Home Posts tagged "Core Stability Exercise"

Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Cable Lift w/Flexion-Rotation Hold

The half-kneeling cable lift w/flexion-rotation hold is a new variation on an old drill, and we've been implementing it quite a bit with guys of late. It's a creation of CSP-FL co-founder and pitching coordinator Brian Kaplan.

Like all cable chops and lifts, we're training anti-rotation core stability. However, in this variation of the cable lift, the athlete drives thoracic (upper back) rotation and flexion, two crucial pieces of getting to an ideal ball release position during throwing, or completing a swing during hitting.

Simultaneously, the athlete should be actively pulling into the front hip (adduction and internal rotation) to simulate the same front hip force acceptance you get during the pitching delivery and hitting motion.

Of course, there are many functional performance benefits that extend far beyond the baseball world. This drill will benefit anyone who competes in extension-rotation sports, not to mention your casual weekend golfer. In short, it trains core stability and thoracic mobility, so it has almost universal application.

We'll usually program this for 6-8 reps per side. On each rep, we have a 2-3 second hold at the lockout position with a full exhale. You should really feel the core turn on - and in some cases, you'll even see athletes get a little cramp in the abs.

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Have You Tried the 1-leg Dumbbell Pullover?

The 1-leg dumbbell pullover is a nice variation on a classic. It’ll add a rotary stability challenge to what is normally considered an upper body and anterior core drill. I’m using this variation a bit more this time of year (with throwing volume and intensity ramping up), as you can get a good training effect with less external loading.

We'll usually program this for 3-4 sets of 4-5 reps per side. It pairs well with exercises that aren't concrete push or pull exercises: Turkish Get-ups, kettlebell windmills, and bottoms-up kettlebell carries. I even like pairing it up with TRX Ys, as it's effectively the opposite pattern. Enjoy!

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Exercise of the Week: 1-leg Side Bridge

A lot of people write off side bridges as “too easy” without considering that there are actually a lot of progressions one can employ to make them more advanced. To that end, I really like the one-leg side bridge with the top leg on a bench as a great way to "own" the frontal plane.

A few notes:

1. Make sure the body creates a straight line from the head to the heel.

2. If you feel any discomfort on the inside of the knees, it's because you've set up incorrectly or just aren't strong enough to do this movement.

3. Imagine the weight distribution being 50/50 between the two points of contact (forearm and foot).

4. I’ll usually program this as 3-5 breaths (with a full exhale) per side in each set.

5. Typically, I'll include this as part of a D1/D2 pairing at the end of a training session. Usually, it'll be preceded by some kind of anti-extension core exercise like a rollout or fallout.

Enjoy!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/12/18

I hope you're having a good week. I'm shifting this series to later in the week because I'm doing more of my writing on Sundays these days, so look for Thu/Fri "round-up"posts from here on out. Here are some good reads from around the 'net over the past week:

EC on the Seams Legit Podcast - This is a two-part interview I did with Nick Friar. We discuss baseball development and our work with (among others) Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, and Noah Syndergaard.

8 Lessons from Lab Assisting for PRI Courses - Miguel Aragoncillo offered some awesome insights on how to make the most out of your attendance at continuing education events.

What Your Doctor Never Told You About Arthritis - This was a good guest post from Dr. Michael Infantino for Tony Gentilcore's site.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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The Best of 2016: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2016 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. 5 "Combo" Core Stability Exercises - Great strength and conditioning programs are all about delivering results as efficiently as possible. Here are some exercises that'll help you do so by making your core stability training more efficient.

2. 10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age - The popularity of this article makes me realize that I need to devote more of my writing to the more mature athlete who still likes to get after it in the gym! 

3. How Lower Body Exercises Can Impact Upper Body Function - This article debuted around the time we released Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement. Squats, deadlifts, and other lower body drills can have a dramatic impact on the upper body in ways you might not realize.

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4. 5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises That Overdeliver - Similar to #1 from above, these are some of my favorite "big bang for your buck" exercises.

5. 6 Saturday Shoulder Strategies - You would think people would be sick of reading articles on the shoulder from me by now. Apparently not.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2016" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year! 

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Shoulder Strategies and Hip Helpers: Part 2

This is the second half of my collection of take-home points from reviewing The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint from Tony Gentilcore and Dean Somerset. In case you missed the first half, you can check out Part 1 here. Additionally, I should offer a friendly reminder that the introductory $60 off discount on this great resource ends tonight at midnight; you can learn more here.

6. Shifting low threshold exercises to a high threshold strategy may yield faster results.

Dean goes to great lengths to discuss how proximal (core) stability affects distal (extremity) mobility. In doing so, he cites four examples:

a. Doing front planks may help one to gain hip external rotation.
b. Doing side planks may help one to gain hip internal rotation.
c. Doing dead bugs may help to improve your deep squat.
d. Training active hip flexion (one joint) may help one to to improve a straight leg raise (multiple joints).

hipflexion

With that said, there is a HUGE clarification that must be made: these exercises are all performed with HIGH TENSION. In other words, if you can do eight reps of dead bugs, you aren’t bracing hard enough.

To some degree, this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that there are high-threshold exercises and low-threshold exercises – and most folks would assume the aforementioned four drills would fall in the low-threshold category. That said, I think a better classification scheme would be high- and low-threshold STRATEGIES. In other words, there is a time to treat a plank or dead bug as a low threshold drill, but also scenarios under which bracing like crazy is appropriate. Trying to create distal mobility is one such example.

That said, don't go and turn everything you do into a high-threshold strategy! This leads me to...

7. Improving mobility is a combination of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

I loved this quote from Dean so much that I replayed it a few times so that I could type up this quote:

"If you hold your breath, you're going to limit your mobility. If you breath through the stretch, you're going to access a greater range of motion than you had before. So, it's kind of a dance between parasympathetic and sympathetic and neural activation. You want to be able to use high-threshold sympathetic type stuff to fire up the nervous system and produce that stability, but you want to use parasympathetic stimulation - that long inhale, long exhale - to be able to use that range of motion after you've built the stability."

That's pure gold right there, folks.

8. The term “scapular stability” is a bit of a misnomer.

Nothing about the scapula is meant to be stable. If it were meant to be stable, it would have so many different muscular attachments (17, in fact) with a variety of movement possibilities. A better term would be something originally popularized by physical therapist Sue Falsone: controlled mobility.

Gray205_left_scapula_lateral_view-2

9. Don’t assume someone’s "aberrant" posture means an individual will be in pain.

Posture is a complex topic, and the relationship between resting posture and pain measures is surprisingly very poorly established in the research world. We can walk away from this recognition with two considerations:

a. It's important to assess movement quality, and not just resting posture.

b. Use posture as information that guides program design and coaching cues rather than something that tries to explain or predict injuries.

ScapularDownwardRotation

10. Teach movements from the position where relative stiffness principles are challenged the most - but cue high-threshold tension.

During one of his presentations, Dean was coaching a hip flexor stretch in the lunge position, and it immediately got me to thinking about the principle of relative stiffness. In this position, if there isn't adequate anterior core control, lumbar extension will occur instead of hip extension. And, if there isn't solid glute recruitment, there will be a tendency of the head of the femur to glide forward in the socket during the hip extension that does occur.In other words, being able to brace the core and have solid glute activation is key to making sure that the individual is in a good place at this position where movement is challenged the most.

lunge 

In this instance, Dean cued a high-threshold strategy that allowed him to effectively coach the movement from the most challenging position - which is somewhat counterintuitive to what we've always assumed as coaches ("win the easy battles" first by owning the simple ranges-of-motion). However, if you can get to the appropriate position (adequate passive ROM) and educate a trainee on how to establish a bracing strategy, chances are that you can speed up the learning process.

As I thought about it, this is something we do quite commonly with our end-range rotator cuff strengthening exercises, but I simply haven't applied it nearly as much at the hip as we do at the shoulder. It's definitely something I'll be playing around with more moving forward.

Last, but certainly not least, just a friendly reminder that today is the last day to get the introductory $60 off discount on The Complete Shoulder and Hip Blueprint. As you can probably tell from these posts, I've really enjoyed going through it myself, and would highly recommend it to any fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists out there. Click here to learn more.

chp

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Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 14

I haven't posted an update to this popular coaching cues series since December, so I figured this article was long overdue. Here are a few coaching cues we use regularly with our clients at Cressey Sports Performance:

1. "Keep your hips in the hallway."

Birddogs are a fantastic exercise for building core stability and educating individuals on how to differentiate between hip and lumbar spine (lower back) movement. Usually, though, folks just discuss differentiating these motions in the sagittal plane, so the focus is on hip flexion/extension vs. lumbar flexion/extension. In the process, a lot of folks overlook what is going on in the frontal and transverse plane. A lot of side-to-side movement is a good sign that the athlete doesn't have sufficient rotary stability (control of the center of mass within a smaller base of support).

A cue I've found to work great is to put my hands about 1" outside the hips on both sides, and to cue the athlete, "Keep your hips in the hallway." If the outside of the hips contact my hand, it's a sign that they've lost control of the frontal and transverse plane.

2. "Scaps to the sky."

We coach our wall slides with upward rotation and lift off a bit differently for just about everyone that comes through our doors. Really, it comes down to appreciating what their starting scapular positioning is. If someone is really anteriorly tilted, we'll guide the scapula into posterior tilt. If they have more of a "scaps back" (adducted) military posture, we'll help the shoulder blades to get out and around the rib cage. If someone starts in a more depressed (low shoulder) position as in the video below, we might cue them to incorporate a shrug to facilitate better upward rotation.

When you teach the drill, though, you want to make sure that the motion is coming from not just movement of the humerus (upper arm) on the scapula (glenohumeral movement), but moreso from movement of the scapula on the rib cage (scapulothoracic). I love the "scaps to the sky" cue for this reason. Usually, I'll manually help the shoulder blades up a bit, too.

3. "One inch per second."

I blatantly stole this one from Shane Rye, one of my business partners at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. When athletes foam roll, they always seem to have a tendency to race through each "pass." It's far better to slow down, recognize areas that need more attention, and gradually work your way along. The "one inch per second" cue always seems to get athletes to pace themselves better.

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5 “Combo” Core Stability Exercises

Core stability exercises are kind of like visits to the dentist. You know you need to do them - and they keep you healthy - but they aren't really all that sexy and enjoyable. With this in mind, I think the concept of "minimum effective dose" is an especially important consideration when it comes to programming core stability exercises. We want to pick the drills that give the biggest bang for one's buck: a great training effect in only a few sets.

Fortunately, if we understand how to classify core stability exercises, we can quick recognize that there are ways to deliver more efficient training prescriptions. Speaking broadly, you have four core stability exercise categories: anterior core stability, posterior core stability, lateral core stability, and rotary core stability.

Anterior core stability exercises teach the body to resist excessive lumbar spine extension (arching), and encompass a variety of drills, starting with the likes of curl-ups, prone bridges/planks, and reverse crunches. In prepared individuals, they progress all the way up through more advanced exercises like stability ball rollouts, and TRX flutters and fallouts.

Rollouts

Posterior core stability exercises train the body to resist excessive lumbar spine flexion (rounding).  These drills include everything from the birddog all the way up through more conventional strength training exercises like deadlift variations.

tbdl-300x256-2

Lateral core stability exercises teach you how to resist lateral flexion; in other words, your goal is to avoid tipping over. These drills may start with basic side bridging drills and progress all the way up through more advanced TRX drills and 1-arm carrying variations.

Rotary core stability exercises teach you to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine. Examples include drills like landmines, lifts, and chops.

Once you appreciate what each of these core stability exercise categories entail in terms of functional demands, you realize that you can combine these drills into options that train 2-3 at a time. Here are a few examples:

1. Reverse Crunch to Dead Bug - A reverse crunch would be considered anterior core drills, but in adding the dead bug component, you get an increased challenge to rotary stability because of the alternating leg/arm component. Of course, the dead bug is already a solid "combination" core stability exercise by itself.

2. 1-leg TRX Fallouts - As I noted early, fallouts are a great anterior core training progression. Going to a single-leg stance makes this an awesome rotary stability and lateral core challenge, too.

3. Tall Kneeling Cable Press to Overhead Lift - Asymmetrical presses are usually only a big challenge to rotary and lateral core stability, but adding the overhead reach component kicks up the anterior core challenge.

4. Lateral Lunge with Band Overhead Reach - This one gets some extra bonus points because it's an excellent hip mobility challenge, too. It takes a lateral and rotary core stability drill and incorporates more anterior core because of the overhead reach. It's a game-changer when an athlete can own the frontal plane with sagittal plane control, too.

5. Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift - You won't find a better posterior core stability exercise than a properly performed deadlift. You won't be able to load it as much in the suitcase set-up, but you'll definitely increase the challenge to lateral core stability.

suitcase-deadlift-bottom

These are just five of countless variations you can create to cover a few core stability exercise categories with one drill. I've found them to be particularly useful with in-season programs, when athletes have limited time to train. 

If you're looking for more exercise progression strategies - and a comprehensive overall system you can apply with your clients/athletes - I'd highly recommend Mike Robertson's new resource, Complete Core Training. It's on sale with an introductory $50 off discount this week.  Mike's a sharp guy and trusted resource, so I'm enjoying going through his progressions to see how we can tinker to improve our approaches at Cressey Sports Performance.

CompleteCore300-300x272

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10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age

Back in my early-to-mid-20s, my focus shifted into powerlifting and away from a "traditional" athletic career. While I got a ton stronger, I can't say that I felt any more athletic. In hindsight, I realize that it was because I trained strength at the exclusion of many other important athletic qualities. Since then, I've gone out of my way to include things that I know keep me athletic, and as a result, at age 36, I feel really good about taking on anything life throws my way. With that in mind, I thought I'd pull together some recommendations for those looking to remain athletic as they age.

1. Stay on top of your soft tissue work and mobility drills.

Without a doubt, the most common reason folks feel unathletic is that they aren't able to get into the positions/postures they want. As I've written in the past, it's much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back. Some foam rolling and five minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you athletic.

2. Do a small amount of pre-training plyos.

I think it's important to preserve the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). That's not to say that every gym goer needs to be doing crazy depth jumps and sprinting full-tilt, though. A better bet for many folks who worry about tweaking an Achilles, patellar tendon, or hamstrings is to implement some low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling. Here's a slightly more advanced progression we use in The High Performance Handbook program:

The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and before starting up with lifting.

3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

I love cable lift variations to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.

Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but don't forget this gem:

5. Get strong in single-leg.

Squats and deadlifts will get you strong, no doubt, but don't forget that a big chunk of athletics at all levels takes place in single-leg stance. Lunges, 1-leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone's training programs.

6. Use core exercises that force you to resist both extension and rotation.

Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places. The lower back isn't really the place to move, though; you should prioritize movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting both extension (too much lower back arching) and rotation. Here are a few favorites:

7. Train outside the sagittal plane.

It's important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it's useful to progress to a bit of strength work in the frontal place. I love lateral lunge variations for this reason.

8. Chuck medicine balls!

I'm a huge fan of medicine ball drills with our athletes, but a lot of people might not know that I absolutely love them for our "general population" clients as well. I speak to why in this article: Medicine Ball Workouts: Not Just for Athletes. Twice a week, try adding in four sets at the end of your warm-up and prior to lifting. Do two sets of overhead stomps and two sets of a rotational drill, starting with these two variations in month 1:

In month 2, try these two:

Trust me; you'll be hooked by the "8-week Magic Mark."

9. Be fast on your concentric.

If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. This can obviously entail including things like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and kettlebell swings. Taking it a step further, though, you can always just make a dedicated effort to always accelerate the bar with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. 

10. Play.

In a given week, on top of my normal lifting, I might catch bullpens, sprint or condition with my athletes, play beach volleyball, or run a few football receiving routes at the facility. The old adage, "Variety is the spice of life" applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don't be afraid to have some fun.

The longer you've been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun. If you're looking for a flexible program that's proven effective across several populations, I'd encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook.

HPH-main

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 15

This is my first installment of this series since October, so hopefully I can atone for that with a solid January performance. Here goes!

1. On several occasions, I've written that if you are going to include an exercise in a program, you absolutely have to be able to justify how it's going to create the training effect you want. In particularly, this is a question that should be asked constantly during sprinting and agility progressions. The end goal is obviously to (safely) put a lot of force into the ground as quickly as possible to create powerful athletic movements in all three planes of motion. Sometimes, I feel like we get very caught up in just programming drills for the sake of programming drills. There are a million different types of skipping drills, for instance, and we use a lot of them. Athletes certainly ought to be able to skip, but at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if making a skip more advanced and elaborate is really going to make an athlete move better. Or, would we be better off devoting that training volume to actual sprint work? There isn't really a "correct" answer to these questions, but I do think it's important to critically analyze our programs to see if the carryover from drills to actual athletic performance is really that good.

2. Earlier today, I was discussing outfield "jumps" with a few of our Cressey Sports Performance clients, including Sam Fuld, an Oakland A's outfielder who is well known for making some pretty crazy plays in center field. We were talking about lower-body movement (hip turn, crossover run, etc.) during the initial break as he reads a ball off a bat, but as we went to actually find some video online, my attention went elsewhere. Check out this play where Sam traveled 58 feet to make a diving catch:

What I noticed was the fact that he never actually got upright. He stayed in acceleration mode the entire time. If you replay the video from above, watch the :08 through :11 second interval. You'll rarely see a player cover more ground in the field.

This is yet another reason why I think a 30-yd (or home-to-first) time is more appropriate for assessing baseball-specific speed than a 60-time. Baseball players rarely get to top speed, whether it's in running the bases or playing the field. And, more importantly, they'd never do it in a straight line. I'm beginning to think that a 60-time is about as useful for a baseball evaluation as the 225lb bench press test is for NFL players...

3. Remember that not all your anterior core work has to be slower tempo drills like rollouts and fallouts, or low-level isometrics like prone bridges. Rather, remember that any time you go overhead while maintaining a neutral spine, you're working to resist excessive extension at your lumbar spine. In other words, overhead med ball drills can be great anterior core progressions - and here's a way to take them to the next level:

4. Resistance bands are awesome on a number of training fronts. They can be used to accommodate the strength curve, making the movements more challenging at the points in the range of motion where we are strongest. They can also be used to deload certain movements at positions where we are weakest.

In sports performance training, though, I'd say that their biggest value is in teaching direction - and subsequently loading it. As an example, I like band-resisted broad jumps because they allow us to produce force in a path that would be challenging to load in any other way. And, we need to produce force in this path during everyday athletic endeavors:

This is an area where Lee Taft really excels. When I watch experienced coaches teaching and coaching, I look for patterns that stand out: strategies that they return to frequently. In his new Certified Speed and Agility Coach course, Lee uses a band a ton to teach direction of force application and create appropriate angles for acceleration. It made me realize that we can get more efficient in some of our coaching strategies by busting out the band a bit more.

leeband

Speaking of Lee, the early-bird $100 discount on his new certification wraps up this Friday at midnight. I'm finishing it up myself and really benefited on a number of fronts - and our entire Cressey Sports Performance staff will be going through the resource as well. You can learn more about the course HERE.

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