Home Blog

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/2/18

Happy New Year! Thanks for your support of EricCressey.com in 2017. I've got some great things in store for 2018. Let's kick it off with some content from around the 'net.

David Joyce on The Physical Preparation Podcast - David Joyce delivers a wide variety of great content - from sports science to culture building - in this podcast with Mike Robertson.

Often Overlooked Elements to Success in Personal Training - Dean Somerset presents some excellent recommendations for the up-and-coming personal trainer.

The Success is in the Struggle - The good folks at the Personal Trainer Development Center selected this article from me as one of their top 20 articles of 2017. I figured that made it worth of "reincarnation."

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days. Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes. 👇 Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games. 🤔 Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip. Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes. 🤔 You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic. 💪 If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow. #sportsmedicine #sportsperformance #strengthandconditioning #cspfamily #powerlifting #benchpress

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2017: Product Reviews

To wrap up my “Best of 2017″ series, I’ll highlight the top product reviews I did at this site in the last year. Here they are:

1. Complete Sports Conditioning - This resource from Mike Boyle is top notch, and he does a great job of simplifying complex topics for up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches. Since it was the most popular product I reviewed this year, I reached out to Mike to see if he'd be up for running a quick promo sale for my readers, and he kindly agreed. From now through January 3, you can get $100 off on the resource. No coupon code is needed; just head HERE.

2. American Sports Medicine Institute Injuries in Baseball Course - Mike Reinold compiled this great list of webinars from accomplished surgeons and rehabilitation specialists to create an excellent sports medicine resource for those in the baseball world.

3. L2 Fitness Summit Video Series - Dean Somerset and Dr. Mike Israetel released this video of a one-day seminar back in November, Dean offers a nice glimpse into some assessment components that go beyond typical movement screens, and Mike's presentation on hypertrophy mechanisms and strategies was insightful as well. These are some seemingly minimally-related topics, but they did a good job of pulling everything together.

Also in 2017, the Cressey Sports Performance team released CSP Innovations. This resource highlighted a collection of different topics from the CSP staff, so there's something for everyone at a price much cheaper than attending a seminar.

We're back to the regular EricCressey.com content this week. Thanks for all your support in 2017!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2017: Strength and Conditioning Features

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2017 at EricCressey.com:

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training

Installment 26
Installment 27
Installment 28
Installment 29

2. Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success

Installment 5
Installment 6
Installment 7
Installment 8

3. Periodization for Teenage Athletes - I thought this three-part article from Cressey Sports Performance coach John O'Neil was outstanding. If you work with athletes, it's a must-read.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Best of 2017 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2017: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2017, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…

1. Is a Calorie Really Just a Calorie? - Brian St. Pierre tackled this hot topic in the nutrition world and (unsurprisingly) it generated a lot of buzz.

2. Should You Even Stretch? - Dean Somerset always comes through with great content on the corrective exercise side of things.

3. 5 Tips for Improved Client Relationships - Brett Velon was one of the best interns we've ever had, and it had a lot to do with his amazing ability to build rapport with clients so quickly. He shares some of his tips here.

4. Are You Training Mobility or Just Mobilizing? - Frank Duffy takes a closer look at ways to improve your mobility training.

5. When Precision Tops Effort - John O'Neil discusses the importance of knowing that not all exercises need to be treated like PR deadlifts.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2017.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2017: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2017" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.

1. Why I Don't Like Scap Push-ups - I used to use scap push-ups, but got away from them several years ago. This video details why.

2. Bench Press Technique, Shoulder Health, and Elbows Tucked vs. Flared - Elbows tucked vs. elbows flared: which is better for shoulder health? Check out this video to find out.

3. Should You "Balance" Pushes and Pulls? - I don't think it's as simple as balancing pushes and pulls in your training program. Here's why.

4. Making Sense of Serratus Anterior - I write and speak a lot about the importance of serratus anterior for shoulder health and performance. Here's what happens when it doesn't do its job.

5. Deadlift Technique: Set-up Tips - I've often said that the solution is in the set-up, and the deadlift is a perfect example.

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2017!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

The Best of 2017: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2017 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. Less Sickness for Better Results - The most important training goal should always be consistency, and getting sick is a big roadblock to that consistent training effect.

2. 5 Reasons to Use "Fillers" in Your Training Programs - "Fillers" are an awesome way for getting in more quality work in your training sessions. This article details the "why" and "how" of their incorporation in strength and conditioning programs.

3. Making Sense of Exercise Contraindications - If we just looked at MRIs, we could find a reason to contraindicate just about every exercise for just about every person. We need to dig a lot deeper to figure out which exercises are right for each person, though.

4. Simplified Shoulder Solutions - Don't making keeping shoulders any more complex than it needs to be. This article discusses how to "dumb things down" on this front.

5. 10 More Important Notes on Assessments - This one just went up recently, but got a lot of love in the short time it's been available. I guess folks can never get enough on quality assessments.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2017" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/18/17

It's a short week on the content front, as I posted last week's recommended reading a few days late. We are still making things happen, though!

Eccentric Overload with Flywheel Training and Rehabilitation - This is an awesome article from the power couple, Jennifer Reiner-Marcello and Brandon Marcello. We've been using the Versapulley more and more in our training, and this delves into some of the mechanisms that make it so great.

Brian St. Pierre on the Fundamentals of High-Performance Nutrition - Brian has been a friend, employee, and trusted resource for over a decade - and podcasts like this show why that's the case. He delivers some excellent content.

11 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder - Earlier this week, on social media, I shared this old article of mine from T-Nation. It's a collection of important programming progressions and regressions that anyone writing strength training programs should understand.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/13/17

Happy Wednesday! Here are a few recommended reads to get you over Hump Day.

Get Up to Get Down: The Impact of Scapular Movement on Pitch Location - With tomorrow being the early bird registration discount deadlift on our January Elite Baseball Mentorship, I thought it'd be a good time to reincarnate this great guest post from Eric Schoenberg from the archives. You can learn more about the mentorship HERE.

9 Reasons Nutrition Can Feel So Confusing - This is a great video from Dr. John Berardi and his team at Precision Nutrition. They outline the problem, but just as importantly, get folks started on some strategies for improvement.

Gym Owner Musings - Installment 9 - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, always delivers some good thoughts in this random collection of reflections on what he's learned on the business side of fitness.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

10 More Important Notes on Assessments

About 2.5 years ago, I wrote up an article, 10 Important Notes on Assessments, that was one of my most popular posts of the year. And since I’ve spent a good chunk of the past week going through the L2 Fitness Summit Video Series, Dean Somerset’s presentations on the assessment side of things made me realize that I'm ready for a sequel. Here are a few thoughts that came to mind.

1. Just like training, assessments are getting more specialized.

As the sports performance and even personal training worlds get more specialized, the assessments we need to utilize with our clients must be correctly matched up to the people in front of us. As examples, rotator cuff strength tests are huge for a baseball pitcher, but relatively unimportant for a soccer player. We’d “weight” a single-leg squat test result as less significant for a kayaker than we would for a basketball player. The goals of the client and the functional demands of their sport guide the assessments – both in terms of which ones we perform and how we value the results.

However, the challenge is that you can’t test everything, so it’s important to prioritize. If we used every assessment under the sun, the evaluation would last all day – and we’d spend an entire session pointing out everything that’s wrong with someone. I’d much rather use this time to build rapport.

A VO2max test isn’t high on my list of priorities for baseball players even if it might shed some light on their aerobic base. I can probably get the information I need just as easily – and much more affordably – by taking a quick resting heart rate measurement.

2. Every good test that has an unfavorable outcome immediately sets you up for an even more telling retest.

Assessments give you a glimpse into what could potentially be wrong or right about how someone moves. The more important question is: what interventions make a difference? Their squat pattern improves when you give them an anterior counterbalance? Their hip internal rotation improves when you add some core recruitment? Their shoulder pain goes away when the massage therapist works on their scalenes?

One tenet of the Selective Functional Movement Screen (SFMA) system is to always start with dysfunctional, non-painful patterns. What interventions clean up aberrant movement in non-painful areas to give us "easy" adaptations? This not only expands our movement repertoire, but also facilitates buy-in from the athlete/client.

3. Never go to movement screens without first performing a thorough health history and client “interview.”

I think we can all agree that a pre-participation evaluation can dramatically reduce the likelihood in training. And, I'd argue that the single most important part of this evaluation is the health history and conversation you have with them before they even start the movement screen portion of it.

As an example, imagine you have a hypermobile female client with a history of serious anterior shoulder instability that hasn't been surgically treated. If you do thorough paperwork and a detailed conversation with her, you'll quickly ascertain that you have to be careful with anything that involves shoulder external rotation. If you don't do that preliminary work, though, you might very well pop her shoulder out of the socket doing a basic external rotation range-of-motion test.

Summarily: paperwork first, conversation second, movement third!

4. Have assessment regressions for people who can’t perform certain tests due to pain or poor movement competencies.

I like to use a Titliest Performance Institute screen – lumbar locked rotation – to assess thoracic rotation. It requires an individual to get into a lot of knee flexion, though. So, if you have someone who is extremely short in their quads – or has had a knee replacement and permanently lost that motion, then it’s not a solid test.

You’re better off going to a seated thoracic rotation screen with these folks.

As a good rule of thumb, you’ll need more alternatives to general screens (involving more joints and motor control challenges) than you will for specific assessments (involving fewer). So, as you look through your assessment approach, start to consider how you’ll regress things when things don't go as planned.

5. Don’t overlook evaluating training technique as a means of assessing.

During almost every evaluation of someone who has struggled with pain or performance (which is really everyone), I look at technique exercises they commonly perform. For our pitchers, this might be arm care exercises, or a video of a bullpen. For powerlifters, it might be technique on the squat, bench press, or deadlift. As much as our assessment protocols can be thorough, they’ll never fully offer the specificity that comes from watching people actually train.

6. Don’t use tests to embarrass people.

As an extension of the previous point, if you know someone is going to fail miserably on a screen, don’t test it. If you have a 350-pound woman who wants to lose 200 pounds, she’s not going to do well on a push-up test. You can assume that her upper body strength and core stability aren’t sufficient to handle her body weight.

I keep coming back to it:


7. Watch for straining.

This is something I’ve watched for a lot more in recent years after spending time around my business partner, Shane Rye, who’s one of the best manual therapists I have ever seen. He’s a master of watching people move and picking up on where they tend to store their tone. Maybe it’s jaw clenching when you test rotator cuff strength, or making an aggressive fist when you check their active straight leg raise. Watching for changes in accessory tone can give you a glimpse into where you might get the best benefit with your manual therapy work – and how you might coach them differently while they’re training.

8. The best outcome of an assessment might actually be a referral for a more thorough assessment.

At least once a year, I have an assessment come in - but without doing any training, I refer them on for further evaluation. Usually, it's because something very "clinical" in nature presents, and I feel that they need to see a medical professional before we start working with them. It doesn't happen often, but I'm never shy about "punting" when I feel that someone else is better equipped than I am to help the person in front of me.

9. Don’t take their word for it on body weight.

I once had a 6-8 pitcher tell me that he weighed 235 pounds. The next day, he walked in and remarked, “Coach, I actually weighed in this morning. I was 253 pounds.” Now, 18 pounds isn’t as huge a percentage of total body mass on a 6-8, 253 guy as it is on a 14-year-old, 110 pound female teenager, but it’s still tell us a lot that he could actually swing 18 pounds without even feeling it. That’s a sign of an athlete with poor body awareness and a lack of nutritional control (they definitely weren’t a good 18 pounds). You're better off measuring than just asking.

A side note: this applies to male athletes only; I never weigh female athletes for obvious reasons.

10. Take meticulous notes.

I often find myself looking back on notes we have on long-term clients to see how their movement (and prescribed training) has evolved over the years. It wouldn't be possible if I wasn't very detailed in my note-taking - and this is something I'm always striving to improve upon, as we want to create sustainable systems in our business.

Employees move on, so a client's programming responsibilities may be shifted to other staff members. Sports medicine professionals may want to work from some of our notes. Teams and agents might want information on what we discovered with a player and how we plan to manage them. The more you document, the more prepared you'll be in these situations when collaboration is necessary.

Most importantly, though, whenever I write a new program for a client, I have their evaluation form and their previous program open on my computer. I want to see what I initially noticed and put it alongside the up-to-date programming to verify where we are in our progressions. It's this kind of documentation that allows me to program for dozens of athletes who are not only in our facility, but across the country and overseas.

Wrap-up

I've been assessing athletes for close to 15 years, and I find that our evaluations evolve every single year. If you're looking to stay on top of some of the latest developments on this front, I'd strongly encourage you check out the L2 Fitness Summit Video Series, the new resource from Dean Somerset and Dr. Mike Israetel. It's available at an introductory discount through Sunday at midnight.  You can learn more HERE.

 Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Should You Even Stretch?

Today's guest post comes from Dean Somerset. In reviewing his outstanding resource, The L2 Fitness Summit Video Series (which is on sale for $50 off this week), I thought Dean did a great job discussing active vs. passive range of motion, and asked if he'd be willing to expand on the topic in a guest post, and he kindly agreed. Check it out! -EC

Mobility training is a hop topic right now. Head over to Instagram and you’ll see incredible feats of flexibility that don’t seem like something humans should be able to do without calling 911 due to some terrible accident having taken place.

While these feats are undoubtedly cool to see, there’s also the big question of “why should you even do that stuff? Is it beneficial to health, longevity, or physical performance? Is it something that helps you achieve a specific goal, or prevent injury or get hot dates for the weekends?”

First, let’s look at what is involved in being flexible and having some solid mobility.

Flexibility is typically defined as the available range of motion available to a joint or specific motion.

Mobility is typically defined as the usable range of motion available to an individual.

Another way to look at it, flexibility is your passive range of motion, whereas mobility is your active range of motion, and each is very important, as is their interplay with one another.

The passive range of motion is the theoretical limit of your available range that you could move through for funky stuff like splits, squats, overhead presses, or other movements you’d want to do on a daily basis in the gym. It can be expanded with some “unlocking” options if it’s restricted by motor control issues like guarding tension, or by prolonged static stretching to adapt the tissues that might impede further mobility, such as the joint capsule, ligaments, fascia, or other tissues.

For these tissues to adapt to static stretching, it typically takes a very long time in the stretch (think 5-30 minutes on a daily basis for months on end), and also works best in younger individuals versus older. Odds are, once your epiphyseal plates at the ends of your bones fuse, expanding your passive range is going to be fairly limited.

Now if you have the passive range of motion, you should be able to use it. The active range of motion should be relatively close to what the passive available range currently is. If you can’t use that range, there’s a problem.
While much of the limits to passive range of motion may be structural, the limits to active range of motion are usually more neural. The efferent division of the nervous system controls motor function, including developing sufficient strength across entire ranges of motion or within portions of that range commonly used.

Coming back to the original question of this post, should you even stretch? That depends on whether you need more passive or active range of motion, and what methods of development are best for improving those characteristics.

If you have enough flexibility to do all of the things you want to do in life, you don’t need to develop more flexibility. Would more be good to have if you needed it? Sure, but at current time, you’re golden.

If you can get enough hip flexion to squat to depth for a powerlifting meet, more range won’t give you more white lights.

If you can’t get to this range of motion needed for the activities you want to do, that’s when stretching could be beneficial. Progress tends to be slow for this, but can happen relatively easily if you’re patient. It may mean watching The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones while holding a stretch, but you can do it.

If you have the range but can’t access it, that’s when active mobility comes into play. A basic approach would be to put the joint into a range of motion it wouldn’t normally be able to get into on its’ own with the help of either external loading or some supportive structure, and then developing muscle tension in that new position.

Creating agonist and antagonist muscle tension in the new position can help develop range-specific strength while also training the motor pattern to create activity in that range that it’s not used to developing, which can help you to access later.

Another option would be to take off the brakes from the system to see if that helps. Some higher threshold core activation exercises seem to help reduce resting neural tone into the distal tissues, and helps expand the available range of motion effectively.

Once you have access to that range in both passive and active capabilities, it’s time to train it. Use big ranges of motion with max contractile ability, then add loading to it to help cement that ability to use through all the challenges you can throw at it.

 

So this comes back to the original question: Should you even stretch? I have a simple flow chart to explain the basis of this post and give some direction on what you should do.

If you have both the flexibility and control through the range of motion to do what you want to do, you don’t need to stretch.

If you have the flexibility but not the control, you need to do more active controlled tension drills to help access that range of motion. If you don’t even have the range of motion to do the activity you’re looking to do, that’s where things like static stretching, PNF style contractions, high threshold strategies, joint mobilization or self-myofascial release (foam rolling) can come in very handy.

Haphazardly stretching everything for everyone is rarely ever a beneficial way of training, let alone a good use of time for many individuals with whom it may not be recommended. More range of motion is often not necessary, or even attainable in the case of structural restrictions, but if you enjoy stretching and it makes you feel good, that’s reason enough to continue if you like. However, if it’s not giving you any specific benefits, it may be worth choosing any of the other options we went through today and see if they produce more of a benefit to your training.

Along with Dr. Mike Israetel, Dean is the co-creator of the L2 Fitness Summit Video Series, which was released today. I'm in the process of working my way through this new continuing education resource; Dean offers a nice glimpse into some assessment components that go beyond typical movement screens, and Mike's presentation on hypertrophy mechanisms and strategies was insightful as well. These are some seemingly minimally-related topics, but they did a good job of pulling everything together. It's on sale for $50 off this week, and definitely worth a look - especially with it being the end of the year and NSCA CEUs being available for the resource. Check it out HERE.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2 3 166
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series