Home Posts tagged "Core Stability Exercises"

Exercise of the Week: Side Bridge with Top Leg March

This go-round of the Exercise of the Week comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts coach, Cole Russo. Before we get to it, though, just a quick heads-up that I'm running a weekend flash sale on my Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core presentation. You can get 30% off with the coupon code CORE30 at checkout; just head HERE to get more information and purchase.

Key Coaching Points

1. This could simply be a progression from the traditional side bridge, in that there is less stability and more stress on the lateral core.

2. In terms of pitching, sometimes lateral flexion of the trunk will be a compensation for abduction of the pelvis to create force and generate momentum from the stretch. Similarly, a traditional side bridge can accomplish the same thing. This is more specific to the joint actions of pitching because the lead leg moves to hip flexion (just like the top leg in the exercise). CSP pitching coordinator shared an awesome post on this a while back:

 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1️⃣: A hip load mistake I see a lot with pitchers, as they start their descent down the slope of the mound. 2️⃣: Visual on pelvis-on-femur abduction. 30 degrees of P-O-F abduction is "normal" and pitchers usually couple this with lateral flexion of the spine as they try to load their back hip. A little bit of lateral flexion isn't bad, but you have to leave room in your hip socket for force production through abduction. This pic was taken from a new book I'm reading called Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System by Donald Neumann. ⚾️Video by the one and only @nancy_newell, and video bombs from Franklin J. (@frankduffyfitness) #cspfamily #csppitching #elitepitchingdevelopment #backhip #mlb #minorleaguebaseball #collegebaseball #highschoolbaseball #baseballcoach #pitching #pitchingcoach #pitchingdrills

A post shared by Christian Wonders - EPD (@csp_pitching) on

3. During the gait cycle, it is common to see what is referred to as the Trendelenburg Gait. This happens when the hip abductors are weak and the pelvis falls downward relative to the femur; usually accompanied with another compensation of lateral trunk tilt. The exercise emphasizes hip abduction, anti-lateral flexion, and hip flexion against gravitational forces that relate to the same weaknesses associated with the Trendelenburg Gait.

4. The positions of this exercise resemble the “figure-4” position that is assumed during the sprint cycle. When sprinting, it is necessary for the trunk to transfer force and stabilize the body against multiplanar forces so that the center of mass can directed linearly. Training the trunk to resist lateral flexion can help with this. Training the trunk to resist lateral flexion in biomechanically relevant joint positions can make you Usain Bolt. Core exercises eventually need to be progressed to something more dynamic. Once motor control and appropriate stability are demonstrated, progression to a quicker leg action action will make it more of a reactive stimulus for the nervous system.

5. Never underestimate the value of variety! Subtle additions like this to exercises that have already been rehearsed are a novel stimulus for the brain and can really enrich the motor learning process. The right amount of struggle is a good thing. Consistent patterns with minimal struggles and errors means there is a need for a new stimulus.

6. We'll usually program this as a 10-15 second isometric hold in the first few weeks of doing this exercise, and then progress to marching in subsequent weeks. It'll be sets of 8 per side in those who are more highly trained. This can be done as a warm-up, or used for multiple sets later in the training session.

About the Author

Cole Russo is a strength and conditioning coach at CSP-MA. You can follow him on Instagram at @SwoleThomas.

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Mid-Week Movement Miscellany

With the launch of my new podcast, I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. However, I've got plenty of thoughts rattling around in my brain, so I thought I'd pull together an article on the topic. Heck, we might even make this a regular series. Here goes...

1. On average, female athletes respond differently to eccentric stress than male athletes do.

Last year, I wrote a blog (Making Movement Better: Duct Tape or WD40?) that touched on the fact that many pitchers lose range of motion at the shoulder and elbow as adaptations to the crazy high eccentric stress experienced during pitching. I also was careful to note that not everyone loses range of motion; in fact, some athletes gain motion (become more unstable). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research in the softball pitching world shows that females don't lose range-of-motion following softball pitching even though they're still encountering noteworthy eccentric stress. Females are more likely to be hypermobile, so it makes sense that they become more unstable than they do "tight." In short, you probably aren't going to have to work as hard to gain ROM in softball pitchers; your efforts are better directed at regaining neuromuscular control with low-level stabilization exercises.

2. Reaching exercises should drive thoracic flexion and scapular upward rotation, but not necessarily pec recruitment.

On a recent Instagram Q&A, I received the question (paraphrased), "How can I get better scapular contact on the ribs during reaches without too much pec recruitment?" Here was my answer:

3. The best coaching cue for an exercise might just be to do a different exercise.

Also on that Q&A, I got an inquiry about what to do with low back pain due to excessive arching at the bottom of an ab wheel rollout. The answer was pretty simple: regress the exercise; you aren’t ready for ab wheel rollouts.

With anterior core exercises like this, it works a bit like a seesaw: the further the arms go away from the body, the harder the exercise feels (imagine moving a little kid to the end of a seesaw; his weight doesn't change, but the amount of force at the other end of the seesaw needed to offset him does simply because of his positioning). When an individual dumps into anterior pelvic tilt/lordosis (excessive arching) as the arms get further away from the body on a rollout, it's one means of shortening that distance. And, it allows the individual to hang out on the passive restraints on the posterior aspect of the spine instead of using active muscular control to create stability.

A better option would be a stir the pot, stability ball rollout (if you don't go DOWN as far, you don't go OUT as far), or even just a regular prone bridge. These regressions are easy inclusions that are tremendously helpful when dealing with less trained individuals or athletes with long limbs (and spines).

If you're looking to learn a bit more about this topic, I'd encourage you to check out my resource, Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core. This seminar presentation is a thorough tutorial on how to best coach and program these invaluable exercises.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 33

It's time for this month's installment of my random thoughts on sports performance training. In light of my ongoing 30% off sale (ending Sunday at midnight) on my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource (enter coupon code BASEBALL at checkout for the discount), I thought I'd focus this edition on the shoulder.

1. If you want a healthy shoulder, getting tobacco products out of your life is a good place to start.

The research is pretty clear: smoking is a bad idea (and an independent risk factor) if you're looking to stay healthy from a musculoskeletal standpoint, or have a good outcome in rehabilitation (whether conservative or post-surgical) . Here's an excerpt from a recent study with an excellent review of the literature:

"Cigarette smoking adversely affects a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and procedures, including spinal fusion, fracture healing, surgical wound healing, tendon injury and knee ligament reconstruction. More recently, smoking has been suggested to negatively impact rotator cuff tear pathogenesis and healing. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, a potent vasoconstrictor that can reduce the blood supply to the already relatively avascular rotator cuff insertion. Furthermore, carbon monoxide in smoke reduces the oxygen tension levels available for cellular metabolism. The combination of these toxins may lead to the development of attritional rotator cuff tears with a decreased capacity for healing."

Many times, we're looking for the best exercise, rehabilitation protocol, soft tissue treatment, or volume amounts - but we really ought to be looking at lifestyle factors.

With a large baseball readership on this site, the logical next question: are these harmful effects also noted with smokeless tobacco (i.e., dip/chew)? The research is somewhat sparse, as it's harder to study a younger, active population than a bunch of middle-aged post-operative rotator cuff patients. However, it's hard to believe that the aforementioned carbon monoxide implications would cause 100% of the issues and that the nicotine would serve as just an innocent bystander. So if you're looking to check every box in your quest to stay healthy, it's not a bad idea to lay off the dip.

And, if healthy tendons aren't enough to convince you, do yourself a favor and read this article by Curt Schilling.

2. The 1-arm, 1-leg landmine press isn't a mainstay in your training programs, but can be a perfect fit in a few circumstances.

This looks like kind of a wussy exercise, but I actually really like it in two circumstances.

a. It's awesome in a post-surgery period when you can't load like crazy, but still want folks to be challenged in their upper extremity progressions. The single-leg support creates a more unstable environment, which means that antagonist activity is higher and there is more work going to joint stability than actual movement. In other words, it makes pressing safer.

b. Once we get to the inseason period, it allows us to check two boxes with a single exercise: single-leg balance and upper body strength (plus serratus activation/scapular upward rotation).

3. Posterior pelvic tilt increases lower trap activation.

I've written about it a lot in the past: core positioning has an incredibly important impact on shoulder function. Check out this study on how reducing anterior pelvic tilt increases lower trapezius activation during arm elevation and the return from the overhead position.

In my experience working with extension-rotation athletes (particularly baseball players), one of the biggest risk factors for shoulder injury is when the lower trapezius can't keep up with the latissimus dorsi. Just consider the attachment points of the lat in the picture below; as you can imagine, if you posteriorly tilt the pelvis, the lat is inhibited, making it easier for lower trap to get to work.

The lower trapezius is very important for providing posterior tilt (slight tipping back) of the scapula and assisting in upward rotation. These two functions are key for a pitcher to get the scapula in the correct position during the lay-back phase of throwing.

By contrast, the lat has more of a "gross" depression effect on the scapula; it pulls it down, but doesn't contribute to posterior tilting or upward rotation. This might help with an adult rotator cuff pain patient who has an aggressive scapular elevation (shrug) substitution pattern, but it's actually problematic for a thrower who is trying to get his scapula up and around the rib cage to make sure that the ball-on-socket congruency is "flush" when it really matters: the maximal external rotation position.

As such, you can say that the lat and lower trap "compete" for control of the scapula - and the lat has a big advantage because of its cross-sectional area and multiple attachment points. It's also much easier to train and strengthen - even if it's by accident. Upper body work in faulty core positioning (in this case, too much anterior pelvic tilt and the accompanying lumbar extension) shifts the balance to the lats.

We'll often hear throwers cued "down and back" during arm care drills. The intention - improving posterior tilt via lower trap activation - is admirable, but the outcome usually isn't what's desired. Unless athletes are actually put in a position of posterior tilt where they can actually feel the lower traps working, they don't get it. Instead, they pull further down into scapular depression, which feeds the lat-dominant strategy. This is why we teach almost all our throwers to differentiate between depression and posterior tilt early on in their training at Cressey Sports Performance.

If you're looking to learn more about how I assess, program, and coach at the shoulder, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions. It's on sale for 30% off through Sunday at midnight; just enter the coupon code BASEBALL at checkout to get the discount. Learn more at www.SturdyShoulders.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/18

This will be the last recommended reading/listening of the year, as we're switching over to the "Best of 2018" series in the next few days. In the meantime, check these out! And happy holidays!

59 Lessons: Working with the World's Elite Coaches, Athletes, and Special Forces - Fergus Connolly just released this new book, and I'm excitedly going through it. He's one of the sharpest minds in the sports science field, so it's sure to be a good one.

How Should We Space Training to Optimize Skill Acquisition - This was a quick, but awesome listen on Rob Gray's Perception and Action Podcast. A special thanks to CSP-MA pitching coordinator Christian Wonders for sharing it with me.

Are You Doing Too Much Rotator Cuff Work Before Throwing? - This article came from my series on common arm care mistakes, and I decided to bring it back to the forefront in light of a conversation I had with an athlete about how his warm-ups shouldn't take 60 minutes.

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Exercise of the Week: Standing Low-to-High Cable Lift

Most of the anti-rotation core stability exercises out there take place in a more static environment: half-kneeling or tall-kneeling. These set-ups are awesome for teaching appropriate core positioning against destabilizing forces into extension, rotation, or lateral flexion. However, their functional carryover is limited if we aren’t finding ways to transition that movement awareness into exercises in the standing position. Enter the standing low-to-high cable lift.

Important coaching points:

1. Push the ground away from you; don’t just lean away from the weight stack.

2. Think both up (anti-extension) and out (anti-rotation).

3. Lock the rib cage to the pelvis; the motion should come from the hips and upper back, not the lower back.

4. Feel the trailing leg glute firing at the top position.

5. To prevent early deceleration, imagine throwing your hands through the ceiling.

In case you haven't heard, my big Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale is ongoing. You can get 25% off on a bunhc of my resources; just head HERE to learn more.

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What (Physically) Goes Into a Good Swing

Cressey Sports Performance athlete Chris Taylor had a big go-ahead 2-run HR last night for the Dodgers - and the second I saw this photo of his swing on Instagram, I immediately got to thinking about how great a representation it is of the demands of the swing.

 

CT3 for the lead! #LADetermined

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

As a right-handed hitter, the pelvis rotates counterclockwise toward the pitcher during the swing. However, "counterclockwise" doesn't really do justice to the fact that it's actually hip movement in three planes: rotation (transverse), abduction (frontal), and extension (sagittal). Additionally, earlier in the swing, the torso actually rotates clockwise to create the separation that allow for greater storage of elastic energy and sets the stage for the barrel getting to the zone at the right time and angle - and for as long as possible. This reminds us that you can't have good swing mechanics if you don't have mobility in the hips and thoracic spine, and adequate stability in the core to prevent any energy leaks.

More specific to this photo, though, is the fact that all that motion from the trailing leg has taken place, which means all the force has been transferred forward - and something has to "accept it." We often use the analogy of riding a bike into a curb; if the curb isn't hard, the kid doesn't get launched over the handlebars. In this case, the "firm curb" is the front leg creating a blocking effect as the hip extensors and external rotators (glutes!) eccentrically control that aggressive force transfer into the lead leg. As you'll see in this photo, sometimes the tri-planar forces are so significant that guys might even roll to the lateral aspect of their shoes. And, unless they're in a great pair of New Balance cleats, they might even "swing out of their shoes" (yes, you'll sometimes see guys fold over the side of cleats that don't have good lateral stability).

Anyway, let's take this example to an untrained 15-year-old who doesn't have the strength, motor control, and mobility foundation that Chris has here. There's a good chance he's going to go to the wrong places to find a lot of this motion to generate, transfer, or accept force - and the most common spot is the lower back. You'll commonly see stress fractures and annoying tightness in this region in these kids because the lumbar spine isn't conditioned to produce force or go through significant rotational motion. Watch one of these kids go through a simple bowler squat and they usually fold up line a lawn chair.

In my experience (both in pitching and hitting), the kids most at risk are the ones who grow quickly at a young age. They have long levers that help them to generate velocity, but insufficient physical strength and range of motion to dissipate these aggressive patterns as they get to this position and beyond. They're all gas and no brakes.

Chicks can't dig the long ball if you're in a back brace because you ignored your hip and thoracic mobility and core stability. Take as much pride in your physical preparation as you do in your swing. Chris sure does!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/9/18

I hope you're having a great week. Stay tuned to EricCressey.com, as we started up my spring sale yesterday and will be running it for a good chunk of May. The first product featured is...

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - This presentation covers an incredibly important topic, and is now on sale for 40% off. Just enter the coupon code SPRING (all CAPS) at checkout to apply the discount. This is some great continuing education material for under $9.

The Physical Preparation Podcast with John O'Neil - Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts Director of Performance John O'Neil hopped on Mike Robertson's podcast to long-term athletic development in baseball players. There are some great pearls of wisdom for anyone who works with middle and high school athletes.

Caffeine Consumption: How Much is Safe? - The crew at Examine.com pulled together some of the latest research on caffeine consumption to outline how much is considered safe for various individuals across the population.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/14/18

Here's a Valentine's Day edition of recommended reading, just because I love my readers so much!

7 Gym Gadgets That Actually Work - I chimed in on this T-Nation compilation that includes some good ideas from coaches from a variety of disciplines in the strength and conditioning field.

Health Hips, Strong Hips - This whopper of a blog post from Dean Somerset includes a ton of great videos. Set aside twenty minutes and go through it; you'll pick up some good stuff.

6 Key Factors for Developing Pitchers - I published this article about a year ago and it was one of my most popular baseball articles of all time. It's worth a read.

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How Rib Cage Positioning Impacts the Pitching Delivery

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator, Christian Wonders.

While it’s good to know little adjustment of mechanics in a delivery, most pitchers struggle with a few bigger rocks that need to be addressed. One of them that needs attention is rib cage position throughout the throwing motion.

Next to the lower half, the rib cage is probably the most important part of a pitching delivery. It is at the center of the body, and serves as a platform for the shoulder blades to move upon, which in turn, dictates where the hand will be at ball release. 

If you take in a large breath, you’ll realize that your thorax expands, and the opposite occurs when you blow out all your air. For this article, we will call the expansion of your rib cage inhalation/ external rotation, and the opposite exhalation/ internal rotation.

Often, we will see pitchers stuck in a state of inhalation bilaterally, where you can see the bottom of the rib cage popping through the skin. Along with this postural presentation comes an anterior (forward) weight shift, poor anterior core control, scapular depression and downward rotation, and even the possibility of a flat/extended thoracic spine.

From a pitching standpoint, the thorax is the center of the body, and is responsible for transferring force, along with assisting the thoracic spine (upper back) in delivering the scapula. When a pitcher presents an extended posture with an inability to control rib cage and pelvic position, it’s hard to make an efficient rotation at front foot strike, while still holding his line to home plate. The outcome is usually misses up in the zone, along with an inability to throw a sharp breaking ball (hanging curveball/backup slider.)

Furthermore, the anterior weight shift can create a quad dominant loading pattern of the back leg, which will feed into a pitcher stepping more across his body, and ruining the pitcher’s direction to the plate. I’m not saying that a pitcher stepping across his body is the worst thing in the world, but they must possess enough core stability, lead leg internal rotation, and thoracic flexion in order to get to a good position at ball release.

So now, the question becomes: how do I stop this from happening?

- Flexion-bias breathing drills to decrease extensor tone

- Anterior core control exercises like prone bridges, rollouts, fallouts, etc.

- Soft tissue work on accessory breathing muscles, lats, intercostals, etc.

- Educating the athlete to not feed into the pattern by standing/sitting/training in bad patterns

- Drills to drive scapular upward rotation, particularly by prioritizing serratus anterior

- Coaching

Coaching is last on the above list, because it’s by far the most important, and the challenge of coaching is figuring out what an individual needs to be consistent on the mound. If you're looking for details on coaching positioning of the anterior core, I'd highly recommend Eric's Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core presentation. It's a one hour presentation that hits on all the important points you need to understand on this front.

When it comes down to it, positioning of the ribcage can have a serious effect on arm action, extension at ball release, and even lower half mechanics. Therefore, I think it’s important to check the big boxes of pitching mechanics proximal (center) to the body, before moving distally (extremities) to drive the best results on consistency and performance.

Note from EC: Christian is one of the presenters in our Elite Baseball Mentorships. We'll be offering our first one of 2019 on June 23-25 at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts. For more information, head HERE.

About the Author

Christian Wonders (@CSP_Pitching) is the pitching coordinator coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can contact him by email at christian.wonders25@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 27

 I didn't get a chance to write a February installment of this series, so I'll do my best to over deliver with an extra few bulletpoints in this March edition.

1. Use video even if you don't think you need to use video.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was about time I learn how to use iMovie on my iPhone. What better way than to film pieces of my training session and put them all together?

Interestingly, beyond proving that I’d actually entered the 21st century from a technology standpoint, there was an added benefit: I identified some subtle technique issues that I could address. I didn’t like the inconsistent way I unracked the bar from set to set on squats, and I was slipping into more forward head posture than I would have liked on my TRX fallouts. These aren’t epic technical faults, but over time, they’d certainly detract from an optimal training effect. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t videoed. And, this is coming from a guy who uses video regularly with his athletes.

On the whole, I think folks video TOO MUCH nowadays. A phone on the training floor is usually a distraction and interferes with the training process. However, used correctly, video can be a tremendous resource – and one I’ll be using more with my own training.

2. Think of assessments as descriptive, not predictive.

There is a ton of research out there on how to predict sports injuries. When it really boils down to it, though, we learn that:

a. the single best predictor of future injuries is a previous injury (duh)

b. predicting injuries is really, really hard

Why is predicting injuries so challenging? Very simply, injury risk is incredibly multifactorial. Injuries occur because of a remarkable interplay of systemic, biomechanical, and physiological factors – and they’re mixed in with pure happenstance: collisions, hit-by-pitches, poor weather conditions, and equipment malfunctions.

As such, it’s challenging to say that any single assessment will ever truly be a gold standard in predicting injuries. Accordingly, we should think of the assessment process as descriptive above all else. In other words, what we see when we first encounter an individual is their “default pattern:” how they’ll respond to a chaotic environment in the real world “fight-or-flight” scenarios.

For example, consider one of my favorite assessments, the overhead lunge walk:

When first challenged with an overhead lunge walk, many athletes dive into knee valgus, use a short stride, and slip into lumbar extension and forward head posture. Sure, we can clean a lot of these things up in a matter of less than 15 seconds, retest, and get a better outcome. That doesn’t fundamentally mean we’ve improved their movement quality or reduced their risk of injury, though. Effecting lasting changes takes time and lots of high-quality reps. However, the descriptive nature of the assessment guides our program design, which gives us a road map for these efforts.

3. Go unilateral to progress anterior core stability drills into rotary stability challenges.

When we categorize our core stability drills, we’ll break them down into the following designations:

a. anterior core (resisting extension of the lower back): rollouts, fallouts, etc.
b. rotary core (resisting rotation of the lower back): chops, lifts, etc.
c. lateral core (resisting lateral flexion – or side bending – of the lower back): 1-arm farmer’s walks, side bridges

With both rotary and lateral core “dominant” exercises, we can appreciate that the anterior core is also working to resist extension as we do a chop, lift, or farmer’s carry. In other words, we’re always controlling the sagittal plane above all else.

However, when we perform anterior core challenges – rollouts, fallouts, bodysaw drills, and basic prone planks/bridges – we really don’t get much of a challenge to rotary or lateral core stability. With four points of contact (two feet/knees and two arms/hands), the challenge outside the sagittal plane is minimal.

Fortunately, we can quickly and easily “bias” our anterior core work to get us additional challenges in the frontal and transverse planes by simply going to unilateral or asymmetrical set-ups. This is one (of many) scenarios where a TRX suspension trainer can be a game-changer. Here are two favorites: the 1-leg TRX fallout and TRX flutters:

 


4. Coaches need to train.

I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore. Life as a husband, dad, and owner of multiple businesses is hectic enough that competition was pushed out. And, my shoulder doesn’t love back squats these days.

Still, I lift a lot, get out and sprint, do interval training, and even mix in some rec softball and pick-up beach volleyball. This isn’t just because it’s hard-wired into my brain’s perception of a “normal day,” but also because I firmly believe that every training session allows me to evolve as a coach and have more empathy for our athletes.

Understanding how to modify your own training when you’re super busy at work or sick kids kept you up all night gives you an appreciation for how athletes feel when you ask them to get an in-season lift in after a weekend with four games.

Getting in a lift after a late cross-country flight makes you appreciate that it might be a better idea to score an extra few hours of sleep – rather than imposing more fatigue – in the middle of a road trip.

Putting yourself through 8-12 weeks of challenging training with a new program allows you to experiment with new principles to see if there are better methods for serving your athletes.

You don’t get these lessons if you don’t continue to train throughout your professional career. At age 25, I had no idea what our 35-year-old athletes felt like after training sessions. Now I understand it on a personal level – but more importantly, I’m keenly aware that our 45-year-old athletes probably have it even harder, so I need to ask a lot more questions and do a lot more listening in that demographic.

If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, the gym isn’t just where you work; it’s also where you experiment and learn. Don’t miss those opportunities to grow.

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