Newsletter #71

About the Author: Eric Cressey

With our high school athletes back in school (and many of them in-season), it’s nice to have a little more free time during the day to catch up on writing – and that means a regular schedule for newsletters here at  This week, we’ve got a subscriber-only Q&A, and then a continuation of our Expert Tips compilation – this week with Joe Dowdell.

Subscriber only Q&A

Q: Dancers and yoga practitioners are notoriously known for their extreme flexibility, which can be a problem if not balanced with strength.  How so?

A: Hypermobility can definitely be a problem.  All movements require a delicate balance between mobility and stability.  Some joints demand more mobility at the expense of stability (e.g. shoulders), whereas others require more stability at the expense of mobility (hips).  It’s one of the reasons that we’re always emphasizing stabilization work at the glenohumeral joint, scapula, and lumbar spine and mobility work at the hips, ankles, adn thoracic spine.  When you push the balance between mobility and stability out of whack too far in one direction (e.g. hypermobility), ligaments aren’t as effective as joint stabilizers and muscle length-tension relationships can be negatively affected.

It’s something that a lot of us have been doing from an “isolationist” perspective for quite some time (I remember trying to make sense of it back in graduate school in one of my classes with Dr. David Tiberio), but it wasn’t until guys like Mike Boyle and Gray Cook put it out there that we realized this “alternating joints” approach explained a lot of dysfunction we see – and how to prevent it.

Now, we’re at the next frontier: optimizing training protocols to correct the problems.  I’m always experimenting with new ways to mobilize the thoracic spine and ankles while trying to figure out the optimal combination of mobility, activation, joint mobilizations, and soft tissue work to get the job done.  It’s not much different than fat loss; we know now that aerobic exercise is an inferior fat loss modality and that strength training and high-intensity interval training are superior, but we’re just looking to find the optimal blend to make things work perfectly.  Compare Alwyn Cosgrove’s Real World Fat Loss and Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training and you’ll see a ton of similarities, but the subtle intricacies of the programs are different.

As the saying goes, it’s a process, not a destination.

Five Tips from Joe Dowdell

I first met Joe Dowdell last July when Mike Robertson and I presented our Building the Efficient Athlete seminar at his facility in New York City, but his reputation had undoubtedly caught my attention well before we met up for the first time.  Joe has a reputation for getting results in clients from supermodels, to actors and actresses, to professional athletes.  As perhaps my greatest testament to Joe’s abilities, I got him in touch with two NBA guys who needed a good trainer this off-season while living in NYC, and both the athletes and their coaches have been thrilled about the results they’ve attained.

Below, Joe shares some thoughts on the science and business of training.

1. Every time you attend a conference or lecture, make sure you are an active listener and only ask questions if you truly don’t understand a topic or make a comment if you have something of true value to add to the lecture. In addition, if you do ask a question or add a comment, make sure that your question/comment is well formulated and to the point.  Nothing is more annoying to other attendees than having to listen to an individual who simply likes to hear themselves talk.

2. Try to learn from as many experts in the field as you can.  Instead of going by what others may think or say about “expert A” or “expert B,” you should attend a seminar or lecture given by that individual(s) and listen to what they actually have to say.  Then, you can formulate your own opinion as to whether you agree or disagree with them. If I listened to what some of my peers said about an expert and never sat in a room with that individual, I would have missed out on some very valuable information.

3. If you are the owner of a gym and/or the Director of Personal Training at a fitness facility, you should always remember to lead by example.  If you don’t train yourself hard; don’t attend educational seminars; don’t dress like a fitness professional; don’t clean up after yourself on the training floor, etc., then how can you ever expect your trainers to do the same?

4. Many years ago while attending a seminar given by Tom Purvis, I heard two terms that have stuck with me and I have consistently applied with the training of my clients as well as myself.  They are Micro-Progression and Strategic Variation. Since that time, stuck with me when training myself and others. All too often trainers progress their clients way too fast, which often leads to compensation patterns and eventually, if left unchecked, to injury.  In addition, many trainers change their clients’ programs too quickly or too often. More often than not, these changes are not the result of a well thought out game plan; but, rather, they are done in a haphazard fashion.

5. Remember that recovery and regeneration is an extremely critical component to the success of your athlete or client.  Make sure when planning your athletes or client’s training programs that you build in some regeneration sessions.  These sessions do not have to be very long.  They can be as short as 10 minutes of contrast showers to 15-20 minutes of foam rolling and static stretching to 20-30 minutes of an aerobic recovery run.  If my client or athlete is strength training and performing high intensity intervals for a total of 4-5 hours per week, then I like to make sure that they are getting at least 45-60 minutes of regeneration in that week as well.

About Joe Dowdell

A personal trainer and strength coach, Joe Dowdell is one of the most highly sought-after fitness experts in the world.  His motivating teaching style and unique expertise have helped transform a clientele from the worlds of sport, entertainment, media and finance.  Dowdell is founder and co-owner of Peak Performance Strength & Conditioning Center, a 10,000-square-foot loft in NYC.  Dowdell currently serves on Fitness Magazine’s Scientific Advisory Board and is the Technical Editor for Women’s Health Magazine. In addition, he is a published author and a regular expert contributor to an array of national and international publications, including Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Women’s Health, Fitness, and Oxygen.

Until next time, train hard and have fun!