Home Posts tagged "Cressey Performance" (Page 3)

Strength and Conditioning: What I Learned in 2013

This is the eighth time I’ve recapped some of the bigger discoveries of the previous year in an article.   As I look back on the previous seven years of content, I notice a number of key observations that have immeasurably improved the way that I coach and program for athletes.  To that end, I hope that the 2013 recap offers some solid pearls of wisdom you can apply right away.

1. Frequent soft tissue work throughout the day works best.

We might not know exactly why soft tissue approaches – everything from foam rolling, to massage, to instrument-assisted modalities – work, but we do know that they help people feel and move better.  With that in mind, we’re always searching for ways to help people get faster results with less discomfort.

Earlier this year, Chris Howard, the massage therapist at Cressey Performance, was flipping back through an old massage therapy textbook and found a little pearl: a suggestion that shorter, frequent exposures to soft tissue work throughout the day is likely more effective than one longer session.  And, it certainly makes sense; our bodies “learn” and adapt better with frequent exposures. 

Candidly, it always drives me bonkers when I see someone foam roll for 30 minutes at the start of the session.  You aren’t going to magically fix everything in one session; you have to be patient and persistent.  In fact, Thomas Myers (an authority on fascia and bodywork), has commented that prominent changes may take 18-24 months to set in. 

Nowadays, when we have an athlete who is particularly balled up in one area, we heavily emphasize repeated exposures.  We recommend that they split massage therapy sessions up into shorter appointments throughout the week.  And, we’ll have them hop on the foam roller 5-6 times per day for 30-60s, as opposed to just grinding away at the same spot in one lengthy session.  It’s not convenient, but the results are definitely noticeably better.

2. Understanding an individual’s movement learning style can improve your coaching effectiveness instantly.

I’ve always divided folks I coach into three categories, according to their dominant learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory.

Visual learners can watch an exercise be performed, and then go right to it.

Auditory learners can simply hear a cue, and then go to town.

Kinesthetic learners need to actually be put in a position to appreciate what it feels like, and then they can rock and roll.

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While most individuals are a combination of all three categories, one invariably predominates in every single case I’ve ever encountered.  With this in mind, determining an individual’s learning style during my assessment is something I started to do in 2013.  If you can streamline the cues you give, athletes will pick movements up faster, and you’ll be able to get in more quality work from the session.

I should also note that no one of these three categories is “superior;” they’re just different.  I’ve had professional athletes from all three categories.

3. External focus cues rock.

Building on the coaching cues theme, the best presentation I saw this year was Nick Winkelman’s Perform Better talk on external focus cues.

As a brief background, an internal focus cue would be one that made you think about how your body is moving.  Examples would be “extend your hips” or “tuck your elbows.”

Conversely, an external focus cue would have you focus on something in your surrounding environment. Examples would be “rip the bar apart” or “drive your heels through the floor.”  The bar and the floor are points of external focus.

Most coaches use a combination of the two – but with a greater emphasis on internal focus cues.  As Nick demonstrated with an extensive review of the literature, we out to reverse this trend, as external focus cues almost universally lead to improved performance and technique when compared to internal focus cues.

With this research in mind, evaluate the cues you give yourself before each lift.  When you deadlift, are you telling yourself to “keep the chest up” or are you reminding yourself to “show the logo on your shirt to the guy in front of you?”  Sometimes, relating things just a little bit differently can yield dramatic changes.

4. You should learn as much about recovery as you do about training at an early age.

Every decade in life seems to come with new “scare tactics” to make you think that your body is going to fall apart when you hit 30, 40, 50, 60, etc.  I turned 32 in 2013, so I’ve now had almost three years to stew over this.  Recovery just isn’t the same as you age, not matter how great you are with diet, sleep, and monitoring training volume, as degenerative changes kick in faster.  I can tell you this and I’m only at the start of the gradual downslope!

I’ve heard that, on average, strength peaks at age 29.  Obviously, this can change dramatically based on training experience.  However, in my line of work – professional baseball – the “prime” for players is widely regarded as ages 26-31.  Effectively, this constitutes just before the peak, the peak itself, and then just after the peak.  The higher the peak, the longer a playing career a player has.  This is one reason it’s so important to establish a strong physical foundation with athletes early in their career; it’s what will likely sustain their skillsets for longer.

It is equally important, however, to learn about what recovery strategies work well for you at an early age.  In fact, I’d say that not paying more attention to recovery in my younger years was one of the biggest mistakes I made.  It would have not only made my progress faster, but just as importantly, it would have prevented accumulated wear and tear for down the road (i.e., now).

Everyone responds differently to various recovery protocols.  I have guys who love ice baths, and others who absolutely hate icing.  I’ve seen players thrive with compression approaches, and others who saw no change. 

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Some high-level athletes can do great with seven hours of sleep, and others need 9-10 each night. Recovery is a 100% individual thing – and it’s constantly changing as you age and encounter new training challenges.

For that reason, don’t just get excited about the latest, greatest training program on the market.  Rather, try to get just as excited about finding a way that you can bounce back effectively between sessions.  It might be nutrition, supplementation, manual therapy, movement schemes, or initiatives like ice or compression.  The sooner you learn it, the better off you’ll be when you start hearing more and more of the “scare tactics” about age.

Conclusion

These four items were just the tip of the iceberg, as the strength and conditioning field is incredibly dynamic and new information emerges on a daily basis. Luckily, it's easy to stay up to speed on the latest cutting-edge information.  If you're looking for an affordable online resource to help you in this regard, check out Elite Training Mentorship.

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Pow! Cressey Performance Shaker Bottles

These bad boys are BPA-free, but loaded with awesome.  It's a traditional blender bottle, but with the CP logo.

CPShaker

They're $14.99 plus shipping, and you can pick one up HERE.

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Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 3

In continuing with our series on common errors I see throwers make in their arm care programs, today, I want to focus on how we coach pulling motions in these populations.  Check out this video to learn more:

Throwers need to learn how to move the scapula on the rib cage in order to get to a good position of upward rotation to throw.  If you just pin everything down with the lats, you interfere with that upward rotation potential.  The scapula needs to be stable, but it also needs to be mobile enough to move freely on the rib cage.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 52

It's been a while since we published an installment of Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better, but we're back at it today, thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, who has these five tips for you:

1. With deadlift technique, take tension out of the bar one hand at a time.

In my experience the single most difficult lesson to teach a newcomer to deadlifting is how to leverage their weight against the bar. This concept goes by many names, for example: taking the slack out, pulling the tension out, etc. Whatever your cue of choice, learning how to leverage is the “ah-ha” moment for many new lifters. In the following video, I demonstrate a drill that I find very helpful. It may just need to be done in the beginning stages of learning the lift, or it might be something you use for the rest of your life. Either way, it’s definitely worth a look:

2. Use this example to teach the difference between retraction and posterior tilting of the shoulder blades.

To piggy back off the video in point 1, check out this quick video on how to differentiate between retraction, and posterior tilting of the shoulder blades, and why it’s important to learn the latter when setting up for a deadlift.

3. Mimic a good standing posture with prone bridge variations.

The prone bridge, or “plank” exercise is probably the most popular core training exercise since the sit-up. It is an absolute go-to in our programming when teaching people how to resist extension and train the anterior core properly. Unfortunately, it’s also butchered more often than not.

A truly well done prone bridge is one that mimics correct alignment in a good standing posture. It is NOT just a position sans any low back extension. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

First, you need to position the shoulder blades correctly. Too often, people will excessively protract the scaps and embrace a more rounded over upper back position, seen here:

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Instead, slightly tilt the shoulder blades back, and place them in a position more like the one seen here:

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Next, do not allow excessive flexion of the spine from top to bottom:

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In this last picture, we are allowing the person to completely dominate the movement with the rectus abdominis and are not promoting proper recruitment from the internal and external obliques or the transverse abdominis.

To bring this all together, here is a picture of good standing posture with 90 degrees of shoulder flexion; note the similarities to a properly executed prone bridge.

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4. Try out this variation of the lower trap raise.

I like this variation for a few reasons:

  • It allows some of the more extended populations to stay in a better spinal positioning.
  • It promotes proper positioning of the shoulder blades in a back squat or overhead squat exercise.
  • It takes away some of the resistance gravity places on us in a prone positioning.
  • It helps develop a proper squat pattern and bottom position
  • It’s efficient, allowing people to train multiple aspects of good movement at the same time.
  • For more advanced populations you can get rid of the wall, and do it in a freestanding deep squat position.

5. Remember that not everything needs to be “difficult.”

Throughout a strength-training program, you will have exercises that are meant to be loaded up to their limit, and others that are there purely to practice a position or motor control pattern. As a client or athlete becomes more advanced, certain exercises will become less challenging. This doesn’t mean that you need to continually find ways to make a movement harder and harder. Too often, when we do so, we take away from the integrity of the movement.

Sure, you can load up your basic deadlift, squat, and lunge patterns until the cows come home, but exercises like the rollout, prone bridge, or side plank will eventually reach a limit in ways that you can productively make them “harder.” This by no means renders them useless, though. In fact, by loading them excessively, or adding an infinite amount of bells and whistles to them, you will mostly find ways to compensate and stray further from their intention. As they become easier to complete, it just changes their purpose from one of teaching the body, to one of reminding the body how to recruit properly.

Some exercises do have a ceiling, and once it’s reached, you don’t need to try and blast through it. Let them serve their purpose, and let the big movements account for your substantial progressions.

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Become a Little More Awesome with Cressey Performance Camo Hoodies

I'm happy to announce that the 2014 edition of the Cressey Performance Hoodie is now available.  The camo t-shirts were popular, so we carried the design over to sweatshirts, too.  Boom!

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For those who prefer action shots, here's a front double biceps pose from our office manager, Paige.

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These sweatshirts run pretty true to size, and are $39.99 plus shipping.  You can pick up your size by clicking on one of the following links:

Medium - SOLD OUT (please email ec@ericcressey.com to pre-order one)

Large

Extra Large

Enjoy!

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The High Performance Handbook: Years in the Making!

I'm psyched that my multi-year project - The High Performance Handbook - was finally released just a few hours ago. You can check it out at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

This resource is a by-product of spending many years in the gym trying to find out what works and what doesn't - and just as importantly, how to customize programs to individuals' unique needs quickly and easily. As the testimonials from "guinea pigs" who've completed the program show, I think we've done a great job of it.

As a bonus for people who actually buy today, we're giving away a bunch of free stuff today. Most notable is an all-expenses-paid trip to train with us at Cressey Performance!

If you've enjoyed my work at EricCressey.com and beyond, I'd be thrilled to have your support today - either with a purchase or in helping to spread the word (or both). Thanks so much!

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The Wait is Over: Get The High Performance Handbook – and Win a Trip to Train at Cressey Performance!

After over a year of hard work in getting it ready, I’m beyond ecstatic to announce that my new resource, The High Performance Handbook, is now available for sale.  You can pick it up at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

I went to great lengths to ensure that this resource doesn’t just offer a training program that delivers outstanding results; it also educates you along the way. You’ll learn about some of the things that are unique about your body, and how you need to manage your training accordingly.  It’s almost like a choose-your-own adventure book for people looking to achieve their training goals.

To celebrate this exciting launch and thank you for your continued support, I’ve decided to sweeten the deal for anyone who purchases the product before Tuesday at midnight (PST).  If you do so, you’ll be automatically entered to win a number of prizes, most notably an all-expenses-paid trip to get evaluated and train with us at Cressey Performance.  If you’re selected, I'll pay for your airline ticket, put you up in a nice hotel, feed you, and “coach you up” alongside all our regular clients.  And, even if you don’t win this one, you’ll still receive some awesome free bonuses no matter what. 

Also, while you’re at it, I’d highly recommend you pick up the Gold Package of The High Performance Handbook, as it includes an awesome nutrition and lifestyle guide from Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition.  There is some really eye-opening and useful stuff in there; I learned a ton myself from reading it!

Again, you can pick it up at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

Thanks again for your continued support.

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Cressey Performance Camo Shirts: 2013 Edition Now Available!

It's September, which means we just introduced our new edition Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Development t-shirts!  This go-round, you can rock the black with red camoflauge. 

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These shirts are 90% cotton and 10% polyester and insanely comfortable.  They do, however, run a bit small.  So, if you normally wear a large, order a XL.  If you're normally a XL, get a XXL.

Each shirt is $24.99 + S&H, and you can click the links below to add shirts to your cart:

XXL

Extra Large

Large

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 50

Today marks the 50th installment of this series; not too shabby! We want to quickly say thank you to everyone who has been following along. We have received plenty of messages, and many an in-person “thank yous” for the information passed along; we really appreciate your support. With that in mind, we (Greg and Eric) have decided to collaborate on this “momentous” 50th installment to make it extra memorable.  Enjoy!

1. Consider doing more “core” work at the beginning of your training sessions.

Usually, we save direct, or less-indirect, core stability exercises for the latter portions of a strength training program. There is nothing wrong with this approach, and if you look at many of our programs at Cressey Performance, that’s still largely how we operate.

More recently, however, we are also including more of these core stability exercises early on. Here are a few scenarios where it makes sense:

The warm-up: Low-level core stability exercises should definitely be included in your warm-ups. They fit nicely into the theme of working from proximal to distal. In other words, you work at the trunk, thoracic spine, and pelvis before moving out to the extremities. Furthermore, hitting them early on will get athletes and clients “using” their core more appropriately before their training session.

With more hypermobile populations: These folks need to train for stability all the time. That training should be centered on the trunk first. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to include core stability exercises throughout their program, and expose them to those demands more times than just at the bottom end.   To determine how hypermobile a client is, run them through the Beighton Hypermobility Test, which Eric discussed recently here.

With people who lack anterior core strength: We see a lot of grossly extended individuals walk through our doors. These clients need more exposure to core stability type drills, as well as more repetition in feeling what correct positions are. With that in mind, they are another population that can benefit from core-based drills littered between their more typical upfront exercise selections.  Here are a few examples:

Additionally, keep in mind that just because an exercise doesn’t seem to be core-intensive at first doesn’t mean that you can’t make it that way.  As an example, this drill is largely geared toward improving length in the lats and long head of the triceps while improving thoracic spine extension, but the anterior core should be braced to maintain the lumbar spine in neutral.  At the bottom position, we cue the athlete to exhale fully to get some extra anterior core recruitment.

(For more details on anterior core training progressions, check out Eric’s presentation on the topic HERE)

2. Prevent compensation patterns when you clean up a movement.

Building on our discussion of anterior core control from point #1, athletes in extension will always find ways to shift their weight anteriorly, whether it’s via a heavily lordotic lumbar spine, anterior pelvic tilt, scapular depression, humeral anterior glide (elbows will often be behind the body at rest), forward head posture, or plantarflexion. 

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If you correct one, they’ll often try to go to one of the others to make up the difference.  A good example would be the forward head posture that might kick in when you correct an anterior pelvic tilt and excessive lordosis on the previously featured back-to-wall shoulder flexion.  As has often been said, the best athletes are the best compensators, so you need to make sure you don't let them just shift their postural dysfunction up or down a joint or two.

3. Use chia seeds in your shakes.

Chia seeds, in the opinion of many, are one of those super foods that are nearly impossible toeat. These little guys pack a ton of healthy fats, including a great amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), but they don’t taste so great out in the raw. However, they will make a welcomed addition to your smoothies. Along with boasting a very positive nutrient profile, chia seeds also become gelatinous when wet. That gelatinous consistency does wonders for your stomach, as well as for thickening up the consistency of your smoothie! Give them a try next time you're blending it up!

4. Improve your diet by planning ahead.

We have been big supporters of Precision Nutrition for many years now. Since the start, they have always placed a huge focus on meal planning. This habit is crucial to anyone’s success in developing better nutrition. The key word here is MEAL. Nobody likes to shop for macronutrients, or raw food items. However, that’s how many so called “healthy” people shop. A much better approach is to plan the week’s food intake based around a few recipes. From there, you can shop for the meals, not just for food.

Doing so will hold you accountable to actually cooking, and cooking tasty meals at that. This will help you develop a much better relationship with food. Additionally, as you continue to learn recipes and cook meals, you will have an arsenal of healthy eats in your pocket.

A little extra work up front will have a payoff down the road. As an action item, explore some recipes yourself, jot down a grocery list based off the ingredients and head to the grocery store this week with a plan! If you are looking for some good recipes, check out Metabolic Cooking, a great online cookbook full of delicious healthy food options.

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5. Have you kids take an active role in your nutritional approach.

To piggyback off my last point, I (Greg) recently learned a lesson from one of my online nutrition clients. One of our goals over the past few weeks was the inclusion of meal planning out of a cookbook. Each week, he has been using the recipes to make at least three meals per week. Slowly, he is amassing the experience to cook and shop for healthy meals with ease.

He described to me that his go-to process in selecting the meals is laying the cookbook out, and having his daughter select two recipes. When I heard this I was blown away! What an easy way to get kids involved with the process.

His daughter was excited to eat the meals she selected – and these were often meals that she normally wouldn’t touch if her parents made them without her help. I have interacted with many parents who struggle with eating healthy and feeding their kids. They lean on their kids’ distaste for the new healthier foods as an excuse to be lax in their own efforts. If you are one of these people, or just want a great way to get your kids involved in better nutrition, give this a try right away!

Wrap-up

If you enjoyed the first 50 installments of this series, we'd love your feedback in the comments section below.  Are there particular areas you'd like to see us touch upon with our weekly tips?  If so, please let us know!  Thanks for your continued support.

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Smart Things We Did With Starting a Fitness Business – Part 2

In part 1 of this article, I talked a lot about the financial portion of starting a training facility.  If you missed it, definitely give it a read before you move forward with this article, as this second installment won't mean much if you have no money when you start up!

With part 2, I'll focus more on the actual decisions we made with respect to planning our staff, business model, and actual gym space. We'll pick it up with point #4, as Part 1 included the first three.  What's funny about these points is that I can distinctly remember sitting down for dinner at Applebee's with my business partner, Pete, and discussing them.  We wrote our notes on a napkin.

4. We started small.

Cressey Sports Performance 1.0 could have been politely described as a dungeon.  This is actually the view on the second day.

First Picture

It was very rough on the eyes, so we had to put in a lot of renovations in the first few weeks to make it more aesthetically appealing.

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Still, in spite of what we invested on this side of things, it still wasn’t what I’d consider a showcase location. Rather, it was our "test facility."  We had to make sure that our business model was sustainable and profitable before writing checks our butts couldn't cash.  In other words, we made a good decision by starting small.

That first facility was only 3,300 square feet.  The rent and utilities were very reasonable, and it allowed us to get profitable quickly.  Just as importantly, it helped to give the perception of "busyness" that you want in order to create good energy in the gym.  Had we gone to 10,000 square feet right off the bat, we would have dug ourselves a much deeper hole – and I question whether we would have been able to establish a great training environment early on. Rather, it might have felt like a personal training studio – which doesn’t exactly get young athletes excited.  While we longed for a larger facility, we resisted the urge - and instead opted to satisfy our temptations by getting panoramic shots of our ~1,500 square foot weight room to make it seem really big to us.

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Only nine months later, we moved three miles east to CSP 2.0.  It was 6,600 square feet.

Then, 18 months later, we knocked down a wall to bump it up to 7,600 square feet by taking on some new office space.

Finally, 2.5 years later, we essentially doubled our space again, going to our current 15,000+ square-foot space.

The other hidden benefit of gradually increasing your space is that you can get away with making facility design mistakes along the way, as you simply commit them to heart and then work them into your next expansion.  You don't get that luxury if you start at 25,000 square feet, especially since you're usually more worried about paying rent than managing the "flow" of the facility and optimizing the client experience.

The moral of the story is to start small and give yourself room to grow. This might mean you need to sign shorter-term leases to allow for these adjustments, or just seek out a building that you know has room into which you can expand.

5. We purchased equipment our clients needed, not just stuff we thought would be fun to have.

This is a basic lesson, but an important one nonetheless.  We all (hopefully) learn the difference between "need" and "want" at a young age.  However, the ability to make this differentiation often escapes fitness entrepreneurs when they plan their new facilities and are perusing equipment catalogs and websites.  Don't buy stuff you want to train yourself; buy stuff you need to train your clients.

Just like 25,000 square feet isn't necessary if you only have five clients, a $10,000 machine probably isn't necessary - especially right off the bat. You probably don't need a leg curl - let alone four different varieties of leg curls.  It's much easier to add items later than it is to have to continually look at (and pay off) an unnecessary piece of equipment you never use.

As an interesting frame of reference, in our last facility expansion, we added about 7,500 square feet, but only two pieces of equipment: an extra set of farmer's walk handles and a Prowler.  We just needed more space.

Remember that it's your expertise and the training culture and environment you create - not equipment bells and whistles - that brings people back.

6. We selected a sustainable niche.

I've written at length in the past about how we found and developed the baseball "niche" and expanded our business in this avenue.  One of the key points I made what that we made a point of picking a population segment that was sustainable.  You can't pick farmers in New York City and expect to thrive, nor would you be able to train surfers in Ohio.  There are cultural, geographical, scarcity, financial, and logistical factors one has to consider in making this specialization decision.

Our "niche" came about somewhat by accident, but our development of it was absolutely, positively no accident.  In fact, our approach to baseball training and growing our business in this regard is incredibly calculated.  Believe it or not, by popular demand, we added a one-hour business development presentation from my business partner, Pete Dupuis, as part of our Elite Baseball Mentorships - and he received insanely positive reviews.

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7. We complemented ourselves instead of replicating ourselves.

I've written about this in the past, so this will be brief. If you're going into business, don't just pick business partners and initial employees because they are "just like you."  Pick people whose skillsets complement yours.  If you don't, your entire staff is going to be standing around with hammers looking to smash nails when you really need a screwdriver. 

As a quick example, my goal on a daily basis is to do zero administrative business tasks; we have a business director and office manager who handle these responsibilities so that I can best leverage my strengths.

8. We established a good network.

Your network may consist of professionals to whom you refer clients (physical therapists, massage therapists, pitching and hitting instructors), or those to whom you look for business advice (accountant, equipment supply company, business consultant).  These are all relationships you can establish before your business is up and running, as they are important and must be trusted resources before you have already backed yourself into a corner where you're too busy to critically evaluate their role with respect to your business.  Essentially, my recommendation is to not just establish a network, but be meticulous early on in making sure these individuals are a good fit for your business. If you don't do this up-front leg work, these individuals can make your business look very bad at a time (start-up) when you need to look very good.

Closing Thoughts

I hope that these last five points have complemented the three from part 1 nicely in order to give you a more comprehensive perspective from which to draw when starting up a fitness business.  As you can probably tell, there are a lot of incorrect paths you can pursue if you don't critically evaluate important decisions in the planning stages.  For more insights on this front, I'd encourage you to sign up for our Business Building Mentorship that's taking place September 22-24. For the first time, it'll be offered in a 100% online format. You can learn more HERE.

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LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
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