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Fitness Business Success: Maybe You Aren’t as Prepared as YOU Think You Are

A few weeks ago, we took our three-year-old twin daughters blueberry picking. They had an absolute blast - so you could say that they are very passionate about blueberry picking. In fact, they are quite certain that they are the best blueberry farmers on the planet today.

Here’s the thing, though: they really don’t know much about blueberries. And, they don’t even know what they don’t know.

Addison refused to take her sunglasses off, so she could barely tell the difference between the ripe ones and the ones that needed to stay on the branch for longer to ripen.

Lydia got so excited that she tripped over an irrigation hose.

In short, their passion left them nothing short of blind and disoriented with respect to the competencies it takes to become a successful blueberry farmer.

Sadly, this example is not much different than where many fitness professionals are at the start of their career. They're wildly passionate about fitness and really enjoy working out, so why not make it into a career?

Wikipedia defines the Dunning–Kruger effect as "a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is."

In other words, you think you're going to be the varsity quarterback, but you're actually only skilled enough to be the carrying water bottles out to the JV squad. This is the harsh reality of most fitness businesses: they're often based too much on passion and not enough on specific career capital (which I previously wrote about here and here).

As a result, people who open gyms get surprised by a lot of things. Start-up costs are higher than anticipated. Generating leads is tougher than they'd expected. Managing growth proves challenging because they've never had to manage employees or pay attention to client retention strategies. They don't realize how complex managing finances is. There aren't enough hours in the day to get to everything they need to do when both working IN the business and ON the business. The list goes on and on.

And, I'd argue that these issues are even more prevalent in the fitness industry than in other entrepreneurial realms. There's a lower barrier to entry in the industry, significant initial start-up costs for gyms, and a service-oriented business model that presents unique challenges. In short, there are a lot of reasons why gyms either fail or really struggle to get by.

My Cressey Sports Performance business partner, Pete Dupuis, has a MBA and consults for various gym owners on a daily basis to help them avoid these common pitfalls. We've been at this for over 11 years and have two facilities still going strong, and a huge part of that success is the significant work we do behind the scenes to make sure we're a well-oiled machine and just just a "workout place" started because we were passionate.

With that in mind, last year, we offered our Business Building Mentorship for the first time. It sold out quickly and received outstanding feedback - so we've decided to offer it again. It'll take place October 15 at our Hudson, MA location (alongside our fall seminar). If you're interested in attending, you can learn more and register HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/9/18

I hope you're having a good week. I was off the grid for a few days for a mini family vacation in Maine, so this post is a few days late. However, as you can see, the scenery was well worth it!

The Ideal Business Formula - I was fortunate to get an advanced copy of this book by Pat Rigsby, and it was outstanding. I highly recommend any business owners out there check it out.

The Underrated Value of Mediocrity - This was a quick read from Tony Gentilcore, but the message is important and enduring.

This surgeon wants to offer cheap MRIs. A state law is getting in his way. - This article was an interesting look at the rising costs of diagnostic imaging - and how one surgeon is challenging existing laws in order to make these tests more affordable.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 31

It's time for this month's installment of my random thoughts on sports performance training. In light of this week's $50 off sale (ending tonight) on Mike Boyle's outstanding resource, Complete Youth Training, I thought I'd focus this edition on the training of young athletes.

1. Puberty changes everything.

The best players at age 11 usually aren't always the best players at age 18 for two reasons:

a. They're usually the ones that get heavily overused by an overzealous coach who wants to win now - and end up injured, missing crucial developmental time periods.

b. Puberty changes absolutely everything. The hormonal and biomechanical changes that kick in during adolescence massively impact how one controls the center of mass within the base of support.

Prepubescent training is all about having fun and establishing solid foundations of movement that set young athletes up for future success.

2. Some training practices are more about establishing routines as they are about creating adaptation.

All our athletes begin their training sessions with self-myofascial release work: foam rolling, lacrosse ball trigger point work, the FMR Stick, and the Acumobility Ball. This includes younger athletes who honestly probably don't really need it.

Why do these youngsters do it, too? Because I want it to become a habit. I want them to realize that the gym isn't just about lifting heavy stuff, throwing med balls, and running fast. Rather, it's also a place where you can go to take care of soreness and actually leave feeling better than when you arrived. This proactive approach at age 13 helps us tremendously when they're age 18 and have more legitimate stresses on their bodies.

Just shorten that rolling series up and get right to the good stuff!

3. Youth training should be all about linear progress for the first two years of organized strength training.

It drives me crazy when kids have to re-gain initial strength. As an example, let's say a kid comes in at age 15 and takes his trap bar deadlift from 135 to 225 over the course of three months. His technique is pristine and he's learned how to put force into the ground.

Then, his sports season starts and he disappears for six months. At the end of the season, he comes back in and starts all over at 135 pounds. Sure, this time around, there's a bit of a technical foundation, and he makes those gains a little bit faster than the first time around. Really, though, we're talking about a situation where he wasted 1/8 of his high school development window.

We've all seen this graphic in the performance realms before, but the truth is that the image on the right applies to intermediate and experienced athletes. The goal is to never have setbacks in beginners because the positive adaptations are so easy to come by with consistent training, even if it's only two days per week of in-season work.

This is one reason why I've added a new component to every young athlete evaluation I do: a discussion about expectations and timelines. Every kid who walks in our facility will say that they want to play Division 1 sports. Very few truly appreciate the consistency and work ethic it will take to get to that point.

4. Make sure your medicine balls are the right weights.

I'm often asked what weight medicine balls we use for our training - and I always respond with a range: 4-8lb for our rotational work, and 4-12lb for our overhead work.

This range accounts not only for the type of exercise, but also the size of the athlete. A 13-year-old athlete will do best with a 4-pound ball for rotational med ball scoop tosses, whereas a 250-pound MLB player will handle a 8lb ball much better.

This, however, might be the most impressive med ball video you'll ever see from a 13-year-old, regardless of weight!

5. With skinny young male athletes, competition works amazingly on the nutrition front.

If you're training teenage male athletes who want to gain weight, nothing works better than having weekly weigh-ins that are charted for everyone to see. We've done it two years in a row with our college development program, and it's also proven extremely successful in our high school athletes. These quantifiable changes not only help to evaluate progress, but they also drive camaraderie among your athletes. Since we starting doing this, we see more guys going out to meals together, chatting each other up on the nutrition front, and discussing what has been working well for them.

Another interesting observation on this front: young athletes are often very out-of-touch with huge swings in body weight. As an example, earlier this week, I had an athlete tell me that he was 145 pounds during an evaluation. When we actually weighed him in, he was 133 pounds. That's an 8.3% loss of body weight! I'm 183 pounds, and if you dropped me by 8.3% to 167.8 pounds, I'd feel absolutely miserable. Young athletes aren't in-tune enough with their bodies to recognize this, though. It's up to us to make them consciously aware of how big swings in body weight are bad for not only performance, but also health and academic performance (dehydration has a massive impact on brain function).

Wrap-up

I could go on and on about lessons learned in training young athletes (and I might, at a later date), but in the meantime, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Mike Boyle's new resource, Complete Youth Training. I loved this product as both a strength and conditioning coach and a parent. Mike did a tremendous job of outlining the problems in the current youth sports landscape while also including practical solutions to these concerns. You can learn more - and get $50 off through tonight at midnight - HERE.


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Strength in the Teenage Years: An Overlooked Long-Term Athletic Development Competitive Advantage

Earlier this week, I posted this Tweet, and it got a pretty big response:

Of particular note to me, though, was one reply:

"The worst thing youth developmental athletes can do is to max out one biomotor ability and save themselves from developing ALL abilities. A long term program must develop all, not just strength. Strength, endurance, speed, flexibility.... No exploitation allowed."

This is one of the most glaring misconceptions about long-term athletic development, and I think it warrants a thorough response.

To be clear, I am all for prioritizing a host of biomotor abilities at a young age and continuing to develop them over the course of the athletic lifespan. You can't just turn athletes into powerlifters.

However, where I do disagree with this statement is that it implies that all these separate qualities are their own unique domains that must be trained separately. In reality, we have to look at things as a pyramid, not a collection of separate silos. The foundation of that pyramid is undoubtedly maximal strength.

I cover this in great detail in my e-book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual. Here's a quick excerpt with respect to power development:

"...maximal relative strength has a “trickle-down” effect to all things athletic. If you took your best squat from 200 pounds to 400 pounds, a single body weight squat would feel a lot easier, wouldn’t it? How about a single vertical jump? You have about 0.2 seconds to exert force on a classic vertical jump test; you’ll never make use of all the strength that you have, regardless of how good your rate of force development (explosive strength) is.

"However, let’s say (hypothetically) that you can put 50% of your maximal strength to work in that short time period. If we keep that percentage constant, isn’t an athlete with more maximal strength automatically at a great advantage? The 200-pound squatter can exert 100 pounds of force into the ground; the 400-pound squatter can exert 200 pounds. Is there really any question as to who can jump higher?"

This assertion has been consistently validated in the research world: a lack of maximal strength limits one's power potential. Having a strength foundation allows you to make the most of your plyometric, sprint, and agility progressions.

There are implications on the endurance end of the continuum as well.

"Now, let’s take this a step further to the endurance end of the spectrum. If you go from 200 to 400 pounds on that 1-rep max squat, wouldn’t a set of 20 body weight squats feel easier?

"If you could do lunges with 100 pound dumbbells in each hand, wouldn’t running five miles with just your body weight feel easier? You may have never thought of it, but every athletic endurance endeavor is really nothing more than a series of submaximal efforts."

Obviously, these strength numbers are unrealistic for the overwhelming majority of high level endurance athletes, but they aren't for competitive athletes from other sports requiring a blend of strength, power, and endurance. If you need further proof, check out the research I cited in my article, 5 Resistance Training Myths in the Running World.

Strength has implications for how well athletes move, too. The initial reply mentioned flexibility, which according to Wikipedia) is "the range of movement in a joint or series of joints." This is a static measure, whereas athletic success is more governed by mobility, which is one's ability to reach a position or posture. The difference is the presence of stability in a given circumstance, and that's impacted by muscular control. In fact, I would actually argue that the biggest "trickle-down" effect of maximal strength is joint stability, which in turn impacts mobility. As an example, this 6-11 athlete couldn't squat well when he first came in, but after eight weeks of training built a foundation of strength, he was able to do this:

All athletic qualities are important, but to say that they should all be trained equally at all times - especially in young athletes with a huge window of adaptations in front of them - is extremely short-sighted. Imagine a child that tried to take math, science, and history courses before mastering language skills. If you can't read and write, you will struggle to pick up these more progressive challenges. Strength is foundational in this same way, and this is the pyramid through which I view it:

The closer the items are to the bottom, the more heavily impacted by strength they are. We can debate where each of these items should be positioned on the pyramid (and it likely depends on the athlete in question), but nobody can debate that strength is an important foundation for all these other qualities. It's rooted not only in anecdotal experience of many elite coaches, but also in loads and loads of research.

As a closing thought, several months ago I reviewed Mike Boyle's great new resource, Complete Youth Training. After reviewing it, I told Mike that I enjoyed it not only as a strength and conditioning coach, but also as a parent of twin daughters. I think the most compelling statement Mike made in the entire resource is that one of the most impactful things he's done with his daughter (an accomplished D1 hockey player) was to strength train a minimum of two days per week since she was 11 years old. When you've got strength at a young age - and you preserve/build it over the years - the rest of your training becomes that much more productive.

Mike's put this resource on sale for $50 off this week, and I'd strongly encourage you to check it out, whether you're a strength and conditioning professional, rehabilitation specialist, sport coach, or parent of a young athlete. There's some excellent information in there for everyone. You can learn more HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/30/18

I hope you had a good weekend. We're back on our normal Monday schedule with this recommended reading collection after being a bit erratic over the past few weeks.

Divergent Thinking: Inside John O'Malley - This is a lengthy interview, but definitely worth the time. While the interview is with an accomplished cross country/track coach, the lessons are applicable across many disciplines. Thanks to former CSP intern Mike Boykin for sending this my way.

Cardio or Weights First? Let's Settle This. - Dean Somerset did an excellent job with this post on a decades-old debate.

Transformer Bar Overview - I'm a big fan of the transformer Bar from Kabuki Strength, and this video outlines my thoughts (as well as those of Stuart McGill and Kelly Starrett) on why that's the case.

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I spoke at an event called the Syracuse Strength Seminar back in June of 2006. At the time, I was 25 years old – and the rest of the panel consisted of Dave Tate, Joe Defranco, Mike Hope, Jim Wendler, James Smith, and Buddy Morris. 👇 After the event, 47 of the attendees filled out online evaluations. The feedback on me was mostly positive, with the exception of three guys who clearly took issue with my age. Here are their delightful responses. 🤦‍♂️ When I got the feedback, I shot Dave (@underthebar) an email to ask for his suggestions on how I could be better – and he provided some invaluable insights on presentation styles. He also shared these words that stuck with me. 👏 “Right now you are in the paying your dues phase. I remember this very well. You are doing what you need to do. You need to continue reading your ass off, writing, training, training clients, networking, reading more, listening to audio tapes. It is a high stress time because you have to absorb and take in so much info. The age thing does not matter. Think of this: at age 23, Tony Robbins was speaking in front of crowds of 18,000 people. The last advice I can give is when you read and listen to tapes - think. Everyone reads but very few can apply the knowledge. Education is not power - the application of it is.” 👍 In life, you can either dwell on the haters (3/47), or recognize that the overwhelming majority of people (44/47) are openminded folks who try to find the good in situations, independent of your age or experience (or a host of other factors). It helps to have good friends and mentors who remind you to identify and leverage your strengths. Make sure you listen to the right people. Thanks, Dave. #cspfamily #tbt

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Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 11

It's time for a new edition of my thoughts on the business of fitness. Before I get to it, just a friendly reminder that we're hosting our second-ever Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship on October 15. You can learn more HERE.

Now on to some business concepts...

1. It might take years for someone to become a customer.

Just a few weeks ago, I released my newest product, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. One interesting thing about my newsletter/product management set-up is that I can tell how long someone has been a "prospect" before becoming a customer. Basically, I know the date they signed up for my newsletter, and then I can check that out to see what products they've purchased and when.

During this launch, I had multiple people purchase this resource as their first purchase with me after over 3,000 days on my list. Yes, that means they "window shopped" for over eight years prior to taking the plunge.

Very few people purchase on the first exposure to a marketing message. Or the second. Or the third. It actually takes load of opportunities for them to perceive your expertise, and usually over the course of an extended period of time. They need to know, like, and trust you - and some people take a long time to get to trusting you enough to initiate a transaction.

Be persistent, but patient. It's harder than ever to be seen and heard.

2. It's a very small world; watch your social media behavior.

I made this post on Twitter yesterday, and it got quite a bit of attention.

 Beyond the obvious moral issues of saying cruel things to pro athletes (or celebrities - or anyone else, for that matter), you should be cognizant of the fact that it can very quickly come back to bite you in the butt. Some of the agencies who represent these players may also represent others - athletes, actors, musicians, speakers, or coaches - who could be potential future clients for you. One of your followers could be an old friend or teammate of the athlete. It's an incredibly small world, so chasing a few retweets isn't worth sacrificing a relationship or potential client down the road.

3. Investments are different from expenses.

This is one of the most misunderstood accounting/economics concepts in all industries, and certainly in the fitness business.

An investment has the potential to appreciate in value. Maybe you spend money on a continuing education event, buy a DVD for some new training strategies, put money into a retirement account, or purchase some equipment that allows you to deliver a higher-quality product to your clients. Perhaps you hire a consultant to fine-tune your business, or decide to buy your building instead of continuing to pay rent. Additionally, from an accounting standpoint, investments are usually (but not always) tax deductible.

Expenses are like setting money on fire. They're the $5 you spend at Starbucks each morning, or the Porsche you bought on credit when you were making $20,000/year (is that even possible?). They don't appreciate, and there is a huge opportunity cost to these expenditures. Some are necessary and even tax deductible (e.g., rent), but they always need to be heavily scrutinized. Can that expense be reduced or somehow shifted into an investment?

Fitness businesses are notoriously bad at understanding the difference between the two, or understanding that one's financial situation may dictate what is and isn't acceptable. If you're grossing $5,000/month, paying $1,000/month to a cleaning service probably isn't a good expense; clean the gym yourself. Do you really need to buy seven different types of leg curl machines when you're already $300,000 in debt? And, why do you have payroll expenses when you've only got three clients?

Most businesses (and individuals, in their personal finances) would be wise to go through every cash expenditure and figure out how each one can be categorized. Growing gross revenue is always a priority, but many businesses can be even more profitable if they learn to appropriately trim the fat.

If you've found value in these insights, I think you might enjoy the upcoming Business Building Mentorship Pete Dupuis and I will be hosting on Monday, October 15th. It's a tax deductible expense if you're a fitness business owner, and we'd guarantee that the lessons learned will more than pay for the cost of attendance. Plus, registration in the mentorship includes free attendance at our fall seminar on October 14.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/20/18

I hope you had a great week. Just in case you didn't, here's some good recommended reading/listening to kick off your weekend on the right foot.

So You're Considering Putting Your Name on Your Business? - This is awesome stuff from my business partner, Pete Dupuis, who discusses why having the name "Cressey" in "Cressey Sports Performance" has led to some challenges.

Max Scherzer wasn't predestined for greatness but has a hard-earned Hall of Fame Case - Chelsea Janes wrote this outstanding piece on CSP athlete Max Scherzer for the Washington Post. There are loads of great lessons in there for up-and-coming athletes.

Joe Kenn on Coaching in the NFL and Chasing Simplicity - Mike Robertson recorded this outstanding podcast with one of the most experienced guys in the strength and conditioning field today.

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Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship – October 15, 2018

We’re excited to announce that on Monday, October 15, we’ll be hosting our second CSP Business-Building Mentorship, a day of learning with Pete Dupuis and me. This event will take place at our Hudson, MA location the day after our annual fall seminar. Pete and I have spent nearly a decade crafting the operational systems and strategies that fuel CSP today, and we’re excited to pull back the curtain for fellow gym owners.

It is our intention to foster an environment conducive to learning and the exchanging of ideas, so we will be limiting participation to 25 individuals.

Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration & Coffee

Morning Session – Lead Generation & Conversion

09:00am – 09:30am: Introduction: The Four Pillars of Fitness Business Success
09:30am – 10:30am: Lead Generation: Strategic Relationship Development, Identifying & Connecting with Opinion Leaders, Social Media Strategies
10:30am - 11:00am: Q&A
11:00am - 12:00pm: Lead Conversion: CSP Selling Strategy & Methodology
12:00pm - 01:00pm: Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session – Business Operations & Long-Term Planning

01:00pm – 02:00pm: Operations: Accounting for Gym Owners – Guest Lecture from CSP’s CPA, Tom Petrocelli
02:00pm – 02:30pm: Operations: Internship Program Design & Execution
02:30pm – 03:00pm: Operations: Hiring Protocols, Staff Development & Continuing Ed.
03:00pm – 03:30pm: Long-Term Planning: Lease Negotiation Considerations
03:30pm – 04:30pm: Long-Term Planning: Strategic Brand Dev., Evaluating Opportunities, SWOT Analysis
04:30pm – 06:00pm: Q&A

Cost: $699.99 (includes free admission to CSP Fall Seminar on Sunday, October 14) 

SOLD OUT!

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Register Now for the 7th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar!

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, October 14, we’ll be hosting our seventh annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past six years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn. We're happy to have Perform Better as our official sponsor again this year as well.

Here are the presentation topics:

Guest Keynote Speaker: Pat Rigsby -- The Future of Fitness Business: The Blueprint for Success in a Changing Market

In this presentation, you'll discover how you can position yourself to succeed now and in the future within the fast-evolving fitness industry. You'll learn what you must do to stand out from the competition, earn more and take advantage of your strengths to design a business that will thrive for the long-term. If you want to command higher rates, enjoy better retention and grow a business you enjoy, don't miss this session.

Eric Cressey -- The Overhead Athlete Evolution

Cressey Sports Performance opened in 2007 and quickly became known as a destination for baseball players from around the country looking to improve. This niche gave rise to specific expertise with this demographic. Interestingly, development of the overhead athlete has changed drastically during the past 11 years, and Eric will outline the new challenges we face and strategies that must be employed to keep arms healthy. While the presentation will focus on overhead athletes, the overwhelming majority of lessons will also be applicable to everyday fitness clients as well.

Pete Dupuis -- The Secrets of Our Industry's Top Performing Fitness Businesses

In this presentation, Pete will bring you inside the strategic mindset of some of our industry's most successful fitness business owners. He's interviewed a series of industry influencers and will share the most under appreciated components of their established and immensely profitable operations. Takeaways will include tips for upgrading branding strategy, fine-tuning employee development, maximizing the effectiveness of social media efforts, and more.

Kyle Driscoll -- Simplifying Coaching Cues for High Speed Movements

Kyle will discuss why training rotational power, especially via medicine ball work, is important for everybody. Coaching high speed movements can, however, be difficult to see - and even more difficult to coach. The higher speed the movement is, the more simple the cues needs to be.

Chris Howard -- Shoulder Pain: What Causes It and What Can We Do About It?

Nearly every fitness professional has encountered an athlete or client dealing with shoulder pain or discomfort. In this presentation, Chris will blend his experience of anatomy and muscular referred pain patterns with strength and conditioning and soft-tissue strategies to illustrate how he addresses clients experiencing shoulder pain. Whether you are new to strength and conditioning, or a seasoned veteran, you will see shoulder pain from a new perspective following this presentation.

John O'Neil -- Stress Application and The Principles of Load Management: What Every Coach Needs to Know

In this discussion, John will cover how he as a strength coach for training clients who have multiple variables that affect their ability to handle applied stress within a gym setting, including how to manage these principles in conjunction with a sport coach. This information will include both theoretical aspects of load management in addition to very specific examples used at Cressey Sports Performance.

Cole Russo -- Creating a System for Movement Progressions

Many strength and conditioning coaches have a collection of sprint and agility drills they like to utilize, but no organized framework of how to apply them. In this presentation, Cole will define a system for teaching your athletes movement. This presentation will include both a lecture on movement progressions, coaching tips, and crucial movement competencies; as well as a following practical/movement session.

**Bonus 3:00PM Saturday Hands-on Session**

Frank Duffy -- Neanderthal No More 2.0: Reviving a Classic

Whether you’re a high-level professional athlete or a desk jockey, at the end of the day, you’re a human being. In this hands-on presentation, Frank will outline the “big rocks” you should consider integrating on a daily basis and how to modify them to align with your own capabilities and goals.

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

Cost:

Regular Rate - $159.99

Student Rate - $129.99

Date/Time:

Sunday, October 14, 2018
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

**Bonus session Saturday, October 13 at 3:00pm.

Continuing Education

This event has been approved for 0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs.

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.

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Why Rhomboids Probably Aren’t Your Best Friend

Today, I've got an excerpt from my new course, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. I discuss the functional anatomy of the rhomboids, a commonly misunderstood muscle group with big implications.

For a lot more functional anatomy insights like these - as well as a comprehensive look at shoulder assessment, programming, and coaching - be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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