Home Posts tagged "Building The Efficient Athlete" (Page 2)

Newsletter 161

I have the normal weekly newsletter posted below, but first a quick announcement: Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, and I just filmed a new DVD set!  Those of you who have enjoyed all of our products individually can now see what happens when the three of us collaborate.  For more information, check out today's blog post: A Sneak Peak at the New Project.
The Law of Repetitive Motion: Part 2 In last week's newsletter, I talked about the first three component of the law of repetitive motion: "I" (injury/insult), "N" (number of repetitions), and "F" (the force of each repetition, expressed as a percentage of maximal strength).

lawofrepmotion

This week, I'll discuss the "A" and the "R" of this equation.  To begin, amplitude, stated simply, is range of motion.  If we spend our entire lives in limited ranges of motion, we run into problems.

Obviously, this refers to those who sit too often and too long - particularly in poor postures.  I'm a big believer that the best posture is the one that is constantly changing, so I always encourage people to try to get up and move around every 20-30 minutes whenever possible.  If not, I love the idea of simply "shuffling" positions at your computer.  Complement this constant fluctuation of posture with some good training to open up the hips and thoracic spine, and strengthen the upper back and glutes, and you'll find that being stuck in a job with a small amplitude is a "manageable" problem.

inside-out

Amplitude can also refer to only doing certain exercises in the gym, particularly those who exercise through a partial range of motion.  It might be people who simply press too often and pull too infrequently, or those who perform a lot of bilateral exercises, but nothing unilateral.  We aren't just talking about ranges of motion at the joints; we are also talking about the muscles recruited and type of muscle action - concentric, eccentric, isometric - that takes place.

Lastly, working at a specific task for extended periods of time can be a huge issue for some.  Just ask musicians, factory line workers, and even baseball pitchers.  These issues can all impose huge asymmetries that must be addressed both directly (soft tissue work, flexibility training) and indirectly (training the contralateral side, or just exposing the individual to a broader excursion of movement outside this specific task).

So, all that in mind, improving amplitude is all about increasing range of motion in one's daily life.  Of course, this must be specific range of motion.  You wouldn't, for instance, want to increase lumbar spine range of motion in most back pain patients, but you would want to optimize hip and thoracic spine mobility.

Rest, the "R" in our equation, is pretty straight-forward: if a tissue is angry, you need to give it time to settle down.  However, just stopping all exercise isn't always the best bet.

Often, it's simply a matter of keeping the stress on the tissue below its capacity for loading.  As a great example, a lot of manual therapists with whom I've worked actually like people to go out and lightly load tissues that have just been worked in order to teach the tissue to "deform" properly.  For instance, I got a little "Graston Loving" on my biceps a while back, and spent the rest of the day lightly loading the tissues and doing some prolonged stretching sets.  It worked like a charm.

ec_graston1

Taking it a step further, though, much of the time, it's about redistributing stress.  For instance, someone with anterior knee pain may not be able to do a more quad-dominant squat, but instructing that same lifter to sit back into the glutes and hamstrings more can markedly take down the stress on the anterior knee.  Sure, it changes the muscular recruitment of the exercise, but the lifter derives great benefit and keeps the loading on the affected tissues below capacity.  And, in this particular case, he's strengthening the posterior chain muscles that almost always help to prevent anterior knee pain in the first place.

That wraps up our look at the law of repetitive motion.  It's certainly not an exhaustive review, but my hope is that it got you thinking just enough to consider how this law applies to the issues you see on a daily basis, as well as those you want to prevent from ever reaching threshold.  For more information, check out the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set.

btea_set

New Blog Content

Random Friday Thoughts The Who-What-When-Where-Why of Flexibility Training In the Presence of Greatness

Have a great week!

EC


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The Law of Repetitive Motion

Back in early May, I published a newsletter discussing some alternatives I've used as replacements for traditional interval training.  Basically, the goal was to show that one can work to address inefficiencies while still getting some good energy systems development training. One of the key concepts I briefly outlined in this newsletter - and also thoroughly in Mike Robertson and my Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set - is the Law of Repetitive Motion.  This law is expressed as the equation I=NF/AR.  In this equation, injury equals the number of repetitions multiplied by the frequency of those repetitions, divided by the amplitude of each repetition times the rest interval.

btea_set

Looking at this equation and understanding each of these factors sheds some light not only on how we can prevent injuries, but also address these issues once they reach threshold.  Truth be told, as I related in another previous newsletter, I'm a firm believer that we're always just see-sawing back and forth, getting closer to threshold when tissues are loaded in excess of their capacity. Providing adequate stability, mobility, recruitment patterns, and tissue quality with the appropriate training loads and recovery measures ensures that we stay below this threshold.  All of these issues are covered in one way or another by the equation from above. "I" is the injury, or insult to the tissues.  In the active restraints - muscles and tendons - this may present in the form of soft tissue restrictions that can be addressed with manual therapy and foam rolling.  In other words, sometimes simply doing some soft tissue work can bring someone back below threshold (one reason why I refuse to refer any athletes or clients to physical therapists who do not put their hands on patients, but that is a whole other newsletter altogether).

lawofrepmotion

"N" is the number of repetitions imposed on the tissues.  This may be working on a factory line doing the same motion over and over again.  It may also be simply sitting with poor posture, which is the equivalent of a high number of reps (constant activation). Or, it could come from doing as many chin-ups as possible simply because your business partner told you that he didn't think you could do it - and the Mudvayne in the background motivated you to action (but I wouldn't know anything about that).

With respect to "N," the general assumption is that simply reducing the number of repetitions is what it takes to reduce insult to the tissues.  That's absolutely true, but not exhaustively true.

Take someone who bench presses with the elbows flared, and teach them to tuck the elbows and activate the upper back and scapular stabilizers.  You may instantly relieve their pain without altering the number of repetitions; you're just redistributing the load.

The same is true of someone with anterior knee pain who has pain with forward lunging, but not with reverse lunges.  So, the lesson to be learned isn't just to modify the number of repetitions, but also the manner in which those repetitions are performed.

"F" is the force of each repetition, and it's important to remember that this force is expressed as a function of maximum muscular strength.  So, in other words, the "F" figure will be higher - and more injurious - on a weak tissue.  This is one reason why resistance training is a big portion of modern physical therapy - including physical therapy that the brighter minds in the PT community wouldn't consider "comprehensive" or "good."

Here's an example.   Average Joe gets anterior knee pain and, of course, he gets diagnosed with patellar tendinitis when it's really more of a tendinosis (but I won't digress on that).  He spends six weeks in PT to really "build up his quads."  It's obvious that the patellar tendon was just weak and inflamed, so strengthening it and knocking back NSAIDs like candy will fix everything.  Riiiiight.

Chances are that the patellar tendon was just overused because Joe had no hamstrings or glutes.  Getting the quads strong just reduces the "F" figure in the equation above.  They push him away from threshold, but not as far as he'd have gone if they'd also worked on recruiting glutes and hamstrings better, optimizing hip and ankle mobility, or performing soft tissue work.  Or, maybe he just got better because they reduced the "N" we discussed above by resting the knee.  Regardless, Joe's not in the clear and very well might be back in PT in a few months if he doesn't address the other issues in the equation.

And, with that in mind, I'll get to the final two components of the Law of Repetitive Motion in my next newsletter.  In the meantime, check out the Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set for more details.

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Taking on the Yoga Question

What do you think of... I got the question again this week: What do you think of yoga? Don't get me wrong; this newsletter isn't going to be about yoga.  To be honest, I already wrote an article about my thoughts on yoga a while back.  Admittedly, I probably should have taken a more impartial standpoint, but I wrote it more for shock value to outline some of the fundamental problems with some practices that I felt were becoming universally accepted without question. That said, with respect to this newsletter, the word "yoga" in the question above could easily be replaced with "lifting weights," "static stretching," "weighted balls," "Chinese food," "owning your own business," or "curling in the squat rack." Lifting weights is generally great.  Deadlifting with a rounded back isn't.  Doing 150 sets of pull-ups as fast as possible probably isn't going to make your shoulders and elbows happy.  Overhead pressing two weeks after you had a rotator cuff repair isn't a good idea. Static stretching can be of huge benefit if you've got muscles that are legitimately short.  If you're an individual with crazy congenital laxity on top of ten-years of gymnastics, then static stretching will probably chew up your joints really quickly.

double-jointed-2

Weighted balls have worked wonders for some of my athletes, particularly those who have already built a great foundation of velocity with long tossing and optimization of on-the-mound mechanics.  For others, they're premature and inappropriate. I like water chestnuts, but not mushrooms.  I guess the jury is out on whether Chinese food is good or not in my book, huh?  I never met General Tso, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Owning my own business is fantastic.  I get a lot of autonomy, set my own schedule, and have my name on a t-shirt.   I also get a lot of hours and the last paycheck of the month - for whatever is left over. Curling in the squat rack is the most annoying thing in the world if you are the guy waiting to squat.  If you're the guy curling, though, it's a great way to impress your frat buddies.  If looking like a complete tool is your goal, there is no better way to do it. Where am I going with all this? Yoga isn't good or bad.  Some lifts aren't appropriate for some people.  Static stretching can help or hurt.  There is good and bad Chinese food, depending on the person and restaurant.  Owning a business has its perks and drawbacks; it isn't for everyone.  There are no absolutes.  Okay, maybe there is just one: curling in the squat rack is always dumb, but I digress... One of my primary goals in writing over the past eight years has been to empower folks with knowledge.  in fact, it was the entire premise behind Mike Robertson and my Building the Efficient Athlete DVD set; rather than simply handing people fish and telling them it's good for them, we tried to teach people how to fish.

btea_set

"Dumbing things down" can certainly be valuable when dealing with clients (particularly those with no injuries).  However, as fitness and strength and conditioning professionals, it's important to not do the same with our own education.  You can't dumb something down until you've fully understood it.

That, I feel, is where the industry has gone a bit astray.  Resistance training research really didn't even start up until the 1980s; there is still a ton we have to learn.  And, to be honest, there is much better information coming out of experimentation in the trenches than there is in any research lab out there. There are new methods to be discovered, and old methods that can better be leveraged in (or removed from) certain scenarios.

In short, this is a very dynamic field.  If things just keep getting dumbed down to "good and bad" and "just do this," though, then we're really selling ourselves short.

Or maybe I don't know anything.  I guess it depends on who you ask.

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Stuff You Should Read: 6/15/09

This week's collector of stuff you should read: Front vs. Back Squats (Newsletter 154) - this recent newsletter from me takes a different perspective on a common debate in the world of strength and conditioning. Stronger Abs, Bigger Lifts - this article from Matthieu Hertilus was really good - and that's a big compliment coming from a guy who needs to read another "core training" article like he needs a hole in the head. Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness - this presents some recent research on how various horizontal pulling exercises affect EMG of several trunk and hip muscles.
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Intern Hazing: Installment 2

Today, we've got the first ever Cressey Performance Intern Hazing Poll.  Here's how it works.... Posted below are three videos of our interns getting dominated by a delightful assortment of torturous exercises.  We really didn't expect them to look good doing this, but hey, that's the whole point, right?  Anyway, you, the readers of EricCressey.com get to rank the interns from 1 to 3 (1=first place, 2=second place, 3=third place) based on the following criteria: 1. Artistic Mastery 2. Fashion (nice shoes, Roger) 3. Proximity to Vomiting 4. Time to Completion 5. Number of breaks in action 6. Inferiority to Mike Roncarati, the most diesel CP intern of all time, who could eat these kiddies for breakfast (way to be, Mike!) 7. Inspiration (someone out there was having a bad day until they watched these videos and realized that things could have been a lot worse). Voting will be closed Monday night, June 15th at midnight.  The winner really won't receive anything, but futility is really the name of the game anyway.  Oh, feel free to suggest some torture for next Thursday for these guys. Without further ado, the candidates: Candidate #1: Phil "The Thrill" Gauthier

EC Commentary: He plays the grunting card nicely.  Good speed...compared with a 12-year-old girl's performance on this medley.  Push-up technique was probably the best of the bunch, although I don't think it's going to get him any Cirque Du Soleil tryouts. Candidate #2: Alex Nash "and Burn"

EC Commentary: Admittedly, I was stretching out one of our pitchers while he was doing this, so I'm shooting from the hip on his on-camera presence rather than relying on my experience on Thursday.  Eyewitnesses reported that he demonstrated the worst push-ups in CP history.  I would have liked to see a jog back to the sled after finishing the overhead keg lunges, too.  I will give him some credit for not losing his breakfast, as the omelet and oatmeal was flying after pushing the sled last week.

Candidate #3: Roger "Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun" Lawson

(Note: Roger took so long that the first camera's battery died, and we had to rush to grab a second digital camera in the office.  There was a good two minutes of grunting, sweating, and weird spasm-like movement during this brief hiatus)

EC Commentary: Roger certainly took the grunting to a whole new level; in fact, was he crying at one point?  I think I actually heard him blurt out, "My mother didn't love me, and I never learned to read!"  I can't be sure, though.  I'll give him some style points for managing to get caught in the batting cage net like a tuna; that was graceful.  He also earned some drama points for the repeated collapses on the keg lunges, not to mention an artistic mastery bonus with the swift sniper roll during the sled-to-keg transition.

So what do you think, world?  Cast your votes as replies to this blog, ranking these guys from 1 to 3 (1 being the best).  And, don't forget to suggest some torture for Installment 3.

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A Quick Thursday Promise to You

If you asked my fiancee (or anyone who knows me well, for that matter), she would tell you that I work all the time.  If I'm not training athletes, I'm training myself, reading research, or writing programs or articles about training. My life pretty much revolves around it - and I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is challenging to get to everything. To be very honest with you, I'd probably make more money if I just stayed home and wrote articles and books all day.  It's a direction quite a few folks in this industry have taken, in fact.  You'd be surprised at how many well-known internet personalities in the exercise world don't see athletes anymore; they just stay home and write about what life would be like if they actually did train people.  Or, they talk about what they used to do when they worked with folks, or what they've seen in the research of late. Now, I'm all for research.  And, given my articles, books, and DVDs, I'm all for sharing knowledge that I've gained.  However, I'm a huge believer that you can't add to the body of knowledge unless you are out in the trenches working with people.  You'd be surprised at how many researchers and writers could never get results in the real world.  Why?  Because people - attitudes, emotions, individual differences, etc. - get in the way. This is why I have so much respect for those who are "in the trenches" and derive a significant portion of their income from in-person training.    I enjoy articles, blogs, seminars, and products from guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, Mike Reinold, Jim Smith, Brijesh Patel, Nick Tumminello, and dozens others because these are all guys who are in the real world working to help people.  Unlike those who just write, they are constantly getting feedback from clients/athletes on what works and what doesn't; theories don't go untested.  If I was a consumer, I'd actually go out of my way to make sure the person writing a book or article was actually seeing clients/athletes before purchasing it. A few years ago, I never would have even thought to make this promise, but the internet certainly changes things.  And, that's why I'm promising today that I'll be training athletes for a long time, and the day I stop training athletes is the day that I stop writing and speaking about training, too.
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Forearms/Biceps Soft Tissue Work

I've written previously about the many flexibility deficits we see in baseball players (particularly pitchers).  One of the biggest issues we face is a loss of elbow extension range-of-motion.  This adaptive change most likely occurs because of the insane amounts of eccentric muscle action required to decelerate the 2,500 degrees/second of elbow extension that occurs during pitching.  You'll find some serious shortness/tissue restrictions in biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis, and all the rest of the muscles acting at the elbow and wrist. Unfortunately, it's not an area you can really work on with the foam roller or baseball, as it's in a tough spot.  For that reason, we prefer using The Stick - and hold it in place with the j-hooks in a power rack.  Here is how it works when rolling out the anterior forearm musculature (this same technique can be utilized on the elbow flexors):

Follow that up with some longer duration holds of this stretch, and you'll get that elbow extension back in no time.

elbow-flexors-stretch

For the entire Cressey Performance foam roller series, click HERE.

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Risk-Reward in Training Athletes and Clients

Risk-Reward in Training Athletes and Clients This week, approximately 1,500 players will be drafted in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft.  Historically, a whopping 2-3% of these players will ever actually make it to the big leagues.  In fact, only about 2/3 of all first-round draft picks - seemingly the most qualified candidates - ever make it to the major leagues. For this reason, many have labeled competing in the professional baseball ranks a "War of Attrition."  High-round picks get preferentially escorted through the minor leagues, while a lot of the late-round picks fight for their positions in the minors - especially since they know a brand new class of 40-50 draft picks and a bunch of free agent signees will line up to take their jobs each year.  Along the way, loads of guys incur career-ending injuries. Here, we come to several decisions in how to train athletes. First, all athletes have unique movement inefficiencies, so we screen these issues and address them individually.  Nothing remarkable there. Second, some athletes have bigger contracts, so you have to be more conservative with their programming.  Sure, they might get benefits out of more aggressive programming, but it also increases the likelihood that you'll mess up an athlete with multi-million dollar contracts in his immediate future. Take, for instance, Cressey Performance athlete Shawn Haviland. Shawn was drafted out of Harvard by the Oakland A's in the 33rd Round of the 2008 Draft after being named Ivy League Pitcher of the Year.  As Shawn himself has said, he "would have signed for a plane ticket to Arizona."  In other words, he didn't get an $8 million signing bonus; he's a very low-risk investment.  Life goes on for his organization if he doesn't work out because they can just draft another 50 guys the following year.  After all, he's just another 6-0 right-hander in the system - a dime a dozen, if you will.

ap-shawn-haviland-action

This is the exact conversation Shawn and I had last October when we first met up.  He'd been 86-88mph on the radar gun most of last year, and that really isn't going to earn you a long stay in professional baseball.  So, we decided to be more aggressive with his off-season programming than we would with someone who'd just become a first-round pick. All off-season, he lifted, sprinted, accumulated 80-120 medicine ball throws three times a week, did some extreme long-toss, threw the weighted balls around, and consistently worked on his flexibility and tissue quality.  It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that says: a) we shouldn't long toss more than 120 feet, b) weighted balls are the devil, c) only distance running and steady-state cardio will "build leg strength" in pitchers, d) lifting will ruin flexibility, and e) medicine ball throwing will cause oblique strains (yes, I've really heard that one).  However, it worked. Now, seven months later, Shawn was just named a Midwest League All-Star.  He is consistently 91-94mph and has completely changed his body.  In short, he took a chance, worked his butt off, and got better. Shawn's program wasn't "unsafe;" it was just "less conservative."  It was at a different point on the continuum on which every strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer works on a daily basis.  This program was obviously different than what I'd do with, say, a 40-year-old marathon runner, but it's also different than I'd do with a first-round pick with Shawn's exact build, competitive demands, and inefficiencies.  And, if I had a pitcher with those exact same characteristics and an extensive injury history, we'd be even more conservative.  Otherwise, the risk: reward would be completely out of whack. Often, in our industry, we get far too caught up in numbers - whether it's the weight one lifts or his/her body fat percentage.  In reality, I look at what I do as a means to an end.  People train with us first and foremost to stay healthy, whether they're pitching in the professional baseball ranks or just carrying their kids around.  What you do in the gym should improve quality of life first and foremost, and any activity that carries a high likelihood of injury is very rarely worth the risk. Why pick up a stone - which demands compression and lumbar flexion - when you're not a strongman competitor and could just as easily do a more controlled trap bar deadlift? Why behind-the-neck overhead press - which puts the shoulder at one of its most at-risk position - when you've already had four shoulder surgeries and still have hunchback posture? When it really comes down to it, you have to fit the program to the athlete, and not the athlete to the program.  For more information, a few resources I'd recommend: 1. My article, 6 Mistakes: Fitting Round Pegs into Square Holes 2. The Building the Efficient Athlete DVD Set 3. The 2008 Indianapolis Performance Enhancement DVD Set 4. For those of you interested in a bit of what we did with Shawn, check out this Athlete Profile on him. New Article at T-Nation For those who missed it, Part 3 of my "Lower Back Savers" series was posted at T-Nation last week.  You can check it out HERE (and be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them in previous weeks). New Blog Content Random Friday Thoughts Bogus Workouts and the Official Blog of... Building Vibrant Health: Part 2 Friday Night Journals Have a great week! EC Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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All in a Day’s Work

Below, you'll find a link that John Izzo just did with me at his website. All in a Day's Work: A Strength Coach's Acumen - An Interview with Eric Cressey Enjoy!
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Intern Hazing: Installment 1

If you're an intern here at Cressey Performance, it's not enough to just get smarter, become a better coach, and refine your vacuuming prowess.  You have to get diesel, too. This summer's crop of interns began to learn that the hard way last Thursday when their introductory challenge, the 16x16 sled relay, was proposed to them.  Lucky for them, we only used three plates (instead of four).  Also lucky for them, they were assisted by Alex Hill, an 17-year-old Cressey Performance athlete (and recent Wayland High School graduate) with about 1.5 years of training experience with us under his belt. As you'll see, he crushes them.

In watching this video, you'll realize: a) Interns do not know how to turn a sled without flipping it over.  Just imagine them trying to parallel park their cars. b) They went out of order.  And, they stopped early - and then realized that there was more to do. Poor, confused souls. c) They struggle with double-knotting their shoelaces. d) They got dominated by a high school athlete (oops...already said that) e) Several of the intern trips resembled this dude:

hamsterguy

f) The sleeve monster attacked two of them prior to this challenge. g) Roger's last trip was painful - quite possibly as painful to watch as this.

This Thursday, we'll be teaching them about the birds and the bees, and then crushing them with something else.  These boys will be diesel by the end of the summer if it's the last thing we do.

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