Strength and Conditioning Programs: Think “The Opposite”

About the Author: Eric Cressey

September 6 might seem like just another Tuesday to most folks.  Many people probably despise it because the day after Labor Day serves as an unofficial end to summer.  Kids go back to school, teachers go back to work, and many seasonal businesses lose customers and employees as the season winds down.

Not me, though.  Today, the madness begins for me – and I love it.

You see, today is the start of the professional baseball off-season, as some minor leaguers played their last games yesterday.  Between now and the start of spring training in February/March, Cressey Performance will likely see over 50 guys either in the big leagues or trying to make the big leagues.

We get a special type of ballplayer, too. Trekking to Hudson, MA in the winter isn’t for everyone – and certainly not for guys who want to be coddled.  Our guys love to work smart and hard – and that makes my job incredibly fun.

People are often surprised to learn that I never even played baseball in high school.  Being an “outsider” to the game would seemingly make it harder to enter the world of baseball strength and conditioning, but I actually used it to my advantage.  To put it bluntly, I had no preconceived notions of what people think works, so it made it easy for me to “buck” stupid baseball traditions and focus on what I know works.  In short, as some of the world’s smartest marketing advisors have recommended, I did the opposite of what others do, and the Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Development Program thrived.

Given that baseball players are among the most often-injured athletes in sports, many “experts” in the industry baby them with “do no harm, but do no good” strength training programs.  We show guys that it’s possible to get strong in an intelligent way while decreasing the risk of injury – both acutely and chronically.

Conversely, many strength and conditioning coaches alienate players by looking, acting, and programming like football coaches.  We don’t Olympic lift, back squat, or bench press with our baseball players – and we’ve gone to great lengths to bring in equipment that enables us to modify traditional strength exercises and make them safer for a baseball population.

Many coaches who have played the game before rely exclusively on their experiences playing the game to dictate how players prepare nowadays.  What they fail to appreciate is that the modern game is far different: more off-field distractions (e.g., heavier media attention, social networking), heavier travel schedules (more teams = more travel), more competing demands (e.g., strength and conditioning), and more pressure to succeed (larger organizations = more levels of minor leaguers pushing to take your job).  As a result, I do a lot more listening to my athletes than I do talking – and much less assuming than other coaches do.

Loads of coaches run their pitchers into the ground, thereby ruining guys’ mobility, sapping their power, and abusing their endocrine systems in an ignorant attempt to improve recovery.  Our guys never run more than 60 yards – and they get healthier and more athletic in the process.

Many organizations hand out the same strength and conditioning programs to all their players – regardless age, training experience, dominant hand, and position on the field.  A lot of facilities are no better; one training program on the dry erase board dictates what everyone in the gym does on a given day.  In a sport where each body (and injury) is unique – and asymmetry is overwhelmingly problematic – we give our guys a competitive advantage with a strength and conditioning program that is individualized to each player.

While some facilities were aligning themselves with companies who were trying to be “everything to everybody” by catering to loads of different sports, we allied with New Balance, a Boston-based and not only has a heavy baseball focus (225+ MLB players under contract), but a strong commitment to various charitable causes, American workers, and the education of up-and-coming players.

Walk into any professional baseball clubhouse, and you’ll see a lot of different “cliques.”  Guys of a wide-variety of ages come from different states and countries, speak different languages or have different accents, and play different positions.   On a 25-30 man roster, a player might only hang out with 2-3 teammates off the field at most during the season.  We’ve made camaraderie an insanely important piece of the CP professional baseball approach, introducing guys to each other, setting up out-of-the-gym events for our guys, and creating a culture where everyone roots for everyone else.  I’ve had guys at my house for Thanksgiving and at my wedding – and guys have held back on referring other players because they didn’t feel that their work ethics or attitudes would be a good fit for CP.  In short, we’ve created a family and an experience – and given our athletes an ownership stake in it – while others just  “worked guys out.”

Although it is a point Pat Rigsby, Mike Robertson, and I heavily emphasize in our Fitness Business Blueprint product, the concept of “doing the opposite” to succeed isn’t just applicable to business.

Go to any gym, and look at how many people are on the treadmills year-after-year, none of them getting any leaner.  Get some of them to head across the gym to a weight room and they’ll transform their bodies in a matter of a few months.  Switch someone from a high-carb, low-protein, low-fat diet to a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet, and they’ll often drop a lot of fat in a short amount of time.

With all that said, the answers for me will never be the right answers for you.  Look at what you’re doing – whether it’s in training, business, or life – and think about how doing the exact opposite may, in fact, be the best way to improve your outcomes.

For those of you interested in taking a peek inside what goes on with the Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Development Program on a daily basis – from training videos to footage of guys goofing off in the office – I’d encourage you to follow @CresseyPerf on Twitter.

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