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Creative Conditioning: Installment 1 – Medicine Ball Medleys

It's important to have plenty of tools in your training toolbox to challenge energy systems development. With that in mind, I wanted to kick off a Creative Conditioning series for you. Hopefully, some of these options give you some variety to not only keep clients/athletes engaged, but also to help them stay healthy and continue to move well in the process.

One of the downsides of traditional cardio is that you typically get stuck in repetitive patterns through small ranges of motion. So, while you might be challenging energy systems in the ways you want, you may simultaneously be creating unfavorable biomechanical challenges. With that in mind, I always like to have higher-amplitude, less repetitive options for our clients.

Medicine ball circuits are one such option. In this version, I use the 6lb med ball for shuffle to scoop toss (5/side), side-to-side overhead stomps (5/side), and reverse lunge to shotput (5/side) - and it works out to right about a minute of work.

A few notes:

1. Medicine ball work is awesome because it won't make you sore (very little eccentric overload), offers endless variations/combinations, and provides a more significant functional carryover to the real-world.

2. Medicine ball medleys won't absolutely bury your lower body like sprinting or cycling can, so it can be an approach that fits into your overall programming a bit more "conveniently."

3. You can keep it simple with in-place options, or - as I do here - add more excursions with side shuffles, sprints, etc. to add a bit of complexity.

4. I wouldn't use medicine ball medleys with true beginners for conditioning because fatigue negatively impacts technique, and you can wind up seeing some ugly rotational patterns as sets progress. The last thing you want to do is chew up a lower back while you're trying to get heart rate up.

5. We use the Extreme Soft Toss Med Balls from Perform Better. I've found them to be the best blend of ideal rebound and durability.

Try them out - and remember that the only limit is your imagination. 

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Programming Principles: Installment 4

With this week's $50 off sale on The High Performance Handbook, it seemed like a good time to update this series on program design strategies. Many fitness professionals and strength and conditioning enthusiasts have looked to this resource as a model upon which to base some of their program design efforts, so I thought I'd dig in a bit deeper on a few useful principles you'll find in it that should be consistent across all programs.

1. The warm-up should always build context for the strength and power training exercises that follow.

A good warm-up shouldn't just get your body temperature up; it should also be a chance to drive quality movement so that you're patterned for the loading that follows.

Planning to sprint and want to improve the likelihood that you'll get clean hip extension? Try a glute wall march iso hold.

Looking forward to a big overhead pressing day? Get in a set of the back-to-wall shoulder flexion drill.

[bctt tweet="Specificity doesn't just matter with respect to how your high-load and high-velocity movements carry over to performance; it also relates to how your warm-ups prepare you for those movements in the first place."]

2. In any program, the most important work should occur early in the training session.

In my opinion, one of the absolute ways to teach a young coach how to efficiently and effectively program is to ask him/her to take a 4x/week strength training program and pare it back to a 3x/week and eventually a 2x/week program. In doing so, it forces the coach to really consider what the most important programming inclusions are.

95% of the time, you'll find that it simply means cutting off the last exercise pairing from each day, trimming the volume on certain exercises, and then simply rearranging the exercises so that there aren't competing supersets (which can often happen when switching from an upper/lower split to a full-body approach). If you go through this exercise and find that any of your A1/A2 and B1/B2 programming is "expendable," then you probably need to reconsider your programming approaches.

3. Make use of combination exercises when you need to be efficient - or just more athletic.

Let's face it: you don't always have unlimited time to get in an optimal training effect. In this situations, it's really helpful to have exercises you can plug in to combine some of your favorites. Here are just a few examples:

Landmine Squat to 1-arm Press - I love this as a first exercise on the middle day of a 3x/week strength training program. You can train a squat pattern, get a bit of lower body stimulus, and still drive some free scapula pressing under considerable load.

Rear-Foot Elevated 1-arm Low Cable Row - This is a great horizontal pulling exercise you can plug in when you also want to get a little single-leg emphasis, but don't want to bury an athlete with fatigue or soreness. I might use it on a full-body day when we've already had a deadlift variation and lateral lunge variation, but I want some kind of single-leg work in the sagittal plane without making the session last much longer.

The possibilities are really endless on this front, but the point is that you always need to have options for delivering multiple training effects without driving excessive volume or really long sessions.

I'll be back soon with another Programming Principles installment, but in the meantime, as a friendly reminder, The High Performance Handbook is my flagship resource, and I currently have it on sale at the largest discount ($50 off) that we've ever offered, though Sunday at midnight. The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/1/20

Happy September! It's been a few weeks since I posted a recommended reading list. Here goes...

Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry - This recent release from Joan Ryan is the best book I've read in 2020. If you're involved in strength and conditioning or team sports in any capacity, I'd call it a must-read.

The Most Important Coaching Responsibility - I wrote this last year, but in light of how many people are acting on social media these days, it seemed like a good time to reaffirm the importance of staying away from negative influences.

Why It's So Hard to Find Dumbbells in the US - This is an entertaining piece in light of the crazy times of 2020.

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I came across this picture of Josh Hader's delivery (via @brewers) the other day, and it was yet another reminder to always check the neck first when you see more distal (shoulder, elbow, etc.) symptoms in an overhead throwing population. When you consider the lateral flexion of his cervical spine in conjunction with the shoulder abduction and external rotation, elbow flexion, and wrist extension each throw is effectively an upper limb tension test on the nerves (and vascular structures) that run from the brachial plexus down to the fingertips. What exacerbates this tension? 👇 1. Increased cervical lateral flexion 2. Insufficient clavicular upward rotation 3. Insufficient scapular upward rotation and posterior tilt 4. Increased shoulder external rotation 5. Poor glenohumeral (ball on socket) control 6. "Gritty" tissue density from neck-to-hand that interferes with nerves gliding smoothly 7. Increased wrist extension (to a lesser degree, in my experience) Regardless of what you think might be in play, always start with the neck. I think the Selective Functional Movement Assessment four-part cervical screen (swipe left) is a great place to start. #cspfamily

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Cressey Sports Performance Business Building Mentorship: Online September 22-24

We’re excited to announce that on Tuesday-Thursday, September 22-24, Pete Dupuis and I will be hosting our fifth CSP Business-Building Mentorship. For the first time, this event will be offered in an online format over Zoom. Pete and I have spent over 13 years 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 capping the number of attendees who participate. The event will run from 12pm-3pm Eastern time (Boston) each day so that we can account for attendees in many different time zones.

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

Day 1 – Introduction & Lead Generation

12:00pm – 12:30pm: Introduction: The Four Pillars of Fitness Business Success
12:30pm – 3:00pm: Lead Generation: Strategic Relationship Development, Identifying & Connecting with Opinion Leaders, Social Media Strategies

Day 2 – Lead Conversion & Business Operations (Part 1)

12:00pm - 1:00pm : Lead Conversion: CSP Selling Strategy & Methodology
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Operations: Accounting for Gym Owners – Guest Lecture from Mike Graham, Certified Public Accountant
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Operations: Internship Program Design & Execution

Day 3 – Business Operations (Part 2) & Long-Term Planning

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Operations: Hiring Protocols, Staff Development & Continuing Ed.
1:00pm – 2:00pm: Long-Term Planning: Lease Negotiation Considerations
2:00pm – 3:00pm: Long-Term Planning: Strategic Brand Dev., Evaluating Opportunities, SWOT Analysis

Note: we will include Q&A opportunities throughout the presentations and at the end of each day, so the 3:00pm is not a "hard stop" time.

Cost: $899.99

Click here to register using our 100% secure server.

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Exercise of the Week: Bottoms-up Kettlebell Arm Bar

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach Derek Kambour.

The Kettlebell Arm Bar is an exercise you will commonly see performed in facilities across the country. Admittedly, it was an activity that we stayed away from for a period, mostly because of the population that we work with and the vulnerable position it could put them in. Many of the high-level pitchers that come to us have experienced anterior shoulder pain. Obviously, these symptoms could be present for a number of reasons, including a loose anterior capsule, labral tear, cranky biceps tendon, nerve-related issues, rotator cuff issues, or a most of other challenges. Regardless of what is causing the symptoms, one of our jobs as performance specialists is to make sure that we are making appropriate exercise selections and not provoking any of these symptoms. What we have found over time with the Kettlebell Arm Bar is that – when executed in a specific manner, at the right time, with appropriate loads – it gives us a lot of return on investment and has not provoked any of these symptoms with any of our athletes.

Many coaches utilize this exercise with their athletes for reflexive shoulder stability (irradiation) and rotary core stability benefits, which can be useful reasons to include them in a program. However, we can also use this activity to accomplish other important training outcomes if it is performed the way that is shown in the video below:

As physical therapist Bill Hartman has done a great job of demonstrating (and be sure to check his stuff out), when we can use internal forces (air pressure, fluid volumes, etc.,) to our advantage in order to help reshape the ribcage and improve scapulothoracic mechanics, that is where we can potentially restore shoulder range of motion without working directly on the joint. Certainly, there are manual interventions that may be necessary, but if we can assist in re-establishing normal joint mechanics with movement alone, I think that is extremely valuable. While many of our throwing athletes possess plenty of external rotation on their throwing shoulder (though we do sometimes see those who have limitations here as well), most will possess very limited internal rotation, especially after a long season. With this movement paired with specific breathing sequences, you can potentially improve shoulder motion in both directions. Traditionally, this movement was thought of as purely a “stability” exercise, but it just goes to show that how you implement or coach the exercise matters.

You may be wondering how heavy this exercise needs to be loaded. My simple answer to this is that if you struggle to breathe during the exercise, there is a good chance it’s too heavy. In that case, keep the goal the goal, and go down in weight. The kettlebell can be held in the normal position (bell is sitting on the outside of your wrists) or, as seen in the video, you can utilize the bottoms-up position to challenge the movement further. We typically like to use the KB Arm Bar in either the warm-up, or paired with medicine ball work for 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps/side.

About the Author

​Derek Kambour serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to joining the staff, Derek completed an internship at CSP-FL in the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the CSP-FL team, Derek coached a variety of athletes and clientele at performance facilities in New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair St. University with a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Derek is also a competitive powerlifter. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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How to Stay on Top of the Latest Research

I pride myself on having a training philosophy that is rooted in both “in the trenches” anecdotal experience and evidence-based practice. Both can be challenging to develop, but for different reasons.

Building a sample size in your head helps you to make judgment calls when the research isn’t necessarily there, or you need to make inferences based on limited information. As an example, as I've written previously here, research has demonstrated that lat strains that are managed conservatively have a return to pitching timeline of ~100 days. That information is great if you’re seeing an athlete from Day 0 post injury, but where should that individual’s progress be at Day 40? That’s where in the trenches experience helps. Unfortunately, it takes a ton of time - and learning from mistakes along the way.

Evidence-based information can be accessed much easier and without the need for years of experience. Unfortunately, though, there is a ton of it to sift through. There are countless scholarly journals out there, and full-text access isn’t always easy to come by. Moreover, We often take for granted that study designs are all acceptable if something makes it to publication. The truth is that some scholarly journals have much lower publication standards than others. it could be a full-time job just pouring over all these journals, but it could be five full-time jobs to make sure they’re all legitimate.

Who has time for that? Certainly not me. Luckily, the good folks at Examine.com have built out an amazing team whose focus is particularly in this evidence based arena. And, they’ve got an awesome new resource - Examine Personalized - I’m excited to tell you about because I’m going to be utilizing it myself. Here's how it works:

I love this approach because it's both curated content: just like you follow certain people on social media to get the information you want, this allows you to select which categories mean the most to you. Here are the 25 categories you can select from for your targeted education:

The July update covered 275 studies over 149 pages in these 25 categories. This is going to save me a lot of time and, more importantly, make me a more informed professional. And, it'll help me to come up with ideas for content for my writing and videos on this site, as some of my most popular articles of all time have related to me building on what I've learned from evidence-based research.

As an introductory offer (through this Friday at midnight), they've got some sweet deals in place:

Monthly: $9/mo
Yearly: $75 (normally $90)
Lifetime: $299 (normally $399)

You also get to choose your free gift: either a free Supplement Guide (normally $49) or three months of Nutrition Examination Research Digest (normally $60). You can learn more HERE.


 

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

Here's a list of recommended reading/listening to check out:

Examine Personalized - Examine.com has been around close to a decade and has consistently produced top-notch evidence based information on a variety of subjects related to health and human performance. Now, they have a crazy affordable ($9/month, $75/year, or $299 lifetime) new service that makes it easy for you to stay on top of the latest published research in your chosen fields. The July update is 149 pages alone and features 25 categories!

Muscles and Management: Episode 87 - Pete Dupuis - My business partner, Pete, was a guest on this recent podcast, and he shared a lot of insights on starting/managing a gym.

Professional Development: Processes vs. Outcomes - Being able to separate processes from outcomes is a crucial competency, and it definitely applies to growing as a fitness professional.

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I often say that wrist/hand and foot/ankle specialists are the brightest sports medicine professionals out there. My rationale: there are a ton of anatomical structures in a small area. In fact, 106 of the 206 bones in your body can be found in the hands and feet. Additionally, the hands and feet are highly proprioceptive areas, yet because they feature more tendons than muscle bellies, the blood supply isn’t great. Finally, the hands and feet are highly susceptible to overuse; once they get cranky, they’re challenging to settle down. The end result is a lot of challenging sports medicine cases. #Repost @dr.alvaromuratore @get_repost_easily #repost_easily ****** The extensor retinaculum of the wrist is a system of containment and stabilization of the extensor tendons at the level of the wrist. It is located on the back of the wrist, it is approximately 6 cm wide and 3 cm long, it is directed from the radius towards the ulna in the form of a bracelet. It also has fibrous longitudinal partitions that form 6 compartments through which the extensor tendons cross. #handsurgery #handsurgeon #handanatomy #tendonsurgery #anatomy #handtherapy #physicaltherapy #kinesiology #sportsmedicine #orthopedicsurgeon #orthopedics #orthopedicsurgery #medicalstudent #medicalstudents #cspfamily

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Exercise of the Week: Step-up Rotational Cable Lift

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Director of Performance, Tim Geromini.

Cable chops and lifts have been an integral part of strength and conditioning programs for many years, and will continue to be for good reason. They establish proper kneeling and split stance hip positions, create anti-rotation and anti-extension core control, train thoracic mobility, and teach us how to absorb force in multiple planes. To that end, seeking variations where we can challenge clients in new ways led us to the step-up rotational cable lift.

Here is how to make sure you’re doing this properly and seeing the benefits:

1. The box should align your hip to about 90 degrees of flexion; more is not always better in this instance. At this depth you should still be able to create force pushing down through the box and feel your hip extensors engage.

2. Make sure you are in a neutral spine position. In too much hip flexion, it’s very easy to either lean back into lumbar extension or round forward into lumbar flexion. Neither of these positions allows you to create stability in your lower half.

3. The inside foot should be pointing straight ahead and that hip should be extended.

4. The foot on the box should not remain “rooted” the entire set; imagine trying to pick up a basketball with that foot. Focus on keeping your knee from caving in or bowing out. If I’m looking straight at you, there should be a straight line from your toes, knee, hip, and shoulder.

5. Both hip flexors should be pointing straight ahead avoiding any lateral flexion or hips bailing out to the side. Keep your arms in tight on the initial pull and your rotational component will come from your thoracic spine, not lumbar spine.

We typically program these for 8 reps per side towards the end-portion of a training session.

About the Author

Tim Geromini is the Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter (@timgeromini24).

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Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach Derek Kambour.

At Cressey Sports Performance, we utilize several kettlebell windmill variations. A while back, Eric covered the regular standing version HERE. Today, I’d like to cover the half kneeling position, as I think there are some technical elements that should be highlighted in order to get the most out of this exercise.

Often, you’ll see this activity performed similar to the downward portion of a Turkish Get-Up, where the individual is in a half kneeling position, with the back hip in an externally rotated position, and then they will hinge back into that hip as they reach towards the ground, all while holding weight in an overhead position. While there is nothing wrong with this execution – especially if the goal is to challenge the individual’s ability to stabilize load in an overhead position while improving the ability to hinge – I do believe there are some ways we can coach this activity in a specific manner to get more out of it. I originally saw the execution of this exercise from Dr. Pat Davidson, so all credit goes to him for showing how to get more from this activity. This is an awesome transverse plane core exercise that helps individuals learn how to load their hip in the frontal plane. If you are an athlete trying to improve your ability to get in and out of a cut, or a pitcher looking to improve back hip loading or accepting force on the front hip, this could be a great exercise to include. Below is a demonstration that gives you a general understanding as to how we coach this exercise.

When performed in this manner, folks are getting a lot more than just overhead stability benefits. Here are some of the key components of this exercise explained further:

1. Setting up in a solid half-kneeling position is going to be essential when executing this variation. To ensure that the individual is in a good position, we like to have the individual drive the back foot into a wall, especially for those who have never performed this exercise before. The wall allows the individual to feel their hamstring and glute to gain better control of their pelvis on the down side hip. The wall is not always needed, but it can certainly help. The front foot should also be pressed into the ground as well.

2. Once set up in this half kneeling position, the KB can be pressed overhead. It is important to note, this exercise does not need to be loaded very heavy at first. We often start folks with a 15-25lb. kettlebell and they are absolutely smoked by the time they are done with their set. Sometimes, I will have the person I am working with perform this with no load, as it allows them to focus on the more important aspects of the exercise.

3. Before the individual reaches for the ground, they should be shifting into the front hip. Many times, when someone goes to perform this hip shift action, they will lose control of their pelvis and go into an anteriorly oriented position. Be sure that you, or the individual you are coaching, executes the shift while maintaining a subtle tuck of the pelvis.

4. As the individual begins to rotate and reach for the ground, it is important to keep both arms long. While they are slowly reaching towards the ground with the bottom arm/hand, they should be trying to maintain that hip shift without any movement of the front femur. The most common movement fault seen with this exercise is the inability to maintain control the front leg as the hips shift laterally towards the front side. The front leg should not move front to back or side to side, and it may be beneficial to think about pushing the knee in towards the midline. If done correctly, they should feel their adductors working significantly.

5. Most of the time, I will instruct the individual to reach down until the palm of their hand touches the ground, and that is as far as I will have them go. Some individuals are pretty mobile and can get their forearm all the way down to the ground. I’m fine with this as long as everything else checks out and they are feeling the desired musculature.

6. To get even more out of this activity, we can add a respiratory component to challenge this position further. Once the hand reaches the ground, the individual should get a full exhale out, and closing the side of the ribcage that is down. After a full exhale out and maintaining that bottom position, the individual can then inhale into the side of the ribcage that is up (trying to get air into the upper chest wall). After they have achieved maximal expansion in this area, they can exhale out again as they come back up into the starting position.

We will typically have our athletes perform this exercise for 2-4 sets of 6-8 reps per side as an accessory exercise towards the end of the session, or as part of their movement prep before their strength training. Once they’re proficient with it, we might load it up more and use it as part of a first pairing on an upper body training session (similar to how we program Turkish Get-ups). Give it a shot!

About the Author

​Derek Kambour serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to joining the staff, Derek completed an internship at CSP-FL in the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the CSP-FL team, Derek coached a variety of athletes and clientele at performance facilities in New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair St. University with a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Derek is also a competitive powerlifter. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/4/20

It's time for another recommended reading list from around the 'Net. Let's get to it!

A conversation: Retired African American MLB players on race, baseball, America - It would be tone-deaf to publish a recommended reading list in current times without alluding to the challenges facing the world right now - and this tremendous roundtable discussion with some of the most successful African American athletes of the past 20 years in baseball was outstanding.

EC on the EliteFTS Podcast - I joined the EliteFTS team to talk strength and conditioning for baseball on their podcast. You can listen to the entire conversation on their YouTube page:

EC on the Baseball Outside the Box Podcast - I also chatted with Peter Caliendo on his baseball podcast this past week. Check it out:

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