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Two Decades in the Gym

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been lifting weights seriously for a full two decades.

For 13 of those 20 years, I’ve been a gym owner. I’d conservatively estimate that at least one training session per week over those 13 years has been me solo in a 6,000-15,000 square foot facility. That’s about 700 training sessions I’ve logged without another person in sight.

There have been days when I’ve pulled 650 pounds by myself, and others when 405 pounds felt absurdly heavy - but I always showed up. There have been 5am grinders and midnight madness. I’ve trained when I was excited about something, and also when I was irritated about something else.

What are the points?

1. Showing up consistently always pays off, even when the 10/10 training sessions seem to be overshadowed by the 3/10 debacles. And, as my buddy @benbrunotraining often says, most of your training consists of the 7/10 sessions in the middle.

2. Intrinsic motivation is probably the most overlooked facet of long-term training success. If you’re waiting for someone else to motivate you, your plan isn’t good. You have to be willing to embrace the suck by yourself and view extrinsic motivation as a bonus when it comes.

3. A lot of people fall in love with the destination when they should be enjoying the process. My training has been as much about trying out new exercise and programming strategies that might help our athletes as it has about my own fitness goals. And, it’s served as an important time for me to gather my thoughts and work through challenging decisions.

Here’s to the next 20 years.

Happy New Year!

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The Best of 2020: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2020, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…

1. Progression Strategies for Back Hip Loading - In this article, Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator Jordan Kraus shared some strategies for improving back hip loading in the pitching delivery. Once you read it, however, you'll recognize that these strategies are universal for progressing this important competency for any rotational sport athlete.

2. Arm Care: Why Are We Still Talking About Down and Back? - Eric Schoenberg, who serves as a physical therapist at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida, discusses one of the most misunderstood cues with respect to upper extremity health.

3. Taking Proteus Motion for a Spin - Last December, we brought in a new technology - Proteus Motion - to Cressey Sports Performance – Florida to try out for the offseason, and we integrated it at CSP-MA shortly thereafter. It goes without saying that we found some excellent benefits, and in this guest contribution, physical therapist Tanner Allen elaborates on them.

4. 4 Training Principles to Make the Most of Your Speed Work - With so many people getting outside to sprint in light of gyms closing during the pandemic, it was a good time for CSP-FL coach Derek Kambour to reflect on important training approaches to help them all move efficiently.

5. Sandbag Training for Baseball Players - We've been using sandbags a lot more in our training these days, and it's largely due to the influence of physical therapist Dan Swinscoe, who delivered an awesome inservice to our staff on the topic. Here's a guest post from Dan that highlights the how and why of using sandbags.

I'll be back soon with more highlights from 2020.

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The Best of 2020: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2020" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year.

1. Birddog Rows -This is one of our favorite horizontal pulling variations. Check out this great write-up on the drill from CSP-FL Director of Performance, Tim Geromini.

2. Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill - This drill comes to you courtesy of Cressey Sports Performance coach Derek Kambour. The Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill is an awesome full-body exercise that delivers several important benefits. Learn more in this write-up.

3. Adductor Slides - This is an awesome exercise for adductors that are both long and strong. Check out this full write-up to learn more about how we use this drill.

4. Bottoms-up Kettlebell Arm Bar - The Kettlebell Arm Bar is an awesome exercise that delivers several important benefits, but we've admittedly taken some time to warm up to it. Learn more here.

5. Bowler Squat to J-Band Y - This exercise is the brainchild of physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, who works out of Cressey Sports Performance – Florida. When I first saw him implementing it with a patient, I immediately thought, “How have I never thought of it?” It actually combines two of my favorite exercises: the bowler squat and the J-Band Y. In doing so, we get an awesome arm care exercise that integrates single-leg balance and hip mobility. Learn more here.

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2020!

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The Best of 2020: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2020 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. What Do You Think of XYZ Method? - Often, I’ll get inquiries where folks ask what I think of a specific method. It might be yoga, Crossfit, Pilates, or a number of different disciplines. These are always challenging questions to answer because there are actually a number of variables you have to consider - and that's what I cover in this article.

2. Accidental Strength and Conditioning Success - I often joke that some of the biggest training successes of my career came about when I was trying to develop one athletic quality, but actually wound up accidentally developing something else that yielded a great return on investment. Medicine ball training might be the absolute best example of this.

3. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training - Installment 36 - This series is among my most popular, and I was long overdue for an update.

4. Efficient Programming, Better Warm-ups, and Combination Exercises - This feature outlined some programming principles you can employ when designing strength and conditioning plans.

5. Variation Without Change - For long-term training success, there are certain exercise categories that have to be mainstays. However, underneath those broad categorization schemes, there are a lot of opportunities (and a great need) for variation.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2020" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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2020 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales!

Just like everyone else on the planet, I'm offering some great Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. We're just going to kick it off a week early so you have time to sort through it all! From now through next Monday (11/30) at midnight, you can get 25% off the following resources by using the coupon code BF2020EC at checkout.

These eight resources can be purchased through my secure website:

Sturdy Shoulder Solutions - My most recent product release delves going into a ton of depth on some important topics with respect to upper extremity evaluation, programming, and training. Learn more HERE.

CSP Innovations - A collaborative effort by the Cressey Sports Performance staff about a variety of topics. Learn more HERE.

The Specialization Success Guide - A great resource for those looking to pursue strength gains on the big three (squat, bench press, deadlift). Learn more HERE.

The Ultimate Offseason Training Manual - This was the first book I wrote, and it's stood the test of time because of how much of the writing was based on principles that'll last forever. Learn more HERE.

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - A presentation that will bring you up to speed on an important aspect of core training for health and high performance. Learn more HERE.

The Truth About Unstable Surface Training - This e-book covers one of the more controversial topics in the training and rehabilitation worlds today. Learn more HERE.

Everything Elbow - A quick presentation that highlights the key aspects of taking care of throwing elbows. Learn more HERE.

The Art of the Deload - A special report that helps you sort through various approaches to deloading in training programs. Learn more HERE.

And, these two resources I co-created with Mike Reinold can be purchased through his website:

Functional Stability Training (includes Core, Upper, Lower, and Optimizing Movement) - We cover everything from assessment, to programming, to coaching cues, to bridging the gap between rehab and high performance.

Optimal Shoulder Performance - This is a great "primer" on the basics of the shoulder.

Remember, just enter BF2020EC to get the discount.

Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/19/20

We're back with another edition of recommended reading, although this week will be much more about listening!

EC on the Stacked Podcast - I joined old friend Joe DiStefano for a podcast where we went into great detail on the unique nature of the shoulder joint - and how to keep it healthy in your training programs. You can listen to it right here, if you want: 

EC on The Darren Woodson Show - Retired NFL player Darren Woodson and his crew have a great podcast that interviews successful folks from a variety of industries. It was an honor to join them:

Naval Ravikant on Happiness, Reducing Anxiety, and Much More - I really enjoyed this Tim Ferriss podcast; while it delved into topics like cryptocurrency, it shared lessons that are wildly applicable across other industries.

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It goes without saying that scapular control - or the ability to position the shoulder blades appropriately - is absolutely essential to safe and effective upper extremity movement. In order for that to occur, though, the shoulder blades have to start in the right position. With respect to scapular rotation, "neutral" posture has the shoulder blades sitting at 5 degrees of upward rotation at rest. In the picture below, the black line represents where he should be in terms of upward rotation, but instead, you'll see that he sits in about 20-25 degrees of downward rotation (for the record, there are a number of other things wrong with this posture, so this is only a start!). The problem with starting in this much downward rotation (or any downward rotation, at all) is that it's like beginning a race from 20 yards behind the starting line. When the arm starts to move up, the shoulder blade needs to rotate up to maintain the ball and socket congruency. If it starts too low, it can't possibly be expected to catch up - so the ball will ride up relative to the socket, regardless of how strong the rotator cuff is to try to prevent that superior migration. You'll wind up seeing irritation of the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, labrum, or bursa if it's left unchecked. Step 1 is to simply educate people on where the scapula actually should sit, and step 2 is to work on training from that correct new starting position.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/9/20

Here's some recommended content to get October rolling:

Darcy Norman on the Value of Working with Interesting People - I really enjoyed this multi-faceted podcast by Mike Robertson with Darcy Norman, who has a lot of experience in the elite soccer world.

Digital Minimalism - I've enjoyed each of Cal Newport's books, and while this one wasn't as big of a hit for me, it does provide some important discussion points about how technology excessively shapes our existence - and what to do about it.

Play, Practice, or Train? - This was an awesome article from Gray Cook that provides some insights on how to improve organization of our training among these three key classifications. They all have their place, but we have to know how to best fit each one into our planning.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Creative Conditioning: Installment 2 – Proteus Circuits

As a follow up to my recent Creative Conditioning post (here), here's another good one I've been using - this time featuring the Proteus Motion units we have at both our Cressey Sports Performance facilities. This is just a three-exercise 30s on: 30s off interval approach, but you really could utilize a number of different options.

Here's why I like it:

1. Similar to a medicine ball medley, Proteus is concentric-dominant, so you won't elicit much, if any, soreness the following day. That makes it fit more easily with the rest of your strength and conditioning programs. Unlike with med balls, however, you can vary the loading the resistance in the line of motion. This is a key differentiation; just going heavier with a med ball changes the patterning; that isn't true of the Proteus, where movement quality is preserved.

2. Traditional cardio approaches typically get you "stuck" in sagittal plane, repetitive initiatives like cycling, elliptical, and even sprinting. Similar to hopping on a slideboard or doing change-of-direction movement work, this exposes you to reps in different planes to stimulate different body systems (fascial, lymphatic, etc) to unique patterns. As you can see, I need more of this in my life!😂

3. Depending on the exercises you choose, there are limited ground reaction forces, which can make this helpful if you have heavier athletes/clients who may not be able to take the pounding of sprint/change-of-direction work.

You can learn more about Proteus Motion by visiting www.ProteusMotion.com.

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Exercise of the Week: Supine Bridge w/Reach

The supine bridge with reach has been a popular mobility drill for us for close to a decade now, but I realized that we haven't highlighted it in an online feature to give it the love it deserves. The video is actually part of The High Performance Handbook video library.

I love this drill because it not only gives us the terminal hip extension we get with many glute activation exercises, but also an element of thoracic mobility. In many athletic endeavors (including pitching, as you see below), the thoracic spine must continue to rotate as the hips extend.

This drill enables us to not only train some of the muscular recruitment patterns we want, but also challenges the fascial system by getting us a more multi-planar, proximally initiated challenge. You also get a nice blend of elasticity because of the rhythmic nature of it, and can easily interject variety by changing the angle at which you reach.

We'll work this into a warm-up with a set of five reps on each side, or mix it in as a "filler" between medicine ball sets. Give the supine bridge with reach a shot to keep your mobility work engaging, progressive, and productive!

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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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