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Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship – January 14-16, 2018

We're excited to announce our next Elite Baseball Mentorship offering: an upper-extremity course that will take place on January 14-16, 2018 at our Hudson, MA facility.

2013.01.26 - CP (139)

The Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorships provide an educational opportunity to become a trusted resource to this dramatically underserved athletic population. Through a combination of classroom presentations, practical demonstrations, case studies, video analysis, and observation of training, you’ll learn about our integrated system for performance enhancement and injury prevention and rehabilitation in baseball athletes. Cressey Sports Performance has become a trusted resource for over 100 professional players from all over the country each off-season, and this is your opportunity to experience “why” first-hand at our state-of-the-art facility.

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Course Description:

This Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Mentorship has a heavy upper extremity assessment and corrective exercise focus while familiarizing participants with the unique demands of the throwing motion. You’ll be introduced to the most common injuries faced by throwers, learn about the movement impairments and mechanical issues that contribute to these issues, and receive programming strategies, exercise recommendations, and the coaching cues to meet these challenges. 

Course Agenda

Sunday

Morning Session: Lecture

8:30-9:00AM – Registration and Introduction (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Understanding the Status Quo: Why the Current System is Broken (Eric Schoenberg)
10:00-11:00AM – Common Injuries and their Mechanisms (Eric Schoenberg)
11:00-11:15AM – Break
11:15AM-12:15PM – Flawed Perceptions on “Specific” Pitching Assessments and Training Modalities (Eric Cressey)
12:15-1:00PM – Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session: Lecture and Practical

1:00-3:00PM – Physical Assessment of Pitchers: Static and Dynamic (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
3:00-3:15PM – Break
3:15-5:15PM – Prehabilitation/Rehabilitation Exercises for the Thrower (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
5:15-5:30PM – Case Studies and Q&A

5:30PM Reception (Dinner Provided)

Monday

Morning Session: Lecture and Video Analysis

8:00-9:00AM – Strength Training Considerations for the Throwing Athlete (Eric Cressey)
9:00-10:00AM – Key Positions in the Pitching Delivery: Understanding How Physical Maturity and Athletic Ability Govern Mechanics (Christian Wonders)
10:00-10:15AM – Break
10:15-11:30AM – Video Evaluation of Pitchers: Relationship of Mechanical Dysfunction to Injury Risk and Performance (Christian Wonders)

11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-5PM*

Tuesday

Morning Session: Practical

8:00-9:00AM – Preparing for the Throwing Session: Optimal Warm-up Protocols for Different Arms (Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg)
9:00-11:00AM – Individualizing Drill Work to the Pitcher and Live Bullpens from CSP Pitchers (Christian Wonders)
11:00-11:30AM – Closing Thoughts and Q&A (Eric Cressey, Eric Schoenberg, and Christian Wonders)
11:30AM-12:00PM – Lunch (on your own)

Afternoon Session: Observation at Cressey Sports Performance – 12PM-5PM*

* The afternoon observation sessions on Monday and Tuesday will allow attendees to see in real-time the day-to-day operation of the comprehensive baseball training programs unique to Cressey Sports Performance. This observation of live training on the CSP floor with our professional, college, and high school baseball players will allow you to experience firsthand our approaches to:

• Programming
• Proper coaching cues for optimal results
• Soft tissue techniques
• Activation and mobility drills
• Strength/power development
• Medicine ball work
• Multi-directional stability
• Metabolic conditioning
• Sprint/agility programs
• Base stealing technique

In addition, you will experience:

• Live throwing sessions
• Biomechanical video analysis
• Movement evaluation
• Live evaluations of attendees with Eric Schoenberg

Location:

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

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Cost:

$899.99 early bird rate (before December 14) $999.99 regular rate

No sign-ups will be accepted on the day of the event.

Continuing Education Credits:

2.0 NSCA CEUs (20 contact hours)

Registration Information:

Click here to register using our 100% secure server.

Notes:

• No prerequisites required.
• Participants will receive a manual of notes from the event’s presentations.
• Space is extremely limited
• We are keeping the size of this seminar small so that we can make it a far more productive educational experience.
•This event will not be videotaped.

For details about travel, accommodations, and other logistics, please email cspmass@gmail.com.

We hope to see you there!
  

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Pitchapalooza!

I'm excited to announce that I'll once again be speaking at Pitchapalooza near Nashville, TN. This year's event has an awesome speaker list and will surely be great on both the educational and networking side of the baseball industry. You can learn more HERE.

Hope to see you there!

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Strength Training Technique: Why Neck Position Matters

A lot of people debate whether neutral neck positioning is important. I don't think it's even a debatable subject, though. Give today's video a watch to learn more:

As additional "ammo," check out this Tweet I came across the other day. Hat tip to Charlie Weingroff for sharing it. Would you want to put your spine in these extended positions while you squat or deadlift?

If you still think that hanging out in cervical extension all day - and then loading it up when lifting - isn't a problem, then I don't know what else to tell you.

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How Rib Cage Positioning Impacts the Pitching Delivery

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator, Christian Wonders.

While it’s good to know little adjustment of mechanics in a delivery, most pitchers struggle with a few bigger rocks that need to be addressed. One of them that needs attention is rib cage position throughout the throwing motion.

Next to the lower half, the rib cage is probably the most important part of a pitching delivery. It is at the center of the body, and serves as a platform for the shoulder blades to move upon, which in turn, dictates where the hand will be at ball release. 

If you take in a large breath, you’ll realize that your thorax expands, and the opposite occurs when you blow out all your air. For this article, we will call the expansion of your rib cage inhalation/ external rotation, and the opposite exhalation/ internal rotation.

Often, we will see pitchers stuck in a state of inhalation bilaterally, where you can see the bottom of the rib cage popping through the skin. Along with this postural presentation comes an anterior (forward) weight shift, poor anterior core control, scapular depression and downward rotation, and even the possibility of a flat/extended thoracic spine.

From a pitching standpoint, the thorax is the center of the body, and is responsible for transferring force, along with assisting the thoracic spine (upper back) in delivering the scapula. When a pitcher presents an extended posture with an inability to control rib cage and pelvic position, it’s hard to make an efficient rotation at front foot strike, while still holding his line to home plate. The outcome is usually misses up in the zone, along with an inability to throw a sharp breaking ball (hanging curveball/backup slider.)

Furthermore, the anterior weight shift can create a quad dominant loading pattern of the back leg, which will feed into a pitcher stepping more across his body, and ruining the pitcher’s direction to the plate. I’m not saying that a pitcher stepping across his body is the worst thing in the world, but they must possess enough core stability, lead leg internal rotation, and thoracic flexion in order to get to a good position at ball release.

So now, the question becomes: how do I stop this from happening?

- Flexion-bias breathing drills to decrease extensor tone

- Anterior core control exercises like prone bridges, rollouts, fallouts, etc.

- Soft tissue work on accessory breathing muscles, lats, intercostals, etc.

- Educating the athlete to not feed into the pattern by standing/sitting/training in bad patterns

- Drills to drive scapular upward rotation, particularly by prioritizing serratus anterior

- Coaching

Coaching is last on the above list, because it’s by far the most important, and the challenge of coaching is figuring out what an individual needs to be consistent on the mound. If you're looking for details on coaching positioning of the anterior core, I'd highly recommend Eric's Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core presentation. It's a one hour presentation that hits on all the important points you need to understand on this front.

When it comes down to it, positioning of the ribcage can have a serious effect on arm action, extension at ball release, and even lower half mechanics. Therefore, I think it’s important to check the big boxes of pitching mechanics proximal (center) to the body, before moving distally (extremities) to drive the best results on consistency and performance.

About the Author

Christian Wonders (@CSP_Pitching) is the pitching coordinator coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at christian.wonders25@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/24/17

Happy Tuesday! We're a day late with this recommended reading/listening/viewing list, as yesterday was a crazy one in light of the High Performance Handbook sale and a full day of evaluations at Cressey Sports Performance. Then, we wrapped up the day with our annual "Night with the Pros" event.

CSP Fall Seminar Live Tweeting - Frank Duffy was kind enough to live Tweet our annual fall seminar on Sunday, and you can see the "play by play" at this link.

A Roundtable of Rants - This was a compilation of responses from a collection of T-Nation contributors in response to the question, "What's pissing you off right now in the world of fitness or lifting?" As you'll see, my answer was in stark contrast to the rest of panel.

19 Ninja Tricks to Help Your Write Better Training Programs - Mike Robertson provided some outstanding lessons in this podcast. Any coach can benefit from listening to it!

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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2017 CSP Elite Baseball Development Shirts Now Available!

I’m excited to announce that the 2017 edition of the Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Development t-shirts (powered by New Balance Baseball) are now available for sale.  Here's the design:

These shirts are insanely comfortable and run true to size.

Each shirt is $24.99 + S&H. Click the links below to add shirts to your cart:

XXL

Extra Large

Large

Medium

Small

These usually sell very quickly, so don’t delay if you’re interested in picking one up. Enjoy!
 

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Periodization for Teenage Athletes – Part 3

Today is part 3 of Cressey Sports Performance coach John O'Neil's look at periodization for teenage athletes. In case you missed them, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 now. -EC

Programming for athletes that have a higher training age, skill level, and level of maturity becomes much more complex than the methods I outlined in part two of this series. Before some of the concepts I’ll be discussing are even worthwhile, the athlete needs to have achieved close to everything they possibly could from performing basic training OR be at such a high level of athletic skill that we need to weigh several more variables. In this final installment, I’ll outline the main variables that we need to consider and the execution of the programming itself.

Outlining The Variables

1. Athlete Type
2. Athlete Performance Level
3. Time of Offseason & Congruency With Skill Development

Athlete Type: It’s assumed that you’ve either had this athlete for a period of 1+ years or have the ability to figure out what type of athlete he is within a fairly short period of time. Analyzing an athlete’s needs isn’t just checking out how many degrees of motion are in individual joints; it’s about weighing where they fit on the force-velocity curve and figuring out their best avenue for exploitation. Is this athlete incredibly strong, but not fast? Put more of your eggs towards training elasticity/reactive qualities. Is this athlete incredibly fast-twitch, but struggles to deadlift 1.5xBW for sets of 3 to 5? Sounds like someone who needs to put more time into developing maximal strength. While your training should cover all ends of the spectrum, different athlete types need to emphasize different qualities.

Athlete Performance Level: What athletic achievements does the athlete expect to gain from training? How much playing time or what level of competition they are getting recruited to play at next often answers these questions. In our setting, throwing velocity and the fact that college recruiters often bank on it is the determinant of if our training is working. If a HS kid only throws 75 and wants to be recruited to play in college, training needs to be more markedly different than it is for the HS kid who throws 95.

Time of Offseason and Congruency with Skill Development: How much time does the athlete have to train consistently with you before the season begins, and, how does your program align with their skill development? At CSP, our offseason programming is directly aligned with our throwing programs for pitchers. It’s important to appreciate the stress that skill practice can have on your athletes and how this can affect qualities you are trying to train in the gym. All inputs are inputs, all stress is stress.

Programming Principles

At CSP, we use a conjugated periodization scheme with elements of Charlie Francis’ High/Low model. While these posts between concurrent and conjugated periodization schemes are separated, there is a huge gray area between the two. Concurrent periodization doesn’t abruptly end and conjugate periodization begins. Instead, programming becomes slightly more complex as the answers to the questions I outline in part 2 of this series begin to change: they’ve acquired more of a training age, they’ve likely become better at their sport, and hopefully they’ve gained some level of personal maturity. There is a difference between a strictly conjugate and a strictly concurrent program, but many athletes will live in the middle. It’s important to understand what you would do with someone at one extreme, from a raw, 13 year old beginner to an 18-yr old who throws 96 and has been training with you for years.

Within this conjugated scheme, exact exercise selection matters less. This athlete doesn’t need multiple sessions to figure out how to work up to a load that actually creates an adaptation. This concept was originally popularized by Westside Barbell, where their powerlifters changed max effort day lifts as frequently as every 1-2 weeks. With our athletes, people will see the same exercises for at least 4 and often 8 weeks. It’s assumed that the athlete can perform a progression all the way up the chain on a progression/regression scale.

We need to pick exercises that allow the athlete to endure stress that will create a favorable adaptation while avoiding biomechanically offensive positions. That’s it.

[bctt tweet="How we scale stressors in the week and month matter more than the squat/deadlift variation we use."]

In this video, I elaborate on the differences between beginner and advanced periodization within our model and how we address the variables listed above in conjunction with our programming:

I hope this look into our periodization model with teenage athletes gives some insights that help you to manage the training of your up-and-coming athletes.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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Periodization for Teenage Athletes: Part 2

This is part 2 of Cressey Sports Performance coach John O'Neil's look at periodization for teenage athletes. In case you missed part 1, you can check it out HERE. -EC

When assessing a youth athlete, the most important information we can gather isn’t the only the specific or general movement-based assessments we run. The importance lies in the questions we ask and our ability to judge what kind of training program for which the athlete is ready. If we assume too simple, it’s easy to still see progress and transition to a more advanced program. Conversely, if we assume too complex, we’ve not only stalled progress, but we’ve potentially caused a host of issues – both physically and psychologically – that we will have to address. The industry is full of people using overly complex methods with people who haven’t earned them yet. Don’t be that guy.

Here are the main points I focus on in making this distinction:

  • Age
    • Actual age: If they’re under 16, it’s definitely going to be a concurrent program, and 16-18 year olds maybe approached the same, based on the answers to the following questions:
    • Biological age: How physically mature are they? Do they present like their actual age?
    • Training age: Have they trained for any period of 6 months – or multiple 3-month periods?
  • Athletic Skill Level
    • How far off from being an elite athlete are they? In our setting, throwing velocity for pitchers is often the determinant of this question.
    • At what level do they compete athletically? Chances are that your middle school, freshman, and JV level players don’t need anything fancy.
  • Personal Maturity
    • This one is much harder to quantify, but a typical fail in this category would include the kid who has his/her mom do the talking for them, or, someone who has no quantifiable goals and has no idea why they’re training.
    • Will they follow a program to a “T?” Or, is this an individual who’ll cut corners and omit the items he/she doesn’t enjoy?

Concurrent Programming Overview

If we look at a force/velocity curve, it’s our job as strength coaches to shift the curve up and to the right as much as we can. When we have a beginner athlete, every quality needs to move in that direction, independent of their sport or time in their competitive calendar. If we look at each quality as a bucket, all of these are empty and we need to fill each of them up. With advanced athletes, we need to assess which buckets are already filled and which buckets are the most empty. The empty buckets need to be filled up for the person to become a better athlete, and we need to consider their competitive calendar. The later in the offseason it is, the more closely the exercises we choose and speeds we prescribe will we need to reflect the movements they’ll actually encounter in sports. With beginner athletes, this doesn’t matter as much.

Strength-speed and speed-strength are also not qualities that we’ll focus on in beginner concurrent model programming. These are more advanced concerns. In beginners, we’ll stick with strength, power, and speed as our big three. Each of these three qualities are going to be trained somewhat equally during an athlete’s first 3-6 months. Chances are these athletes aren’t coming in six days per week, so we will hit each of these qualities every time they walk in the door. A typical session will include a dynamic warm-up, speed work, power work, 1-2 technical lifts, and 4-6 GPP style movements done in a more circuit-based fashion.

In block periodization, there is a phase of accumulation, a phase of transmutation, and a phase of realization. In concurrent periodization, our goal is to accumulate, accumulate, and continue to accumulate strength, power, and speed until we have deemed the athlete ready for more advanced programming.

Exercise Selection

When selecting exercises, there needs to be some form of linear exercise progression that begins with the exercise that is easiest for the athlete to not only learn quickly, but to load in the safest and most efficient manner possible. Lowest barrier to entry is a great term to summarize the exercise selection for this period. Pick movements that are hard for the athlete to screw up. We are looking to pick the exercise that combines the two following principles:

1) Can the person master the technique in an efficient and timely manner? How quickly can we make this exercise safe?

2) Can the person load the exercise in a way that progresses their main performance qualities - strength, power, speed – without technical difficulty of the exercise itself stalling progress?

External load should be the limiting factor for an appropriate exercise progression, as opposed to an athlete being held back by an inability to handle the implement being used (dumbbell, kettlebell, bar).

[bctt tweet="Limiting the learning curve may be the safest and most effective way to maximize the loading curve."]

There’s nothing wrong with keeping a main exercise the same for 12-16 weeks in a beginner. Provide variety in your dynamic warm-ups and unloaded exercises, not your staple loaded exercises. If your reason for programming variety is fun, maybe you should look at your training environment and your personal relationships with the athletes instead of choosing loaded variety to make the athlete enjoy training more. Especially in beginners, everything involving external loading should have a reason; picking a loaded exercise for fun is an asinine reason to program it.

I have these progressions mapped out for each main movement, with a theoretical end point before you change an exercise. For a squat, my progression is as follows:

• Goblet Squat to Box – until the person has awareness of and has owned the bottom position
• Goblet Squat – until the grip becomes the limiting factor towards loading the lower body
• 2KB Squat – until the person can complete sets of 8-10 with 16/20kg bells
• Safety Squat Bar (SSB) Squat – until someone can load 1.5xBW for sets of 3-5

*An athlete might do a front squat in the same spot as an SSB, but I usually find that the SSB is easier for athletes to learn first. We don’t back squat our baseball guys, but other athletes may progress up the chain to that exercise, especially if they’ll have to do it at school.

While these guidelines of progression don’t need to be adhered to strictly, sometimes I will veer off the Goblet or 2KB squat if I think the athlete is either ready for something else for or has stalled on an exercise. My point is simply that it’s important to have general guidelines for progressing exercises in beginners. The key is to make sure you’re not putting someone under a bar when they’re not comfortable with the technique of both the setup and the action.

This is not only true on loaded exercises, but for sprints, jumps, and throws as well. Many sport coaches these kids will have will crush them with lactic work: repeated sprints with inappropriately assigned rep schemes, distances, and rest times – but very few athletes we evaluate have ever been taught a thing about how to sprint more efficiently. As an industry, I think that we have a good understanding of lifting progressions, but power and sprint work isn’t as highly prioritized. If we look at the qualities of the best athletes – the fastest and most powerful with the best rate of force development, but not necessarily the highest strength – this doesn’t make any sense. We need to prioritize these qualities from a young age, at least from a technical proficiency standpoint.

The same principles of technical mastery, erring on the side of too simple and then progress, and lowest barrier of entry apply to sprint, jump, and throw training. While these concepts open up another broad topic, my initial block progressions in a beginner concurrent model are as following:

• Sprints: Work on mastering arm action, marching, and skipping
• Jumps: Learn how to decelerate bilaterally in the sagittal plane before getting into unilateral work, frontal/transverse plane, accelerative and reactive jumps
• Throws: Stationary sagittal plane work, focus on intent and outcome-oriented throwing before going transverse plane and increasing complexity

In part three of this series, I’ll take a deeper dive into how we program using a conjugate method of periodization for our athletes with a higher training age.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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Periodization for Teenage Athletes: Part 1

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) coach, John O'Neil. This post was inspired by my Instagram post from 9/1; check it out HERE. Enjoy! -EC

There’s a big flaw in the way we as an industry (myself included) try to learn things. We assume that we have control of all of the variables and often times assume that an athlete is far more advanced than they really are. I get it: it’s fun and exciting as strength coaches to learn a new advanced technique and try to decipher how to best fit it into your model. In this series, I will attempt to define how we differentiate periodization schemes for our beginner and advanced athletes at Cressey Sports Performance CSP). Part one will focus on separating the different types of periodization used at CSP.

At CSP, we use a concurrent/conjugate style of programming that doesn’t strictly adhere to principles of block periodization. The more advanced an athlete is, the more their program might look like it’s block periodization, but there are still elements of it that are far more similar to a concurrent model. The reasons are simple: we train primarily athletes who need to train a multitude of qualities in off-seasons ranging 3-6 months – and they don’t need to be peaked for any individual event. Rather, they need to be ready to perform for periods of greater than half the calendar year. For our high school athletes, this could mean 40-50 games, and for our pro guys, this could be as many as ~190 (spring training, regular season, and post-season). We refer to this hybrid concurrent/block periodization scheme as a conjugate model.

First, let’s define these terms. Taken from Supertraining (Siff, Verkoshansky), a concurrent model “involves the parallel training of several motor abilities, such as strength, speed, and endurance, over the same period, with the intention of producing a multi-faceted development of fitness.” A conjugated sequence, as defined by Periodization (Bompa), is a “method of sequencing training to take advantage of training residuals developed within periods of concentrated loading.” We will distinguish between these terms by using concurrent to refer to our athletes with a lower training age, and conjugate to refer to the periodization used with our higher training age athletes. The same book defines block training as “a sequential approach to structuring training in which individual blocks of training which have a distinct focus are linked together.”

(Author’s Note: In researching for this article, I found conflicting definitions of these terms. For the sake of consistency in this series, I will be using the terms as defined in this paragraph.)

Put simply, concurrent is where there is no one main focus; conjugate periodization will have one main focus but will also be training other qualities as supplementary work; and block periodization is a period where we are training one quality at a time. Concurrent periodization will be for athletes who need more general physical preparation (GPP), and conjugate periodization will be for athletes who have earned the right for more specific physical preparation (SPP).

For our beginner athletes, usually ages 13-15, it’s our job to develop and train a multitude of qualities, so the programming will be in a concurrent model. In addition, this could include slightly older athletes (16-18) who don’t have much training experience. While a youth baseball player’s program might look slightly different than someone playing another sport, this is where the greatest overlap between programs for athletes of different sports occurs. If they have something in their program that looks baseball-specific (e.g., a rotator cuff exercise), it’s mainly so they can learn good technique on it for when they’re ready for a more specialized program. It’s also generally used during rest periods from a more important exercise for this age group.

These athletes need everything: strength, speed, hypertrophy, power development, and a host of other things. Everything is in a GPP phase. They need to learn technique on basics such as sprinting, jumping, and changing directions. They need to learn technique on basic lifts: squats, deadlifts, lunges, pushes, and pulls. Most of these athletes only train with us anywhere from 3-6 hours a week, meaning we have a lot of possible information to fit into a concentrated time period.

Using the speed-strength continuum, these athletes will train in every facet of it. They will sprint, throw med balls, move weights relatively fast, and move heavier weights slower. We don’t yet consider time of the competitive season as there doesn’t need to be anything resembling peaking.

Programming for these athletes won’t have anything resembling a block; instead, it will focus on mastering the fundamentals of training so that by the time they’re able to have higher levels of output, they won’t need to spend immense amounts of time learning technique. Loaded exercise selection will be kept within a narrow scope, and they might stay relatively the same for 12-16 week periods. Instead of changing exercises, the variables we’ll change are intensity and volume: basic progressive overload techniques will win. We need to pick the exercises that allow the person to progress towards a position where we need to consider having a more specialized.

When someone is more specialized, the programming will become more of a conjugate model. Exercise selection will be more geared towards training qualities needed for the specific sport. We might change loaded supplementary exercises more frequently to give athletes more exposure to joint positions they need to be strong in, and, each phase will have a specific focus.

Using the strength-speed continuum, the phases will reflect the competitive season. In early offseason, weights might be heavier and the speed of movement will generally be slower. The focus will be closer to the absolute strength end of the spectrum. Late in the off-season, weights may decrease as speed of movement increases, and the focus becomes mimicking speed of sport. Actually playing the sport will start to coincide with training and we have a new host of variables to consider.

Programming for these athletes will be more built around their actual sport training; for example, a baseball pitcher’s throwing program begins to become primary to his training program as the offseason progresses. Exercise selection, while more variable and through a much wider selection than the beginner athletes, will all have a specific purpose that relates back to performing at their sport. Instead of changing intensity/volume primarily and exercise selection secondarily, the intensity/volume will be scaled directly with the offseason of the sport. The exercise selection might vary more because we don’t want our athletes to become specialists at exercises they can load exceptionally well like deadlifts and squats.

In part two of this series, I’ll take a deeper dive into how we program using a concurrent model for our athletes with a lower training age – and when we might consider switching their programming to a conjugate based scheme.

About the Author

John O'Neil (@ONeilStrength) is a coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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What Happened to “Global” Athleticism?

Back in my high school sports career, I was much more quick than I was fast. Actually, I wasn't fast at all.

Apparently, the combination of not eating great and not having any organized strength and conditioning programming doesn't exactly do wonders for building speed that cripples your competition. So, regardless of the sport in question, I was left to fall back on my skills for any success I had.

Looking back, though, it fascinates me that I was actually still pretty quick, and it was readily apparent. In the sports I played - soccer and tennis in high school - I was a much better indoor soccer player (smaller field = more change of direction) and doubles player (cut the court in half = more change of direction). When the field of play opened up and top, straight-ahead speed mattered, I didn't show as well.

In hindsight, I still think it's intriguing that I was still able to develop a strong proficiency in change of direction work without any specific quickness or agility training. I didn't see an agility ladder until I was well into my 20s, and only time we ran "shuttles" in practice was for punishment, not developing quickness.

What I did do, though, is play every single kind of sport possible: soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball, football, ultimate frisbee, wiffle ball, street hockey, dodgeball, volleyball, you name it. I grew up next to a church, and it had a large grass parking lot that was only used a few hours each week - and the rest of the time, it was a field for all the kids in our neighborhood to play pick-up anything and everything. In high school, some buddies and I even started a weekend rugby pick-up game even though we had no idea how to play rugby. I was the kid who was soaked with sweat at the end of gym class and I wore it like a badge of honor.

Before I drift off into an Uncle Rico moment, let's talk about what this means for you.

Kids don't do this anymore. I don't want to sounds like an old man complaining about how generations have changed, but there isn't the same kind of day to day free play that previous generations have had. Moreover, even the athletes who do have a daily "training" stimulus of some sort have less variety in that stimulus. Instead of playing touch football on Sunday, wiffle ball on Monday, volleyball on Tuesday, basketball on Wednesday, etc., they just play soccer every day for the entire year. This obviously has injury and burnout ramifications, but even beyond that, it reduces the likelihood that these athletes will "accidentally" develop athletic qualities like I did. Variety served me well, even if it wasn't intentional. 

Earlier this week, Cressey Sports Performance coach John O'Neil and I carved out some time to discuss speed and agility progressions for our offseason baseball programming, and we touched in this point in some detail. If athletes have a "global athleticism" foundation like I did, they can probably thrive on just 2-3 days per week of true speed, agility, and quickness work as part of their strength and conditioning program.  However, since we're losing out on this variety at the youth levels now, we have to make a more dedicated effort to getting it with our training. In the past, we could assume some baseline of "reactive ability" and just initially focus on getting them strong (and don't get me wrong; that is still the most important thing).

Nowadays, however, the untrained, specialized kids need to do something "athletic" every day. They need to skip, hop, jump, and throw medicine balls every single time they come to the gym. It's not enough to take the "Just get them strong!" mentality.

[bctt tweet="Kids must train power daily now since they don't have free play like previous generations did."]

And if you're going to program more "global athleticism" - speed, agility, quickness - work, you better understand how to coach it. To this end, there is no better resource on this front than Lee Taft's Certified Speed and Agility Coach course. It's on sale for $100 through the end of the day today, so I'd definitely encourage you to check it out at this great discount.

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