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Fixing the Flaws: Poor Frontal Plane Stability at the Hips

Frontal plane stability in the lower body is dependent on the interaction of several muscle groups, most notably the three gluteals, tensor fascia latae (TFL), adductors, and quadratus lumborum (QL). This weakness is particularly evident when an athlete performs a single-leg excursion and the knee falls excessively inward or (less commonly) outward. Generally speaking, weakness of the hip abductors – most notably the gluteus medius and minimus – is the primary culprit when it comes to the knee falling medially, as the adductors, QL, and TFL tend to be overactive. However, lateral deviation of the femur and knee is quite common in skating athletes, as they tend to be very abductor dominant and more susceptible to adductor strains as a result. In both cases, closed-chain exercises to stress the hip abductors or adductors are warranted; in other words, keep your athletes off those sissy obstetrician machines, as they lead to a host of dysfunction that's far worse that the weakness the athlete already demonstrates! For the abductors, I prefer mini-band sidesteps and body weight box squats with the mini-band wrapped around the knees. For the adductors, you'll have a hard time topping lunges to different angles, sumo deadlifts, wide-stance pull-throughs, and Bulgarian squats. Eric Cressey www.BuildingtheEfficientAthlete.com Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Max Pushups and Upper Body Strength

Q: I read your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual and really enjoyed the chapter on “Performance Testing for Succcess.” What is your opinion on using the push-up max rep test as a measurement of upper body strength for female athletes? Do you believe there is a correlation between performing max push-ups and absolute upper body strength? I was discussing this topic with another strength coach who believes if a female athlete can only give you 5 push-up reps then it may be a good assessment of absolute strength. In addition, take the following scenarios (if all is equal such as weight, body fat, arm length, mechanics, etc): Male Athlete A: 170lbs; Max Push-ups reps = 35 Male Athlete B: 170lbs; Max Push-up reps = 20 Would you say Athlete A has greater absolute strength (or better muscular endurance in the upper body)? I have an opinion but would like to get yours. There are research articles on the NSCA website regarding the push-up test as a measurement of upper body strength and the infamous 225 rep test and its correlation to maximum strength. A: I'd rather use the push-up as an assessment of an athlete's ability to stabilize the lumbar spine. Frankly, I don't use actual dynamic push-ups very much early on in females simply because there are very few people who do them correctly. I'd rather build upper body strength with movement that enable me to manipulate load differently while I work on stability with other exercises (push-up holds for time, prone bridge variations, side bridges, Pallof presses). Eventually, we work in limited ROM push-ups on a bar set up in a power rack and gradually move them closer and closer to the ground. Your example is a bit tricky. Sure, having more max strength will help your muscular endurance, but that's not to say that certain athletes can't become more metabolically conditioned to do a lot of rep at a high percentage of their 1RM. I recall hearing that elite rowers can do as many as 20 reps at something like 95% of their 1RM! And, as a little aside, I wish people would just stop throwing 1RMs under the bus. Everyone seems to be so afraid of making athletes actually lift heavy stuff nowadays, and it's one reason that very few female athletes are strong enough to punch their way out of a wet paper bag. If you look at the research, you're more likely to get hurt on a 3RM+ test than you are on a 1RM test. If you want an assessment that goes beyond just a 1RM test, try the five rep bench press for speed test that I outline in the Off-Season Manual. Eric Cressey www.EricCressey.com Technorati Tags: , , , , ,
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The 315 Deadlift Fiasco

I see that my latest T-Nation article has caused quite a stir on the forums. Specifically, these two paragraphs got people all flustered: "Sorry, folks, but I'm here to burst your bubble. A 315 deadlift is not inspirational ? at least not unless you're a 110-pound female. 315 is speed weight ? or something you do for 87 reps on a whim after a dare (not that I'd know anything about stupid challenges like that). I've said it before and I'll say it again: any healthy male under the age of 50 can deadlift 400 within two years of proper training ? and most can do it even faster than that." I thought I'd put this out there to - at the very least - put things in perspective. You guys need to remember that sometimes, to make a point, you use a hyperbole. Why do marketers hire professional athletes to promote products to kids who will likely never become professional athletes? Why do cosmetics companies hire drop-dead gorgeous models to sell mascara to women who have been beaten with the ugly stick? I have new clients who haven't pulled 315 yet - and I might never even want to take them that far. Some don't even deadlift. The deadlift is just a reference point for people to realize that they can do pretty amazing things if they stop selling themselves short. Consider these factors... 1. I haven't missed a planned exercise session in seven years in spite of the fact that I've injuries here and there along the way. Consistency is the single-most important element of success in terms of strength gains. If you have competing demands (sports practices, endurance training, etc.), you need to be consistent with those as well in order to make progress - and they might interfere with you getting a big deadlift (again, not the point of the article). 2. To that end, give this article a read: 28 Syngergistic Factors for Success Right now, you might only be covering a few of the 28 factors - and therefore have a tremendous window of adaptation. 3. In the 148-pound weight and 70-74 age class, the world record deadlift (WPC) is 440 pounds. My point is that if you live your life thinking about limits, you're condemned to find them prematurely. This world record holder probably trained a lot harder and more frequently than you and with better nutrition and recovery protocols in place; he wasn't just a weekend warrior on an internet forum. So, in consideration of that, if you're putting in, say, 25% of the effort they're putting in, why should you EVER reach a limit? The main problem I see with the overwhelming majority of people who get their information from the internet is that they're convinced that they are in some way completely unique and immune to the laws of physiology because they have the curse of knowledge. It's either because they played high school football 30 years ago, they've had four knee surgeries, they're too old, or a host of other issues. When it really comes down to it, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy of mediocrity that can only be remedied by getting out there, working hard and smart, being consistent and open-minded, and discovering that the sky really is the limit - especially when you get around people who can outperform you. As a kid, Pete Sampras used to lose matches in the 18-and-under division when he could have been winning tournaments in the U-12 ranks. A 315 deadlift is a solid mental image that fits into everyone's existing schemas, so it's an easy frame of reference from which to elicit an emotional response. If I had said that everyone needed to deadlift 1.57x body weight and incorporated a multiplying factor for age, gender, limb length, amount of endurance activity per week, etc. - people would have missed the point. My challenge to you is to see the benefit of an entire article rather than focusing on one sentence that was merely an example. And, once you've realized that benefit, act on it - regardless of your chosen endeavor. Have a great weekend, EC Technorati Tags: , , , ,
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Youth Depression and Anxiety

On Sunday night, I made an impromptu trip to Wal-Mart to pick up an umbrella for the rainy Marathon. As I was standing in line, a woman a few people ahead of me dropped something as she was loading her items onto the checkout conveyor belt. She was taking care of a small child, and didn’t reach down to pick it up right away. Just a second or two later, a rather overweight kid from a few feet away started walking toward her; my first assumption was that he was going to help her out and pick it up. Instead, he walked right past the item on the floor, actually bumped her aside a bit, grabbed a bottle of Sunkist® from a cooler next to her, and then walked off. After throwing a “what the heck?” look at the kid for a split-second, I walked the ten-feet or so over to the women and picked her item up, set it on the conveyor belt, and smiled. She said thank you, and that was that. The bad news is that kids are getting fatter and fatter, people. The good news is that many of them are so rude that pretty soon, we’ll be more occupied with their crap behavior to be concerned with their “husky” profiles. Not surprisingly, the two are pretty closely related: “Regardless of race or sex, increasing weight is associated with emotional and weight-related distress in children.” Young-Hyman D. et al. Psychological status and weight-related distress in overweight or at-risk-for-overweight children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Dec;14(12):2249-58. I’m going to go out on a limb and infer from the research and my anecdotal Wal-Mart observation that if a kid is overweight, leading to depression and distress, chances are that he’s going to be more likely to treat people like dirt. I was more sarcastic when I was an overweight kid, and as I’ve gotten older and into better shape, I’ve developed a sense of humor – not more bitter sarcasm. To that end, anecdotally, I’ve seen athletes who have lost considerable amounts of body fat and change their demeanors in a matter of months. The more self-confidence one has, the less likely he or she is to point out the shortcomings of others. The stronger and leaner one becomes, the more likely he or she is to help out an up-and-coming athlete. Physical health and appearance can literally transform one’s personality. About three weeks ago, I got a thank you email out of the blue from the father of one of my athletes. This past summer, right as I began working with him, his son (a senior) verbally committed to a solid Division 1 program to play baseball. Since August, this athlete has trained with me 3-4 times a week and given tremendous effort day-in and day-out. He’s leaned out, packed on some muscle mass, gotten a ton stronger, and actually looks like an athlete now. Now, when we lift, it’s like he’s another coach in the room, helping the newer guys out – just like a team captain should. He’s brought in teammates to experience the same great results that he did because he knows that it feeds right back into his own success. Perhaps most impressively, though, is the fact that his father contacted me to let me know just how much of a difference it has made in the way he carries himself. He dresses differently (for the better), walks with his head and chest up, and flat-out treats people better. I think that the take-home message in all of this is that if we’re looking to improve the attitudes of “Generation Y” – athlete or not – we need to make exercise and nutrition integral parts of that battle. Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS, is a strength and conditioning specialist at Excel Sport and Fitness Training (www.ExcelStrength.com) in Waltham, MA. Excel’s experienced staff specializes in working with athletes of all ages and ability levels in a fun and motivating environment. The author of The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to the professional and Olympic levels. You can find out more about Eric and sign up for his free newsletter at www.EricCressey.com. ec@ericcressey.com Eric Cressey Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Congratulations, Steph!

For those of you who missed it, there was a great article in the Boston Globe about one of my clients' inspirational preparation for the Boston Marathon. Check it out HERE. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/04/13/loss_fuels_her_resolve_to_make_a_difference/ I'm pleased to say that in spite of a cold, windy, rainy day and a freak ankle sprain early in the race, Steph finished in 4:14:59. On a nice, sunny day, she goes under four hours with no problems - especially if she's got two good ankles working for her! Perhaps best of all, Steph raised $5,877.20 for the Boston Medical Center's Good Grief Program. Congratulations on an excellent job, Steph! Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS www.EricCressey.com www.ExcelStrength.com Technorati Tags: , ,
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Torn Between Two Extremes

How to Kick That Spare Tire On one hand, this article frustrates the crap out of me, as it’s a sign that there are still a lot of people in influential positions spewing garbage information: “If you've got some weight to lose, say 10 pounds or more, your primary focus should be aerobic exercise, such as running, biking and swimming, which will help lower your total body fat. To get the best results, aim for 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five days a week. Twice a week incorporate anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, using eight to 10 different exercises targeting large muscles, Millar says. Overall, your workout should be 75% aerobic and 25% anaerobic, suggests Edward Jackowski, CEO and founder of the motivational fitness company Exude.” Somewhere Alwyn Cosgrove is weeping – or, more likely, cursing angrily in a thick Scottish accent. He debunked all these myths in two recent interviews in my newsletter and his wildly successful (and effective) Real World Fat Loss. And, if that wasn’t bad enough… “Jackowski recommends crunches and reverse crunches; the latter involves pulling your knees toward your chest. A recent study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise says the best at-home abdominal exercises in terms of getting definite results are the bicycle maneuver, where you perform a crunch by touching your knees to your opposite elbows, and the exercise ball crunch, in which you lie back on the ball, thighs and torso parallel with the floor, and raise your torso no more than 45 degrees as you exhale.” I’m all for reverse crunches, but to lump them together with regular crunches is silly. I mean, one of the things that we emphasized over and over again in our Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set is that crunches are actually doing more harm than good! At, the other extreme, this article makes me happy. I’ll always have plenty of job security when there are fat people and corrective exercise candidates at my fingertips because they’re following the bogus information these people continue to spread! Marathon Monday is at-hand; pray for sunshine. Good luck, Steph! Eric Cressey Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,
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Loss Fuels Her Desire To Make a Difference

It's always great when a client works hard to achieve his or her goals, but it's even better when that success in the gym is a piece of an even bigger success - in this case for an entire family and a very noble cause. This story ran on the front page of Boston.com and the Boston Globe today: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/04/13/loss_fuels_her_resolve_to_make_a_difference/ Congratulations, Steph! Eric Cressey Technorati Tags: ,
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Fat Loss with Cosgrove: Part II

Here's Part 2 of the interview with Alwyn Cosgrove that ran in today's newsletter. http://ecressey.wpengine.com/newsletter52.html We've got a ton more quality information like this available in our free weekly newsletter; subscribe and you'll be the first to hear it! Go Red Sox, EC
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Red Sox Opener

I just thought you'd all like to know that I'll be taking in the Red Sox home opener at Fenway tomorrow afternoon and you won't. Ha! Fortunately, though, I've got some good new for you, too. John Berardi has recently made the Precision Nutrition forums available to the public for FREE. We're talking 40,000+ posts on a variety of topics, access to the new Precision Nutrition Exercise Database, weekly email updates of new articles, recipes and exercises, and free downloads of two new ebooks: Precision Nutrition Strategies and Gourmet Nutrition Desserts. Not a bad deal, huh? Check it out for yourself: Precision Nutrition Enjoy some solid nutrition info while I enjoy the Sox getting the 2007 Fenway season off to a winning start! EC
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Fat-Loss with Alywn Cosgrove

I thought you might be interested in checking out Part I of the fat-loss interview with Alwyn Cosgrove that we ran in today's newsletter. Part 2 will be out next week; you can subscribe to the FREE newsletter to be the first to find out when the time comes: Enjoy! EC
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