dollars so now we have to adjust everything, including working with you. I appreciate the effort you have devoted to us since I first contacted you and I hope we are able to work something out, if not this year, certainly in years to come. When you find the time let me know what you think about situation.”

Honestly, I don’t really need the money, so doing this was going to be more for my own fun – and I liked the idea of helping out some coaches that were enthusiastic and open-minded (or at least I thought they were).


Here was my response:

Thanks for the update.

I have to be very honest with you: you guys are falling in to the trap that a lot of coaches fall into.

When my buddy and I left your game a few weeks ago, we remarked about how your team basically looked like a "good" high school team in New England. The thing is that neither of us really know a damn thing about the tactical aspect of basketball; we were referring to the speed of play, level of aggressiveness, and utter lack of athleticism. Your players were no different from their competition in terms of memorizing plays/defense, shooting, or anything tactically that could potentially differentiate them. They were just slower, fatter, and weaker - poor relative strength with reactive ability that was mediocre at best. Do you think that they remember plays any worse than the guys at Florida or Ohio St? Trust me, tactically, your guys are probably AHEAD of what you see in D1 ball (as evidenced by average scholastic achievement); they just aren't as physically gifted.

These deficiencies are readily trainable - and you get the added bonus of increased team camaraderie and attitude in the process.

Instead, you guys are going to spend more time on the tactical side of things - basically changing the engine on a car with square wheels. And, you're going to do it over three days while ignoring something more valuable that could span 16-20 weeks. Motor learning doesn't happen in three days.

The guys don't need a three-day vacation mid-season. They need to can the permanent vacation they've been on with respect to off-season conditioning and diet and get their act together. I would encourage you to think "different" instead of thinking "better" - otherwise you're just going to be waiting around until someone tells you what you want to hear.

Hope this wasn't too blunt.


Last night, the commentators noted that it would be very interested to see if Greg Oden of Ohio State – likely the most important man on the team – would be able to withstand the outstanding mobility of Florida’s big men. Mobility is a quality that is very easily trained.

Conversely, I didn’t hear anyone questioning whether Florida or Ohio State’s players could remember their defensive schemes or in-bounding plays.

Tomorrow night, when you’re watching the NCAA tournament final, consider who would be better off: the team that did a three-day crash course on the court in-season, or a team that worked the hardest and smartest in the off-season to prepare for the grueling in-season period.

For more information, check out UltimateOffSeason.com

Eric Cressey



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Required Reading for Parents of Young Athletes

Thought you all might be interested in a local publication I just had:
http://www.townonline.com/parentsandkids/columnists/x2088648457

Have a great weekend,

EC


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7 Simple Analogies

To that end, I've found that one way to get my point across both in person and in my writing is to use analogies. Here are a few that I find myself using all the time — and ones that you can use to rationalize your recommendations with the lay folks that you encounter. Continued Reading...
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Bench Pressing with the Feet Up?

Q: I recently was in attendance at your lecture/hands on session at the Learn-by-Doing seminar in Atlanta, GA. I signed up for your newsletter and have been following your blog ever since- it's great! I have a question for you and would love to hear your thoughts. I was recently asked by a Physical Therapist about form on a bench press after watching one of my clients training. She wanted to know why I wouldn't put a clients feet up while performing the exercise. She has a theory that when everyone does a bench press (any prone horizontal push for that matter) they should do it with their feet up (as in on the bench)- to take stress off of the lower back. The client I was working with at the time (goal fat loss by his reunion this summer!) was performing dumbbell close-grip bench press with his feet planted on the floor. Thoughts? A: Thanks for your email and the kind words. Most back problems you’ll encounter are extension-based (a tendency toward an excessively lordotic posture, generally secondary to tight hip flexors and weak glutes/external obliques/rectus abdominus). As I recall, Sahrmann has noted that extension and extension-rotation syndromes account for 80% of back issues. In SOME people with these problems, flat benching pressing with the feet on the floor can pose a problem. In these same people, sleeping on the back ends up being uncomfortable – one reason why I feel it’s valuable to place a pillow under the knees when sleeping in this position. Flatten the lumbar spine out a bit and you ease the extension stress. Unfortunately, benching pressing is a lot different than sleeping! Benching with the feet up on the bench is, in my opinion, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. When we flatten out the lumbar spine, we also flatten out the thoracic spine. It goes without saying that the loss of thoracic extension is closely related to scapular winging (abduction). And, if you’ve read stuff from myself, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman (who made Inside-Out, a fantastic DVD and a manual along these lines), you’ll notice a resounding theme: the shoulders are at the mercy of the scapulae and thoracic spine.* To that end, I don’t feel that benching with the feet up is the best option. Rather than just criticize without an alternative solution, though, I’ll throw a few out there that I’ve used with great success: 1. Incline Press – Throw in a bit of hip and knee flexion, and you reduce the need for an arch – unless you’ve got a client who uses the “ceiling-humper” style of cheating! Additionally, incline benches tend to be a bit easier in terms of set-up on individuals with back pain. 2. Bent-Knee Floor Presses – On the surface, this sounds like exactly what you get with a bench press with the feet elevated, but in fact, you’re protecting the shoulders by avoiding the bottom position of the movement. We can get away with sacrificing a little bit of scapular stability when we stay away from the more “at-risk” zones. Some might recommend stability ball dumbbell bench presses, but I think it would be a bit inappropriate right now. I use unstable surfaces very sparingly in training (and almost exclusively in the upper body), but this exercise has some merit in certain cases. Research from Behm et al. demonstrated that muscular activation is maintained with unstable surface training, even if total force production is lower. Essentially, muscles do more work to stabilize a joint than they do to generate torque in the desired direction of movement. In other words, you can get a solid training effect with less external resistance. So, it can be a great thing with bouncing back from shoulder injuries, or just tossing in a lower intensity deload week. Unfortunately, stability balls markedly increase spine load – not something we want to do with those with back pain.  For more information, check out The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.

cressey-flat-salespage

To get back to the feet on the floor versus the bench debate, I think the “on the bench” crowd really overlooks the fact that the bench press is actually a pretty good FULL-body exercise. When performed properly, there is a ton of leg drive and momentum transfer from the lower body, through the thoracolumbar fascia, to the lats and rest of the upper body with the help of solid diaphragmatic (belly) breathing techniques. We aren’t just training pecs, you know? For more tips on sparing the shoulders and proper upper-body lifting techniques, check out the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

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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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Is This Gatorade!?

Day in and day out, athletes are exposed to an onslaught of advertisements, most promising what they all want: increased performance. Something as simple as Gatorade has become the king of marketing and endorsements, the Gatorade Sports Institute is one of the leading researchers in athlete hydration. It is a wonder that such a praised product can also be so unpredictable. The product Gatorade is sound, as well as the science behind it; the problem is not the product, but the company.

Undoubtedly, Gatorade is one of the most researched products purchased by athletes (millions of them). Recently, many other companies have released similar products to compete with Gatorade, but the need to establish revenue has led to short changed products. After all, when Gatorade controls the market, the theory is to create a cheaper product to steal back the market. Companies like Powerade and All Sport, develop a product "exactly-like" Gatorade but cheaper.

To many athletes they appear the same, many just dismiss Powerade for being a bad product because it legitimately does not digest as well as Gatorade. This isn't just a "gut feeling", science supports this, as the main ingredient in Powerade is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Now, the actual debate of Fructose as a glycogen replenisher is a whole topic by itself, but all would agree, in the athletic environment, Dextrose / Glucose is superior. In fact, in the Fluid Replacement Position Statement released by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, and headed by esteemed hydration researcher and guru Doug Casa, ATC, PhD., the researchers suggest that athletes limit fructose. The statement goes on to recommend that no more than 2-3% of the solution be comprised of fructose.

This provides a bit more insight as to why many athletes have a better experience (barring endorsement temptations) with powdered Gatorade. The story doesn't end there. Many athletes, for the sake of time and money, will train on Gatorade powder as it is far cheaper. These same athletes will often experience problems in competition where preparing your own Gatorade is nearly impossible. The majority, if not all, endurance events have moved from made-from-concentrate Gatorade to ready-to-drink Gatorade, or similar sports drink. This creates many problems, as Gatorade itself has fallen to a similar fate as Powerade: Ready-to-drink Gatorade now has a main ingredient of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

If there is one thing to learn in the supplement industry, it is to avoid ready-made drinks. Ready-to-drink protein supplements, and now ready-to-drink sports drinks are far inferior to even their same-brand concentrate counterparts. Gatorade powder, lists the main ingredients as Sucrose and Dextrose, very different from a syrup concoction of fructose. While many will note that Sucrose is in fact a disaccharide sugar of glucose and fructose, it still is not the primary ingredient. It is more important that the proper sugars are available to prevent the body from having to rely entirely on fructose.

From my own digestion issues, I have learned to train and race on the same powdered Gatorade. There is absolutely no indication that the quality of ready-to-drink products will improve, simply because most companies will not trade out profits to improve a product many do not know needs improvement.

Train Smart,
Jon Boyle
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