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Coaching Strategy: Shut Up More Often

I really love strength and conditioning. I see athletes as similar to choose-your-own adventure books where you have to find the right assessment, programming, and coaching strategies to get them to where they need to be. Each case is unique, so I get genuinely excited in trying to solve new puzzles every day.

Early in my career, though, that excitement often got the best of me. My brain would race faster than my mouth could keep up, and I used my mouth more than my ears and my eyes. Looking back, I threw way too many questions, observations, and cues at athletes. In talking so much, I probably not only confused them, but also missed out on invaluable chances to listen more and learn about their stories - which would help me solve these puzzles. Now, I talk much less and do a lot more listening. My goal in every assessment is to listen 80% of the time and only talk the remaining 20%. And, in my coaching interactions, I try to be as to-the-point as possible, using fewer words and more body language and gestures to convey my points.

Not surprisingly, I feel strongly that shutting up more often has made me a far better coach. Improving in any of life's challenges - athletics included - is about learning to tune out the noise - and too many coaching cues are just distractions as you're trying to learn how to move correctly. Interesting, as author Adam Grant recently pointed out on Twitter, there are academic parallels to this. A 2014 study (described here) reported that "when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted and scored lower on tests than when they were taught in a room with bare walls." When we're trying to learn - whether it's our ABCs or how to trap bar deadlift - loads of distractions are our biggest enemy.

With that in mind, you have to ask yourself: "As a coach, am I a facilitator or just another distraction?"

If you're giving an athlete 58 visual, verbal, and kinesthetic cues all at the same time, you're overcoaching and overwhelming them. Moreover, if you're asking them asking them about their weekend while they're in the middle of sets, you're likely taking them further away from their goals. As I've written time and time again:

[bctt tweet="Good coaching cues are clear, firm, concise - and TIMELY."]

As much as it may hurt to admit it, sometimes, the best way to get athletes to where they want to be is to shut up. The next time you're struggling to get an athlete to make the adjustments you're trying to accomplish, take a step back and simplify your coaching approach with fewer words.

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Why I Don’t Like Scap Push-ups

I used to regularly program scap push-ups in training programs in an attempt to improve shoulder health. Nowadays, though, I realize there are much better ways to get the job done. Check out today's video to learn the problems with scap push-ups as well as some better alternatives:

If you're looking for some good serratus anterior activation drills in place of scap push-ups, check out these videos:

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/31/17

I hope you all had a great weekend. My wife and I had a fun time in Chicago over the weekend at the Perform Better Summit and got a chance to catch the White Sox/Indians game. Here are a few good reads for the weekend:

2017 Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar - We just announced that this popular annual event will take place October 22 at our Massachusetts facility. We hope you can make it!

Mike Irr on Winning an NBA Championship - I've been friends with both Mike Robertson and Mike Irr for close to 15 years now, so how can I not love this podcast? There are some excellent insights from Irr, who just won a world championship with the Golden State Warriors.

Skills Capture a Niche: Relationships Help You Retain It - This was a great post from my business partner, Pete Dupuis. He discusses the concept of niche development in the fitness industry.

Teammate - I just finished David Ross' autobiography and really enjoyed it. I'd highly recommend it to any baseball player, coach, or parent without hesitation.

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Catcher @jake_clinard knocks out a set of plate-loaded slideboard lateral lunges. -- This is one of my favorite exercises for enhancing hip mobility and stability in multiple planes of motion at the same time. The counterbalance in front helps the athlete to get a clean hip hinge without moving through the spine. And, the slideboard increases the eccentric challenge and makes the athlete more cognizant of not racing through reps. -- Resist the urge to hold more than 10 pounds in the hands, though, as it usually makes technique worse. You're better off going to a DB or KB in the goblet position if you want to progress the loading on this one. -- Nothing better than building strength through full range-of-motion if you want to preserve that ROM over a long season (or lifetime!). This kind of work is huge for catchers for preserving mobility as the season progresses. #cspfamily #catching #mobility #centralcatholic #hudsonma #teamnb #sportsperformance #performbetter

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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Register Now for the 6th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar!

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, October 22, we’ll be hosting our sixth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past five 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:

Pete Dupuis -- Gym Ownership In Hindsight: A Decade of Lessons Learned

After designing three different gyms, negotiating five different leases, and building a team of ten fitness professionals, Pete has an informed opinion on gym design and management. In this presentation, he'll introduce you to five of the best, and five of the worst decisions we've made along the way in ten years of operating Cressey Sports Performance.

Miguel Aragoncillo -- Improving Performance for Rotational Athletes

In this presentation, Miguel will analyze performance for rotational athletes, along with discussion on case studies and techniques as they relate to asymmetries, kinetic chains, and biomechanics. This two-part presentation will feature a lecture discussing the understanding the possible origins of dysfunction, and a hands-on component which will dive into a live assessment and exercise selection.

Chris Howard -- Low Back Pain: A New Perspective on the Same Old Problem

Nearly every fitness professional has encountered an athlete or client dealing with lower back pain. 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 treats clients experiencing lower back pain. Whether you are new to strength and conditioning, or a seasoned veteran, you will see lower back pain from a new perspective following this presentation.

Nancy Newell -- Constructing Female Confidence in a Male-Dominated Gym

Some male coaches feel uncomfortable coaching female clients. They struggle to formulate an approach with which they're confident, and the client experience is often negatively impacted as a result. In this presentation, Nancy will help coaches learn how to “dance” the line between being awkward and awesome, while sharing her personal philosophy on how to build female confidence in a male dominated gym.

Eric Cressey -- How Posture Impacts Pain and Performance

Posture is one of the most controversial topics in the fields of health and human performance. In this presentation, Eric will look at the related research and present anecdotal evidence and case studies to bring some clarity to the debate on just how important having "good posture" - if it even exists - really is.

John O'Neil -- Foundational Strength: Laying Groundwork for the Untrained Youth Athlete

In this presentation, John will take a comprehensive look at how we acclimate our untrained youth athletes to the training process at Cressey Sports Performance. This information will include the technical and tactical aspects of executing training sessions in our semi-private group-training model.

Jordan Syatt - How to Build Your Own Successful Online Fitness Business

With this presentation, we kick off a new CSP Fall Seminar tradition: bringing back an accomplished former CSP intern to present from his/her realm of expertise. We're excited to have Jordan back for a no-nonsense open dialogue in which he fields your individual questions and outlines everything you need to know to make a name for yourself in the fitness industry while helping thousands of people all over the world.

**Bonus 3:00PM Saturday Session**

Frank Duffy w/Andrew Zomberg -- A New Approach to Mobility and Injury Prevention

It is important to understand the difference between functional mobility and flexibility in order to help maximize your movement capabilities. In this interactive presentation, Frank will demonstrate the protocols he implements in improving his CSP Strength Campers' movement quality for long-term success.

Location:

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

Cost:

Regular Rate – Early Bird $129.99, Regular $149.99
Student Rate – Early Bird $99.99, Regular $129.99

The early bird registration deadline is September 22.

Date/Time:

Sunday, October 22, 2017
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

**Bonus session Saturday, October 21 at 3:00pm.

Continuing Education

0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (eight contact hours) Pending (each of the previous five CSP fall seminars have been approved)

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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Brandscaping and the Fitness Industry

When we are changing diapers, my 2-year-old daughters always request the ones with "Big Bird" on them. The images on the diaper don't change how effective it is at doing its job, of course.

And, if the paper towels don't have a picture of Olaf from "Frozen" on them, a temper tantrum might very well occur - even if any regular ol' paper towel would get the job done just as well.

They adore the Mickey Mouse sippy cups my mother bought them even though they aren't any better at delivering the beverage than a generic cup.

All of these are perfect examples of Brandscaping, a concept to which I was introduced by Andrew Davis in his outstanding book by the same name.

In its simplest form, brandscaping is an approach to developing partnerships with other brands who also cater to your target market. Davis spends considerable time discussing how Tony Bennett's resurgence in the past decade has a lot to do with joint ventures with Lady Gaga and the Muppets; they've modernized his classic approach to create a new synergy.

As an more applicable fitness industry example, Cressey Sports Performance (baseball strength and conditioning) and New Balance (baseball training apparel and shoes) are a great synergistic fit - and it even led to a limited edition training sneaker.

Referrals to and from physical therapists are another example, and the list could go on to include pitching instructors, massage therapists, meal preparation services, and a host of other complementary services. If we look at the classic "here's how you can grow your business," brandscaping is likely the single-best way to grow the "same product, new market" component. Your brandscaping partner recognizes your specific expertise/offering and brings new folks to it. You, in turn, do the same for them. Everybody wins.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of fitness professionals get in their own way and "obstruct" opportunities for brandscaping. A big mistake is definitely trying to be everything to everyone. If you're training everyone from cardiac rehab patients, to fitness competitors, to basketball players, to powerlifters, chances are that potential partners are going to struggle to see the specific realm in which you'd be a good partner. When you have a really broad collection of offerings, it's a challenge to market to them. The cardiac rehab patients might hate the internet, the fitness competitors love Instagram, the basketball players are on Twitter, and the powerlifters are on Facebook.

Moreover, some fitness professionals mismanage their web presence, even if they have a specific, marketable niche. As an example, if you train high school athletes, but a huge majority of your social media posts are about beer and partying, that's going to be a huge turnoff to their parents (who pay the bills). And, if you're a rockstar when it comes to training middle aged corporate executives, they're likely going to be turned off if all your social media content is shirtless photos of you from your recreational bodybuilding hobby.

In wrapping up, there are really three huge takeaways for you as you try to grow your business.

First, someone else has your ideal customers. Think about how you can partner with them in a mutually benefical relationship.

Second, your ideal customers or brandscaping partners might not be able to appreciate how good a cross-referral or co-banding relationship with you could be because you keep getting in your way. Think about the image you're creating publicly for your business or brand.

Third, don't let your two-year-old daughters boss you around like mine do to me.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/25/17

I normally like to get these sent out on Monday, but I spent a rainy day at Fenway Park yesterday for the annual Cape Cod Baseball League workout. A day late (but no less sincere) here is our recommended reading for the week!

10 Daily Habits of Healthy Lifters - I contributed some experience on sleep tracking to this great roundtable at T-Nation.

Setting up for Speed: Base, Balance, and Angles - This is an excellent, to-the-point blog post from Mike Robertson. I wish I'd had it early in my career to help me pick up coaching speed and agility sooner.

Want More Clients? Maybe Consider the Following. - I really enjoyed this post from my old friend Tony Gentilcore. It's top-notch stuff for any up-and-coming trainer who is looking to build a larger clientele.

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Simplified Shoulder Solutions

I've devoted a lot of my articles to shoulder assessment, training, and programming over the years. Some have been lengthy articles (like my lat strain feature), others have been quick hit posts (like this bear crawl vs. crab walk one), and some have been video technique tutorials and common mistakes, like this:

When you've been at something a long time, the natural tendency is to chase increasing complexity. The more complexity you chase, the more novelty you encounter - and that novelty is what keeps folks engaged when they "specialize" in the same joint over an entire career. One thing I've done well in this regard is to chase complexity in my own education, but kept our application of these principles simple in the way we evaluate and coach athletes. Because, at the end of the day, this is what it comes down to:

[bctt tweet="Shoulder health is about keeping the ball on the socket. Period."]

Keep in mind that we're speaking specifically to the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint, when in reality the entire shoulder girdle is comprised of many different articulations). As I mentioned, though, the point of this blog is to simplify this discussion.

There are a lot of factors that impact how well one is able to do that. It could be cuff strength, scapular control, ligamentous laxity, previous injury, bony changes, faulty thoracic positioning, tissue density, core control, and a host of other issues. These things all - in one way or another - impact how the ball and socket interact.

As strength and conditioning and rehabilitation specialists, you still need to understand the most common injuries incurred at the shoulder. You must appreciate population specific norms. And, you need to understand the assessments that determine whether static posture and movement quality are where they need to be. However, you should never get away from always bringing these concepts back to the fact that they all have to do with ball-and-socket interaction.

As Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." That's both the goal of this particular blog, and also my upcoming Shoulder Assessment, Corrective Exercise, and Programming seminar in New York City on August 20. Today is the deadline for getting the early bird registration rate, and I hope to see you there!

Also, I'll be delivering the same course near Washington, DC on September 17, if that's of interest. You can learn more HERE.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/17

I've been crushing audiobooks, print books, and DVDs of late, so it's generated some good material for these weekly installments.

Certified Program Design Specialist Course - Robert Dos Remedios just released this course, and I'm working my way through it right now. Program Design is this huge "hole" in industry education; it's so incredibly complex to teach that I'm impressed that Dos even tried to tackle the project! I've enjoyed what I've seen thus far, and this could be a great resource for up-and-coming coaches. It's $100 off this week as an introductory discount.

Smart Baseball - I really enjoyed Keith Law's new book, as it delved heavily into the world of advanced statistics in baseball. If you're a casual observer to the sabermetric world, this would be a good read for getting up to speed - and it'll help you watch baseball through a different lens.

The Quadruped Rock-Back Test: RIP - Doug Kechijian just published this article that asserts that this classic test probably doesn't hold as much merit for predicting squatting success as one might think.

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Fitness Business Entrepreneurship Thoughts: Lead Generation

Most fitness industry folks are convinced that their single biggest area for improvement is lead generation. If only they could get more people to know about their gym - and possibly even take a tour - then they'd absolutely blow up.

I hate to burst your bubble, but while your lead generation might need work, in the overwhelming majority of businesses, systems and retention are where the biggest opportunities for improvement exist. You see, if you shore things up on these two fronts, you'll create a better product and dramatically increase the number of word-of-mouth referrals you get. Over the life of your business, word-of-mouth should blow any direct mail or Facebook advertising you do out of the water, so why not work on the things that impact it the most?

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I should actually talk a bit about lead generation, as the truth is that it's probably more complex than it's ever been.

If you look back 15-20 years, a lot of folks weren't on the internet - and they certainly didn't have social media. It was really, really hard to get in front of people affordably if you were a small business. If you didn't have the cash to pay for radio, TV, newspaper, or billboard ads, your only option for generating leads began and ended with pounding the pavement to shake hands and kiss babies. Nowadays, things are a whole lot different; you can get in front of just about anyone pretty quickly and easily.

If this wasn't the case, a kid from small town Maine named Cressey - who didn't even play high school baseball - wouldn't be training more than 100 professional baseball players each offseason.

This modern marketing world creates opportunities, but also a lot of noise. People are bombarded by more marketing messages than ever before because we have more devices (phones, tablets, computers, radios) and mediums (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Email, etc) than ever before. There is so much noise that people are completely desensitized to the marketing messages that are being sent their way. That means that top of mind awareness is substantially harder to achieve.

What does this mean for lead generation in the fitness industry? You have to get in front of people regularly and via a number of different marketing channels. If you're reading this blog, you probably hear from me here, on various social media channels, and via email. Perhaps you read an article by or about me on another website or print magazine or newspaper. We might have interacted with one another at a seminar, or we might have a mutual friend who recommended that you check out EricCressey.com.

The point is that you have to stand on your head to make expertise easy to perceive. It's just not good enough to just pay for a newspaper ad and hope for people to show up.

This is particularly complex because everyone will perceive expertise differently - and in different places. Teenagers aren't really on Facebook very often, but it's a great marketing avenue for those over the age of 30. Some of the people there might like video content, and others may prefer writing. Every lead must be generated via a unique marketing mix, and that can make it very challenging to be really successful across multiple niches. At Cressey Sports Performance, we can easily market to baseball players, coaches, and parents, but it'd be really hard for us to build a successful discharge program for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation patients. It's an entirely different demographic that we'd struggle to access.

Bringing things all back together, some closing thoughts:

1. You probably generate a fair amount of leads but need to do better at making sure they aren't disappearing out the back door while you're so focused on getting more people in the door.

2. You may need to prioritize optimizing your systems to put yourself in the best position possible to deliver a high-quality product (both training and environment) that will yield more word-of-mouth referrals.

3. Make expertise easy to perceive across a variety of marketing mediums, especially if you're trying to cater to multiple demographics.

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Fitness Business Entrepreneurship Thoughts: Long-Term Planning May Not Be For You

In my blog the other day, I alluded to how I never really thought I'd open a gym. It kind of just happened. And, this experience has led me to the belief that the concept of having a ten-year plan is absurd. Heck, even five years seems like a prohibitively long time to have a plan in today’s rapidly changing world.

I went to college in 1999 thinking that I was going to be an accountant. I transferred in 2001 to pursue exercise science, and went to graduate school to pursue a career in strength and conditioning research. In 2003, after a month on campus, I realized I hated organic chemistry and loved training athletes. I moved to Southern Connecticut in 2005, and then to Massachusetts in 2006, then Florida in 2014. These were twists and turns in every direction that couldn’t have been accommodated by a rigid career plan.

There are a lot of people reading this blog who are probably stressing about moving to a different college major, making a career change, or relocating for a change of scenery or new opportunity. There are also business owners who are super concerned about building a brand that they can ultimately sell. They're focused on writing books and delivering seminars about the training they do with their clients before they've even truly evaluated whether that training actually works well.

As is usually the case with the training side of our industry, a quick solution is always to simplify. Before you start looking at being hugely successful in the long-term, try focusing on being consistently successful in the short-term with whatever it tackling. To paraphrase a hackneyed expression, you have to win the battle before you win the war - and in entrepreneurship, you have to have a successful business before you make the leap to truly building a brand. As this graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates, why have a ten year plan when less than 40% of small businesses are even around at that time period? And, you can bet that this number is substantially lower in the fitness industry, where many start-ups are trainers who have zero business training.

I think that this can actually be a big challenge for some upstart companies when they deal with business consultants who are very focused on developing something that can eventually be sold for $100 million dollars. In the push to create systems for scaling things larger, entrepreneurs can lose sight of shorter term opportunities to be profitable and evolve as a business. For this reason, small business consultants usually have much more to offer to fitness start-ups.

The fitness business is challenging. Competition is high, the industry is constantly evolving, and there is a lot of "noise" that can distract consumers from pursuing even the highest quality training options. For this reason, most fitness businesses are better off focusing on "winning the day" than "winning the decade."

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